War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 1140 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

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[Inclosure No. 1. -Extract from The Halifax (Nova Scotia) Sun, November 25.]

The public mind is seemingly much perplexed about the legality of the apprehension of Mason and Slidell, trhe ambassadors and bearers of dispatches on board the royal mail steamer Trent when attempting to escape to Europe. When we refer to the law of nations as laid down by the greatest of British international writers we find that the action of the United States Government in this apprehension has at least the sanction of ancient and modern law on this important point. Lord Stowell, one of the ablest of British jurists, says:

The carrying of the dispatches of the enemy is also a condemnation even if carried by neutrals. The ambassador of the enemy may be stopped on his passage, but when he arrives in the neutral country he becomes a sort of middleman, and is entitled to certain privileges.

Lord Stowell further declared and the doctrine was acted upon by the whole judges in the subsequent case, that of the Atlanta, that "the neutral ship carrying the dispatches was liable to be forfeited," and decided accordingly. And Sir William Scott in one of his celebrated judgments in a case of this kind says:

It appears to me on principle that the fact of a vessel the ambassador or dispatches of a belligerent power whether knowingly or not affords equal ground of forfeiture, if such vessel is seized by the opposing power.

That the foregoing is the true state of the law at the present time may be gathered from the fact that in Her Majesty's proclamation dated the 15th of April, 1854, during the Russian war the following highly important clause appears:

To preserve the commerce of neutrals from all obstruction Her Majesty is willing for the present to waive a part of the belligerent rights appertaining to her by the law of nations. But it is impossible for Her Majesty to forego the exercise of her right of seizing articles contraband of war and specially preventing neutrals from bearing the enemy's messengers of dispatches.

Under these is evident that the apprehenstin of Mason and Slidell has the sanction to the laws of nations.

[Inclosure No. 2. -From The Halifax (Nova Scottia) Sun.]


Queen Victoria having issued her declaration of war against Russia on the 28th of March, 1854, she made proclamation on the 15th of April that "desirous of rendering the war as little onerous as possible to the powers with whom she remains at peace," she was-

Willing to waive a part of her belligerent rights. It is impossible for Her Majesty to forego the exercise of her right of seizing articles contraband of war and of preventing neutrals from bearing the enemy's dispatches, and she must maintain the right of a bellingerent to prevent neutrals from breaking any effective blockade which may be established with an adequate force against the enemy's forts, harbors or coasts.

In her proclamation of May 13, 1861, it is announced:

And whereas hostilities have unhappily commenced between the Government of the United States of America and certain States stylling themselves the Confederate States of America; and whereas we being at peace with the Government of the United States have declared our royal determination to maintain a strict and impartial neutrality in the contest between the said contending parties; and we do hereby strictly charge and command all our loving subjects to observe a strict neutrality in and during the aforesaid hostilities and to abstain from violating or contravening either the laws and statutes of the realm in this behalf, or the law of nations in relation thereto, as they will answer to the contrary at their peril.