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JANUARY, 1864.


HE long continuance of peace

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and the rapid progress of science have in recent times given a remarkable development to navigation.

The ocean, once regarded as a formidable obstacle to all rapid and regular intercourse with the ends of the earth,' is now resorted to for that purpose with a familiar confidence which (to use a homely but expressive phrase) is changing the face of the world,' and seriously affecting both the present and the prospective condition of all those members of the 'family of nations' who have access to its shores.


This great highway of nations' is in time of peace 6 common and open to all; it brings them nearer to each other socially and politically no less than materially, for good as for evil, for barter as for conflict; all nations have a common and sympathetic interest in the freedom of the seas; in peace all are, in one sense, equal on the waves; in war it has been well said, 'Le trident de Neptune est le sceptre du monde.'

But the effects of war are far more extensive on the sea than on the land; whilst on land the combatants are compelled to confine their hostilities within certain limits, and all who are beyond the bounds of the theatre of war' are free from molestation, a maritime war leaves the ocean open to all belligerents, and (as it were) changes the common highway of nations into a battlefield.

Thus the civil war now raging on the opposite side of the Atlantic would have excited comparatively little interest in Europe had it been limited to the shores of the new world; but the fact of its extension


to the ocean has given it a common interest in the eyes of all maritime nations, whilst its effect upon us in England has been such as to expose us to very serious risk of being, however reluctantly, drawn into the conflict.

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Our new position as neutrals has reopened to us many an old page of international law; questions of maritime right, and disputed points of the law and usage of nations,' which of old agitated Europe and excited the civilized world, have undergone a resuscitation of their long suspended animation,' and are now almost engrossing the public attention.

The memorable year 1815 saw the fulfilment of the prophecy of the poet :

The meteor flag of England
Shall yet terrific burn,

Till danger's troubled night depart,

And the Star of Peace return. And as regards naval operations and all maritime questions depending thereon, it may be said that a dead calm ensued, which lasted without intermission until 1854.

During this period these questions were allowed to sleep; they had been left unsettled at the general peace; they remained 'open questions' inter gentes; but they gradually faded from the memory of nations, and became things of the past, matters rather of historical criticism than of international importance. A reference to a few prominent events will explain and illustrate our meaning.

The long-contested question of 'the flag covering the cargo,' which (in 1780) had united against England in the armed neutrality'


France, Russia, Prussia, Holland, Sweden, and Denmark, and which had again (in 1800) united Russia, Prussia, Sweden, and Denmark, against her, and led to the seizure and detention by the Emperor Paul of three hundred British vessels and their crews, and to Nelson's attack on Copenhagen, sank, at the peace of 1815, as it were, below the international horizon, without any conclusive decision, and was gradually lost to view.

The exercise of the right of 'embargo' before war, and the seizure and confiscation of hostile ships, produce, and manufactures, even in the hands of subjects or neutrals, and independently of all question of ownership, had, on the re-commencement of war between England and France in 1803, led on our part to the seizure in our ports, before the declaration of war, of two hundred French and Dutch vessels, (valued at nearly three millions sterling), together with their crews; and on that of France to the cruel seizure of the ten thousand détenus, non-combatants, women, and chil


The Berlin and Milan decrees in 1806 and 1807 declared England 'blockaded;' confiscated all British produce and manufactures wheresoever found; forbad all commercial intercourse with her; and declared all British subjects, of whatever condition, ‘prisoners of war.'

England retorted by Order in Council limiting the trade of neutrals to cases where the ship had touched at a British port and paid British duties; and declaring that all ports and places from which her flag should be excluded should be considered and dealt with 'as if the same were actually blockaded by His Majesty's forces in the most strict and rigorous manner.'

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In this state of things, neutral trade, involving the general interests of commerce common to both belligerents, became a common prey to both. Neutral vessels were captured at sea by English cruisers, and their cargoes condemned as 'prize of war' if they had not pre

viously touched at an English port and paid the duties; whilst if they had so done, they received the same treatment on arriving at any port under French control: sea and land were equally interdicted to them.

It is almost needless to point out that Napoleon's extravagant theory of the annihilation of the commerce of Europe, and especially of that of France in order to annihilate that of England, was an attempt at commercial suicide which signally failed in practice; forged papers, false oaths, bribery, and the corrupt malversation as to licenses, from which his most devoted partisans and highest officers of state could not abstain, undermined the system; whilst the English attempt at retaliation failed to produce any important result.

'It was (says the Annual Register for 1809, on the Order in Council of the 11th Nov.), a kind of compromise between belligerent rights and commercial interest. It was a system that ran into great complexity.' Yet these steps backwards towards barbarism, which have now become 'bye-words' amongst nations, were soon after their occurrence viewed merely as faits accomplis; the cruel sufferings which they caused to neutrals were left unredressed, and no attempt was made on the conclusion of peace to prevent or even to limit their repetition.

The part taken by England in proceedings of this class savoured strongly of following a bad example, and has not unreasonably exposed her to severe animadversion; it has been rather the subject of regret and apology than of justification on the part of the stanchest literary defenders of her national reputation.

Thus, for instance, our capture (in 1804) of the (neutral) Spanish treasure-ships is characterized by Southey as a catastrophe which excited not more indignation in Spain than it did grief in those who were its unwilling instruments, in the British people and in the British government;' whilst our sudden invasion of (neutral) Denmark and

*Order in Council, Nov. 11, 1807.

the seizure of her fleet (in 1807), 'would,' says Walter Scott, in the ordinary intercourse of nations have been severe and unjustifiable; the apology arose out of the peculiar circumstances of the times.'*

The origin and the result of our war with the United States in 1812 is also deserving attention, and may prove, as we would fain hope, the last of this class of 'hard cases which between nations as between persons, may truly be said to make bad law.'

The real question involved on this occasion was that of the flag covering the crew. England persisted in her claim to search American merchant vessels on the high seas, and to impress all seamen of English birth found on board. The Non-intercourse Act,' of the United States (1811), though followed by our revocation of the Orders in Council,' was only the prelude to their invasion of Canada in 1812; and the Peace of Ghent which in 1814 terminated this useless war, left still unsettled the question on which it arose. But the attempt of England so to construe and apply the 'right of search' as to extend it to the seizure of her subjects serving on board neutral vessels, for the purpose of compelling them to serve in her navy, entirely failed, as it deserved to fail.

Such were some of the incidents resulting from and illustrating the systems of policy and the currents of public opinion which prevailed in those days of international storms and shipwrecks. War was then waged not merely for certain definite and limited objects, but for the entire subjection or political destruction of nations. None of the great powers' were steadily neutral; none of 'the small powers' had any harbour of refuge;' and the mutual exasperation of England and France led each to disregard and violate without scruple the rights of all those who could not protect themselves. A 'peace for

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commerce' was held to be inconsistent with a war for arms;' accordingly, all 'trading with the enemy,' direct or indirect, was strictly interdicted by England, and punished by confiscation when discovered.

Privateers, which confined their attacks to merchant vessels, and committed many excesses, were employed by the belligerents without scruple, and avowedly for the destruction of the enemy's trade; from these, as might have been expected, England latterly suffered exclusively. The numbers and activity of her national ships of war left but little for her privateers to pick up; whilst her own extensive commerce never failed to supply a rich harvest for those of her enemies, but throve and prospered notwithstanding their depredations.

A calm retrospect, at this distance of time, of the general result of measures of this character (acts of necessary vigour,' or 'acts justified by circumstances,' as they were described by those who resorted to them) seems strongly to indicate that attempts by belligerents to produce any decisive result in war by what was called 'crushing the enemy's trade' were on the whole unsuccessful. The injury inflicted was rather individual and partial than national or general; and the confiscation of goods treated as 'enemy's property,' often seriously compromised the individual interests of the confiscating power, and thus ultimately recoiled upon it. Commerce in such cases is driven from her natural course; but though checked or thwarted, she merely changes her channels. Increased prices stimulate supply; the appetites, the tastes, and even the fashions of the people cannot be suddenly altered by the temporary political expedients of their governments; and even the most despotic power soon finds that in this direction it has narrow and impassable limits.

The more insolvency throughout

* See also the well-considered British declaration of Sept. 25, 1807, on this matter, which speaks of the cruel necessity of the case,' and of the sincere and painful regret felt by His Majesty at resorting to measures of self-preservation-hostilities which he would not carry beyond the limits of the necessity which produced them.'

Europe, the greater will be the distress in London,' said Napoleon; 'England must be humbled, were it at the expense of throwing civilization back for centuries, and returning to the original mode of trading by barter.'

'The attempt to annihilate com.merce,' says Walter Scott, commenting on this point in poetic prose,' 'resembled that of a child who tries to stop with his hand the stream of a fountain, which escapes in a hundred partial jets from under his palms and between his fingers.'

Even when such attempts are temporarily and exceptionally successful-and although they may be followed by serious suffering on the part of certain portions of the population of the nations against whom they are made, or upon whom they indirectly operate-they have not been found to produce decisive results on serious international contests. We have recently seen the sad Cotton Famine,' which the Southern party in the Dis-United States trusted would force us into an alliance with them, borne with the most patient resignation: the Northern blockade, although it has probably inflicted as much suffering on us as on the Confederates, has never induced us to swerve from our course, and has not as yet produced any very apparent result upon secession. The Chinese idea that the interruption of the tea-trade would inflict upon the outside barbarians' a national pestilence in the shape of a general stoppage of the power of digestion, was only a characteristic exaggeration of this common error as to stoppage of trade.

Trafalgar, Moscow, Leipsic, Waterloo, determined the event of the last great European contest; the Congress of Vienna decided the status and relations of the nations inter se; but the maritime questions were (as it were) passed over in silence, and remained, in effect, in statu quo ante bellum. This remarkable omission, however, was not attended with the evil consequences which might reasonably have been anticipated; the various and extensive changes which have since occurred in the 'European system' then laid down, had

no direct bearing on maritime ques tions, which therefore remained a it were becalmed' and almost for gotten, until England and Franc declared war against Russia in 1854

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Any attempt to discuss the rea causes and objects of this war would be irrelevant to our present pur pose; it may suffice to remark tha it was, in effect, on the part of the Allies, a war formally announced as being limited to one definite political object. Her Majesty,' said the Order in Council, ordering general reprisals' against Russia, March 29, 1854, 'determined to afford active assistance to her ally, his Highness the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, for the protection of his dominions against the encroachments and unprovokod aggression of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias.' On the part of Russia the war in its course proved strictly defensive.

Under such circumstances, and in the absence of the intense excitement caused by the former wars' for existence' between the two great powers whose naval forces were now for the first time united, the general interests of commerce were an object of common consideration, which led to a series of remarkable concessions in their favour.

These concessions were thus announced to the world in Her Majesty's Declaration with reference to Neutrals and Letters of Marque, issued on the eve of the war, March 28, 1854:

Her Majesty having been compelled to take up arms in support of an ally, is desirous of rendering the war as little onerous as possible to the Powers with whom she remains at peace.

To preserve the commerce of neutrals from all unnecessary obstruction, Her Majesty is willing, for the present, to waive a part of the belligerent rights appertaining to her by the law of nations.

It is impossible for Her Majesty to forego the exercise of her right of seizing articles contraband of war, and of preventing neutrals from bearing the enemy's despatches; and she must maintain the right of a belligerent to prevent neutrals from breaking any effective blockade which may be established with an adequate force against the enemy's forts, harbours, or coasts.

But Her Majesty will waive the right of

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