previous next

[227] 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

1 Wheaton's International Law, sixth edition, p. 571, 1855.

2 Kent's Commentaries, Vol. I, p. 145, 1854.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (6)
Franklin Mills, Portage County, Ohio (Ohio, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
— Wheaton (1)
W. H. Seward (1)
Franklin Pierce (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
October 26th, 1863 AD (1)
October 6th, 1863 AD (1)
December 31st, 1855 AD (1)
1855 AD (1)
1854 AD (1)
1796 AD (1)
1793 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: