HC Deb 15 May 1865 vol 179 cc296-7

said, he would beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the Government has determined to withdraw its recognition of the Belligerent Rights of the (so-called) Confederate States of America?


Sir, the course of the transactions with regard to the belligerent rights of the two parties was this. The President of the United States issued a Proclamation declaring a blockade of all the coasts and certain ports of Southern Confederacy, in accordance, as he said, with the Law of Nations. Now blockade, according to the Law of Nations, is a belligerent right which can only accrue to a State which is at war, and I need not say that if there is one belligerent there must be two at least, and therefore the fact of the President of the United States declaring that he established a blockade in accordance with the Law of Nations gave him all those rights which belong to a belligerent in declaring a blockade, the right of capture and condemnation, and the right of search in regard to neutral vessels. The British Government had only one of two courses to pursue—the first, to refuse to submit on the part of British vessels to those belligerent rights on the ground that there was no formal belligerent on the other side. That was not a course which was at all expedient to pursue; and, therefore, the only course left us was to acknowledge and submit to those belligerent rights; and that necessarily involved the recognition that the other party was also a belligerent. Whenever the Government of the United States shall declare that it ceases to exercise, with regard to neutrals, those rights of search, capture, and condemnation which belong to the belligerent, then, of course, the war will, as far as neutrals are concerned, cease, and necessarily there will need no further acknowledgment of belligerents on the one side or the other.