Sivut kuvina

My object at that time was to furnish materials for final judgment, and especially to repel British objurgations which befogged the whole question. It was important that our national conduct should be determined calmly, according to the best principles, and with perfect knowledge of the past. But it is difficult to deal with this or any kindred question without repairing to British history. There are precedents to be shunned. as well as to be followed, and both should be studied. It is strange that such an attempt should have been misunderstood. Perhaps it is stranger still that anybody should have insisted on our humble submission to the most opprobrious epithets, without reminding the objurgators of the history of their own country, bristling with incidents having in them all that was indefensible in the Florida case without any of its exceptional circumstances. A Roman poet exclaims :

"Quis tulerit Gracchos de seditione querentes?" 1

And another authority, which will not be questioned, expressly enjoins on the censor to extract the beam from his own eye before he complains of the mote in the eye of another.

[ocr errors]

In the excess of dissent from what I said, it was even suggested that the vessel should be surrendered to Brazil, of course as trustee of Rebel Slavery. But this was a very hasty suggestion, forgetting the piratical origin of the vessel, and forgetting the piratical slavemonger character of its pretended owners, having no ocean rights. Admitting the inviolability of neutral waters, it does not follow that such a vessel could be claimed, or, if Brazil were so ill-advised as to make 1 Juvenal, Sat. II. 24.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

such a claim, that our Government could hearken to it. It was because I saw this clearly that I sought to set up a breakwater against such claim, and to prepare public opinion on the subject. It is noble in a nation to acknowledge wrong; but it is weakness to sacrifice a great cause.

The Statute of Limitations has been set up against. some of the historic instances adduced, and the very recent date of the Congress of Paris, at the close of the Crimean War in 1856, is declared to fix the line of demarcation, marking an altered policy in Great Britain. As a lover of peace and a student of International Law, anxious for its advancement, -yielding to nobody in this regard, I wish that such an alteration could be shown. Joyfully should I welcome it, as one of the signs of a new order of ages. Unhappily, it cannot be shown, and I feel sure that it can be brought about only by a frank exhibition of transactions demonstrating its necessity. Truth is illustrated by error, health is maintained by knowledge of disease, and crime itself is made repulsive by bringing its perpetrators to judgment.

It is an old adage of the law, that no statute of limitations runs against the sovereign,- Nullum tempus occurrit regi. This, of course, is for the protection of his interests. But, assuming that such a statute may be pleaded against British responsibility for historic precedents more than eight years old, there is no question with regard to what has occurred since. Here the responsibility is admitted. Now, confining ourselves to the brief period since the Crimean Peace, there are instances identical in character with those which occurred previously; and these are the more



remarkable as Great Britain had not the apology of war to disturb her equanimity.

A well-informed person, writing from Berlin, furnishes the following instance, which occurred as late as 1860. "Two British men-of-war took, or at least threatened to take, the Paraguayan war-steamer Tacuaril, in the port of Buenos Ayres. They laid themselves on each side of the Paraguayan war-steamer, in order to enforce a claim which proved afterwards to be fallacious." The writer adds, that "this case, if looked into closely, will probably serve as a counter argument, should England have anything to say on the FloridaBahia affair." True enough; and such is the recent judgment of a German publicist.

There is also that other historic instance which has among its incidents the suspension of diplomatic relations between Brazil and Great Britain. It began with a demand by the latter power for reparation on account of a vessel pillaged after shipwreck on the coast of Brazil, in June, 1861. This was complicated soon after by a quarrel between certain officers of a British frigate in the harbor of Rio Janeiro and a sentry on shore, which ended in taking the officers into custody. The British minister demanded reparation for these two alleged wrongs; and the British admiral, who was at hand, seized five Brazilian merchant-vessels in the harbor of Rio Janeiro, declaring that he would not release them. until £6,500 had been paid on account of the pillaged vessel, and satisfaction afforded for the detention of the officers. Thus, in time of peace, without any declaration of war, the British admiral performed an act of war, like that in the case of the Florida, but without the apology of the captors of the latter vessel. In short,

he undertook, within the territorial jurisdiction of Brazil, to seize, not one vessel, but five vessels, and all these innocent, neither piratical in origin nor belonging to people without ocean rights. Brazil, succumbing to superior force, paid the money demanded, and referred the question of reparation in the case of the officers to the arbitration of King Leopold of Belgium, who has since rendered judgment for the weaker power. The question of responsibility for the five innocent vessels seized within the territorial jurisdiction of Brazil was left unsettled. The mild and accomplished minister of Brazil in London, M. Carvalho Moreira, made a reclamation on this account, in a careful note, dated May 5, 1863, where he submitted, that "the English Government should express its regret at the acts which accompanied the reprisals, and declare that it had no intention to offend the dignity or to violate the territorial sovereignty of the empire," and that it should consent to refer the question of damages to arbitration. Earl Russell declining to reopen any part of the questions between the two Governments, or to enter into any explanations, the Brazilian minister at once demanded his passports and left London. This case will be found at length in an authentic publication, which has only recently appeared. I leave it, simply quoting from the work these pertinent words: "The question was with regard to the reparation and compensation which Brazil demanded from England for the seizure of her merchant-vessels and for the violation of her territorial waters. . . . . It was, unhappily, easy to foresee

[ocr errors]

1 Annuaire des Deux Mondes, 1862-63, pp. 920-926. See also Parliamentary Papers for 1863, Vol. LXXIII., where Earl Russell's note is without an offensive clause which appears in the French authority.

the issue of this question, England being always more disposed to demand reparation and indemnities than to accord them."1 Such is the recent judgment of a French publicist.

There is another case, which has not yet found its way into the books, nor did it occur after the Crimean War; but it is so very recent, and so curious, that I venture to adduce it. I am indebted for it to the Hon. John B. Alley, one of our Representatives in Congress, to whom it was communicated by one of his constituents.2 The bark Home, of Boston, was on her way from Calcutta to Boston, when, on or about August 22, 1849, she fell in with a vessel, first supposed to be a pirate, but at last proved to be the Polka, prize to the British steamer Sharpshooter, with the crew in a starving condition. The prize-master, on coming aboard, said that the prize was taken in Port Macahé, near Cape Frio, in Brazil, for being engaged in the slave-trade; that, to escape the fire of the fort, which opened on the captors, they slipped the cable, and cut adrift the boat which was made fast astern; that at the time of the capture there was no person aboard, except a single negro; and that a midshipman with ten men was put aboard to take her to St. Helena. The famished crew were supplied by the American bark with bread, beef, water, and other small stores, for which the British Government paid, in 1852, the cost price, being all that was asked. On this case the master of the bark, in his communication to Mr. Alley, remarks: "This is another instance where a vessel was taken in a port by the British, and this in a time of profound peace;

1 Annuaire des Deux Mondes, 1862-63, p. 925.

2 MS. Letter of Henry A. Hopner, Lynn, December 2, 1864.

« EdellinenJatka »