Comments of the Northern press.
The seizure of Messrs. Mason
is much and variously commented on by the Northern
We have before us some extracts upon the subject from the leading journals, which we re-produce below.
The New York Commercial Advertiser
, a leading and influential Republican paper, says:
The report, made public this forenoon, of the capture of Messrs. Mason
, the rebel Commissioners to Europe
, has very naturally caused great excitement.
From the telegraphic statement, we think it clear that Captain Wilkes
has violated international rights, and this act must be disavowed by the Government
, they being on their European
voyage, and an apology be made to the British Government
National honor, justice and consistency would seem to demand this of us. Captain Wilkes
has done the very thing, in principle, for which we went to war with England
It is true that the right of search exists in a time of war, and veers in the belligerent; but this forcible seizure of political prisoners, when under the protection of a neutral flag, is unjustifiable, and ought to be repudiated by the United States Government.
We speak of the case only as the telegraph represents it.
The Albany (N. Y.) Argus and Alludes,
an able Democratic paper, expressed these views.
These prisoners were passengers on a British mail steamer, bound from Bermuda
An American man of-war overhauls the vessel, and demands the right of visit and search, and prepares to enforce it in the fashion of men-of-war — a shot ahead, a shot over, and, if those are not heeded, a shot through it. She, neutral vessel, is boarded by an armed force, and the two prisoners and their secretaries seized and carried off, and brought home for imprisonment.
The British flag gives to a British vessel, under such circumstances, all the immunities and sacred character of British soil.-- That country prides itself on being the refuge of the political exiles of every land.
It has never surrendered one--not even the conspirators who plotted the assassination of the Napoleons.
Nor has any other nation in Europe
ever ventured to demand of her such surrender.
The most that the First Napoleon
and his present successor have asked, has been that England
would try within its jurisdiction the plotters of conspiracy and assassination within its borers.
We, too, have held the same tone in regard to the sovereignty of our soil and of our vessels.
Indeed, our whole history has been a long protest and struggle for the inviolability of our soil and flag, and against the pretensions of the right of visitation and search, and of the seizure of subjects on board of neutral ships.
We fought for seventy years the battle in favor of neutral rights, till at last they have been yielded to us. What would we have said if an Austrian vessel had attempted to seize Kossuth
on board of a Collius' steamer ? What would England
have said to a similar act of authority on board of a Cunarder?--Neutral soil has been invaded by the great powers, as in the case of Dac D. Enghein
seized by Napoleon
, and execute, for alleged participation in plots of assassination: but we recollect of no case in any degree parallel to this.
It declares that the United States Government must prevent a rupture with the British Government
at all hazards, and concludes thus:
We know how easy it is to sneer at foreign powers, and to boast of our ability to carry on a contest with all Europe
But we cannot afford, in this instance, to be wrong, nor to belie all our own declarations of national law, and cast contempt on the noblest chapters of our history.
We believe that our own Government will disclaim all grounds of offence in this act, and do it promptly and at once, and without waiting for the reclamation of the offended power.
It may not be necessary to restore the statu quo
by releasing the prisoners; but it will be to disclaim frankly all pretensions to a right of search and seizure such as this.
The Pittsburg (Penn.) Post
--also Democratic, and strongly for a vigorous prosecution of the war — after arguing against the policy of their seizure, says:
The whole country will applaud the zeal and pluck of Captain Wilkes
in this transaction; but coll and sober minded men must nevertheless condemn it. He has brought the country into a bad scrape, and the sooner we get out of it, the more gracefully we can do so. It will never do to rush wrong and foremost into a quarrel with Great Britain
for the sake of a brace of traitors.
We say this not because Great Britain
is powerful, but because we cannot afford, especially at a time like this, to persist in wrong.
This were to strike down at a blow all international law and comity, and throw the whole world into anarchy.
Suppose we hold on to Messrs. Mason
, we must not, cannot treat them as traitors, after arresting them in the manner we did. Well, then, we shall send then to Fort Lafayette, as we have done others equally guilty.
What then ? Why, we should in that way do more to strengthen their cause in Europe
than a thousand Masons and Slidell
's could do were they there.
It would be the strongest possible acknowledgment that we feared them — feared them to such a degree that we preferred to trample under foot all national rights, and risk a rupture with the most powerful nation on earth, rather than let them cross the Atlantic
Rely upon it, those desperate diplomatic adventurers — for, at best, they are nothing less — could accomplish more, a thousand fold, in Fort Lafayette than they Cloud do at the courts of St. James
and St. Cloud
Let them go. Put them on board the first steamer that sails and send after them a shout of derisive defiance.
In that way, and in that way only, can we cut their claws an extract their fangs.
No man knows better how to make a courteous and dignified apology than Mr. Seward
, and we hope he will do it promptly.
To hold these men as prisoners would, under the circumstances, do us no good, but, as we have endeavored to show, incalculable injury.
Fortunately, the outrage on the British
flag was so flagrant that its disavowal can never be attributed to any other impulse than that of honor and fair dealing.
But should there be the slightest hesitation about making the amend honorable,
we shall lose all the advantages that we might derive from our magnanimity and almost scornful indifference as to the whereabouts of this brace of rebels and mischief-makers.
If our Government should restore them to liberty, and send them on their way, the sympathy of Europe
would be changed to laughter.