The Slidell and Mason case.
--A series of able articles has been published in the Richmond Whig
upon this subject, which still seems to attract a large share of public attention.
The writer very completely disposes of the supposed right of the Yankee Government
in the premises, showing that none of the cases cited from the law books reach the point under discussion.
That point, after all, must be settled in the mind of every man by his own common sense.
Why does the law of nations decide that contraband of war cannot be carried to a country at war?
Is it not because a nation, professing to be neutral, has no right to assist the enemy of a nation at war, while she is herself enjoying all the privileges, immunities, and advantages of peace?
And unless the property made the subject of seizure be going to the country at war, how can it benefit, or be supposed to benefit, such belligerent country?
Suppose a columbiad, or a rifled cannon, or a lot of Sharpe
's rifles, or powder, or anything else of a contraband character, should be found at sea, on a neutral vessel on its way to England
, a country neutral in this war, could it be lawfully seized, even though it should prove to have been shipped from Charleston
Unquestionably it could not, for the simple reason that it is not coming to
the country of war, and therefore cannot be designed for its benefit.
And yet these articles are clearly contraband of war. The law means nothing more than to prevent a country at war from receiving aid from a country at peace, to the detriment of the other belligerent.
Even though the guns and ammunition were designed for the British
navy or army, and though the Yankees
might suspect a disposition on the part of England
to favor the ‘ "Rebels,"’ we conceive it could not be lawfully done.
But suppose the ships in question to have sailed from a neutral port.
Does any man dispute the right of Great Britain
to take cannon, or powder, or any other implement or munition of war, on board of her ships, and carry them to England
And if she has the right to take on board and to carry to England
these articles, why has she not the right to take on board and carry ambassadors or commissioners, allowing them even, to be contraband of war?
But they are not
contraband, and the expression of Sir William Scott
, (‘"you may arrest your enemy's ambassador on his passage,"’) which was torn from its context to support this proposition, is found, when restored to its connection, to establish no such doctrine.
Nor does the case of the Marshal Belleisle
, which has been so often cited, establish any such principle.
That officer, appointed by Louis XV ambassador to a neutral court, was seized in Hanover
, a part of the King
of Great Britain
's dominions, Great Britain
being then at war with France
To have made the cases parallel, our commissioners should have been arrested in some of the Yankee States
Nobody contends that Lincoln
would not have had a right to arrest them on his own ground.
It is, however, as we have often said before, useless to argue this point, and we only do it in obedience to the general taste.
Most assuredly, Great Britain
will not be influenced in the slightest degree, by any view of the subject taken by anybody on this side of the water.
Her rulers have never wanted law to justify anything they might wish to do, or to leave undone, whenever the act or the omission might be favorable to the interests of her people.
In the present case, there are strong reasons why she should pocket the affront.
Her subjects hold stocks in Yankeedom, to the value of five hundred, million, and, probably, Lincoln
's subjects owe her five hundred millions more.
These debts and securities would instantly be confiscated in the event of a war, and should she even be so far successful as to plant the lion upon the Capitol
, after having captured every Yankee seaport, and sunk every Yankee ship — after having dictated peace and placed her foot on the neck of all Yankeedom — she would hardly ever be able to realize the amount from a people so utterly impoverished.--The commercial distress that would follow the destruction of so much English wealth, in the meantime, would reduce thousands to beggary.
has now the largest commercial marine in the world, and the Yankees
, since this war broke out, have had scarcely any foreign trade.
The contest, in this view of the case, would be very unequal.
would have all to loose, and nothing to gain, by a war on such terms.
These considerations may possibly induce her to overlook the affront offered to her sovereignty, or at most to rest satisfied with an explanation, or something very far short of what she has a just right to claim.
The time is passed, as the Times
very justly observes, when she could be dragged into war by either her sympathies or her antipathies, and though she may wish us all success, and a speedy deliverance from the Yankees
, she will deliberate long before taking the decided step.
What effect an outrage so daring may have upon the temper of the nation is altogether another question, and when that is fairly roused there has been no ruler since James II that durst thrust himself between it an its object.
It may or it may not force Lord Palmerston into decisive measures, or compel him to resign the reins into the hands of some person more inclined to take up the matter with a high hand.
But in the mean time let us not be influenced by any hope from that quarter.
Let our measures be taken as though there were no such power as England
We should owe our independence to nothing but the right arms of our young men.