Page images
PDF
EPUB

are the only exceptions to our general principle which sound ethics suggest, or which the moral * law of nations allows.

President Madison lays down these principles in a Message to Congress of May 25th, 1813. He says: It is obvious that no visit or search, or use of force for any purpose, on board the vessels of one independent power on the high seas, can, in war or peace, be sanctioned by the laws of another power.

The doctrine of the freedom of the seas was maintained to the same extent by President Madison in 1813, in giving his instructions, through Mr. Monroe, Secretary of State, to the American Plenipotentiaries for settling the terms of peace with Great Britain. In that document the Presi. dent states that, Impressment of our seamen and illegal blockades, as exemplified more particularly in the orders in council, were the principal causes of the war.Alluding to the British pretence of seeking for their subjects, the President declares expatriation “a natural right,” and he says, “ the great object, which we have to secure, in regard to impressment, is, “that our flag shall protect the

crew."

Again he says, “that the practice is utterly repugnant to the law of nations, that it is supported by no treaty with any nation; and that a submission to it by the United States would be the abandon

[ocr errors]

ment in favor of Great Britain, of all claim to neutral rights and of all other rights on the ocean. Again speaking of the basis of the pretended British right of search, the President well says: “Allegiance is a political relation between a sovereign and his people; it is the obligation which binds the latter in return for the protection which they receive. These reciprocal duties have the same limit, they are confined to the dominions of the sovereign, beyond which he has no right, can afford no protection, and can of course claim no allegiance. A citizen or subject of one power enter-, ing the dominions of another, owes allegiance to the latter in return for the protection which he receives. Whether a sovereign has a right to claim the service of such of his subjects as have left his own dominion, is a question respecting which also a difference of opinion may exist. It is certain that no sovereign has a right to pursue his subjects into the territories of another; be the motive what it may, such an entry without the consent of the other power, would be a violation of its territory and an act of hostility. Offenders, even conspirators, cannot be pursued by one power into the territory of another, nor are they delivered up by the latter, except in compliance with treaties or by favor. That the vessels of a nation are considered a part of its territory, with

the exception of the belligerent right only, is a principle too well established to be brought into discussion. Each State has exclusive jurisdiction over its own vessels; its laws govern in them, and offences against those laws are punishable by its tribunals only. The flag of a nation protects every thing sailing under it in time of peace, and in time of war likewise, with the exception of the belligerent rights, growing out of the war.

An entry on board the vessels of one power by the cruisers of another, in any other case, and the exercise of any other authority over them, is a violation of right, and an act of hostility.”

In 1804 President Jefferson, in a letter of his Secretary of State to James Monroe, our Minister at London, lays down the principle that “a neutral flag, on the high seas,is a safeguard to those sailing under it."

In 1823 President Monroe's instructions, given through Mr. Secretary Adams, fully assert as above quoted the freedom of the seas, and that no foreign vessel in peace or war has jurisdiction over any American vessel. President Madison in a message to Congress in May 1813, denies the existence of any belligerent right of visitor search of neutral vessels.

The flag covers the ship, its cargo, and all on board, according to the dictates of reason and equily. This principle was adopted in our treaty

with Prussia in 1785. The right of freely navi. gating the high seas belongs equally to all nations, and their respective laws govern the persons on board their ships while there. A pirate is by the law of nations a public enemy, and he may be punished by all. This is the only exception to this salutary rule of public law.. This makes the law of nations correspond with the golden rule and the fundamental declaration of the Holy Alliance tha international law should carry out the doctrines of the Gospel. These are, therefore, plain and obvious principles of the moral law of nations.

Besides the unjust pretensions of Portugal, Britain and France, we have one made by Russia to sovereignty over the Pacific Ocean, north of the 51st degree of latitude, as a close sea, which the United States in 1822 deemed an infringement of the equal rights of other nations, and an abridgment of the perfect freedom of the seas, which is a fundamental principle of the law of nations.

The tribute which the Barbary Powers formerly exacted for allowing vessels to navigate the Mediterranean stands condemned by the moral law of nations for the reasons above stated against the British tribute extorted from neutrals.

The same objection lies to the old claim of the Porte to shut and open the Black Sea to merchant ships at her pleasure, a pretension now abandoned.

[ocr errors]

The exaction by Denmark of sound dues or tolls, can hardly be distinguished from the British and Barbary tribute.

cs

SECTION FIFTEENTH.

STRAITS AND DANISH SOUND

DUES.

[ocr errors]

Denmark demands sound dues or tolls as appurtenant to her ancient sovereignty over Oeresund, immemorially exercised. The Sound in the narrowest part is scarce three miles wide, and prior to 1658 Scania and consequently both sides of the passage were under the kings of Denmark. When Denmark ceded Scania to Sweden, the right of sound tolls was reserved to Denmark, and Sweden bound herself for a compensation to maintain lights on the Scania side. This exercise of municipal jurisdiction over the common highway of nations, the narrow parts of the high seas, rests upon no solid ground of reason and right. It stands on the samne basis as the ancient, baseless and exploded claim of the Sublime Porte to shut at pleasure the Black Sea by refusing to allow ships to pass the canal of Constantinople. Force and the power of exaction were the true 'groundwork of the Danish and Turkish title, and not right and equity. As the straits to the Black Sea have become free to merchant ships of all nations, so must the passes leading into the Baltic soon

« PreviousContinue »