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[270] government may deem this war a favorable occasion for establishing, by the temporary sacrifice of their neutral rights, a precedent which shall justify the future exercise of those extreme belligerent pretensions that their naval power renders so formidable. The opportunity for obtaining the tacit assent of European governments to a line of conduct which ignores the obligations of the declaration of Paris, and treats that instrument rather as a theoretical exposition of principles than a binding agreement, may be considered by the British Ministry as justifying them in seeking a great advantage for their own country at the expense of ours. But we cannot permit, without protest, the assertion that international law or morals regard as “impartial neutrality” conduct avowed to be “exceedingly advantageous” to one of the belligerents.

I have stated that we are without adequate remedy against the injustice under which we suffer. There are but two measures that seem applicable to the present condition of our relations with neutral powers. One is, to imitate the wrong of which we complain, to retaliate by the declaration of a paper blockade of the coast of the United States, and to capture all neutral vessels trading with their ports that our cruisers can intercept on the high seas. This measure I cannot recommend. It is true that, in so doing, we should but follow the precedents set by Great Britain and France in the Berlin and Milan decrees, and the British Orders in Council at the beginning of the present century. But it must be remembered that we, ourselves, protested against those very measures as signal violations of the law of nations, and declared the attempts to excuse them, on the ground of their being retaliatory, utterly insignificant. Those blockades are now quoted by writers on public law as a standing reproach on the good name of the nations who were betrayed by temporary exasperation into wrong-doing, and ought to be regarded rather as errors to be avoided than as examples to be followed.

The other measure is not open to this objection. The second article of the declaration of Paris, which provides “that the neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war,” was a new concession by belligerents in favor of neutrals, and not simply the enunciation of an acknowledged pre-existing rule, like the fourth article, which referred to blockades. To this concession we bound ourselves by the convention with Great Britain and France, which took the shape of the resolutions adopted by your predecessors on the thirteenth of August, 1861. The consideration tendered us for that concession has been withheld. We have, therefore, the undeniable right to refuse longer to remain bound by a contract which the other party refuses to fulfil. But we should not forget that war is but temporary, and that we desire that peace should be permanent. The future policy of the Confederacy must ever be to uphold neutral rights to their full extent. The principles of the declaration of Paris commend themselves to our judgment as more just, more humane, and more consonant with modern civilization than those belligerent pretensions which great naval powers have heretofore sought to introduce into the maritime code, To forego our undeniable right to the exercise of those pretensions is a policy higher, worthier of us and our cause than to revoke our adhesion to principles that we approve. Let our hope for redress rest rather on a returning sense of justice which cannot fail to awaken a great people to the consciousness that the war in which we are engaged ought rather to be made a reason for forbearance of advantage than an occasion for the unfriendly conduct of which we make just complaint.

The events of the last year have produced important changes in the condition of our Southern neighbor. The occupation of the capital of Mexico by the French army, and the establishment of a provisional government, followed by a radical change in the constitution of the country, have excited lively interest. Although preferring our own government and institutions to those of other countries, we can have no disposition to contest the exercise, by them, of the same right of self-government which we assert for ourselves. If the Mexican people prefer a monarchy to a republic, it is our plain duty to cheerfully acquiesce in their decision, and to evince a sincere and friendly interest in their prosperity. If, however, the Mexicans prefer maintaining their former institutions, we have no reason to apprehend any obstacle to the free exercise of their choice. The Emperor of the French has solemnly disclaimed any purpose to impose on Mexico a form of government not acceptable to the nation; and the eminent personage to whom the throne has been tendered declines its acceptance, unless the offer be sanctioned by the suffrages of the people. In either event, therefore, we may confidently expect the continuance of those peaceful relations which have been maintained on the frontier, and even a large development of the commerce already existing to the mutual advantage of the two countries.

It has been found necessary, since your adjournment, to take action on the subject of certain foreign consuls within the Confederacy. The nature of this action, and the reasons on which it was based, are so fully exhibited in the correspondence of the State department, which is transmitted to you, that no additional comment is required.

In connection with this subject of our relations with foreign countries, it is deemed opportune to communicate my views in reference to the treaties made by the Government of the United States at a date anterior to our separation, and which were consequently binding on us as well as on foreign powers, when the separation took effect. It was partly with a view to entering into such arrangements as the change in our government had made necessary, that we felt it our duty to send commissioners abroad, for the purpose of entering into the negotiations proper


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