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“While as yet the civil war was undeveloped, and the insurgents were without any organized military forces or treasury, long before they pretended to have a flag or to put an armed ship or even a merchant vessel upon the sea, her Majesty's government, acting precipitately as we have always insisted, proclaimed the insurgents a belligerent power, and conceded to them the advantages and privileges of that character, and thus raised them in regard to the prosecution of an unlawful armed insurrection to an equality with the United States. The United States remain of the opinion that the proclamation has not been justified on any ground of either necessity or moral right ; that, therefore, it was an act of wrongful intervention, a departure from the obligations of existing treaties, and without sanction of the law of nations."
Lord Stanley's principal point, in defending the Queen's proclamation, is, that it did no more than acknowledge a state of war which had already been recognized by the President himself in his proclamation of a blockade, which was issued on the 19th of April, 1861, and his further proclamation which was issued on the 27th of April, 1861. We have already seen that the Supreme Court of the United States and that of the District of Columbia, in their opinions, did not pretend, admit, or imply that the President's aforementioned proclamations expressly and in form declared or recognized a state of civil war. So Lord Stanley, with commendable candor, refrains from making any similar claim in regard to the President's blockade proclamations. The courts reached their conclusion that a state of civil war was existing at the time of the maritime captures wbich were under consideration by processes of reasoning and argu
Lord Stanley is content with adopting the court's argument in identical words. He quotes from the Supreme Court:
- The President was bound to meet it in the shape it presented itself without waiting for Congress to baptize it with a name ; and no pame given to it by him or them could change the fact.”
Lord Stanley quotes also the words that
6. The proclamation of blockade is conclusive evidence to the court that a state of war existed."
And in the same sense he quotes from the court of the District of Columbia:
"That the facts of the secession of the Southern States, as set forth by the President, with the assertion of the right of blockade, amount to a declaration that civil war exists."
The courts correctly understood the facts with which they had to deal. In the causes which were before those courts, the claimants insisted that a state of civil war was not existing at the time of the respective captures. They so insisted on the ground that no competent authority had declared a civil war or had acknowledged the insurrection as a civil war giving rise to belligerent rights; that Congress had not so defined, described, or acknowleged it, and that the President had not by his proclamations so named, baptized, or recognized it.
The recitals from the courts sustain the historical view of the case which I have presented. Before the Queen's proclamation of neutrality the disturbance in the United States was merely a local insurrection. It wanted the name of war to enable it to be a civil war and to live, endowed as such with maritime and other belligerent rights. Without that authorized name it might die, and was expected not to live and be a flagrant civil war, it to perish a mere insurrection.
It was, therefore, not without lawful and wise design that the President declined to confer upon the insurrection the pregnant baptismal name of civil war, to the prejudice of the nation whose destiny was in his hands. What the President thus wisely and humanely declined to do, the Queen of Great Britain too promptly performed. She baptized the slave insurrection within the United States a civil war; and thus, so far as the British nation and its influence could go, gave it a name to live, and flourish, and triumph over the American Union. By this proceeding, the Queen of Great Britain intervened in the purely domestic and internal affairs of the United States, and derogated from the authority of their government. Reference to the events of the time will show that she misunderstood entirely the actual situation. The President's first proclamation against the insurrection was issued on the 15th of April. He described the condition of affairs as one in which the laws of the United States were opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. He called out the militia for a short term of service, to suppress those combinations, and to cause the laws of the land to be duly executed. He expressly declared that the first service assigned to the militia forces would probably be to repossess the forts, places, and property which had been seized from the Union; and that, in every event, the
utmost care would be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens of any part of the country; and he commanded the forces composing the combinations before mentioned to disperse, and to return to their respective abodes within twenty days. He at the same time convoked Congress for the Ith day of July, to consider the state of the Union. So also in the President's second or supplemental proclamation of the blockade, he defined its necessity as arising from an insurrection which had broken out in the states therein named, by means whereof the uniform laws of the United States for the collection of revenue could not be effectually executed. He recited, further, that a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection had threatened to grant pretended letters of marque. He declared, further, that he had required the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, and had called out the militia to restore order and the supremacy of the laws. All these declarations, recitals, Warnings, and commands are the especial features of governmental proclamations, designed to suppress local insurrections without suffering them to attain the form and dimensions of civil war. It was the absolute right of this government to treat the insurrection in this manner; and, in our opinion, it was not a right of Great Britain, by any recognition of the insurgents, either as sovereign or as belligerent, to defeat the wise and humane measures of the President in that respect. It will be found, we think, that all nations which have desired to practise justice and friendship towards a state temporarily disturbed by insurrection, have forborne from conceding belligerent privileges to the insurgents, in anticipation of their concession by the disturbed state itself. A nation which departs from this duty always practically commits itself as an ally to the insurgents, and may justly be held to the responsibilities of that relation.
I pass, without comment, Lord Russell's justification of the Queen's proclamation, assimilating the situation here in 1861 to that of the Greeks rising against their Turkish oppressors in 1825. It could hardly be expected that this government would be convinced by an argument that assimilates them to the Ottoman power in its decline, and the slave-holding insurgents to the Christian descendants of heroic Greece, in their reascent to civilization. Lord Stanley thinks that the Queen's proclamation could have no tendency to encourage and create into a civil war a political convulsion which otherwise would have remained a mere local insurrection. If it were true that an insurrection acquires no new powers, faculties, and attributes, when it receives from its own or a foreign government the baptismal name of civil war, the point which Lord Stanley raises might require grave consideration. Such, however, is not generally the case; and certainly it was not the case in the late contest here. Provisions and treasures, arms, ordnance, and munitions of war, and even ships of war, began to pour forth from the British shores in support of the insurgent cause, so soon as the Queen's recognition of it as a belligerent was proclaimed ; and they continually increased, until it was finally suppressed by the vigor and energy of this government. The commercial losses of the United States, which are the immediate subject of the present correspondence, are only a small part of the damage which this country has sustained at the hands of British abettors of the insurgents. But will Lord Stanley please to refer to the table in which these special losses are presented, showing ninety-five merchant vessels, with ten millions of property, destroyed by the cruisers which practically were sent forth from the British shores, and say whether he believes it possible that such destructive proceedings could have occurred if Great Britain had not conceded belligerent rights to the insurgents. Nor is it to be overlooked, that foreign moral sanction and sympathy are of more value to a local insurrection than even fleets and armies.
Lord Stanley presents the considerations which induced the issue of the Queen's proclamation. He says that her Majesty's government had to provide at a distance for the loss and interests of British subjects in or near the seat of war. But who required British subjects to be there? Who obliged them to remain in a place of danger? If they persisted in remaining there, had they not all the protection that citizens of the United States enjoyed ? Were they entitled to more? Moreover does the jurisdiction of Great Britain extend into our country to protect its citizens sojourning here from accidents and casualties to which our own citizens are equally exposed ? Lord Stanley continues, her Majesty's government had to consider the rapidity with which events were succeeding one another on the American continent, and the delay which must elapse
before intelligence of those events could reach them, and the pressing necessity for definite instructions to the authorities in their colonies and on their naval stations near the scene of the conflict. On the contrary, it seems to us that prudence and friendship, had they been deliberately consulted, would have suggested to her Majesty's government to wait for the development of events and definitive action of the United States.
Lord Stanley repeats from Earl Russell, and reaffirms that “her Majesty's government had but two courses open to them on receiving intelligence of the President's proclamation, namely, either that of acknowledging the blockade and proclaiming the neutrality of her Majesty, or that of refusing to acknowledge the blockade and insisting upon the riglıt of her Majesty's subjects to trade with the ports of the south where the government of the United States could exercise no fiscal control at that time.”
With due respect I must demur to this statement. The disturbance being, at the time referred to, officially and legally held by the government of the United States to be a local insurrection, this government had a right to close the ports in the states within the scene of the insurrection, by municipal law, and to forbid strangers from all intercourse therewith, and to use the armed and naval forces for that purpose. A blockade was legitimately declared to that end; and, until the state of civil war should actually have developed, the existence of a blockade would have conferred no belligerent rights upon the insurgents. In choosing the blockade as a form of remedy less oppressive than the closing of the ports by statute, the United States might perhaps have come under an obligation to respect any just rights and interests of aliens which might have been infringed. There was, however, no just ground for apprehension on that subject, for the history of the time shows that those rights were in all cases in violately respected.
Again, the blockade could have been suitably acknowledged by her Majesty's government without a proclamation conceding belligerent rights to the insurgents. Certainly forbearance from foreign strife can be practised, like every other national virtue, without public proclamation. There is hardly a nation in any part of the world which has not been disturbed by both internal and external wars since the United States became an independent maritime power. I find, however, in our records that the United States have