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which it enclosed, were at once referred to the law officers; his letter of the 24th of July, with the additional depositions and Mr. Collier's opinion, only reached the Foreign Office on the 26th, and was also at once sent to the law officers. It was the habit in those days to send papers of that kind to the Queen's Advocate, who was technically the first law officer. Sir John Harding, who held this position in 1862, was unfortunately incapacitated by a distressing illness, and still more unfortunately the Foreign Office was unacquainted with the circumstance. In consequence the letter which Mr. Adams had written on the 24th, and which, oddly enough, was only received at the Foreign Office on the 26th, did not reach the Attorney and Solicitor General till the evening of the 28th of July.
Writing to Lord Russell on the 20th of August, 1869, Sir Roundell Palmer said—
The first time that I myself saw or heard of the papers which were the subject of the reference on which Atherton and myself advised that the ‘Alabama' might be detained, was about four or five o'clock P.M. on Monday, July 28, when Atherton and myself met to consider them . . . at my room near the House of Lords. I do not know how long they had been in Atherton's hands; but, from my recollection that the matter was then treated as one of great urgency, and from my knowledge of his general habits of business, I think he would have communicated with me on the Sunday (July 27) if they had reached him on or before that day; and my belief has always been, that, as the supplementary depositions sent by Mr. Adams, after those on which Collier had advised, were marked as received at the Foreign Office on the 26th (Saturday), they could not have been delivered at the Attorney-General's chambers till after the usual hours of business on that day (Saturday); and that if they were then delivered they remained there unopened (as would generally happen with papers so left, if no special means were used to prevent it) till the Monday morning.
The delay was very unfortunate. On the evening of the 28th of July, almost while Sir Roundell Palmer and Sir William Atherton were considering the papers which had taken so many hours in travelling to their hands, the suspected vessel, the ‘No. 290' as she was then called, left the dock and anchored in the Mersey. On the following morning she proceeded out of the river, ostensibly on a trial trip. The day afterwards she was joined in Beaumaris Bay by the steam-tug ‘Hercules,' which put a crew and some other stores on board of her, and she almost immediately afterwards began her destructive career as the ‘Alabama.' ' When the horse had escaped elaborate attempts were made to close the stable door. Telegrams were sent to Liverpool, Cork, Beaumaris, and Holyhead, to seize the vessel if she happened to be within those ports. But the ‘Alabama.' proceeded to a Portuguese port, where she completed her equipment, and her commander received his commission. Other means, however, still existed by which the vessel might have been seized. If orders had been given to detain her at any port which she entered, her necessities must sooner or later have placed her in the hands of the British authorities. Lord John was ready to take this course; he actually drafted a despatch directing the detention of the vessel. But no member of the Cabinet except the Duke of Argyll approved the proposal. The Chancellor was ‘vehement’ against it, and it was given up.” One act in this unfortunate drama was closed when the ‘Alabama’ succeeded in escaping from this country. The second act opened with the long series of depredations which
Mr. (now Sir A. H.) Layard, Lord John's Under-Secretary, sent him a memorandum on the evening of July 29, 1862 : ‘You will see by the papers I send that the gunboat which has been fitting out for the Confederates at Liverpool left that port this morning. This asternoon we receive the law officers’ opinion stating that we should stop her. The papers were sent to the law officers with an instruction that they were of urgent importance.” * I make this statement, which I believe will be entirely new to every one outside a very narrow circle, on the authority of a remarkable letter from the Duke of Argyll to Lord Russell, of December 5, 1872. The Duke said in it, in reply to Lord John's complaints on the Geneva award, ‘I must remind you that our conduct, when you were Foreign Minister, was not unanimously considered by ourselves so certainly right as you would now hold it to be. ‘Let me call to your recollection one circumstance, of which I have a vivid recollection. ‘You and I had a conversation one day about the “escape” of the “Alabama’’ or the “Florida’ (I forget which), and I urged on you that, although she had fraudulently escaped when you had meant to seize her, that was no reason why we should not detain her if she touched at any of our ports. ‘You agreed with me in this view ; and you drew up a despatch directing the Colonial authorities to detain her if she came into their power. “If this order had gone forth, one great plea of the Americans could never have
she committed on the ocean. Mr. Adams, writing to Lord Russell on November 20, 1862, said—
It now appears from a survey of all the evidence—first, that this vessel was built in a dockyard belonging to a commercial house in Liverpool, of which the chief member, down to October of last year, is a member of the House of Commons; secondly, that, from the manner of her construction, and her peculiar adaptation to war purposes, there could have been no doubt by those engaged in the work, and familiar with such details, that she was intended for other purposes than those of legitimate trade ; and thirdly, that, during the whole process and outfit in the port of Liverpool, the direction of the details and the engagement of persons to be employed in her, were more or less in hands known to be connected with the insurgents in the United States. It further appears that, since her departure from Liverpool, which she was suffered to leave without any of the customary evidence at the Custom House to designate her ownership, sle has been supplied with her armament, with coals, and stores, and men, by vessels known to be fitted out and despatched for the purpose from the same port ; and that, although commanded by Americans in her navigation of the ocean, she is manned almost entirely by English seamen, engaged and forwarded from that port by persons in league with her commander. Furthermore, it is shown that this commander, claiming to be an officer acting under legitimate authority, yet is in the constant practice of raising the flag of Great Britain, in order the better to execute his system of ravage and depredation on the high seas. And lastly, it is made clear that he pays no regard whatever to the recognised law of capture of merchant vessels on the high seas, which requires the action of some judicial tribunal to confirm the rightfulness of the proceeding : but, on the contrary, that he resorts to the piratical system of taking, plundering, and burning private property without regard to consequences, or responsibility to any legitimate authority.
Reciting these facts, and laying stress on the circumstance
been urged against us; and the American claims would perhaps have never been made at all.
“But what happened When you brought it before the Cabinet there was a perfect insurrection. Everybody but you and I were against the proposed step. Bethell was vehement against its “legality,” and you gave it up.
“Well, now I keep to the opinion that you and I were right, that the action ought to have been taken, and that the Cabinet was wrong.
“The correlative of this opinion is that America had reason and right in complaining that the “Alabama’’ was received in all our ports, and that so far we were in the wrong.’
that her Majesty's Government by endeavouring to detain the vessel had admitted the existence of a case of violation of the laws of neutrality, Mr. Adams concluded by declaring that he was instructed
to solicit redress for the national and private injuries already thus sustained, as well as a more effective prevention of any repetition of such lawless and injurious proceedings in her Majesty's ports hereafter.
It naturally took time before Lord Russell was able to reply to so grave a demand, but on the 19th of December he met Mr. Adams's argument with a long and elaborate despatch. After admitting that the Queen's proclamation had been evaded during the civil war both by Federals and Confederates, he argued that the North had derived the chief benefit from such evasions. He quoted high American authorities to show that “it is not the practice of nations to undertake to prohibit their own subjects, by previous laws, from trafficking in articles contraband of war. Such trade is carried on at the risk of those engaged in it.' He showed that during the Crimean War the statesmen of the United States had been guided by these principles. He pointed out that the Government could only act on evidence and in accordance with the law; he argued that, as soon as it was in a position to act, it had used every effort to stop the ‘Alabama' from sailing ; and he declared that—
Her Majesty's Government cannot therefore admit that they are under any obligations whatever to make compensation to United States citizens on account of the proceedings of that vessel.
The correspondence which thus commenced was carried on with great ability on both sides during the whole of Lord Russell's occupation of the Foreign Office, and in a very long despatch of August 30, 1865, Lord Russell thus dealt with a proposal to refer the matter to arbitration —
Her Majesty's Government are the sole guardians of their own honour. They cannot admit that they may have acted with bad faith in maintaining the neutrality they professed. The law officers of the Crown must be held to be better interpreters of a British statute than any foreign Government can be presumed to be. Her Majesty's Government must therefore decline either to make reparation and compensation for the captures made by the ‘Alabama,’ or to refer the question to any foreign State.
While on two separate occasions he expressed the same views to his own colleagues. Writing to Lord Palmerston on April 6, 1865, he said—
The Chancellor has said more than once in the Cabinet that, if it could be reduced to a question of law, we might submit to the arbitration of a foreign power. But, barring the difficulty of finding a power really friendly to us-which the United States would accept— a difficulty almost insuperable, I do not see how we can consent to such a mode of decision.
The question really is whether we have bona fie put our law in force, and further, whether our law, when put in force, is all that the obligations to a friendly power by the law of nations impose upon us.
Now I do not see how we can submit to any foreign power the question of our own good faith in putting the law in force, or the adequacy of the law for the fulfilment of our international obligations. The one is a question of our own honour and sincerity ; the other touches nearly the relations of the Crown to Parliament and our duty as Ministers.
And again to Mr. Gladstone — Balmoral : September 17, 1865. My dear Gladstone,—On looking over your letter on the subject of arbitration, of the 2nd of September, I feel I ought to say something more to you on that head. The defect—the necessary defect—of the Convention, or Protocol of Paris is that no impartial tribunal is provided. Buchanan said to Clarendon on one occasion, ‘We have no arbitrator to whom we can refer. We always used to refer to the Emperor of Russia because he always decided in our favour. But now you have gone to war with Russia we must refuse arbitration.’ This was candid and true. I had no objection to refer to the Senate of Hamburg and to King Leopold the questions whether Peru owed a small sum of money to an Englishman, or whether English officers were sober and insulted or drunk and insolent. On such trumpery cases nations used to make war, and will, I hope, make war no longer. But, if we were to refer to any such powers the question whether we were to pay five, ten, or twenty millions, I have no doubt the arbiter would say, ‘England is the tyrant of the seas. She is very rich. Let her pay twenty millions. It will do her good ''