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[314] issued orders prohibiting either party from bringing prizes into their ports. This prohibition, directed with apparent impartiality against both belligerents, was in reality effective against the Confederate States only, for they alone could find a hostile commerce on the ocean. Merely nominal against the United States, the prohibition operated with intense severity on the Confederacy by depriving it of the only means of maintaining its struggle on the ocean against the crushing superiority of naval force possessed by its enemies. The value and efficiency of the weapon which was thus wrested from our grasp by the combined action of ‘neutral’ European powers, in favor of a power which professes openly its intention of ravaging their commerce by privateers in any future war, is strikingly illustrated by the terror inspired among commercial classes of the United States by a single cruiser of the Confederacy. One small steamer, commanded by officers and manned by a crew who were debarred by the closure of neutral ports from the opportunity of causing captured vessels to be condemned in their favor as prizes, sufficed to double the rates of marine insurance in Northern ports, and consign to forced inaction numbers of Northern vessels, in addition to the direct damage inflicted by captures at sea.

But it was especially in relation to the so-called blockade that the policy of European powers was so shaped as to cause the greatest injury to the Confederacy, and to confer signal advantages on the United States. A few words in explanation may here be necessary.

Prior to the year 1856 the principles regulating this subject were to be gathered from the writings of eminent publicists, the decisions of admiralty courts, international treaties, and the usages of nations. The uncertainty and doubt which prevailed in reference to the true rules of maritime law, in time of war, resulting from the discordant and often conflicting principles announced from such varied and independent sources, had become a grievous evil to mankind. Whether a blockade was allowable against a port not invested by land as well as by sea, whether a blockade was valid by sea if the investing fleet was merely sufficient to render ingress to the blockaded port evidently dangerous, or whether it was further required for its legality that it should be sufficient ‘really to prevent access,’ and numerous other similar questions, had remained doubtful and undecided.

Animated by the highly honorable desire to put an end ‘to differences of opinion between neutrals and belligerents, which may occasion serious difficulties and even conflicts’ (such was the official language), the five great powers of Europe, together with Sardinia and Turkey, adopted in 1856 the following declaration of principles:

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