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tion of slavery, the slave trade, war on merchant ships, and privateering, together with the diffusion of equal rights, justice, education, and benevolence, which are measures wholly consistent with the purest principles of peace, will terminate it forever.
RIGHT OF SEARCH AND IMPRESSMENT.
The right of confiscating contraband goods is generally understood to involve and imply the right of search. Not only contraband goods, but enemy's property of all kinds, and also their subjects, may, by the prevalent law and practice of nations, be taken from neutrals ; and the right of search is regarded as necessarily incidental to this. This is the general view of the subject; but like the others, which have been referred to, it is perplexed with difficulties, whether we consider it as an original question to be determined by the principles of natural justice, or refer to the practice of nations. We do not feel at liberty to enter into this discussion, considered as an original and unsettled one, for the obvious reason, that, if the question were fully investigated, the discussion would occupy the whole length, allotted to these inquiries. It is not so much our object to settle questions, if that in the existing state of things were possible, as to show that there are questions to be settled, and to make such suggestions as the interests of peace seem to re
quire. Is the right of search, then, with its incidental consequences, clearly a settled principle of the law of nations? If this be the case, how has it happened, that the exercise of the right has been attended with such irritating effects, with so much injustice and suffering, and such often repeated remonstrance and even resistance on the part of neutrals ? Vattel states, that "some powerful nations, have at different times, refused to submit to this search.” Grotius informs us, that, in the time of Elizabeth, the king of France would not permit French ships to be searched, prosecuting a neutral voyage, because it would be an injury to trade, and furnish a favorable occasion for pillage.
More recently this subject has been the cause of much misunderstanding between the United States and England; the right, in its fullest extent, being insisted on by the one power, and opposed by the other. During the recent long and bloody wars between France and England, the latter power, which had placed her chief dependence on her naval efforts, undoubtedly had need of all her seamen. Acting on the supposition, that British seamen had frequently deserted and had found employment on board American merchantmen, English ships of war endeavored to reclaim them, by the exercise of the right of search. Accordingly American merchantmen were subject to the exceeding vexation and loss of being visited in this way by English vessels; and while some English deserters were probably taken and carried back, a far greater number of Americans were separated from the crews, with which they had shipped, were torn from their native country, and compelled for years to serve on board British ships of war. This state of things naturally produced unspeakable irritation on the part of the Americans, and was one of the prominent causes of the late war between the two nations.
Now if the principles of search and impressment are wrong, they ought to be corrected ; if the principles are right, there is equal necessity of new methods and arrangements, in the application of them. It is true, that errors in principle and absurdities in practice admit of the resort to war, and war is one of the methods of terminating disputes. But we venture to assert, that the method is at least as absurd as the pretentions, whatever they may be, which lead to the employment of it. It may indeed be a method of settling questions, for what will not bow to superiority of force ; but it is not a method of settling the right or justice of questions. If it were otherwise, we might justly suppose, that six thousand years of public and private contest could ere this have liquidated and made a final settlement of the whole catalogue of cases of conscience both national and individual. But there is scarcely an approximation to such a result; contentions and wars have never been able to effect this great object, and never will be. There is something in the very nature of strife unfavorable to the perception of truth, and of course unfavorable to the claims of justice. It tends to exaggerate the interests of the respective antagonists, and to diminish those of their opponents, and in other ways essentially to mislead and perplex the moral judgment. The only method of terminating these evils is by availing ourselves of the lights of experience, and by amicable discussion.
1,-In regard to the difficulties, which are now the subject of remark, it does not appear, in the first place, how a belligerent can enter a neutral vessel, and take either articles of contraband, or even their own property and subjects, as a matter of absolute and paramount right. The belligerent may have a species of right, but it is not precedent and paramount to that of others. The rights and claims of the neutral, to say the least, stand on as
good footing as those of the hostile parties; and in all cases, where they come in conflict, ought, whether we consider the intentions of nature or the good of the human race, to take the precedence. If there is property or seamen on board the neutral, on which property or seamen the belligerent has an undoubted claim, we may probably admit, that he has a moral right to visit and search the neutral ; but it is what civilians call an imperfect right; it is not one, which can properly be enforced by violent measures; in other words, it ust be exercised in accordance with the consent of the neutral himself previously obtained and given.
II,- In the SECOND place, the neutral is bound in ordinary cases cheerfully to give his consent. If there is a moral right on the part of the belligerent, there is a corresponding moral obligation on the part of the neutral; subject to this limitation, however, that he is the proper judge, whether the circumstances actually existing do, or do not require him to fulfil that obligation. We must regard the neutral, like every body else, as bound to act on the principle of doing to others, as he himself would wish to be done by in similar circumstan
And it is easy to imagine cases, where he would undoubtedly consider the use of the right in question, as desirable in his own behalf, and as justly due to him.
III,-But it is probable, that the difficulties, connected with the right of search, relate as much to the mode of exercising it, as to the right itself. This renders it necesssary, that the whole matter should be permanently settled by treaty regulations. And this is the only way, in which it can be settled, so as entirely to prevent those misunderstandings and collisions, of which it has been the fruitful source. The article on this subject in the treaty of 1785 between America and Prussia, which was framed with a suitable regard to the rights of neu
trals, and with a desire to prevent misunderstandings, is as follows. “And to prevent all disorder and violence in such cases, it is stipulated, that when the vessels of the neutral party, sailing without convoy, shall be met by any vessel of war, public or private, of the other party, such vessel of war shall not approach within cannon shot of the said neutral vessel, nor send more than two or three men in their boat on board the same to examine her sea letters or passports. And all persons belonging to any vessel of war, public or private, who shall molest or injure, in any manner whatever, the people, vessels, or effects of the other party, shall be responsible in their persons and property for damages and interest, sufficient security for which shall be given by all commanders of private armed vessels before they are commissioned.”
IV,-Furthermore, when neutral vessels are searched by the ships of other nations for the purpose of recovering their fugitive subjects, in order to prevent mistakes and to preclude the unjust abduction of the wrong persons, which has been frequently the case, there ought to be some common measures mutually agreed upon, in the form of a judicial examination and trial. No man ought to be seized on board a neutral ship, and forcibly taken away, under the pretext of his being the subject of a foreign power, without a fair and open opportunity of attempting to show the contrary. If a man's property is threatened to be taken from him, he is shielded by the law and by courts of justice; much more ought it to be so, when his own person is at stake. -If some such pacific measures as these were adopted in connection with the principles, which have been proposed, another fountain of bloody waters would be closed up.