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[237] North. In this crisis it became necessary to act with promptness and vigor. There could be neither hesitation nor delay when the Government and the country were imperilled, and the Department took measures accordingly.

Believing that the emergency not only justified but absolutely required that all the public armed vessels should be forthwith completed and equipped for service, orders were given to that effect, and in addition thereto the commandants of the navy-yards in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were directed to purchase or charter, arm, equip, and man steamers which, upon examination, might be found fit or easily convertible into armed vessels suitable for the public service, in order to support the Government and enforce the laws.

To carry into effect the proclamations whereby communication with the ports of the insurgent States was interdicted, and an embargo or blockade declared, it became necessary to concentrate almost all the naval force of the country upon the Atlantic coast, at and south of the Chesapeake Bay and in the Gulf of Mexico. This extensive line of seaboard, embracing an extent of nearly 3,000 miles, with its numerous harbors and inlets, was deemed too extensive for a single command, and the naval force to carry into effect the proclamation and execute the laws, has consequently been arranged into two squadrons. The command of the first of them, the Atlantic squadron, has been confided to Flag-officer Silas H. Stringham, and the second, or Gulf Squadron, is under command of Flag-officer William Mervine.

Before either of these gentlemen could appear on the station assigned him, Flag-officer Pendergrast, in command of the Home Squadron, established non-intercourse, and gave notice to foreigners of an embargo or effective blockade, at Hampton Roads, on April 30. It is due to this officer to say that he has rendered essential and active service, not only before but after the arrival of his senior on that station.

Flag-officer Stringham reached Hampton Roads with the Minnesota, his flag-ship, on the 13th of May, and entered upon his duties with such force as the Department in so brief a period was able to place at his disposal; and illegal commerce by the insurgents, in disregard of national laws, is almost entirely suppressed.

The Niagara, which arrived at Boston from Japan on the 24th of April, was immediately despatched to New York for necessary repairs, before proceeding off Charleston harbor, whither her energetic commander was directed and promptly repaired, to prevent illegal commerce from that port. In the mean time, information reached the Department of large shipments of arms and munitions of war in Europe, destined for New Orleans and Mobile. Believing it of primary importance that this shipment should, if possible, be intercepted, and its landing prevented, Capt. McKean was directed to proceed to the Gulf for that purpose; and the Harriet Lane was ordered to Charleston, to take the place of the Niagara before that port.

Flag-officer Mervine left Boston in the Mississippi in advance of his flag-ship, the Colorado, and arrived in the Gulf on the 8th of June. Previous to his arrival, an embargo or blockade of the Mississippi River, and some of the principal ports on the Gulf, had been commenced, and has been since vigorously maintained and enforced.

As the Constitution declares that “no preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one State over another,” and also that “no State shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imposts shall be for the use of the Treasury of the United States;” and as in several of the States the insurgents had, in utter disregard and violation of these express provisions of the Constitution and the laws, assumed to give a preference, by unauthorized regulations of commerce or revenue, to the ports of certain States over the ports of other States, and had assumed, without consent of the Congress, to lay imposts or duties on imports and exports, and that, too, not for the use of the Treasury of the United States, but to deprive it of revenue, it became a duty of paramount necessity, acting under the express authority of the act of 1807, authorizing the use of the navy in “causing the laws to be executed,” to suppress by an armed naval force before the principal ports, these illegal and unconstitutional proceedings; to assert the supremacy of the Federal laws, and to prevent any preference, by commercial regulation, to tho ports of any of the States.

In carrying into effect these principles, and in suppressing the attempts to evade and resist them, and in order to maintain the Constitution, and execute the laws, it became necessary to interdict commerce at those ports where duties could not be collected, the laws maintained and executed, and where the officers of the Government were not tolerated or permitted to exercise their functions. In performing this domestic and municipal duty, the property and interests of foreigners became to some extent involved in our home questions, and with a view of extending to them every comity that the circumstances would justify, the rules of blockade were adopted, and, as far as practicable, made applicable to the cases that occurred under this embargo or non-intercourse of the insurgent States. The commanders of the squadrons were directed to permit the vessels of foreigners to depart within fifteen days, as in cases of actual effective blockade, and their vessels were not to be seized unless they attempted, after having been once warned off, to enter an interdicted port in disregard of such warning.

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