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Lord Clarendon then showed that the Proclamation of Neutrality was absolutely pressed upon the Government by the friends of the Northern States, who were afraid lest Confederate privateers should be fitted out in British ports. He said, further, that Mr. Fish "admits that national belligerency is an existing fact,' and he might have added that it exists independently of any official proclamation of neutral Powers, as is shown by the records of the American Prize Courts, which continually recognize the belligerency of the South American States; although, as Mr. Seward stated in one of his despatches, the United States have never issued a Proclamation of Neutrality except in the case of France and England in 1793. This was proved in the civil war by the reception at Curaçoa of the Confederate vessel 'Sumter' as a belligerent cruiser, though the Netherlands had issued no Proclamation of Neutrality. It was this recognition of the Sumter,' after her departure from New Orleans (July 6, 1861), at Curaçoa, and at Cienfuegos, which first practically accorded maritime belligerent rights to the Confederates, a fact which is overlooked when it is alleged that Confederate 'belligerency, so far as it was maritime,' proceeded' from the ports of Great Britain and her dependencies alone.'
“ Indeed, it is not going too far to say that the Confederates derived no direct benefit from the Proclamation. Their belligerency depended upon the fact (a fact which, when we are told that the civil war left behind it two millions and a half of dead and maimed, is, unfortunately, indisputable) that they were waging civil war. If there had been no proclamation, the fact would have remained the same, and belligerency would have had to be recognized either on bebalf of the Northern States, by admitting the validity of captures on the high seas for the carriage of contraband or breach of blockade, or on the arrival of the ‘Sumter, or some similar vessel, in a British port.
“In no case can it be really supposed that the recognition of belligerency, which, unless neutral nations abandoned their neutrality and took an active part in the contest, was inevitable, materially influenced the fortunes of such a fearful and protracted civil war.
“ At all events, if it did, the Confederates never acknowledged it; the recognition of belligerency they regarded (as indeed was the case) as a right which could not be denied to them. What they sought was not the mere technical title of belligerents,' but a recognition of independence; and when they found that it was hopeless to expect England to accord it, they cut off all intercourse with this country, expelled her Majesty's Consuls from their towns, and did every thing in their power to show the sense which they entertained of the injury which they believed had been inflicted upon them. The result being that while one side has blamed us for doing too much, the other side has blamed us for doing too little, and thus an assumption of neutrality has been regarded both by North and South as an attitude of hostility.
“Any one who read the despatch without any previous knowledge of the subject might suppose from the language used that fleets of privateers had been despatched from British ports with the connivance, if not the direct support, of her Majesty's Government :"Great Britain
permitted armed cruisers to be fitted out,' &c. «« The Queen's Government
suffered ship after ship to be constructed in its ports to wage war on the United States.'
«Many ships .. were, with ostentatious publicity, being constructed.'
“Permission or negligence which enabled Confederate cruisers from her ports to prey,' &c:
«« Great Britain alone had founded on that recognition a systematic maritime war'
"a virtual act of war.' “ • Suffering the fitting out of rebel cruisers.'
“ The fact being that only one vessel, of whose probable intended belligerent character the British Government had any evidence, escaped-viz. the 'Alabama.'
“The 'Shenandoah' was a merchant-ship employed in the India trade under the name of the 'Sea King.' Her conversion into a Confederate cruiser was not heard of until more than a month after she had left England.
“ The 'Georgia,' or ' Japan,' was actually reported by the Board of Trade surveyor, who had no idea of her destination, to be built as a merchant-ship, and to be rather crank. Nothing was known of her proceedings until she had taken her arms and crew on board in Morlaix Bay, and reached Cherbourg. Her real point of departure, as a cruiser, was France, and not England.
“ The · Florida' was detained at Nassau on suspicion, but discharged by the local Admiralty Court, there being no evidence of her being any thing but a blockade-runner. She was fitted out as a ship-of-war at Mobile.
“ On the other hand, the British Government prevented the outfit of the Rappahannock,' prosecuted and detained the 'Alexandra,' seized the 'Liverpool’ rams, and stopped the ‘Pampero,' besides investigating carefully every case of suspected outfit brought forward by Mr. Adams, and he complained of nineteen, as well as every case which could be discovered independently. Among other things, taking charge of Captain Osborn's Anglo-Chinese flotilla, which, it was apprehended, might fall into the hands of the Confederates, at a cost to this country of 100,0001.”
With respect to the claim made for the losses sustained by the career of the “Alabama,” Lord Clarendon said, “But it must be remembered that when Mr. Fish claims compensation for all her depredations, he should not overlook the fact of the negligence shown by the Federal navy in twice letting her escape from them. First, when Mr. Adams urged the captain of the Federal ship, which at his instance had gone to Holyhead to look after her, to pursue her, when the captain refused, and went off to his station at Gibraltar instead—a proceeding at which Mr. Adams expressed the greatest indignation (see Congress Papers, 1862, page 159); and, secondly, when the United States' ship San Jacinto' blockaded her in the French port of St. Pierre, Martinique, and then suffered her to slip away at night from under her bows."
He further asked, with reference to the alleged falling off in the number of American shipping and decrease in American tonnage, as occasioned by the “unfriendliness” of Great Britain, “Is not, however, a good deal of it to be attributed to the high American tariff, which makes the construction of vessels in American ports more expensive than ship-building in England, and has thereby thrown so large a proportion of the carrying trade into English hands?
“ There must be some such cause for it, or otherwise American shipping would have recovered its position since the war instead of continuing to fall off.”
Lord Clarendon ended by saying, “The despatch, in conclusion, refers 'to important changes in the rules of public law,' the desirableness of which has been demonstrated, but does not say what are the changes to which he alludes.
“This is in the spirit of the proposal made by her Majesty's Government in December, 1865, North America, No. 1, 1866 ' (page 164) :
“1, however, asked Mr. Adams whether it would not be both useful and practical to let bygones be bygones, to forget the past, and turn the lessons of experience to account for the future. England and the United States, I said, had each become aware of the defects that existed in international law, and I thought it would greatly redound to the honour of the two principal maritime nations of the world to attempt the improvements in that code which had been proved to be necessary. It was possible, I added, that the wounds inflicted by the war were still too recent, and that the illwill towards England was still too rife, to render such an undertaking practicable at the present moment; but it was one which ought to be borne in mind, and that was earnestly desired by her Majesty's Government, as a means of promoting peace and abating the horrors of war, and a work, therefore, which would be worthy of the civilization of our age, and which would entitle the Governments which achieved it to the gratitude of mankind.'
"It is not necessary in this Memorandum to dwell on the alleged efficiency of the American as compared to the English Foreign Enlistment Act. The failure of the American Act in the Portuguese cases, in the repeated filibustering expeditions of Walker against Central America, and the acquittal under it of Lopez, the invader of Cuba, are proofs that its action cannot always be relied upon; and this is further corroborated by the difficulties now being experienced in dealing with the ‘Hornet,' at Wilmington. Although, as Mr. Fish says, there have been prosecutions under it, it is believed that from the trial of Gideon Henfield, in 1793, to the present day there has never been a criminal conviction. The only result of the proceedings in rem has been to restore prizes, never to punish privateering; and the effect of the bonds which the Act provides may be taken, that the owners of a vessel shall not themselves employ her in a belligerent service, and which has, it is believed, never been practically enforced, is, as Mr. Bemis, of Boston, points out in his volume on American neutrality, to add so much to the price of the vessel.
“With regard to the claims for ‘vast national injuries,' it may be as well to observe that Professor Wolsey, the eminent American jurist, has repudiated them as untenable, while the strongest arguments in favour of the recognition of Confederate belligerency are to be found in the notes to Mr. Dana's eighth edition of Wheaton ; and Mr. Lawrence (the editor of the second annotated edition of Wheaton), in a recent speech at Bristol, stated that' as far as respects the complaint founded on the recognition of the belligerent rights of the Confederates, I cannot use too strong language in pronouncing its utter baseless character. No tyro in international law is ignorant that belligerency is a simple question of fact. With the late Sir Cornewall Lewis, we may ask, if the array of a million of men on each side does not constitute belligerency, what is belligerency? But what was the proclamation of the President, followed up by the condemnation of your ships and cargoes for a violation of the blockade which is established, but a recognition of a state of war? At this moment the United States, in claiming the property of the late Confederate Government, place before your tribunals their title on the fact of their being the successors of a de facto Government. I repeat that, however valid our claims may be against you on other grounds, there is not the slightest pretext for any claim against you based on the public admission of a notorious fact, the existence of which has been recognized by every department of the Federal Government.'
In bis despatch, Mr. Fish had said, “ Least of all could the Government of the United States anticipate hostility towards it, and special friendship for the insurgents of the seceding States, in view of the inducements and objects of that insurrection, which avowedly, and as every statesman, whether in Europe or America, well knew, and as the very earliest mention of the insurrection in the House of Commons indicated, were the secure establishment of a perpetual and exclusive slave-holding republic. In such a contest, the Government of the United States was entitled to expect the earnest good-will, sympathy, and moral support of Great Britain."
But in answer to this, we ask how stand the actual facts? The war waged by the North against the South was not a war against slavery, but a war to maintain the Union. If the abolition of slavery had been its object, the Border States would have infallibly sided with the South, and the issue of the contest would probably have been very different. In his inaugural message in March 1861, President Lincoln said, “I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”
And in a letter written and published by him in the second year of the civil war, the same President said, “ My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the coloured race, I do because I believe it helps to save this Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union.”
The emancipation of the slave was the result indeed of the war, but never its object. It was adopted at the last moment as a military measure, and as a punishment of those who remained disloyal. It is therefore trifling with truth to assert that the Northern States were entitled to expect “the earnest good will, sympathy, and moral support of Great Britain ” in the contest, so far as the question of slavery was concerned. We believe that the sympathies of the great mass of the people of this country were with the North, as was evinced by the conduct of the operatives during the pressure of the famine in Lancashire ; but there was also, undoubtedly, amongst the higher classes, a strong current of feeling in favour of the South, and the Americans have been disposed too much to forget the first fact, and remember the second. If the question of the “ Alabama” claims is again revived, it is certain that the dignity and honour of Great Britain will require, before the subject is again approached by our Government, a distinct and categorical statement of the terms and mode of "reparation” demanded by the Government of the United States. We have already made large concessions, and gone to the utmost limits in agreeing to leave the whole question to arbitration, in accordance with the view taken by the Americans themselves. But after a solemn Convention had been executed by the accredited Ministers of both countries, it was unceremoniously annulled by the Senate, and treated as so much waste paper. It is not likely that we shall allow ourselves again to be placed in such a false position; and no Ministry in England would be able to remain in power a week which should be suspected of yielding to threat, or menace, or fear, in conducting whatever negotiations may take place on this question in the future.