§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
, in rising, pursuant to Notice, to bring before the House the subject of the Declaration of Paris, and to move—That the object of the Declaration of Paris respecting Maritime Law, signed at Paris on the 16th of April 1856, was, as was expressed in the preamble, to endeavour to attain uniformity of doctrine and practice in respect to Maritime Law in time of war; that it is moreover obvious that the whole value that might be supposed to attach to any such Declaration, as changing the ancient and immemorial practice of the law of nations on the subject, must necessarily depend on the general assent of all the Maritime States to the new doctrines; that the fact of important Maritime Powers, such as Spain and the United States, having declined to accede to the Declaration of Paris, deprives that document of any value as between the Governments who have signed it; that the consequence of some powers adhering to the new rules, whilst others retained intact their natural rights in time of war, would be to place the former at a great and obvious disadvantage in the event of hostilities with the latter; that Great Britain being an essentially Naval Power, this House cannot contemplate such an anomalous and unsatisfactory condition of international obligations without grave misgivings; that, independently of all other considerations, the failure, after twenty years negotiations to bring about general adhesion to its terms, necessitates the withdrawal of this Country from what was necessarily and on the face of it a conditional and provisional assent to the new rules; that this House, whilst desiring to leave the question of opportuneness to the discretion of Her Majesty's Government, and having confidence in the repeated declarations on the subject of individual members of the present administration, think it desirable to record an opinion that no unnecessary delay ought to take place in withdrawing from the Declaration signed at Paris on 16th of April 1856, on the subject of Maritime Belligerent Rights,said, that he did so on general grounds, quite irrespective of the fact that the alternative of peace or war was at that moment trembling in the balance. The experience of hundreds of years had shown conclusively that the only way in which a maritime nation could wage war effectually was by the destruction of the commerce of its opponents. When the armies of Germany marched through France they carried desolation through the length and breadth of the land; but when the great naval victories of the Nile and Trafalgar were fought, the effect was not felt by the inhabitants of France; it was only by the utter 1263 suppression of their trade, that England could bring home to her enemies how tight her grasp could be in war. It was related that when the great Napoleon caused orders and medals to be issued to commemorate his great victories, a design was shown to him representing the English leopard expiring in the grasp of the French eagle, and that he ordered the designer out of his presence, asking him how he could so insult him, seeing that he could not send a small cruiser out of one of his ports, without its being liable to be captured by a British ship. Now-a-days, however, all danger to French commerce might be avoided by the simple process of transferring it to neutral bottoms, in the event of our being at war with that country; and what he was about to contend for was, not the prevention of the trading with a belligerent, but for a belligerent, and thus saving the weaker belligerent from the consequences of the disadvantages under which he would otherwise labour. In dealing with the subject, he was afraid he would be obliged to go far back into history, and he ventured to say a great deal of misapprehension would be found to have gathered round if it were only examined in an impartial spirit. That had happened which ever happened when any question, either in science or politics, was settled definitively, or for a time—namely, that all the arguments that had ever been put forward in its favour were then assumed to be true, and that those who took the opposite view did not think it worth while to defend the outworks when the citadel was lost. When, however, the time arrived to re-open the question, and he was not only referring to the Motion before the House, but to the interest, not wide-spread he would admit, but thoroughly genuine, which it had excited in the country, it was necessary to challenge assertions that had been made on this subject in former debates in that House and elsewhere." The contention that there was a certain consensus of the Treaties made by this country, and by Europe generally, dating from very early times, pointing to a change in the Law of Nations on this question could not be substantiated. The doctrine of a neutral flag covering cargo was, he believed, in its present significance of comparatively modern origin, and was not in former times in 1264 the minds of men who wrote on the subject, and put their hands to Treaties. The mistake had arisen from losing sight of the fact that similiar phrases had different significations at different periods of time. The first great authority on the law of the question was the Consolato del Mare, a code of law dating from the 11th century, which, however, could not be condemned as a mere relic of barbarism, as the fact, that most of its enactments had survived all the changes and improvements in European jurisprudence, and remained to this day part of the Maritime Law of Nations, was a sufficient proof that it was founded on wisdom and justice. The rule of the Consolato was that the goods of enemies might be taken from the ships of friends, but it did not permit the ship of the friend to be confiscated or burnt because it had enemies' goods on beard; it also decreed that the goods of friends were sacred, though found in enemies' ships. All the old Treaties that had been from time to time cited as embodying the New Rule, without exception, went no further than this—namely, that they supported the rule of Consolato, against those who would push the right of the belligerent much further than the Consolato admitted, to the length of burning the ship of the neutral found carrying enemies' goods, and confiscating the goods of neutrals if found in the bottoms of enemies. Of writers who lived before the close of the last century it would be found that Grotius, Albericus Gentilis, Puffendorf, Bynkershoek, Heineccius—were ranged on one side, opposed to them being Hubner and Schlegel. The first Treaty mentioned by Schlegel was entered into in the middle of the 14th century, and had nothing to do with the question now before the House. The next Treaty to which he referred was that between Charles I. and Portugal in 1642, a Treaty which was renewed in 1654, but which would not bear examination any more than the rest. Spain and Portugal were at the time at war and the passport clause of the Treaty prohibited the English from carrying any merchandize direct from the ports of Portugal to those of Spain, and therefore shut out England from any right at all as a neutral to carry goods to the latter country. The first Treaty quoted by Hubner, he might add, was that between France 1265 and Denmark in 1743; but it contained not a syllable on the question that "free ships make free goods." The second Treaty referred to by Hubner was that between Denmark and the two Sicilies in 1748, and in dealing with that he mentioned another Treaty—that of 1670, which he said had an Article far more favourable to his view. But when that Treaty came to be examined it would be found to contain the passport clause, which was as follows:—But lest such freedom of navigation, or passage of the one Ally and his subjects or people, during the war that the other may have by sea or land with any other country, may be to the prejudice of the other Ally, and that the goods or merchandize belonging to the enemy may not fraudulently be concealed under colour of being in amity, for the preventing of fraud and clearing of all suspicion, it is thought fit that the ships, goods, and men belonging to the other confederate, in their passages and voyages, be accompanied with letters of passport and certificate.The passport contained the assertion that, the cargo really belonged to the subjects of Denmark, or to others in neutrality. The next Treaty cited by Hubner was that between France and the Hanse Towns in 1716. The eighth Article provided that no ships or men should be pressed into the service of France when belligerent, and the 13th, that their ships should not be stopped or detained, except they were laden with contraband or the goods of the enemy. Who were Hubner and Schlegel? He desired to speak of these learned men with all due respect, but it should not be forgotten that they were hireling writers employed to write against the rights of maritime nations. Therefore, they would not bear comparison with men who wrote in the silence of their chambers and not at the dictation of any King or State. Next he came to a Treaty entered into between France and Holland in 1646. It was only made for four years, and it was in condemnation of the ordinances of France made by Francis I. and confirmed by Henry III. in 1584. Under this Treaty—The Dutch could deliver their cargo free, even if it contained enemies' merchandize, and even corn and vegetables belonging to the enemies.Nothing could be clearer than if these words were used in the present day they would mean the principle of a neutral flag covering the cargo. These ordi- 1266 nances of France, which were not abandoned till 1744, allowed them to burn the ship of a friend if it carried enemies' goods, and to confiscate the goods of friends, if found in enemies' ships. When De Witt through Bored tried to put the modern interpretation in the Treaty,. the French pointed out that their ordinances were referred to at the commencement of the Treaty, and that what followed must be read in reference to that fact alone. What the Treaty meant, they said, was not that they gave up the right to take enemies' goods from friends' ships, but that they remitted the penalty heretofore enforced, and while they maintained their reading of it, the Dutch had to abandon theirs. He next came to the Treaty concluded between Cromwell and Christina, which had been cited in favour of the principle that a neutral flag covers the enemy's goods. The policy which prompted Cromwell to make that Treaty was apparent almost on the face of it. Cromwell's object in enacting this law in favour of Christina was to secure the friendship of Sweden, which was a great Protestant Power. No doubt, we relaxed the right at times, when there was an object in doing so; but it must be remembered that Cromwell refused this concession to the French, and two or three times to the Dutch within a few years of the passing of the Treaty of Upsala. Then there was the great name of Sir William Temple, who concluded a Treaty with the Dutch, in which, no doubt, he relaxed our right; but he did so, because he wished to have the Dutch as our allies. Four years after Sir William Temple signed that Treaty with the Dutch, he made an offensive and defensive alliance with them, pledging the two countries always to have a common enemy. When subsequently this country went to war, and the Dutch wished to remain in neutrality and still to take advantage of this clause in the Treaty, they were not permitted to do so. Therefore, those who quoted Sir William Temple in favour of their views ought first to consider the policy which dictated his action, and how he fenced it about with conditions which rendered his gift totally worthless. Next he came to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1715. Perhaps it was the most disgraceful Treaty ever made by this country, and the 1267 names of the men who signed it had not to this day recovered from the odium it brought upon them. He found, however, that there was only a partial relaxation of the law, for though the principle of "free ship, free cargo" was conceded to the French, it was not given to Spain, nor was it agreed on in the Treaty made at the same time between Spain and Portugal. Up to this date, and for 40 or 50 years afterwards, this principle was never asked for as a right according to the Law of Nations. It had, in fact, never been conceded, except at a particular time, with a particular nation, or for a particular purpose. The Exposition des Motives addressed by the King of Prussia to the Ministers of George II. in 1752 was the first instance of the rights of neutrals in the modern acceptation of the term being put forward as a natural right and as founded on the universally received Law of Nations. Frederick the Great had been responsible for what was called the Silesian Loan. Negotiations ensued, and it was sometimes assumed that the reply of Lord Chesterfield applied only to contraband. This was not the case, however. Lord Chesterfield's answer was—That the King of Great Britain will offer no hindrance to Prussian navigation so long as they should exercise their commerce in an allowable way, and should conform to the ancient customs established and received between neutral Powers.If any one thought this applied to contraband alone, he would refer him to the following letter addressed by Sieur André to the King of Prussia—Your Majesty's subjects ought not to load on board neutral ships any goods really belonging to the enemies of England, but to load them for their own account, whereby they may safely send them to any country they shall think proper, without running any risk; then, if privateers commit any damage to the ships belonging to your Majesty's subjects, you may depend on full justice being done here, as in all like cases hath been done.He would now advert for a moment to the attitude assumed by America towards this question. The conduct of America had been strictly consistent. She made a Treaty with France in 1780 and another with England in 1794. The Treaty with France contained "the most favoured nation" clause, and one granting the principle 1268 that a neutral flag covered the cargo. The Treaty with England contained nothing of the kind. A few years later this country was at war with France. America allowed the English to take goods of French merchants out of American vessels, but would not allow the French to take the goods of English merchants out of American vessels. On the French Government complaining of this, President Jefferson, who was no friend to this country, replied—Before the Treaty with Great Britain, the Treaty with France existed. It follows, then, that the rights of England, being neither increased nor diminished by compact, remain precisely in their natural state, which is to seize enemies, property wherever found; and this is the received and allowed practice of all nations, where no Treaty has intervened.We should bear in mind that subsequently to this, in 1780 and in 1800, England withstood the whole world in arms in support of this undoubted right of search. This right of our ancestors had since been disputed. If, however, it were found that they acted in strict accordance with their right, and with the universally acknowledged law of nations, we ought to hesitate before we decided permanently to remain under a declaration that would prevent us from putting forward our strength in the direction in which our strength chiefly lay, and that would forbid us in our extremity to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors. If this country ever found herself in difficulties, the Minister who happened to be in power would not find it easy to persuade the people that they were not to put forth their whole strength in a contest. At the present moment the rights of non-belligerents were looked upon with a more favourable eye than the rights of belligerents. A leading article in The Times had put forward the same view, and the reason why it prevailed was not difficult to understand. Within the last quarter of a century four or five great wars had occurred, and whatever motives were assigned, underlying all these wars had been ambition, and ambition alone. The rights of non-belligerents had, therefore, come to be regarded with a more friendly eye. He maintained, however, that, taking the case of a country fighting for its existence, or fighting in a thoroughly just cause, the rights of bel- 1269 ligerents, once ascertained, were quite as worthy of respect as any rights which could be alleged on behalf of non-belligerents. In 1812 the English Declaration in answer to the French demands was—By these demands [the neutral flag covering cargo] the enemy requires that Great Britain and all maritime nations shall, at his pleasure, renounce the natural and incontestable rights of war, and that Great Britain in particular shall surrender all the advantages of her naval superiority.At the Congress of Châtillon in 1814 the British Government would not allow Lord Castlereagh even to discuss the question of maritime rights, a precedent wisely followed by the present Government when they sent Sir Alfred Horsford to Brussels. Again, Mr. Canning refused to ratify a Treaty made by Sir Charles Stewart with Brazil, because it contained a clause which surrendered our maritime rights, permitting the neutral flag to cover the cargo—a principle which Mr. Canning, in common with every other British statesman before his time, considered as inimical to the interests of this country. In 1854, however, the time came when the whole policy of this country was to be reversed, and the words of every prominent British statesman were to be cast aside. What made this change of opinion possible? What made it possible that any Minister should submit such a proposal or that the British people should listen to it? It was the teaching of the Manchester School. Twenty or five-and-twenty years ago the teachings of that School had penetrated the middle classes of this country, and had largely affected the upper classes. Nor did the hopes of that School appear then to be quite so baseless as the experience of the last 15 years had shown them to be. After a peace of 40 years—a peace which contrasted by its calmness with the intensity of the war which preceded it—one set of thinkers believed that the time might come when war would cease, while those persons who did not go to that length fancied that it was in the power of any country, especially our own, to isolate herself from foreign affairs so as practically to avoid war altogether. Since then there had been a change in the franchise, the depository of power was no longer the middle class, and the teachings of the Manchester 1270 School were recognized as tainted by the corruption which the unqualified genius of trade must ever engender. Up to the last moment in 1854 Lord Clarendon held a contrary opinion to that which he subsequently held. On the 25th of March he declared that England would stand by her maritime rights, whereupon the Russian rouble fell to 32d. There was a general impression that Russia never would have gone to war with England if she had stood by her maritime rights; but only three days after Lord Clarendon's declaration to this effect, there was a Cabinet Council, and the next morning there appeared in The Gazette the following notice:—In order to preserve the commerce of neutrals from all unnecessary obstruction, Her Majesty is willing for the present to waive a part of the belligerent rights appertaining to her by the Law of Nations.It was worth remarking that there was no doubt expressed at this stage as to what the law was, which doubt was stated in the Declaration of Paris. Her Majesty here waived a right which belonged to her by law. A similar declaration was issued at the same time by the Emperor of the French; but he, as the head of a great military Power, was not an authority for a great maritime Power to follow on a question of this kind. Moreover, the insecurity of the late Emperor on his throne might make him loth to put his subjects to temporary pressure, although, in the long run, it might be for their advantage; be that as it might, there were numbers now in France who regarded the Declaration of Paris as a legacy from the Emperor's rule, as we on this side the Channel traced it to the teaching of the Manchester School, and among Continental statesmen there was no one more anxious to see it annulled than M. Gambetta. Now, mark the contrast between the war of 1800 and the war of 1854. In 1800, so complete was the pressure we were able to put upon Russia, that her trade and commerce were completely stopped, and the Peace Party murdered the Emperor Paul in order to bring about peace. As Mr. Cobden once said—" Providence, by the position in which she has placed Russia, made her absolutely dependent upon the maritime Powers." But in 1854 the trade of Russia was not at all 1271 affected. The rouble, which fell to 32d. when it was believed that England would assert her maritime rights, rose afterwards to 38d., and remained at par during the war. The exports of Russia only fell from £11,000,000 to £10,000,000; the whole of her commerce passed to Memel and other neutral ports; and she was recouped for increased cost of transit by the additional price which the English consumer paid for her goods. It was said that the existence of railways had wholly changed the position of this question of maritime rights. An unanswerable reply was that, owing to railways, there was not a single Continental Power which in case of war, by running her goods to neutral ports, might not evade the whole pressure put upon her by a blockade. The conduct of Prussia was a good deal impugned at the period of the Russian War, and it was said that she held improperly aloof from the allied Powers. But Prussia had a direct interest in remaining neutral. Her trade quadrupled and quintupled; she carried the whole of the Russian goods; and it was a strong argument against their surrender of maritime rights that thereby neutrals had a direct interest in a war which put money into their pockets. It was now a matter of history that when Prince Metternich heard of this surrender, he said—" Is it possible that for such reasons England should have relinquished rights upon which she has insisted as long as I can recollect." Reverting, however, to the act of Lord Clarendon, he maintained that it was an illegal act. There was no doubt of the power of the Crown to make Treaties, but they could not be made against the law of this country. Now, the maritime law was part of the Law of Nations, and over and over again it had been held that the Law of Nations was part of the law of England. As to M. Hautefeuille, who wrote in 1868, it was unfortunate that his book was distorted by passion, and that there was hardly a chapter of it which was not tainted by Anglophobia. M. Hautefeuille had in his mind a war between France and England; unfortunately for his theory; and for France also, when she found herself at war it was not with a stronger maritime Power than herself, like Eng. land, but with Prussia, a weaker one the result was, that in the lifetime of every Member then in the House a proof was 1272 furnished that the new Rule, which was supposed to be the ne plus ultra of neutrality, meant the rendering of the greatest amount of assistance to the weaker of two maritime belligerents, coupled with the greatest amount of injury to the stronger of the two. At the commencement of the war the French Navy was far stronger than that of Prussia; but as Prussia had no commerce to protect, her war-ships lay entrenched inside her line of torpedoes, just as the Russian Navy in 1854 kept inside the stone fortifications of Cronstadt. The French sailors fought bravely; but ship-less, and their occupation gone, they fought on shore with the Army on the Loire, under Chanzy and Faidherbe. He now came to a portion of this question hitherto untouched—that of privateering—which at one time he had a mind to pass by altogether, because it had been mixed up with the subject to its prejudice. But the connection between the two questions was altogether accidental. He adverted to it merely for this purpose. It had been often alleged—and he was not sure that Lord Clarendon was not responsible for the allegation — that the advantage that England gained by the condemnation of privateering more than compensated her for what she might lose under the new rule of free ships making free goods. Privateering, however, was not abolished because a compact not to use privateers would affect the two belligerents alone. When one nation went to war with another all Treaties between them came to an end, and consequently if the enemy employed privateers against us we could employ privateers against the enemy. That was a matter absolutely unconnected with neutrals. But what would be our position if ever we found ourselves at war with America, which was undoubtedly the second greatest naval Power in the world? The position we should occupy would be the position occupied by France in the war at the close of the last century. America was not affected by the Declaration of Paris, and would take English goods from neutral ships, but England would not be permitted to take American goods from neutral vessels. Nor, in case of war, would England get the advantage arising from the condemnation of privateering. That privateering had been in no sense abolished by 1273 the Declaration of Paris was thoroughly known and understood abroad, and therefore he was not surprised to find that The Moscow Gazette, as quoted in The Times of the 25th of October, 1876, "advised the Russian Government to issue lettres de marque against England in time of war." On the 24th of July, 1870, the King of Prussia issued a decree for the creation of a "voluntary marine;" and M. Calvo (" Le Droit International ") gave these reasons to show that the act of the King of Prussia was in accordance with International Law. He said—1, Vessels were described as navires frétés—that is, ships merely chartered by the Government, the property in them not being transferred to the State, but remaining vested in the armateurs! 2, they were to receive a prime upon each one of the ships captured; 3, that their equipment and officers were to be provided by the amateurs themselves.And then he quoted a passage, of which the following was a translation:—"The Law Officers of the English Crown consulted as to the legality of this Decree did not see in it a violation of the Declaration of 1856, or an indirect re-establishment of privateering; in their view the operations in which the vessel had been invited to engage were not of an especially private or commercial character, but ought, rather, to be compared to the operations of Free Corps or Volunteers on land, the enrolment of whom is fully recognized and sanctioned by International Law.He merely adverted to this to show that whether we adhered to the Declaration of Paris or not, we should have a system of privateering revived in one shape or another. The question had been raised whether we possessed the same ability as before, not only entirely to protect our own commerce, but to chase the commerce of our adversaries from the sea. In former times we know what we could do. In January, 1799, during the war between England and France, the French Directory reported to the Consul that it was unfortunately too true that there was not a single merchant vessel sailing under the French flag; and they asked—"What other means of export have we except the employment of neutral vessels? "And in 1805 we were informed that "there was not a hostile mercantile flag, a few coasters excepted, to be found on the ocean."—[War in Disguise, pp. 71 and 229.] He would now quote from a work recently published—The Life of the famous Sir W. Parker— 1274The merchant ships of Great Britain in 1810 carried most of the commerce of the world, and in spite of having to make head against numerous open enemies and the scarcely-veiled hostility of the Government of the United States, whose ports remained closed to British ships of war, though they did not declare war till 1812, England was yet able to keep down the enemy's vessels of war and privateers. The prosperity of the country was steadily on the increase. The exports from Great Britain and Ireland, which were twenty-eight millions at the commencement of the war, exceeded forty-five millions and a half in 1809. The imports, which were twenty-five millions in 1803, were in 1809 thirty millions; and both imports and exports increased steadily while the war lasted, inasmuch as in 1815 the imports had risen to nearly thirty-two millions, the exports to fifty-seven millions and a half, and the trade was carried on almost exclusively in English bottoms.He ventured to say that what had been done before, could be clone again. Although, owing to the invention of machinery, our sailors might have lost the advantage their superior manual skill gave them, there could not be a doubt that our Navy at the present moment was stronger than it had ever been. Whatever might be said against present or past administration at the Admiralty, the days of "donkey" frigates were over, when our sailors were sent to sea in ships which only their great skill and courage kept afloat, let alone the contests they had to wage with the enemy. So far were we in advance in naval matters, that Continental nations could hardly be said to have reached the stage of imitation—whenever they wanted a ship or a gun of the newest pattern they came here to have it made. And now he came to the consideration of the two Amendments on the Paper. And, first, taking the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Grant Duff), he must say that he liked the expression which it contained that what he proposed was not "in accordance with the honour" of this country, and he regarded it as an admission that it was not pretended that the Declaration of Paris had altered the Law of Nations. Now, he did not agree with those who said that the Declaration of Paris was so manifestly unjust on the face of it that if we found ourselves at war we should sweep it away. On the contrary, he recognized the Declaration of Paris as an honourable compact, and therefore he considered that, as a debt of honour, it was more binding on us than a Treaty would be if we allowed it 1275 to stand unquestioned until war came. But it was in no sense a Treaty, and had never received the sanction of the Crown. It was a mere compact of certain persons at Paris, and therefore it was open to us to say that now, in time of peace, we wished to withdraw from it, at a time when we could not tell whether we should be the gainers by the step we were taking by finding ourselves belligerents in the next war, or whether we should be losers by finding ourselves neutrals, and debarred from profiting from the increase invariably brought to our carrying trade, when a war occurred, and we were a neutral Power. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) was a mere echo of the tenets of the Manchester School, and he agreed with it so far as it expressed the unsatisfactory and illogical position which we at present occupied—that of a sort of half-way house—on this question — a position which combined the disadvantages of the position we had relinquished, as he hoped for a time, with the disadvantages of the position the hon. Member would invite us to take up. He could not agree with the hon. Member in the morality of that position, because he remembered that Lord Stowell had said that "military war with commercial peace was a thing unknown." Mr. Mill—than whom hon. Members opposite would admit there had not been a greater authority in that House—in speaking on this subject, said—I am at a loss to understand how humanity is to be advanced by shooting at men's bodies, instead of taking their goods.Carrying out such a principle merely meant that wars would be prolonged. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford had remarked that this new rule had found favour in the eyes of that House, because it would operate as a bribe to nations to remain at peace. He admitted that it was a bribe, but he disputed the morality of offering such a bribe. While the rule under the Declaration of Paris would divide the interests of the family of nations, and would make it to the advantage of neutrals that war should go on, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester would divide the nation against itself, and would incite one branch of the community to prolong the war at the expense of 1276 another branch. He might have concluded his observations by the usual remark that this was not a Party question, had the country not been told in the most remarkable manner, and from the most unexpected quarters, that there was a possibility that it might be our duty, and, indeed, an absolute necessity, for us to draw the sword. He ventured to say that all his hopes were with the Conservative Government, because he could not forget that nearly all the leading Members of the Party now in office had by their own lips condemned the Declaration of Paris, and that that Declaration was in direct conflict with the policy and history of the Conservative Party for the last 150 years. Ho told those who were now in power that he and those who thought with him did not desire to put any pressure upon them, for they knew how much more difficult it was to back out of a mischievous policy than to slide into it. They, however, wished that Her Majesty's Government should ride at a single anchor on this question, ready to let go when occasion offered and withdraw from this fatal Declaration of Paris, in doing which they would be performing an action worthy of the great men of the Tory Party who in former days vindicated the honour and the highest interests of England, and would give another proof of their title to the continued confidence of the English people. In conclusion, ho begged leave to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
, in rising to second the Resolution, said, he felt great pleasure in congratulating the hon. Member who had just sat down upon his very able and eloquent speech. He had always looked upon the Declaration of Paris as one of the most extraordinary feats ever accomplished, and as involving an uncalled-for and wanton sacrifice of the maritime rights of this country. He had always considered that the Plenipotentiaries who negotiated the Treaty of Paris exceeded the limits of their delegation when they meddled with the question of maritime rights. They had no authority whatever for what they did, and he objected to our maritime rights being signed away by them. They had simply met at Paris for the purpose of drawing up the Articles of a Treaty, and after the object for which they were accredited had been accomplished, Count Walewski 1277 proposed that this Declaration should be entered into, by which the maritime rights of England were to be sacrificed. He well remembered that no authority had been given to the different Ambassadors at the time to touch upon the question of maritime rights, and therefore he maintained that the maritime rights of England were sacrificed without any authority from the Sovereign, the Parliament, or the people of this country. Such an event had never occurred before in the course of our history, and it was a very dangerous doctrine that an Ambassador, without having received express instructions to that effect, might sign away the rights of his country. And what were the arguments that had been adduced in support of this new rule? The stock argument was that of humanity—that we were to carry on war upon a humane principle. The idea was an extraordinary one, and had no force, because the more a war cost, and the more destructive they could make it, so as to bring hostilities as speedily as possible to a close, the better it would be for the interests of humanity. We talked of our anxiety to carry on war with humanity, while every day we were improving our instruments for taking and destroying human life. It was, in his view, better to destroy property than to shed human blood, and he could not understand how any statesman could entertain the contrary opinion. How could we reconcile the fact that we were enlisting naval volunteers, and equipping, arming, and training them, and yet were prohibited from taking advantage of our supremacy at sea by employing the volunteer services of privateers carrying letters of marque, who would do as much harm to the enemy as possible? In Elizabeth's time nearly our whole Navy consisted of volunteer ships, and in one of Raleigh's expeditions no fewer than 30 privateers equipped by the City of London formed part of his fleet. Whence arose this great anxiety to protect private property at sea? They were told that private property should be inviolable in time of war, but the thing was impossible. A besieging army might respect a church or an hospital; but when he passed through Prance shortly after the late war he found traces of burning villages everywhere. Therefore, upon what principle we were to sacrifice our maritime rights be could not imagine. He trusted 1278 that when the House was made fully acquainted with the real condition of the case, the interests of this country would rise superior to any Party views; and that it would be seen that there was, at any rate, a very large body of the Representatives of the people who were determined to maintain the maritime rights of England—rights which were essential to her greatness. What said. the authorities upon the point? In the Speech from the Throne in 1801 there was the following paragraph:—I have taken the earliest measures to repel the aggressions of this hostile confederacy, and to support those principles which are essential to the maintenance of our naval strength, and which are grounded on the system of public law, so long established and recognized in Europe." —[Parl. Hist. xxxv. 865.]Lord Mansfield, when appealed to by the Government of the day, distinctly laid down the following principles:—1, The goods of an enemy on hoard the ships of a friend may be taken; 2, The lawful goods of a friend on board the ships of an enemy ought to be restored; and, 3, Contraband goods going to an enemy, although the property of a friend, may be taken as prize.The opinion of Lord Stowell on this branch of the question was conveyed in the following words:—A war and a commercial peace is a state of things not yet seen in the world; there is no such thing as a war for arms and a peace for commerce; and the right of visiting and searching merchantmen on the high seas, whatever be the cargoes, whatever the destination, is an incontestable right of the lawfully commissioned cruisers of a belligerent State.Lord Nelson, again, expressed not only the opinion of his own time, but foreshadowed the views of the great naval officers of the present day, when in the House of Lords, in 1801, he described the proposition that free ships should make free goods as—A proposition so monstrous in itself, so contrary to the Law of Nations, and so injurious to the maritime rights of this country, that, if it had been persisted in, we ought not to have concluded the war with those powers while a single man, a single shilling, or even a single drop of blood remained in the country."—[Parl. Hist. xxxvi. 262.]Napoleon, again, speaking on the same question, said—The greatest blow that could be given to England would be to compel her to give up her maritime rights.Yet these were the rights which were 1279 abandoned by the Government in 1854, when England was drifting into a war with Russia. In that year the following Order in Council was issued:—In order to preserve the commerce of neutrals from all unnecessary destruction, Her Majesty consents to suspend a portion of the belligerent rights that belong to her by the Law of Nations; Her Majesty will suspend the right of seizing enemy's property on board neutral vessels unless contraband of war.These being the historical facts down to the year 1854, it became important to inquire as to the opinions which were held upon the question by statesmen of the present day. In 1857, Earl Russell said—The rules, '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 interests of maritime countries, and especially to the maritime power of England.…. I hope no Minister of Great Britain will set his seal to a Treaty containing any stipulations of this kind without the most cautious deliberation.Again, the late Earl of Derby said, in 1856, that—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."—[3 Hansard, cxlii. 537.]Mr. Cobden also gave expression to his views on the subject when referring to the Congress which resulted in the Declaration of Paris. He said—The Congress declared that the neutral flag covered the enemy's goods. This resolution reverses the most venerated judgments of our Admiralty Courts, and for the first time imparts the force of maritime law to principles which were resisted by England against the world in arms until the close of 1815. The practical effect would be in case of war with a naval Power to transfer the trade of even our own ports to the neutral Powers.He was sorry, after what had been so fully stated by his hon. Friend who had brought the question forward, to refer to the connection of Russia with this question, but it was yet interesting to have some information on this branch of the question. Sir John M'Neill, in his Progress of Russia in the East, said—The power which Great Britain had to destroy the commerce of Russia enabled England to force Russia into an opposition to France, which the Emperor Alexander was desirous to avoid. It was the Right of, Search which constituted the maritime power of England, which 1280 power was a providential weapon placed in the hand of England for the coercion of Russia.On the whole, then, he thought Parliament ought, after strong expressions of opinion such as he had quoted, to consider the question which had been brought forward, in order, if necessary, to take the remedial measures that might appear requisite in order to maintain the honour and the maritime supremacy of England. Under the present system there was a right of search for contraband of war. Parliament should have been consulted before this great change was made. The Declaration of Paris had never, however, been ratified by the Legislature; the opinion of the Representatives of the people had not been taken on such a great question; and they were not therefore bound by the Declaration of Paris. As to the suggestion that if in time of war the Declaration was found to be disadvantageous it should not be acted upon, that was not a high principle. It would be unworthy of the country. He had no doubt that in the event of our having another great war, the naval volunteers would be found existing again, and that the Declaration in question would be practically torn up. That Declaration should itself be declared null and void, and he believed that the vote of the House would show that this was the opinion of at least a large minority of the Members. It was much better that that should be done in time of peace and after full and calm deliberation than that it should give rise to difficulty when possibly the country might be at war.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the object of the Declaration of Paris respecting Maritime Law, signed at Paris on the 16th of April 1856, was, as was expressed in the preamble, to endeavour to attain uniformity of doctrine and practice in respect to Maritime Law in time of war:
That it is moreover obvious that the whole value that might be supposed to attach to any such Declaration, as changing the ancient and immemorial practice of the law of nations on the subject, must necessarily depend on the general assent of all the Maritime States to the new doctrines:
That the fact of important Maritime Powers, such as Spain and the United States, having declined to accede to the Declaration of Paris, deprives that document of any value as between the Governments who have signed it:
That the consequence of some Powers adhering to the new rules, whilst others retained intact their natural rights in time of war, would be to place the former at a great and obvious disadvantage in the event of hostilities with the latter;
That Great Britain being an essentially Naval Power, this House cannot contemplate such an anomalous and unsatisfactory condition of international obligations without grave misgivings:
That, independently of all other considerations, the failure, after twenty years negotiations to bring about general adhesion to its terms, necessitates the withdrawal of this Country from what was necessarily and on the face of it a conditional and provisional assent to the new rules:
That this House, whilst desiring to leave the question of opportuneness to the discretion of Her Majesty's Government, and having confidence in the repeated declarations on the subject of individual members of the present Administration, think it desirable to record an opinion that no unnecessary delay ought to take place in withdrawing from the Declaration signed at Paris on 16th of April 1856, on the subject of Maritime Belligerent Rights,"—(Mr. Percy Wyndham,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. GRANT DUFF
, who had on the Paper an Amendment to the Motion, to move—That to withdraw from the Declaration signed at Paris on the 16th day of April 1856 on the subject of Maritime Belligerent Rights would be in accordance neither with the honour nor with the interests of this Country; but that the state of International Law with reference to Maritime Belligerent Rights is extremely unsatisfactory, and calls for the careful attention of Her Majesty's Government,said: Although, Sir, I entirely dissent from the conclusions of' the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), I am extremely glad that he has brought this question forward, if at least the result be to have it fully discussed. When, in the year 1867, the late Mr. Mill called attention to it, the Session was very far advanced, and it was impossible for the House to do anything like justice to so large a subject; and even in 1875 it was only very partially examined. And first, Sir, I have to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on having entirely separated himself from those who say "the Declaration of Paris was a blunder; but it does not much matter, for when it is convenient to this, or any other powerful State, to treat it as waste paper, as waste paper it will be treated." 1282 Such a view seems to me at once wicked and futile. It is wicked, because it would be grossly unfair that any powerful naval State having come under a solemn engagement, and having when it chanced to be neutral—as we were, for example, in the Franco-Austrian War of 1859—obtained the advantages which the Declaration of Paris secures to neutrals, should, when its turn came to suffer some inconvenience from being a belligerent, face round and repudiate its obligations. It is futile, because I do not believe that any Prize Court would recognize a capture made by a State which had adhered to the Declaration of Paris, if made in breach of the engagements involved in adhering to that Declaration. If we are to withdraw from the Declaration of Paris, the only proper course—the only endurable course—is the course which the hon. Member advocates—that is, to withdraw from it after giving the fullest notice to all concerned, and at a time when no sudden call of interest, or imaginary interest, induces us to do so. I think, however, that to withdraw from the Declaration of Paris would be to make a most grievous mistake — one equally prejudicial to our honour and our interests. First, I hold that it would be prejudicial to our honour, because it would be a confession to all the world that the Ministers of England, from 1856 to 1877—men of the most diverse political opinions and of the most diverse training—had, one and all, in spite of repeated warnings, failed to see the true interests of their country. Secondly, because it would be a confession to all the world that both Houses of' Parliament, when challenged to give their opinion on the subject, had invariably done the like. Thirdly, because we have, by our example, induced a great many other States to adhere to the Declaration. I hold that it would be prejudicial to our interests, because the Plenipotentiaries who agreed to the Declaration of Paris did not do so from any theoretical considerations, sudden impulses, or humanitarian crotchets. They were dry, old, experienced men of business, who had sowed their wild or tame oats of sentiment a generation before. The Declaration of Paris merely recognized a state of things actually existing—a state of things which had been brought about by causes over which we had little control, but which operated as remorse- 1283 lessly as fate in a Greek tragedy. The clauses of the Declaration of Paris were, as we have been told, four. About two of them I need say nothing, for few, I think, object to them. These are the abolition of paper bleckades and the recognition of the doctrine that neutral goods, except contraband of war, are safer in enemy's ships. The controversy is waged about the two others. As to the first of them—the abolition of privateering—I will leave others who will follow me in the debate to speak, merely remarking that we English, who could increase our Navy incomparably more rapidly than any other Power, are surely the last people who should regret the abolition of privateering. The real centre of the controversy is, however, the recognition of the doctrine that free ships make free goods. How, then, does it stand with regard to that matter? For hundreds of years before the Declaration of Paris we had been recognizing that doctrine in one Treaty after another. Anyone who cares to look for them will find a long list in Lord Clarendon's unanswered and unanswerable speech, delivered in reply to Lord Colchester in 1856. I will not refer further to these; but I may mention that in the 200 years previous to 1856 there had been 130 international agreements between the principal Powers of the world, in only 11 of which this doctrine had not been recognized. And when we came to fight side by side with France in the Crimean War, in what position did we find ourselves? France held that free ships made free goods, and therefore she respected the enemy's goods in a neutral vessel. We did not, and we seized them in a neutral vessel; but France also held that enemy's ships made enemy's goods, and seized the property of the neutral on board an enemy's ship. Could any situation be more absurd for the allied captors, or more embarrassing for the unlucky neutral? How did we meet the difficulty? We met it by agreeing that the rule afterwards accepted permanently at Paris should be the rule for the war we were then beginning. If we had not done so, we should very soon have been involved in a war with America, and possibly with some other Powers; and if we had not accepted the Declaration of Paris the same causes would, in any future war, have tended to produce the 1284 same agreeable result. A writer on this subject, who sits in this House, has described this argument as the eidolon timidum, and that is a good spread-eagle sort of phrase enough; but I think that an hon. Member who contemplates with calmness the idea of England being involved in war with a large portion of mankind for the maintenance of a right which a large portion of its inhabitants think illusory or mischievous, has more valour than discretion. Then the expediency of adhering to the course of policy which prevailed in the Napoleonic Wars is argued on the ground of authority; and a long list of eminent persons, who said strong things in support of the old view, is paraded — amongst others, Mr. Pitt, who seems to have declared that rather than agree to the doctrine that free ships make free goods, "he would wind the flag round his body and seek his glory in the grave." Well, of course, in those days eminent Englishmen upheld those views, because they were the views to which the country was committed, and Englishmen showed their tenacity and pluck, even in an unwise course, by sticking to their view for 40 years after the end of the Napoleonic era, till it was absolutely impossible to stick to it any longer without placing England in a position of having no neutrals against whom she could exercise her right, because she would be universally recognized as Hostis humani generis. And even as to Mr. Pitt—although the passage which I have just quoted, and which appears, with many like it, in the book of the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone)—I would venture to appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober—from Mr. Pitt declaiming in the midst of the passion of a great war to Mr. Pitt negotiating in 1786, when he gave up this precious maxim. The policy which is advocated by the hon. Member for West Cumberland and his Friends was an intelligible policy in days when every nation, with its Colonies, was conceived as habitually at war with other similar States. The rigorous exclusion of foreign ships from our coasting and colonial trade, protection to native industry, exceptional advantages to our commerce in the markets of our Colonies, and to the products of our Colonies in our markets—all those ideas hung together 1285 and were in intimate connection with the old ideas of severity to neutrals and maritime supremacy. We have swept away, however, nine-tenths of our old arrangements; and to think that Mr. Pitt would approve of our keeping up one little fragment of his policy when the rest had vanished, would be to think that we should please a Greek architect by leaving a fragment of a portico of his standing when we had swept away the temple behind it, and built an Elizabethan mansion out of its ruins. The truth is, that when in 1846 we took the first great step in the direction of Free Trade, we broke irretrievably with our past in many ways which were not then clearly perceived. We cannot, at the same time, have the advantages of being dependent on, and independent of, the whole world; and that Minister does a service to his country who helps it forward towards accepting, and getting other nations to accept, the inevitable result—that result being that we must all give up a great many ways of injuring each other. They were once tolerably convenient to all strong Powers; they are now intolerably inconvenient to everybody. Then we are told that if we make war less terrible than it is, nations will be always engaging in it. Even Mr. Mill lent his authority to this strange proposition; but if we are not to make war more humane, lest nations should be always engaging in it, where is the argument to stop? Clearly, if that argument holds, all that has recently been done by neutrals to mitigate the sufferings of the wounded and to save their lives is a mistake. If it is right to make war as terrible as possible in order that it should be short, the commanders who ravaged the Palatinate were right, and the commanders who led hundreds of thousands of troops to Paris with less interference with private property than ever took place in war before were wrong. Where are we to stop? Are we to go back to hanging prisoners—which a great jurist defended in comparatively modern times—or to massacreing garrisons in order that other garrisons should not resist, or to poisoned arrows, and poisoned wells? At the root of the objections put forward to the Declaration of Paris we find a strange idea—that neither by Declaration nor by Treaty is it possible to alter the Law 1286 of Nations. The Law of Nations is, of course, a somewhat loose expression. There is no such thing as a Law of Nations in the sense in which there is a law against murder in this or other countries. The Law of Nations is nothing but the aggregate of the customs which have been recognised by the great majority of civilized nations in their dealings with each other, as set forth by the best accredited jurists who have devoted themselves to this subject. If it were examined, it would be found that not many of the doctrines of what used to be called the Law of Nations, and is now usually called International Law, however well established now, had, when they first became embodied in text-books, anything like so firm a foundation as the Declaration of Paris, in its character of a solemn international agreement, has given to the principles which it embodies. International Law is only too apt to give oracles in accordance with the arguments of the masters of many legions; and the best international lawyers would be the most pleased to see the best accepted doctrines of their science receive their apotheosis in the form of a solemn international agreement. We are told by one of the enemies of the Declaration of Paris that no number of Treaties can make a Law of Nations in the sense in which he has defined the Law of Nations. That may be so; but I humbly take leave to think that the reason is that he has not taken sufficient trouble to understand what the Law of Nations means. He adds that if the Declaration of Paris were signed by all European nations, it would then become a conventional Law of Nations, "but could never rise to the dignity of a Law of Nations in the highest sense." With the deepest submission, it appears to me that that highest sense can be shortly described as transcendental anti-sense. It answers to nothing in Heaven or Earth, and is a mere figment of the brain. Then it is said that the Plenipotentiaries at Paris exceeded their instructions. If they did, their act was adopted and sanctioned by the servants of the Crown under whom they acted, and by the Crown itself. I believe some persons have even gone so far as to say that the Crown had no right to make such a change in the established practice of the country without the previous consent of Parliament; but that is a doctrine which 1287 no one who has studied the British Constitution can listen to for a moment. In order to put it forward at all, those who hold it are obliged to maintain that maritime law, by which they mean the imaginary maritime law which they deduce from their Law of Nations in its highest sense—the imaginary father of an imaginary child—is part of our municipal law. But, Sir, it is impossible to argue this question properly without widening the area of discussion, and showing that although it was absolutely necessary to adhere to the Declaration of Paris, and although it would be madness to dream of going back upon it, nevertheless, that the position in which the Declaration of Paris left Maritime International Law was an extremely unsatisfactory one—unsatisfactory as regards maritime capture, blockade, and the right of search. And, in arguing this question, I shall leave absolutely on one side all the arguments that may be drawn from the advantage of the milder policy to the general interest of mankind—not because I do not attach great importance to them, but because any arguments drawn from such considerations will, I know, have little weight with some of the persons against whom I am arguing. I will argue the case as if we had nothing to think of but the mere naked interests of England. To prevent all misunderstanding of my point of view, I wish hon. Members who are against the Declaration of Paris to take notice that I make to them two admissions. First, that in so far as our rights have not been limited by distinct agreement, or by long civilized usage amounting to distinct agreement, I think we and everyone else have a right to do anything in war that we please against either person or property, but right is one thing—expediency another. Secondly, I consider the maintenance of the naval supremacy of England a matter of the most enormous importance, alike to England and to the civilized world. These full admissions may save the reiteration of some arguments about matters not in dispute, and so tend to shorten discussion. The present position as regards England is this—We have much the largest Mercantile Marine afloat. We have a Mercantile Marine so large that we cannot even attempt to defend it without scattering our Navy all over the world; and, in 1288 the opinion of many people, we cannot defend it successfully, however much we scatter our Navy. That being so, and commerce being a timid thing, it is but too likely that, if we are ever engaged in war, the cargoes which we should otherwise carry will seek protection under neutral flags; while, if the war continues, our ships will pass into the hands of neutrals, our sailors will follow them, and thereby not only will our commerce be injured, but our Navy will be starved by the starvation of its best training school—our Commercial Marine. I have no doubt this view of the case will be stated and illustrated by other speakers who will address the House to night, and it is sufficient for my purpose just to mention it. Then, as to right of blockade. The recent immense development of railway enterprize has made commercial blockade a far less effective weapon in the hands of a maritime Power than it used to be. Look round the map of Europe and see how few countries we could efficiently blockade. If—which Heaven forbid—we were ever at war with France we could seal up her Navy and all her mercantile ports into the bargain; but how little could we effect by the latter proceeding. Her goods could pass in all directions, and any little expense we might put her to would be balanced by expense to ourselves, and would not have the slightest result on the issue of the war. Then, again, as Mr. Cobden long ago pointed out, the great majority of the articles of commerce that pass over the sea are destined for these shores, to feed and otherwise contribute to the well-being of our people, or to be worked up by their labour and then sent out to all the ends of the earth. Let any one take a pen and paper, and, starting with the assumption that we have a Navy equal to any three other Navies, count up how many blockades we could enforce without doing ourselves more harm than good. On this point, too, I will not dwell, for other hon. Members will, I think, do so. I will only say, in passing, that Mr. Cob-den's letter to Mr. Ashworth was written half a generation ago, and has, to the best of my knowledge and belief, remained unanswered. The third point in which I think the state of maritime law is unsatisfactory is the right of 1289 search for contraband of war. It is the interest, I think, of all commercial nations, and most of the greatest commercial nation—that is, of ourselves—to have contraband of war very strictly defined and as much limited as possible, while it is equally our interest to have the right of search for contraband of war as much limited as may be. Mr. Cobden proposed that contraband of war should be restricted, as the United States desired, to arms and ammunition; and that as an article is only rendered contraband of war by its hostile destination, the right of search on the high seas should be abolished, and the only admissible evidence should be the finding of the vessel within the waters of a belligerent State. Now, I trust that all these three points of Maritime Law will be fully discussed to-night, as the first of the three was in 1862, and that hon. Members will be found who will state all that is to be said for, and all that is to be said against innovation, as forcibly as was done in the extremely interesting debate upon Mr. Horsfall's Motion about maritime capture. I listened to that debate then, and thought the innovators had far the best of the argument. I have re-read it more than once since at long intervals, and I have in no way changed my opinion. I will, however, confine myself in this speech, by which I merely wish to begin the full discussion, to one or two arguments which have been frequently urged in the more partial discussions we have had of late years. It is said that if we give up the right of maritime capture and the right of blockade of merely commercial ports and limit the right of search, our Navy will be of no use. Will it be of no use? Can we call a Navy of no use that prevents a single armed vessel of an enemy coming out of port without being sent to the bottom? Can we call a Navy of no use that makes England one vast unassailable fortress? Can we call a Navy of no use that makes Malta and Gibraltar, and every one of our points of vantage throughout the world, perfectly secure; that makes the invasion of anyone of our Colonies, except the dominion of Canada, nearly impossible; that enables us to send in perfect security all our disposable troops to succour an ally; that enables us, if the necessity ever arises, to make our communications with India perfectly 1290 secure, by sending troops from England to Alexandria, and from Bombay or Kurrachee to Suez? Hon. Gentlemen who ask more from their Navy than that are rather hard to please; and I think that our present naval officers would very much prefer that class of duties to a class of duties which, as performed in the last war, h ad many features in common with piracy. Next, we are assured that by confining our Navy to warlike purposes we should weaken ourselves as against the great European military Monarchies. Suppose we went to war with a great military Monarchy, if our commerce were safe from all attack, what could the great military Monarchy do? Try to invade us? The Navy, no longer detached to chase fishing-boats and other small deer, would give a very good account of the new Armada. On the other hand, the Navy would enable us, if we had men enough of our own or our allies, to invade any one else. Then, it is said that it is more humane to take the property of our enemy at sea than to shoot at his body there. Even Mr. Mill used that argument; but, surely, the reply is simple—you are perfectly justified both in shooting at his body and taking his property as much as you please, provided doing either tends to end the war quickly and satisfactorily to you. What we object to, is not the infliction of misery during war; that is inevitable. What we object to is the infliction of misery in waste. The capture of enemy's property at sea has never had so powerful an effect in bringing war to a conclusion as is sometimes attributed to it; and the tendency of recent changes being to make wars shorter and sharper, all efforts should be directed to strike at the heart of the enemy. To waste time in cutting up his commerce will only waste the strength of the stronger, and increase the bill that will have to be paid in land or money by the weaker party. Our own commerce, if it were not ours, is the only commerce which it would be worth while for us to cut up, if there were no Declaration of Paris. Some who see the awkwardness of our position very clearly think that other nations see it so clearly that they would rather keep us in that awkward position than allow us to take steps which, while improving their position, would improve ours still more. I give 1291 them credit for more sense. Their own position is quite sufficiently awkward to make them close with any proposal on our part to carry the reforms of 1856 farther. We know that America, the Power most concerned, would readily do so. But it may be said, Sir, that the present aspect of affairs is pretty much the same that has existed for the last 20 years. What is the special reason for bringing, it forward now? The reasons are three —first, that the risks involved in the present state of things are continually increasing with the extension of our commerce; secondly, that the whole bearing of the Declaration of Paris, whose consideration has been forced upon us by the hon. Member for West Cumberland, cannot be properly understood without discussing the question of the state of Maritime Law as a whole; and, thirdly, that we are in a quite exceptionally favourable position for discussing the question to-night. That large portion of it, Sir, which relates to maritime capture was considered at great length in this place just 15 years ago. Amongst many admirable speeches which were delivered during that debate—one of the most interesting to which I ever listened within these walls—was a speech which was made by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Leader of this House. I agreed entirely with the views of the right hon. Gentleman then; I agree entirely with them still; and what I want to elicit is, whether the right hon. Gentleman has found in the last 15 years any answer to his own arguments; or, if not, whether he is prepared to abide by the wise and statesmanlike conclusion at which he then arrived? After setting out all the difficulties of our position with great clearness the right hon. Gentleman said—Now, he wished to know what Her Majesty's Government intended to do Were they of opinion that we could safely rest where we were?"—[3 Hansard, clxv. 1616.]That is exactly what I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to-night. He then went on to say—But what were we to do now? Were we to go forward, backward, or in what direction? Was the noble Lord prepared to leave the matter to the chapter of accidents, or to say that when war came was the time when the whole question was to be determined?"—[Ibid. 1619.]There, again, is precisely what I desire 1292 to learn now. Here was another passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech—Now, let us take a lesson from history. What occurred in the Seven Years' War? In that war England distinguished herself most gloriously, and her Navy was particularly successful. Smollett, writing of the war of 1760, related how this country had 120 ships of the line, exclusive of fire and other ships, and that notwithstanding this immense armament, and that the enemy had not a ship of the line at sea, yet the enemy were so on the alert with their small ships that they took 2,549 of our merchant ships, as against our capture of 944 of their vessels, including 442 privateers."—[Ibid. 1623.]Has the right hon. Gentleman in 1877 any reply to his illustration of 1862? Of course, the situation of 1877 is not the situation of 100 years ago. All war ships are now steam ships—and we have got hold of such an immense amount of coast line, and of so many points of vantage on this terraqueous Glebe, that there are many countries which would find it a difficult matter to prey upon the commerce of Great Britain in almost any sea. This, however, would certainly not be the case with all Powers and in all seas. Is, then, the right hon. Gentleman, after thinking round all possible contingencies, perfectly satisfied with the present state of things; or is he still, as I confess I still am, in the uncomfortable frame of mind which was so well reflected in his very interesting speech of March 17, 1862? Then again, sitting down, he said—Until the whole question was thoroughly sifted, he thought it was premature to come to any decision upon it. But while he asked his hon. Friend to withdraw the Motion, or not press it to a division, he, at the same time, would heartily join with him in pressing the matter on the Government."—[Ibid. 1626.]Now, what the right hon. Gentleman advised Mr. Horsfall to do is precisely what I would do if the Forms of the House enabled me to move my Amendment. I do not in the least wish to take any vote upon it. I have not even used the phrase which Mr. Horsfall used. He said that the subject called for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government. I say that it calls for the careful attention of Her Majesty's Government. I know there are persons to whom one might be opposed who would use the tu quoque argument, and ask whether my Friends when they were in power attended to this question. I do 1293 not think, however, that that is the right hon. Gentleman's idea of the proper way to carry on Public Business. I think the right hon. Gentleman will see that the last thing I wish is to embarrass his Government, or any other Government, with reference to so serious a question. I wish to leave the matter entirely in the hands of the responsible Ministers of the Crown, in the hope that if, as is extremely likely, before this Eastern embroglio is settled, there may have to be another European Congress, an opportunity may be taken, after full and deliberate consideration, to carry further the reforms which were inaugurated by the Declaration of Paris in 1856. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us to-night one of three things: either that in the 15 years which have elapsed he has found means to answer his own arguments; or that the question will be carefully considered by Her Majesty's Government; or that the Government has come deliberately to the conclusion that, inconvenient as is the position in which we find ourselves, the best course is to let it alone, and to trust to the chapter of accidents. There are not a few things in which the rule alors comme alors is the best, but it is so easy a rule to follow that it is apt to be a dangerous one; and Governments harassed and worried by the constant necessity of arranging what is to be done during the passing week are too apt to adopt what I may call the idyllic treatment of great questions, assuring enquirers that everything is going on delightfully, until they are at last brought face to face with a tremendous exigency. I do not assert that this question is one of those; but if the right hon. Gentleman can answer his own masterly speech of 1862, I cannot, and no one else has; and that being so, I think I am justified in recalling the attention of the House to a matter which grows naturally out of the Motion of the hon. Member opposite, and on the right settlement of which interests of the most gigantic kind obviously depend.
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT
said, the Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper, had, on a former occasion, been supported from the Conservative Benches of that House. Not long ago, Mr. Horsfall submitted a Motion with a similar object. He asked the House to go a step forward in maritime law, and 1294 to make private property — ships as well as cargoes — secure at sea. They were now asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) to go backwards—the Parliament of this country was not accustomed to go backwards—and when they were asked to take a retrograde step, the demand should be accompanied by most convincing reasons, and should be made, if it were to have any chance of success, by men of great authority. The reasons which they had heard were not convincing; they had been offered again and again to the House, and no responsible statesman had been affected by them. Who were the men who had raised this question? The most conspicuous were the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie-Cochrane), the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), and the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Butler-Johnstone). None of these men, so far as he (Mr. Jacob Bright) knew, had. been connected with the commerce of the country, or had had such experience as would enable them to judge of its material wants. On the other hand, let them look at the circumstances which attended the suspension of our maritime rights in 1854; and let them see on what authority the abandonment of those rights in 1856 rested. Lord Palmerston —commonly held to be the most spirited English Minister of recent times—was a Member of the Cabinet of that day. England and France being the two great maritime Powers of Europe — Powers which could have defended their rights, if they had thought it well to do so—suspended those rights. The debate of 1862 explained this conduct. In that debate, his (Mr. Jacob Bright's) brother, the Member for Birmingham, stated, and said he stated advisedly, that the United States would not tolerate interference with their shipping in search of enemy's goods. This was not contradicted, and in the same debate Lord Palmerston made a broader statement. He said that, on entering upon the Crimean War, to stop and search neutral vessels would create so much heartburning that we might have not only Russia on our hands, but other Powers as well. The hon. Gentleman the Member for West Cumberland supposed that the Government was acting under the influence of the Manchester School. There 1295 never was a greater mistake. In 1854 the Manchester School was trodden under-foot; it was submerged by the passions of the people; the English Government had yielded to influences of a different kind. Free trade, railways, steam ships, and kindred influences had carried us a long way from the world of Lord Nelson. The commerce of this country at the beginning of the century was much less than £100,000,000. In 1854 our exports and imports amounted to £200,000,000 sterling. After two years' experience of a great war, with a knowledge of the facts bearing on this question greater than could be possessed by any individual Member of that House, England and France joined the European Powers and signed the Declaration of Paris. But before doing so the Plenipotentiaries made the following statement:—That maritime law in time of war has long been the subject of deplorable disputes.That the uncertainty of the law and of the duties in such a matter gives rise to differences of opinion between neutrals and belligerents which may occasion serious difficulties and even conflicts.That it is consequently advantageous to establish a uniform doctrine on so important a point.But the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Percy Wyndham) said, we had not succeeded in this because the United States refused its signature; but as the main article of the Declaration of Paris was that which affirmed that enemy's goods were safe in a neutral ship, and as the United States had always contended for that principle, so far at least there was an agreement among the maritime Powers. He had spoken of the forces which operated upon the English Government in 1854, but what would he the forces which would press upon the Government now, if they were in the face of a great war? In 1854 the aggregate commerce of England, as he had said, was about £200,000,000 per annum — in 1875 it amounted to £650,000,000, so that in a period of about 20 years their commerce had trebled. The commerce of some other countries had increased in like proportion. The hon. Member for West Cumberland and those who were associated with him were ignorant of the nature of the struggle in which they were engaged. They fancied they had only to deal with the work of half-a- 1296 dozen diplomatists who sat round a table in Paris in the year 1856. Those diplomatists did not create the difficulty against which hon. Members were contending. They found it, and simply registered the fact. The hon. Member was really contending against a changed condition of the world, against the influences of an expansion of commerce so vast, that even 30 years ago the most sanguine men could not have dreamed of it. The House would remember a story from the Arabian Nights of the Afreet and the jar. A fisherman pulled a jar out of the sea, removed the seal from its mouth, whereupon a vapour came forth which assumed the form of a gigantic being, who said that he had taken a vow to kill the man who should set him free. When commerce was made free, as it had been in more senses than one in our time, it was destined to destroy war, and step by step it would accomplish that object, unless, like the poor Afreet of the story, it should be persuaded to re-enter its jar and assume again the fetters which the hon. Member sought to impose upon it. But if it were possible for them to go back to the old state of maritime war, it would be of no advantage to England. Owing to the railway system, countries that were not insular, Continental countries which had neighbours, could transact the whole of their commerce through those neighbours. Let us suppose that we were at war with Germany. Germany might carry on the whole of her export and import trade without having a single shilling's worth of property at sea. Her neighbours could import everything she wanted from abroad, and again these same neighbours could purchase from Germany all that it was necessary for her to export. As a matter of fact, during the Russian War, Prussia did Russia's business with the outside world. But the courage and ingenuity of the hon. Member for Canterbury never failed him. The hon. Member had published a little book on Maritime Rights—a clever book, but in his (Mr. Jacob Bright's) opinion not a wise one—he said there that there was a weapon in the arsenal of our maritime rights which enabled us to meet the case which he (Mr. Jacob Bright) bad put before the House. The hon. Member asked them to claim the right to capture enemy's produce at sea; he would seize 1297 neutral goods on neutral ships if those goods had originated in the enemy's country; he would require, therefore, neutral ships to have certificates of origin. Such certificates had been employed for fiscal purposes to meet the case of differential duties; and he had been told that the system worked badly, but he would undertake to say that there were not 10 men in that House, or even in the City of London, who would on this question endorse the views of the hon. Member. If they were to go back in this matter they would gain no advantage, but, on the contrary, they would place the country in peril. What was their position in the matter? Theirs was an insular country, and they were the only country in the world having merchandize to the value of £650,000,000 per annum, which must necessarily be exposed in war to the attacks of perhaps a third-rate Power, which by sending out a number of rapid steamers could disperse their enormous commerce. He asked the House to consider the circumstances of this country in relation to others. There was scarcely another country in the world that could not feed its own people from the produce of its own soil, whereas they had in the United Kingdom 15,000,000 of people depending upon other nations for the larger portion of their food. That food had to cross the seas in order to reach our ports, and the raw material of most of our manufactures had to cross the seas also. When this raw material was worked up and made costly by means of capital and labour, it had to re-cross the seas to be given in payment for the food they imported. In fact, they lived in a glass house which was exposed on every side. They could not avoid the exposure and the risk, whereas every other country could protect itself by transacting its commerce through its neighbours. Some Petitions in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member had been presented that night, one from Manchester, where, he was told, there had been a meeting on the subject. He should like to know how many signatures there were to those Petitions. And, with regard to Manchester, he knew that the question had hitherto been treated with indifference, because it was not supposed that anything serious was likely to come of it. If, however, it should become serious, their great cen- 1298 tres of industry would demand that commerce should be secure at sea. Under the Declaration of Paris it was secure. If they were at war, the shipowner would have to retire for a time from business; but commerce would go on with but little disturbance, although at some extra cost, which, however, would gradually lessen. He had endeavoured to show that they could not go back—that if they could go back, it would give them no more power to coerce an enemy; that the only result would be to place themselves in peril. And now he came to the point in which he agreed with hon. Members opposite—they could not remain where they were. If a dispute arose which made war probable, the telegraph would convey the news to the most distant ports in an hour, British shipping would be everywhere set aside, and neutral vessels would receive the freights. In case of actual war their ships would be transferred, or remain idle; but the difficulties of transference were greater than were generally supposed. By the law of the United States, and of some other countries, foreign-built ships were not allowed to be registered. It had been asserted that the loss of their carrying trade in case of war would be irreparable, and the United States had been instanced in proof of this assertion. The slowness of the recovery of the American shipping trade had been owing more to their high tariffs than to any other cause, as it had been impossible to build a ship in America as cheaply as in other countries. America had, however, to a large extent, regained her old position. By the Report of the Register of the Treasury of the United States, of December, 1874, he found that their tonnage now exceeded 3,000,000, and in this figure he did not include the shipping on the western rivers or on the northern lakes. It would be seen, therefore, that the shipping of America to-day was nearly equal to half that of the United Kingdom. Their position, however, was serious enough. In case of war with a maritime Power, for the first time in their history, the British flag, so far as merchant vessels were concerned, would disappear from every sea. An arrangement had been made by which their commerce of -£650,000,000 per annum would be carried with per.fect security, so long as it was not found 1299 in British ships. That might be statesmanship, but it was not statesmanship by which he should be willing to be guided. It appeared to him to be the work of incapable men, who were either unable or unwilling to face the facts which surrounded them. If their vast merchandize was to be carried safely—and that was the arrangement we had made—it should be carried on British ships. That was the meaning of the Amendment which he had put upon the Paper. He had sought for the objections to the proposal that all property, except contraband of war, should be secure at sea and he could find none which appeared to him to have force; but he would briefly refer to the two which were held to be the most formidable. It had been said that a nation should not be at peace on the seas whilst its Government was at war. Mr. Mill, the present Prime Minister, and others had endeavoured to show in eloquent language how, in such circumstances patriotism would decay, and States would fall. That argument told with equal force against their present position under the Declaration of Paris, as now, if the Government were at war the nation would be at peace on the seas. But it was impossible for a Government to be at war and a nation at peace. In the Crimean War the income tax was Is. 4d. in the pound, and seeing that the tendency was for wars to become more costly and that we had given up sources of income which the Chancellor of the Exchequer formerly possessed, the next war might give them an income tax of twice 1s. 4d. in the pound. These therefore who had most influence in the Government of the country would be made conscious of the existence of war. But wherever English soldiers were doing battle, wherever her seamen were engaged, there the attention of England would be fixed and her sympathies powerfully excited. The second, and that which was held by his opponents to be the prime objection to the proposal that all property should be secure at sea, was, that by such a step they would give up the power to damage or to coerce an enemy. Nobody attempted to make that clear and, it seemed to him to be a delusion. By the Declaration of Paris they had already abandoned that power—they had been compelled to give up the substance and they were now feebly grasping at the 1300 shadow. If by these inevitable changes the area of maritime war should be diminished he could not regret the fact. One thing was a matter of satisfaction to all of them—that the security of private property at sea would in no respect lessen our defensive power; in fact our ability to defend ourselves would be increased by these changes, for as their commerce would no longer need protection, every ship belonging to the Queen's Navy might be set at liberty for the defence of the Empire. The hon. Member for Canterbury had said that with the abandonment of England's maritime rights all that was great and noble in England's story would close. ["Hear, hear!"] He (Mr. Jacob Bright) saw by the cheers of the hon. Member that he still adhered to that sentiment. Let him ask the hon. Member the question — was there no English story of the 19th Century, which so far as they were concerned had been for the most part a period of peace? He had a strong conviction that their peaceful triumphs during the comparatively short period of the Queen's reign in every direction in which the human intellect could travel would be regarded hereafter with greater pride than all the bloody trophies of war.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that in his opinion, the arguments put forward by the two last speakers told rather against than in favour of the views they advocated. The hon. Member for Elgin (Mr. Grant Duff) rested his hopes of a satisfactory settlement of that question on an international agreement among all the Powers of Europe; but his expectation of such an agreement appeared quite visionary and Utopian. It had been remarked that Lord Clarendon, in assenting to the Declaration of Paris, had exceeded his instructions; but, as far as he (Mr. Bentinck) could understand the matter, Lord Clarendon had acted without any instructions whatever from his Government on the subject, and there was no evidence forthcoming that he had any authority to commit this country to that Declaration. The hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had admitted, and it was one of the strong points of the case now submitted to the House, that the consequence of that Declaration would be to transfer all the carrying trade of this country to neutral Powers. It would be the ruin of the 1301 commercial industry of this country, and if that was not enough to rouse the indignation or the apprehension of Englishmen he did not know what would. The hon. Gentleman had talked of the difficulty of blockading, owing to steam power and other causes; but that only showed that they ought to be in a position to seize their enemy's goods where-ever they could find thorn. The greater facilities their enemy had for disposing of his goods by commercial operations, the more necessary it was that they should have the power of seizing them at all times and in all circumstances. It had been asked by the hon. Gentleman what would they gain by withdrawing from the Declaration of Paris? but the first question they had to think of was what would they lose, if they did not change it? If they entered into a war hampered by the obligations of that Declaration, their position would be perfectly untenable, and the people of this country would not submit to it for a day. The hon. Gentleman himself admitted that if they went to war hampered by the Declaration of Paris, the carrying trade of the world would pass away from them, and their means of defence would be crippled. [Mr. JACOB BRIGHT: I said our means of defence would not be diminished.] He was very glad to hear such language from the hon. Member, who, so far as he was aware, had hitherto argued in favour of decreasing the defences of the country. Besides, it was quite enough to have the admission of the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs and the hon. Member for Manchester, that the effect of their embarking in a war hampered by the Declaration of Paris would be to drive the commerce of this country into the hands of neutrals. If that consideration did not suffice to bring those lion. Members over to his views nothing would. He thought, then, that the first necessity that would be forced upon the Government of the day when such a war arose, would be upon the instant of its declaration to withdraw from the obligations incurred under the Declaration of Paris. The conduct of the Government of this country at the time of the Crimean War led to the expenditure of £100,000,000, and the loss of 70,000 men, whereas by departing from the views of the Manchester School, by efficiently blockading the Russian ports, and by the 1302 seizure of the enemies' goods, under any and all possible circumstances, in precise contradiction of the principles of the Declaration of Paris, they might have brought the war to an end in six weeks without firing a shot or losing a life. The experience of that time ought to be their guide now. Were they unhampered by the Declaration of Paris, Russia, he believed, would never risk a war with them; at all events, if the Government would at once give notice that England withdrew from that Declaration, war would become improbable, if not impossible. At the present time they had a perfect right to rid themselves of the obligation imposed upon them; they could do so honourably and in good faith. But on the other hand, if they did not, and war should break out within the next few months, they would be driven by sheer necessity to adopt that course, and would in that case subject the country to the imputation of having dealt unfairly to neutrals. Russia's first step upon the outbreak of a war would be to issue letters of marque; and was it to be supposed that the people of England, who possessed that power a hundred-fold, would quietly submit to its enormous resources being left unused. How would they be able to meet such a state of things? The opinions of Lord Nelson in the past, and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, the Earl of Derby, Earl Russell, and all our leading statesmen were opposed to the Declaration. His conviction was that, whatever decision the House might come to on the question, the question was one on which, in a very short time, so far as that country was concerned, would mainly depend the issue of peace or war. Be that as it might, this he maintained without fear of contradiction, that upon the decision which the House came to on the Motion before it, must depend the question whether England, in the event of war, was to fight with her hands tied, or put into operation the boundless resources which she possessed. That difficulty they might avoid now by withdrawing from a Declaration which no man could say had been authorized by the Crown or by Parliament, and which all the ablest men of the country had denounced as ruinous to their mercantile power. It was his firm conviction that if the views of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Jacob Bright), whose philanthropic 1303 feelings were so well known, were put into practice, he would have succeeded in establishing the most horrible source of human suffering which had ever been devised. If they wanted to terminate war they must, in the old language of the Orders issued to our men of war—" Burn, sink, and destroy," and the more that was acted upon, the more they would be acting in the interests of humanity. He was surprised that an hon. Member who held such philanthopic views should advocate a state of things which would make war interminable and cause ten-fold more bloodshed.
§ MR. EVELYN ASHLEY
said, it was both right and natural that a question such as that before the House, affecting interests most dear to Englishmen—he meant the naval supremacy of their country—should excite earnest thought and active discussion. He confessed, however, that the more he heard and the more he considered the reasoning of those who would recall England's pledged assent to the Declaration of Paris, the more convinced was he that their political conceptions were faulty and their patriotic terrors baseless. The fancy picture which they were in the habit of drawing was something to the following effect: —Scene, Paris; in the dark background a knot of hostile and intriguing Powers; in the foreground two cowering English Plenipotentiaries meekly surrendering at the bidding of these military plotters the might of Britain's right hand without the cognizance or the authority of their Queen or country. On the reverse side of that same fancy picture the future was delineated. There England was to be seen, crippled and powerless, tossing helplessly on her own seas, while the jeers of her foes loudly testified to her folly in having abandoned, for no adequate consideration, her one weapon of defence. Whether the House looked upon "this picture or upon that," he ventured to think that, whatever skill they displayed, they were not true to nature. The history of the Declaration of Paris was the history of a deliberate recognition by the Rulers of England that circumstances had so altered our relations with the rest of the world that it was no longer possible for us to enforce—even if we continued to assert—the high-handed rights which by means of superior strength we had 1304 in former times vindicated upon the common seas. They then proceeded, as sensible men, to consider whether either our dignity or our interests were promoted by a barren assertion of impossible rights, or whether it would not be more conducive to both that a solemn renunciation of obsolete claims should coincide with a similar abandonment by other and powerful nations of the barbarous practice of the private levying of war, by which the scourings of any petty inland State might burst out as a horde of pirates to harass the commerce of some mistress of the seas. Anyone who was acquainted with the old history of privateering would, he thought, hardly fail to rejoice that it should be put an end to; and when the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) asked what, if America were to send out privateers against us, England was to do under the circumstances, his (Mr. Ashley's) answer was that the Declaration of Paris was not binding except between the Powers who had given in their adhesion to it, and that it was a misapprehension to say that its operation would be to tie one of our hands, while America, if at war with us, would be entitled to have both hands free. The fact was, that when the French Government proposed to the English Government that as the Congress of Westphalia had given the sanction of the civilized world to the newly-won principle of freedom of worship; as the Congress of Vienna had done the same for the abolition of the slave trade; so the Congress of Paris should sanction the actual freedom of neutrals from belligerent hindrances to legitimate commerce—the Advisers of the Crown, not from any spirit of abstract benevolence, but from a broad and statesmanlike view of the matter, and from a wise appreciation of England's real interests, consented to the proposal if privateering was at the same time abolished, and it' it was also declared that the engagement should not be binding as against those who declined to accede to all the four points. This was done with the knowledge and consent of the Crown and of the whole Cabinet. It was a compromise based upon statesmanlike views as well as upon the necessities of the case, for though we had not arrived at the Millennium, still we had gone so far in that direction that peace was the normal, 1305 and war the abnormal, condition of Europe, and this fact thus found expression in the giving more protection to neutral commerce on the ocean. In future, wars would be short, sharp, and decisive, and it could no longer be tolerated that when two ambitious Powers went to war, all the peaceful bystanders should be disturbed in their commercial relations during the short delirium of those two Powers. When at peace, therefore, England must be a great gainer by the Declaration; but there were also counterpoises to the sacrifices we should have to make in time of war under the Declaration of Paris, like when a man in old times put on a suit of armour, he sacrificed some of his activity in attack in return for increased means of defence. It laid down, for instance, that blockades to be real must be effective, and this might be of great service to us should an enemy try to establish a blockade, say, in some of our distant colonies, and as to the abolition of privateering there was no country that would lose less by that than England, because if a war occurred we should be able to take our large merchant steamships, man them with our naval officers and men, commission them, and thus have at once an impromptu fleet worth all the privateers in the world. Besides which, as it had been stated by the authorities on the point, the development of steam had made the convoy of ships easier than before. We should be able to protect our own commerce without having resort to neutral bottoms. With regard to the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), he was not prepared to accept it. The Declaration of Paris made no distinction between private and public goods, and so far did not advance the question in the direction of immunity for private as opposed to public property. No doubt in war on land private property was protected from the disorganized attacks of an army. The rule had been adopted from motives of expediency; but war on land was in reality an organized raid on private property, inasmuch as the attacking army sought to place itself in the position of the governing authority, and to make its levies on private property in the form of taxes, instead of in the form of plunder. He denied, therefore, that we could take any ex- 1306 ample from the action of land forces. It remained fur us to say whether we should make any new departure for our naval operations. He thought we should not, because we should thereby protract war and degrade it into a duel between two hired combatants.
§ LORD ESLINGTON
said, that, in offering a few remarks to the House, he hoped that he should not come under the ban of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), who had said, in his own words, that three hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on the Ministerial side of the House had no right to speak on the question, because they were not connected with commercial constituencies. He (Lord Eslington) endeavoured to represent faithfully a constituency which was both commercial and maritime. No one, he thought, could have followed the debate attentively without being struck by the extreme difficulty of the position in which the nation was placed by the Declaration of Paris. But there was another point for Parliament to consider — namely, the position in which the House was placed that evening. The position of the House in respect to the three Motions before them appeared to him to be rather a natural reflex of the difficult position of the nation. The three Motions were very embarrassing. The hon. Gentleman who sat near him, and to whom a well-merited tribute of praise had been accorded (Mr. Percy Wyndham), told us that we must back out of this difficulty. Another hon. Gentleman sitting on the Opposition side (Mr. Grant Duff) had a Motion which was a little difficult to understand, but which rather seemed to throw on the Government the responsibility of the position in which we were placed, though he admitted that the hon. Gentleman's speech took a much wider scope. Then the hon Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) said we had nothing to do but to go on. The latter Motion was by far the most logical of the three; but we were told by an eminent statesman not long ago that there was no such thing as logic in politics. He (Lord Eslington) wanted to ask this question—" Can we go back? "Retrogression in Parliamentary action was almost impossible; but, on the other hand, Parliament had had nothing whatever to do with this Declaration. Parliament had never sanctioned it. Parliament 1307 had never been even invited to discuss it; but it was the action of the Liberal Government of the day who had placed it in this position, and therefore the hon. Member for West Cumberland had a powerful weapon in his quiver when he said it was not a question of the Parliament of the day taking a step backward, but of the Ministry of the day doing so. In regard to any action of that kind being taken by the Government now, his (Lord Eslington's) objection to his hon. Friend's Motion mainly lay in the moment chosen. This one was always a convenient Parliamentary argument, but it was a particularly strong one now. Supposing the matter to be left, as it ought to be, in the hands of the Government, we could not stay where we were. Supposing the Government to approach the other signatories of the Declaration of Paris and propose to withdraw, they would say—" Twenty years have elapsed since this Declaration was made. Parliament has never sanctioned by a vote the course that you are asking us to take; and, moreover, in the course of those 20 years there have been four great European wars." It might be said to England—" You have been a neutral in each of these wars and have derived during that time all the advantages of a vastly extended trade which the security given to the neutral flag confers; and now that you see in the remote "[arid he trusted it was very remote] "distance a faint glimmer of a prospect that you may become a belligerent, you want to back out of your Declaration." That would be a nasty sort of answer to receive from foreign nations; but he was afraid it would be the sort of answer which would be conveyed to Her Majesty's Government in diplomatic language, if they proposed to recede from the Declaration at this moment. His objection to the Declaration of Paris was that it commenced with a very flagrant misstatement. He said it with all deference to the great statesmen who joined in the Declaration, but the first statement was "that privateering is and remains abolished." He repeated that it was a misstatement and the coolest assertion that was ever made, and like many other cool assertions it had no real truth in it. How could any group of European States venture to say that privateering was abolished when the United States of America were no parties to the Declaration? 1308 If the eminent diplomatists who were parties to the Declaration had appended to it the two little words "between ourselves" there would have been some kind of truth in it; but to declare it abolished, when the great States of America were no party to it, was an assertion to be taken only for what it was worth. Now, what was the position taken by America upon this question? In 1854–5, two years before the Declaration of Paris, President Pearce alluded in his Message to Congress to a suggestion made to Prussia as to neutral rights, and said—If Europe would join in proposing, as a rule of International Law, to exempt all private property from capture at sea by armed cruisers, the United States would readily meet Europe upon that ground.When, therefore, England approached America two years afterwards, the Americans simply replied in the spirit of this Message, by proposing the absolute immunity of private property at sea, and, as we declined to entertain that proposal, they took off their hats and declined ours. This was the position taken by a great Power—great, too, in the art of privateering — a people which ranked with ourselves as the boldest and most skilful navigators, the hardiest sailors, and who were remarkable for the extraordinary speed they had acquired in the construction of their ships. Moreover, without wishing to say anything disrespectful concerning them, their boldness and love of adventure made them fonder than he thought a wise people should be of filibustering expeditions. It was, therefore, a standing menace to the commerce of the world when a State like America held aloof from such a Declaration. Therefore, he maintained that the action and the statement of these diplomatists was an unwarranted statement. Having glanced at the advantages which England enjoyed as a neutral under the Declaration, he would now consider her position as a belligerent. In his opinion that position was dangerously hampered by the terms of the Declaration of Paris. He entertained the gravest doubts whether it would be competent even for England, in case of war, to protect in every sea and upon every coast her 8,000,000 tons of shipping. But it would not be the enemy's cruisers or guns which would then ruin English commerce, it would be the war premiums. 1309 Nobody at all acquainted with commercial affairs could be blind to the dangerous position of English commerce, on behalf of which he was now speaking, in the present state of this question. It would inevitably pass in a great degree into the hands of neutrals, owing to the security which, under the Declaration, would be given to neutral flags; and experience showed that it was much easier to lose a great trade than to regain it. He was alarmed, therefore, at the position of England if she became a belligerent. The maxim that free ships made free goods had been to his great astonishment described as a modern theory; but it was a very old principle indeed, and had always been upheld by the great carriers at sea for the time being. More than 200 years ago, in 1650, the Dutch based a Treaty with Spain upon this principle. England followed suit two years afterwards, and in 1634 adopted the same principle in a Treaty with Portugal; and in a subsequent Treaty with Holland she again adopted the principle of free ships, free goods. The House had also been reminded by his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Grant Duff) that after the Peace was concluded Mr. Pitt framed his Commercial Treaty with France upon the same principle, and he did not think that any Conservative Government or Party need be ashamed to follow in the path trodden by that great statesman. And now a word or two on the proposition of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright). He wished to point out that even the peace-loving Member for Manchester in framing his Resolution for granting immunity to all private property had introduced this most important qualification — "with the exception of contraband of war." Now it would he a very bold man who would get up in that House and say what was contraband. He (Lord Eslington) apprehended it would include a very long and formidable list of articles, at the very top of which would stand our two great staple articles, the natural products of England, coal and iron. Well, then, the hon. Gentleman would maintain the right of search for contraband of war, and thus rouse the susceptibilities of the most susceptible of nations, at the head of whom might be placed the United States. That very thing would be sufficient in itself to induce him to refuse 1310 to vote for the proposal of the hon. Member for Manchester. In the course of the hon. Gentleman's speech he dwelt upon an argument of the late Mr. Cobden, who always talked of confining war to defensive operations. Now, he (Lord Eslington) could not understand how war was to be carried on in that manner. You might just as well tell a man engaged in a duel à outrance and with a rapier in his hand that he must content himself with parrying and not attempt to thrust. On such terms the finest swordsman in the world might be killed by a less efficient adversary. It appeared to him (Lord Eslington) to be absurd, because the most effectual self-defence was to know when to deal a well-timed and a well-directed blew so as to disable and destroy one's enemy. He might be told, and it might be thought that was an immoral argument; but he found a consolation in the idea that self-defence allowed a nation as well as an individual engaged in a death-struggle to employ the means which he thought best and most effectual to win. He had observed, and with regret, indeed, that in times of peace great nations were apt to disregard Treaties and great statemen to encourage them in doing so; and were we to he told that if we were engaged in a life and death struggle with one great Power, or possibly with a combination of Powers, we should permit the Government of the day to be bound by a diplomatic declaration? He did not for one moment believe anything of the sort. But at the same time, as long as we could keep our honour by observing to the best of our ability this Declaration, by all means let us do so. Then, on the other hand, came what he might call "the crippling argument." It was said we must insist upon the permanent exercise of our old maritime rights, because we must cripple our enemy. He was rather sceptical about this crippling argument. In the first place, the state of the world had totally changed with regard to the conveyance of merchandize, and no matter how they blockaded the coasts or harbours of a country, if people wanted merchandize they would get it, though it might be at an increased price. Then, again, and the point seemed to have escaped observation, they could not seize a large amount of property on the sea, or in any part of the world, without running the risk and almost incurring the certainty of seizing 1311 English property, because there was scarcely any part of the world in which a considerable amount of English property was not to be found, and if they insisted on carrying out that principle they would have a heavy bill to pay to their own countrymen when the war was ended. In conclusion, he would only say that the House to-night was in a difficult position, from which he hoped they would be rescued by refusing to entertain any one of those three propositions. This was a matter in which the House had not involved itself, and it was one for the Government to deal with. At present we could not call upon our able Foreign Minister, overburdened as he was, to charge himself with a question of this kind; but once the threatening cloud of war had passed over, he (Lord Eslington) had such confidence in his discretion and prudence and his known views, that we might trust him to take fitting steps to redeem his country from a position of excessive difficulty, almost amounting to embarassment, so great as to puzzle the best and ablest statesmen who had considered the matter. They might trust him to choose his own time, to declare that the time had come when England must ex necessitate rei retire from the engagements imposed upon her by the Declaration of Paris.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, that the hon. Gentleman Baillie Cochrane), who had seconded the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Cumberland, criticized what might be called the manner of the Declaration of Paris, and the hon. Member for West Cumberland had criticized the matter, and his noble Friend who had just sat down (Lord Eslington) had done both. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) would say a few words on those topics, for as for the argument of the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) he felt quite unable to reply to it. He did not see the bearing of his argument on the Declaration of Paris. The hon. Member told them that had he been at the helm at the time, the Declaration would not have been made, and had he been Lord High Admiral the war would have been ended in 10 or 12 days. That was, no doubt, perfectly true, but quite irrelevant. What was the question which the House had to decide? It was whether, after a few hours' debate, 1312 they were to reverse a policy sanctioned by the experience of 20 years, openly endorsed by the greatest statesmen and lawyers of the Liberal Party, and tacitly sanctioned by those of the Party opposite, who had originally objected to it. Certain slight admissions he would make to the hon. Member, as regarded the manner in which the Declaration of Paris was negotiated, and the shape in which the Declaration was attached to the Treaties of that year. They were points strongly dwelt upon at the time, by nobody more forcibly than by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich. He said—I should like to know what is the exact force or value that belongs to those records that are inscribed upon the Protocols. Are they Treaty engagements? Certainly they are not. Do they approximate to the character of engagements? f they do, how near do they come to it? If they do not, how far are they from it? If they do not partake at all of the nature of engagements, what are they? They are authoritative documents. These who like them may claim them as allies and powerful auxiliaries. Those who do not like them may endeavour to depreciate them. Infinite discussions may arise upon their character. Plenty of room for difference of opinion and debate, and I am afraid plenty of risk of something like confusion in international rights and arrangements, will be supplied by these semi-authoritative records, to which no man can give a certain character, and to which every man may give whatever character he thinks best"— [3 Hansard, cxlii. 101-2.]But, after all, between a Protocol of the character just mentioned and an additional Article the difference was but slight, and additional Articles on points separate and apart from the main subject-matter of the Treaty were not unknown in diplomacy—as, for example, the additional Article of the Treaty of Vienna relative to the abolition of slavery. Then, again, as regarded the instructions of Lord Clarendon. It was true that the subject-matter of the Declaration of Paris was not included in his original and formal instructions. But this, again, was not without precedent. In 1782 the instructions of the English Envoy at Paris did not include all the points which were finally settled in the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, but the new points were conveyed by ministerial letters to the Envoy. The same was the case with the subject-matter of the Declaration of Paris. Although the conduct of Lord Clarendon was criticized at the time it never was censured, nor 1313 had the results of it ever been destroyed. On the contrary, when in "another place" an attempt to censure him was made, that attempt, though supported by all the eloquence of the late Lord Derby, failed, and failed conspicuously. The only true course, he believed, in treating any question of International Law was that of considering it from the point of view of the opinions of jurists, of the provisions of Treaties, and of the reason of the thing. Now, as regarded the jurists the case was this. When they were stating the law as it was, no doubt they laid it down that by the ordinary rule of maritime law, as contained in the Consolato del Mare, the neutral flag did not cover the enemy's goods; but when they came to consider what the law ought to be, then for one jurist whom the hon. Member opposite could quote on one side, he could quote as many on the other—such men, for example, as eminent as Hubner, Klüber, De Martens, Hautefeuille, Ortolan, and Rayneval. As regarded Treaties. Any person listening to the hon. Member would have supposed that the immemorial practice of this country had been to act on the supposition that the enemy's goods were liable to seizure on beard the vessel of a neutral. What, however, was the case? It was perfectly true that up to about 1650 the Treaties negotiated by England did not recognize the principle of free ships free goods. But with the middle of the 17th century a change began. In 1655 the Treaty negotiated with Franco by the Protector contained a clause recognizing the principle of free ships free goods; so did the Treaty of St. Germain en Laye in 1677; and finally, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht contained a clause to the same effect, of a most decisive character. But, as the House was well aware, the Treaty of Utrecht was very closely followed by a change of Government, and in the balance of parties. The Party which succeeded to power and ruled England uninterrupted till 1761 was profoundly averse to free trade. They succeeded, by an Address to the Crown, in making the 8th and 9th clauses of the Treaty of no effect, and then the question arose whether the remaining commercial clauses of the Treaty, the 17th amongst others, were binding as between the parties; and although the subsequent Treaties of Aix la Chapelle of 1748, and Paris of 1314 1763, purported to confirm the Treaty of Utrecht, the point really remained unsettled till 1786, when Mr. Pitt negotiated the Commercial Treaty with France, and in that Treaty the 17th clause of the Treaty of Utrecht was repeated verbatim. Thus it could not be said that the principle of free ships free goods is in any way a new one even in the annals of England. As regarded indeed, other countries, he could carry this argument a great deal further, and using the great mass of facts which the late Sir William Molesworth collected on this subject, he could show to the House that of the 130 chief international agreements contracted between the principal Powers of the civilized world, between 1650 and 1790, no fewer than 119 contained the principle of free ships free goods. But as the debate concerned England, and England only, he would put that aside. But he might be told that in most of the Treaties which he had mentioned the rule, free ships free goods was accompanied by its supposed corollary enemy's ships enemy's goods, and that, therefore, if the one were adopted now, so must be the other. It would, perhaps, be a sufficient answer to point to the fact that the armed neutralities of 1780 and 1800, and the Declaration of Paris itself, did contain the first proposition, but not the second. A little consideration, however, would show that there was no real connection between them, and to suppose that there was, was to allow the ear to be caught by what Sir William Molesworth, in the speech to which he had already alluded, had called the jingling of a verbal antithesis, and Mr. Dana, in his notes to Wheaton, had denounced as a mere cantilena. He had shown that the Treaty of Utrecht contained not only a clause recognizing the principle of free ships free goods, but also clauses recognizing the principle of free trade, and nothing was truer that this—that the policy of this country on this question of neutral rights had varied with its commercial policy. A distinct re-action in favour of neutral rights began in England after the publication of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Under the Colonial system it had been the policy of all European Governments to foster their navigation by giving to their own ships exclusive privileges in trading with their own Colonies. Gradually ships of foreign States were 1315 allowed to trade directly to and from their own country with the Colonies of other States, and at length foreign States had been permitted to enjoy the carrying trade between a country and its Colonies. What was known as the rule of 1756, which prohibited a neutral in time of war from carrying on a trade which was not permitted him in time of peace, then practically died a natural death. As the old mercantile and Colonial system began to give way, the chief supports of the old doctrines as to neutral rights gave way too; and England, looking forward to the time when her own carrying trade would be the greatest in the world, had to ask herself whether a doctrine was worth preserving which condemned her trade to a serious disturbance every time a war broke out in Europe, in which possibly she had not, and never could have, an interest, except in the termination of it. The answer was in the negative. The Navigation Acts were finally repealed in 1849. The Declaration of Paris followed within seven years after. There was yet another point in view which was worth attention. When the principle of free ships free goods was disregarded by this country, it was not found possible to stop there. The time was one when privateers were recognized by the Law of Nations; when paper blockades existed; when the definition of contraband of war was stretched till it was made to include provisions; when the right of search was exercised against ships sailing under convoy; when in the time of the French Empire, France and England—the former by the Berlin and Milan Decrees, and England by the Orders in Council—engaged in the mad enterprize of trying to destroy, once and for all, the trade and commerce of their foes. They cut off their noses in order to spite the faces of the enemy. But how could the hon. Member opposite and his Friends have objected to any one of these practices? Their premises were that war should be made as terrible as possible, and the commerce of the enemy be struck, as being their most vulnerable point. The Orders in Council and the Berlin Decrees were the logical consequences of these premises. England must recollect, what the hon. Member opposite seemed rather willing to forget, that privateering was abolished by the Declaration of Paris, and that even if all be said about the 1316 question of free ships free goods were true, then that inestimable advantage would still remain. Lord Palmerston said, in 1856
Tell me any war in which any country was ever induced to make peace by the principle that free bottoms should not make free goods. The fact is, that wars are carried on by fleets and by armies—by the destruction of fleets at sea and by military operations and the capture of strongholds on land. But the idea that the results of war depend on the capture of an enemy's goods on board of neutral bottoms can only originate in a mind wholly unacquainted with the most familiar lessons of history. On the same principle, you might justify the ravages in the Palatinate, and the burning of towns, and the massacre of their inhabitants. But the moderation of recent times has pronounced such practices to be odious; and I am satisfied that these relaxations—so far from depriving us of any weapons to be used in future wars—will be likely to attract to us the sympathies of other countries."—[3 Hansard, cxlii. 129.]And this brought him to another of the allegations of the hon. Member. After reciting what everyone would agree with — namely, the desirability of a uniformity of doctrine and practice in respect to Maritime Law in time of war, and of a general assent of all the maritime States to the new doctrines—he proceeded to recite the fact that the United States had not acceded to the Declaration of Paris, and that consequently in time of war this country would be placed "at a great and obvious disadvantage in the event of hostilities with the United States." Now, he supposed what the hon. Member meant was this—that in the event of war between England and the United States, while the United States would be able to seize English goods on beard the vessels of any Power whether, a party to the Declaration of Paris or not, England would be stopped from seizing the goods of the United States on board the vessels of Powers who were parties to it. Nothing of the sort. The obligation England under the Declaration accepted was simply this—that in the case of war she would not seize the goods of a belligerent, also a party to the Declaration, on beard the vessels of Powers parties to the Declaration, and this was the interpretation of the Declaration accepted by jurists and explained by Treaties—accepted, he might add, by American jurists and enshrined in American Treaties. Mr. Dana said—If a nation, party to the Declaration, is at war with one which is not, the former is not 1317 bound to abandon its right to take its enemy's goods from vessels of neutral nations which are parties to the Declaration.And in the Treaties of 1819 with Spain, with Columbia in 1824, and in other Treaties with the South American States, which contain the principle of free ships free goods, the United States deny to Governments which do not recognize the principle themselves the right of taking advantage of it. The words of the Declaration themselves might, however, be taken as final on the subject.The present Declaration is not and shall not be binding except between those Powers who have acceded or shall accede to it.But the matter did not end there. Let him consider the case of a war between two countries, both parties to the Declaration. What would then be the position of neutrals, not parties to the Declaration? They would be liable to have the goods of one belligerent carried on beard their vessels seized by the other belligerent, while the neutrals, who were parties to the Declaration, would not be so liable. He was aware that Mr. Cass, on behalf of America, had objected to this interpretation, on the ground that a country not party to the Declaration should not be injured by it. This, however, was not a fair statement of the case. All that was denied to countries not parties to the Declaration was the right of claiming its advantages. Consequently, so far from the position of the hon. Member opposite being correct, the opposite held good, as he had shown that a Power not party to the Declaration gained nothing as a belligerent, and stood at a positive disadvantage as a neutral. He hoped he had shown that whatever were the evils of the Declaration of Paris, they were not those imagined by the hon. Member. It might, however, be said that whatever was the case when England was a neutral, the Declaration of Paris had overwhelming disadvantages for England as a belligerent. When war broke out it was tolerably certain that the vast trade of England, carried on in vessels the numbers of which were counted by thousands, and the tonnage of which was numbered by millions, would be transferred to neutral flags; and trade which once left a country left sometimes never to return, England, then, would 1318 be in the position of having lost the power she once possessed of crippling the trade of the enemy, while still liable to seeing her own trade destroyed, or obliged to engage in the hopeless task of defending it. These evils struck the mind of the hon. Member so forcibly that he cried—" Go back to the old state of things." There were others, however, who cried—" Go forward and adopt the principle which had been steadily supported by the United States of exempting private property at sea generally from capture." That principle had been urged by Benjamin Franklin, in 1783, on Mr. Oswald and Mr. Hartley, during the negotiations which led to the Treaty of Versailles; it was embodied by him in 1785 in a Treaty with Prussia; and latterly the United States had declined, through Mr. Marcy, to accede to the Declaration of Paris, simply and solely because it was not included therein. This, however, had not prevented the United States negotiating, as he had already shown, many particular Treaties containing the principle of free ships free goods. Mr. Cobden ha d strongly advocated the exemption of private property at sea from capture. It was said that the proposition was absurd, and many attempts had been made to ridicule it. Imagine, it had been said, au English ship-of-war in the mid-Atlantic in want of coals and meeting a collier, and yet precluded from capturing the collier and the coals. Those who urged that objection quite forgot that the English ship-of-war would in that case simply exercise the right of pre-emption, a right perfectly well-known to the Law of Nations. Imagine, it had been urged, the absurdity of a merchant vessel sailing into Portsmouth with a cargo, and a hostile flag flying over it. But such a vessel would not sail into Portsmouth, unless it had something on board which Portsmouth wanted. Then, it had been urged, What, would you allow a fleet of merchant vessels to sail through the English fleet when lying off the port of a belligerent? But nobody had ever proposed that the exemption of capture should apply to blockade runners. Then, again, there were those who said that if you exempted private property at sea from capture the powerful mercantile interest would have no interest in preventing war; their interests and those of the Government would be distinct. 1319 Surely, however, the disturbance to which trade would still remain liable would be abundantly sufficient to give the mercantile interest the keenest interest in the preservation of peace. He would appeal to any hon. Member who was engaged in trade, and he had little doubt of the answer. Trade was a delicate plant, and it required very little to make it suffer. It was also to be recollected that the exemption of private property at sea from capture did not entail the abandonment of the right of search for contraband of war on beard the vessels of belligerents, neither did the adoption of the principle of free ships free goods entail the abandonment of the right of searching neutral vessels. The two questions were distinct, as pointed out by Sir William Scott in his celebrated judgment in the case of the Maria. He did not, however, wish to be understood as in the least urging on the Government to adopt exemption of private property at sea from capture. It was a most difficult question. There was a great deal to be said about it. Lord Palmerston himself had been puzzled by it, and that alone would cause him to speak with diffidence on the question, and he alluded to it only for the sake of showing the hon. Member that there were more courses than one in this matter. He, in any case, did not believe they would go back on the Declaration of Paris. It had been urged that England when a neutral would not be at any disadvantage, because the other nations, having ex hypothesi, followed her example, the carrying trade of all would be exposed to an equal risk, while in time of war she would be able to cripple the enemy by crippling his commerce. But that was not so, for England, having the largest carrying trade in the world, would suffer far more than any other nation. Her carrying trade would leave her, because a nation which had the choice of putting its goods on board a defenceless neutral vessel liable to search and seizure whenever a war broke out, and a vessel of its own which at a pinch would be able to defend itself, would naturally choose the latter alternative. Each nation would, consequently, become its own carrier again, and England would have gone out of her way to give up her own commerce to other countries in time of peace in order to have the pleasure of 1320 capturing it again in time of war. He hoped the House would reject the Resolution of the hon. Member for West Cumberland, if not unanimously, at least by a very large majority, and affirm that the "meteor flag of England," of which our great national poet had sung in immortal verse, should remain, as every great statesman of the country desired it should remain, a warning to the privateer, the slaver, and the pirate, but not what the members of the Maritime League wished it to be—the dread of the defenceless trader and the terror of the unarmed merchant.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he was quite sure that hon. Members, while acknowledging the importance of the subject, would acknowledge, too, that it was one of great difficulty and complication. He was quite at a loss to know, after listening to the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), whether he meant to adopt the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) or not; but it was quite clear the noble Lord was in favour of maintaining the Declaration of Paris. With regard to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester, he wished to say a few words in limine, in order to point out that there was a radical difference in principle between it and the Declaration of Paris. The Amendment amounted to this—that the merchant vessels of one belligerent should be free from capture by the vessels of the other belligerent, thereby laying down a rule which was to be acted upon between belligerents, whereas the Declaration of Paris laid down the rules which should guide the conduct of belligerents towards neutrals. Therefore it was impossible to look on the Amendment as it was said "going a step further" than the Declaration of Paris, because the rule went in another and a different direction. It had no relation whatever to the principles laid down in the Declaration of Paris, for the Amendment related to belligerents inter se. Now, it was quite competent and reasonable for persons or nations to lay down rules binding as between belligerents and neutrals, but it was perfectly idle and futile to attempt to lay down rules which should be binding as between belligerent and belligerent. No doubt, it had been said by some writers on International Law that although 1321 when war broke out all Treaties between the belligerents ceased to have any force, but that there was an exception to that rule—namely, Treaties and engagements made in contemplation of war. Well, but he held—and he thought everyone who had studied the question would hold —that that was a scholastic and academic argument, which was practically worth nothing, because he did not know that anyone could put his hand upon a Treaty which, after war broke out between the parties, could be expected to be observed one hour longer than the interests of the belligerents demanded. Therefore, he said that those rules which were made in the cause of humanity to guide the conduct of belligerents towards each other were not worth the paper on which they were written. Independently of that, this country could not afford to give up the right it possessed of capturing belligerent merchant ships at sea. That was a right which it must be the great object of all maritime nations to maintain. It was one which concerned maritime nations with respect to their enemies, but it had nothing to do with the question as between belligerent and neutral. The object of a belligerent nation in warfare on the sea was to hold dominion over the sea; but it should be remembered that a belligerent did not want to hold dominion over the sea as against neutrals, but that he did as against his enemy, and that was the great difference between the Amendment and the principle involved in the Declaration of Paris. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Manchester would give up the right to hold dominion over the sea or against the enemy, but the Declaration of Paris merely said—" I wish to waive certain rights which I no doubt possess, merely for the purpose of avoiding giving annoyance to my friends;" but that was far from saying—" I waive also certain rights which I undoubtedly possess of injuring my enemy, who is doing all he can to destroy me." Another principle was involved in the Amendment which had been acted on from time immemorial in that country, and he believed in every other country—namely, that of trading with an enemy. Trading with an enemy was illegal and could not be for the public good. And would this country endure such an absurd result as the spectacle of a belligerent bombarding the coast of England while the merchant ships of the 1322 enemy were going in and out of our ports in perfect safety? It only required such a statement to be put clearly before hon. Members to show them how impracticable it was. Then, again, would anything be more likely to sap the patriotism of a country than for the mass of the people to be called upon to endure the heavy sacrifices which war entailed, while a few of our shipowners were driving a roaring trade? If this Amendment were carried and the nation became involved in war, he did not believe that any Treaty which carried it into effect would last one single hour from the breaking out of hostilities. The truth was, that the right of capturing an enemy's vessel at sea was a most valuable right, and one which he trusted would always be maintained. It was necessary as against an enemy to enable us to maintain our place among the nations, and was one of the great means of retaining our preponderance as a naval Power. He now came to the Declaration of Paris, and it was almost unnecessary for him to say that, often as the subject had been discussed in that House, it had never been introduced with greater ability than by his hon. Friend (Mr. Percy Wyndham). His speech put the case very clearly before the House, but notwithstanding its ability he (Mr. Bourke) confessed that there was not much difficulty in answering it. Now, his hon. Friend had devoted a great portion of it to an historical review of the question and to the quotation of a number of ancient writers and other authorities to show the law of the case. Upon that subject there was no doubt whatever. Ho had never heard of any great writer who supposed that there was any doubt on this subject—as to the lawfulness of capturing an enemy's goods in neutral vessels. The question was not one of law, but of policy. The point at issue was whether these great writers who dealt in theory rather than in practice were to prevail over the experience which this country had gained on the subject during the last 20 years. Perhaps the House would allow him to recall to recollection the circumstances under which the Declaration of Paris came to be made. At the commencement of the Crimean War France and England found themselves as allies in such a position that if each country had maintained its own rule with regard to maritime warfare 1323 it would have been impossible to carry on their alliance, or that any neutral commerce whatever should have existed. France held one rule—that neutral goods were safe in an enemy's vessel—while we held the contrary doctrine. It therefore became necessary in order that the Prize Courts of the two countries should act, that they should proceed on the same principle. If a German neutral vessel had come in contact with the English and French cruisers, the English captain would have acted on the doctrine that he had the right to search a neutral vessel and to take out any belligerent goods, while the French captain would have proceeded on the French principle that the flag covered the cargo and that he had no right to search that neutral vessel. Evidently, then, we should have come into collision with the principles of France in every case that occurred. It was therefore necessary for England and France to come to some conclusion between themselves, and this agreement was afterwards embodied in two Articles of the Declaration of Paris. Each country upon that occasion gave up something: we gave up our refusal to entertain the principle that the neutral flag covered enemy's goods—while the French assented to the principle that neutrals' goods were free from capture. The Declaration of Paris was made in 1856, and it was thought very desirable that the principle acted upon with so much advantage by England and France during the Crimean War should be continued. Lord Clarendon also thought—and in his (Mr. Bourke's) opinion quite rightly—that if he could add the abolition of privateering, he should be doing a great service to mankind, and to the interests of England in particular. It was obvious that no country was so much interested in the abolition of privateering as England. His hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) had thrown some discredit upon the Declaration of Paris by saying that it had never been ratified by Parliament. Now, he did not believe that any international instrument had ever been so often approved by Parliament as the Declaration of Paris. Eight times it had been before either that or the other House of Parliament, and on every occasion it had received the sanction of Parliament either by a very large majority or unanimously. He 1324 did not think, therefore, that anyone could make much out of the fact that it was not submitted to Parliament before being agreed to. But while the Declaration of Paris abolished privateering, he must remind the House that it did not do what his hon. Friend imagined. It did not prevent this country from commissioning as many ships to make war upon the enemy as might be thought desirable. It was competent for this country in the event of war to commission and send out any number of merchant ships against the enemy and to harass his commerce. But no one would doubt that the abolition of privateering gave a valuable and an enormous advantage to this country. The objection to privateering was, that it was war carried on by people for their own private profit—not for the good of the State, but for the purpose of enriching the individual. Privateering, in fact, differed in nothing from piracy except that it was licensed by the Government of the country from which the privateer proceeded. It was private plunder and nothing else. He would therefore assert that, whether we were at war or peace, the abolition of privateering was necessarily of the greatest benefit to this country, because there was not a petty South American State that declared war against a neighbour that might not harass the whole of our commerce by its Letters of Marque. These petty States might thus issue Letters of Marque to privateers, which might stop neutral ships and search them for belligerent goods. In case of war we should still more be gainers by the abolition of privateering, because our Navy, instead of looking after privateers, would be set at liberty to destroy an enemy's ships of war and protect our own shores. He need not expatiate on the enormous gain which we should relatively make on account of the vast extent of our commerce in every sea and every bay. We had always more property exposed to injury upon the high seas than any other country, whether we were at peace or war, and the amount of injury which privateers would do to our Mercantile Marine was greater than they could inflict upon any other country in the world. The fact that America still retained the right of privateering could only damage us if we were at war with America; but America was no party to the Declaration of 1325 Paris, and therefore she could claim nothing under it. In his position he did not wish to contemplate even the possibility of America being at war with us; but if such a thing unfortunately occurred, we might rely upon the patriotism of our people and the strength of our Navy; and if it should be necessary to issue Letters of Marque, we might do so without infringing any of the principles of the Declaration of Paris, as America was no party to the Declaration. At any rate, the Declaration of Paris left us exactly in the position we were in before, so far as this part of the question was concerned. With regard to the great question in dispute, the safety of enemy's goods in neutral vessels, it was well to recollect what the admission of that doctrine did not take away. More than one speaker had imagined that, because enemy's goods were not to be captured in neutral vessels, enemy's ships were free from capture; but that right remained, notwithstanding the Declaration of Paris, and it was a right the importance of which had not been diminished by modern changes. The Declaration left the right to search vessels for contraband of war whenever it was suspected to be on beard; and now that contraband of war included not only guns and powder, but almost everything that could be converted into matériel of war, the right of search was a very extensive one and quite ample for belligerent purposes. The Declaration no doubt gave up the right of searching neutral vessels for belligerent goods. It was admitted that as neutrals we should gain enormously, though as belligerents we should doubtless lose some of our carrying trade; but how could a great maritime nation engage in war without losing something? Still, he did not believe that any country could point to a time of war in which it lost less than we did during the Crimean War, when the Declaration of Paris was in force. In 1854 the total registered tonnage of vessels belonging to the United Kingdom was 4,148,000, in 1855 it was 4,349,000 tons, and in 1856 it was 4,366,000 tons, so that the tonnage of our steam and sailing vessels had absolutely increased in the last year as compared with the first, and our carrying trade could not be said to have been injured by the Declaration of Paris during that very trying time. It was said 1326 we were debarred from the power of in juring our enemy, because we could not take his goods out of neutral vessels; but the importance of that power he believed to be enormously exaggerated, because nothing was more easy than to change the ownership of goods when they were put into ships, so as to prevent a hostile Power interfering with them. When captures had been made of what were supposed to be belligerent goods in neutral ships, they had almost always been followed by disputes as to ownership; and the result had been that vast quantities of quasi-belligerent goods had been returned, because the ownership was proved not to be vested in a belligerent. And that would occur in the future more than in past times, because the means of communication were so much improved, and nothing was easier than to ship goods from one country to another at a port where they would have no taint of belligerent goods. But, after all, the great reason for maintaining the Declaration of Paris was the irritation the contrary principle always had caused and ever must cause to our friends. The claim to stop neutrals on the high seas caused "the Armed Neutrality "against us in olden times; and, during the Crimean War, we found it was perfectly impossible to claim this right without making enemies of those who were disposed to be our friends. It must always be so, for a reason which was evident when we asked the test question—would we endure it ourselves? It was all very well to refer to international lawyers and statesmen who had gone before us; but we must test the question by experience, and by considering what we should like to be done to us, recollecting that there were now maritime Powers in the world which did not exist previously. Should we, as neutrals, endure to have our ships stopped on the high seas and searched for enemy's goods? He thought they were pretty generally agreed as to the answer that would be given to the question. If we were at war we could maintain our position on the high seas by exercising our belligerent rights against the vessels of our enemy with perfect ease and by protecting our own ships, and if we were at peace and neutrals we gained great advantages from the Declaration of Paris. At this time, however, the question was not so 1327 much whether, after taking everything into consideration, it was wise to have assented to the Declaration, but whether it was wise to maintain it. Having invited the whole world to accept it, having carried on a great war under it, and having gained great advantages from it both as belligerents and neutrals, should we be acting as a great nation ought to act if we were now to withdraw from it? Suppose we were to find ourselves in the position we occupied in 1854, and we had adopted the Resolution before the House; could anyone doubt we should go back to the Declaration and adopt the rules we had laid down in 1854? If, on the other hand, two great Continental nations were to go to war, and we were neutrals, should we not, although we had torn up the Declaration of Paris, call out for our neutral rights, and, if the Resolution before the House were carried, would it not be thrown in our face? If one of those nations were to fit out privateers or to capture our neutral vessels, should we not rue that we had abandoned the Declaration? These were not days when we ought lightly to abandon our international obligations, nor when it could be our policy to irritate every Power in Europe and certainly if we were to adopt this Resolution we should be assuming an attitude of menace to the whole world, and we should be acting in the face of a Declaration which, in common with others, we made in the interests of peace, to mitigate the rigour of war, and to favour peaceful commerce. He asked his hon. Friend, earnestly, whether he had considered that serious question. If they were to pass his hon. Friend's Resolution he (Mr. Bourke) thought that tomorrow morning his hon. Friend would find that he had accepted a responsibility which he had not contemplated. He hoped, therefore, he would see that that was not the time for pushing a Resolution such as the one he had proposed, and he trusted that he would consider whether he had better not leave the question where it was, well content with the able discussion which had taken place upon it, and equally content with the great credit he had gained for himself in bringing forward the question as he had done with great advantage to the country.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he could not help thinking it had been a disadvantage that his hon. Friend the 1328 Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had introduced into the debate a subject which was not germane to it; and he entirely agreed with what the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State (Mr. Bourke) had said on this branch of the subject. The question whether or not you were to cut down the rights of one belligerent, to defend himself by both offensive and defensive means, against another had nothing to do with the principle on which you ought to act as between belligerents and neutrals. The Declaration of Paris was not made for the purpose of weakening the rights of belligerents, but to enlarge the privileges of neutrals. The proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester would cut down the rights of one belligerent against another; and he never could be a party to such a proposal as that. His hon. Friend the Member for Manchester said he would except contraband from the regulation he approved of, but what was the most noxious form of contraband? It was the belligerent ship itself—a merchantman yesterday, it might become an armed crusier to-morrow, and was the maritime belligerent to forego his right of capturing it? That in itself was a conclusive argument against his hon. Friend's proposal. He would now go to the question of the Declaration of Paris. He had attended very carefully to this interesting debate and to him it seemed there were three questions suggested by the discussion. First of all, were the principles introduced in the Declaration of Paris good in themselves, advantageous to this country, and—he hoped they did not leave this out of the question—advantageous to the world? Secondly, when they agreed to the Declaration were they in a position in which they could do anything else than what they did? And thirdly, could they, having done what they did, retire from that situation? It seemed to be assumed by hon. Members who were the distinguished partners in the Maritime League, that the principle of the Declaration of Paris was necessarily disadvantageous to England—that we had made great sacrifices from which we should and ought to escape as soon as possible. He could not concur in that view of the subject. The principles of the Declaration of Paris were more advantageous to England as a great maritime Power—both as a great 1329 naval Power and a great commercial Power—than they were to any other country in the world. Now let them take the Declaration as a whole. He passed over the question of privateering, for upon that he concurred with the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State. But it seemed to be assumed by hon. Gentlemen opposite that, but for the Declaration of Paris, if they had got a superior fleet they might have carried on their commerce by sea just as they did before, and that they could have driven their enemies from the sea; that they could have kept not only their own trade, but managed the entire carrying trade of the world. That showed a profound ignorance of the facts of history. He had always been very much struck by what had been said by Smollett, who, besides being an historian, had been a good deal at sea, and understood maritime subjects very fully. His book was very full of this subject. He (Sir William Harcourt) supposed England was never more mistress of the sea—he might almost say mistress of the world—than during the great administration of Lord Chatham, who made the proud beast that no cannon could be fired in Europe without his leave. At that period they had humbled France, and had almost the whole of Europe at their feet. At that time, when there was not a hostile Navy to be seen upon the sea, Smollett describes what happened. First, he speaks of the prodigious number of the English Navy; they had 120 ships of the line, besides frigates, fireships, tenders, &c.; and then he said that, notwithstanding these enormous and powerful armaments, the enemy was so alert with their small privateers and armed vessels that they managed in one year, from March I to June 10, to secure as prizes more than 200 vessels belonging to Great Britain and Ireland. Then he went on—The whole number of British ships taken by them from June 1, in 1756, to June 1 in the present year (that was over a period of four years), amounted to 2,539 vessels.Now, that was the state of English Commerce when England was absolutely mistress of the sea. That was the result of privateering. What had they done in the meanwhile, having command of the sea? Smollett said that in the same space of time British cruisers made capture of 944 vessels, including 242 privateers. Of course, it was to be remem- 1330 bered that the commerce of the enemy was very small then. But the important consideration was that, having control of the sea, they were still losing their vessels to an enormous extent, owing to privateering. The Declaration of Paris relieved them from that, so that in forbidding privateering it was the most valuable advantage that could be offered, to a country that was, he might say, and always would be, mistress of the sea. But it was said the United States were not bound by this Declaration. He thought it would be important, if hon. Members would look back, to see why it was that the United States of America declined to be bound by this Declaration, except under certain conditions which they desired to see annexed to it; and if they did, they would probably find therein a strong argument in its favour as it affected this country. Where a country did not maintain a great and powerful national Navy, the great resource of a maritime State was to be able to resort to privateering. In the early history of America, Franklin was the great enemy of privateering, and he introduced that very article into a Treaty in 1795 with Prussia—what Frederick the Great called his Quaker doctrine. But the policy of the United States changed on the subject. And why did it change? Because, for a policy of their own, they did not intend to form a great and powerful national Navy, and in that case a maritime State would naturally have recourse to privateering. That was why the right of privateering was reserved to itself by the United States, a weak naval Power, against a Power commanding a great national Navy. But that was the very reason that should recommend the Declaration to this country. But was not America bound, in fact, by that Declaration? What was the experience of the American Civil War? When it broke out the United States felt at once that the opinion of the world was so unanimously and overpoweringly in favour of the Declaration of Paris that the first thing they did was to declare privateering illegal. He could not conceive evidence more conclusive than that America was not bound by the Declaration of Paris, and yet when she was engaged in a struggle such as no country ever engaged in before—a struggle for its own existence against its own citizens—she felt that she could not disregard the principle laid 1331 down in that Declaration. The Declaration of Paris, then, so far as related to privateering, was in the interest of a great national Navy like that of England. He only wished that it went a little further—that it abolished privateering not only in name, but in fact also, because there was no doubt that something like privateering might, as one hon. Gentleman pointed out, still be introduced. The Alabama was not a privateer, but a commissioned vessel. Of course, vessels might be commissioned and become nominally national vessels. He admitted that was a disadvantage, but it was not an argument against the general principle. The next point in the Declaration of Paris was the question of blockade. That had infroduced no new principle. Upon that subject there were two distinct schools—the Continental, and what he should call the Anglo-Saxon, as the English and American writers were not divided on the subject. One of the principles favoured very much by Continental writers would destroy the whole principle of blockade. The great advantage of the Declaration of Paris was, that it gave an authoritative utterance to the doctrine that they had always asserted—the doctrine of effective blockade. Then he came to the great disputed point of the principle of "free ships free goods." Of course, that principle gave to them more than they ever possessed before—the carrying trade of the world. They were a people who possessed the greatest carrying fleet in the world, and if belligerents fell out, then, as Lord Stowell said, the bread fell into our lap, in that we obtained their carrying trade. If that alone was to be the deciding point in that debate, let them consider that since 1815 they had been perpetually neutral with the exception of three years. Consequently, out of 60 years they had been neutral for 57. Well, then, if they had a principle which had been so enormously advantageous to them for so great a proportion of time, of course, that would be a preponderating advantage, and ought they not to adhere to it, even though in time of war they suffered some disadvantages from it? The extent to which that operated could only be judged when they considered what their carrying trade was. When they remembered that the whole carrying trade of England was, in round numbers, equal to that of all the rest of 1332 Europe put together—they had 6,000,000 tons of shipping — was it no advantage that in all wars that might occur among other Powers, that trade should be unmolested? Well, they had many wars since the Declaration of Paris. There was the war between Italy and Austria. There was the American War in 1861, the German and Austrian War in 1866, and the great German and French War in 1870. That Declaration existed through all those wars, and what had been the consequence? He would not say that solely from that cause, but certainly partly from that cause, their carrying trade had gained a point both actually and in relative proportion as to magnitude, which it never before occupied in the history of England. That was their situation in time of peace, and as the Government said their policy was peace, they should favour a state of things which was admitted to be enormously favourable to England. Hon. Members said "that was all true, but that in time of war the Declaration of Paris would place them in a position of great peril, as it would deprive them of our most powerful arm." Well, let them examine that question which was the gist of the whole discussion. He would at once admit it was true that to a great extent they would lose the carrying trade; but that was the extent of the less, and to a great extent they always must have lost the carrying trade, because no amount of naval supremacy could ever defend our trade altogether. It never did. It did not defend it in 1760, nor even after Trafalgar. Their trade was always exposed to certain risk. It was not the actual captures which was the measure of loss to the trade, but the risk which was felt by the merchant, and which raised the rate of insurance generally. Well, let them see what was the effect on the trade of England. He felt he almost owed an apolegy, after the speech of the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Wyndham), for venturing to allude to such a vulgar and base consideration. That hon. Gentleman talked of the Declaration of Paris having become possible because the minds of statesmen, and even of Parliament, had become vitiated by connection with trade, and he spoke contemptuously of the Manchester School. When he heard that from the Conservative Benches he (Sir William Harcourt) con- 1333 fessed he thought it not unnatural that the great county of Lancashire had begun to consider it well not to send Members to sit on that side of the House. When the hon. Member for Oldham took his seat it would not be by the side of the hon. Member for West Cumberland. When they were told that the statesmen and Parliament of 1854 were corrupted and vitiated by the spirit of trade, he thought the traders of this country would begin to look out for themselves. But that was not always the language held by eminent Members of the Tory Party. He would refer the hon. Member to the opinions of a man for whom he might possibly have some respect—he meant Mr. Pitt. If the hon. Member would read his great speech in 1792 on the state of England he would find very different language from that which they had heard from him to-night addressed to the nation and to the Tory Party. Whatever it might be to other States, to England her trade was the breath of her nostrils, the life-blood that coursed through all her veins, from which she derived in a great degree, and by which she maintained her greatness. And if the Declaration of Paris was inspired by a desire to protect the trade of England, and if the effect of it had been to maintain the trade and commerce of England, then he ventured to predict that in spite of the scorn and sneers with which the hon. Member for West Cumberland had treated the trading classes of England—[" No, no."]
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
I said nothing against the trading classes. I merely said the change of policy had been brought about by the teaching of the Manchester School.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was in the recollection of the House. He understood the hon. Member to say the rest of the community had been vitiated by the corruption of trade.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
I said the teachings of the Manchester School were from the first vitiated by the corruption which the mere unqualified genius of trade must ever generate.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, he was sorry to have misunderstood the hon. Member. Well, it now appeared he did admit that trade was a respectable thing. So long as he (Sir William Harcourt) was permitted to assume that trade was of some importance and de- 1334 serving of protection, then it would be an argument in favour of the Declaration of Paris, if it should appear that that Declaration had had that effect. Let them consider the effect of the Declaration of Paris on the trade of England. War was proverbially a game of fortune which involved high stakes, and when England went to war with other nations, who staked most on the result in point of trade? Because if they were going into a gambling speculation of that kind, and were going to stake all Lombard Street against a China orange, it was obvious that it was not the party that staked all Lombard Street that was going to get the best of it. The great Continental States did not risk so much. Many of them were self-supporting; they had their corn, their wine, and their oil, and they lived within their own borders, as the Scotch said, self-contained. The hon. Member opposite said the only way they could destroy those countries was by destroying their commerce. Well, but they had destroyed their commerce over and over again; but they had not destroyed those countries. They destroyed the commerce of the great Napoleon, and drove it from the sea for ever; but did they destroy Napoleon? Why, it was immediately after they won the battle of Trafalgar that he went and destroyed the two greatest Monarchies in Europe. Within six months he fought the battles of Jena and Austerlitz, and destroyed Austria and Prussia. The fact was that to some of these Continental Monarchies trade was of comparatively small importance, although, as they became more rich and enterprizing, and their commerce became more valuable, they might be more disposed to take care of it, and that would be unquestionably the case in France. Ho would like hon. Members just to consider what was the difference between the great Continental States and England in reference to the risks to their trade. The trade of England was at risk in time of war on every sea and in every part of the world. She went to China, to the Antipodes, to her own Colonies, to the West Indies, and to the Cape. Of what other country could that be said? Therefore, the risk to which the trade of England was exposed was much more universal than that of any other State. As the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) said, every- 1335 thing that came to England must come by sea. Other States might get their goods by land, but every bale that England got must come by sea. What was the extent of our trade? That certainly concerned the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the most powerful ally of the country in any war. Now, the amount of the trade of England was about £600,000,000, and that was what they would put in jeopardy. What was the trade of Russia? It was computed at £140,000,000, while the trade of France was £250,000,000. So that in character, extent, and amount they found that the trade of England would be four, five, and six times more exposed than would be that of the enemy to whom she was opposed. To England her import and export trade was equally important. Hon. Gentlemen talked about old times and the Great War, but they forgot how much the condition of the trade of England had changed, and what a different kind of trade as compared with the population in 1815 now existed. In that time the policy of Protection and the old Corn Laws had starved the people down to a point at which the country could supply them from her own resources. That was not now the case, for he believed the food of the people of this country at present was dependent to the extent of one-third, if not one-half, upon foreign supply, and if they placed that food in risk, and the price was raised so many shillings in the quarter or cwt., by abolishing the Declaration of Paris, did they think the new constituencies, to whom the hon. Member for West Cumberland appealed, would approve of their policy, because of all the articles of trade in which the condition of things had most changed since 1815 it was in that of the food of the people. But it was not the first necessaries of life alone which would be affected. There was the wood out of which their houses were built; there were tea, wine, spirits, eggs, and tobacco, and everything which constituted the life and health of their people, all of which came by sea. If they placed all that trade in risk, what did they think would be the opinion of the nation of their wisdom and patriotism? He also asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, just one month before the introduction of the Budget, what would be the effect on the Revenue by cutting off the receipts from tea, tobacco, and other things? 1336 Talk about strengthening the resources of the country, they depended upon the trade, and the revenues and industry of the people were sustained by the trade. That was still more true of articles from which the wages of the people were derived. What would be the effect on the industry and wages of the people if the cost of the cotton, linen, flax, metal, and silk were to be raised 10 per cent in that competition which we were now carrying on with foreign countries? In the closeness of competition now going on we should be entirely defeated, and what would become of our resources for carrying on the war? The resources of the country would be weakened, and they would have a discontented people, who would decline to support their policy. If that was the case with the imports, so would it apply equally to the exports. Their iron, machinery, earthenware, cotton and woollen goods—all these things which they had to send to foreign countries would be enhanced in price and they would be beaten by their competitors. But it had been said that the trade could be protected by convoy. Had they been able hitherto to do so? And if they employed convoys for such a purpose as this, what became of the Fleet for other purposes? That which would most weaken a maritime Power was that question of convoys. To convoy £600,000,000 of commerce they must treble their Fleet. What did the Declaration of Paris do by making the trade safe under a neutral flag but allow the whole of the Fleet to be employed for legitimate purposes in attacking the enemy's ships? It had been said that the merchant ships would be rendered useless; unless they might be for the purpose of carrying trade. In regard to that point he was very much struck by reading a paper of Mr. Barnaby, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, in which he refuted the doctrines of the Maritime League, and urged that those ships should be supplied with war material, in order that they might become auxiliaries to our men-of-war. In that way, besides protecting our trade, they would be strengthening the resources and the revenue of the country, and, above all, they would be enabled to concentrate the Navy. The supposition that the only way to bring pressure to bear on the enemy was by the capture of their goods was dispelled by the Americans in 1337 the Civil War, who brought pressure on the Southern States, not by capturing their goods, but by the stress of their blockade. In the same way, the Declaration of Paris had strengthened the principles of blockade and had enormously fortified our power in carrying on a blockade. Then the vessels hitherto employed in carrying trade would become most efficient blockaders. So that so far from the Declaration of Paris having weakened our resources, it had strengthened them in the power of blockade. The advantage while we were neutral would be very largely on our side, and as soon as we went to war the balance would be on our side. Whether that had been so or not, could we have done anything besides sign the Declaration? In 1854 England was in alliance with France, and why were we to suppose that that would never happen again? There was no State in Europe which had not adopted the principle, and were we going to tell Europe that we would not be allies with any Power in maritime war, because that was what it meant? What had occurred in 1859 was quite certain to occur again, and England must be prepared for that contingency. The hon. Member had said a great deal on the subject of Treaties, but he (Sir William Harcourt) was not about to enter into that question at that late hour. The question of Treaties had nothing to do with this question. Nobody had ever disputed that the Law of Nations was that which prompted the old rule; but the question of Treaties was material to it only in this way—that when countries went on making Treaty after Treaty in a direction opposite to the existing rule, it showed that there were causes arising and being formed among the nations opposed to it for departing from that rule. That was exactly what was the situation of Treaties in this matter. In every Treaty of Peace (luring the whole of the last century the doctrine that free ships made free goods bad been adopted by England, and it was finally adopted by Mr. Pitt in 1786. The hon. Gentleman, however, said that it did not mean the same thing now as that meant by Mr. Pitt, but was it to be supposed that Mr. Pitt did not know what he was about? If the Government of that day had not taken that course they would have found all Europe armed against them. But the Government, 1338 finding circumstances too strong for them, adopted the necessary policy. If they had not, in 1854, adopted this policy, the neutrals would have adopted the principle of "free ships, free trade," and they would not have got the advantage of the abolition of privateering. It had been said that Parliament had not ratified the Declaration of Paris. The proper time to have challenged it was in 1856. Why was it not challenged? It was not challenged in the House of Commons, though in the House of Lords the late Earl of Derby, than whom no one had greater authority in that House, did so; yet he was beaten by a majority of 54. If that was not ratifying the Declaration of Paris what could be? In 1856, however the House of Commons might have been, the suffrage of the House of Lords was the same as now, and yet they distinctly approved it. Year after year it went on. In 1862 it was discussed in that House. They went on, and invited all the Powers to accede to the Declaration, and they assented all round. He forgot how many there were, but he believed some 40 or 50. That being so, would the hon. Member for West Cumberland have them go round to all these, and say we had determined to tear it up? Their reputation for honour and stability of character was at stake, and how the hon. Member could think such a course could be adopted was difficult to conceive. In 1867, when Lord Derby (as Lord Stanley) was Foreign Secretary, as he was then, he said, on a similar motion—However, I, for one, am not interested in denying that the question, as it arose, and as it was decided, in 1856, was one open to much argument and to very grave doubt. But we stand in a different position now. The question is not what we ought to have done 11 years ago. I do not think it is possible to deny that we have bound ourselves to a certain extent by this compact, to which nearly all the maritime Powers have acceded, except Spain and the United States. The engagement was observed and acted upon in the Italian war of 1859, and in the subsequent war which took place between Prussia and Denmark. The war last year did not raise the question, partly because both the combatants agreed to respect private property at sea, and partly because, in fact, the war was confined to operations upon land. In all these cases we have been neutrals, and, so far, gainers, by the arrangement that exists, and I think it follows from the argument of the hon. Member for Westminster that it would be hardly suitable or fair for us, who have thus accepted the position of neutrals, and as such acquired the profit of that position, to decline to hold our- 1339 selves bound to that engagement if in our turn we should become engaged in war."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 888–9.]He then went on to say—Having so far reaped the advantages, we are bound to endure the corresponding disadvantages. Again, this circumstance must not be overlooked, that if one part of that Declaration is done away with the whole of it disappears. I understand that a good deal of stress was laid on that point in the negotiations—namely, that the several points of that Declaration should be considered as one and indivisible. Now, the minor States have adhered to that Declaration, abandoning the right of privateering, which for those who do not possess navies of their own was, in fact, the only weapon of naval warfare which they could use."—[Ibid. 889.]Further—If, therefore, the House were to consider that in point of policy the Declaration of 1856 could not be defended, we should then be bound to reflect whether by repudiating our share in that Declaration we should not be reviving certainly, though indirectly, that very practice of privateering which everybody condemns, and by which we probably should be greater losers than anybody else. But I am not arguing that point now as a matter of advantage; I think we have to look at it as a matter of good faith and consistency."—[Ibid. 889.]He invited the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite more particularly to this statement of the noble Lord—We have given a pledge, not merely to the Powers who signed with us, but to the whole civilized world. We have urgently and continuously invited other States to join in that Declaration; we have done so with very considerable success, and it would be hardly intelligible or in accordance with our position to turn suddenly round and change our policy. I think we are bound morally to maintain this compact while those with whom we entered into it maintain it."— [Ibid. 889-90.]Were they going to ask the Foreign Secretary to go round to all Europe and say that they had made up their minds for reasons of their own convenience to break this Declaration which ho had said they were bound to keep? Surely, if so, they would have to find another man. The noble Lord continued—At any rate, we are so far bound to it that it is impossible to recede from it without the most ample and solemn notice, and without notice of such a duration that no inconvenience could possibly arise from its being acted upon." —[Ibid. 890.]Again, he asked the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the concluding statement of the noble Lord—I admit that it is not an easy matter to decide how far any Government is authorized or 1340 enabled to contract an engagement which is perpetually binding. That is a question very often raised on various subjects, and it is one, perhaps, which does not admit of an absolute and general reply. But we must remember that this Declaration has not been an act of the Executive alone. It is quite true that it has not been embodied in a formal Treaty; it is quite true that what is done in diplomatic affairs—rightly or wrongly, I will not say, but according to the Constitution of this country—is done on the responsibility of the Executive; but the matter has again and again been brought under the notice of both Houses of Parliament. It was brought before Parliament in some cases by persons for whose authority I have the highest respect, and who undoubtedly had mastered the subject and commanded the attention of those whom they addressed, but on each of those occasions Parliament refused to interfere; it refused to sanction any modification in the terms of the Declaration, and by the silence which it preserved it practically gave its adhesion to that measure. I think, therefore, we are bound constitutionally to assume that public opinion has accepted that arrangement, and that the Legislature is pledged as well as the Executive."— [Ibid. 890.]That was the opinion of the Foreign Secretary of their administration. They might carry that Motion of that evening to him, but they were scarcely going to ask him to break that moral contract into which they had entered, and were morally bound to fulfil. If they would persist in doing so, he thought they were undertaking a task in which he, for one, could not promise them success.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Butler-,Johnstone.)
§ MR. BIGGAR
hoped the Motion for adjournment would be withdrawn, and that a division should be taken on the Resolution, if its supporters thought proper to press it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury will not persevere in his Motion. I admit the question is of very great importance, and I think those of us who have had the advantage of hearing the whole of the discussion will feel that the subject has been treated by all who have spoken in a manner entirely worthy of it. Indeed, nothing could be better in its way than the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham). If we are to hear all the speakers who may desire to express 1341 themselves on the subject, it is quite clear that even another night would hardly be sufficient to give them all an opportunity. The question is, whether we should advance the actual position of the question by continuing the debate. It is obvious that such a course would be inconvenient for business. Easter is not very far off, and our Army and Navy Estimates are still before the House. It would therefore be very inconvenient to occupy another night, unless it be that the discussion should result in a really practical conclusion. I think I may say that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman —upon which, of course, I express no opinion—does not in itself, even if it were adopted by the House, embody the necessity for any immediate practical action. It proposes to express an opinion on the part of the House; but it leaves the question of opportuneness to the Government of the day. It merely asks the House to record its opinion upon an abstract proposition, and the House must now come to the conclusion whether it is desirable to express such an opinion. For my own part, I do not see that we shall get much nearer to what our decision ought to be if we adjourn the debate and take it up again next week; but, of course, if any very strong opinion was expressed by a large number of hon. Members that it was of real importance to continue the discussion, it will, of course, be necessary to consider what shall be done. I would just desire to point out to the House the unfortunate circumstance that amongst the Members who have not yet spoken is the hon. Member for Canterbury, and he, by the course he has taken in moving the Adjournment of the Debate, has precluded himself from speaking on the question. [" No, no ! "] Well, then, I must appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair whether the hon. Member, after making his Motion for the adjournment, is competent to speak on the Main Question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the House should negative the Motion for Adjournment, the hon. Member for Canterbury will then have exhausted his right of speaking on the Main Question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am sure there is every disposition on the part of the House, notwithstanding that decision, to hear my hon. Friend on this question. Now, as it is 1342 desirable that the debate should be concluded to-night, I want to point out the position in which we shall stand if you decide in favour of the adjournment. It was intended that on Monday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War should move the Army Estimates, and to allow the Committee on the Prisons Bill to stand over for some short time; but, if the debate be adjourned, it must be taken when Supply comes on, and my right hon. Friend would then be deprived of his opportunity of bringing forward the Estimates; and, in that case, the Prisons Bill would be deferred for an indefinite time. In that case what the Government must do would be to put the Prisons Bill first for Monday, and Supply must stand for later in the evening; and in that case there would be no opportunity of resuming the debate till that point was reached. I do not wish to check the debate if the House desires to proceed, and I believe there is a general disposition to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury if he will proceed now.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
strongly urged the adjournment of the debate, on the ground that there were still a great many hon. Members who desired to address the House.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, if the House decided against the Adjournment, it was his intention to press his Motion to a division. In favour of the adjournment, he would just mention that not a single shipowner had yet spoken, and he knew that the Members for Hull, Liverpool, and Sunderland intended to do so, if they had an opportunity.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I hope that after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the hon. Member for Canterbury and his Friends will consider well before they ask the House to adjourn this debate. The effect of the adjournment would be to produce considerable inconvenience to Public Business; and, in the next place, to deprive several hon. Members of the right to bring forward Motions in which they are interested, and which they had a right to expect would come on. There is, for instance, a very important matter which stands for discussion on Friday next. I mean the Motion standing in the name of the hon. 1343 Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read)—a Motion in which a good many hon. Members representing county constituencies on the other side are interested. Now, it appears that one effect of the adjournment might be to prevent the Secretary of State for War from bringing forward the Army Estimates, and besides that the hon. Member for South Norfolk will not be able to bring forward his Motion on County Financial Boards. I am sure that if the hon. Member for Canterbury or any Member connected with the Mercantile Marine desire to speak, the House is prepared to listen to them; but as the issue is not of an extremely practical character, I do not think that the House and Public Business should be inconvenienced by an adjournment.
§ MR. O'CLERY
reminded the House that we had tied the hands of France during the Franco-German War by requiring her to adhere to the Declaration of Paris. He trusted that the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) would press his Motion to a division, for the effect of it, if carried, would be greatly to strengthen the hands of France—England's true ally—in the event of another German invasion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 51; Noes 182: Majority 131.—(Div. List, No. 25.)
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLLF
said, that in order to give the hon. Member for Canterbury an opportunity of' speaking on the question, he begged to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir H Drummond Wolff.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that as the hon. Member for Canterbury did not appear to wish to avail himself of the opportunity which the Motion of the hon. Member for Christchurch had afforded him of addressing the House, he hoped the hon. Member for Christchurch would withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion by leave, withdrawn1344
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 170; Noes 56: Majority 114.—(Div. List, No. 26.)
§ Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee deferred till Monday next.