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States Navy Yard in Brooklyn, N. Y., October 26, 1858. Before he entered upon the duties of this station, while at his home in New Haven, and also during the time he lived in Brooklyn, his thoughts were much engrossed in public affairs - benevolent, religious, and political. His correspondence, which was naturally for the most part professional, and concerned itself with matters which had engaged his mind in the past, still had the great objects of the public welfare in view. He wrote and spoke much on the subject of the suppression of the slave-trade.
His grand panacea, which was good as far as it went, and to which he clung until, with thousands of others, he was taught a better lesson, was African colonization. He was, however, persevering in his collection of facts, and in his appeals to the government on the subject of a vigorous suppression of the trade at its original source, the African coast. He thought that the responsibility rested in a great measure with our country. He would have our government, like England, cleanse its hands of all that iniquity, and, having clean hands, it could act with power with other nations in its negotiations on this subject. One of his correspondents, Captain Le Roy, commanding the steamer Mystic, then cruising off the African coast, seems to have had less confidence than himself in the pure benevolence of England. This officer thus writes :
“I like your article much, and when I fall in with Calhoun and Godon, will send it to them. I believe a few more such articles will have the effect of drawing public attention in such a way toward this nefarious traffic as may cause the establishing of measures to break it up. I regret that my response to your inquiry about the palm-oil in the Congo should have been incorrect; but, as I subsequently stated, palm-oil within the last year has begun to be an article of manufacture and export from the Congo. With regard to the right of search,' as a general rule I am opposed to its exercise by foreign vessels, especially by our English brethren. I must confess that, with all my regard for John Bull, I am not so perfectly satisfied that he would always do the clean thing, and unless he
were held to a strict accountability, our legitimate traders might be subjected to great annoyances.
“As to the idea of the suppression of the slave-trade being a matter of philanthropy with Master John, I don't believe it, and I do not believe one hundredth part of the zeal would be exhibited by him if he did not receive so much per ton for every vessel captured, and so much a head for every slave; in fact, I have known an English captain honestly to confess that he came out here to make money; and when it has been suggested that it would be a good plan to put an officer and boat's crew from an English man-of-war aboard of our ships, and the opposite, so as to make possible the more complete identification and interruption of the illegal traffic, the response has been, 'But will you share prize-money with us ?' Prize-money is what they are after, and without it poor nig may be a slave to the end of his life for all they care. As to cruising in company with our vessels, they do not wish it. If there is a suspicious craft about that will not deny its American nationality, so as to enable Master John to seize him, he will possibly, in the exercise of his magnanimity, discover that the grapes are sour,' and inform one of our cruisers; but if the fellow has cargo aboard, he will endeavor to persuade him to haul down his flag and deny his nationality by promising to let him land, or work upon his fears by threatening to hand him over to some American manof-war. Of course, knowing his offense is punishable by our laws with death, the slaver does not long hesitate. We must change our laws upon the subject. It must no longer be declared piracy, and punishable with death, but a penal offense. Does it ever occur to the vaunters of British philanthropy that few or none of all the slaves captured by British cruisers ever return to their native soil—that they are taken to British colonies and apprenticed? And what is the nature of that apprenticeship? Poor abused Brother Jonathan puts his big hand into his pocket and sends captured slaves back to Africa, and supports them there until they can do something for themselves; yet honest old John, who steals the slaves from the slavers, and calls them apprentices, rolls up his eyes and groans over American insincerity in countenancing the slave-trade, and thinks complacently of how much he is doing for the suffering negro race. Our friend Monsieur goes to work systematically, and has extensive and comfortable barracoons put up; buys his apprentices, and has them decently cared for, and sent in a regular way to his colonies. Though called apprentices, they are still slaves. For some time past a great rivalry has existed between the French factories and the slave-traders, which
has resulted in the price of slaves advancing some fifty or a hundred
This writer, as well as Captain (afterward Commodore) Dornen, his other correspondent from Africa, constantly express to Captain Foote the obligations of those actually engaged in the work of putting a stop to the African slave-trade to himself for what he had done, and evidently regard him as authority on all these questions. He did what he could. He worked and watched at sea, and wrote and agitated on shore; and if his views were not always the most comprehensive, he must be looked upon as one who with an untiring life-long zeal labored for the happiness of the colored race.
In the temperance reform, especially among seamen, and in purely religious matters, he remained true to his convictions ; and he seemed to delight in the opportunity of being at home once more, in order to throw himself into these good works. In private religious meetings his voice was heard in exhortation. One of his warm-hearted naval friends writes to him from Cincinnati in the midst of the revival scenes of 1858:
“While voices from multitudes are going up from this goodly land in praise and blessing for the outpourings of His Holy Spirit in these days on our country, I was sure you would be glad to hear mingling with them a voice from the ocean. I was enabled this morning by strength from above to stand up and speak—to speak about our glorious ship; to do what you, sir, have done and are doing. I should like to receive from you a letter on the subject of religion among us sea-faring menof this new and wonderful working of God's Spirit with us as well as ashore. How they would rejoice to hear from an experienced head and Christian heart tidings of these things, and would thank God and take courage."
While in charge at Brooklyn, Commander Foote established and carried on, as he did in former years at the Philadelphia and Boston Yards, a regular system of religious instruction and of mission-schools among the operatives of the Yard, and
in the neglected outlying districts; and there are many poor families, sailors, and workingmen now living in and about that neighborhood to testify of the good that he did to their bodies and souls during his brief military rule at the New York harbor. In the winter of 1859–60 there was quite an interest in religious matters on board the receiving-ship North Carolina, and a prayer-meeting was held nightly for months on the orlop-deck of that vessel, upon which meeting Foote was a regular attendant; and so frank, cordial, and confiding, as well as energetic, was the tone of his piety, and his efforts for the spiritual good of others were so earnest, that he was thought to be immediately instrumental in the conversion of many. He believed in George Herbert's words
“Be useful where thou livest."
He did not wait for impossibilities to clear up like mists, but he steered straight into and through them. He began to do what he could. He saw no impossibilities. Difficulties acted upon him like stimulants. His methods were old and unvaried, but he believed in them, and he applied them unhesitatingly. He meant to regulate matters, to begin the work of improvement, to clear away old abuses, and leave the world better than he found it; and his grand principle of action was to begin at once at the religious nature, and try to implant a new life there.
One of his old Portsmouth officers (Pendleton G. Watmough), about to leave the Navy, writes :
“It is a long parting from one who represents all that is good in a service where I have spent seventeen years; and though about leaving it, I shall always cherish a remembrance, and a fond one, of my associations with many in it-particularly of our brilliant cruise in the saucy Portsmouth.*?*
* In the same year of the return of the Portsmouth, a neat and handsome monument, designed by a New York artist, costing $1000, which was contributed by their shipmates” of the San Jacinto, Portsmouth, and
Another fellow-officer of the East India cruise, Captain Macomb, writes:
"The men like to hear of you. They know that you afforded them all the 'pigeon,' as they call it, on the cruise, and that you had full swing in that squadron. The old Portsmouthers are proud of being remembered by Captain Foote. Could you not write to them, and give them some of your good advice ?"
Commodore Smith sends a characteristic letter, which may serve to diversify this uneventful but by no means unprofitable portion of Commander Foote's life:
“WASHINGTON, February 4, 1860. “MY DEAR CAPTAIN, -Yours of yesterday's date, with a douceur for Anna, just received. She is a sturdy beggar, and seems to think the orphans are especially under her charge. The object is good-none better; but I have cautioned her against troubling my non-Catholic friends to contribute to her Catholic charities. She gets enough out of me to suffice for the Protestant part of the Navy. But as you seem to be so popular with the ladies, it emboldens them to take liberties. You are more liberal than I should be under similar circumstances. My opinion is favorable to the institution of widows' and orphans' homes of all religions. Nevertheless I bear in mind what my priest reads at our offertory—“Never turn your face from any poor man. If you have no penny to give, hear his story and judge charitably.' You are a good Samaritan. You not only give the pennies, but you pour the oil and wine of consolation into the wounds of the conscience and heart. I wish I were so endowed; but I am not. I do not possess the quality of pathos which brings the stray sheep into the fold again. Such sacred oratory is rare. It is not taught at the forum nor learned in the pulpit, but in private, with labor and intercourse with men.' Go on in your course. If your military commission should fail you in any sense, your zeal and ability to teach and speak will not. At last a Speaker is chosen. Next
Levant, was erected in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the memory of those who fell in the capture of the Canton “ Barrier Forts.” The names of these are inscribed upon the monument, with a representation of the ships and the forts, with flags, wreaths, and other appropriate devices. It is one of the finest marine monuments in the country, and forms an interesting feature of the Yard.