Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [11th March],
That the present state of International Maritime Law, as affecting the rights of Belligerents and Neutrals, is ill-defined and unsatisfactory, and calls for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), who was to have resumed the debate that evening, was suffering so severely from cold and hoarseness that he felt unable to speak at that time; he hoped, however, to be able to do so during the course of the evening. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. Lindsay) would venture to offer a few remarks to the House. Objections had been taken to the form of the Motion. That was a course which was very frequently pursued. The fact was, that when a principle was not easily answered, it was common enough to take objection to the form in which the principle was put before the House. No doubt, if the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) had brought forward his Motion in any other form, similar objections would have been taken to it. There were many in the House who had long held the opinions expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall). He (Mr. Lindsay) had long done so; and after the Declaration of Paris in reference to the rights of neutrals had been adopted, the international maritime law of the civilized world had, in his opinion, been placed in so very unsatisfactory a condition, that early in 1857 he brought the subject under the consideration of the House. At that time the 1600 noble Viscount, then, as now, at the head of the Government, said the question required the gravest and most deliberate consideration on the part of the Government. The noble Earl the present Foreign Secretary, who was not then in office, said the question was one of the utmost importance—that the facts stated by him (Mr. Lindsay) were very serious, and that he would like to hear some statement on the part of the Government of the grounds for entering into the Declaration; and he concluded by saying that the whole matter was very unsatisfactory, while it was most grave in its bearing on our naval supremacy. He (Mr. Lindsay) had also brought the subject under the consideration of the Merchant Shipping Committee, of which he was a member, and that Committee unanimously reported that it was desirable for the true interests of this country that all property not contraband of war should be respected during war. The subject was not therefore new. Now, if the Resolution offered to the House by the hon. Member for Liverpool sought to pledge Her Majesty's Government to make all private property exempt from capture at sea, he could well understand—though he held to that principle—that the House would require time for further consideration before agreeing to it. But all that the Resolution asked was, that the House should affirm "That the state of international maritime law, as affecting the rights of belligerents and neutrals, was ill-defined and unsatisfactory, and called for the early attention of the Government;" and he did not see how it was possible to controvert the truth of that statement. When he considered the vast change introduced by the Declaration of 1856, and its bearing upon all classes of the community, he thought they could hardly do otherwise than declare the present state of things unsatisfactory. In dealing with this question they must consider it, first, as it affected ourselves, and, second, as it affected our enemies. With regard to ourselves, the reasons which had been adduced why a change should not be made were, first, that our ships and commerce were spread over every sea, and required our fleets to defend them. Then it was said, that if we took the step in advance proposed, we should deal a fatal blow at the naval power of England, and commit an act of political suicide. On the other hand, by allowing the present state of things to remain, it was said that 1601 we should retain the great source of our power, which was our ability to destroy the commerce of the enemy. Now, as to the first of these objections, let them suppose that unhappily we were at war with France. In that case, let us ask the question, would we require our large fleet to protect our ships and commerce on the sea? No; for the simple reason that all our commerce would he conveyed from this country under neutral flags. No sane merchant would ship in any other than American, or other neutral bottoms, so long as there was a remote danger even of British ships being captured. The result would be that all British ships would be laid up in port or transferred to neutral nations. Thus, then, the objection that we should require our fleets to protect our ships and commerce, in his opinion, entirely fell to the ground. Again, it was said that our fleets would be required to destroy the commerce of the enemy; but what applied to our own commerce applied equally to that of the enemy. The merchandise of France would be carried in neutral bottoms. We should therefore find in the commercial intercourse of nations no opportunity for the display of our maritime superiority. But did the destruction of private property help to restore peace? He did not believe it had that effect, and the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) had expressed a similar opinion at Liverpool some years ago. He (Mr. Lindsay) believed that the destruction of private property, instead of bringing war to an end, tended to prolong it. Take, for instance, the recent burning of the Harvey Birch by the Nashville. The Harvey Birch was a trading vessel belonging to some private merchants in the Northern States who had hitherto taken no part in the war. Knowing the weight of taxation placed on the, South by the North, they probably thought, that though the South had no right to rebel, yet that it had a right to complain loudly, Now, no doubt they felt that the destruction of their ship was a wanton and wicked act; and, instead of standing aloof from the war, they would use all their energy against the Government that gave a licence to the ship which had, in their opinion, thus wantonly destroyed their property, Bid any one suppose that the destruction of the property of the poor Fins during the Russian war tended to promote peace? It was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War (Sir George Lewis) 1602 that war put an end to all engagements of the nature of treaties, so far as regarded the nations at war; and that if we were engaged in a war with France, it could not be supposed that either France or England would respect the Declaration of Paris. But it must be borne in mind that Austria, Russia, Prussia, Sardinia, Turkey, and forty other Powers, were also parties to it; and if we were involved in a war with France, that country would take good care, if we desired to violate the treaty, to call upon the other nations to remonstrate with us, and, if necessary, to take part with France in seeing that England observed the stipulations of a treaty to which they all had been consenting parties. Thus we might be placed in a very awkward position. The hon. and learned Gentleman (the Attorney General) said he admitted the Declaration of Paris must give advantage to neutral vessels over those of belligerents, but that he could not agree with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsfall) that the further effect of the Declaration would be to put a stop to our carrying if we were belligerents, because we were so strong at sea as to be able to defend our maritime flag everywhere. But he (Mr. Lindsay) believed, that if a war were to arise between this country and any other great maritime nation, it would be impossible for our navy to ensure complete safety upon the high seas to our vast commercial shipping, The hon. and learned Gentleman said we were able to protect it during the great war of the first French Empire. But had he ever considered the vast change which had taken place since then? In the last year of that war the total amount of our imports and exports together was £60,000,000 sterling, while their value in 1860–1 was close upon £300,000,000 sterling. Our shipping at that time amounted to about 1,000,000 tons, while now it was close on 5,000,000 tons, of which 500,000 tons was steam-shipping—a description of ship then totally unknown. Did any one suppose that it would be possible to maintain a fleet capable of efficiently guarding such a mercantile navy as this? Again, the character and course of our commerce was entirely changed. We had entered into great relations with other countries, and had steam-ships constantly crossing the ocean at a speed which would enable them to distance almost any of the ships in the navy sent to convoy them. There were 1603 mail steamers daily leaving our ports for distant parts of the world. These must continue, or we should come to a standstill, because now we depended so much for everything we wanted upon foreign nations. Take the articles of corn, cotton, and sugar alone. The value of those three articles imported every year into this country was not less than £75,000,000 sterling, a sum which was a great deal more than the value of the whole imports and exports in 1814. Again, looking at the account of British and foreign vessels entered inwards and outwards at the ports of this country, they amounted, including the coasting trade, to no less than 55,000,000 tons annually. That was a state of things entirely different to what prevailed in 1814, the period to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred. Then it was said that this was a shipowners' question—a mere commercial question. If hon. Members could show that the loss of the shipowners would be for the benefit of the community, then he would agree with them that this was a shipowners' question rather than one affecting the people generally. But upon whom did our operatives and mechanics depend, except upon our merchants and traders? and it was a question, therefore, in which every person in this country had a deep interest. Take it even upon the narrow ground of increased price to the consumer. Freights upon bulky articles, such as corn and cotton and sugar, would be enhanced threefold, and every article would be increased in cost to a greater or less extent. Or look at it on the ground of pecuniary loss by the maintenance of the right of burning, plundering, and destroying our enemy's property; but we had more property afloat to be burnt, plundered, and destroyed than any other nation, so that we should be sure to be far the largest sufferers. He had not intended to occupy the time of the House so long, but as his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Cobden) had been unable, just then, to take part in the debate, he had ventured to make these observations to the House. He trusted that if the House should not be prepared to affirm at present that all private property ought to be respected in time of war, it would at least declare our international law to be in an unsatisfactory state, and that the subject required the grave consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he would address himself rather to the practical 1604 grounds upon which the Resolution had been supported than to the terms in which it was expressed. Those terms had been already adverted to, and they certainly were sufficiently vague. The House was called upon to say that "the present state of international maritime law, as affecting the rights of belligerents and neutrals, is ill-defined and unsatisfactory;" but the Resolution did not state in what respect the law was ill-defined, or in what respect it was unsatisfactory, nor did it give any indication in what way a better definition or a more satisfactory state of the law might be brought about. He was bound to admit, on the other hand, that the same objection could not be urged against the views advanced in support of the Resolution. Those views might be summed up as follows:—That it was contrary alike to the rules of legitimate warfare and to the interests of this country that private property belonging to the citizens of a belligerent country at war with us should be liable to capture when found at sea under the belligerent flag. He did not know whether the Resolution as it was worded did not go even further, and was not intended to apply, not only to the capture of property carried under a belligerent flag, but also to the case of blockade. Certain it was that the principles advanced by the supporters of the Resolution would necessarily lead to the abolition of the right of blockade. The question was thus one of great importance, and it had been argued upon two grounds—first, on the ground of the rules of legitimate warfare; and, secondly, on the ground of self-interest. It was not easy to distinguish between the comparative influence of those two grounds, or to say whether tenderness for our belligerent enemy, or jealousy for a possible neutral friend, were the stronger motive in this debate. He thought, indeed, that a good deal of the debate had rather been a remonstrance against the principles of the Declaration of Paris, intended to show to what extravagant or at least to what wide results it must lead, than a serious exposition of reasons why the Government should adopt the principle upon which the Resolution was based. But, however that might be, there could be no question of the importance of the matters involved in the discussion. He would even take leave to suggest that perhaps the matters raised were somewhat too important to be discussed, or at least decided, with any benefit to the 1605 country in that House. There were some questions which might he too much debated, especially when they affected our relations with other countries, or he might say with the whole civilized world, when their solution did not rest entirely in our own hands, and when their discussion could have no practical effect until some undesirable and unforeseen contingency—some crisis of the country—should arise. He was far from saying that we ought to go back upon the humane course which civilized nations had been following for many years in actual warfare; nor did he mean to contend that it was either right or necessary to do everything that was lawful according to the rules of legitimate war; but he greatly doubted whether upon the question before the House, which affected the relations of belligerents, it was desirable under existing circumstances to attempt to lay down any abstract rules. For Secretaries of State, Judges of Prize Courts, and writers upon international law, it might be right and proper, even necessary, to deal with abstract principles; but it was impossible for that House to discuss such questions without each speaker realizing to himself the circumstances under which he contemplated that the principles contended for would come into practical operation. We know from experience how the revolutions of time and chance delight to falsify all anticipations of that kind, and how nations and men were often compelled to retract under the pressure and the pain of actual struggle the vows which they had made in peace. Therefore he should suggest that the real way to mitigate the horrors of war was not to lay down abstract principles which, as he had said, time might falsify; but when war did happen, for the executive Government of the country—the country itself—the Legislature of the country if they would—to look to the actual state of the facts, and be guided thereby. Let him take an instance. There could be no doubt as to the right of a belligerent Power to bombard a city, though it might contain many innocent inhabitants, and though the military force there was comparatively small. During the Russian war we did not bombard Odessa. We might have done so according to the rules of war. Some thought we should have done so; but we allowed the dictates of humanity to prevail. But should we ever dream of undertaking by a Resolution of this House or laying down by treaty that we should never bom- 1606 bard a city, whatever the exigencies of the war or the necessities of the campaign? It was not in that way that the horrors of war were to be mitigated. The hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Lindsay) had called their attention to the inevitable results of war on commerce; but these only showed how great an evil war was; it did not lead thorn nearer to a solution of the case with which they had to deal. It was impossible to say that the interests of this country lay in the direction of this Resolution. Our interests lay in the contrary direction. He believed it would compromise them in the deepest manner, and strike what might be a fatal blow to them if that Resolution were Sanctioned. It was impossible that the principle on which this Resolution was based could derive any strength from the Declaration of Paris of 1856, although he had no doubt it arose out of that Declaration. That Declaration came from a Congress composed of the larger States of Europe to settle, as the Declaration bears, "disputed questions." The first disputed question related to the rights of neutrals as regarded belligerents. Now, the disputes which prevailed on this subject were well known. There had been such disputes as long as there had been such a tiling as international law. According to the law of England a neutral shipping his goods on board of an enemy's vessel was not liable to have them captured by the enemy; on the contrary, if the vessel were captured, the goods had to be restored. On the other hand, enemy's goods under a neutral flag were liable to capture. France, and he believed most of the continental nations, held the doctrine that free ships made free goods, and enemy's ships made enemy's goods; so they captured the goods that were under the enemy's flag, allowing the goods that were under the neutral flag entirely to escape. Thus, the rules acted on by the two nations of France and England were antagonist, and the Congress of Paris took up those two questions. The Armed Neutrality of 1780 adopted the principle of "free ships free goods" without adopting the counterpart as to enemy's goods. But, as an illustration of the danger of laying down abstract resolutions and how often they recoil on those who pass them, there was not one of the parties to that Armed Neutrality of 1780 who, when they came to be belligerents, did not entirely turn round and adopt precisely the opposite 1607 principle. At the date of the Declaration of Paris it was very desirable to settle these matters. He saw plainly the effect which necessarily must arise from allowing the neutral flag to cover the cargo, whatever it might be. No doubt, it would attract the carrying trade to the neutral in the event of war; that was obvious on the face of it. But in considering this question, it should be remembered that neutrals had very strong rights in equity, and that possibly they had not hitherto had so much consideration as they were entitled to, because neutrals had generally been the weaker, and belligerents the stronger. Things were now, however, very much changed—with the great extension of commerce there was increased danger of complication attending the right of search; and nothing was more likely to bring about a bad understanding with a really faithful ally than the doctrine of taking enemy's goods out of neutral vessels. This country had great interest in having that possibility of misunderstanding removed, and he did not think that the danger incurred was compensated for by the advantage which might result from the exercise of the right. The Declaration of Paris accordingly abandoned the right of search over neutral vessels altogether, excepting for contraband of war, and he thought it did wisely. Then, again, as to privateering, that stood completely apart from the real object of this Resolution. Privateering was a relic, no doubt, of the old buccaneering times. He said nothing of its propriety or impropriety, but the objections to private war on the sea stood entirely apart from the other argument addressed to the House in support of this Resolution. It was quite consistent to say we should treat all privateers as pirates, and yet maintain the right of making prize of the commerce of an enemy. It was quite clear, then, that the Declaration of Paris did not throw any light upon the argument or on the Resolution before the House. Throwing that aside, what was the principle contended for? It was said that private property ought to be free from capture, and an observation of his noble Friend at Liverpool had been referred to as an authority for this assertion. But what his noble Friend said was, wars very seldom terminated by merely the violation or injury done to private interests: it was by the collision of great armies and great fleets. But what was the colli- 1608 sion of great armies and great fleets, if the right of destroying commerce did not remain behind? The hon. Gentleman spoke as if it was no principle of war that private rights should suffer at the hands of the adverse belligerent. But that was the true principle of war. If war was not to be defined—as it very nearly might be—as a denial of the rights of private property to the enemy, that denial was certainly one of the essential ingredients in it. If we could only arrange that private property should be safe, we should soon arrive at the time which some hon. Gentlemen think is approaching, when we might put down our fleets, dismiss our armies, and disband our Volunteers. For no foreign foe could put his foot on our shores without an invasion of private property. Therefore we might as well go back to the ancient arbitrament of single combat, in order to settle our differences, as say that we kept up our fleets to fight with fleets, and our armies to fight with armies; and that after they had destroyed each other the war must come to an end, and the subjects of each belligerent be as comfortable as before. The fact was that the legitimate object of war was a just peace, and its true justification was self-defence; and therefore whatever was materially conducive to self-defence, or to the attainment of a just peace, was generally permissible. Of course, there were exceptions to that rule—exceptions well founded in the feelings of natural humanity to which all the world subscribed. We found our foe flying on the field of battle, as for example at Inkermann; and although probably every round of cannon carried death to hundreds, yet the dictates of humanity did not overcome the principle of self-defence, and the fact that he was retreating did not protect the enemy from the carnage which ensued. On the other hand, when we found our foe lying wounded on the battle-field; self-defence yielded to humanity, and we took that foe prisoner, cherished him, and endeavoured to cure his wounds. The principle was that where the advantage to be gained was unreasonably disproportionate to the injury inflicted, it was not sanctioned by a just self-defence, and the injury, therefore, ought not to be inflicted. To have to engage in cold and speculative arguments on a matter so fraught with the lives and sufferings of their fellow creatures was almost enough to make one shudder; but they must take care lest, 1609 by giving way to an amiable but superficial sentiment, they should sacrifice the true interests of humanity after all. War was a stern and awful thing at any time, and if it was to be waged at all, it ought to be short; but then, in order to make it short, it must be sharp. It was said that private property was sacred in land warfare. No assertion could be more contrary to principle or more at variance with constant and inveterate practice. The abstract rule was that we were entitled in war to take an enemy's property wherever we found it. Before a war commenced we might begin with putting an embargo on the property within our territory belonging not to an actual but even to an expected one my. Then we had reprisals, which signified nothing but this—that in return for an injury done to some persons belonging to our country we would do a similar injury to some person belonging to our enemy's country. Next we perhaps sent an invading army against our adversary; and the very first step it took on his soil was an immediate violation of private property, the extent to which that violation was afterwards carried depending on the exigencies of war. Trees were cut down, châteaux occupied, growing crops do stroyed. If our army was well officered, its provisions in ordinary circumstances were paid for, but they might he seized as well. Perhaps it laid siege to a town, in which case it began by preventing all communication with the place. It cut down the lines of railway; it stopped the creditor from entering to receive his debt; it refused to allow the honest burgher, having nothing to do with the hostilities, to come out on his trading avocations The besieger's artillery played on the city as well as on the citadel, and perhaps as much private property was destroyed by it in one day as might be captured dining the whole year at sea. If the invading force had to retreat, it took the cattle and swept away with it all the provisions it could find, that its enemy might not be able to pursue with vigour or effect. AH that showed that private rights were not respected on land where the public interest required them to be interfered with. It was said that private debts were not confiscated by the breaking out of war. That was true, and it told powerfully in favour of his argument. The reason why private debts belonging to an alien enemy were not confiscated was, that the alien had, upon the faith of our laws, placed 1610 his property in our hands in time of peace, and it would be perfidious and treacherous in us to confiscate it on the outbreak of war. Therefore time was given him to withdraw his vessels from our harbours and collect his money from his debtors before the hostilities commenced. But all commerce with the enemy ceased in war—all commerce on land was intercepted and forbidden while it lasted, and an alien enemy could not appear in our courts to recover his debts while the war continued. All this showed the principle to be, that private as well as public property was liable to be violated and interfered with for the purposes of war, and that no restriction exists except when such violation is not conducive to the general interests. It was a mistake to suppose that merchandise was captured at sea for the purposes of plunder. The adjudication of prize was a mere incident to and consequence of the capture. The rules of war entitled us to destroy our enemy's commerce, and the justification was that by the destruction of his commerce, the enemy was necessarily weakened, and therefore was more likely to be compelled to make a speedy peace. That was the origin of our right to capture his merchant vessels. Were we to give up that right? And if we gave it up, could we then maintain the right of blockade? He thought not, because a blockade was an infinitely stronger interference with private interests and private property than the right of capture by sea, and therefore was more likely to subserve the interests of humanity, by making it the enemy's interest to come to terms. Were we, then, to throw away our naval preponderance, and in future to wage war on the same footing as if we had no navy at all? For what reason were we to abandon our immense power? Was it for the sake of humanity? He believed that the interests of humanity would greatly suffer from such a course. If we were not to conduct our wars by sea, we should have to double our standing army, and be reduced to the necessity of hiring mercenaries to fight our battles for us. In the long run that would impoverish the country more than ever the maintenance of her fleets could do; while, on the other hand, she would fall into a chronic state of war, and having her strongest arm tied behind her back would no longer be able to uphold her rights against all the world. Our naval supremacy would be lost, because there would be no great com- 1611 mercial interest afloat to preserve and defend, and we should no longer be able to maintain our position as we did at present. But was it the fact that our self-interest lay in that direction? Hon. Gentlemen spoke as though England was always a belligerent, and other nations always neutral, and that, therefore, we had made the law to suit ourselves. But let us consider the case of our being neutrals and other nations belligerents. In the case of Franco and America being at war, and England remaining neutral, was it not clear that all the advantage enjoyed by America in the one case would be enjoyed by England in the other? The right of capturing or of interrupting the commerce of an enemy was a right of great advantage to the strongest. The question of its advantage to this country was not at all affected by the fact that our commercial marine was larger than that of any other nation. It was very possible that a larger number of our merchant ships might be captured than were taken from the enemy; but the question did not depend upon that—the real effect to the nation must be the amount of force we could bring against the enemy's force. It was clear to his mind that this rule must necessarily be in our favour as long as we maintained a predominance upon the seas. He regretted that the contrary principle should be suggested in that House, and he should be still more sorry if it were affirmed—for principles affirmed in that House did not pass for nothing in Europe. It was a question to be approached—even for discussion alone—with great caution. It was not desirable to impress upon the public mind of Europe a belief that whatever the Government might do, the people of this country had arrived at the conclusion that the capture of property at sea was no longer lawful; for if it were once assumed that such was the mind of the nation, we might depend on it that the offer thereby implied would be accepted at the time most convenient for other nations and of course most inconvenient for us. He did not doubt that the motives of those who brought forward this question were most excellent. No one could be insensible to the grievous amount of loss and injury that must be sustained by our great commercial community in the event of war; but he maintained that the best way to make war so as to consult the interests of humanity, and to make it as little burdensome as possible 1612 to the belligerents, was to make it short and sharp. We should be slow to enter upon war; but when the combat was determined upon, the antagonists on the ground, and swords crossed, it was too late for consideration of humanity. The combatant should then exert his utmost power and skill. To do otherwise, if his own life only were at stake, were weakness: if he have others to defend, it were also treachery.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that he agreed in the practical conclusion to which the learned Lord who had just addressed the House wished to lead them with regard to the Motion before them. He considered that the adoption of the Resolution proposed by the Mover would lead to very undesirable and embarrassing results, and he therefore earnestly hoped that the hon. Member (Mr. Horsfall) would not press it to a division. But he confessed he should have been able to come to this conclusion with greater satisfaction, and would have been better content to leave this important question in the hands of the Government, if he could think the Government knew its own mind on the matter, and if the views of the learned Lord Advocate had been expressed in a somewhat different manner. He thought the learned Lord had entirely failed to grapple with the real question at issue, and it was with the greatest regret that he had heard some of the doctrines incidentally laid down by the learned Lord. He was, for instance, astonished to hear the learned Lord, who was a Member of the Government which adopted the Declaration of Paris, objecting to lay down abstract principles with regard to what should be done in time of war. Why, what was the Declaration of Paris itself?
THE LORD ADVOCATE
explained, that he did not object to abstract principles being laid down in negotiations between various Powers, but to abstract Resolutions being adopted in that House.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, then he did not understand what the learned Lord meant when he said that these matters should be left to be settled by the decision of courts of law as they arose. But still further, there were points in the learned Lord's argument which seemed directly against the principle of entering into such declarations. For instance, the learned Lord reversed a line of Milton's about "retracting in times of ease vows made in pain." He (Sir Stafford North- 1613 cote) could not conceive more objectionable language from a Minister, after he and his Government had entered into an agreement with several nations, than language addressed to the House of Commons of this kind, "Remember vows made in peace will be very likely retracted in war." Then there was the language of the learned Lord with regard to public debts; and although it was rather ambiguous, still, if it were to be construed in accordance with the natural sense of the words, it appeared to him calculated to shake the credit of the country, and likely to lead people to suppose that the law officers of the Crown considered the Government would have a right to confiscate debts due by this country in time of war. If there was one point in which international law had achieved greater triumphs than another, it was in respect to the security in time of war of debts contracted by the public of one country with the public of another. This principle had been enforced by England in the last century, when we made a claim on Prussia that she should satisfy the just demands of her creditors in this country in respect of the Silesian debt. So also recently the principle was confirmed by the conduct of both parties to the Russian war, when the claims of the English and Russian creditors were respected by each Power. He therefore protested against such doctrines being laid down in so loose and general a manner.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, the hon. Baronet was mistaken, and denied that he had expressed any such sentiments. So far from saying that is was lawful to confiscate the debts due to an alien enemy, he had referred to the universal practice in time of war, which was directly opposed to the confiscation of debts.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he would not dispute the matter as to the fact, but such was certainly the impression the remarks of the learned Lord had made upon him. He rejoiced, however, that his misapprehension had elicited a distinct disavowal of so objectionable a doctrine. He would now, however, ask the House whether this question which they were discussing had been considered in its most important light. It had been spoken of as a question of humanity—as a question affecting the commerce of this country. But the root of the question was, how would it affect our maritime power—the strength of our navy in time of war. 1614 The foundation of our naval power was the commercial marine of this country. When this question was spoken of as a mere shipowners' question, let the House bear in mind that the shipping interest of this country was the foundation of our naval supremacy. We stood upon a different footing to other nations—we had no "inscription maritime" like France. We had only our commercial marine and our naval reserve to rely upon in time of war. It always had been so. Even in old times, when the navy was manned by the aid of impressment, the number of men serving in the commercial marine and the number serving in the navy had risen and fallen together, and bow much more was the connection between the two services increased now that the system of impressment had been given up, and the navy made to depend upon the reserve of the merchant service. He would appeal to the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty to show what the shipowners of this country had done within the last few months, when there was an apprehension of war. The noble Lord, speaking of the Trent affair, told his constituents that "all the shipping companies came to offer their vessels to the Admiralty. They asked for nothing, they stipulated for no price. They merely said, 'Here are our steamers, take what you like, and pay us what you like.'" That was the conduct of the shipping interest. Therefore, he was sorry to hear the language that had been held out of doors, charging the shipping interest with selfish views, in endeavouring to find a mode of escaping from a difficulty which, it must always be remembered, was caused by the action of the Government; for it was not a question of the particular proposition now before the House, but of what had been the effect of the alterations in the system of maritime law produced by the Declaration of Paris. Should they be told that it was intended to depart from those engagements; to throw them over in time of war when they were found to be inconvenient; or was it intended to adhere to them? If they were adhered to, how would they affect our mercantile navy? That was the real question to be considered. The connection between the navy and the mercantile marine was patent to all; now let the House consider how the mercantile marine depended upon the trade of the country. He doubted whether the amount of our warehousing trade, and the extent to which our carrying trade would 1615 be endangered by the new regulations in the event of war, had been sufficiently considered. The experience of other countries was not to be forgotten. The Dutch were once the carriers of Europe; but their power and trade had been destroyed by circumstances very analogous to those in which we were placed by the Declaration of Paris. We were, however, confident that no such fate would overtake ourselves. The phenomena of the last war had been referred to, and it was said, "We were able then to overcome and put down all the fleets opposed to us." True; but what were the circumstances of the last war? The principle then acted upon by Great Britain was to seize the cargoes and cripple the trade of her enemy wherever she could find it. That was a principle which was now abandoned. But that was not all. We must remember the blunders of our enemy. Napoleon, by his Berlin Decree and Milan Decree, actually played into the hands of England; for those Decrees and the Orders in Council had one and the same object—to put an end to the trade of neutrals; and they effected that object. But England would not be able to put down neutrals now under the Declaration of Paris. The whole circumstances of the carrying trade were now altered. In the first place, many close trades which then existed were now thrown open. Our colonial trade, for example, had been thrown open to all the world. Commerce always sought the safest ships, and English vessels were then the safest, because neutral vessels were threatened by both belligerents. But neutral, and not English vessels, would now be the safest in the event of war, and the effect of war would infallibly be to throw out of employment a large amount of British shipping. These vessels would not, as some had thought, rot in our ports, but would be bought up and pass over to other nations, and English capital would be transferred with these ships to the Danes, Norwegians, &c. When our commercial marine was gone, to what was England to look for the support of her naval power? Where was she to get her men, and where her transports in time of war? What would be the result, from the changes made in maritime international law by the Declaration of Paris in 1856, of a war with France? And it should be remembered that with France, above all other countries, we should be in most danger of a serious and vital war. 1616 It was not war we might carry on with any petty country that would cause us uneasiness; and any war with the United States would affect our colonies and commerce, but not our own shores. All we had to dread was a war with France, because that might affect our very existence as a nation. In the event, then, of such a war, what would be its effect on the commerce of either country? Both countries would have to give up the use of their mercantile marine, and to have recourse to neutral vessels. What would be the effect of that in France? It would do her absolutely no harm. She had a comparatively limited commerce—she could easily find vessels to carry it; and her inscription maritime would easily supply her with the requisite number of men for her navy. But the effect on England would be ruinous, because she would have such an enormous amount of commerce thrown out of employment, and such an enormous number of ships passed over to neutral nations, and it would not be in her power to supply the want of men consequent thereon without reducing herself to the greatest emergencies and distress. Now, he wished to know what Her Majesty's Government intended to do? Were they of opinion that we could safely rest where we were? What object had they in making the arrangements of 1856? The House was told by the learned Lord Advocate that those arrangements were made to settle disputed points of maritime law. He (Sir S. Northcote) wished to know in what manner they had settled disputed points. They were told that the disputed point about the right of the neutral flag to cover enemy's goods was now settled. That was a point in dispute between us and a great many nations; but the nation of all others with which it was important to settle that disputed point was the United States. Had it been settled with the United States or not? The learned Lord Advocate had told them that the question of privateering stood altogether apart from the object of the Resolution. But that was not the case, because the United States had placed England in this position—they had refused to consider the two questions of privateering and the right of neutral flags to cover enemy's goods together, and had therefore refused to agree to the Declaration of Paris. The United States, looking at the question of privateering, from their own point of view, 1617 held that if they gave up the right of privateering, they would deprive themselves of their most useful weapon of defence. They had no cruisers; all they had to depend upon was their privateer force. It was like asking a country which had but a small standing army, and which depended mainly upon its Volunteers, to give up its Volunteer force and agree that all its battles should be fought by its regular army only. Beyond that, the United States argued, how could they be asked to give up privateering for the purpose of settling all disputes, when the difficulty of distinguishing between what was and what was not a privateer was so generally acknowledged that that alone would give rise to innumerable disputes? Therefore it was evident that Her Majesty's Government had rashly concluded certain arrangements with France and other Powers, while the Power with whom it was most important those arrangements should be made stood quite aloof from them. In the event of a war with Franco, that country would be perfectly safe under those arrangements. The navy of France would gain, because there would be no necessity for allowing so many of her seamen to be carried off by the merchant service. Her commerce would be carried on in American and not in English bottoms. America would say, "You cannot touch us, because, though we are not parties to the treaty, you are bound by your treaty with France;" for surely the House would not be told that the treaty could be set aside? Upon this point he wished the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government would tell the House distinctly whether he adopted the doctrine that the treaty would be set aside as between the nations going to war. Supposing we were to go to war with France, would the treaty be put an end to as regarded France? If not, would our navy be at liberty to seize French goods in American bottoms, America not being a party to the treaty? If such were the case, he apprehended that the greatest inconvenience and dangers would arise from the Declaration of Paris. That arrangement, for example, would probably bring us into difficulties with the United States, and we might have a war with America on our hands, while a war with France was quite a sufficient strain upon our resources. The policy of the United States was not to interfere in European disputes; but this would necessitate such an interference, and bring ourselves into 1618 serious difficulties. Again, if at war with the United States, were we to hold that French vessels carrying American goods might be seized because we had no treaty with the United States? It was necessary there should be a clear understanding with the Government as to whether they had considered these matters, and what course they intended to pursue with regard to them. The House had a right to such an explanation, because at the time that the treaty was made, and for some time afterwards, every indication on the part of the Government led to the conclusion that it was their intention to give a very full development to the principle of the treaty, and to go even beyond the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall). Every hon. Member would recollect the speech made by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government at Liverpool in November, 1856. Let the House consider the circumstances under which that speech was delivered. Some months before that time the Government had received a letter from Mr. Marcy, containing the proposal of the American Government, that in order to enable them to get rid of privateering, the right to capture private property at sea should be put an end to. While the Government were still deliberating on that proposal, the noble Lord made his speech at Liverpool. The language of the noble Lord was not loose language, which might mean something or nothing, but it was language used by him at the moment when he and his Government must have been considering that very proposal seriously, and with the utmost deliberation, for it was a proposal of the most serious character. The noble Lord said—I cannot help hoping that these relaxations of former doctrines, established in the beginning of the war, practised during its continuance, and ratified by further engagements, may be still further extended; and that in the course of time the same rules of war which now apply to hostilities by land may be extended to hostilities by sea, and that private property may be respected on either side.He thought it impossible to accept the principles thus laid down by the noble Lord, without considering and deciding a great many other questions; and he wished to know whether such was the view of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment. The noble Lord told the House the other night that the adoption of the principles contained in the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool would be an 1619 act of political suicide. If that were so, the Government should remember that, to judge from the language of the noble Lord at Liverpool in November, they had then been on the point of committing such an act themselves. But what were we to do now? Were we to go forward, backward, or in what direction? Was the noble Lord prepared to leave the matter to the chapter of accidents, or to say that when war came was the time when the whole question was to be determined? It would not be for the honour of this country to say that we were looking forward to the time when we might be able to violate a treaty which we had made on this subject. And yet such was the language held by a Minister of the Crown on this question of war and the violation of treaties. They all knew that there were stipulations and treaties which war immediately put an end to; but were all treaties made even in contemplation of war to be set aside? If so, they were going back to a state of barbarism. He always understood that the meaning of international law was, that war was to be carried on upon principles laid down in a time of calm. What was the meaning of many articles contained in treaties, if treaties were dissolved by war? Take a very common case, and one which would be found provided for in many treaties to which this country was a party, In case of war breaking out, a certain time was to be given to the subjects of a belligerent Power to quit the territories of the other belligerent. Was that a stipulation which war put an end to? Again, with regard to a treaty stipulating that public debts should remain payable in time of war, was that also done away with when war broke out? He would quote the following passage from Chancellor Kent's Commentaries. He says—As a general rule, the obligations of treaties are dissipated by hostilities; but if a treaty contains any stipulations which contemplate a state of future war and make provision for such an exigency, those stipulations preserve their force and obligation when the rupture takes place. The obligation of keeping faith is so far from ceasing in time of war, that its efficacy becomes increased, from the increased necessity for it.And he goes on to cite the instance of the exchange of prisoners of war, Now, this was a matter which ought to be cleared up, whereas it was now left in studied vagueness. The most opposite opinions were entertained on this subject, some persons being anxious to go forward and 1620 others to go back. The latter, he ventured to say, were lapping themselves in a fool's paradise, for they thought it the simplest thing in the world to get rid of those treaties. It was idle to suppose that treaties could be got rid of when war broke out; and he should like to know whether the Government had considered the question from this point of view. There was another point on which great confusion existed. A good deal had been said about the analogy of warlike operations on land and sea, and they had been told that there was no protection for private property on land. No one pretended there was perfect protection; but was there no difference between the principles upon which private property was dealt with on land and sea? If the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Macaulay) were now in the House, he would be astonished to find the Government thus abandoning the distinction upon which they had rested their opposition to the Danish claims. In the case of the Danish claims certain property of ours was confiscated by the Danish Government in consequence of our attack on Copenhagen. In return we confiscated certain property of Danes. Our subjects who had lost property called on us to reimburse them their losses out of the Danish property we had seized. We admitted some of the claims and rejected others. Why did we do so? Last year the Attorney General, the highest legal authority of the Government, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said, "We admit that the claimants of property confiscated on land are entitled to have their losses made good; but there is a great distinction to be drawn between property taken on land and property taken at sea; property taken on land ought to be restored, but property taken on ships afloat ought not to be restored." Quoting Sir James Mackintosh, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said maritime plunder was not in its nature so injurious as plunder on land, and that in all European States the distinction was drawn between seizure on land and seizure at sea. The Attorney General held the same language. But, in the present case, when pressed by arguments they could not meet, they proceeded upon an entirely false assumption, and tried to make us believe that private property was no more exempt from seizure on land than it was at sea. What did the Secretary of War tell them the other night? The parallel he attempted to set up between 1621 the Duke of Wellington's allowing troops to pull down houses in the Peninsula to obtain fuel and the case now put forward, could not for a moment be sustained. No one went to the length of saying, that if a war-steamer in want of coals saw an enemy's collier passing by, she would not be justified in taking her coals. In point of fact, she would take them out of an enemy's or oven out of a neutral vessel, for under such circumstances she had and would exercise the right of pre-emption. That was the case which really corresponded to the Duke of Wellington's proceedings. The question now raised was, not how to supply the means of an army in the field, but whether you would give to your army that same right of legalized plunder as you gave to the captains of ships. The Duke of Wellington did not allow his troops to pillage whole villages, and get the property adjudged to them in Prize Courts. On the contrary, he took measures to prevent pillage, and severely punished any regiments who were found committing depredations. The learned Lord Advocate had told them that they ought not to put an end to maritime plundering, because it was the most effectual way of bringing the enemy to terms; and the object being to make war short, sharp, and decisive, they ought to put the greatest amount of pressure on their adversary. But how far was that reconcilable with the principle of the difference between plunder by land and by sea? If they wanted to put the greatest amount of pressure on their adversary by plundering him, why did they not plunder him by land as well as by sea? But that was not what they wanted. What they wanted was not to lop off a limb here and there, but to strike at the heart of the enemy, and that surely could be done better by plundering his territory. The common sense of mankind rejected the right of plundering by land, and the argument which was used on the ground of crippling the enemy by plundering on sea would, be ventured to say, entirely break down. He had referred to the dictum of Sir James Mackintosh, Could anything be more absurd than to justify maritime plunder by saying that it was less injurious than plunder by land, and yet to maintain that it was more efficacious in crippling your enemy? He had seen in books of international law a bettor reason for maritime plunder than that given by Sir James Mac- 1622 kintosh, and it was that plunder by sea was more out of sight and caused less indignation than plunder on land, There was some truth in that. But now that commerce had developed to such an enormous extent, that it was so much more a matter in which all nations had a joint interest, they could hardly attack it without raising a storm of indignation all over the world. Some years ago nations had their commerce very much to themselves, and the commerce of a country with its colonies might be attacked without inflicting great injury on the rest of the world; but now that restrictions had been removed, that partitions had been broken down, if they attacked the commerce of one country, they would bring upon them the desire of retaliation on the part of nearly the whole world. They had heard a good deal of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the proposed course to England, and the whole matter depended on that consideration. Now, he did not ignore the humanitarian argument, as it was called—the argument that the great interests of humanity ought not to be lost sight of; but, speaking in that House and as an Englishman, he maintained that we ought to consider the interests of our own country; that we had to look, in the first instance, to the bearing of the question on the naval strength of England; and secondly, to its bearing upon our financial power. In 1855 the present Secretary for War, then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir George Lewis), called attention to the advantages that had resulted to us in the Russian war from the adoption of the rule of not molesting neutral commerce, and in opening his budget he said that the observance of the rule had been highly beneficial to our financial position. Two things were needed to carry this country through a war, and they were a sound and flourishing state of the finances and a powerful navy; but both would be in danger if they adopted a rule by which a great amount of commerce would be disturbed and the shipping of the country imperilled. It was necessary to consider the nature of the British trade, and the risk to which it would be exposed. The question was not to be determined by balancing the tonnage of one country against the tonnage of another. It was a question of value. Almost all the valuable commerce was in our hands. The whole of the great commerce of India, the whole of the Australian trade, 1623 and part of the trade in silks, indigo, &c., was carried on by English vessels. We might capture a certain number of cotton ships or timber ships; but how would that compensate us for the loss of our steamers carrying some of the richest cargoes in the world? Now, let us take a lesson from history. What occurred in the Seven Years' War? In that war England distinguished herself most gloriously, and her navy was particularly successful. Smollett, writing of the war of 1760, related how this country had 120 ships of the line, exclusive of fire and other ships, and that notwithstanding this immense armament, and that the enemy had not a ship of the line at sea, yet the enemy were so on the alert with their small ships that they took 2,549 of our merchant ships as against our capture of 944 of their vessels, including 442 privateers. It was not, then, a question whether our navy was a great deal stronger than others. He had no doubt that it was stronger than the navy of any other country, and he believed stronger than that of all others that might come against us. If it were not, he knew he spoke the sentiments of the House when he said that it ought to be so. But, however overwhelming it might be, it would not be able to protect our trade, as was evident from such a case as that he had cited. Take the case of the contingency of a war with France—though he heartily trusted that no such contingency would arise; but if it should, what were the purposes for which we should require our navy? In the first place, we should want our navy for the means of defence, and to hermetically seal the Channel. We should want it to blockade the enemy's fleet, and prevent their getting out of Brest, or Toulon, or Cherbourg. We should want it to maintain our communications with our colonies, and carry succour to Gibraltar and Malta. That fleet ought not to be frittered away in the protection of our commerce, or in making prey of merchant vessels in all parts of the world. The case was now different from what it was in former wars; for in former wars the navy did the proper work of a navy, and privateers were sent out to do the work of snapping up the enemy's trade. But now an end was put to privateering, and he asked, ought the great navy of this country, maintained at an enormous expense, to be frittered away throughout the different parts of the world in protecting or making war upon mer- 1624 chant vessels? He had heard it said that, when they gave up the system of crippling an enemy by destroying his commerce, the navy would be of no further use; but be desired to know what was the meaning of such an assertion? In the last Russian war was not the English navy of the highest use in carrying on operations for the reduction of Sebastopol, and in providing the army with necessary supplies? It was by our superiority in supplying and maintaining our army in the Crimea that we brought Russia to terms; and we owed that superiority to our naval power. It might be depended on that the navy would have plenty of occupation in case of war, if care were taken to give it only proper occupation, and not to waste its strength in employing it on other business, for which it was not suited. In these observations he had endeavoured to show that the Government had not met the case put forward by the hon. Member for Liverpool, or grappled with the proposition how the arrangements made, in 1856 affected the maritime strength of this country. The next consideration was—if those arrangements had placed in jeopardy the basis on which the entire naval strength of the country rested, were they to be maintained or modified; and if modified, in what sense and how far? Was it possible to go back, or to go forward, or to stay where they were? He thought the House was under a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Liverpool for affording them an opportunity of reviewing the subject. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) regretted that the arrangements made in 1856 had not formed the subject of separate and full discussion in the House of Commons at the time they were effected. Able and valuable as was the argument which was conducted in the house of lords, the question did not attract so much interest on the part of the people of this country as if it had been discussed in the house of commons, which was the place where gentlemen connected with the commercial and shipping interests met face to face, and where the subject could have been fairly argued and brought to an issue. But it was never too late to attempt to repair a fault, and he hoped that the present Motion would be treated with calm deliberation, and not be allowed to be disposed of by the sweeping and summary condemnation which the Government had at present passed upon it. The House would, upon 1625 a question affecting the interests of our country for all time to come, feel the greatest hesitation in taking any step which could embarrass the Executive; but, at the same time, it was important to know whether we could trust that Executive, whose antecedents in this matter were not such as to create confidence; and their present language, contrasted with their former language, did anything but carry conviction as to their ability to deal satisfactorily with this subject. He admitted that the forward course proposed by the hon. Member for Liverpool was attended with great difficulties. There were difficulties connected with blockade, and with the question of contraband of war. He felt sure that the hon. Member for Liverpool did not wish to embarrass the Government in this matter, and would not press his Motion if the Government would pledge themselves to give it their attentive consideration, and act in a spirit different to that of which the noble Lord had given such summary intimation. If the Government would state that they would give the matter their anxious consideration, and make it the subject of negotiation and representation with other countries, he felt assured that his hon. Friend would not think himself under the painful necessity of dividing the House. The Resolution of his hon. Friend, though framed in a shape well suited for discussion, yet was not one on which a division could satisfactorily be taken. It set forth, it was true, that the state of our international law was indefinite, and, in spite of what had fallen from the Attorney General the other evening to the effect that the contrary was the case, he must so far express his concurrence in the proposition of his hon. Friend. He could not look on that state of things as definite or satisfactory, when he saw such doubts as to whether the most important maritime nation next to ourselves was or was not, bound by the second, the third, and the fourth Articles of that proposition which had been taken as binding on the other Powers of Europe. He for one could not think that position satisfactory which put in jeopardy the carrying trade of this country, the prosperity of our commercial marine, and through our commercial marine the very security and foundation on which our navy itself rested; and he must say, seeing how little attention, as apparently was the case, was paid to it by the Government, he thought it was 1626 a proper and right thing that the Government should be called upon to pay attention to it. But the Resolution, as it stood was merely abstract, and he should hesitate to vote for such a Resolution—a mere vague Resolution, which might be adopted by persons holding the most opposite views of the matter; and he was not prepared to go entirely with many of the views he had heard expressed on the subject, and certainly was not prepared to adopt the views of his hon. Friend, without seeing how they could meet other questions that would necessarily be raised. He was anxious to take warning by the imprudence of the Government themselves, and he thought the advice of Ballie Nicol Jarvie, or rather that of his father, might be adopted by this country, "Never put your arm out further than you can draw it back again." He thought that advice was very applicable to the present circumstances; and until the whole question was thoroughly sifted, he thought it was premature to come to any decision upon it. But while he asked his hon. Friend to withdraw the Motion, or not press it to a division, he, at the same time, would heartily join with him in pressing the matter on the Government, and in insisting that the country should not remain in ignorance of what had been done—that it should not remain in ignorance of where the responsibility lay; and that the country should not fail to know, that if it had been reduced to that condition of danger which had been termed the brink of political suicide, it was to the noble Lord and his colleagues that we were indebted for having brought us into that position.
§ MR. LEVESON GOWER
said, that he felt at a loss as to what was the real view of the hon. Baronet, and what was the course which, at the end of his speech, he seemed to wish Her Majesty's Government to take. He looked upon the question at issue as one of the utmost importance, and holding, as he did, opinions which might by many be regarded as extravagant with regard to the inhumanity of war, he had no hesitation in saying that he felt great sympathy in any proposal brought forward with the view of mitigating its horrors. The more, however, he had considered the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liverpool, the more difficult did he think the question raised by him of solution. In dealing with it he could assure the right hon. Baronet who had just 1627 spoken, that he deemed the prosperity of the shippers' interest deserving of Our best attention, for he knew how much the safety of the country depended upon our Mercantile marine. We must, however, at the same time consider what would be likely to be the effect in a military point of view of the proposal which the hon. Member for Liverpool had made. Its operation, of course, would very much depend on the extent of the commercial transactions of the nation with which we happened to be at war, because in the case of the nation whose commerce bore but a small proportion to her power we could not suppose any injury inflicted on the Commerce would so materially affect the issue of the war as would under other circumstances be the case. He might further observe, that although he was not one of those who looked upon his countrymen as in all respects superior to the inhabitants of other lands, yet he regarded them as to a remarkable degree disposed to be faithful to any engagements into which they might have entered, while he had not the same confidence in other countries. That being so, he feared that although certain declarations on the subject of international law might turn out prejudicial to us in their action, yet that having been parties to them we should feel called upon to abide by them; whereas other nations might, under similar circumstances, take a different course: so that we should be at a disadvantage, and would have no means of enforcing the observance of the engagement. For these reasons he should, if called upon to vote upon the Motion before the House, be obliged to oppose it; while he was anxious that the House should not be called upon to come to a division at all, but that the question involved should be left open for future deliberation. He might add that the argument that the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool did not bind its supporters to any definite issue, was one which did not tell with him in its favour, because he was one of those who objected to that which appeared to be the growing practice of framing Resolutions—or "irresolutions" as they had been pithily termed—in such a way as to attract the votes of the greatest number of Members. Better would it be, he thought, if in that respect the House were to adopt the principle carried out by lawyers in their pleadings, in which a definite issue was raised, so that the jury might know what it was 1628 upon which they were called upon to decide.
§ MR. CAVE
, as the representative of a mercantile port, begged to tender his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool his acknowledgments for the ability with which he had brought this important question before the House, and to express his concurrence in the views he had so well explained. If he had felt any doubts as to the correctness of those views and the justice of the case, those doubts would have been removed by the replies of their opponents. They had in their speeches relied chiefly upon the argumentum ad hominem. They had endeavoured to cast ridicule Upon the cause, by accusing them of spurious philanthropy in advocating what the noble Lord at the head of the Government was pleased then to call a suicidal policy. But the philanthropy, if spurious, owed its origin to the Conference of Paris—the policy, if suicidal, dated from that event. They Complained, that in endeavouring to do what they were charged with doing, in endeavouring to mitigate the evils of war, their opponents had unwittingly and with the best intentions given rise to another evil of enormous magnitude. They said go forwards or go backwards. For the sake of humanity they would prefer the former' course; but if that did not suit, they were ready to accept the latter; but they could not under any circumstances remain Where they were. They showed a great practical grievance, no less than the possible ruin of the British mercantile marine. Their opponents did not say a word on that point; but raised a false issue, and endeavoured to conceal the real question in a cloud of words, and arguments which positively had very little bearing upon the subject. The right hon. Secretary at War went so far as to expend sometime in criticising the language of the Resolution. Earnest men, with great interests at stake, were not so exact in their language as if they were writing a classical inscription; but it could not be pretended that the object of the Resolution was misunderstood. The Attorney General, indeed, seemed to have anticipated that the Liverpool merchant was going to break a lance with him on legal technicalities, but the whole country knew the object he had in view. The question was brought before the House a year ago. Chambers of Commerce, writers on international law, the press, had all been busy in discussing it on the very grounds advanced by his hon. Friend. To pass on 1629 to the subject-matter. It had been urged that such a course as he advocated would deprive England of the advantage of her preponderating navy; but there could he no doubt that the law, as laid down by the Conference at Paris, would deprive her of the advantage of her equally preponderating mercantile marine. It had been well shown that the merchant ships of belligerents would be laid up or sold, and that the carrying trade of the world would he in the hands of the neutrals; therefore the nation with the greatest number of merchant vessels would suffer most, the wealth of the country would he pro tanto diminished, and a vast amount of the sinews of war lost just when most needed. Not only so; after a long war they might see, as many other nations had seen, with dismay——"more inconstant than the southern gale,Commerce on other shores display her sail.Trade might find new channels; and all mercantile men knew how difficult it was to tempt it back again to the paths it had once abandoned.
If, however, his hon. Friend's views were adopted, maritime war would be confined generally to two operations—engagements and blockade. In each of these the powerful navy of England would give her an immense advantage, and while the enemy's coasts were sealed, her merchant ships would carry on their usual avocations; and add to the wealth of the country more quickly, inasmuch as there would be no competition from those ports which her squadrons were watching. It was the fashion to say that the tactics of modern war would be to strike at the heart and neglect the extremities. If that were so, then his hon. Friend's plan would keep at home the numerous cruisers which now must be scattered on Convoy duty (if any ships remained to be convoyed) over every sea liable to be cut off in detail by superior force, and it would specially relieve our colonies, whose affection for the mother country Would not be increased by having their commercial marine destroyed in quarrels with which they might have no concern. The right hon. Secretary at War, indeed, said that no such compact would be observed. If that were so, cadit quœstio; but the same applied to the compact against privateering, which concerned neutrals no more than that did. If, then, that experiment were worth trying, there could be no good grounds for not extending it a little farther. It had been said that there was no difference now between the 1630 practice of war on land and at sea; and instances of destruction of private property in land warfare had been given. No doubt these had occurred. If we read accounts of the retreat of the French through Spain or Russia, we should find precedents for every atrocity that ever disgraced human nature; but those were the separable accidents, not the essence or object of war. On the other hand, there were instances, as the hon. Baronet had observed, of compensation having been paid for the destruction of property on land. He (Mr. Cave) had been told that the proprietor of Hougoumont was no greater loser than the noble proprietor of Nottingham Castle by its conflagration. Then take narratives of war, either real or imaginary, did we not find the soldier regretting the unavoidable destruction of private property; the sailors glorying in it, and why? Because on laud it wag their duty to spare, and at sea their duty to capture and destroy. He remembered, however, reading (he thought in Basil Hall's reminiscences) of the reluctance he felt in bearing down in a fine frigate on a poor little merchantman, close at home, after a prosperous voyage, reducing the peaceful trader at once from competence to beggary. It was said, too that some of the most merciless privateersmen had originally been honest traders, ruined in this manner, and thus embittered against the world. The Secretary of State told them that his hon. Friend's doctrine had never been admitted by diplomatists. Well, diplomatists had frequently shown very little consideration for commercial interests; but, in fact, the severity of practice had increased of late years. Before the revolutionary war the French and English were accustomed to spare each others fishing vessels, "from tenderness, as Lord Stowell said, to a poor and industrious order of people." And as the loss of prize money had sometimes been mentioned as likely to impair the efficiency of the navy, it might be as well to notice that in Sir Robert Walpole's time the distribution of prize money was very different from what it now was, without any such result. We were told that it was intended for three purposes: 1. To assist the Crown in defraying the expense of the war. 2. To lighten taxes. 3. To afford reparation to injured merchants; and it was ruled in these days that "its allotment to the captors was unfair to the nation and unjust to suffering merchants."
1631 It had been said, indeed, that commercial men gained by war, and therefore ought to suffer from it. They used to be told that agriculturists gained by war, but however that might be, it was not the commercial classes generally who would be the greatest sufferers, but one particular class, the shipowners, who certainly did not gain by war as a body, though a few individuals, of course, might make large profits by hiring ships at high rates to Government. But was it true that any amount of distress among the mercantile community would force a country to peace, was it not rather evident from history that the harder the heel of an enemy presses, the higher the spirit of the nation rises against it? Witness Spain, the Netherlands, and many others. Had the distress of a particular class much influence in inducing a people to alter its policy? The instance of the ruined West India proprietors once so powerful in this House and country, proved the contrary.
The Secretary at War, by way of reductio ad absurdum, instanced the possibility of enemy's vessels sailing into Portsmouth through our fleet. If they did, they would probably bring something which Portsmouth wanted; but this was a question of trading with enemies, which did not, as he understood it, come within the scope of his hon. Friend's Resolution. They did not (and in this particular, some of their opponents had misconceived their views), they did not desire that belligerents should trade together in war as in peace. That might be prevented by a blockade as it is now in the case of neutrals, or by excepting from protection enemy's vessels found within three miles of the coast, or in any way they pleased. This Resolution applied only to the high seas. They did not wish to prevent belligerents from injuring each other, but to prevent both belligerents or even possible belligerents being injured for the advantage of neutrals. They were accused of wishing to alter the established practice, but it was the conference of Paris which had made the innovation, of which they did but point out the mischievous tendency. He would not trespass longer on the patience of the House; but he would quote, in conclusion, the opinion of Vattel on the subject. Vattel said—All damage done to the enemy unnecessarily, every act of hostility which does not tend to pro- 1632 cure victory and bring the war to a conclusion, is a licentiousness condemned by the law of nature.He (Mr. Cave) believed that in this instance the dictum of the jurist coincided with the instinct of common sense and common humanity. He believed that the plunder of private property on the high seas did not tend to bring the war to a conclusion, and therefore he supported his hon. Friend in his attempt to put an end to it, and sooner or later he would succeed. He might be in a minority then, but let him remember that a minority did not always represent the reduced adherents of an exploded doctrine; it sometimes consisted of the advocates of one which had not yet taken firm hold of the public mind, but the justice and truth of which the whole nation would one day recognise.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he ventured to think he could bring under notice two or three points which had not yet been presented to the House. To the Motion itself the principal objection would probably be the inexpediency of adopting an abstract Resolution on a subject the House was not competent to deal with; but a much more practical sense had been given to it by the arguments of its supporters, whose object was to urge upon Ministers the expediency of communicating with foreign Powers for the purpose of bringing about the abolition of the right of maritime capture. The Declaration of Paris had been referred to; and it was argued by the supporters of the Resolution that it was impossible that the right of maritime capture could co-exist with the second article of that Declaration, under which a neutral flag protects the enemy's goods, without injuring the shipping and commerce of this country. The hon. Member for Liverpool said that was proved by experience, because, when there was an apprehension of war with France in 1859, certain merchants shipped their goods on inferior American bottoms at freights 50 per cent higher than those at which they could have been shipped on superior English vessels. Now, even if there had been no actual experience the other way, he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would have suggested, that as there was no real foundation for the alarm of war, so there might have been no real foundation for the fear of injurious consequences to British commerce if war had unfortunately broken out, and that the facts were not sufficient to warrant the conclusion which had been 1633 drawn from them. But there was actual experience the other way. The Declaration of Paris was adopted in 1856, at the conclusion of the Crimean War; but the principle of the neutral flag covering enemy's goods had been embodied in the Proclamation issued in March 1854, at the commencement of that war. This principle, therefore, and that of the maritime right of capture, the anticipation of the conjoint operation of which filled the hon. Member for Liverpool, and those on whose behalf he spoke, with such unmitigated alarm, had been in conjoint operation during the whole of the contest with Russia. Yet the ruinous effects predicted by those who supported this Resolution had not followed. So far from it, our trade, except with the enemy's country, was not interrupted; our ships traversed every sea undisturbed, and the commerce of the enemy was entirely banished from the ocean. This fact went far, therefore, to upset the theories of the mover and supporters of this Resolution. No doubt, the result to which he had referred arose from the undisputed superiority of our fleet and that of France our ally, but it showed practically the advantage which this Resolution called upon us to forego. Intelligent minds in other countries, with different and even contrary interests—minds which looked at our naval superiority and the benefits we derive from it with as much dislike as we regarded them with satisfaction—took the same view of the advantage which this right of maritime capture gave us. In proof of this he would refer to a despatch written by Mr. Marcy, in July 1856, by direction of President Pierce, to the French Minister at Washington, and giving the reasons of the American Government for declining to accede to the Declaration of Paris unless it were accompanied by what was now proposed—the abolition of the right of maritime capture. Mr. Marcy said, that if the use of privateering were abandoned while the right of capture at sea continued, the dominion of the seas would be surrendered to those foreign Powers which had adopted the policy, and had the means, of keeping up large navies. It was impossible to read that despatch without seeing, that if Mr. Marcy and Mr. Pierce, instead of being Secretary of State and President of the United States, had been Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister of England, they would have been just as determined as the noble Earl and the noble 1634 Viscount not to advise the Crown to surrender the right of maritime capture. It was said that the Declaration of Paris was actually injurious to our commerce. But this objection would not bear a moment's examination, since the first article of the Declaration would exempt in war our merchant ships, and the goods they carry, from capture by privateers; and the second would exempt our goods carried in neutral bottoms from capture of any kind. The real objection to the Declaration of Paris was, that the second article sacrificed some portion of the advantages arising from our naval superiority, because, although it would certainly confer some benefit on our trade, it would confer greater benefit on the trade of weaker nations. Nothing could be more unfair than to ascribe to the supporters of the existing state of the law an indisposition to see the horrors of war mitigated. The horrors of war were not to be mitigated by passing a Resolution such as this. The expenditure of blood and treasure in the warlike operations themselves—the sufferings of brave soldiers and of the inhabitants of the invaded territory—the sorrow which in both the belligerent countries the loss of relatives carried into homes of every class, from the noble's mansion to the peasant's cottage—these were the evils which caused war to be regarded with dislike by a humane and considerate people; and in comparison with these it would regard as of little materiality the necessity of paying a somewhat higher rate of insurance on its merchant ships. Wars would best be prevented by a firm and at the same time a temperate policy on the part of the Government. If, notwithstanding such a policy, this country should be involved in a contest, the people, he believed, would patiently endure the hardships necessary in such a state of things; but he did not think that the Government ought to invite that conflict and to prolong those sacrifices, by unwisely surrendering that right of maritime capture which Mr. Marcy said, and said truly, conferred the most important advantages on the greatest of maritime Powers.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
hoped that the hon. Member for Liverpool would not press his Resolution to a division, although he quite agreed with him that the present state of the law on this subject was unsatisfactory; but he believed that that had arisen out of the very nature of the subject. At various times, from the treaty 1635 of Utrecht downwards, this country acceded to the principle that neutral ships should cover enemies' goods, and it was confirmed by the recent Declaration of Paris. He could not but think that Declaration was of a binding character, and he was astonished when he heard the Secretary for War throwing doubt upon it. We entered into that arrangement in the face of the world; and although it had not received formal ratification in the shape of a treaty, it would be unbecoming the character of the country if they threw doubt on the binding force of it now. It never could be contended for an instant, that because two nations, parties to a treaty, engaged in war, the stipulations they had contracted with other Powers were thereby to be violated. He took it for granted, therefore, that the Declaration of Paris would bind us in future; and the question that remained to be solved was, whether they would go a step further and adopt the substance of the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool, which was neither more nor less than that the private property of belligerents should be free from capture at sea. He doubted whether England would be a loser, as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think, if she took a further step in advance. He was as little prepared as any man to tie up the hands of this country, or to curtail that naval supremacy of England on which her greatness and her security depended; but he very much doubted whether, looking to the vast amount of the commerce of this country and its diffusion over every quarter of the globe, it would be possible for the navy to protect it efficiently in time of war. There could be no question that the inevitable effect of the Declaration of Paris would be, if the present state of maritime law remain unchanged, to throw the commerce of this country into the hands of neutrals; and therefore he thought our interests were concerned in a further relaxation of that law. But whatever course they adopted in this matter, they must not interfere with the right of blockade, and, as he understood the hon. Member for Liverpool, he did not intend by his Resolution to interfere with that right. The object of a blockade was to close up a particular place, not an entire coast. When that was done, the object in view was attained. But the commerce of a country whose ports were blockaded would continue to be carried in neutral vessels. He did not think that the great injury which 1636 was apprehended would result from the relaxation of that law contended for; but for the preservation of the greatness of this country, and for the maintenance of its great maritime supremacy, no change should be made without corresponding stipulations with respect to the right to blockade. If they were made, he would not object to such a well-considered relaxation of the law as the altered circumstances of the times and the feeling of the world at large seemed to demand. But it was of the utmost importance to see that whatever changes might be made were not inconsistent with the maintenance of the naval supremacy of this country. He agreed with the sentiment of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, that war was not decided by the loss to be endured. Individuals must necessarily to a certain degree suffer during war, but he hoped that the effect of the present discussion would be to lessen the horrors which attended it. The sufferings of individuals would, he trusted, be lessened, but care should be taken not to cripple our means of bringing war to a speedy termination.
§ MR. BUXTON
shared the surprise and regret which had been expressed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir S. Northcote) at the statement of the Lord Advocate as to the disregard of the rights of private property during war. He was under the impression that now-a-days it was an acknowledged rule among civilized nations, that, subject to the first and absolute necessity of maintaining the army and carrying out the operations of war, private properly should be respected. He did not see how any other practice could be reconciled with the well-known fact that indemnity was paid to private individuals whose property had been confiscated or destroyed by Denmark during the war upon that State. There could be no doubt that the great question was, how did the proposal before the House bear upon our naval supremacy? If it would promote that object, he could not conceive that any Englishman would oppose it. If it would detract from our power in that respect, then he was sure Members on all sides of the House would unite against it. Humane considerations were, no doubt, entitled to great weight, but in this instance they appeared to him quite incidental. He would waive the point of humanity, and consider the bearing of the proposition upon our naval supremacy. 1637 Upon the one side it had been argued, that having a larger navy than any other Power, if we surrendered this one great right of defence, we should be giving up our naval supremacy. Upon the other hand, it was said that we still retain the right of blockade, and that as long as we had that power our naval supremacy would be exhibited in our being able to blockade an enemy's ports, to crush any force with which he might attempt to destroy that blockade, and to protect our own ports from a retaliatory blockade. If the proposition now made were agreed to, we should be able to blockade an enemy's ports with far greater efficiency than at present. Now we were compelled to scatter our ships all over the world as convoys to our merchantmen; but in the other case we should be able to concentrate our fleets upon the enemy's coasts, and so seal up his ports and exterminate his commerce so long as the war should last. At the same time, our enemy, not being equal to us in naval force, could not blockade our ports, and having no longer the right to wander over all the seas of the world to prey upon our commerce, his navy would be practically useless to him. Another consideration was, that though our powers of offence were greater than those of any other nation, our mercantile marine was greater also. In respect to ships of war, we had 562, against 327 of France, or not quite double the number; but in respect of commercial marine, our vessels were five times the number of those of France. Therefore, although our greater naval power would enable us to inflict greater damage upon France, yet the power would be balanced by the disadvantage of our larger commercial marine, offering increased opportunities for attack and seizure. A third consideration was one that had been referred to already by the Lord Advocate, and it seemed to him to be overwhelming, that we had no longer the power of touching an enemy's trade except in the way of blockade. We had given up the right of seizing neutral ships carrying enemy's goods, and now we had only the power of touching an enemy's ship carrying neutral goods. The inevitable effect of a maritime war would be now, not to stop the trade of our enemy, but to transfer that trade to the ships of neutrals. It was clear that no country could suffer so much as England from the destruction for a time of her carrying trade at sea. It 1638 might be said, that although that would be a cause of regret, yet it would affect only one interest, and in times of war some interests must suffer. But the question was how far such a state of things would affect our naval supremacy. Supposing that a war in which we were engaged were to last three, four, or five years, it was obvious that during that time the operations of our commercial shipping must be confined to our own ports, while our foreign and distant trade would be carried on in neutral bottoms; and probably, when the war was over, we should find that the neutral country or countries had availed themselves of their opportunities by purchasing our unemployed ships and attaching our sailors to their service by the offer of higher wages, and probably had laid the foundation of a commercial marine that would put an end for the future to our naval supremacy. He was sorry to be opposed to the Government upon this point: but when he found that the objection raised against the proposition that it would diminish our power of defence, was overborne by the considerations he had mentioned, could not abstain from expressing the opinions which he entertained.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
rejoiced that his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) had brought the subject under the consideration of the House, for he (Mr. Newdegate) was one of those who felt in 1856 that Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned our representative at the Congress of Paris in greatly exceeding the functions which the country understood he was empowered to fulfil. What were the facts? Lord Clarendon was sent to France to conclude a treaty of peace, and Lord Clarendon undertook, on the part of his country, to settle the law which should regulate all future maritime warfare. Now, he (Mr. Newdegate) contended that that was a rash act on the part of Lord Clarendon as well as of the Government, and he believed that by that act our maritime supremacy has been most grievously imperilled. It was idle to judge of our position from our present predominance and the large navy which we maintained. We must consider the source from which that strength was derived, and the means as well as the motives which induced and enabled us to maintain that mighty navy. If the Government were to tell the people of this country that they maintained that navy merely to guard our country from 1639 invasion, the people might say that they had already answered that purpose by the Volunteer movement and by the patience with which they had submitted to our great expenditure on fortifications. They might answer by saying, "We will guard our shores from an invasion of the enemy by our own internal strength." He (Mr. Newdegate) might think that as rash an undertaking as that on the part of Lord Clarendon. But his objection to the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool was, that it would propagate a very dangerous delusion. Because, what did he propose? His hon. Friend proposed that some universal treaty or some declaration of maritime law should be adopted by which private property might at all times be sacred on the sea. Everybody's business, however, was nobody's business. If that declaration stood by itself, with the prospect merely of being supported by the general concurrence of mankind, that concurrence would not, probably, be enforced until the commercial marine of some country had suffered a grievous loss by capture and degradation. It had been argued in the House, that the commercial marine of England being the largest, it was the most likely to suffer from capture. There was every inducement to attack it; and if it were guarded only by some declaration of international law, which nobody in particular was interested in enforcing, he could easily conceive how England might be reduced to the position of righting her own wrongs, and that righting would be quickly followed if it were not preceded by a declaration of war. Let the House remember, they must not put too much faith in the observance of treaties by foreign Powers. The people of the United States had shown in the affair of the Trent that they were only brought to respect international law by an apprehension of the consequences that were likely to follow its violation. Look at France. The present dynasty there was founded on the principles of the first French revolution, and we had recently heard that members of the Napoleon family had boasted in the Senate that they adhered to the principles of that revolution. What were the effects of the predominance of those principles when they came into force under the first Napoleon as chief of the Republic? Those principles meant a reaction towards what was called the law of nature, which was termed advanced civilization by those 1640 who admired the revolutionary constitution of France when it suited their purposes, but which they designated as barbarism in other cases. That was the nature of those principles, and under the influence of them the French had broken at once through every bond of international law, and set at defiance every treaty. The House had heard repeatedly during this debate, that although the maritime relations of Europe were regulated by the obligation of treaties and maritime law up to 1793, after that period the obligations and restrictions of those treaties were swept away; that such was the domination of mere revolutionary force that it carried away with it the treaties upon which Europe had hitherto relied. Let them not persuade themselves that they could trust to paper declarations, when they saw two of the greatest maritime Powers of the world still boasting that their institutions are founded on those revolutionary principles and boasting of their adherence to them. In the case of France it is well-known that she defies the treaties of 1815, proclaimed her intention to violate them, and undisguisedly sought to break through the conditions then imposed upon her by Europe. He did not mean to speak disrespectfully of the present Emperor of the French. On the contrary, it was his belief that the Emperor would willingly control those principles. It was his belief that the present Sovereign of France, so far as he could, and so long as he dared, would be the friend of England. But it was well known that before he left this country he had said that he might find himself placed in circumstances which would render it impossible for him, having regard to self-preservation, speaking always as the head of the state of France, to remain the friend of England or even to abstain from invading England. Well, they must take these facts into account in considering this question. He felt that the adoption of the principle contended for by the hon. Member for Liverpool might effect an object which he for one should not lament—by reducing the Declaration of Paris to an absurdity. But it would certainly have this effect. It would prove a delusion to the commercial marine of this country. It would induce a false security. It would avail those who sought to reduce our armaments by supplying them with such an argument as this—"What need we this expense for our navy? Is not our commerce protected by this Decla- 1641 ration?" And yet when the test came, the Declaration might he found not worth the paper on which it was written. Perhaps he might be accused of speaking disrespectfully of Europe, and of great nations, in saying that he should not like to trust the preservation of the commercial marine of this country to any mere treaty or declaration of maritime law, however generally adopted. He should be very sorry to do so; and for that reason he rejoiced in the course taken by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in declaring that he would not be forced further in that course. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought he had gone too far already in sanctioning the Paris declaration of maritime law. They must not, however, neglect the representations made by the shipping interest. There was reason to believe that the manufacturing interest would not suffer equally with shipping interest; for the complaint was, that English goods, in the event of war, would be committed to foreign ships for transport. We knew that was true, because, before the Declaration of 1854, which arose out of the necessities of our alliance with France, that House was warned by the late Mr. Mitchell and the Messrs. Phillimore, whom he regretted not seeing on those benches, that neutrals had already grasped a great portion of the transport trade, which otherwise should be confined exclusively to our own shipping, and that our shipping had suffered a disadvantage in consequence of about 20 per cent. The plain and palpable fact was, that under the Declaration of Paris our commercial marine was placed at a manifest disadvantage; and if we suffered our marine to be placed at this disadvantage for any lengthened period, we should be striking at the root of our maritime defences, and sapping that strength which was developed in Her Majesty's navy. It was obvious, that unless Her Majesty's navy were supported by an adequate commercial marine, we could not hope to continue it in that strength which we all desired. In that House he had heard privateering spoken of as a most barbarous usage long discountenanced, and he heard hon. Members rejoice in that portion of the Declaration of Paris which purported to have abolished it. But our cousins in America were wiser than we were. How had they avoided the expense of maintaining a large national navy? Simply by reserving to themselves 1642 the natural means of offence and defence which were to be found in the arming of their commercial marine. It might be that modem ideas had gone to such a length that England would recoil from the notion of granting letters of marque, the means by which that species of force was made to pay its own expenses. He begged the noble Lord at the head of the Government to consider this—if we were to abandon privateering, and to be engaged in a general war—which God forefend!—we must be prepared to recognise some system by which our commercial marine might be employed as an irregular force by sea, in the same manner as the Militia and Volunteers by land. The action of the United States, as it now existed, was this: They had privateers, but the Federal and Confederate States had both chartered a vast number of merchant vessels as vessels of war. We must follow that example. It was idle to compare warfare on land to warfare on sea. The cases were totally dissimilar. Upon land we might spare to a limited extent private property. The ocean was the highway of nations. It was the highway on the safe transit over which our people were made to depend for their food; it was the highway by which we received the staples of our manufactures, and over which it was essential that we should maintain the power of transit. He therefore thought that this House could do nothing more rash, nothing less deserving of the confidence of the country, than to adopt any Resolution hastily in the position in which we stood—a position most perilous under the action of the Declaration of Paris. He agreed with the hon. Member for Liverpool that it was the duty of the Government, and of that House, to look carefully into this subject, and to be prepared, at all events, as to what we should do in the event of our being involved in a maritime war. We could not maintain that command of the ocean, which we possessed during the late war, by the action of Her Majesty's navy alone. It must be supplemented; and if we did not choose to revert to the system of privateering, it must be supplemented by an organized employment of our commercial marine. He ventured to trouble the House with these few considerations, though he heartily concurred in the course taken by Her Majesty's Government on this occasion. He thought that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, if adopted, would be merely 1643 propagating a delusion and setting a trap to the maritime interest of this country. He was still convinced that our position, under the Declaration of Paris, was a most unsafe one. Although, he granted, it was an object of great importance to this country that the minor maritime Powers should be encouraged, still it was unwise to encourage them exclusively at the expense of our own commercial marine. It was quite true that the Declaration of Paris in favour of neutrals was not likely to be such a delusion as the proposal that all private ships should be respected at sea, because there was a powerful interest on the part of neutral Powers, who would gain by it in the event of a war, to back that Declaration. But the very power of that combination was the danger of our shipping interest, and he feared that, when once the effects of the Declaration of Paris were tested by a war, this country would be sorely tempted to set that Declaration aside, and in doing so she would necessarily incur the hostility and odium attaching to a non-adherence to her engagements, which hitherto, thank God, had never characterized the action of England. He admitted that this Declaration was not the consequence of one act of indiscretion. The Government had been pursuing an anti-national policy, and endeavouring to propagate cosmopolitan ideas. The same phase of erroneous opinion, but on a more extended scale, had characterized society in France during the first French revolution. He trusted that the practical character of the people of England would guard them from such Utopian delusions. It was idle to look forward to a period of perpetual peace. Let the House remember how many prophecies we had heard on that subject, and had seen falsified within the last few years. He trusted that the House would excuse him for having thus expressed himself. He heartily concurred in the course adopted by the Government on the present occasion. He trusted that there would be protection for all private property at sea; but it would not be in a treaty or a declaration which no State in particular was bound to enforce, and which would be merely a snare for our commercial marine. At the same time he could not help expressing his fears of the consequences to this country which, in case of war, would be likely to ensue from the provisions of the Declaration of Paris.
§ MR. MASSEY
said, the terms of the Resolution submitted by his hon. Friend the member for Liverpool had been very freely criticised. It had been described as vague, and not framed in such a manner as to guide the House to any practical conclusion. To this it was a sufficient answer that no difficulty had been found in singling out the particular point on which the hon. Member for Liverpool desired to obtain the opinion of the House. He admitted that the terms of the Motion were open to some criticism. They appeared to imply that the present state of international maritime law was ill-defined and unsatisfactory; whereas, in fact, the great leading points of international maritime law were extremely well defined and had been acted on by belligerent Powers for centuries. That the state of the law was unsatisfactory was another question; in that he agreed with his hon. Friend. But the question they had then to consider was, not whether the state of international law was satisfactory or not, but the terms of a Convention which had superseded that law and established provisions antagonistic to its cardinal points. Nothing was better established than that the practice of privateering in time of war was sanctioned by the law of nations; there was nothing more undisputed than that a neutral flag did not cover an enemy's goods; and that a neutrals goods were safe under a belligerent flag. These three propositions were included in the public law of Europe up to the Convention of Paris. That Convention did not abrogate the public law; it had no power to do so. But it was certainly true that in 1856 the States of Europe, with one exception, did accede to provisions of a very remarkable character. The Lord Advocate seemed to intimate that this was a matter of such high and transcendent policy that the House of Commons could hardly rise to the level of such a discussion. He must entirely dissent from that opinion, if such an opinion was intended to be conveyed. So far from agreeing with the Lord Advocate, he had always regretted that the articles of the Convention of Paris that had effected, or were to effect, such enormous changes in international law, were agreed to without the House of Commons having an opportunity of considering them. He did not blame any of the contracting Powers assembled at the Convention for this result; the nature of their communications excluded the House from any participation 1645 in their councils; and therefore it happened that, technically, no opportunity offered itself for discussion. He (Mr. Massey) had stated that certain provisions were part of the public law of Europe till 1856, when it was considered and altered in most essential and important points. The practice of privateering allowed by the old law of nations was declared to be abolished once and for ever; and, contrary to the formerly existing public law, it was declared that a neutral flag should cover the cargo. These were most important provisions. The third provision was one that had already crept into practice. It was considered that belligerents made war on each other, and not on the property of neutrals. It had therefore been the practice to respect such property, even when under a belligerent flag. He would say nothing of the 4th Article of the Convention of Pans, as it was not under discussion. But the three former propositions did undoubtedly reverse the public law, superseding it by entirely new provisions. Now what did the hon. Member for Liverpool propose to do? He proposed to add another term to the terms of the Declaration of Paris. The great Powers, in the Convention of Paris, went the enormous length of declaring that a neutral flag should cover the goods. The hon. Member for Liverpool now proposed to go one step further, to complete the code, and make it harmonious and consistent, by providing for the future a complete immunity for private property at sea. These propositions were not new, in the sense of never having been debated in the tribunals of Europe, but they were new in the sense of being part of its public law. Therefore, whatever objection might be urged to the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, he hoped he should not hear of its being disposed of as a new-fangled notion. In fact, it was not new—it had often been heard of before. It had for many years been discussed as a proposition dictated by humanity and common sense. It was proposed by the United States as the condition of the accession of the Federal Government to the Treaty of Paris; and, as a point of interest to antiquaries, the provision was to be found in an old treaty—a treaty between the United States and Prussia in 1785. It was embodied in a treaty between America and one of the Great Powers of Europe, more perhaps for the sake of enunciating a principle than for any practical object. What was the proposi- 1646 tion of the hon. Member for Liverpool? They knew that formerly belligerents carried on war in a form so harsh and oppressive that neutrals suffered almost as much as the enemy, and protested against the tyranny to which they were subjected, This country had sometimes gone too far, and in former times used the hand of power too heavily and harshly; but if it oppressed neutrals too heavily by its former belligerent practice, it had now gone to the other extreme, and, by a sort of self-denying ordinance, had transferred to the neutral the whole advantage of war. By the momentous provision by which it was declared that a neutral flag covered the cargo they had conceded nearly everything; yet the Motion was debated as if the hon. Member for Liverpool was proposing for the first time some gigantic innovation—something wholly unheard of—something that revolutionized all public law, and produced conditions never before known in their belligerent transactions. But it was obvious that the effect of the Declaration of Paris would be to transfer the bulk of the carrying trade in a time of war to the neutral Powers. The only question remaining for consideration was as to the small residue of that trade—because, if the country was at war, the merchant would endeavour to carry his goods with the greatest security and economy: they would be most secure in a neutral bottom; and the carriage would be most economical also under the neutral flag, as the owner would not have to pay for a war risk to the underwriters. Then it seemed to come to this, that neutral bottoms would carry the whole commerce of the belligerents. The old system of convoys for merchant ships was exploded. How could sailing ships go under the convoy of steamers? The whole of their policy was at variance with a revival of the old practice of convoys; merchant ships could no longer rely on such protection. Under what conditions were former wars carried on? The art of war was so much improved—it had passed so much from a mere violent collision into a matter of science—that no war could hereafter be greatly protracted. We should no longer see twenty or even seven years' wars. It would not now be a question whether a war would last so long that it would be worth our while to provide for the destruction of the enemy's commerce. How could this possibly be done in a war which would probably cease in one or two years? Such 1647 an object could no longer be arrived at. But our shipowners were treated with derision, as though they were unduly obtruding themselves and their interests—although, at the same time, it was admitted that the Convention of Paris would damage the carrying trade most materially. The answer which they received was—"You must submit to the exigencies of war, and it is unreasonable and selfish of you to interpose when great national interests are at stake." This was strange language, because our commercial navy was proverbially the nursery of the Royal navy. And did those who used such language suppose that this shipping interest, of which they made so light, was a small matter? Did they know that the shipping interest of this country and her colonies numbered 37,000 ships, with a tonnage of 5,500,000? Was that a thing to be lightly regarded? But this matter had another aspect. They had been lately discussing the propriety of imposing on our Colonies the duty of providing for their own internal defence and of assisting in their external defence. The prosperity of our Colonies depended very much upon their shipping interests; but if, as would probably be the case, we engaged in some war in which neither Canada, nor Australia, nor the West Indies had any interest whatever, what a position those Colonies would be in when their commerce was preyed upon by the enemy, and they were told by the British Government that they would receive no soldiers and no ships for their defence, but must encounter the enemy as best they could. They would naturally reply—"Leave the source of our wealth unaffected by your Convention, and we will provide for our own defence; but if you deprive us of the one, how can you expect us to provide for the other?" Our shipping interest was one of a peculiar kind. It had been the crucial test of free trade. A Committee of that House had been lately inquiring into the grievances of shipowners. He did not mean to say that all the grievances contained in the able Report of the Committee could be substantiated, or that the remedies called for were such as that House was likely to grant; but it should not be forgotten that when great writers and philosophers of the last century recommended the doctrine of free trade, they made an exception in favour of the shipping interest. The Navigation Laws 1648 had been rightly abandoned, for they were no longer necessary to maintain the commerce of the country; but in other times, when commerce was regulated by a restrictive policy, they certainly conduced to the greatness, the wealth, and the ascendancy of this country. These laws wrested from the Dutch the whole of the carrying trade. They established great lines of communication between different parts of the world, and under their shelter our hardy seamen increased and our commerce covered every sea. But we should make no progress whatever if laws—which were necessarily perishable institutions—were always adhered to because they had been found useful under one particular set of circumstances. We had had the wisdom, in inaugurating a new system of policy, to give up these cherished laws. They had done their work, and they had earned the gratitude and the respect of the people of this country. But free trade inflicted considerable injury on our shipping interest—though he believed this injury had nearly been surmounted. But if this interest had really suffered more than any other from the operation of free trade, that was surely a reason why it should not be exposed to risks which would inflict a more deadly blow than any it had yet encountered. What would be the result of a war carried on under the conditions agreed upon by the great Powers by the Convention of Paris? When we spoke of war, we had always in mind the possibility of a war with France. Now, the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had last year shown conclusively that the merchant shipping of France was a declining interest. In the event of war we should immediately blockade the French ports, and her merchant shipping would disappear from the seas. But then the large war navy of France would, so far as it was not watched by British fleets, prey upon the residue of our commerce which was not absorbed by neutrals and which was still carried on under the British flag. What reciprocity would there be in such a state of things? He could conceive nothing more to the interest of this country than to go to the length which his hon. Friend recommended, and thus render the Treaty of Paris complete and consistent. With regard to privateering, the ships to which letters of marque would be issued in time of war would be very few; cruisers propelled by steam would entirely supersede those light ships which in former times 1649 used to inflict so much damage. But his right hon. Friend said, "We have given up privateering, and we have therefore assimilated war by sea and by land." He (Mr. Massey) could see no similarity between the two cases. It had been denied with great emphasis that in time of war there was any respect for private property on land. That was a new doctrine to him. The practice had been in the late war, and certainly would be for all well conducted armies in future wars, to pay their way, very much like travellers in a foreign country. Of course, it might not be exactly so; there must be cases of necessity, and an army marching through a hostile territory must be supplied with provisions, with fuel, with horses; and those things must he seized. But what was the practice with the Duke of Wellington in the great war? Those things were seized, it was true; but there was nothing like plundering, and wherever the necessity of war rendered it imperative that a strong hand should he laid upon them they were all paid for, and compensation was given to those whose property was thus injured. But the sea was the highway of nations, and the privateer was the licensed robber. He was to be abolished, but the armed cruiser was to take his place; the robbery was to go on, but, he was ashamed to say, it was to be perpetrated by the belligerent himself. They only excluded the rapacious class who hovered about the War Office like birds of evil omen when there were rumours of war, ready to seize the property of those who had done no harm to them or to the nation at large. He did not say whether it was politic or not to agree to so enormous a revolution in inter national law as was involved in the second article of the Declaration of Paris; that was not now under discussion—but if it were, he should not hesitate to pronounce a very decided opinion that it was conducive to the interests of humanity, and tended to discourage the severities of war. He believed that the right thing was done, and in the right manner. They agreed to that article under no pressure, they did it deliberately, at a congress of the Great Powers. It was not the case of a nation that had been worsted in war and was obliged to submit to a treaty dictated by a victorious enemy. If that were the case it might be said that they had submitted under a disastrous military fortune, and hoped the time would come when they would reverse the position in which they 1650 were placed. But this article was agreed to by Russia, by France, by England, by Austria, by Prussia—the five leading Powers of Europe—quietly assembled in congress, not designing to take any advantage of each other, but determining wisely, nobly, and magnanimously upon provisions which were in accordance with the improved state of things. With regard to the analogy which it had been attempted to establish, was it not the fact that whatever hardships we might have caused in time of warfare were caused not from a wanton desire to inflict injury upon our opponents, but from the absolute exigencies of war itself, and that we were obliged by public opinion to justify them in the face of Europe? What did we do in the war with America in 1812? We took the city of Washington; we destroyed—and we were perfectly justified in doing so—all the fortified part of that city; but we destroyed also the civil buildings, the museums, the courts of law, the libraries, and we found ourselves arraigned before the tribunal of Europe for the act. The Annual Register of the day, which was favourable to the Government and their acts, writing fifty years ago, said that it could not be concealed that the extent of the devastation had called down heavy censure on the English character, not only in America, but on the continent of Europe; not that strict discipline had not been observed by the troops and private property protected, but the destruction of every establishment connected with the arts of peace and consecrated to the uses of civil government was an indulgence of animosity more suited to times of barbarism than to the age and nation in which the hostilities took place. And yet they were told that there was no difference between the practice of war carried on upon principles which were subjected to such criticism and the wanton plundering of private property at sea. They would make no advance whatever towards any conclusion if they were to be taken back, and obliged to traverse ground like that which was already closed and no longer open to discussion. There was nothing better established than the striking difference between the mode of carrying on war by land and by sea. And that brought him to the old argument, of which he was almost ashamed, that they must carry on war in such a manner as to subject the enemy to an amount of pressure which would induce him to make an 1651 early peace. If that were so, the obvious answer was, "Carry out that principle to the utmost limit; burn, sink, destroy, set fire to unoffending towns, take men, women, and children captive." That, certainly, would subject the country with which they were at war to an enormous amount of inconvenience and pressure, and would, if efficacious, undoubtedly conduce to the early establishment of peace. But they knew the contrary would be the result. The high spirit of a people would be only exasperated by such outrages and cruelties, and as long as there was an inch of ground to stand on, or an arm to raise, they would resist. But no nation was ever brought to terms of peace by the destruction of its commerce. There was the most conclusive of all instances—the case of France in the late War. Why, the military glory of France culminated to its highest point after her flag had disappeared entirely from the seas. Was Spain subjugated by the destruction of her commerce? No, her fleet was annihilated at Trafalgar; and now after half a century she was slowly emerging from the ruin which then overwhelmed her. What had been the nature of the progress made in the art of war? Had not all the energies and ingenuity of mankind been directed to make war merely a collision between hostile forces? Were we spending millions on iron-plated ships, Armstrong guns, and fortifications in order to destroy the commerce of the enemy at sea? Then it had been argued, that it we entered on such a treaty as had been indicated by the hon. Member (Mr. Horsfall), it would be abrogated by war. Other stipulations might be annulled by war; but to say that a treaty specially providing for the exigencies of war should be annulled in war would be to represent the Powers who were parties to it as acting like children. If the parties to such a treaty became belligerents, one of these Powers might during some exigency be tempted to break it. But a Power so faithless would be visited by the condemnation of Europe, and no advantage would be gained by infraction of the treaty. What had happened the other day, when this country was on the brink of a war with the United States? There was a New York journal, said to have the largest circulation of any in that country. That journal asserted, that if the two countries went to war, the property of British subjects in the United States must be 1652 confiscated. The United States Government were labouring at the time under feelings of extreme irritation, but they dared not go the length of asserting that principle, and the felonious proposition only redounded to the discredit of the disreputable print from which it proceeded. If he were asked to what he would trust to maintain the integrity of such a treaty he would reply, to public opinion, which had already achieved so many triumphs, and the dominion of which had increased and was increasing. He would trust to that public opinion which had spared Odessa in the Crimean War, and which in future wars would, he hoped, be more powerful than artillery to restrain the avenging arm from visiting and punishing defenceless cities. The Motion of his hon. Friend was not, it seemed, to have the sanction of the leading statesmen in the House. He was, however, neither discouraged nor surprised by that circumstance. In this country great ends were achieved by slow degrees, and perhaps those results were more valuable and more permanent because they had passed through stages of difficulty, prejudice, and obstruction. During the great French war Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, who agreed in nothing else, agreed in this—that to say a neutral flag should cover an enemy's goods was not only contrary to international law, but was at variance with common sense. Lord Grenville, a great statesman, if ever there was one, and deeply versed in international law, in a great and memorable speech said that the concessions made by us in our Convention with Russia, which fell far short of the declarations of the Treaty of Paris, were acts of servile acquiescence, and sacrificed all the substantial advantages that this country had obtained in the war. But we had gone far beyond these concessions by the Treaty of Paris, where the great contracting Powers, under no pressure or exigency, and in time of profound peace, debated this question and agreed to the declarations. He knew not what might be the fate of the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Horsfall). He attached very little importance to the result of this division, and should be indeed well pleased if his hon. Friend were content to withdraw his Motion, and leave the further progress of the question to public opinion, stimulated as it would be by the opinions expressed in that House. No immediate result, indeed, could follow from adopting the Motion, be- 1653 cause the matter was one of international law and must be settled by the Great Powers of Europe. On the other hand, if his hon. Friend should persevere, he was prepared to say that it would be worthy of that assembly to manifest to expectant Europe its approval of a principle equally sound, whether viewed in regard to human policy or the best interests of the civilized world.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, if be did not follow his hon. Friend who had just sat down through the whole of his arguments, it was not from any want of respect for the opinions he had expressed. He should have occasion once or twice to advert to what had been said by hon. Gentlemen, but before doing so he must offer his sincere thanks to the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey) for the tribute which, in the honesty of his character, he could not help paying to the memory of the navigation laws. Such was the hon. Gentleman's natural honesty that on this subject, in spite of himself, the truth slipped out. But then the hon. Gentleman said that those laws had been interred in the gratitude and respect of the country. He (Mr. Bentinck) could only say he did not see what gratitude there was on the part of a country which interred those laws which had been the source of her great maritime power. As to the respect of this country for those laws, he believed it existed except in a political portion of the community; and the best tribute he could pay to the late navigation laws was, that they were in direct contravention of the Treaty of Paris. Another point his hon. Friend had referred to deserved notice—the alleged abstinence of belligerents from interference with private property in war on land. He could not understand his hon. Friend's views, but he thought that if the hon. Gentleman would get rid of all prejudice created by the question before the House, he would see that so far from there being less spoliation on land than on sea in time of war, the greater amount took place on land. In fact, the principle of warfare had always been to cripple the enemy's resources in every possible manner, in order to compel him to make peace. He could not refrain from commenting on one remarkable observation that fell from the right hon. Secretary for War in the early stage of this debate. The right hon. Gentleman stated that Government was an instrument for plundering the people. That appeared a very remarkable statement to come from an important Member of a Government. 1654 He then went on to explain that the French, after conquering Prussia, made the Government the means of plundering that country. Now, he (Mr. Bentinck) could not help being impressed by the fact that they had heard much of late years of the good fortune always attending the Emperor of the French; but it occurred to him that according to that statement the good fortune of the Emperor of the French exceeded anything he had ever heard. In the case referred to, the Emperor Napoleon had to conquer the people of Prussia before he could make their Government the instrument of plundering them; but the present Emperor, without having to go to the trouble of conquering this country (and unless they took the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham he did not think they ever would conquer it), possessed in this Government one of the most powerful instruments for plundering the people of this country. In plain English, they were discussing the merits and the value of the Declaration of Paris. Was that Declaration binding on this country? He agreed with the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that if they attempted to abide by that Declaration, they would be guilty of an act of political suicide. The noble Lord the present Foreign Secretary had quoted maritime authorities on the subject of free bottoms making free goods, and had added that the rule of goods of belligerents being safe in neutral vessels was injurious to the supremacy of maritime countries, and especially to the maritime power of this country; and that everybody would see that these rules were laid down as a blow to the maritime supremacy of England. These were, or had been, the views of the noble Lord in 1857; and he (Mr. Bentinck) should be glad to know whether they were, or were not, endorsed by Her Majesty's Government. He should like to know how far the Government intended to reconcile those opinions with the adoption or rejection of the Motion of his hon. Friend. Another great authority, for whom he entertained the highest respect, had said that he did not think that a great maritime country could be bound by such a Declaration—at all events, that circumstances might alter the arrangement in case of a great war. Now, unless at all times, and under all circumstances, we were bound by that Declaration, he (Mr. Bentinck) thought we should be playing the part of a hypocrite. We ought dis- 1655 tinctly to state whether we were or were not bound by that Declaration; and the case was here stated in a nutshell. We were bound to say whether we held ourselves bound by this Declaration; and if we did not do so, we were acting in a way unworthy of this country. One point of great importance had been referred to, and that was the proportion of trade carried on by sea and land. If hon. Members took the trouble to refer to the documents furnishing information on this subject, they would find that somewhat about two-thirds of the commerce of each country was dependent on the sea; so that it was vain to suppose that they could effectually act on an enemy's commerce except by naval operations. It had been said that in these days it would be quite impossible to convoy vessels, and that a number of the merchant steam-vessels of this country were so fast that they would outstrip the men-of-war acting as convoys. If that should be the case, those swift vessels would, surely, not be liable to capture on the sea, and, indeed, would be independent of all warlike operations whatever. In the Russian war we had lost much by the waiver of our right of search. He had heard some put it at £25,000,000; but he believed that the loss exceeded that amount. If the right of search had existed, he believed the war would have terminated twelve months sooner, at a much less sacrifice of blood and treasure. But his principal object in rising was to point out that he thought his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool had, he believed unintentionally, placed the House in a somewhat false position. He, for one, felt equally unable to vote for or against the Motion. He entirely subscribed to the terms of the Motion as placed on the paper, for he thought the present state of the law most unsatisfactory and most injurious to the mercantile marine of this country; but the Motion itself could not be severed from the arguments by which it was supported. He entirely dissented from the remedies his hon. Friend proposed for meeting the existing difficulties, and he concurred with the learned Lord Advocate that to pursue the course recommended would constitute an act of political suicide. He had no doubt that other hon. Members were in the same predicament; and under these circumstances, he appealed to his hon. Friend not to press his Motion, but at some future time to raise a clearer and more distinct issue.
§ MR. BRIGHT
—Sir, there has probably never been a question brought before this House, at least during the time I have had a seat in it, more deserving of a very serious and dispassionate consideration than this. And I am bound to say that, looking at the debate last week, and at the debate to-night, there is no appearance of a partisan or of a party spirit in the discussion. Both sides of the House appear to think that the question is out of the region of party, and that it is to be discussed with reference to the interests of the country and to the interests of humanity at large. The Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool is couched in very general terms. There is a certain degree of truth in what was said by a Member upon the Treasury bench the other night, that the object of the hon. Gentleman was to get a large acquiescence to it in the House. But I believe his principal object was to get into his net those Gentlemen upon the Treasury bench. It was not intended to have a large, vote in a hostile spirit to the Government; but the Motion was so drawn, in the hope that the Government might accept it; because it would not pledge the Government absolutely to any course, but would rather leave them open to take such proceedings as they might think advisable hereafter, whether with regard to any proposition they might might choose to make, or with regard to any proposition which any other nation might choose to make to them, upon this important question; and, of course, as the debate proceeded Government would be able to ascertain the state of the feeling of the House upon it. I am quite sure that was the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden); and I have no doubt it was also the object of the hon. Member for Liverpool. Some Members of the House—the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane) the other night, and the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) just now—have undertaken to blame the Government for the course they took in the year 1856. I am of opinion that the course they took was necessary to be taken, and that it was a wise and proper course in every respect. As soon as that course was taken, it was obvious that the debate in which we are now engaged must at some not distant period come on. Therefore I think the House are doing very wisely to discuss the subject now. The House well knows that from the period of the termination of the 1657 last great war until the Russian War there passed a period of about forty years—forty years of wonderful changes not only in this country, not only in Europe, but upon the American continent, There had grown up during that period in America a great nation, with a great mercantile navy—a navy so great as to be about equal to the mercantile navy of this country. When the Russian War began, the Government advised the Queen to issue ft Proclamation, to which reference has more than once been made—a Proclamation which did, in respect of the time occupied in that war, precisely what the Declaration of the Congress of Paris two years afterwards did for international law in general, and for all future wars if such should unhappily arise. It was found by the Government that the old policy was impossible any longer. Unless you could blockade every port of Russia, it was clear the American mercantile ships would have Gained on their trade with Russia as before the war; that if they had had Russian cargoes in their ships, they would not have permitted—I speak advisedly—they would not have permitted without remonstrance, and probably not without resistance, the exercise of the right of search with regard to those ships, or the taking from them the property of Russia, which was then the enemy of England. If the Government had not taken the course they did take by the Proclamation of 1854, in six months or less they would have been involved in very serious discussions with the United States Government, which might have been the cause of adding to the then existing calamity of a war with Russia the calamity of a war with the United States also. I say, then, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was right. He was not then Prime Minister, but he was a Member of the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen, and I have no doubt his opinions had great weight in that Cabinet. I say that the noble Lord and his colleagues acted wisely upon that occasion. They did that which, I believe, was absolutely necessary; therefore I am prepared to give my entire assent to the course they took. In the year 1856 there was a meeting or congress of diplomatists at Paris, at which Lord Clarendon represented this country. The parties to that Congress knew what had been done during the Russian war; they knew the cause of the Proclamation of 1854; they knew that if in future any war should arise, the same difficulty would 1658 meet them. Therefore, in my opinion, they wisely agreed upon that Declaration with which some hon. Members have found fault to-night. I hold, then, after careful consideration of the matter, that the course taken by the noble Lord—for he was Prime Minister in 1856, when the Congress met in Paris—that that course could not have been avoided, that it was inevitable, and that, being then inevitable, it is now irrevocable. What was it that that Congress did? I am not for a moment about to say it did not do something, and of all that importance which has been ascribed to it by the hon. Member for Salford. It declared that there should, henceforth, be no war made upon the trade of a belligerent, with the exception of an actual blockade; that his exports and imports should be free as in time of peace, only upon one condition, that those exports and imports should be carried in neutral ships. That if England and France were belligerents—everybody seems to bring them forward as examples of probable future wars, perhaps only because they have been so much at war in times past—that if England and Prance were at war, that those belligerents might trade in peace, not only with each other, but with all neutrals, if their trade was only carried on in the ships of neutrals. That is, that if an enemy will keep his own ships at home we undertake, and all other nations undertake, to do no harm to his trade at sea. This case of England and France affords the most opposite illustration of the present state of the case. France has not a great mercantile navy, but she has a very considerable war navy. There would not he the smallest difficulty under the Declaration of the Congress of Paris for all the trade—that is, for all the present foreign trade—of France to be carried on by neutral ships, say the ships of the United States (assuming, of course, that the ports of France are not blockaded), and France might keep such of her ships in her harbours as had not been transferred to the register of the United States. At the same time, if France has a great war navy—and hon. Gentlemen, to my mind, sometimes greatly exaggerate its magnitude—the ships of France would insist necessarily upon the same thing with regard to England: that the United States, the Baltic, Holland, the Greeks, and some other nations, should furnish ships to carry on the Foreign trade of England, and the great bulk of the ships 1659 belonging to England would necessarily be kept in harbour. I suppose that is a fair statement of this case, and, I hope, so put that everybody can understand it who has not heard the case put before. The mercantile ships of England and France would then be shut up, and the neutrals would be driving a trade more flourishing than they had ever had before. If England and the United States were at war, exactly the same result would follow. The ships of the French and the Dutch, the ships of the Baltic nations, of the Greeks, and ships from every part of the world, would carry on the trade between the United States and England, and we should have the mercantile navy of both countries shut up, to the absolute ruin, for a time and permanently, of some of the shipowners of both countries. If anybody doubts this, I think they may take the opinions of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. I should be very sorry, upon a matter of fact like this, to set my opinion against theirs; but I think they must understand a good deal of their own business. They state, in a petition they have presented to this House, that, in their judgment—There exists no reason for exempting from capture at sea merchandise the property of belligerents conveyed in neutral vessels, which is not equally valid for exempting the same property when carried in belligerent ships, and the ships themselves. That in the event of a war between this country and any maritime power, the change in international maritime law effected by the resolutions of the Paris Congress, however wise and humane in itself, would deprive a large portion of our shipping of employment, and transfer our carrying trade to neutrals, thus inflicting a special and serious loss on the shipowner. That while the proposal which the petitioners advocate would, undoubtedly, deprive the navy of England of the power which it at present possesses to injure the carrying trade of an enemy, it would shield us from the infinitely greater injury which the fleets of any powerful maritime state would inflict on our mercantile marine in time of war.I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Salford (Mr. Massey) that it is indecent and offensive to use language with reference to these shipowners which I have seen used. I was no friend to the pretensions of shipowners for special privileges and protection; but surely they have as great a right to be considered, when we are discussing great public questions, as cotton-spinners, or landowners, or any other class of men. The facts of the case and the consequences, as stated in the Liverpool petition, are, to my mind, quite clear and cannot in the least be successfully con- 1660 tradicted. The result then conies to this—that we have agreed to make war less burdensome to ourselves, and less burdensome to the enemy with whom this country may be at war; but we have done it in such a manner as to inflict special hardship, and to cause something like ruin and very grievous injury, to a very large and important class of the population of this country. I said before, that the change in 1856 was inevitable; and being inevitable, I believe that these results are inevitable. Now what is it that the hon. Member for Liverpool proposes? Let me remind the House that that hon. Gentleman and his colleague, who I believe agrees with him, represent probably the largest number of merchants and shipowners, and the greatest amount of shipping property, of any Members in this House, or of any Members of any representative assembly in the world. Bear in mind that his proposition was supported the other night by a Member who may be said to represent, to a considerable extent, the shipping of the Tyne (Mr. Lindsay). That proposition was supported afterwards by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Baring); and no one will deny that he spoke the sentiments of an interest and of a class of prodigious importance in connection with the commerce of this country. The matter, therefore, which the hon. Member for Liverpool has brought before us is one that comes recommended to the House by very high authority; and it cannot be got rid of by the off-hand declaration of a Minister, however experienced or however influential he may be. The hon. Member's plan is a very simple one. He says—"Include the ships; you have freed the cargoes; you have freed the manufactures of a country in their transit across the sea; you only inflict upon them a certain extra price because freights must be higher; but you do not absolutely prohibit the transit, or do anything near that:—why not include the ships? If the trade of belligerents be permitted—and the object of the Declaration of Paris was to permit it, upon condition that it should be carried on in neutral ships—then he says—"Why should it not go in the ships and come in the ships of belligerents?" The result would be that the vast mercantile shipping of England would be relieved; and though this might cause anxiety on the part of some hon. Gentlemen on the other side, instead of 1661 provoking wars it would of all things ever devised be the most likely to prevent wars—to make them remote and unfrequent—and if they should unhappily arise, it would he likely to bring them to an earlier termination. At all events, I think it must be admitted, at the first blush, that the Declaration of Paris and the proposition of the hon. Member are humane and benevolent. But there is one thing that (strikes us all—that these propositions are in the teeth of all the theories of war I do not deny that for a moment, and I do not in the least wish to escape from it They are against the ancient theories of war. But the proposition of the hon. Gentleman is not against the theory of the Declaration of Paris in 1856, but it is consistent with, and it even logically follows from it. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government, or any hon. Member, believes that the Declaration of Paris was a necessary and a wise arrangement. I think he will find it absolutely impossible to argue with any effect or conclusiveness against the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool. Now let us look if, according to the authorities on this matter, the two propositions are not of the same kind. The Order in Council, issued by the Queen in 1854, adopted partially the principles which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsfall) wishes us to adopt in their entirety. The Congress of Paris in 1856 adopted it, and confirmed it for all time to come. The speech which the noble Lord at the head of the Government made at Liverpool very soon after not only adopted the Declaration of Paris but gloried in it. The noble Lord, as the hon. Gentleman said, "in glowing language." appealed to the shipowners and merchants of Liverpool to say that, while the Government were engaged in the great transactions of war, they had not neglected the great interests of the commerce of England. I would not say that the noble Lord was "starring it in the provinces"—and was not very particular as to the mode in which be excited the enthusiasm of his audiences; for I believe that at that moment he said what he did because he believed that what had been done at Paris was right. And I believe also that be was in earnest at the moment when be said that he hoped the time would come when the principle would be carried further—indeed, as far as the proposition of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsfall) himself. The noble Lord has been—though it 1662 is a bold thing to say of him, who is supposed to be so very careful—he has, I am afraid, been a little bold in this matter. I am not sure that I should quote the very strong language which was used by Lord Derby in another place not long ago, in which he said the time would come when they—I suppose it was their Lordships whom he was addressing—would wring their hands in contemplation of the calamities which would be brought on the country by the Declaration of Paris. But passing from these authorities, I come to that of the Committee of the House to which reference has been made. I think my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade was the Chairman of that Committee, There is no man more competent to judge a question of this kind. I believe that of the Members who were present when that Committee deliberated on this point there was not one who made any objection. There was no division on the subject, and I presume my right hon. Friend, and those over whom be presided, were unanimous in favour of the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall). But be that as it may, although Earl Russell and the Earl of Derby, however much they may have dissented from the wisdom of the policy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government in 1856, yet now they both acknowledge that the step then taken cannot be recalled; and therefore, if there be any clear connection between the Declaration of Paris and the proposition of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Horsfall), it follows, logically, that I have now a right to say that Earl Russell and Lord Derby, admitting that the Declaration of Paris cannot be changed, may be fairly quoted as authorities for the full and fair completion of the principle laid down in 1856, which is now asked for by the hon. Member for Liverpool. There are oilier authorities. Out of doors during the last week there has been some discussion on this question. I took the trouble of turning to an article that appeared in an influential journal in 1856, soon after the settlement of the Declaration of Paris, and after the receipt of Mr. Marcy's proposition from the United States Government. I find that article refers to the barbarism of early times in warfare and the gradual amelioration of the conflicts which take place between nations, and especially to the fact, that on land a different and more humane course is taken than that at sea; and the writer adds— 1663But unhappily this milder code has not yet been extended to maritime warfare. It is evident that, morally, no difference exists between the plunder of private goods in a house, and in a ship at sea. If the farmer and the tradesman has a right to possess his own in peace, even when the province he inhabits is occupied by a soldiery hostile to his Sovereign, it is surely reasonable that the same property, when in course of transport for sale, should be sacred from the enemy's cruisers.And he says, with reference to the question whether England ought to accept the change—No one can doubt that a country like England, whose commerce covers every sea, would be glad enough to find the whole world agreeing to respect private property on board ship. But it was not quite certain that some of her neighbours would acquiesce in a doctrine which would seem to give greater advantages to a nation whose supposed monopoly of commerce already excites the envy of the world.He concludes—It is now a question for the family of nations whether they will decide that a cargo of sugar on the Atlantic is as sacred as the same article when stored in the warehouses of a captured seaport.Now, I have a distinct recollection that these observations were accepted with great satisfaction in the seats of industry in the North of England, and I believe that these observations went far with many men to convince them of the justice of the course which our representative had taken at Paris, and of the wisdom of proceeding still further. But what do we find in the same public instructor last week, on the 13th of March? The writer states broadly that there is no foundation for the argument that in seizing ships and merchandise we did what would not be considered a belligerent light on land;—thus as the House will observe, following the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of War (Sir George Lewis). He then goes on to say—Lord Palmerston, we believe, rightly characterized this crotchet when he said it would inflict a fatal blow on our naval power, and be an act of political suicide.He classes it as—This most dangerous of the many dangerous suggestions which have been made from the same quarter.I was not aware that the hon. Member for Liverpool was a character who submits very dangerous suggestions to this House. The article concludes with these lines, which I hope will be compared with those written in 1856—The humanitarians have yet to speak—I do not know to whom that applies. If 1664 it means those who wish nations to become more humane, as I believe men and citizens are becoming more humane, then I am anxious to be classed with them. The article says—The humanitarians have yet to speak; but we shall be much surprised if the people of England will incline to throw away, for a false and maudlin sentiment, the power and safeguard of their country.Well, I do not ask the House to believe the oracle of 1856 or the oracle of 1862. I should say, like many other professed oracles, it does not afford the guidance which it would be very well worth the while of the House of Commons to follow. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Sir George Lewis) made a statement the other night which I heard with surprise and regret. The right hon. Gentleman is not only a statesman in this House and eminent in office, but he is an eminent writer. Now, I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman will ever repeat in any one of his deliberate and thoughtful works the arguments which he used in his speech last week. He wished to persuade us that there was no difference between the mode of conducting warfare on land and the mode of conducting warfare at sea. All I have to say in answer is that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool only asks the Government to agree to establish on sea the principles which are universally recognised in warfare on land; and further than that he does not propose to go. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong even in his history—I almost feel afraid to correct so distinguished an authority—when he spoke of the conduct of the Duke of Wellington in Spain. Everybody knows that the Duke of Wellington, when carrying on operations in Spain, was burning the rafters, not of his enemies, but of his friends. Therefore that case could have nothing to do with the laws of war. But if the right hon. Gentleman insists on that argument, I shall ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government to answer him. Because, when the noble Lord made that memorable speech at Liverpool, he said—I cannot help hoping that these relaxations of former doctrines, which were established in the beginning of the war, practised during its continuance, and which have been since ratified by formal engagements, may perhaps be still further extended, and in the course of time the principles of war, which are applied to hostilities by land may be extended without exception to hostilities by sea, and that private property shall no longer be exposed to aggression on either side.1665 Unless I am to suppose that the noble Lord went down to Liverpool to talk to the Liverpool people all kinds of twaddle—of that of which he thought they were ignorant, and that which he did not believe—I have a right to call on the noble Lord, when he speaks to-night, to answer the statement of his colleague in the speech he delivered a few nights ago. But that right hon. Gentleman—and I am sorry to have to find fault with him, fur there are few men for whom I have greater respect—has in this case laid down some—what I should call—very immoral doctrines on the subject of treaties. The hon. Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) to-night quoted a passage from Chancellor Kent on this subject. So far as his authority goes, and it is a great authority, it is a conclusive passage. Now, the right hon. Gentleman is an authority; he is Secretary at War; he is a Cabinet Minister; he holds a very high office; he speaks for a great Government; he is a great writer and he is a great thinker. And I say, if there be one man in the world on whom we have a right to call upon on an occasion of this sort for such an exposition as shall uphold the morality of nations and the faith of treaties, he is exactly that man. Now, what does Wheaton, a distinguished writer on international law, say upon that question with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt—namely, as to what becomes of treaties in time of war? He says—There might be treaties of such a nature as to their object and import as that war would necessarily put an end to them; but where treaties contemplated a permanent arrangement of territory, or other national rights, or in their terms were meant to provide for the event of an intervening war, it would be against every principle of just interpretation to hold them extinguished by war.And what does Dr. Phillimore, an authority which we can all appreciate in this country, say? He says—The general maxim [that war abrogates treaties between belligerents] must manifestly be subject to limitation in one case—namely, in the case of treaties which expressly provide for the contingency of the breaking-out of war between the contracting parties.But this case which we have before us is not the case of a treaty only. Because what was done, as I understand it, at Paris in 1856, was not to enter into an ordinary treaty, but was a general act of concurrence on the part of the civilized nations of the earth, for the purpose of establishing a new principle, and institut- 1666 ing new laws which should be admitted and accepted in future times by all nations on this great question. And if you adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool, and agree with the States of Europe and the States of America to carry it out, you would not have what we ordinarily call a treaty, but an agreement, which, if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, or the Government to which he belongs, ever attempted to break, it would call down upon him and them the condemnation of every intelligent man in every country of the globe. The right hon. Gentleman, I thought, at the time he addressed us, was speaking on one side of the question under great disadvantages, and I could not help coming to the conclusion, that if he had risen to support the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool, he would have made a speech more comprehensive, more consecutive, and much more unanswerable, than that which he did make. One point more, and I will not detain the House. I said in the beginning of my observations that great changes had taken place in the world in the period between 1815 and 1854. My hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) adverted to this, and the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey) did also, in some degree. The tonnage of the United Kingdom, in and out, in the year 1814, was 3,500,000. For the last seven or eight years it has been upwards of 12,000,000—I think approaching 13,000,000 of tons. The exports, which were then some £40,000,000, and the imports about the same, have now risen to £120,000,000. Now, I ask the House what was the effect upon the mercantile navy of this country during the short war with the United States of America from 1812 to 1814? I have looked at a book in the library, which is published by an American whose name I forget, which purports to be a history of American privateering during that war; and I have seen also other statements which bring me to the same conclusion—that in that very short war—not extending over more than two years—the American privateers captured not fewer than 2,500 English ships of all sizes; and I have heard stated on American authority that those ships so captured were sold for the enormous sum of 107,000,000 dollars, or more than £21,000,000 sterling. If you can imagine the loss to the shipping interest of the country during that war, when our 1667 tonnage was only 3,500,000, what would be our loss, supposing the old system were to prevail, if we had a war now with our tonnage amounting to 13,000,000 tons, and with the United States mercantile marine increased far more in that time than our marine has increased? I say that the devastation that would he caused would be something quite enormous. We could scarcely conceive of a case in which it would be worth while to sustain such a loss. I ask the House, then, this question—if this change which was made in 1856 was possible, and if it now cannot be recalled, does the House, does the noble Lord, believe that for any long time it will be possible to resist the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool? I hope it may be possible for a hundred years to come; because, as long as there is neither war nor rumour of war, of course the calamities it points out will not happen. But if strong rumours of war should arise, and war itself inevitably occur, then the consequences which he describes will come about, and then the noble Lord or his successors will find the greatest possible pressure put upon him, either to abolish that which had been done in Paris in 1856, and which, I believe, cannot be recalled, or to do that which the hon. Member for Liverpool asks shall be done now. I think the House, or certain Members of the House, in considering this question, do not sufficiently take into consideration the total revolution, both in war and in commerce, all over the world, which has taken place during the last fifty years. Our commerce is so extensive and so wide, and our force so mighty—I will say so omnipotent—that it is utterly impossible that the ancient theories and the ancient policy of war can any longer be maintained. Besides, let us consider what is apparently sometimes forgotten, that war is not the one grand object and purpose of man; and that preparation for war is not the one grand object for which Parliaments are elected. I know a distinguished American historian, the author of the History of the Rise of the Dutch Republic, in speaking of one of his characters, Charles the Bold, says of him, that he was a man in whose eyes nothing was sacred but war, and the way to make it. Now, we profess to be a Parliament of an enlightened age, and the Parliament of a Christian country, and I think we should have other objects. If a man looks only at the chances of war, fills his eye and his mind with them, be- 1668 lieves that war is the normal condition of the world, he will be greatly misled with regard to all those questions which affect the industry of the country. Now, I am of opinion that war, notwithstanding the enormous armaments which are being kept up by the nations of Europe, is constantly becoming more difficult, and any continuous war more remote; and I look forward to the time—seeing the changes which are now taking place in the political condition of Europe and in the commercial condition of the whole world—when the commercial interests of mankind will assert the superiority to which they have a right over those tendencies to war which in time past, and even now sometimes, act too strongly on the minds of statesmen and rulers. In my eyes, even now the victories of peace have begun; the great men of our age are not your warriors, they are not even your statesmen; the great men of the country are your engineers—those who make the great industry of the people; and the great industry before long, you may depend upon it, will triumph over much which has been thought great and necessary in past times. I think we are looking from the darkness into the dawn, and that this Motion which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Liverpool offers to the House is one that will recommend itself widely to all the industry of the nation—to every manufacturer, to every merchant, and to every shipowner in this country. I do not ask him now—in fact, if I might express an opinion upon the subject, I would advise him not to ask the House, when the question is comparatively new to it—to come to any absolute opinion upon it. His Motion was not brought forward with a view to embarrass or to be hostile in any degree to the Government. It was intended to afford to Parliament a fair opportunity for discussion. That discussion has taken place; and I am bound to say this subject has been treated with various ability on both sides of the House, and I may add with great fairness and candour—notwithstanding the declaration of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who, I think, will see from the tone of the debate that he was rather precipitate in the expression of his opinion; and I should not be at all surprised if before very long we have a unanimous Cabinet, willing, if foreign nations are willing—and I have the best means of knowing that other Governments are willing—to carry this matter still further. ["Oh!"] Some 1669 hon. Members seem to entertain objections on that score. There is no doubt of the willingness of the United States; I have no doubt of the willingness of Russia; and I believe there is no doubt of the willingness of France. Whenever the people of this country shall have made up their minds on this question, and Parliament shall be disposed to enable the Government to act, I believe they will find no difficulty in any foreign country. Now, I will only say with regard to this matter, that I may be pointed at—as I have been pointed at a thousand times—as a friend of peace I would rather be a friend of peace, in the humblest rank and position of life, than a friend of war in the highest. And I say, if this House shall now or at any future period accept fairly and frankly the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool, it will confer upon the people a great advantage, and upon itself an endless renown.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
Sir, I entirely agree with the proposition of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that this debate has been conducted with great fairness and candour; and the speech of the hon. Gentleman is certainly no exception to the general tone of the debate. It has not only been conducted with fairness, but with ability. None, I think, can disguise from themselves the very great importance of the subject under discussion, or the fact that in any point of view it is attended with very serious difficulties. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir S. Northcote) made an able speech, strongly in favour, as I thought, of the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool; but at the same time he showed his sense of the difficulties attendant on the subject when he stated, that notwithstanding all the arguments which he offered to the House, he not only was not able to bring his mind to vote in favour of the proposition, but that he could not accept the proposition himself till he had mastered the difficulties and foreseen the consequences which it involved. Now, after listening carefully to the whole of this debate, it appears to me that the arguments of the supporters of the Motion have been founded almost entirely on the Declaration of Paris. Two arguments are drawn from that Declaration. In the first place, it is said that there are no reasons in favour of the propositions there laid down which do not equally apply in favour of the present proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool: and the other 1670 argument is, that the effect of the Declaration of Paris will be to transfer a large portion of the carrying trade of this country in time of war to neutrals, and to inflict serious injury on our shipping trade and on our mercantile interests generally. I will endeavour to present the considerations which occur to me, bearing in mind those two points, which embody the sum and substance of almost all that has been said. The first of those arguments it is not difficult to dispose of. It is easy to show that there were reasons, clear and solid, for that portion of the Declaration of Paris as to giving up the right to take enemies' goods out of neutral ships, which will not, in any degree, apply in favour of the proposition to allow enemies' goods on board enemies' ships, or enemies' ships themselves, to go free. Neutrals are in a position which, on grounds not only of common justice but of the mutual interests of belligerents, entitles them to great consideration. The annoyance and disturbance of neutrals by visiting and searching their ships, by interference with their trade, by taking violently away from their ships goods which they have legally and justifiably admitted on board,—all these are acts in the highest degree injurious to persons who have the strongest claim on the consideration of nations in amity with them, though at enmity with each other, and at the same time tend to involve those nations in war with neutrals; and to draw neutrals, however unwilling, into the contest. Thus there were various reasons why, if it were possible to do so without sacrificing interests of too great importance, concessions ought to be made to neutrals; many of the most important nations of Europe, as well as the United States of America, having, in fact, long previously made treaties containing similar concessions. But it will be seen that these reasons do not in any way operate in favour of making the same concessions to belligerents as to neutrals. The other branch of the argument is much more important, and involves considerations of much greater difficulty—I mean the tendency that it is assumed there would be in time of war to transfer a great part of the carrying trade to the ships of neutrals, to the great detriment of our own merchants. In matters of this kind it must never be forgotten that Governments and nations have to deal with a balance of evils and inconveniences. You 1671 must consider, not only one, but both sides of the question; and, if you see that most important and detrimental consequences may follow from the change, it is necessary to submit even to very considerable and serious evils rather than to imperil the great and permanent interests of the nation. We have heard from several hon. Gentlemen, ably and forcibly stated, the particular evils which it is supposed will arise from the operation of the Declaration of Paris in favour of neutrals. I hope and believe those evils are greatly exaggerated; but before I state the reasons which induce me to entertain that hope, the House will permit me to put before it the other side of the question, and consider what are the evils that may arise from the adoption of the principle recommended by the hon. Member for Liverpool. Now, it has been said more than once in the course of this debate that it is of no use to refer to the old-established law of nations, for that we have introduced a new principle by the Declaration of Paris. But that, Sir, I deny. We gave up certain belligerent rights on which we might have insisted, but we have introduced no new principle. But this Motion does ask us to give up principles hitherto of cardinal and fundamental importance in the law of nations. If there be any principle of the law of nations more cardinal than another, it is that in war Governments are identified with their people—that you cannot make war upon the Government and have peace with their people—that the people are bound up with the Government and the public interests of the nation for better or worse. All the great writers on the subject have laid down that principle—they have said that the property of the individual, as part of the property of the nation, is responsible for the liabilities of the nation in a question with the foreign belligerent; that the nation and the individuals that compose it are one and the same, and no distinction is to be made between the aggregate and the individuals. Our whole system of war, all our doctrine of reprisals, is built on that principle—it is on that that the right of maritime capture rests; on that rests the disability of subjects to the two belligerents to carry on trade with each other, or to maintain actions, or to join in contracts—a principle as to which Mr. Justice Story, a great American authority, has said—No principle of national or municipal law is better settled, than that all contracts with an 1672 enemy, made during war are utterly void. This principle has grown hoary under the reverend respect of centuries, and cannot now be shaken without uprooting the very foundations of national law.This is not an arbitrary principle. I venture to say this principle involves in itself the very highest and most momentous considerations—the interests of patriotism and the interests of peace. Sir, I dread to think what might be the effect of admitting the principle of a political war and a commercial peace, Governments at war and their subjects at peace, and carrying on their trade with each other. If anything could sap the patriotism of a nation I think it would be such a state of things. As far as I know, the earliest writer who ably advocated the principle of the hon. Member for Liverpool was the Abbé Mably, about the middle of last century, who said—The main difficulty to be anticipated would be that the unrestrained communications of merchants would, no doubt, offer facilities to the enemy; but it would be easy to provide against that. The police would manage all that. Merchants are the least patriotic class of men in all the world, and will only regard their own interests.Now, Sir, I hold that the merchants of England are not the least patriotic class of men in the world. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham on that point. The merchants of England have on many occasions shown their patriotism. But under what system was the patriotism of English merchants fostered and maintained? Was it under the system of political wars and commercial peace, or under a system that in war bound them up together with their Government, which made them fellow-sufferers in its reverses—partners in the common stake, and looking to its success as the source or return of their own prosperity? I venture to say that the patriotism of the mercantile class would be placed in some danger if in time of war their interests were separated from the general interests—if they were indemnified against the consequences of war—if they were deprived of their general interest in the maintenance of peace. What must be the effect on the interests of peace of this great principle of subjects and Governments being identified in time of war? I yield to no one in my love of peace. I echo the words that fell from the hon. Member for Birmingham on this subject; that, under any circumstances, he would rather be the humblest lover of peace than the most honoured advocate of war. 1673 Except when necessity and self-defence impose on a nation the duty of war, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is of all things the last to be advocated. But in the interests of peace, it is certainly necessary to be cautious how we sever the interest of the people at large from the policy of its Government in the matter of war. What is the greatest check we have against unjust and unnecessary wars? Is it not the burdens they impose? And if you endeavour to introduce a system which will enable you to carry on war without a great part of those burdens—which will leave trade undisturbed and make armies march through a country, in the language of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey), as a peaceful calvalcade—when enemies may come from France to England, and from England to France, pursuing their ordinary occupations during war in mutual good credit, loading cargoes and selling them, and, in fact, carrying on all the common operations of life as if nothing had happened—can you suppose that their interest would be the same as now in preventing war or in bringing about a restoration of peace? Even in this country—although I trust that, with the influence it has on its Government, unjust and unnecessary wars would, under any circumstances, receive a serious check—even in this country, I can conceive how much the interest of all classes of the people in the maintenance and preservation of peace would be diminished if this system were introduced. I should be sorry to say anything disrespectful of the shipowners; and I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham that in this House at all events nothing has been said disrespectful of them. But if the shipowners should suffer—and I should much regret if they did—by the present state of the law, they certainly would not have an increased interest in the maintenance of peace if the system of political war and commercial peace were introduced. They would have the double advantage of high war freights, arising from the demands of the transport service and commissariat, as they had during the Crimean war, and at the same time the ordinary fruits and advantages of peace. I do not believe the shipowners are an unpatriotic class, but I certainly would not throw such temptations in their way, and diminish the inducements they now have to range themselves on the side of the maintenance of peace. If such be 1674 the state of things in our own country, what would be the system in other countries, where the Governments are more arbitrary and more disposed to wars of aggression and military ambition? What is now the strongest check to such a system? It is the suffering that must thereby be entailed on their own people, and the fear that they will not endure it. But if you make that burden light and easy to the people, do you not think you would be giving very great facilities to the schemes of ambition and desire of aggrandisement entertained by those Powers? The people would become less vigilant. Even the sinews of war on which Princes must depend would be more easily supplied by the continuance of trade. All these considerations materially bear on the subject. And then we must remember that it is in the power of any Government, on occasions allowing it to be done consistently with the public welfare, to relax the severity and strictness of the rules of war—just as was done in the instance referred to of the Russian war; and now that privateering is abolished, and maritime warfare placed entirely under the control of the Government, any excesses will be more easily restrained. But then it is said that all now asked is to reduce maritime war to the same position into which the progress of civilization has brought military war. That is a total mistake. What is now asked is that this country and other countries should enter into positive engagements to renounce the power of exercising belligerent rights against merchant ships at sea. Does anything like that exist in warfare upon land? The observations of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War and the Lord Advocate have been misunderstood. They did not say, as I understood, that the humane practice of modern times had not in a great degree mitigated the severities of war; but they said that the law of nations recognises those rights, gives those powers, does not debar from the use of them, and that it is an admitted principle that while humanity abhors any excess in the use of them beyond the necessity of war, yet, on the other hand, even acts from which humanity recoils may, without infraction of international law, be done, if the necessities of war seem to require them. There is all the difference in the world between powers of an indefinite and undefined character which are not exercised to extremity in the ordinary practice of nations, but which 1675 there is an abstract right to use if emergency requires, and what is now proposed, the total abnegation and absolute renunciation by engagement and treaty of all such powers with respect to the whole field of maritime warfare. But, indeed, the case has been very much exaggerated with respect to the mitigation which land warfare has actually received. It is perfectly true that such warfare has received great mitigation; but that has taken place as much under the influence of considerations of interest on the part of armies and of the nations which send them forth as from any considerations of humanity—because we know very well that the best way for an army to maintain itself in the field is to be on good terms with the people of the country which it is occupying. The commissariat could not get supplies if everything were done in the way which the hon. Member for Salford suggested would be the result of applying the principles of marine warfare to operations on land. If you always burned, sacked, and destroyed, of course armies would starve, and the operations of war could not be carried on. Reasons of expediency and practical necessity, therefore, have dictated very considerable modifications of the strict and extreme rights which the law of nations vests in armies in the field. But, after all, is there not enough of horror left? Is there not that from which humanity recoils? Can any one imagine this or any other country in which he feels an interest in the position of an invaded country, and not see what a frightful calamity to all private as well as to all public interests that would be? Let us not therefore suppose that private affairs are not involved in military warfare as well as in warfare at sea. Now, what is the tendency of this proposition? It is this—maritime warfare is to be deprived of half its present objects, and of half its present scope and field. It is necessary to bear in mind what are the objects and what is the scope and field of maritime warfare. They are, as I believe, to acquire the dominion of the sea, and to expel the enemy's marine from the sea. These are the objects, that is the system, upon which maritime warfare has been carried on. As in warfare by land you endeavour to conquer the country and to obtain possession of the seat of Government; so on the sea, which is no man's territory, you endeavour to acquire the supremacy, and to drive off it the fleets and the navies, 1676 both mercantile and warlike, of the enemy. Can any one say that this has no tendency to cripple the enemy, to reduce his power, to bring him to terms, to accomplish the objects of the war and to produce a peace? That, in truth, is the great value of naval superiority; and what would be the effect upon the comparative and relative strength of naval and military Powers if you were to take away from naval Powers the greatest portion of their present means of offence? I heard the picture which my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford drew. He said that there would be plenty for your ships of war to do; in the Russian war how useful they were in taking troops to the Crimea. But all wars will not take place under the conditions of the Russian war, when you were dealing with a Power which had no marine at sea, and when all the great Powers of Europe were combined against it. No wonder that we were able to carry on that war, as far as the sea was concerned, very much in our own way; but we cannot make that a rule. What does my hon. Friend say would be the result of the policy which he recommends? "We should blockade in their ports the armed vessels of the enemy." I observed that my hon. Friend expressed himself in terms which did not commit him to the practice of a commercial blockade. "We should blockade in their ports the armed vessels of the enemy, and we should defend our own coasts." Well, that would manifestly be reducing the efficacy of a naval Power to very narrow limits indeed. Keeping the enemy's ships in their ports, if they stayed in, would be a sort of stale mate. They would not suffer any great harm, especially if it was confined to a blockade of naval arsenals; and if we only defended our own coasts, we should not make much progress in the carrying on of offensive operations. But there is another point which I must not pass over. My hon. Friend spoke very justly and truly of the great political importance of a mercantile marine. He said, or, at least, I so interpreted what he said, that between the naval power of a nation and its mercantile marine there is the most intimate and inseparable connection. The mercantile marine is the nursery of seamen, and he might have added that the mercantile marine is available for even the more direct and immediate purposes of war. We have heard of the facility with which the declaration against privateering might possibly be evaded. You might buy up and arm power- 1677 ful merchant ships. Well, then, if you allow your enemy to accumulate upon the ocean a great fleet of large and powerful merchant ships, which may upon emergency, be armed and turned into more or less available ships of offence, are you not placing yourself in a position which even for the direct purposes of naval warfare may afterwards be most prejudicial to you? Merchant ships may and will be used as transports for the conveyance of soldiers; and if an invasion were contemplated, of course that class of vessels would be in the highest degree service able. It is impossible, therefore, not to see that if you permitted a hostile maritime Power to accumulate a great fleet of mercantile vessels, they might, even for direct purposes of warfare, be turned against you with the most important results. But it is not only that they could be applied to the direct purposes of naval warfare. There is also this consideration—that the different branches of a maritime system are so identified that you cannot draw the line between one and the other; that in any country where there is not an important mercantile marine, and power to recruit and keep it up, the armed marine will not be what it is where you have such a basis. For all these reasons, I think it cannot be denied that the power of a maritime nation would be crippled and impaired in a most serious degree if she were deprived of the means of dealing upon the seas with the mercantile marine of other nations. Now I come to the point of blockade, which was so tenderly touched upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford. The hon. Member for Liverpool said that he would not interfere with blockade, and the hon. Member for Salford and another hon. Member behind me said the same. It would, however, be very difficult—I do not say that it would be impossible, but it would be very difficult—on the principles upon which this proposition is based, to draw a clear and satisfactory line so as to save the right of blockade. I mean the general right of blockade—the right to blockade commercial ports. Because what is it you do by blockading commercial ports? You are obstructing trade, you are interfering with private interests, you are destroying the business of great numbers of persons who trade with those ports, and of the inhabitants of those ports, as far as concerns their intercourse with foreign nations. Is not 1678 that the very thing which you do on the seas when you make war against a mercantile marine? Is not, in truth, the one operation—that is, maritime war carried on against a mercantile marine, a larger operation of the same kind as a commercial blockade? In the case of blockade you deal locally with the trade of the enemy, and you seek to distress and cripple him by those means. On the seas at large you deal generally with the trade of the enemy, and you seek to cripple him and reduce him there by destroying his mercantile power. But besides that, I foresee that as soon as ever you have established this principle, if it should be established, there will spring up an argument against blockades, of this kind:—What can be the use of blockades when your enemy's ships have nothing to do but to go to any neutral port, and when, if they put into the Scheldt or Elbe, or some port of Prussia, the railroads will carry the goods across neutral countries much more easily than ships could convey them? It would be a most idle thing to blockade the ports of France, and seek to shut out trade from them, if French ships could go to the ports of friendly neutral nations and carry on their trade unmolested even with England from those ports. Every one would see that this would be absurd, and the consequence would be that the right of blackade as to commercial ports would be given up. We know indeed that some of the ablest advocates of this change look in the face that consequence, and do not shrink from it. An able gentleman writing in the Edinburgh Review has already advocated this result, and I think I see in a pamphlet written by a friend of mine not a Member of this House, in which the views of the hon. Member for Liverpool are supported with extreme ability and with great candour and fairness, unequivocal signs of a disposition eventually to draw blockades after these other maritime rights. I think, also, that the tone of the hon. Member for Stamford would justify me in saying that he, at all events, feels the force of that part of the argument. These are very important considerations. I do not, of course, pretend to be a judge, as those around me are, of all the political bearings of this subject, still less of all its military and naval bearings; but this I or any other man can understand, that a more momentous question, or one involving to a greater extent the interests of the future of this country, never 1679 was discussed, never was proposed, in this House; and that, whatever aspirations after an advanced civilization and an almost universal peace any of us may have entertained in our hearts, or expressed in moments when our hearts came to our lips, it would ill become the Government to shrink from telling the House, if so they think, that when they agreed to the Declaration of Paris they did not contemplate these consequences, and that unless they are better satisfied than they are now that they can be encountered without danger and risk to the maritime supremacy of the country, they will not undertake to recommend them. The question of the effect of the Declaration of Paris upon the carrying trade as between us and neutrals is, no doubt, extremely important. I did not understand my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate to go the length which some have attributed to him. I did not understand him to say that he admitted that all the carrying trade would, as a matter of course, go into the hands of neutrals. Even in the Liverpool petition I do not find such an assertion as that. The petitioners use more guarded and more modified language. They speak only of a considerable part of the trade being likely to find its way into neutral hands. I have no doubt that to some extent that would be the case, and no doubt it would be an evil so far as it goes. But in these cases we must encounter evils. We cannot possibly expect to accomplish the objects of war without suffering serious evils; and I am far from sure, for the reasons which I have advanced, that it would be for the true interests of peace or civilization if we could. But I think that there are many considerations which would lead us to be somewhat more doubtful, and not to expect such absolute ruin to the shipping interest as these gentlemen seem to anticipate. In the first place, if all the trade of belligerents at sea has a great tendency to rush into the hands of neutrals, it is quite manifest that the freights of neutral ships would greatly rise, and that would serve in some measure at least, to counterbalance the great expense consequent on the war rate of insurance. If our merchant ships might have some tendency to get into the hands of neutral owners, really or ostensibly, in time of war, the same natural causes would have a tendency to bring them back again, and restore the equilibrium, on the return of peace. Then with regard to convoy, I 1680 cannot see why, because of the introduction of steam navigation, convoy should not be as effectual as it was in former times. On the contrary, if privateering is abolished, I should say that that abolition would make it more easy than it previously was effectually to convoy merchants ships. We are told by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) that, since the Peace of 1815, there has been a most enormous increase of our trade, our shipping, and our commerce; and this is an argument quite independent of the Declaration of Paris. The effect of what my hon. Friend said was, that you could not possibly defend that increased trade if you went to war with any great Power. That, at all events, would be a consequence not of the Declaration of Paris, but of our own prosperity and greatness; and I, for one, do not believe that because we have become greater and richer in resources, therefore we should hereafter be found less able to defend ourselves than heretofore. Sir, these prophecies of evil have many times been brought forward against this country. Nor is it a new thing to hear all that we have heard in this discussion as to the evils of this system of maritime warfare operating against us. The Abbé Mably—to whom I have already referred—argued, a hundred years ago, as we have had it argued here, that England of all countries in the world has the greatest interest in getting rid of the system of maritime warfare against merchant ships. He alludes to the war of 1688, and states that we lost 4,200 merchant vessels and above thirty millions of pounds' worth of property, while France could not have lost half as much, she not presenting so great a front to such operations of warfare. He also says that when England took Spanish ships in the war of the Spanish Succession she was destroying the property of her own merchants, who were interested in the trade with Spain; that it was the same in the war of 1756; and that there was not a case of a French ship being taken in which the loss did not recoil on the London insurance offices. Well, but we have survived all that; the patriotism of our merchants and our people bore us through it; our prosperity remained and increased, as I hope it will remain and increase still. My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford asked upon what we rely? I rely, Sir, on the patriotism of the nation, on the resources of the country, and on that elasticity which England has always shown in times of 1681 prosperity and adversity. I do not believe that the spirit of our people would desert them—I do not believe that our means of defence would be found wanting. If we began with a naval superiority, I believe that we should maintain it; and I should trust to that superiority being as likely to prove sufficient to defend our merchant ships as it was in former days. As to the Declaration of Paris, I agree, that we are not likely to go back from it. It can hardly have been supposed that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War meant for a moment that we should think of receding from it. My right hon. Friend referred to quite a different thing. He said, what is undoubtedly true, that the effect of war as a general rule and ordinarily is to dissolve treaties between belligerent nations; and that even in the case of treaties made in contemplation of war, which, be said, they were in honour bound to observe—and I trust that we shall always observe that which binds us in honour—still, when war, the ultima ratio of States, takes place, there is no further sanction which can compel them to respect these declarations and treaties. And he was, I think, quite justified in the inference which he drew from that argument—not that we should violate any of the declarations we have made, or depart from any treaty to which we have been parties, but that any engagements of this sort were of the most treacherous and perilous kind—that we, adhering to them in honour and good faith, would have no security that, when temptation came upon our adversaries, acting perhaps in combination against us, and thinking that they would be better able to meet us, they would not, upon some one or other of those thousands of excuses which the circumstances of war always present, turn round and say, "Because you have done this, or because you have done that, we hold ourselves no longer bound by that declaration or this engagement, and we shall revert to the original, recognised rules of international law." Sir, stranger things than that have been done before now. I hold in my hand one of the few treaties of this kind that have ever been made—the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between His Britannic Majesty and the French King signed at Versailles on the 26th of September, 1766. What is the second article of that treaty? It is this—For the future security of commerce and friendship between the subjects of their said Ma- 1682 jesties, and to the end that this good correspondence may be preserved from all interruption and disturbance, it is concluded and agreed that if at any time there should arise any misunderstanding, breach of friendship, or rupture between the Crowns of their Majesties, which God forbid! the subjects of each of the two parties residing in the dominions of the other shall have the privilege of remaining and continuing their trade therein, without any manner of disturbance, so long as they behave peaceably and commit no offence against the laws and ordinances; and in case their conduct should render them suspected, and the respective Governments should be obliged to order them to remove, the term of twelve months shall be allowed them for that purpose, in order that they may remove, with their effects and property, whether intrusted to individuals or to the State.That treaty was broken on the very first opportunity. That article was broken in the very points specially provided for. Not only were our subjects not allowed to remain and trade in France, but they were not allowed even to have the twelve months' notice to remove with their property which had been stipulated for. And this was itself one of the grievances against France for which we exacted compensation when the peace was made in 1815. That is not an example that we should imitate, but a warning to us not to trust too much in such engagements which it may be convenient for other countries, when we are more powerful than they are at sea, to obtain from us, but which it may not be convenient for them to observe, if hereafter they should think that their power predominates over ours. And the House must remember that whatever may be the weight of the moral sentiment and public opinion of nations—and, certainly, I am not the man to undervalue either—yet plausible excuses are never wanting when such acts are to be done. Sir, the first Armed Neutrality is another illustration. The Powers who were parties to that Armed Neutrality broke all its engagements in a very few years after it was made. What is the conclusion that I draw from those considerations? That the Government to whom is intrusted the care of the most momentous interests of the greatest empire ever yet known on earth must, in a case in which those interests may be placed in peril, act with the greatest possible caution, and not be afraid of incurring those calamities which are inevitable in time of war, which we have often endured before, and which the patriotism of our people has enabled us to endure—that they should not shrink from encountering them again in any necessary 1683 war, or for the sake of avoiding them expose this country to any risk whatever of the loss of its greatness and power. Before I sit down I will mention another circumstance from which I derive encouragement in this matter. Very lately we were threatened with the danger of war—of a war with a Power not bound by the Declaration of Paris, and which would, therefore, have been at liberty to exert its undiminished rights against our commerce; while with respect to all the nations of Europe which were parties to that declaration we should have been strictly bound by its engagements. Was there, then, among the merchants of this country any flinching from that emergency? Did the people of England look that danger in the face as if they were afraid of ruin? No—neither from Liverpool, nor Manchester, nor any other part of the kingdom, did any such timid accents proceed. We were most desirous of peace, but not because we were afraid of war. We rejoiced that peace was preserved, but it was because we were bound to those with whom we should have had to go to war by ties which were precious to us, and which we should have been most unwilling to sever. But we did not perceive, nor do I think this House perceived, from one end of the kingdom to the other, the least sign of any craven apprehension that the moment we entered into the contest, with the Declaration of Paris round our necks, our power would be gone and our mercantile marine destroyed. I believe the merchants of this country, who knew best what was the prospect before them, looked it in the face with no less bravery than that which distinguished their forefathers in all former times; and I gather from that fact encouragement for the conviction, that I am not wrong in placing faith now, as much as heretofore, and with the Paris Declaration in force as much as before it was in force, in the patriotism, the resources, and the elasticity of this country.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I own I feel—in common, I believe, with the rest of the House—that a very large portion of the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General is conclusive on the topics which have been brought before us. But remember that the question is plainly divisible into two parts; and as to one of those parts, the reasoning of my hon. and learned Friend has so exhausted the subject that I do not pretend to touch upon it. I mean that portion of the subject which, ac- 1684 cording to the view of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), looks upon the Declaration of Paris as logically leading to the conclusion that all private property must be respected at sea in times of war, even private property in belligerent vessels. As to the other portion of the argument, which dealt with the Declaration of Paris—that Declaration which I regret so much has never been discussed and considered in this House until now—I must think that the reasoning of my hon. and learned Friend is neither so conclusive nor so satisfactory as it ought to be. Still it ought to induce us to look in the face of the question, whether we can stand upon the present position of the law and of treaties in regard to the Declaration of Paris. That Declaration was entered into under circumstances which ought to render us very careful how we lay down abstract principles which are not sanctioned by Parliament. Any one who refers to the Declaration of Paris will see that it was originally suggested by Count Walewski and was adopted by Lord Clarendon with the intention, and upon the supposition, that it was to be a uniform doctrine, and to be binding on all nations. The Declaration recites that considerable inconvenience arose from the existing state of the law, and that fixed and uniform principles ought to be established, which should be recognised by all the Powers. The condition upon which Lord Clarendon assented to the Declaration, and which ought to have been fulfilled before it was carried into effect, was that privateering was to be abolished by all other important maritime nations. But what has happened since then? It is a lesson to us that when we are unsettling the well-understood principles and maxims of international law we ought never to attempt by treaties to alter that law in toto unless we have the consent of all the other Powers concerned in the alteration. Had we done that on the occasion of the Treaty of Paris our case would now have been clear; not having done that, we have given up almost everything for which we have so long contended as a nation, while the stipulation upon which our concession rested has not been fulfilled. My hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) and those who have followed him have shown the extreme inconvenience of entering into a Declaration of this kind, which was not to be binding on all parties. We are now for the first time in the position of neutrals instead of 1685 belligerents; but let not that lead us away from those wise maxims of international jurisprudence which have been adopted, not for particular purposes, but for the guidance of all nations in the event of war. In a recent discussion on the blockade, neutral arguments were pushed to the extreme, because we happened to be in the position of neutrals. We are now discussing whether an enemy's goods are to be free or not under a neutral flag. We have had two wars—one in Italy and the other in the United States—in which we have been neutrals. In the case of the United States we have seen the consequences of laying undue stress on neutrality. We have abundant evidence to show, that when we entered into the Declaration of Paris without the concurrence of the United States, we put our merchants into a position which they ought not have been compelled to occupy, and have deprived them of that to which they are entitled. Although we had the finest ships in the Chinese seas, the mere apprehension of a war deprived them of the trade to which they were entitled, and transferred it to the United States, because they were not likely to be engaged in hostilities. The Secretary for War very justly observed that in the event of a war between any two parties to the Declaration those treaties would, in all probability, be set at nought; and my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General also pointed out what would happen if war occurred between a State such as England, which was a party to the Declaration, and one such as the United States, which was not. In such a case we should be bound hand and foot. We should not be able even to remonstrate with the United States, if they continued the system of privateering. Can such a state of things be endured without attempting to put the subject on a more satisfactory footing? I should like to hear some more cogent arguments from the Government—not with regard to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, on which I quite agree with the Solicitor General—but with regard to the Declaration of Paris, which it would seem is to remain binding on some nations and not on others. My hon. and learned Friend has clearly shown that treaties are good for nothing unless all the parties concerned are willing to be bound. We all know two cases of Armed Neutrality in which almost every nation which had a navy engaged to adhere to the prin- 1686 ciples of the Declaration of Paris, and who, when war broke out, one after another receded from the declarations they had made. Is it, then, safe or wise for us to be parties to a Declaration one of the provisions of which is an abandonment of an essential safeguard to the maritime supremacy of England, which ought never to be surrendered? All the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend against allowing private property to be free from capture on the seas are, as far as they go, equally strong against giving up our power of injuring an enemy by capturing his goods wherever we find them on the open sea. The arguments of the Solicitor General, as to the inexpediency of having political war and commercial peace bound up in the same treaty, apply, to a certain extent, to the freedom of the enemy's goods from seizure. What justification is there for going as far as the hon. Member for Liverpool proposes? The hon. Member for Birmingham told us that the legitimate consequence of the Declaration of Paris is that private property shall be pronounced free, even in belligerent ships. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, with an ingenuity and force which I cannot but admire, very justly remarked, that if we carry the principle so far, the same logic will lead to the abolition of commercial blockades. But what is the private property which my hon. Friend wishes to be free? Is any property in charge of a merchant to be carried freely into any port although really belonging to an enemy? Is property to be free which consists, not of manufactured contraband, but of the raw materials of warlike stores? Where is the line to be drawn? If the logical consequences of the Declaration lead to such results, should we not consider whether we must adhere to it? I suppose, however, we must. All we can do is to protest against it. I do not assent to the conclusions to which the hon. Members for Liverpool and Birmingham say that this Declaration will lead; but the conclusion I draw is, that from the increased danger to which you have exposed the country by allowing this Declaration over to be made, it is impossible for this House to get out of the difficulty. This House is not, and ought not to be, the Executive Government, But when the Government have had it pointed out that most prejudicial consequences will happen if that Declaration of Paris cannot be altered and improved—when they have had 1687 it pointed out that it will lead to consequences that they condemn—I trust means will be found to see whether better provisions cannot be inserted as a supplement to that treaty. It is true that your mercantile marine is greater than that of any other country in the world; but that can be no reason why you should fail to provide better protection for it than that which you have under the Declaration of Paris; and your aim should be to give the utmost efficiency of action both to the commercial and naval force. We ought to rely on our naval supremacy as the surest safeguard of our commerce; and if we abandon that, we cut off one arm while we leave all other Powers with their arms free. Even at the most desponding period—no, I will not use that word, for it can never be applied to any period of our history—but even at a time when this country fared the worst, when we were surrounded with everything that could alarm us—I allude to that period when the Armed Neutrality of 1801 existed—When dangers of every kind were accumulating around us, you had Ministers that repelled every suggestion which was calculated to weaken our maritime supremacy. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey) has reminded us, with something like ridicule, of two of the greatest statesmen that ever lived—Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox—who, he said, concurred in one thing—that, under the gravest circumstances, they would never surrender one of the maritime rights for which we had ever contended. He has told you of the conduct of Lord Grenville under similar circumstances. Now, nobody can read that noble Lord's letters without seeing that even at the time when the greatest dangers were gathering round us, there was one man, at all events, ready, at any sacrifice, to maintain the supremacy of England. Let me remind the House how this country was situated at that time. Our natural enemies, Spain and France, were at war with us. Our natural friends, Russia and Sweden, were not our friends then, for they had joined in an Armed Neutrality against us. There was even a famine staring the country in the face. Nevertheless, it was under all those circumstances that Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, and Lord Grenville, whose example the hon. Member for Salford said this Government would not follow, said that they would never give up that right which England had always possessed and exercised—that of her supremacy upon the 1688 seas. Mr. Pitt, in language still more powerful than that used by Lord Grenville, told the House, in the face of a powerful Opposition, that it was true their burdens might have increased, but their resources had increased in proportion; that although he was a friend of peace, yet in regard to this question—the principle of a neutral flag covering the enemy's cargo—sooner than give it up he would wind that flag around his body and find his glory in the grave. This was the way the statesmen of that day met the question; hot with the inhuman desire of crippling the resources of any foreign country, not to obtain any special triumph of this country, but because they knew that the strength of our right arm and our power as a great and independent nation rested upon the maintenance of this principle. I heard it said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, and the noble Lord opposite, that all their desire was to assimilate the operations by sea to the operations by land—that the same law should apply to both. The Solicitor General answered, I think, that portion of the hon. Member's speech conclusively. But when you talk of such assimilation, let me point out the distinction between the two cases. When you carry out military operations by land, you take all the possessions of the enemy—their country, their forts and harbours—that come within your reach; you have them all in your power, and you may retain those possessions until you are enabled to enforced terms of peace. But the case is different in a war at sea. Unless you take the enemy's goods, you can do nothing; you cannot cripple his resources in any way, even though you may have the most powerful navy. You may see the merchandise of the world floating before you, which you know is but increasing the resources of the enemy. Nevertheless, if acting upon the principles of the Declaration of Paris, you will not direct your energies towards obtaining possession of those goods, you will be taking a course which will seriously endanger the supremacy of England. Now, my object in rising is to elicit some declaration of opinion from the noble Viscount that this one-sided Declaration—one-sided as it regards two great maritime Powers—shall be, if possible, amended and placed upon a better footing. I wish to urge upon Her Majesty's Government, that whenever you seek to alter the law 1689 between nations, you shall endeavour to make that law equally applicable to all—that if you are to maintain the Treaty of Paris, it must be upon the condition that all the other maritime Powers shall maintain it too. If you give up that Treaty, let it be done with the concurrence of all. Let there be but one international maritime law for all nations. It must not be divided or divisible. All must be bound by it. Whilst, then, there ought to exist but one law, under which all countries may exercise their powers by land as well as by sea humanely and justly, let it be framed in such a manner as will secure the end and object of all wars—the means of obtaining a righteous and a certain peace.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
—It is generally admitted that nothing can be more inconvenient than the proposal to, or the adoption by, this House of a general abstract Resolution; and I think the Resolution of the hon. Member and the debate which has followed amply illustrate the truth of that position. The hon. Member has proposed a Resolution excessively vague in its terms, which points to no specific object, and the meaning of which can only be collected from the speeches of those who have supported it in the course of the debate. If such a Resolution were passed, and the Government of the day were called upon to act upon it, they could only guess as to what course they would have to pursue; and they would have to do that by considering the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in the debate. Now, that would in general be a difficult matter; but I confess that in the present case, as the question has been treated, it would puzzle the most sagacious Government to know what course to pursue; because one half of those who have supported the Resolution, and the hon. Gentleman himself who moved it, have for their object to exempt private property at sea from capture; but the other half who concur in it have another object—to reverse the Declaration of Paris. Those are two objects totally different, indeed diametrically opposite, and between which the Government, if called upon to act, as they would be by the concluding passage of the Resolution, would be utterly at a loss as to which of the two courses the House of Commons wished them to adopt. I think that is of itself a sufficient reason why this Resolution should not be affirm- 1690 ed by this House. If the House has decided upon the line of policy which it wishes to impose upon the Government, it ought to embody that line of policy in a Resolution in clear, precise, pointed, definite terms, and leaving the Government under no embarrassment as to the course which the House wishes them to pursue. Then the Government would have to choose whether it thought fit to adopt the Resolution or not; and if the Government thought it was against the interests of the country, the course any Government would have to take is so plain that it needs no explanation. I will deal, first, with the Declaration of Paris. It has been fully explained that the only new point, as far as we are concerned, in that Declaration was that which declared that an enemy's property should be free from capture in neutral bottoms. The other points in the Declaration, except the one about privateering, referred only to old-established practice. The Declaration as to blockades only recapitulated rules well known and long acted upon. My hon. Friend the member for Birmingham has, I think, very ably and very fully shown that it was a wise and politic measure on the part of the Government to adopt the principle that a neutral flag should cover enemy's goods. He has shown that it was the doctrine of every other maritime Power, and that if we had persisted in maintaining the opposite doctrine, and we had gone to war with any great maritime State, we should inevitably have run the risk of adding to that war a dispute with the other maritime Powers which would have led to another Armed Neutrality. There is a principle upon which, as it appears to me, this doctrine must stand. We have lately maintained, even at the risk of war, that a merchant ship at sea is a part of our territory, that that territory cannot be violated with impunity; and that, therefore, individuals cannot be taken out of a merchantman belonging to a neutral country. The same principle may be said to apply to goods as well as men; and if it be granted, as we do grant, that a belligerent has no right to take out of a neutral ship persons who are enemies, so also it follows that the neutral flag must always be respected, and in the case even of enemy's property on board, not being contraband of war, it ought not to be violated. But the ground upon which the Government assented to the Declaration of Paris was, as has been well stated by the hon. Member 1691 for Birmingham, that in the altered state of things and in the present relative positions of the great maritime Powers of the world, they felt that by persisting to maintain a doctrine which no other nation maintained, we should incur the risk of involving this country in hostilities with more than one Power if we came in conflict with any one Power. The right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Walpole) said, that if we were involved in a war with the United States, the Declaration of Paris would place us in an embarrassing difficulty, because the United States had not agreed to them, Now one of the conditions of the Declaration of Paris was that they should apply only to the States which became parties to them; and therefore, insomuch as the United States were not parties to the Declaration of Paris, they would not apply to any parties who engaged in war with the United States. But, with regard to the second article, which says that the flag shall cover the goods, that has always been the principle which the United States has maintained, and on which they have always acted; and therefore no difficulty arises between England and the United States upon that article. It requires no additional Declaration to bind them to an observance of that article, because that has always been their doctrine; and the fact that it was their doctrine led us to think that it was more prudent and wise to adopt it, in common with other parties, in the Declaration of Paris. Therefore I have no hesitation in saying that to go back to the parties who assembled at Paris—as has been suggested by some hon. Members who have spoken—and to ask them to rescind those resolutions, is a course which no Gentleman can seriously think the Government is likely to adopt; or that, if adopted, the Government is likely to get the other parties to agree to it. Then we come to the other subject—namely, the proposition which is made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, that we should agree that private property by sea shall be exempt from capture. It is said that it is a logical deduction from the Declaration of Paris. I deny that proposition. The Declaration of Paris related entirely to the relations between belligerents and neutrals. The proposition of the hon. Member relates to the relations of belligerents to each other. It is a matter totally distinct, resting on totally different grounds, and I cannot see any logical con- 1692 nection between them. The hon. Member for Birmingham has been kind enough to attach some value to opinions which I expressed some years ago at Liverpool. The attention which he has been pleased to pay, and the weight which he has been pleased to give, to my opinion, induces me to hope that he will accord the same weight to the altered opinions which I now express. The passage quoted as having been part of what I said at Liverpool related to two matters. First of all, to the exemption of private property at sea from capture; and, secondly, to the assimilation of the principles of war at sea to the practice of war on land. I am perfectly ready to admit that I have entirely altered my opinion on the first point. Further reflection and deeper thinking have satisfied me that what at first sight is plausible—and I admit that it is plausible on the surface—is a dangerous doctrine; and I hope that the hon. Member will be kind enough to give weight to my second thoughts, and also come round to those second thoughts, which are proverbially the best. With regard to the assimilation of war by sea to the practice of war by land, I think that, as far as it was in the power of the Government by arrangement with other Powers, we have accomplished it. For what is the main difference between the practice of war by sea and by land? It is said that the practice of war by land is to respect private property. Why, really every gentleman who holds that doctrine must forget everything which has passed within his memory, and everything which he has read in history. It is well known that when armies are in an enemy's country they take everything which they want and very often destroy what they do not want, for the mere purpose of destruction. Not only do they destroy what they do not want and take what they do want, but they go further and levy heavy contributions upon the places which they occupy. I will relate two instances at different periods of time, which show the continuity of the practice. In 1807 when the French army besieged Dantsic, then a Prussian town, France being at war with Prussia, after a long siege Dantsic surrendered. The French destroyed in the first place all the suburbs. They took a great many things which they wanted for their own purposes—requisites of clothing, and so forth—and then they levied on the town a contribution of 30,000,000f. Was that 1693 respecting private property? Who were to pay those 30,000,000f. except the inhabitants, and how were they to pay it except out of their private property? That is one example of many showing that it is not the practice in war by land to respect private property. Take another instance at a much more recent period—in the year 1850 or 1851. There was a contest then in the Electorate of Hesse Cassel between different German Powers. What was the state to which they reduced that unhappy country? I will, if the House permit me, read extracts from letters addressed to me at that time by a diplomatic officer, who went to look at the country during and after that contest—a contest which did not last long, and between German armies, not animated by hereditary animosity or difference of race, but acting simply in the ordinary operations of war upon the theatre of hostilities. This is what he stated on the 17th of November, 1850—It is deplorable to consider the inevitable consequences of this immense concentration of foreign troops in Hesse, of which your Lordship no doubt is already informed; but the sufferings of the poor inhabitants is likely to exceed everything which can be imagined. Their provisions for the winter already setting in, have been consumed by the troops quartered on them. Sickness and disease are beginning to appear, and I believe, although the report is endeavoured to be put down, that the cholera has appeared in several places.That was the condition in November. In the following March he says:—The country (that is Hesse) continues in a deplorable condition. There is no commerce of any kind, and consequently no money. I am assured that in that part of it occupied in the beginning of the winter by the Federal and Prussian troops, everything is destroyed, and that there are some thousands of persons in a complete state of destitution. Not only were their cattle and stores all consumed, but their horses even taken, so that the ground cannot be tilled, and in the interior of the houses and cottages the furniture of all sorts was used for firewood. This account was given to me by a person who is well inclined towards the Elector and his Government, and who added that it would require at least ten years to restore that part of the electorate to its former condition.That is just a single specimen of the result of war by land, and then Gentlemen run away with the notion that in war by land private property is respected. Why, it is perfectly well known that it is taken whenever it is wanted; that it is destroyed frequently out of wantonness; that it is always destroyed in the necessary operations of war; and that in those cases 1694 compensation is not given by those who destroy it. By sea it is said private property is taken. Ay; but it is taken in a different manner, and with more order and regularity. Private property by sea is not made prize until it is adjudicated by a competent tribunal as a legal and proper capture. By land it is taken at the moment when it is wanted, and as it may be wanted. I was about to say that we have assimilated, or endeavoured at least to assimilate, the practice of war by sea to the practice of war by land. What was the main difference of the two? Not that private property was not taken by land as it was taken by sea, but that by sea it was taken by a different set of people from those who were authorized to take it by, land. By land no individual is allowed to make war unless he belongs to a regularly-organized army, and is in the service of a State. If people make war on their own account on land, they are taken and shot as banditti. Nothing was more common in Spain than for the French to take the armed peasants and shoot them without the slightest hesitation if they were not embodied as military. It is a well-known fact that to carry on war by land people must be in the service of an established authority—not so by sea. Private war on the ocean was a permitted and acknowledged practice. We agreed at last at Paris to the proposal that privateering by sea should no longer be a legitimate mode of carrying on war, and that future wars should be carried on only by regularly-organized forces acting under the authority and command of a responsible Government. That part of the arrangement has so far been carried out that privateering—as regards those parties who acceded to the Declaration—has been, and will be, discontinued. But these Declarations do not apply to the States which did not accede to them. The United States of America have not acceded to the abolition of privateering; and, undoubtedly, if we had the misfortune, as was not unlikely a short time ago, to be engaged in a war with the United States, we should not be bound to abstain from privateering unless the United States should also enter into a similar and corresponding engagement. Much criticism has been passed upon a remark of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, that war puts an end to treaties. Undoubtedly, war does put an end to treaties, and even to declarations of this sort; and in the event of war 1695 you would have to rest upon the honour and good feeling of the parties who had agreed to them in time of peace. We have had a recent instance to show that that principle is admitted and acted upon, and that such Declarations are not always likely to be observed by Governments; because the President of the United States, maintaining, as he did, that the capture of those two gentlemen on board the Trent was at variance with the invariable and acknowledged principles of the United States, and allowing that it was therefore his duty to give them up, yet declared that if it had been for the interest of his country—departing from his own principles and from the admitted doctrine of the United States—he should have felt it his duty not to give them up. My right hon. Friend is quite right in saying that you have not that security from belligerents that in time of war they will observe the conditions laid down in peace which you have from neutrals. When you make an engagement with a neutral, if it is not kept by him you have the resource of war; but when you are at war with a foreign nation you have shot your bolt, and you can do nothing more. It must rest on the honour of the belligerent, and with his respect for public opinion, though you have always this remedy—that you may say that you will not conclude a peace with him unless you have ample redress and restoration for the injury done in the war in contravention of the principles previously established. It is said that the principles laid down at Paris would be fatal to our commerce and to the shipping interests; but the very arguments used by hon. Gentlemen who take that view negative the first part of the assertion; because they say our commerce would go on without any interruption whatever, and all that would happen would be that the channel through which it flowed would be changed, and that commerce would be carried on through neutrals with much greater safety than in our own ships. It that be so, as far as our commerce is concerned, there is no ground for complaint. It must be admitted that that principle would increase the inconveniences which the shipowners would feel when war broke out. But, unfortunately, it is of the nature of war that it cannot be carried on without embarrassment, suffering, and loss to all parties concerned. If you make war without any suffering and any loss to any party whatever, it would 1696 become mere child's play, and it might last for ever without coining to any result. It is said that all our commerce would immediately be carried on by neutrals; but how is that made out? I presume it may be asserted that the commerce of the world is carried on by the ships of the world, and I believe our commercial ships form a very large proportion of the ships which carry on that commerce. Suppose that our ships were withdrawn from employment, where will you find ships to take their place? Ships are not things which can be created on a sudden; it takes time to create a mercantile marine. I forget how many millions of tons we have in our merchant shipping; but supposing the whole of them were all at once confined to our harbours, where will you find neutral ships to take their place, and to carry on the commerce which they now carry on? We are, I hope, the most powerful naval State, and we have, I hope, a fleet which in the event of war would be superior to any adversary with whom we might be engaged. The ships of that adversary would either in a very short time be confined to their ports, or they would come out and suffer defeat; and when we had established our maritime supremacy at sea, then the danger to our merchant shipping would, in such proportion, be diminished. This really is only another instance of an atempt to set up the assumed interest of one class of persons against the general interests of the country. We have had a great many examples of that in years past, and in all those cases the persons who objected to a particular arrangement on the ground that they imagined that it was injurious to their interests, found afterwards in the end that they were mistaken, and they have actually shared in the general good which resulted from that arrangement. When free trade in corn was established, the agricultural interest contended that they would be ruined, and great efforts were made to prevent the adoption of that measure; but the agricultural interest has since found that it has prospered with the prosperity which that change produced. Our manufacturing interests also contended that by admitting foreign manufactures our manufacturers would be ruined; but instead of that our manufactures have increased in the very proportion that we have admitted foreign manufactures. This very interest—the shipping interest—is also an instance. They contended most elaborately and elo- 1697 quently that the change in the Navigation Laws would be their ruin; but the contrary has been the fact, and our shipping has increased ever since by reason of that change. The shipping interest now ask for the establishment of the principle contained in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liverpool, because they imagine that it would relieve them from the pressure of war; but in the same way it can be shown that the remedy which they seek will, in fact, be detrimental to the general interests of the country and that they would share in the injury which the country would sustain if that were granted to them which a short-sighted view of their own interests induces them to think of importance. An island like this, with an army which is not large enough to be sent to a distance across the sea for any great operations of war, must mainly rest for redress upon its naval power being exerted in destroying the commerce and commercial ships of its antagonists, and in taking their crews prisoners. Gentlemen have argued this question as if it were simply a matter of ships and goods; but they forget that when you take an enemy's merchant ship, you take not only the vessel and cargo, but also the sailors on board, who, if they are allowed to return safely to their own ports, are an additional source of strength to your enemy. Suppose—what I hope may be far distant—that we were at war with Prance. That country sends annually some 15,000 or 20,000 sailors to the different fisheries as nurseries for her war navy. Suppose we were blockading Brest, Toulon, Cherbourg, or L'Orient—if the principle of the hon. Member for Liverpool were adopted, we should have to allow the fleet of 20,000 sailors to pass with impunity through our blockading squadron to man the enemy's ships lying in the port before us. Therefore it is not simply the injury done to the enemy by the capture of his property and vessels which you have to consider; it is the injury you can do him by thus crippling his war navy, and depriving him of a certain number of men who would otherwise roan that navy, and enable it to come out and give you battle. My opinion, therefore, distinctly is, that if you give up that power which you possess, and which all maritime States possess and have exercised, of taking the ships, the property, and the crews of the nation with whom you may happen to be at war, you would be crippling the right 1698 arm of our strength. You would be inflicting a blow upon our naval power, and you would be guilty of an act of political suicide. If you allow the cargo to go free, you must allow the men also to go free. Suppose you were at war with France, you could not stop a merchant ship and take the men out of her, while you let the vessel and cargo go. You could not say, "We will respect the cargo and respect the vessel; but you have sailors, and as the mercantile marine is that which feeds the war navy, sailors are part of the enemy's power, and therefore, gentlemen, we cannot let you go into port—we must take possession of all of you, and allow the ship and cargo to get home as they best can, without any crew on board." Therefore, according to the principle of the hon. Gentleman, you would be compelled to let any number of sailors pass into a harbour, to man a fleet there, that might come out to encounter yours, and offer it battle. With this principle, you would almost really reduce war to an exchange of diplomatic notes. You would raise a number of questions which it would be most difficult to establish. If you admit the principle that private property must be respected at sea, you cannot maintain a blockade. You enforce a blockade by confiscating the ships that break it; how can you do that if you assert that private property at sea is to be respected? You may say that ships shall only be taken in case they break the blockade. But what is breaking a blockade? That is not a question so clear that an infinite number of questions may not arise upon it. It may be alleged that a ship has not broken the blockade; it may be a question how far she was from the port, and in what degree her approach to it proved an intention of breaking the blockade. Many points of this sort would arise, exceedingly difficult to establish; and you would get into insuperable difficulties if you went the length of saying that private property is to be respected at sea, and only to be taken in the case of breaking a blockade. I repeat, if you adopt the principle of the hon. Gentleman, you will cripple the main arm of your strength for all purposes of war. We are all agreed that war is a thing to be avoided. I hope that this country will never be engaged in any unjust war. But as long as human nature is human nature; as long as mankind are ambitious, tyrannical, and oppressive—especially if they believe they may be so with impunity or without 1699 suffering for it—so long will a nation like this, whose subjects are scattered over the face of the globe, living in and engaged in commerce with every community of the world, and relying on the faith of treaties with their Governments—so long will this country be liable to causes of just quarrel from time to time with foreign nations. And the more remote the nation the more likely it is such causes of quarrel will arise. In such cases the navy is the only arm by which you can extort redress. You cannot send out military expeditions to conquer the country that has done you wrong. You can only obtain redress by means of your navy. It may be said you may bombard a city or a town. But that is not a practice that any one can recommend you to adopt. That is worse than taking private property on the sea, for you destroy the property of people who have had nothing whatever to do with the cause of quarrel between the two countries. You have no resource in cases of this sort but the power of your navy. Then, what class of persons in this country have most interest in maintaining the power of obtaining redress for an injury? The shipping and commercial interests, who have the most numerous transactions with foreign countries, and who are more likely than any others to be the objects of injury and wrong; they are the classes for whom this country is most likely to be called on to demand and obtain redress. Under these circumstances, I should hope the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with the debate that has arisen on his Motion, and with the, very conflicting and contradictory support it has received from the House. I think the hon. Gentleman himself must be at a loss to know what is the sense his Resolution is understood to bear. I should hope he will be content with the mysterious vagueness in which it has been enveloped, and the doubtful result of the opinions elicited in the debate that has arisen on it. I hope he will be satisfied with the discussion; he has made a very sensible speech, barring some of its opinions and arguments—a speech to which I listened with very great pleasure. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be content with the discussion he has raised on the question, and withdraw his Resolution.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Whatever may be the variety of opinion with regard to this Motion, to which the noble Lord alludes, there cannot be two opinions as to the importance of the subject. In my mind 1700 it is the most important that can engage our attention. In importance I put it far beyond the question of Parliamentary Reform, even when that question was a reality. That question affected the disposition of political power in England; the present question affects the disposition of power throughout Europe and the world. Now, how has this question arisen? No doubt it is raised by the Declaration of Paris in 1856. The Solicitor General says that when an apprehension of war arose, he did not see that any fear was expressed by the merchants of this country of the consequences of the changes then made in our maritime law; that they were ready, with inherent and hereditary courage, to meet the emergency before them. I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman, except in giving credit to the merchants and shipowners for their courage, I think it is in consequence of the apprehension of war with a powerful State that this discussion has arisen. By the Declaration of Paris we have given up the cardinal principle of our maritime code. I do not think the noble Lord has been successful in imputing to the shipowners that this is a discussion got up merely about their individual interests. I am sure that is not the case. There is a general impression that the great change made in our maritime code may be—perhaps must be—the cause of serious results to the maritime power of this country. It is not at all a question of the shipping interest only; it concerns the whole maritime strength of this country, if we have acknowledged the principle that the flag of a neutral covers the cargo. This must divert the commerce of the country in time of war into neutral bottoms; and that, I believe, will deal a serious blow to our maritime strength. Our maritime strength will follow the carrying trade. If the carrying trade leaves the shores of this country, the maritime population will go with it; and if we have not a preponderance of the maritime population, we cannot have the preponderance of naval power. The noble Lord says we have got the ships; and as ships are not built in a day, how can any other nation obtain the carrying trade? But these ships, if not used by us, will not be locked up in docks and harbours. No doubt, where the profits are good and the risk nil, the ships will find new masters. I have not heard any argument in the debate that has met 1701 this point:—Did you take any step, by the Declaration of Paris, relinquishing a cardinal principle and impairing our maritime strength? That is the real question. It is in an interest superior to that of the shipowners that we are now discussing the subject. The noble Lord has treated this question in an extraordinary manner. He first gave certain abstract reasons in favour of the change. It is very surprising that so experienced a statesman, born and bred in the school of politics that attached so much importance to this point of our maritime code, the school of Liverpool and Canning, should suddenly find there are abstract arguments against its existence. I must do the noble Lord the justice to say that he did not dwell much on that point. He admitted that the real causes of the change have been placed more clearly before the House by the hon. Member for Birmingham. It was because, on the eve of a war with Russia, we feared the assertion of the principle that a neutral flag does not cover the cargo might involve us in embarrassments with the United States. The noble Lord recognised the accuracy of that description. If that be a sufficient reason for the course taken, see how it has operated with regard to the very Power for which the sacrifice was made. As the House has been reminded, we might be at war with the United States now, and the United States might at the same time, by virtue of the new principle that the flag covers the cargo, carry on the whole of their trade in neutral vessels, while they poured forth thousands of privateers to prey upon our merchant shipping. In giving up this cardinal point, therefore, from ft visionary apprehension, which could not be put to a practical test, we have, without having effected our object, placed ourselves absolutely at the mercy of the United States, if—which God forbid!—a war should ever take place between the two countries. That being the position of affairs, we have now before us a Motion which has been described as a natural consequence of our relinquishment of this cardinal principle of our maritime policy by the Declaration of Paris. The noble Lord denies that it is a natural consequence; but he forgot that he was the first great authority to announce that it was so. Why, when the Declaration of Paris was signed and peace proclaimed, the noble Lord travelled 200 miles to a considera- 1702 ble city, and there—not making a hurried speech—was the first person who called the attention of the country to the inevitable connection between this renunciation of our old principle of maritime policy and the policy recommended by the hon. Member for Liverpool. The noble Lord now says, "I have changed my opinion. I cannot deny that when peace was proclaimed I went down to Liverpool to receive the congratulations of my friends and stimulate the spirit of my party, not by a hurried, but by a well-considered and mature manifesto; and that I said that the principles which were adopted at the Paris Conference might perhaps be still further extended, and that in the course of time those principles of war which were applied to hostilities by land might be extended to hostilities by sea, so that private property might no longer be the object of aggression on either side." Now, I want to know what more the hon. Member for Liverpool has said? These opinions, indeed, exceed anything which the hon. Gentleman has recommended. The hon. Gentleman has not dared to put in a Resolution all that the Prime Minister of England announced in a speech. "But," says the noble Lord, "I have changed my opinion." Well, a man has a perfect right to change his opinion. We do not grudge the noble Lord his change of opinion on these vital subjects; but then the noble Lord's opinion upon any subject can hardly be such a leading authority as it was before. Here is the noble Lord, twenty years Secretary at War, fifteen years Foreign Secretary, and at the time when he made this declaration Prime Minister. For forty years he must have been meditating and manipulating kindred subjects to this. Whether the flag should cover the cargo, every question affecting privateering, every form which a belligerent right can assume, must have constantly occupied the mind and meditation of the noble Lord. Yet, upon the most important of these subjects, the noble Lord, holding a most responsible situation, and making a well-considered speech, which, from the manner and the time of its delivery, was more important even than a debate in this House, because it was a declaration to a nation—the noble Lord comes to the same conclusion as the hon. Member, and yet tells us now that he has since entirely changed his opinion. Yes, the noble Lord may change his opinion; but let me tell him, that when he rises again, 1703 and when questions of this high importance are brought under the consideration of the house of commons, and he warns the House that they are asked to adopt "a suicidal policy," he will not exercise that influence upon public opinion which he possessed before the hasty expressions that he has now recalled. What? "A suicidal policy!" Is that the policy recommended by the hon. Member for Liverpool? Why, it is the policy which the noble Lord himself completely planned and partially perpetrated! I deeply regret this, because I know that there have been, and may again be, occasions of national difficulty when the warning voice of an experienced statesman, of the talents, popularity, and authority of the noble Lord, would sink deep into the public mind, and would exercise a great and salutary influence upon public opinion. But, alas! that is all over. However ruinous the proposition, however revolutionary the schemes, however vast the danger that may assail the State, though the noble Lord may be deeply impressed with all these perils, though he may feel deeply and think deeply, and though there may be no risk of his changing his opinions, the world will remember that he went down to Liverpool to recommend a "suicidal policy," and they will think he is crying "Wolf!" when otherwise his words might have saved the Capitol. Now, what are we to do in our present position? The noble Lord says we have two alternatives. I will take first the proposal made by the hon. Member, which the noble Lord at Liverpool advocated with so much eloquence. That appears to me a visionary proposition. I cannot myself dissociate the interests of nations and of Governments. It seems to me dangerous to do so. It may make rich societies, but will surely make weak States. I cannot believe that armies and navies can flourish when they are no longer bound up with the interests and passions of the community. If a society founded on such principles were long persisted in, I see the possibility of immense corruption; and I can hardly doubt that the find would be that in some part of the world some man of force—some conqueror with some new system of tactics or some new kind of artillery—would take advantage of such a flourishing but dead community, which would then vanish with a rapidity which it is difficult now to conceive, and give place to a society established on very different principles from those which have 1704 now the ascendancy in the excellent town of Liverpool. But, viewing the matter in the most practical light, I cannot see how you can maintain your system of blockade if you concede the principle which the hon. Member recommends, and which the noble Lord a few years back so warmly supported. If you cannot maintain your system of blockade, it seems inevitable that your naval power must cease to be an aggressive power, and must only exist for defensive objects. Then, what would be the position of a country like England in the event of war with a great Continental Power possessing great armaments, if our fleets can only act on the defensive? Why we should sink into utter insignificance. We should have no power to assert our authority. Although we might be carrying on a thriving trade, we might all this time be working only for others; and while we were sacrificing everything to the accumulation of treasure, we must, ultimately, be the victims of some strong Power influenced by different principles from those which governed our system. I cannot, therefore, support the views of the hon. Member, and those heretofore advocated by the noble Lord. Those views are, as I think, most dangerous. I do not want to see the community entirely severed in sentiment from those who govern it. Patriotism depends as much on mutual suffering as on mutual success, and it is by that experience of all fortunes and all feelings that a great national character is created. Although I am still willing to admit the inconveniences, the difficulties, and dangers that beset our position, especially by the unfortunate surrender of the cardinal principle of our maritime code at Paris, yet I rest my confidence on the patriotism of my countrymen and the good fortune of a country that I believe to be destined to remain great. Although, therefore, I do not attempt to obtain by the first alternative that relief from the difficulty which the treaty has entailed upon us, yet I cannot agree with the noble Lord in treating with the derision he has done the suggestion that the Declaration of Paris is one that may be changed. In the observation of the Secretary of State for War as to the consequence of war upon the treaty, there was nothing incorrect, but there was nothing novel. His observation was perfectly just, although it has the recommendation of having been long accepted. No one doubts that war terminates a 1705 treaty between belligerents, although it is a treaty that contemplates the action of war between belligerents. But there is one point which the right hon. Gentleman entirely omitted. It is true that war terminates a treaty between belligerents, but only belligerents. If we went to war with Russia, both Powers being parties to the Declaration, the Treaty of Paris would not be terminated, because there are other parties to this arrangement besides Russia and England. Therefore the war would not relieve us from the Declaration of Paris, because the rights of all the other signataries to the treaty would continue to exist. They may assert their claims on us, and make those claims the foundation of a declaration of war. The right hon. Gentleman was too quick in assuming that there was a chance of getting rid of this precious bargain. Of course, the Government might declare war, in order to relieve us from the treaty. But there are wiser and milder means by which the country may obtain relief and the shipowner redress from the mistakes and improvidence of the statesmen who have been intrusted with this affair. I know that the noble Lord may treat any suggestion with indifference that proceeds from these benches. But I have an authority which ought to weigh with him, and which he ought to follow, for no one was more impressed with the mischievous and improvident character—the alarming character—of the Declarations of Paris, especially the principle that the flag covers the cargo, than the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The noble Lord is a practical man; and when he gives an opinion he is generally prepared with a measure to carry it into effect. This highly-esteemed nobleman thus expressed himself in regard to the Declarations of Paris—"I cannot but think," he said "that, in point of principle, the declarations of the Treaty of Paris ought to be altered. The whole matter is most unsatisfactory, and has a most grave bearing on our national supremacy." If that were the opinion only of Lord Russell, who has so long served his Sovereign, who has sat so many years in her councils, and has led this House with so much ability, it would be highly valuable and ought to influence an assembly like this. But the House will remember that the nobleman who expressed this opinion is a Minister of the Crown—he is a Secretary of State; and not only a Secretary of State, but Secre- 1706 tary of State for Foreign Affairs; and will, as such, he intrusted with the management of this business in any negotiations that might take place. I do not know what the present occupations of the' Cabinet may be, or whether they are so multifarious as those of the House of Commons; but if they are not more employed than we are, I would suggest to Her Majesty's Ministers for their next subject of meeting the consideration of the means—to use the language of the Secretary of State—how the declarations of the Treaty of Paris may be altered.
§ MR. HORSFALL
made a few observations in reply, expressing himself satisfied with the course the discussion had taken. He would, in deference to the suggestions made from both sides of the House, withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn,
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Two o'clock.