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On 8 November 1861, several months after the start of the American Civil War, a Union warship, the USS San Jacinto, intercepted the British mail packet Trent and forcibly removed two Confederate Commissioners, James Mason and John Slidell, en route to London and Paris. This incident led to military tension between the Union and Great Britain, however the crisis was eventually resolved when the Lincoln administration released the Commissioners and disavowed the action of the San Jacinto's commander, but did not issue a formal apology. The Commissioners were allowed to resume their voyage, but failed in their goal of achieving diplomatic recognition of the Confederacy.
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Th 28 November 1861|
SEIZURE OF THE WEST INDIA MAIL BY AN AMERICAN FRIGATE.
By the arrival here this morning of the West India mail steamer La Plata, Captain Weller, most important intelligence has been received, involving questions affecting the relations existing between this country and the Federal Government of America. The mail steamer Trent, Captain Moir, was intercepted by the American steamer San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Wilks, while on her passage from Havannah to St. Thomas, and under force of arms the accredited Commissioners to Europe from the Southern Confederacy, Messrs. Mason and Slidell, were taken prisoners, and forcibly removed from the Trent to the San Jacinto. This act was committed in defiance of the joint remonstrances of the Commissioners, Captain Moir, and Commander Williams, the naval officer in charge of the mails on board the Trent.
The San Jacinto is a first-class steam sloop of war, of 1,446 tons, and carrying 13 guns. She was refitted at this port in the year 1854.
It appears from the statements which we have received that the San Jacinto, Captain Wilks, arrived at Havannah on or about the 2d of November, from the Coast of Africa, bound to New York. She coaled and sailed again on the 4th inst. At this time it was well known at Havannah that Messrs. Mason and Slidell, with their suites, were at that place, having arrived there in the steamer Theodora, which vessel ran the blockade at Charleston, These gentlemen had not kept their presence a secret, as from the moment of their landing at Havannah they were unquestionably under the protection of the Spanish flag. Passages to Southampton were booked for them by the British Royal Mail steamer which was to sail from Havannah for St. Thomas on the 7th inst., on which day they duly embarked on board the Trent as follows:-
The Trent sailed from Havannah at 8 o'clock on the morning of the 7th, and nothing occurred worthy of notice till about noon on the 8th, when, in the narrow passage of the old Bahama Channel, opposite the Paradon Grande lighthouse, a steamer was observed ahead, apparently waiting, but showing no colours. On approaching her, Captain Moir, of the Trent, hoisted the British ensign, which met with no response until the two vessels were within about a furlong of each other, when the stranger fired a shot across the Trent's bow, and hoisted the American flag. This proceeding was quite contrary to all acknowledged law, as when a vessel of war wishes another vessel to stop it is customary to fire first a blank cartridge. The Trent was still holding on her way, when a shell was fired from a long pivot gun on the American's deck forward, which burst about 100 yards from the Trent's bow. Captain Moir immediately stopped the Trent, as the American had her broadside of guns run out, and men at quarters ready to fire. Captain Moir then hailed her, and the American captain replied that he wished to send a boat onboard. A boat, containing two officers and about 20 men, armed with muskets, pistols, and cutlasses, then shoved off and boarded the Trent, and demanded a list of the passengers, which the captain refused to give. The officer commanding the boat stated that the name of the frigate was the "San Jacinto," of which he was the first lieutenant, and further that they had received most positive information that certain passengers were on board, whom he would take out. This was also refused. Commander Williams, R.N., the naval agent in charge of Her Majesty's mails, with Captain Moir, positively objected to their being taken, denying their right to take any person whatever from under the English flag.
The lieutenant then called out the names of the before-mentioned Commissioners and secretaries, and said that those were the persons he sought, and that he would take them at all hazards. The four gentlemen, who were standing near, answered to their names, and requested to know what was wanted of them. The lieutenant stated that he wished to take them on board the man-of-war, to which they replied that they would not go until they were taken by force, and, turning to Captain Moir, Mr. Slidell said, "We claim the protection of the British flag." On the captain's again refusing to give up the passengers, the lieutenant said he should take charge of the ship. Commander Williams, R.N., then spoke as follows, - viz., "In this ship I am the representative of Her Majesty's Government, and I call upon the officers of the ship and the passengers generally to mark my words when, in the name of that Government, and in distinct language, I denounce this as an illegal act - an act in violation of international law - an act, indeed, of wanton piracy, which, had we the means of defence, you would not dare to attempt." The lieutenant then beckoned to the frigate, and three boats, containing 30 marines and about 60 sailors, officered and heavily armed, came alongside. The men at once leaped on deck, sword in hand. After some more parleying Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and M'Farland were taken and forced into the boat. The American went back to the cabins and took possession of the baggage, and sent it with their prisoners on board the San Jacinto. Mr. Slidell said, as the boat shoved off, that he expected redress from the British Government for this outrage while under the protection of its flag, and called upon the English captain to represent the case properly. The lieutenant stopped on board, having ordered the boat to return. He then stated that he had orders to take Captain Moir and his papers on board the San Jacinto, and that the Trent was to be moved nearer. Captain Moir replied, "You will find me on my quarter deck; if you want me, you will have to come there for me," and he immediately walked on deck.
The lieutenant, however, went into one of the boats, and told Captain Moir that he could proceed. The boat pulled for the San Jacinto, and the Trent steamed ahead for St. Thomas.
The indignation felt on board the Trent by every person, of whatever nation, can better be imagined than described. A considerable number of foreigners of different nations were among the passengers, and it is affirmed that every man would have fought if called upon to do so; but, with such an opposing force, and the unarmed condition of the Trent, it was deemed impossible to make any defence.
The officers of the San Jacinto asked for provisions to maintain the prisoners, as they stated that they were short of stores. Captain Moir told the four gentlemen that at their request he would supply what was needed, and they having expressed a wish that he should do so, all the necessaries were supplied.
The despatches of the Confederate Emissaries escaped the vigilance of the boarding officers, and they have all arrived safely here per La Plata.
The families of Mr. Slidell and of Mr. Eustis were urged by the first lieutenant of the San Jacinto to accompany them, but, being informed on inquiry that it was probable they would be separated from them on their arrival at New York, they declined the offer, and have arrived in the Plata. On the arrival of the steamer in the dock the whole of the party went on board the Nashville, which is now lying near the entrance of the graving dock, where they were received with every attention and kindness, and left for London by the 3 o'clock train. One of the gentlemen of the party has the despatches in his possession, which he, of course, keeps in close custody till his arrival in London.
Besides the mails and a large quantity of passengers, the Trent had a large amount of specie on board from Mexico for England, as well as a very valuable cargo of general merchandise.
It is stated by the friends of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, who have come home, that the lieutenant of the San Jacinto said this was the most painful act he had ever been called upon to perform, but he was compelled to do it, acting under orders.
Soon after noon to-day a private telegram was received in Liverpool announcing the boarding of the Trent by a Federal vessel of war and the forcible removal of the Southern Commissioners. The intelligence spread with wonderful rapidity, and occasioned great excitement among all classes. On 'Change the utmost indignation was expressed, and in a very brief space of time the following placard was posted:-
In compliance with the preceding announcement a meeting was held in the Cotton Sales-room at 3 o'clock, which was crowded to excess by nearly all the gentlemen frequenting the Exchange. The meeting was quite as remarkable for enthusiasm as numbers. After several gentlemen had been requested to preside the chair was occupied by Mr. James Spence, and on taking the chair he proceeded to read the subjoined resolution:-
On hearing this resolution read the meeting expressed in a most unmistakeable manner the feeling by which it was pervaded in favour of the views included in it. When silence had been in some measure restored, the Chairman remarked that when the news of the outrage reached this town the feeling created was one of surprise, mingled with indignation. He remarked that we had all heard of the sacred dignity of the American flag. That dignity, he proceeded to say, was a means by which the persons engaged in the nefarious slave trade could at once protect themselves by hoisting the American flag, which fully enabled them to resist any attempt to search such vessel. He trusted it would not be allowed that men prosecuting so nefarious a trade should be protected, and that men peacefully proceeding on their own affairs, under the protection of our flag, might be forcibly taken out of our ships. (Cheers.) On the contrary, he believed that the people of this country would not by any means permit such an outrage. (Cheers.) He said, in having agreed to take the chair on this occasion, he did so without reluctance or regret, and he felt deeply that he only expressed the feeling, not merely of the meeting, but of the community in general, when he said it was the duty of the people to press on the Government the imperative necessity of vindicating the honour and dignity of the British name and flag. (Loud and continued cheering.)
Mr. H. C. Chapman, as a mere matter of form, moved that the resolution be adopted.
Mr. A. Forwood said he felt much pleasure in seconding the adoption of a resolution which must find an echo in every English bosom.
Mr. John Campbell while fully concurring in the propriety of preventing any outrage from being offered to the British flag - a sentiment which was universally acknowledged throughout the kingdom - said he felt assured that there was no Englishman, Irishman, or Scotchman who would not at once, and promptly, resent any insult offered to our flag. (Cheers.) "While feeling this in the strongest manner and to the fullest extent, he considered that there still remained some reason to doubt whether the facts related, and acted on by calling this meeting, were in reality a breach of international law. (Cries of " No, no !") He referred at some length to the opinions of the law officers of the Crown, as being in some measure inclined to show that such a step as that taken with respect to the Southern Commissioners was justifiable under the existing state of international law. In conclusion, he proposed a direct negative to the resolution. As, however, he was not desirous of doing anything which would create a spirit of dissension, he was willing to adopt any middle course which could be suggested, and urged the propriety of postponing the consideration of the subject till to-morrow (this day).
The Chairman suggested that, to meet the objection thrown out by Mr. Campbell, it would be sufficient to strike out of the resolution the words "by requiring prompt reparation for this outrage."
Mr. Campbell said he could not concur in the suggestion of the chairman, and must decline to do so.
Mr. Torr expressed his concurrence in the views put forward by Mr. Campbell, and in doing so met with frequent interruption. He argued that the present meet was hastily convened, and had in its proceedings already prejudged the case, with the merits of which the meeting was unacquainted. He insisted that there was no reason to believe that the responsible Ministers of the Crown would allow any insult to be offered to the British flag. (Loud cheers.) He urged the advantage of proceeding calmly in considering a case such as the present, which, if prematurely urged to extremity, might result in involving this country in a war. (Great interruption.) He contended that to urge on the Government a particular line of conduct in respect of the proceedings now under consideration was impolitic and unjust. He would not, and no Englishman would, advocate putting up with insult; but in the present case, let him ask, what had the Americans done? [Mr. Chapman. - They fired a shot across the bows of the Mail Steamer to bring her to, and as she did not stop for that they fired a shell at her, which burst close by her. (Tremendous cheers.)]
Mr. Torr proceeded to say that there was every reason to avoid coming to a hasty resolution, and, in thanking the meeting for the patience with which they had heard him (loud and ironical cheers), he again urged on those present to consider the matter calmly and dispassionately, and not to be carried away by the impulse of feeling in a case which required mature judgment and calm deliberation. A letter had been shown to him by a Southern gentleman, in which it was stated as a positive fact that the law officers of the Crown had, in anticipation, expressed a decided opinion in favour of the legality of a proceeding similar to that which had just taken place in regard to the Trent by the San Jacinto.
Mr. J. Turner next attempted to address the meeting to the same effect as had been done by Mr. Torr and Mr. Campbell, but the feeling of those present was so decidedly opposed to that view that he was forced to desist.
The resolution, as proposed to be amended by the chairman, was then put to the meeting, and carried by a tremendous majority, and amid the most deafening and enthusiastic cheers. For the negative only a few hands were held up.At the conclusion of the meeting, which was at 4 o'clock, a number of the older merchants on 'Change expressed privately their conviction that the meeting and its proceedings had been premature.
|Th 28 November 1861|
THE SEIZURE OF THE TRENT.
Sir,- I hasten to forward you some particulars of the grievous outrage committed to-day against the English flag by the United States' steamsloop San Jacinto, Captain Wilks. You have probably heard how, some three weeks ago, the little steamer Theodora, having on hoard the Commissioners sent by the Confederate States of America to London and Paris, ran the blockade at Charleston, arriving safely in Havannah. Once arrived there, they, of course, imagined that on neutral territory they were perfectly free and safe from all molestation, and therefore made no attempt to conceal their names, position, and intended movements. Mr. Slidell, the Commissioner for Paris, was accompanied by his wife, son, and three daughters, and also by his secretary, Mr. G. Eustis, with his wife; Mr. Mason, the Commissioner for England, being accompanied by his secretary, Mr. M'Farland. It was well known in Havannah that berths were booked for the whole party to proceed by this steamer to St. Thomas, there to join the homeward West India mail steamship for Southampton. They accordingly embarked yesterday morning, trusting to receive the same protection under the English flag which they had already received from that of Spain.
We left Havannah yesterday morning, at 8. This morning, about half-past 11, we observed a large steamship ahead, and on a nearer approach found she was hove to, evidently awaiting us. We were then in the narrowest part of the Bahama Channel, abreast of Paredon Grande lighthouse. As soon as we were well within range, we had the first intimation of her nationality and intentions by a round shot being fired across our bows, and at the same moment by her showing American colours. We were now sufficiently near to observe that all her ports were open, guns run out, and crew at their stations. On a still nearer approach she fired a shell from a swivel gun of large calibre on her forecastle, which passed within a few yards of the ship, bursting about a hundred yards to leeward. We were now within hail, when Captain Moir, commanding this ship, asked the American what he meant by stopping his ship, and why he did so by firing shotted guns, contrary to usual custom. The reply was that he wished to send a boat on board of us. This was immediately followed by a boat pushing off from the side of the San Jacinto, containing between 20 and 30 men, heavily armed, under the command of the First Lieutenant, who came up on the quarter-deck, and, after asking for Captain Moir, demanded a list of passengers. As his "right of search" was denied, the information required was, of course, peremptorily refused. He then stated that he had information that Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and M'Farland were on board, and demanded that they should be given up. This also being indignantly refused, Mr. Slidell himself came forward, and said that the four gentlemen named were then before him, but appealed to the British flag, under which they were sailing, for protection. The Lieutenant said that his orders were to take them on board the San Jacinto by force if they would not surrender. He then walked to the side of the ship and waved his hand; immediately three more heavily armed boats pushed off and surrounded the ship, and the party of Marines who came in the first boat came up and took possession of the quarter-deck; these, however, he ordered down on the main-deck, to take charge of the gangway ports. Captain Williams, R.N., the naval agent in charge of the mails, who was of course present during this interview, then, in the name of Her Majesty, he being the only person on board directly representing her, made a vehement protestation against this piratical act. During the whole of this time the San Jacinto was about 200 yards distant from us on the port beam, her broadside guns, which were all manned, directly bearing upon us. Any open resistance to such a force was, of course, hopeless, although, from the loud and repeated plaudits which followed Captain Williams's protestation, and which were joined in by every one, without exception, of the passengers congregated on the quarter-deck, men of all nations, and from the manifested desire of some to resist to the last, I have no doubt but that every person would have joined heart and soul in the struggle had our commander but given the order. Such an order he could not, under such adverse circumstances, conscientiously give, and it was therefore considered sufficient that a party of Marines with bayonets fixed should forcibly lay hands on the gentlemen named. This was done, and the gentlemen retired to their cabins to arrange some few changes of clothing. A most heartrending scene now took place between Mr. Slidell, his eldest daughter, a noble girl devoted to her father, and the Lieutenant. It would require a far more able pen than mine to describe how, with flashing eyes and quivering lips, she threw herself in the doorway of the cabin where her father was, resolved to defend him with her life, till, on the order being given to the Marines to advance, which they did with bayonets pointed at this poor defenceless girl, her father ended the painful scene by escaping from the cabin by a window when he was immediately seized by the Marines and hurried into the boat, calling out to Captain Moir as he left that he held him and his Government responsible for this outrage.
If further proof were required of the meanness and cowardly bullying in the line of conduct pursued by the Captain of the San Jacinto, I may remark, first, that, on being asked if they would have committed this outrage if we had been a man-of-war, they replied, "Certainly not," and, secondly, that Captain Wilks sent an order for Captain Moir to go on board his ship, and a second for Captain Moir to move the Trent closer to the San Jacinto. Of course, not the slightest notice was taken of either order, nor did they attempt to enforce them.I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
THE PURSER OF THE TRENT.
Royal Mail Steamship Trent, at sea, Nov. 8.
|Fr 29 November 1861|
THE AMERICAN OUTRAGE ON OUR FLAG.
MANCHESTER, Nov. 28.
On the news reaching here yesterday afternoon that the Americans had stopped an English mail steamer and taken the Confederate Commissioners from on board there was a strong feeling of indignation expressed, especially among gentlemen meeting on the Exchange. This feeling had not undergone much abatement this morning; but a calmer feeling took possession of the public mind as the day wore on, and after the question had been discussed with the light thrown on it by the press. There are a great many reckless men who would at once urge on a war to redress the alleged insult to the British flag; but this is by no means the general feeling, and among some of the leading merchants the first ebullition of anger is giving place to anxiety lest the Government should too precipitately be disposed in favour of a resort to arms.
(From the Manchester Guardian.)
It is clear that the American Government are determined to test to the utmost the truth of the adage that it takes two to make a quarrel. Were England only a tenth part as desirous to break the blockade of the cotton ports as it is asserted to be by the mendacious press of the United States, we need not fear to be long without a case which, in ordinary circumstances, would be amply sufficient for excuse, if not for justification. Matters progress at such a rate that the vague apprehensions of yesterday as to the provocative disposition of President Lincoln and his advisers become simple realities to-day. Less than a week ago it was reported that a Federal ship of war had recently been lurking about the British Channel for the purpose of arresting on board the West Indian mail steamer a couple of American passengers, assumed to be coming to this country on a political mission obnoxious to the Government of Washington. The first danger of our having to deal with so extraordinary an offence was alleged to have been happily avoided by the fact that the mail steamer, which, by the by, was wholly innocent of carrying the freight imputed to her, had slipped unperceived past the James Adger and got into port unmolested. Nevertheless, we were told that the design had not been abandoned and that an attempt would probably be made to execute it upon the La Plata, which was due at Southampton on the 28th or29th of this month. It is necessary to recall these reports in order to perceive that the story which appeared almost too wild to be credited a few days ago is substantially verified by events which had already happened. The La Plata has arrived without falling in with any vessel disposed to question her right to an uninterrupted passage across the high seas. She has not had the perilous honour of bringing Messrs. Slidell and Mason, commissioners from the Confederate States of North America to England and France; but she brings news of them, showing that the determination of the United States' Government to cut short their voyage, by fair means or foul, had been rightly augured, and that the contemplated aggression upon the British flag has been executed with entire success.
The intelligence of this remarkable proceeding has been read ere this throughout the length and breadth of England with feelings in which indignation and contempt struggle for the upper hand. It is due to the malicious forethought of the American Government, or to the thorough knowledge of his business shown by their representative, the commander of the San Jacinto, to acknowledge that nothing which could add to the insulting character of the outrage appears to have been omitted.
Such are the circumstances which Lord Palmerston's Government will now have to consider with due reference to the requirements of the national dignity and the acknowledged principles of public law. We refrain from attempting to pronounce on the delicate question whether the established right of a belligerent to search neutral vessels suspected on good grounds of conveying contraband of war to the enemy can be extended to include a similar power over vessels in which diplomatic agents are believed to have taken passage. The Queen's proclamation warns her subjects, under fear of the penalties of the Foreign Enlistment Act, against "carrying officers, soldiers, despatches, arms, military stores, or materials for the use or service of either of the contending parties." It is observable, however, that the despatches of Messrs. Slidell and Mason, even if they could be supposed to contain any secrets of interest - which is manifestly unlikely - do not seem even to have been asked for, for we are told, that all the papers belonging to them have been brought on by the La Plata. The problem is, therefore, narrowed down to the question whether the Southern Commissioners themselves, coming on board a vehicle of public conveyance, like any ordinary beings, fall within the category of articles which expose the vessel conveying them to the risk of being lawfully stopped, ransacked, rifled, and perhaps made prize of war? It is certain, after what has happened, that this point will be investigated with a fullness of anxiety and minuteness of research extremely likely to correct any hasty impressions which may be formed with regard to it by unlearned persons. But, whatever may be the result of this inquiry, the law officers of the Crown, though they should say without contradiction that the proceeding which we have narrated is strictly according to law, will have extreme difficulty in inducing the English people to acquiesce in it. In the first place, the practical annoyance of the thing is intolerable. If the belligerents stand, as we profess, on an equal footing as to claim on our assistance, there is clearly nothing to prevent the Sumter, the Nashville, or some other Confederate ship of war, from stopping and overhauling the Cunard steamers on every inward or outward voyage, inasmuch as it may always be assumed that couriers, or more important officials, are on their way by that line to or from the Government of Washington. But again, by what Government is it that the right of search, supposing it to be capable of extension to these unprecedented instances, is so rigorously upheld? By that Power which has always refused to admit it, even in cases allowed by the practice of all civilized nations; that Government which went to war with us in 1812 rather than recognize in us the slightest title to inquire for deserters from the British navy who had taken refuge on board their ships; and that people who tumultuously approved the conduct of one of their naval officers who, in 1850, resisted, by open force, the attempt of an Austrian frigate to get possession of a Hungarian who had placed himself under the American flag in the harbour of Smyrna. We cannot misunderstand the meaning of such provocation as we now receive from a country thus committed to the widest interpretation of the rights of neutrality. Whatever may be the immediate result to which it is designed to lead, it is deliberately irritating and insulting. Such experiments are very dangerous. They touch us on two points on which we are particularly sensitive - our freedom of action on the seas, and our reputation for political hospitality. These feelings are so perilous to meddle with that the United States cannot be too strongly warned against abusing the occasional licence for impertinence conferred on them by their present weakness and distress.
(From the Birmingham Daily Post.)
Hitherto American vapourings as to the getting-up of a war with England, or with some other European Power, as a wholesome remedy for disunion, have been held as mere ravings, or as empty threats employed to gain a week's popularity. A New York mob was agreeably titillated by the idea of "licking the Britishers" without being called upon for the men and money necessary for that somewhat hazardous attempt. We certainly never credited Messrs. Lincoln and Seward with such a deplorable amount of audacious folly as to suppose that they would sanction or command an outrage on the high seas upon a British mail steamer, carrying, though not actually commanded by, a captain of the navy holding a responsible position on board, and sailing from a neutral port - an outrage which any nation would be justified in considering as a casus belli, if not tantamount to a declaration of war. Yet this is precisely what has been done, not on the spur of the moment by some vehement Yankee captain, ignorant of the commonest rudiments of the law of nations - not in some out-of-the-way creek or bay on the Southern coast, but advisedly and deliberately; and, to make matters worse, as far as we can learn at present, the indignity was offered to the British flag in our own waters.It remains to be seen how this will be endured by the British Government. A strong pressure will be brought to bear, for Englishmen can put up with bluster but not with blows. A meeting was at once called in Liverpool, and perhaps to-morrow will witness many more, insisting that Government should at once take the matter up and vindicate the insulted dignity of England. This can only be done by the dismissal of the aggressor and the liberation of the prisoners; and we doubt whether the popular frenzy will allow Mr. Seward to do so, even were he inclined. A challenge has therefore been deliberately thrown down to this country, and if it should come to an issue the conflict will be remembered when the United States are but a tradition of the past.
|Sa 30 November 1861|
T0 THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
When so momentous a question as that of a war between England and the Northern States of America is in the balance I think you will be disposed to give publicity indifferently to every view in which, the matter can possibly present itself. I venture, therefore, to request permission to offer a few observations on the critical question of the extent of the reparation which the English Government are entitled to demand at the hands of the Washington Cabinet.
That the American cruiser was guilty of an irregularity and, in point of form, of an illegal act in carrying off the Southern Commissioners without a judicial sentence on the Trent must now be admitted, even by those who are disposed to take the least inflammatory view of the subject.
The practice of allowing the belligerent cruiser to constitute himself a judge in the matter is clearly so improper and inconvenient that it is impossible to permit such an act to pass into a precedent unquestioned. On the other hand, it does seem to me that the extent of the reparation we should demand depends in a great measure on the question whether the injury we have sustained was one of form only, or of substance. Now, whether the injury was one of form or of substance depends on the second question, whether, if the American cruiser had acted in a regular manner - i. e., had carried the Trent into an American port in order to bring her before a Prize Court - there were not materials on which to found a judicial condemnation. If the case is not so clearly in our favour as that a decision in the American Court condemning the vessel would have been liable to be questioned by us, as manifestly contrary to the law of nations, then the irregularity of the American Captain in allowing the Trent to proceed to Southampton clearly redounded to the advantage of the British owners and the British passengers. Could we in such a case find a ground of international quarrel in an error of procedure which in effect told in our own favour?
Now, were there not materials from which the American Prize Court might, and most probably would have arrived at such a condemnation? On a doubtful point, which at the least it must be admitted to be, the American decision would probably have been in their own favour. The Prize Court is judge not only of law, but of the facts from which inferences are to be drawn. It might have fairly taken the confession of Mr. Slidell and his friends, that they were Southern Commissioners, coupled with the occupation in which it is notorious that the other Southern Commissioners now in Europe are engaged, as a sufficient proof of the hostile character of their mission. If the Court had come to such a decision, could the English Government have disputed their judgment as one in gross violation binding on us, and the Trent would have been condemned as lawful prize. A distinction has been drawn between the despatch and the messenger who carries the despatch which seems to me wholly unsustainable. If a belligerent has power to seize the despatch he must have the power to detain the messenger. For the messenger, who probably knows the message by heart, is neither more nor less than a living despatch.
Now, I do not put forward these considerations as suggesting that we have sustained no injury at the hands of the Americans, or for the purpose of questioning our right to demand reparation. But I confess that it strikes me very strongly that the quality of the injury materially affects the nature of the amends which we are entitled to require. If the Trent would probably have been legally condemned in case a regular course had been pursued by the Captain of the San Jacinto, in form it is true she sustained an injury, but in substance it is certain she had a fortunate escape.
The conclusion, therefore, at which I arrive is this, - what we are entitled beyond all question to demand is an apology for the illegal and irregular proceeding on the part of the San Jacinto - which cannot be sustained on any possible view of the law of nations; and an undertaking from the American Government that the offence shall not be repeated. But, unless it is perfectly demonstrable that if the Captain of the San Jacinto had carried the Trent into New York she could not legally have been condemned I cannot think that we are entitled to push our demand to the extreme point of requiring the restitution of the Commissioners. Such a demand would almost certainly be repelled. And England, before she can appeal to the arbitrament of arms, must have a quarrel good not only in form, but in substance.Temple, Nov. 29.
|Ma 2 December 1861|
LONDON, MONDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1861.
The British Government has lost no time in transmitting to America its demand of reparation. It was only on Wednesday that the news of the attach on the Trent reached this country, and already a Queer's Messenger is on his way with a despatch to Lord Lyons [Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons, 1st Viscount Lyons, 1817-1887; British envoy in Washington] instructing him to demand the disavowal of the act, and the surrender of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, with their secretaries, to the British Government. In such a case hesitation would have been as fatal as submission. An insult must be resented at once, more particularly when the prospect of impunity is likely to cause numerous repetitions of the offence. The Cabinet therefore deserves credit for having so promptly taken its resolution. At its meeting on Friday Lord Russell [Foreign secretary] was directed to prepare a despatch, and on Saturday Ministers met again to revise it and finally settle its terms. So settled, and approved by Her Majesty, it was sent yesterday by a messenger to Queenstown, and will arrive at Washington within twelve days' time. We understand that this communication, though couched in the firmest language, very properly presumes that the Federal Government will not refuse to make honourable reparation for an illegal act. How far such a hope Is likely to be gratified our readers may judge from the telegraphic news which we publish to-day. It is satisfactory to find that, whatever orders the Federal Government may have given its naval officers, the Captain of the San Jacinto seems to have acted very much on his own responsibility. On the 16th of November his vessel arrived at Fortress Monroe, having on board the two Commissioners. Commander Wilks [of the San Jacinto], according to the New York papers, came on shore, and had an interview with General Wool [John Ellis Wool, 1784-1869, who had secured Fort Monroe, Virginia, for the Union in the early days of the war]. "He expressed his opinion that he had done right, and said that, right or wrong, these men had to be secured, and if he had done wrong he could do no more than be cashiered for it." If this version of the story be correct, it would seem that, whatever order he or any of his brother officers may have received to stop and search British vessels, the actual seizing and carrying off of the two Commissioners was not directed from Washington. Commander Wilks, therefore, either acted without instructions, or he must, in his own opinion, have exceeded them. This would diminish the difficulty of the Federal Government. If it did not order the violation of the British flag, and that violation was the illadvised act of a too zealous officer, Mr. Seward [William Henry Seward, Sr, 1801-1872; Secretary of State] may, without mortification comply with our demands, and release the four persons who were illegally taken. Whatever may have been the intentions and the real orders of the Government, it would be enough to say that the Captain of the San Jacinto acted without authority, and that, as his proceedings could not be justified by the Law of Nations, reparation would be made to the British Government.
But we must own that we have but small hope of such a disavowal. What the Federal Government might wish to do were it left to its own judgment and its own conscience is, unhappily, hardly a matter of importance. We fully believe that the majority of the American Cabinet would see with the utmost regret any difference with England. The splenetic mind of Mr. Seward has, indeed, been continually infusing into his colleagues a feeling of enmity to this country, but the good sense of those about him has hitherto prevailed to prevent any offensive act. Yet in this matter the so-called Patriotic Party is nearly sure to carry the day. "Our country, right or wrong," is the maxim of thousands of American politicians, and we can hardly doubt that it will be acted on in this case. Already there are indications that the act of Captain Wilks has been accepted by the Northern public. We are told that the New York journals "urge that promotion and testimonials should be conferred on him for his spirited conduct." It may be that the next mail will bring us accounts of his increasing popularity, and that by the time Lord Russell's despatch reaches Washington he will have become the lion of the day. It is this habit of unscrupulous partisanship, ingrained in the very nature of the Americans, which will be the chief obstacle to a friendly settlement. That a naval officer has had the spirit to board a British vessel and to carry off rebels, in spite of the "raving" of the British captain, is enough to insure a storm of popularity. The man who has given his countrymen such a "sensation" is far more likely to be courted than disowned by a weak Government, already trembling for the consequences of its ill success, and anxious to provide the public with other excitement than is caused by indignation at the slow progress of the war. We must, therefore, while hoping that the lapse of three or four weeks will allow the act of the San Jacinto to be considered in a calmer temper, and the demands of the British Government to be met with fairness and courtesy, still be prepared to see them contemptuously rejected. The multitude may have already dictated to the Government the treatment which Captain Wilks and Lieutenant Fairfax are to receive. We must hope for the best, but still it becomes us to be pro pared for an unfortunate issue.For any further discussion of the matter the time has not yet come. But our Government would indeed be acting with ridiculous weakness if it did not take measures to prevent a Power so arrogant and so much under the influence of passion as the United States from obtaining materials of war which may hereafter be turned against us. Within the last few days an order has been issued forbidding the export of an immense quantity of saltpetre which had been bought up on account of the Federal Government, and we publish to-day a Proclamation extending the prohibition to all the materials of gunpowder. As regards the saltpetre, it seems to have been the design of the Washington Government to provide itself at once for a long war. Almost the whole stock to be found in England would in a week or two have been shipped for the Northern States. As almost all the saltpetre used throughout the world comes from Oude, we have practically a monopoly of the article, and it was a good thought of the Federal authorities to provide themselves at once with all they are likely to want even should the war be prolonged for years. On our part, it was but a necessary precaution to defeat such a scheme, and we cannot doubt that, while keeping strictly within the bounds of International Law, our Government will in other matters take care that the interests of the Empire do not suffer.
|Ma 2 December 1861||Short as is the time which has elapsed since the arrival of the news that an English ship had been compelled to give up four of her passengers to an American cruiser, it has yet been long enough to enable us to come to a clear apprehension of our own rights and duties. By avoiding all hypothetical reasoning, and confining our attention strictly to what the Americans did, without embarrassing the question by considering what they might have done, we shall have no difficulty in applying clear and well-understood law to admitted facts. The American Captain had the right to search the Trent for any cause he thought fit, and if he found her carrying contraband of war he had the further right of carrying the vessel to a Prize Court, in order to procure her condemnation. His duties were purely ministerial and inquisitorial; there was nothing judicial about them. He might examine, and he might put matters in the way of being decided, but he could decide nothing himself. The American Captain clearly went beyond this duty. It is of no use considering what a Court might have decided had he brought the ship before it, because he did not do so, and cannot, after having chosen to be judge in his own cause, put himself in the position which he would have occupied had he submitted it to the opinion of a competent tribunal. In dealing with the rights of strangers and neutrals, he chose to avail himself of a momentary superiority of force, and America cannot be heard to urge in excuse of the act of her officer arguments which might well have been used against the Trent in the Prize Court of New York. It is in this substitution of force for law that the insult to our flag consists, and the assertion that the law, if appealed to, would have justified the force, so far from extenuating, tends to aggravate the injury, by showing that it was gratuitous and unnecessary for the attainment of the end desired. We are ready to submit to the Law of Nations as expounded by competent Courts; but to the Law of Nations as promulgated at the cannon's mouth, without hearing and without jurisdiction, it is perfectly impossible that we should submit.
So far, the case appears to us to be exceedingly clear and plain. It does not become a great nation to be eager and inconsiderate in taking offence; but even less does it become us, when offence has been deliberately and intentionally given, to be subtle and astute in inventing plausible excuses and far-fetched analogies for a plain and obvious wrong. Considering the elements of which International Law is made, how often, it has been distorted by passion, how often warped by overweening power, it is really surprising to find that we have sustained a wrong in defence of which so very little that is even plausible can be urged. We have, we hope, hitherto proceeded with proper calmness and fairness. We have tried our own case to the best of our power, and, certainly, with a strong wish, if possible, to arrive at the conclusion that the Americans have done no more than they had a right to do. We shall hear, and, we trust, weigh dispassionately, what they may urge in their defence; but we have access to the same authorities as they. We are guided by an opinion given under the most solemn responsibility under which a human being can act. That opinion is entirely in accordance with the result of our own investigations, and we cannot pretend to expect that anything which may be urged on behalf of the United States will be likely to make any change.
We, therefore, have little more for the present to do with the matter. We have demanded satisfaction for the injuries sustained, and shall calmly consider the answer we may receive and the duties which may result from it. Our task is, for the present, accomplished. We have sought no quarrel or collision with any nation, least of all have we sought one with America. It has come by no act of ours. We have hitherto been perfectly passive in the matter. The case is so clear and direct that it admits on our part of no consideration of consequences. Our duty is plain, clear, and explicit, unless we are willing to descend from, the position we have so long maintained among the nations of the world, and allow interests which pervade every region of the earth to be trampled on, and a flag that floats in every breeze that blows to be sullied with impunity.
We are very anxious, in the interest of peace, that this should be clearly understood by the American people. We are afraid they may be misled by our past conduct, which might, perhaps not unreasonably, lead them to suppose that there was no limit to our concessions and our forbearance. They have the case entirely in their own hands, and on their decision must unquestionably hang the most momentous issue which can arise between two nations. This is not like the dismissal of an Ambassador, which we need not notice, or the armed seizure of a territory in our constructive possession pending a discussion of our rights, which we could contrive to overlook. Our national honour and independence, and, above all, the indiscriminate hospitality on which we pride ourselves, are attacked in the very tenderest point, and it is impossible for us to retreat from the position we have taken; but it is not so for America. Without any derogation from that position which she has hitherto occupied, America can well afford to give to us all the satisfaction which we can desire. We have in no respect attempted to retaliate. We complain that the officer in command of the American war steamer has taken the law into his own hands, but we have not followed his example. We have appealed to the honourable feelings of the American people to do us justice, and we venture to say that we have done nothing, and shall do nothing, which will make it difficult for them to do so. What difficulty there is is not of our raising. We could bear with good temper even what might appear to us a harsh decision on the Law of Nations by the American Prize Courts; but we cannot endure that a view of that law adverse to what we believe to be our rights should be assumed and acted upon without any decision at all.The American people - presuming, as we will, that they are still able to control the course of their Government, however large may be the powers which the exigencies of a Civil War have led it to assume - have a momentous choice to make. Were it not for so much concurrent evidence, we could not have believed it possible that, in the total absence of any provocation on our part, there existed a desire to fasten a quarrel upon us. We, indeed, have no reason to shrink from such a challenge. Our finances are in good order, our trade has already in great measure recovered the injury which it received from the American Civil War, and the result of a declaration of hostilities would only be to remove the one difficulty that lies in the way of our prosperity. But we ask the American people and their Government calmly and dispassionately to consider their own true and lasting interests, and how they would be affected by wantonly forcing us into a war to avoid which we would willingly encounter everything except dishonour. The announcement of a quarrel with England has been regarded in America as an infallible remedy for all domestic discord. Will it be so now? Will the South join the North in forcing a quarrel on England because she would not submit to give up to her enemies two of the most prominent of Southern citizens? Do the United States desire to engage in a foreign as well as a civil war, and to place themselves in the position of disadvantage in which they are anxious to place the South - that is, to subject themselves to a blockade, with a hostile force which it will require no Armada to transport into the rear of their armies, because it is there already in the long line of British colonies? Are the dimensions of the present Civil War so small, are its burdens so light, that they can wish wantonly to increase them? What would the North gain by forcing us to break the blockade of the Southern coast? What would it gain by pointing out to the Western States, which trade so largely with England, how precarious is a prosperity which can thus, without excuse and without provocation, be flung away in a moment by a remote Government which is already at war with one-third of its people? Why should the American Government suggest to the States which lie at the head of the Mississippi that they also lie at the head waters of the St. Lawrence; or why should Maine have to choose between being the winter port of Canada or the first sufferer in a war between Canada and the Union? Civil War in a Confederacy is a universal solvent, and the centrifugal force is already sufficiently violent without forcing Great Britain to lend her powerful arm to increase it.
|Ma 2 December 1861||When there was yet no cloud between us and the Anglo-Saxons of America the Minister of the Northern Republic issued instructions to the people near the Canadian frontier to put themselves in readiness for a war with England. Europe read the circular with great surprise. No preparation could in our eyes be more unnecessary, no suggestion of danger could be more absurd. The wildest insanity on the other side of the Atlantic could scarcely dream that England was about to take advantage of civil disorder to invade Maine or New York or Michigan, and the most lively apprehensions on this side the Atlantic could scarcely conceive that the rulers of the warring States in the North had determined still further to complicate their position by a wilful quarrel with England. Yet it would now appear that Mr. Seward's warning was not necessarily so absurd as it then appeared. If he had already despaired of reconquering the long tributary South, and had determined to retire from the contest amid the conflagration of a European war, or if he had conceived the policy of seeking an indemnity for the loss of the Southern States by absorbing the British possessions, then there was at least some method in his madness. It might be, and we believe it would be, the most silly and unstatesman-like design ever conceived by a Minister; but such a resolve would point at least to a settled course of future action. The Minister who had such a policy in his mind knew what was to come. He knew that he was about to force a quarrel with England, and he could therefore already indicate where the struggle would necessarily be hottest.
We may be wrong in attributing a coherent: policy to so incoherent a personage as Mr. Seward. We may have some hope that his early call for preparation was only intended to answer some momentary purpose at home, and that we shall not be obliged to recognize in the next acts of Mr. Lincoln's [Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865, 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination on 15 April 1865] Government the steps of a predetermined resolve to have a war with England. One fact seems, however, to be pretty certain. If Canada had not been a British possession, there would have been no reviling of England, no warlike demonstrations against England, and no outrages committed upon the English flag. If the Northern mind had been completely concentrated upon the conquest of the Southern Republic, it would not in mere lightness of heart have sought to call into the contest the most powerful ally which that Southern Republic could find in the world. It is possible to understand that the manufacturing States of the North, greedy of monopolies, and believing that their existence depends upon close markets and forced customers, may cast their eyes abroad for other tributary populations of buyers to replace those who are escaping from their power; but it is not possible to believe that without an object of this kind they could choose this moment to proclaim the approach of a state of war. If the Government of the Federal States had conceived the design of abandoning the South and seeking an indemnity in the conquest of Canada, they would have acted just as they have hitherto acted. They would have strengthened their Northern frontier, they would have used every effort to excite their population against England, they would have sown seeds of jealousy and hostility between the two countries, they would have commenced a series of aggressions which no country can endure without losing its selfrespect and its consideration among its equals, and they would have chosen for their aggressions a period of the year when the coveted territory is cut off by climate from the assistance of the mother country.
If, therefore, when there was no apparent reason for the counsel, the American Minister was right in calling upon the frontier States to put on their armour, how much more need is there that we should now call upon the Canadians to be up and ready to receive a foe! If there be danger at all, that danger is imminent. If the design has been formed to annex them as tributaries to Pennsylvania and New York, the attempt will be prompt. They may be assured that in that case the next five months of ice will not be allowed to pass without some endeavour on the part of their aggressive neighbours. During those five months, at least, their existence as an integral community must depend upon themselves. It is our duty, and we shall not shrink from it if the occasion should unhappily arise, to aid them with the whole power of this country. To punish their invaders we are almost omnipotent. We can sweep the Federal fleet from the seas, we can blockade the Atlantic cities; but we cannot garrison and hold 350,000 square miles of country. That must be done by the Canadians themselves. They have done it before when they were a smaller population and a divided people. They have done it before when they were but a dependency of Great Britain, and were not, as they are now, in all but in name an independent nation. They have now every incentive to defend themselves. They are not only a self-governing people, but they are in race, in traditions, and in material interests distinct from the people who would seek to conquer them. If anything were required to unite them in one firm array, it would be an attack from the people of Maine and New York. And these men of Canada can fight. They have an excellent Militia, they have among them the nucleus of a good regular force, they have ample stores, and they have, what is not to be despised, recollections of victory in former combats against the same enemies. They have always hitherto proved themselves more than a match for any force which the United States, even when they were really united States, could bring against them. They will only have to meet a force cognate with their own. Their invaders will not be veterans who have stood victorious upon well-won fields, but at the best Militiamen, like themselves. Perhaps they may even be renegades from Bull's Run, plunderers in Virginia, or lucky fugitives from Lexington or Leesburg. A population of a million and a half ought to be able to give a hundred thousand drilled Militiamen to defend their frontier, and another hundred thousand Volunteers for temporary duty. We, like them, were, or thought ourselves to be, in immediate danger; and our present Volunteer force shows how we understood our position, and how we rose to meet it. What we have done at home Canada must do in her homes. For her internal defences she must rely upon herself. Montreal is, no doubt, at this season a vulnerable point. It is unfortunate that our timorous or unskilful diplomacy in 1842 [the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of August 9 1842 resolved a number of border issues between the United States and the British North American colonies] ,drew the boundary of the two nations so near to this capital city; but Montreal wants only stout hearts and zealous hands to be safe until the season returns when we can make it secure against any assailant. The only danger that can prove fatal either to Montreal or to any other point of the frontier is lest Canada should rely too much upon us and too little upon herself.We address this call to our fellow-subjects on the other side of the Atlantic because we believe that they are fully as hearty in their desire to remain united with us as we can be to see them so united. While they are loyal to England it is England's duty to aid in their defence against all who may attack them, and to accept any quarrel which may be forced upon us by reason of our union. Of course, we should never think of undertaking the defence of half a continent of discontented or hostile inhabitants. We have nothing to gain from the Canadians; we force no imports upon them; we ask for no monopolies in their markets; we derive no revenue from them; we impose no laws upon them. Our Union is more free and disinterested than can even be companionship between father and son. They would not be worth a dollar less to us were they to-morrow the tributaries of the Northern Republic or the members of an independent State. At present they have all the advantages of independence with the protection of the most powerful maritime country in the world. If they value this, they must show themselves worthy of it. Of course, it is not certain that war will arise. The Northern Republic may have even anticipated our demand. Even if she refuse it, some now unseen escape may possibly be found from the dilemma of war or dishonour. The wise course, however, for Canada will be to prepare. Let her at once discipline her Militia and emulate the mother country in drilling a Volunteer army.
|Ma 2 December 1861|
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- I trust I may be permitted to call your attention to a note by Mr. Laurence, the son of a late American Ambassador in London, and himself an Ex-Secretary of Legation, in his edition of Wheaton's International Law. It seems to me so apposite to the circumstances under which the Trent was stopped and the Southern Commissioners arrested on board of her by the San Jacinto, that it might almost have been written in direct contemplation of the event that has occurred, and I am surprised that among the numerous letters that have been published no one has called attention to it. "It is conceived," he says, -
In support of this opinion Mr. Laurence refers to the very able treatise of Hautefeuille, a distinguished French jurist, "Sur les Droits and les Devoirs des Neutres," a work not so well known in England as it deserves to be. The writer is, it is true, the champion of the rights of neutrals, following out to the fullest extent the principles laid down by Hubner, Galiani, Klöber, and others; but his mode of handling the subject is so full and so exhausting, and evinces such clear logical precision, that even when one differs from him one cannot but admire the thorough way in which he discusses the matter, shirking no difficulties, and not omitting a point.
While other treatises touch lightly on the subject of despatches, the English books being, as is the case with all English law books, merely storehouses of decided cases, Hautefeuille devotes a whole chapter to the subject, and discusses it thoroughly. "Despatches," he says, - "May either be carried from a neutral port to another neutral port" (the case of the Trent), "or from a neutral port to a port belonging to the belligerent, or from a port of the belligerent to a neutral port, or, last of all, from a port of a belligerent to another port under the same Sovereign or occupied by his arms. It seems clear that the three first hypotheses must be left out of account. Whenever the point of departure or the point of arrival is a neutral country, the transport of the despatch is innocent, and the neutral in taking charge of it does not violate the duties of neutrality and commits no act of contraband. Even in the last hypothesis, when the despatch is sent from a place belonging to the belligerent to a port also belonging to him, it is necessary to make some observations. One of the belligerents having an important despatch to send to a remote part of its territory, to a colony, to a fleet stationed far from the mother country, may freight a neutral vessel specially to carry this despatch. But it may happen also, and this is the most frequent case, that this letter is put on board a neutral vessel charged with a regular post specially devoted to the carriage of letters, not only of the State but also of private individuals, and performing this service not only under special circumstances, but at regular stated periods. The packetboats are vessels of this sort. It is usual among commercial nations that at the moment when a merchant vessel sets sail from a distant port the captain is charged by the post-office with all the letters destined for that place and the adjoining parts. The captain cannot refuse this mission without violating his duty; he is intrusted with and responsible for the despatches confided to him. The belligerent may use this means of sending his despatches. Is the neutral vessel equally guilty in these three last hypotheses? In the first case he is certainly so. It is clear the captain cannot be ignorant of the service he is called on to fulfil. Having freighted his vessel to one of the belligerents specially to carry a despatch from one of his ports to another, he is guilty of a violation of the rights of neutrality, and may be treated as a belligerent; but when the transport of the letters and despatches of belligerents is made either as a postal service by regular packetboats or according to the immemorial usage of maritime people, who before the establishment of special boats always deposited their public and private despatches in the first boat, it is a perfectly innocent act, and can in no case be considered either as an infraction of the duties of neutrality or as an act of carrying contraband. Suppose, for instance, a war were to break out between the United States and England. The English Government freights a French vessel in an English port specially to carry a despatch to the governor of any of the English West India Islands. Whatever be the contents of this despatch, the ship has violated the duties of neutrality, and may be treated as an enemy by the Americans. But would it be the same if the ship, laden with merchandise, and having a purely commercial object, and bound for the West Indies, received this despatch at the moment of its departure along with the rest of the correspondence? Certainly not. The captain has not accepted a special mission from the belligerent, but has only rendered to him, as a friend of his country, a service which it is not the habit of maritime usage to refuse; a service, too, which he would equally have rendered in time of peace, and which he can render, notwithstanding the war, without violating any of the duties of war. I never can believe that any nation at war with Great Britain will be able to consider as an act of hostility the transport of the India mail by the French packet-boats in the Mediterranean, although one really look on this mail as directly put on board in an English port, and directed to another English port, since it passes through France closed, and escorted by an English courier, who is responsible for it." -Vol. ii.,p. 463-465.
The offence of fraudulently conveying despatches is a very grave offence ("Re Caroline, 6 Rob.)," and is, of course, not considered in the discussion that has just been given. So much for the question of despatches; but when the evidence that has been furnished to the public as to the circumstances which took place when the vessel was visited is examined, it appears that no enquiry whatever was made as to despatches, but that the Lieutenant proceeded at once in medias res, and demanded the surrender of the gentlemen in question, and, in short, arrested them by main force on board a British vessel. The gravity of such an offence is, perhaps, not perceived till one knows what is the legal status of a vessel on the high ocean in the contemplation of both international and municipal law. Fortunately, the English and American authorities agree in every point as to this fact, and the coincidence is to be found, not in the writings of publicists, but in two solemn State documents emanating from the very highest authorities in either country, speaking, as it were, ex cathedrâ. One is a most elaborate despatch from Mr. Webster, addressed to Lord Ashburton, on the 8th of August, 1842, on the subject of the impressment of seamen in time of war, and to be found in Wheaton's History of International Law, in the Appendix:-
The English view of the subject is to be found in a speech of Sir William Molesworth, at that time a Cabinet Minister, and speaking in the name of the Cabinet:-
The same doctrine, I may add, is held by all the French and German jurists.
The conduct of the Captain of the San Jacinto will not, I fear, stand the test of these grave doctrines, so solemnly enunciated and expounded. Indeed, one is inclined to believe that he was merely acting on his own responsibility, without any instructions from his Government, in the hope of gaining some notoriety.
It is said that the law officers of the Crown have taken a technical view of the matter, and have advised the Government merely to complain of the conduct of the captain in constituting himself a judge in the matter, without submitting the case to the judgment of a Prize Court.
This seems to me an unfortunate course to adopt, and I fear it will draw forth from the lawyer-statesmen of America an answer in that clear, vigorous, and emphatic style which, from a profound knowledge of the subject, they can handle in the discussion of legal matters. The judgments of prize courts are purely proceedings in rem, and do not affect persons as distinguished from property; and no Prize Court in America, much, less the Supreme Court of Appeal, would have disgraced itself by pronouncing the vessel good prize. The captain knew well what he was doing, and was well aware that if he brought the vessel into American waters, and the Prize Court were to declare it not a good prize, he would be responsible to the owners for the expenses of the delay. Even supposing the vessel had been taken into American waters and claimed as prize, the same question as to the arrest of Messrs. Slidell and Mason would undoubtedly have arisen, for the Supreme Government would as soon as they were brought within the limits of its municipal jurisdiction have arrested them and taken them by main force, as they did on the open sea.
It would have been much better, as it seems to me, to have protested boldly and openly against the conduct of the captain on the principles enunciated by Mr. Webster and Sir W. Molesworth.
It does not appear whether the lieutenant arrested these gentlemen as subjects of the United States or as belligerent envoys. If he arrested them as the former, after our Government have acknowledged them as belligerents, he has committed a very great breach of the comity of nations. Being on board one of our vessels, these gentlemen were impressed with the character our Government has thought proper to give them, and they cannot be arrested in any other character, except in violation of all the courtesies which one nation is expected to show to another. I fear, however, there can be little doubt that it is as subjects of the United States in a state of rebellion against the supreme Government that they have been arrested, and that the whole proceedings are meant as an insult to this country for our supposed Southern sympathies and the promptitude with which we acknowledged the Confederates as belligerents.
You will see, Sir, that I do not consider as worthy of a moment's consideration the common argument one hears every day, that it cannot be as subjects that these gentlemen have been arrested, because it is only to belligerents that the right of search is granted by the law of nations, and that till the supreme Government acknowledges the South as belligerents they are not entitled to the right of search. To my mind this is an argument worthy of men not fit to grapple with so large a subject as the law of nations, and only fit to be turned out to feed and fatten in the green pastures of special demurrers. The question as to whether a state of belligerence (if I may be allowed to use the term) exists is purely a question of fact. The most gigantic civil war that the world has ever seen is now raging among men sprung from our own loins, and our lawyers doubt as to whether both parties are entitled to full belligerent powers from the want of some technicality. We have, moreover, by acknowledging the blockade, admitted all the belligerent claims of the supreme Government. I hope, Sir, that our Government will not be induced to put forth any such shallow ground, for I fear that if they do they may get such a reply from Mr. Seward as he lately favoured Lord Lyons with.
If, however, these gentlemen were arrested as belligerent envoys on their journey from one neutral port to another, an offence against the law of nations was, I think, equally committed. But I have trespassed so much on your patience, Sir, that I must not attempt to enter into it. I must not, however, omit to allude to a statement which has led many persons astray as to the right to stop envoys. In a letter in your valuable paper the other day a quotation was made from one of Lord Stowell's judgments, who refers in certain terms to Vattel's opinion on that subject. Any one, however, may, on turning to Vattel, book iv., c. 7, s. 85, see how much Lord Stowell has managed to alter and distort what that publicist really says.I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
|Ma 2 December 1861|
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir,- If the circumstances attending the recent attack on the rights of our flag be carefully reviewed, it will appear probable that we have mistaken the grounds on which Mr. Secretary Seward will attempt to justify the conduct of the American Executive, and that the great research and legal subtlety which have been displayed in recent discussions have been thrown away.
It is to be observed that Lieutenant Fairfax did not inquire whether the Trent carried as passengers persons bearing the character of Ministers or Commissioners, nor did he make the usual search for their credentials or despatches, which he assuredly would have done if the capture had been effected under the colour of the belligerent right which is supposed to justify the capture of agents of a hostile Power bearing despatches.
Messrs. Slidell and Mason seem to have been captured as persons owing allegiance to the United States who were charged with high treason.
The proceeding appears, therefore, to have been in the nature of the exercise of right derived from municipal law, on the deck of a vessel sailing under the flag of a friendly State.
Such a proceeding is wholly at variance with the acknowledged legal rights of nations. But Mr. Secretary Seward is a great master of the art of retort, whether in words or in acts, and is apt to mistake the dexterous wielding of such power as the true test of statesmanship.
His case will probably be this:- "During your war with France, when your maritime population laboured under the dread of impressment, many of them took service on board our merchant vessels as ordinary seamen. You then claimed and persisted in exercising a search of American, vessels, and took out of them every seaman of British origin, whether yon recognized him as a deserter from your navy or not. We remonstrated against this assumption as unwarranted by the laws of nations, and as constituting the searching officer the sole judge of the nationality of an individual - a question which, if it could be raised at all, ought to have been discussed and decided by a competent tribunal. In your declaration of war against us you maintained and reasserted the right, and. persisted in a claim which you never renounced even when peace was concluded at Ghent. If you, then, claim the right of searching for and capturing under the American flag your subjects who have left Great Britain to avoid impressment, surely we may capture under your flag our subjects who are in the very commission of an act of high treason against their country, proceeding on a mission hostile to its interests?"
In order that you may present your readers with the views of the Executive of the two countries I subjoin an extract from the message of President Maddison to Congress declaring the causes of war, in which the views of that country are clearly stated:-
The Prince Regent, in his message to the Houses of Parliament on the same subject, thus states the views of the British Government (See Parliamentary Debates, vol. 24, from the 24th of November, 1812, to the 9th of March, 1813, p. 374):-
"Their allegiance is no optional duty which they can decline and resume at pleasure. It is a call which they are bound to obey; it began with their birth, and can only terminate with their existence."
I believe that neither we nor the Americans can maintain the claims which we then and they now assert. If these rights exist, they must be reciprocal, and must extend to all nations. What should we say to the Emperor of the French, if at war with Russia, searching our vessels for refugees from his marine conscription?
The cases are not exactly parallel, but, at any rate, to use an old saying, "two wrongs cannot make a right," but the recollection of the treatment to which we formerly subjected American subjects will probably mitigate our resentment at the wrong which we now endure, and if our demands be met in a moderate spirit the present occurrence may be the means of placing the relations of the two nations on a satisfactory basis.I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Nov. 30. EX OFFICIO.
|Ma 2 December 1861||The fine steam transport Melbourne, Capt. Benson, 1,441 gross tonnage, chartered on Saturday and surveyed by the Admiralty Commissioners, for the despatch of troops and war materials to America, arrived at Woolwich pier the same evening, and commenced shipping yesterday morning. She will continue receiving the supplies night and day until her cargo is complete. She is under orders to sail on Thursday from Woolwich for Halifax, or any other port more available in our American possessions. The cargo will consist of the following stores:- 25,000 stand of arms and accoutrements, a large number of brass howitzers and other smooth-bore guns, one battery of 12-pounder and one battery of 9-pounder guns, gun-carriages, platforms, &c. Capt. G.H. Vesey's 5th Battery, 4th Brigade, Field Artillery, supplied with Armstrong guns, consisting of seven officers and about 240 men, will arrive at Woolwich by special train on Wednesday from Bristol, and will embark on the following morning on board the Melbourne.|
The Hero, 89, screw, Capt. Ryder, at Spithead, has dockyard artisans working on board her extra hours to expedite her departure to join Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne's squadron on the North-America and West India Station.
|Tu 3 December 1861|
LONDON, TUESDAY, DECEMBER. 3, 1861
It is idle to weary ourselves with guessing at an enigma which must so soon explain itself. We do not know now, but we cannot be long kept in ignorance of the real meaning of the strange policy which, ever since they have fallen out so grievously among themselves, the United States have thought fit to adopt towards this country. Little right as we had to be surprised at anything that might come from such a quarter, we were not prepared for the systematic and virulent hostility manifested towards us ever since the accession of Mr. Lincoln to office. Everything we did was misconstrued and misrepresented. The vilest motives were attributed to our best-meant actions, and threats of a significance which it was impossible to misunderstand have been continually launched against us by the Government and Press of the United States. Not less remarkable than the determination to see nothing right in what England did was the equally strong resolution to make us a foil to the merits of France. When any suggestion more than usually defamatory was hazarded, it was accompanied with some such remark as "France will not," "England dare not." Just as the one was to be abused, the other was to be flattered. We cannot, as we have said, at present guess the full meaning of American policy; but it looked as if the Cabinet of Washington believed that by a judicious distribution of praise and abuse they were able to induce France to join them in an attack against England. Mr. Seward seemed to have brought himself to the belief that conquests in the North were to indemnify him for losses in the South, and that while he was fighting the Confederates with the one hand, and Canada with the other, France could be persuaded to become a partner of the war and a sharer of the booty.
One part of his policy the American Government have succeeded in driving to the extremity to which it has so long been tending. They will receive in a few days our demand of reparation, and it will be in their power by a single monosyllable to obtain what they have so long desired - the blessings of a war with Great Britain. It is high time, therefore, that the other half of their policy should bear its fruit, and that, as England has been effectually alienated, so France should be as effectually conciliated. This, however, does not seem likely to be the case. The same packet which bore to America the demands of the British Government would also apprise her of the views of France, of her opinion with regard to the rights of the quarrel, and of the course of action which alone she deems worthy of England under such circumstances. In appreciating the conduct of the American officer as regards the seizure of enemies on board a neutral ship the French Press has shown a remarkable unanimity. They denounce such an attack on the rights of neutrals, and argue the matter with all that transparent clearness of statement and perfection of arrangement which is the pre-eminent gift of their language and their race. All the adulation, all the flattery of the last year, has been wholly thrown away upon France, and her public writers employ, in speaking on the subject of debate, a language far less guarded than the Press of England has felt it its duty to use. The conduct of Commodore Wilkes is denounced as "a brutal outrage," and the right of the English Government to demand reparation is shown to be founded on the clearest principles of International Law, which treat a ship as a portion of the soil of the country to which it belongs, and allow no violation of it by armed force, except with the view of calling in the aid of a court of justice to punish actual delinquency on the part of its owners or its commander. If America wants authority as to the true nature of the act for which she is summoned to make reparation, she has it, not in the assertions and arguments of England, an interested party, but in the views enunciated by France, a country standing impartial between the two Powers, and neither seduced by interest nor urged by partiality to an undue defence of the acts or reasons of England. We hope that such an opinion may have its due weight, and may convince those with whom the decision rests that it is more honourable to make reparation for what has been done than to adopt and justify it.
Lest, however, such, motives should fail of their due effect under the influence of an irritation against England so studiously fomented for so long a time, the French Press proceeds to consider the important problem - "What should be the attitude of France under existing circumstances?" "It is difficult," says the Patrie, a semi-official journal, "for France to remain indifferent in presence of a violation of International Law which concerns all maritime nations. We believe that very likely the Northern States will refuse to accede to the demand made by England. In that case, we may presume that war will be immediately declared, and the first act of hostility will be the recognition of the Southern States." We cite these words because it is very desirable for those with whom the ultimate decision rests to understand not merely what is thought in England about the quarrel, but what is felt to be its inevitable consequence. One portion of the American Press maintains that what has been done is lawful; another concedes that it was not strictly according to rule, but disbelieves the disposition of England to resent it. It is right that they should know what not only English, but European opinion, exacts from persons who have received such an indignity as has been offered to us. We beg the American Government carefully to weigh and consider the answer which a journal believed more than any other to express the real sentiments of the Emperor makes to the question it has thrown out, - "What ought, under such circumstances, to be the attitude of France V?" "We cannot," it says, "remain idle spectators of a struggle between North America and England. It is quite clear that it is not our duty to avenge the wrongs of England, but the recognition of the South by that Power, which would imply a final separation from the United States, could not he regarded as an isolated act, and would impose upon France the necessity of assuming a decisive attitude on this question. The result would be that two great maritime Powers of Europe might be drawn into a common action with the same identical political object." These words should be well weighed before an answer is given to the demand of Lord Lyons. We have abstained from threats, for, being really anxious for a pacific termination of the quarrel, we have had no wish to enlist against us the sympathies of a brave and high-spirited people, and would rather owe a satisfactory settlement to feelings of right and justice than to any apprehension of consequences. But it is still right America should feel that we are not likely to stand alone in this matter.America refused in 1856 to assent to those improvements of International Law which met with the assent and co-operation of all the European Powers. It would seem as if she meditated isolating herself from the rest of the world on this subject, and claiming to break through at her sovereign will and pleasure those rules by which other nations are content to be bound. She should not press too hardly on the patience of Europe. In the fruitless attempt to conquer a number of States which have for ever thrown off her sway America has locked up the raw material of a manufacture by which millions of Englishmen and Frenchmen live. The blow has fallen heavily on England, still more heavily on France; but both have borne it with patience, because they feel that as leaders in the great community of nations they are bound to support by their obedience that code of International Law which forms one of the noblest and most substantial triumphs of civilization over barbarism. But, while they are sacrificing their dearest interests without a murmur on the shrine of right and legality, they find, with indignation, that the very Power which exacts these sacrifices sets at defiance the principles of that International Law to which it appeals. Requiring, on the one hand, the most punctilious deference to her belligerent rights in a war of which she at the same moment denies the existence, America refuses to show the slightest respect for the soil of a neutral Power or the deck of a neutral ship. International Law is made for her, but not against her. She binds others, but will not be bound herself. Such pretensions, so exorbitant and so unreasonable, naturally arouse against her the feelings of nations whose rights have not yet been attacked, but who see with dismay the establishment of doctrines subversive of all public law, and know not how soon their turn may come to be made subjects for their application. Nothing but commanding power can maintain such an attitude, and it behoves the Northern States to take a calm and careful measure of their resources before they thus arrogantly throw down the gauntlet not merely to England, but to the rest of the civilized world, else they may find both that "England dare'' and "France will."
|Tu 3 December 1861||Commodore Wilkes, of the Federal States' Navy, has startled his own countrymen as thoroughly as he has us. At this moment he is probably the happiest man in the Northern States. He has arrived at that sort of Filibustering notoriety which in America is often accepted as fame. By the cheap exploit of arresting an unarmed vessel and kidnapping four peaceful passengers he has attracted as much attention as if he had really done some deed of danger. By the safe bravado of insulting the English flag when flying on board an undefended ship he has become as notorious as if he had dared some act of heroism which might have recoiled upon his own proper person. The stupid mobs and still more stupid newspapers who cry up these mock celebrities have done much to spread throughout the American service a notion that it is more profitable to be insolent and lawless than to be brave and dutiful. When General Summner violates the territory of a weak neutral State he is applauded for his patriotism, and when Commodore Wilkes commits an act of piracy on the high seas the first impulse of an American mob is to give him a testimonial. But hardly has the great Yankee mouth been opened for a shout of triumph when the sound seems to stick in the throat. There is an uncomfortable consciousness that this is not like other cheap heroics. This exploit against the Trent was, at first sight, only a bit of bluster against England, such as General Harney might enact to his own interest off Vancouver's Island; but after a moment's reflection the suspicion arose that there might be something much more grave in the present experiment. The news by the Persia shows that the Federal public and Press have received their Commodore's exploit with considerable misgivings as to the consequences. The most sanguine would appear to hope that England will be content to pass this over with contempt, as she has passed over scores of petty incivilities; the most unscrupulous affect to taunt us beforehand with the emptiness of our anticipated indignation; but there are others who see clearly that an act has been done which must be either justified or retracted. Some portion of the New York Press discovered instinctively the weakness of their case, and point out that the American captain was wrong in not taking the Trent into port, and procuring her condemnation in a Prize Court.
This is the whole point at issue. At the present stage of the affair we have nothing to do with any other point than this, - Was the First Lieutenant of the San Jacinto justified an taking upon himself the duties of an Admiralty Judge on board a British ship on the high seas? It is vain to tell us what might have happened if the Trent had been carried into port. It is impertinent to attempt to divert the discussion to questions as to whether Diplomatic Envoys passing to neutral ports are contraband of War, or to waste learning upon the point of how far a Mail steamer can be held responsible for the content of her Mail bags, or a passenger steamer for the character of her passengers. None of these questions have arisen or can arise during this controversy. The opportunity for discussing them has been forcibly suppressed by the violent acts of four boats' crews of American seamen. The Law of Nations has pointed out a course of action by which all these difficult points might have been mooted and decided. An American officer has, however, set at nought the Law of Nations, and has substituted his own prompt decision for that of the Prize Judge. Where are we now to fight out these questions of fact and law? Are they to be decided by the English and American Press? Are they to be argued and settled by diplomatic Notes? A Yankee subordinate officer has already given judgment and effected execution by his own will and with his own sword. Fools may prate in such a matter of the seizure of this vessel being only wrong in form but right in substance. This is one of those very numerous cases in which the whole substance exists in the form. Is a constable to hang a man up to a tree because he and his neighbours believe him to be guilty, and are we to be told that the trial would have been a mere useless form, for that the evidence was so strong that the result would have been the same? If this be so, then Lynch Law is the best rule of right, and England must submit to see it established against her all over the world. Even, however, when the laws of civilization are set at nought, and the summary law of force is brought into action, some sort of trial is generally adopted, some accusation is made, and some opportunity for defence is allowed. These cutlass-and-pistol-bearing Judges of the American Admiralty, however, make no accusation, ask for no explanation, but issue their decrees at once under the British flag, and carry off their condemned without even deigning to state their crime.
Until every man and every thing taken out of the Trent is once more restored to the protection of the flag which has been outraged no question, of contraband of war can arise. If the proper course had been taken, and if the American Government had sought to obtain a condemnation of the Trent by a Court of International Law, we can have no doubt what the result would have been. The American Courts must be very unlike what they have been, and the American Judges must have degenerated very much from the independence and learning of their predecessors, if the capture had not been declared to be altogether untenable, and if an indemnity had not been decreed against the captors. It is quite impossible that in the present state of the world any Court of Admiralty could confiscate a Government Mail packet on account of the contents of Mail bags which are the property of a neutral Government, or on account of the presence of a passenger who was accused of high treason. Such a decision would call up the whole civilized world to protest against it in arms, and could serve no other purpose than to discredit the Court and disgrace the Judge. We should have had but little fear of the result if the case had been allowed to be tried. But, if it had been tried, and if the ship had been by any judicial mismanagement condemned, the Federal States would have had some ground whereon they might stand and argue with us while they held their prisoners. Now they have none. They might have said they were bound to uphold the decision of their own judges; they cannot say, with the world looking on, that they will uphold the judgment of the First Lieutenant of the San Jacinto. The only thing they now can say is what Captain Wilkes is reported to have said, - that, "right or wrong, these men had to be secured."
This is not the way in which a nation which respects its own rights as well as the rights of others can submit to be argued with. We should attach very little importance to the words of Captain Wilkes if these stood alone. But, as the lawyers say, this declaration is part of the res gesta. It is the explanation accompanying the act. It is, moreover, the declaration of a man whose acts have been adopted by the populace, and, as there is too much reason to fear, by the Government of the Northern Republic. We should hope that there is no foundation for the report which we read in the American papers, that Mr. Lincoln had himself, on receipt of intelligence of this outrage, affirmed that the Commissioners should not be surrendered, even if a war with Great Britain should be the alternative. Such a declaration would manifest at once a sense of being in the wrong and a determination to force us to submit to that wrong. It would confirm our Special Correspondent's prediction, that "in the present temper of the American people, no concession can avert serious complications very long." Lest we should still be in doubt as to the intentions of the Federal statesmen to make their acts and their words accord, our New York Correspondent, who states the Federal case with all the ardour of a most sanguine Northerner, tells us that the seizure of the Trent is but the first of a series of similar acts; that steamers are being fitted out at New York for the express purpose of committing similar outrages upon our flag; that they have been designedly intrusted to the command of "young officers and that these young officers have been authorized to exercise great latitude in the execution of their instructions, and have received assurances in advance of the support of the Government."It is evident that if England shall be found ready to eat dirt there is no lack of Americans ready to cram it down her throat. They are constantly boasting of their right to share in our history and our literature. Where can they have read that Englishmen have ever endured insults and injuries such as these? What right have they to speculate that we have fallen so low beneath the spirit of our fathers that we shall submit to in- dignities systematically inflicted, no one of which has ever yet in all our history passed unresented? It is melancholy indeed that a war should be forced upon us by mere wanton folly, for never was there a case in which a nation was more innocently dragged into a quarrel. We care nothing for these two Confederate officials. Our New York Correspondent reminds us to-day that one of them is known to us chiefly by his constant abuse of this country. We have no particular reason to sympathize with the mob of New Orleans rather than with the mob of New York, for our Special Correspondent, writing from Washington, says that it will be necessary to send a ship of war to New Orleans to protect British subjects resident in that city from the violence of its citizens. We have broken no blockade, we have endured without a murmur the inconveniences inflicted upon our trade, and we have trodden the straight line of neutrality with a scrupulous exactitude. What, then, have we done that we should be made the object of intolerable aggressions which we cannot, even if we would, endure? It is vain to say that if war has been, as we now believe it to have been, determined upon long ago, it could not happen at a time when it would find us better prepared, or when it would cost us less. The prospect of war, and of such a war, cannot but be fearful, let it happen when and under what circumstances it may. But, if war must come, we shall at least have the consolation that all the civilized world joins in a common indignation against the enemy, which has only become an enemy of England by violating the laws which are the safeguards of civilization and which keep nations at peace.
|Tu 3 December 1861|
THE ROYAL NAVAL RESERVE.
The following correspondence has been forwarded to us for publication:-
"'To the Shipping Master, Limehouse.
"'To Captain Luckraft, R.N.
"'To Captain Palmer, R.N., Her Majesty's Ship Castor.
"'To Captain Heard,
"'Her Majesty's ship Trincomalee, Sunderland, Nov. 30, 1861.
"'Sir, - At a general meeting held on board Her Majesty's training-ship Trincomalee, now lying in the South Dock.
"'Sir, seeing by the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette the insult offered to the British flag by the Americans, we, the undersigned Naval Reserve men, do freely and spontaneously come forward and offer our service to resent the insult, and will shed the last drop of our blood against any nation who dares to insult our gracious Queen or national flag.
"'Signed on behalf of the meeting, over 100 present,
"'JOHN ROBERTSON", Chairman.'"
|We 4 December 1861|
THE AMERICAN DIFFICULTY.
At the annual root show of the Botley and South Hants Farmers' Club on Monday, in the Market-hall of Botley, the Hon. R.H. Dutton[Ralph Heneage Dutton, 1821-1892, Conservative MP for Hampshire South], replying for the county members, touched upon the late outrage committed upon the British flag by an American war-ship, and said:-However much we might have regretted the American internal disruption, how much more must we regret now to see the Northern States embroiling themselves with an European Power. This country had agreed to be perfectly neutral in respect to the American civil war, and had so conducted her affairs since the differences began; but yet, in the Northern States, for some time, there had been an evident wish to pick a quarrel with the mother country. It was only the other day we were wondering how we should treat the affair of the Nashville Confederate steamer, which had come into Southampton after taking a Federal prize and while orders on this affair were still pending, came the startling event of one of our own vessels being boarded by a ship carrying the flag of the Federal Government. The first great question was, would our jurists decide this to be a hostile act, or not? He at first certainly thought it must be an act of an aggressive character; and now there was no difference of opinion, as both the Government and the great jurists who advised the country all considered the act as an aggressive one. He was very glad to see the Government, of which Lord Palmerston was the head, acting so promptly. Though he was not exactly a supporter of the Premier he did not think the country could he in safer hands. (Hear.) He thought no Government could have lasted one week after meeting the Parliament if they had not taken the course just adopted by Her Majesty's Ministers. (Hear.) There was no taxpayer in this country who would refuse to pay his share of any extra cost to carry that demand of restitution out. (Hear.) Then, how would our demand be met in America, thought they? He doubted if there would not be some hesitation in giving up these men, and then instant war would ensue. It would not, however, prove, if it came, a costly war for us. Happily for us, and unhappily for America, the navy of England was never in a better condition, and if it did attack them it would make a perfect havoc of their carrying trade, which was to them of immense importance, as they did all their own coasting trade, with their own bottoms, from the whole of the American lines to California, and they could not employ foreign shipping. It will then be but a matter of a few weeks for the English vessels to cripple their whole strength. America had many great commercial towns on her coasts, but they possessed, none of them, any fortification whatever that could withstand even the onslaught of our very old-fashioned three-deckers. If these things be considered in America they must be mad to rush into war; but he was afraid that country was not ruled at present by its wisest men. Their chairman had said just now that monarchical Governments were on their trial, but it certainly seemed that democratical Governments were on their trial.
MR, FORSTER, M.P.At the opening of the Volunteer Barracks at Bradford, on Saturday, or rather at the luncheon in connexion with, the event, Captain Forster, M.P.[William Edward Forster, 1818-1886, Liberal M.P. for Bradford], responded at some lengths to the toast of "The Borough Members." With regard to the present American difficulty, he urged his hearers not to take it for granted that on account of what had happened therefore the American Government would not make reparation. He could not believe that they would be guilty of the insanity and wickedness of involving themselves in a war with this country. They all felt as much as he did the fearful interests which would be at stake if England were under the necessity of going to war with any country, but more especially in going to war with America, for such a conflict must be regarded as a civil war. There were at stake not only the great commercial interests which bound the two nations together, but there was hardly a street in our towns in which there were not families from which members had gone to reside in the United States; so that a war between these countries would be the same as a civil war. Nothing, then, could be more disastrous and ruinous than a war between these countries. They must all earnestly pray, therefore, to be kept out of war. If our Government, failing in obtaining redress, decided upon an appeal to the sword, then the responsibility must rest with those who had driven us into it. But he could not believe that such would be the case. He felt confident that the American Government would make reasonable reparation; and he believed the English Government would demand nothing more. He fully believed that no American Government would venture upon the insane course of involving these two countries in war; or if they did so, he believed the American people themselves would speedily show their disapproval, and insist upon the necessary reparation being offered.
|We 4 December 1861||The comments of the New York journals on the seizure of the Trent produce a feeling not so much of disappointment as of melancholy. We had hoped, and, in spite of every species of discouragement, we have clung to the hope, that beyond the Atlantic would arise a race not only speaking our language, but destined to give to the world a new type of civilization, and to take its place not only among the most powerful, but among the most respectable nations of the earth. With no motive for aggression, with every blessing of nature lavishly spread out before them, with the advantage of our dearly-bought experience in every species of conjuncture, and with institutions to copy from matured by the struggles and sacrifices of eight hundred years, we were not over-sanguine in supposing that our former colonies were launched on a career as brilliant and glorious as could be wished for them.
We pass over all intermediate causes of regret and dissatisfaction to fix our attention the more closely on the spectacle which America at present presents, as depicted by the pens of her own writers and the tongues of her own Statesmen. She is engaged in a desperate Civil War for causes which, beyond her own border, no one can be found to approve. She is exercising the belligerent right of blockading two-thirds of the sea-coast of territory with which she does not admit that she is at war - that is, she is requiring from the rest of the world enormous sacrifices on the ground of the existence of a war which she herself denies to exist. To this utterly inconsistent claim we, at an enormous sacrifice, have submitted without a murmur. We have not given the slightest cause of complaint, except by our readiness to avow and practise that neutrality which must form the foundation for the belligerent rights she asserts. She threatens to hang the crews of Southern privateers because she does not admit their belligerent rights, and she seizes Southern citizens on the deck of a neutral ship because she contends that they are Ambassadors, and therefore contraband of war - that is, of a war that does not exist. This is the dignified and consistent attitude which America takes up in the face of the world. As to ourselves, whatever be the pretext she puts forward, whatever the character she has assumed, she has from the first outbreak of hostilities pursued precisely the same course. For some reason or another it has been determined that England should either be driven into a war which she is obviously most anxious to avoid, or be made to drink to the dregs the cup of bitter humiliation. Any one who reads the journal of our Special Correspondent will see that he, as an impartial observer, was perfectly prepared for the perpetration of some such outrage as that which has occurred in the case of the Trent. "It is to my mind incontrovertible," he says, "that the most certain way of achieving distinction or success in politics in the United States is by directing popular animosity against the British Government. I feel compelled to state the conviction of my mind that there are elements of danger to friendly relations in the state of feeling which has been aroused." The act of Commodore Wilkes may be due to his own personal vanity or wrongheaded patriotism, but we cannot doubt that we owe it mainly to the tone taken towards us by the Government, and violently re-echoed from the Press of America. Well, they have had their wish. They have succeeded in putting themselves in a position in which they will have to swallow in the face of the world the vauntings and tauntings of the last twelve months, to make full reparation and restitution, to disavow the acts of the officer whom they are treating as a benefactor to his country, and to whom they propose to give "a Fourth of July all to himself," or they will have to abide consequences so serious that they might make the most thoughtless for a moment sober and sedate.
Let any one compare the tone of the Press of this country on the receipt of the news of the violation of our flag with that of the American Press, and draw his own conclusions. For the English Press we claim no particular credit; it has acted, as it was sure to do, in accordance with the feeling of the nation, and that feeling was to look at the matter with the most judicial impartiality, to arrive at a conclusion deliberately, and to act upon it unflinchingly. The people and Press of England have acted, as they were bound to do, with a heavy sense of the responsibility they incur, and a suitable reluctance to commit themselves to the awful alternative, to which they now stand engaged, of reparation or war. How different the tone of the New York journals, from whose columns we gave copious extracts in our impression of yesterday! How light the manner, how flippant the treatment, how utterly unworthy of the greatness of the occasion, of the momentous issue which remains, not for us, but for America to decide! "What Great Britain will say," says the New York Tribune, "we do not know, and do not greatly care." The New York World facetiously proposes that they should hang the prisoners first and make amends for them afterwards. The New York Journal of Commerce exhorts England honourably to preserve her neutrality, and points out that the conduct of the American officer was a pure act of mercy to the Trent. The New York Times has not the slightest idea that England will even remonstrate. On the contrary, she will applaud the gallant act. The same journal thinks that the question of the Trent will form a subject of debate for English party politics, the Liberals being in favour of the seizure and the Tories against it. The New York Shipping and Commercial List thinks any trouble which may arise may easily be adjusted by a little skilful diplomacy. That England and the United States can be so readily plunged into war with each other seems to it altogether incredible.Can anything be more melancholy than the perusal of such articles, except the reflection that it is out of such stuff as this that the governing opinion of America is made; and what is the short, but momentous issue, which that governing opinion will now be called upon to decide? This is no case for skilful diplomacy, for wire-drawn arguments from misquoted or misunderstood authorities, for retort, for ridicule, or for bluster. Sad and serious is the question which the American people must answer, and unspeakably important the results that hang on it. Either America must stop short in the aggressive and overbearing course on which she has entered, must retrace her steps, and make such reparation as to leave even the New York Press no excuse for saying that she has gained anything by doing violence to men who sought protection under the British flag, or she must prepare to assert in another arena the claim to trample under her feet the plainest rules of International Law and the dearest rights of friendly Powers. Have her Statesmen and her Press, who think it so safe and so profitable an amusement to insult the flag of Great Britain, really set themselves to consider the position they will occupy should the whole weight of this empire be thrown - perhaps not alone - into the vibrating scales of the Civil War? We recoil from such a conflict, for we well know what even we must suffer, with everything in our favour, before we bring it to a victorious issue. A vast accumulated wealth, the hopes of an unborn civilization, many kindly feelings, and many lives of brave men must be flung away before that contest will be ended. We can look on it with hope, nay, under existing conditions, with a very reasonable confidence of success. For America, we need not look into the distant future, nor suppose on our part any very signal exertion of skill or valour, but we may reasonably predict that three things will follow almost immediately on the breaking out of war - the destruction of the Southern blockade, a complete blockade of the North, and the recognition of the Southern States as an independent Power by England and France. We leave the American Press, when they have recovered from the outburst of hilarity caused by recent events, to tell us what will be the result of such occurrences on the prospects of conquering the South and of retaining the Southern States in the same Confederacy. They may divert themselves yet a little longer at our expense, but, unless they are even now entering on a calmer mood, they will speedily curse the blind guides that led them to force a quarrel on England, and the unpardonable levity and presumption which induced them to follow such guidance.
|We 4 December 1861||If our present dispute with the Northern States of America should unhappily result in war, we shall at least have the satisfaction of accepting that extremity not only with the consciousness of a good cause, but with such a confidence in our power as could never have been entertained at a like crisis before. It has almost passed into a proverb that war finds England unprepared. We have resources, it is true, and, as our national character enables us to endure until these resources are brought into play, we not only survive a shock received at a disadvantage, but usually find ourselves stronger at the end of the struggle than we were at the beginning. Now, however, we are for once in a totally different position. We stand literally armed to the teeth. Either by land or by sea we could exert a power incredibly greater than at any time during the last 40 years. We have not only a strong army and a most formidable fleet, but both our military and naval forces are equipped with all the tremendous appliances of modern warfare. The large but judicious expenditure of the last five years is now bearing its fruit, and we find ourselves in a state of complete preparation against an emergency which is none the less serious from having been little anticipated. Indeed, although, it is hazardous and unwise to hold any enemy cheap, we cannot possibly regard the regular Navy of America as competent for a moment to cope with our own. The position of the Americans at this time is much such as ours was 25 years ago. They are a strong, rich, resolute, and enterprising people. A large portion of the nation takes to the sea as naturally as we do, they are excellent naval architects, and they have always proved daring sailors. The Northern States, in short, possess all the elements of maritime power, but the power has not been created. They could have a fleet in time, but they have not got one as it is. It has been as much as they could do to blockade the ports of the Confederates, while, if half of what we have recently been taught is true, the few frigates which carry the Federal flag must be next to useless against modern ordnance. We have only just convinced ourselves that solid walls of teak and iron can keep out those terrible projectiles which in ten minutes would set any ordinary vessel in flames. We have been lavishing money and pains without stint in furnishing one-half of our ships with irresistible artillery and the other half with impenetrable armour. Unless all our recent exertions have been gratuitous and fruitless, the American men-of-war, with their combustible sides, must be but poor matches for our own. If they are really as strong as we are, the "reconstruction" of our Navy has been a very unnecessary and profitless undertaking.
But there is another and a most important point at which our present position can be strikingly contrasted with our position in former times. We had always got money, and we had generally got ships, but we had never got men. The problem of "Manning the Navy " was invariably regarded as the most difficult of all the problems connected with the national defences. Nobody could ever tell where sailors were to come from at the outbreak of a war, and it was doubted whether our maritime power might not be seriously endangered for want of these vital supplies. How different our position is at this moment may be seen from a statement which we publish this morning. Besides a Channel Fleet and a strong squadron already on the North-American station; besides the Coastguard and the seamen voted in no illiberal spirit by the last Estimates, we have at length, in the very nick of time, got a real Naval Reserve. That force, which at first grew so slowly, is at last firmly rooted, and its proportions are now satisfactory in the extreme. That we are not in the least exaggerating its value or importance will be evident when we say that the number, of able seamen actually enrolled in the Reserve would enable us, with the ordinary additions of hands always procurable, to send to sea a fleet of thirty line-of-battle ships. That the spirit, too, now animating this important force is all that could be desired will have been seen from the addresses which we published yesterday, in which the men on board the various training-ships instinctively, and without a minute's hesitation, volunteered their immediate services to fight for their Queen and flag. Add these men to the men voted by Parliament and it will soon be seen with what an overpowering force we could instantly take the seas.
The Royal Naval Reserve, it is now clear, was organized on good principles, and it really seems as if the excellence of the terms offered was at first one of the chief drawbacks experienced. The men could hardly believe that Government was ready to give so much on condition of receiving so little, and the old suspicions entertained of the Admiralty were rather quickened than allayed by the unexpected attractions of the new bargain. After an interval, however, of distrust and hesitation the men of the Northern ports, remarkable for their intelligence and foresight, deputed a committee to examine the scheme, and the result of this inquiry was a cordial approval of the Government proposition. From this moment the success of the project became assured. At first, if a dozen men were entered for the Reserve in. the course of a week it was as much as was done, but the example of the north-country seamen was not lost, and the entries gradually rose from 10 a-week to 50, from 50 to 100, from 100 to 150, and so on, until at present the average number of weekly applications for enrolment exceeds 200, and is steadily on the increase still. It must be understood that these are all picked men of the very first quality; so much so, indeed, as to be perfectly equal to the same class in the Royal Navy. They now amount in number to about 8,000, and the applications at present under consideration will add 600 more to the force in the course of a fortnight. The true value of this Reserve will not be appreciated unless it is remembered that an "able seaman" counts for considerably more than an ordinary seaman in the estimate of a ship's company. In the 50,000 sailors now employed in the Royal Navy there are but some 15,000 rated as "A. B.'s," so that the addition of 8,000 and upwards to this class would be equivalent to an addition of more than three times that extent to the maritime resources of the nation. There is very little difficulty in getting ordinary hands if a nucleus of skilled men can be provided to start with. Nor must it be forgotten that the emergency itself will lend a powerful impulse to the enrolment already so popular. Instead of 200 applicants a-week, we are now likely to see twice as many, so that the resources of England, hitherto realized with so much delay and loss, will be available instantly on a declaration of war.It is in no spirit of arrogance or menace that we have made these remarks. We should far prefer to find that a survey of our strength had induced the Americans to put a proper interpretation upon the forbearance we have hitherto shown, and, by consequence, to estimate fairly the demands to which we have at length been driven. We do not wish them to regard us as dictating terms to them or presuming on our extraordinary readiness for the last appeal. We ask only to be considered as a Power entitled to respect, and incapable of submitting to injustice. They know as well as we do the strength which we command, and the double advantages which their embarrassments and our own preparations happen just now to give us. All we ask of them, with these facts in view, is not to make us choose between war and dishonour. If they will leave us any other alternative, they may depend upon finding us as anxious to remain at peace with them as if we had not got a dozen ships afloat or a thousand sailors at our call.
|We 4 December 1861|
THE AMERICAN FEDERAL NAVY
The following is a list of all the vessels of war now actually belonging to or in the possession of the Northern States, exclusive only of the merchant and other vessels which have been taken up as store and troop ships since last May and June:-
Ships of the line.
The Pennsylvania, 120 guns, 3,241 tons, built in 1837 - receiving ship, Norfolk.
The Constitution, 50 guns, 1,607 tons, built in 1797; in commission - Annapolis.
The Cumberland, 24 guns, 1,726 tons, built in 1842; in commission - Home.
The Bainbridge, 6 guns, 259 tons, built in 1842; fitting -Boston.
Store and Troop Vessels.
The Relief, 2 guns, 468 tons, built in 1836; commission - Africa.
The Niagara, 12 guns, 4,580 tons, built in 1855 - Japan.
First-class steam sloops.
The San Jacinto, 13 guns, 1,446 tons, built in 1850 - Home.
The Susquehanna, 15 guns, 2,450 tons, built in 1850 -Home.
Second-class Steam Sloops.
The Mohican, 6 guns, 994 tons, built in 1858 - Home.
The Pulton, 4 guns, 698 tons, built in 1837 - Pensacola.
The Wyandotte, 5 guns, 464 tons, built in 1858; in commission - Home.
The Waterwitch, 3 guns, 378 tons, built in 1845; fitting - Philadelphia.
The John Hancock, 3 guns, 382 tons, built in 1850; in ordinary - St. Francisco.
Since May last the Federal Government has, it is stated officially, nominally added nearly 100 vessels to this list, a complete account of each of which ought to have reached our Admiralty by the last mail. This supplementary list, however, has not yet arrived, and it is not improbable, considering the present state of our relations with America, that it will not now be sent at all. The omission, however, is a matter of very small importance, as the additional vessels have been officially stated to be all merchant ships bought or chartered by the Government for the conveyance of troops, and only in some few instances fitted with one or two light cannon to assist in blockading the Southern ports. The above list, therefore, in fact, comprises all the actual vessels of war belonging to the Federal Government up to the departure of the last mail. The list looks sufficiently well on paper, though, when we come to examine it, its formidable aspect very rapidly disappears. It is not too much to say that the whole of the first portion of the list down to the screw frigates only enumerates the names of old wooden vessels, which can scarcely be counted as forming any part of the effective Federal Navy. The Pennsylvania, 120, sounds quite large, though, in reality, this old vessel is as harmless as our own Victory, and would fall an easy prey to any of the really powerful American frigates, such as the Niagara, the Brooklyn, the Lancaster, or the Pensacola. In fact, of the first ten ships of the line which head the catalogue not one has ever had a gun in her except the Pennsylvania, which mounts six. The rest, with the exception of the Vermont, are all about the oldest specimens afloat of the very old school of sailing liners. Of the whole ten, four were begun before 1820, and have lain in ordinary ever since, and are, in fact, contemporaries of the clay-coloured Benbows and Melpomenes [not clear which vessel is referred to here; Melpomene was disposed of in 1815, and the subsequent Melpomene had only been launched in 1857] that encumber the waters of the Medway and Hamoaze. Four others in this list were commenced in 1815 and 1818, and are still on the stocks, after a lapse of 45 years! The same remarks apply to most of the sailing frigates, some of which, as our readers will see, were built nearly as far back as 70 years ago, and even the most modern are constructed on the old model as to size. How our own naval architects would stare at being requested to get 50 guns into a ship of 1,600 tons, which, allowing for the difference of American tonnage, represents little over 1,300 tons of ours! In fact, most of the American sailing war vessels are always spoken of by the officers in our service as being "a box of guns." Thus, the St. Louis, Vandalia, Jamestown, and Plymouth, though some of not more than 700 American tons, and none over 1,000, all carry armaments as numerous and almost as heavy as our frigates of nearly four times their size. The result is that "the quarters" in action are so crowded with men and confined in space that the guns cannot be handled, while every enemy's shot coming on board tells with appalling effect among the close groups of seamen. It was the knowledge of the fatal disadvantages under which they laboured in this respect as compared with the frigates of other nations that led the United States' officers to press upon their Government for the construction of frigates of the largest class, capable of carrying heavy guns, and, at the same time, allowing the crews an ample space to work them in. And here we come to the really formidable portion of the Federal Navy. The Niagara was the first attempt at vessels of this class. It was built by Mr. Steers, the builder of the far-famed yacht America. He, however, like all other yacht builders. East or West, sacrificed everything to speed, and so it was found on trial that the Niagara, a vessel of 4,600 tons, was so deeply immersed that the idea of a main deck battery of 30 huge guns had to be given up entirely, and her armament reduced to 12 11-inch Dahlgren shell-guns, all on the spar deck. She is still, however, from her great speed (with steam and sail she can always command from 14 to 15 knots an hour) and her heavy long range armament a formidable cruiser. In their next efforts the American Government were more fortunate, and in the Lancaster, Pensacola, Brooklyn, Hartford, and Richmond, five large and powerful vessels were produced, and sent afloat in 1859. The Brooklyn is the best of these, and the type of her class. With great sailing qualities and high steam power, she can go at almost any rate she pleases, and, above all, she carries well an armament of 25 11-inch shell guns of great length. These enormous ordnance very much resemble in outward appearance cast-iron champagne bottles, and their weight is so great (with their carriages, nearly nine American tons) that the whole of her crew is required to handle one broadside effectively. She, however, and her sisters we have mentioned would still prove heavy overmatches for any slower and lighter armed vessels of war. The San Jacinto was the first experimental vessel of this class, and the Brooklyn is the last and best. No vessel, we may mention, is better known in our service than the Brooklyn, from the part which Captain Walker took when the outcry prevailed in America against the British right of search for slavers. During that exciting time, when a Mosquito fleet of ferry boats and steamers, mounting one gun each, was sent by the Federal Government to the West India station, the Brooklyn made herself conspicuous by beating to quarters whenever an English man-of-war entered Port Royal, and training her guns, so that all might bear on the new comer. This insult was so persistently renewed that the English ships at last replied in kind, and beat to quarters too, whenever the Brooklyn was seen coming towards them off a harbour. But our strongest vessel on the station then was only the Devastation paddle-sloop of six guns. We may, perhaps, mention that the Orlando, 51, and the Mersey, 32, two of the largest frigates in the world, were designed and built as a kind of answer to the building of the Niagara, while the Ariadne and the Galatea quite compensate to our navy for the Brooklyn and vessels of her class.
Perhaps, however, the vessel from the employment of which the Federals entertain the greatest expectations is Stevens's half-submerged iron-plated battery, which is to carry four guns of 15 inches and four of 18! But everything connected with the construction of this vessel is so utterly novel and peculiar that it would be impossible to describe it in this abstract of the Federal Navy.The total number of captains, commanders, and lieutenants in the navy, amounting in all to upwards of 450, had, up to June last, been reduced by the secession of nearly 200. Since that date very many others have joined the cause of the South, among them the celebrated Commander Maury, whose name in connexion with the progress of the scientific departments of the American Navy is known throughout Europe.
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