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Doc. 207 1/2.-British relations with America.

House of Commons, Tuesday, May 28.
Lord J. Russell brought up copies of a correspondence with the Government of the United States of America. The noble lord said: In moving that this correspondence should lie upon the table, it may be convenient to the House, and especially so to the commercial interests in his country, that I should state the substance of the correspondence which has lately taken place with the Government of the United States of America with regard to the blockade. On the 19th of April, the President of the United States issued a notification that it was intended to institute a blockade of the ports of the seven States which had seceded; and on the 27th of April another notification was issued, announcing that it was intended to blockade the ports of North Carolina and Virginia. When Lord Lyons applied for an official notification of the establishment and commencement of the blockade, he was told by the Secretary of State that it was not usual to make such a notification, but that it would be made by the different naval commanders at the several ports when the blockade was instituted. It results from the correspondence that the blockade is to be notified in that manner, and that one blockade has already been so notified — viz., that of the ports of Virginia and North Carolina by the flag officer Prendergast, who has declared that he is in a situation to make an efficient blockade of those ports. There has been no notification of a similar kind with regard to the ports of the other States which it was declared were also to be blockaded. The rules so far as [302] Lord Lyons has been able to ascertain them, and of which he has given an account to Admiral Milne, commanding the squadron in those waters, are, first, that the notification is in each place to be made by the naval officer commanding the squadron or the ships which institute the blockade; and, in the next place, that fifteen days are to be allowed, after the establishment of the blockade, for vessels to come out of the ports. It appears that whether they were loaded or not at the time the blockade was established, provided they come out within fifteen days, their passage is to be allowed. On the other hand, it is not permitted by the United States Government that vessels should be sent to ports which are blockaded for the purpose of bringing away the property of British subjects, or the vessels or property of other nations. An application for such permission was made, to which the Secretary of State replied that if such a facility were granted it would be used by American citizens wishing to bring away property. Lord Lyons ends his communication to Admiral Milne very properly. He says that if the blockade is carried into effect according to the rules established by the law of nations, we must of course conform to it; and that we can only see that the blockade is sufficient and regular. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. T. Duncombe.--I think that the noble lord ought to inform the House what means he has taken to give protection to British subjects and British property in the Slave States of America. I understand that the greatest outrages are being committed upon British subjects in these States. The noble lord may have no information upon the subject, but I have this morning received letters from persons upon whom I can depend, and who have requested me to ask what the Government are doing or intend to do in this matter. There is not the least complaint made against the Government of the free States. But in the Confederate States neither life nor property is safe, and British subjects who went there with wholly different objects, and under very different circumstances, are compelled to take up arms and fight in the Pro-Slavery ranks. The noble lord took great credit to himself for having issued a proclamation, and for declaring that the Foreign Enlistment act will be put in force. But if that be so, all persons engaged in this war under such circumstances will be treated as pirates. The mercantile marine of America, particularly of the Southern States, is chiefly manned by Irishmen and Englishmen, and others from our own colonies, who will now be compelled to remain and to enter the ranks of the belligerents, and if taken, though they may be loyal subjects of the Queen who wanted to get away, but had not the means of doing so, under the noble lord's proclamation they will be treated as pirates. We talk of our neutrality; we boast of it. A letter which I have received from a gentleman asks: “Is it nothing that a British officer,” the captain of a merchant vessel, “has been tarred and feathered?” (Laughter.) It is all very well for honorable gentlemen to laugh, but I foresee that these are questions which will involve us in difficulty before long. (Hear, hear.) “Is it nothing,” this gentleman asks, “that a British subject has been tarred and feathered; nothing that free men of color, British subjects, are imprisoned; nothing that men of colonial birth are forced to sea in an open boat; others held as prisoners, and that Englishmen should be compelled to fight in Pro-Slavery ranks? At this moment there is an advertisement in the newspapers of the Slave States, offering, on the part of the Confederate States, $20 for every person killed aboard an American vessel. What a set of savages they must be! Who would care for going to war with such a people? Do you suppose the people of Canada will submit to have their fellow-subjects dragged away, and compelled to fight for Slavery? They will stand no nonsense, and after a time your very neutrality will lead you into war. The question which I have been requested to ask is, whether it is not intended immediately to increase the British squadron on the Southern coast, and to have every vessel examined, so that Englishmen, Irishmen, and subjects of our colonial empire, who may be serving compulsorily on board American vessels, shall have an opportunity of getting away in case they wish to do so. I have received letters from men on whom I can depend, and they all state that occurrences such as I have adverted to have already taken place, and more will undoubtedly follow, unless England adopts a more decided tone. We have no right to sit down and occupy ourselves exclusively in quarrelling about the paper duties, (laughter,) while our fellow-subjects are suffering by hundreds and thousands in the hands of these savages.”

Mr. B. Osborne.--I must, at this early stage, protest against the language made use of and the sentiments expressed by my honorable friend the member for Finsbury, (hear, hear,) who has altogether prejudged this question. He talks of reliable information which he has received from certain friends of his; but I am also in possession of reliable information which gives the direct lie to the statements made by the hon. gentleman. (Laughter.) I am not only in a position to deny that any of those outrages have been committed in the Southern States; but, if this were the proper time, I could point to outrages committed by the militia of New York in one of the Southern States occupied by them, where the general commanding, on the pretext that one of his men had been poisoned by strychnine, issued an order of the day threatening to put a slave into every man's house to incite the slaves to murder their masters. Such was the general order issued by Gen. Butler. Therefore, don't let us be led away by old wives' tales into Appeals to that very powerful and very dangerous element in this House — I mean the Exeter Hall [303] feeling. (Hear, hear.) I do hope the feeling of the House will be strongly expressed against any thing like a debate upon this subject at the present moment, (general cries of “Hear, hear;” ) and the hon. gentleman will not be tempted to follow my hon. friend, but will rather imitate the judicious silence which the noble lord has always maintained on this point. ( “Hear,” and a laugh.)

Mr. Bright.--I think nothing could be more injudicious or more unfortunate than to read from private letters accounts of particular outrages said to be committed in America. We know, before war is terminated, there or anywhere else, there will be outrages enough; but of this I think we may be quite assured, that in the North as well as in the South, and in the South quite as much as in the North, there will be the greatest possible disposition to avoid any thing which can bring about a quarrel with this country. (Hear, hear.) Nothing could be more unfortunate for the South, nothing could be more unfortunate for the North, whatever quarrels there may be between the two sections of the American Republic, than that the quarrel should extend to this country. I feel confident that we are not more anxious to remain at peace with both the sections than they are to continue on good terms with us. In the policy which the noble lord has announced — that of strict neutrality — I agree as cordially as any other member of this House; and I think it would be well if that policy were not confined merely to the Government, but if individual members of the House were as far as possible to adopt the same line of, action. (Hear, hear.) It is an unhappy thing that these dissensions should have arisen; but let us hope, and I hope still, that among a population more extensively educated, probably, than the population of any other country in the world, it may yet (be possible to surmount the vast difficulties which have arisen in that country without those extensive cruelties which always accompany a civil war. With that expression of opinion I wish to make a request — and the House, I am sure, will feel that I am only asking what is reasonable and prudent — that we should avoid, as much as possible, discussions on matters which I believe we cannot influence for good, (hear, hear,) but with regard to which we may create a state of feeling, either in the North or South, that will add to the difficulties of the Government in preserving the line of action which they have laid down. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Gregory said — I really must warn the House not to be led away by stories and by letters which one gentleman has received from another gentleman, on whom he places the most implicit reliance, but who very probably knows nothing more of the matter than the gentleman who reads the communication with such perfect faith in the accuracy of its contents. As to the nonsensical trash of $20 being offered by the Confederate States for every man put to death on board an American ship, the House knows perfectly well that neither letters, newspapers, nor accredited information of any kind can at present be received from the South, but is stopped on the borders. Any thing which does see the light is cut into slips and published in the New York papers. Very few communications of the kind have reached this country, and they are principally the State documents which have been put forward by the South. I cannot better evidence the spirit by which they are animated, than by referring to the late address of President Davis; and I will ask the House whether it breathes a single one of those bloodthirsty, wicked, terrible opinions, (hear, hear,) which my hon. friend is anxious to impress on the House as being the doctrine of the Southern States. I beg to take this opportunity of saying that I shall certainly bring forward my motion on the subject of the recognition of the Southern Confederacy on the 7th of June, when I trust the matter will be fairly discussed, and in the mean time that we shall not throw imputations on one party or the other. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. Bouverie.--In the question of notification of blockade, to which reference has been made, a matter which is very important for the commercial interests of the country is involved. The rule, I believe, is this: Public notification must be given to the State of which a neutral who seeks to violate a blockade is a member, before he can be held to have subjected himself to forfeiture of his vessel and goods; or actual notice must have been given to the neutral himself. The House will see that this is a most important question, because the intent to sail to a blockaded port, as to which a neutral merchant has received a notice of blockade, is considered as a violation of neutrality, and the ship will be accordingly condemned in the prize court of the capturing Power. He wished the noble lord would state distinctly whether or not the mercantile interests of this country were to understand that a public notification of blockade of the ports to which he had referred would be given; or that merely an intimation of the blockade to neutral ships arriving off those ports would be given to them when they got there.

Lord John Russell, who was very indistinctly heard, was understood to say: I cannot give any further information to my right honorable friend with regard to the blockade; but the papers on the subject will shortly be laid on the table, and when they are submitted, the House will be in possession of the exact state of the case. But my right honorable friend will understand that, whatever the form of notification of the blockade may be, there is no former precedent that applies fully to the present proceedings. Mr. Seward has not given a general notification of a blockade, but has left it to the naval officers commanding on each station to declare the several ports blockaded, and when [304] that blockade has been instituted it is to be considered regular. I will not now go into questions that may have to be argued and decided hereafter in the Prize Courts with regard to the regularity of the blockade. No doubt the Government of the United States has fully considered existing precedents before it took the course it has done. With respect to the question of the honorable member for Finsbury, 1 must say it is founded on rather a vague statement. The particular case to which he referred is one on which no proceedings can be taken. He alluded to the case of the master of a merchant ship who was tarred and feathered. It occurred some months ago, and some weeks before any state of civil war existed, when the whole country was at peace. I am not sure there was not then some intention of seceding; but no secession had then taken place, though there were rumors of it. The master of the merchant ship was, in fact, ill-treated by a mob; but the authorities endeavored to arrest the rioters, and our consul stated that the authorities had done every thing it was possible to effect. As to the steps Her Majesty's Government have taken in consequence of the blockade, orders have been given by the Admiralty to send out some ships of war to strengthen the squadron under the command of Admiral Milne. With regard to the law of the United States and of the Southern Confederacy as to persons serving in the militia, such laws vary in the different States of Europe, and they vary also in the different States of America. No doubt the powers of these laws will be exercised at the discretion of the several Governments, according to the law of nations. I still hope that this conflict will be of short duration, and while a great and free State like America is exposed to all the evils of a civil war, I hope no language will be used with regard to it, that will tend to create exasperation either on one side or the other.

--New York Tribune, June 11.

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