152.-an English view of the civil war in America.
The effect of the civil war in America
commerce is certainly one of the most important questions which ever engaged public attention.
The commercial relations between this country and America
are so multifarious, that any disturbance of them must necessarily cause infinite perplexity and great pecuniary loss; but those perplexities and losses will be seriously aggravated if the policy, which the British Government
intends to pursue, is not defined with as much accuracy as possible.
The British Government, as the greatest power at sea, has the deepest interest in adopting a principle of action which, while it secures every advantage to commerce, will not limit the action of the British Navy
in the event of a war. Lord Palmerston, therefore, is acting with statesmanlike prudence in declining to bind himself to any course of action without the maturest deliberation.
And Mr. Walpole
deserves well of his country in lending the weight of his authority and influence to support Ministers in their cautious policy.
In the meantime it may be useful to endeavor to indicate the position which the States under President Davis
now occupy with relation to those under President Lincoln
, and the position which both of these Confederacies now occupy with relation to Great Britain
and the rest of the world.
In the first place, it is clear that, in the case of a rebellion in the territories of any government, other governments may adopt either of two lines of action: They may take no notice of the disturbance which is going on; or they may recognize the state of insurrection, and treat each of the contending parties as at war with each other.
This latter course has been adopted in the present instance by the Foreign Minister
, and in this respect he has acted with perfect prudence and in complete accordance with international law. Whether a province in a state of rebellion is to be treated as a provisionally independent power has always been considered a matter of discretion.
It may be said that where, as in the case of America
, half a continent has risen in arms against the other half, and has inaugurated an independent government — more especially when the peculiar Constitution of the United States
is considered — according to all precedent the Southern Confederation
must be treated as an independent power, and as entitled to belligerent rights.
But the recognition of those rights is a step not to be taken without the gravest consideration of its consequences.
No power was ever more free to act according to the clear dictates of justice and humanity than Great Britain
in relation to this conflict.
It is apprehended that in strict law, President Lincoln
is still entitled to treat all those American subjects who adhere to the cause of President Davis
as traitors, and to punish the South American cruisers as pirates.
As this principle, however, if strictly followed, would certainly lead to terrible bloodshed and intolerable atrocities, it is obvious that the Northern
and Southern combatants will treat each other as regular enemies, and observe, as far as possible, all the usages of war
This, however, will take place without any recognition of the only ground on which such a claim could legally be based, the independence of the Southern Confederacy.
It is a political question worth considering, whether such a de facto
concession might not be made to the Southern
authorities by England
; an exemption from the liabilities of pirates, without acknowledging in them the belligerent rights, which would give them unnecessarily a title to interfere with our commerce, and raise a league of slaveholders to a place among the nations of the world.
The recognition of belligerent rights in the South
would render the relations of this country to either of the American
combatants precisely similar to the relations which subsisted during the Crimean War
on the one hand, and Russia
, or France
, on the other hand.
If, indeed, the Declaration of Paris
had been signed by America, the case might have been different; but as that Declaration only bound those Governments which signed it, and as America
declined to do so, the law of Neutrals during war remains precisely as it was before the year 1854.
The result is that both President Lincoln
and President Davis
may issue letters of marque to those who respectively acknowledge their authority.
The lawfully commissioned vessels of war of either power are entitled to all the privileges usually accorded to the public vessels of war of an independent state, always on the supposition that the belligerent rights of the South
The right of search, which, notwithstanding the strange ideas of some journalists who ought to know better, has always been allowed to exist in time of war, will become capable of being exercised by the cruisers both of the North
and of the South
The doctrine of the English Admiralty
, according to Chancellor Kent
, on the right of visitation and search, and on the limitation of the right, has been recognized in its fullest extent by courts of justice in America
And although that right does not entitle a belligerent to search for his subjects or seamen, it does entitle him to search for enemy's property, contraband of war, or for men in the land and naval services of the enemy.
merchant ships and those of all neutrals must, therefore, expect to be searched by the armed vessels commissioned by either of the two rival Presidents
If in the course of searching a neutral friend's ship the goods of an enemy are discovered, it is the established law of England
that such goods are liable to confiscation.
If, therefore, a cargo of Manchester
goods belonging to a New York merchant were found on board an English ship by a Southern cruiser, a British court would hold that they ought to be confiscated.
But in American courts the result is more doubtful.
According to American jurists, the rule of public law, that the property of an enemy is liable to capture on the vessel of a friend, is now declared on the part of the American Government
to have no foundation in natural right; and that the usage which undoubtedly exists, rests entirely on force.
These doctrines were propounded when it was the object of Americans
to enlarge the rights of neutrals.
It remains to be seen whether they will be upheld in the present crisis.
If they are, the neutral powers may insist that the American cruisers shall not seize the goods of an enemy when found on board a neutral friend's ship.
On the other hand, if, in the course of searching an enemy's ship, the goods of a neutral friend are found, it is the admitted law of nations that such goods are not liable to be seized.
But the Americans
have carried this principle a step further; for it seems that the Supreme Court of the United States
has twice carried the principle of the immunity of neutral property on board an enemy's ship to the extent of allowing it to be laden on board an armed belligerent cruiser, and the Court
seems to have held moreover that the goods did not lose their neutral character even in consequence of resistance made by the armed vessel — provided the neutral did not aid in such armament or resistance — and this rule prevails notwithstanding the neutral had chartered the whole vessel, and was on board at the time of resistance.
A contrary decision has no doubt been given by the English Judges
But if the Americans
adhere to their opinion, it will be competent for any Englishman or Frenchman, or other neutral, to hire a fleet in the South
, which may be armed by the captains, to load the ship with corn or cotton, or any other merchandise; and even although the American
captains of these vessels resist the cruisers of the North
, the merchandise belonging to the neutrals will be quite safe and will be directed to be restored.
It is difficult to imagine any state of law more favorable to neutral nations than that which must prevail if the American Judges
adhere to the principles of those decisions which have been pronounced by the Supreme Court at Washington
It is hardly necessary to remark that the only way by which neutral ships can be excluded from the ports either of the North
or of the South
is by an effective blockade.
With regard to the North
, such a blockade is at present obviously out of the power of President Davis
With regard to the South
, it remains to be seen what number of ships President Lincoln
may be able to muster.
In the midst of the complications which must arise by the events of either Confederacy adopting principles of law different from those which have hitherto been proclaimed at Washington
, it might, perhaps, be advisable to settle the moot points by a temporary convention.
This is especially necessary in the case of the Confederate States
of the South
, because they may decline to be bound by the decisions which have already been pronounced by the Supreme Court of the United States
.--London Daily News
, May 9.