« ZurückWeiter »
VINDICATION OF THE NATIONAL FAME FOR PAST
Preliminary. — The unanimous adoption of General Banks's Report and Bill by
the House of Representatives, and the pressure upon the Senate to concur, demand serious inquiry. - The scheme believed to be a crude and hasty one, from which the writer strongly dissents, and which was well checked by Senator Sumner. – It is still pending, however, and likely to come up again for discussion shortly. — The writer protests against it on five grounds, corresponding to the general divisions of his subject. — Preliminary suggestion of the Report's being written in haste, and with conflicting expressions of sentiment in different parts. — General Banks shares its faults in common with the able and patriotic House who have adopted it; and therefore any criticism on it cannot be thought personal or unfriendly towards him. — Further preliminary approbation of the views of the Report as to the Alabama Indemnity; Hasty Recognition of Rebel Belligerency; and Free Trade in Ships of War as Articles of Commerce. — Summary of General Banks's Report.
The late movement in Congress towards the fundamental repeal of the neutral code of the United States seems to demand the gravest attention of the nation.
When such an important measure as that proposed by General Banks, as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a few days before the close of the late session at the end of last July, — having for its object a new departure in the line of conduct of our foreign relations with the rest of the world, and based on an avowed hostility to the spirit and letter of our present neutral system as its starting-point, — passes the House of Representatives of the United States by a unanimous vote, and is only arrested in the Senate by a persistent enforcement of the usual routine of reference to a committee for consideration, it seems high time to inquire what motives can have prompted such an attempted overthrow of our traditional policy, and whether the country should not arouse itself to prevent the consummation of the proposed coup d'état.
Believing, as an humble citizen, that the new scheme is fraught with untold dangers to our present peace and our permanent welfare as an industrial, peace-loving, and simply governed republic, I feel called upon to protest against its further progress, and to challenge the soundness of the reasons and the justice of the motives held out for its adoption by its chief promoters.
As one of General Banks's constituents, (though not indeed of his congressional district,) I desire to express my entire dissent from the general scope and spirit of the new project, as well as from the tenor and effect of most of its details. I conceive, that the Report, Bill, and accompanying debate, so far as they bespeak the moving spirit of that project, all misrepresent the true feeling and love of justice of the American people, and that, when the matter shall again be more candidly considered and more carefully weighed by the House of Representatives themselves, - if it shall ever come back to them for reconsideration, — both they and the gallant chairman will be ready to acknowledge that they have acted with undue haste, and that they were tempted to put to hazard important public interests, under the excitement of a temporary gust of national passion, or from motives of temporary party policy.
Viewed as a measure of legislative enactment, I feel quite sure that the honorable chairman could not have given sufficient study to the framework or to the details of his new law, amidst his other numerous and pressing legislative duties ; and that the House were quite unaware of its crudeness and want of scientific accuracy, when they so hastily voted its adoption. Meanwhile, I conceive that the country are under great obligations to Senator Sumner for sturdily standing in the way of this ill-digested and revolutionary legislation, and preventing its passage through the Senate by storm, amid the excitement of the closing hours of the session.
As it is, a breathing-time has been given for reflection. Yet, as the new session of Congress is about opening, and as the Bill will shortly be up again for discussion, it is to be hoped that wiser and better counsels will take possession of the minds of Senators, and that they will hear reflected from their constituents a juster and a cooler voice of public opinion than that which seems to have filled the ears and mastered the judgment of the House of Representatives.
Hoping to contribute my part, as a lover of international justice, towards awakening the public mind to the importance of the new stroke of state policy, and towards creating a public sentiment which shall make itself felt at the Capitol in its reprobation, I desire to urge some considerations upon the character and probable effects of the new policy, which I hope will tend to convince our legislators and their constituents,-that, so far from its being progress and a movement forward, as its friends contend, it is rather retrogression towards barbarism and bruteforce, wholly unchristian and unrepublican, and therefore altogether inexpedient and inadmissible for adoption by the American people. I have to protest, then, against the new movement, upon these five grounds :
(I.) That it begins its work with an unjust and unjustifiable disparagement of the country's historic good name and fame.
(II.) That it untruly and unfairly characterizes British neutral legislation, which it professes to adopt for its standard of comparison and imitation.
(III.) That it virtually amounts to protective legislation in favor of filibusterism and Fenianism.
(IV.) That the present legislative embodiment of the scheme is so imperfect and defective a piece of law-making, that it fails of any legal validity and effect, except to express the ultimate and objectionable designs of its originators.
(V.) That the whole movement is antagonistic to our truest and best future neutral policy.
Before developing these specifications of protest in detail, I dare say my readers will deem it desirable to be first possessed of some little summary of General Banks's Report, now some three months old, and of the general topics covered by that and the accompanying Bill, in order to start fairly in the proposed discussion. I regret that my liniits forbid my appending the Report in full to the end of this pamphlet, as I do the Bill which passed the House, and which embodies, more significantly and potentially than the Report itself, the ideas of the chairman and the majority of his committee, and the unanimous sense of the House of Representatives.
In making this abstract, I feel bound to notice that the honorable chairman's Report seems to have been prepared in haste, doubtless under the pressure of other heavy duties, -and to have been written at different intervals, and perhaps at odd snatches of time, and contains a good many conflicting passages, sometimes almost self-contradictory of each other. Indeed, the divergence of sentiment and expression is so great, in different parts of the document, that the reader would almost think that different minds had been concerned in its composition, or else that amendments and corrections had been inserted into the text after the whole was completed, without regard to the consistency and compatibility of other portions going before or following after.
I feel quite sensibly, therefore, in quoting particular passages as illustrative of the chairman's ideas, that I may seem to do injustice to what he says elsewhere, inasmuch as some other portion of the Report may read quite at variance with those parts which I select. Yet, as a whole, I have endeavored to seek out the general drift of the honorable chairman's meaning and direction; and, when I have obtained that, to estimate the seeming qualifications or contradictions elsewhere stated (especially if dissevered, and standing in no appropriate connection), as something exceptional and deserving of less consideration.
Perhaps, too, the sharp criticism which I may feel it necessary to make upon the reported Bill, and the subsequent congressional ratification of its crudities by the House, deserves some qualifying word of apology, on the score of haste and the pressure of the closing business of the session. I hardly think, however, that much extenuation is fairly admissible on this ground, considering the peremptory voting-down by the House of the urgent appeals of Messrs. Raymond and Patterson, from the minority of the committee, for further deliberation, and opportunity for examination; and, as General Banks himself took the leading part in forcing the measure through all its preliminary stages to its final passage at one sitting, he ought also to be precluded, for the same reason, from the benefit of the apology suggested. As the House, nevertheless, put themselves upon the same platform with the Chairman of their Committee of Foreign Affairs, by unanimously sanctioning and approving of his measures, I have the satisfaction of feeling, that whatever strictures I may have to make upon his Report, Bill, and congressional defence of it, are shared by him in common with that able, intelligent, and patriotic representative body; and that my remarks cannot therefore be construed into having any personal or unfriendly application.
To premise one word more, before proceeding to my discussion, I feel bound also to appreciatively acknowledge, in General Banks's Report, a just recognition of several of the great doctrines of American Neutral Law, for which, in common with many others, or else in some independent discussions on my own responsibility, I have had the honor of contending: such as the unneutral and unwarranted toleration by England of the outfit and subsequent keeping-afloat, of the "Alabama ; " the precipitate and unprecedented recognition of a state of belligerency extended by that same Government to our Confederate rebels ; and the clearly settled declaration of American law, that ships of war constitute a justifiable article of traffic when built and sold with a purely commercial intent. On these points, at least, it does not become me to censure the Report of the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, nor to question the sanction lent to its sentiments by the unanimous action of the House of Representatives.
There are other issues, however, besides these which come up for discussion ; and I cannot allow myself to be blinded to the more objectionable character of the measures in question by these favorable features referred to.