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.