§ MR. HORSFALL
said, he rose to call attention to the seizure of the Alexandra steam vessel at Liverpool. He had no wish to provoke any general discussion either upon the Foreign Enlistment Act or upon the unhappy state of affairs in America. If, however, the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), who had a notice upon the paper, should think it right to do so, he could take no exception to such a course. But be ventured to express a hope that the House would not allow itself to be carried away by a discussion upon general principles from the individual case of hardship which it was his duty to submit to them. The case was not one of the 704 seizure of a British vessel upon the ocean by an American cruiser, it was not the capture and condemnation of a British vessel in an American prize court, but it was a calm and deliberate act of the British Government of which he bad to complain—an act which had done serious injury to the owners of the ship Alexandra. He would state, as briefly and as clearly ns he could, the facts connected with the building, outfit, and seizure of that vessel. She was built by a highly respectable builder at Liverpool, Mr. Miller, for a very respectable firm of something like fifty years' standing in that town, Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. The vessel was built, launched, and was being fitted out in dock, when, on the 6th of April, a Customs officer went on hoard and handed to the builder a note in the following terms:—I have herewith to inform you that pursuant to directions from the Commissioners of Customs the vessel Alexandra now being built by you has been seized, pending such further directions as the said Commissioners may see fit to give.After that notice was served, he (Mr. Hors-fall) received from Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. a communication which he would read to the House. It was to the following effect:—We think that it may be advisable to send you at once a general outline of our position as regards the Alexandra. Heaving had many inquiries for a vessel of her description, we had her built for us as a speculation. She had been launched, and we were completing her engines and fittings on board, when the Customs authorities, acting under directions from the Government, seized her. The Alexandra is our property. She is a three masted wooden schooner, of under 300 tons, builders' measurement, with engines upon the screw principle, of 60 horse power, calculated to drive her at a speed of from nine to ten knots per hour. She is designed and was being fitted out in a manner adapted either for a passenger vessel, for a mail boat, or for a yacht.Happening to be in Liverpool at the time, he felt it his duty to go on board the Alexandra. He examined the vessel minutely from stem to stern, and the result of his observations was to confirm every word in that letter. The notice from the Customs was followed by a very prompt and proper reply from Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. to Mr. Edwards, the collector of the Customs, requesting to be informed on what ground the seizure of the Alexandra had been ordered; and giving notice in the mean time that they would hold the Commissioners of Customs responsible for any loss or damage consequent on the seizure. That letter was dated the 7th of 705 April; and Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co., having waited until the 9th without getting any answer, then addressed this further communication to the Collector of the Customs—We have not been favoured with any reply to the communication made to you on the 7th, and in the moan time we find that our workmen have been prevented from continuing their work on board the Alexandra. We beg respectfully to protest against this interference with our ship and our workpeople, and request that we may be furnished with the evidence upon which these proceedings have boon taken.On the following day the owners of the vessel received a letter from Mr. Edwards, stating that he had received directions from the Commissioners of Customs to inform them that the Alexandra had been seized by order of the Government, and that the usual proceedings would ensue. Mr. Edwards further stated that their request to be furnished with the evidence upon which these proceedings were taken would be transmitted to the Board. Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co., then instructed their solicitors, Messrs. Fletcher & Hull, to ask the Collector of Customs to be allowed to see the depositions on which the proceedings had been taken. The collector very properly told them that he had no discretion with regard to the depositions, as they were not in his hands, but were in the hands of the police. The solicitor waited on the head of the police, who told him that the depositions had been transmitted to the mayor, and they could not be shown without his sanction. The solicitor then applied to the mayor and the town clerk for permission to see the evidence on which the property had been taken, but they refused. Upon that the solicitor addressed the mayor, stating that he had been informed that the seizure had been made, upon certain depositions, at the instance of the consul of the United States, which had been sent to the mayor, and requesting an inspection thereof. To this the mayor replied that he did not feel at liberty to permit such an inspection without the sanction of the Home Secretary, from whom he had received the depositions, Messrs. Fletcher & Hull then applied for permission to proceed with the completion of the vessel, but they were refused. They received a letter from the collector stating that the depositions were then in the hands of Mr. Hamil, the solicitor to the Customs, who was then in Liverpool, and to whom they might apply. In consequence of 706 that suggestion, Messrs. Fletcher & Hull applied to Mr. Hamil, and from him they received a letter, dated the 15th instant, in which he referred them to an answer given in that House by the hon. Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to the effect that "the matter was under consideration." Now, as far as regarded the seizure of vessels by American cruisers, it might be quite proper that such an answer should he given; but when the British Government thought right to seize vessels, they ought to consider first, and not afterwards. Mr. Hamil proceeded to say—As the Crown can have no possible desire to act otherwise than impartially, and with due regard to the ends of justice, no advantage will be taken by keeping you and your clients longer than necessary in ignorance of any information to which you are fairly entitled, to enable you to prepare your defence, and the moment I am at liberty to do so I will again communicate with you on the subject.No further communication took place until the solicitors of Messrs. Fawcett & Co. received the following notice that the Alexandra was exchequered:—No. 1. Date, 1863. Seized by officer Edward Morgan. Cause of seizure:—For being equipped, furnished, and fitted out with intent to be employed in the service of persons exercising, or assuming to exercise, the powers of government in and over a foreign State, colony, province, or people, the ship or vessel Alexandra, of Liverpool, &c.He had already mentioned to the House the statement made by Messrs. Fawcett & Co., that no such intention was entertained at all, and he was sure the House would rather take the statement of such a firm than that of the parties who gave the information on which the seizure took place, but whose names were not to be made known. As to the question whether the seizure could possibly have been made under the Foreign Enlistment Act, he would read an authority which he thought neither the House nor the Government would question. The hon. and learned Solicitor General stated—It would be a great mistake to suppose that the Foreign Enlistment Act was meant to prohibit all commercial dealings in ships of war with belligerent countries. Two things must be proved in every case to render the transaction illegal—that there has been what the law regards as the fitting out, arming, or equipment of a ship of war, and that this was done with the intent that the ship should be employed in the service of a foreign belligerent,The Solicitor General also gave it as his opinion that—The United States Government have no right to complain if the Act in question is enforced in 707 the way in which English laws are usually enforced against English subjects—on evidence, and not on suspicion, on facts and not on presumption, on satisfactory testimony, and not on the mere accusations of a foreign Minister or his agents.Nothing, to his mind, could be more satisfactory than that declaration. And he would next read the following further extract from the letter he had received from Messrs. Fawcett & Co.:—It is an anomalous condition of things that we may, without question supply whole batteries of field pieces, with carriages and equipments complete, to known agents of the Federals, while we are not permitted to build and complete an unarmed vessel, because it is supposed that she might ultimately, by re-sale, become the property of the Confederate States. In any case, it is very desirable that it should be more clearly defined to what extent manufacturers may go in the production of such description of work as we have named, and that without risk of an interference, which, besides being detrimental to employers, may have the effect of suddenly casting adrift many hundreds of workmen.To that letter there was an important postscript, to which he begged to call the especial attention of the House. It was as follows:—With reference to field batteries named in our letter, we enclose a communication received from Messrs. Peabody & Co., confirming an order verbally given to us by General Fremont. Shell for the equipment of the field-pieces were, we believe, procured in this country from another source.He thought that extract would he incomplete if he did not furnish the House with the contents of Mr. Peabody's note, which was addressed to Mr. Gordon, agent for Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. The note was to the following effect:—We have received your letter of this date (18th June, 1861), with copy of yours of the 4th instant to Colonel Fremont, and that officer's reply to you of the same date, accepting your offer to supply eight 12-pounder rifled field-pieces, with carriages, &c., complete, for the sum of £1,700, on certain conditions, and within a certain period, as therein mentioned; and, in consideration of the due fulfilment of such contract by Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co., we hereby guarantee to them due and punctual payment of the above-named stipulated sum of £1,700.He would beg leave to remind the House that his hon. Friend (Mr. Laird) had recently called the attention of the House to the large amount of arms shipped at Liverpool for the Federal Government. Had any steps been taken to arrest the shipment of those arms? The people of this country liked even-handed justice. If there was to be non-intervention and strict neutrality, why not stop the shipments of arms to the Federals when they stopped the fitting of vessels which, it was sup- 708 posed, might ultimately fall into the hands of the Confederates? He held in his hand a Custom-house Return of the shipments which had taken place from Liverpool since his hon. Friend brought the subject under the consideration of the House. Some of his constituents in that town were very worthy, but very wary people, and he now found that instead of shipping rifles as rifles, they shipped them in bundles of gun-barrels. Thus, on the 24th of March, subsequent to the date on which his hon. Friend had addressed the House, 1,000,000 percussion caps had been exported to New York; on the 25th, 870 bundles of gun-barrels, and 4 tons 16 cwt. of rifle-barrels; on the 26th, 10 cases of rifles; on the 30th, 341 bundles of gun-barrels; on the same day, another shipment of 433 bundles; on the 1st of April, 8,100 bundles; on the 9th of April, 17 tons 12 cwt. of gun-barrels, and on the same day 4 tons 3 cwt.; on the 10th, 20 cases, containing 400 rifles; on the 13th, 36 tons 11 cwt. of gun barrels; on the l6th, 150 bundles of gun-barrels; and on the 22nd, 200 cases of rifles, shipped by Messrs. Brown, Shipley & Co. That was not all. His Liverpool friends generally made their shipments as cleverly as they could, and he had another Return showing 437 packages of "hardware" exported to the Northern Slates. It was pretty well known in Liverpool what that "hardware" was, and any of the detectives could easily ascertain the fact. But they were not satisfied with supplying the Federal Government with cases of rifles, bundles of gun-barrels, and percussion caps, they were sending that Government the hands to use them; and the House would be surprised when he stated, that the emigration of Irish labourers from Liverpool during the present year up to that period had been greater than was known since 1853. There had emigrated from Liverpool, to the 31st of March last, no less than 24,807 emigrants, and from the 1st of March to the 21st of April, no less than 14,648. Now, they had no right to stop these emigrants from going, but they had a right to ascertain by whom they were sent; and he was told—and if Her Majesty's Government wished to investigate the tiling he could communicate to them the names of his informants—that the passage-money of a large number of these men had been paid to America. They were told that the Foreign Enlistment Act applied only to ships, an 709 not to the exportation of arms; but the people of this country would nut be satisfied with such an explanation. The Foreign Enlistment Act was an Act of the Legislature; and if this country professed to observe strict neutrality, it was the duty of the Government to have that Act amended, so that the shipment of firms should be prevented as well as the fitting of vessels supposed to be intended for warlike purposes. He would not enter into any discussion of the Foreign Enlistment Act on this occasion, and he purposely abstained from saying anything which might be considered irritating either to the people of this country or to the United States. But he should ill discharge the duty which he owed to his constituents, to the House, and to the country, if he did not here solemnly enter his public protest against the system of espionage which had been introduced into this country, and which was famishing fictitious information to the American Government—information which was leading our merchants into the most serious difficulties, and which, if not guarded against, would assuredly lend the Government into far more serious difficulties, lie had now, as briefly as he could, stated the facts of the case. As a previous Motion had been negatived, he believed he was precluded by the forms of the House from moving for the papers in the usual way, and therefore he could only appeal to the Government to offer every possible facility to the owners of the Alexandra, in order that they might free themselves from a charge which be believed to be utterly unfounded, and from a position which was fraught with the greatest hardship and injustice.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that the answer to the hon. Gentleman's Motion, even if the forms of the House had allowed it to be moved, could in substance have been but, one, and that answer he would not delay one moment in giving. Under the circumstances of the case, as they had been correctly detailed by the bon. Member, it was impossible that the Motion could have been assented to. The House would assume that the seizure of the Alexandra at the instance of the Government had taken place on the advice of responsible officers, upon such evidence as satisfied them that that advice ought to be given. The vessel was now in the custody of the law; proceedings were pending; and nothing could be more inopportune, or could tend more completely to subvert the 710 ends of justice, than for that House, at such a moment, to furnish the persons accused with the data and the materials upon which the accusation on the part of the Government proceeded. The hon. Member had faded to suggest any reason of convenience or of justice which justified him in calling for the production of these papers, and it would ill become the Executive to encourage any such discussion as that which the hon. Member desired. That I was all he had to say on the Motion proper, and it was a sufficient answer; and he had no doubt every other Member of the Government would cautiously and deliberately I abstain from being drawn into any discussion of the case of the Alexandra. He thought that any discussion on that subject was most inopportune, and might he followed by most inconvenient consequences. But as the hon. Member had diverged into other matters not connected with the particular case, he ought not to pass over one or two of his observations. The hon. Member complained, that while the Government were vigilant in seizing that vessel, they shut their eyes to other flagrant violations of the law of the country, and that shipments of arms for one belligerent or the other took place openly in Liverpool from day to day, and yet the Government did not interfere. The hon. Gentleman did not say that it was in the power of the Government to interfere, and he (the Attorney General) would tell him such interference was not in their power. The matter had been discussed in that House, and his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General had referred to unquestionable authorities which showed, in the first place, that according to principles of international law it was not the duty of n neutral Power to interfere with the supplies of arms and munitions of war by its own subjects to belligerents; and in the next place, that such supply and sale of arms violated no stipulation in the Foreign Enlistment Act, and no part of the municipal law of this country. The hon. Member made another complaint. He said that under the name of emigrants persons were shipped in Liverpool who had been engaged to servo in the army of one of the belligerents. The Foreign Enlistment Act provided for the cases of the enlistment and shipment of recruits; and if the persons who bad supplied the information on that head to the hon. Member would furnish the same information to the officers acting at Liverpool for the Executive—if they fur- 711 nished to those officers information showing that on board ships in that port were persons who had been enlisted to serve in the army of the United States, or in the army of the Confederates, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that measures would he taken under the Foreign Enlistment Act to prevent the departure of those recruits to serve in the army of either of the belligerents. The Foreign Enlistment Act authorized the laying of informations before the local magistrates for the purpose of obtaining warrants to prevent the sailing of such ships, and to bring before a magistrate the persons found on board and engaged to serve as soldiers; and the hon. Member might rest assured that the Government would give effect to the provisions of that Act whenever a proper case was brought under their notice. He thought it was unfair of the hon. Member, without evidence, to charge the Government with severity in enforcing the law with respect to one class of eases, and with failing to put it in force with regard to another class. He hoped, that feeling that it was a matter which concerned the administration of justice, the hon. Gentleman would not persevere with the demand which he made upon the Government.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, that the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool was one of a very serious character, and he did not think that the hon. and learned the Attorney General had answered his hon. Friend's point. He had never heard a simpler or more intelligible case than that put forward by the hon. Member, for Liverpool. As he put it, the case was one of shipbuilders in their lawful employment being called on to build a ship by contract. He did not understand him to say whether the ship had been sold.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he begged to observe that it could not have been sold. It might be well to state the course of proceeding in such cases. As soon as convenient after the seizure of the vessel an appraisement took place, and a paper was drawn up which not only stated the appraisement, but the grounds of seizure. It was subsequent to that process that the ship was sold, or forfeited, or released.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he was much obliged to his hon. and learned Friend, but he had not required the information just communicated by the Attorney General. He was endeavouring to convey to 712 the House his impression that according to the statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool the vessel had not been sold to any foreign Power, and that the transaction which had taken place in Liverpool was a very simple and honest one. Her Majesty's Government had seized the ship Alexandra, and the owners of the ship had the presumption to ask the reason why that had been done. But they had not been so fortunate as to get an answer to that question from the various authorities to whom they had boon referred, each of them giving in succession the stereotyped answer that the matter would be considered by somebody else, who never considered it. Finally, it had come round to the Attorney General to explain the case; but he did not understand his hon. and learned Friend to differ from his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool as to the fact of the seizure; but what the owners of the ship, his hon. Friend, and the House wanted to know was this—what was the crime? The Foreign Enlistment Act provided for the case of persons fitting out, arming, or attempting or endeavouring to equip, or assisting to arm or equip any vessel to be used against any foreign State with which Her Majesty was at peace. He had not heard that in their answers to the owners of the Alexandra the Government alleged there was distinct evidence before them, not that a ship was fitting out, but that a ship was fitting out which was about to be used for the purposes of war against a Power with which the Queen of England was at peace, for that was the offence. He had not heard the Attorney General state anything of the offence; but he presumed his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General would supply any omissions in the speech which had just been delivered to the House. Up to that moment he had not heard anything charged against the builders of the Alexandra, further than that they had been building a ship which was intended to sail to some other port; but that was what had often been done in this country before, and what he ventured to think would often be done in it again. The Attorney General stated that he was not to be provoked into giving any reasons for the course which had been pursued in this case. His hon. Friend had told them, that when the merchants in Liverpool whose property had been seized asked on what ground the seizure had been made, the Government agents, in their 713 wisdom, had refused to afford them that information. Now, he (Mr. Whiteside) wanted to know the circumstances which led to such an exceptional proceeding in that case. If a deposition was made against the meanest person in the land charging him with any offence, he had a right to be furnished with a copy of the information. In cases of high treason the public prosecutor must go further, and give the accused a list containing the name of every witness against him. That being so, he could not understand why the principle adopted in the case under consideration had been introduced in England for the first time. Why was the information to be locked up in a green box, and why should the Attorney General refuse to state the offence? He held that every Englishman had a right to know the crime with which he was charged; and why should a shipbuilder he deprived of that which was granted to the humblest person in the land? The matter, as represented by his hon. Friend, stood thus:—A vessel had been built which, according to his statement, was not capable of being used for the purposes of war, and was not intended or equipped for that purpose, and yet it had been seized without any reason for that seizure having been assigned. He did not say, that if there was regular proof that it was intended the vessel should be used against the Government of the United States, that would not be a primâ facie case against the builder; but he did say, that as the case stood between the statement of his hon. Friend, on the one hand, and that of the Attorney General, on the other, it was clearly in favour of his hon. Friend and against the Attorney General.
§ MR. COLLIER
said, that if the hon. Member for Liverpool had confined his observations to the circumstances attending the seizure of the Alexandra, he should not have taken any part in the debate. But as the hon. Gentleman had referred to the general question of how far it was the duty of the Government to prohibit the exportation of arms, and to enforce the Foreign Enlistment Act, and as some misapprehension appeared to exist in his mind upon the subject, he (Mr. Collier) hoped the House would permit him to state his views upon those questions. In dealing with them, the House would probably agree with him that it would be undesirable to regard them solely from a neutral point of view. They were then neutrals, but they had been belligerents, and it was impossi- 714 ble to say how soon they might be belligerents again. If they laid down rules applicable only to their neutral position, those rules might be used to their disadvantage when they became belligerents. The proper course was to ascertain the rule of law applicable to the subject, and to apply that rule impartially to all nations with whom they had to deal, without favour and without fear. And first, upon principles of international law, every State had a right to exclusive sovereignty within its own dominions, and to prevent the intrusion of any belligerent, carrying on hostile operations. But, granted the right of the neutral to complain of a belligerent who made use of its territory for hostile purposes, was there a co-extensive right in the co belligerent to remonstrate? If the neutral allowed its territory to be used for hostile purposes to such an extent that the belligerent against whom they were directed could accuse it of complicity, that belligerent had cause of complaint independently of provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act. Upon that ground it was, that when, in 1793, the French acted in that way, and a number of Alabamas issued from the American ports, captured English vessels, and took them off to France, they remonstrated with the American Government, and said that it was a breach of neutrality. For a time the American Government, under a mistaken impression that by treaty with France those proceedings were allowable, permitted them. But they soon discovered their mistake, acknowledged the justice of the remonstrances, and stopped the equipment of vessels in their ports. England remonstrated with the United States upon two grounds—first, that they permitted the export of aims and ammunition to France, and secondly, that they allowed the equipping of vessels of war in their ports. The American Government distinctly repudiated their obligation to prevent the shipment of arms, but as distinctly admitted their obligation as to vessels of war. The letter of Mr. Jefferson to the Minister Plenipotentiary of France put the question of the export of arms upon very clear grounds—Sir,—Having received several memorials from the British Minister on subjects arising out of the present war, I take the liberty of enclosing them to you, and shall add an explanation of the determination of the Government thereon. In one of these memorials it is stated that arms and military accoutrements are now buying up by a French agent in this country, with an intent to export 715 them to France. We have answered that our citizens have always been free to make, vend, or export arms; that it is the constant occupation and livelihood of some of them. To suppress their callings, the only means, perhaps, of their subsistence, because a war exists in foreign and distant countries with which we have no concern, would scarcely be expected. It would be hard in principle and impossible in practice.But with regard to vessels of war he wrote—Our information is not perfect on the subject-matter of another of these memorials, which states that a vessel has been fitted out at Charleston, manned here, and partly too with citizens of the United States; received a commission there to cruise against nations at peace with us, and has taken and sent a British vessel into this port. … Without taking all these facts for granted, we have not hesitated to express oar highest disapprobation of the conduct of any of our citizens who may personally engage in committing hostilities at sea against any of the nations parties to the present war, and to declare, that if the case has happened, or if it should happen, we will exert all the means with which the laws and Constitution have armed us to discover such offenders, and bring them to condign punishment.And with regard to the enlistment of men Mr. Jefferson, writing to Mr. Morris, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to the Republic of France, said—The right of raising troops being one of the rights of sovereignty, and consequently appertaining exclusively to the nation itself, no foreign Power or person can levy men within its territory without its consent, and he who does so can be rightfully and severely punished. If the United States have a right to refuse the permission to arm vessels, or raise men within their ports and territories, they are bound by the laws of neutrality to exercise that right, and to prohibit such armaments and enlistments … We hold it certain that the law of nations and the rules of neutrality forbid our permitting either party to arm in our ports.If one nation should permit another to carry on hostilities [Cries of To arm], it would be a breach of neutrality of which the co-belligerent had a right to complain. That being so, the Americans and ourselves had passed Foreign Enlistment Acts for the purpose of more effectually preserving neutrality, and of punishing those subjects who might have violated it, as well as to provide effectually against vessels equipped or armed proceeding from our ports. [Mr. ROEBUCK: Equipped and armed.] His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield said "equipped and armed;" but if he referred to the Act of Parliament, he would find the words were "equipped or armed." The Foreign Enlistment Act of America was substantially the same as that of Great Britain, and inasmuch as there had been no decision on the subject 716 in this country, he might refer to those which had been given in America. It had been said in America that the building, equipping, and even arming of a vessel, on the speculation of selling her to a belligerent, in a foreign port, was not a breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and upon that point Judge Story laid down the law thus—But there is nothing in our laws, or in the law of nations, that forbids our citizens from sending armed vessels, as well as munitions of war, to foreign ports for sale. It is a commercial adventure which no nation is bound to prohibit, and which only exposes the persons engaged in it to the penalty of confiscation.But there was another case hearing on the subject—that of a man named De Quincey, who was indicted under the Foreign Enlistment Act. He had partially equipped a vessel at Baltimore, and sent her to St. Thomas's with a view to procure funds for equipping her in full and disposing of her to a foreign Power. Upon that case the Supreme Court said—We are of opinion that it is not necessary that the jury should believe or find that the Bolivar, when she left Baltimore and when she arrived at St. Thomas's, and during the voyage from Baltimore to St. Thomas's, was armed in a condition to commit hostilities, in order to find the defendant guilty.The offence consists principally in the intention with which the preparations were made. These preparations must be made within the limits of the United States; and it is equally necessary that the intention with respect to the employment of the vessel should be formed before she leaves the United States.Two things were therefore necessary—-first, that the vessel should be equipped or armed, and next, that she should be fitted out with a present intention of being employed in the service of one of the belligerents, and against a Power with which they were at peace. The case of the Alexandra was sub judice, and he should therefore express no opinion upon it; but the Americans could not complain if in England the same construction was put upon cases of that kind as their own courts had done. He was glad to find, from the speech of the Solicitor General, that it was the intention of the Government to put the Foreign Enlistment Act into operation whenever a case came before them supported by proper evidence. It was evident that the Government could not act on mere hearsay and suspicion, but we owed it to ourselves and to a nation with which we were at amity to act upon proper evidence, and to do fur them what we should expect 717 them in a like case to do for us. Let the House suppose that we were at war with America, that we had blockaded all their ports, and that they resorted to the ports of Europe for the purpose of fitting out privateers against us. If that were permitted openly and notoriously to be done by foreign Governments, there could he no doubt that Her Majesty's Government would make the fitting out of those privateers a matter of remonstrance. On grounds of international law, therefore, the Americans had a right to expect that we should not knowingly and wilfully allow our shores to be made, the scene of hostile operations against them; and they had also a right to expect that, we should, on proper evidence, enforce the Foreign Enlistment Act. He (Mr. Collier) made those observations chiefly for the purpose of preventing any confusion of ideas between the duty of the Government to prevent the mere export of arms, and to prevent hostile expeditions from being fitted out in this country. He would not say that the mere non-enforcement of municipal law was a cause of war. It was, in a great measure, a question of discretion on the part of a Government; but it should be borne in mind that the Foreign Enlistment Acts of both countries bad been declared by great jurists as based on international law. In the case of the Alabama he thought there was evidence that the Confederate Government were fitting out in this country a vessel for hostile operations, and that they were even enlisting seamen in our ports for this purpose. That was a clear case for enforcing the Foreign Enlistment Act. But it did not follow, because the Law Officers of the Crown took a; reasonable time to consider the evidence laid before them, and because the Alabama contrived by a stratagem to escape, that we were therefore answerable to the Americans for any losses she may inflict upon them. The case against her was only completed on the 26th of the month, and on the 29th the Law Officers had delivered their opinion. With regard to the Alexandra he would say nothing, but he presumed that the Government would not have acted without having some weighty evidence laid before them. On the previous night a very irritating debate had taken place in that House which he greatly regretted. Whatever other grounds of complaint they might have—and he was not one to deny that they might have some—whatever other grounds of complaint they might 718 have, they certainly could not soy that the Americans had refused to enforce their Foreign Enlistment Acts. They bad passed their Act before that of England; they had also passed a second, at their instigation, in 1818; and they bad passed a third of great stringency during the Canadian rebellion. During the Russian war they suspended the building of a vessel, and they stopped a second, which after a full investigation was acquitted. He was one of those who sincerely desired peace, though he by no means would counsel submission. If the Americans had been guilty of any breach of international law, let us make that a ground of remonstrance against them, and insist upon our rights; but let us not make the existence of such grounds of complaint a pretext for refusing to enforce our own laws. He believed and hoped that peace would be maintained. He believed that the great bulk not only of their own countrymen, but of the American people also, desired it. They had, no doubt, used irritating language, and probably had done irritating acts; but he would remind the House that those irritating expressions no more represented the feelings of the Americans at large than similar expressions in that House represented the feeling of England. He hoped, and believed, that peace would be maintained; but if war must come, let them endeavour so to demean themselves that the opinion of the whole civilized world might be in their favour. Let them at any rate be able to satisfy their own conscience that they had left nothing undone which was consistent with national honour to avert so great a calamity.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
—Sir, I am anxious, with as little delay as possible, to restore the question before us from the somewhat erroneous footing on which it has been placed by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down to the short and definite basis on which it was laid before the House by the able, lucid, and temperate speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool. I venture to say that this is no question on the policy of the Foreign Enlistment Act, or on the duty of the Government to enforce it. My hon. Friend expressly disclaimed, at the commencement of his speech, any intention of raising a discussion on the policy of the Foreign Enlistment Act. He said that a notice bad been placed on the paper on that subject by the hon. Member for Roch- 719 dale, and that he might bring that forward if he thought fit; and I think, too, there wilt be no question raised in the House as to the duty of the Government to enforce that Act, provided they do nothing more. We do not require to be told that there are motives of self-interest by which we should be led to enforce the Foreign Enlistment Act; like every other Act, it ought to be enforced because it is the law, and not from any motives of self-interest. Neither is this a question now to be discussed with reference to the conduct of the American Government in interfering with or seizing the merchant ships of this country. That is a question which, no doubt, excites great public interest. We are told that it is under consideration; and feeling deeply the gravity of agitating angry topics on such a subject, I am quite willing to wait until the whole facts with regard to cases of that kind are brought before the House. The question properly before us is of a wholly different description. It is simply a question between the Government and one of its own subjects. The noble Viscount said, not long ago, that he felt what would be the consequences if any proposition was made by the Government to this House to alter the laws of the country at the request of a foreign Power. But there is another matter which it behoves this House well to watch, and that is, that the laws we have are not suspended or stretched in order to pacify or gratify a foreign Power. We have been told, though it will not be conclusive on the subject, and it has not been denied, that the proceedings taken by the Government have been taken on the motion and at the instance of the American Government. The American Consul has put our Government into motion. I do not complain of that, but we must watch closely that nothing more is done than the law of the country will warrant. The whole matter lies in a nutshell, and does not require any expansion of statement. The charges, or rather the points on which we require explanation, are very simple; and of course if they are not explained, then they become charges against the Government. We have first of all a statement, and as it refers to a matter which is about to undergo judicial investigation, I do not for a moment say that it may not be questioned or rebutted. It was this:—A ship was being built by a firm of great respectability in Liverpool, as they say, not upon order, but on speculation. She was not a war vessel, and was not equipped 720 for war. She was built for sale, and was fitted for a yacht or small merchant vessel; 300 tons, I think, was her burden, and 60-horse power. The hon. Member for Liverpool has been on board of her, and he confirms the statement made by her builders. On the 6th of April, while she was in process of completion and the workmen were still engaged on her, the vessel was seized by order of the Government, through the instrumentality of the Custom House officers. The House may well be of opinion that these gentlemen, if their statement be true, were very much surprised and asked for some explanation. They asked, of course, for what offence it was that the vessel had been seized, but they could get no answer. Until the cause of seizure was put upon record no information whatever was given to these gentlemen. Between the 6th of April and the 21st or 22nd, for more than a fortnight, they were left in profound doubt and ignorance as to what was the crime laid to their charge. So completely reticent were the Government on the point that they knew not whether it was for a breach of the fiscal laws, or of the Foreign Enlistment Act, or any other enactment that the vessel had been seized. That is the first point on which we ask for some information. Such reticence could not have been conducive to the interests of justice; and why was it then, that these gentlemen, whose ship had been seized and their workmen turned off at the risk of great pecuniary damage to them, were left in ignorance of the charge made against them? I should be the last man in the world to ask the House to enter into an investigation of a matter which is about to become a subject of trial; but we are entitled to know what the offence was. Of course, if there be an offence, let those who have committed it be proceeded against in the ordinary manner. The next complaint which we make against the Government is this:—These gentlemen wrote to the Government in a manner which shows a simple desire to obtain information. They said, "We understand informations have been sworn, and we wish the Solicitor of the Customs to allow us to have copies of them." The Solicitor of the Customs seems to have thought that a very remarkable request, and said he would apply to his employers. Afterwards he refers them to the police magistrate, who refers them to the mayor, and the mayor tells them he is acting under the orders of the Home Office. To the fountain head they 721 go, and there they are told that the informations will not be shown to them. Now, the most ordinary criminal to whose charge a crime is laid is entitled, sometimes, if not always, by law, and always by that courtesy and sense of justice which regulates the proceedings in our courts of justice, to a copy of the information on which he is to be tried. We really ought to have some explanation on this point. The Attorney General said he would not enter into the merits of the case. I do not want him to do so, what I want is to know why a copy of the depositions was refused to the owners of this vessel. At last, on the 21st or 22nd of the month, after the lapse of more than a fortnight, au official document was served on the parties, declaring the seizure of the vessel. That was the commencement of that process which the Attorney General explained to us, and which unlearned people call "exchequering." Well here, at last, we have the statement of the Government in black and white. Here, then, one should be able to learn what is the crime with which these people are charged. When I first read the document in the newspapers, I said, "Oh, this must be a mistake; there is not a solicitor's clerk in the kingdom who would not see that there is no offence described here for which a vessel could be seized." I thought it very likely that only half of the document had been printed in the newspapers, and that the important half had been loft out. But when the hon. number for Liverpool read the notice this evening, I followed him word for word, and find that my version is just the same as his. Let the House observe the crime of which Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. are accused. This is not a question of the policy of the Foreign Enlistment Act. The question is simply whether any offence is alleged against the owners of this vessel which any one in this House will venture to say conies under the Act I have named or any other. The following is the cause of seizure stated in the appraisement filed in the Court of Exchequer:—No. 1. Date, 1863. Seized by officer Edward Morgan. Cause of seizure:—For being equipped, furnished, and fitted out with intent to be employed in the service of persons exercising, or assuming to exercise, the powers of self-government in and over a foreign State, colony, province, or people, the ship or vessel Alexandra, of Liverpool, with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, as she now lies.—Signed, Samuel Price Edwards, John King, C. W. Kellock, H. B. Watson.Really, Sir, of all the views of the law I 722 ever heard of, this is the most extraordinary. The shipbuilders of the country are informed by Her Majesty's Government, that if they construct vessels to be fitted out for a foreign State, such vessels are liable to seizure. When the Attorney General was speaking, I could not help asking under what clause of the Foreign Enlistment Act the ship was seized. The answer was the 7th; but in this document the portion of that clause which constitutes the offence is left out. The whole gist of the clause is not the building or equipping of a ship for a foreign Power, for I suppose the shipbuilders will be told that they may take orders from France or Italy, or any such Government, but the building and fitting out of a vessel intended to serve as a transport or storeship or to commit hostilities against some Prince or State with; which Her Majesty is at peace. ["Hear, hear! "] My hon. and learned Friend cries "Hear, hear!" but there is no word of all this in the official document. The character of Hamlet is left out of the play. Of course, in making these remarks I am assuming that the paper read by the hon. Member for Liverpool is complete and correct; and, of course, my hon. and learned Friend will not suppose I attribute the blunder to him. I am only pointing out to the Government how their law business is conducted by the American Consul at Liverpool. This document is, I suppose, that gentleman's composition, and tells us what is meant by enforcing the Foreign Enlistment Act. It certainly is enforcing the Act with a vengeance. No wonder the merchants and shipbuilders of Liverpool have been thrown into a state of great astonishment, and that they have asked their Member to bring the matter before the House. For a fortnight they have been denied any explanation of the grounds on which the vessel was seized, and then, at the end of that period they are served by the Government with a notice professing to state the cause of the proceedings, but which does not suggest any crime whatever. Now, this is really a very serious question. It is very hard on the merchants to be dealt with in this way. If an offence has been committed under the 7th section of the Foreign Enlistment Act, a mode is therein pointed out by which the question may be brought to a speedy trial. Penalties are enacted which may be proceeded for in any of the local courts. Had that course been taken, both the merchants and the general public would have been satisfied whether 723 or not there was a just ground of seizure. On the contrary, the Government resort, to a practice which is not altogether new, but is extremely rare—they exchequer the ship. I do not suppose there has been a ship exchequered for a longtime—certainly not during the tenure of office of the hon. and learned Gentlemen who fill so well the office of Law Advisers of the Crown, The Attorney General may still pursue the ship; if he succeeds, it will be, I suppose, on the merits of the case. But if he fails, who if to compensate the merchants for their trouble and loss of time, and for the damage they have sustained by the discharge of their Workmen, by the non-completion of their contract, and by their ship not being engaged in the trade for which it was intended? That is a consideration of which the House, I trust, will not lose sight, and insist on some explanation being given why the more tedious rather than the shorter process had been resorted to. I have just had put into my hand a memorandum pointing out that I was wrong in saying that a notice was served on Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Co. It appears that the document I quoted was not served at all, but was obtained by the solicitor of the firm, on a formal application to the Court of Exchequer; so that they did not receive even the courtesy of an intimation of the crime imputed to them. I hope the House will observe that we desire information on these points, and not a general discussion of the policy of the Foreign Enlistment Act.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, the legal points that have been discussed in connection with this question are, undoubtedly, of the greatest importance, but I apprehend that no one will expect that any conclusive result will arise from this passage of arms, between Gentlemen learned in the law in this House upon a question which is. I believe, now pending before the law courts, When the hon. Member for Liverpool gave notice of his Motion, I had no idea he could have contemplated any such result, or that he could have wished ibis question to be confined to the mere technical aspect which has been sought to be given to it. I think a larger and more important question is, before us. It is not merely the vessel now under consideration that public report charges with being intended to commit a breach of the Statute Law. It is said there are many vessels now building with the same object in view, and I apprehend that tins is a proper time in the interests 724 of this country—in the interests of this country and no other country—to offer a few remarks upon this subject. I expressly speak of the interests of this country, because we are constantly met by phrases such as "You are consulting American interests;"—" You are neglecting the honour of this country." I wish to consider British interests, my observations on the Foreign Enlistment Act, and I will consider no other interest; and I maintain, at the outset, there is no other country in the world that has a quarter—I say deliberately a quarter—of the interest in upholding the system of international law, of which the Foreign Enlistment Act is the basis. Now, Sir, the hon. Member for Liverpool has tonight—as was done by the hon. and learned Solicitor General on a former occasion—mixed up another question which has tended to bewilder and confuse the public mind here and out of doors, and the world over, as to two questions which are totally distinct. The hon. Member opposite has referred—and the greater part of his speech was made up of that subject—to the practice of buying and selling and exporting arms and munitions of war. I am sorry that topic was touched upon both now and on a former occasion when I was not present, though I have read the proceedings. There is no law in this country that prohibits the buying and selling or manufacturing or exporting arms and munitions of war. It has been truly said by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, and by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, that there no country that has furnished such high authorities upon that subject as America itself. From the time of Jefferson, who, in that admirable passage read by the hon. Member for Plymouth, exhausted the whole argument in a few lines, down to the present time every great authority in that country has clearly and distinctly had down that a Government is not responsible for the dealings of its subjects in the munitions of war. They carry on such a traffic at their own risk; and if they attempt to run a. blockade, the Government is not responsible, and it never ought to be made the subject of diplomatic communication or complaint. I am astonished that Mr. Adams and Mr. Seward should have mixed that question up in their correspondence, with that of equipments for war, I will not say I was astonished at Mr. Seward, been use be writes so much 725 that he is in danger of writing on every subject and on every side of a subject—-but I am astonished that Mr. Adams should have mixed this question up with what is really a vital question—that of furnishing and equipping ships of war. There is only one reason why I am not sorry Mr. Adams has touched upon that subject. He has alluded to large and systematic operations being carried on in this country for sending munitions of war to blockaded ports. That involves the risk of being seized by the cruisers of the Federal States; and as the only mode of punishing those who violate the blockade is in the hands of those who are maintaining the blockade (and we know the blockade is violated systematically—we know there are joint stock companies to do it)—as the only authority that can punish the guilty parties, by the confiscation of their property, is the Federal Government, through the prize courts; and as the only police that can seize them are the Federal cruisers, it is well the country should know what is going on. Because, if in the crowd of steamers sent out now for the first time to carry on our commerce with the West Indies—though a few years ago we were obliged to pay £250,000 a year for a line of steamers to carry our letters there—if, I say, in that crowd of steamers one or two innocent vessels should be detained by the blockading squadron, I think Mr. Adams has so far done good in showing that their Government is entitled to some forbearance from us if those one or two innocent vessels should suffer with the guilty. I am not going into the question of the blockade now. I promise that I will deal with that question separately another time, and I shall be just as ready to meet your arguments on English grounds then as I am on the question now before us. Now, coming to the real and only question before us—the infringement of our own Foreign Enlistment Act—what are the grounds upon which I desire to see the Government exercise the utmost vigilance in preventing the violation of that law? I say, first, it is because we, of all other countries, have the most at stake in seeing that law observed. How do I hope ever to see the Government supported—how do I hope to see public opinion sanction the vigilant observance of that law, but by making it clear to this House, and to the country, that the Americans have a claim upon us for the due observance of that law, inasmuch as they 726 have themselves at all times exercised a fair reciprocity towards us when we have had occasion to appeal to them, when we have been in their present position? ["No. no! "] I am glad to hear the hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite say, "No, no." I like to hear an opponent say "No," if he will listen to me. And when he has listened, I challenge him, in all the records of our State papers, to show an instance, in our diplomatic correspondence, of a despatch having been written complaining of any unredressed grievance under the Foreign Enlistment Act of the United States. Now, what has been the conduct of the American Government with reference to this system of legislation. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) stated truly that all the legislation that has taken place in America, upon the question of foreign enlistment, has been at the instance, and in behalf, I may say, of European Governments, and I will add, that in a majority of cases, it has been at the instance and for the benefit of England. I will take the first Act, passed in. 1794. I am not going to dwell on historical subjects, or to repeat the familiar history of Mr. Genet, and his proceedings in 1793; but the passing of that Act so remarkably illustrates the good faith of the American people that it cannot be passed over without notice. The United States had then been ten years an independent nation, owing its independence mainly to the assistance given by France. In the course of these ten years France had gone through a revolution; it had become a sister Republic; and it sent out an envoy to America, claiming assistance, and applying for the right of fitting out cruisers in American ports. It was against England, the old enemy of both, that it sought this advantage. What was the conduct of America under these circumstances, the most trying that could be imagined? Why, we all know that it required all the moral power, of Washington to enforce the law. Not the law of America, for in 1793 the United States had no enlistment law, but they put themselves under the common law of England, or what may be called international law, and they gave us all the protection which they now ask us to give them. In 1794 they passed a Foreign Enlistment Act, and at whose instance? I will not weary you with long extracts or historical references of my own. I will give you what was said by an English 727 statesman, whose views will probably be heard with some respect on the other side. Mr. Canning, speaking on the passing of our Foreign Enlistment Bill, in 1819, said—In 1794 this country complained of various breeches of neutrality committed on the part of citizens of the United States of America. What was the conduct of that nation in consequence? Did it resent the complaint as an infringement of its independence? Did it refuse to take such steps as would insure the immediate observance of neutrality? Neither. In 1794, immediately after the application from the British Government, the Legislature of the United States passed an Act prohibiting, under heavy penalties, the engagement of American citizens in the armies of any belligerent Power.That was not merely an Act to prevent enlistment. It was a Foreign Enlistment Act, embracing our own provisions with reference to ships of war. That was the opinion of Mr. Canning. I come now to the next case, in which the Americans carried out and enforced, in its entirety, the principle of neutrality under the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act, in the year 1818. At that time the Spanish American Republics were in revolt against the mother country. There was a great feeling of sympathy in America with the revolted colonists, and there was a very strong feeling in this country. We generally sympathize with everybody's rebels but our own. Mr. Canning and Lord Castlereagh brought into this House in 1819 a Foreign Enlistment Bill, which was intended to make provision for the more faithful observance of our neutrality to wards the Spanish colonies. This Bill met with great resistance from the Whig party; and among others it was opposed by Sir James Macintosh, I will read an extract from the speech of Lord Castlereagh, whom hon. Gentlemen opposite—even those below the gangway—will probably deem an authority. Lord Castlereagh, speaking on that Bill on the 13th of May, and using a mode of argument that would tell effectually with his Whig opponents, said—It was a little too much in the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir James Macintosh) to censure the Government of this country, as being hostile to the South Americans and partial to Spain, while we had delayed doing what another Government, which he would allow to be free and popular, had done long ago. He would ask him, had the United States done nothing to prevent their citizens from assisting the South Americans? They had enacted two laws on the subject, nearly of the same tendency as that now proposed.Now, I beg to remind the House that not 728 only is it true, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Plymouth says, that the American Government has passed its Foreign Enlistment Acts at the instance of European countries; but there is this remarkable fact also to be borne in mind, as proving the good faith of that Government and people, that they have passed those Acts in direct opposition to the sympathies and even to the supposed interests of the country. In every one of the three cases to which I have to refer they went against the national sympathies, and it required all the influence of the leading and authoritative politicians of the United States to carry the law against the popular feelings of the country. But now I come to the strongest case of all. I am going to bring as a witness a person who is present—the noble Lord at the head of the Government. In 1837, as most of us are old enough to remember, a rebellion broke out in Canada, and when this House met in January, 1838, we were in a state of great apprehension with reference to the state of affairs on the North American continent. Our apprehensions arose, not so much with respect to the rebellion in our own colonies, as on account of what was passing on the frontier of the United States. Great excitement prevailed among the border population, which sympathized strongly with the rebels; and the danger we felt was that that state of things might load to a collision with the United States. Soon after the meeting of the House, Sir Robert Inglis, interpreting the general anxiety of the country, rose and asked the noble Lord, who is now at the head of the Government, but. who was then Foreign Minister, if he had any objection to state what were at that moment the relations between Mr. Fox, our representative at Washington, and the Government of the United States. Lord Palmerston replied, that fortunately he was able lo give exact information, as lie had received a despatch from Mr. Fox the day before, from which I infer that the noble Lord and Sir Robert Inglis had agreed beforehand that this important question was to be put. The noble Lord went on to describe the state of excitement and dangerous agitation prevailing on the frontiers of Canada, how the rebels had taken possession of a place called Navy Island, how they had flocked there, and been joined by citizens of the United States, and how arms had been furnished to them, and how there existed in fact a most dangerous state of excitement. The 729 noble Lord further said that the Governor o Canada. Sir Francis Head, had sent a despatch to Air. Fox at Washington, complaining of this most unfortunate and menacing state of affairs; and now I will read the continuance of the noble Lord's speech with reference to the conduct of the American Government on that occasion—Mr. Fox immediately communicated these facts to the president of the United States, and received is reply a most friendly communication. In the first instance he had a verbal communication from Mr. Forsyth, the United States Foreign Secretary, containing an expression of sentiments such as might be expected from the friendly spirit of the United States Government, and the high sense of honour by which that country has been actuated in its dealings with foreign countries. On the 5th ult. Mr. Fox received a note from Mr. Forsyth in which was a passage to this effect:—'That all the constitutional Powers vested in the Executive would be exercised to maintain the supremacy of those laws which had been passed to fulfil the obligations of the United States towards all nations which should unfortunately be engaged in foreign or domestic warfare In addition to this assurance, that all the powers now vested in the central Government should be used to preserve neutrality, the President on the 5th, sent down a special message to Congress stating, that though the laws as they stood were quite sufficient to punish an infraction of the neutrality, they were not sufficient to prevent it, and asking Congress to give the Executive further power for that purpose. Upon the receipt of this communication, a short discussion, in which many of the leading men, including Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and others of high character, participated, took place in Congress, and, without exception, all who spoke expressed sentiments of a most friendly disposition towards this country; stating a strong opinion that the laws should be enforced, and that if, as they stood, they were insufficient, stronger powers should be given to the Executive.Now, let us pause to do justice to those great men, Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and others, who brought their great influence to bear at a time of immense excitement and dangerous animosity, and who brought their temporary popularity to the wind, in order that they might—as every man of public influence ought to do—make themselves the depository of the influence which they possessed for their country's advantage. Now, I am going to put an hypothetical case. Let us suppose that instead of the friendly answer which the American Government returned, the President had replied to Mr. Fox in these terms, "I hope the people and Government of the United States will believe that we are doing our best in every case to execute the law, but they must not imagine that any cry which may be raised will induce us to come down to Congress with a proposal to alter the law. If this cry is raised for the purpose 730 of driving the President's Government to do something which may be contrary to the dignity of the country in the way of altering our laws for the purpose of pleasing another Government, then all I can say is, that such a course is not likely to accomplish its purpose."
Now, with the simple alteration of the words "United Kingdom" for "the United States," "this House" for "Congress," and "Her Majesty's Government "for" the President's Government," we have exactly the language which was used by the noble Lord three weeks ago. I wish now to draw your attention to what was done in consequence of that promise of the American Government. Why, notwithstanding that the Foreign Enlistment Act, as it stood, was much more stringent than ours and gave greater powers than ours now docs, they passed a supplementary Act for the year, which gave such powers to the Government that one would hardly believe that such arbitrary powers would have been given to the Government of the United States. [Cries of Hear, hear!] I hear cries of "Hear, hear!" of a rather doubtful tone from the other side, but let hon. Gentlemen remember that that Act was passed twenty-five years ago, and nobody then said that the Americans were fond of submitting to tyranny. By this temporary Act, which received the assent of the President on the 10th of March, 1838, it was enacted—That the several collectors, naval officers, surveyors, inspectors of customs, marshals, and deputy-marshals of the United States, and every other officer who may be empowered for the purpose by the President of the United States, are hereby respectively authorized arid required to seize arid detain any vessel which may be provided or1 prepared for any military expedition or enterprise against the territories or dominions of any foreign Prince or Power;"—and so on.It gives them power to seize a vessel without any proof, an absolute power to seize on suspicion and detain any vessel for ten days, during which time they may gather evidence on the matter. If there was no proof, the vessel was then to be released; but she was liable to be seized again if any new case should arise. To carry out this arbitrary and temporary Act the whole powers of the militia and the volunteers of the country were placed at the disposal of these officers. That affords the third instance of the more in which the American Government has legislated for the benefit of European States, But there is a fourth ease, which affords another example, which 731 occurred on the occasion of the Crimean war. On the breaking-out of the war with Russia in 1854 we sent a communication to the American Government, and a duplicate of it was sent from the French Government also. We asked the American Government—In the spirit of just reciprocity to give orders that no privateer under Russian colours shall be equipped, or victualled, or admitted with its prizes in the ports of the United States, and also that the citizens of the United States shall rigorously abstain from taking part in armaments of this nature, or in any other measure opposed to the duties of a strict neutrality.I will not now refer to the conduct pursued by the American Government in reference to the ship that was about half built for the Russian Government in America, and the building of which was suspended. I heard some person whisper that the building of that vessel was suspended because the Russian Government could not find the money to finish it; but will any one believe that, when it is known that the Russian Government were at the time spending millions a week at Sebastopol? The vessel was not finished until three years after the war with Russia. There was another vessel called the Maury, which was suspected of being intended for the Russian Government, and was stopped under circumstances which showed a great deal more activity and vigilance than we have exhibited in the case of the Alabama. What I want to deduce from all these facts is this:—First, that the American Government have, from the very formation of their Union, shown a willingness to observe, maintain, and Enforce a strict neutrality in reference to the wars which have frequently taken place amongst European States. Next, that they have done it under circumstances of the utmost difficulty. It is easy enough to maintain neutrality when you have no feeling the other way to contend with. They did it in spite of their sympathies, and in opposition to their wishes. There can be no doubt, that in the case of the Canadian rebellion, there was a strong feeling amongst the mass of the American people that a successful rebellion in Canada would have led to the annexation of Canada to the United States. There is no doubt that the strongest national yearnings were enlisted on the side of the Canadians; and I want to call the attention of the House to the fact, that in spite of these temptations to go wrong, the United States have uniformly gone right on this question. We 732 may have had other grounds of complaint—I think, for instance, that in regard to our enlistments in America they persisted in their resentment against us in a manner that partook of unfriendly severity, if not of direct hostility; but in the matter of their Foreign Enlistment Acts I repeat again, and let no one answer me with a vague statement of what he has heard somewhere or other—I challenge any one to show mo in all our diplomatic correspondence a despatch which complains of an unredressed grievance under those Acts, I have mentioned these circumstances in the hope that they may become generally known, and in order that they may bring the sentiments of this House, and the public opinion of this country, to a temper which shall incline us to act by the United States as they have acted by us. If the motives which I have appealed to in this statement of facts will not have that effect, then I do not know that I ought to spend another minute in trying to bring any other motives to bear upon the minds of my countrymen. I do not intend to appeal to your fears; that would be out of the question; but I will not sit down without saying a word or two with reference to the interest we have in the question. If gratitude for the past observance of an honourable neutrality is not sufficient, let us look at what will be the consequence of pursuing another course. The lion, and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General, in a speech from which I may not quote, as it was delivered in a previous debate this Session, and which lie has published as a pamphlet, laid it down that we have only to deal with municipal law, and that the Foreign Enlistment Act was passed at our own will and pleasure, and that we may repeal it in like manner at our own pleasure. The Solicitor General laid it down broadly that the Foreign Enlistment Act was simply a measure of municipal law which we might repeal at our own will and pleasure. Now, I join issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I say we are bound as distinctly to the United States by the rules of honourable reciprocity in this case as if treaty engagements existed. We have gone to the Americans begging them not to allow their citizens to molest us, begging them not to allow privateers to be fitted out; and when it is clear that there has been no violation of their law, we are, I contend, bound to observe the same honourable neutrality. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, 733 that if we choose to allow both parties to come and buy ships of war here, no infringement of our neutral position would, as a consequence, take place. That may be an abstract legal truth; but what must we say of a statesman who stands up in the House of Commons and gives expression to snob a dictum as that, to be quoted hereafter in Washington? I am not going to discuss points of law with the lion, and learned Gentleman; that would be an act of presumption on my part, and we my possibly observe neutrality either by abstaining from assisting either party in the contest or by rendering assistance to both, is that, however, let me ask, a state of things which we ought to covet? I should like to know from hon. Gentlemen opposite what would be our fate if any of those numerous wars in which we have been engaged, and to the recurrence of which we are liable, if this doctrine were carried fully into effect? If, for instance, the little dark cloud which threatened a rupture, with Brazil had burst upon our heads, America would, according to the theory of the lion, and learned Gentleman, be entitled not only to build ships for us, but might fit out vessels for the Brazilian Government, to cruise in the name of that Government and with the commission of the Brazilian Emperor, against our commerce. But I will not rest my argument merely on the ground that this is a thing which might possibly happen if we were to adopt the line of policy to which the lion, and learned Gentleman has, as I think, so unwisely referred. Can we, I would ask, look for the maintenance of the law relative to foreign enlistment in America or elsewhere, unless we ourselves set the example of good faith? You have not only in America, but in Franco, a most stringent law on this subject. I wrote to a friend in France to ascertain what was the mode of proceeding adopted there in order to prevent vessels slipping from their ports as the Alabama had done from ours, and I was told that the required no Foreign Enlistment Act there for the purpose. By a penal code, which I believe all the nations of the Continent imitate more or less—any citizen of France, who without the con sent of the Government commits an act of hostility against a foreign Power by which the country incurs the risk of war, is liable to transportation. The law further provides that anybody who fits out a ship of war, or does any hostile act owing to which an enemy inflicts reprisals on a 734 French citizen, will likewise be held subject to the same- penalty. This, you may say, is very severe; but then you want reciprocity with that country. The French do not ask you to pass a law in accordance with their model; but what both France and America will require is this, that you will, in the event of war, as far as lies in your power, prevent privateers from going out and preying upon their commerce. You may choose any way you please to do it; but surely you have too much common sense to imagine that you can induce America to abstain from such a system in the future, unless you observe the laws of a fair reciprocity in her regard. Now, is there, let me ask, no way in which you can prevent ships of war from sailing from your ports, threatening, as they do, the commerce of a friendly country, all of them built in England, manned from England, armed and equipped from England, that were never intended for any destination, but are roaming the seas without any fixed goal, and marking their track by fire and devastation? That is the question to which you have to address yourselves, and unless you are prepared to set your face against this system, the Foreign Enlistment Act will be, as the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth said, a dead letter; and if it be made a dead letter here, most assuredly the same state of things will result elsewhere. Who, then, I should like to know, has the most to lose by the adoption of this system? I will show, by giving some figures which tell us how large a proportion of the property afloat on salt water belongs to British capitalists. The lowest estimate I have heard formed of the value of this properly, as entered through the insurance offices in the City and other quarters, shows that we have upon an average £100,000,000 to £120,000,000 sterling worth of the property of British capitalists on the seas. Rest assured no other country has £30,000,000 worth, and that you have as much property at stake upon the ocean as all the rest of the world put together. You have, moreover, 10,000,000 people in these islands to feed upon food brought from foreign countries. You get three-fourths of the tea and four-fifths of the silk from China; more than one-half of the tallow and hemp from Russia; there is more cotton, more wheat, more Indian corn brought to us than to any other country. You, who are so powerful here, and can set the world at defiance in your island home, are, the mo- 735 ment a war of reprisals is made on your commerce, the most vulnerable. ["No, no!"] The hon. Gentleman who says "No" does not understand the position of the commerce of England. But be that as it may, is there, I would ask, nothing we can do to show our good faith in this matter? Is it not derogatory that we should have any one in this country, and especially in this House, claiming to be educated and reflective, who would for a moment consent to put himself on the side of those who are committing those acts against the law of the country and its future welfare. I want public opinion to be ranged on the side of law in this as well as in every other matter? Is there any person who wishes to give his sanction to an offence against the law of the country? Every person engaged in the building of ships of war, under the circumstances to which I have referred, subjects himself to penal consequences—to fine and imprisonment. Is there any person who will encourage such a practice as that? Is there nothing we can do to show that we wish to put it down? The case of the Alabama is one that is, perhaps, clearer than the case of the Florida or the Japan. The last-mentioned vessel was, however, one not only built here for the Confederate Government, but manned by Englishmen surreptitiously conveyed on hoard the ship. The Alabama, it was said, escaped from our port under the pretext of going on a trip of pleasure, and it was stated in one of the despatches that orders were issued to have the vessel stopped at Nassau. If she was to be stopped at Nassau, why was she not stopped elsewhere? That vessel has been paying visits to our ports in other islands, and has been received with something like favour and consideration. There is a legal difficulty, I know, raised, that you cannot stop a vessel after her first voyage; but my answer is, that the Alabama has never made a voyage at all; she has been cruising about, and has no home. Why do you not forbid the re-entry of those vessels into your ports that left them manned by a majority of English sailors in violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act? Would any person have a right to complain of that? Proclaim the vessels that thus steal away from your ports outlaws so far us your ports are concerned. If you were to do what I suggest, other countries would follow your example, and put an end to those clandestine proceedings by making them unprofitable. It is our duty in re- 736 ference to the obligations of the past—it is our duty in reference to the stake we have in future to put an end to the present state of things. The whole system of the Foreign Enlistment Act is, I may add, only 200 years old. The ancients did not know the meaning of the word "neutrality" as we know it at the present day. In the Middle Ages people were hardly aware of such a thing as neutrality; the first Foreign Enlistment Act is hardly 200 years old, and since that time that system of legislation has grown up. It has been a code of legislation that has gradually grown up, and is now looked to by the nations to assist in keeping the peace and preventing the catastrophe of a general war. Shall we be the first to roll back the tide of civilization, and thus practically go back to barbarism and the Middle Ages, by virtually repealing this international code by which we preserve the rights and interests of neutrality? I cannot but think that this House and the country, when they reflect on the facts of the case, will consider that if they in any way lend their sanction to such a retrograde policy, they would be unworthy of themselves, and would be guilty of a great crime against humanity.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I rise, Sir, to address the House after my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale under a deep sense of that responsibility which weighs upon every Gentleman who speaks on American affairs in the present peculiar condition of our relations with that country. The state of the American war, and of our position with regard to the belligerent parties, has now become such that it has been evident at no distant date a very serious and practical discussion must take place as to our own position and as to the duties and responsibilities which it imposes upon us. We have had to night from both sides of the House expressions of opinion as to our relations with the Northern States, which show that the Gentlemen who expressed those opinions believe that we were rapidly drifting into war. I am sure, however, that when in England a war is not desired, and when in America a war is not for the interest of the country, we can drift into war only because this House neglects its duty, or because it has not the courage to perform its duty. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) adjured us to confine our observations to the local grievance lie brought before us; but the hon, and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) 737 and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) have gone far beyond the question to which he drew our attention. They have raised the whole question of the merits of England and the Northern States as contrasted with each other, and the hon. Member for Rochdale has passed a eulogium upon the proceedings and the temper of the North, attempting to lecture us into what he calls a becoming frame of mind, fit to bear a comparison with the equanimity exhibited by the Northern Government. Under present circumstances, I should not have undertaken the responsibility of originating a discussion which I have hitherto thought was to be deprecated; but when it is raised in this House by the friends and advocates of the Northern Government, disparaging, as I believe they have done, the Government of England, then I do think no good can arise, but much mischief may ensue, from our attempting to evade that discussion. As to the first question—the conduct of our Government in these proceedings—I shall only say a few words. The conduct of the Government has been the subject of charge and complaint from both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Liverpool, complaining on the side of the South, says, "You have been too severe in your administration of the law." The hon. Member for Rochdale, speaking on the other side, says, "So far from being too severe, you have shown a disposition to disregard that law to the advantage of the South." "You have been a great deal too vigilant," says the hon. Member for Liverpool; "You have been too lax," says the hon. Member for Rochdale. I am brought between these contradictory complaints to the conclusion which I believe has been arrived at by a majority of those in this House, who at the commencement of the war were not drawn by sympathy to either side—that the Government have endeavoured with perfect integrity to carry out the policy enjoined by the country, of strict and undeviating neutrality. I shall not follow the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) into his exposition of the principles of the Foreign Enlistment Act, or into those distinctions between municipal and international law which I certainly thought the hon. and learned Solicitor General pushed rather too far in the instructive speech he addressed to the House a few weeks ago. I admit to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale that we are bound to enforce the Act known as 59 738 Geo. III. I do not ask whether we are obliged to do so in obedience to the requirements of a foreign Power, but I do say, that as we find that law upon our statute book, regard for our own character and self-respect should prevent us from allowing any foreign State to cite it against us as an evidence of our insincerity. Therefore, Sir, I for one cannot be the apologist of those whose illegal proceedings may have tended to embarrass or embroil the nation, and I admit that where they have engaged in unlawful undertakings they must submit to the penalty attaching to them.
Passing from these two preliminary questions as to the conduct of the Government and as to the necessity of enforcing the Foreign Enlistment Act, I come to the question raised by the hon. Member for Rochdale as to the present condition of the American war, and as to our position in regard to it—as to the duties enjoined upon us now, and as to our prospective policy. There are two things which I hope my hon. Friend will at once admit. I think no candid man will deny that it has been the desire of this country to observe a strict neutrality in the war. I also think no candid man will deny that it has been not only the wish, but the determination of England not itself to engage, if it could be avoided, in a war with America. If that be the case, I confess I do not see precisely the object of the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale. One of its effects, I am certain, will be very different from what he intended. I am sure it will require a very moderate exercise of those powers of exaggeration which have made the journalism of America one of the wonders of the world, to represent the speech of my hon. Friend as endorsing, to a great extent, the complaints and charges of the American people and press against the Government of this country, and as even going far to justify the reprisals which have been intrusted to the discretion of Admiral Wilkes. No one can say that this House has displayed an anxiety for the discussion of American affairs. It has been very much the reverse. Knowing that this war in America was pregnant with such consequences to the Americans themselves—consequences far more momentous to them than to any other State that could be brought into relations with them either as friends, customers, or rivals—we thought it was our duty, even more than our interest, to let events work out 739 their own development, and refrain from the smallest appearance of interference, which could only add fuel to the passions and hatreds that have already rendered this war a disgrace to the civilization of; the age. But although so long as the dubious character of the war left no room for more than speculative opinions as to; the result, it was better that Parliament should refrain from expressing a judgment: that might wound American susceptibilities, the case is very different when uncertainties have been dispelled by the in exorable logic of facts. We have now, after two years of silent and patient observation, had the conviction forced upon us that Secession is no longer a phrase or a cry, but a proved reality; proved by the triumph of its arms, by the calmness and prudence of its counsels, and by the unvanquished and invincible spirit of the; people, determined as one man to die for; independence. We have seen the Leviathan power of the North broken and driven back, with nothing to show for two years of unparallelled preparation and vast human sacrifice but failure and humiliation; the conquest of the Smith more hopeless and unachievable than ever, and Washington at ibis moment in greater jeopardy than Richmond. When, in addition to this, we now see the North, unsoftened and untaught by all it has inflicted and endured, turning aggressively and menacingly to England, and forgetting that we have borne with patience the destitution of our operatives, the crippling of our trade, the harassing of our merchants, and forgetting even that this last strange assumption of authority by the American Minister to give certificates of licence to British merchantmen to sail unmolested between neutral ports passed for several days almost unnoticed in this House—when, in addition to all this, we are asked to-night by the advocates of the North to impose fresh fetters upon our Government, and exercise greater vigilance in obedience to the requirements of a Power that certainly has not become less aggressive as we have become more forbearing, I am not surprised that we should hear the questions asked now, "How long are these afflictions to be endured? How long are the cotton ports of the South to remain sealed to Europe? How long are France and England to be debarred from intercourse with friendly Slates that owe no more allegiance to the North than they owe to the Pope? And how long are 740 our patient but suffering operatives to remain the victims of an extinct authority and an aggressive and a malevolent Legislature?" I am not surprised that these questions should be asked, and I do not think it would be becoming in this House if, being asked, we were to evade answering them. I think we owe an answer to our countrymen, whose industry is starved at home and whose commerce is now harassed on the sea; to Europe, that witnesses with amazement our submission to assumptions which are subversive to all established laws of international morality; and to that minority in the Northern States who are in favour of peace, but who are kept down under a tyranny that stifles the free expression of opinion. We owe it to them all to state not only what we feel is our position in regard to this war, but what is our policy in regard to it, and, more important still, what are the grounds upon which it is based. The policy which this country has determined to pursue is a policy of neutrality—of neutrality in action, not of neutrality in sentiment, for the want of which we are sometimes reproached, because it never has been the case that the sympathies of England have lain dormant in any great war in which human destinies were at stake. Sir, as such a war has, proceeded, and the purposes and principles of the contending parties have developed themselves in contrast, the sympathies of Englishmen have always enlisted themselves on one side—the side of justice, of generosity, and of freedom. And Englishmen have always given vent to; their sympathies without asking whom they might offend. At the commencement of this war I believe the sympathies of nine-tenths of Englishmen inclined them to the side of the North. I believe they owed that tendency, favourable to the North, first, because we believed that there was no adequate cause for the secession. It was, as we thought, a weak and short-lived assertion of independence, which would certainly be put down. Then, again, it was a vexatious interruption to our commerce, which disposed us to be impatient and intolerant; and, for many reasons, we in England had, I believe, a ' general desire that the reduction of the South, as it was supposed to be inevitable,: should also be speedy.
But as events proceeded, they very soon falsified those expectations, and the North has now had bitter experience of the magnitude of the task it had undertaken. 741 The war which has now been raging for two years in the States is one of the most frightful internecine wars that ever disgraced civilization. And with what result? Is the North one step nearer the attainment of its end than it was two years age? Is the South anyway subdued or dispirited? Is it not showing itself not only the equal but the over-match of the enemy who undertook so contemptuously to crush it? Sir, the South has now closed successfully the second year of its War of Independence. It began that war by constituting a Government and electing for five years a President, whose inaugural address would bear comparison with any modern State paper. It brought armies into the field as large as those which European Powers of the first class could raise. Wherever it has met the North in open fight, apart from its gunboats, it has won every battle waged on land, and it has gained some signal victories at sea. It has been inferior to its enemy in numbers, accoutrements, and resources—it has been cut off from the sea, and reduced to great straights, not only for the munitions of war, but for the necessaries of life; yet its spirit and fortitude have carried it over all. Although fighting for existence, against those who have been waging a war of extermination, it has shown itself free from the passions it has provoked. No cruelty has stained its arms. No savage proclamations have disgraced its generals. But it has proved itself to be an earnest and united people, capable of heroic sacrifices in a conflict in which its Government has been strengthened rather than weakened by the strain which has been put upon it. For in the South there has been no shackling of the press, no suppression of law, no abridgment of the liberties of the citizen; but all classes have rallied as one man, under a President who, by the dignity and moderation of his counsels, by the high bearing of his army, and the devotion of his people, has given an elevation to the Southern cause which, slowly, incredulously, reluctantly, but now, in the third year of the war, has won for it, irresistibly and universally, the generous sympathies of Europe.
But, when we turn to the North, what a contrast is there exhibited. Their military failures, great as they have been, sink into insignificance, compared with their moral downfall. Their war has been not against freedom, but civilization; fur, imperfect as 742 are the accounts received from Northern channels, and always coloured to their advantage, they furnish ample evidence of the spirit in which the North has carried on the struggle. Sir, in the sinking of the stone-fleet before Charleston, in the submersion of the food-producing districts of the Mississippi, in the brutality to women at New Orleans, in the shooting of prisoners in cold blood by General M'Neill, and in the President's incitements to a servile war, with all its cruelties and horrors, we have presented to us a revolting combination of the barbarous ingenuity of the Chinese invoking the ferocities of the blacks of St. Domingo. And while, Sir, these barbarities have roused a spirit of the South which has united every man, woman, and child in the determination to prefer death to submission, they have not been without their effect in Europe. We watched the conflict at first with curiosity and interest, which grew to wonder, before our sympathies were given to either side. But as the true character of the war, and of the combatants, developed themselves—as it became evident that the war was one for existence on one side and extermination on the other, and as the full consequence to the South of every city becoming a New Orleans, with every governor emulous of the deeds which had exalted General Butler into a hero, presented themselves more vividly to the mind of Europe, then I do believe that—always excepting those whose political sympathies enlisted them sincerely on the side of the Republic—there was not a friend of freedom and humanity in Europe who was not conscious of a hope daily growing up and strengthening within him that victory might crown the efforts of the South, and deliver them, their households, and their offspring from the doom that would be theirs if subjugated by such invaders.
But, Sir, their subjugation is no longer aimed at. That last proclamation of Mr. Lincoln, emancipating the slaves in the insurgent States and exciting them against the lives and property of their masters, was a confession to the world that the subjugation of the South was abandoned as hopeless. Sir, the American President has solemnly invoked the judgment of Europe upon that proclamation, and we in this House are bound not to evade giving a response to that invocation. Sir, what judgment can we in this Christian assembly pronounce upon it, except to denounce it as one of the most atrocious crimes against the laws of civilization and humanity which 743 the world has ever seen? Sir, to me it is a matter of astonishment how any Englishman can contemplate that proclamation but with feelings of sorrow or indignation. Why, it does not profess to be an act of justice or philanthropy, but of stern military necessity. What does stern military necessity mean? Does it not mean domestic treason, assassination, incendiarism, rapine? And all this in the name of philanthropy, liberty, religion, mercy, combining to rebuke the crime of slavery! Well, slavery is a great crime. [An hon. MEMBER: Hear, hear!] I do not require to be told that by my hon. Friend; but he does require to be told by me that there is yet a greater crime than slavery; for a crime it is of a deeper dye and a blacker and more unpardonable hue for a white man and a Christian to incite a negro to achieve his freedom by a carnival of crime; and forgetting that emancipation to be safe must be gradual, that it should be peaceful, and not violent—that it should be preceded by measures of preparation, to make it a blessing and not a curse—I say it is the very highest iniquity in the chief of a Christian Government, forgetful of all this, to excite the negro with the ferocity of a tiger; to the perpetration of cruelties that cannot be numbered, and crimes which we dare not name, with no possible termination to that desperate and deadly war of races but in the extermination of the weaker and vanquished—the negro must either drive out or destroy the white man, or the whites must, exterminate the blacks. Sir, there is nothing in the despatches of our Foreign Secretary more creditable to him than the promptness and spirit with which he laid bare the atrocity of that proclamation, stigmatizing it to the American Government as an act not of humanity to the slave, but of vengeance against his master. And I believe it was that proclamation which destroyed the very last chance of English sympathy with the North. Yes, there is no doubt that Englishmen hate slavery, but there is one other thing which they also very much hate, and that is cant. And on this occasion John Bull showed himself far too sagacious and too sound-hearted, to view with anything but feelings of disgust the too transparent device for perpetuating a war of extermination under the cant of philanthropy. The Government of the North having played their last desperate card, and that having been followed by failure and disgrace, profess still to cherish the delusion that the Union is to be re- 744 stored by war. But let me ask this simple question:—When you have half a million of men in arms on the one side, to enforce a Union which half a million of men in arms on the other side are sworn to resist to death, what becomes of the Great Republic founded on the free choice of a united people? The attempt to cement the Union by blood has broken down the whole internal Government. The free, Republic is metamorphosed into a military tyranny; the President is a more irresponsible despot than the Czar; liberty is at an end—liberty of person, of motion, of speech, writing, and thought, are all gone—the press is coerced and gagged-the State prisons are filled with political suspects, as used to be the case in Italy—the editor of a paper who dares to advise peace has his property destroyed, and a petition which lies for signature to the Government recommending arbitration is seized by the police and torn to pieces. In fact, the constitution of the United States is at an end. And while such is their political condition, what is their financial state? In three years they have created a debt half as large as that of England, at double the rate of interest. The interest of that debt is greater than the whole revenue of the Union before the war. In three years more, at the same rate, they will have the largest debt in Europe, with the, lowest credit. Their army is in process of dissolution. By their own departmental accounts, by returns from their own officials, the number of deserters during the war has exceeded 130,000. Their short enlistments expire on the 1st of June, and are not likely to be renewed by soldiers whose pay is many months in arrear. The Irish and Germans, who formed the fighting portion of their army, are either killed or they have disappeared, and those negroes for whose emancipation my hon. Friend behind is so anxious—even the negro regiments—the last hope of the Union,: have proved a failure; for we are told, at the very first volley these sable warriors threw down their muskets and ran away. Such is the political, financial, and military condition of-a State that has been brought to ruin by the errors of its Executive; and I have endeavoured to review the situation, because it enables us to judge what is the position of those leaders who seem now inclined to crown their errors by the belief that the beet escape from their intestine troubles would be a foreign war, and that of 745 all foreign wars a war with England would answer their purpose most effectually.
I come, then, to the particular point which the House has been discussing. I do not believe for one moment what many hon. Gentlemen in this House seem to apprehend, that the Northern States have the very smallest desire actually to go to war with England; but this I do believe, that it may be the deliberate policy of the Washington Cabinet to provoke England to put an end violently to the blockade as the readiest escape from their own domestic difficulties. Submission to England would save them from the humiliation of submission to the South; and I believe it is for that reason that we hear those boastful assurances of approaching victory and conquest, which become more loud and confident as their achievement appears more notoriously impossible. I believe that foreign Powers would be represented as having at the eleventh hour stepped in to be the saviours of the South, and thus would be made the instruments of a disruption which, without foreign intervention, it would be said could never be accomplished. I believe it is in pursuance of the same policy that a naval commander of ill-omened notoriety like Wilkes was so ostentatiously promoted to a station on which he could have the surest chance of inflicting injury and provoking collision. A question is asked in this House and everywhere out of it why we endure all this from the Northern States, which we would not endure from the strongest of the old monarchies of Europe—why we have endured it in the past and how long for the future? The answer is twofold. We have endured it in the past because of the very difficulties and embarrassments of the Northern Government—their energies and resources are taxed to the utmost in their internal war so as to place them in the event of a quarrel entirely at the mercy of England. We have shown them once that we know how to silence their bravado, and an early and captious repetition of that proceeding would have laid us open to the charge of acting with bravado, and therefore we can afford to pass by with indifference such annoyances as involve no material interest. But though that may explain the past, it does not suffice to justify submission to injuries of so flagrant and systematic a character as those which are reported by every packet; and the reasons fur that endurance are of a different and higher character. The 746 fact is, that the Northern States are passing through a crisis of the magnitude of which they are not themselves aware. This first disruption is but the commencement of their difficulties. The war with the South I hold to be virtually at an end. The independence of the South is an accomplished fact. Its recognition by the great Powers of Europe and the North, though delayed, is not the less certain on that account; and though we know that much additional suffering may be inflicted upon the South they will in the end be compensated with success, because the South will retire from the war with the glory of established nationality. But with the North it is very different—their sacrifices are followed by great failures, and their vain-glorious boasting by ignominious defeats. And what is the prospect now before them? It has long been proved that there is no Union party in the South; but has it not also been proved that there is an important peace party in the North? How else can you explain the silencing of the press, the imprisonment of magistrates, the coercion of judges, the suppression of all free opinion and discussion? We have never been able to know the real opinion of the North, because they were kept down by fear as long as the war was supposed to be successful. But now it is evident that all along there has been a very important peace party in the North. Therefore, I say, when the difficulties of the South are over, the dangers of the North will begin in earnest, and every day the war lasts, aggravates these dangers. Peace with the South long delayed must tend to the complete disorganization of the North, because political disorganization must follow upon financial ruin; and when that trying day arrives, which cannot be far off—the day for the settlement of accounts, when each State has the choice before it of heavy taxes and burdens, as the member of an insolvent Union, or prosperity acquired by fresh secession—then, when under the temptations of such a crisis, proving too powerful for Transatlantic flesh and blood, the process of repudiation and dissolution once sets in, who can tell how fast and how far it may proceed, till the Union itself may be reduced to fragments? Now, it is because I believe the Government has foreseen, as every attentive observer of American affairs must have foreseen, the ruin and anarchy impending over the North, that they have feared to precipitate that crisis by a col- 747 lision. It is not the strength of the North, but its weakness, that the Government and people of England have to fear. It is not the perils, but the responsibility of a collision, that is to be dreaded. I say let us not incur that responsibility. Let us in this House—let all parties, let our merchants emulate the patience of our operatives, in the full assurance that a generous nation will not suffer them in the end to be the martyrs of its policy—let all parties unite and press on the Government the imperious and. solemn duty of maintaining, under every provocation, an immovable attitude of peace. Let them not by any false move—and no move could be so false as a collision at sea or a diplomatic ultimatum that might commit us to war—do not let them by such a mistaken act transfer to England the guilt of others, and suffer our name to be associated in future ages with calamities prepared for generations yet unborn by the obstinacy and the rashness of the bewildered and desperate men in whose hands the destinies of that unhappy community are placed. I may be asked, is there no solution for the difficulties by which we are surrounded? We have, in this House, a twofold duty to discharge. We have first to maintain a strict neutrality, construing the law generously and liberally for the North, and giving them no cause of complaint against our Government. And our next duty is to leave no room for possible misconception as to the real opinion of England. The case, at the present moment, stands thus. The South are prepared and anxious for peace. They invite intervention and arbitration with a view to stopping the effusion of blood. The North are determined to prolong the war, and would make the South a desert sooner than acknowledge it as a nation. This, therefore, is the choice presented to us—Union by war, or separation by negotiation and peace. On which side are the sympathies of England to range themselves? On which side do those who have always proclaimed themselves the especial friends of peace range themselves? Where are the friends of arbitration? Where are the clamourers for economy? Where are the agitators for popular rights? Is it true that they have formed deputations to Mr. Adams with laudatory addresses to be transmitted to the President, adjuring him to go on as he has begun—adjuring him, whose hands are already red with the blood of his slaughtered countrymen, to go on burning, slaying, devastating, extirpating 748 —and conveying to him the audacious assurance that the hearts of Christian England are with him and bless him for that holy work? Sir, if this be so, and sad and sorrowful it is to think it—if the blight which has fallen on free America has spread contagion here, the more it behoves us in this House to rescue our country from the stain which such calumnies would cast upon it, and to make it known to all parties in America, especially those who are raising a yet timid voice for peace, that the apologists for despotism and bloodshed among us represent but an infinitesimal portion of the sentiment of England, and that the great masses of our countrymen, of all creeds and classes, are united in one common feeling of abhorrence and condemnation of a suicidal war which is destroying a nation and disgracing an age.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
—Sir, this discussion has wandered very far indeed from he point; and if I endeavour, in the short address which I propose to make to the House, to bring it back in some degree nearer to that point, I feel that I shall labour under the disadvantage which every one is under who endeavours to return to an entirely dispassionate state of mind, after having heard an oration not altogether of that character. I must say I heartily agree in the desire for the maintenance of peace which has been expressed by my right hon. Friend, and it was with pleasure that I heard that his wish was so strong for peace. I own I did entertain some degree of doubt whether the tenour of his speech was of so pacific a tendency as he doubtless desired it to be. We can only hope for the best, and I think it will be remembered across the Atlantic that in this as in other Assemblies, every hon. Member is at liberty frankly to express his own sentiments, but that those sentiments must not be assumed to be the sentiments of the Assembly to which that Member belongs. I heard with great satisfaction from my hon. and learned Friend opposite, the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), that in his opinion there can be no question about the duty of enforcing the Foreign Enlistment Act. I should be very glad indeed if I felt sure that that was universally the opinion of all the Members of this House. I cannot but think that it would be a great support to the Government if that were generally understood throughout the country to be so; for there can be no doubt whatever that it is the duty of the Government, while this is the 749 law, to enforce the law. There can be no doubt whatever that those persons, be they merchants in a high position or in a low position, or whoever else they he, who do not deem it to be an obligation to observe the law in their commercial and other dealings, are forgetful of the duty which, as citizens, they owe to their country. Her Majesty, by Her proclamation of neutrality, pointedly called attention to that duty. Her Majesty expressed her will to be neutral in this war, and the people (hitherto, at all events, and I trust they will continue in that opinion) have expressed their approbation of the policy of neutrality. Can it be consistent, then, with their duty as subjects, can it be consistent with their duty as citizens—can it be consistent with their duty as good, patriotic, Christian men, to disregard the obligation so doubly laid upon thorn, both by the law of the country and by command of the Queen, and to place in jeopardy the most important public interests by the wanton and systematic disregard of that obligation. Sir, I heard with astonishment not long ago that there was supposed to be some inconsistency between the conduct of the Government in acting upon the information which they had received as to violations of this law, and the sentiments which I was the humble organ of expressing in this House as to the attitude which the Government must and would maintain in discussions with the United States, as to the extent and character of their international obligations. Inconsistency! Why it will be in the recollection of every one present, who was present at the debate to which I refer, that on behalf of the Government I stated their anxiety and determination to enforce this law in all cases in which sufficient information, supported by sufficient evidence, might be brought before them. They said, and I say again, that without that evidence, that without pursuing the same means which they would pursue in all cases in which the law of the country was in question, they could not and would not act: and here I certainly agree that the law must not be stretched to meet the demands of any foreign Power. I disagree from something which fell from the hon. Member for Rochdale, that we must find the means—coûtc que coûtc—of stopping these things, either by imitating particular laws which have been passed in other countries, or by assuming to ourselves arbitrary powers such as exist in neighbouring na- 750 tions where there is no constitutional system. That we cannot—that we will not do. Important as it is to maintain our own laws—just and important as is this law against Foreign Enlistment, it is more important to preserve our liberty, to preserve our laws, and to maintain the Constitution unimpaired. We say we will not, do that which is inconsistent with our laws. Those are the professions which we have made, and to those professions we intend to adhere.
With regard to the particular question which has called forth this debate, I am afraid my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General has not been understood, lie has not been understood, though I confess that to me there was no difficulty whatever in understanding the scope of his observations. This case of the Alexandra is pending in a court of law. It is about to to tried. The Government will have to produce their evidence, and the parties who are concerned will have to make their defence. It is impossible for us, unless we mean to embarrass and defeat those proceedings which we have undertaken the responsibility of instituting, to disclose prematurely the information we have received and the facts within our knowledge, to help the defence and put a brief into the hands of those who are defendants. ["Oh!"] My hon. Friend says "Oh!" I say that in this I case everything has been done according to the course of law. In the first place, I we are asked on what information did we proceed? My lion, and learned Friend referred to a document, and I frankly confess I heard its terms with surprise. It was a document totally immaterial, because it was only the formal notice of appraisement, and the person who prepared the form has put j it in short terms. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: The cause of seizure?] The cause of seizure is, I quite agree, not there stated in adequate terms. The cause of seizure is not limited to what appears in the notice of appraisement; nor is it, in fact, necessary that the notice of appraisement should contain the cause of seizure. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: Where is the cause of seizure?] The cause of seizure will appear when the information is filed in the Court of Exchequer, and my hon. and learned Friend knows, I am sure, that under the 7th section of the Act, under which the seizure has taken place, no sworn information is necessary. There is no semblance or analogy to criminal proceedings. The proceedings are under the provisions of the Customs Acts; and the Government require for their own infor- 751 mation and satisfaction sworn depositions, but it has never been the practice to give them, and there is nothing in the Act of Parliament which entitles the claimant to see them. And while the Government is collecting evidence and completing the case, which is just of that character which requires to be conducted with the greatest caution and vigilance, unless they wish to embarrass themselves and diminish their own chance of success, they will not depart from the usual course by giving copies of the depositions, which I venture to say have not been given in any similar case before. The Government proceeded upon depositions containing evidence, which if true, went to show that the vessel was being fitted out "with the intent that she should be employed on the service of a foreign Power, or persons exercising powers of government in foreign States, with intent to cruise or commit hostilities against a State at peace with this country." The evidence laid before the Government came up to that. My hon. and learned Friend may advert to another clause—the fifth—where he finds that sworn informations are necessary; but they are not necessary under this clause, the proceedings under this clause being in the ordinary form. With that information before us, be it true or be it false, whether the builders have a good defence or not, we cannot now inquire. The hon. Member for Liverpool says they have a good defence—if so, justice will be done them; but with that information before them it was impossible for the advisers of the Crown to take any other course; and we felt it to be our duty, in fulfilment of the pledge we had given to Parliament and to the country, to deal with this case as a serious case under the Act, and, at all events, to bring it to trial, and to obtain, whether upon construction of the Act or upon the facts, a decision of a court of law. My hon. and learned Friend said—and, coming from him, I was surprised to hear it—he said, "Why did you not try the course of suing the individuals concerned for penalties before a magistrate?" Now, although I agree we are not to go out of our way on account of any unreasonable requests from foreign Powers or Ministers, yet neither are we to go out of our way to expose ourselves to the imputation of not being in earnest in our endeavours to enforce the law. Of course, the information thus given in the first instance would require in various points to be strengthened and corroborated; and if we had wished to fail, I know no better 752 course which we could have adopted than to go with the minimum of information before a magistrate, leaving the ship, if sufficiently advanced in her preparations, to slip out like the Alabama and the Oreto before a decision could be obtained. I say it was our bounden duty, even at the risk of some expense to the country if the prosecution should fail—it was our duty, upon having primâ facie evidence which in our judgment came up to the requirements of the clause, to seize the ship or vessel, according to the form of proceeding under the Customs Acts. There is no other way of dealing with the ship. You cannot stop the ship by going before a magistrate; it must be done upon the responsibility of the Government, and so it has been done. I have therefore now said all I think is necessary to be said upon this point, with one single exception. The hon. Member for Liverpool has referred to what he called a system of espionage practised in that town. The Government utterly disclaim having anything to do with any such system. All the proceedings upon our part have been conducted strictly, as in all other cases where there has been an endeavour to enforce the law, according to the laws of the country. If there are other persons not connected with the Government who have resorted to any such system as he describes, of course, for the acts of such persons, the Government cannot be responsible.
I do not propose to enter upon the more general question which has been raised in the course of this debate, but I must be permitted to say, that if ever I have been supposed to lay down the doctrine that this country ought not to enforce its Foreign Enlistment Act, or that foreign Powers, and especially the United States, have no right to look to this country to enforce it, then I have certainly been misunderstood. My endeavour, upon a former occasion, was to place that obligation upon its true footing, and to show that it did not depend upon the general obligations of international law, but upon our own particular law; and that if the American Government appealed to us to enforce that Act, they must look for its enforcement according to the established rules of jurisprudence of this country; and that they were not at liberty to set those rules aside, nor to call upon us to do more, or to be responsible for more, than our own law enables us to do. I never said, that 753 if hostilities were carried on with the countenance of our Government in our waters, if armed expeditions were openly launched in our waters to make war upon the United States with the permission or connivance of the Government, I never said the United States might not complain; but I said that nothing of the kind had taken place, that the acts which had been brought home to any persons in this country, even by such evidence as was laid before us, were acts done in violation of our own municipal law, and were not of that character which could he regarded as in themselves direct acts of hostility within our jurisdiction against the United States. I do not think I laid down any extreme doctrine; but whatever it was, I am willing to bear the blame. Far be it from me by one rash word to aggravate the difficulties between this country and the United States, or to diminish the chances of peace and good will, which I have always anxiously desired to see preserved. But it is our interest and our duty, it is the interest of peace and good feeling between the two countries, that we should not plead guilty of offences against the United States which we have not committed; and we could not suffer to pass in silence and without remonstrance the charge of having committed such offences. We must be prompt, forward, and direct in disclaiming responsibility for things beyond our power, and for which we never intend to be responsible. If, by any unfortunate concurrence of circumstances, there should be a rupture of peaceful relations between this country and the United States, we must not by any concession of what is our due in justice and right, we must not by any admission that it is our duty to do that which it is not in our power to do, we must not by any deviation from the position, which under the law of nations we are entitled to take up, give any colour to a charge that we are wrong in the cause of quarrel. That was the object I had in view in endeavouring to lay before the House and the country what I conceive to be the true position of the question of the Alabama lately discussed, and which, I believe, is the true position of each similar question. We are anxious, most anxious, to prevent such violations of neutrality and law by our own citizens; but we are determined not to accept a responsibility on the part of the Government that does not belong to it, and not to concede that the United States have a right to treat us as wanting in our duty of neutrality if our laws fail to reach 754 all particular cases that may occur; and much more do we disclaim all responsibility for acts done upon the high seas far beyond our jurisdiction or control, by vessels which when they left this country were not armed and equipped to such an extent as to be capable of acting as ships of war, and which had not in our waters or in our jurisdiction exercised any act of hostility against the United States. It is always necessary to bear in mind the great distinction between acts of hostility against the United States and infractions of our own municipal law. A transaction which is purely mercantile according to international law may be a violation of our own municipal law; and in that case we must restrain it, but we must take care to do so only upon those principles by which we are bound, and it is of the highest importance that it should be understood, without mistake, that we will not consent to accept responsibility upon any other principles.
§ SIR FITZROY KELLY
said, it was extremely satisfactory to hear from so distinguished an authority as his hon. and learned Friend, that the Government disclaimed any idea of encouraging any proceeding on the high seas on the part of the United States which could tend to disturb the amity between the two countries. It was not, however, the general conduct of the Government that was in question, and he wished to recall attention to the particular case which had been brought to their notice, and he could not help thinking that the course adopted in the case of the Alexandra, had been not only arbitrary and unjust, but one that exposed the owners to much hardship. At that moment no one, not even those who were to suffer, had the least intimation of what was the charge, upon what grounds it was made, nor who were the individuals upon whose testimony it was based. The hon. and learned Solicitor General had said that the Government felt it their duty to proceed under the 7th clause of the Foreign Enlistment Act. Let him be permitted to say, that in the case of any information which was laid before the Government with respect to a violation or supposed violation of that Act, it was open for the Government to have proceeded in such a way as to have given the accused the opportunity of knowing the grounds of the charge against them, or at least to have enabled them, before irreparable injury was done, to have offered whatever defence they might be provided with. It had not been unusual for officers 755 of the Crown, dealing with a case in which it was possible that false information might, have been given them, to go before a grand jury and there test the truth of the information. Again, they might have brought an action for penalties and in that case also they must have come before a grand jury. Instead of that, they had proceeded at once to seize and estreat the vessel, bringing the defendants into the Court of Exchequer; so that when the trial came on those defendants would be perfectly ignorant of the charges made against them, and of the witnesses they would require in order to absolve them from the charge. Moreover, by bringing the case into the Exchequer the Crown were not liable to pay any costs, while the defendants were liable not only to lose their vessel, but to pay all the costs of the case. By such a course those who were acting on the part of the Crown took unfair advantage of the commerce of the country, and placed it in an unfair position; and he trusted that they would lose no time in communicating to the accused the real nature of the charges made against them. Knowing what quantities of arms and munitions of war had been shipped from this country to the United States, he could not help thinking, that if the Government had been as vigilant in watching these acts as they were in watching the fitting-up of suspected vessels, far more serious charges might have been advanced against the United States agents here than against the owners of that unfortunate merchant man. He would not, however, dwell upon that matter, as his object in rising had been to call the attention of the hon. Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to a question closely connected with the subject before the House, and one upon which it was due to the honour and the commerce of the country that the House should receive a satisfactory answer. He wished to know whether the Government had adopted any measures to facilitate and to protect the postal communications between this country and the different ports within or near the Gulf of Mexico? He was not about to enter into the critical relations between this country and the United States. He should not refer to the capture of the Peterhoff, the Dolphin, or the Adela, being quite content to leave to the Foreign Secretary, esqecially while under the guidance of the noble Viscount, all that related to the honour and dignity of the country in reference to those acts of the United States, which had been seriously complained of, and which 756 he thought would be amply justified or honourably compensated. But there was something which required notice in the communications that had taken place between the merchants and the Foreign Office respecting a vessel about to sail for a Mexican port. The facts were these:—An Act of Parliament existed under which the Post Office was empowered to compel vessels proceeding to a foreign port to take on board the Post Office mails, under a penalty for non-compliance. The merchants said, "We fear, that if we take the mails on board our vessels bound to ports in the Gulf of Mexico, and if those vessels are overhauled by the Federal cruisers, the captains of those cruisers, breaking the seals of the mail-bags, will find letters sent from this country with the express design of compromising the ship, and upon these fabricated letters may be founded the seizure and condemnation of the ship." What was the noble Earl's reply? He did not say, "It is impossible that any mischance can befall you from the conveyance of Her Majesty's mails." What he said in effect was, "It is possible that the letter-bags may be broken open and your ship condemned in consequence, and therefore we I will relieve you from the necessity of carrying these mails." If the noble Earl meant to imply that in consequence of an apprehension arising from the proceedings of a nation; with which we were in amity he would release the owners of ships from the obligation of the law, even though that course should render it impossible for the merchants of this country to pursue their ordinary occupations, he had no hesitation in saying that the reply of the Foreign Secretary contained a humiliating and degrading avowal on the part of a Minister of the Crown. After such an answer he did not understand how, from that moment till such time as the struggle in America was at an end, the merchants of this country were to keep up their correspondence to those parts of the world with reference to which his question was directed. No modification had been suggested; no hope was held out for the future. It was nearly a year and a half ago that energetic measures taken by this country in the affair of the Trent procured redress for a violation of international law; but at that moment British merchant ships were constantly exposed to the peril of attacks from American cruisers. While he hoped the Government would, by every means consistent with the honour and dignity of the country, seek to 757 maintain the Peace which still subsisted between two great nations, he trusted that they would have some regard, not only to the interest, but to the feelings of our merchants.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
Sir, in the course of this debate, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), has made a speech of a character most instilling to a great and friendly people, and most offensive to the feelings of a large number of the Members of this House. I do not think that speech ought to be allowed to pass unanswered and unchallenged; but, at this period of the night, and when the debate has taken another direction, I do not know what is left to us but to protest against, the accuracy of his facts and the logic of his deductions. If such language was generally adopted by the Members of this House at the present time, the prospect of maintaining anything like a good understanding between this country and the United States would be a poor one indeed. We have heard a good deal of the insecurity of British commerce, and we have been asked, "When is this to cease?" Well, Sir, if we desire that there may be no insecurity to British commerce, what we have to do is to abstain from such speeches as we heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud; and when they are made, to stand up and denounce them as unjust, unwise, and unpatriotic. To suppose that such a spirited nation as that on the other side of the Atlantic—a nation as spirited as our own—will submit, not only to such words as we have heard used, but to such acts as are now going on in this country, is impossible. In the discussion on the Act of Parliament which has been so frequently alluded to this evening, one important point seems to have been omitted. The United States of America can avail themselves with their own ships of many ports. The Confederates have no ports except those which we choose to give them. If Confederate ships set out to destroy and burn vessels belonging to the United States, it is from our ports alone they can go. It is absurd to talk of international law, when its effect is to give a navy to those who have not one, and to afford the means of destruction and of disturbing commerce to those who have it not themselves. It would not be a real neutrality to allow ships of war to be built in this country for either the United States or the Confederates, and therefore it is necessary that we 758 should exercise the utmost vigilance in carrying out the Act of Parliament which affords us a means of preventing such proceedings. And on this point I would say to Her Majesty's Government, that though the Foreign Enlistment Act is a municipal statute, its application must be directed by considerations of a large and wide policy. I trust that the wise men on the other side of the water will disregard such ebullitions of feeling as we have seen manifested by by some hon. Members in this House. As to Her Majesty's Government, there is no reason for thinking that individually they are favourable to either cause. But, whatever their individual feeling may be as wise men and statesmen, Her Majesty's Government, in the unity of their action, have shown that neutrality which I think the best security for the peace of the world. Sir, that peace I trust will continue, for many reasons, but above all, for this. For us to talk of war—for England armed to the teeth—England with all her wealth and power, to talk of war against a nation in the very agony of her destinies, and torn to the vitals by a great civil commotion, is so utterly ungenerous, so repugnant to every manly feeling, that I cannot conceive it possible. Hon. Gentlemen opposite talk of acting in a gallant spirit. Is it to act in a gallant spirit for a strong man to fight a man with his arm tied, with his eyes blinded? And that is what you propose to do—you with the wealth and power of England—when you seek to promote war with the United States. I fear the unhappy speeches which we have heard this evening will tend much in that direction. There is a party in this country who think only of how to break the blockade, and imagine the only way to procure cotton is by an act of violence. I say there is a, suspicion abroad that that will be done, and that suspicion, unfortunately, will be increased and magnified by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. But let us do what we can to preserve peace. The lowest class of our people have acted with forbearance, with a full consciousness of the advantages they enjoy in belonging to a country like England, at the same time that they do not deny the advantage to the world of having a great, free nation on the other side of the Atlantic. The mass of the people feel these things; let not the Gentlemen of England who have seats in this House, and from whom every ungenerous thought ought to be far removed, show themselves inferior to their humbler fellow countrymen.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir FitzRoy Kelly) has asked what security there is for mercantile communication with Mexico, and communication by letter. With regard to merchant vessels, in the first place, the best security, and I trust a sufficient one, is that the American Government will no doubt observe the law of nations; and if their cruisers intercept and capture any merchantman without sufficient cause, they are liable to damages in their courts, and we have no reason to believe that their; courts will not act justly. With regard to bags of letters that may be carried by a merchantman, if the vessel is captured upon suspicion of being concerned in an illegal voyage, by that order which my noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs read in another place yesterday it will be seen what the American Government prescribes with regard to bags so found. They are not to be opened, the seal is not to be broken, they are to be delivered to the consul of the nation to which they belong when the vessel comes into port, and that consul is bound to open those bags himself, and if there should be found anything contrary to the good faith of nations and against the Government of the country, then he is bound to give that to the Government, but the letters in the bags are to be forwarded by him to the destination to which they are directed. I apprehend, therefore, that there is no necessity for any other proceedings on the part of Her Majesty's Government than that of calling the attention of the United States Government to the circumstances, and expressing a hope that they will act according to international law and in conformity with the orders which they themselves have laid down.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Supply considered in Committee,
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.