HC Deb 23 February 1866 vol 181 cc994-1014

rose to call the attention of the House to the inadequacy of our Neutrality Law to enable us to fulfil our International obligations to wards Foreign countries, and said, that having passed ten or twelve years in the diplomatic service, he had given some consideration to the subject of International Law, and he-believed that from defects and inefficiency our existing Neutrality Law was not only fraught with future danger to ourselves, but was calculated to prevent us from acting justly towards our allies. The unfriendly feeling which to so large an extent existed in the "United States towards this country owed its origin chiefly to the losses which American commerce had suffered, arising, as the Americans believed, from the inadequacy of our Neutrality Law; and this ill-feeling he believed to be the groundwork of that tacit sympathy with Fenianism which existed in the States of that country. Naturally irritated at the losses inflicted by Confederate cruisers, the American Government, while the war was yet going on, had several times called upon Her Majesty's Ministers to propose an alteration in the law. That demand was refused, and refused, he believed, rightly, because it would not have been consistent with absolute impartiality between the two belligerents to alter a law which, under the then existing circumstances, affected only one of them. Moreover, Her Majesty's Ministers would probably only have made matters worse by asking Parliament to alter the law; because he believed that, owing to the strong Confederate feeling which then existed, the House of Commons would have refused to make the required alteration. There was also a strong objection always latent in the minds of Englishmen to do anything which savoured of yielding to the bidding of a foreign Power, especially when the request was made in language rather menacing than conciliatory. But the circumstances were now widely different. The war was now over, and the passions which that conflict had aroused had had time to subside. They had refused, standing more on technical right than acting on a sound and generous policy, to consider the claims made by America for compensation, or to refer those claims to arbitration; and he believed that the period had now arrived when a law productive of so much evil ought to be revised, not only in the interests of this country, but also with the view of promoting international morality. Whatever might once have been the state of public law in Europe, there was now an international obligation laid upon every State to prevent its subjects from engaging in acts of hostility against any Power with which their own Government were on terms of neutrality; and it was an act of hostility to fit out in a neutral State a ship to prey upon the commerce of a nation with which the Government was at peace. This was not always the law, because the subjects of a State at peace used formerly to enter in great numbers the service of foreign Powers engaged in war; but that state of things had disappeared with the notion that war was the normal condition of the human race. He knew that there were gentlemen who believed that there was no difference between a gun and a ship, and that trading in both ought either to be equally forbidden or to be equally allowed. Intrinsically, perhaps, there might be no difference if both were delivered at the port of a belligerent. The distinction lay in the place of delivery. Supplying arms to a belligerent Power could not be constituted an act of hostility until the delivery had been effected at the port of the belligerent Power; but directly a ship armed and equipped for the purpose of preying upon the commerce of a nation with which we were at peace left our ports, its sailing might be regarded as an act of hostility. As a belligerent Power could not, of course, prevent the sailing of such a ship from a neutral port, international obligations had imposed upon neutral nations themselves the necessity of restraining their subjects from infringing them. That was the doctrine which usually obtained among nations at the present time. At all events, it was the doctrine to which both English and American statesmen had pledged their respective countries. He did not think it would be difficult to show that this was the case. For instance, when in 1793 we asked the United States to prevent vessels of war leaving their ports for the purpose of cruising under the French flag against our commerce, we based our demands upon international obligation. And, again, in the discussion which took place before the passing of our Foreign Enlistment Act, in 1819, Lord Castlereagh used the following words:— It is a duty which we owe to Spain and to our own honour, while we profess to be at peace with her, not to allow ships of war to be equipped in our ports, or allow armaments to sail from them against her. In America the same doctrine has been always held. General Washington's Proclamation, enjoining neutrality to American subjects, preceded the passing of the Neutrality Law through Congress, and when certain persons were prosecuted for having infringed that Proclamation, and pleaded that they had not violated the law of the land, they were told by the Judge who tried them that they had violated a law which had been in force long before the existence of the United States. The municipal law of neutrality both of America and of England was, in fact, only an embodiment of the international obligation. The law proceeded from the obligation, and not the obligation from the law. Now, how had we fulfilled this undoubted obligation during the last few years? He would only allude to one or two cases in order to point out where, in his opinion, our law was defective. The incidents of the escape and career of the Alabama were known to every hon. Gentleman in that House. In the report of the Board of Customs it was admitted that the American Consul in Liverpool had frequently warned them of the destination of that vessel, and of the hostile purposes to which she was to be devoted; but they stated that they were unable to act because they possessed no legal evidence as to its destination. Now, if our law had been the same as that of the United States, the Alabama would never have quitted our shores, for in the United States the Executive were empowered to order a precautionary embargo in cases of suspicion, even when there might not be sufficient evidence of the real character of the vessel to render a conviction probable. The case of the Florida was very similar to that of the Alabama. The Attorney General, in alluding to the action of the authorities of Nassau in that case, made use of these words— We may have reason to believe it to be true [meaning the alleged destination of the vessel], but to say that we are to act upon strong suspicion against another State on certain facts which have never been judicially established, is a proposition not to be accepted without grave consideration. Now, these two vessels having escaped from our jurisdiction, and having been commissioned on the high seas as ships of war, had afterwards put into our ports, where they were received in every respect like ordinary vessels of war. The Attorney General, indeed, stated that to make a difference between them and other vessels of war would be a preposterous thing. Earl Russell, however, alluding to the two ships, said that they were a scandal and almost a reproach to English law. The inefficiency of the present law more clearly appeared from the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government in the case of the steam rams built by Messrs. Laird. There was no reasonable person, except perhaps the builder, who doubted for one moment that those vessels were to be paid for out of funds provided either directly or indirectly by the Confederate Government, and that they were intended to act as Confederate ships of war; yet so vague, loose, and inefficient was our law that the Government was obliged at the last moment to compromise the matter by purchasing the rams. The phraseology of the statute was altogether unfitted to be applied to the inventions of late years; and, indeed, it was so framed that it invited evasion. The Courts of Law, too, had so involved such questions as, "What is fitting out?" and, "What are vessels of war?" that no layman could venture to offer an opinion on those and similar subjects. If half-a-dozen lawyers were taken at random, and asked whether, under the words of the Act, a steam ram intended for service against a neutral Power might quit our shores, there would, he believed, be great diversity in their opinions. Then there was one case which the law never contemplated—namely, a vessel of war being sent out piecemeal from our ports, the ship from one port, the guns from a second, and the ammunition from a third, and being put together on the high seas. Did not these things show that our law was inefficient to prevent English subjects from engaging in hostilities against foreign countries? Earl Russell had said that the law was a scandal and a reproach; while the United States had stated that they had lost millions through its inefficiency. He submitted to the House that the obligation was clear, and that the non-fulfilment of the obligation was equally clear. Ought we not, then, to alter the law? Was it consistent with our true policy to reply to those who suffered from its operation simply by making counter-accusations r The country which in the long run would suffer most from the present state of the law would be England herself, because she had the largest carrying trade. Suppose we were to go to war with Paraguay, which had no seaboard at all, what would be the consequence? Why, swift gunboats would issue from almost every port of the United States in order to prey upon our commerce, and the rate of insurance of British vessels would become so high that no merchant would ship his goods in an English bottom. Even supposing, however, that we never went to war, it might happen that two other great countries—such as France and the United States, for example—might at some time or other be engaged in hostilities against each other. In such an event much angry feeling would arise, many angry despatches would be written, and accusations and counter-accusations would be bandied from one side to the other, and very possibly we ourselves should be dragged into the war. Now, he could hardly venture to recommend to the Government any particular course of policy; but he thought that if a provision were introduced into our law similar to that which existed in the United States, permitting the Government to make precautionary arrests in cases of suspicion, that would do much to strengthen the law, and put us in a better position in regard to foreign Powers. He was, however, of opinion that privateering would never be altogether crushed out until by an exchange of diplomatic notes or by some conference all the great maritime Powers were induced to make a declaration on the subject like that of the Treaty of Paris. The wings of future Floridas and Alabamas would then be effectually clipped, and the good relations which ought to subsist between nations would no longer be at the mercy of shipowners or speculators.


said, he had hoped that our diplomatic body abroad were better informed on International Law than now appeared from the speech of the hon. Member. First of all, the hon. Member told the House that the morality of Europe had changed, and that the citizens and subjects of one State were not allowed to become warlike instruments in another. Had the hon. Member never heard of the Federal army? Was not that army composed to a large extent of British subjects? Was it not the fact that a very large number of Irishmen went to America, enrolled themselves in that army, and fought for the Federal cause, and had now returned, calling themselves American officers and appearing as Fenians in Dublin? The next statement the hon. Member made was that the United States law allowed the Executive to put their hands on and pounce on ships building, on arms and equipments, without sufficient evidence. He denied that altogether.


Has the hon. and learned Gentleman ever heard of the case of the ship Maori?


said, he denied the statement of the hon. Gentleman as a matter of law. He knew that the Attorney General stepped in and prevented certain rams built by Messrs. Laird from going to the assistance of the Confederate States; but there was no difference between the law of England and America as to the treatment of neutral States. Now, he wished to know how it was possible to prevent such transactions as those that had been referred to. The hon. Member said that ships of war were sent out piecemeal, the body of the vessel from one port, the equipment and guns from another, and the powder from another; and he (Mr. Roebuck) would ask how it was possible, except on evidence, clear, definite, and indisputable, for the Executive in a constitutional country like this to put their hands on a transaction of that kind? The hon. Member had alluded to the possibility of England being involved in a war at some time or other. Well, we had incurred that danger before, and we must incur it again. The Executive ought to be warned against taking upon itself such dangerous powers as those suggested by the hon. Member. England depended on her mercantile enterprize and on her power to supply other countries with whatever they required, whether it was to build ships, to make gunpowder, or to cast cannon for them; and so did the United States. The whole civilized world did the same thing. And he would recommend to our Government not to attempt to acquire more power in that matter than they at present possessed. They had power enough to prevent the occurrence of any great mischief, and they ought not to endanger the security of our great merchants and artificers by any new proceeding. He confessed that he did not like a discussion of that sort upon an occasion like the present. They should recollect that a great and gallant people had recently made a great stand in defence of what they thought were their national rights, and that gallant people had suffered cruelly from the struggle which ensued. Things had been done in the course of the American contest that would have disgraced Tilly or Wallenstein; and the House was now asked to call upon the Government to take steps that would in some way throw discredit upon that gal- lant people. He did not deny that all his sympathies were in favour of the Southern States of America. The Federal army was made up of men very much like Dugald Dalgetty. They had conquered—he wished them joy of their conquest; but they were not yet a re-united people, and he hoped they would not become one.


said, he was reluctant for keep the House from business; but as a question of that great importance had been raised he should be sorry that the discussion should terminate without any expression having been given to an idea which he knew to be widely entertained in commercial circles with respect to the only satisfactory mode of solving the difficulty. He believed that the only satisfactory settlement of the question would be found in an agreement on the part of the civilized nations of the world that all private property at sea should be placed upon the same footing as private property on land. The rule with regard to private property on land was clear, distinct, and definite; it was that it should not be subject to capture and destruction unless for bond fide belligerent operations. A difficulty might, of course, arise in the interpretation of that rule—it would practically be found difficult to draw the precise line; but the principle was clearly directed against the arbitrary and wanton destruction of private property. In what respect did the capture of private property at sea differ from the capture of private property on land? Why should a captain at sea receive bounty and promotion for the capture of private property while a colonel on land would be cashiered for a corresponding exploit? It should be recollected that the principle to which he then referred had been advocated by the Government of the United States at the Congress of Paris; but our Government then declined to accede to the proposal, and had thus lost, as he thought most injudiciously, the opportunity of establishing a rule which would have been of the utmost value to this country. There could be no doubt that after what had passed during the late contest in America, we should be at the mercy of any maritime Power with which we might enter into war. It would be impossible for us to engage in such a war without exposing our great mercantile marine to destruction. The operations of the Alabama had caused one-third of the whole tonnage of New York to be transferred to foreign flags; and what, he would ask, would be our position with 100 Alabamas issuing from a variety of ports to prey upon our commerce? The whole of our maritime commerce would be transferred to the flags of insignificant neutral States, such as Belgium, Holland, Norway, and Sweden, under which alone it could be safely carried on. Considering the immense interests which we had at stake in that matter, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would turn their attention to the question for the purpose of seeing whether it would not be possible to repair the great mistake we had committed at the Congress of Paris, and, if that were not possible, for the purpose of establishing by some other means a new principle worthy of the civilization of the modern world.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had stated that private property on land was exempted from the ravages of war. But he (Mr. Sandford) wanted to know whether the hon. Gentleman had read nothing of Sherman's march, or of the devastations committed by Sheridan during the recent contest in America? Bid he believe that private property on land had been respected by those officers? Why, a system of destruction of private property had been carried on by the Federal generals, which was, he believed, unparalleled in the previous history of the world. But he thought that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Windsor (Mr. Labouchere) was justified in bringing the subject under the notice of the House, because it was somewhat of a scandal that our Neutrality Laws should remain in their present position. What could be worse than our Foreign Enlistment Act? The Judges of the land were divided in their interpretation of that Act; and as the case at present stood, the decision of the Court of Exchequer was opposed to the act of the Government and of the Attorney General. Under these circumstances, it appeared to him that Her Majesty's Government should have announced, in the Speech from the Throne, some intention on their part of introducing a measure for the purpose of making the law upon this subject clear and definite. He believed that most people were of opinion that the law had been somewhat strained when the vessels referred to were seized by the Government; and he thought that the law ought to be placed in such a position that it should not be strained by any Government, in order to enable them to fulfil their international obligations. But what he should prefer to any mere action on the part of Her Majesty's Government, would be to see some International Congress summoned, at which the great maritime Powers might agree upon some common principle which they might afterwards embody in their municipal legislation. If any measure of that kind had been proposed during the late struggle, he should have offered to it the most determined opposition, because he thought it would be derogatory to the integrity of England to allow it to be supposed that she had altered her laws under the menaces of a foreign State, but no such objection could be made to our now taking up that subject; England did not fear Chili or Peru, or even Spain, and he believed that the present moment was most favourable for considering the question, for the American Government were at present showing an intention of acting fairly, honourably, and justly in its dealings with foreign Powers. He thought that the papers which had been laid before that House, and before the French Chambers, clearly indicated that Mr. Johnson, the President of the United States, was most anxious to fulfil the international obligations of that country; and as he (Mr. Sandford) had never been a partizan of Mr. Johnson, he was only too happy to take that opportunity of offering him the humble meed of his praise. Mr. Johnson had disappointed alike the prophecies of his enemies and the hopes of his friends, and he was now pursuing a course calculated to conciliate—if anything could conciliate—the unhappy differences which prevailed among his countrymen. He (Mr. Sandford) hoped that Her Majesty's Government would give some assurance that they intended to take that question in hand; and if they neglected to do so he thought it would be the duty of some private Member to force them to enter upon that course by some clear and definite Resolution.


said, he could not acquiesce in the view of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford) that a time of war was not proper for the consideration of these questions. At all events, they had usually been taken up in time of war. Our own Foreign Enlistment Act had been passed during the war between Spain and her colonies, and the United States had twice altered their Enlistment Act during the same war. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) said that there was no difference between the laws of the United States on this subject and our own. Now that was not so. There was a difference, and that difference had been repeatedly pointed out during the late war. In the year 1817, at the instance of Spain, backed by the remonstrances of this country, the United States altered the statute which had been referred to, and two important clauses were put in it, which were not to be found in our Act. The first provided that the owner of a vessel sailing out of the ports of the United States, and armed in whole or in part, should enter into bonds to the United States Government prior to clearing, that the said vessel should not be employed in hostilities. And the second clause empowered the officers of Customs of the United States to detain vessels manifestly built for warlike purposes, and whose cargo principally consisted of arms and munitions of war. He admitted that, under the latter clause, we could not have seized the Alabama. But if the hon. and learned Member referred to the history of the United States to see what was the 1 cause of that statute being passed, he would find that it was in order to prevent the evasion of their Foreign Enlistment Act. The schemes for eluding its provisions were very different from those which were employed in our own case. In America vessels went out as merchantmen, but they carried arms as cargo, and when they got outside the jurisdiction of the United States, they took the arms from below, mounted the guns, hoisted the flag of the insurgent Republic, and sailed forth as privateers. He quite admitted that there was very considerable difference between such cases as those and what had taken place here. The Confederate Government sent their agents over here early in the war, and directed them to fit out privateers. These agents, as he happened to know, took the very best legal advice. The able lawyers whom they consulted, told them that it would be of no use whatever to send out vessels of war completely armed and manned; but if they sent out a vessel from one port, and another from another or the same port carrying its guns and men, and if they met on the high seas out of our jurisdiction, then the whole enter-prize might be managed in that way, and our laws evaded. Well, the enterprize did succeed, and in this way there was done indirectly that which, if done directly, our laws would have prevented or punished. Following the example of the Americans we ought, he thought, to have altered our Foreign Enlistment Act, because it had proved to be only a delusion and a snare. The subject was last brought before the House in the debate on the Georgia, by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. T. Baring). It was the last occasion on which Mr. Cobden spoke in that House. The Government, through the Attorney General, refused either to alter the Foreign Enlistment Act, or to prevent the entry of those vessels into our ports. He refused, on the ground, first, that the Foreign Enlistment Act was sufficient, and secondly, if not sufficient that that was not the time to alter it. Subsequent events showed how very ill-advised that decision was, because at that very time the Shenandoah was being fitted out in our ports. The Shenandoah was fitted out in the port of London, and a vessel called the Laurel was sent out from another port to meet her on the high seas. There was not the slightest evidence produced to show for what the Shenandoah was intended. Mr. Adams did not know of it. Persons concerned in affairs of this kind conceal their doings by every possible means. When these two vessels got to Madeira they sailed to a desert island, called Desertas, and there in Portuguese waters, but still, he believed, utterly unknown to the Portuguese, they transferred the armament from the Laurel to the Shenandoah. The men were mustered on deck, and the captain said to them, "I don't intend to fight. Anyone can see this vessel was not made for fighting. I intend to run away rather than fight. My orders are to destroy the Federal commerce by destroying, as far as I can, the vessels that carry it." In pursuance of those instructions the Shenandoah burnt all the vessels it could find on its way to Melbourne. When it got there it was hospitably received by the authorities, and remained for something like three weeks. Repairs were executed, and eventually it sailed thence, having been enabled in the meantime to enlist some fifty or sixty men in addition to the crew it had already. Then it sailed to the Arctic Seas, burning on its way all the whaling vessels which it found, and putting the crews on shore among the savages. It then proceeded to Behring's Straits, where, long after the war was in point of fact over, it destroyed fourteen whaling vessels. The effect of that was to more than double the price of sperm oil—thus, by the way, affording an illus- tration of a law to which the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) had called attention. Half the whalers were destroyed, and the price of sperm oil was more than doubled; the consequence of which was, as we were the chief consumers of sperm oil, the loss fell upon this country. The whalers themselves, having assured one another, did not realize the loss. Those who had sperm oil got more than double price, and those who had not were assured against loss. He happened to be in a shop the other day, when a clergyman came in to buy some sperm oil for a magic lantern for his school children. When he was told the price was more than double, he said, "Well then I cannot buy it, and my children must go without the magic lantern." The school children went without their night's amusement because of the burning of these whalers, which was the result of the inefficiency of our Foreign Enlistment Act. Now the question which remained was, what were we to do? Unless we acted in concert with foreign nations we could do little. Suppose we altered the Act as hon. Members had recommended, in what position should we be should we unfortunately be at war on some future occasion. Other nations would not take our law from our Foreign Enlistment Act, but rather from our conduct when we were neutral. And therefore, although he should like to see the Act altered, there would be no use in doing so unless we did it in concert with other nations, and especially the United States. He would rather not enter into the subject of our relations with the United States, because it involved questions with regard to claims which he would prefer not to deal with. At the same time, he hoped that the Government, notwithstanding the way in which they had refused to act, would entertain this question in view of the enormous importance to this country of having this law altered, and International Law on the subject clearly laid down. The hon. Member for the Wick Burghs (Mr. Laing) had adverted to the proposal entertained by the Congress of Paris for exempting private property on the high seas from capture; but one of the most important results of that Congress was the agreement that in all differences between two countries there should be arbitration. But it was on that very basis of arbitration that our Government absolutely refused to treat. He therefore hoped the Government would consider this question in view of its ex- treme importance. The view of the question taken by intelligent Americans was well expressed in the recent Message of the President to Congress. The President said— The United States did not present the subject as an impeachment of the good faith of a Power which was professing the most friendly dispositions, but as involving questions of public law, of which the settlement is essential to the peace of nations; and, though pecuniary reparation to their injured citizens would have followed incidentally on a decision against Great Britain, such compensation was not their primary object. They had a higher motive, and it was in the interests of peace and justice to establish important principles of International Law. The correspondence will be placed before you. The ground on which the British Minister rests his justification is substantially, that the municipal law of a nation, and the domestic interpretations of that law, are the measure of its duty as a neutral, and I feel bound to declare my opinion, before you and before the world, that that justification cannot be sustained before the tribunal of nations. He ventured to urge on the attention of Government the desirability of doing something to get rid of questions which, if they were allowed to remain open, might become a perpetual source of ill-feeling between England and America. The Government, he trusted, would not allow the present opportunity to pass by of satisfactorily solving a question which had already proved a source of such danger and difficulty. If they did, events might arise which would hereafter justify some one in saying to the Government— This might have been prevented, and made whole, With very easy arguments of love; Which now the manage of two kingdoms must With fearful bloody issue arbitrate.


Sir, I admit that the Question now before the House has been discussed in a temperate manner; and so far, whatever opinions hon. Members may have formed, I do not apprehend that any public disadvantage will arise from the discussion. The subject is beyond all doubt one of the greatest importance, and at the same time of no slight difficulty. It is of the greatest importance that the House should bear in mind what were the exact facts of the various cases bearing on the question which occurred during the recent unhappy war in America. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Labouchere) is slightly in error when he says that the English Government was several times requested by the Government of the United States to amend the Foreign Enlistment Act; in fact, the very reverse of that statement would be nearer to the truth. It should be remembered that at an early period of the war the Government of this country, foreseeing that important questions of law might arise during the progress of the war, suggested to the American Government that the Foreign Enlistment Acts of both countries should be revised, and any amendments that might be thought necessary made in them. What was the answer made by the American Government to this overture of ours? Why, to use a homely expression, they threw cold water on it. They said that they had no objection to enter into the consideration of that question, if our Government desired it; but, for their own part, they were of opinion that their Foreign Enlistment Act required no amendment, and was perfectly sufficient for its purpose. Our Government could have no wish to introduce unnecessarily a measure which might not commend itself to the general opinion of the public; and I ask the House what position the Government would have been' placed in if, after the receipt of such an answer as that, they had asked Parliament to add more stringent provisions to the Foreign Enlistment Act? The first question asked in the House would be, whether we had received any intimation from the American Government that it was, in their judgment, necessary or desirable to make corresponding changes in their own Foreign Enlistment Act. Parliament would, of course, have seen the correspondence on the subject, and would have seen that the Government of the United States saw no necessity for any alteration in their law. Then, of course, the question would have been asked whether the law of the United States was substantially different from our own, or whether our law was inferior in efficiency to the law of the United States; for if it was not, and if the United States Government thought their own law adequate, Parliament would scarcely have entertained the idea of altering it. Well, then, we must look into the law of the United States; and here I would observe that the view of it taken by the hon. Member for Windsor was hardly accurate. The hon. Member appears to think that the American Foreign Enlistment Act is far more stringent than that in force in this country. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) has already said that the views of the hon. Member were not quite accurate, and I must confirm that statement. Indeed, the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre), who has spoken to-night with his usual candour and ability, does not himself concur in the views of the Member for Windsor on that subject. The two sections which are supposed to bear out the opinion that the American law compels a stricter neutrality than our own, are the 10th and 11th sections of the Act of Congress passed in 1818. But those sections are applicable only to armed vessels, and ships manifestly built for warlike purposes, of which the cargo principally consists of arms and munitions of war—with which our own Act also is practically adequate to deal; and if exactly similar provisions had been contained in our Act they would have been inapplicable to such ships as the Alabama, the Florida, the Georgia, and the Shenandoah, none of which when they left this country were armed, or had any cargo on board consisting of arms or munitions of war. And I may ask when, in point of fact, has an armed ship or vessel been permitted to sail out of an English port to attack the commerce of the United States? No such occurrence has taken place. Of those two sections, the first enables security to be taken from The owners of every armed ship or vessel, sailing out of the ports of the United States, belonging wholly or in part to citizens thereof. The other section authorizes the detention Of any vessel manifestly built for warlike purposes of which the cargo shall principally consist of arms and munitions of war. Our Foreign Enlistment Act also strikes at such vessels, though by provisions of a different character; and no vessel of which it could be alleged that she was manifestly built for warlike purposes, and that her cargo mainly consisted of munitions of war, has been allowed to leave an English port. The late Lord Chancellor advised the Government, and so the United States were told, that our law was sufficient to deal with cases of that description. Under such circumstances, it was considered to be our duty to make the experiment, to wait and see whether the Foreign Enlistment Act would answer the purposes for which it was enacted, before asking Parliament to pass a new law on the subject—a course which would only have increased the difficulties of the situation if the proposition was not adopted—and the negotiation so coldly met fell to the ground. If we had persevered in that negotiation and failed it might have placed the relations between the United States and this country in a worse position then they were in, while we merely endeavoured to put in force the law as it stood, I will now state to the House what were the practical results of the course so taken by the Government. The information which might have justified the seizure of the Alabama reached the Government so late, that unfortunately we were not able to detain that vessel. But other vessels were afterwards detained. Admitting; that our law is not perfect, still I must say that the Government were able, even by means of this imperfect instrument, to do more towards the suppression of armaments against the United States, than the United States were in former times able to do with their law. During the war of the States of South America against Spain the agents of the former Powers appeared, notwithstanding the exertions of the United States Government, to be able to set the law at defiance with impunity. A great number of armed vessels left ports of the United States to attack Spanish commerce, and in some instances actually returned into those ports with their prizes. Comparing what then took place there with what has taken place here under the recent circumstances, it is impossible not to see that the law of the United States then proved less efficacious than our own law. In the different breaches, or alleged breaches of the Foreign Enlistment Act which have taken place during the war, it will, I think, be seen that the Government did everything that lay in their power to secure the stringent carrying out of that Act. It is said that the Government were to blame for not being more prompt in their attempt to seize the Alabama. Most assuredly they acted with perfect good faith, and did not intentionally permit any delay beyond that which was necessary to enable them to make themselves masters of the evidence which would have justified her seizure. With regard to the Florida, she was not fitted out as a ship of war from this country, but at Mobile. With regard to the Alexandra, it is well known that she was twice seized—that the Judges in this country were divided in opinion on the question; and that at Nassau she was a second time acquitted. As to the steam rams, the Government did nothing illegal, as has been sometimes asserted. They gave notice to the builders that if they were removed from the Mersey in the way the Alabama had been removed they would be seized. They did afterwards seize them and were prepared to go into court with them. It is true that the Government thought proper to compromise those proceedings and to purchase the rams; and I must say that I think that the course then taken by the Government was a prudent one. If by any accident we had failed in a prosecution, and those ships had gained the seas, it is impossible to say what mischief such an occurrence might have caused in America, what passions might have been excited, and what risk might have been run in regard to the relations between this country and the United States. The Government seized those ships with the knowledge in their minds that the purpose for which they were intended was an illegal one; but, although they were in possession of evidence which they thought sufficient to entitle them to a verdict, it was not such as to perclude all chance of an opposite result. They, therefore, instead of proceeding to trial, paid, as the House knows, a large sum of money for those vessels in order to avoid all risk, and to prevent any cause of irritation between this country and the United States. The Government also seized the Pampero in the Clyde; and the fact is that in every instance—in every case with which even the United States Minister became acquainted, except that of the Alabama—Her Majesty's Government stopped the ships and prevented them from leaving this country. In the cases of the Georgia and the Shenandoah, it must be admitted that even Mr. Adams had not any information before those ships had left England. I have so far ventured to state the course taken by the Government, first, because I do hope that, when the aggravated feelings which arise from national calamities and national losses are allayed, our friends and neighbours on the other side of the Atlantic will be able to recognize in the conduct of Her Majesty's Government an honest and earnest desire throughout the war to maintain a strict neutrality, and to do their best to prevent any violation of the laws of this country. Last of all, I hold that our proceedings in this matter ought fairly to be measured by the standard of the success which the United States themselves met with, when endeavouring to enforce their own law under similar circumstances. Our success in preventing breaches of neutrality during the late war cannot be deemed slight or inconsiderable, if compared with that which attended the endeavours of the United States to prevent similar breaches of neutrality in former times. I will say only a very few words on a point put forward by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre). He spoke in a manner which, I think, does him much credit. He spoke with a prudent reserve and with a due consideration for the true interests of the country, which certainly might not always be promoted by a free expression of all the opinions which hon. Members of this House may entertain. No one can appreciate more than I do the discretion of my hon. Friend, who in this case is, I am sure, actuated by those motives which I know actuate his mind on all occasions. The House must feel that in all cases where nations are concerned there are two principles which never must be lost sight of. One of these is that a nation must not compromise its own honour by allowing that there is a question of good faith to be submitted to arbitration when really there is none. It would be impossible to submit this case to an arbitrator without treating it as an open question, whether there had been a breach of faith and honour on the part of this country; because all must admit that if a nation has acted in good faith in such a case there can be no claim. Secondly, it cannot be denied that it would be a most dangerous precedent if any nation should hold itself responsible for evils which it could not prevent. To say that neutral nations should be responsible for all acts done by their subjects which the Governments of those nations cannot prevent, might, in many cases, be to throw on neutral nations a great part of the expense of maritime wars carried on by their neighbours. That is an assumption which cannot be admitted; and if there could be any case in which we should have good ground for adhering to those principles it must surely be when we are dealing with a great nation, itself of high honour and of good faith, which has always been most jealous in upholding its own Neutrality Laws, but which, to say the least, has not always been more successful in doing so than ourselves, and which on many occasions, over and over again, persistently and emphatically refused to recognize similar claims on the part of Portugal and Spain, and declined to submit those claims to arbitration. I think, with that example before us, we are well warranted in upholding these principles. But though I think we are entitled in this matter to take the same line which the United States took themselves, and though in my opinion we are entitled to hold that the refusal to entertain such a claim cannot be any just and abiding cause of displeasure on the part of the United States, believing as I do that we have solid grounds for that refusal; still, far be it from me to say that if the good feeling between the two nations only depended on money and not on a much more serious consideration, it might not be worth while to pay a very large sum rather than there should be any interruption of friendly feelings between this country and the United States. But this is not a question of money. Her Majesty's Government believe that a great principle of International Law and national honour is involved in this question, and it is upon that account, and not through any want of respect to a great nation, that we cannot admit the principle of those claims—a principle which might involve ourselves and all other nations, whatever may be our law, in endless claims and questions for all future time. Now, with regard to the future; almost every hon. Member who has addressed the House has felt the importance of dealing with this subject, not by ourselves, but in concert with other nations which have interests similar to our own. It would be, indeed, difficult—I do not say it would be impossible—to deal with it otherwise. Her Majesty's Government has been most desirous to consider this subject in friendly communication with the Government of the United States. I scarcely need remind the House that, as late as the 3rd of November last, Lord Russell wrote to Mr. Adams thus— It appears to me, I confess, that, as neither the law of the United States nor our own Foreign Enlistment Act have proved upon trial completely efficacious, it is worth consideration whether improvements may not be made in the statutes of both nations; so that, for the future, each Government may have in its own territory as much security as our free institutions will permit against those who act in defiance of the intention of the Sovereign, and evade the letter of its laws. Her Majesty's Government, I am authorized to say, still continue of the same mind. They are still most desirous to consider this matter in friendly communication with the United States; and it could be only an unfriendly counsellor who would suggest to the Government of that country that the time is gone by when such questions could usefully be considered. I venture to say that a policy founded on such advice would be a wrong and shortsighted policy. If, by well considered Amendments, the laws of both countries could be made more effectual, they would be delivered from many difficulties whenever a war took place. At present the United States may be placed in a difficulty by the war in Mexico and the war in Chili; and clearly it would only be fair to consider recent experience, because it is only experience which shows what the weak points are in matters of this description. It is experience which tells us in what our laws are defective, and in what they require alteration and amendment. I venture to say that if the United States Government would accede to the suggestion of Earl Russell, and enter into a friendly consideration of this question, we are in a far better position to deal with it now than if we had dealt with it without the full experience of the late war. If we had attempted to legislate on the subject during the earlier part of that war, I am perfectly certain that in practice our amendments would have been very imperfect, perhaps they might have altogether failed. It might probably have turned out that in altering we had made things very little better, and that we had endeavoured to amend with no good result. But the experience of these last years has been such as to enable us now to become pretty well cognizant of the sound and the weak points of our own Foreign Enlistment Act, and if we could only obtain the co-operation of other nations equally interested as ourselves, I should not despair of arriving at a sound and satisfactory result. I think the House will be generally of opinion with Her Majesty's Government that the subject is one of great delicacy and very considerable difficulty, and that it is one on which we should not enter without serious consideration: and that it is most desirable, if it be possible, to enter on it in concurrence and in friendly communication with other nations who have only a right to the same protection from our laws which we ourselves receive from theirs.