Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/388

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

to defend our own rights against the utmost efforts of an infuriate foe, we had thought it not extravagant to expect that assistance would be withheld from our enemies, and that the conduct of foreign nations would be marked by a genuine impartiality between the belligerents. It was not supposed that a professed neutrality would be so conducted as to justify the Foreign Secretary of the British nation in explaining, in correspondence with our enemies, how "the impartial observance of neutral obligations by Her Majesty's Government has thus been exceedingly advantageous to the cause of the more powerful of the two contending parties." The British Government may deem this war a favorable occasion for establishing, by the temporary sacrifice of their neutral rights, a precedent which will justify the future exercise of those extreme belligerent pretensions that their naval power renders so formidable. The opportunity for obtaining the tacit assent of European governments to a line of conduct which ignores the obligations of the declaration of Paris, and treats that instrument rather as a theoretical exposition of principle than a binding agreement, may be considered by the British ministry as justifying them in seeking a great advantage for their own country at the expense of ours. But we cannot permit, without protest, the assertion that international law or morals regard as "impartial neutrality" the conduct avowed to be "exceedingly advantageous" to one of the belligerents.

I have stated that we are without adequate remedy against the injustice under which we suffer. There are but two measures that seem applicable to the present condition of our relations with neutral powers. One is to imitate the wrong of which we complain, to retaliate by the declaration of a paper blockade of the coast of the United States, and to capture all neutral vessels trading with their ports that our cruisers can intercept on the high seas. This measure I cannot recommend. It is true that in so doing we should but follow the precedents set by Great Britain and France in the Berlin and Milan decrees, and the British orders in council at the beginning of the present century. But it must be remembered that we ourselves protested against those very measures as signal violations of the law of nations, and declared the attempts to excuse them on the ground of their being retaliatory utterly insufficient. Those blockades are now