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more than once shown, the worst that can happen to us from a continuance of the blockade will be, that our mills will have to work twothirds time; and it is by no means sure from present appearances whether the aggregate demand of the world would suffice to take off much more than three fourths of a full production, even if we had cotton in abundance.”
The allegation that the blockade has not been so far effective as to comply with the rules of international law on that subject, if it may have been true at some places, has not been so to the extent which has been represented. The blockading force has in most instances been sufficient to make any open attempt to enter or leave the port dangerous. The number of arrivals and departures, which has been paraded as evidence of its inefficiency, furnishes no proof against it. Nearly all of them have been fraudulent evasions of the blockade. It is not incumbent on the party instituting a blockade to station a force at all the inlets and petty harbors on the coast, where there is no recognized port; where no entry could be made, or clearance had, in time of peace; and where, of course, if any commerce were carried on, it would be smuggling, and not a lawful commerce. Any running into and out of such places, in order to avoid the danger of the blockading force, is fraudulent, and has no tendency to show that the blockade is not effective. Nor is it necessary that the blockading force should be such that a vessel, taking advantage of a skilful pilot and the darkness of midnight, cannot make her entry, or exit, without being discovered. To require such a blockade would be to require an impracticability. Wessels navigated by steam, to say nothing of sailing vessels, by selecting their time, can in many instances run a blockade. Whether the contrivances to evade the blockade are by the petty codfish hucksters of the Anglo-American colonies, who fraudulently clear for some of the West India Islands, and then slyly slip into Hatteras or some other inlet; or whether by the more pretentious “greedy merchants” of Hartlepool or some other “pool ’’ on the English coast, “who care not how things go, provided they can but satisfy their thirst of gain,” and who, violating at the same time the laws of their own government and those of the United States, the vaunted principles of British freedom and the proprieties of national intercommunication, sneak, in the darkness of night, into the harbor of Savannah or of Charleston, for the sake of acquiring the “almighty dollar” with the love of which they delight to taunt the Yankees; — it does not rest with Great Britain to allege that the success of such attempts, however numerous, by those whom she must admit to be, thus far, her unworthy subjects, can show an insufficiency of the blockade. Almost at the time when we were writing the last sentence, the foreign relations of the United States were further complicated by the seizure of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, on board the British steamer Trent, on her passage from Havana to St. Thomas, she being at the time on the high seas, and being (it is understood) a passenger vessel, owned by private parties, but carrying the British and foreign mails by contract with the government. Messrs. Mason and Slidell had recently left the port of Charleston, in a vessel belonging to parties there, for the purpose of proceeding to Europe, by way of Havana, as “Ambassadors of the Confederate States,” as they have generally been called; but a more correct designation would be, as the agents or commissioners of the Confederate government, for the purpose, it may be presumed from other facts too numerous here to be stated, of obtaining, if possible, an acknowledgment of the independence of the Confederate States, – of communicating with their agents already there, — and of aiding in the adoption of such measures as might promote the interests of those States in the existing war with the United States, by negotiations for the purchase of arms and munitions of war, and their transportation to the ports of the Southern States. Mr. Jefferson Davis, in his late message to the Confederate Congress, speaks of them as “the distinguished gentlemen whom, with your approval, at the last session, I commissioned to represent the Confederacy at certain foreign courts”; and he charges the United States with having “violated the rights of embassy, for the most part held sacred even among barbarians, by seizing our ministers whilst under the protection and within the dominions of a neutral nation.” It may be noted that this shows conclusively that their original destination was Europe, - that their proceeding to Havana in the first instance was merely for security, or convenience, and transshipment, — and thus that their voyage on board the Trent was merely a continuation of a voyage from Charleston to Europe. They were bearers of despatches, also, of the character of which we shall speak hereafter. From this designation of them as “Ministers” and “Ambassadors,” in the message, and elsewhere, it was but a matter of course that much of the discussion, in the papers of the day, has been upon the question of the right of a belligerent to stop the ambassador of his enemy. The right is asserted by Wattel. It is reasserted by Sir William Scott, in this language:–
“I have before said, that persons discharging the functions of ambassadors are, in a peculiar manner, objects of the protection and favor of the law of nations. The limits that are assigned to the operations of war against them, by Wattel, and other writers upon those subjects, are, that you may exercise your right of war against them, wherever the character of hostility exists. You may stop the ambassador of Jour enemy on his passage; but when he has arrived, and has taken upon himself the functions of his office, and has been admitted in his representative character, he becomes a sort of middle-man, entitled to peculiar privileges, as set apart for the protection of the relations of amity and peace, in maintaining which all nations are in some degree interested.”— Case of the Caroline, 6 Robinson's Adm. Rep. 467, 468.
The doctrine thus stated may, as between England and the United States, be regarded as a sound principle of international law.
“You may stop the ambassador of your enemy on his passage” 7 When, and where, and on what passage, may you stop him : It has been argued, in reference to this case, in substance, that he may be stopped only while in his own country, or while passing through the country with which his government is at war, or on the high seas in a vessel of his own country; and that in this case the stoppage was unlawful, because the ambassador when in a neutral vessel is in a neutral territory. Mr. Jefferson Davis falls into this error. He speaks, as appears in the extract above quoted, of seizing “our ministers while under the protection and within the dominions of a neutral nation ”; and he adds, that “a claim to seize them in the streets of London would have been as well founded as that to apprehend them where they were taken,” which shows that he has no very correct notions upon the subject. It is readily perceived that no possible question could arise respecting the right to stop the ambassador of your enemy, as you may stop any other enemy, when you find him in the enemy's territory; or if he attempt to pass through your own, on his way to his destination. There is as little doubt that you may not interfere with him while in neutral territory, without just cause of offence to the neutral power whose territory protects him; and no question whatever that a neutral vessel on the high seas is, as respects belligerent rights, in no just sense neutral territory. The right in time of war to search a neutral vessel which may reasonably be supposed to have contraband goods on board, and to capture and confiscate the vessel, as well as the goods, shows conclusively a marked distinction between the vessel and the territory of the neutral, the latter not being the subject of search, and of course not of seizure and of confiscation, on the ground that munitions of war are found there, – even with evidence that they were intended to be conveyed to the enemy. The question of contraband, or not, does not arise until the goods are on their transit, and out of the local neutral jurisdiction. If then, as a matter of international law, you may stop the ambassador of the enemy, you may stop him on his outward passage while on board a neutral vessel. But the further question immediately presents itself, May you stop him in all cases where you find him thus in the neutral vessel, and if not, upon what voyage must he be found in order to the exercise of this right 7 Wattel and the textwriters, in laying down the proposition, could not have contemplated merely the case of a stoppage on a voyage from one port of the enemy to another port belonging to him, because the passage of an ambassador is not ordinarily of that character. Sir William Scott evidently did not so apply it, because he was not speaking with even the most remote reference to any such case. He added, as we have seen, “But when he has arrived, and has taken upon himself the functions of his office”; showing that the “passage” he had in contemplation was a passage to the place where he was to exercise those functions. This shows also that the principle is not applicable merely to an ambassador returning in a neutral vessel to his own country after his functions have ceased ; nor to the case of an ambassador who, after his reception at the neutral court, is proceeding to another neutral port, for a temporary purpose, on private business, – for that is the very case of all others, if there be one, in which you cannot stop him, because his character of ambassador may be held to continue, and protect him, as if he were still in the neutral country to which he is accredited. The conclusion would seem to be, that he may be stopped in a neutral vessel, on the high seas, on his way to the country to which he is sent, before his arrival and reception, and before, therefore, he is entitled to the protection of the neutral nation to which he is accredited.' And if he may be stopped when proceeding directly from his own port in a neutral ves