Eustis, citizens of the Confederate States of America, embarked on board Her Britannic Majesty's royal mail steam packet Trent, then in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, as passengers for Southampton, England. On the 8th instant when in the Bahama Channel, off the Paradon Grande Light-House, the Trent was brought to by the firing of two guns said to have been shotted from a U. S. man-of-war, the San Jacinto, which vessel sent an officer and armed boat's crew on board of the Trent, and after some preliminary acts the officer demanded that the four passengers named above should be delivered up to him. The captain of the Trenth refused to comply with this order, and the citizens of the Confederate States above named claimed the protection of the British flag. The U. S. officer then proceeded to arrest those gentlemen by the aid of his armed crew under circumstances of aggravating violence and carried them as prisoners from the Trenth to the San Jacinto.
The undersigned believe that this proceeding is in violation of international law and not justifiable under any treaty between theGovernment of Her Britannic Mamesty and that of the United States. If it shall be insisted upon that these citizens were coming to England in the capacity of ambassadors it is a sufficient reply that they were not recognized as such by the Government of the United States nor by that of Her Majesty. The former Government looks upon them simply as rebellious citizens; the latter as the citizens of a belligerent power. No charge of their being bearers of dispatches was made by the U. S. officer, and if made it is confidently believed it would not justify their forcible seizure under the circumstances.
It may be concluded that these gentlemen had been commissioned by the President of the Confederate States to proceed to Europe and use their best endeavors to form friendly relations with the neutral European powers, but under such supposition the undersigned insist that they were not liable to seizure upon the deck of a neutral in the manner in which they were seized, for the reasons:
First, that such a procedure can only be sustained upon the principle that neutral States are not justifiable an entertaining propositions for the recognition of and commercial intercourse with belligerent powers.
Second, that these persons were proceeding from a neutral port to a neutral port in a neutral vessel.
It maat ambassadors proceeding from an enemy's port to a neutral port are liable to seizure under a neutral flag, but the undersigned have been unbable to find a principle of international law or a precedent which justifies such a procedure when the ambassador is proceeding from one neutral port to another. In fact a high American authority, President Woolsey, lays it down as incontrovertible that a neutral vessel may convey unmolested an ambassador of the enemy or dispatches of the enemy to and from his own or any other neutral government. (Introduction to Study of International Law, p. 408; On Relations Between Belligerents and Neutrals. Theodore D. Woolsey, Yale College, Boston, 1860.)
Mr. Wheaton seems to sustain this view, for after layinbg down the general principle that "the fraudulent carrying of dispatches will also subject the neutral vessel in which they are transported to capture and confiscation," he further says:
But carrying the dispatches of an ambassador or other public minister of the enemy resident in a neutral territory is an exception to the reasoning on which the above general rule is founded.