« ForrigeFortsett »
JAN. 31, 1825.]
Suppression of Piracy.
It is a right of war, and it is in time of war only that it is, or ever was allowed by the laws of nations. No instance in which it was otherwise exercised, or the right to exercise it claimed, is to be found in the books. This is conceded. The recent blockade of Cadiz by the French, stands upon war ground. That matter has been demonstrated by the gentleman from Virginia, in the lucid argument he submitted the other day. War existed between France, as the ally of Spain, and that portion of Spain embraced by the blockade. If it did not, the blockade was a violation of the law of nations. Mr. V. B. said, Ae was, moreover, indisposed, in any view of the subject, to refer to acts committed in a war waged for the destruction of the liberties of one nation for evidence of the rights of others. Are we, (inquired Mr. VAN BU* Es,) at war with Spain * Certainly not. Is it the design of the committee that the passage of the bill and the exercise of this power, under it, is to put us in that condition ? The gentlemen say no. What then, he asked, are we about to do? To exercise, in a state of peace, a measure which is only allowable in a state of war. When it was admitted, said Mr. V. B. that the section contemplated a measure not authorized by the law of nations, he hoped that, in this country at least, no further argument could be necessary to dissuade from its adoption. Such, however, appeared not to be the case. We are told that the Governments whose trade will be affected by this blockade, will not complain, because it is necessary and proper to secure the suppression of piracy, and because the interests of all nations are, thereby, promoted. But why is it that we consider proceedings against the inhabitants of Cuba proper ? It is on the ground of their participation in the guilt of the pirates. Of that we Judge from information, which we have ; but which they may not have. We judge of it under the influence of feelings excited by accumulated injuries; they are not entirely so situated—what is satisfactory to us, may not be so to them, and unless it be so, we have no reason to count on their acquiescence. If we had, still we would not stand justified in the eyes of the world, to attempt so flagrant an interpolation in the national code. If they do not acquiesce, then comes the question so emphatically asked by his honorable friend from Virginia, (Mr. Tazewell,) how will you enforce your blockade For violations or attempted violations of a lawful blockade, the law of nations authorizes the blockading power to capture and confiscate the property of the neutral. This is on the principle that by the act the neutral takes part with the enemy in furnishing him with the means either of subsistence, escape, or information, and the measure of punishment for such interference, is what he had stated. Questions of prize, or no prize, are to be decided by the law of nations, subject to treaties. By that law it is conceded that condemnation for a violation of such a blockade as this, would not be allowed. The right is not given by the act. Why not? Because there is no authority or precedent for it. Are not gentlemen, he asked, aware, that, by thus abandoning the means of enforcing a blockade, they admit, substantially, the illegality of the measure ? But we are told, said Mr. VAN B. by the honorable chairman, that he contemplates a resort to force, and to force only, to perform the blockade. What will be the inevitable consequence A French or English vessel, or the vessel of any other nation trading with Cuba, approaches a port you have blockaded—she is warned off—denying your authority, as she well may, she keeps on. You fire into her, slay her crew, and sink their vessels, and war exists between you and the nation to which she belongs. You thus put it in the power, said Mr. WAN B. nay, you make in the duty
of your officers on that station to involve you in embarrassments and war almost without limit. . Modifications of the measure have been spoken of to| day, so as to confine it to Spanish commerce. You cannot
do it without involving yourselves in the assertion of another equally untenable right, the right of search, in time of peace, of vessels carrying on a lawful trade. In any point of view, therefore, the measure is ill advised, and should no longer be persisted in. It is to be regretted that it has obtained so far—it may hereafter be brought in judgment against us. We have interests as well as character involved in the question. In the wars which have heretofore ravaged Europe, we have occupied a neutral station.—our situation, the tendency of our Government, and the temper of our people, will, it is to be hoped, continue us in the course we have hitherto so wisely and so hapily pursued. The interests of the neutral, therefore, seem emphatically our interests, and we should be careful how we tamper with them. ... We know well that this right of blockade is cherished and valued by our great maritime rival, as the firmest charter of her naval pre-eminence—a right which she has always manifested a wish to enlarge, and which we, in conjunction with other nations interested in the freedom of the seas, have struggled to confine to its ancient limits. Mr. WAN B. had said that we had character involved in this question; what we had said and done on this subject was before the world—our light had not been hid. We had, he said, principle to maintain, which it had been our pride to support, and which we should be ashamed to abandon. Allusion had been made, and properly made, by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. T.) to the collision which had existed in the question of blockade between England and this country at an early period; and he might, with equal propriety, have referred to others of a later date. We should be cautious how we exposed our conduct on occasions that are open to suspicion. Much of our greatness, and no small share of our strength, as had justly been observed, rested on our fidelity to principle and continued reverence and support of the great doctrines of public law in our intercourse with the world. Mr. VAN Bun EN said he would further illustrate his idea upon this subject by a reference to a point of controversy between us and Spain, connected with the very subject under consid. eration. With no other force than a single frigate, a brig and a schooner, employed in transporting supplies from Curracoa to Porto Cabello, she had presumed to declare a blockade of more than twelve hundred miles of coast of the Republic of Colombia and the Government of Mexico, adding to the declaration the idle pretence that she had a right to interdict trade with those o: because the same had heretofore been forbidden
y the Spanish colonial laws. On the strength of these principles, so entirely inadmissible, she had issued commissions at Porto Cabello and Porto Rico, to privateers, who had committed extensive depredations on our own commerce... We have inveighed loudly and justly against Spain for this outrage. We have said that the only difference between those privateers and the bucaniers of Cuba was, that the former acted under a commission to which the latter made no pretence. On what ground have we done so It has been, because the idea of now enforcing the colonial law of Spain was ridiculous, and that by the law of nations their blockade could only be legal as far as their actual force will make it effectual. Will the Honorable Chairman inform me with what force we can complain of Spain on this inroad of the law of nations, if we appropriate this solemn right of war to mere municipal purposes, with full knowledge that the pretence of a right so to use it, is not to be found in that law; and that, in attempting it, we attempt a flagrant interpolation upon its principles But he had done with this branch of the subject, and would conclude it by conjuring gentlemen to be cautious how they made innovations in the public law, and admonishing them that other nations might hereafter improve upon our decision in a form which might be the occasion of our lasting regret, Mr. Van B. said
Suppression of Piracy.
[JAN. 31, 1825.
that he would now state, in a few words, what the provisions were which he would substitute, for those of the bill; they were: 1st. Power to the President to authorize our forces to land on the Island of Cuba, in quest of the pirates, and there exercise all the power necessary to their suppression, of which he had already spoken. 2d. Power to the President, on being satisfied of the facts stated in the section; or some other of a similar character, to authorize reprisals upon the commerce and property of the inhabitants of the Island, or by way of contribution on the places, participating in the piratical acts upon our commerce, or both, or in such other form as those more acquainted with the matter should prescribe. He would give this power to the President now, because Congress must adjourn in a few days, not to meet again in nine months, and because, during that period, the exercise of such a power might become indispensable, and he would leave that question to the discretion of the Executive, by whom, he had no doubt, it would be wisely and safely exercised. In that exercise, he had no doubt every thing belonging to the subject would be regarded, and in connexion with that part of the subject, he would take the liberty of suggesting what, in his humble opinion, might be done with profit and propriety, by the Executive, previous to the exercise of the strong power with which Congress would clothe him. There was, said Mr. WAN Buren, not only something in the nature of the crime we seek to suppress, but in the place where our power is to be exercised, which not only authorize us to ask, but may perhaps be deemed sufficient to require that we should ask the co-operation of some, at least, of the other powers of Europe. From the present condition of Spain, depressed as she has been by her foreign and domestic wars, and pressed almost to the earth by her late inglorious conflict with her own subjects, the question of her ability to maintain her power in the Island of Cuba had for some years been entertained. It was now, he said, well known, that that circumstance, added to the extreme importance of the Island to several of the powers of Europe, and particularly to this country, had given rise to much jealousy among those nations in regard to it. Rumors of cessions, and apprehension of cessions, had been frequently heard and entertained. Such was the jealousy of the inhabitants themselves upon the subject, that when Captain Porter last arrived, orders were understood to have been given, refusing the admission of his squadron into their ports, avowing, as the reason, their apprehension that his object was conquest. That was, however, explained by the present Captain General, who knew, and was capable of appreciating our motives. Is there not reason to apprehend that, if, without cousultation with England and France, the measures necessary to the entire extinction of this abhorred race, (on the assumption that Spain will do nothing,) may excite jealousies on the part of the Government to which he had alluded, that may lead to unpleasant embarrasments; and is there not, on the contrary, every reason to hope that on application made to them, they would cordially concur in uniting their exertions with our own, in a cause in which their interests and ours are identified ? In conjuction with them, the Spanish Government might be addressed in a manner which could not fail of its effect. She might be told that she owed it to the world to suppress this odious practice; that her delinquency was palpable—that, if she desired its suppression, and had not the means to effect it, she ought to say so, and to consent to the occupation of such parts of her Islands as were necessary to that end. If she still refused, the necessary means might be used by the powers of which he had spoken, and a final end would be put to piracy. We have, said Mr. W. B., a right to count on their zealous and ready co-operation.
But, if, contrary to all expectations, they should refuse, then the Executive could exercise the additional powers with which you invest him. To make these explanations, some longer time might be required than to obtain the evidence necessary to authorize this blockade —but there would be time enough. In the mean time, our forces in those seas would not be idle—they would act with all the means and authority they had in 1823—and if, after taking such steps, the Executive should authorize measures, which it is conceded might, and probably would, lead to a war with Spain—the nation would support, and all the world approve our course. Mr. BARBOUR next took the floor. In rising again, said he, the Senate will do justice to my sincerity when I declare, that it is under a deep sense of duty. Standing, as I do, in relation to the Committee of Foreign Relations, whose humble organ I am, when its measures are severely animadverted on, and as I think, from their being misunderstood, I am compelled to speak. From the commencement of my honorable friend from New York, when he arrayed all the enormities of which we complain, and in glowing colors—when he proved that the whole Island of Cuba was affected with this dreadful crime, justifying the atrocities, and participating in the plunder, when we had solicited, and in vain, the interposition of the mother country to stay the hand of her people from robbery and murder—when it was admitted that our measures, as at present employed, were insufficient, I had hoped to have had the aid of his confessedly great powers in support of our measures, what was my surprise and mortification to learn, that he was opposed to the whole, or, at least, to whatever is efficient in our bill. It is easy to make exceptions—to find fault. If our plan is not fit, what is his With that we have not been favored. I beg his pardon: he proposes negotiation with Spain, France, and England, to permit us to take possession of some part of Cuba, and exercise municipal jurisdiction. Indeed! Pray when does he expect that Spain will give permission to a foreign power over her transatlantic possessions? Upon what subject can you excite her indignation more than this; relative to which she has always evinced the most morbid sensibility; and I demand to know whether we are to fold our hands together, and suffer our people to be plundered, and tortured to death, till Spain shall concede this privilege How long will you wait on Spain, how long submit to these injuries, beforeyou interpose 2 So far back as ’22 we were called upon to protect our citizens from the horrors of piracy. In '25 we are advised to suspend our proceedings till we negotiate with Spain. With Spain! How often has she been called on 7 how often warned, if she did not interpose, we should be compelled to resort to our own resources? No-little has been received from Spain which has promised even an interference, and yet we are to wait negotiation. In the mean time, your people are given up to plunder and to death. This will not do. If you like not our plan, give us one less exceptionable, but adequate to the crisis. Delude us not with promises—let us have the authentic act—let us see some protection afforded our suffering people—save your flag from violation—let it not be, as it now is, an inducement to outrage, rather than a shield of protection. But it is objected that the second section of the bill gives no new power; that the power therein granted already exists. Be it so, it does no harm. It confirms an existing right. Yet the authorities of Cuba deny this right. Your President, by asking it, among the means proposed for remedying the evil, must doubt its existence. Then give it. If we have it already, it barely is confirmatory; if we have it without law, this will confer it. Sir, I was struck upon this point with the facility with which gentlemen propose projects, which, according to my reading, are equally without
the pale of the laws of nations; nay, more so than our plan. They applaud their own, and condemn ours, My colleague proposes a war of extermination on the Island—the gentleman of New York, thinks this short of the occasion. He insists on taking possession, and exercising municipal Jurisdiction. What proportion does the blockade bear to these measures? The breeze to a desolating whirlwind! Theirs embrace alike (if there be any such) the innocent and the guilty. The bill proposes an exclusive application of the force to the guilty. Decide between them. The difficulty in this discussion results from a confounding of the laws of warfare between civilized powers, and an effort against pirates. Between the former, the principles of international law are applicable—but in reference to the latter, they are without the law. Fastidiously to require the application of the principles of law to a set of brigands, who trample under feet all law, is a perversion. What is the case actually before us? A distant colony, under a nominal allegiance, but refusing obedience except when in coincidence with their feelings, to any measure directed by the mother country, has become a den of pirates. Exempting the mother country from their guilt, from her inability, o: foundation of this measure,) our measures are directed against the Islands, as the abode of piratical hordes. The measure of blockade is indispensable to their extermination; but, say gentlemen, declare war before you blockade—against whom Spain? Why we have acquitted her of participation. To declare war against her would be unjust. Declare war against Cuba? Who ever head of a war against pirates ? You declare war against Algiers, because, however imperfect the Government, you admit the existence of a Government, by treating with her. Indeed, a declaration of war presupposes the existence of a Government capable of the relations of peace, otherwise, the war is interminable. But, with pirates, war, in its technical form, cannot exist. You may hang them, but to declare war, or to treat with pirates, would be a degradation. This measure, therefore, releasad entirely from the principles of international law, is a mere instrument for the extirpation of pirates. But neutrals are to be affected. War—war, and all the dire chimeras are to ensue. Where are the neutrals? Neutrals in regard to pirates! There can be none. They are enemies of human kind, and all mankind are against them. It is matter of profound regret, to hear gentlemen of great capacity, and full of horror as they themselves state, against these pests, and which I do not deny, conjuring up difficulties which are the creatures of their own imagination, and yet suffer them to weigh against the cries and lamentations of the widows and orphans of the murdered. The difficulty of a prize question weighs down the loss of millions, and the murder of hundreds of our people. Sir, it is impossible that any civilized power can make cause of war, the occlusion of the den of murderers, for the purpose of their apprehension; but if, against all human calculation, it should be so, for one I am prepared to encounter it. Tell me not of possible collisions with other powers, without adequate cause. But show me the way by which to protect our citizens from plunder and from death. The latter I will travel, reckless of the consequences. Justice, necessity, are on our side ; results may be committed to Heaven; but our character is implicated—the labor of fifty years are to be lost in an instant. The temple of glory, constructed by years of prudence and propriety, and whose dome is so lofty as to be seen in the most distant land, is to be undermined by this measure, and to tumble into ruins!. This is, indeed, a grave view of this subject. But how is all this to be produced by an attempt to put down piracy by the only measure which can effect it? Sir, I will not make professions as to my zeal for the prosperity and glory of my country. No, sir; severe as the test is, and
of the rule; by the fruit ye shall judge the tree. If the character of the nation is at all concerned in what we shall not do, rather than in what we shall—if a band of ruffians is permitted, in sight of our shores, to practise these abominations with impunity—if the lamentations of the surviving relatives of the dead, and the well grounded apprehensions of the living—if the urgent remonstrances of our suffering fellow-citizens—if a violated flag, which awakens, or should awaken, the pride of every man calling himself American—if all this cannot arouse us, then, indeed, our character must sustain an injury; the vindication of violated rights against unprincipled ruffians, never can. History informs us that a British sailor, in the very waters now the theatre of these outrages, had been mutilated only, by the Spaniard. In his examination before the House of Commons, when asked what were his feelings in the hour of his peril, he replied, that he committed his soul to God, and his wrongs to the vengeance of his country. War was echoed through the Hall. But here, where hundreds have been consigned to an untimely grave, with every species of contumely, and every species of torture, we are deterred from the necessary measure of defence, from the difficulty of a prize case. The living and the dead invoke our aid. We cannot reanimate the dead, but we can avenge their wrongs; and we can save the living by timely interposition. . Give the power to your Executive; if negotiation is indispensable to redress, it will be a stimulus to his exertions—if it be not necessary, it will become a dormant power, and without avail. If it be necessary, it will be quickened into active and beneficent operation.
But, if you withhold, and occurrences should demonstrate its utility, where, during the recess, is the power to give it 2 Grant it, it may be beneficial and can do no mischief; withhold it, it may cost us millions of property and the lives of hundreds of our fellow-citizens. Sir, withhold the necessary means, and what will be the effect Think ye these brigands do not watch the course of our measures 2 Let them be told that, after years of suffering and of patience, instead of smiting, as with the besom of desolation, these scourges of our race, our Senate gravely propose to open negotiations with Spain in search of redress—and what is the inevitable result? Your conduct is equal to a proclamation to the refuse of all the world to embark in a scene of plunder, whose reward is tedious negotiation instead of the halter. The evil, you know, has risen to an alarming height already. Your policy of delay, and forbearance, and negotiation, is destined to swell the dreadful tide—vires acquirit eundo—of which thousands of our people will be the victim. Then, with unavailing regret, we may look back on the idle fears whose consequences shall have been so fatal. Make, however, your own election, as I have made mine. As it is my duty, so shall I endeavor to acquiesce cheerfully in your decision.
On motion of Mr. HAYNE,
The Senate then adjourned.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES-sAME DAY.
On motion of Mr. FORSYTH, of Geo., it was
Resolved, That the Committee on Indian Affairs be instructed to inquire into the expediency of making an .. for the extinguishment of the Indian title to land lying in the state of Georgia, by purchases from those Creek and Cherokee Indians who reside within the limits of the said state.
Mr. FORSYTH said," that the Message of the President on the civilization of Indians, communicated to the House last week, suggested the propriety of making an appropriation to comply with the obligations, of a treaty which it was expected would be formed with the
imperfect as I am, I am willing to abide the ordeal
Creek Indians for a cession of land in Georgia. The
Secretary of the War Department stated, in his report to the President, that the Creek Indians in Georgia were desirous to make a cession, if the consent of the whole nation could be obtained. Mr. F. said his information on this subject differed from that of the Secretary. The Creek Indians in Georgia were willing to make a cession without the consent of the rest of the nation. The Executive doubted the propriety of making such a contract, because those willing to treat were only a part of the tribe. It was with a view to obtain the expression of the opinion of Congress on this point that he had offered this resolution. By referring to the statute book, it would be found that two treaties, in 1816, had been made with portions of Indian tribes. The treaty of Fort Jackson was in fact made with a part of the Creek nation. A large portion of the nation were neither present, or represented, but were in fact at war with us when the treaty was made. During the last session of Congress, a treaty was ratified by the Senate with the Florida Indians: it contains an additional article, made with six chiefs only. Mr. F. did not doubt that the President might have given, or might give, the power to Commissioners to treat with a portion of a nation. That all doubt might be removed, he proposed a reference to the Committee on Indian Affairs, and could not but hope, as there was now a mean by which the extinguishment of the Indian title to land in Georgia could be obtained peaceably, and upon reasonable terms, that Congress would adopt it without hesitation. He proposed to procure, from the War Department, by a resolution which he should presently offer, the documents necessary to enable the committee to act on the subject. Mr. ForSYTH then offered the following, which lies one day: Resolved, That the Secretary of the Department of War be, and he is hereby, directed to lay before the House a copy of the report of the Commissioners appointed by the President to treat with the Creek Indians for the extinguishment of their claim to land lying in the state of Georgia, of the journals kept by the said Commissioners, and the correspondence respecting the causes that have prevented them from effecting the object of their appointment; also, a copy of all the letters written to the Creek Indian Agent on that subject, from the Department of War. -[This resolution was adopted on the day following.]
IN SENATE–Tuesday, Fenauan r 1, 1825. o SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY.
The Senate again proceeded to the consideration of the bill for the suppression of piracy in the West Indies; the motion to strike out the third section, (which authorizes a blockade of the ports of Cuba,under certain circumstances,) being still pending.
Mr. HAYNE, of South Carolina, rose, and said, that, as he could not entirely concur in the views which had been taken of this subject by either of the gentlemen who had spoken, he would ask the indulgence of the Senate in stating the principles on which he was disposed to act in the suppression of piracy. When this question of blockade was first suggested, Mr. H. confessed that it had excited scruples in his mind, in respect to the principles which it seemed to involve, and these scruples had certainly not been diminished by the learned and ingenious arguments of the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Tazewell.) He was constrained to confess, that the magic wand of that gentleman's eloquence, by which he gave, at pleasure, any form or hue to the subjects which he touched, had exerted its influence on his mind and his feelings. A more deliberate examination of the subject, however, had dispelled the charm, and convinced him that the proposed measure, involved no sacrifice of principle, and
though, without certain modifications, (which Mr. H. said he would take the liberty of suggesting,) he could not bring his mind to vote for the clause, yet he should be influenced in his vote by considerations entirely dif. ferent from those which had been urged. He had no scruples whatever on the subject of a blockade of the orts of Cuba, when the case should occur which should, in his opinion, make that measure indispensably necessary for the suppression of piracy. He would endeavor, as briefly as he could, to put the question on what appeared to him to be the true ground; the ground on which we may not only safely act now, but on which we might proceed in all our future measures on this subject. The question is one of such vast importance, involving, to so large an extent, the property and lives of our fellow citizens, and touching so closely the honor of the country, that it could not command too much of the time and attention of the Senate, or receive too thorough an investigation. He should, after the example of the gentleman who had preceded him, consider the whole bill as open for discussion, and should therefore present his views of the several measures it proposes, and endeavor to show their relative importance in the accomplishment of the great object which we all have in view —the suppression of the atrocious crime of piracy. Mr. H. said he would begin with the question of blockade. The honorable gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. Tazewell,) who had moved to strike out that feature in the bill, had told us emphatically that it was a measure of war, while his colleague, the Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Relations, (Mr. Banboun,) insists that it is a measure of peace—peaceful in its char. acter, as well as in its objects. The character of the measure seems to be the only point in issue, between the friends and opponents of the bill. But, sir, said Mr. H. I will submit that this is not the true question; the merits of the particular proposition cannot depend on the name by which it may be called. If the blockade of the ports of the Island of Cuba be the only means of afford ing to the commerce of the United States that protection which it has a right to receive at your hands; if the monstrous and desolating crime of piracy cannot otherwise be effectually suppressed; then the measure becomes Just and necessary, and must be resorted to whether it be a measure of peace or of war. The gentleman from Virginia seems to take it for granted that, when he proves that a blockade is a belligerant measure, he has proved enough, and that it follows, as a matter of course, that it is inexpedient and unjust; nay, that it will even impair the moral character of the Government and the people of the United States. I am disposed, said Mr. H. freely to admit that, according to my view of the subject, a blockade is an act of war. But I feel myself, at the same time, compelled to dissent from the proposition, laid down with so much emphasis by the gentleman from Virginia, that “a blockade acts not upon the guilty - but only on the innocent.” If such was the fact, the right of blockade would never have been conceded to belligerants, nor would the high authorities to which the gentleman had appealed, the learned writers on the law of nations, (whom Mr. H. admitted to be worthy of the encomiums that had been bestowed ...'. them,) have given their sanction to a practice which did notact upon “the guilty belligerants,” but only on “unoffending neutrals.” It may be true, that a state of war acts efficaciously on your own citizens, by prohibiting all intercourse with the enemy, under the penalties of treason, and that a blockade of the ports of that enemy would add no higher sanction to the prohibition. But how is it with the power whose ports are blockaded ? She carries on trade with all the rest of the world. The laws of war do not prohibit her intercourse with neutrals, except in articles contraband of
war. But the moment you blockade her ports, you cut off the whole of her trade. Neutrals, it is true, must
Feb. 1, 1825.]
Suppression of Piracy.
also be affected; but the effect upon them is altogether incidental, and consequential, and it is suffered only because the belligerant cannot otherwise destroy the trade of his enemy. Look at the practical operation of the blockade proposed by this bill? Is it true that it would have no effect upon Cuba, “the guilty party,’” but only (in the language of the gentleman from Virginia,) “on the innocent and unoffending neutrals f’’ It is true that a blackade would, of necessity, cut off some of our trade with Cuba, as well as that of France, England, Russia, Holland, and the other nations of the earth. But, at the same time, you would deprive Cuba of her trade with all the world, and would therefore affect her to at least ten times the amount that you would affect any other power. The object of the blockade, then, is directly to affect Cuba, and it is no objection to the proposition (provid. ed the measure be in itself just and necessary,) that it must also operate against neutrals. Taking blockade, then, to be an act of war, what ls the true question which we are called upon to decide 2 It is, whether such a measure is called for by the circum: stances of our present situation. But here it is objected that, if this blockade be an act of war, it must be preceded by a formal declaration of war against Spain, and be followed by general hostilities. But this does not appear to my mind, said Mr. H. to be absolutely necessary. And here I will suggest a distinction between an act of war, and general hostilities. No one can doubt that, to march an army into an adjoining territory, to attack and capture a town, is an act of war. During the siege or investment you would claim and lawfully exercise all the rights of war, and yet such a capture might, under certain circumstances, be lawfully made, without a declaration of war. Suppose an armed force to issue from adjacent territory, from Canada, for instance, and to devastate our frontier and kill our people, taking refuge in a town or fortress on the other side of the line, and that the British Government, (as Spain has done on the present occasion,) refused to interfere-can any one doubt that we would cross over and capture the place Now this would be an act of war, and yet it need not be accompanied by a declaration of war against Great Britain-nor would it necessarily be followed by a general war. Every resort to force by a power that has authority to make war, is an act of war. Nay, the definition of war, by the writers on the laws of nations, is “the prosecution of a nation's right by force,”—by force, either partial or general; by force adequate to the object, and applied how and when, and where, the circumstances of the particular case may require. When you make war, you may carry it on either by general or by partial operations; and the latter are always to be preferred where they can accomplish the object. All measures of forcible reprisals: all levies of contributions, are acts of force-indeed of war, or they must constitute acts of plunder; and yet they are seldom accompanied by a formal declaration of war. Suppose, said Mr. H. on the occasion of the attack on the Chesapeake, (one of the deepest wounds the honor of this country had ever received,) the gallant officer to whose command was confided the disgraced ship—the ever to be lamented—the incomparable Drcatun, had been ordered, he would not say by the President, but by the sovereign authority of this nation, to wipe off the soul stain by bringing into our ports a British frigate, and he had happily executed those orders, would not that have been a war measure? and yet, who would have contended that we had become pirates, and had put ourseives out of the social relations of nations, by making a capture without a declaration of war with respect to declarations of war, Mr. H. said, he would consider it unfortunate for the cause of humanity, if the law of nations required that they should, in all cases, precede acts of hostility. The history of the last
half century would show numerous instances of the redress of national wrongs by reprisals, and the partial exertion of force, without general hostilities. Our French war, as it is called, was an example of this. The practice of nations also, for the same period, would show, that declarations of war were not considered as indispensable. Look at the practice of England in these respects. . In 1748, she captured the L’Alcide, and the Lys, without any declaration of war. In 1664, she captured a Dutch fleet in the same way, and subsequently, off Cape May, took four Spanish frigates, under similar circumstances. . But, said Mr. H. I will not fatigue the Senate by multiplying instances. Every nation of Europe had, in a majority of cases, made war without a declaration. Indeed, it was more usual to resort to manifestoes after a war, than declarations beforehand; to resort to particular acts of war, than to general hostilities. The writers on the law of nations had, indeed, laid down the rule that a declaration ought to be first made ; nay, that time and due notice should be given to the enemy. But these rules were seldom observed. Even Bynkershoek, one of the soundest writers on the laws of nations, had allowed, “that, after satisfaction had “been demanded and refused, a declaration of war was “not required by the law of nature or of nations.” I will only further notice, said Mr. H. the attack by Great Britain, upon Copenhagen. Great Britain did not declare war against Denmark, but she sent a powerful fleet, which blockaded the harbor of Copenhagen, besieged the town, interrupted the access of neutrals, and finally captured the Danish fleet. Here was an act of war-here was force, siege, and capture, which did not even lead, in its consequences, to a general war. I know, said Mr. H. that this act on the part of the British Government, has been universally reprobated. But the odium which rests on the transaction has arisen from the belief that the British Government took advantage of the weakness of Denmark to spoil her of her fleet. If the grounds taken by the British Government, however, were founded in truth, will it be said that they would not justify an act of war? They alleged that Denmark had made terms with the enemy; that her fleet was destined for Bonaparte; and that a public declaration of war would only have hastened an event already determined on. Suppose these facts to be known to the British Government, and she would have been justified in seizing the Danish fleet. But, said Mr. H. if this blockade be a war measure, and a declaration be necessary, he would submit to the gentleman whether the act of Congress which enjoins it, may not be considered as a declaration, sufficient to satisfy the most fastidious advocates of form. The gentleman from New York, (Mr. VAN BUREN,) had yielded the whole question when he stated that he was willing, without war, to invade, and occupy a portion of the island of Cuba. He protests against a blockade of the Havana, because, should we attack a neutral vessel, forcing the blockade, “war would, thereby, exist between you and the nation to which she belongs;” but he would capture, and hold the Havana, without war. What then is to become of neutral trade to that port Surely, if you have a right to besiege, and capture, you have a right to blockade. The greater power must include the less. Nor would such a blockade, as is here proposed, have any affinity to the paper blockades, of which we have so often complained. The proposal is for an actual investment, and such an investment Mr. H. would consider as attended by all the incidents of blockade. Mr. H. was much mistaken if Sir William Scott had not frequently held, that an actual investment, a blockade, de facto, was all that neutral nations had a right to look to; and, if he was not very much mistaken, that great judge had, in one case, the blockade of Monte Video, by Sir Home Popham, in 1807, refused to hear evidence of the illegality of the blockade, it being admitted that the