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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.
I, 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 must 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 circumstances. 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.
OF PROPERTY IN THE OCEAN.
ANOTHER Subject of much practical difficulty, is the ascertainment of property in the ocean, in the grand fishing banks, in navigable bays and lakes, and in rivers flowing between different countries. "Wherever a spirit of commerce, says Ward, has prevailed, the sea has become as much an object of contention as the land.” * It is well known, that pretensions have been set up, at various periods, to parts of the ocean, which were inconsistent with natural justice, and were attended with hostile feelings and violence. The Venetians, while they existed as a distinct Republic, claimed the dominion of the Adriatic sea, a portion of the ocean 450 miles in length and 90 in breadth, although their own possessions were limited almost exclusively to the bottom of the Adriatic, and a great part of the lands on both sides were under other governments. This extraordinary claim was not merely nominal. In the year 1265, when Tepolo was Doge of Venice, a permanent law was made by the republic, imposing a tax on all vessels trading in the Adriatic; and several barks were ordered to cruise day and night, in order to enforce it. In 1638, a Turkish fleet, having entered without the permission of the Sen
* Ward's Inquiry into the Foundation of the Law of Nations in Europe, Vol. I, p. 138.
ate of Venice, although they had ports of their own situated on the Adriatic, were attacked by the Venetians, defeated, and several ships sunk. Subsequently a treaty was made between the Sultan and the Republic, by which it was agreed, that it should be lawful for the Venetians to seize by force, if they did not otherwise submit, all Turkish vessels entering the Adriatic without their license, no exception being made in favor of the ports situated upon it, which were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Signior.
For many years the British Government claimed dominion over the seas in the neighborhood of Britain, viz. over the ocean from the western mouth of the English channel to Cape Finisterre in Spain, and thence bounded by an imaginary line running to the sixtieth degree of north latitude and twenty three degrees west from London, and thence by another imaginary line on that parallel of latitude to the coast of Norway, and thence by the shores of Norway, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands to the English channel again. Throughout this great extent of ocean, all nations, after the time of Alfred bowed in homage to the flag of England.-They not only rendered homage, but tribute. So late as the reign of Richard II, we meet with a parliamentary enactment, specifying the precise amount to be paid by vessels found navigating within the above mentioned limits. Although these claims are not practically maintained, at least in their original extent, at the present time, it seems nevertheless to be held by British writers, that they are liable to be resumed and enforced, whenever it shall suit the policy of their government, who may accordingly, at some future time, demand passports of leave to sail through the British seas, as was formerly the case. These pretensions of Great Britain were not always peaceably submitted to. The republic of Holland made