The Slidell and Mason outrage.
--We had concluded, at one time, to let the matter rest in the hands of the parties more particularly interested, but it continues to be agitated in the Northern
papers, and the National Intelligencer,
under the immediate inspiration of Seward
, publishes a whole broadside to justify the act. We have, therefore, changed our first resolution, and shall proceed to express still further the views which we have already indicated.
It is plain that the Yankee Government
does not mean to rest its cause upon the absence of instructions to Captain Wilkes
, but that, on the contrary, it intends to back that officer to the full extent of its ability.
According to a generally recognized principle of international law, the jurisdiction of every country over its own waters is perfect.
What are to be considered ‘"the waters"’ of a country — that is, how far the jurisdiction in question extends — is still subject to discussion.
Some writers contend for thirty leagues, some for more, some for less.
On the high sea,
each vessel is under the jurisdiction of the nation to which it belongs, and this so entirely writers on international law say it is to be considered, under such circumstances, a portion of the national territory.
Of course, no ship-of-war belonging to any other nation has a right to interfere with it, and all persons, as well as all property on board of it, is under the protection of its flag.
These principles — certainly founded in justice — imply an absolute negation of the right of visit.
They have been often asserted by the United States
, and on one occasion they went to war in defence of them.
They have been affirmed by the courts of these same United States
as often as they have had occasion to take cognizance of them.
The right of visit in time of peace has, in fact, been entirely abandoned in these latter days.
It is never attempted, as far as we know.
But the right of visit in time of war is still asserted, for the very plain reason that, unless it were admitted in some form, there could be no possibility of enforcing another right dependent upon it — the right namely, to intercept contraband of war on its passage to the enemy in a neutral vessel.
This, however, is merely an exception to a general rule.
The question of prize is always decided by the courts of the country making the prize.
The present, however, is a question of a totally different character singularly enough, it commits the Government
of the United States
to a line of action which it always reprobated on the part of Great Britain
For, during the wars with the First Napoleon
, Great Britain
assumed and exercised the right to visit American ships, and removed by force, from their decks, all persons found, or even suspected, to have been born British subjects, while the United States
not only denied the right, but went to war rather than submit to its exercise.
Many attemps have been made within the present century to obtain a definitive settlement of the disputed right, but always without success.
The American doctrine is fully set forth in Mr. Webster
's famous letter to Lord Ashburton, and in Gen. Cass
's protest against the ratification of the quintuple treaty.
With respect to the latter, it is well known to have produced a powerful effect in France
, and, backed by a pamphlet written by Gen. Cass
and published in Paris
, to have caused the rejection of the treaty by the French Chambers
The ground assumed both by Mr. Webster
and Gen. Cass
, afford no countenance to the new doctrine of Seward
The latter more especially would not admit the right of visit, even under the pretext of ascertaining the character of a vessel suspected of being engaged in the slave trade.
He represented so powerfully the evil uses to which the right thus sought might be perverted by a great maritime power, to the ruin of all commerce but its own, as to produce a complete resolution in the public opinion of France
The present question is purely a question between the United States
and Great Britain
It has no basis either in the law of nations or the obligation of treaties.
International law leaves it in litigation, and treaties are silent on the subject.
The Federal Government and the Government
of Great Britain
have changed places.
Both are in opposition to themselves.
The one does what it has always asserted no Government had the right to do, the other suffers what its adversary always maintained it had no right to inflict.
having shouldered the responsibility, it may be asked, more pertinently than before, what he meant by the act?
Perhaps he meant to abandon the position always heretofore maintained by the United States
Perhaps he designed to drive England
to the wall, and compel her claim of right to impress British seamen found on board of Yankee vessels.
Both these suppositions have been put forth, and largely dwell upon.
The act itself certainly is not very encouraging to those visionaries who hope that the period will soon arrive when international morality will be brought to perfection, and when one nation will do unto another even as it would that another should act unto it. It will not, it is to be presumed, make the British
people and Government fall in love with the Yankees
, nor will it arouse any very strong feeling of sympathy or affection on the part of any other European Government.
, when called to account, will say that he arrested Messrs. Mason
because they were guilty of treason and rebellion, and will say that the very fact of their voyage to Europe
in the capacity of envoys from the Confederate States
establishes their guilt.
But this, most assuredly, will not do for England
, who has already recognized the existence of a state of war in this country, acknowledged the Confederate States
as belligerents, and proclaimed her own neutrality, thus giving to Confederates and Federals an equal claim to the protection of her flag, wherever found beneath its folds on land or at sea. This neutrality, thus proclaimed, England
may contend has been shamefully violated, by tearing passengers from a British steamer, belonging to the West India
Line, on its way home, and therefore not possible to be suspected of having contraband articles on board.
She may say, moreover that there is an extradition treaty between her and the United States
, that the class of criminals to be given up and the forms in which the delivery is to be effected, are therein expressly designated That if Messrs. Slidell
come within this category, they must first be proved to do so, by a trial in the proper form.
That therefore, under any circumstances, such extradition could not be made at sea, where there was no officer, no court, and no jury.
That moreover the treaty expressly excepted men charged with political offences, and that the alleged offences of the Commissioners
were entirely political.
That they have tacitly abandoned, for the sake of peace, the pretensions which brought on the war of 1812, and that the assumption of them by the United States
, under the present circumstances, is an insult.
That the British Government might
answer, ‘"We know not whether it will.