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mit. The intention of the Government though it came after ours, was not led by ought, in our humble judgment, at least, ours; it was a spontaneous and independent to have been communicated to the Ameri- act of the French Government. The French can ambassador, who, at the moment when were not under so urgent a necessity as we the proclamation was issued, was known to were of determining their maritime relabe on the point of arriving in this country. tions with the Confederates in American It is said by the apologists of the Govern- waters. And besides, while the British ment that Mr. Adams would have felt it Government are, generally speaking, honhis duty to protest against the measure; est, straightforward, true to their engage. that our Government would then have had ments, but totally wanting in the faculty of to carry it into effect in the face of his pro- conciliation, French Governments in genetest; and that an aggravated misunder-ral, and that which sprang from the conspistanding, perhaps an immediate quarrel racy of 1851 in particular, rival the Govwith the Americans, would have been the ernment which sprang from the Charleston result. But the answer to this plea, we ap- Convention in the address with which they prehend, is that in public and in private practise all the arts by which good opinions life
you have to look only to your own ac- can be won. They have the gift of making tions. Do what is right, and do it with rapine itself almost popular; and know perfect frankness and courtesy towards well how, out of any alliance or course of all who are concerned ; and if those with joint action in which they may engage, to whom you deal persist, nevertheless, in suck all the advantage themselves and deftobjecting to your decision, and take to ly cast all the odium on their partners. violent
courses, the blame will rest on Substantially, what has been the conduct them, not on you. No man, no nation, of France towards America compared with can guarantee himself or itself against ours ? Did not France in the darkest hour unreasonable resentment on the part of oth- of American distress propose to England ers : all that he or it can do is to take care a “mediation," which would have amounted that the resentment shall be without reason. in fact to an intervention in favor of the
A mere defect of manner, however, like rebels ? and was not that proposal rejected a defect of sympathy with the right cause, by the English Government with the cordial finds its meet punishment both among men approbation of the vast majority of the and nations in a loss of esteem and influ- English nation? Has not the French Em. ence, not in a lawsuit or a war.
peror taken advantage of the calamities of That the recognition of belligerency, the republic to plant in the New World even supposing it to have been precipitate, an offset of the upas tree which is blighting can have done much practical mischief in with its pestilential shade the political and the way of consolidating and encouraging social morality, not of France only, but of the rebellion, or that its delay for a few the surrounding nations ? The day may weeks would have made a great practical come when the Mexican empire may spread difference in that respect, is a thing which the contagion of Imperialism, military ariswe can scarcely believe. This seems to us tocracy and political priesthood over Amerito be a part of the “sixty days” view of can States in whose veins the virus of a kinthe secession, which, though naturally cher- dred malady is not yet extinct; and when ished at first from the unwillingness of all American statesmen may know what it is to hearts to acknowledge the arrival of a great allow French despotism and sacerdotalism disaster, proved, as we know, in fact to to extend their dominion from shore to be unfounded. Considering the almost de- shore by taking advantage of the divisions moniac fury and tenacity with which the of the Anglo Saxon race, the guardians in South persisted in the struggle long after both hemispheres of freedom and of truth. all hope of foreign assistance, long after all Frankness requires us to contess, in conhope of every kind was at an end, posterity nection with this question of the concession will, we are convinced, seek the key to the of belligerent rights, that we have always strength and duration of the Confederacy been of the number of those who contended in causes more deeply rooted and nearer that Confederate cruisers ought not to have home than the early recognition by a dis- been allowed to destroy merchantmen untant nation of belligerent rights which the condemned; and who inclined to think that Confederates were from the first unques- our Government erred, as the leading maritionably strong enough to assert, and which time Power among the neutrals, in not prothe Federals themselves never practically, posing to the other maritime Powers to prowithheld.
test against a practice which was clearly a reThe French recognition of belligerency, lapse into the barbarous times when the end
sought in war was not victory, but destruction. justification for a display of force was afThe answer given was, that Lord Stowell forded on their side ? Let them remember had decided that it was lawful to burn an the banquet given to Captain Wilkes at enemy's vessel, without taking her into a Boston, at which the Governor of the State prize-court, rather than allow her to escape. was present. Let them remember the note This answer did not seem to us conclusive. addressed to him by the Secretary of the The great interests of humanity and civili- Navy, telling him that his conduct in zation are not to be given into the hands of seizing these public enemies had been a dead lawyer. Questions relating to them marked by intelligence, ability, decision, are to be decided by the living generation, and firmness, and had the emphatic apon grounds as broad and as substantial as proval of the Department.” In that case, the interests themselves. The necessity of as in many other cases, the American Govcarrying prizes into a prize-court is not ernment had reason to complain of the unmerely a security to neutrals, it is a restraint controlled action of too eager subordinates. imposed, in the interest of the whole com- But other Governments and nations must monwealth of nations, upon the destructive be excused for believing that when the Secagency of war. The systematic burning at retary of the Navy has formally approved gea of multitudes of merchantmen by cruis- the act of an officer, it will be necessary ers without a port or prize-court, was a for a foreign Government to show some destate of things far beyond anything that termination in order to get the act reversed. Lord Stowell had experienced, or that he Let the truth be told : we have never concould have foreseen.“ Such an irruption of versed with a candid and well-informed relapsed barbarism ought to have been ar- American on the subject, who seemed quite rested by the common action of civilized sure that the resolution to insist on her denations. But this concerned all the Govern- mand evinced on the part of England had ments, at least all other maritime Govern- not some influence in enabling the Ameriments, as much as ours. The law, so call- can Government, in the midst of great ed, was in favor of permitting the destruc- popular excitement, to do what, all admit, tion of an enemy's vessel; and if the Con- was required by public law. To the lanfederates were burning Federal property guage in which our claim was preferred no on the sea, the Federals were burning Con- objection can possibly be taken. It was the federate property by land. Indeed, though must studiously considerate and respectful the issue has been raised, we are not aware which courtesy could dictate. On the whole that any sustained charge has been made we may heartily thank Heaven on both by American publicists against our Govern- sides, that we were not led into a quarrel ment on this special ground.
about a couple of slave-drivers, who were The affair of the Trent is another griev- as hateful to the mass of the people in Engance which still rankles, though in a less land as they were to the Americans themdegree. It was an affair in which the Brit- selves, and be content to think as little as ish nation had very great reason for re- possible for the future of this most hateful proaching its own Government. The sup-incident of the past. pression of Mr. Seward's pacific note, and
Of the blockade-running, the Americans the positive denial of the fact that such a never professed to complain as a contravencommunication had been received, published tion of public law. Their own people, in the Prime Minister's personal organ, with the same temptations, would have done would have formed the subject of discussion the same. But it was most natural that in Parliament,
if Parliament had not been they should be galled by seeing the outlyat the time in a remarkably complaisant ing dependency of a distant nation serving mood. The expedition to Canada, at a as a depôt and a base of operations for season when no military operations could their enemy in a war which imperilled the possibly be undertaken in that quarter, has existence of their nation. It will be well entailed upon this country a waste of sev- if the English people are led some day to eral millions, besides other bad effects. consider whether so offensive and dangerous Undoubtedly the Prime Minister of that a possession as Nassau has any countervailday did exhibit his usual love of displaying ing advantages which make it at all worth military force; and all will admit that any. our while to retain it in our hands. thing like a gratuitous menace was peculiar- We come to the case of the Alabama itly offensive and unworthy when directed self, on which we will say a few words, not against a nation in distress. But can for the purpose of taking a case of internaAmericans honestly say that no colour of tional law out of the master hands of “Historicus,” but for the purpose of insisting on and the dangers which it involved, had thus a few leading considerations of a practical been brought vividly home to the mind of kind.
the American Government, which had The first thing, indeed, which it is neces- wisely and honourably taken measures to sary in all these cases to reiterate is, that prevent its recurrence by increasing the there is, properly speaking, no such thing as stringency of the law. Of course the Coninternational law. It is heartily to be de- federates, from the same experience, were sired that nations had a recognized authori- familiar with this device, and they hastened, ty of some kind which could make laws in as soon as their own ports were blockaded, international matters binding on them all, to avail themselves of the ports of an unand a tribunal armed by common consent suspecting nation, for the purpose of carrywith the requisite powers for enforcing ing on a naval war. these laws, and interpreting them in any To the British Government and nation, doubtful case. Possibly such discussions as on the contrary, this offence was practically are now going on, by cultivating the gener- unknown. When the first instance of it al sense of legality, and the general convic- occurred in the case of the Alabama, it tion of the irrational as well as dreadful struck the bulk of our people as a new and character of an appeal to force to decide a monstrous invention of the Confederates question of right, may help to advance the and their Liverpool allies. Large public world towards this yet very distant consum- meetings were immediately held to protest mation. But at present there is no law- against its continuance; great indignation giver, no tribunal, no sanction, and there was manifested by the masses of the peofore no law. There are only usages, more ple; the Government, awakened to the full or less ratified by the general consent of gravity of the occasion, effectually bestirred nations, and recorded in the works of emi- itself; and the practice was at once and finent writers. Whenever a dispute arises nally put down. For though other vessels, between nations, we are still in a state of built in English yards, and manned, unhapnature. Nor can we rely upon this quasi- pily, in part by Englishmen, were used by law, as we can upon real law, to protect us the Contederates for purposes of war, and by its technicalities in doing anything inju- under circumstances disgraceful to the Eng. rious or offensive to our neighbours. A lish adventurers who were concerned in citizen, so long as he keeps within the tech- such enterprises, not a single real instance nical boundaries of the law, may make him- can be shown, after that of the Alabama, self a nuisance to his fellow-citizens with in which a ship armed for war was allowed physical impunity ; but, if a nation makes actually to go forth from our ports; while itself a nuisance to other nations, and they Earl Russell is able to point to several cases feel themselves strong enough to put the in which their departure was arrested, nuisance down, they will, on some pre- sometimes by the exertion on his part of text or other, certainly go to war. Let powers almost beyond the law. Ireland rise, let us blockade the Irish coast, Mr. Adams complains that we refused to let privateers issue from the ports of Hol- increase the stringency of our law. But land or Portugal and prey on our commerce this complaint seems not tenable. The under the Irish flag; whatever technical state of our municipal law is properly a doprecepts of the international jurists may mestic concern, Foreign nations have onstand in the way, we shall quarrel with the ly to see that we fulfil our international obDutch or Portuguese, and they will appeal ligations. A despot, with no law at all but to Vattel and Puffendorf in vain. Distinc- his own arbitrary will, would be perfectly tions between different kinds of legal obli- unimpeachable as against foreigners so long gations, again, belong only to a state of as he caused his subjects practically to ablaw: between nations, which are in a state stain from doing wrong to those of other of nature, all real obligations stand on an Powers ; while, on the other hand, the most equal footing, and if disregarded, will be perfect municipal law that could be imaequally enforced by arms.
gined would not afford the slightest defence American citizens had in more than one against the charges of another Government instance, in the war between England whose subjects, in spite of the existence of and the French revolutionists, and again in that law, had practically suffered wrong. the wars between Spain and Portugal and The municipal law is merely the instrument the South American States — indulged to a by which each Government restrains its great extent in the habit of preying on the own subjects, for whose acts, not for the commerce of a friendly nation under a for- stare of the law, it has to answer to other eign flag. The existence of this practice, nations. A perfect uniformity of municipal law upon these subjects, indeed, so far this vessel, or arrest her depredations, was, from being indispensable, might not be de- to say the least, quite as great as our resirable ; since a law applicable to the cir- missuess in allowing her to leave port. It cumstances and general institutions of one is difficult to understand how, with such a country might not be applicable to the cir- navy afloat, they can have allowed a single cumstances and general institutions of an- corsair so long to sweep the sea. other. It signifies nothing to Mr. Adams, Remissness, however, in the fulfilment of or to his Government, whether we changed a national obligation, though confined to a our law or not. It' we executed it, or single instance, and extenuated even in strained it, or even acted in defiance of it, this instance by the novelty of the case, is so as to prevent any more of these vessels a fault, and a fault which, if it can really be from leaving our ports, that is all that he brought home, calls for some kind of reparaand they have a right to require. The tion, which, the greater a nation is, the steam rams were stopped. They were more ready' it will be to afford. With restopped, it is true, by an expedient discred- missness Mr. Adams charges us. And from itable to the municipal law, and humiliating the facts set forth upon both sides, many to the majesty of England — that of pur- Englishmen believe that there is some chasing them, with the public money, of the ground for the charge — that, unfamiliar offender who had built them. But this is a with cases of this kind, and not sufficiently purely domestic question, not one affecting impressed with the gravity of the subject, Mr. Adams as the representative of a for- our Government did not attend to his warneign Power. If we had wilfully or careless- ings so promptly, or act upon them so vig; ly allowed the rams to escape from Birken- orously, as it ought. They are confirmed head, we should not have been exonerated in this impression by the reports circulated in the court of international right, though in excuse for the Government of untoward we had been able to state that, by our mu delays caused by the mental illness of the nicipal law, equipping ships without the Queen's Advocate, and of a betrayal by permission of the State against Her Majes- some treacherous subordinate of the decity's allies subjected the offender to the pen- sion which had been taken at the Foreign alties of treason. But as we did not allow Office to detain the Alabama at Liverpool. them to escape, we should have been per- The truth, however, can scarcely in this, fectly exonerated, though, in addition to any more than in other disputed cases, be paying the builder of the rams for his of- i arrived at merely by comparing the asserfence, we had made him a Privy Councillor tions and counter-assertions of the parties and a Knight of the Garter. The improve to the dispute. It can be arrived at only ment of municipal law for the purpose of by means of a judicial investigation, conbetter fulfilling international obligations is ducted before an impartial tribunal. We a very proper subject of mutual suggestion do not see by what other means an unjust and negotiation, and a strict Foreign En- accusation can be effectually disposed of, listment Act is evidence of good intentions; the character of this country effectually but so long as the obligation is performed, cleared of reproach, or, what is of the highwhether improvement in the means of per- est importance, the rule of right clearly esforming it are adapted or not, no complaint tablished and solemnly recognized by both can be sustained.
parties for the future. We are, therefore, Before the nation and the Government very sorry, and we apprehend that there is could be roused, however, one vessel had a general feeling of regret, that both Govescaped, and, unfortunately, she did great ernments should, as the case now stands, damage to American commerce; though to have rejected this mode of settling their difcharge us with the whole extent of that ference, and determined each to make itself damage would, on any hypothesis as to the judge, in the last resort, in its own cause. history of the vessel short of wilful conniv- In ordinary life, such a refusal of friendly ance on the part of our Government, be arbitration to decide a question of right unreasonable in the highest degree; since which it is morally impossible that the two we should thus be held responsible not only parties, though each were the soul of justice for our own want of diligence in letting her and honour, should be able to decide for escape, but for the slackness of the Ameri- themselves, would be thought a sure proof cans in pursuit. Remissness is the worst of wrongheadedness and folly. Why it is fault with which either party can, consis- not equally so in diplomary, diplomacy tently with any regard for probability and alone knows. decency, charge the other; and the remiss- That the British Government were someness of the Americans in failing to catch what taken by surprise, and did not know exactly how to deal with the case, appears to arbitration, but requires that we shall do from the course which they pursued when so, in order that by this, the only possible they learned that the vessel had escaped. mode, our character for good faith may be They sent out orders to detain her at Nas- cleared to our allies, and before the world. sau, but she did not visit that place; and Any arbitrator before whom we might next time she appeared in a British port, go would, of course, give due weight to the having then entered on her career of dep: precedents in our favour, furnished by the redation, she was hospitably received, and conduct of the American Government in treated as a lawful belligerent. It is im- the case of the Spanish and Portuguese possible, as it seems to us, to reconcile such claims, about which Lord Russell and Mr. à course with any intention to do wrong Adams, as the parties interested, having upon the one hand, or any well-settled rule once given their respective versions of the of right upon the other.
facts, can do little more than bandy words. To hunt the Alabama down as a corsair, Those precedents, as at present set forth, which had sailed from our port to prey seem to us almost decisive in our favour. upon the commerce of our friends, was per- The only difference which Mr. Adams suchaps the course prescribed to our Govern- ceeds in pointing out between the conduct ment by the highest considerations of pub- of our Government and that of bis own, to lic right, by the real justice of the case, and the advantage of his own, is that the Ameriby our interests as a great commercial na- can Government consented to improve its tion. But this course had not been taken law,- though not so effectually, it appears, by the American Government in similar but that the offence continued to be comcases, nor was it a part of the acknowledged mitted after the change. But we did what law of nations. We are not aware, even, was, in effect, the same thing
we adminthat the Americans ever demanded that we istered the law more strictly; and whether should take it; though, by putting in a the offence is prevented by a stricter law, claim for the whole of the damages done by or by a stricter administration of it, or by the Alabama, they now seek, in effect, to any other means, is, as we have said before, make is responsible for its not having been a matter with which the representative of a taken.
foreign nation has no concern. Again, to have called the Confederate An arbitrator would take care to sepaGovernment to account for a violation of rate the case of the Alabama, as the issue our neutrality, strictly analogous, and equal really before him, from the other cases of in heinousness, to marching troops over our Confederate cruisers built in English ports, territory for the invasion of our allies, would which are made to cluster round it, and by perhaps have been a just and (considering the seeming connection artificially to deepen the vast interests we had at stake) a wise its hue, in the polemical despatches of Mr. measure, and it was one which, as it seems Adams; but which really belong to a difto us, a really strong English minister would ferent class. An arbitrator would note, in have adopted. But it had not been adopted our favour, the strangeness of the present by the Americans, and therefore they were situation, in which the Confederates themnot in a position to upbraid our Govern- selves, the principal and only wilful offendment with its omission. In fact, they had ers, are received back to the privileges of taken up a position which would have made American citizenship, while we, at, worst it very difficult for them in any case to re- their involuntary abettors, are called upon quire that our Government should hold the to bear all the consequences of the offence; Confederates to belligerent duties; for to so that, literally, the real criminals would require that the Confederates should be be allowed to take part in voting war held to belligerent duties would have been against other people, for not having been to acknowledge, by necessary implication, sufficiently active in preventing the comthat they had been duly invested with bel- mission of their crimes. An arbitrator, ligerent rights.
taking a large and equitable view of the We repeat, however, that it there is any entire case, would in his own mind trace fair ground for suspecting that the English back the whole of these calamities to their Government was guilty of remissness in the original source; and would pronounce, as performance of international obligations, we apprehend, that the Americans, who even in the slightest degree, and that had by their own institutions nursed the through this remissness, wholly or in part, a sure elements of a great political explosion, friendly and allied nation has suffered a ought to be somew bat lenient in heaping serious injury, the honour of England not blame and inflicting vengeance on their only does not forbid us to submit the matter neighbours, who, having also some combus