§ Resolutions reported.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Resolutions be now read a second time."
§ MR. PEACOCKE
said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to call attention to the stoppage of the trade between Great Britain and Matamoras. He wished to call the attention of the Government to the repeated seizure of British vessels by American cruisers, and the decisions of the American Prize Courts upon those seizures. He hoped to be able to elicit from the hon. and learned Solicitor General a definition of what British merchants said they bad not been able to elicit from the Foreign Office—a definition of what the Government considered to be legal and lawful traffic. Free pratique, as he understood it, was when a vessel, without any relation to the nature of her cargo, was going from one neutral port to another neutral port, under a neutral flag, and bonâ fide shaping her course to the port to which she was destined. He believed that that was so clear and unquestioned a principle of international law that he should not have thought it necessary to call attention to the subject, but for the extraordinary language used by the Foreign Minister in another place. Earl Russell on the 26th of April last said—It may be that complaints have been made in this country which are not without foundation it may be that United States officers have not observed these rules, but have gone beyond the directions that they have received; it maybe that they have seized vessels that were really going to Matamoras or some neutral port without sufficient evidence that the cargo was of a contraband character.He (Mr. Peacocke) repeated that no neutral vessels sailing from one neutral port to another were liable to be captured, whatever the nature of their cargo might be They were only liable to be captured if their papers were fictitious, and if the neutral port described as the port of destination was not the real one. If he under stood the noble Earl, however, the position of the Government was that they could no enter into the particular case of each individulal vessel, but that each case must rest on its own merits, and be decided by the American Prize Courts. It was there fore the duty of the House to see how the law was administered in those courts. He 1634 confessed that he greatly distrusted these Prize Courts as they were at that time constituted; and when he had stated the facts of one or two cases, the House would, he thought, consider that he had grounds for his distrust. He would first take the case of the Adela. The Adela belonged to a Liverpool firm. She was seized and taken before the Prize Court at Key West. The Judge asked both sides if they would appeal. They said they would. He then said, that though there was no case, he should send it to a higher tribunal, and so condemned the vessel, after having detained it nine months and opened the mail-bags and letters. He (Mr. Peacocke) had been informed that those facts had been verified before a public notary, and a copy of the statement sent to the Foreign Office. In the case of the Pearl all the ship's papers were in order, and there was no ground of suspicion to justify the detention. The Federal officer who boarded the ship and inspected her papers declared to the captain that the same were in due order, that he should hoist a signal for him to proceed, instead of which, after returning to the Tioga, a crew was sent on board which took possession and conveyed the Pearl to Key West, the captain and crew being kept under restraint for three weeks, and not permitted to communicate with the shore. They were then taken and separately examined before the Prize Commissioner, and the pilot, on his arrival at Nassau, stated that he was offered 600 dollars if he would swear that he saw a Confederate flag on board the Pearl. The case was brought before the Prize Court at Key West, when the Judge refused to adjudicate for want of sufficient evidence to condemn the vessel, and the mate and portion of the crew, at that time in Liverpool, would affirm that he openly stated that there was no case against the vessel, though it would be bettor for the Federal Government to pay double the value for her, as she was so fine a vessel. The master and crew were all turned out of the vessel, and she was left at Key West without any one in charge to keep the machinery from injury, which would suffer very material damage. Had the vessel arrived in Nassau in due course, she could have been sold for a large sum. The House might wonder why the Federal Government were so anxious to keep the Pearl. The reason was because she was the swiftest vessel in the Clyde, and could make twenty knots an hour. The statement 1635 made by Messrs. Johnson, her owners, in regard to the Pearl was borne out by the proceedings before the Prize Court itself. He would not trouble the House by reading the whole of the judgment, but he would call attention to one portion of it. The Judge said—It does seem to me that the testimony as it stands, taking all the facts together, does raise a very strong presumption that the owner was sending out this vessel to Nassau with the settled purpose that she should be employed in running between that port and the ports of Charleston and Wilmington, in violation of the blockade. There is not a fact or a tittle of testimony in the case to rebut that presumption. But the vessel being captured when really going from one neutral port to another, I am unwilling to pass a decree of condemnation without giving to the claimant the time and all the facilities he may desire to produce evidence to rebut the powerful presumptions against him. He has it in his power, if innocent, to clear up the whole matter by his own oath and by the oaths of others connected with the contemplated business of this vessel. If she was going out to Nassau for an innocent and lawful purpose, he can show it. He can state on oath and show what trade or business he intended she should be engaged in.Now he (Mr. Peacocke) wished to ask whether it was not introducing a new principle that a vessel should be condemned upon what the Judge acknowledged to be not conclusive but only strong presumptive evidence, and that the defendant should be called upon to prove a negative, or run the risk of his vessel being condemned. He now came to the case of the Dolphin, and to the extraordinary law which was laid down by the Judge of the Prize Court in her case. The Judge said—Now, it is hardly creditable that this vessel was to end her voyage at Nassau. For what was she going, and how was she to be employed there? It is not suggested that she was going there for sale. Was she to be employed in making short voyages suited to her capacity to and from blockaded ports, in like manner as so many or all the other steamers of about her size which have lately come out from England to Nassau have been employed in making until captured? Except such voyages, it would be difficult to think of any trade she could engage in at Nassau or at any other port in the West Indies by which she could defray the expenses of running. What was to be done with the cargo?He (Mr. Peacocke) wished to call the attention of the hon. and learned Solicitor General to that question, and to ask whether a vessel could be condemned on the destination and nature of its cargo—It was to be delivered to Chambers and Karr. But what were they to do with it? Nassau furnishes no market for any such cargo as this. It is a small town; the adjacent islands possess but a small population dependent on it for supplies. 1636 Probably not three merchant steamers ever arrived at that port from any part of the world until after the present blockade was established, except the regular Government mail steamers. Was her cargo to be sold in Nassau, including the 920 rifles and the 2,240 swords? These are questions which it is not unreasonable that a Prize Court should ask, and expect some reasonable solution of, in a case like this.Such were the principles upon which that vessel was condemned. There was no evidence that those vessels were going to run the blockade; they might have been going to sell their contraband of war elsewhere—to Mexico, for instance, or to the South American States, where hostilities were being carried on. The Judge went on to say—But there was a third letter, which was not intended to be shown to the cruisers, dated four days later, and addressed to Messrs. Chambers and Karr. Its contents were probably unknown to the master; for had he known the contents, it is quite likely it would not have fallen into the hands of the captors. It reads as follows:—'Per steamer Dolphin.'Liverpool, Feb. 10.'Messrs. Chambers and Karr, Nassau.'Dear Sirs,—I addressed you on the 6th of February, for a certain reason. I now beg to cancel those instructions entirely, and, of course, my vessel is not to be sold to any one. I shall be sending you a power of attorney for certain purposes by next mail this week. I hope you will be able to get some more goods on, instead of taking any off at good rates.I am, dear Sir, yours truly,'W. J. GRAZEBROOK.'P.S.—I send various letters to forward.'So it appears that Mr. Grazebrook did not intend that his vessel should be sold at Nassau, nor that she should end her voyage there. She was to go from Nassau somewhere. More goods were to be put on instead of taking any off. The studied effort to conceal the ulterior destination, the swords and rifles found on board and denominated in the freight list 'hardware'"—just as if the United States herself did not always do something of the kind—"the almost certain impossibility of employing a steamer of this class and size in any trade in this part of the world by which she could earn her expenses even, other than in the trade and business of violating the blockade, all point with unerring certainty to Charleston or Wilmington as the ulterior destination of the vessel and cargo. Condemnation of the ship and cargo follow of course.Well, the condemnation of the ship and the cargo followed. New, he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman what evidence there was on the face of that judgment that that vessel was intended to run the blockade. She might have been intended for some other places where war was being carried on. The House would see, when law of that kind was administered by the Prize Courts of the United States, what distrust of those Courts must prevail in 1637 the mercantile world. There could be no better touchstone of that feeling than the rates of insurance at Lloyd's; and when they found those rates raised from two to twenty guineas, he thought it showed the amount of confidence which the Prize Courts of the United States inspired, and also the degree of confidence inspired by the vigorous action of Her Majesty's Government in guarding the interests of the commerce of this country. He had been assured by an eminent mercantile firm who had recently had to insure £10,000 on a steam vessel, that, in addition to the ordinary risk, they had to pay a further war risk of six guineas, although the ship was going to a neutral port and their goods were warranted British goods and not contraband of war—to such a condition had the conduct of Her Majesty's Government depressed the trade of this country. Under those circumstances, the House would not be surprised to learn that the trade of this country was being transferred to other Powers. They found from a letter addressed by Earl Russell to Mr. Adams how much better Spanish and Danish vessels were treated by the United States Government than our own. Earl Russell, writing to Mr. Adams on the 19th of April 1862, says—The course taken by the United States Government in the case of the Labium is all the more to be regretted, since it appears from papers which have been communicated to Congress that in the case of two neutral vessels, the one a Spanish the other a Danish ship, which had been unjustifiably captured, the United States Government has not only released such vessels without sending them before a Prize Court, but has also consented to pay compensation to those interested therein.Mr. Adams did not contradict that statement. Quite the contrary; he admitted it. He says—It comes presented to me in so many forms of evidence that I cannot avoid the painful conviction that a systematic plan, founded en the intent to annul Her Majesty's Proclamation by steady efforts to violate the blockade, through vessels either actually British or else sailing under British colours, has been in operation in this island for many months, and becomes more rather than less extensive with the progress of time. If, therefore, it happens that a Spanish or a Danish ship, when seized, is more readily released than a British ship, the reason must be found not in any disposition to be more partial to those nations, so much as in the fact that they have been incomparably less involved in the suspicion of attempting illegitimate methods of trade.If the case rested upon that admission of the American Minister, it would be very 1638 strong; but he (Mr. Peacocke) would call attention to an Act of Congress passed in the year 1862–3, cap. 86, section 1—Be it enacted, &c., That whenever any prize property shall be condemned in any district or circuit court, or shall at any stage of the proceedings, be found by the court to be perishing, perishable, or liable to deteriorate or depreciate, or whenever the costs of keeping the same shall be disproportionate to its value…. it shall be the duty of the Court to order a sale thereof, and no appeal shall operate to prevent the making or execution of such order.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
said, that might be, but the Act he had quoted allowed the district Judges to decide in those cases; and as in many of them the goods were contraband of war, and what the Americans stood most in need of, they had a direct interest in selling articles of that kind in such a place as Key West, where no possible competition could exist, at prices ruinous to the owners and most advantageous to themselves. There was but one way of proceeding in such cases, and that was by enforcing against the American Government very heavy damages. But he was surprised to find that Her Majesty's Government had in limine utterly repudiated the doctrine of damages. In the case of the Magicienne, which even an American Prize Court could not condemn, the owners claimed £500 damages for the seizure, which was pronounced by the Court of Key West to be illegal, and their total claim for seizure, loss of time, stores consumed, &c., was £2,220. But, in a letter from the Foreign Office, signed by Mr. Hammond, the owners were informed that Earl Russellcannot instruct Lord Lyons to put forward, on your behalf, a claim for £500 as 'damages for the seizure of the vessel;' neither can his Lordship instruct Lord Lyons to claim on account of demurrage (under which term would be included the wages of the men, their provisions, and the loss of interest to the owners) more than £161, with the addition of £65 for stores consumed by the prize crew, making in the whole £226.The Foreign Office, therefore, distinctly repudiated the doctrine of damages. The hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard) also the other evening stated that the British Government would not attempt to enforce damages against the United States. Having proved to the House that by reason of an Act of Congress the cargoes of vessels not yet adjudicated on were placed at the absolute mercy of the Judge of a local court, that the Government of the United States 1639 had a direct interest in the sale of the cargoes at prices ruinous to the shipping merchants, that the only check for these proceedings was the enforcement of damages against the Government of the United States, and that Her Majesty's Government totally repudiated that doctrine of damages, he thought that he had shown enough to convince the House, the natural guardian of the interests of British merchants and of the honour of the English flag, that they ought to watch with a vigilant and jealous eye the acts of the American Government.
To leave out from the word "that" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, any Papers which Her Majesty's Government may have received from the British Consul at Key West, or from elsewhere, touching the proceedings of American Prize Courts,"—(Mr. Peacocke,)
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that if the hon. Member had moved for papers connected with the case of any particular ship, Her Majesty's Government would willingly have considered how far such papers could without inconvenience be produced during pending communications; but when a Motion in terms so general as that of the hon. Member was made, it would be quite impossible for the Government to accede to it without interfering in the most inconvenient way with existing negotiations. The hon. Gentleman commenced his observations by referring to a passage in one of Earl Russell's speeches, in which the noble Lord spoke of a case of contraband as a case which might be a ground of seizure, though the ship was ostensibly bound to Matamoras, or a port of that description. The hon. Gentleman appeared to think, that according to the existing law of nations, there could be no sufficient ground for taking and adjudicating upon a ship having an apparent destination, according to its papers, to Matamoras. The hon. Gentleman seemed not to be entirely aware of the precise position of the port of Matamoras, and it was essentially necessary, in order to understand the bearing of all these questions which they repeatedly heard about the trade of Matamoras, that they should know what the position of Matamoras was. It was a frontier town in Mexico, lying on one side of the river, on the other side of which was Texas. A ship putting into the 1640 river of Matamoras, and lying in the river roadstead, would, in consequence of the state of the tide and wind, be constantly obliged to lie on the Texan side. It was perfectly clear that the crew of such a ship, having the destination of Matamoras in its papers, would, if they had any instructions to land their cargoes, whether consisting of arms or other descriptions of contraband articles, whenever opportunity occurred, on the Texan side of the river, have great facilities for obeying their orders. At the same time, when there was nothing in the ship's papers to show that it was intended as a matter of course to land the goods on the Texan side of the river, it was perfectly impossible to say that the contraband on board the ship bound to the river Matamoras was not intended for the neutral side. The doctrine of law was, that if it was intended to land the cargo on the neutral side, and even if the cargo might afterwards by other means find its way to the Confederate States in the course of trade, that could be no ground for confiscating the vessel which originally brought it. That, however, was a doctrine admitted most distinctly by the Prize Courts of the United States, in which the hon. Gentleman had so little confidence. They had had up to that time no proof of the bad faith of those Courts, while in one case the good faith of the Prize Courts of the United States was distinctly shown—the case of the Will-o'-the-Wisp. That ship was lying in the port of Matamoras in the American waters. She was taken because it was found that munitions of war, powder and arms, were being discharged from the ship. They were, however, discharged into a lighter sent from the Mexican side, and the evident presumption consequently was that they were intended to be landed on the Mexican side. The captain prevaricated grossly, and that circumstance, according to prize law, was sufficient to place the ship in great danger. Another thing was that the gunpowder was concealed, and that led to the suspicion that it was meant that the powder, after being landed at Matamoras, should find its way across the border. Nevertheless, the Prize Court acquitted the vessel and released her. It was perfectly true that the Prize Court did not give costs and damages, and that was one of the matters to which the hon. Gentleman objected. All he could say was, that as far as damages were concerned, there never was a case of that kind where the suspicion was so great in which costs 1641 and damages had been given by the English Courts; and therefore, if the English Government were to insist on damages in such a case, they would be laying down a rule never acted upon by Lord Stowell under similar circumstances. Of course, it was very easy for persons on this side of the water to apply to the House of Commons without first carrying their case to that tribunal to which, by the law of nations, recourse should first be had. If a Prize Court gave a sentence not acquiesced in by the interested parties, the next course was to go to the Court of Appeal; and after that the Government of the neutral country might consider whether there was apparent injustice in the sentence pronounced; and in such case only was it consistent with the law of nations for the neutral Government to interfere. The Court of Appeal in America was the Supreme Court, which held a very high rank indeed, both for learning and impartiality, in the opinion of the world. He must remind the hon. Member, that among other inconveniences incident to a discussion like that in which they were engaged, there was the risk that he might, if the facts were within his knowledge, give utterance to statements prejudicial to cases under investigation, and with respect to which there existed the right of appeal.
It was right that the House should know that the mode of procedure in Prize Courts was the same in America as in this country, the American system being, in fact, borrowed from England. Not long after the Declaration of Independence the American authorities received from Lord Stowell a description of the practice pursued in the English Prize Courts, and that practice had been adhered to by the Americans ever since. It gave, in the first instance, great advantage to the ship, for the evidence, in the first place, must be obtained from the ship. The papers on board, and the statements of the officers and crew, were the only evidence on which the ship could be brought before a Prize Court; and if there was not in the ship's papers matter to raise a primâ, facie case against her, no collateral evidence would be received, and she would be acquitted. On the other hand, as a sort of counterpoise to the advantage he had just mentioned, the usage prevailed, that if there were discovered on board the ship any circumstances of a grossly suspicious character, raising a strong presumption that there was something wrong, something disguised or irregular, 1642 the Judge was entitled to ask further proof from the ship to negative that presumption; and, if it were not produced, to condemn it. And more than that, in some eases where the circumstances were very much against the character of the vessel, the Judge might even proceed to condemn without hearing further evidence. That was undoubtedly the practice of Lord Stowell throughout the war, and the Reports of proceedings in the Prize Courts abounded with proofs of it. Therefore, when the hon. Member said, that in those cases where the evidence must be derived from the ship or her crew it ought to be as direct and conclusive as was required in other ships, he submitted a proposition which, however plausible it might sound, was entirely opposed to the practice in the Prize Courts of this country. Evidence not direct and conclusive in the ordinary sense, had been accepted in this country during the last war, as sufficient to invert the onus probandi, and to throw on the ship the necessity of exonerating herself by evidence, at the penalty of being condemned if such evidence was not forthcoming. Even when the ship, complying with that condition, did clear herself from the suspicious circumstances, yet it had been held that the very existence of those circumstances was enough to justify the capture and detention of the ship, and to deprive her of any claim to costs and damages.
He did not intend to enter into the question of this or that ship, because, as he said before, if he were to accept what the hon. Gentleman had said, he would be accepting an ex parte statement; while, on the other hand, if he were to mention anything to the contrary, he would be prejudicing the case of the owners before the legal tribunal. He would therefore make only a few general observations on some of the cases, without going into details. And first, as to the case of the Adela. That was, he believed, the only case in which a judgment had been given which was open to exception. All that they knew about the case was, that the Judge, in condemning the ship, did not give his reasons for that decision. It had been said that the Judge had himself stated that there was no case against the ship, but that nevertheless he was determined to condemn her; and if that were established, it would be, of course, a very important circumstance. At present, however, it required confirmation. It appeared, however, (and this 1643 looked very like an arrangement between the parties,) that an order in that case was made by consent for the sale of the ship pending the appeal; and that circumstance led him to doubt the correctness of the representations made to the hon. Gentleman. It was, he owned, to be regretted that no reasons were given for the judgment. That was not a commendable practice: but when they were dealing with international law, it was impossible to plead as a violation of that law that which, he was sorry to say, had happened in the Prize Courts of all nations from time to time. The cause of no reasons being given might be because the case was already so clear as not to require them, or because the Judge, knowing there was to be an appeal, was unwilling to assist it by any statement of the grounds of his decision. Until they had seen the evidence—and it was not yet before them—they could not say that there was no case. It might turn out that the judgment was perfectly justifiable.
With regard to the Pearl, the Judge held that the testimony raised a strong presumption that the vessel was intended by the owners only to touch at Nassau and then go on to break the blockade at Charleston. Now, if the owners imagined that the mere fact of the vessel touching at Nassau, when on such an expedition, exonerated her, they were very much mistaken. Whether the Judge was right or wrong in his view of the evidence, he would not discuss. He had not the means of doing so, and, even if he had, he would not avail himself of them. The next case mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was the Dolphin. On board of that ship was found a large quantity of arms, which were entered, not as such, but as "hardware." She was consigned to a firm at Nassau, but a letter was discovered on board which was deemed by the Prize Court to mean that the owners did not wish the cargo to be landed at Nassau; that they would, in fact, prefer that something should be added to it rather than anything taken from it; and it was supposed that the letter contained an indication of a destination which was not avowed. The court held that there was a fair and sufficient presumption that the destination was either to a blockaded port or to some other port of the Confederate States, for the purpose of introducing contraband. With regard to that case, again, he would not go into the evidence. He would only say that the principles of 1644 the judgment were to be found in every volume of Lord Stowell's decisions. If the view of the Judge were borne out by the evidence, it was impossible to say that the case of the Dolphin was not a case which must be left once and for all to the consideration of the Prize Courts of the United States.
The hon. Gentleman also complained of the high rate of insurance on British vessels going to Nassau. Now, it was well known to everybody that there was a largo contraband trade between this country and America by way of Nassau, and it was absurd to pretend to shut their eyes to it. There were many vessels which went there on legitimate trade, but then there were many which were engaged in illegitimate enterprises, and it was not at all surprising that the rate of insurance should be raised. He was rather astonished that any surprise should be expressed at the fact. The insurers probably knew better than other people what was the destination of the vessels, and what cargoes they carried. If the ships were perfectly clear and innocent of anything that was liable to just condemnation, although it might happen now and then that one was taken for adjudication on improper grounds, yet as a general rule the terms of insurance would not be affected to the degree which had happened. The trade with Nassau and Matamoras had become what it was in consequence of the war. Although part of it was conducted on the safe side of the law, yet the fact that part of it was also conducted on the other side influenced the repute and risks of the whole trade. As the trade was almost entirely in the hands of their countrymen, it was not unnatural that British ships were not insured on such easy terms as those of other nations which were not engaged in the traffic. The Act of Congress as to the sale, without condemnation, of a ship supposed to be liable to detention, to which reference had been made, was the same as the law of this country. It might, however, be some consolation to hon. Members to know that in one instance, when the Government of the United States wished to possess itself of an uncondemned vessel for its own convenience, the Prize Court interfered, and would not allow it to be sold. The hon. Gentleman had concluded with the extraordinary statement that Her Majesty's Government repudiated the doctrine of damages. Her Majesty's Government did no such thing. When owners had represented that their 1645 ships had been seized without warrant, Her Majesty's Government had invariably informed the Government of the United States, that if such should turn out to be the case, they would expect that full compensation in the shape of damages would be made. But the hon. Member had mentioned two cases, in one of which damages only to a small amount—some £156—were obtained, while in the other none were got at all, The reason was, because it would have been unwise and undignified for Her Majesty's Government to insist diplomatically upon that which they knew they were not likely to get, and which they also knew they could not demand consistently with the practice of their own courts under similar circumstances. When a ship had been brought into court under circumstances of strong suspicion—by which he meant suspicion excited by its own papers, or by the depositions of its own officers and crew—it had always been the practice of the courts of this country, in their discretion, to refuse both costs and damages. A case in which there was no disguise, no prevarication, nothing to justify the seizure, would he a case in which exemplary damages ought to be given, or at least claimed by Her Majesty's Government; but to demand damages where the captain prevaricated as in one instance, or where articles of a contraband character were found on board as in another, would be to say that Her Majesty's Government should insist upon other countries doing to them what they never did to other countries, and what they would not concede if demanded from them. The principle upon which Her Majesty's Government had acted was this—to endeavour strictly to apply against themselves and in favour of the United States those same principles of law which they applied against other nations and in favour of themselves in former times. The code was certainly severe enough, but they ought not to relax it in their own favour as neutrals, its severity having arisen from the decisions of their own courts at a time of war in which they were engaged as principals, especially as the United States had followed the law of England to the letter, and embodied it into their own.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, he could not understand why the hon. and learned Gentleman had entered so largely into the case of Matamoras, because the hon. Member for Maldon had abstained from any mention of that port. Probably, the hon. and learned Gentleman had a speech ready 1646 on the subject of Matamoras, and did not care to address the House on two occasions. For his own part, he should not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into that matter, but should confine himself to much more damaging cases against the American Government, and against the English Foreign Secretary, and the Law Officers who pleaded the cause of the American Government—namely, the cases of the Dolphin and the Pearl. Prize Courts, where the captor was at once plaintiff and judge, had always been watched with wise and suspicious vigilance; but the American Courts were not free from circumstances of suspicion attaching to them peculiarly. It might be that in old times Judges had sat on the American bench who enjoyed a world-wide reputation, but within the last two or three years the American tribunals had delivered their judgments under the pressure of fixed bayonets. The Supreme Court of America, which the Solicitor General had praised so highly, two years ago was applied to for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of the American Constitution; but the Judges were unable to pronounce the judgment which their consciences would have prompted them to deliver, because the soldiers of President Lincoln appearing at their doors in arms so terrified them, that they perverted the law to suit the design of the Executive. What they had done against their fellow-countrymen he believed they were equally ready to do against foreigners. In the case of Don Pacifico Lord Palmerston refused to wait for the decision of the Greek Courts, because, as then constituted, justice could not be expected from them. The same principle must be applied to the American Courts, which were notoriously acting under the pressure of military force. It was to be remarked that the hon. and learned Solicitor General had flinched from the statement of international law, to which the hon. Member for Maldon invited him. No person could doubt that the Americans were taking an unfair advantage of our indulgence. In itself, the blockade was a thing which, considering the obligations of the Treaty of Paris, the world could never have expected to see again. About 40 per cent of the vessels which tried to run the blockade succeeded in doing so, and yet the doctrine laid down by the Protocol of Paris, which was assented to by the American Government, was that no blockade 1647 was to be held good unless there was a force sufficient effectually to prevent access. The blockade was kept up mainly owing to the ingenious special pleading of the Solicitor General two years ago. But his chief complaint was that the American Prize Courts were not only unjust in the case of single ships, but they made two tremendous strides in their interpretation of international law. First, they laid it down that it was lawful for their cruisers to make prizes of the vessels of peaceful traders. The law laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman was no doubt correct, that a vessel which merely made an ostensible visit to a neutral port did not thereby put on end to the continuity of its voyage. But the American Courts said, that if a vessel left England and went to a neutral port, and if in that neutral port the vessel were sold, the cargo un-laden, and the crew paid off, and the vessel subsequently used for running the blockade, or rather if these things were intended to be done—then they said their cruisers might seize the vessel and sell her. Something very like that had been laid down in the following passage in the decision in the case of the Pearl:—I think the law is, that if an owner sends his vessel to a neutral port with a settled intention to commence from such port a series of voyages to a blockaded port, he thereby commences to violate the blockade, and subjects his vessel to capture, notwithstanding he may also intend to unload the vessel at the neutral port, discharge the crew, and give all other external manifestations of an intention to end the voyage at such port.That was a new doctrine in international law, and he defied the Solicitor General to find a case from Lord Stowell to justify any such proceeding. The whole trade of England would be prejudicially subjected to assumptions based on that principle. Nassau was as much part of the British Empire as Loudon, and they might as well stop a ship coming from Calcutta to London as a vessel sailing from London to Nassau. The doctrine was not affected by the fact that Nassau was a port conveniently situated for running the blockade, and they must prepare themselves for all the consequences to which the logical application of the principle would lead. Her Majesty's Government were guilty of a neglect of the interests of British merchants in not protesting against such a doctrine when it was authoritatively laid down in the American Courts. The other presumption was more monstrous still. It was that the Americans 1648 had a right to confiscate a vessel because they believed that her cargo, when landed, sold, transferred, and re-shipped, would be carried into the Confederate States. Here was the argument of the judge. He asked, "What was to be done with the cargo?" What on earth had the Judge to do with that? No doubt it was to be landed at Nassau, and reshipped. The judge said "it was to be delivered to Messrs. Chambers & Karr," and he continued, "But what were they to do with it?" What right had the Judge of a Prize Court to inquire what consignees on British ground intended to do with the goods that might he delivered to them. "Nassau (he added) furnishes no market for any such cargo as this; it is a small town." Surely that was no business of his. British merchants had a perfect right to convey Armstrong guns or other munitions of war in any quantity into Nassau; and provided they were intended to be landed there, no American cruiser had a right to stop them. Of course, if an attempt were made to break the blockade, the American cruisers might do their best to prevent it. The Judge proceeded—The adjacent islands possess but a small population, dependent on it [Nassau] for supplies. Probably not three merchant steamers ever arrived at that port from any part of the world, until after the present blockade was established, except the regular Government mail steamers. Was her cargo to be sold in Nassau, including the 920 rifles and the 2,240 swords?Now, he would ask—was Her Majesty's Government prepared to submit to that doctrine? It was not merely the loss of the Dolphin that was concerned. Of course, one sympathized with the merchant, and would be glad to save his property. But it was an enormous principle of international law that was laid down by that Court—the principle that such Courts might inquire what was to be done with the cargo, what market it was intended for after being taken to a British port, and that they might condemn the cargo because it might be subsequently used for an illegal purpose. In such matters as that it was difficult to call the Government to account, because it was not easy sufficiently to gain the attention of the House. But he felt that they had a right to protest against the nature of the defence which the hon. and learned Gentleman had set up. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been telling them that he 1649 had no information on the most important points connected with the subject, and therefore he declined to answer. Why, it was the greatest condemnation of the Foreign Office that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not furnished with the utmost information. The decisions of those Prize Courts were vital to British commerce. Upon them the very existence of many of the mercantile houses depended. Everything which affected the rights of British merchants ought to be the subject of careful and unceasing vigilance on the part of our Foreign Office. And yet the Foreign Office was so neglectful, that not only did it make no representations when illegal determinations were made by the American Prize Courts, but it did not even take any measures to ascertain what those determinations were. The hon. and learned Gentleman professed to be perfectly ignorant about those decisions, and, so far as the Foreign Office was concerned, he might remain ignorant of them till the day of his death. He did not take in the Mew York Herald, and there was no reason why he should. But if the Foreign Office did not take steps to know how these American Judges, acting under the ear of their own Executive, were dealing with British claims and British property, it seemed to him that it was neglecting one of its first functions for the protection of British interests.
He could not help contrasting that remissness towards the treatment given to British merchants on the other side of the Atlantic with certain recent proceedings of the Government at home. The hon. and learned Gentleman was fresh from certain great efforts of legal acumen, in which it was to be regretted for his sake that he had been unsuccessful, but in which the object was to do the work and the bidding of Mr. Adams and to bring an English merchant under the pressure of the law. Well, as to that alone, they might complain in that House that it had been done, as seemed to have been the case, upon insufficient justification. Yet, if it had stood by itself, he should not have been prepared to mention it again. But there was a peculiarity in the suit which the hon. and learned Gentleman was the instrument of bringing forward—namely, that the costs inflicted on the defendant must be enormous. The Crown paid no costs; and therefore, if it chose to appeal from Court to Court, it could absolutely crush a defendant, because the Government's purse was 1650 boundless, while the purse of a private individual was limited. Yet the hon. and learned Gentleman, in carrying out the decrees of the American Minister, resolved not to be content with the decision which had been given against him, but—not, it was to be presumed, from his own disposition, which they know to be amiable, but from the instructions of the Foreign Office—it was his intention to wear out the defendant by carrying him up to the Courts of Appeal, and so to try to gain by the boundlessness of the Government's purse what he was unable to gain by a fair interpretation of the law. There was a good deal of animus in that. But they had seen no such animus with respect to the Federal enlistments going on in the south of Ireland. He believed that the emigration thence to New York had increased from 10,000 to 30,000, or 300 per cent, within a very limited period; and yet there was no effort made by the Government to apply against the Federal agents any of that legal machinery which it was so ready—nay, eager to put in force against the Confederates. But before he sat down he wished to call attention to a case of attempted partisanship which, if true, seemed to him far stronger than any other, and which he thought that even some Members of Her Majesty's Government would be unwilling to adopt as their own. He had seen the following paragraph in the leading journal, and he would like to know whether it had any foundation in fact:—THREATENED DETENTION OF ANOTHER SHIP AT LIVERPOOL.—Intimation having been given that it is intended to export two of Blakeley's large guns on board the steamship Gibraltar bound for Callao, notice, we believe, has been served on the owners of the vessel by the Custom-house authorities at Liverpool to the effect, that if the guns are put on board, the ship will be detained on the suspicion that they are destined for a Southern Confederate American port. This proceeding is deemed extraordinary, as the guns, from their vast size, each weighing about twenty-one tons, and being capable of carrying 700 lb. shot, it is considered perfectly clear that they cannot be used in the armament of ships. It is further deemed singular, from the fact that arms are shipped, and the ships cleared almost daily for Northern Federal State ports. It is alleged that the interference in the case of the Gibraltar and Captain Blakeley's guns has been made in consequence of the representations of the United States Minister in London.That statement had appeared in The Times, and no contradiction of it having been put forth, he assumed that there was some foundation for it. But, if so, it seemed to him to complete that case of 1651 unblushing partisanship on the part of the Government under which British merchants were so deeply suffering. He had no doubt that the vast acumen and learning of the hon. and learned Gentleman would always enable him to make a plausible case on behalf of the Federal Government, which he was instructed to serve and defend. But it was not to be supposed that the people of this country would long put up with such open and unblushing partisanship in favour of one particular side in a contest with regard to which Her Majesty's Government had professed a strict and careful neutrality.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, I find myself in a rather novel position in appearing, even by implication, to be taking a side in opposition to the interests of merchants and ship-owners, while the noble Lord who has just spoken appears as the advocate and champion of those interests. With respect to commercial blockades extending over a coast of 2,500 miles, it is well known that I have no sort of sympathy with such a proceeding. I maintain that such a mode of warfare can be objected to on the ground of natural justice. I do not think that two nations ought to be allowed—and I have no hesitation in using that word—I do not think a couple of belligerents should be allowed to carry on war by such a mode as will inflict upon innocent neutrals, 3,000 or 4,000 miles distant, a greater injury—a greater injury in an economical sense—than they inflict upon each other. That is the case in the present war in America. There is greater injury and suffering inflicted by this blockade on the manufacturing towns of England, such as Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport, and others, than upon any town in the United States, apart from the loss of life and limb upon the battlefield. I speak not now of those sufferings with which what is termed military glory is associated, but of the misery of hundreds of thousands of innocent people deprived of the means of earning their daily bread by honest industry, by means of this war. But who are chiefly responsible for this system of warfare? Undoubtedly the public men of this country, and those who uphold commercial blockades as a mode of warfare. I can appeal to a resolution, agreed to by the Chamber of Commerce of Liverpool within the last six months, adopted on the Motion of Mr. James Spence, the well-known defender of the Confederate cause in England, which approves this mode of carrying on war. That resolution 1652 was moved in a speech in which it was argued that it was for the interests of England that the principle of commercial blockades should be maintained. He argued that such blockades were essential to our maritime superiority; and to that view the Chamber of Commerce of Liverpool has expressed its adhesion. Under those circumstances, I cannot say a word in opposition to the blockade now enforced by the United States. It is only our own principle, carried out with dreadful severity against ourselves—the principle which we have cherished in the belief, that when we become belligerents, it would be of advantage to ourselves. The noble Lord (Lord Robert Cecil) has spoken of this blockade as being ineffective, and in proof of that adduces facts, which are, however, a complete fallacy. He says that 40 per cent of the vessels which attempt to break it succeed; but he forgets that the great ports of the Southern States are sealed up altogether. Take New Orleans; there is no contraband trade going on there. [Lord ROBERT CECIL: Because the Northerners have got hold of it.] The North has got possession, and therefore contraband trade cannot exist there. The noble Lord alluded to some small places and some small vessels which carry on a contraband trade. But does the noble Lord suppose, that if there were anything like an extensive trade with those Southern ports, we should have cotton at its present price? I take it that the blockade is clearly effective as against the Southern States of America. The noble Lord has referred also to the right of search—I think that neither he nor I can claim to be authorities in that matter; but the noble Lord has laid down a doctrine which, I believe, I can quote the highest authority to correct. He says that the American cruisers have no right to stop a vessel going from a port of this country to Nassau, no matter what its cargo may be, provided its ostensible destination be to Nassau.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
If I said that, I did not express myself correctly. What I meant to say was that a vessel going bonâ fide to Nassau could not be seized, whatever her cargo might be.
§ MR. COBDEN
The noble Lord used the word "stopped," and it is certainly of great importance in these discussions to be strictly accurate and definite in the terms which are used. Now, Lord Stowell, it is well known, has laid down the principle that the ostensible destination of a vessel must be its real 1653 destination. Well, supposing a vessel starts from Liverpool for Nassau, and that her ship's papers are regularly made out for that destination. But suppose, too, that there are verbal instructions, or secret written instructions on board to the supercargo or officer, that if a convenient opportunity should offer, the vessel, instead of going to Nassau, should make for Charleston. Now, evidence of these intentions would be sufficient to ensure the legal condemnation of that vessel in a Prize Court of the United States; but how can such evidence be got at if the vessel itself be not liable to be stopped? Of course, such a state of things must produce great inconvenience and loss, and it is of that inconvenience and loss that the noble Lord is now making a grievance. But has the noble Lord taken the trouble to go to the Board of Trade to ascertain what were our exports just now, to the West India Islands and the Mexican ports, of goods notoriously destined for the Southern States? Has the noble Lord taken the trouble to examine into the extent and character of our trade with the ports in that part of the world? Why, every one knows perfectly well that there is a large contraband trade now carried on, and it does not become us to utter such complaints as those made by the noble Lord. I think I have a right to say this without being suspected of indifference to the interests of our commerce, for my whole life, I may say, has been devoted to the task of freeing commerce from restrictions and extending its operations. But I know that the contraband trade to the South is all from England, that it is carried, not only largely, but exclusively from England; and when we all know this, is it not something like affectation to come down to this House and utter complaints as if we were innocent parties? It is not merely affectation. I call it very unreasonable on our part to pretend that there are any great grounds of grievance to our merchants engaged in this trade. I do not say that capitalists may not carry on this contraband trade; but they must carry it on at their own risk, of course. The Queen, in her Proclamation, warns her subjects from engaging in it, and tells them, that if they do, they will incur the penalties of international law. All this inconvenience follows as a matter of course, because English subjects will engage in this trade; and it does not become us to stand up in this House and talk as if we were an aggrieved nation in the matter. Of course, I claim 1654 for those vessels and merchandise a fair trial in the Prize Courts; but the decision we must leave to those Courts, for they are the only tribunals which international law recognises as competent to decide in those cases. The noble Lord has said a great deal against the character and administration of the Admiralty Courts of America. I do not think that upon that subject his opinion coincides with the opinion of more competent judges. I could quote one given by Lord Lyndhurst in a debate in the House of Lords. [Lord ROBERT CECIL: How long since?] Some five or six years since. [Lord ROBERT CECIL: Hear, hear!] Yes; but the noble Lord must know that opinions and decisions given many years ago are what guide the tribunals now. Well, in that debate on maritime law to which I have referred Lord Lyndhurst quoted American authorities much more frequently than English authorities. For instance, the noble Lord will find that so good an authority as Lord Lyndhurst quoted Kent and Story more frequently than even Lord Stowell. Such being the case, what right has the noble Lord to assume that justice will be administered in the American Courts with less impartiality than in our own. The noble and learned Lord talks of the Supreme Court at Washington having given a decision under duress—with soldiers at the doors. I ask the noble Lord for his proofs of that—I will not accept the noble Lord's allegation without his proofs. I follow the course of events in America with as close an interest as the noble Lord, and I have not seen any proofs of what he has stated. I have not read of such a case as the Supreme Court at Washington being surrounded by soldiers while deliberating upon judgment. Then, the noble Lord has alluded to the judgment in the case of the Alexandra. I am not going to say a word about the law, or as to whether the learned Judge who tried the case is right in his interpretation of the Foreign Enlistment Act;—but this I venture to tell the noble Lord, and I tell him as a better friend to the commercial interests of this country than he is—if he will allow me to say so—I venture to tell the noble Lord, that if the judgment in the Court of Exchequer be confirmed by the Judges, and the House of Lords—if the law there laid down be established as our municipal law—it will prove far more injurious to the interests of our commerce than to those of all the 1655 other commercial nations of the world. The House, I believe, will soon have proof that some of the most extensive and intelligent shipowners of Liverpool are awakening to a sense of the danger such a law, if it be decided to be law, would prove to the commercial interests of this country. It comes to this—that a neutral Power may build ships of war for a belligerent, provided only that the ship and its armament be kept apart until they get to a distance of three miles from the shore. These ships, having then received their armament, may take the sea as armed ships of war, and carry on operations of war against a Power with which the neutral country is at peace; and the other belligerent will have no cause of complaint against the shipbuilder, or the country in which the ship is built. The law, as laid down by the Chief Baron of the Exchequer, amounts to this:—That if this country were at war, say with Brazil—or with Ireland, if she were acknowledged as a belligerent—and I claim the attention of the House to this matter, for it is one of vast importance—a shipbuilder at Boston or some other port of the United States may build a vessel of war, tow her out to sea, and to the same tug-boat that draws her out to sea may have attached another vessel full of arms and munitions of war; and provided only that the vessel is not armed in port, but at a distance beyond three miles from the shore, then that is a vessel which can be sent to cruise against you, you being at war with Brazil; and you have no ground of complaint against the shipbuilders at New York or Boston. Now, will any lawyer tell me I have exaggerated the scope of that decision of Chief Baron Pollock? I have under-stated it. If this principle be acceded to and acted upon, you invite America to come and blockade your coasts, to wait four miles out at sea, until these vessels which you are equipping get beyond the three miles, and then pounce upon them. What is it but inviting that state of anarchy which existed in the Middle Ages, when every war became a universal war—when a war between two countries became a battle royal for all the nations of Europe. But I had thought that the Foreign Enlistment Act was intended to put an end to that state of things, and to prevent the citizens of a neutral Power committing the Government by those acts of hostility, and thereby drawing neutral Powers into war. But if you allow this recent decision 1656 to be good, then you may rest assured that you will lose all safeguards for the future; and this will be a most serious thing for England, for there is no country in the world that is to one-fourth degree so vulnerable in that kind of warfare as ourselves. The noble Lord has touched upon another point, which I am obliged to correct. I admit that this was a divergence into a subject which has nothing to do with the one before the House, but the noble Lord the Member for Stamford has been so illogical as to go into it, and it would not be right to allow the noble Lord's statements to go unanswered. The noble Lord has stated that we are not impartial; that we are not dealing in the same manner towards the Federals as towards the Confederates; that we allow the Federals to enlist recruits in Ireland. I again ask the noble Lord for his proofs. I believe that a more gross misrepresentation—uncousiously so I, of course, mean, for I do not accuse the noble Lord of intentional misrepresentation—a more ignorant misrepresentation—I must say ignorant—has never been made. The noble Lord shakes his head; but I must say that a more ignorant representation has never been made; because if the noble Lord will read the bluebook, he will see that Earl Russell, having most injudiciously made this charge of recruiting in Ireland against the United States Government, Mr. Adams challenged him to prove it, and the noble Earl was obliged to admit that he had no proofs. I thought the accusation was most indiscreetly made by Earl Russell. What proof has the noble Lord? He may find some stray newspaper paragraph. [Lord ROBERT CECIL: I have no spies in my service.] But the noble Lord spoke of emigration going on from Ireland—of 30,000 emigrants from that country. Why, have we not had in the House, within the last few days, a discussion which is quite sufficient to account for that great emigration from Ireland. Has it not been admitted, by the highest authority in this House, that emigration is desirable? It is necessary these people should go away from Ireland, because there is not sufficient employment for the people there. Probably it is unknown to the noble Lord that there is, at the present moment, an especial reason why there should be an emigration from Europe to the United States. It may not be extensively known, but it is probably better known in Ireland than it is in this House—that one of the 1657 great reasons of this exodus to America is, that within the last twelve months a law has been passed in America of a most important character—a law that had been in agitation for ten years, and had been always resisted by the South. It was an act of legislation that was vetoed by Mr. Buchanan, the last President. It is an Act called the Homestead Law, which gives 160 acres of land to every head of a family who emigrates to America, for the mere price of the surveying, which is 3d. an acre; so that every head of a family gets 160 acres of land for 40s. The Americans tell us they have, in different latitudes, a thousand million acres of cultivable land, which would support the population of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom; and as they offer 160 acres to every head of a family for 40s., is it to be wondered at that there is a great impetus given to emigration from Ireland? And as the United States Government has a thousand millions of acres of uncultivated land, not Ireland only, but all England, France, and Germany might be entered into it. That is one of the great reasons. I challenge the noble Lord to give his proofs that the hand of the American recruiting sergeant is at all engaged-in this matter. I contradict the assertion, and I do so not merely on Mr. Adams's statement, but virtually on Earl Russell's admission. Mr. Adams challenged that noble Lord to the proof, and he was in the same position as the noble Lord opposite is in now—he had no proof at all. I say these vague, declamatory statements and aspersions ought not to be repeated in this House. I beg pardon for having wandered from the question before the House, which I should not have done, had not the noble Lord been so illogical in his observations as to lead us away from the real question. With regard to the question of the Prize Courts, I leave that in the hands of the Law Officers of the Crown. The House has heard what the Solicitor General has said on the point, and I am satisfied to have the law expounded by that hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD
said, he regretted very much the continual discussions upon the questions raised on the capture of British vessels by American cruisers. He regretted them because the result was this—that English Ministers, and English Law Officers, were presented to the House in the very unenviable position of defending every step taken by the American Government, and of doing 1658 everything they could, by speeches in that House and in other places, to injure the cause of British merchants, and ignore the rights which those merchants possessed. Those discussions placed the hon. Member for Rochdale in an equally curious and, as he ventured to think, unfortunate position. That hon. Gentleman had always declared himself the advocate of every proposition for the amendment of international and maritime law that was in favour of the merchant class; but on these occasions he felt himself obliged to run counter to the feelings of that class, and to ignore the grievances of which it complained. The hon. Gentleman had always avowed himself anxious to see belligerent rights restrained, modified, and controlled, but now he was obliged to come down to that House to defend the conduct of the American Government and of their own Government in upholding principles which, if carried out, must do much to fetter the commerce of this country. If men engaged in speculations, and endeavoured to break a blockade, they did so at their own risk, and deserved no sympathy. The complaint of the hon. Member for Maldon was not that contraband and illegitimate trade was repressed, but that legitimate and fair trade was repressed by acts of American cruisers for which he held there was no justification whatever. He must point out that the hon. Member for Rochdale was met at once by the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office with a direct denial of the doctrine which he had laid down. The position of the hon. Member for Rochdale was, that we were engaged in trade with Matamoras and Nassau, that it was notorious to the world this trade had increased to an enormous degree, and that goods conveyed to those places were in reality sent there to be conveyed thence to the Confederate States. He believed that the hon. Gentleman had said that was a disreputable trade. [Mr. COBDEN: I said it was not a reputable one, as it is in violation of the Queen's Proclamation.] The hon. Gentleman had argued that this trade was in violation of the Queen's proclamation, and that the merchants engaged in it must put up with the inconveniences resulting from their being engaged in what he believed he (Mr. Cobden) had called a "contraband trade;" but what did Earl Russell say on the same subject in a recent despatch written to Lord Lyons? It was to be wished that that despatch, which had only reached the hands of hon. Members 1659 that morning, had been written long ago. Earl Russell said—It is an impression widely spread and deeply felt that it is the intention of the American Government, by captures without cause, by delays of adjudication, by wanton imprisonment of the master and part of the crew of captured vessels, to put a stop to the British trade to Matamoras altogether. The trade to Matamoras is, however, a perfectly legitimate trade. It is carried on from New York, as it is from London and Liverpool. To pretend that some goods carried to Matamoras may be afterwards transported across the frontier to Texas does not vitiate the legitimate character of that trade. Nor is it possible to say beforehand that certain goods will be consumed in Mexico, and certain other goods will be carried into the so-called Confederate States.He believed the hon. and learned Solicitor-General approved that statement. [The SOLICITOR-GENERAL: Hear, hear!] The Solicitor-General cheered, but the statement which he approved was in direct opposition to the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale. The doctrines laid down by the Solicitor General were in the main singularly clear and correct; but, at the same time, he took good care not to apply them to the cases before him. He justified the proceedings of the American Courts with respect to the Dolphin, by saying that evidence less than conclusive was often admitted by Lord Stowell. That might be perfectly true, but the ground of complaint here was that the Prize Courts of the United States had proceeded to condemn both the vessel and the cargo upon the purest presumption—a presumption so thin and naked that to any unprejudiced mind—he would almost say to any one who was not the Judge of an American Prize Court—it would amount to no presumption at all. For what was that presumption. A vessel was consigned to a neutral port, with regular papers, and nothing on board except a single letter which would lead to the suspicion that she was going to run the blockade. [The SOLICITOR GENERAL: There were arms.] That did not alter the question in the slightest degree. If her destination was Nassau or Matamoras, she had a right to have munitions of war on board, and they might be called "hardware," taking the word from the Northern vocabulary; for of the munitions of war shipped at Liverpool for New York probably not more than a fiftieth part was not shipped under this description. The sole piece of evidence on which sentence of condemnation was pronounced consisted of a letter in which the owner told the master that he was not to land the goods at Nassau, 1660 and that, instead of diminishing the cargo, additional cargo was to be added to it. But was there no port of destination after touching at Nassau except Charleston or Wilmington? The vessel might have been going to the Havannah, to Vera Cruz, to Matamoras, to some of the ports of Venezuela, or even to New York. Grant that less than conclusive evidence might be admitted in the English Courts, that doctrine was not applicable in the case of the Dolphin, because that had been admitted as a presumption which in no other Court in the world would be held by any reasonable man to raise a presumption at all. Again, in the case of the Pearl, the ship and cargo were condemned solely because the cargo was such as was not likely to be consumed in Nassau. Well, nobody ever supposed it was, and there could be no doubt that it was consigned to Nassau with a view to run the blockade from that port. A swift vessel drawing little water was likely to run the blockade with success. But to condemn ship and cargo on such a ground was contrary to those principles of international law which had been laid down by Lord Stowell, by Chancellor Kent, and others; and what he complained of was that Her Majesty's Government were allowing doctrines to be introduced by these decisions by which in the long run England and her commerce would be the first to suffer. Why did not the Government at once remonstrate and call for explanation, or say, "If this be your new doctrine of international law, we give you fair notice that England will not submit to it?" Mr. Seward had communicated to the Government a letter addressed by him to the Secretary of the United States navy, and Earl Russell had referred to it as a document reflecting great credit on Mr. Seward, and justifying great confidence in the course taken by the American Government. But what was the doctrine set forth in that letter? Mr. Seward said that vessels were not to be captured unless their cargoes had a direct or indirect destination to Southern ports. Surely Earl Russell ought immediately to have said, "Here is something novel—something which international law does not ratify, and I will call on Mr. Seward to explain what he means by indirect destination to Confederate ports." By practice they knew well enough what was meant—namely, that vessels were to be captured not where there was an intention to break the blockade, but to land the goods at Nassau and Matamoras for the 1661 purpose of being sent across the frontier by vessels of light draft. Such a statement ought to have challenged the attention of the British Government, but it did not; and the result was that at that moment British commerce was suffering, and British merchants were put to the greatest inconvenience and loss. The hon. and learned Solicitor General said he did not wonder that the rate of insurance had risen; and, in point of fact, the insurance between Liverpool and Nassau was six or seven guineas per cent, even on such goods as leather and cloth; but if, as Earl Russell declared, that was a legitimate trade, and the American cruisers had no right to stop it, the rate of insurance ought not to rise. The fact was, that the American Government knew the English Government were not likely to find fault with any of their proceedings, and they were determined, at all hazards, to put down the trade between Liverpool and Nassau and Matamoras, al though Earl Russell had characterized it as legitimate and honest. Another despatch from Mr. Seward, in answer to Earl Russell, published that morning, threw considerable light on the question. He said—It is only very recently that this especially enlarged Matamoras trade has come to our notice. Suddenly and quickly as palaces, cities, states, or empires rise in the tales of the Arabian Nights under the waving of a wand or the utterance of a spell, that trade rose from a petty barter to a commerce that engaged the mercantile activity of Liverpool and London. Simultaneously, roads across the interior of Texas were covered with caravans, the cotton of disloyal citizens in the insurrectionary region became all at once the property of the treasonable conspiracy against the Union, and was hypothecated by its agents for a foreign loan to satisfy obligations contracted by them in the fitting-out and equipping and clearing from British ports of steam naval expeditions to destroy the commerce of the United States. The Peterhoff was about the first discovered of the vessels engaged in this expanded trade.That was the real secret of what was going on. The American Government knew perfectly well that the trade described by Earl Russell as legitimate and fair was becoming of great importance to the Confederate States, and therefore they said—"We don't care in the least for English interests; we don't care for remonstrance; we will put down the trade with a high hand, and run the risk of all consequences." Earl Russell, speaking in another place, stated the other night, that as long as he was at the Foreign Office, no British subject should ever, in any part of the world, be insecure either as to person or property. The sentiment 1662 was one which did him honour; but the noble Earl would deserve still greater honour if he made that principle of general, impartial, universal application. He could not understand the noble Earl using such language with regard to men shipwrecked in Brazil and yet permitting the property of British subjects to be seized and confiscated, while the crew and passengers on board the Peterhoff were taken to New York, and for three weeks were not allowed to write or communicate with a single friend ashore, or even with the representative of their country. If the noble Earl had determined, that so long as he held the seals of the Foreign Office, no British subject should suffer unjustly in person or in property, it was an honourable sentiment; but he felt bound to condemn a course of policy which in all these events had exposed British subjects not only to loss of property, but also to indignities such as he had mentioned in the case of the crow of the Peterhoff. One word more, and he should have done. The noble Lord at the head of the Government last year, when his attention was called to cases similar to those now under discussion, used one peculiar argument which the hon. Member for Rochdale would do well to consider. The noble Lord deprecated discussion upon these subjects, because, he said, no Power in the world was more interested than England in extending rather than contracting belligerent rights. But he (Mr. Fitzgerald) could not admit that argument to be sound or just. He believed that England ought to stand by the acknowledged principles of international law; but he did not believe that it was the interest of this great commercial country to have those principles extended one whit beyond what the absolute necessities of the case required as laid down according to the necessities of the case during former wars; and he was sure, that if they permitted those principles to be adopted as against themselves by the United States or by any other Power, the moment they, in their turn, attempted to enforce them when they became a belligerent, they would find the other Powers leagued together to prevent them—regarded as they were by all the world with jealousy and distrust—from applying those principles, and the result would be that they would have exposed their fellow-citizens to losses and indignities without obtaining the object which they had in view in the extension of belligerent rights.
§ Question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.