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The municipal law was but a means of repressing or punishing individual wrong-doers; the law of nations was the true and proper rule of duty for the Government. If the municipal laws were defective, that was a domestic inconvenience, of concern only to the local Government, and for it to remedy or not by suitable legislation, as it pleased. But no sovereign Power can rightfully plead the defects of its own domestic penal statutes as justification or extenuation of an international wrong done to another sovereign Power.
"When the defects of the existing laws of Parliament had become apparent, the Government of the United States earnestly entreated the Queen's Ministers to provide the required remedy, as it would have been easy to do by a proper Act of Parliament; but this the Queen's Government refused."
He then contrasted the conduct of the United States during the late war between Great Britain and Russia, when the ship "Maury" was arrested by telegraphic order in the port of New York, on complaints with affidavits being filed by the British Consul; and also its conduct in the early stages of the war of the French Revolution; on the occasion of the insurrection of the Spanish-American Continental Provinces; of revolutionary movements with SpanishAmerican Republics; and during the existing insurrection in Cuba.
Mr. Fish said that he assumed," pretermitting detailed discussion in this respect," that the negligence of the British Government in the matter of the" Alabama" at least was gross and inexcusable," and "such as indisputably to devolve on that Government full responsibility for all the depredations committed by her. At all events, the United States conceive that the proofs of responsible negligence in this matter are so clear that no room remains for debate on that point; and it should be taken for granted in all future negotiations with Great Britain."
After a lengthy enumeration of the losses and injuries sustained in the war, owing to the alleged unfriendly attitude of Great Britain, Mr. Fish concluded by saying,
"The President is not yet prepared to pronounce on the question of the indemnities which he thinks due by Great Britain to individual citizens of the United States for the destruction of their property by rebel cruisers fitted out in the ports of Great Britain.
"Nor is he now prepared to speak of the reparation which he thinks due by the British Government for the larger account of the vast national injuries it has inflicted on the United States.
"Nor does he attempt now to measure the relative effect of the various causes of injury, as whether by untimely recognition of belligerency, by suffering the fitting-out of rebel cruisers, or by the supply of ships, arms, and munitions of war to the Confederates, or otherwise, in whatsoever manner.
"Nor does it fall within the scope of this despatch to discuss the important changes in the rules of public law, the desirableness of which has been demonstrated by the incidents of the last few years
now under consideration, and which, in view of the maritime prominence of Great Britain and the United States, it would befit them to mature and propose to the other States of Christendom.
"All these are subjects of future consideration which, when the time for action shall come, the President will consider, with sincere. and earnest desire that all differences between the two nations may be adjusted amicably and compatibly with the honour of each, and to the promotion of future concord between them; to which end he will spare no efforts within the range of his supreme duty to the right and interests of the United States.
"At the present stage of the controversy, the sole object of the President is to state the position and maintain the attitude of the United States in the various relations and aspects of this grave controversy with Great Britain. It is the object of this paper (which you are at liberty to read to Lord Clarendon) to state calmly and dispassionately, with a more unreserved freedom than might be used in one addressed directly to the Queen's Government, what this Government seriously considers the injuries it has suffered. It is not written in the nature of a claim; for the United States now make no demand against her Majesty's Government on account of the injuries they feel they have sustained.
"Although the United States are anxious for a settlement, on a liberal and comprehensive basis, of all the questions which now interfere with the entirely cordial relations which they desire to exist between the two Governments, they do not now propose or desire to set any time for this settlement. On the contrary, they prefer to leave that question, and also the more important question of the means and method of removing the causes of complaint, of restoring the much-desired relations of perfect cordiality, and the preventing of the probability of like questions in the future, to the consideration of her Majesty's Government. They will, however, be ready, whenever her Majesty's Government shall think the proper time has come for a renewed negotiation, to entertain any proposition which that Government shall think proper to present, and to apply to such propositions their earnest and sincere wishes and endeavours for a solution honourable and satisfactory to both countries."
On the 6th of November, Lord Clarendon wrote to Mr. Thornton, the British Minister at Washington, transmitting to him some observations which he had made on the despatch of Mr. Fish, which Mr. Thornton was to read to Mr. Fish, and allow him to take a copy. These "Observations" answered the allegations of Mr. Fish with crushing force, and showed how inaccurate in point of fact, in some most important particulars, those allegations were. We can here only give a summary of them.
In answer to the statement that the Queen's recognition of "belligerent rights" on the part of the Southern States was "precipitate," as having been determined upon "four days prior to the arrival in London of the President's proclamation of the 19th of April, 1861, and signed on the 13th of May, the very day of the
arrival of Mr. Adams, the new American Minister," Lord Clarendon said.
"The facts are:
"The President's proclamation of blockade was published April Intelligence of its issue was received by telegraph (see the Times) on the 2nd of May.
"It was published in the Daily News and other papers on the 3rd of May. Mr. Seward, in his despatch to Mr. Adams of the 12th of January, 1867, says, it reached London on the 3rd of May.'
"A copy was received officially from her Majesty's Consul at New York on the 5th; another copy from Lord Lyons on the 10th. was communicated officially by Mr. Dallas to Lord Russell on the 11th, with a copy of a circular from Mr. Seward to the United States' Ministers abroad, dated the 20th of April, calling attention to it, and stating the probability that attempts would be made to 'fit out privateers in the ports of England for the purpose of aggression on the commerce of the United States.'
"The reason of the delay in receiving the copy from Washington was in itself a proof of the existence of civil war, arising, as it did, from the communication between Washington and Baltimore being cut off in consequence of the Confederate troops threatening the capital.
"The prematureness of the measure is further shown by the very tenour of the proclamation - Whereas hostilities have unhappily commenced between the Government of the United States of America and certain States styling themselves the Confederate States of America.' Exception is also taken to the use of the word 'contest' as distinct from 'war.'
"It will be seen on referring to the Report of the Royal Commission for inquiring into the Neutrality Laws (Appendix) that the form of words used is taken from previous proclamations"Whereas hostilities at this time exist' (June 6, 1823); Engaged in a contest' (September 30, 1825, Turkey and Greece); 'Whereas hostilities have unhappily commenced' (May 13, 1859, Austria, France, and Italy). The same form was used in the case of Spain and Chili (February 6, 1866), and Spain and Peru (March 13, 1866), Hostilities have unhappily commenced' (Austria, Prussia, Italy, Germany, June 27, 1866).
"The order prohibiting prizes from being brought into British ports, for which the United States' Government thanked the British Government, as being likely to give a death-blow to privateering, speaks of observing the strictest neutrality in the contest which appears to be imminent' (June 1, 1861).
"It is remarkable that, in the case of Turkey and Greece, British subjects were warned to respect the exercise of belligerent rights.' This is omitted in the United States' case, the belligerents being spoken of as the contending parties.'
"The expression States styling themselves the Confederate U
States of America,' was purposely adopted to avoid the recognition of their existence as independent States, and gave them great offence." Lord Clarendon then said, in answer to Mr. Fish's assertion that the "assumed belligerence was a fiction,"
"What are the facts? A large group of States, containing a population of several millions, and comprising a compact geographical area enabling them to act readily in concert, had established a de facto Government, with a President, Congress, Constitution, Courts of Justice, Army, and all the machinery of military and civil power. They possessed the ports along upwards of 2000 miles of coast, with the exception of Forts Pickens and Munroe, all the Federal posts and forts had been evacuated, including Harper's Ferry, the arsenal of the Potomac Valley. Fort Sumter, the only one which had offered resistance, had fallen a month previously, April 13. The Confederate troops were in occupation of the Shenandoah lines, and threatening Washington. The Confederate President had declared war, and called for a levy of 32,000 troops, to which all the seceded States had responded promptly. On the other hand, the Federal President had called for 75,000 volunteers on the 15th of April, and for 42,000 more on the 3rd of May, and as fast as the regiments could be armed they were hurrying to the defence of Washington. The contending armies were, indeed, face to face.
"So much for the hostilities on land. The operations at sea, in which British interests were more directly affected, had been carried on with equal vigour. On the 17th of April the Confederate President issued his Proclamation offering to grant letters of marque, which was followed, two days afterwards, by the Federal Proclamation of blockade. At the date of the Queen's Proclamation of neutrality both these had been carried, or were being carried into effect. The Federal Government had instituted the blockade of Virginia and North Carolina, which was declared to be effective on the 30th of April, and were rapidly despatching all the merchant vessels which they could procure, and which they were able to convert into ships-of-war, to the blockade of the other ports. The 'General Parkhill,' of Liverpool, was captured by the United States' ship Niagara' while attempting to run the blockade of Charlestown on the 12th of May; and the British vessels Hilja ’ and Monmouth' warned off on the same day. Confederate privateers were already at sea. One was captured at the mouth of the Chesapeake river on the 8th of May by the United States' ship 'Harriet Lane.' On the 15th the Federal barque Ocean Eagle,' of Rockhead, Maine, was taken by the Confederate privateer 'Calhoun' off New Orleans. At the same port Captain Semmes had already received his commission, and was engaged in the outfit of the Sumter.'
"Could any explanations which Mr. Adams might have had to offer alter such a state of things as this? Can any other name be given to it than that of civil war?"
Lord Clarendon then showed that the Proclamation of Neutrality was absolutely pressed upon the Government by the friends of the Northern States, who were afraid lest Confederate privateers should be fitted out in British ports. He said, further, that Mr. Fish "admits that national belligerency is an existing fact,' and he might have added that it exists independently of any official proclamation of neutral Powers, as is shown by the records of the American Prize Courts, which continually recognize the belligerency of the South American States; although, as Mr. Seward stated in one of his despatches, the United States have never issued a Proclamation of Neutrality except in the case of France and England in 1793. This was proved in the civil war by the reception at Curaçoa of the Confederate vessel 'Sumter' as a belligerent cruiser, though the Netherlands had issued no Proclamation of Neutrality. It was this recognition of the 'Sumter,' after her departure from New Orleans (July 6, 1861), at Curaçoa, and at Cienfuegos, which first practically accorded maritime belligerent rights to the Confederates, a fact which is overlooked when it is alleged that Confederate 'belligerency, so far as it was maritime,' proceeded from the ports of Great Britain and her dependencies alone.'
"Indeed, it is not going too far to say that the Confederates derived no direct benefit from the Proclamation. Their belligerency depended upon the fact (a fact which, when we are told that the civil war left behind it two millions and a half of dead and maimed, is, unfortunately, indisputable) that they were waging civil war. If there had been no proclamation, the fact would have remained the same, and belligerency would have had to be recognized either on behalf of the Northern States, by admitting the validity of captures on the high seas for the carriage of contraband or breach of blockade, or on the arrival of the 'Sumter,' or some similar vessel, in a British port.
"In no case can it be really supposed that the recognition of belligerency, which, unless neutral nations abandoned their neutrality and took an active part in the contest, was inevitable, materially influenced the fortunes of such a fearful and protracted civil war.
"At all events, if it did, the Confederates never acknowledged it; the recognition of belligerency they regarded (as indeed was the case) as a right which could not be denied to them. What they sought was not the mere technical title of 'belligerents,' but a recognition of independence; and when they found that it was hopeless to expect England to accord it, they cut off all intercourse with this country, expelled her Majesty's Consuls from their towns, and did every thing in their power to show the sense which they entertained of the injury which they believed had been inflicted upon them. The result being that while one side has blamed us for doing too much, the other side has blamed us for doing too little, and thus an assumption of neutrality has been regarded both by North and South as an attitude of hostility.
"Any one who read the despatch without any previous knowledge