limits of the country or demanded by regular course of law in accordance with treaty stipulations. The flag of a nation must not be violated upon the high seas that they may be brought back to the jurisdiction of the country. Mr. Webster lays down this doctrine clearly in his letter to Lord Ashburton upon the subject of impressment:
Every merchant vessel on the high seas is rightfully considered as part of the territory of the country to which it belongs. The entry therefore into such a vessel being neutral by a belligerent is an act of force, and is prima facie a wrong, a trespass, which can be justified only when done for some purpose allowed to form a sufficient justification by the law of nations. But a British ceruiser enters an American merchant vessel in order to take therefrom supposed British subhjects, offering no justification therefor under the law of nations, but claiming the right under the law of England respecting the King's prerogative. This cannot be defended. English soil, Enlish territory, English jurisdiction is the appropriate sphere for the operation on English law. The ocean is the sphere of the law of nations, and any merchant vessel on the seas is by that law under the protection of the laws of her own nation, and may nless in cases in which that law allows her to be entered or visited.
If Mr. Mason and Mr. Slidell were offenders against any law of the United States they could not be arrested on the high seas while in a British vessel, the United States not being engaged in war. There is yet another view of this question. Is a British mail steamer a private merchant vessel? This steamer is not subject to the control of merchants. It is engaged in transporting the mails of the British Government. It is commanded by a British naval officer detailed for that duty, and the vessel is to some extent armed. If it be said that it is not a ship-of-war because it is employed in the civil service of the Government, the reply is that any vessel in Her Majesty's navy might be detailed for that service, and a ship-of-war would not forfeit its character by engaging in it. The steamer in question is certainly not a private merchant vessel, and it is well settled that only such a vessel can be visited and searched even in war. Other vessels enjoy an immunity from the exercise of any jurisdiction but that of the sovereign power to which they belong. This is everywhere conceded both in peace and in war. Here then is a vessel in the service of the British Government, commanded by a British naval officer, armed and sailing under the flag of that country, boarded on the high seas by a ship-of-war belonging to the United States, and persons under the protection of that flag are torn from it and held as prisoners. Will the British Government submit to it? Is the Government of the United States to refuse to yield the right to arm privateers at the instance of the great maritime powers of Europe, and yet to treat as pirates persons sailing with letters of marque granted by the Government of the Confederate States upon the ground that it is no government, and at the same time is that Government to be tolerated in exercising on the high seas rights strictly limited to belligerents in an actual state of war? It that Government to treat a public vessel of the British Government as if it were a private merchant vessel? Such insolence it is to be hoped will now be rebuked and punished.
LONDON, November 27, 1861.
Right Honorable Earl RUSSELL.
SIR: The undersigned have the honor to submit to Her Britannic Majesty's Government the following facts: On the 7th of November, instant, James M. Mason, John Slidell, James Macfarland and George