challenged to a game of “brag,” in which he was no proficient.
Astute, sagacious, far-seeing as he was, he could not see into his adversary's hand — he was bluffed — he revoked the permission he had given the constructor.
A similar diplomatic game had already been successfully played in England
, in the case of the “Berkenhead rams” --as two vessels built on the Mercey were called; for a like issue had been made on the charge that they were designed for the Confederate Government.
Had all the vessels charged to the Confederate
account so actually belonged, that Government would have been the most formidable of all naval powers.
This case could not be so summarily disposed of in England
, where all questions involving the rights of the people had been up to this time invariably adjudicated and decided according to law — the English
people being pre-eminently conservative and law-abiding.
This case was
adjudicated, and all the powers of Government brought to the investigation in order to establish the charge that these vessels were
built for the Confederate Government.
The prosecution exerted a degree of energy unparalleled in the accumulation of evidence from every hole and corner; for there were consequences involved in the decision so momentous as not to be weighed in the balance with tens of millions of pounds sterling, or any other sum of money — the life of a nation was at stake.
Notwithstanding the disposition on the part of the Government
, the earnest hope that the investigations of the Attorney-General
would discover evidence to sustain the charge, that learned jurist, after a laborious search, was obliged to report that there was no
evidence to show that the “Berkenhead rams” were built for the Confederate Government.
This was too important a measure to be given up because the law was impotent, or even after the failure of the desperate efforts that had been resorted to. It was a case of life or death.
If the law were not strong enough, some other course must be adopted.
was made — it would be a “casus belli” if the vessels in question should come into the possession of the Confederate Government.
Impotent as was this threat, it prevailed.
The Government succumbed, did what had never before been done — violate their own laws and take peaceable possession of the vessels; that the law could not condemn — the surest course by which to satisfy the complainants.
This occurred previously to the action of the French Emperor
— in the case before mentioned — an example he conceived worthy of his following.