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reached. But it was radically unsound, because it ignored the ingredients of which these things were made-a lesson only fully learned during the late war.
But this does not touch the root of the discussion
of those days. The admission of the belligerent's right to seize contraband was accepted as inevitable. but the interest of the neutral made him resist the inclusion of articles which were the staple produce of his country. Thus the question resolved itself into a clash of interests. The question was never stated in quite so simple a fashion; but, resolved into its elements, the contention of each party was that he had a right not to be disturbed in his occupation. The occupation of the belligerent was war, that of the neutral was commerce. England as belligerent contended that the neutral had no right to do anything to help the enemy carry on the war; that if he did help him he must do it at his own risk. The neutrals contended that their subjects had a right during war to "enjoy peaceably the fruits of their industry," and that therefore one of "the advantages belonging to a neutral nation" was to sell these fruits to the enemy "peaceably," in other words, without risk.
It is essential to bear in mind that the neutral claimed to deal in the fruits of his industry with both belligerents, and that both belligerents desired to trade with the neutral, especially in such commodities as were essential to warfare. Neither wished to offend the neutrals. While, therefore, the risk could not be eliminated, there was no disinclination to limit its incidence so far as it was consistent with safety in special cases. These influences led to treaty arrangements in which lists of contraband were inserted. They also account for the fact that the lists in different treaties were by no means uniform. Sometimes, for political reasons, one belligerent would acquiesce in the wishes of one neutral, and accord him privileges which he would not grant to another. Despatches of the period make it abundantly clear that the contention of the neutrals as to what was and what
Freedom of the Seas
was not contraband, outside the narrowest limitation of the term "munitions of war,' was governed by their own commercial interests. Commodities which they had to sell they insisted were not contraband.
was especially the case in regard to "naval stores, about which the dispute with the Northern Powers arose. Trade in these stores was a national interest, because the revenues, and therefore the prosperity, of the State depended on it.
No better illustration of the point I have tried to make clear in the foregoing paragraph can be found than the supplementary treaty between Great Britain and Denmark (referred to on p. 52), concluded July 4, 1780, by which the definition of contraband was revised as between those two Powers.
A dispute where each party is actuated by an interest the preservation of which he deems essential is likely to be unending. In this case, however, it does seem possible to determine the merits of the rival contentions. The neutrals held their commercial revenues at a higher valuation than the consequences to England of persisting in that commerce. The fleet was the weapon by which the enemy hoped to win the suprem acy of the sea. The safety of the State was involved in the dispute; and it was this which inspired Pitt's rhetorical denunciations of the attempts of the neutrals to assert a freedom for delivering these goods to the enemy. The case on the merits can be stated very simply: whether the existence of one State does not weigh more in the balance than the financial prosperity of another.
It must, however, be recognized that, having established their point to their own satisfaction, the neutrals endeavoured to carry it out logically. This does not eliminate its inherent defects, but it does show that they endeavoured to be faithful, though to a false ideal. In the conventions which they entered into between themselves they declared that they would "enforce the most rigorous execution of the prohibition against the contraband commerce of their
subjects"; that is to say, the "contraband commerce as they understood it. Yet, even from their own point of view, practical difficulties made the scheme impossible of execution; the chief among them being the innate desire of the merchant to evade them, which he was always endeavouring to gratify.
The question of contraband was the third of Catherine's points. The others must now be briefly referred to.
The first asserted that neutral ships might participate in the port-to-port and coasting trades of the enemy. The neutrals thus claimed freedom to participate in the enemy's navigation monopolies; the first point was therefore a direct attack on the "Rule of 1756." It meant increased freights for the neutral shipowners; it also meant palpable benefit to the enemy, and it was impossible for England to accept it.
The second point was that the neutral flag covers enemy cargo, i.e., " free ships free goods." This sought to limit the fundamental principle of maritime war, seizure of enemy property wherever it could be found. Ostensibly it was intended to benefit the neutral carrying trade, but it did in fact create a sanctuary for enemy property under the neutral flag. Contraband was excepted as a matter of course; but the principle would benefit the neutral trader in non-contraband, for it would eliminate all questions as to property in the cargoes seized. seized. Whether the property was in the neutral vendor or in the enemy purchaser, it would be "free."
The first and second principles, taken together, show the full meaning of the "Liberty of Trade" which the neutrals claimed. It was not simply liberty to trade in everything that was not contraband; it was not merely to trade with the enemy, but to navigate on behalf of the enemy, very skilfully disguised. Obviously England could not accept it.
The fourth point dealt with blockade. In so far as it defined a blockaded port as one which is so well kept by ships of the Power that attacks it that it would
be dangerous to enter it "-in other words, that the blockade must be "effective "-nothing need be said. The sting of the proposal was that the blockading ships must "keep their places." To limit blockade in any way other than in its effectiveness is to limit the restrictions it imposes on neutral trade with the enemy; and therefore this point, like the other three, is simply answered: whatever the neutrals gained by it the enemy gained also. England's position was that an "effective " blockade could be maintained by cruisers, a far more efficient method for blocking a port than a stationary squadron. The point therefore could not be accepted.
The issue is clearly stated in the Letter of “Historicus,' " which deals with the Law and Practice of Blockade. The Armed Neutrality endeavoured to establish the principle that the blockading vessels were to be "arrêtés et suffisamment proches"; the English doctrine was that they should be " arrêtés ou suffisamment proches"; and this was accepted by Russia in the treaty of June 1801, to which Denmark and Sweden adhered.
The answer to these four points cannot be better given than in Pitt's speech, on Mr. Grey's motion for a Committee to inquire into the State of the Nation, on March 25, 1801. The Second Armed Neutrality had at that time come into being, but the principles it advocated were the same as those put forward by Catherine. The speech is the more important because it states clearly the English belligerent practice which the principles of the League endeavoured to nullify.
The speech is reported in Hansard's Parliamentary History, vol. 35; but this part of it is only given in summarized form :
Here Mr. Pitt went over the grounds of the question relative to neutral bottoms, denying that free bottoms make free goods, contending that contraband of war ought to include
1" Letters of Historicus" [Sir W. V. Harcourt], London, 1863.  F
naval as well as military stores, maintaining that ports ought to be considered in a state of blockade when it was unsafe for vessels to enter them, although the ports were not actually blocked up; and denying the right of convoy to preclude neutral ships from being searched. In support of these decisions he quoted the decisions of Courts of Law, and treaties entered into between this country and various other Powers, in which he contended the rights now claimed by this country had been expressly acknowledged.'
The extreme importance which he attached to these principles may be gathered from the conclusion of the speech:
Shall we allow entire freedom to the trade of France? Shall we allow her to receive naval stores undisturbed, and to rebuild and refit that navy which the valour of our seamen has destroyed? Will you silently stand by and acknowledge these monstrous and unheard-of principles of neutrality, and ensure your enemy against the effects of your hostility? We have now dissected the concrete applications of the vague generalities which the Powers taking part in the First Armed Neutrality put forward.
By the measures to ensure to their subjects that liberty to which they have the most incontrovertible right which they proposed to adopt, we can test the value of the references to most innocent commerce too
frequently troubled." There was nothing" innocent
It was, on the contrary, most "nocent," for at every point it assisted the enemy.
The points insisted on, the measures proposed to be taken, were the primitive ingredients of the " Freedom of the Seas," which was claimed against England at a time when she was engaged in a life-and-death struggle, and the meaning of it was abundantly clear. It meant the limitation of England's power at sea, which was her one, but supreme, means of defence against her enemies.