Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/384

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Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

the invasion of those rights creates severe suffering among their people and injuriously affects great interests. But the intimation that relations with these States would be discreditable because they are slaveholding would probably have been omitted if the official personage who has published it to the world had remembered that these States were, when colonies, made slaveholding by the direct exercise of the power of Great Britain, whose dependencies they were, and whose interests in the slave trade were then supposed to require that her colonies should be made slaveholding.

But the other ground stated is of a very grave character. It asserts that a violation of the law of nations by Great Britain in 1807, when that Government declared a paper blockade of 2,000 miles of coast (a violation then defended by her courts and jurists on the sole ground that her action was retaliatory), affords a justification for a similar outrage on neutral rights by the United States in 1861, for which no palliation can be suggested; and that Great Britain "is bound, in justice to the Federal States," to make return for the war waged against her by the United States in resistance of her illegal blockade of 1807, by an acquiescence in the Federal illegal blockade of 1861. The most alarming feature in this statement is its admission of a just claim on the part of the United States to require of Great Britain during this war a disregard of the recognized principles of modern public law and of her own compacts, whenever any questionable conduct of Great Britain, "in former times," can be cited as a precedent. It is not inconsistent with respect and admiration for the great people whose Government have given us this warning, to suggest that their history, like that of mankind in general, offers exceptional instances of indefensible conduct "in former times," and we may well deny the morality of violating recent engagements through deference to the evil precedents of the past.

After defending, in the manner just stated, the course of the British Government on the subject of the blockade, Her Majesty's Foreign Secretary takes care to leave no doubt of the further purpose of the British Government to prevent our purchase of vessels in Great Britain, while supplying our enemies with rifles and other munitions of war, and states the intention to apply to Parliament for the furtherance of this design. He gives to the United States the assurance that he will do in their favor not only