with the principles of international law, and with the decisions of American courts of the highest authority; and I have only, in conclusion, to express my hope that you may not be instructed again to put forward claims which her Majesty's Government can not admit to be founded on any grounds of law or justice.
On October 6, 1863, Seward
, the Secretary of State
of the United States government, replied to this declaration of Earl Russell, saying:
The United States do insist, and must continue to insist, that the British Government is justly responsible for the damages which the peaceful, law-abiding citizens of the United States [!] sustain by the depredations of the Alabama.
Earl Russell answered on October 26, 1863, thus:
I must request you to believe that the principle contended for by her Majesty's Government is not that of commissioning, equipping, and manning vessels in our ports to cruise against either of the belligerent parties—a principle which was so justly and unequivocally condemned by the President of the United States in 1793. . . . But the British Government must decline to be responsible for the acts of parties who fit out a seeming merchant-ship, send her to a port or to waters far from the jurisdiction of British courts, and there commission, equip, and man her as a vessel of war.
The duty of neutral nations relative to the supply of warlike stores is expressed in these words:
It is not the practice of nations to undertake to prohibit their own subjects by previous laws from trafficking in articles contraband of war. Such trade is carried on at the risk of those engaged in it, under the liabilities and penalties prescribed by the law of nations or particular treaties.1
We now quote from the great American commentator on the Constitution of the United States
and on the law of nations:
It is a general understanding that the powers at war may seize and confiscate all contraband goods, without any complaint on the part of the neutral merchant, and without any imputation of a breach of neutrality in the neutral sovereign himself.
It was contended on the part of the French nation, in 1796, that neutral governments were bound to restrain their subjects from selling or exporting articles contraband of war to the belligerent powers.
But it was successfully shown, on the part of the United States, that neutrals may lawfully sell at home to a belligerent power, or carry themselves to the belligerent powers, contraband articles, subject to the right of seizure in transitu. This right has been explicitly declared by the judicial authorities of this country [United States]. The right of the neutral to transport, and of the hostile power to seize, are conflicting rights, and neither party can charge the other with a criminal act.2
In accordance with these principles, President Pierce
's message of December 31, 1855, contains the following passage:
In pursuance of this policy, the laws of the United States do not forbid their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent powers articles contraband of war, to