Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

this feature of the British statute, as applied against us; and so that it can make no part of that list of grievances which impels the present movement to scale our neutral laws down to the level of the English standard. Admitting that the whole of the Foreign-Enlistment Act has been subject to the royal supersession during our late civil struggle, will the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs for a moment contend that we have suffered any injury in consequence of the exercise of the kingly prerogative referred to ? On the contrary, notwithstanding the clamor of the secessionists, that the neutrality of Great Britain has worked to their prejudice in its recognizing and respecting the Federal blockade, and in its refusing (to both parties) the right to carry in and sell prizes, and in various other particulars, who has ever heard that it was even proposed by the British Government to suspend the operation of a single section of the Foreign-Enlistment Act for a single day? There were proposals enough on their part, to be sure, to better it, which, I am sorry to say, never came to any thing, practically ; but when and where was it ever suggested by any responsible public man in England, that the Crown should interfere with the law, as it then stood, to set it aside in a single particular, or for a single moment?

No: the burden of our grievance against England, toned down to its lowest basis, is not that she had not on her statute-book a neutrality code as good as our own, and one sufficiently complete to guarantee to us our neutral rights, but that, having a law quite sufficient to afford us neutral protection, and one decidedly superior to our own, she did not adequately and in good fuith enforce its provisions. Executively, it was Earl Russell's pettifogging mode of administering it, in for ever insisting upon proof sufficient to convict, instead of primá-facie evidence adequate to detain ; Judicially, it was Chief-Baron Pollock's shuffling partisanship, in depriving us of a precedent declaring the " Alexandra” forfeited, at as early a day of the rebellion as June, 1863 ; and, Legislatively, it was the British Parliament's openly sanctioning and approving of a compromise with the violators of the law, in which " the law itself bought out the guilty prize,” in the shape of paying

John Laird & Sons a bonus for their Confederate rams, thereby confessing that Great Britain had to pension the builders of the " Alabama” not to involve her in war, of which we have a right to complain.

Earlier than all this, no doubt, we may bear in remembrance the unfriendly haste with which she took the rebels by the hand, and, besides acknowledging them as belligerents, virtually asked them to come into the congress of nations, and help declare the oracles of international law; and later, that, when we pointed out how our commerce was perishing through the divided voice of her judiciary and the supineness of her Executive, she refused to strengthen the Crown with any further legislation, and indulged in the luxury of doing nothing, and pitying (?) our misfortunes. But it needs not either of these latter suggestions to make good those claims against England which General Banks and the House of Representatives hold in such sensitive recollection.

The "Alabama,” for instance, — to touch no other example, might and should have been seized under British laws as they

That these were effective enough for that object, has been solemnly admitted by the British Government's parade of its superserviceable attempts to stop her before she took wings; and the Foreign Secretary has irrevocably clenched the admission, by confessing, more than once, that her escape was a scandal and a reproach” to British laws, and that he could only explain it by official " treachery.” Furthermore, the same Foreign Secretary found those laws potent enough to enable him to seize the half-finished rams, when, as he has since twice declared in the face of the British nation, it would, in his opinion, have been a just cause of war for the United States against England, if he had refrained to exercise that

power. Now, in the face of these admissions by the highest exponent of British responsibility, is it good logic or good comity for the United States, while holding England up to the fulfilment of her international duties, as defined by her own self-imposed and 80-called " municipal” laws, to announce to her, and, in the same breath, to the rest of the world, that we do not mean to practise, ourselves, under any such stringent code as hers hereafter?

were.

I beg General Banks's pardon. He says,

“ There is nothing in this [his] Bill which is not contained in that [the British] act, and there is no provision in that act which is not substantially embraced in this Bill.”

Either the General or myself, then, must be mistaken about the provisions, of the British statute above cited. I make my quotations from an authoritative reprint of the British ForeignEnlistment Act, published by the Queen's printers in 1863, and contained in the Appendix to the " Alexandra” Jury Trial, where the British and American neutrality statutes are brought together in juxtaposition for the use of the English Bench and Bar. Supposing it to be genuine, I give its text, together with that of the American act, in the Appendix hereto, for the benefit of my readers. I should be glad to have the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs establish the spuriousness of the copy of the British law from which I borrow, and so do away with the points of comparison which I have attempted to set up, as above. Until that is made to appear, however, I must adhere to the conviction that our legislators were not sufficiently informed for their task, when they undertook to disparage British neutral legislation as altogether inferior to our own.

1 Perhaps I ought to notice, that General Banks himself assumes the liability of Great Britain to the United States, for permitting the outfit of the “ Alabama,” and similar infractions of neutrality, on some of the same grounds as those which I have ventured to put forth as above (Report, pp. 9 and 10). Yet, as the assumption seems in entire contrariety to the general drift of his Report and legislative scheme, I can only regard it as one of those evidences of arguing at cross-purposes, or of a diversity of intents in the preparation of different parts of his Report, which I have already had occasion to notice.

PART III.

UNWORTHY PROMOTION OF FENIAN BELLIGERENCY.

CHAPTER VIII.

The new project an outspoken declaration in favor of Fenian belligerency. – Fe

nianism the tocsin of the new coup d'état.—Extract from the Report to show this. – Can the suppression of the Fenian raid upon Canada be a just starting-point for the repeal of the neutrality laws? - President Johnson both deserves and receives the support of the country for that step. — The people approve it, as they have the former exercise of the executive prerogative in similar cases. Many Irish-Americans opposed to Fenianism. — Starting from the Fenian raid, what better proof could be afforded of the necessity and value of the neutrality laws than that affair? - Would not General Banks have imitated the conduct of General Meade in suppressing it? - Probably he would have been glad to return good for evil to the Canadians. — Irishmen, whether naturalized or not, have no right to trouble the peace of the United States with old grievances.

· Quotations from Pitt, Wilberforce, and Grote, no more to the point than the Scandinavian myths. - Would not General Banks, as President, have done the same thing as President Johnson ?- Would the General throw open domestic questions of our own to British discussion, like this of Fenianism with the English ? — Sections 6 and 8 of the neutrality statute, which it is proposed to repeal, quoted; also General Banks's remarks in explanation of his project, and correction of probable misreport of their tenor. — Are the Feni

a people,” within these remarks ? — Is not England also a people ? and was not Sir John Crampton dismissed for recruiting on behalf of the British “people”? — The Fenians really not prosecuted as soon as they ought to have been. — No such provisions as sections 6 and 8 in the British laws; but they are less necessary from British insular position. — The British act, however, has something nearly as good, which General Banks has ineffectually tried to imitate. — These sections of our law have made part of it since 1794, and most efficiently. – Were they not enforced against Genet and the French people”? — The idea of indicting a solitary Irish recruit, and letting the mass-agitators, like Roberts and Sweeney, go free, an absurd one. — Allusion to Roberts being introduced to the floor of Congress. — Application of some of General Banks's sentiments about extending the rights of neutrals, and restricting those of belligerents, to the case of the Canadians. — The Cana

ans

[ocr errors]

dian put forth as the speaker. — Would General Banks approve his own logic more than his own law, if he were one of those Canadians ? — This criterion alone enough to dispose of the whole question. — Perhaps, however, Fenianism has not been so well provided for in the terms of the new law as the Canadians and English have been led to believe.

HOWEVER objectionable the Report and Bill of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, as sanctioned and adopted by the House of Representatives of the United States, may appear to be on the score of their unjust depreciation of the national fame and their unfounded disparagement of the British neutral code, they present a still further aspect, yet more obnoxious to censure than the two characteristics already considered. I refer to their pronounced and unmistakable declaration in favor of Fenian belligerency.

Indeed, General Banks, on behalf of the committee, hardly hesitates to avow that the Fenian movement is the more immediately inciting cause of his sudden onslaught upon the neutrality system of the country. Other exciting inducements are, to be sure, alluded to or borne in mind by him : such as British unfriendliness during the Confederate rebellion, already noticed ; French encroachment upon Mexican liberties, more than hinted at by the significant importance attached to the Monroe declaration; and, more recently, the censurable co-operation (as he esteems it) of the United States' Executive with monarchical Spain as against republican Chili. All these combine to impress upon him the importance of seriously considering whether the country ought not to change its attitude of passive neutrality into one of active intervention in the affairs of foreign nations. But it is more especially the Fenian call to the Celtic clans to rally and raise the standard of Irish independence recovering Ireland for the Irish which seems to have finally struck the tocsin for the new coup d'état.

Says General Banks in the concluding paragraphs of his Report, which, like the final residuum of a chemist's process, may doubtless be taken as the ultimate desideratum of his speculations :

The recent memorable invasion of Canada offers a signal exhibition of the spirit and character of our Government. Great Britain

« ZurückWeiter »