Petition to Earl Russell.
To the Right Honorable the Earl Russell, Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Foreign Department:the memorial of the undersigned shipowners of Liverpool showeth: That your memorialists, who are deeply interested in British shipping, view with dismay the probable future consequences of a state of affairs which permits a foreign belligerent to construct in and send to sea from British ports, vessels of war, in contravention of the provisions of the existing law. That the immediate effect of placing at the disposal of that foreign belligerent a very small number of steam cruisers has been to paralyze the mercantile marine of a powerful maritime and naval nation, inflicting within a few months losses, direct and indirect, on its ship-owning and mercantile interests, which years of peace may prove inadequate to retrieve. That your memorialists cannot shut their eyes to the probability that in any future war between England and a foreign power, however insignificant in naval strength, the example now set by subjects of Her Majesty, while England is neutral, may be followed by citizens of other countries neutral when England is belligerent; and that the attitude of helplessness in which Her Majesty's government have declared their inability to detect and punish breaches of the law, notoriously committed by certain of Her Majesty's subjects, may hereafter be successfully imitated by the governments of those other countries in answer to English remonstrances. That the experience of late events has proved to the conviction of your memorialists that the possession by a belligerent of swift steam cruisers, under no necessity actual or conventional, to visit the possibly blockaded home-ports of that belligerent, but able to obtain all requisite supplies from neutrals, will become a weapon of offence against which no preponderance of naval strength can effectually guard, and the severity of which will be felt in the ratio of the shipping and mercantile wealth of the nation against whose mercantile marine the efforts of those steam cruisers may be directed. That the effect of future war with any power thus enabled to purchase, prepare, and refit vessels of war in neutral ports, will inevitably be to transfer to neutral flags that portion of the seacarrying trade of the world which is now enjoyed by your memorialists and by other British shipowners. That over and above the chances of pecuniary loss to themselves, your memorialists share in the regret with which a law-regarding community must naturally look on successful attempts to evade the provisions of an act of Parliament, passed for a single and simple purpose, but which has been found not to give the Executive all the powers needed for its effective execution. That your memorialists would accordingly respectfully urge upon your Lordship the expedience of proposing to Parliament to sanction the introduction of such amendments into the Foreign Enlistment act as may have the effect of giving greater power to the Executive to prevent the construction in British ports of ships destined for the use of belligerents; and your memorialists would further suggest to your Lordship the importance of endeavoring to secure the assent of the Government of the United States of America, and of other foreign countries, to the adoption of similar regulations in those countries also. All which your memorialists respectfully submit. Signed,
Thomas Chilton, Jones, Palmer & Co., Farnworth & Jardine, Thos. & Jas. Harrison, L. H. Macintyre, Potter brothers, Chas. Geo. Cowre & Co., M. J. Sealby, R. Gervin & Co., J. Aikin, Finlay, Campbell & Co., Cropper, Ferguson & Co., J. Campbell, S. R. Graves, Rankin, Gilmore & Co., Rathbone Bros. & Co., James Brown & Co., Liverpool, June 9, 1863. James Poole & Co., W. T. Jacob, Henry Moore & Co., Imrie & Tomlinson, Sampson & Holt, James Barnes, Richard Nicholson & son, W. B. Boadle, J. Prowse & Co., Currie, Newton & Co., Nelson, Alexander & Co., Kendall brothers, C. T. Bowrin & Co., G. H. Fletcher & Co., Alfred Holt.