HC Deb 22 March 1878 vol 238 cc1842-909

in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the state of International Law with reference to Maritime Belligerent Rights is unsatisfactory and calls for the careful attention of Her Majesty's Government, remarked that, notwithstanding divergence of opinions on the subject, there was general concurrence as to its importance. Indeed, the Prime Minister had said it was the most important that could engage their attention; therefore, he need offer no apology for bringing it before them. The occurrence of disputes from time immemorial led to the adoption by the Conference of Paris in 1856 of the following well-known Declaration:—1, Privateering is and remains abolished; 2, the neutral flag covers enemy's goods, with the exception of contraband of war; 3, neutral goods, with the exception of contraband of war, are not liable to capture under enemy's flag; 4, blockades, in order to be binding, must be effective—that is to say, maintained by a force sufficient really to prevent access to the coast of the enemy. In acceding to this arrangement we, no doubt, abandoned rights which we had hitherto claimed and which some high authorities had regarded as of great importance to this country. Hence, there had always been a strong party anxious to recede from the Declaration. Nevertheless, though the policy of the Declaration had been again and again brought before Parliament, it had been always sustained. It might, therefore, with courtesy be assumed that England had determined not to recede from the Declaration. But last year the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) Showed conclusively that the present position of affairs was most unsatisfactory. The late Mr. John Stuart Mill, though regretting that we had acceded to the Declaration at all, considered, this having been done, it was an actual necessity for us to take the second step, and obtain the exemption of all private property at sea from the contingencies of war. The present position of affairs was dangerous—first, because it was one-sided; some important nations, especially the United States, having declined to concur in the Declaration; secondly, although the Declaration professed that privateering was abolished, the hon. Member for West Cumberland clearly showed that this was practically not the case. In 1870, Prussia decreed the establishment of a voluntary marine, which the highest legal authorities had held not to be legally a violation of the Declaration, though certainly depriving it, so far as this clause was concerned, of almost all real value. In fact, to abolish privateering, we must go further, and abolish the capture of private property at sea. The third clause—that neutral goods are not liable to capture under an enemy's flag—was very imperfectly carried out. If you captured the ship, you carried off the goods in it, even though you might eventually restore them. Suppose that goods intended for China or Australia were in a vessel captured by American cruisers and taken into New York? There, no doubt, they might be claimed by their owners; but the owners might have no agents at New York, or they might not hear of the capture. Even under the most favourable circumstances, they would lose their market and be put to considerable expense. Evidently, then, the fourth clause was not effectually carried out, nor could it be as long as ships were liable to capture. It was the old story of the pound of flesh. You could not capture the ship without capturing the goods, and even if you restored the latter, still you would not put the merchant in his original position. In fact, the policy of the Declaration could not be carried out unless it was extended to ships, in which case there was every reason to believe that America would give in her adhesion; and the Declaration thus amended would be adopted by all civilized nations. That this would be desirable in the general interests of mankind no one probably would contest, and it might be that even if it were contrary to British interests, we ought not to withhold our consent. But would it be contrary to our interests? Our greatest interest was not only the peace, but the prosperity of the world. A selfish policy was not only wrong but foolish. We often did ourselves an injustice by the way in which we spoke of "British Interests." The country would, by an overwhelming majority, give up any claim which could be clearly shown to be unjust, or injurious to the general interests of mankind. The proposal to render ships free from capture and seizure was clearly one which would be for the general advantage, and it was therefore for those who opposed to show that it would be so dangerous to this country that we were justified in resisting. This, however, he denied, and maintained, on the contrary, that we ourselves should be great gainers by the change. On one point there was an overwhelming consensus of opinion— namely, that the present state of things is unsatisfactory, and may become dangerous. On the other hand, while statesmen and politicians had been much divided in opinion as to the course which we ought to pursue, the representatives of our commerce had generally agreed in considering that we ought to proceed on the lines of the Declaration of Paris. The fact was that our statesmen thought more of our Navy and of our power of inflicting injury on our opponents in war, while mercantile men thought of our mercantile marine and the material interests of the country. The late Mr. Baring, when this question was before the House in 1862, asked the pertinent questions— What country has most commerce afloat, most property to he seized? Surely England. What country would gain most by the preservation of that property? It is England. You say that your object in war is to injure your enemy. What country could be so much injured in war through her commerce as England?"—[3 Hansard, clxv. 1391.] The same argument was ably stated by Mr. Cobden in his Letter to Mr. Henry Ashworth; and strong opinions had been expressed by Members of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had said that the question of belligerent rights, as left by the Declaration of Paris, might one day cause them serious inconvenience and involve them in serious disputes. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster General (Mr. Stephen Cave) said in 1871, that— On the mere rumour of war we were in danger of losing the whole carrying trade of the country, and very naturally, because the first thing that happened was that insurance rose to war-risk rate; and everybody knew that the rate of insurance was one of the elements which governed freight; and, therefore, the carrying trade was naturally diverted into another channel."—[Ibid. ccv. 1490.] In one of the debates on this question, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1862, made the curious remark that the Navy of England ought not to be "frittered away in protecting commerce." He truly observed that, under any circumstances, the Elect would be fully employed during war. "We might rely on it," he said, "that the Navy would find plenty of occupation in case of war." He went on to say that— He could not think that position satisfactory which put in jeopardy the carrying trade of this country, the prosperity of our commercial marine, and, through our commercial marine, the very security and foundation on which our Navy itself rested."—[Ibid, clxv. 1625.] The extension of the Declaration of Paris, therefore, so far from diminishing the utility of our Navy in war, would sot it free for objects, from a military point of view, of even greater importance than that of protecting our commerce. He also warned us that the experience of other countries was not to he forgotten. The Dutch were once the carriers of Europe, hut their power and trade had been destroyed by circumstances very analogous to those in which we were placed by the Declaration of Paris. "Well, the right hon. Gentleman now had the responsibility of power. The present state of things, in his opinion, puts in jeopardy the trade of the country, and, through our commercial marine, the very security and foundation on which our Navy itself rests. Surely, then, they might expect that the right hon. Gentleman would either explain to the House clearly why he had changed his opinion or concur in some such Resolution as that now before the House. The statistics of the Mercantile Marine, which he took from the French Bureau Veritas, showed that the total tonnage of sea-going vessels of the world amounted to 21,000,000 tons. As to value, it was difficult to arrive at any satisfactory estimate. If they estimated the value roundly at £10 per ton, they would not be very far wrong. The value of the mercantile sea-going marine would, therefore, be over £200,000,000, showing the great importance of the subject. Now, of the 21,000,000 tons, no less than 9,170,000 belonged to Great Britain. Next came the United States of America, who had 3,180,000 tons, next, Norway, with 1,500,000; Italy' 1,400,000; Germany nearly as many; France, 1,000,000, and so on—in fact, our mercantile marine was greater than those of Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Holland, Spain, Norway and Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Greece, and Turkey all put together. If they took steamers, the case was still stronger. Steamers would be the real prizes in case of war, if prizes were to be made at all. Now, what was the state of the case as regarded steamers? Altogether there were in the world 5,770 sea-going steamers. Of these, 3,300 belonged to Great Britain, about 600 to America, 314 to France, 226 to Germany, 230 to Spain—in short, 3,300 to this country, and 2,400 to all the rest of the world. Or, if they took tonnage, the total was 5,700,000 tons; 3,360,000 to us, 2,320,000 to the rest of the world. So that we actually possessed a larger mercantile steam fleet by far than all other nations put together. Our interest, therefore, in this matter was overwhelming; and it was surely no wonder that those practically engaged in commerce had shown themselves almost unanimous in pressing this question on the attention of the Government. If he excepted one or two nations, our stake in going to war was, to use a common expression, "Lombard Street to a China orange." It was said other Navies were weak; but it was not only war, but the fear of war, which placed shipowners at a disadvantage by raising the rates of insurance; and it was only necessary to remind them of the injury inflicted upon American commerce by the Alabama and one or two other vessels. If our Mercantile Marine were destroyed, he should like to know what would become of our Navy? Then, as regarded the question of blockade, it was very much to our interest that the right of blockade should be limited. Continental ports could not now be blockaded with effect, while islands, especially if dependent upon other countries for their food, were specially liable to blockade; and there was no country which imported so much food as Great Britain. In the Crimean War, for instance, Russia exported to England more than 500,000 quarters of grain. Now, suppose we could have effectually prevented this; Russia would have lost her market, no doubt, but England would have lost her food. At present we left the legal right of blockade to our opponents, while in recent wars we had not ourselves generally adopted it, and even where we did we were surely ourselves the principal sufferers. Moreover, the development of' railroads had entirely altered the question of blockades. They could not now practically blockade any Continental port. The only effect of attempting it would be that the goods would be transported by rail to the nearest neutral port. In the Russian War, for instance, we blockaded the Baltic ports. What was the result? Only that Russian produce came by rail to Memel, and we had to pay the railway fare. But suppose we could effectually blockade the Russian ports and prevent any of her produce from escaping. Our principal imports from Russia were grain, flax, hemp, and wood. In round numbers, we imported grain to the value of £10,000,000, and £6,000,000ofhempand flax. He need not dwell on the disadvantage to us of stopping so large a supply of food. In the same way with other produce. Then we imported flax, seed, and hemp, to the amount of about £6,000,000, which were used in our manufactures. To deprive our manufacturers of this supply of raw material would tend to embarrass them, to lower the value of their works, and to throw their men out of employment. Nay, the result would be doubly prejudicial to them; because, while diminishing their supply, and raising the price of raw material, it would increase, on the other hand, the supplies accessible to Continental manufacturers, and thus tend to lower the price to them while raising it to us. To stop the supply would injure us as well as Russia. Moreover, in this matter, owing to the magnitude of our commerce, we stood in a different position from any other country. Suppose, for instance, a war between Russia and France, and that Russia could blockade all the French ports. She would, no doubt, embarrass France, and with very little loss to herself; because, while the total exports of France amounted to £150,000,000, or, deducting what went to bordering countries, £75,000,000; £2,000,000 only went to Russia; so that, if Russia could destroy the export trade of France, she would inflict a great injury on France, with very little suffering to herself. But what was the case with us? Our position was very different. Out of the £75,000,000 no less than £43,000,000, much more than half, came to this country. If, then, Russia could destroy French commerce, she would injure France, and do herself no appreciable harm; but, if we did so, we did not injure France only, but should ourselves be very serious sufferers by our own success. If we took other countries instead of France, the result was very much the same. The external trade of Russia, after deducting conterminous countries, might be taken at 220,000,000 of roubles, of which 130,000,000, or considerably more than half, came to England. But even this understated our case, because, as regarded the Russian trade with such countries as Belgium and Holland, the effect would only be to substitute railway for sea carriage. If we took the external trade between Russia and countries with which it had no direct railway connection, practically the whole came to Great Britain. If we took Holland, out of £426,000,000 of gulden, 247,000,000, or much more than half, came to us. He would only refer to one other country—the United States—which exported in 1875 produce to the amount of £106,000,000, and of that more than £69,000,000, or more than two-thirds, came to Great Britain. In fact, of the total produce at sea, considerably more than half was on its way to or from this country. But even this did not do justice to his case, because of the produce not coming to this country a great deal was the property of British subjects, much had been paid for by English credit, and was the security for advances made by British merchants. If he could only impress on the House the overwhelming interest we had at sea, he was sure they would adopt his Resolution. But they were told that it was absurd and unnatural that the shipping and mercantile interests should flourish while the country was suffering from war; that the shipping interest could not expect to be placed in any exceptional position. But the shipping interest was at present in an exceptional position. If we went to war, the estates of the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) were not liable to capture and seizure, while the property of shipowners was. War would not materially affect the value of land, would not stop the cultivation of the soil, but it would act on shipping most prejudicially. The extension of the Declaration of Paris to ships would benefit, not the shipowners only, but the community as a whole. To measure the benefits of commerce by the profit of the merchant would be like estimating the advantages of education by the salary of the schoolmaster. It was often said that if wars were not dreadful they would be perpetual; but what country—except, perhaps, one— would be compelled to sue for peace by the loss of its shipping? During the Crimean War, the whole amount of Russian property which we captured only amounted to £82,000, a loss which could not possibly have the slightest affect on Russian policy. Another objection was that of Lord Palmerston, who, in 1862, said that if we adopted these principles we should almost "reduce war to an exchange of diplomatic notes." Well, that would be a result which he could contemplate not only with equanimity, but with satisfaction. The tendency of history had been to render wars more humane as civilization progressed, and the extension of the Declaration of Paris to all property afloat was merely another step in that direction. In the discussion which had arisen on this subject they had heard much about the opinions of various great authorities on questions of International Law. He should not attempt to discuss the subject from that point of view. The question was one for the future, not the past. It was a practical, not a legal, matter, and the Board of Trade Returns, or, still better, a visit to the Docks, would teach more than all the pages of Vattel or Puffendorf. There was another portion of the subject which also deserved very careful consideration—namely, the question of contraband of war; but he had already occupied so much time that he felt he must not enter upon it; but he would just say a few words on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley). No doubt he agreed, to a certain extent, with a great portion of that Amendment; but he did not think it desirable to bind the Government to any exact form of words, and preferred his own Resolution, which had this advantage over the Amendment, that it also raised the question of blockades. He had endeavoured in discussing the question to meet the objections which were the most likely to be brought against the Resolution. He was conscious that in doing so he had argued this question on low grounds. He hoped, however, that he should not be supposed to regard this question as one that ought to be decided entirely by selfish or mercenary considerations. Far from it; believing that to make ships free from capture was distinctly for the general benefit of mankind, he thought we ought to consent, even if it would, to a certain extent, weaken our power in war. Such a course could not but increase our influence in peace. If it would weaken our power of offence, it would certainly increase our strength for defence. A great country had responsibilities as well as rights; our countrymen are always anxious to take a just—nay, a generous view of international relations; but in this case he feared we were supposed to be the great obstacle to an important improvement, and to desire to stretch our belligerent rights to the utmost. He was most anxious that England should not be open to the charge of throwing her influence into the wrong scale, of resisting a proposal which was for the general welfare. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would consent to give this matter their serious consideration, and he hoped the result of their deliberations might be that England would take the initiative in proposing to other countries the adoption of a step which would be a decided advance in civilization, which was in harmony with the dictates and principles of our religion, which would do much to mitigate the sufferings of war; and, by increasing the security of commerce, to enhance the advantages, and therefore to promote the maintenance, of peace. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving his Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the state of International Law with reference to Maritime Belligerent Rights is unsatisfactory, and calls for the careful attention of Her Majesty's Government,"—(Sir John Lubbock,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


who had a Notice on the Paper as an Amendment to move to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— An humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to use Her influence with Foreign Governments for the purpose of making the principle that private property should be free from capture by sea a Rule of International Maritime Law, said, he was in favour of abolishing the capture of private property at sea, not only by privateers but by ships of war. The policy indicated by his Amendment had been consistently opposed by hon. Members—by none more so than by the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham). Hon. Members were of opinion that such a policy would weaken yet not destroy the maritime supremacy of this country, or, perhaps, the maritime privateering of Great Britain and of any other country which wished to indulge in it. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) said in discussing this subject that such a principle would lead to war being conducted on delicate principles; but under the present system war might be conducted on what were called Bashi-Bazouk principles. The policy involved in his (Mr. Gourley's) Amendment, he maintained, was the only sound and wise national policy which a great commercial nation like Great Britain ought to endeavour to carry out. Had that policy been in force at the time of the American Civil War we would not have been held liable as we were for the escape of the Alabama, and we should have saved ourselves from many of the complications and difficulties which arose in connection with that war. The Tribunal of Geneva declared that this country was wrong in regard to the escape of the Alabama, not in consequence of the law as understood under the Declaration of Paris, but in consequence of the terms of the Treaty of Washington. Hence the decision of the Tribunal of Geneva still left unsettled the question of capture at sea and maritime privateering on the part of neutrals—so much so that so long as the law remained in its present condition belligerents would still be able to make claims such as those which were made against us by the American Government for our carelessness in reference to the escape of the Alabama. Another point raised by the American Government before the Tribunal of Geneva was that which related to consequential damages. On that point the tribunal decided against America; but, although a great outcry was made against the American Government for putting forward that claim, such claims would still be permissible so long as the law remained in its present state. The matter of consequential damages was still a part of our maritime law. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) had alluded to the opinions held by the late Mr. Cobden on this subject. Mr. Cobden held a similar view to that indicated in this Amendment; but a still higher authority in reference to International Law was that of the late Lord Palmerston, who, speaking at Liverpool, suggested that the principle of law applying to hostilities on land might be extended to hostilities at sea, so that property might no longer be exposed, as it was, to aggression on either side. When Lord Palmerston made that speech war had been brought home in a great measure to our own door, as it was at the time of the Crimean War. Owing to the opinions which were expressed by the public at that time, we were indebted in a great measure for the alteration in our international maritime policy, which was inaugurated by what was commonly known as the Declaration of Paris, which left two things in a very unsatisfactory condition. First, it still left open to capture, during war, the private property of the subjects of belligerents on the high seas; and, secondly, it left in an unsatisfactory condition the question as to the blockade of our commercial harbours. The American Government, as represented through its Minister at the Congress of Paris, held that to maintain the right of national ships of war to capture private property would be to still leave matters in an unsatisfactory condition; and the American Minister proposed at the Congress that the property of the subjects or citizens of a belligerent on the high seas should be exempt from seizure by the national armed cruizers of ships of either belligerent unless it were contraband of war. With the policy thus indicated by the American Government he (Mr. Gourley) entirely agreed. It was unfortunate that the policy advocated by the American Minister was not at that time adopted, because it left unsettled the question as to the power of nations, so far, at least, as the other side of the Atlantic was concerned, to capture private property on the high seas in time of war. It left international maritime law in a very unsatisfactory condition, for if war were to break out between this country and America, or even with some petty State on that side of the Atlantic, and if it were to send out vessels of the same character as the Alabama, our commerce might suffer much in consequence, for we knew what was the effect of a mere rumour as to such a vessel being afloat. It was not until 1855, or until the Declaration of Paris, that the law of our country was altered in reference to the capture of private property by vessels of war. The American Government would not—and never did submit without protest—submit to their vessels being so captured. The consequence was that during the Crimean War the rights which we possessed in accordance with our law were of no avail, because we were afraid to put them in force lest we should have been brought into conflict with America. Reference had already been made to the interests this country would have at stake in the event of war. The value of our steam and sailing vessels—vessels connected with this country and our Colonies, and sailing under the British flag—he estimated at something like £70,000,000. The value of British property at sea was estimated by Lindsay, 10 years ago, at something like £120,000,000, and it might now fairly be assumed to amount to £150,000,000. It could be conceived, then, what might happen if we were at war even with a small State like Denmark and the law was to remain in its present condition. If we were at war with Denmark, or say Brazil, which latter Government is not subject to international maritime law, as now regulated by the Declaration of Paris, and if that State were to send out three or four ships of the Alabama class to prey on our commerce, the rate of insurance would be so raised that the carrying trade of this great commercial country would be in a great measure driven into the hands of other countries. If we were at war with Russia, and she chose to send out privateers, or one or two national ships of war for the purpose of capturing our ships of commerce at sea, they would be quite sufficient to drive the carrying trade of this country into other hands. It might be said that our Navy would prevent that; but our Navy could not do everything in the event of war, as it would be required for the purpose of manning our ports, protecting our Colonial harbours, and fighting ocean battles. The American Government, prior to the Civil War, possessed a commercial marine only second to our own, with something like 5,000,000 of tonnage, while during the war it lost something like 2,000,000 tons in consequence of the fear which merchants had of the vessels being captured. What occurred to the Americans in reference to their large mercantile marine would, in the event of a war on the part of this country, occur to our commercial marine. We should lose a very large portion of the mercantile supremacy which we now enjoyed. Those who were opposed to the policy of his Amendment might hold that in the event of a war it would be impracticable—that it was a mere theoretical proposition. But what took place during the Austro-Italian, and the Franco-German Wars? In the former case Austria, being a party to the Declaration of Paris, observed, in the strictest manner, the language of that Declaration, and during the Franco-German War, vessels were allowed to pass in and out of port without molestation with what might be considered contraband of war—coals. This was not a theoretical proposition, but a proposition capable of practical development and of proving beneficial to the great commercial interests of this country. Again, it might be said that in the event of war we might convoy our commerce; but he held that to be practically impossible nowadays. The policy indicated in his Amendment, he submitted, was the only correct, safe, and sound national policy which could be adopted by a great commercial country such as ours.


said, he did not think that a great deal new could be said on this subject. It was about 16 years since this question, then of first-rate importance, was debated during two nights by some of the most eminent persons who ever sat in the House of Commons. He did not think that a single argument had been advanced to-night which would not be found in that discussion, which was held immediately after the Report of the Committee to which his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) had alluded. The result of that discussion was that Mr. Horsfall, who brought forward the Motion on the subject, did not go to a division, but withdrew his Resolution. The objections taken at that time would apply equally to the form of his hon. Friend's Resolution. That Resolution was not un-candid in intention—anything coming from his hon. Friend could not be so— but it was very delusive in its character, because he imagined that in the form in which it stood, it would command the support of the hon. Member for Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham) and other hon. Members who disapproved the Declaration of Paris. It was a pity with the opinions his hon. Friend entertained that he did not bring forward the question in a manner more in accordance with the views of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), because that really raised what the hon. Baronet intended to raise. Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than that by a combination of the hon. Baronet and his supporters on the one side, with the hon. Member for West Cumberland and those who agreed with him on the other, this Resolution should be adopted, for the views of the one party were diametrically opposed to the other. The phrase which his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone used seemed to involve an entire fallacy. His hon. Friend said his proposal was an extension, and a necessary extension, of the policy of the Declaration of Paris. You might as well say that the extension of the Great Western Railway would be an extension of the Great Northern. They did not go in the same direction, they had not the same object, they were not parallel in any respect. What was the object of the Declaration of Paris? It was to make a concession in favour of neutrals. So far as it limited the rights of belligerents, that was not the direct object, but was the indirect effect to a certain extent of the policy of the Declaration of Paris. The result of the Declaration of Paris was, that we gained, as he thought, a great deal, and we might have lost something, though he had never been able to satisfy himself of the weight of those arguments intended to show that England lost by the Declaration of Paris. He did not, however, intend to argue that question now. What was the result of that Declaration as regarded the great trade which the hon. Member for Maidstone had de- scribed by his figures? The substance of that trade—all the import and all the export trade of England—had been made absolutely safe. As regarded the corpus of the trade, it had been rendered absolutely secure by the Declaration of Paris to a degree it never was before. It was said that, at all events, the carrying trade had been diminished by the Declaration of Paris. He was not quite sure about that. It might be so to a great extent; even if it was, it was only in consequence of the encouragement given to put goods into neutral vessels on account of the greater security of these vessels. You did not make your own goods a bit safer from capture; but there was a certain convenience in the neutral character of vessels, and protanto, no doubt, the carrying trade of England would suffer. But when we were looking at the balance of interests of this great commercial country, we must estimate them fairly. We must consider that the corpus of the trade was of infinitely greater value than the vessels which carry the trade. Now, if that was the effect of the Declaration of Paris, what was its object? Its object was to make certain concessions to neutrals which could not wisely—he would not say safely—be refused to them. One of the tendencies of modern times, which they must all value, was the desire shown in all recent wars to localize those wars—to confine them to the territories of the immediate belligerents. What could better prevent the danger of hostilities spreading than the removal of all possible offence or injury to neutrals? And that was one of the effects of the Declaration of Paris. The proposition before the House had nothing whatever to do with neutrals; they had no interest in it. Their interest, to a certain extent, was against it, because they derived benefit from the trade falling into their lap. It was therefore an entire fallacy to speak of this proposition as a consequence of the Declaration of Paris. What was it, then? It was an attempt to alter the relations between belligerents themselves. That might be right or it might be wrong, but the two things were different. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) fell into a fallacy when he said that in the Austro-Italian War the belligerents observed the Declaration of Paris. Of course they did —they observed it towards neutrals, to- wards those who were not in the war. But it was a totally different thing when you came to belligerents. Belligerents had no law binding them as between belligerents. Inter arma silent lejes was the maxim. There were obligations in the midst of war which belligerents did observe, and his hon. Friend said, "Let us make this one of them." Then came the question how far were we likely to succeed? We might easily make obligations which belligerents would respect as regarded neutrals where their interests were not involved and against whom their passions were not inflamed; but it was a totally different thing to try to bind belligerents who were fighting for their existence. The hon. Member had put the case of a great Power fighting with a weak Power, and he observed upon the immense damage the latter might inflict upon the maritime commerce of the former by sending out a few Alabamas. But did the hon. Member suppose that in case of war the weak Power would refrain from sending out such vessels to cripple her adversary as far as possible? When, by the fact of war being declared, all contracts and all obligations between the belligerents had been dissolved, was it to be hoped that either of them would consent to be bound by a band of straw? The hon. Member urged them to place goods at sea in the same position as goods on land, and to exempt them from capture. But the argument of the hon. Member in support of that supposition had been disposed of over and over again. It was said that private property on land was not subject to capture as private property on sea was; but that allegation was not well founded in fact. Private property on land might not be seized and carried off as it was at sea; but, nevertheless, it was dealt with as distinctly and as completely as private property at sea was. The principle of the right to deal with private property on land was as universally conceded as was that of the right to deal with such property at sea. It was quite true that an army did not plunder and carry away private property on land; but there were two reasons why it should not do so—in the first place, plundering would demoralize the troops; and, secondly, carrying away the property would encumber them and render them less efficient as soldiers. But during a war an army in an enemy's country exercised their right of requisition—they demanded what they wanted and exacted it—and at the conclusion of a war an enormous indemnity was insisted upon; and in both cases the demands had to be satisfied out of private property. Therefore, the only distinction in the mode of dealing with private property on land and at sea was one of practical detail, and not of principle. When a nation was conquered on land, the victor, so to speak, became master of the people, the Government, the territory, and everything else; but it was not necessary to take the goods in the same way as at sea. At sea they could not conquer a territory, for the sea was the territory of no one. It was only by the capture of goods and the taking of specie at the moment that they could exercise their right. The principle was the same. They asserted their right of war in omnibus by land in the same way as they did by sea. Had the hon. Member ever heard of embargo, which meant the detention of private property during a war, or of reprisals, which also involved the capture of private property? Those were assertions of the right to seize the private property of the enemy at sea. The general principle was that war was not war merely between Governments or between Navies and Armies, but between peoples. If the principle of the hon. Member's proposal were to be adopted, it would be necessary to go far beyond the terms of his proposal. What the hon. Member really wanted was to make war not war at all. It was a universal principle of law that when war broke out all contracts between private subjects of the two belligerents were suspended during the war; therefore, private property was dealt with on land in this respect as much as if it were at sea. What did the hon. Member suppose would be the consequence if his proposal were carried into effect? Commerce would be carried on at sea exactly as if war did not exist, and the two Navies would be pitted against each other as though they were in a cockpit. If the Navies were pretty evenly matched, a good deal of entertainment would be afforded to neutrals, who would probably learn more about the effect of torpedoes, projectiles, and rams than they knew at present. But, assuming them to be unevenly matched, as the Russian and English Navies would be, what would happen would be that, as during the Crimean War, the weaker Power would shut up her ships in her ports, and at sea everything would go on just as though no war existed, and naval hostility would result in what had been called a nautical stalemate. There were two plain and simple objections to the proposition of the hon. Member which he would like to hear answered. The hon. Member had said something about the subject of blockade; but he was unable to understand exactly what were his views upon the point. Nobody doubted that blockade brought the most satisfactory pressure to bear upon an enemy which a great maritime Power could avail itself of. The hon. Member had contended that, in the case of Russia, the pressure would be largely reduced in consequence of the facilities for goods traffic which the railways afforded; but that contention was not well founded to any important extent, inasmuch as there were many classes of goods of a heavy nature which it would not pay to convey by railway. He asked the hon. Member whether, if it had not been for the blockade of the Southern ports during the American War, the North would ever have reduced the South? Could anyone really believe that, in the event of a conflict between this country and France, or Italy, or any other country possessing important ports, the right of blockade would not be of the greatest assistance to us? Railways had, no doubt, modified the conditions somewhat; but, in his opinion, blockade would always remain one of the most important weapons that England could wield in the case of a war with another Power. The hon. Member, however, must admit that the right of blockade could not be maintained in the face of his proposal. If private property at sea were to be exempted from capture, how could a blockade be maintained? Then, again, how did the hon. Member propose to deal with the question of contraband of war? Contraband goods were private property, and if the hon. Member's proposal were adopted, they might be carried by either neutrals or belligerents. Could anyone believe that belligerents would permit goods which were contraband of war to be carried into the enemy's ports? The hon. Member was in this dilemma—he must either not stop contraband or he must preserve all the prac- tical evils to which he wished to put an end. Then, what did the hon. Member propose to do with the ships themselves? In the present state of circumstances ships were the most dangerous contraband of all. It had been lately urged in that House that our great maritime steamers should be kept in a condition that would enable them to be converted into vessels of war upon very short notice; and it was well known that Germany was encouraging the running between Hamburg and the China Seas of large steamers which, at a few hours' notice, could be converted into the most formidable cruisers that any nation in the world possessed; and, by carrying a few guns in their hold, the Cunard, or the Peninsular and Oriental, and similar steamers might equally be turned into vessels of war. Could it be supposed that any belligerent could afford to let such vessels pass through her lines as private commercial ships, when on reaching a vital point they might become powerful engines of war? In the case of war with Germany, if we were to allow such steamers to proceed on a commercial voyage to the China Seas, they might utterly destroy our Australian trade. He asked the hon. Member and those who supported this Motion to give a practical answer to that practical question. If vessels of this character were not to be exempted from the rule of the hon. Member, what was the use of the rule? And, if they were to be exempted, what security had a country like England that her possessions in every part of the world could be effectually defended against the attacks which such vessels might make upon them? There was only one security for a great naval Power—as far as you could and as soon as you could—to sweep the enemy from the seas. Not only must we preserve our right to fight against the Navy of our enemy, but to capture all the ships it possessed and all the means it possessed by which we might be attacked. He would never be a party to any proposition which tended in any degree to diminish the force of the maritime supremacy of England. That was the legitimate arm of this great Empire —that arm by which we defended our extended Empire. He went a great deal further—there was no security in war unless we were strong for offence as well as defence. We made concessions to neutrals in the Declaration of Paris for this reason, or supposed reason— that we should be stronger against our foe when at war. We surrendered something of our power of capture; but we did not inspire the jealousy, the hatred, and possibly the hostility, of neutrals—and now, when we had purchased that right, to turn round to weaken and diminish our power against our enemy would be wholly unjustifiable. We could not cope with the great territorial armies of the Continent. Our natural and our strong arm was our maritime supremacy. He was prepared to support the Government of this country in strengthening and upholding the maritime supremacy of England. This was a proposition which, although it might appear seductive, was unsound in principle and would be highly injurious and unworkable. They could not make war anything less than a terrible scourge. No one was more averse from war than he was. He would do everything in his power to prevent it; but it was necessary to strengthen our arm in order that the blow might be heavy and the war short, sharp, and decisive. His hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone had referred to a speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer not altogether unfavourable to his view; but the right hon. Gentleman distinctly declared against the adoption of a Motion similar to the present. He also referred to an opinion on the same subject expressed by Lord Palmerston; but Lord Palmerston, with that frankness and manliness which belonged to him, afterwards confessed on mature reflection that the idea was an injurious one and ought not to be supported. He did not wish to detain the House any longer on this matter, but one short quotation he would like to make. It seemed to him that this proposition was full of danger. In 1862, the present Prime Minister said— I cannot myself dissociate the interests of nations and of Governments. It seems to me dangerous to do so. It may make rich societies, but will surely make weak States. I cannot believe that armies and navies can flourish when they are no longer bound up with the interests and passions of the community…ֵI do not want to see the community entirely severed in sentiment from those who govern it. Patriotism depends as much on mutual suffering as on mutual success, and it is by that experience of all fortunes and of all feelings that a great national character is created."—[3 Hansard, clxv. 1703–4.] It was because the Motion of his hon. Friend sinned against these principles, that he, for one, should, without hesitation, record his vote against it.


said, it was impossible to discuss this question without bearing in mind that we might possibly be involved in war. His hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, in the opening of his speech, had proved to demonstration that Article 1 of the Declaration of Paris was not worth the paper on which it was written. That Article declared that privateering was abolished—that it was illegal and impossible. But it certainly would be revived under another name. It was revived in the war of Prussia against France, and the course pursued by Prussia was perfectly legal. If we were involved in war with Russia, there was nothing to prevent her employing any number of American ships as privateers against the power of this country. He did not believe in a war party in this country, but we might be forced or dragged into war against our will; and only three weeks ago, the action taken by the British Fleet was such that in the opinion of many we ran great risk of immediate war. We could not shut our eyes to the fact that at this moment we might be—although he hoped not—on the eve of war with Russia. In that case, under the Declaration of Paris, we left Russia every means and power of injuring us, and took from ourselves all means and power of injuring Russia. Mr. Cobden said the geographical position of Russia was such as placed her absolutely at the mercy of any strong maritime Power with which she might be at war. Mr. Cobden made another remark during the long progress of mining operations before Sebastopol. He said— You cannot on the land get behind her to kick her back side. You can only bring your power to bear against Russia by stopping her trade. She could not exist unless she could get rid of her raw produce; but we could exist without her corn. In 1875 the total export of wheat or wheatmeal from Russia was not more than 10,000,000 cwt., whereas what we received from the United States and Canada amounted to over 30,000,000 cwt. Unless Russia could get rid of her raw material she was a ruined country, and could not carry on a war for six months. If we remained under the Declaration of Paris, and if we continued to waive our right to seize the goods of our enemies in neutral bottoms, it would be useless to maintain the principle of blockades. A very high authority, the late Mr. Lindsay, who sat in that House for Sunderland, stated his opinion as to the futility of a blockade under the Declaration of Paris in a paper read before the United Service Institution. Mr. Lindsay said— The blockade of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov was little better than worthless, for in one season alone, while the war was being waged—that commencing in May, 1854—no less than 453 ships, carrying 770,000 quarters of linseed, representing a value of £1,000,000, sailed from those seas—a larger amount by 60,000 quarters than had been previously exported in any one year of peace. Nor does that appear to have arisen from any want of vigilance on our part, for Sir James Graham, the then First Lord of the Admiralty, on the 26th of May, and again on the 1st and 13th of June, 1854, stated in the House of Commons that distinct orders had been sent by the Governments of France and England to institute a 'rigorous blockade' of the principal Russian ports, both in the Baltic and in the Black Sea, and that the effect of that blockade would apply to ships of all nations, whether neutral, French, or English. And Mr. Lindsay added— We cannot remain in the position the Declaration has left us without imperilling our mercantile marine, and with it, not merely the well-being, but the safety, of the nation. He asserted that there was no country which would be affected by the blockade. If we were to blockade France or Russia, those countries could send their goods to other countries by railway. All parties, he believed, were agreed that the Treaty of Paris of 1856 was now no better than so much waste paper. The Conference or Congress was about to assemble because that Treaty was no more. The only point in dispute among hon. Members seemed to be as to who first violated the Treaty of Paris, and who had dealt it the hardest blow. The right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and those who concurred with him, considered that Turkey had done so, because she did not comply with those conditions of the Treaty which had reference to the good government of her own subjects. On the other hand, he, and many others, regarded Russia as the great offender, in having contravened the provisions of the Treaty by interfering with the internal arrangements of Turkey, which was expressly forbidden by the Treaty. Well, the Treaty, which it was supposed greatly benefited us, being now a thing of the past, could it be maintained that we were bound by a Declaration which all sides condemned, and which was made at the same time as the Treaty of Paris, and by the same statesmen, taking the same view of the state of Europe and the world? He contended that it was impossible we could allow the Declaration to remain to our own great injury, when the Treaty concluded at the same time by the same statesmen was no better than waste paper. If his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone pressed the Motion to a division, he should certainly vote for it. The effect of our undertaking a war in the present state of international law would be that the whole of our trade would go away from us, and, at the some time, we should lose all power of injuring our adversary. Moreover, it would be an extremely fortunate thing if we did not also lose our sailors of the Mercantile Marine. It was impossible for us to remain in the position in which we were now placed. We must either take a step in advance, as was proposed by his hon. Friend, or else we must fall back on the ancient international law, and our undoubted right in war to seize the goods of an enemy wherever they might be found.


said, he was as completely opposed to the views of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) as anyone could possibly be. The Motion was so wide, vague, and indefinite, that anything might be included under it, so that the opponents of the Declaration of Paris and the opponents of our maritime rights in time of war could join the hon. Member's supporters. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), in his Amendment, however, stated the thing he wanted, and pointed out distinctly what he desired. The hon. Member had quoted a speech of Lord Palmerston. He (Mr. Serjeant Simon) would quote from another. Lord Palmerston, speaking in 1865, said— My own opinion is, and I hope it will be the opinion of this House, that the principle which the hon. Member for Liverpool recommends"—? and which the hon. Member for Sunderland has recommended to-night— if carried into practice, would deal a fatal blow to the Naval Power of this country, and it would be an act of political suicide."—[3 Hansard, clxv. 1697.] In his opinion it was the duty of a nation, above all other considerations, to maintain its sovereignty and independence. A maritime country like this could only fight with the weapons which nature had placed at her disposal. It was contrary not only to all the recognized principles of international law, but to human nature itself, that one part of a nation should be at peace while the rest were at war or fighting through its mercenaries. If we were allowed to drive a roaring trade while we were engaged in hostilities, we should soon arrive at a state of complete callousness to the sufferings which war entailed. But the truth was, a people could not be dissociated from its Government, and if our Armies went out to fight, the whole nation ought to share their sufferings. He saw no philanthropy at all in sparing your enemy's property while you blew your enemy to pieces from the cannon's mouth. They had been told that this seizure of private property was a relic of barbarism, but that he entirely denied. It would be a return to barbarism if they were to mutilate or kill their prisoners of war. For that they substituted what he would call the civil process—that of sparing, as far as possible, the lives of their enemy, but depriving them of their property. He denied, too, the allegation that private property was held sacred upon land in time of war, and referred to the conduct of the troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, to show that they did not hesitate to destroy the dwelling-houses of the people, and to use the materials for fuel; and, therefore, it was that he had put upon the Paper his Amendment, to the effect that any further restriction of our maritime rights in time of war would be detrimental to our position and to our interests as a first-class Power. Again, the proposition of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) amounted simply to this—that we were to disarm ourselves in the presence of an enemy. No doubt the military Powers would be glad to see us concede the principle contended for, because we should then be as powerless at sea as we were now on land. They might then trample upon our rights, insult us, and defy us with impunity. Supposing we accepted the hon. Member's proposition, and went to war with a Power which kept its Navy in its harbours, there would be nothing. to prevent the so-called hostilities from going on indefinitely. Our enemy would hardly suffer inconvenience, far less injury, his only vulerable point —namely, his commerce—being protected. Earl Russell, speaking on this question since the signing of the Declaration of Paris, said that one reason why foreign nations were unwilling to go to war with this country was, that they felt their property at sea would fall into the hands of our cruisers. If they were sure that they would not suffer in this way, one great reason for their remaining at peace would be taken away. If we carried out the principle advocated by the hon. Baronet, what would be the result? We might send out our Navy to fight the Navy of the belligerent, which, as was the case during the war with Russia in 1856, might be shut up in her ports; and all that time the enemy might be carrying on a rattling trade with this country, and obtaining those means which would enable her to carry on the war while we would be unable to do anything effectual in the way of coercion. It was by crippling the resources of the enemy and impoverishing her that we could secure her defeat and. bring the war to an end. He had never altered his opinion as to the Declaration of Paris. To yield up our right from time to time as occasion required was a very different thing from giving it up altogether, and he believed the time would come when we should be obliged to bid defiance to the Declaration. The Treaty negotiated by Sir William Temple with Holland, after subsisting for. 90 years without any inconvenience, was put an end to in 1606, when, being at war with France, it was found that that country was carrying on a large Colonial trade and obtaining supplies through Dutch vessels; and the result of that Treaty being broken was that the war was brought to a speedy termination. Then, again, what took place in regard to the armed neutrality of 1780? All the nations of Europe, in defiance of existing Treaties, joined with Russia; but, 15 years later, every one of those nations withdrew one by one as soon as they found it inconvenient to their interests to remain. It was. said that we ought not to talk of British interests. He believed a great country like England ought to have no interests that were not consistent with her duties to the world and the rights of humanity; but one of the first interests of humanity was self-preservation, and one of the first duties of a nation was to take care of itself; and he was not aware that a nation like ours needed to be drawn into any act which was not consistent with that duty in its widest sense. British interests meant the interests of humanity; and, England claiming to be at the head of civilization, was bound in duty to herself and to the cause of civilization to maintain her power, and not to yield up one jot of those means which nature and her own prowess had placed in her hand for her own preservation, and, as he believed, for the interests of mankind.


said, he rose under a great difficulty in endeavouring to combat the views of so great a master of international law as his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt). But the question was one which was not to be settled by the dictum of any international lawyer, however eminent. It was a question of policy, in dealing with which every Member of the House might be supposed to stand more or less upon a level. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had charged his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) with drawing his Resolution in such a way as to catch votes. He could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that nothing was further from his intention, and that the words which he had put on the Paper were only representative of his own feelings on the matter. The hon. Member for Maidstone did not, like the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), wish to commit the House to any particular course of action. His hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone had, in his opinion, done good service to the commercial community and to the people at large by forcing the subject upon the attention of Parliament, and endeavouring to obtain from the Government some clear expression of their views with respect to it. Sixteen years had passed since the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then in Opposition, pressed it upon the attention of Lord Palmerston's Ministry in these words— What are we to do now? Are we to go forward, backward, or in what direction? Is the noble Lord prepared to leave the matter to the chapter of accidents, or to say that when war comes is the time when the whole question is to be determined? Again, later on, the right hon. Gentleman said— If the Government will state that they will give the matter their anxious consideration, and make it the subject of negotiation and representation with other countries, I feel assured that my hon. Friend will not feel himself under the painful necessity of dividing the House. Well, the hon. Member for Maidstone did no less and no more that evening. The matter was one about which the House had a distinct right to ask for the guidance of the responsible Advisers of the Crown. It was not a small matter; it was a matter of the very first importance. If his hon. Friend was right, then we were making one of the gravest possible mistakes which a nation could make in not acting upon his advice; while, if he was wrong, he was the advocate of a pernicious and dangerous heresy, which deserved and required to be exposed and refuted. It was a speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's which, perhaps, most of all, infected him (Mr. Grant Duff) with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer would probably now regard as a pernicious heresy; and if the right hon. Gentleman, who now was Leader of the House, could refute it, thereby answering his own—as it seemed to him not easily-answered— speech of March 17th, 1862, he would succeed in bringing back at least one errant lamb to the orthodox fold—a fold out of which the right hon. Gentleman did as much, at least, as anyone else to lead him. Well, then, the arguments that had most effect with him, and to which he should like the right hon. Gentleman to reply, were these. By the repeal of the Corn Laws and the great measures which followed in the same direction, we broke entirely with our old policy—that a nation with its Colonies formed a united organic whole, and should be completely independent of other nations. We gave up that idea, and accepted the theory of national interdependence. But our new theory we had never fully carried out to its logical result. Our old theory contemplated nations as being usually in a state of war, and its arrangements were made to provide against that state of things. Our new theory required us to consider that peace was to be our normal state, and to give expression to that view in our policy; whereas we had kept up a great number of practices which were perfectly reasonable at a time when war was considered the natural state of man. Of all the nations of the world, we had the greatest interest in the prosperity of the others. We could hardly capture a merchantman of any size in any of the seas of the world without in some way inconveniencing some one or more citizens of our colossal Empire. We could hardly blockade any portion of any coast without doing the same, nor could we enforce the right of search for contraband of war almost anywhere without a similar result. A Power in such a position as that had a primâ facie interest, not in keeping up, but in diminishing, the old harshness of belligerent rights at sea. There might be valid arguments on the other side, but the primâ facie interest of such a State was in favour of a mild maritime code; but what were the objections taken to this primâ facie view? His hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone said we had a larger mercantile marine, and especially a larger steam fleet, than all the rest of the world put together; and further, that almost all the most valuable commerce of the world was in our hands. We presented, therefore, a wider vulnerable surface than any other country. He went on to say that commerce, being naturally timid, would have a tendency to fly to the ships of the neutral, where it would be protected by the Declaration of Paris, and that, having once fled, it might take some time to come back to us again. To this it was replied that our fears were exaggerated, that commerce was not as timid as we supposed, that it would not at the first rumours of war take refuge in the ships of the neutral; but how could we get over such facts as those mentioned by Mr. Horsfall in his opening speech in 1862, when he told us that when there was a rumour of this country being involved in hostilities with the French Empire in 1859, second-rate American ships obtained freights in Canton and Calcutta 50 per cent higher than first-rate British ones? Till such facts were met and explained away successfully, we should be right in dreading the effects of the timidity of commerce. Then we were assured that our Navy and the vessels which we could turn into ships of war were so numerous that we could provide convoy for all our most valuable commerce. Those who said so very much underrated the extent of that commerce; and it would be remembered that even in the old war, convoy was inconvenient enough, though it was possible. Now, however, unless our commerce was to shrink to very humble dimensions, it would be absolutely impracticable. Next, we were told that we had such a hold on all the best coaling stations through all the seas, and had so many points of vantage, that we could make it impossible for any enemy to move about. If so, one of the most important advisers of the Government, Sir Garnet Wolseley, must have been sadly mistaken, as anyone might see who read his recent article in the Nineteenth Century review. He himself believed that Sir Garnet's case was overstated; but a far smaller amount of risk than that indicated by him would form a sufficient answer to those who relied too much on our points of vantage. But, turning from what he might call the defensive to the offensive argument, the opponents of the hon. Baronet might say that, whatever might be the difficulties of defending our commerce, we were so tremendously strong at sea, and so comparatively weak on land, that it would be madness to cripple our right arm by giving up the power of capturing the merchant vessels of the enemy. And those who urged that we should give up that right had almost been called unpatriotic for so doing. If that were so, then cadit quæustio. We were certainly not the proper people to urge the change. If he thought that the result of giving up this right of maritime capture would be to cripple the strength of England, he would not be there that night to advocate such a course; but the case which was pressed by the hon. Member for Maidstone was that, far from weakening us, the suggested change would greatly strengthen England by enabling her to apply her strength with far greater effect than she had ever done before. The tendency of modern warfare was to strike at the heart of an enemy—to produce great results by great efforts. A Power which resorted to the trifling kind of warfare which used to be so common, taking this or that little dependency which was often not worth the trouble of keeping when they had got it, would in future wars be the beaten Power, and at the end of the contest would have to pay a very heavy bill to the victor for its small successes. If the hon. Member for Maidstone had his way, our Navy in future wars would be kept for purposes which could really have a great effect on the final issue, for making England and all our points of vantage throughout the world hopelessly unassailable, and for enabling us to strike out wherever our enemy was most vulnerable. If a navy did that, it did a great deal. Suppose, for instance, we ever had to fight in Egypt. Whether should we be stronger if our Navy were engaged in keeping up the communications of our troops there with England and India—the two great reservoirs of our military strength—or in petty and -piratical captures up and down the seas, or in the hardly more glorious duty of acting sheep-dog to our own commerce? That question did not appear to him to admit of a moment's discussion. Then they were reminded that sailors would not like to lose their prize-money. Now, prize-money was not a very dignified inducement at the best, and in future wars might well act against rather than for the interest of a great maritime Power. Wars were now decided, as he had already said, by operations on a great scale, while the tendency of prize-money was to tempt dashing seamen away from the great vessels which figured in great enter-prizes to smaller vessels which waged a petty warfare productive of little but "misery in waste." Then it was said that it would be monstrous if the mercantile ships of an enemy might come into Portsmouth without chance of capture when we were at war. That, however, raised an altogether different question, and had nothing to do with his hon. Friend's Motion. Of course, the mercantile ships of the enemy would not come into Portsmouth unless to bring something that Portsmouth wanted, and would not be allowed to do so unless the existing prohibitions against trading with an enemy had been for some good reason relaxed. Then they were told that the hotter the war the sooner the peace, and that if they allowed the merchant of an enemy to send his goods about as if there were no war, wars would be lengthened intolerably; but the same argument would hold good against every mitigation of ferocity which distinguished modern from ancient war. They would now think it very shocking if, when the Germans entered Champagne, they had made it their business to cut down every vine in the country. To a Greek it would have appeared the most natural thing in the world. It was now thought to be wrong to murder prisoners, and we made very just reflections upon the doings of the unspeakable Turk in that behalf; yet a man, whom an eminent dignitary of the English Church, who was better known, he thought, in that House than any other dignitary of the Church—he meant the Dean of Ely—called the greatest name in history, spoke in the coolest manner of murdering prisoners. Et omnes necavit, he said somewhere, as if he were speaking of the most indifferent action. Then the argument which was sometimes used on his side—not, he thought, a very strong one—that, namely, we should cease to destroy or seize private property at sea because we abstained, to a great extent, from interfering with it on land, was met by the bold assertion that we did interfere with it as much on land as on sea; but that was certainly not so. The practice of recent wars was an immense improvement upon that of the wars even at the beginning of this century. Of course, requisitions were made, and must be made. No one would object to their being made at sea in similar circumstances, but the tendency was always more and more to protect private property on land. He himself knew a house in Prance on the scale of a great English country-house, filled with pictures and books and treasures of all sorts, which lay right in the storm track of the German invasion in 1870. Well, thousands and thousands of Germans passed through it and were accommodated there, but the amount of property carried off was quite infinitesimal. If that great chateau had been a ship, it would have been liable to be carried off by the victor bodily with all its contents.

But some people said—"Well, we do not care so much about the right of maritime capture, but we do care a good deal about the right of commercial blockade." His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford had referred to that subject. Now, here, too, he was perfectly open to conviction, and he should like his hon. and learned Friend to point out any one country with which we were ever likely to be at war which we could successfuly blockade. The whole position of affairs had been altered by railways, and it was now next to impossible to enforce commercial blockades; and if they did enforce them, they would do as much harm to themselves as to their foe. He used to think that the strongest point in favour of the old law by its advocates was made, if he recollected aright, by Lord Palmerston, when he pointed out that blockade was a convenient method of bringing to good behaviour small communities, which might give trouble as some of the South American States had done in time past. He had now, however, come to the conclusion that more direct methods would be better for all concerned. He need hardly remark that nothing he had to say against commercial blockades had anything whatever to do with blockade as a naval operation directed against fortified places or the armed ships of an enemy, or as forming in any way part of an operation of war properly so called. He spoke merely of blockades intended to distress the commerce of an enemy, which blockades, he believed, would usually be in our case a weapon of which the handle would cut as badly as the point. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford had argued that it would be. absurd to abolish contraband of war, but the hon. Member for Maidstone had never dreamt of doing that. All that-the hon. Member wished was that a country situated like England should do its utmost to minimize the list of articles which should be considered contraband of war. There were two schools of thought, one which wished to minimize, and the other to maximize, contraband of war; and he thought it was the interest of England to minimize the number of articles, and the places in which the right of search could be exercised, As to the fear of merchant steamers carrying one or two long guns being sent out for an attack on Australia, he was con- siderably mistaken if their Australian Colonies would not give an extremely good account of any vessels going on such an expedition. Then it was said that shipowners, if protected, would desire war to get war freights. He thought better of them; but, even if they did, even if all the shipowners in the country should wish the country to go to war, their influence would be very small, for they would not have another war unless the vast majority of the people wished for it. It was said it was idle to enter into any such pact as the hon. Member for Maidstone proposed, because a state of war put an end to all Treaties between the belligerents; but that certainly would not be the case with regard to a Treaty which expressly contemplated the attitude which was to be taken up by nations to each other during a war. Once abolish the right of capturing merchant vessels at sea, and no Prize Court in a civilized country would have Judges so infamous as to maintain the legality of a capture made in defiance of engagements which they would hold to be sacred. No Power could say with confidence that, if Great Britain was at war, it would assuredly be neutral. Of all nations in Europe we were the one most likely to pass the greatest number of years out of the next half century in a state of neutrality, and no wise Power could wish the continuance of practices which might at any time turn out grievously inconvenient to itself on the chance of picking up some of the fragments of British commerce which would be broken up by war. But we need not speculate when we could appeal to facts. America, the Power most likely to fight us at sea, and most likely to gain by being neutral while we were fighting, would be, he understood, quite willing to close with the proposal now made—at least, as to maritime capture. He urged those points at this particular time, because it was hoped and believed that there was soon to be a great European Meeting. We should go into that European Meeting under very peculiar circumstances. He did not think that the most self-satisfied Briton thought we should go into that Meeting under very glorious or satisfactory auspices. He did not say to which of the two great Parties that divided politics in this country the greatest blame for that state of things attached, but it must in fairness be to a considerable extent shared by both. Everything in our Eastern policy which, up to 1875, was blessed by all the greatest of our statesmen, had been cursed by events, and everything that had been cursed by all the greatest statesmen of this country up to 1875 had been blessed by events. That could not be an agreeable position for the Government, but they had the opportunity of recovering a great deal of reputation, and writing a glorious page in history. He should like them to accept the views which the hon. Member for Maidstone and others had advanced, and if not officially, at least officiously, to discuss' them with the other Powers of Europe at Berlin. If they were to do that, it was more than probable that results might ensue which would be a great deal more important than even the relaxation of our maritime laws, for which he was most anxious. He believed it was quite within the power of diplomacy and goodwill at that moment to initiate a proposal for the partial and considerable decrease of great armaments. In the whole range of statesmanship there was no object to which it could be more desirable to devote attention, and if the Government took up those views in a fair spirit, it would be in their power to initiate one of the greatest reforms which could be effected by the nations of Europe.


said, he could not agree with the hon. Member for Maidstone in the views he had expressed as to the insufficiency of our Navy to protect our commerce in the event of war. He thought, on the contrary, that the Navy was fully adequate to the task of protecting it, and at the same time of sweeping from the face of the sea that of any other nation with whom we might be at war. It was true that steam navigation, and the ships that were built at the present day, tended to equalize maritime power; but the introduction of steam had equally altered the means as well as the conditions of attack and defence. It might be that an enemy's commerce would be carried on by neutrals; but, whether by land or by sea, this would involve prejudicial restrictions tending to increase the price of goods, particularly where the crossing of a frontier exposed them to the imposition of duties that would otherwise be avoided. These disadvantages, coupled with those of blockade, would put considerable pressure on the populations of large towns and materially influence public opinion in regard to the objects and prosecution of war. There was no analogy between the protection of property on land and its protection at sea; for on land it was the interest of the belligerent to save that which he might require and to conciliate the people on whom he might depend for supplies, and who, for the time being at least, were de facto his subjects, while the destruction of an enemy's commerce by sea was prejudicial to the enemy alone, and might affect his means and his disposition to prolong hostilities. If it were understood that commerce was to be freely carried on during war, a considerable pressure would be removed from classes whose interests were now seriously compromised, and the removal of this pressure would deprive us of one of the guarantees we now possessed against our being lightly plunged into war. That calamity involved the destruction of either property or human life; it was more philanthropic to direct operations against property than against life, and this philanthropic alternative was favoured by the maintenance of belligerent rights at sea. It made property liable to the consequences of war, and it brought home those consequences to persons who would not be affected by the loss of life. They were none of them anxious for war, and hoped it might be averted; but if, nevertheless, they should be engaged in war, the question would arise as to the best way of shortening its duration. Neither on the ground of expediency, nor on that of humanity, did he think they should go any further in the path of surrendering belligerent rights, and he confessed he agreed very much in the ideas which had been expressed on the subject by the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon). We had saved, as far as we could, the rights of neutrals; but if we extended similar privileges to belligerents, we should diminish influences that operated to prevent war, we should increase its horrors, and protract its duration. For these reasons, he must oppose the Motion.


Sir, in rising to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock), I think the most convenient course for me to adopt will be to deal first with the Amendment with which the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) purposes to meet it. I object to that Amendment, because it excludes from view various points of the subject under consideration which require the attention of the Government. I object to it because it concentrates attention upon one point, which, though of great importance, is not the only point in which the maritime law requires amendment. I object to it, also, because the question of exempting from capture private property at sea must be considered in relation to other points. Let me mention a few of these, before I go on to show what is the true interest of this nation with regard to private property at sea. The question of commercial blockades is one of these. Is it not the interest of this country to try and get foreign nations to consent to alter the present rule? At present, blockades can be established against commercial ports as well as naval stations. The only condition is that it is to be effective. A blockade of this character stops all the trade of an innocent neutral with the blockaded port. For instance—if France and Germany were at war, and France blockaded Hamburg, all our neutral trade with Hamburg would cease. Now, in the case of Hamburg, supplies for the inhabitants could be obtained by land. But, suppose that an effective blockade were established against us, and that our commercial ports were closed against the trade of a neutral, our supplies from abroad, which form so large a part of the food of this country, would fail. Comparing the injury we could inflict upon any other foreign nation with the injury they could inflict upon us by a commercial blockade, I think it will be apparent that it would be far more serious to us than to them, from the fact of the food of our people coming in such large measure by sea, while theirs, from the railway system, would come to them by land. You may say our Fleet would render this impossible. Do not forget that the Fleet has other duties to perform, and that we have to protect our Colonies as well as ourselves. Large as our Fleet is, its duties are still larger. But, assuming for a moment that a change in the principle cannot be made in the rule of the Declaration of Paris as to blockades, it appears to me that there are points of detail which might well be made a subject of international law. I refer to what I believe would be an improvement—namely, that no blockade should exist until neutral nations had received notice, by which they would be able to warn their subjects as to the ports to be blockaded, and date at which the blockade would begin. Wheaton says— With respect to violating a blockade by coming out with a cargo, the time of shipment is very material. A neutral ship departing can only take away a cargo bonâ fide purchased and delivered before the commencement of the blockade. Again— After the commencement of a blockade, a neutral is no longer at liberty to make any purchase in that port. Thus, it is plain that the date of the commencement of a blockade is very material in deciding the rights of neutrals and whether cargoes should be seized by a belligerent. The case of the Betsy may be mentioned as illustrating this. And, in order to show that different practices prevail, I may mention there are Treaties which follow one rule—such as that between the United States and Chili, 1832—which prohibit cargo being taken on board after a blockade has begun, while there are others which allow all vessels to depart without reference to the time of taking in the cargo. I now turn to another point, where I hope something may be done. I refer to the question as to conveyance of mails in case of war. In the Treaty of 1848, between the United States and this country, it is stipulated that the mail packet service is to be unmolested for six weeks after notice has been given by the two Governments that the service is to be discontinued. In the interest of commerce, this appears to be a regulation which might well be extended to all maritime nations. And the carriage of mails by neutrals is also a subject which ought to be regulated by an international rule. During the late Civil War, a Correspondence took place between Mr. Seward and this country, which resulted in the American Government declaring that public mails of a friendly and neutral power, duly authenticated as such, should not be searched. Mr. Seward— 21st April, 1863—wrote, proposing a general regulation as. to the immunity of public mails. It does not appear to have been followed up by any results. I hope that this point may be arranged. Another point appears to me to be of great importance. Wheaton, in his Elements of International Law, says— It appears, then, to be the modern rule of international usage, that property of the enemy found within the territory of the belligerent State, or debts due to his subjects by the Government or individuals, at the commencement of hostilities, are not liable to be seized and confiscated as prize of war. This rule is frequently enforced by Treaty stipulations, but unless it be thus enforced, it cannot be considered as an inflexible though an established rule. Sir William Scott (Lord Stowell) says the principles of reciprocity guide us; but as we have far more property in foreign countries than they have in our country, surely it is to our interest to extend the principle laid down in the commercial Treaties referred to by Wheaton, and make it a rule of international law, that property of an enemy found within the territory of a belligerent State at the commencement of hostilities is not liable to seizure and confiscation? The date as to the outbreak of hostilities between two countries is also a matter of great importance, for it regulates the relation of a neutral with the belligerent. Formerly, a formal declaration of war was necessary; but that is not so now, and there appears to be good reasons why the old practice should be returned to in the interest of the neutral. Manning says— Though there are numerous instances in which war has been, entered into without any notice (Franco and England in 1756, America and England in 1812), yet they are exceptions, and according to the usage of nations war should be proclaimed by manifestoes. The recall of Ambassadors is usually considered as tantamount to a declaration of war. In our Treaty with Portugal in 1812, it is declared by the 21st Article that a rupture of pacific relations is not to be regarded as taking-place till the recall or dismissal of the respective Ambassadors. This Article has been adopted by Brazil in her Treaty with France in 1826, with Prussia in 1827, with Great Britain in 1827, and with Denmark in 1828. It would be well if this Article were generally adopted, as it would prevent the many disputes and difficulties that arise from the want of power to ascertain the date when hostilities have commenced. For these reasons, and many others which I cannot now stop to name, I think that an inquiry into the subject should not be limited, as proposed by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley).

I now address myself to a question which, if carried against the views that I hold, would be fatal to the Motion before the House. It is this—Can you make a Treaty which shall be binding upon two belligerents when they are at war with each other; or, in other words, do not all Treaties come to an end in war? The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bourke) said, last year, in a debate on this subject—"It was impossible to look on the Amendment"—Mr. Jacob Bright's Amendment had in view the same object as this Motion— As it was 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 lay down rules which should be binding as between belligerent and belligerent. Now, if that view were the correct one, it would be fatal to this Motion; therefore, I must try to show that that view is not correct. I think that can very easily be done; for the Declaration of Paris in its first clause is an engagement between belligerent and belligerent. The right of privateering can only be exercised upon a belligerent, and therefore the hon. Member is in this dilemma-—that he approves of a document, one part of which appears to him to be idle and futile? Well, has it been idle and futile? No one will say so. Privateering has not been resorted to by any nation since the Declaration of Paris, and it is important to point out that 40 other nations have agreed to it. But there are numerous other Treaties which contemplate a state of war. In the Treaty of 1794 between this country and the United States—for the words are "in the event of war"—debts are not to be confiscated. The Treaty of 1848, which refers to the carriage of mails, also contemplates a state of war, for it says "that the mail service, in the event of war, is to go on unmolested until six weeks' notice is given." All Treaties which prevent debt due to them being confiscated in time of war prove the point, for they contemplate a state of war. Such were the Treaties between Great Britain and Russia, 1766; Austria and Russia, 1785; France and Russia, 1787; and many others. Sir, I think, therefore, there is no force in the remark that you cannot bind a belligerent in time of war; and, that being so, I next ask if it would be well for us to make a rule that private property at sea should be exempt from capture? Manning, quoting Montesquieu on this subject, says— The law of nations is naturally founded on this principle—that different nations ought in times of peace to do one another all the good they can, and in time of war as little injury as possible, without prejudicing their real interests. What is our real interest? is the question. And here the question assumes this phase—In what way shall we best protect our commerce and mercantile marine in the event of war? And the first effect, if the Declaration of Paris remains unchanged, would be that the neutral, being protected, would become immediately the great carrier of our imports. I need not point out that this means the transfer of our carrying trade into foreign hands. Our ships would either have to be laid by idle in port, or would be bought by the neutral. Sir, this means the loss of one of the largest trades in this country, and the loss of the means of importing the food we want in our own ships. The tonnage of this shipping is over 7,964,570 tons, and is four times larger than that of any other nation. But, it will be urged, if you exempt from capture our private property at sea, you will deprive us of the means of destroying the mercantile marine of other nations. True; but they will not be able to destroy ours, and ours being four times the size of any other nation, it is easy to estimate which will suffer the most. Again, other nations supply their wants, from their geographical position, by land. We, from our insular position, cannot do so. Here, again, if we do not take this step, we are more vulnerable than other nations. Exempt private property, and we become equal to moot any emergency that may arise. It appears to me that the mistake made by persons who examine this subject is this-—that they confine the attention entirely to the offensive side, and neglect the defensive side of it. Examine it from the first point of view, and I can understand those who say it would not be well to tie our hands by saying that we should not capture private property at sea. Examine it from the other point of view, and you will see that it is of immense importance to prevent an enemy capturing our private property at sea. And, balancing the two sets of opinions, the latter must predominate; for, as it was well said, the injury to be inflicted on the commerce of any nation is not to be measured by the magnitude of the attacking force, but by the importance of the interest attacked. The destruction of the American marine by two or three badly-armed vessels—the Alabama, &c.—is an illustration of this. But, in our case, the damage would be greater, simply because we have many more ships afloat. I might illustrate my position by comparing it to that of two men about to fight, one of whom has lost two fingers, while the other has lost his right arm. Our position would be like that man who had lost his two fingers, and our opponent would be in the position of the other who had lost his right arm. I now pass on to consider the reason why a different rule should prevail on land to that which prevails at sea. On land, private property, by modern practices, is not confiscated. Why should it be at sea? No doubt there is some difference. A great many American authorities are for the proposed change; and it is also supposed that at the time of the Declaration of Paris, Continental authorities would not have opposed the change. One American authority, however, Dana, in his notes to Wheaton, says— That, though you ought not to take private property on land, you ought to do so on sea. Two of his reasons, shortly, are as follows:— You ought not to take it on land, because (1) there are such infinite varieties of kinds of property, some being almost sacred, and it would be difficult to discriminate between them; (2) because non-combatants need to be kept alive. And he says— That on sea those reasons do not apply, as cargoes are usually pure merchandise. Now, I fail to see that there is any force in the opinion that you cannot separate sacred objects from secular. Why should you confiscate corn on board a ship and not on land? Why should you confiscate ships at sea and not railway carriages or horses on land? Both are the means of transport, and both may be used to facilitate the means of supply of the enemy. Then, he says that non-combatants need to be kept alive. Yes, that is true; and it is that very point which causes us to wish that private property at sea should be exempted from capture, for that private property is the food of our people. It is true that cargoes are pure merchandise; but it is equally true that the merchandise is necessary for the food of the people, and— I venture to say—if stopped, would cause a famine of such a character that no Government could carry on the war which was the cause of it.

There is one more point, and that is the Colonies. Our Colonial shipping, which is very important, would be subject to capture. Now, I have no doubt of the attachment of the Colonies to us; but it would be a rude strain upon that attachment to be involved in war—into which we had entered without consulting them—about which they are only remotely interested. Self-interest would pull one way, and attachment to the old flag another. I would urge this most seriously upon the House, that the present rule is fraught with great danger to our Colonial Empire.


observed that this debate appeared to have assumed somewhat of an academical character, a result that naturally followed from the vagueness of the Motion, which did not raise any distinct issue for determination by the House. The question under discussion was a legal one which required to be carefully analyzed, and with all due deference to the hon. Members who had addressed the House upon the subject, and especially to the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), it appeared to him that they had confused together things which had no possible relation to each other. He proposed to analyze the subject as briefly as possible. Two questions arose in considering this matter— the first relating to the freedom from capture in time of war of all private property at sea belonging to an enemy, and the second relating to the freedom from capture of belligerent property in neutral ships. It was perfectly true that the practice as to the capture of private property on land in time of war differed from that of private property at sea. Private property on land was not captured, and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford was wrong in stating that the making of requisitions by an army in occupation of an enemy's country was the same in principle as the capture of private property. The two matters rested upon totally different principles. An army in occupation of an enemy's country stood in the place of the Sovereign, and it exercised sovereign rights, including the levying of taxes and the making of requisitions, which were altogether different from that of capturing private property on land. But if private property on land was exempt from capture, why was it that private property at sea should be liable to capture? The answer was a very simple one. War in itself was a calamity, and it brought grievances and lamentable consequences upon the peoples engaged in it, which led them to bring them to an end as speedily as possible. If private property at sea were exempt from capture, belligerents would not find themselves distressed by the stoppage of trade, and the want of the means of subsistence, and of luxuries, and wars would in many cases become chronic. An historian had told us that peace was concluded between this country and France because our people had got tired of drinking port and sherry and wanted to drink claret, which was unobtainable during the war. At any rate, the want of means of subsistence brought about by a war was a strong incentive to peace. This was a sufficient justification of the practice now in force that rendered private property of an enemy liable to capture in time of war. He maintained that the right of blockade and the right of capturing contraband of war were perfectly distinct from the question now in debate. We were the greatest commercial maritime Power in the world, and it was our interest rather to enlarge than to. restrict the rights of neutrals with regard to commerce. He trusted that we should not be belligerents for a great many years. For some time past it had been supposed that there was a danger of our becoming belligerents; but Her Majesty's Government had very wisely kept out of that danger. He trusted that, whatever grounds there had been for supposing this country would be involved in a great war, they existed no longer. He thought the policy of this country would render it probable that, whatever complications might arise on the Continent, this country would steer clear of them. There were many reasons of prudence why, being a small country, we should not mix ourselves up in wars which were carried on by millions of men. Supposing, then, that we were neutrals, and the Declaration of Paris was in our favour, the broader the rights of neutral commerce were the better for us. Supposing, however, we were belligerents, no doubt our rights would be to some extent restricted, because we could not capture the goods of the enemy on board the ships of neutrals. It was said that our enemy would immediately transfer all his trade to neutral bottoms. But it was not an easy thing for a country to give up all its. trade and to trust entirely to neutral carriers. Practically, this would not be done, and whatever Power we might be at war with, we should find there were plenty of its ships to capture if we thought proper to do so. Besides, if the enemy were to resort to neutral bottoms to carry his trade, we might do the same thing. We were the greatest naval Power in the world, and there was no reason to doubt that we should not remain so. He felt confident that if we went to war with any country, our naval power would be sufficient to protect our trade better than our enemy could protect his. He had made these remarks with a view to consider the question legally and in a dry manner, and he believed he had made good the position he undertook to establish. His opinion was that there was no sufficient reason for altering the Declaration of Paris, and therefore he should vote with the Government on this subject.


said, that the hon. and learned Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer) had, in discussing this question, said that it partook of a somewhat academical character; but he would address himself strictly to the question of policy involved in the Motion before the House. The greatness of the country rested absolutely on it's maritime enterprize and position; and any act calculated to strike at the maritime elements of this country would have to be deprecated as an act hostile to the natural interests of the British Empire. The question was whether the Declaration of Paris was an act that did strike at the interests of this country. There was no doubt that much popular misconception existed as to the character of the Declaration of Paris. By it this country certainly renounced practices to which she had had recourse repeatedly, and particularly during the tremendous conflict with the first Napoleon. But it was not correct to say that in this Declaration English Ministers, for the first time, had renounced certain maxims that had been the immemorial maxims of this country, which it had steadily and inflexibly maintained under all conditions in its foreign relations. He had listened to the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) and the hon. and learned Member for Wexford, and it might be thought dangerous for one like himself, who was not a lawyer, to say anything of the dicta of international writers. He did not, however, think the principles laid down by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford—however much they might be supported by grave legal authorities—were to be taken as rules for policy. In his opinion, the rulings of jurists proved merely facts of law—that at such a time such particular things were sanctioned by the existing code, but had no value whatsoever in relation to points of policy. Now, no one could dream for a moment to assert that the practices condemned by the Paris Declaration were not sanctioned by jurists of high repute, and had not been enforced by this country very freely. But it would be a serious misstatement of facts to allege that those practices had been the invariable usage of this country at every period prior to 1856. The general impression, however, was that the Declaration of Paris was an act of apostacy from the old law and rule of the country, and that it established for this country a new regulation for which there was no precedent in its history. He (Mr. Cartwright) denied that this was the case. The hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) had referred to the Treaty concluded with the Dutch by Sir William Temple, in which the principle of "free ships making free goods" had been embodied; but he said that this Treaty had been at once repudiated on the next outbreak of war, and he left the House to infer that this had been a solitary renunciation of the right to capture enemies' goods in neutral ships on the part of this country, and that the renunciation had thus been again finally revoked on the first occasion of war. He admitted that the Treaty in question had been abrogated, and the stipulation in regard to the immunity of neutrals had been set aside. But the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury had entirely omitted to state that the same stipulation had been embodied in various other and some highly important international instruments made by this country. Oliver Cromwell, who was not a ruler disposed lightly to waive any point of right, had conceded the same conditions in favour of neutrals to Portugal by a Treaty concluded in 1654. What was, however, still more to the point, was the fact that this condition was contained, also, in various Treaties made by this country with France—the earliest being in 1677 — and that it was especially embodied in the Treaty of Utrecht, which closed a long war with that country. By the 17th Article, the principle of free ships making free goods was expressly sanctioned between the two countries; and, what was of capital importance, was the fact that when in 1786 Mr. Pitt concluded his Treaty of Commerce with France, he inserted in its 20th Article, word for word, the clause of the Utrecht Treaty that embodied that principle. The Treaty of 1786 was devised by Mr. Pitt himself, and was intended by him to open a new era of commercial freedom. This instrument was subjected to the keen criticism of an Opposition which, in this House, had Fox and Sheridan in its ranks; every clause was disputed, and every Form of the House resorted to, in order to prohibit debate and defeat the measure; ingenuity racked its brain in order to challenge the conditions of the Treaty, and some of the hostile pleas were positively puerile; but no objection whatever was taken in either House against the stipulation that free ships should make free goods, except by two Members, and then quite incidentally. In the House of Lords, Lord Lansdowne, in the course of an elaborate speech, glanced at the stipulation regarding neutrals; but in no manner did he lay any stress on the point as one of importance. Now, this proved conclusively that at that time the feeling of the country was not keenly enlisted in the assertion of the principle advocated by those adverse to the Paris Declaration. The truth was, that it was consequent on the exasperation begotten out of the long and deadly Napoleonic struggle that practices came to be adopted that caused more liberal principles to be wholly lost sight of. The feeling that came to be predominant in the course of this internecine conflict impelled this country to lay hold of everything as a possible weapon with which to deal a blow, and so both parties came to be animated with furious passions. The unreasonable decrees of Milan and Berlin were replied to by the Orders in Council, and so it came about that extreme proceedings were had recourse to as founded on right; and, notably, it was held as essential to maritime warfare to seize an enemy's goods wherever they might be found. But that the principle of "free ships, free goods" would not have been lost sight of by this country but for the heat and passion engendered within the circle of this Napoleonic contest, is shown by the fact that it survived in international instruments with countries outside the sphere of this conflict. The stipulation originally conceded by Cromwell to Portugal was confirmed in two subsequent Treaties, and remained in force down to 1809. The same happened with Spain. The principle "free ships, free goods" had been conceded to that country in 1655, and was renewed in every Treaty made down to 1796; and, what is more, in the opinion of eminent jurists, it was again confirmed in the terms of the Treaty of Madrid of 1816—so that, in the opinion of Lord Clarendon, if Russia had, before the Paris Declaration, during the Crimean War, put her goods in Spanish bottoms, they would have escaped capture by our vessels. But the real question was— what was the condition in which we were left by the Declaration of Paris? Was it a complete instrument, or an incomplete one? And, if the latter, was it an instrument in regard to which it was desirable, or even possible, to go back, or necessary to go forward? He ventured to affirm that there was not a single Member of that House, however vehement he might be in denouncing at present the Paris Declaration, who would dare, if in a responsible position, to come down with a distinct proposition to recede from its stipulations. To go back to the state of things that existed before the Declaration at the present hour of day was a sheer impossibility; because to attempt that would simply be to bring them into collision with facts which no practical politician could venture to ignore. The Paris Declaration was merely the public recognition of facts; and that recognition, as regarded belligerent rights, had been going on for some time. It was not many years since this country claimed, and sought to enforce, a most stringent right of search. It was not many years ago, again, that this country claimed, and did enforce, to the point of war, the right of impressing British sailors wherever found. But both claims had been modified, and at last had been quietly abandoned, in deference to the fact that the feeling of other nations would not allow of their being admitted, as was the case in bygone times. Those rights had been dropped now many years, and it would be impossible to resuscitate them. Precisely the same causes were at work in bringing about the changes recorded by the Paris Declaration. It merely registered modifications that were the unavoidable consequences of an altered condition of society. The circumstances under which war would now be carried on had materially altered of late years; and if we were to exercise the maritime rights barred by the Declaration of Paris, we should not be able to bring, through that exercise, that degree of pressure to bear upon belligerents which formerly resulted therefrom; because commerce and trade, which would formerly have been dependent for transport mainly on the highways of the sea, and would have been suppressed by our naval armaments, now would escape seizure by being carried overland by means of the network of railways which existed throughout the world. Had we, then, arrived by this Declaration at a settlement which put our commerce in a position of safety in time of war? His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford had stated that the principles and rules laid down by the Declaration of Paris simply affected neutrals, that they conferred an advantage upon neutrals, but in no way benefited belligerents. There might be some technical legal foundation for that statement; but, as far as policy and practice went, the rules of the Declaration affected belligerents quite as much as they did neutrals, because they afforded to a belligerent protection for a certain portion of his commerce and trade, but only for a certain portion; and his contention was that the Declaration of Paris was imperfect from the fact that the protection which it afforded was merely partial. The protection which was afforded by the Paris Declaration practically covered all trade except the shipping trade. If war were declared to-morrow, the industry of the country might securely protect itself by putting its produce under neutral flags, with the single exception of that important branch of our industry which was connected with shipping. The mercantile shipping was the corner-stone of the greatness of this country. In the event of a declaration of war, our mercantile shipping must, therefore, cease to exist, except so far as it could put itself under the protection of foreign neutral flags. But it was notorious that to transfer shipping to another flag was a process of great difficulty, and that in regard to some countries—especially the United States—the law actually rendered that almost impossible. Therefore, as the Declaration now stood, that capital branch of our industry—the shipping interest—was under positive disadvantage to secure protection in time of war, and was exposed to risks from which all other trading interests were guarded. That was the reason why he subscribed to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone, who, for the allegations which he had made in his speech, had the authority of various bodies in this country, who spoke with great weight on the subject. In 1860, a Memorial was presented to the Board of Trade from the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, in which it was very clearly set forth that the Declaration of Paris protected only a certain portion of our industry, and exposed our shipping to grave peril in time of war; while a Committee of that House, which sat about the same time to inquire into the state of our shipping, drew up a most elaborate Report, one chapter of which dealt expressly with belligerent rights. The Committee, which was composed of highly competent Gentlemen—the sole survivor of whom in the House was the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck)—unanimously reported their hope that the time had come when all private property not contraband of war would he exempt from capture at sea. He did not believe there was any hon. Member who would venture to say that we must undo that which was done by the Declaration of Paris, and that we should go back to those extreme rights, which could only be found in the lumber-room of ancient history. The Declaration, though an imperfect instrument, was in harmony with the requirements of the age; and he felt convinced that these requirements demanded, as a matter of policy, that it should not be left in its present incomplete form, but should be carried further in the direction pointed to by the hon. Member for Maidstone.


said, that in the course of the debate the Declaration of Paris seemed to have been the object of attack. On the one hand, it had been described as too favourable to the belligerents; and on the other, as not half favourable enough; but he hoped to be able to show that the Declaration was both right and wise. In any case, he was sure that if we were to repudiate any of the doctrines it laid down, we ought not to wait till we were involved in war, and till it became our interest to repudiate them. We had signed it, and it had been the solemn act of the Ministers of the time, from which we ought not to depart except in time of peace. He contended that the Declaration embodied wise and politic views, which ought to meet with the approval of the House, and that it went just far enough, and not too far. The hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Grant Duff) had said that he felt some trepidation in combating the views of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), and he was not surprised at that; for, though he seldom happened to agree with the hon. and learned Member, he had hardly ever listened to a speech more temperate and moderate, more reasonable or better reasoned, than the speech of the hon. and learned Member. He quite agreed with the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs, that if this country chose to pledge itself that the merchant vessels of the enemy should not be liable to capture, there would be no difficulty in adopting such a course. No doubt, if England were to say that in time of war maritime capture would not be resorted to, such a declaration would be binding, and would not be rendered void by any hostilities; for neither England nor any civilized country could afford to disregard such an engagement; but the point was whether it was expedient that such an engagement should be made, and that was a question which, in his judgment, international lawyers were not peculiarly competent to decide, and which depended upon policy, and came with the scope of the Houses of Parliament. He would ask the House to consider for a moment what the Declaration of Paris involved. It dealt with four subjects, and was a solemn record that the high contracting parties had come to an unanimous opinion upon four points —first, that privateering should be abolished; secondly, that a free flag should cover free goods—that is, that goods in neutral bottoms should not be subject to seizure; thirdly, that neutral goods in an enemy's vessel should not be liable to capture or confiscation; fourthly, that blockades should not be merely paper blockades, depending on a simple declaration, but that they should be really effective. Those were the four subjects dealt with by the Declaration of Paris; and it had, in fact, altered the existing international law upon no more than two points. It could not be questioned that privateering was lawful prior to that Declaration, and that enemy's goods in neutral bottoms were liable to seizure. Indeed, at that time some countries went further, and said that not only were such goods of enemies liable to seizure, but also the vessels in which they were carried. That was the doctrine of France; but it was not recognized either by this country or by America and several others of the highly civilized nations, who had held the doctrine that the goods of a belligerent in neutral vessels were liable to be seized, but the vessels themselves were free. As for the other two points with which the Declaration dealt, the principles involved, both as regarded neutral goods in enemy's vessels and the efficiency of blockades, had been well recognized before the Declaration was made. The Declaration of Paris with respect to them was simply declaratory law. Consequently, when the question came to be thrashed out and considered in all its bearings, it resolved itself into this—whether it was expedient to abolish privateering, and to declare that the goods of belligerents in neutral bottoms should be exempt from capture. Those were really the two questions which had to be considered. There remained the very grave question whether the Declaration of Paris went far enough in one direction or did not go too far in another? Let the House consider the question of privateering. Had any body in that debate ventured to approve the old system of privateering, or advanced any argument to show that it was wrong at the time of the Declaration of Paris to abolish it? Of course, the Declaration only bound the Powers who were originally parties to it, or who had subsequently acceded to it; but he thought it would hardly be contended seriously that it would be politic to resort in future to a system of privateering. What was privateering? Why, nothing more nor less than licensed piracy? And, surely, what they all desired was that if, unfortunately, there must be war, it should be conducted on something like humane principles. It was, therefore, surely wise in those who came to the conclusion that the principles of the Declaration of Paris should be adopted to say that for the future they would not resort to privateering; that, if they carried on naval warfare, it should be carried on by ships of war regularly commissioned by the Government, and not by vessels bearing letters of marque which were simply authorized pirates. They could have no control over any of the actions of a man whose vessel was licensed to roam over the seas and prey on the commerce of the enemy, and why, then, should they sanction such a mode of warfare? He next came to the question whether the Declaration of Paris with regard to goods being free when carried in a neutral bottom could in the least be complained of? Some persons thought that belligerents ought to be at liberty to seize enemy's property when carried in neutral vessels, and that great advantage might accrue from the exercise of that right. On that point, let them consider first and foremost the interests of this country. Much had been said about the general interests of mankind; but he ventured to assert that the general interests of mankind were to a great extent bound up with the interests of this country, and that if England ceased to be powerful, and was crippled or paralyzed in her action, the interests of mankind in general would suffer. The question then arose whether, on the whole, if they declared that enemy's goods in neutral bottoms might be seized, any advantage would be secured to England? When a war was waged between two Powers, and the neutral was liable to have his vessels stopped and searched, and any enemy's goods in them taken and confiscated, a great evil was inflicted on the neutral so concerned; and when they considered the position of England at the time of the Declaration of Paris, they ought to ask themselves whether she would probably be more frequently at war or be more frequently neutral? If it was the normal condition of things that England should be engaged as a belligerent, it might be said that it would be a disadvantage to her to be deprived of that right. But they must consider that, as a general rule, England would not be at war, but would be a neutral power, and she would naturally desire that her carrying trade should not be unduly interfered with. Under the old rule, the mercantile marine of neutrals was greatly harassed; and what was done at the time of the Declaration of Paris by the advisers of this country was that they said those great Powers with whom they wore making that contract probably would be more often at war than we should, and that if we subscribed to the Declaration, then in all cases where England happened to be a neutral—and she would most frequently be so—the adoption of that Declaration would be of great benefit to her. If she were a belligerent, no doubt the old rule might be of some advantage to her in enabling her to take enemy's goods from neutral vessels, and carry the matter into the prize courts; but they had to consider what would be the balance of advantage and disadvantage in the long run; and the conclusion come to at the Declaration of Paris was that it would be most to our interest that our carrying trade should not be interfered with, and, further, that we should not produce the enmity which was formerly produced against us by our attempts to enforce the old rule. Therefore, he held that it was wise and right that the other great Powers and this country should have yielded somewhat of the rights which they possessed under international law independently of that Declaration, and should have been willing for the future to agree that goods carried in neutral vessels should be covered by the flag of the neutral, and should not be liable to seizure and confiscation. Then came the question, would it be well to extend the Declaration of Paris further than it had been extended, and to say that not only should goods carried by neutrals be free from seizure, but ought we not to exempt all private property at sea from liability to seizure? That was to say, ought they to adopt the views enunciated by the hon. Member for Maidstone, and declare that, in case of war being waged between this country and any other Power, the commerce of the belligerent who was at war with us should be entirely free? That was a very serious question, and there was no doubt a great deal to be said on the one side and on the other. The House would agree with him that whether that should be done or not was a question of policy. If the hon. Gentleman could show that that could be done without detriment to this country, then he would establish his proposition; because he would then show that war might be conducted more humanely than it was at present. The whole question was, could he do so? Now, what was his proposition? The hon. Gentleman laid down that, if we were at war with another country, we should not interfere with its mercantile marine—should not, in fact, interfere with the private interests of the individuals of the belligerent country. The hon. Gentleman's reasoning would drive him to this conclusion, that we should not resort to the right of blockade. Although the hon. Gentleman did not positively say so, he (the Attorney General) thought the hon. Gentleman was driven to the conclusion that we should not interfere with contraband of war. Several hon. Members had contended that by surrendering our rights in this respect we should be doing not only that which was right and proper in the sense of humanity, but that which would be an advantage to this country. But was that so? We were, happily, owing to our insular position, pretty free from all liability to be blockaded by other Powers or to be invaded. Owing to our ideas with respect to liberty, we were not in a position to place great armies in the field. He hoped that, if any occasion should arise, we should be able to place such armies in the field as would conquer our enemies. But, undoubtedly, we were not in a position to place in the field such armies as those which could be placed in the field by great Continental military Powers. Therefore, the great advantage which we possessed was our naval supremacy. It was our naval supremacy that was to insure us safety from attack and to insure to us success in any war which we might undertake. We had a Navy which was, perhaps, superior to any other Navy in the world. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were satisfied that our Navy was equal, if not superior, to the combined Navies of the world. Then, surely this great naval power gave us an enormous advantage, and were we to throw away the whole of the advantages which it conferred upon us? The question was, whether we could yield up those rights which we were entitled to exercise if we were at war with another country without crippling this country? At present we could undoubtedly sweep from the seas the mercantile commerce of any nation with which we might be engaged. Now, surely, that was a great advantage, because the sweeping the seas of the mercantile marine of our opponents would produce distress to our opponents, which it would be difficult for the opponent to combat, and which would lead the people of the country with which we might be engaged in warfare to desire a speedy termination of hostilities. The amount of loss, distress, annoyance, and injury which this country could cause to any Power with which it might be at warfare, through the exercise of naval rights, would be something enormous, and might speedily bring a war to a termination. But, further than that, there was the question of blockade. He knew it was said that blockades were not now so efficient a weapon against our opponents as they formerly were, and he was free to' confess that there was much force in that argument. Science had done a great deal to injure this country in the time of war. That could not be helped. Railways had injured us, and torpedoes had lessened the value of our sailors. Nevertheless, blockade had not ceased to be an efficient weapon which we could wield in time of warfare, and there was no better weapon to which England could resort for the purpose of destroying her enemies than this instrument of blockade. With regard to contraband of war, he knew the hon. Member for Maidstone had disclaimed any intention of giving immunity to contraband of war; but if they adopted the principle on which the hon. Member relied, how could they avoid coming to the conclusion that contraband of war should not be subject to capture? The principle which the hon. Gentleman initiated was this, that all private property in case of war should be exempt from any attack. If a firm sent out from this country or any other country in time of war a cargo of rifles, it would be of great advantage to one of the belligerents to prevent those rifles reaching their destination; but they might be as much private property as a cargo of sugar. Could they, therefore, admit the principle laid down with safety to this country? It seemed to him that it would grievously cripple the country. It was said that it would be chivalrous to give up the advantage we possessed, and that it would be humane. No doubt it would be both; but when we embarked in war we had nothing to do with chilvary and humanity. One read in books of the Middle Ages that knights were always chivalrous, that a knight armed cap-â-pié, when he met another knight, fought with him. It was a natural thing to do, because they were always at war with each other. Accordingly, in old stories, we read that when the first knight met the second, if the second had lost his helmet, or his shield, or his armour, the first knight acted chivalrous, and immediately said to his opponent—"You have lost your helmet, your shield, your breastplate; it is not fair that you should be deprived of these advantages, and so I will deprive myself of my shield, my helmet, and my breastplate, and I will immediately engage with you." And he did, and probably he was killed in the encounter. That, in effect, was just what England was asked to do. Were we, for the sake of chivalry, to forego all the advantages we had in case of war, and to rely simply on our pluck and valour? England's great defence, her greatest reliance, was her Navy; and she was asked to get rid of the great advantage that gave her, and say to the other Powers —"We will forego the right of harassing your mercantile marine; we will not distress your commerce, so as to drive your people to pro- test against the war you are unjustly waging against us; we will strip ourselves of all our advantages, and say, now attack us if you will, and conquer us if you can." He was not prepared to go to that extent. If the great adversaries with whom we might be engaged were to act upon a system of reciprocity, if they would say—"We will reduce our armies to the strength of yours," well and good. But then they would do no such thing. They would, say—"We will keep all our advantages, our conscription, our 200,000, 400,000, or 600,000 men, as the case might be, and you with your small army will fight us. You will have the kindness to relinquish all the rights you have, all the possibilities of waging a successful maritime war against us; but we will forego none of our superiority." That might be a very noble idea, but it was not one which, if acted on, was likely to end in any advantage to this country. If that idea was carried out, he saw nothing but ruin before us. We had got one great advantage—for Heaven's sake let us stick to it! A good deal of sound, cogent argument had been brought to bear upon the matter; but he had failed to be convinced that we should gain any advantage from adopting the course which had been suggested, either with respect to ceasing to exercise our right to clear the seas of the mercantile marine of our opponents, of relinquishing our right to blockade the ports of our opponents, or of foregoing our right to seize the contraband of war that was destined for the service of the Power that might be engaged against us. Instead of gaining advantage, we should suffer the greatest possible detriment, and our position would be one of great jeopardy. To use a homely phrase, we should be fools if we relinquished these advantages on any grounds of chivalry or nobleness. The great statesmen who were concerned in the Declaration of Paris came to the conclusion that it would be no disadvantage to allow letters of marque and privateering, and he thought they were right. If it were agreed that these goods should be free when carried by merchant vessels, that would be an advantage to this country; because, as a general rule, this country would be neutral. He submitted that the Declaration of Paris was wise, and that the ideas of those who would extend its doctrines in favour of freeing all private property from liability to seizure or confiscation were wrong; and he also submitted that those who went in the opposite direction, and contended that we should resort to the old rule, which sanctioned privateering and rendered goods carried in neutral vessels liable to confiscation, were equally wrong. For these reasons, he could not agree to the Motion.


said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had based his defence of the Declaration of Paris, as he stated, on the lowest ground—namely, that as we were more likely to be neutrals than belligerents, and neutrals for a longer period, our gain would be in proportion. But if this was a question of proportion, if it was an arithmetical comparison of gain and loss, why, if the principle was right with respect to the Declaration of Paris, should it not also be right with respect to the proposal of his hon. Friend? Our ships of commerce were greatly in excess of those of any possible enemy, and our gain would be in proportion if private property were exempt from capture. Another argument in favour of the proposal was that we, of all nations in the world, had most to gain by free commerce. We had adopted free trade, our lives were bound up with it; we could not maintain the population we had in this country unless we could obtain supplies from other countries. There was, he believed, only one speaker—the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham)—who regretted the Declaration of Paris, as he held that if we were to be embroiled in war that Declaration would operate altogether in favour of Russia and against us. Now, it was very strange that, although the Declaration of Paris followed the Crimean War, the principles of the Declaration were observed throughout the Crimean War; and if we did not find the principles of that Declaration so entirely crippling us during the Crimean War, why should we conclude that for the future we should be so crippled by maintaining them? The most formidable opponent of the proposition of the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) was the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt). But he was sure that that hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to find as good arguments on a future day in favour of the new proposition as he had found to-day in favour of the old. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that the proposition did not go in the direction of the Declaration of Paris, which was a concession to neutrals; while this was an offer of immunity to belligerents. That might be perfectly true, but it hardly disposed of the proposal. When we communicated the Declaration of Paris to the other Powers which were not signataries to the Treaty and invited them to accede to it, there was one Power —the United States—which refused unless the proposal of his hon. Friend were added. Now, if there was any country interested in the rights of neutrals, and which sought to preserve the commerce of neutrals untouched, it was the United States. Their whole foreign policy was to have nothing to do with foreign complications. Why did the United States refuse to accede to the Declaration of Paris unless this proposal were added? Because it was a proposal which carried on a long series of alterations, from the Middle Ages downwards, in the direction of making war a matter of organized armies and fleets, to be separated from the civil and the mercantile life. In the early ages the character of war was of the most barbarous description. In spite of what the hon. and learned Member for Oxford had said, we did not now, in military operations, attack the property of private citizens. Even in the matter of requisitions, that was strictly an expropriation by the invading army of the property of private citizens; but a title was given them in exchange which might be liquidated hereafter. That, in itself, showed that the property of private citizens was not taken away, because a title to compensation was given to them. The question was, should we carry the same principle into operation at sea? The hon. and learned. Member for Oxford said they could not suppose, if two Powers were at war, that the one would allow contraband to be carried in the ships of the other without seizing it. That argument had also been used by the Attorney General, who quoted the Declaration of Paris; but he made an important omission, for contraband of war was specially excepted. It was still liable to seizure. That was his answer to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. Although free ships made free goods, the immunity thus given did not extend to contraband; and if the merchant ships of an enemy were exempted from liability to capture, there would still be an exception if contraband was carried in them. His hon. and learned Friend asked what was to be done with the mercantile ship which, with the big guns in her hold, might be speedily converted into a most formidable ship of war? Why, the ship in that case would be condemned. It would be carrying contraband. But it would be a prime care on the part of owners of ships that their mercantile character should be so stamped upon them that they could not be mistaken or open to suspicion. Then, it was said, they must give up blockade. His hon. and learned Friend said, see what blockade did in the Southern States of America; but for blockade they never would have given in. But the Southern States were absolutely exhausted in a military point of view, so that collapse could not be long delayed. They were told that the military spirit of the nation would be destroyed if this Motion were carried. He had no fear of such a result. It was absolutely contradicted by the temper of the nations around them. He should therefore give his vote with the utmost goodwill for the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone.


Sir, I should not have thought it necessary to take part in this debate but for one circumstance. I confess it appears to me, after the very able speeches which we have heard to-night, it is hardly necessary for anyone to enter at any great length into the arguments advanced; and I feel that the more because, in spite of the ability and ingenuity of the speeches we have heard to-night, I cannot but fancy there is a certain amount of unreality in the whole debate, and that it has hardly been so practical as could have been wished. I, however, find myself obliged reluctantly to trespass for a few minutes on the House on account of the personal appeal and challenge made to me earlier in the evening by the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs (Mr. Grant Duff). The hon. Gentleman was good enough to remind me that in 1862 I took part in a debate on a similar Motion by the late Mr. Horsfall, and made a speech which, he said, converted him to the opinions which have been expressed by the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock). I have referred to that speech, and I find there are a good many things in it which are very well put, if I may say so, and that I am not at all disposed to shrink from. Now, I will venture to read a passage from the beginning of that speech, and then another from near the end of it. On that occasion the Motion before the House was— That the present state of International Maritime Law, as affecting the rights of Belligerents and Neutrals, is ill- denned and unsatisfactory, and calls for the early attention of Her Majesty's Government. In speaking to it, I said I considered that the adoption of the Resolution would lead to very undesirable and embarrassing results, and I therefore earnestly hoped the hon. Member (Mr. Horsfall) would not press it to a division. And, towards the conclusion of the speech, I said that the Resolution as it stood was merely abstract, and I should hesitate to vote for such a Resolution—a merely vague Resolution which might be adopted by persons holding the most opposite views of the matter. Those were the ideas I had at the time, and practical experience of this debate has shown that they were not very wide of the mark. The Motion of the hon. Member for Maidstone, which is exceedingly vague and general, is to be supported by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), who advocates the exemption of private property from capture at sea in all cases, and by the hon. Member for West Cumberland (Mr. Percy Wyndham), whose view is that maritime law is unsatisfactory because we ought to get rid of the Declaration of Paris. When I find a Resolution is proposed in terms which enable Gentlemen of such divergent views to support it, I think I am justified in saying, as I said 16 years ago, that I do not consider it is one on which it is desirable we should be called upon to vote. At the same time, I am perfectly prepared to admit that there is force in the argument the hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs has put forward upon the subject of the inconvenience which, no doubt, we subject ourselves to by exercising the right to the capture of private property; but I do not think that is the only question to be considered. It is a matter of a very complicated character, and you have to weigh the advantages on one side against the disadvantages on the other. I quite admit that if it was merely a question which of two nations could reduce one another by the simple process of a commercial blockade, the embarrassment of a nation which had a small commerce preying upon the large commerce of England would be such that in many eases if would outweigh the advantages we should gain from our power to cripple an enemy by seizing his property. Again, I consider that there is great force in what I said 16 years ago, when I stated that in many cases it would be most disadvantageous if, in the event of our being engaged in serious hostilities, we were obliged to fritter away our naval force, that might be employed in important operations, for the purpose of preying upon enemy's goods in all parts of the world. While I say that, I must also say that in many other cases I think the exercise of that right would be one which might be of most essential service to this country, and we ought to think many times before we attempt to lay down a rule which would hamper us in the exercise of that right when it is desirable. Wars are not now conducted in a manner that the efforts of one Power to wear out another would result to the disadvantage of the Power that had the largest commerce. Wars are brought about in a much more speedy manner, and it might well happen that by a strict but short blockade at a proper point you might be able to bring your enemy to submission when you could not do so by other means. It must be borne in mind that we fight with different weapons from those employed by military States. As the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General had said, in the age of chivalry, when a combatant had lost his helmet, his antagonist would throw away his helmet in order that they might fight on equal terms; but if it was the case of one having a long sword and a small gun and the other a short sword and a long gun, if one said'—"Let us lay aside guns and fight with swords," they would not be equal at all. And that would be the case of a large naval and small military Power opposed to a Power which had a strong military but a weak naval element. If we were engaged in war, it might be that the only way we could strike with effect would be to exercise the full power of a naval belligerent, and it might be that that could be exercised only by the pressure you could put on your enemy by commercial blockade, and as incident to that to seize and capture private property. The hon. Member for the Elgin Burghs, in criticizing the speech which I delivered in 1862, reminded me of what he thought I then said favourable to a Motion like the present. I pointed out that in the course proposed by the then hon. Member for Liverpool, there were difficulties in relation to both blockade and contraband of war. We have had several questions raised by my hon. Friend as to what is a blockade and the object of a commercial blockade; and he said he thought they should be done away with, or that they should be minimized as far as possible. I think those are matters to which we ought not to give our assent lightly. They are matters of the most serious importance, whether we can afford to weaken the full strength of the country and cripple ourselves by weakening our right of blockade or giving up our right of seizure in times of war. It must be remembered when we talk of humanity, that there are rights of humanity which are possessed by our own country. If we were engaged in war, our duty to humanity would be to put forward our full strength in the most effective manner, so as to attain our object with the least possible delay and suffering, and it would be no true humanity to make a feeble and weak effort, and thereby, perhaps, prolong the miseries of the war. Now, I admit that there is a great deal to be said on this subject and to be considered; but we do not stand precisely in the same position in which we stood in 1862, and for this reason. In 1862 a few years only had elapsed since the adoption of the Declaration of Paris. The first effects of that Declaration had not then been perceived. It is natural, and it is well, that they should be pointed out, and that the great change effected by allowing a neutral flag to cover an enemy's goods should be pointed out, and the effect of throwing the commerce of the country in a time of war, when they were belligerents, into the hands of neutral Powers. It was natural that the communications with the American Government should have led to a discussion of this particular question of the exemption of private property; and the question being then comparatively new, it was desirable that time should be taken to consider and reflect upon it. But since that time the question has been before succeeding Governments and Parliaments, and more than once discussions have been held in this House. More than once, as I have reason to know, circumstances have arisen which have led to the Governments of the day considering the question so put forward. It was discussed in the various forms in which public questions in this country are discussed; we have had time to consider it, and many new lights have been thrown upon it, which did not exist at the time of former discussions. I think the hon. Member for Maidstone has now arrived at the point which others arrived at 16 years ago—that this was a question which deserved the attention and consideration of Her Majesty's Government. No doubt, as I have said, this is one of those questions which are continually arising in one form or another and demanding public attention; but it does not appear to the Government that it is a matter upon which there are such clear views in favour of a proposal like that submitted by the hon. Member for Sunderland as would justify them in attempting to make proposals to other Powers to give effect to the policy he suggests. What would be the position in which you would stand if you did? What would be the argument you would address to foreign Powers? If we are to start with the views expressed in this debate, we ought to go to the foreign Powers and say—"We are a nation depending mainly upon our naval strength. We think that it would increase our strength if you. agree with us to abolish the right of capture of private property, and therefore we ask you, in the probable or possible contingency of our becoming your enemies, to adopt this principle, which we say is to give us increased strength." That is a rather difficult position for any country to take up. Before we could accept such a proposal as that, we should require to be sure of our ground; and after the discussion which has ensued, and seeing the very divergent views which have been expressed, I would venture to put it to the House whether this is a proposal which should command our attention.


Sir, I will not occupy more than four or five minutes. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to a speech he made in 1862. I am not about to charge him with any inconsistency, because I think there is no inconsistency in what he stated then and what he stated to-night; but I should like to read one passage from a speech made after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion, and made by the then Solicitor General, the present Lord Selborne. This is what the hon. and learned Gentleman said— My hon. Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir Stafford Northcote) made an able speech, strongly in favour, as I thought, of the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool; but, at the same time, he showed his sense of the difficulties attendant on the subject, when he stated that, notwithstanding all the arguments which he offered to the House, he not only was not able to bring his mind to vote in favour of the proposition, but he could not accept the proposition himself till he had mastered the difficulties and foreseen the consequences which it involved."— [3 Hansard, clxv. 1669.] That is very much the view the right hon. Gentleman has addressed to the House to-night. Now, I will adduce one argument more. I will refer to a speech which I made in the same debate, and to a fact which I stated, and it shall be the only fact with which I shall trouble the House. I stated on that occasion that the tonnage of the United Kingdom, in and out, in the year 1814, reached 3,500,000 tons; and I stated further, that for the seven or eight years before the time I spoke, it had been upwards of 12,000,000 tons. I think the hon. Member for Maidstone to-night stated that the tonnage of the United Kingdom now amounts to 21,000,000 tons. The reason why I allude to that statement is this—that on the authority of a work which I saw on the Table of the Library of the House, in the two years of the war between this country and the United States—1812–14 —the American privateers captured no fewer than 2,500 English ships of all sizes. Now, if our tonnage has increased six-fold during that time, and if the American States have increased their power ten-fold in that time or thereabouts, I should like to ask hon. Members what would be the number of English ships that would be captured in case of war between this country and the United States? That seems to me a matter well worthy of consideration. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a question not only very interesting, but very serious. The interest was shown in the admirable explanation given by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone in his opening speech. We all feel that it is an interesting, and we all feel that it is a serious, question. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman with the view taken in 1862. I think the same view may be taken now—that it is not a desirable thing that the House should come to a hasty decision in a matter of this kind. It is not one of those matters which can be settled by a Parliamentary division on a particular night. It must be settled by the growth of public opinion. The object of this debate has been for the purpose of explaining this question, and to instruct the House and the public; and I think it is impossible for this debate to be read to-morrow by the country without informing the minds of men of the change of opinion that has taken place. We have all, no doubt, had a great amount of instruction upon this interesting topic. If we come to a division on this point, we do this mischief—we only pledge Members to one opinion or the other, which it may, before very long, be desirable that they should not be pledged to, as being unsound; and we put an obstacle against obtaining a wise and intelligent opinion, not only on the part of the House, but on the part of the public at large. I am myself satisfied with the debate. I think that the discussion on this subject has been very instructive, and also very interesting; but, at the same time, I think it would be advisable that it should be left as it was left in 1862, and that the hon. Member for Maidstone should withdraw his Motion, and be satisfied with the debate which has taken place. The Declaration of Paris is a question which has been discussed to-night, and I have been gratified to find that, with the exception of one hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for West Cumberland, there has been no strong expression of opinion against that Declaration. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General spoke with positive enthusiasm in its favour. I hope he expresses the opinion of all the Members of the Government with which he is connected, and that henceforth we shall have no more discussion as to the propriety of receding from the Declara- tion of Paris. If we advance as far as this, and after reading the debate tomorrow, if it be a wise step to take, no doubt the people of this country and the Government will see that it is so. This is not a pressing question at all, because I do not suppose there is any probability of this country either now or at any early period going to war. Therefore, it may be matter for consideration when the time shall come— I hope it never will come—when the Government will be called upon absolutely and definitely to solve the question. If the hon. Member for Maidstone will permit me to ask him, I would request that he should, with the permission of the House, withdraw the Motion, and that the question should be left as it now is. I think it would be better for the public and better for the question that it should be withdrawn.


observed that, in the event of a division taking place, many hon. Gentlemen would be placed in a curious position; because a silent vote upon this question would be liable to be misinterpreted. They had been playing, to some extent, at cross purposes. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) asked them to say that the law with reference to maritime belligerent rights was unsatisfactory, and in that he agreed with the hon. Baronet. He could not, however, support the Motion after hearing the speech with which it was introduced. It appeared to him that in time of war— it might be for our national existence— every possible means of defence and offence which the country could command ought to be made available. He was one of those persons who were in favour of privateering. Privateers were the Volunteers of the Sea, and he thought that all the force of the country ought to be liable to be called upon to aid, if need were, in the defence of the country. He believed that a great deal of the discredit which attached to privateering was owing to a misapprehension as to the character of the Alabama. The Alabama never was a privateer—she was a pirate. A privateer sailed under letters of marque; she brought her prizes into port for adjudication by the Admiralty, but could not appropriate either ship or cargo without legal sanction; and, in fact, there was as much difference between a privateer and a pirate as there was between a poacher and a gamekeeper. The Americans had shown their good sense in this matter by declining to assent to the Declaration of Paris, and we ought to imitate them in reserving the opportunity of using the whole national power, whether collective or individual. With respect to the seizing of neutral vessels and private property on the high seas in time of war, he asked why was the shipowner to be placed in a position different to that which must be occupied by all his fellow-subjects? If the shipowner were protected he would drive a thriving trade, while the soldier and the sailor of the fleet would risk their lives in the war, and the taxpayer would have to pay heavily to supply the means of carrying it on. The operations of war affected every class in a community, and it was preposterous to say that civilization had protected people on land from its evil influences. When a conquering General entered a hostile country, he put all its resources under requisition for his own purposes; and he (Mr. J. R. Yorke) could therefore see no sufficient reason for extending to the shipowning classes a protection which landsmen did not enjoy. He entirely concurred in the words spoken some time ago by the Prime Minister, and quoted that evening by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt), that a course such as was proposed by the hon. Member for Maidstone "might make rich communities, but would certainly make weak Governments."

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.