HC Deb 27 March 1863 vol 170 cc33-72

said, he rose to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to the danger to our friendly relations with the United States resulting from the fitting out in our Ports of Ships of War for the service of the self-styled Confederate States, in contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act and of the policy of Neutrality adopted by this country? A danger such as he had referred to in his Question did really exist, because many persons, British subjects or acting under the protection of British law, and in defiance of the Queen's Proclamation and of the statutes of the realm, were breaking the law, and were engaged in efforts to break it to an extent which did certainly place this country in the danger of being involved in war. This was notorious from the papers that had been presented with regard to the most flagrant of these cases—the case of the Alabama. From these papers there arose two questions for consideration. The first was, whether Her Majesty's Government had done all they could—had used every possible exertion—to prevent these breaches of the law; and the second, whether they were impressed with the necessity of the duty of doing their utmost to prevent them for the future? And he must acknowledge that his object in addressing the noble Viscount the Question now was, that he thought that so great was the danger that they could not separate for the recess without obtaining an answer from the Government, more especially with regard to the second question, as to the future. With regard to the past, it would have been more convenient had discussion on it been postponed, because his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. White) had a Motion for other papers which would throw additional light on the subject. But in the present state of public feeling, both in this country and in America, there might be advantage in the Government being able to give at once some explanation which the facts, as presented in the papers already published, seemed to demand. He would endeavour briefly to state the circumstances of the case. On June 23rd, the American Minister, having already had experience of one armed vessel leaving their shores and being engaged in the destruction of American ships, wrote to the Foreign Secretary, and after referring to the case of the Oreto, said— I am now under tire painful necessity of apprising your Lordship that a new and still more powerful war steamer is nearly ready for departure from the port of Liverpool on the same errand. This vessel has been built and launched from the dockyard of persons one of whom is now sitting as a Member of the House of Commons, and is fitting out for the especial and manifest object of carrying on hostilities by sea. It is about to be commanded by one of the insurgent agents, the same who sailed in the Oreto. The parties engaged in the enterprise are well known at Liverpool to be agents and officers of the insurgents in the United States. The American Minister, in confirmation of this, enclosed a statement from the American Consul at Liverpool, who said— The evidence I have is entirely conclusive to my mind … The foreman in Messrs. Laird's yard says she is the sister to the gunboat the Oreto, and has been built for the same parties and the same purpose. The vessel was apparently built under circumstances which suggested concealment, for he added— The strictest watch is kept over the vessel; no person except those immediately engaged upon her is admitted into the yard. The despatch was forwarded to the Foreign Office on the 23rd of June, and the Foreign Minister transmitted it to the Customs authorities at Liverpool; who replied that they were unable to take any steps to prevent the departure of the vessel. One point on which they required imformation was, as to the steps the Customs authorities had taken to find out the truth or falsehood of the American Minister's statement, which was so fully justified by the result. The next letter was dated July 22nd, in which the American Minister again wrote to Earl Russell, and enclosed sworn depositions which abundantly proved that the vessel was on the point of sailing as an armed vessel of war.


The hon. Gentleman Bays "armed"—but was she armed?


The evidence was that the vessel was to be built and fitted up as a fighting ship in all respects. [MR. ROEBUCK: She had no guns.] No; but one of the depositions—that of a seaman who had been enlisted by the Confederate agent—stated that she tad a magazine, shot, and canister racks on deck, and was pierced for guns, and Was built and fitted up as a fighting ship in all respects. The depositions proved the connection of the agent of the Confederate Government, Captain Bullock, with this vessel as superintending her construction in Mr. Laird's yard, while an old man-of-war's-man deposed to his having been enlisted by the agent of the Confederate States, Captain Butcher, to sail in the vessel. This deponent joined the vessel in Messrs. Laird & Co.'s yard at Birkenhead, and he went on to say— The said vessel is a screw steamer of about 1,100 tons burden, as far as I can judge, and is built and fitted up as a fighting ship in all respects. She has a magazine, and shot and canister racks on deck, and is pierced for guns. …. There are now about thirty hands on board her, who have been engaged to go out in her. Most of them are men who have previously served on board fighting ships.…. It is well known by the hands on board that the vessel is going out as a privateer for the Confederate Government, to act against the United States under a commission from Mr. Jefferson Davis. The next paper he would read was the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier), which was given at the request of the American Government. It was as follows:— I have perused the above affidavits, and I am of opinion that the Collector of Customs would be justified in detaining the vessel. Indeed, I should think it his duty to detain her; and that if, after the application which has been made to him, supported by the evidence which has been laid before me, he allows the vessel to leave Liverpool, he will incur a heavy responsibility—a responsibility of which the Board of Customs, under whose direction he appears to be acting, must take their share. It appears difficult to make out a stronger case of infringement of the Foreign Enlistment Act, which, if not enforced on this occasion, is little better than a dead letter. It well deserves consideration whether, if the vessel be allowed to escape, the Federal Government would not have serious grounds of remonstrance. That opinion was dated July 23, 1862, and its validity appeared to have been allowed by the Government, because Earl Russell wrote five days afterwards he had submitted it to the Law Officers of the Crown, and that he had telegraphed for the seizure of the vessel. Now, how was it that five days elapsed after the receipt of this letter before any action was taken by the Government? Earl Russell had been informed that the vessel was ready to sail, and he had the strongest possible grounds of suspicion that she was going out in the service of the Confederate States. The House ought also to know how it was that the Customs authorities, whose duty it was to prevent the breach of the law, independently of the action of the Foreign Office and of the American Government, took no steps whatever in the matter. There was another question upon which, as he saw the Solicitor General present, he should like to have information. In his letter to Mr. Adams dated the 22nd of September, some time after the vessel had sailed, Earl Russell said— The report of the Law Officers was not received until the 29th of July, and on the same day a telegraphic message was forwarded to Her Majesty's Government, stating that the vessel had sailed that morning, Instructions were then despatched to Ireland to detain the vessel should she put into Queenstown, and similar instructions have been sent to the Governor of the Bahamas, in case of her visiting Nassau. As these orders had been sent to detain the vessel if she visited Nassau, why was she not subsequently detained in Port Royal, where, after fighting the Hatteras, she took refuge for six days last January? Earl Russell stated that she sailed the very day that the Law Officers gave their opinion. So that it appeared that the representations of the American Minister had merely the effect of warning the owners that it was necessary she should sail at once. It was certainly a curious coincidence that the day on which the opinion of the Law Officers was received was the very day when this vessel got away. She left professedly on a pleasure excursion, and not with standing the suspicion which attached to her, the Customs authorities did not find out that this pleasure excursion was her actual departure. She sailed out under the British flag, and in Angra Bay was joined by two other vessels under the British flag, and was supplied with arms and stores. It was said, that at that time she ceased to hoist the British and hoisted the Confederate flag; but had the Government attempted to find out whether she did really make this change; for if she had not ceased to be a British ship, she was, of course, still under British jurisdiction? She made good use of her time, for, up to the 16th September, she had captured and burnt ten vessels. She not only had sailed cut under the British flag, but in cases of capture she kept it hoisted till she was upon the point of seizing her prey, when she lowered it to give place to that of the Confederates. It was hardly surprising that the announcement that this vessel, coming from a British port and thus hoisting the British flag, was making prize of American vessels, should have given rise to a great deal of feeling in America; and many protests were issued by the merchants in that country. In one protest they said that a large number of American ships had been captured by this vessel; that the cargoes of those ships had been plundered, and the crews subjected to brutal treatment. The protest further stated that the vessel which had committed those depredations had come from an English port; that, up to the time of the commission of the outrages complained of, she had been at no other but an English port; and that she sailed under the English flag, which she only exchanged for that of the rebels when within reach of her prey. Those merchants held that the British Government were responsible for the acts of this vessel. Now, he did not mean to say that our Government was responsible for them, but he was not astonished that American merchants should suppose that they were. This was almost altogether a British transaction. With the exception of two or three officers, there was hardly anything Confederate about her. She was manned by a British crew; she sailed out of a British port under a British flag; she had been built by British builders, contracted for by British agents, and paid for by money borrowed from British capitalists. When they considered that this was not the first vessel that was so employed, they could not be surprised at the feeling existing in America with regard to it.

He had now given to the House a brief statement in regard to the Alabama; but if one ship merely had been or probably would be so employed, he would not have brought the matter then before the House. He had no wish to make a case against the Government, and would have been content to let the matter alone; but when it was expected that this ship would be followed by many others of the same class, it became a question affecting their interests, the interests of the country, and their friendly relations with America. He should not have troubled the House if there were not reason to suppose that other ships intended to follow this example. As early as the 30th September there was a letter from Mr. Adams, stating his strong reasons for believing that other enterprises were in progress in the ports of Great Britain of a similar kind, and had attained such notoriety as to be openly announced in the newspapers of Liverpool and London. In the month of October, one month after the date of that letter, the Chancellor of the Exchequer made several speeches in the North, and there was one statement of his which excited more attention than even his eloquent statements have generally done. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that the South had an army, and in a very short time would have a navy. He could not be aware at the time of such a speedy realization of his prophecy, or that its fulfilment was then attempted by the agent of the Confederate States. In the same month of October, an official letter was intercepted from the Secretary of the Confederate Navy to the agent of the Confederates in England, in which he says— Mr. Saunders has, as you are aware, contracted with this Department for the construction in England of six iron-clad steamers. That was, in fact, the construction of a fleet to sail from the shores of England to attack the United States on the part of the Confederate States. The noble Lord the Member for Sandwich (Lord Clarence Paget) would jump at such an addition to the English navy. It seemed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's prophecy was about to be followed by speedy fulfilment. It was not the case of one or two vessels sailing out to break the blockade, or catch one or two merchant ships, but English ports were made use of for the purpose of carrying on a private war in size and importance almost equal to a public war with the United States. Now, there came the question, what was to be done? He did not ask the Government to infringe the rights of any British subject, or to infringe the law, or to do anything detrimental to what was supposed to be the British interest; but he asked them to carry out the law, and if the law were not sufficiently powerful, they should come to that House and demand further powers. If they did so, they would only be following the example of the United States, which demanded and ob- tained summary powers when this country made a request in a similar case. He was not sure that they had waited for our request, nor did he actually know that the English Government had made such a request; but if not, the American Government did what they considered necessary without it. At the time of the rebellion in Canada, the United States Foreign Enlistment Act not being sufficient to prevent the transgression of the frontier between Canada and the United States, and the passage over it of armed men—precisely the same thing as the passage of armed vessels from the English shores to America—the American Government passed a temporary Act, enlarging the powers of their Foreign Enlistment Act. He believed the American Foreign Enlistment Act was similar to the English Foreign Enlistment Act, and the eases were also similar. Both Acts contained two provisions—one prohibiting the recruiting of armed men or the marching of an army over the frontier; the other was to prevent the equipping of vessels, or the departure of a navy from its ports. ["Hear!"] Not with standing that ironical cheer from the opposite side, he would say that they would be only following the example of the friendly conduct of America in a similiar situation, if the Government would obtain further powers by passing a temporary Act for the purpose. When making that suggestion, he was only stating what appeared to be the sentiments of Earl Russell during a part of last year. In December 1862 the noble Earl wrote to Mr. Adams that he was prepared to make an amendment in the Foreign Enlistment Act, to render the law more effectual to prevent the fitting out of vessels, if the United States would do the same. The only other information they had was, that on the 14th of February last, Earl Russell, writing to Lord Lyons, said— On a second point—namely, whether the law with respect to the equipment of vessels for hostile purposes might be improved—Mr. Adams said that his Government were ready to listen to any proposition Her Majesty's Government had to make, but they did not see how their own law on the subject could be improved. I said that the Cabinet had come to a similar conclusion. So that no further proceedings need be taken at present on the subject. Why did the United States Government say they did not think an amendment of their law was necessary? Because they had found the law effectual under similar circumstances. Eight years ago, when this country was engaged in a war with Russia, a similar case to the present one occurred. We blockaded the ports of Russia as the United States were blockading the Confederate ports. We believed we had shut in the Russian navy so as not to interfere with British commerce; but there was a considerable anxiety in this country lest the United States should send out privateers under the Russian flag. We feared that the Americans might do to us what we were now doing to the United States. In consequence of that feeling, our Consuls and Ministers received the same instructions as the American Ministers and Consuls now receive—to watch everything that was done. But it might be truly stated with confidence, that not with standing the strong temptation presented to American merchants to fit out privateers to prey on English commerce, not one single privateer or vessel of war left American ports to aid Russia during the whole of that war. On the contrary, he could mention two instances in which American subjects showed that they would not break the neutrality law. He believed it was supposed that a ship called the General Admiral did leave an American port to assist the Russian Government. The fact really was, that Mr. Webb, a great shipbuilder in America, received an order from the Russian Government to build this ship before the breaking-out of the war. He stated that he returned to New York in 1853 and commenced the work; that after the breaking-out of the war between Russia and England and her ally, with whom the United States Government was at peace, the legality of his continuing the prosecution of the work became questionable; and the result was the suspension of the work and the postponement of the fulfilment of his contract until after the restoration of peace; and they had got between Mr. Webb and the Grand Duke part of the correspondence that passed Constantine on the subject. There was a still more extraordinary case, that of an armed schooner which was suspected by the British Consul, and his suspicions appeared to be almost identical with the suspicions felt by the American Consul with regard to the Alabama. What did the American Government do? Upon the receipt of a deposition, nothing like so strong as that upon which the Foreign Office took five days to act, and then acted when it was too late, the American Government at once detained the vessel until the Bri- tish Consul was convinced that she was not intended for the service of Russia; and that, in fact, she had been armed with a view to resist pirates in Chinese seas. It was rather a curious coincidence that that vessel belonged to a very eminent American merchant, Mr. Low, who had suffered most from the depredations of the Alabama; and it was also a curious fact that he was one of the largest, if not the largest subscriber to the American fund for the relief of the distress in Lancashire. Therefore, the House would not be surprised if his case had excited great sympathy in America. Well, in consequence of the arrest of this vessel, the Maury, the New York Chamber of Commerce, having a feeling, which he feared was not shared much in in England, that if the charge had been true, such a breach of the laws of neutrality would be disgraceful to their characters as merchants, appointed a committee to examine into the case, and they came to the conclusion that while an apology was due to Mr. Low for the ungrounded suspicions, it was incumbent on them to express their opinion of the charge. What was the nature of the Resolution they passed?— That the merchants of New York, as part of the body of merchants of the United States, will uphold the Government in the full maintenance of the neutrality laws of the country, and will acknowledge and adopt, and always have regarded, the acts of the United States in preserving this neutrality as binding in honour and conscience as well as law, and we denounce those who violate them as disturbers of the peace of the world, and to be held in universal abhorrence. With such a resolution come to in the year 1855, the House could not be surprised at the resolution recently passed by the same Chamber of Commerce, in which they express their indignation at the fact that armed vessels had been allowed to leave British ports for the purpose of acting against the commerce of the United States. He did not ask the Government to infringe the right of any British subject, but he was quite sure that if the Customs of Liverpool had acted with anything like the same vigilance as the Customs authorities at New York acted in the case of the Maury, the Alabama, would never have been permitted to leave the port. And if they acted with anything like the vigilance that was now used to prevent smuggled tobacco coming in, he believed that the vessels that were now being built would never be able to get to sea. If, during the Russian war, the Americans had acted towards us as we were now acting towards them, he believed the indignation that would have been caused in this country would have been so great that it would have been very difficult for any Government to have maintained peace with the United States. There was only one more point which he wished to impress upon the attention of the Government He could not help thinking, from the perusal of these papers, that the Custom-house authorities, whose business primarily it was to see this law was put in force, were acting in some respects on a wrong principle; for they seemed to suppose that it was not their business to put it in force until the American Government took action in the matter. That was not the case. This was not a question of sympathy as between the North and South, but it was a question of obedience to British law. and of carrying out a British Act, the preamble of which said that the equipment or fitting out of vessels in British ports was to be prevented, because it was prejudicial and calculated to endanger the peace and welfare of the kingdom It might be said by some hon. Gentlemen that the United States had now so much to do that these things could be done with impunity. Suppose that to be the case. Let the House remember what a precedent this country was creating. We were neutrals now, but we had been belligerents, and may be belligerents again; and if so, could we expect that the United States would retire into their old position of neutrality, and act again as they did during the war in the Crimea? But he doubted that a nation of 20,000,000, roused up to a pitch of great excitement, would be restrained from hostilities merely because they were engaged in another war. If there were anything in our own history of which we were proud, it was this—that when engaged in war with one nation, we were ready to resent any insult or injury just as strongly as if we were at peace. He would only add that during this war, which had caused so much misery in this country, we had hitherto preserved neutrality under what he was willing to acknowledge had been no little provocation, and under the temptation of what to some appeared an advantage from its breach to the interests of those they most cared for—namely, their industrial population. Having done so, and having now a hope, as he trusted and believed they had, of seeing an end to this terrible war, surely the Government would do their utmost to preserve that neutrality from being violated by private interest in order to put money into the pockets of a few ship owners and contractors, however wealthy they might be, or however high their station.


Sir, my hon. Friend who has just sat down has referred to the strong feeling which exists in the United States on the subject of the Alabama, and to the important interests which he thinks may be compromised if this country does not exert the powers which it possesses to prevent the fitting out of similar vessels; and he has said that we cannot be surprised that the American merchants and the American public should hold this country responsible for the acts of that vessel. I shall take the liberty of saying that we should have very just reason to feel surprised that so extraordinary an error should prevail in the general mind of the American public, if it did not happen that we are able to trace that error in some respects to its source. The accusations that have been made against Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Alabama, and which I hope to show the House are entirely groundless, are but a part of a series of accusations of systematic breaches of neutrality which, unhappily, the Government of the United States has permitted itself to make against this country, from, I might almost say, the beginning of this war. In their diplomatic communications, made through Mr. Adams to Her Majesty's Government, and which I regret to add constitute no small part of the contents of the book which I hold in my hand—the book laid by the American Government before Congress—I find repeated, over and over again, a catalogue of grievances against this country, of which the matter of the Alabama is only a single item. I regret to say that it is indispensably necessary, in order that the House should appreciate the truth concerning the Alabama, and see how utterly destitute of solid ground are the complaints which have been made with respect to the Alabama, that I should show the House in what company those charges are found. I will only mention two or three examples. On the 13th of February, last year, we have Mr. Seward writing to complain of the exportation from this country of munitions of war and arms to the Confederate States, and repre- senting this as a breach of the duties of neutrality, which the Government, if sincere in their neutrality, were bound to prevent. On the 1st of May, 1862, Mr. Seward complained that money had been provided by subscription in Liverpool, and employed in the purchase of arms and munitions for the Confederates. On the 12th of May Mr. Adams wrote to Earl Russell complaining of the supply of men and ships, which he mixed up with arms and money, to one of the parties in the war. Upon the 2nd of June Mr. Seward sent to Mr. Adams a report of a gentleman who gave a long account of the purchases of arms, munitions of war, and military stores, which had been shipped from England to the Confederate States; and only as late as the 30th of December, 1862, Mr. Adams, while engaged in correspondence with Earl Russell on the subject of the Alabama, annexed to his despatch documents giving an account of a large quantity of military and other stores which had been exported from this country to the Confederate States, and making the exsietnce of that trade the subject of renewed complaints. It is true that Mr. Adams then endeavoured to give some colour to that complaint by connecting it with the question of blockade; but if the trade was not otherwise a violation of Her Majesty's neutrality, there could be no pretence for saying that the blockade of the Southern coast could make it so. This is the manner in which, from first to last, in their diplomatic correspondence with this country, the Government of the United States have not thought it unworthy of them to complain of this country as guilty of breaches of neutrality. They have in that correspondence done no more nor less than to deny the application to this country, in this war, of those principles as to neutrals which have been invariably recognised by all nations, and by no nation more emphatically and constantly than by the United States themselves. I have given the House the dates of several of those complaints—I will now mention another date. In November, 1862, the Mexican Minister at Washington addressed a complaint to Mr. Seward to this effect— I have the honour to inform you that my Government has given me instructions to communicate to that of the United States that the Mexican Government has reliable information to the effect that the chief of the French expedition which is invading the republic has sent emissaries to New Orleans and New York to purchase mules and waggons for transporting the cannon, war materials, and provisions to the interior of Mexico. My Government thinks, that if such purchases should be realized, the neutrality to which they are bound would be violated by the sellers. Now, what was the answer of Mr. Seward upon the 24th of November to that remonstrance? Mr. Seward, in his reply, quoted sundry extracts from well-known American authorities, as embodying the traditional doctrines and policy of his Government, and constituting his answer to this complaint. What were those extracts? The first was an instruction to the collectors of customs, issued by Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury, August 4th, 1793, as follows— The purchasing and exporting from the United States, by way of merchandise, articles commonly called contraband, being generally warlike instruments and stores, is free to all parties at war, and is not to be interfered with. If our own citizens undertake to carry them to any of these parties, they will be abandoned to the penalties which the laws of war authorize. Well, have we not abandoned to the penalties of the law all ships of our country which have been found on the high seas carrying contraband of war? The next extract is from Mr. Webster's letter, dated the 8th of July, 1842, to Mr. Thompson— It is not the practice of nations to undertake to prohibit their own subjects from trafficking in articles contraband of war. Such trade is carried on at the risk of those engaged in it, under the liabilities and penalties prescribed by the law of nations or particular treaties. In his instructions of the same date Mr. Webster further stated— That if American merchants in the way of commerce had sold munitions of war to Texas, the Government of the United States, nevertheless, were not bound to prevent it, and could not have prevented it without a manifest departure from the principles of neutrality. Then comes a passage from President Pierce's Message to Congress in 1855— The laws of the United States do not forbid their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent Powers articles contraband of war, or take munitions of war or soldiers on board their private ships for transportation; and although in so doing the individual exposes his property or person to some of the hazards of war, his acts do not involve any breach of national neutrality, nor of themselves implicate the Government. There is yet one extract more. We have heard complaints of loans of money, as well as of the sale of munitions of war. The doctrine of the United States, in that respect, is set forth in a communication from Mr. Webster to Mr. Thompson in 1841— As to advances, loans, or donations of money or goods made by individuals to the Government of Texas, or its citizens, the Mexican Government hardly needs to be informed that there is nothing unlawful in this, so long as Texas is at peace with the United States, and that these are things which no Government undertakes to restrain. I think the House will now see that the American mind has not been assisted by its own Government to appreciate, justly and truly, the specific value of the charges in regard to the Alabama, or the manner in which the acknowledged general principles of international law bear upon that and similar cases. We have, therefore, some reason to complain of, and certainly to regret, the course which the Government of the United States has pursued. I now come to the particular case of the Alabama. It is highly necessary, in order that the bearing of this question on international law, and the mutual relations of our Government and the United States, may be properly understood, that we should in the first instance ascertain clearly what is the right of the latter in the case. We, of course, have the deepest interest in the maintenance of our own rights, and are determined to enforce them in accordance with the laws and constitutional principles of this country But, the fact is, that if we, for our own reasons, and in order to prevent the violation of our neutrality by other Governments, had not thought fit to pass the Foreign Enlistment Act—an Act which we have as much right to repeal as to pass—if we had not done that of our own will and pleasure, it would have been impossible for the Government of the United States, on their own principles, to treat the sale of ships of war as in any degree more unlawful than the sale of any other kinds of munitions of war. I will prove that from their own authorities. They have a Foreign Enlistment Act as well as ourselves; and their Judges in deciding cases under it have had occasion to state the principles of that particular law, and also of the general law which prevails between nations. In 1815 the case of the Alerta was tried before the Supreme Court of the United States, and in the judgment this passage occurs— A neutral nation may, if so disposed, without a breach of her neutral character, grant permission to both belligerents to equip their vessels of war within her territory; but without such per- mission the subjects of such belligerent Powers have no right to equip vessels of war, or to increase or augment their force, either with arms or with men, within the territory of such neutral nation. Such unauthorized acts violate her sovereignty and her rights as a neutral. That is just the principle on which the Foreign Enlistment Act is based. It was passed for the defence of our neutrality against any invasion of it by other Powers, and not in consequence of any obligation imposed upon us to prohibit such transactions as the building or equipment of ships of war for a belligerent by our subjects. If, then, à priori, a ship or arms may he sold, unless the neutral State interferes to prevent it, what is the extent of the right which a foreign Government derives from the existence of the Foreign Enlistment Act? Only this, that the foreign Government may appeal to the friendly spirit of the neutral State to enforce its own statute according to its own principles of judicial administration. The United States Government have no right to complain if the Act in question is enforced in 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. The Act must, be not only interpreted but executed according to law. It can be put in operation only on such evidence as our own Government would deem sufficient to justify proceedings in any other case. There is no comparison between the sale of a vessel of war by a neutral to a belligerent and such a case as that which happened lately in Brazil, where the property of British subjects was plundered on the shores of that country. That was a case in which, apart from local laws, British rights were infringed. But in the present instance the sale of a vessel of war, if brought within the Act, is an offence purely because our own law has declared it to be so; and if any foreign Government have an interest in getting that law enforced, they must be content to have it done according to the ordinary modes of procedure in this country. 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. It was not intended to do so. Two things must he 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. I am not going into an inquiry as to the construction of the Act, but I may remind those who wish to get at the real truth of the matter of one or two points which have been decided, upon the corresponding American statute, by the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest tribunal in that country. The House will then see what may lawfully be done on the showing of the Americans themselves. There was a rather remarkable case, which occurred in 1822, and was decided by Judge Story. The ship was called the Independencia. She was originally an American privateer, built and equipped for and engaged in the war between the United States and Great Britain. After the peace she was converted into a brig, and sold. In January, 1816, she was loaded with a cargo of munitions of war by her new owners, inhabitants of Baltimore; and being armed with twelve guns, constituting part of her original armament, she was sent from that port, under the command of a native citizen of the United States, to Buenos Ayres, then at war with Spain. By the written instructions given to the supercargo on this voyage, he was authorized by the owners to sell the vessel to the Government of Buenos Ayres if he could obtain a suitable price. She arrived at Buenos Ayres, having committed no act of hostility, but sailing under the protection of the United States flag during the outward voyage. At Buenos Ayres she was sold, and soon afterwards, in May 1816, assumed the flag and character of a public ship, and was understood by the crew to have been sold to the Government of Buenos Ayres; indeed, the captain himself made known these facts to the crew, asserting that he had become a citizen of Buenos Ayres, and had received a commission to command the vessel as a national ship, and invited the crew to enlist in the same service, which the greater part of them did. From that time she was publicly and notoriously employed as a public ship of war of the Government of Buenos Ayres. What was the judgment of Justice Story upon that part of the case? It was this— The question as to the original illegal armament and outfit of the Independencia may be dis- missed in a few words. It is apparent, that though equipped as a vessel of war, she was sent to Buenos Ayres on a commercial adventure, contraband, indeed, but in no shape violating our laws or our national neutrality. If captured by a Spanish ship of war during the voyage, she would have been justly condemned as good prize, and for being engaged in a traffic prohibited by the law of nations. 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, Supposing, therefore, the voyage to have been for commercial purposes, and the sale at Buenos Ayres to have been a bonâ fide sale (and there is nothing in the evidence before us to contradict it), there is no pretence to say that the original outfit on the voyage was illegal, or that a capture made after the sale was, for that cause alone, invalid. I must trouble the House with one more American decision. The case occurred in 1832, and the doctrine laid down in it was, that if a ship was fitted up with part of her armament in the United States. and then taken abroad by her owners with intent to complete her armament, and employ her in the service of a belligerent power, provided they could obtain funds in a foreign port for that purpose, this was not so definite an intention as to bring the case within the American Foreign Enlistment Act. The question was, whether the transaction, while the ship was still within the territory of the United States, had the character of a warlike armament, or that of a commercial speculation; and it was held that this must depend upon an absolute, and not a contingent intention. It was said— The collectors are not authorized to detain vessels, although manifestly built for warlike purposes and about to depart from the United States, unless circumstances shall render it probable that such vessels are intended to be employed by the owners to commit hostilities against some foreign Power at peace with the United States. The words are, "render it probable;" which, if the principles of the law of this country are to be regarded, must mean, capable of reasonable proof. Sir, I do not deny that the United States are entitled to approach our Government, and to say, "You have laws, the violation of which will be injurious to us, and which you profess to desire in good faith to enforce. Here is a case as to which we can offer you evidence." Our Government always have been, and I have no doubt always will be, ready to attend to evidence furnished to them under such circumstances. But let not the House be misled, and let not the American people be misled, as far as to suppose that there is an international ground of complaint merely because a ship of war with which the Confederate States may carry on their belligerent operations was built in and comes from this country. A clear ground of complaint would exist if our Government themselves I directly or indirectly were concerned in fitting out such a belligerent ship; and a ground of complaint would exist, if a belligerent Power were permitted by our Government to use our shores or our waters for the actual operations of war; but if it is merely a case of individuals doing that which would be lawful by international law in this country if it were ont for our Foreign Enlistment Act—doing that which is only unlawful because there is a Foreign Enlistment Act—then the whole extent of the right possessed by the United States is to ask us to administer our laws upon the same principles and in the same manner as we should administer them against our own subjects in a matter in which we were ourselves alone concerned. So much I undertake to say our Government will always be ready to do; and if the minds of the people of the United States could be relieved from the prejudice, the bias, the false impression produced by the continued representations of their Government that things are unlawful and against international law which they know well not to be so, I feel perfectly sure that no candid man in the United States could think that there has been a want of good faith and upright intention on the part of our Government in anything which has occurred with respect to the Alabama. My hon. Friend has said that the Alabama was not the first ship which escaped from this country. That is true; there was the Oreto. What were the circumstances of that case? The Oreto was made the subject of due representation only once before she left this country, because she sailed from Liverpool on the 22nd of March clandestinely, as did the Alabama, and it was only on that same day that a conversation took place between Mr. Adams and Lord Russell which might have led to her detention if she had not gone. On the 18th of February the first and only previous information communicated to our Government was given by Mr. Adams. He stated a case which clearly called for inquiry. Accordingly, the Commissioners of Customs were directed to make an inquiry; they did so, and on the 22nd of February they reported that circumstances worthy of credit tended to show that the Oreto was going, or at all events was credibly represented to be going to Italy, and not to America; and not a particle of evidence had been offered to the contrary. She was not then fitted for the reception of guns, and had nothing on board but coals and ballast. There was consequently nothing to justify her detention—nothing but vague rumours and suspicions. No further representation was made, and the Oreto sailed on the 22nd of March. What then happened? The circumstances of her departure, and the contemporaneous representation made by Mr. Adams to our Government, made it probable that she was really intended for the Confederate States, and that our officers had been imposed upon. Still, the case was not clear; there was nothing proved to have been done in England which a court of law would certainly have construed as a violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act. Nevertheless, our Government immediately sent orders to Nassau, whither she was understood to have gone; and when she arrived there, she was watched. Upon the appearance of a delivery of stores, which appeared to be munitions of war, into the Oreto, while in our waters, although the case was doubtful, and it was questionable whether the evidence would prove sufficient, still, to show our good faith, we strained a point, and, acting upon some evidence, the Oreto was seized. What was the result? She was tried and acquitted, the evidence not being sufficient. Did we show any want of good faith in that case? With respect to the Alabama, the material facts may be shortly stated. On the 23rd of June Mr. Adams first called the attention of our Government to the information he had received about the building of the Alabama. It had often been said before that there were many ships in preparation for the Confederate States, but no evidence had been produced in any case, except that of the Oreto: and, what is more, we now know that, in fact, there were no other ships. The Oreto and the Alabama appear to be the only ships of the class which have yet been built in this country, whatever may be going on now, which is another question. When they received the representation from Mr. Adams on the 23rd of June, our Government took the proper and usual course; they directed the Commissioners of Customs to have the case inquired into. On the 1st of July the Commissioners made their report to Lord Russell: they said it was evident the ship was a ship of war; it was believed, and not denied, she was built for a foreign Government; but the builders would give no information about her destination, and the Commissioners had no other reliable source of information on that point. Were our Government wrong in not seizing the vessel then? The circumstances disclosed in the case tried before Justice Story were so far exactly the same as those which occurred in the case of the Alabama, and, in the absence of any further evidence, the seizure of that ship would have been altogether unwarrantable by law. She might have been legitimately built for a foreign Government; and though a ship of war, she might have formed a legitimate article of merchandise, even if meant for the Confederate States. Lord Russell, of course, communicated to Mr. Adams the result of the inquiry by the Commissioners of Customs, intimating, that if Mr. Adams could furnish any evidence, it would receive attention. The Government have been accused of unreasonable delay. Was there ever a more unfounded accusation? What time did Mr. Adams take to get his evidence? It was not the fault of our Government that he was not ready with it from the beginning. Lord Russell communicated with him on the 4th of July; eighteen days passed away before he furnished any evidence whatever; on the 22nd he transmitted his first series of depositions; he did not complete his evidence till the 24th, and the letter in which he sent the two last depositions was not received at the Foreign Office till the 26th. So that he did not place the whole evidence on which he relied in the hands of the Government till the 26th of July. In the mean time he obtained the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, who on the 16th stated his belief that there was a case of suspicion which might prove enough to justify the detention of the vessel. That first opinion was not communicated to Her Majesty's Government, and the Collector of the Customs at Liverpool did not think himself warranted in acting upon the evidence when produced to him, without higher authority. When the evidence was completed, it was laid before the hon. and learned Gentlemen, who, on the 23rd, thought there was a case sufficient to warrant her detention. Upon that evidence the legal advisers of the Government came to the came conclusion as the hon. and learned Member. But I wish the House to understand that in those depositions there was a great mass of hearsay evidence, which, taken by itself, could not form the basis of any action. Of the six depositions transmitted on the 22nd of July only one was good for anything at all—namely, the evidence of a person named Passmore, which was sufficient to prove the material facts. Two more were sent, corroborating Passmore, on the 24th, and were received by Earl Russell on the 26th. Now, what is the delay of which we are accused? The 26th was Saturday, and the 27th Sunday. The complete evidence was not in the hands of Earl Russell till the 26th, and he told Mr. Adams on the 28th—that is, on the Monday, that the Law Officers of the Crown had been consulted. He got their opinion on the 29th, the next day, arid that very same day a telegraphic message was sent down to stop the ship. Really, Sir, one is shocked at the perversion of mind which arises under, I admit, the most excusable circumstances; for the House will give me credit for sincerity when I say that no one makes more allowance than I do for the natural feeling of irritation on the part of the American nation. No one can be more anxious than I am that we should stand straight with them and they with us. But I must say that but for the perversion of mind consequent on an irritable state of feeling, traceable to causes with which we can sympathize, I cannot conceive how any human being could say that the Government have culpably omitted to act with the promptitude which they ought to have shown. I might, perhaps, understand such a complaint if grounded on some such theory as this:—That because the safeguards of liberty have been suspended under circumstances of civil war in the United States, therefore they should be suspended in this country too, and the officers of our Government should do illegal acts and violate the law on mere accusation and suspicion. My hon. Friend referred to an example of the way in which the United States Government carried out their Foreign Enlistment Act during our war with Russia. Now, far be it from me to say that the United States Government did not act in as perfect good faith towards us in that war as we have acted towards them in this; but if the facts are examined, it will appear that they did nothing whatever in regard to the Maury which is not exactly parallel to what we did in the case of the Alabama. What were the dates in reference to my hon. Friend's example? Information was given by the British Consul of the circumstances upon which he based his belief that that was a ship of war intended for the Russian service on, I think, the 11th of October, 1855. That information was accompanied by evidence raising a sufficient primâ facie case as to the ship being fitted out as a ship of war; but the affidavits spoke only on belief as to the purpose and destination. That may be the mode of proceeding there; but I cannot see, because in the United States you may be warranted in acting upon belief as to destination, that it necessarily follows the same should be the case in this country also. I might, perhaps, be able to explain the reason why there should be a difference in the practice there. But let us now look at the dates. That evidence which was held to be sufficient for action was given to the United States Government at Washington on the 11th of October. They telegraphed immediately to the proper officer at New York, where the ship was, and what was ordered to be done was, not to give a clearance to the vessel. That order was made on the 13th. Did we give a clearance to the Alabama? She sailed without a clearance. We did not in any way facilitate or authorize her departure; it was only by an evasion and a stratagem, violating the laws of the port, that she slipped out. The vessel cited by my hon. Friend was not arrested, was not seized, was not placed in a situation practically different from that of the Alabama before her escape, until the 17th of October; on which day a libel was filed in the proper court against the ship by the Attorney General of the United States, and an order for her arrest was made by the Court. Until then, as far as appears, she might have slipped out of port without a clearance, as the Alabama did, if she had been really intended for the Russian service. So that the interval between the transmission of the first part of the evidence on the 22nd of July and the 29th, when the order to stop the Alabama was given by Her Majesty's Government, is not longer than the interval between the 11th of October and the 17th in the American case adduced by my hon. Friend. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: Take the date of the first letter.] That came to Her Majesty's Government without any evidence whatever, and I am sure my hon. Friend is not one of those who think that without any evidence whatever we ought to have stopped the vessel. Even Mr. Adams himself did not think that. When invited to send in his evidence, he took eighteen days to furnish any part of it; the depositions were not any of them sworn till the 21st; they were not all sent in to the Foreign Office till the 26th; and the order of the Government was given on., the 29th. But, of course, we are not going to spell out this matter by hours and by days. It is enough to show that each of the two Governments acted with reasonable promptitude and despatch; and there is not the least ground for believing that either Government supposed that in consequence of taking the moderate time they did the vessel would, have escaped them. The United States Government appear to have a more convenient method than ours. Their Customs authorities have a Court always sitting ready to deal with such matters; but in this country the Customs authorities would have had to seize the ship, without any order of Court, on the responsibility of the Government; and it would be a direct violation of the law to do that unless there was a justifying cause for doing so. I cannot think there is any Member of this House who seriously believes in his conscience that Her Majesty's Government did not act with good faith in this matter. Hon. Gentlemen will scarcely say it was an unreasonable thing for them to take from Saturday till Tuesday to get the opinion of their responsible advisers on the completed state of the evidence, which the Customs authorities considered to be insufficient at an earlier stage. My hon. Friend asked what we propose to do as to other ships supposed to be building, and whether we hold that the Foreign Enlistment Act is to be enforced only at the instance of a foreign Government. I have no hesitation in answering him. The Government by no means look upon that Act as an Act to be enforced only at the instance of a foreign Government. They are anxious to enforce it to the best of their power; but, of course, they must have legal grounds to proceed upon; and it will not do to tell us that six iron-clad ships are about to be built in this kingdom unless the Government have the means of knowing where they are to be built, by whom they are to be built, and also that they are to be built under such circumstances as will involve the parties in a violation of the law. We should be glad to receive from any quarter information upon that subject; and I quite agree with my hon. Friend that it would be well if the merchants of this country who may be invited to be parties to such acts, which are acts in violation of the law of their own country, and at the same time calculated, if not to involve the British Government in dangerous relations, at, least to disturb the amicable intercourse between the two Powers—it would be well, I think, if gentlemen: who may be invited to enter into undertakings of that description, whether for commercial or other objects, would reflect that it is the duty of merchants, as well as of all other persons, to obey the law and to have some regard to the interests of their country and the interests of peace, and to have also some regard to the feelings of a foreign belligerent nation when the law of their own country is in accordance with its interests. Her Majesty's Government, I am sure, would without partiality follow out any clue they might possess in order to discover and prevent illegal practices; for they are undoubtedly anxious to put the law in force against any person really violating the law, and against whom they may be able to obtain legal evidence. And if our law is defective, it is for this House to consider whether it ought to be amended. If Her Majesty's Government thought it was so, they would be willing, in concert with the American Government, to consider how it might be amended. But they could not think it would be acting prudently or safely to come down to Parliament and propose an alteration in our law unless they had reason to believe that the American Government were prepared to take some steps to place their law also on the same basis. Moreover, whatever may be the good faith and good intentions of any Government, without the cordial cooperation of its people it is impossible but that circumstances will from time to time arise when any law, however well devised, will be infringed or evaded. The case of our war with Russia has been quoted; but that is not the only war in which we have been liable to injury from the subjects of a neutral State. The House recol- lects the insurrection in Canada, and what was then done by citizens of the United States. What was the efficiency of the steps then taken by the United Slates Government? I do not say they were unwilling—I am not entitled to assume that—but if they were willing, they were not able to prevent even such acts as the attempted invasion of Canada by the ship Caroline. I do not remember to have heard that the persons on board of her received any punishment from the United States Government; and yet, undoubtedly, acts in violation of international law were then committed, and the Government were not able to prevent them. I need not refer to other cases—to the expedition of a person named Walker to Honduras—and similar instances. I do not cast blame upon the United States for these acts, but I only draw from them this inference, that in times of excitement, in times when the spirit of adventure and political or commercial enterprise is abroad, violations of law will occur, which, with all the good intentions in the world, a Government may not be able to prevent. What is alleged against us; what is the extent of the acts committed, even by individual subjects of this country, which can be considered contrary to any law of our own? Why, the building of these two particular ships. If our law failed to reach them, while they were within our jurisdiction, and if nothing was done by them in our ports or in our waters which was against international law, how can we be held responsible for their subsequent proceedings, when on the high seas? It was not till the Alabama reached the Azores that she-received her stores, her captain, or her papers, and that she hoisted the Confederate flag. It is not true that she departed from the shores of this country as a ship armed for war. But, whatever may have been the guilt of particular persons, this, at all events, I will say, that we have reason to congratulate ourselves, as far as Government is concerned, that our neutrality has been strict, impartial, and honest from beginning to end; and, as far as our people are concerned, it is a matter of some congratulation that hitherto no instances of this kind but those two are proved to have occurred. On the other hand, I believe there have been a great many enlistments of British subjects into the service of the Federation. The House will recollect a remarkable letter at the end of these pa- pers, in which Mr. Seward maintains that the act of a certain officer of the American Government, who had held out inducements to the seamen of a British steamer to enter the belligerent service of the United States, could not be very strongly complained of. Mr. Seward says— They were needy, and it seems to me that they could well have complained of severity and harshness, if, being disposed, they had been refused permission to enter into the service of the United States. Is that no violation of neutrality? But we I can make allowance for those things; and although fairly entitled to remind the Government of the United States that they did not respect our neutrality in all cases, yet we do not pretend to say that the amicable relations of the two countries need to be disturbed on that account. My hon. Friend asked what explanation could we give of this—that though orders were sent to stop the ship at Queenstown and at Nassau, when she went to Port Royal, in Jamaica, she was not stopped. I do not know the exact time when she was at Port Royal—I believe it was in January last. But I can appeal to a high authority of the United States themselves for this rule, that although it may be true you may attach and confiscate a ship in a different port, yet it must be in the same course or voyage; and the offence is at an end, and is for all purposes of action blotted out, when she has ended that voyage and changed her ownership. I do not know who there was at Port Royal to give: instructions or to deal with the case; but this I do know, that coming there in December or January last, at a time when she was the property of the Confederate States, it would have raised a very difficult question if she had been touched. I have no reason at all to believe, that if an opportunity had been offered, proper means would not have been taken to consider and deal with the question; but it probably was thought impossible to deal with the vessel under the new circumstances, seeing that she had ceased to belong to British subjects, and had become the property of the Confederate States. I hope, then, the House will be satisfied that Her Majesty's Government are free from blame; and if what has been said to-night would only tend to remove the false impressions that may prevail on this question in the United States, so far from regretting the introduction of the subject by my hon. Friend, I should look upon it as a matter for our congratulation.


said, he had listened with great regret and with great surprise to the hon. and learned Gentleman, because he believed the tone of his speech was not likely to allay the feelings of irritation which existed on the other side of the Atlantic on this subject. He was quite sure the hon. and learned Gentleman did not wish to increase that irritation, and that the Government were anxious to conciliate rather than to provoke. But when the hon. and learned Gentleman founded his speech, not upon the application of legal principles to the particular circumstances which the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had brought before the House, but upon a series of charges against the American Government, charges about the Caroline and about Honduras, circumstances which really did not enter into the case, and referred to the diplomatic correspondence with that Government in support of them, he thought the effect could not be conciliatory, but rather damaging to our position in that country. The hon. and learned Gentleman hoped that America would be brought to reason by his speech. He (Mr. T. Baring) was afraid that the United States would read the speech as an indictment against them for misconduct in times past. If ever there was a moment, if ever there was a question, upon which every angry feeling ought to be eschewed, when that House and the Government ought to show the wisdom of forbearance, it was now, when the feeling against this country had risen to such a height on the other side the Atlantic that nobody could predict what the consequences might be. He would ask the Government to consider whether the course they had pursued with respect to the Alabama was calculated to give confidence to the United States as to the friendly nature of our disposition. The hon. and learned Gentleman had referred to many cases and decisions, and among them to one of Mr. Justice Story. He (Mr. T. Baring) was no lawyer, but he confessed he did not think the decision of Judge Story applied to this case. He said, "Here is a vessel that was sent to Buenos Ayres, and directed to be sold there;" but had the Alabama ever gone into a Confederate port, or ever been placed in the position to which the decision of Judge Story applied? This was a most unfortunate case, because it led public opinion on the other side of the Atlantic to question very much the sincerity of our declarations of neutrality, and to believe, that while we issued Proclamations and had Foreign Enlistment Acts in force, we did not really wish to maintain the neutrality which we professed. It was most unfortunate that such a feeling should exist. There had been a vast destruction of property, and great injury had been entailed upon British commerce—for the high insurance which was rendered necessary was a great loss and heavy damage to British trade. And no one could tell where the feeling of animosity which had been engendered would rest. The House was aware that the President was already empowered to issue letters of marque; and if those letters were issued, was there any one who could say that the most frequent collisions might not occur, and endanger the peace of the two nations? We saw already the seizures of British vessels by the blockading squadron without just cause, a proceeding originating, perhaps, in the feeling that we were not sincere in our professions. His hon. and learned Friend had referred to what he represented to be parallel cases; but the fact of the Crown lawyers having advised the Government to put the Enlistment Act in force against the Alabama, was an admission that the Government ought to have arrested that vessel; and the hon. and learned Gentleman admits that it would have been arrested if proper precautions had been taken. The question was, did the Government take proper precautions? In his (Mr. Baring's) opinion, the conduct of the Government and the Law Officers had been dilatory. He believed that on the 23rd of June this matter was brought under the notice of the Government. The matter was then referred to the Customs authorities at Liverpool, whose duty it was, it appeared, to carry the Act into effect. Nearly a fortnight elapsed beforet he report of the Customs authorities was received. He thought that upon the whole facts it was impossible to acquit the Government of undue delay in obtaining information, and as impossible to acquit those who represented the Government at Liverpool of having shut their eyes to facts that were notorious. It was discreditable that there should be a law on the statute book as to the operation of which an eminent counsel could declare that it was nothing better than waste paper. He repeated, it was unfortunate that the Government had been so tardy in their operations and that with the fullest desire, as he believed, to maintain the law, they should yet be so badly represented by those whose duty it was to carry their orders into effect that the Customs authorities at Liverpool were not aware of what was going on. He confessed that it was by no means his wish to accuse the Government, or to provoke a feeling of opposition to them, on this question. His wish rather was that Her Majesty's Government should say something that would show the United States that they were anxious to guard against a recurrence of these events, and to prevent the construction, in this country, of vessels meant for destruction and not for fair fighting. The course pursued by the Alabama was not one of fair fighting against an enemy, but was a wanton destruction of valuable property that must rebound to the injury of British commerce. Events such as had recently occurred might possibly involve the two countries in hostilities, which all must deplore and which Government ought to exert themselves, if possible, to avoid.


Sir, I have been very sorry to hear the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General. I agree with the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring), that however unfortunate the position of affairs is, this question will be rendered only more so by the speech which has just been delivered by one of the chief Law Officers of the Crown. The hon. and learned Gentleman began by pointing out the inconsistencies of Mr. Seward with regard to what neutral nations may do in cases of this kind. These inconsistencies are clear to all of us; because there can be no doubt whatever that the complaint which has been made by Mr. Seward and by Mr. Adams with regard to the furnishing of munitions of war is one which, under ordinary circumstances at least, cannot with justice be made, because we know that Governments have, as a rule, agreed not to interfere with the supply of munitions of war to those engaged in war. But Mr. Seward made a much greater mistake than that of inconsistency. He was evidently of opinion, when this matter began, that he might calculate, to some extent at least, on the friendly feeling of this country towards the country of which he is Minister; because, although this Government has allowed the belligerent rights of the Southern Confederacy, still it pretends to have done that without any feeling of hostility towards the North; and as we receive an American Minister here, and as we have a Minister in Washington, and as, moreover, the United States Government in that city is the only Government we acknowledge, and as this is not a case of war between two independent States, Mr. Seward, perhaps, might have some foundation for the hope that in a case like this he might have calculated upon more forbearance and friendship from Her Majesty's Government than his country has hitherto received. But I do not wish to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman through the points of his speech, though I am quite sure that the effect of it to any one who reads it carefully will be to bring to his mind the sort of speech which the hon. and learned Gentleman would have made if he had been in another court and held a brief. I propose to read to the House two letters which have been forwarded to me—not because they will make any difference in the views of the Government or the course which the Government will take; but I should wish at any rate that the people of this country—who, I am persuaded, have no wish that any calamitous contention between England and the United States should arise—that they at least should know what is the effect produced by the conduct of some of their countrymen, and what are the results that may possibly follow. I have a letter here, signed, "William Thomas Nicholson," a native of Scotland, but for eleven years resident in the United States, and now engaged in the United States Coast Survey. It is dated ''Washington, United States of America, March 5, 1863."He says— To-day appeared at the office of the United States Coast Survey, in which service I have the honour to be engaged, Captain F. A. Small, late of the American brig Corris Ann, of Machias, State of Maine, who made application (endorsed by members of Congress) for a set of charts to supply his wants occurring in this way. On the 22nd of January last he was in command of his vessel, on a private trading voyage from Philadelphia to the port of Cardenas, north coast of Cuba:—Toward dusk of that day, when off the mouth of the harbour, and between the Rock Key, on which the lighthouse stands, and Mona Key, within a mile of the land, he was met by a steam vessel having the British union-jack flying at the mizen, which vessel, with that flag so flying, fired a shot across his bows, thereafter hauled down the British flag and ran up a flag of the so-called 'Confederate States' and then fired another shot passing between his masts, and Caused him to heave to. His vessel was boarded by an officer, his papers called for, and he was told his vessel was taken by the Confederate steamer Florida. His charts and chronometer Were plundered from him, and he was given only a few minutes to get aboard, with his crew, his small boat—to make, as best they could, the shore, when the vessel was set on fire by the captors, and drifted a burning wreck on shore. This occurred in full sight of the vessels at the outer anchorage and of the town of Cardenas, and not a protest or attempt at succour was made by the Spanish authorities. I leave the question of international law, of this so-reported flagrant breach of the sanctity of a neutral's territory (of waters), to the United States Secretary of State to deal with the authorities of Spain; but I appeal with the indignation of a native-born Briton against this renewed instance (not the first if I am rightly informed) of the desecration of the flag of Old England—of that 'meteor flag' so long the pride and the boast of her people. The Confederate steamer Florida is understood to be the same vessel that cleared from a port of Great Britain under the name of the Oreto, and is said to have been built, purchased, and fitted out therein for the service of the rebel leaders of the South, and is commanded by Captain Moffit, formerly of the United States navy. The captain of the destroyed vessel tells me, that had he not been deceived by the show of the British flag, and had he known what vessel was approaching him, he would have attempted to run her down, as he was going some ten knots an hour. Please note this also:—This same Captain Small (when master of the schooner Sahwa), in the year 1858, for his gallantry in rescuing the crew of a British vessel (the Halifax) in a sinking condition, was presented by the British Government, through the hands of Lord Napier, with a silver-mounted telescope—and now, confiding in the sign of that same flag, his own vessel is destroyed. And this at a time when the people of New York and other Northern ports are generously despatching vessels freighted with supplies for the starving operatives of England—for those noble men and women so patiently bearing the sufferings brought upon them by no fault of theirs, but resulting from the mad ambition, the foul conspiracy of a few disappointed slavery propagandists of this country. Well, he goes on to tell us what is the effect on that country of acts of that nature. The other letter is one I have received on the point to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has referred—namely, as to what is now being done. It appears that two ships have gone out; that the Government did not know anything about the one, and that the other was too sharp for them. This letter is from a gentleman in Liverpool who publishes a shipping list, which he sends me. He says— Liverpool, March 26. I send by this mail two of our shipping lists—The Telegraph. It publishes all the vessels in our port, and gives the docks where they lie, By looking over those, in the Toxteth dock, you will see a steamer entered, 'Alexandra, gunboat, 120.' This vessel was launched from the yard of W. C. Miller & Son, on Saturday, the 7th March. This is the same firm that built the Oreto, now called the Florida, the same that recently burned the Jacob Bell. The gunboat Alexandra has been built by this firm for the Confederate Government, to cruise and make war against the United States—Fawcctt, Prescott, & Co. make the engines and armament. They are now getting her ready for sea. There is no doubt about the character of this vessel, or the parties for whom she is intended. This same firm launched, on Saturday last, another steamer, called the Phantom, owned by Fraser, Trenholme, & Co. She has three portholes in each side. They pretend she is to run the blockade, but I understand they will put arms on board after she gets out to Nassau. She will be fast, and make not less than seventeen miles per hour. The two rams, iron clad, building by Lairds, at Birkenhead, for the Confederates, are most formidable. They will each have two turrets or towers, similar to the American Monitors. They are not yet launched, but will be finished about June next. George and James Thomson, at Glasgow, are building a monster ram, iron-clad, for the Confederate Government. She is over 3,000 tons burden. This vessel is not yet launched. A steamer, owned by Fraser, Trenholme, & Co., called The Southerner, has been launched from the yard of Pierce & Co., at Stockton. I have not much doubt but that this vessel is also intended as a privateer, though she will most probably carry out from here a cargo of merchandise, and fit out at Nassau. I heard, only three weeks ago, when I was in the north of England, at Newcastle, from a gentleman who a few years ago was a Member of this House, that this vessel is building, and will soon be ready. He mentioned to me the name of one of the Confederate agents, whose name appears in the intercepted despatches, and who was concerned in the Alabama, as being down at Stockton superintending this matter, or engaged in making arrangements on behalf of the Confederate States. That is the state of things, as far as this gentleman knows; and I believe that the building of those ships is just as nefarious as the building of the Alabama was. There is only one other point to which I shall ask the attention of the House for a moment. The hon. and learned Gentleman thought he had a triumph over my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) when he spoke of the United States Government and their Foreign Enlistment Act. Well, generally speaking, I should say it is not necessary for our Government to alter the Foreign Enlistment Act of this country; but it is a very common thing for all Governments—and it has been as common for this as any other—to make laws and to alter laws to meet special cases. I recollect the Government of which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was a Member, the present Foreign Secretary being Prime Minister, bringing in a Bill for the purpose of making a felony what was called "advised speaking," which had been there to fore sedition; and the House of Commons very judiciously, in my opinion, limited that alteration of the law to a period of two years, thinking that although there might be some propriety in the change at a time of great excitement like that, yet it was not necessary to alter the law of England for all time. Now, in this case the United States Government passed the Foreign Enlistment Act in 1818. I think our Act was passed in 1819. It was founded upon their Act, and is, in point of fact, almost the same. But in 1837 the United States Government found that that Act did not give them power to interfere so summarily as they thought was desirable to prevent difficulty between the United States and England in reference to affairs in Canada, and therefore they passed another Act, a few words of which, if the House permit me, I will read. The statute, in section 2, says, that the Several officers mentioned in the foregoing section shall be authorized and required to seize any vessel or vehicle [that, was, any vessel upon the lakes or vehicle endeavouring to cross the frontiers of Canada with arms] and all arms or munitions of war about to pass the frontier of the United States to any place within any foreign State or colony conterminous with the United States, where the character of the vessel or vehicle, the quantity of arms and ammunition, or other circumstances, shall furnish probable cause to believe that the said vessel or vehicle is intended to operate against a friendly Power—(I am not quoting the words of the Act, but such is its effect)—and bring the country into difficulty. I will not read more of the Act. I have referred to it to show that the alteration was intended to give the Government greater power to interfere and put the onus probandi rather upon the delinquents, which is a very common thing in this country. I am not sure whether hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they came last year to deal with the matter of the possession of pheasants, did not require the delinquents to give proof that they came by the game honestly. Surely, then, I do not see why, in a case involving such a vast issue as war, the Government would not be justified in going at least as far as that. The other section of the United States Act provides that the party whose ship is seized shall have a fair hearing, and that his property shall, under certain circumstances, be returned to him. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Foreign Enlistment Act had nothing to do with the law of nations, and that if we chose to repeal that Act, anybody might build ships of war and sell them to any Power in the world. Well, I do not know whether that is so with regard to England, but it is not so with regard to the United States; for the Act of the United States says expressly that it is intended to carry out that which is understood to be, and which they acknowledge to be, the law of nations, for the purpose of preserving peace amongst the nations. I shall not go into any further details with regard to this matter. I am satisfied that the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman will give no greater satisfaction to very many persons in this country than it will give to very many in the United States. I am satisfied, further, that if anybody in thin Country was building a ship of war, and there was a fair suspicion that it was intended to help a revolutionary party in the little kingdom of Portugal—which is always a pet kingdom of this Government—I have not the slightest doubt but the Government would interfere and stop the sailing of that ship. I say. Sir, that our neutrality is a cold and an unfriendly neutrality; and I say, that considering the natural alliance between this country and the United States, and the enormous interests which you jeopardize, it does become the Government fairly to look this question in the face, and to exert the influence they have—and which, I believe, the people of this country universally would support them in exerting—to prevent the sailing of these vessels, which can by no means whatever have any effect so far as we are concerned, but to embroil us with that nation with which, of all others in the world, we have the greatest interest in remaining at peace. Do not for a moment believe that because the United States are in this great calamity—out of which they still will come a great nation—do not believe for a moment that acts like these can be forgotten now, or forgotten hereafter. There are people in America interested apparently in creating ill-feeling towards England. There are two millions of Irishmen in America, and wherever an Irishman plants his foot on any foreign country there stands an enemy of England. I could read to you a speech of old date, delivered by Lord North in this House, in which he lamented that amongst those that were most hostile to England during the Revolutionary War were those emigrants who had gone from Ireland. Well, if there be in that country elements of hostility to England, there may be, and possibly are elements of hostility to America in this country. Why, Sir, a man who is worthy to be a Minister, instead of speaking in this cold and unfriendly tone, ought to know that all the living world and all posterity would judge him and condemn him, if he permitted anything to be undone which he could do, that would preserve the peace between the United States and England. I am not afraid to stand here in defence—not of Mr. Seward's despatches—but in defence of that great claim which the people of the United States have upon the generous forbearance and sympathy of Englishmen. If you had last night looked in the faces of three thousand of the most intelligent of the artisan classes in London, as I did, and heard their cheers, and seen their sympathy for that country for which you appear to care so little, you would imagine that the more forbearing, the more generous, and the more just the conduct of the Government to the United States, the more it would recommend itself to the magnanimous feelings of the people of this country. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who is a man of unequalled experience in politics, and who, though he may sometimes drive the coach very near the edge of the precipice, cannot, I should think, intend to drive it over; if the noble Lord, who has now for so long a time administered the affairs of this country, with a greater degree of concurrence in this House than perhaps any Minister ever enjoyed during his recollection—if the noble Lord would now come forward with kindly words and generous acts, in a manly and genial spirit, towards a great and kindred people—he has it in his power to perform services to both nations and to the world at large, not exceeded by any that his warmest admirers gay he has rendered during his long political career. This night, by that table, on this floor, the noble Lord in five minutes of those genial and friendly words which none know so well how to utter, might send a message to the United States that would allay much irritation, and would give great confidence to the friends of peace, not only on that side of the Atlantic, but to a vast number who hang upon his utterance in this country.


Sir, after the discussion that has taken place about the Alabama, I shall not trouble the House with many remarks. I can only say, from all I know and all I have heard, that from the day the vessel was laid down to her completion everything was perfectly straightforward and above board in this country. I also further say that the officers of the Government had every facility afforded them for inspecting the ship during the progress of building. When the officers came to the builders, they were shown the ship; and day after day the Customs officers were on board, as they were when she finally left, and they declared there was nothing wrong. They only left her when the tug left, and they were obliged to declare that she left Liverpool a perfectly legitimate transaction. There is one point which has been lost sight of in this discussion. If a ship without guns and without arms is a dangerous article, surely rifled guns and ammunition of all sorts are equally and even more dangerous. I have referred to the bills of entry in the Custom Houses of London and Liverpool, and I find that there have been vast shipments of implements of war to the Northern States. I find, among those who have been engaged in these transactions, the celebrated house of Baring & Co.; I find also Brown, Shipley, & Co., of Liverpool, and a variety of other names, which I need not more particularly mention, but whose Northern tendencies are well known to this House. If the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), or the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), wishes to ascertain the extent to which the Northern States of America have had supplies of arms from this country, they have only to go to a gentleman who, I am sure, will be ready to afford them every information, and much more readily than he would to me or to any one else calling upon him—the American Consul in Liverpool. Before that gentleman the manifest of every ship is laid, he has to give an American pass to each vessel, and he is consequently able to tell the exact number of rifles which have been shipped from this country for the United States—information, I doubt not, which would be very generally desired by this House. I have obtained, from the official Custom House Returns, some details of the "sundries" exported from the United Kingdom to the Northern States of America from the 1st of May, 1861, to the 31st of December, 1862. There were:—Muskets, 41,500; rifles, 341,000; gun-flints, 26,500; percussion-caps, 49,982,000; and swords, 2,250. The best information I could obtain leads me to believe that from one-third to a half may be added to these numbers for items which have been shipped to the Northern States as "hardware." I have very good reason for saying that a vessel of 2,000 tons was chartered six weeks ago for the express purpose of taking out a cargo of "hardware" to the United States. The exportation has not ceased yet. From the 1st of January to the 17th of March, 1863, the Customs bills of entry show that 23,870 gun-barrels, 30,802 rifles, and 3,105,800 percussion caps were shipped to the United States—this in addition to the immense quantities of warlike stores I have already read to the House. So that if the Southern States have got two ships unarmed, unfit for any purpose of warfare—for they procured their armaments somewhere else—the Northern States have been well supplied with the most efficient means of warfare from this country, through the agency of some most influential persons. Now, it has been stated—and by way of comparison treated as matter of complaint—that during the Crimean war the Americans behaved so well. The hon. Member for Bradford and the hon. Member for Birmingham both lauded their action as compared with that of our own Government. Now, I have heard that a vessel of war was built for Russia in the United States and actually sailed to Petropaulovski. ["Name!"] If hon. Members will allow me, I will go on. And first I propose to read an extract from The Tunes, written by their correspondent at Han Francisco, dated the 29th of January, 1863— Now, this case of the Alabama illustrates the saying that a certain class should have a good memory. During the Crimean war a man-of-war (called the America, if I remember) was built in America for the Russian Government, and brought out to the Pacific, filled with arms and munitions, by an officer in the United States navy. This gentleman took her to Petropaulovski, where she did service against the allied squadron; and she is still in the Russian navy. We made no such childish fuss about this act of 'hostility' by a friendly Power, which we could not prevent, as our friends are now making about the Alabama, whose departure from England our Government could not stop. The America was commanded by a Lieutenant Hudson, who—if my information be correct, and I have no doubt that it is—was then, or had been just previously, a lieutenant in the American navy; he is the son of a most distinguished officer in the same service, Captain Hudson. I am further informed that some doubts having arisen about the character of this ship, the American men-of-war in the different ports she called at protected her; and on her arrival in Russia, the captain who took her out was, I know, very handsomely rewarded for his services. Now, I will go a step further about the Northern States. In 1861, just after the war broke out, a friend of mine, whom I have known for many years, was over here, and came to me with a view of gelling iron-plated vessels of war built in this country for the American Government—the Northern Government. Its agents in this country made inquiries, plans and estimates were given to my friend, and transmitted to the Secretary of the American navy. I will read an extract from this gentleman's letter, dated the 30th of July, 1861. It is written from Washington, and states— Since my arrival here I have had frequent interviews with our 'Department of Naval Affairs,' and am happy to say that the Minister of the navy is inclined to have an iron-plated ship built out of the country. This ship is designed for a specific purpose to accomplish a definite object. I send you herewith a memorandum, banded me last evening from the Department, with the request that I would send it to you by steamer's mail of to-morrow, and to ask your immediate reply, stating, if you will agree to build such a ship as desired, how soon, and for how much, with such plans and specifications as you may deem it best to send me. The extract from the memorandum states that "the ship is to be finished complete, with guns and everything appertaining." On the 14th of August, I received another letter from the same gentleman, from which the following is an extract:— I have this morning a note from the Assistant Secretary of the navy, in which he says, 'I hope your friends will tender for the two iron plated steamers.' After this, the firm with which I was lately connected, having made contracts to a large extent with oilier persons, stated that they were not in a position to under- take any orders to be done in so short a time. This was the reply— I sent your last letter, received yesterday, to the Secretary of the navy, who was very desirous to have you build the iron-plated or bomb-proof batteries, and I trust that he may yet decide to have you build one or more of the gunboats. I think, perhaps, in the present state of the law in America, I shall not be asked to give the name of my correspondent; but he is a gentleman of the highest respectability. If any hon. Member wishes, I should have no hesitation in handing the whole correspondence, with the original letters, into the hands of yon, Sir, or the First Minister of the Crown, in strict confidence, because there are communications in these letters, respecting the views of the American Government, which I certainly should not divulge, which I have not mentioned or alluded to before. But seeing that the American Government are making so much work about other parties, whom they charge with violating or evading the law, though in reality they have not done so, I think it only fair to state these facts. As I said before, they are facts. I do not feel at liberty to state those points to which I have referred as being of a confidential character; but if any hon. Gentleman feels a doubt regarding the accuracy of what I have stated, I shall feel happy to place the documents in the hands of the Speaker, or of the First Minister of the Crown, when he will see that they substantiate much more than I have stated. I do not wish to occupy the House longer; but I must say this, that to talk of freedom in a land like the Northern States of America is an absurdity. Almost every detective that can be got hold of in this country is employed, and they have spies everywhere. I believe there are spies in my son's works in Birkenhead, and in all the great establishments in the country. A friend of mine had detectives regularly on his track in consequence of some circumstances connected with his vessels. If that be freedom, I think we had better remain in the position in which we now are. In conclusion, I will allude to a remark which was made elsewhere last night—a remark, I presume, applying to me, or to somebody else—which was utterly uncalled for. I have only to say, that I would rather be handed down to posterity as the builder of a dozen Alabamas than as the man who applies himself deliberately to set class against class, und to cry up the institutions of another country which, when they come to be tested, are of no value whatever, and which reduce the very name of liberty to an utter absurdity.