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seizing enemy's property laden on board a neutral vessel, unless it be contraband of


It is not Her Majesty's intention to claim the confiscation of neutral property, not being contraband of war, found on board enemy's ships; and Her Majesty further declares that, being anxious to lessen as much as possible the evils of and to restrict its operations to the regularly organized forces of the country, it is not her present intention to issue letters of marque for the commissioning of privateers.


The brevity with which these striking modifications of belligerent rights are expressed offers a complete contrast to the elaborate verbosity of all former documents of this nature, framed with very different objects, and on a very opposite principle under the former system of war policy.


But the waiver of belligerent rights' was not confined merely to the powers with whom 'her Majesty remained at peace.' Russian merchant vessels in British ports, instead of being embargoed and confiscated as of old, were allowed six weeks to load and depart in peace; and similar exemptions were made in favour of those met with at sea with cargoes laden before the date of the declaration of war; whilst those sailing from foreign ports for British ports before such date were allowed to discharge, and 'depart without molestation." *

In the same spirit, 'trade with the enemy' (formerly wholly interdicted, and punished by confiscation) was now permitted not only to neutrals but to British subjects; and in direct contravention of one of the principal maxims of all former times, a peace for commerce' was proclaimed during and notwithstanding the coincidence of a 'war for arms.'


Neutrals and even British subjects were formally permitted to trade freely with all ports and places, wheresoever situate, which should not be in a state of blockade;' and

with all goods and merchandize whatsoever, to whomsoever the same might belong.'t

Under this Order a brisk trade was carried on between England and Russia through Prussian and Swedish ports, notwithstanding the blockade. The carrying of 'contraband of war' and the 'breaking blockade' thus remained the only offences of neutrals against belligerent rights which were to be visited with 'condemnation.' Blockade was (as it were) the only weapon of all the old engines of war,' the free use of which against all comers was retained by the belligerents.

This policy was met by Russia in the liberal spirit which it deserved; British vessels were allowed to load and depart from her ports in peace, and British and Russian residents were in both countries left perfectly unmolested.

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* Order in Council (D), March 29, 1854. Order in Council (G), April 15, 1854.

In a naval point of view, it is remarkable that the fleets of France and England, even when united, did not venture to attack seriously either Cronstadt or Sebastopol. The armaments that thunderstrike the walls of rock-built cities' were paralyzed by the want of iron-clads' to resist the effect of shells fired horizontally from batteries.

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To enter upon a full discussion of the various questions attempted to be settled in so summary a form in this remarkable document would exceed our limits; but we must point out that the 1st article, suppressing privateering, appears to us to have been an unquestionable step in advance, highly favourable to the general interests of commerce and civilization, relieving neutrals from the oppressive wrongs to which they were exposed at the hands of reckless persons whose theoretical responsibility for their acts was in effect no protection to the sufferers; and as far as the separate interests of England were concerned, calculated to insure her vast commercial marine against the recurrence of one of its most pressing dangers in time of war.

The policy of England in making the great concession expressed_in the 2nd article (the neutral flag covering the enemy's cargo with the exception of contraband of war) in this final and irrevocable shape, remains to be explained, and vindicated, and above all tested in practice. To all but the maritime powers of high rank, such as France and Russia, it was in effect a gratuitous concession; and the fact of the United States of America not joining in the 'Declaration' has prevented the principle from being universal in its operation. Although in the Russian war, from very peculiar and exceptional circumstances, and particularly from the whole of the Russian ports having been effi

ciently blockaded throughout the war, the experiment (then first tried) succeeded; yet the question whether an inflexible and unqualified adherence to this principle by belligerents will be found practicable in all contingencies remains to be determined by future experience.

The operation of this article of the Declaration will, we apprehend, be (apart from all question of blockade) to confine captures at sea to cases where enemy's goods are in enemy's ships; the enemy may trade without interruption, provided only that he places his merchandize under the protection of a neutral flag; and it is easy to foresee that this precaution will offer the strongest temptation to the subjects of belligerents to freight neutral, to the exclusion of national vessels, and not to incur the somewhat perverse risk (in a commercial sense) of shipping goods under their own flag, and thereby exposing them to capture, for want of what legal tribunals would call 'ordinary caution.'

We doubt whether it can be safely assumed that belligerents will hereafter-when unable, say from geographical circumstances, to maintain an effective blockade of all hostile ports-patiently acquiesce in the continuance of the enemy's trade without any other limitation than its being conducted in neutral vessels.

When the battle rages loud and long, And the stormy winds do blow!

A complete and uninterrupted blockade, such for instance as prevailed during the war with Russia, reduces all questions to the single issue-was the prize, whatever her nationality or cargo, attempting to break it?" and thus escapes further complications; but in the absence or imperfect action of blockade, contingencies must, we fear, be anticipated in which the duty of leaving the enemy's trade unmolested when under any neutral flag, will severely try the good faith and forbearance of powerful and high-spirited nations,

The 3rd article (viz., 'neutral goods, with the exception of con

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to adopt the 2nd and 3rd articles; that the 4th only laid down ' doctrine which had always been recognized;' that as regarded the 1st article, the right to resort to privateers was as clear as the right to use public armed ships, and was as incontestable as any belligerent right; but he proposed to add to the 1st article the words 'that the private property of the subjects or citizens of a belligerent on the high seas shall be exempted from seizure by public armed vessels of the other belligerent,' with the exception of contraband; and he stated that if thus amended, the government of the United States would in effect adhere to the 'Declaration.'

The practical result of this answer was that the Declaration remained unaltered, and did not receive the adherence of the United States. The amendment suggested by Mr. Marcy would, in order to its due consideration, have necessitated not only mature reconsideration of the whole subject, but a reconstruction of the Declaration itself. The security of the important points already attained by its publication night obviously have been endangered by such a proceeding; great obstacles had been, however, overcome; great success had been achieved, and great practical advantages secured. Apart from all questions of form, and of international rank and dignity, (which would doubtless have interfered with the reconsideration and reconstruction of a European international contract at the suggestion of America) the proposal to this effect came too late; it remained for some time without any formal reply, and was subsequently, we believe, diplomatically withdrawn' by the United States, without, as it would seem, having ever received the serious consideration of the European powers.


Thus the great republic remained, and still remains, as it were 'isolated' from the other members of the family of nations; retaining apparently a characteristic jealousy of 'entanglement' with other powers, and cherishing a peculiar and natural sentiment for the profitable exploits of her privateers in the

only two naval wars in which she was ever engaged.

The youngest of great nations alone declined to advance in company with her elder sisters; she made indeed a great suggestion, the practical success of which she could scarcely have been justified in anticipating, as matters stood; and she seems to have preferred the retention of the right of privateering to the securing the concession of the flag covering the cargo,' a principle which she had so constantly insisted on in times past.

The suggestion thus made by the United States, viz., the exemption from capture at sea of all private property of the subjects of belligerents is, however, one well deserving of serious consideration; more especially in connexion with the stipulations of the Declaration of Paris.

The broad distinction in practice between the immunity from hostile confiscation of all private property of the enemy on shore, and the rigorous subjection of the same property to this penalty afloat, seems to be at variance with any theoretical consistency. If the question is to be viewed as one of international principle, and like other belligerent rights inter hostes, to be capable of some abstract moral justification, the distinction seems to fail. If it be lawful or justifiable to inflict the utmost injury on the enemy's commerce without regard to individual interests, then all hostile and commercial property, whether on shore or afloat, should be equally confiscated; but if moral justice and common humanity demand that no injury should be inflicted on private property which is not absolutely essential to the success of military operations, how can the propriety of confiscating such property afloat be maintained consistently with that of protecting other portions of the very same property ashore?

Why, it may well be asked, should the one portion of the very same cargo (in the warehouse) be protected from all molestation, whilst the other portion (on board the vessel) is condemned as 'prize of war?'

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