garded as an experiment on the forbearance of neutral powers which they would promptly resist. This conclusion was justified by the facts that the Governments of France and Great Britain determined that it was necessary for their interests to obtain from both belligerents "securities concerning the proper treatment of neutrals." In the instructions which "confided the negotiations on this matter" to the British Consul in Charleston, he was informed that "the most perfect accord on this question exists between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Emperor of the French," and these instructions were accompanied by a copy of the dispatch of the British Foreign Office of the 18th May, 1861, stating that there was no difference of opinion between Great Britain and the United States as to the validity of the principles enunciated in the fourth article of the declaration of Paris in reference to blockades. Your predecessors of the Provisional Congress had, therefore, no difficulty in proclaiming, nor I in approving, the resolutions which abandoned in favor of Great Britain and France our right to capture enemy's property when covered by the flags of those powers. The "securities" desired by these Governments were understood by us to be required from both belligerents. Neutrals were exposed on our part to the exercise of the belligerent right of capturing their vessels when conveying the property of our enemies. They were exposed on the part of the United States to interruption in their unquestioned right of trading with us by the declaration of the paper blockade above referred to. We had no reason to doubt the good faith of the proposal made to us, nor to suspect that we were to be the only parties bound by its acceptance. It is true that the instructions of the neutral powers informed their agents that it was "essential under present circumstances that they should act with great caution in order to avoid raising the question of the recognition of the new Confederation," and that the understanding on the subject did not assume, for that reason, the shape of a formal convention. But it was not deemed just by us to decline the arrangement on this ground, as little more than ninety days had then elapsed since the arrival of our Commissioners in Europe, and neutral nations were fairly entitled to a reasonable delay in acting on a subject of so much importance, and which from their point of view presented difficulties that we, perhaps,
Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/380
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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.