Page images
PDF

gress which has been alluded to. These guarantees of future friendship, with which the final close of this troublesome affair of the “Caroline” was accompanied, would seem to have been sufficiently apparent to any who had read the correspondence, as Mr. Lemoinne professes to have done. Respecting the case of the “Creole,” this writer has entirely adopted the principle upon which Great Britain has acted. He considers human liberty to constitute a general law of mankind, and that the local laws of States, which pretend to reduce men to slavery and to consider them as property, have no virtue where the jurisdiction of those states does not extend; and he reasons therefore correctly, that all men being free by the laws of Great Britain, are necessarily free in all British dependencies, under whatever circumstances they may have been brought there, or however they may be considered by the local laws of foreign states. But Mr. Lemoinne, when he enters upon the discussion of the correspondence between Lord Ashburton and Mr. Webster on the subject of impressment, is not equally just to Great Britain; and with some warmth represents this country as pretending to accomplish what he had before shown America had improperly attempted to do, viz., to impose upon the

world a local law or practice as part of the law of nations. . . . . . . . . “C'est à son tour l'Angleterre qui veut “généraliser l'application d'une loi purement “nationale, et faire du droit Anglais le droit “ dés nations*.” Alluding to that part of the general argument of Mr. Webster, in his letter of August 8, 1842, on the subject of impressment, where he states that this practice cannot be defended upon the same ground as the common “right “ of visiting neutral ships for the purpose of “discovering and seizing enemy's property.” Mr. Lemoinne re-asserts from the same letter:— “There may be quite as just a prerogative “to the property of subjects as to their personal “service, in an exigency of the State.” And then proceeding to represent the arguments of Mr. Webster (respecting the emigrants who annually leave this country for the United States), as having been triumphantly sustained against Lord Ashburton, he quotes the following passage from the same letter:— - ‘. “It is stated that, in the quarter of the year “ending with June last, more than twenty-six

* In her turn England seeks to render general the application of a law which is only national, and to establish an English right as the right of nations.

[graphic]

“ thousand emigrants left the single port of “Liverpool for the United States, being four “ or five times as many as left the same port “ within the same period for the British colo“nies, and all other parts of the world. Of “ these crowds of emigrants, many arrive in our “cities in circumstances of great destitution, “ and the charities of the country, both public “ and private, are severely taxed to relieve their “immediate wants. In time they mingle with “ the new community in which they find them“selves, and seek means of living : some find “employment in the cities; others go to the “ frontiers, to cultivate lands reclaimed from “ the forest; and a greater or less number of “ the residue, becoming in time naturalized “citizens, enter into the merchant service, under “ the flag of their adopted country. “Now, my Lord, if war should break out “ between England and a European power, can “anything be more unjust—anything more “irreconcileable to the general sentiments of “mankind—than that England should seek out “ those persons thus encouraged by her, and “ compelled by their own condition to leave “ their native homes, tear them away from their “new employments, their new political rela“tions, and their domestic connexions, and “force them to undergo the dangers and hard

“ ships of military service, for a country which “has thus ceased to be their own country “Certainly, certainly, my Lord, there can be but “one answer to this question. Is it not far “more reasonable that England should either “prevent such emigration of her subjects, or “ that, if she encourage and promote it, should “ leave them, not to the embroilment of a “double and contradictory allegiance, but to “ their own voluntary choice, to form such rela“tions, political or social, as they see fit, in the “ country, where they are to find their bread, “ and to the laws and institutions of which they “are to look for defence and protection?” On these passages adduced by M. Lemoinne, a few remarks will now be made, in order to restore the British practice of impressment to a proper interpretation of the right upon which it stands. The allegiance which British subjects owe to their native country during their natural lives, is founded upon that law inherent to and acknowledged by all communities, the law of self-preservation. During the struggle of the United States to secure their independence, from 1776 to 1783, it was openly acted upon to the greatest extent. All the Loyalists there who adhered to the mother country were publicly proscribed by the revolted authorities, their property confiscated, and numbers of them executed. It is a law, however, which presses most stringently upon countries which, by reason of their limited extent and insular situation, find their independence peculiarly exposed. Such was the ancient situation of England before it became the powerful kingdom it now is. But even an occasion occurred during the present century, when the independent existence of our country was menaced, and it will not be denied that the law of self-preservation fully justified the Government at that time in compelling all the subjects of the Crown to aid in saving the country. Many of us yet live who remember the period when Napoleon Buonaparte had compelled all the maritime powers of Europe to arm against us—when, by his Berlin and Milan decrees, he had attempted to ruin our manufactures and commerce — and when he had assembled an immense army, insolent with success, for the invasion and conquest of our island. If the British Government of that day, cowering beneath the fearful cloud that was impending over us, had timidly regulated their proceedings with neutral powers, by entering into abstract discussions with them respecting their right to deprive this country of the aid of native British mariners, we might have drank the last dregs of humiliation by becoming a French depen

« PreviousContinue »