Imagens da página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

treaty had been fulfilled on the part of France, on the silly pretence that another war was inevitable from the course of events, was unmatched in fraud. The robbery of Spain while at peace with her, by sending instructions to Lord Nelson to despatch two frigates to cruise off Cadiz and seize the homeward bound treasure ships, which was done, and 10,000,000 silver dollars seized, was a strong commentary upon international law, as practised by England. War, of course, followed this robbery. The Spanish manifesto truly stated, " the English government manifested its secret and perverse aims by the abominable capture of four Spanish frigates, navigating in a state of profound peace, at the very moment when the English vessels were enjoying the full rights of hospitality in the harbors of Spain." The English made every attempt at explanation and apology, but kept the money. The unadulterated thievery of the transaccion is apparent in the instructions to Nelson. “ You are not to detain any homeward-bound ship of war, unless she shall hare treasur: on board.Even England's aristocratic historian blushes over the base crime, and states : “ Better that all the dollars, and ten times their quantity were paid, so that it could wash away the stain which had been brought upon our arms." From these facts it is evident that the standard of international morality is sufficiently low in England.

The theory of the balance of power, required that nations should interfere to prevent the too great extension of a strong power. During the period embraced in Mr. Wheaton's book, four wars have grown out of this theory. Three of them to restrain France, and one to restrain Russia. The first was the war of 1688, terminating in the peace of Ryswick in 1697, by which the power of France was diminished, and the authority of England on the continent considerably enhanced. The second was the“ War of Succession." Charles II. of Spain, without issue, had the power to bequeath his territories, which included the Netherlands. The choice was between Austria and France, and he left them to the latter. England and Holland went to war to prevent the execution of this will, and drove France out of the Netherlands, at an expense for which the people of England are now paying taxes. The treaty of Utrecht closed that war. Russia, towards the close of the century, became an object of dread, and Sweden and Turkey declared war against her, and it ended with but little results. The coalition of all the powers against France for twenty years, fo

ned the fourth case.

All these wars were made for the benefit of ruling individuals at the expense of the people.

It is seldom, however, that a nation rests its interference in the affairs of an independent neighbour on the bare ground of inconvenience or danger to herself. She generally supports her invasion by the further pretext, that it is for the purpose of redressing some injury suffered by some class, or even by some individual of the invaded nation ; and she usually asserts that the interests of the class, or of the individual whose side she espouses, are those of the nation as a whole, and that the nation to be attacked is a most dangerous neighbor. Thus Poland bas been a most remarkable instance of the theory which requires that a strong nation should be checked. In 1793, Russia stated in relation to Poland, that she

“ Found that her endeavours to maintain peace and quiet among her Polish neighbors had been attended with innumerable losses, and that some unworthy Poles had not been ashamed to approve the government of the ungodly rebels in the kingdom of France. From these considerations, her Imperial Majesty, for the future safety of her empire, and for the cutting off for ever of all futuro

disturbances, was pleased to take under her sway, and unite for ever to her er pire, the territories between the Dwina and the Dniester."

Prussia and Austria had very similar reasons, and they all united in the necessity of dividing the dangerous” country between them. It was the singular fate of Poland to become more and more dangerous as she became more and more weak. She was dangerous in 1772, and was stripped of half her territories. She was found still more dangerous in 1793, and three-fourths of the remainder were taken from her. Still, however, she excited alarm among her great neighbors; and, in 1795, they finally dismembered her. The congress of Vienna left the free city of Cracow as the monument of Poland. In 1846, that little city became more dangerous than even was the ancient republic, and Austria has been compelled to swallow it altogether for safety. Yet the sympathies of the people of all countries have been with the Poles, and if popular opinion had been freely expressed, the extinguishment of Poland would never have taken place.

Mr. Wheaton sets forth, with admirable clearness, the general proposition, that the foreign policy, and in so far the international law of European nations, has been guided by their monarchs. Now, it is scarcely necessary to remind our readers, that this college of sovereigns is animated by an esprit de corps stronger than that which unites any other equally large class in the world. Their constant intermarriages have connected them by ties of consanguinity and affinity, which constitute them one family scattered over the different thrones of Europe ; their remote and inaccessible position deprives them of society, on equal terms, except among one another. The only language which they hear, speaks of devotion to their interests, and even to their wishes; and, what is still more important, they are all in the presence of a common enemy, the advancing spirit of democracy. From the sixteenth century, when the United Provinces threw off the yoke of Philip II., every succeeding age has witnessed victories of democratic over royal power more and more important. The English revolution marked the seventeenth century : those of British America and France, the eighteenth ; and in the nineteenth, we have already seen the triumph of popular power in Spain, Prussia, Portugal, France, Belgium, Saxony, and Norway. In every one of these countries, the royal power was, within our own memory, despotic. In every one of these, the sovereign is now either a mere instrument in the hands of the representatives of his people, or derives his influence from the accident of his personal qualities. The philosopher may know that such changes are on the whole beneficial, but no sovereign ever believed so; or, if such were his belief, ever acted on it. Among all their mutual jealousies, sovereigus have always had a strong fellow-feeling for a king against a people. And where they have assisted the latter, they have generally done so iu obedience to some overpowering motive of aggrandizement or self-defence; or to some sympathy between their own subjects and those of their brother, which they did not think it safe to resist.

Thus William, as Stadtholder of the United Provinces, interfered to protect the people of England from the tyranny of James II. ; but it was partly to obtain a throue for himself, partly to use the resources of England in his struggle against France, and partly from the sympathy between the Dutch and English Protestants. If James had been a Protestant, and an enemy of France, he might have subverted the liberties of England unchecked by foreign interference.

About a century afterwards, Louis XV. of France assisted the North American colonies to throw off the dominion of England; but this monarch did not think fit to ground his interference on the right to protect subjects against the oppression of their sovereign. The French manifesto states that the King of France neither was, nor pretended to be, a judge of the disputes between the King of England and his colonies; and that he took up arms “ to avenge his injuries, and to put an end to the tyrannical empire which England has usurped, and pretends to maintain, upon the ocean.”

This intervention in the affairs of other nations took a singular turn. On the breaking out of the French Revolution, established governments became exceedingly alarmed at the course of events, ceased their bickerings, and began to draw together in assault upon France. The French people very properly decreed, that where the general will of a nation, clearly and unequivocally expressed, called the French nation to its assistance and fraternity, France would not sign a treaty or lay down her arms until the independence of the people, into whose territories she had once penetrated, should be confirmed, and popular government, freedom and equality established there. The allied powers in return, pledged themselves not to make a separate peace, but to persevere until France should be reduced. After the Bourbons were carried back to Paris on the points of the allied bayonets, these allied powers formed a new treaty, by which they engaged “mutually, in the most solemn manner, to use all their efforts to put an end to the system of representative government, in whatever country it may exist in Europe, and to prevent its being introduced in those countries where it is not yet known.” This is precisely the counterpart of the French revolutionary decrees; and taking the acts of the governments since the peace of 1815 as a guide, it does not appear that interference for the mere purpose of preventing the oppression of subjects by their prince, is now held lawful by any nation. No country interfered to prevent the oppression of Spain by Ferdinand, on his return from France in 1314. And yet the allies, who had given to him the means of being mischievous, had the power, for they were then the dictators of Europe, and, if the law of nations sanctioned it, seemed liable to the duty of restraining him. England, at least, saw apparently with indifference the re-establishment of the Inquisition, and the exile, imprisonment, or death, of those who for years had fought by her side against France. The powers who gave the kingdom of Poland to Russia, Piedmont to the house of Savoy, and Naples and Sicily to the Italian Bourbons, have not interfered to check the misgovernment of those countries. According to modern international law, it

appears to be doubtful whether a nation has any rights against its sovereign ; and it is certain that, if it have any, they are rights which no third party is justified in supporting.

On the other hand, it appears to be the opinion of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, that the rights of a sovereign against his subjects are whatever he may think fit to claim. The Austrian and Prussian manifesto of August, 1792, denies that a king can be deprived, or voluntarily divest himself, of any portion of his supreme, never-ceasing, and indivisible authority; and the same sentiment, though seldom so nakedly expressed, is stated or implied in all the state papers of these three monarchies, even down to the recent speech of the Prussian king to his newly assembled legislature. They further assert that, by international law, all third parties are justified in interfering to enable a sovereign to retain or recover his authority. Whether they should or should not actually inter

fere, they have considered a matter of discretion to be governed by the circumstances of each case ; but we are not aware that any one of them has ever abandoned, or doubted, or even limited the right.

The conduct of England in the long wars of the revolution afforded little evidence of any amelioration of the cruelties of war, although that of other nations was more gratifying. The atrocious murder of the aged Caraccioli at Naples by Nelson, was worthy only of the darkest ages. The brutal proclamations of the Duke of Brunswick could be equalled only by the untaught ferocity of pagan warriors; but a more systematic and cruel exercise of power, was the refusal of England to exchange prisoners with Franco in the war which followed the peace of Amiens. The allied armies were composed of all nations, a few English, surrounded by Spanish and Portuguese. The prisoners taken by the French in every battle were necessarily of these three nations; whereas, the prisoners taken by the English were necessarily French. In number, France had the most prisoners; but out of 60,000, one sixth part only were English, while England held 50,000 French. A proposition was made to exchange. France agreed, man for man, rank for rank; but England claimed that all the English should first be given up against a like number of French. Bonaparte saw the meditated fraud, which was to stop the exchange after all the English were released ; he therefore proposed to exchange the whole against the whole; this they agreed to. He then began the exchange with 1,000 English and 2,000 Spanish and Portuguese for 3,000 French. This was refused, exposing at once the premeditated treachery. By this, thousands of innocent persons were abandoned to years of misery and disease ; a monument of British barbarity in the nineteenth century. The scenes of the peninsular war are equal in atrocity to any of the events of what are called the dark ages. The troops of England were in the peninsula as the allies of Spain, seeking with their armies to drive out the French; yet when a Spanish city, as in the case of Badajos, was held by the French and taken by the English troops, it was abandoned to the plunder of the British troops. No age or nation can present a parallel to the horrors which Spanish citizens sustained from their "allies,” the English troops. A retreating English army through a friendly country, has been described, by its own officers, as tut the devastating progress of an undisciplined barbarous banditti. There is nothing in the conduct of England to iudicate that the international law or morality in the nineteenth century is in any degree advanced beyond that evinced by the columns of the Vandal, Genseric, in the fifth. The Spanish peninsula may bear witness, that the lapse of fourteen centuries between the visits of Genseric and that of Wellington, had not served to ameliorate the conduct of foreign troops, whether in the form of enemies or allies.

The operation of the law of nations, in respect to the right of maritime search, has, in the last few years, assumed a more definite form, involving the utter defeat of British diplomacy in her attempts to incorporate it in the law of nations, and placing her in a most ridiculous position. We cannot but ascribe to the exertions, energy and high character of Mr. Wheaton, much of the credit of influencing the favorable turn affairs have taken.

The right of maritime search in time of war has, from remote ages, been claimed by Great Britain, chiefly because she had the power, as the greatest commercial nation, to enforce it. The principle of “free ships, free goods” had, however, been asserted by most of the continental nations of Europe; and England by a treaty with Portugal, made by

[ocr errors]

Cromwell in 1654, recognised this principle in favor of the Portuguese flag; and this treaty continued to exempt Portuguese ships for a century and a half, from the belligerent right of visit and search for enemy's property, as asserted by Great Britain. In 1810, Great Britain agreed io tolerate the slave trade in the Portuguese African possessions, in consideration of the suppression of this exemption of Portuguese vessels from the belligerent right of visit and search. At the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the rule “ free ships, free goods," was adopted between Great Britain, France and Holland, and was continued down to the French Revolution. During which war, all rights of neutrals were trampled upon by Great Britain, who ruthlessly seized upon Copenhagen, a neutral port, in 1807. From that time she continued to exercise the unlimited right of visit and search, doing away, in 1810, by the Portuguese treaty, with the only stipulation against its universal operation. From that time forth, she sought to make her absolute will and power the rule of action, and to interpolate in the law of nations the right of maritime search. This right had taken a new phase, in consequence of the action of the United States in 1807, by which the slave trade was abolished. That trade being by Congress prohibited to Americans, and by the English supremacy on the ocean up to 1814, to all other nations, it was exclusively enjoyed by the merchants of Liverpool and London, to an extent greater than ever before known.

When the powers, at the peace of 1815, agreed, finally, to suppress the trade, it was contended by Great Britain that the concession of the right of search in time of peace, was necessary for her to stop the trade. The United States had too sovere a lesson of the abuse to which that right could be carried by an arrogant and unscrupulous power like Great Britain, and they firmly and decidedly rejected it. From that mo. ment, however, the efforts of Great Britain have been unceasing, to make the “right of search,” in time of peace, a portion of international law; and the exceptions to it to be based on treaties, instead of requiring treaty stipulations to concede it. That is to say, they assume that, from the nature of things, they have a right to visit and search all vessels on the open seas, to ascertain their nationality; and a nation can be exempt from that violence only by treaty. At first the British government assumed that slave trading was piracy, and might be punished by any nation. The British Courts of Admiralty, however, decided that it was an offence punishable by the laws of the country to which the vessel belonged. Hence, the nationality of a vessel became important; and England succeedel in obtaining from several countries treaties, conceding the right of search tu ascertain that nationality. In 1817, a treaty was formed with the Brazils, conceding the mutual right of search; and unceasing attempts were made to form such stipulations with European nations. The ductile French government of July conceded it by convention in 1831, limited, however, to a zone of 60 miles radius round Cuba, and on the African coast from 15° north to 10° south. With Texas, Brazil, France, and many American states, England had obtaiued these concessions. She had so progressed with her theory as to be menacing; and in 1842 she had cajoled the four powers of Europe, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and France, to join her in a treaty of mutual search ; with which treaty, as Lord Palmerston said in the House of Lords, they were to come over in a “body to the United States," and he trusted, "they would not be able to resist acceding 10 it." At this moment of apparent success the tide turned upon them. The English ministry was changed, and Mr. Wheaton's book," Inquiry into the

« AnteriorContinuar »