§ MR. GREGORY
said, that before he gave notice of his intention to bring forward this subject he had ascertained that the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall), who in 1863 laid so clearly before the House the position in which we were placed by the Declaration of Paris in 1856, did not purpose calling attention to the subject. This being a new Parliament the subject was one which he thought ought to be discussed as early as possible. It had been said, in harsh and unjust comments upon himself, that he was the last person to bring forward such a Motion, as having been one of those who "justified and extolled the construction in England of cruisers for the purpose of destroying American property by sea." It so happened that although he had frequently addressed the House on American affairs, and although he was repeatedly asked to take part in the debates respecting the Alabama, the Birkenhead rams, and the Alexandra, he had invariably refused to do so. He did not in the least deny—why should he?—that he sympathized with the South; but, while he did so, he could never bring himself to vindi- 1408 cate a mode of warfare which was barbarous as regarded individuals, which increases the exasperation of the combatants, which transferred part of their exasperation to ourselves, and which was perfectly useless as to the great issue to be determined. He did not blame the gallant people who availed themselves of it, but he blamed the state of International Law which sanctioned it. In 1862 the hon. Member for Liverpool moved the following Resolution:—That the present state of International Maritime Law as affecting the rights of belligerents and neutrals is ill-defined and unsatisfactory, and calls for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government.This Motion was opposed by Sir George Lewis, who said first that he had a great objection to abstract Resolutions, next that the state of International Law was certain and well defined, and that as Mr. Horsfall aimed distinctly at one object and one only in his speech—namely, the exemption of private property from capture by sea, he should have stated publicly his object, indeed, Sir George went so far as to sketch a Resolution which he thought would meet the case better. The Resolution now submitted was almost in the words of the late right hon. Baronet, and it was as follows:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to use her influence with foreign Powers for the purpose of making the principle that private property should be free from capture by sea a maxim of International Maritime Law.He would say nothing as to the expediency or inexpediency of blockades. The simple object he had in view was to submit that on the acceptance of the Declaration of Paris of 1856, that the neutral flag covers a belligerent's goods, it must follow as a natural consequence that all private property at sea must be exempt from capture. Some seemed to think that this idea was benevolent but Utopian, well-intentioned but weak and silly; but it was one of the most matter-of-fact proposals which could be made, and though some countries might entertain a difference of opinion about it, yet we, of all others, instead of resisting it and exhorting others to do the same, ought to accept it with joy and thankfulness if we had the good fortune to get it accepted elsewhere. This proposal had been supported unanimously by a Committee of the House of Commons on merchant shipping; one of the Members of which was the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson). It had also been 1409 supported by memorials from the Chambers of Commerce of some of our greatest commercial communities; and on the preceding day the opinion of the General Shipowners' Society was communicated to him in a letter by the Chairman, who, referring to a Resolution passed in 1862, said—At a special meeting of committee held here this day the question was again fully discussed, and I have been requested to transmit for your information copy of a report on the subject which was submitted to Her Majesty's Government by a deputation which waited upon the President of the Board of Trade in the beginning of the year 1860, and I may also at the same time acquaint you that the experience of the last six years has confirmed the Committee in the opinion therein expressed—namely, that it is essential to the interests of British shipping that private property at sea should be exempt from capture.Among additional authorities, he might cite some of the most powerful leading articles which appeared in the leading journal (The Times) in 1856, although it afterwards changed its opinion. He might also appeal to an authority as little likely to give way to mere sentimentality as any man—Lord Palmerston—whose opinion, expressed at a meeting held at Liverpool in 1856, was as follows:—He hoped that the principles of war which were applied to hostilities by land might be extended, without exception, to hostilities by sea, and that private property should no longer be exposed to aggression on either side. If we looked at the example of former periods, we should not find that any powerful country was ever vanquished by the losses of individuals. It was the conflicts of armies by land, or fleets by sea, that decided the great contests of nations, and it was, perhaps, to be desired that these conflicts should be confined to bodies acting under the orders and directions of the respective States.The noble Lord, he knew, changed his opinion; but his judgment in 1856 might be claimed as at least equal to his judgment in 1862. The debate of 1862 showed that the question was not a Conservative question, nor a Radical question, nor a Whig question, but it was a national one. The list of speakers presented an array of some of the most eminent men on both sides of the House—Mr. Horsfall, Mr. Liddell, Mr. Thomas Baring, and Mr. Cave on the Conservative Benches; and Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Leveson Gower, Lord Harry Vane, Mr. Baxter, and Mr. Massey on the Liberal Benches, Mr. Cobden being the seconder of the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool. The debate turned upon the wisdom, or rather the 1410 want of wisdom, which consented to the Declaration of Paris, that the neutral flag covers belligerent goods. Before that time we as belligerents seized an enemy's goods under any flag and in any bottom, and our maritime predominance enabled us to shut up or to sweep an enemy's merchantmen off the seas, as we did in the wars with France and with America. In our case, there was no doubt great mercantile losses, but in the case of the enemy's commerce it was absolute destruction. In former days we dealt with neutrals with a high hand by reason of our great maritime preponderance. We not only laid claim to our right of taking the enemy's property wherever we found it, but we put that claim in force. But those days had gone by. There were now othes nations as powerful as ourselves by no means inclined to submit to these pretensions. Therefore, he would not blame Lord Clarendon for having affixed his hand to a declaration which, if resisted, might have been thrust upon us hereafter by the threat of war, or resisted at the price of war. He would go further and say that if we arrived at the conclusion which he submitted to the House to-night, the world would refer to the Declaration of 1856 as having laid the foundation of one of the most blessed and humanizing laws which had ever been adopted by the consent of mankind. Now, his first object was to show that it was totally impossible for us to remain in our present position. We must either retrograde or advance. Supposing for a moment that war broke out between England and France, what was the first thing that would happen? The premiums of insurance and the freights of our merchantmen would rise to an intolerable height, and our carrying trade would be transferred to the vessels of other nations. No doubt, the Queen's ships would endeavour to blockade the coasts of France. But every one knew that the great progress that had been made in steam ships and iron-clad vessels would render the blockade of a powerful maritime nation far more easily spoken of than carried out. But even if the ports of France were hermetically sealed, would that ruin French commerce? It was said if you blockaded the port of Marseilles you deprived France of her trade in the Mediterranean, and if you blockaded the mouths of the Garonne you prevented the wines of Bordeaux from leaving the country. But that was not so. Even if but one vessel should find its way into Marseilles, the Mediterranean trade 1411 would not be lost to France, instead of going through Marseilles it would go through Greece. The Mediterranean trade would find its way round by Italy, and French wines would go forth to the world by the Scheldt and the Rhine. What better illustration could there be than what occurred during the Russian War? We blockaded the whole of the Russian ports, and what was the result? In 1854 Prussia sent us only 20,000 tons of tallow, but in 1856 she sent 1,500,000. She became carriers to Russia, as Italy and Belgium would be to France, and the consequence was, not that the Russian producer lost, but that the British consumer paid for it. He would now allude to the difference between English and French commerce, and the position in which war would place them. He would take his figures from the Board of Trade Returns for 1864. In that year 66 per cent of British commerce was carried under the British flag; of French commerce under the French flag only 43 per cent. The total tonnage in and out of Great Britain in 1864 was 27,204,000 tons, while that of France was only 7,889,000. Our aggregate registered tonnage was over 7,000,000; that of French ships about 900,000. Now, it should be remembered that we were carriers not only for ourselves, but for the whole world, and it was to that enormous business we owed much of our prosperity. The consequence would be in the case supposed that, while the French commerce, which was comparatively small, might be carried in neutral vessels, it would be totally impossible to provide for the enormous amount of British traffic, a great portion of which must go to sea at risk of capture. But it might be said that by using our maritime strength we could protect our merchantmen by convoys. No doubt that was done, although very imperfectly, in former days; but now that our commerce had increased to such an enormous extent, and that even among our colonies were some whose commerce was dispersed over every region of the globe, how was it possible to supply convoys to our ships at all those different points. As an illustration was better than a thousand arguments, he would read an extract from a letter written by Mr. Adams to Earl Russell in 1865. Mr. Adams says—The United States commerce is rapidly vanishing from the face of the earth, and that of Great Britain multiplying in the same ratio. In three years before the war there was sold to British subjects 123 vessels, representing 47,675 tons; dur- 1412 ing the war 715, representing 480,682. That was a fact suggestive of what might be expected to occur in our case under similar circumstances. American merchant vessels had been sold in large numbers to the shipowners of this country—and all this was caused by the operations of a few cruisers which preyed upon American commerce.Bear in mind that whereas we should have to contend with swarms of armed ships, all this panic and transfer of traffic was effected by two or three West cruisers, in the face of one of the most powerful maritime nations in the world. But this was not all. Our shipowners would transfer their vessels to foreign owners, and, worst of all, our sailors would follow the ships, for they would be attracted by the enormous wages which would be given them, and that strength upon which we relied in time of war would fail us. Nor was that all. When peace was again proclaimed we should find ourselves in this position, that the great carrying trade which we once possessed would be firmly fixed and established in those countries where, during the war, it had so flourished. He would just read a short extract from the London Review of 1862, which summed up the whole of the argument clearly. The writer said—The present state of the law relating to maritime capture will ensure to Great Britain in the first great war she undertakes the temporary and perhaps permanent loss of nearly all her carrying trade, the transfer of numbers of her ships and seamen to foreign countries, and mischief to her commerce on the ocean immeasurably out of proportion to any she will be able to inflict upon her foes.And now a word as to the position of our colonies. In the former great war our colonies were few and their trade comparatively unimportant. But now they had sprung up to be great commercial communities, and though he was firmly convinced they were loyally attached to the Government of this country, yet a state of things might arise involving their ruin by the destruction of their commerce, which might make them anxious not to be so closely connected with us as they were. He had heard Australians say over and over again, "We are attached to England, but we look with dread on your being involved in a foreign war on account of Schleswig-Holstein, of any other matter, in which we take no interest, and which we do not understand." Now, we were bound to show our colonies that though we might not be successful in our endeavours to protect their commerce, at all events we had made the effort, and that the blame of failure did not rest upon us. If there was danger of political sui- 1413 cide, it must surely consist, not in endeavouring to carry out this principle, but in our tamely acquiescing in a state of things go full of peril. He would now deal for a few minutes with some of the arguments used against the proposal which he was about to make. And, first, it was said that if the advocates of this proposal were pushed sufficiently far the whole thing would resolve itself into pleasant concord, adapted to a state of society composed entirely of angels or of Quakers. A writer in The Times who took this view, said, that if this was adopted, blockades must be given up; and that if private property were sacred in ships, it would also be sacred in ports; and, in short, that we had arrived at the millennium, and that the age of war was over. This ingenious reasoner, however, should have remembered, that if the 'millennium was to be arrived at in this way it had been reached already by the relief of belligerent goods from capture at sea by the Treaty of Paris in 1856. But as regarded giving up blockade, he was equally wrong, for the proposal would place blockade in no different circumstances than it was now placed in. If a neutral vessel attempted to enter a blockaded port she was captured, and she would be captured still. He proposed nothing to alter the law of blockade; his proposal would certainly be an advantage to England, whose ships, instead of accompanying her merchant vessels all over the world, could then be employed solely in sealing up the enemy's ports. The next argument he would notice was that of Earl Russell, who said—It is obvious that one reason why foreign nations are unwilling to go to war with England is the certainty that their commerce would be crippled and their ships would be sure to fall into the hands of our cruisers; but, on the contrary, if they were sure their merchant ships would be allowed to pass in safety one great reason for peace would be taken away.And again—A stipulation not to allow our naval force to be used against commercial vessels would be a great provocation to war, and the power of Great Britain would be greatly lessened.This argument was applicable against the Paris Declaration of 1856, but not against the present proposition. It was true that nations would be unwilling to go to war if they were sure their commercial wealth would be seized; but by the Declaration of 1856, it could not be seized if in neutral vessels, and he contended that not a ton of it would be seized under the present system. That 1414 argument, therefore, was nugatory; and as to his proposition being "a great stimulus to war and a great blow to humanity," which were the words of Earl Russell, he contended that it would be just the reverse. It must be clear to every hon. Member that no European power would go to war with England on the mere chance of invading this country and taking possession of it. The great inducement to such a war would be the hope of crippling our commerce and taking captive our "merchantmen; and, therefore, as it would be impossible for us to protect our merchantmen or manage all our traffic by the use of neutral bottoms, the" great stimulus to war and the great blow to humanity "would be to leave things as they were and reject the proposal he was making. He had used the expression" European power "advisedly, because he was sure that if the United States wished to go to war with us, they would not be deterred from doing so by reason of danger to a few coasting vessels kept up along their shores while all their richer freights were sailing safely over the world under neutral flags. The next argument he would notice was one used by the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, who asked if we intended to draw a distinction between private property on land and private property at sea, and went on to argue that the capture of private property by land was recognized. Now, he believed the reverse to be the case. The principle always adopted in war is to spare property as far as it can possibly be spared. Plundering by land goes against the feeling of mankind. In some cases of military warfare it is necessary to use and even to destroy it, but in maritime warfare that can never be the case. He would not go back to Vattel or Grotius, but he believed that the opinion of all modern jurists was to the effect that, as far as possible, private property by land was exempt from capture. It was stated by Mr. Wheaton—Private property by land is exempt from confiscation with the exception of such as may become booty in special cases, when taken from enemies in the field, or in besieged towns, and of military contributions. That was a case of necessity which could never happen at sea.During the Russian War Odessa was spared from bombardment, but the industrious inhabitants of Finland were plundered, and exasperated by the plunder. Did that discourage Russia from carrying on the war? Quite the reverse; and the only effect of the transaction was to make the name of 1415 England detested among people who before were favourably disposed towards this country. It would be recollected what indignation prevailed in that House in reference to the blocking up of the port of Charleston by sinking vessels filled with stone in the Channel; but was not that act similar to the course of proceeding which was now justified by those who opposed his proposition? They argued in favour of the right of destroying the enemy's property in detail, and, therefore, it might be presumed that they were in favour of destroying it in gross also. If so, the argument justified the destruction of the enemy's property at its source, which was the commercial harbour in which the property could be received, and, therefore, it was the magnitude of the evil, and not the principle, which created so much sensation on that occasion. He recollected that when General Sherman, in his great march through the Southern States, laid waste the country, some persons justified his conduct on the ground of the necessity of intimidating the enemy. He did not perceive the necessity himself; but if there was a necessity on land, the reverse was the case at sea, and he would venture to say that the ravages of the Confederate vessels had not the slightest effect in intimidating the Northern States, or checking the progress of the war. The only difference in truth was that stated by the right hon. Baronet Sir Stafford Northcote, who said, that one reason why plunder by sea excited less indignation than plunder by land was, that the one was more out of sight than the other. He now came to the argument of the Attorney General, who in the year 1862 had laid it down that if there was one principle more true than another with regard to this question, it was that the Government was in war identified with the people; that if we made war with the Government we made war with the people, or, as he very properly put it, we could not have a commercial peace and a political war. He drew an amusing picture of the men-of-war of France and England, busily engaged in destroying each other while the merchants of both countries were running uninterruptedly between Dover and Calais, doing a roaring trade, and finding that state of things so agreeable that they would have no inducement to put a pressure on their respective Governments to put an end to the war. Now, he (Mr. Gregory) felt perfectly certain, if in a state of war between England and France the social com- 1416 munications of commercial intercourse were continued, and if there was a fair opportunity on both sides for discussing the questions at issue, there would be a better chance of putting an end to a war so wicked and so insane than would be afforded by all the iron-clad frigates in the world and the protocols of all the diplomatists. The last argument to which he would allude was that of the late Sir George Lewis, who said—Anything of this kind must be settled by-treaty, but war abrogates all treaties; consequently, even supposing such a thing as a treaty between France and England on this subject, the moment war broke out France and England would consider all these engagements as null and void.That statement was cheered by an hon. Gentleman, but, perhaps, he was not aware that it was the opinion of jurists that treaties specially made for the purpose of determining cases in war were not abrogated by war. Dr. Phillimore, Mr. Wheaton, and Chancellor Kent, all held that if a treaty contained any stipulation which contemplated a state of future war, and made provision for such an exigency, such stipulations preserved their force and obligation when the rupture took place. An hon. Gentleman asked how we were to enforce such a treaty? We had no means of doing so. All we could do was to trust to the honour of nations and abide by their honourable declarations. He was perfectly convinced in the case of France, if war broke out to-morrow, she would abide by such a declaration, if such a declaration had been made. But suppose we arrived at the conclusion that what he proposed was advisable, what chance was there of other nations adopting it? Would not other nations be suspicious of our overtures, and think they were called on to surrender some advantage for the profit of England? No doubt they would. The same argument was employed at the time of the repeal of the Corn Laws. It was said we were throwing away all the chances of reciprocity, and foreign nations would never imitate our example. But what was the fact? Free trade was enacted, though doubtless many foreign nations were still suspicious. He need only allude to the celebrated dinner recently given to the American Envoy at Russia, and the speeches that were made on that occasion. But France, Italy, and even Austria were now advancing on the path of free trade; and he was perfectly certain if we stated our readiness to accept such a proposal other Governments would 1417 in time come in and make it. He would take the case of America. This idea of exempting private property from capture by sea was not an idea of our own. It was essentially an American idea. Mr. Massey, in his speech of 1862, pointed out that so far back as 1785 it was actually embodied in a treaty with Prussia. Mr. Cobden, in an address to the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, showed this to be the idea, and not only the idea, but the actual proposal of Benjamin Franklin in 1782. He said—It is probably not generally known that the very proposal which the American Government have submitted within the last five years was made by them in the first treaty with England after the Declaration of Independence, eighty years ago. It had its origin with that great man, Dr. Franklin, who carried into his diplomacy, as into his philosophy, a high and genial principle of philantrophy. In the Autobiographical Memoirs of Thomas Jefferson I find the following passage:—' During the negotiations for peace with the British Commissioner, David Hartley (at the close of the War of Independence), our Commissioners proposed, on the suggestion of Dr. Franklin, to insert an article exempting from capture by the public or private armed ships of either belligerent all merchant vessels and their cargoes employed merely in carrying on the commerce between nations. It was refused by England, and unwisely in my opinion. For in the case of a war with us their superior commerce places infinitely more at hazard on the ocean than ours, and as hawks abound in proportion to game, so our privateers would swarm in proportion to the wealth exposed to their prize, while theirs would be few for want of subjects of capture.In 1856 he was quite aware the United States were invited to join in the Declaration of Paris. These were the words of Mr. Marcy in reply to the proposal—He agreed readily to meet the European Powers on the ground of exempting private property from capture by sea.But we hesitated, we returned no reply, and the opportunity was lost. He was given to understand, although he had no authority for the statement, not that the identical proposal was renewed when the war broke out between the Confederates and the North, but that the question was mooted and talked over, whether the English Government would be disposed to enter into conditions with the United States by which privateering on their part would be abandoned, but the engagements of England were such that she could not do so without a violation of neutrality between the contending parties. Certainly the American Government offered to 1418 relinquish privateering. He was not prepared to say that America at this moment would accede to such a proposal. America was now smarting under the exasperation caused by the ravages of the Confederate cruisers, and was, perhaps, biding her time to make us suffer for it; but he trusted most sincerely that America before long would see that our Government did their best under circumstances of great difficulty to preserve an honest neutrality throughout the war. He had met with a passage the other day on this subject in the letter of Mr. Adams to Lord Russell, which he would venture to read to the House. He confessed he dreaded the prognostications of Mr. Adams as to the consequences likely to ensue hereafter, consequences fraught alike with danger to the United States as to ourselves, and for which nothing save the prudent proposal would be an effectual remedy. Mr. Adams said, if nothing is done—A new era in the relation of neutrals to belligerents on the high seas will open. Neutral ports in that event, will before long become the true centres from which the most effective and dangerous enterprizes against the commerce of belligerents may be contrived, fitted out, and executed. The existing restrictions upon the exploits of daring adventurers will rapidly become obsolete, and no new ones will be adopted. Ships, men, and money will always be had for the service of any Power sufficiently strong to hold forth a probability of repayment in any form, or adroit enough to secure a share of the popular sympathy in its undertakings. New Floridas, Alabamas, and Shenandoahs, will appear on every sea."—[North American Papers, 1866 (No. 1) p. 38.]Mr. Cobden, who would not have said anything without strong reasons for doing so, stated that the Emperor of Russia was in favour of the same principle. He knew nothing himself of the policy of the French Government, but the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) bad stated that the Emperor of the French was also in favour of the adoption of the principle. He might also mention a fact of which, he supposed, few Members in the House were aware—namely, that one of the warmest advocates of the principle was Napoleon the First. Hon. Members were, no doubt, surprised at such an opinion being held by the first Napoleon, but the following were his words on the subject:—In operations of war, carried on by land, the property, even territorial, which foreign subjects possess is not subject to confiscation. The laws which regulate the conduct of a belligerent by land are therefore more in conformity with civilization and the welfare of private individuals, and 1419 it is much to be desired that a time may come when the same liberal ideas should be extended to maritime war, and when the naval forces of the two belligerent Powers should be able to engage in hostilities without giving rise to the confiscation of their mercantile marine.He (Mr. Gregory) was bound to confess that he did not place much reliance in those philanthropic views of the first Napoleon; and he was afraid that they did not much accord with the opinions expressed by the Emperor in his letters to his brother Joseph in Spain. But he read that extract to bring this matter home to the minds of all—to show that the day may come when the proudest and the strongest and the most self-eonfident of us all may wish to appeal to the laws of humanity, instead of to the laws of force. He might mention, as an illustration of this truth, a fact which would be in the recollection of all. At the Congress of Paris, the only Power whose representatives refused to sign the declaration against the employment of privateers was Spain, while the representatives of Chili and Peru both acquiesced in the declaration. At the present moment, what was the position of Spain? She was crying out with a loud tone and a lamentable voice that Chili and Peru were sending forth privateers to sweep her commerce from the seas. He had now said everything he intended to say. He had endeavoured to point out as well as he could some of the advantages of his proposition, which would result not only to ourselves but to every nation upon earth, and to remove some of the objections that might be made to it. He thought it right that in a new Parliament a matter of such grave importance should be discussed. It was a matter of great importance that Parliament should decide whether the country was blindly to allow the present laws regulating these matters to remain in force, or whether they were to endeavour to impress on other Powers the necessity of adopting regulations more in accordance with the interests of humanity. We might not gain what we desired, but for Heaven's sake do not let us blindly advocate and extol a state of things which, if war springs up, shuts in our mercantile marine, fetters and endangers every branch of commerce, transposes our carrying trade to other nations, and all for what?—for the mere hulks we might capture from the enemy. It was a mere question of hulks, for all that was valuable would lie under the neutral flag. He had no wish to ask anything unreasonable from Her Majesty's Government. He 1420 did not intend by his Motion to call upon the Government to press inopportunely the principle for which he was contending. He did not expect that they would send messengers in all directions to call together a Congress, but what he did ask them was, on the next occasion that presented itself, to impress on other Powers the advisability of adding to the Declaration of Paris a clause rendering private property free from capture. He knew well that one of the principal arguments that would be used against him was that the adoption of such a principle would destroy the maritime superiority of England. If it was the mission of England to spread ruin and destruction by land and sea, like as the cannon-ball goes forth, in the words of Schiller, "Shattering that it may reach and shattering what it reaches;" then, indeed, anything that limited that power might endanger England's maritime supremacy, but if we held our mission to be something very different from this, then he could conceive no one act more beneficial to promote civilization—no one act more fraught with the real spirit of Christianity than to proclaim aloud that we, at all events, were ready to enter into engagements with every nation, the weakest as well as the strongest, to relinquish that which has now become the most senseless and the most useless barbarity of war.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to use Her influence with Foreign Powers for the purpose of making the principle that private property should be free from capture by sea a maxim of International Maritime Law,"—(Mr. Gregory,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said that having taken part in the discussion of 1862, to which his hon. Friend (Mr. Gregory) had referred, he wished to make a few observations. He thought that the hon. Member was in error in saying that Sir George Lewis had suggested a Motion similar to the one now before the House. In fact, even if the House agreed in the views of his hon. Friend, it could not agree to his Resolution. The hon. Member asked the House to resolve that private property ought not to be captured at sea, and he 1421 then informed them that he did not intend to stop blockades, or to prevent the capture of contraband of war, although these were the most important cases in which the right of capturing private property was exercised. But even if the proposal were amended so as to exclude from its operation blockades and contraband of war, he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) thought it would be impossible for the House to give to it their sanction, and to resolve that England, which was the greatest of naval Powers, should henceforward be fettered in the use of her superiority. The common-sense view of the question appeared to him to be this: England was a great maritime State, and should not enter into any engagement by which in case of war her power at sea would be crippled. If a tiger and an elephant were about to fight, it would be absurd for the backers of the tiger to propose that it should not use its claws and teeth, or for the backers of the elephant to recommend that it should not use its trunk; and, if we employ a phrase with which the prevalence of the rinderpest had of late rendered us familiar, to declare that to "stamp out" its enemy by the use of its feet was unbecoming any animal of courage. The House were told that the proposed step was rendered necessary by the Declaration made at the Congress of Paris, Now, that Declaration embraced four articles; and of those four the third and the last, which stated that neutral goods should be respected even under an enemy's flag, and that blockades should only be recognized when they were effectual, were mere recognitions of previously existing principles of International Law. The fact was, that the novelty to be found in the Declaration of the Congress was contained in the first and second articles, one of which was directed against the use of privateers, while the other provided a protection for an enemy's goods conveyed in a neutral bottom. But we had had the experience of the war with Russia. The Queen's Proclamation, issued at the commencement of which, adopted the same rules which were afterwards embodied in the Declaration of Paris; and that experience had shown that, where our naval force was greatly superior to that of our opponents, our commerce was not injured by the abandonment of privateering or by anything else; but that, on the contrary, it went on undisturbed, while the flag of our enemy was banished from the ocean. He would now refer to the statesmen of Ame- 1422 rica, who were tolerably acute judges in matters of this kind. An allusion had been made to Jefferson's saying about hawks and doves, but he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) might remark that, however many doves we might have, we certainly had plenty of hawks who could fly against the hawks of our enemies. He would read to the House a letter addressed on the 28th of July, 1856, by Mr. Marcy to Count Sartiges—If the use of privateers be abandoned, the dominion of the seas will be surrendered to those Powers which adopt the policy and have the means of keeping up large navies. In case of war between two Powers of almost equal commerce, but unequal naval strength, an inconsiderable part of the force of the one would be required to prevent that of the other from being used for defence or aggression, while the remainder would be devoted to the unembarrassed employment of destroying the commerce of the weaker in naval strength.Such was the opinion of Mr. Marcy on the subject, and his opinion was much more applicable to the facts of the case than that of Mr. Jefferson. For the reason stated, Mr. Marcy had declined to accede to the Declaration of Paris, except upon condition that private property should be exempted from capture at sea. That, however, occurred in 1856, when any war which could be contemplated as possible, though not perhaps probable, was a war with France or England, both being great maritime Powers. At the commencement of the late Civil War the condition of affairs was altogether changed, and the Americans found themselves engaged in hostilities with a Power of inferior naval force—the Confederate States. Then the United States professed themselves willing to accept the Declaration of Paris pur et simple, and they were only prevented from doing so because it was understood that France and England thought that such a course of proceeding would have given them an unfair advantage over their opponents. When, therefore, we found America, at a time when war was contemplated as possible with a superior naval Power, declining to accede to the Declaration of Paris, but expressing willlingness to accede to it when war was going on with an inferior naval Power, it was not too much to conclude that, after all, this Treaty of Paris was not so very injurious to a great maritime State. But then it was said that in the event of a war the carrying trade of England would be transferred to other nations. Now, no doubt, there would be to a certain extent a transference of the carrying trade to neutral bottoms, but that disadvantage 1423 would not be wholly unattended by what the French termed "attenuating circumstances." In the first place, war brought to English ships a good deal of employment in transporting troops and supplies; and in the second place it should be remembered that after a time foreign ships would gradually raise their freights until it became cheaper for our merchants to pay the increased rates of insurance on British vessels. The great objection, however, to all stipulations entered into in contemplation of a state of war was one which had not been successfully met by his hon. Friend. It was perfectly true that these stipulations were intended to be exceptions to the general rule that war abrogates treaties, but then these particular treaties being made for the event of war, how, when war had broken out, could the obligation be enforced? The hon. Gentleman had said that we ought to rely upon the good faith of our enemy, but unluckily that would be wanting when it was most required. It was an unfortunate incident of such engagements that the nations most disposed to breach of faith were precisely the nations with which we were most likely to go to war. He hoped that we should always observe such stipulations, but he feared they would only be observed by some other countries so long as it suited their convenience. Then, again, it had been said that it was our duty to alleviate the horrors of war. No doubt it was. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that this right of maritime capture was a matter affecting property, not life. It was entirely a question between the warships of one State and the mercantile marine of another. It was to be ranked among the inconveniences, and not among the real horrors of war, which consisted in such things as the burning of homesteads, and the bringing of death and desolation amidst countless families; and if the right of capturing private property had the effect of leading to a cessation of those horrors it was an inconvenience to which nations ought to submit. They were told that it was desirable to protect private property at sea as it was protected on land. But was private property protected on land? His hon. Friend had cited the opinion of Wheaton, who, however, made exceptions to the rule which -utterly destroyed the value of the argument. The rule, in effect, amounted to this—private property on land was respected as long as commanders thought they could leave it undisturbed without injury to the 1424 welfare of their troops or to the objects of their expedition; that is, as long as the hostile commander thought fit to respect it. If this were the kind of declaration which was required with regard to property at sea, there could be no great objection to it. His hon. Friend had referred to the late march of General Sherman, but so far from private property being respected during that expedition it was unsparingly destroyed. At first we in England felt disposed to condemn such a course of procedure; but when it was seen to have been so quickly followed by the restoration of peace, he believed that most persons would admit that that march, with all its horrors, was a right and proper proceeding if it had powerfully contributed, as it appeared to have done, to the speedy termination of the struggle. He could not consent to such a declaration as had been proposed by his hon. Friend, because he believed that instead of doing a real service to humanity, it would, by prolonging war, add to its calamities. For these reasons he should give his vote without hesitation against the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had rested a great portion of his argument upon this consideration—that the Declaration of Paris rendered the present Motion unnecessary, and had asserted that the only new propositions laid down in that Declaration were those which had reference to privateering and to enemy's goods being covered by a neutral flag. Now, he thought that in consequence of the Declaration concerning privateering, this country was placed in a difficult and dangerous position, and he therefore felt disposed to support the Motion of his hon. Friend opposite. The House, he believed, scarcely appreciated the exact position in which this question of privateering now stood, and he could not agree that the present moment was not favourable for its consideration. He wished to make all due allowance for the difficult and delicate situation occupied by this country as a neutral during the late American War. This country had, however, committed two great acts of omission. She had carried the argument of the rights of "commercial adventure" dangerously far, and neglected to provide sufficient safeguards against the equipment of privateers and vessels that might be used as privateers. Another grave omission had been in not claiming the restoration of 1425 the property of English subjects destroyed by those privateers. He feared that the conduct of England during the late war in the United States would be cited against her hereafter, very much to the detriment of her commerce. He need not remind the House that almost every great commercial country had given in its adhesion to the principle of the abolition of the right of privateering. The only exceptions were Spain, Mexico, and America. Mr. Marcy was Foreign Secretary to President Pierce when the United States were invited to join in the Declaration of Paris in 1856, but Mr. Marcy refused on the part of the American Government to give up the right of privateering, unless private property enjoyed an absolute immunity from capture at sea. America was thus committed to the abolition of privateering provided private property were made free from capture. President Buchanan succeeded to President Pierce in the course of the autumn. In the meanwhile the subject caused great excitement in America, and there emanated from the Chamber of Commerce at New York and other commercial bodies a further demand that commercial blockades should be abolished, thus separating them from purely military blockades. Thus, while negotiations were pending between Mr. Marcy on the part of America and other Powers, this further question was raised. Instructions were afterwards sent to Mr. Dallas to suspend all further negotiations on this question, and matters remained in that state until 1859, when Mr. Cass, Foreign Secretary to Mr. Buchanan, addressed Earl Russell on this question of blockades. The noble Earl at the time refused to entertain the question, and America had since placed herself out of court because she had instituted against the South one of the most effective blockades that had perhaps ever existed in the world. She was now in a position in which she might be invited to join in condemning the barbarous right of privateering provided private property was made free from capture, and that was one of the strongest reasons why the House should now invite the Government to open negotiations with foreign Powers for this object. We had not heard the last of the Alabama, in the event of our being engaged in hostilities with any maritime Power. The real gist of this question was—Was it, or was it not, the interest of England to maintain this right? England was said by Voltaire, 100 years ago, 1426 to be the magazine of the world, and the assertion was truer now than it was then. She was the greatest manufacturing country in the world, sending forth her manufactures over the world. But she was dependent upon foreign countries for the supply of the raw material of her manufactures, and was dependent, moreover, upon foreign supply for a large portion of the food of her people. She had thus a greater interest than any other country in the world in the safety of articles conveyed over sea. Mr. Cobden had shown that of all the produce exported from the United States, 69 per cent came to England; of the produce of Russia from 80 to 90 per cent; of China 70 per cent, and of silk 90 per cent; of Egypt 70 per cent, and of Brazil 55 per cent. It might be said that at any given moment three-fourths of the produce conveyed in ships from foreign countries was on its way to England. Was not this weapon that was to deal a blow upon our enemies certain to recoil with double severity upon ourselves? It was not necessary for England to be at war for these belligerent rights to prejudice her commercial interests. During the Italian War it was apprehended at one moment that England would be engaged in hostilities. A large amount of English tonnage was in the ports of China. These vessels could not get a cargo; a rush was made for American ships; and consumers had to pay increased prices, owing to the rise in freights, while English ships were left idle. As far back as 1681, our Government, in antagonism to an edict of Louis XIV., urged a claim for the immunity of private goods from capture at sea. That principle was again recognized in the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713. A similar treaty was concluded with Spain at the same time, and in 1785 the principle was recognized in a treaty between Prussia and the United States. He did not wish to say anything disparaging to his country, for he felt proud of her conduct in the Great War, but they ought to remember the circumstances under which, and the object for which, that war was carried on. England, rightly or wrongly, had constituted herself the champion of the cause of European freedom; but the first step she took in behalf of that cause was to establish the most grinding despotism on the seas. The effect of that was to array against herself in armed neutrality, or disguised hostility, nations which she wished to serve, and who would otherwise have 1427 been her firm allies. He wished her not to forget the lesson of that war. England was not likely ever again to be placed in such a position. The peace of the world was not likely again to be endangered by the ambition of a single individual, or the ocean overshadowed by a single flag. It was not in the power of any nation to maintain these maritime belligerent rights, while public opinion and the civilization of mankind were steadily growing more and more strongly opposed to them. It was easy to say that treaties for surrendering or limiting those rights would be broken in war; but when once they had every maritime State in the world agreed upon certain principles, would anybody assert that any single State would dare to violate such a solemn engagement? The great difficulty which he felt in using that line of reasoning arose from the fact that almost every argument employed in favour of exempting private property from capture, applied with equal, if not with greater, force to blockades. Now, it must be admitted that the right of blockade was, in its fullest sense, a belligerent right; it might form part and parcel of a great military operation; and it must be limited only by the ability of the belligerent instituting it to maintain it. To that extent he had not a word to say against it. But they had seen one of the most powerful maritime States in the world blockading the coast of an antagonist which was almost wholly without any maritime force, and yet the blockade in that case, though said to have been effective, was run every day. And even where a blockade was effective, as it had been in former times, its pressure was so great upon those countries which consumed the articles ordinarily coming from the blockaded ports, that a relaxation of its stringency became absolutely necessary, and a system of licences was established. Therefore, even a blockade, when practically considered, was a very difficult, if not an impossible thing to maintain effectively. The point might be a minor one, but if private property at sea enjoyed an immunity from capture, it would, doubtless, tend to an enormously increased value to shipping; tonnage would increase, and that, in turn, would lead to a considerable reduction of freights, from which the consumer would benefit. But the great advantage to be derived from the recognition of that principle was, that it would operate as a great preventive of war. It was a truism, that of all the evils which afflicted mankind war 1428 was the greatest; but war had its antidote, and that antidote, undoubtedly, was commerce. The more they could bind nations together by the ties of commerce, the greater the stake they could be induced to throw down in the pursuit of profit, the more indisposed they would naturally be to go to war; and, therefore, believing that the proposition would be likely to remove, or at any rate to render very remote, the chances of war, on that ground mainly he would give it his support.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that having listened attentively to all the speeches made against a Motion similar to the present one in 1862, and also to the speeches made that evening, particularly to the argumentative one of his hon. Friend (Sir Francis Goldsmid), he felt convinced that the adoption of the principle laid down in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) was but a mere question of time. Those who took a view adverse to that principle attached too little importance to the vast changes which had come over military, maritime, and commercial affairs, as well as over public opinion, during the last half century. Warfare on the old principle, especially warfare by sea, was every year becoming more difficult, and an increasing commerce rendered it less likely. The time was far from come when men would turn their swords into ploughshares; nevertheless, it was impossible for us or any nation to carry on maritime warfare on the principles which guided us in the last great war with France. Much had been said about the difficulty into which we were brought by what was done at the Conference of Paris in 1856; but it should be remembered that in 1854 the Queen in Council laid down those very principles, which were only confirmed, not initiated, by the action of the Conference of Paris two years later. The hon. Member for Reading (Sir Francis Goldsmid) said, he would never believe that England would permit her hands to be tied by any engagements of the kind; but England had already made those engagements, not only by the part she took at the Conference of Paris, but by the Orders in Council of 1854; and, therefore, the first of that hon. Member's able arguments fell to the ground. It was absolutely necessary for us either to go back and reverse the decision come to in 1854, and confirmed in 1856, or to take another step forward in the direction indicated by the hon. Member for Galway. The hon. Member for Reading, adopting an ex- 1429 pression used in regard to the cattle plague, said England ought at all times to retain her liberty to "stamp out" her enemy. He could quite understand that view of the question—that they should not permit their hands to be tied in any way, but that they should be at liberty to take any measure which by injuring the enemy would benefit ourselves. The argument for maintaining the right of capturing private property at sea was, that they maintained it in order to injure their enemy by crippling his resources and cutting off his supplies. But then, in consequence of the Orders in Council of 1854, and the Conference of Paris in 1856, they could now do no such thing; they could not cut off their enemy's supplies or cripple his resources. The commerce of belligerents would be carried on the same as before, except that his goods would be carried in ships belonging to other nations; and the immediate consequence of England having a quarrel with a foreign nation that was likely to lead to war would be that British shipping would be at a discount in every foreign port. If such a war broke out every prudent merchant would of course only ship his goods in vessels belonging to other nations. But that would not be all. They would also have Alabamas springing up on every ocean, and America would pay us off with interest for the damage which her trade sustained during the last few years. We could not complain, or remonstrate about that; for the United States would allege, as England had alleged, that their municipal laws were not sufficient to prevent war vessels from leaving their ports to prey on the commerce of other countries. The mercantile navy of England had increased in enormous ratio to the increase in our ships of war; and it was impossible to think that the commerce could be protected by our navy in case of war. Our sailing ships could not be convoyed by steamers. England had at this moment something like 7,000,000 tons of shipping on the ocean, which was eight or ten times greater than it was during the last great war with France. It would require twenty times the number of ships of war we had now to convoy and protect our merchantmen in time of war. What would be the consequence if so lamentable a thing as the occurrence of a war between this country and France should take place? Suppose we had with our superior naval force shut up all the French ports by blockade, as we did in the time of the First Napoleon, still our valuable merchant vessels would be im- 1430 perilled on every sea, whereas the French mercantile navy was perfectly insignificant, and was a decaying interest every year. They might destroy the whole of the ships of France without materially affecting her resources. But once apply the principle advocated by his hon. Friend, and he could not see that the interests of England in such cases would be seriously affected or injured. A good deal had been said regarding the comparison between war on land and war on sea. He admitted that there were cases in which private property on land was not exempted; but those instances were exceptional, and except there was absolute necessity for it private property on land was never seized. He excepted those cases in which recourse to such a proceeding was universally condemned. But if the principle was to be acted upon that because one State was at war with another each of those States had a right to plunder the private citizens of the other, that ought to be done systematically—it ought to be done on land as well as on sea. As, however, that would be going back to barbaric time, we should do well to follow the advice given in the words which his hon. Friend the Member for Galway had quoted from Lord Palmerston. His hon. Friend the Member for Reading had asked what guarantee they had that a treaty such as his hon. Friend the Member for Galway suggested would be observed in time of war? But if any importance was to be attached to that argument, what was the use of International Law at all? and what was the use of the Declaration or the Treaty of Paris? He hoped the House would agree to the principle laid down by his hon. Friend the Member for Galway; but however that might be, he was perfectly satisfied that whatever view might be taken by Her Majesty's Government and the people of the country, the time would come when this principle would be recognized by all nations; and he supported it, not because it would be advantageous to British interests alone, but because it would be a boon to the whole civilized world.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that he had not stated that in war we ought to be allowed to stamp out our enemies. He would be sorry to have uttered so savage a sentiment. He was merely alluding to the habits of an animal. His argument was that England ought not to be placed at a disadvantage.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that if the principle of this Resolution were car- 1431 ried out, they would in future have to carry on war with rosewater and in kid gloves. His hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) had raised a distinct issue which the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had also adopted. His hon. Friend said, "The Declaration of Paris puts us in such a position that it is impossible to remain as we are." If this were so, it said very little for our diplomacy or for the Government which had accepted the Declaration. His hon. Friend argued that we must either rescind that Declaration or go further. His (Mr. B. Cochrane's) own opinion was we must either rescind it or sacrifice the supremacy of England. He regarded the Declaration of Paris as one of the most lamentable documents ever agreed to as regarded the supremacy and welfare of this country; and he thought it was incumbent on us to avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity that might present itself for rescinding that Declaration. In 1857 Lord Russell used these words—Free bottoms make free goods,' and' the goods of a belligerent are safe in neutral vessels and the goods of a neutral safe in belligerent vessels,' have always been regarded as injurious to the supremacy of maritime countries, and especially to the maritime power of England. Every one who has looked at the arguments on this subject will see that the rules were laid down as a blow to the maritime supremacy of this country. Since that time, the Secretary of State of the United States has proposed to go a step further than this treaty—that Great Britain should agree that all merchant vessels should be free from capture during time of war. It appears to me, I own, that although this proposal carries with it an air of philanthropy, it is one which would not tend to prevent war, and which, if it did not tend to prevent war, would greatly cripple the energies of this country in time of war.On another occasion Earl Russell said—I am afraid we must be bound by the Declaration. I am afraid that the consequences are so serious as to show that the Declaration was very imprudent, and I cannot but agree with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lindsay) that England ought to preserve her maritime superiority. The state of this question is to me very alarming, but I do not see that a breach of faith would at all mend our position.—[3 Hansard, cxlvi. 1490.]Although it might be the opinion of Lord Russell that it would be very difficult to repeal the Declaration, the moment war broke out it would be at an end. Speaking in February, 1860, Lord Palmerston said—A naval Power like England ought not to surrender any means of weakening her enemies at sea. If we did not seize their seamen on board their merchant vessels, we should have to fight them on board their ships of war. I deny that 1432 private property is spared in war on land any more than in war at sea. On the contrary, armies in an enemy's country take whatever they want or desire, without the slightest regard to the right of property, as we should find to our cost if a hostile army should ever succeed in landing in this country.Lord Derby remarked of the Declaration of Paris, in 1856—Whatever losses Russia may have suffered by this war, whatever embarrassments she may have experienced, I hesitate not to say that they are more than compensated by the adoption of that one Article, gratuitously inserted by the French and British Plenipotentiaries, by which, in the words of Mr. Pitt, you have sacrificed the maritime greatness of England on the shrine of Russia…Depend upon it, when painful experience shall make the country wring her hands and not her bells, she will know on whose head to visit the consequences of the decline of her power and greatness."—[3 Hansard, cxlii. 537.]Having made one admittedly false step, the remedy suggested was that we should now give up the right of search and thereby strike at the very root of our maritime ascendancy—that ascendancy which had carried us victorious through the long Continental wars. The theory that the rights of private property were respected upon land sounded well; but, in practice, how had we acted? We actually destroyed the magnificent Summer Palace at Pekin, after our arms had proved victorious, and we had achieved everything which we could desire. How, also, consistently with that theory, could we justify the bombardment of Kagosima? He believed with Nelson that "England must maintain the right of search, so long as she had a ship or a shilling left." In former wars naval officers, animated by love of country, frequently cast aside their private interests and burnt ships which they had captured, because they could not spare men enough to man the prize. But now a naval officer could not continue to act on such considerations, because it might turn out that the ship had neutral property on board, and an action would be brought against him to recover its value. We had already taken one foolish Quixotic step in a wrong direction. Instead of confirming the error, we ought to be very careful how we plunged ourselves into greater difficulties. He rejoiced in the commercial prosperity of the country, but there was something to his mind superior to commercial prosperity, and that was the dignity and honour of the country. And at what time was it that the proposition was made still further to diminish the naval strength of the country, 1433 and to throw away the best defence yet left to the nation? At the very moment when every nerve was being strained to produce fresh weapons of offence and means of defence, Armstrong guns and turret-ships, and when the Naval Estimates were quite equal to those proposed in any former years. His hon. Friend had done good service in inviting this discussion. He hoped its result would be to call forth a strong declaration of opinion in favour of the rescinding of the Declaration of Paris
MR. M'CULLAGH TORRENS
If I thought it possible that those who are charged with the administrative guidance of our affairs, or those who may hereafter succeed them, could regard with the levity and unconcern of the hon. Gentleman opposite the moral obligations of the understanding come to at the Conference of Paris by all the Great Powers of Europe, I should indeed look upon this as a wasted evening, and the present as a vain debate. That understanding cannot, indeed, be said to have the binding efficacy of a treaty; but International Law does not consist of the mere ties and bonds mutually imposed by civilized States on one another; but, like the Constitution under which we have the happiness to live, it is the aggregate and sum of a vast and varied series of precedents, concessions, and reciprocal acknowledgments of the worth of justice and the wisdom of humanity in the dealings of nation with nation in peace and in war. The resolutions taken at Paris at the suggestion of M. Walewski, as the representative of the French Emperor, have all the characteristics of a forethoughtful and high-minded policy. They were commended to the attention of the assembled diplomatists of Europe, on the noble plea that as the Congress of Westphalia had ratified the principle of liberty of conscience, and that of Vienna had been signalized by the abolition of the slave trade, so that of Paris would mark a happy epoch in political history if it secured immunity from capture and confiscation henceforth the property of neutrals and the repudiation of Letters of Marque. Not without instructions from their respective Governments, not hastily or privily, as some have supposed, but deliberately and solemnly, the Ministers of England, Germany, Italy, and Prussia gave their adhesion to the propositions of France; and a great step was thereby taken in the direction of international pro- 1434 gress and international civilization. And if I differ from my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Gregory) in any one particular, it is in the hypothesis which, for argument's sake, he was induced to put of two alternatives which our Government might pursue in this matter. Either they must rescind the Convention of Paris and retract its merciful and magnanimous stipulations, or they must prepare to follow up those stipulations, as the United States proposed, to their logical and legitimate sequence, by making all private property, in whatever vessel borne, secure from rapine at sea. Now, I demur to the former alternative, for I deny that for a great country like this there is, in our day, any possibility of going back. Through the timidity of our rulers we may for a time lag behind on the path of progress; but progress is the inevitable path on which we have entered, and onward for good or for evil we must go. I do not believe that any statesman of any party in this country, were he perverse enough, would be powerful enough to retract in the national name the wise and honourable resolutions taken in 1856 at Paris. They are already regarded as part and parcel of the amended law of Christendom, and our duty is not to question their validity, but to extend their scope. We have heard many predictions of the ruin to our trade and the dishonour to our flag which a renunciation of the practice of maritime spoil would, it is said, entail. I am old enough to have heard similar prognostics to those that are now uttered regarding the approaching downfall of British greatness on many occasions, and notably when Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Corn Laws were carried. Prognostics of this kind always remind me of what was once said by the late Lord Macaulay—that the British Constitution was always upon the verge of ruin if some people were to be believed, but that luckily therenever was a Constitution that took such a deal of ruining. The Anti-Corn Law League was denounced by great authorities in and out of Parliament as visionary, seditious, and even anarchical; and I have heard it said that a Liberal Premier forgot himself so far as to tell the Queen that the men who would insist on free trade in food would take the Crown off Her Majesty's head. Yet Protestantism still survives the Relief Act of 1829, and landed property is certainly as safe, and considerably more valuable than it was before the repeal of the Corn Laws. 1435 And so it will be after we have abolished licensed brigandage at sea. I think it greatly to be regretted that the offer made by America was not accepted in 1856, to join the rest of Christendom in abolishing privateering on condition that all private property should be respected on the ocean as much as it is on land. I think it equally to be regretted that in the earlier days of the late Civil War means were not found for simultaneously amending the Foreign Enlistment Acts of the United Kingdom and the United States. Great evil has ensued therefrom in the dissemination on both sides of sentiments of distrust and of feelings of alienation where there ought to be mutual respect and confidence. Our Foreign Office could do nothing more useful than to evince, however tardily, a desire that the Foreign Enlistment Acts of the three great maritime Powers of the world should be placed, if possible, on an identical footing. The moral value of the attempt to do so would be as clear as the material value of its success would be inestimable. France was ready to go forward with us on this point. No one who had studied the recent course of French policy could entertain a doubt on the subject. And nothing had filled him with greater surprise than to hear it stated on high authority that the real obstacle in readjusting the laws regarding enlistment and international maritime relations was the Government of Washington. It was said that during the late Civil War Her Majesty's Government had shown themselves willing to entertain the question; but that, owing to cold water thrown upon it by the American Government, Her Majesty's Ministers were unable to come to Parliament with any proposition. Such an allegation was in direct contradiction to the official account of what passed between the present Prime Minister and the representative of the United States in this country. I hold in my hand a despatch dated the 19th January, 1863, in which Mr. Seward wrote to Mr. Adams in reply to a despatch from him of the 25th December, 1862, communicating the substance of what had recently taken place between himself and Lord Russell; and after noticing the arguments used on both sides respecting the case of the Alabama, and expressing a hope that the American claim for compensation might be re-considered, Mr. Seward goes on to say—It is not presumed that our anti-Enlistment Act is defective, or that Great Britain has 1436 ground to complain that it has not been effectually executed. Nevertheless, the proposition of Her Majesty's Government that the two Governments shall confer together upon amendments to the corresponding Acts in the two countries, evinces a conciliatory, a liberal and just spirit, if not a desire to prevent future causes of complaint. You are, therefore, authorized to confer with Earl Russell, and to transmit for the consideration of the President such amendments as Earl Russell may in such a Conference suggest, and you may think proper to be approved.I know not what is the force or meaning of language if this does not imply the strongest, a frank and cordial, readiness to meet an offer when made, and to attribute that offer to friendly motives. There is really no cold water here. The truth is, I believe, that between the proposal for contemporaneous revision on the principle of mutuality made by Lord Russell on the 19th December, 1862, and the interview with Mr. Adams on the 13th February, 1863, at the Foreign Office, our Cabinet, acting on the advice of the Chancellor, had changed their minds, and were no longer disposed to negotiate. I hope, however, that there is now a disposition to consider fairly and fully the unsettled questions of International Law, and the obstacles in the way of arriving at a better understanding are, I believe, not of an insuperable kind. The trade of Great Britain is ten times as great as it was in 1812, and consequently it is ten times as incapable of protection from an enemy's vessel. Under the present laws the mercantile community would be greatly exposed in the event of a war; but I contend that they ought not to be made the especial victims whenever Government choses to draw the sword. The eloquent apologist of oligarchy at Rome gave no such advice to his noble friends as that they should leave the brunt of war to fall upon the industrious classes of the community. He knew how, in a commercial State, sudden loss to many spreads to many more. Non enim possunt una in civitate multi rem atque fortunas amittere, ut non plureis secum in eandem calamitatem trahant. The Government had shown that they were unable to prevent ships leaving this country to prey upon American commerce, and should a quarrel arise with France, Prussia, or any other country, the ports of every neutral Power would be open for the use of the enemy and could not be closed. I am not one of those who believe that pillage of the property of private persons would have the effect of stopping a war; nations will fight out public quarrels, 1437 no matter what class of the people are the chief losers. The burden, however, ought to be borne by all in an equal measure. I am unwilling to prolong the discussion to any greater extent; but I could not listen to such statements as have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House without raising my humble voice in protestation. I hold that the Declaration of Paris was a salutary measure, and that England will do more for the advancement of the human race by her efforts to spread commerce and civilization than by any warfare, however triumphant, in which she may embark.
said, that the importance of the question which his hon. Friend had brought before them could hardly be exaggerated, nor could any question press more urgently for prompt settlement. As the present Prime Minister had said, "the state of this question was very alarming." Now, this proposal had been talked of as emanating from a mere feeling of maudlin humanity. He denied that the question was a question of humanity. It did so happen that if this proposal were carried into effect vast numbers of persons in case of war would be saved from utter ruin; but that was purely incidental. That was not the motive for its adoption. The question was a question not of humanity, but of policy, and he was at a loss to imagine how any one could have carefully examined the arguments on both sides without perceiving clearly that the Imperial interests of this country most strongly demanded that Government should strain every nerve to induce the Great Powers to accede to the rule that shipping, as well as goods, should be free from capture. For, look how the matter now stood. The Declaration of Paris, whether it was, as in his opinion it undoubtedly was, wise and noble, or whether it was weak and foolish, at any rate, could not be repudiated. It would be disgraceful to this country to enter into an agreement with the other Great Powers, and then a few years afterwards fling it carelessly aside from mere vacillation. But more than that. In these days it would be utterly impossible for this or any other country to insult their allies by taking enemy's goods out of the holds of neutral vessels, unless, indeed, they were implements of war intended to help the enemy. The history of the last 100 years had shown, with only too ample demonstration, the frightful evils that such an attempt could not fail to engender. No 1438 statesman could wish England to take such an arrogant and exasperating course; and in the Crimean War, two years before the Declaration of Paris, we of our own accord resolved to abstain from doing so. Then the result of this state of things was perfectly obvious, and the experience of the Americans during their Civil War had added the demonstration of actual experience. It was clear as the day now, when two nations go to war the merchants on either side would cease as quickly as possible to send their goods by the shipping of their own country, which would be liable to capture, and would send them instead on board neutral vessels. No one had denied—no one could deny, that such would be the result. It had been said that merchants were men of sense. They need not go so far as that. It was quite enough to say that merchants were not born idiots; and none but an idiot would think of sending his goods in a ship liable to capture so long as it was possible to find a perfectly safe conveyance. There would be no conceivable motive for his doing so. There would be every motive for his doing the reverse. Every man of business in the House knew perfectly well that in a matter of trade like that one would as soon think of flying as of not taking the most economical course, even if it would only save one 5s. But, now, could any Englishman contemplate without a feeling almost of horror such a result as that, that our enormous shipping should either be thrown into a state of complete idleness, and rot useless in our harbours, or else that it should be sold to neutral countries, the French, the Dutch, or others, and our carrying trade transferred, perhaps, for years and years, perhaps for ever, from us to them? Could it be denied that such a result as that would, at any rate, be a calamity of the first magnitude? This would not be a case of loss and suffering to individuals; it would be a calamity, a terrible calamity, to the whole nation. Look at the, enormous proportion of our shipping as compared with that of other countries. He did not merely speak of countries whose maritime trade had but a slender growth; but compare our shipping with a country like France, with a seaboard to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and the Channel. The tonnage of England, as compared with that of France by the last return that he had been able to procure, amounted, in round numbers, to 5,000,000, as against 1,000,000. That was the comparison between England 1439 and France; but suppose war should arise between us and Prussia, or between us and Austria or Russia, how enormous would be our disadvantage—how enormous would our loss and suffering be as regarded that inevitable paralysis of our shipping interest compared to that of our antagonists ! And more than that—our imports and exports for the year before last amounted to little less than £500,000,000. It must take some time for the complete transfer of such an enormous trade from our shipping to that of neutrals. During that interval, in consequence of our having the largest amount of shipping and the largest amount of goods, we should suffer far more grievously than our opponent, whose smaller trade would be transferred with greater rapidity than would be possible with ours, reaching such a vast amount, and scattered over the face of the earth. If we went to war, for example, with some small Power they might be absolutely free from any loss under this head. Their petty trade could at once be thrown into neutral bottoms, while our ships in all parts of the globe would be in the utmost peril of capture. We should, therefore, stand by our own act, or rather by our own negligence, at a fearful disadvantage as compared with others. The answer suggested was, that the fleet of England was also enormous as compared with that of any other nation, and would, therefore, be able to afford a proportionate amount of defence, but it must be remembered that practically now the navy of France was little less than our own, while our shipping, as he had said before, was five-fold greater; and the experience of the Civil War in the United States had demonstrated that a very fast sailing cruiser, such as the Alabama, might perform the most terrible ravages among the mercantile marine without the possibility for many months, perhaps for many years, of her capture. Experience has demonstrated again and again that a navy, however powerful, could not afford any certain protection to shipping. Even in two years of our last war with America, from 1812 to 1814, no less than 2,500 of our ships, with cargoes valued at upwards of twenty millions, were taken by the Americans, although at that time we had, he believed, little less than 1,000 ships-of-war on the seas. The loss at the present time would be infinitely greater. The argument might be thus summed up, that as long as Great Britain presented an incomparably larger surface to attack than any country with which she would be likely to 1440 come into collision, her interest was on the side of her shipping being exempted from capture. The force of these considerations was obvious; but then by what arguments were they encountered? First and foremost appeared to be that it would be in vain to enter into any such agreement as the one proposed, because war at once abrogated all treaties and agreements. He thought the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Galway was overwhelming on that point, and he was anxious to know how the learned Attorney General would meet it. If this agreement were entered into it would not be merely with the two possible belligerents, but with all the Powers of Christendom. The Declaration of Paris was signed by between forty and fifty different nations. Obviously, if the moment war broke out the agreement should fall to the ground, it would be mere childishness for them to spend their pains in weaving a mere cobweb that would be brushed away in a moment. But was that really so? Undoubtedly, ordinary treaties between two nations disappeared the moment those two nations go to war; but the case was vitally different in every respect with regard to agreements entered into by all the Great Powers of Christendom, and deliberately accepted by each of them as a member, so to speak, of the commonwealth of nations. In such case the agreement clearly would continue to bind any two of those nations that went to war—first of all, because each of them would have made that agreement, not simply with its opponent, but with each of the other Powers, who by entering into that agreement had shown that they regarded it as a matter of strong interest to themselves that the arrangement should be maintained; and if a nation was at war, the last thing she would wish to do would be to break faith with all the neutral Powers, and irritate them against her. But, again, he ventured even to deny that the agreement would cease to be binding as between two belligerents; because those two would previously have pledged themselves to adopt a certain course expressly with a view to that case of war breaking out between them. It would, therefore, be a flagrant breach of faith—it would be a shameful stain on the honour of each of them to fling its pledges to the winds the moment the time came for acting upon them. It was a standing practice in war that the two belligerents entered into arrangements of some kind—as, to give an obvious example, with regard to the ex- 1441 change of prisoners. The world would cry shame on the belligerent that threw them aside. Who would dream of saying that such agreements were not really binding, and that either party might shirk the performance of his part at his own pleasure, without the other's consent, simply because a state of war extinguished all treaties? No nation that respected herself, no nation that cared for her own honour, would care to break through an agreement deliberately entered into, expressly with a view to the case of war arising, on the shameful pretext that war abolished an agreement entered into expressly with a view to war. The next leading argument against this proposition was, that if you diminished the suffering attendant upon war you diminished the inducements that lead nations to keep the peace; that it would make war a great deal too easy if the trading classes knew that there would be no interference with their ordinary operations. That, no doubt, was a very weighty argument; but it had two sides to it. Grant that the probable suffering to large classes was a strong inducement to a nation to keep peace—grant that the actual suffering of large classes was a strong inducement to a nation to bring war to an end; still it must be remembered, and that was a matter of very grave importance for a British statesman to bear in mind, that the inducement would act with incomparably greater force on this country than on any other country with whom she might be likely to quarrel, for the plain reason that her shipping so vastly exceeded that of any other nation. In other words, so long as the present system was maintained, England incurred a far greater risk of injury in this respect than her opponent, whoever that opponent might be; and therefore the statesmen of this country had their hands far more tied, they were far less at liberty to take their own course, than the statesmen of any country with which a misunderstanding might arise. What did that mean except that we should be far more hampered in our policy? No one, he was sure, could detest and abhor war more heartily than he did. No one could more earnestly wish that every possible inducement should be held out to nations to avoid or to shorten war, but he did believe that no country was less likely to seek war needlessly than Great Britain, and, as an Englishman, he could not wish that our policy should be hampered and tied down by considerations that would act with infinitely 1442 less force upon others. He was not sure that in the case of Denmark our policy had not been thus unduly hampered. He should wish, if possible, to release our statesmen from being compelled in negotiations and questions of policy to regard, as they must now do, the tremendous risk that England would incur should war break out. But, again, he did not believe that that consideration did really tend to the peace of the world. So far from it, it seemed to him that it would act as a very telling inducement to other nations to go to war with us, that we, probably, under the present rule with regard to shipping, should be so vulnerable and incur such terrific losses and suffering from which they would be almost absolutely exempt. Take such a case as, with their smaller mercantile marine, a war arising with Russia or Prussia, or even America. He put it to the plain sense of hon. Members whether there was not now actually a greater risk of those countries threatening us with war because of that very consideration which some hon. Members of this House told them tended in the direction of peace? So much for that very important argument. But then, again, they were told that when they asked that private property at sea should receive the protection already accorded to private property on land they were talking of that which did not exist. He had been astonished, and not only astonished, but grieved to find that some leading politicians in that House had denied the existence of the rule that private property on land was to be preserved. He was at a loss to imagine how any man could possibly affirm that the immunity of private property on land was not recognized by all civilized nations. He remembered that when he brought forward his Motion with regard to Admiral Seymour, the great difficulty he felt was the possibility that it might turn out that it was not done on purpose but as it afterwards turned out that the destruction of the forts Was an accident. When he withdrew his Motion he received from Lord Palmerston a most definite declaration on that point, which he felt to be of far greater value than any momentary triumph over the Government—namely, that if Admiral Seymour had deliberately destroyed the town of an enemy, it would have been nothing less than a crime. Certainly, within the last seventy or eighty years history showed that it had been admitted as a rule by all Christian belligerents, that private property was safe from destruction. There had been no 1443 doubt many exceptions to the rule. Men, like the First Napoleon, had trampled on that as they would trample on whatever else could restrain them. Of course, in War necessity obeyed no law; a general was bound to stop at nothing that could help him on to victory or preserve the health and lives of his men; but, beyond all question, it was the rule of modern warfare that a hostile army did not wantonly destroy the property of private persons. Although Wellington did it in the Peninsula, it should be observed that he did not destroy the property of his enemies, but that of his friends, those he had come to deliver, and there was a necessity for what he did. He was deeply grieved to admit that in the recent Civil War in America the rule was in many cases set aside; but it was well known the passions excited in civil war were more terrible than those which were excited in any other war. But even General Sherman put forward the plea that it was absolutely necessary to lay the country waste in order to prevent Hood from following him; and when the city of Columbia caught fire, as was now proved, by accident, Sherman and his men did their very utmost to extinguish the conflagration and save the town. In fact, the rule arose not so much from the greater humanity of the age, as from the dictates of common sense. Experience had proved that the sufferings of private persons in war had never yet induced nations to abstain from it, nor yet to make peace. On the contrary, it was found that those miseries really tended to lengthen war by exasperating the passions of the combatants to the highest pitch, and that by respecting private property they really paved the way towards a speedy and amicable settlement of the quarrel. Upon the whole, it seemed clear that the arguments against this proposal had no real force in them, while if the present absurd and anomalous state of International Law were suffered to continue, this country, beyond all others, stood in serious peril of overwhelming calamity.
THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, that there could be no doubt whatever as to the importance of the question raised. He would freely admit the value of the argument in favour of the Motion, that if we were engaged in a war with any maritime country, our commerce and our merchants would suffer more than the commerce or the merchants of any other country, and no doubt whatever expedients might be 1444 suggested for the purpose of lessening the pressure and disaster which would accrue from a war, the people of this country would suffer very much from the interruption of their commerce with foreign nations. But this was in reality saying nothing more than that in our prosperity we had much to lose, and that in the great commercial progress which this country had made we had a larger surface exposed to the attacks of our enemies than we had formerly. But, on the other hand, if we had a larger surface exposed to attacks we had also to the same extent become more formidable to our enemies. If our enemies were enabled to direct more weapons against us than formerly we also had more weapons of warfare at our service, and indeed our commerce itself was to a great extent the child of the maritime supremacy of this country. The question, as a matter of expediency, really was, whether the abandonment of the right of capture by sea would not cripple our resources and weaken our influence to a greater degree than its retention would injure our commerce? An hon. Member had said that whenever a great reform was proposed it was prophesied that it would ruin the country. But, on the other hand, it had been prophesied that unless the proposed change were adopted the moment a war broke out our commerce would leave us—that our food would have to be carried in neutral bottoms, and that foreign countries would become the carriers of the world. To some extent that might be true, but there were some countervailing circumstances in that matter. If insurances were raised freights also would rise, and before those nations could take away our carrying trade they must construct a carrying navy. If, as they had been told, the tonnage of the mercantile navy of this country was as five to one compared with France, that country would have to multiply her navy in that proportion before she could undertake to carry our goods. He did not say that the effect would not be prejudicial to us, as all wars must be to those who entered into them; but all he said was that there was another side to the view that had been put forward by hon. Members who had addressed the House on the subject. He did not fear but that if we went to war with America, and lost many of our vessels, we should capture a larger number. He believed that the energy of the country would meet a new emergency as it had met emergencies before. So much for the mere matter of expediency. But the question 1445 had been argued as one of principle; and it was said that private property ought to be exempted from seizure by sea, because it was exempted from seizure by land. This argument, however, proceeded on an entire misapprehension of the nature of war. All war was an invasion of private property; there could not be war without it. If private property were not to be taken what were armies to fight for? If both armies were to be withdrawn from attacking private property what would be the result? What was public property but the aggregate of the private property of the State? If commerce was to go on during war as before the war broke out what effect could the war produce? The armies might go on marching and countermarching for ever. If no effect was to be produced on the private property of individuals, which in the aggregate made up the public property of the country, the war would lose its effect, and thousands of valuable lives would be lost, and oceans of blood would be shed without result. If a foreign army landed on an enemy's shore, could they march through a field or go a step without invading private property? Could they take possession of villages in their march, and all the while respect private property? What was the capture of territory but the invasion of private property? Let any one travel through the Southern States of America at this moment—he did not refer to the grosser outrages perpetrated in the war—but, independently of that, would he not be able to tell that an army had been there? And how? Simply by the ruin and desolation of private property on every side. It was, then, vain to say that private property was respected on land during war. There were rules, well ascertained and fixed rules, with regard to this warfare, but they were rules which had not originated in treaties and conventions, but which had sprung up from the humanized feelings of the belligerents themselves. He believed that the recognized rule in warfare was that private property, the property of individuals, ought not to be the object of seizure, or capture, or destruction, when the result to be gained by the nation was disproportioned, and largely disproportioned, to the individual loss. But, with regard to private property, it was impossible to lay it down as a law that it was not to be touched. It would be a cruel thing generally to bombard a town not fortified. But were we to say we would 1446 never bombard? It was a cruel thing to march an army through the porn fields of the farmer; but were we to bind ourselves never to do it in case of warfare? We did not confiscate the property of a belligerent in our own country; but we did not allow trade to be carried on with the enemy. There were rules of this kind recognized by all civilized nations, because it was clear that they could not be violated without the violation of private right producing greater injury than any advantage that would be gained by the country doing the act. Still, there were cases in which the public safety demanded, necessarily demanded, an extension of the ordinary practice in such matters; and therefore it was that the exceptions which had been referred to were the exceptions, not the rule. A state of warfare signified a denial of the right of property as regarded the belligerent; and the exceptions were the cases where by the practice of all civilized nations private property had been protected because its destruction would be wanton and unjustifiable. If this were the real nature and principle of the case, it was quite plain that there was no principle involved in the capture of the vessels of an enemy at sea that was not also applicable to the capture or destruction of property on land. There seemed to be an idea—he thought it an erroneous one—that capture of property at sea was capture for the purpose of plunder. No doubt the effect of capture of vessels at sea was that the cargo might be condemned by a Prize Court; but the principle of it was this. The capture was rewarded by the condemnation of the vessel. The object being to cripple the resources of the enemy, those who engaged in crippling the resources of the enemy were rewarded by the prizes. The only question, therefore, was whether the resources of the enemy were not crippled by the capture of their vessels at sea. He did not maintain that this was not a matter that might be adjusted by treaty. He did not mean to say that if a treaty or convention were signed by all the Powers with whom we were likely to go to war, that that convention would not be available. But treaties had not always been safeguards. He found that in one of the despatches of the American Minister on the subject of the Convention of Paris he mentioned that there were only two known cases of the kind, and the fate of those treaties was not such as to encourage the expectation that such would be carried out. The first was broken 1447 on going to war; the second, between Prussia and Holland, lasted only two years. If a convention to this effect should be signed, he by no means said that it would not be kept. But there would probably be an unwillingness on our part to sign such a convention. We should be surrendering more than others in so doing. Many European States would be glad to see the tremendous power of England restrained in the event of a war. But passing from this, one of the objects of the Treaty and Convention of 1856, which the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) was so much discontented with, was to reduce the maritime law of Europe to a uniform system. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member complain of an article by which neutral goods were protected when in enemies' ships, for if that were new law to France it was far from being new law to this country. Our former law was that neutral goods on board an enemy's vessel were protected in case of the capture of the vessel. The hon. Gentleman complained that such an article would give a right to the neutral merchant to bring actions against England for the capture of their goods in enemies' ships. That supposition might possibly be well founded, but such was the law before the Convention of Paris. The French law was that free vessels made free goods, while our law was that, although the neutrality of goods protected them when under an enemies' Bag, on the other hand, enemies' goods under a neutral flag were not protected, and the law was altered by that Convention in order to secure uniformity in the maritime law. That alteration was as much in favour of this as of any other country, inasmuch as the right of search, although used for our advantage, was a most vexatious and dangerous right, as it was calculated to bring us into conflict with neutral nations at a time when we might be sufficiently occupied elsewhere. These were all the observations that occurred to him upon this very important point. In his opinion they would act very rashly if they tied their hands by a Resolution of that House or by an Address to the Crown, in accordance with the proposition of the hon. Member for Galway. Hon. Gentlemen said the country was sure to progress in its ideas on this point; but he could not see that on the question of belligerent rights there was much to learn. The great jurists who had written on the subject lived at a time when a state of war 1448 was the ordinary, and a state of peace was an extraordinary state of things, and since their time no author had produced works on that subject of equal value. The hon. Member asked whether they would not rob war of its terrors, and so permit private persons to pursue their peaceful avocations. But how was it possible to rob war of its terrors? By endeavouring to do so they would only increase the misery it unavoidably caused. If war were not terrible, it would not effect its purpose. It was far better that it should be sharp and short than that it should linger over campaign after campaign. The misery produced by a prolonged state of warfare was infinitely greater in the end than that which would arise from the terrors that would be created by the terrific engines of modern invention. They never could rob war of its terrors, nor enable persons to pursue their peaceful avocations in the midst of war. The only way to rob war of its terrors was to avoid that which might occasion war. If it were true that in these times of great prosperity our merchants trembled at the thought of war, let the country recollect that it had entered into recognizances to keep the peace, and let it do its best to preserve it.
§ MR. LAING
said, that after the observations of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, it was evident there was nothing to be expected from the Government, and it was absolutely necessary for those who desired the alteration in the law now proposed to appeal to public opinion, and to state fairly the grounds upon which they believed that such an alteration would tend to the advantage of this country. The Lord Advocate told them to console themselves with the reflection that it was the great prosperity of the country that rendered it more open to attack than others, and that, as its commerce bad extended, so the area on which it could be attacked had widened. But that was not by any means the question at issue. The question was, whether a definite proposal to introduce a new principle into the existing International Maritime Law, which was apparently attainable by the consent of the European Powers, would or would not be, if adopted, for the advantage of this country. Every one must admit that the position into which England had been forced by recent transactions was exceedingly unsatisfactory. The Russian War, the Convention at Paris, the American War, and the re- 1449 cent diplomatic correspondence between this country and the United States, proved the existence of a state of things from which the gravest results were to be apprehended. Under such circumstances, was Her Majesty's Government to be content to sit still without making an attempt to extricate the country from its danger. Had not the people a right to call upon the Government to exercise a little foresight, and to look ahead in order to protect the country against calamities to which, in the event of war, it would be subjected unless the International Maritime Law were altered? What was the actual state of things at present? Our shipping presented an aggregate of 7,000,000 tons engaged in maritime commerce, and upon it the wealth, the industry, and he might almost say the existence of the kingdom depended. Our annual imports and exports amounted to a total of £500,000,000 sterling, and it was the conviction of almost every merchant that in the case of war between this and any other country, the whole of that enormous property would, for the time, at all events, be almost annihilated. They were told by the Lord Advocate that our shipping trade was so vast that it could not be annihilated; but let him tell the hon. and learned Member that no merchant would run the risk of his goods being captured under the English flag, when he could protect them from the enemy by sending them under a neutral flag. Was it to be supposed that in time of war the consignee of goods sent by an English merchant from Calcutta would, on receipt of the shipping documents, accept the draughts upon him in respect of such goods, according to the present practice, if he knew that they were sent on English bottoms, and were thereby liable to capture, and if insured, with the risk of the failure of the insurance company? He would rather pay the most exorbitant freight for the conveyance of the goods under a neutral flag, to insure their safety. The argument, therefore, that the English shipping interest would not be entirely suppressed, was one that told against a far more important interest, the commerce of the country. If it were true that the whole of the enormous commerce of this country could not be sent under a neutral flag, the consequence was that it would pass partly under a neutral flag, and partly it would not pass at all, until the English ships could be transferred to a neutral flag. The practical question resolved itself into this, whether it was or was 1450 not for our interest to establish the principle now in question. He would say frankly that he was not a sentimentalist in this matter, that he did not look upon it in a legal point of view, but in reference to what was the interest of this country; and he spoke with the profound conviction that if this principle could be established it would be the means of averting war, and that, in the event of war, it would give us the means of terminating it with success. Now, what was the principle which they wanted to establish? It was this—That private property by sea should be put upon the same footing as private property on land with regard to its exemption from capture, unless for bonâ fide belligerent purposes. It had been urged that there was no distinction between the two cases He would refer to the highest possible authority on that point to show how clearly defined the distinction was between the two cases. In the case of the Danish clams brought before this House some years ago, certain property of ours had been confiscated by the Danish Government, in consequence of our attack on Copenhagen. The holders of English property confiscated by Denmark called on the British Government to reimburse them out of Danish property seized in England. In reference to that case the Attorney General said, two or three years ago—We admit that claimants on land are entitled to have their losses made good; but a great distinction is to be drawn between property taken by land, and property taken by sea; the former should be restored, but the latter should not.The Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the same debate, quoting the authority of Sir James Macintosh, that the distinction was clearly drawn between holders by land and holders by sea. What happened when the British troops marched to Pekin? They destroyed the Emperor's summer palace; but that was not a wanton destruction of private property, but an act of retribution on State property for atrocious murders committed in violation of a flag of truce on British public servants. But no private property was seized upon, nor was a single bullock or bushel of rice taken without full compensation being paid. It redounded to the credit of the English that they preserved discipline and respected private property, retribution falling solely on public property. Again, in America the principle was not violated, even during the Civil War, when it might be supposed the rules 1451 of warfare would not always be respected. When cotton was seized in the Confederate States, the question arose whether it was the bonâ fide property of private proprietors, or only colourably in private hands, but really belonged to hostile States. When cotton was sold by the captors the proceeds were retained, subject to claims to be substantiated by private parties, who should not be colourable holders. With respect to the case in Japan, was it not the universal feeling of the House that the justification for the destruction of the town of Kagosima turned on the question whether it was destroyed, or had been accidentally set on fire, for bonâ fide belligerent purposes? The fact of the existence of courts of judicature for captures by sea, and that none were established for captures by land, clearly established the distinction between the two cases. Private property on land could not be taken unless there was a necessity, and when so taken would be detained without any appeal to law, but on sea we appealed to law to say whether it was a bonâ fide capture of an enemy's private property. In congresses and in diplomatic correspondence there never was any question raised as to the reality of the distinction between the laws applying to sea and those applying to land. The American Government offered to adhere to the prevention of privateering if private property on sea were placed on the same footing as that on land, and then the answer was not that this would make no difference, because upon the principle there never was any doubt whatever. The establishment of the principle contended for would not affect the right of blockade; for as private property on land could be captured in the event of a belligerent necessity, so private property by sea would not be exempt if breaking a blockade. The right of blockade by sea was as complete a belligerent right as the right to capture a town by land. That was the best answer to the argument that the maritime strength of this country would be thrown away if the principle now advocated were acted upon. By a blockade neutrals were put to a certain amount of inconvenience which they must submit to, but the entire exercise of belligerent rights was retained. Having now defined the principle which, he contended, should be established—namely, that private property by sea should be placed on the same footing in respect to exemption from capture as private property by land, he came to 1452 the question whether it was to the advantage of England, situated as things were, to see this principle adopted by the general consent of the civilized nations of the world. To judge that question properly the actual state of things must be considered. The whole course of modern warfare had been revolutionized by modern improvements and discoveries. If they could go back to the days of 1815, and to the wooden walls of England, he should by no means be prepared to advocate this principle; but the slate of circumstances had entirely changed. Steam was now made applicable to warfare by sea, and railways to war by land, and these circumstances had completely abrogated the state of things which gave to this country the maritime superiority in the last war with France. That was continued until the fleet of England had swept all hostile fleets from the ocean; and Napoleon, being master of the Continent, had closed every port against this country. In return, this country blockaded every port on the Continent, and there was a chance of starving the enemy into submission by hermetically sealing the Continent against all supplies. But even that would not have succeeded if the events in Russia, the Peninsula, and Germany had not brought the war to a termination. But how did the case stand now? Some Gentlemen talked of the Declaration of Paris having abandoned a great principle which was in our favour; but that was the result, not of that Declaration, but of the alteration in the modern means of communication. How could they hope to starve Russia into submission by blockade during the late war, when neutral vessels could go into Dantzic and Stettin, the ports of another country, where they found railways to carry the freight into Russia? And the railways were not so complete then as they are at the present moment. If this country should be unhappily at war with France, could England stop American ships from taking cotton to Antwerp because of a suspicion that it was to be removed afterwards into the manufacturing districts of France? Such a thing was manifestly impossible, and could not be attempted without involving this country in a war with every neutral nation. In case of war, the utmost injury which this country could expect to inflict on France, by the maintenance of the principle he was now arguing against, was to force her to transfer her commerce of 900,000 tons to neutral bottoms. But 1453 what damage could France do to this country in return? Instead of 900,000 tons of commercial shipping, this country had 7,000,000 tons, with vastly more valuable cargoes, and France could oblige England to forego that amount of commerce, to starve the industry of this country, and to throw the working classes out of employment, or else to transfer the whole of that enormous carrying trade to neutral flags. He dwelt on this point, because he recollected that in 1862 Lord Palmerston stated that if such a Motion as the present were agreed to war would be deprived of all its terrors, and others had said that war would be converted into a question of protocols, and become a matter of white kid gloves and rosewater. But those who held that language little knew the relations between great commercial countries and what were the real securities for peace and the drawbacks against going to war. In the case of France, it was not the necessity for protecting its 900,000 tons of commercial shipping which constituted the drawback to war, but the enormous mass of property disseminated among the French people in recent years, and their growing wealth and prosperity. The policy of the Imperial Government had been to increase the National Debt, and distribute it in small amounts among that class of the community to which the Government looked mainly for support. Nor did that apply only to the National Debt. There was not less than £1,000,000,000 of property that would be depreciated 10 per cent to-morrow if war were declared between the two countries. And if we looked at the United States, what was the great security for the maintenance of peace? He did not speak of moral considerations, which they all so much respected; but the material guarantee for peace was undoubtedly not the capture of a few vessels more or less on either side, but it was to be found in the fact that the financial position of the United States was such that peace was her salvation and war would be her ruin. The United States at the conclusion of the late war had to grapple with financial difficulties quite as great as surrounded this country at the conclusion of the great war in 1815. They had grappled with those difficulties with the most astonishing resolution and success up to the present time, but still the result was trembling in the balance whether they would or would not be able to surmount the dangers of an inconvertible currency and national bank- 1454 ruptcy. That fact infinitely transcended the capture of any number of merchantmen, and it depended entirely on the issue of peace or war. Instead of war carrying with it no terrors in the case of all great countries with which we had to deal, commercial relations had extended themselves to such a degree that we had in this fact the greatest of all securities against any unnecessary interruption of the peace of the world. But the argument of Lord Palmerston was, that in dealing with small nations we should throw away the means of coercing them into just concessions. But we had still the resource of blockade. When blockade failed to give sufficient protection it was in the case of a large civilized country either having so many ports of its own that we could not establish an effective blockade, or so intersected by railways that we could not prevent the influx of supplies by the ports of a neutral country. But suppose the case of Chili or Peru—if some insult had been offered to the British flag, and it was found necessary to make a demand of just reparation had we not, by means of blockade and maritime expeditions, all the power in our hands we could possibly wish to have? They had no merchant navy worth speaking of, and therefore any destruction we could inflict on the few merchant ships belonging to them would not be taken for a moment into consideration; but were they not more likely to be cautious in quarrelling with us and resisting our just demands if the principle were admitted which precluded them from attacking a maritime commerce which never had less at any one moment than two hundred millions' worth, ships and cargoes, afloat on the sea? The only other question was as to the fitness of the present time to attempt some move in this direction. It seemed to him the present was a peculiarly fitting time for Her Majesty's Government to direct their earnest attention towards this most important question, because the diplomatic correspondence to which he had referred between our Government and the United States left things, he must say, in a most unsatisfactory and alarming position. If we had no such difficulty with the United States as that which had occurred in connection with the Alabama, we might have been content to rest on our oars, to wait the current of events, and see what time would bring about. But was it safe to do this when we had a difficulty of so serious a character raised, a distinct de- 1455 mand made for compensation for damages done to American subjects by vessels which had escaped from our ports, a proposal to refer these claims to arbitration, that proposal rejected on our part, and the affair left in the unsatisfactory condition of a demand distinctly made on one side and as distinctly refused on the other? He did, therefore, urge the Government not to look upon this as a mere legal question. He did not doubt that the Attorney General and the Lord Advocate would give the best legal reasons why things should remain as they were. He called on the Government to take a large and statesmanlike view of the question. He urged them, in the interests of British commerce, of British power, and British honour, to apply their earnest consideration to this question; not to leave it on the unsatisfactory footing on which it now rested, and either to concur in this Motion, or give some distinct intimation that they would take the subject in hand, and do something to rescue us from the unsatisfactory position in which we now were.
Sir, it seems generally agreed that there would be very small grounds for bringing this question before the House if it were not possible to allege some difference between the practice of capture on land and capture on sea to justify the proposed change. Now all speakers, especially the hon. Member who has just sat down, relied for proof that the private property is spared on land on the statements of distinguished jurists. I have no intention of meeting them on that ground. I have no doubt they could produce a pile of authorities as high as that table from distinguished jurists to prove that property on land is exempt from capture; but when war is raging, when blood is drawn, and passions are let loose, distinguished jurists are not the men that govern mankind. On that subject I shall not appeal to the opinions of distinguished jurists but to the actions of distinguished generals. I ask whether the campaigns of the Emperor Napoleon I. were distinguished by their regard for private property on land. But we are told that although it is only half a century since the great Napoleon carried on his great wars, the human race has advanced and civilization and public law have advanced with it, and we are for the future to conclude that ambition and passion will be restrained by limits which, in the time of Napoleon I., were inadequate to hold him in. Then, I would 1456 appeal next to the history of our own country. The hon. Gentleman will not hear of the Summer Palace at Pekin. He makes great distinction in favour of private property on land, but to the destruction of Imperial property he does not apparently object at all. It is hardly worth while to go deeper into the question; but, as I understand his argument, property in the possession of a person employed by the State, or representing the State, may legitimately, under the existing laws of war, be plundered to any extent. I maintain that the Summer Palace at Pekin was as much the private property of the Emperor as Her Palace at Osborne is the property of the Queen. If what was done at Pekin be legitimate under the improved laws of war, it would be legitimate to plunder Her Majesty's Palace at Osborne. I go a step further. What do the hon. Members think of the Banda and Kirwee property? Either the laws of war do not prevent English soldiers from taking private property on land, or English soldiers are robbers. I leave that dilemma to the hon. Gentleman who support this Motion. We are always told by the same authorities that the most distinguished advocates of humanity and civilization are in the United States of North America; and the last war was fruitful in instances of the mode in which those enlightened apostles of civilization and humanity interpreted the privileges of belligerents. I wish to know whether, in the opinion of Gentlemen opposite, the Federal generals were remarkable for sparing private property on land. Do not let them tell me this is an exception to the rule. There is no international code of laws. International Law is simply the aggregate of the precedents furnished by the action of belligerents, and if any distinguished belligerent adopt a certain course, that pro tanto is a change in International Law till it is reversed by some other equally distinguished belligerent. General Sherman's march casts some light on this doctrine. I will read a passage from" The story of the Great March of Sherman. "My authority is Brevet Major George Ward Nichols. He writes thus—Atlanta, Night of the 15th November.A grand and awful spectacle is presented to the beholder in this beautiful city, now in flames. By order, the chief engineer has destroyed by powder and fire all the storehouses, depot buildings, and machine shops. The heaven is one expanse of lurid fire; the air is filled with flying, burning cinders; buildings covering two hundred acres are in ruins or in flames; every instant there is 1457 the sharp detonation or the smothered booming sound of exploding shells and powder concealed in the buildings, and then the sparks and flame shoot away up into the black and red roof, scattering cinders far and wide.He goes on to say—As rumour of the approach of our army reached the frightened inhabitants, frantic efforts were made to conceal not only their personal valuable effects, plate, jewellery, and other rich good, but also articles of food, such as hams, sugar, flour, &c."Now, I wish to know whether that is private property or not? He says further—A large part of these supplies were carried to the neighbouring swamps; but the favourite method of concealment was the burial of the treasures in the pathways and gardens adjoining the dwelling-houses. Sometimes also the graveyards were selected as the best place of security from the 'Vandal hands' of the invaders. Unfortunately for these people the negroes betrayed them, and in the early part of the march the soldiers learned the secret. It is possible that supplies thus hidden may have escaped the search of our men; but if so, it was not for want of diligent exploration. With untiring zeal the soldiers hunted for concealed treasures. Wherever the army halted, almost every inch of ground in the vicinity of the dwellings was poked with ramrods, pierced with sabres, or upturned with spades. The universal digging was good for the garden land, but its results were distressing to the rebel owners of exhumed property, who saw it rapidly and irretrievably "confiscated.'Is that private property, or is it not? Are soldiers the agents of a public authority, or are they not? These are the actions of General Sherman, the much lauded general, and the great apostle of civilization and of humanity! Again, the writer says—Columbia will have bitter cause to remember the visit of Sherman's army. Even if peace and prosperity soon return to the land, not in this generation nor the next—no, not for a century—can this city or the State recover from the deadly blow which has taken its life. It is not alone in the property that has been destroyed—the buildings, bridges, mills, railroads, material of every description.I will ask, is that public or private property? I have read these details because, to my surprise, hon. Gentlemen have denied that Sherman destroyed private property. That he did so was perfectly notorious; it was the avowed object of his march to exhaust the enemy by destroying the sources of their provisions, and so prevent the rebel army from meeting the Federal army in the field. You may say that was a legitimate belligerent operation, and I do not profess to deny it; but do you not see that the same plea of exhausting an army and Government will apply as much to the capture of 1458 private property at sea as to its capture on land? Wherever you destroy the property of a State, interrupt its trade, and injure its citizens, to that extent you diminish its producing power and its taxable property, you make it less efficient as a belligerent, and you may fairly say that plunder and confiscation have been performed for belligerent purposes. Therefore, unless you can frame a new law in more accurate language than has yet been presented, you will find that that very limitation of destruction for belligerent purposes will cover all the destruction that has taken place. The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) made rather a parade of the preservation of the privilege of blockade; but I do not think he appreciated the extent to which its preservation will destroy the legislation which he proposes. This question was materially altered by the Conference at Paris. The Conference of Paris passed a resolution to the effect that blockades to be recognized must really prevent access, and we then thought that future blockades would have to be genuine in the strictest sense of the term. During the Civil War in America a nominal blockade was established; it was a question whether England should interfere or not; there were anxious debates in this House, and the Attorney General explained what was really meant by preventing access. I had previously entertained the strongest objection to the Declaration of Paris, thinking that the abdication of our maritime rights was a fatal blow to England's power on the ocean; but when I heard the Attorney General, I said to myself, "Well, at least we are safe, whatever happens in any future war; for there is no congress on earth can draw up a mesh our Attorney General will not be able to get through." In theory the American blockade was complete, although it was practically worthless. The Government adopted the doctrine that if there was a genuine intention to blockade, and if a genuine effort was made to the utmost ability as a belligerent Power, the blockade was to be regarded as effective. I will ask the hon. Member for Wick to apply that doctrine to any future war. Does he not see that the small coast of England will expose it peculiarly to the operation of that doctrine? It will be perfectly easy for any considerable Power to blockade the coast of England quite as efficiently as America blockaded the Confederate States during the late war. It has only to station a sufficient number of ships around the 1459 coast; the character of the ships is a matter of no importance. So long as the intention and the effort are complete that suffices. The precedent we have established during the late war will be used against us in future. It is not in the least necessary that the blockading force should maintain its position. That before Charlestown was driven away, and came back, it did not obstruct the entrance to the port; but so long as the intention and effort were complete no objection was raised. [Mr. LAING: In the case of America the Confederate States had not a navy to break the blockade.] That is another important matter. The hon. Member for Wick seems to imagine that if smaller States were at war with this country we should blockade their ports, and thereby injure their commerce, and that their navies would blockade our coasts, and that we should submit to the declaration he proposes, and abstain from harassing their commerce upon the seas. Does he believe that human passions are to be so controlled? Does he believe that, if it were a life and death struggle for the smaller State, it would for a moment regard a mere paper protocol, and, in adherence to any past agreement, abstain from harassing our commerce? That touches really the fundamental objection to the Motion; it attempts to deal with the human passions, in their most excited and violent condition, as it would with the ordinary agreements of a club or with municipal law. The difference between this proposition and that which was carried at the Congress of Paris, is that the proposition for exempting neutral vessels carrying belligerent goods could always be enforced by the neutral Powers themselves. There is somebody interested in enforcing it who is not already committed to the war; but in the other case there is nobody who is interested in enforcing the observance of your rules except the belligerent Power itself, which is already taxing its strength to the utmost. If you choose to break the rule against it, or it chooses to break the rule against you, there is no remedy on either side, because both are already exerting themselves to the utmost. Therefore, you are weaving a mere cobweb for the restraint of the strongest human passions; you are endeavouring to apply laws where they cannot be enforced; and the only result of such legislation will be either to fetter this country in case of war, or to cover it with reproach for unfair dealing if the action of antagonist forces caused it to violate its pledges.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, his attention had been particularly drawn to this subject recently, and he had seen much which led him to believe that it was of the utmost importance that something should be done regarding it. He would, in the first place, say a few words on what had fallen from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford. Having but just returned from the late Confederate States, he might say he fully concurred in every statement made with regard to the destruction committed therein. Wherever Sherman went there was great destruction not only of public, but also of private property. But did the noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) justify this devastation or declare that the destruction of private property on land without necessity, and without serving any military purpose, was approved by him? ["No!"] The noble Lord said "No!" and yet he maintained that it was perfectly legitimate to destroy private property on sea. If the noble Lord then held that it was perfectly justifiable to seize and destroy private property at sea, though not necessary for the interest of the captor, whilst he considered Sherman's conduct unjustifiable on land, did he not himself draw that distinction which he asked the House to believe had no existence? And now he came to the question proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory). He would endeavour to summarize the arguments on the one side and on the other. His hon. Friend argued first that the British nation, should it become involved in war, would run the greatest risk of injury, inasmuch as it had such a large amount of private property at sea. In the next place, that the naval resources of the country would be injured, because, the navy being largely recruited from the merchant service, anything that injured the latter would injure the former, and therefore the maritime superiority of England would suffer. And lastly, that by the Declaration of Paris, whilst the risk to our commerce remained the same, we had lost many of the means we had for crippling the resources of the enemy, and, although we retained all the disadvantages, we had none of the advantages we possessed before. The Lord Advocate, on the other hand, while admitting to a great extent the force of these arguments, held that it was necessary we should run the risk in order to uphold the supremacy of England. But what was meant by this supremacy? If Great Bri- 1461 tain could clear the ocean completely of every hostile ship, and thereby secure perfect safety to its own commerce, our superiority would be of great advantage, and we ought to think seriously before we endangered it. But that was not what was meant by our naval superiority. All that it meant now was, that we had a fleet which would beat any other fleet that might be brought against us. But this mere superiority in action availed not to protect commerce, as effectually as the Treaty of Paris caused it to be protected in neutral bottoms, hence maritime superiority would not suffice to keep our merchant ships on the sea. We all knew from the example of the late American war that the liability to capture had almost as great a power in driving ships from the ocean as capture itself. Was there any great maritime nation in Europe with so insignificant a fleet compared with Great Britain's as the fleet of the Confederate States contrasted with that of the United States? And yet, with that small and insignificant fleet, the Confederates were able to do almost infinite injury to the trade of the United States. If that were the case, in what consisted the advantage of our great naval superiority? We might beat all the fleets in the world when we engaged them in battle, but that would not enable us to send our ships on the ocean without risk. Neutral nations would be able to do so, by the principles of the Conference of Paris they could not be touched, and to them all the carrying trade of the world would pass. Five, ten, or fifteen hostile vessels would endanger our ships, and the risk of danger would practically drive commerce from them. He had mentioned before that he had lately returned from the United States; and he could assure the House that, independently of the sense of injury to their pockets, Americans entertained a strong feeling of animosity against this country, because they considered Englishmen, on the one hand, the originators of the evils they had suffered, and on the other the chief gainers by their loss. It was but a few days since he travelled with a merchant from Boston, and he said that they were very glad that the British Government had not acceded to the demand for compensation for the depredations committed by the Alabama, the Shenandoah, the Florida, and other vessels. And they were glad, because if the compensation had been given it would have deprived them of what they consider the right of retaliation, whilst the 1462 money would have gone into the American Treasury, in all probability, instead of into the pockets of the owners of the ships that had been destroyed. For who were the losers by the depredations? Not the individuals who lost the ships, for they were insured. Not the insurance offices, for they were recouped by increased premiums. Who, then, were the losers? The general body of American merchants. "I did not lose a single ship," said the Boston gentleman, "but I had ships in American and Chinese ports thrown idle on my hands and not able to get a cargo. But the British Government refused to pay, and the consequence will be that if war breaks out between England and any other Power, the ocean will swarm with privateers, and then English ships will be lying idle in the harbours, while American ships will carry the commerce of the world." Such was the feeling very general in America; and, in spite of the good wishes of the American Government, he could not look forward to a war between England and the most insignificant Power without grave apprehensions. He supported the Motion then, as one way of getting out of the difficulty in which we were placed. He supported it also on another ground. The whole condition of International Law at present was most unsatisfactory. It could hardly be called "law;" it was only international custom, resting on no fixed basis, varying with every nation to which it was applied. Hence constant disputes arose as to its obligations, but of all these disputes the most perplexing were those as to the duties of neutrals towards belligerents in preventing the departure of hostile privateers from their ports. Nothing was more dangerous than these disputes, tending as they did to drag neutrals into the conflict, or to engender bitter feelings likely to lead to future wars. Protect private property at sea and all this ceased. The use for privateers being gone their employment would cease, and this prolific source of dispute and future war would be dried up. We had gone so far by the arrangements of the Conference of Paris, that we must either proceed onward or retrace our steps. He did not believe we could do the latter, and therefore urged the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Sir, in addressing myself to this question, I hope that I may avoid exposing myself to the censure of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), who complains that my pro- 1463 fession deal with such subjects only on legal grounds. It appears to me that there is not much necessity for using legal arguments in this discussion, and that very few points of law are involved in the question before the House. But while there are few legal considerations involved in the question, there are many important considerations of public policy, and to these I shall endeavour to address myself. Much has been said to-night as to the practices adopted in warfare by land. The first observation I will make on that subject is, that if the House were to adopt the Motion of my hon. Friend (Mr. Gregory) they would be laying down a rule to regulate naval warfare which does not, and never did, exist with regard to military operations on land. The hon. Gentleman's Resolution proposes the adoption of the principle that private property shall be free from capture at sea. I undertake to say that there is no rule of that nature regulating military warfare. The rules which regulate warfare by land, whose existence and value I am far from denying, do not rest on any laws or conventions, they rest solely on the moral sense and public opinion of nations, and they are necessarily of a flexible, variable, and indeterminate character. The case of the Danish claims has been alluded to to-night. In that case lawyers fairly and justly laid down the principle that it is contrary to general International usage, if not Law, that, when two Powers are at war, one of those Powers should confiscate the private property of the subjects of the other which happened to be on land, or due in the shape of debts from private individuals, within the dominions of the hostile Power at the time of the breaking out of the war. I ask the House to observe that such a confiscation takes place, not as an operation of war, not in the course of actual hostilities, but it is merely a seizure of private property by the civil authorities; and this private property, it must be remembered, is only found in the country where it is seized, because its owners relied, during the previous peace, upon the established rules of good faith and amity prevailing among nations. The case of property seized during war by the forces which are engaged in carrying on the war, and within the theatre of warlike operations, depends upon different principles. With reference to warlike operations on land, I hold that it is a scandalous outrage on the moral sense of nations when 1464 wanton mischief is committed, when acts are performed which inflict cruel injury on innocent persons without being reasonably necessary or done bonâ fide for the purposes of war. I agree fully with the Lord Advocate, who has said that the only principle which could be laid down on this subject is, that the public sense of mankind reprobates and will not justify any excess or abuse of power by persons conducting military operations by land, in which the mischief done to individuals is out of proportion to any legitimate object which could be sought in the prosecution and for the purpose of the war. The House will see that the duty of committing no unnecessary outrages imposed on commanders of military forces is not laid down by any convention, but is simply one of an undefined character to be judged by the general moral sense of nations. The law which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gregory) seeks to have passed is, on the other hand, absolute, inflexible, and fixed. Some other distinctions must not be lost sight of in order to appreciate the relative bearings of naval and military practice. One great reason why the commander of a land force endeavours to perform his military operations with as little injury as possible to the people of a country is that it is his interest to do so. If he allowed his soldiers to commit excesses he would find it impossible to maintain the discipline of his army; and, again, he could not with safety arouse the anger of the entire population among whom he was carrying on his operations, and on whom he depended for supplies. When wars also are waged by land, the inhabitants of the country in which the war is carried on are generally peaceable persons unable to withdraw themselves, their property, or their families, from the scene of the war. But our ships have no fixed homes, and the course of our shipping trade is not a matter of local and indispensable necessity, but depends upon the varied occupations and exigencies of mankind. It is a course of trade which may be intercepted, diverted, and interfered with, and which follows laws entirely different from those which determine the domestic avocations and the fixed and permanent and settled interests of men on land. Accordingly, you have a different practice at sea, and the establishment of that practice modifies in a most material degree the conditions of the trade itself. The risk is insured against, and as the hon. Member who spoke last, in his able speech, 1465 said, the persons whose ships were taken during the late war in America were not the persons on whom the loss actually fell. They insured their vessels, and the insurers again were not the persons who ultimately felt the loss, which in fact was distributed generally over the world or over the commercial and shipping interests of that country. That is a very different state of things from one which would inflict upon private individuals a total loss of their property or their lives; and these risks being understood, and in their nature avoidable by a diversion of the course of trade, and being also capable of being insured against, they ultimately converge on the common and public interest much more than they affect the private interests of individuals. It must, too, have struck everyone who has listened to this debate that the general course of the argument to-night has been divergent from the principle which is stated in the Motion before the House. The forcible arguments which we have heard urged over and over again, and which are entitled to careful consideration, are founded upon an interference with national trade, with the great public and national interests of shipping and commerce, and not by any means on the injurious effect in a peculiar and oppressive degree to particular private individuals of this system of naval warfare. I agree that those are very important interests, and that the arguments connected with them deserve serious attention; but they remove the question very much out of the category of private and individual property, and take it into the larger region of public and national interests. And now I come to consider particularly the case with regard to naval warfare, and here again the question is immediately raised, "What is a belligerent operation by sea?" What are, in point of fact, according to the practice of nations, naval belligerent operations? I take it that one object of such operations is the invasion or capture of territory. That is an object which, under many circumstances of warfare and in many wars, may not be attainable by the use of naval means. Of course, great battles also might have to be fought between the contending fleets of different countries; but it might not be the policy of the enemy to fight such battles; and, if not, what else remains for our maritime Power to do? There are two things, and two things only. First of all, you may establish blockades, and in the second place you may operate against the general 1466 public and national resources of your enemy. I say that this particular practice of capturing merchant vessels is a belligerent operation systematically aimed against the general public and national resources of the enemy; and the object of the argument which I have offered to the House is to show that the loss falls, on the whole, on the national interests and the general commercial interests of the country, rather than on individuals. The hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), in introducing this question, said, he would rather not mix it up with the question of blockade, and the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs (Mr. Laing) said he by no means intended to dispute or bring into question the right of blockade. I must say, however, that the hon. Gentleman opposite the Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) was candid upon that point, for he frankly admitted that his arguments had as strong a tendency against what he called commercial blockades as against the practice of capturing merchant vessels. And it is impossible for the House to evade the consideration of the question. Whether the same principles do or do not strike at that class of blockades? I say that class of blockades, because I do not forget that there is a more limited species of blockade which might be used under particular circumstances, the sole object of which is to effect the capture of a particular place. Now, I venture to say that the great use of blockades in modern warfare has been the weakening of the public and national resources of our enemy. Everybody will bear in mind the last example of a commercial blockade, as to which I differ from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranbourne), for I do not admit that it was so inefficient as he supposes. On the contrary, I think there have been few more efficient blockades in the world than the late blockade by the United States of America. However that may have been, whether it was as efficient as it ought to have been, or whether it was inefficient, one thing is perfectly certain—namely, that it was a most powerful instrument in bringing that war to its conclusion, and in facilitating the conquest of the Confederate States. Indeed, I doubt whether any man could take it upon himself to say that, if that blockade had not been established and maintained, the fortunes of the war might not have been entirely altered. Therefore, we see what a powerful instrument of con- 1467 quest, and what a powerful instrument for the restoration of peace, a commercial blockade can be. Now, let us see whether its relation to private interests is not of the same kind as that of the system of warfare against which this Motion is directed. Does it not stop and interfere with all the individual traders and all the trade of which the blockaded ports are the centre? Does it not interfere with a great number of private interests? Could anything be more alarming than the effect the American blockade originally had upon the manufacturing interests in this country, and upon the trade on which great masses of our people are dependent for the means of support and livelihood? I do not think, if you look to the question of trading and commercial interests, and the private suffering caused by any interference with them, you can well imagine any more extensive and serious interference than is involved in a blockade of this description. If, through respect for the interests of trade, or of private persons engaged in trade, you are not to continue the practice of maritime capture, I do not see how on the same principles you can refuse to yield to the opinion of those jurists who say that commercial blockades should also be put an end to. The truth is, that both these kinds of operations are alike directed and aimed against the national and public resources of the enemy, and if you drive all the enemy's ships from the sea, I say you put upon him a pressure of a very serious kind, and contribute greatly to the success of your belligerent operations. But I have some further observations to make in connection with this subject. You cannot find a safe line of distinction between the mercantile marine and the navy. The two run into each other in respect to their uses in such a way that if you were to give an absolute immunity from capture to the mercantile marine in your enemy's hands, it would be impossible to say what important uses that privilege might not be turned to in direct connection with war. Our merchant ships have now attained the largest dimensions, and many of them are easily convertible into formidable ships of war. I was made only too well aware of that fact during the continuance of the war in America. Numerous reports were made to the Government respecting vessels which were suspected to be fitted out with a view to warlike operations in the service of the Confederate States. Two of the vessels thus reported did afterwards carry on war- 1468 like operations, but others, it ultimately turned out, were not so employed. The fact was, they were constructed in such a manner that the most scientific men could not always tell absolutely whether they were adapted and designed for a peaceful or for a warlike purpose. Many powerful vessels built for a peaceful purpose may with great ease and facility be adapted for a hostile one, so that with a very large mercantile marine growing up during a war it is impossible to say how it might be brought to bear directly upon the war. Such vessels may be used not only for fighting, but as transports or storeships, and for conveying arms, supplies of all descriptions, money, and provisions from one place to another, and for all these purposes ships of this description may be directly subsidiary to the carrying on of a war. And then as to seamen. It is impossible not to observe that merchant seamen may be at any time made available for war purposes. It is quite impossible not to perceive that the greatest risk is run by allowing a great navy of that description, belonging to your enemy, to grow up during war and flourish around you. The next question is, If you establish a rule of this kind how will it work? Can you establish it universally? If you establish it universally no doubt you have a much stronger guarantee for its observance than if you establish it only partially. If, on the other hand, you establish it partially some nations will be bound by it, and others will not. There will be the greatest difficulty in securing its observance. It must depend entirely on the accidents of war. But I will assume—and I am probably not assuming too much—that if it rested on international compact we might reckon on a sincere disposition and intention to observe it on the part of all the parties to that compact. Of one thing I am quite certain—that if we made a compact of that kind we should endeavour to observe it, and I am willing to believe the same thing of other countries. It must, nevertheless, be remembered, that if it were broken the breach of compact would be cloaked with all sorts of excuses and professions of good faith. Exclusive of all false pretences, there are strong reasons for believing that it would be difficult to work out such a rule without continually involving suspicions that it was not observed, and the moment that idea was entertained retaliation would take place and the rule would be liable to be set aside, No one 1469 says that the principle and practice of the right of search would be given up. I take it for granted that my hon. Friend intends to except the carriage of contraband of war, although he has not expressed the exception in the terms of his Motion. It is perfectly clear that if the right of blockade is allowed, if contraband of war is not to be admitted, if private property alone is to be respected, there will be a multitude of grounds on which ships may and will be taken. They will be visited; they will be searched; and if at any time it is suspected that a ship engaged in commerce is herself public property, or is conveying public property belonging to a belligerent State, it will be seized. If it is believed to be engaged in any enterprize connected with blockade running, it will be seized. If it convey contraband of war it will be seized. But, then, who is to be the judge? In the case of neutrals, they may be brought to the test of a Prize Court. But here the seizure will be on suspicion, and being of an enemy's ship it will not, according to the present rules of Maritime Law, be necessary to bring it into a Prize Court. And, if it is brought in for condemnation, the enemy will have no locus standi in the Prize Court. If, however, this were otherwise, you would not have your enemy appearing in a Prize Court under circumstances that would give him a fair chance of success. If the Prize Court should determine that the suspicion is well founded, and that the condemnation is proper, it is plain that the power is in the hands of the belligerent of practically condemning, upon mere suspicion, any number of the ships of the enemy. Nor is it necessary to suppose that this suspicion is fraudulent and false. During the late war in America a considerable number of our ships were seized, and honestly seized, upon suspicion, which did not prove to be fit subjects of condemnation. Many others were condemned on grounds of which the sufficiency was doubtful. We were neutrals in that war, but when dealing with the enemy it is plain that all is left to the discretion and good faith of the cruisers of the belligerents, who will be as much as ever on the look out for ships of this description, and who, when dealing with enemy's ships, will be subject to no real and practical check or supervision. What will be the result? The enemy will say, "You profess to observe this rule and do not observe it; you seize my ships when they are private property, 1470 when they are not blockade running, when they are not carrying contraband of war. But I have no protection, no check, no real locus standi in your courts. You are setting aside the rule, and if you do so I shall do the like." So that the rule will be called in question and practically set aside, even although it may have been the real intention at the beginning to observe it with good faith. In the case of neutrals you might say that contraband is not going to the enemy; although it may be going to the country from which it will afterwards make its way to them. You do not seize that. You do not seize officers such as those who were on board the Trent. All this in the case of neutrals is the subject of known International Law, the limits of which are defined, and the proper Prize Court enforces and asserts them. But it would be impossible to apply to the enemy all the limitations that apply to neutrals. I therefore think the proposed rule would be one very difficult of observance, constantly provoking imputations of bad faith, leading to acts of retaliation, and that it would be practically set aside. But let me suppose for a moment that the rule could be strictly observed. I hope that so great a calamity is not likely to happen, but we may imagine the case of a war with the United States. Of course, if such a calamity should happen we must provide for an invasion of our possessions in North America, accomplished by military means, and not having much to do with naval operations. What would be our means of defence? We must mainly rely upon our maritime means and power, because the carrying on a great system of military operations in America, although I would not say it is impossible, would be exceedingly difficult. Naval operations would at once suggest themselves as the most suitable for us in such a war. We could scarcely attempt to blockade and seal up the whole sea-board of the United States. On the other hand, to capture and take the great cities on the coast it would be necessary to bring to bear a force adequate to meet and repel all the defences with which those ports would be provided, and that might turn out to be impracticable. But there is no doubt, that whatever injury they might be capable of inflicting upon us, as maritime warfare is now conducted, it would be no light matter to the United States or any other nation, that we should be able to inflict heavy blows upon their trade and commerce, and that we should be in a situation, as an hon. Gentleman has said, 1471 to drive their maritime commerce from the seas. No doubt—even if the same thing were done to ourselves—that would amount to a very serious pressure upon the resources of that country. Can it be denied that if we abandon the possibility of using that arm under such circumstances it would be diminishing our power of action in such a war? I now come to consider on the other side what are the practical reasons given for this change. I must first observe that it is said to be the natural result of the Declaration of Paris; but that was only a concession to neutrals when they carried enemy's property, and it was not intended that an enemy's property should be safe in an enemy's ships. That is a very different thing, and no one can say that, because we do the one we must logically proceed to do the other. But it is said that, practically, the enemy is now able to send his property in neutral ships. If so, that tends, as far as it goes, to effect the object of my hon. Friend, because so far private property is withdrawn from liability to capture, so far it finds a channel to escape capture. But then it is said, what, under such circumstances, is the use of keeping up this mode of warfare? I say if it drives an enemy's ships from the sea it obviates all the danger that may arise from the growth of a powerful mercantile marine, and nobody can deny that such a diversion of the trade of the enemy into neutral ships is a most serious evil, and a great pressure upon the resources of a country. That is the very point of the argument as to what we should ourselves suffer. It is true it is a serious mischief to ourselves if our trade is forced to go by neutral ships, but in the like case the pressure upon the enemy is serious also. There can be no doubt that the Declaration of Paris has not deprived us of a powerful arm against an enemy, even although we may have to wield it at the price of some suffering to ourselves. It seems to me that it reduces itself, as far as that is concerned, to a question of the balance of advantage and disadvantage; whether, on the one hand, you will cripple your warlike power in time of war, or whether, on the other hand, you will submit to a temporary, though it may be a serious interference with your commercial and trading operations during the continuance of the war? I shall have something to say on that point before I conclude. I will next advert to the other reasons given 1472 why we should particularly dread these evils at the present time. Reference has been made to what has been spoken of as the great Alabama precedent, to the state of opinion which is said to exist in the United States, and the consequence which it is supposed might result to ourselves, in the event of our being engaged in any future war, from those circumstances. Sir, being perfectly assured and confident, as a matter of fact and of truth, that the Government of this country, during the war in America, honestly endeavoured to prevent these ships from being fitted out in our ports and going forth to prey upon American commerce—being assured also that we in the great proportion of instances succeeded in preventing it, and that the cases of ships which have, notwithstanding this, gone from our ports under circumstances in which we might have expected to be able to prevent their doing so have been very few and rare—knowing this to be the fact and the truth, and believing that the time will come when we shall see it acknowledged by men of candid minds in the United States, I am not in the least afraid that that country will be drawn into a course of dishonour and injustice by any indignation or desire of taking revenge against us. Are the United States at the present moment acting otherwise than in honour and in good faith upon their own laws with respect to the ships which are supposed to be fitting out for Chili and Peru? Are they not putting those laws honestly in force? We know that in their past history, as in our own, there have been many instances in which they were unable to detect persons who were trying to evade their laws and to punish them, or to prevent the evasion. That they have endeavoured to execute those laws in good faith we know, and that they are endeavouring to do so in good faith now we know; and nothing shall induce me to believe that because there have been citizens of this nation who endeavoured to assist the Confederate States in the fitting out of ships intended to operate against the United States, and because that was done in some instances and our Government were unable in some few cases to prevent it, that therefore the Government of the United States will act with bad faith to ourselves hereafter if a war should break out. We only expect to receive from them that which we ourselves have done to them—that they will endeavour honestly to put their laws in force if such circumstances should arise; and if 1473 in any particular case they should fail to do so and we are satisfied of their good faith, we certainly should not regard that as a ground for national ill-will or resentment. We have a right to rely on their endeavouring to do by us what we have endeavoured to do by them, and we are not afraid of any few casual failures which possibly might not be prevented in their case, as some few casual failures could not be prevented in our own. Therefore, I do not dread this great Alabama precedent, as it has been called. Such a fear appears to me to impute dishonour, most unjustly, to the Government of the United States. If the House will permit me, I wish to notice the allusion, and more than allusion, which was made by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. M' Cullagh Torrens) to a statement of mine made in this House not long since. It is quite necessary that I should do so. In the first place, the hon. Gentleman understood me to say what I did not say, or certainly, what I did not mean to say—that the real obstacle to a re-adjustment or amendment of our Foreign Enlistment Act had proceeded from the United States. I must have been very much misunderstood if I was supposed to have made such a statement. There were many obstacles to it. One was, that without experience of that law we could not sufficiently know what were its weak points. Another was, that we had had no experience of that law before the commencement of the war; and a third was, that there were grave reasons to doubt whether we should be able to satisfy the House of Commons before we had a complete trial of the efficacy of that law, before it had been proved to be inefficacious, that it would be proper to enter into any new legislation on the subject. What I believe I did say, and what has been misunderstood by the hon. Member, was this: I used an expression that may have been unfortunate—certainly it was so if it has given any one offence, although it was merely intended to convey my impression of a matter of fact—namely, that the United States, so far from being urgent upon us to alter our Foreign Enlistment Act, had "thrown cold water" upon the proposition which came from our Government, that both countries should concert a simultaneous Amendment of the Foreign Enlistment Act of each. If the expression that I used gave offence to anybody I am sorry for it, and I withdraw it for that reason; but the 1474 fact is, as I understood it, that to that overture from our Government a cold and discouraging answer was returned upon the essential point, whether the Government of the United States did or did not regard their law as imperfect for its purpose, so as to require amendment. We being satisfied that our law, which had not been tried, was as sufficient for its object as theirs, which had been tried and which in some instances had failed, the very expression of an opinion on their part, in answer to such an overture, that they deemed their own law perfectly effective, and did not think that it wanted any amendment—although they certainly received with the utmost courtesy our proposal, and said they were prepared at our instance to enter into the consideration of the subject, did not hold out much encouragement to us to attempt any alteration. Believing that that statement was made to Her Majesty's Government with entire sincerity, as it certainly was made with perfect courtesy, we were justified in thinking that we might rely on the sufficiency of our own law for its purpose. If the House will allow me in a matter of this importance, on which I am anxious that the real facts should be understood, I will place before it the precise facts, that the House may judge for itself whether or not I was wrong in what I said. I spoke from memory, and was a little in error as to the exact time at which the overture was made. It took place, in fact, after the Alabama left this country, and not before that event; and it arose out of one of the earliest communications between Lord Russell and Mr. Adams on the subject of the Alabama. These were the very terms of Lord Russell's overture to Mr. Adams on the 19th of December, 1862—As regards your demand for a more effective prevention for the future of the fitting out of such vessels in British ports, I have the honour to inform you that Her Majesty's Government, after consultation with the Law Officers of the Crown, are of opinion that certain amendments might be introduced into the Foreign Enlistment Act, which, if sanctioned by Parliament, would have the effect of giving greater power to the Executive to prevent the construction, in British ports, of ships destined for the use of belligerents. But Her Majesty's Government consider that before submitting any proposals of that sort to Parliament it would be desirable that they should previously communicate with the Government of the United States and ascertain whether that Government is willing to make similar alterations in its own Foreign Enlistment Act, and that the amendments, like the original statutes, should, as it were, proceed pari passu in both countries. I shall accordingly be ready to confer at any time 1475 with you, and to listen to any suggestions which you [that is Mr. Adams] may have to make, by which the British Foreign Enlistment Act and the corresponding statute of the United States may be made more efficient for their purpose.That was of course communicated by Mr. Adams to the Government of the United States. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens) has referred to a despatch of Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams, dated 19th January, 1863, which, as far as my knowledge goes, never was communicated in its terms to the Government of this country, but which was made public a year afterwards, in 1864, in the papers laid before the American Congress. Therefore, the language of that despatch could not possibly have tended to modify or influence the effect of the communication which was actually made. What was the communication that was actually made? Lord Russell, writing to Lord Lyons on the 14th of February, 1863, reported the conversation he had had with Mr. Adams in these terms—On a second point, however—namely, whether the law with respect to equipment of vessels for hostile purposes might be improved, Mr. Adams Said 'that his Government were ready to listen to any propositions Her Majesty's Government had to make; but they did not see how their law on this 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 this subject."—[North American Papers, 1863 (No. 3), p. 48.]What was Mr. Adams' report of that conversation given in his despatch to Mr. Seward, dated the 13th of February, 1863? Mr. Adams wrote—I observed that his Lordship's suggestion of possible amendments to the enlistment laws, in order to make them more effective, had been favourably received. Although the law of the United States was considered as of very sufficient vigour, the Government were not unwilling to consider propositions to improve upon it. To that end I had been directed to ask whether any such had yet been matured by Her Majesty's Ministers; if so, I should be happy to receive and to transmit them to Washington. His Lordship, repeating my remark, that my Government considered its present enlistment law as sufficiently effective, then added, that since his note was written the subject had been considered in the Cabinet, and the Lord Chancellor had expressed the same opinion of the British law. Under these circumstances, he did not see that he could have any change to propose. I replied that I should report this answer to my Government.Lord Russell must naturally have felt that the statement made of the opinion entertained at Washington as to the efficiency of the American law was really meant to im- 1476 ply that no suggestions of that kind for its amendment were to be expected from the United States Government; and that circumstance made it exceedingly uncertain whether, if we entered upon the delicate and difficult business of suggesting such alterations, we should not be committing ourselves to propose alterations in our own law, although we might fail to get any assurance that similar alterations would be proposed in the American law—and this although the Lord Chancellor had advised the Cabinet that our law, as it was, would be found equal to its intended purpose. On the 2nd of March, 1865, Mr. Seward wrote to Mr. Adams thus—Your despatch of the 13th of February has been received. It informs us that, on a re-examination of the subject, Her Majesty's Government have come to a conclusion that the present Enlistment Law of Great Britain is sufficient without amendments, and that, therefore, they have none to propose. It remains for this Government, therefore, only to say that it will be your duty to urge upon Her Majesty's Government the desire and expectation of the President that henceforward Her Majesty's Government will take the necessary measures to enforce the execution of the law as faithfully as this Government has executed the corresponding statutes of the United States.The House will see that, so far from expressing surprise or disappointment that the proposal was not persevered in, Mr. Seward referred to the manner in which the corresponding statutes of the United States were executed, and required nothing more from us than an honest execution of our own laws. I allude to this to show what took place in perfect good faith; it necessarily left on Her Majesty's Government the impression that the Government of the United States saw no occasion for an alteration in their law. I am glad, however, to hear to-night that after what has taken place it is thought there may be a disposition on the part of the Government of the United States to make some alteration in their law. The question is an important one, and one deserving of attentive consideration; but whether any alteration be made or not I think we should not be afraid that any danger can arise to us, if the Government of the United States execute their laws in our favour as honestly as we have endeavoured to execute ours in favour of them. I have already detained the House so long that I am anxious to compress within the smallest compass what I have yet to say. I will not repeat the argument I 1477 used four years ago on the subject of making war a duel between Governments, and separating the people from their Governments. I believe that such a mode of carrying on war would interfere with the national life and the patriotic feeling of countries, and would be far more mischievous to nations than any consequences of the present system of warfare. We have to consider the matter in this way—Does the present system afford us valuable means of carrying on war when war is necessary? Shall we or not pay the price—it may be an interference with our commerce, it may be a serious interruption of our trade—or shall we surrender these means and thereby cast away a part of our power in war? I say if we are engaged in war, let us go into it in good earnest; let us make success in the war, while it lasts, our principal object; let us avail ourselves of all the usages of fair warfare; above all, let us not impose fetters upon ourselves on that ocean where hitherto we have been supreme. If we look to the interests of peace, have we not been told over and over again that commerce is the great antidote to war; that increasing commerce renders war less likely; that France is growing in prosperity, and, therefore, will be less disposed to make war? And is it not perceived that all those arguments have a direct bearing against the proposition now before the House; because by that strong, inevitable, invaluable power of commerce, do you not bring a weight to bear against war—do you not bring a check against war in the first instance? Again, do you not introduce an element that tends to the restoration of peace when in time of war the strength of a belligerent Power is brought to bear against commerce and against maritime trade? In this way commerce works as an antidote to war. That hitherto has been its influence in respect of war. And nothing which has hitherto happened in war need lead us to think—whatever may be alleged in these piping times of peace—whatever chambers of commerce may now say—that the commercial interests would not be in times of war ready to bear their share of the risk; that they would not be prepared to look the evil in the face; that, whether by putting their ships into neutral hands, or by other means, they would not accommodate their operations to the exigency of the time, and use their best endeavours to assist their country in upholding the national 1478 honour; relying on the same moral and material resources which have made her great, and have always hitherto enabled her to rebound from the pressure when war is over. Can any one doubt that this would again be the case? To quote the words of the hon. Member for Finsbury, We hear alarming predictions of ruin, if things remain as they are. I do not believe in the prophecy of ruin if things remain as they are. We shall only be suffering what we did without ruin before. There may be a temporary depression of trade; but depend upon it, when the war is over our trade and resources will recover their accustomed elasticity and vigour; and our ships, like the ships of the United States, which were said to be driven from every sea, will re-appear and come back to their own country. The truth is, mercantile men know how to deal with these things, and they do deal with them. It is not the experience of mankind, though predicted over and over again, that ruin will come from such causes. If opinion is really advancing in the direction of a change such as that now proposed, then opinion in this, as in all other matters, will ultimately prevail. I have no doubt that if it does prevail, it will be proved to be right by prevailing. But the opinion to which I refer must not be confounded with the opinions of those who have interests different from our own—of those to whom it might be of no small value and importance to induce this country to take steps which would depress the power of the naval element and exalt that of military operations. Our power must depend mainly on the naval element; the power of other nations depends more on military operations. If changes of this kind be advocated by nations whose strength lies in military operations, we must inquire into the motive which prompts the proposal. Such changes must be recommended by a general and sound public opinion—recommended by the common sense of mankind—before we can adopt them. If they come to us recommended by the opinion of the Emperor Napoleon I., as quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Galway, or the opinion of French theorists, who would abolish all naval rights which are not of paramount value to a great military nation, we must he careful how we confound that with sound public opinion. I have the utmost faith in sound public opinion, and am prepared to bow to it on all occasions; but if public opinion should 1479 eventually decline to recommend the adoption of the proposition of my hon. Friend, I still feel sure that England will not be rained, and that she will retain, notwithstanding, her mercantile prosperity and her national greatness.
§ MR. OLIPHANT moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Oliphant.)
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I should hope, Sir, that the debate on this question, which has been very fully discussed, will be closed this evening. A House more interested in a subject I have never seen; and I am sure if the hon. Gentleman is now disposed to give us the advantage of his opinions, the House will be ready to listen to him.
§ MR. OLIPHANT
said, he felt relieved by the speech of the Attorney General. No one who was wavering before it was delivered would now go into the lobby against the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory). Up to the time when the Attorney General rose no speech had been delivered in opposition to the Motion which really deserved an answer. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranbourne) argued that because General Sherman had burnt some houses at Atlanta we were to be bound for ever to the present system of maritime warfare. The Lord Advocate argued that because our commerce was more extended than before we were now in a better position to attack other people, while the Attorney General had put forward nothing in defence of the existing Neutrality Laws which he could not have urged with greater force had he been Attorney General of Greece or of the smallest Power in Europe. Of course, the wish of a small maritime Power would be to prey upon the resources of a greater Power if it was unfortunately involved with it in war. The effect of the Motion, if carried, would be to maintain rather than to impair our maritime supremacy. At present, if we were at war with any Power, however small, our whole navy would be occupied all over the world in protecting our commerce, and we should have no ships to spare to meet those of our adversaries. There could be no question that strategically our maritime position would be materially strengthened by such a change in the law. As to the question of blockade, there was no reason to suppose that we should 1480 be in a worse position to maintain a blockade if the principle of respecting private property were adopted than we were at present. The only really serious difficulty raised throughout the debate was that alluded to by the Attorney General relating to the right of search. The only way that could be met would be by the establishment in time of war of Prize Courts in the territories of neutrals. Meantime, our own blue books furnished foreign nations in all time to come with precedents which would enable them to equip and arm cruizers under the enemy's flag in neutral seas, and burn our merchantmen without taking them into a Prize Court at all. No one could deny that as long as these important questions remained on their present unsatisfactory footing, and the temper of the American people was uncertain, a serious and grave responsibility rested upon the shoulders of Her Majesty's Government. It would be no satisfaction, if at any future time we found ourselves involved in war, to be told that we had the best of the legal arguments in the correspondence out of which it sprung. That was the best diplomacy and the wisest policy which, when the end achieved had been gained, could then look back and challenge criticism as to the means that had been employed and the arguments that had been used; but no amount of law or of logic would be found in the long run to excuse a diplomacy which had proved futile, or to justify a policy which had ended in disaster.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he was unwilling to expose the majority of the occupants of the Treasury Bench, whose opinions were really in his favour, to the necessity of voting against their convictions, and he would therefore withdraw the Amendment.
§ Motion and Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed, to.
§ SUPPLY considered in Committee.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.