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[from the London Times.]A few days ago there lay, as there still lie in the Mersey, two enormous masses which twenty years ago would have been astonishing, if not ridiculous. Encased in massive iron, they are furnished with prows, or beaks, of a form and purpose familiar enough to schoolboys, but till lately exploded in modern warfare. People are slow not only to learn, but even to reflect and to remember, and when it had taken twenty years to remind our naval builders that a ship of war could be moved with steam as well as with three or five banks of oars, it took a longer time for our Admiralty to perceive that the revival of the trireme gave us the opportunity of reviving the rostrum. But here, at last, were two rams capable of doing as much mischief on their own element as the Aries of ancient siege operations. No doubt they were meant for the Confederates, and were to be employed in the destruction of blockading squadrons. A splendid career — not so brilliant, indeed, as that of the Alabama, but not less useful — awaited them; but they had already a history. Consuls had watched their growth, and spies had found their way on deck; correspondence had grown into blue-books about them; the telegraphic wires had been kept continually at work upon them; finally, they had been actually seized; the highest responsibility of the Crown had been exercised against them, and had been met by litigation, by suits in various courts, by debates in both Houses, by a correspondence between two worlds, and, as if reality were not enough, forgeries and romances had gathered like barnacles about the monstrous hulls. They had been built on speculation, it was alleged, by a Frenchman; they had been ordered by the Pasha of Egypt; they were simply articles on sale, like a couple of steam plows. Who could say what and whom they were not for? The wits of Washington and New York were busily hoaxing the anxious public with alleged reports and correspondence about them. The British Government was menaced with heavy damages for seizing them; with a Confederate quarrel for stopping a legal transaction; with a Federal war for allowing the equipment of ships of war; with a Parliamentary defeat and expulsion from office for doing either one thing or the other. Could the twin rams have been conscious of anything, could a thought or a sensation have pierced their thick epidermis, they might have been proud to occupy the attention of mankind and affect the destines of Governments and nations. But all at once, myth and mystery, litigation and debate, diplomacy and war subsided and disappeared. Nothing remained but the solid hulls and impassible iron. The stroke of a pen across a slip of paper conveyed these famous ships, with all their Habilitates and engagements, to the possession of her Britannic Majesty, and condemned them to a life of rolling and repairing, pulling to pieces and patching up, a slow decay, and an inglorious death in one of her Majesty's dockyards, without having once crushed in the flank of a hapless foe. This is a quick and easy solution of a great difficulty. The impatient public, always looking forward and asking "What next," has been taken aback by the discovery that nothing now is coming, and half a dozen careers, fortunes, controversies, and suits have been capped by an extinguisher. A whole illumination, not to say a possible conflagration, has been put out. The Rams are now as dark as their hundreds of brethren lying in ordinary, waiting for some possible resurrection to the light of day. Even after the announcement last week there was a lingering hope the fire might break out in some form or other.--It was hoped that Her Majesty's Government might be found to have compounded felony, or might be still liable to costs for the seizure. But the previous proceedings, hostile enough in effect, were only against the innocent Rams, not against their owners, while, by the possession of the the new owners inherited themselves any possible claims in respect of the seizure. The purchase is comprehensive and conclusive. For £220,000, it appears, Government has become possessed of two tremendous engines which we most devoutly hope, and most certainly expect, it will never have the least occasion for. But, though this concludes everything as between Government and the Federal, the Confederates and Mr. Laird, it leaves Parliamentary speakers something to say still. Is not the precedent dangerous? Will not men now build all sorts of infernal devices on the speculation that if no belligerent will take them our own Government will? How that may be we know not, but England may congratulate itself on the possession of private ship building yards capable of turning out such monsters of the deep, even without an immediate demand, and with the purchaser still to present himself. The possession of such yards is worth far more than the possession of the ships themselves, for the ships may be destroyed or wrecked, but the yards will remain, and will always be capable of repairing our losses. The stoppage of these rams, first by mere force, then by quiet purchase, is all that we have been enabled to do in the enforcement of neutrality. It is a strange comment on neutrality laws that all we can do, whether by stretch of authority or by good management, reaches only the least offensive and most purely defensive munition of war. We cannot prevent the emigration and practical enlistment of men, or the sale of instruments of destruction of all kinds, great and small, or the sale of fast ships, convertible into cruisers. All that we can prevent is the sale of ships meant to act only on the defensive, for the protection of ports. The Federal, it appears, may have procured from us every ship, every man, every gun, every shot and shell, every ounce of powder, every cutlass employed in blockading a Confederate port; but if the Confederates want the meas of sallying forth and sinking the foe at their gates, they must not come to this country. The ram is only a floating fortification. It is incapable of a long voyage, or even of blockade duty. It can only just do, as it were, militia work, and make an occasional sally against a beleaguering host. Yet this comparatively harmless engine, which cannot take the initiative, and which meets the active operations of war with a simple negative, is the only thing that we succeeded in withholding from the belligerents. With the state of the law we quarrel not. We can only submit. But it is, to say the least paradoxical, and we look to time to re-adjust the law to common sense.
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