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NAPOLEON AND "LA LIBERTE DES MERS
WITH the overthrow of the Directory and the assumption of the government of France by Bonaparte as First Consul, the history of the spurious "Freedom of the Seas" enters a new phase. From a somewhat nebulous doctrine advocated by the neutrals it henceforth takes definite shape and is asserted by the enemy. This formed part of Bonaparte's general policy of taking the neutrals under his wing and compelling them to do his bidding. "As against Great Britain's control of the sea no State had a right to be neutral (Mahan, II, 247). He even went the length of imagining that he, a belligerent, might be admitted to the League of the Neutrals. We have it in Bonaparte's own words that he sought admittance, but was refused: "La France, qui a déjà proposé d'y entrer et avait été refusée."
This fact has led me to question the statement made in the Cambridge Modern History that "the voice was the voice of the Northern League, but the hands were the hands of Bonaparte." This opinion must, I think, have been based on the "friendship" which appears to have been gradually developing between the Emperor Paul and Bonaparte.
But Paul was then almost the declared enemy of England. It is by no means clear that his relations. with Sweden were very cordial. Even had he lived, the Second Armed Neutrality would have proved but a rickety machine at the best. But with his assassination it fell to pieces, and the way was clear for Bonaparte to take charge of the neutrals. His first step was to remind the new Tsar of the League and to invite him to  H 2
continue its work, indicating that he could not refuse to do so consistently with honour.
'Si la Russie continuait son système de neutralité armée, dont il ne paraît pas qu'elle puisse s'éloigner avec honneur, la France, qui a déjà proposé d'y entrer et avait été refusée, était encore dans les mêmes dispositions.
In this attempt he was foiled; and the alliance between Great Britain and Russia was restored by the treaty of 1801. From this moment we find in Bonaparte's letters and speeches his authoritative exposition of the "Freedom of the Seas"; and its object is clearly defined. It was to get rid of the supremacy of England on the sea. It was the necessary prelude to assuming it himself, and thus to secure the domination of the world. The shaping of the scheme was begun in a letter to Talleyrand, February 1800. He is to collect as quickly as possible all the facts which would help to establish England's violations of international law. The iniquity of England in the exercise of her domination of the sea was to be the text on which he proposed to preach to the neutrals, exhorting them to activity against his enemy.
The instructions for drafting a note to the Tsar concerning the surrender of Malta contained the following:
Il serait dit dans cette note que le Gouvernement français, ayant principalement à cœur de s'opposer à l'envahissement des mers et de concourir avec les autres Puissances neutres à faire respecter leurs pavillons ne traitera de la paix avec l'Angleterre qu'autant que ces principes sacrés seroient reet qu'il serait reconnu par l'Angleterre que la mer
appartient à toutes les nations."
When, in answer to the Russian embargo on English ships, an embargo was imposed on Russian ships in English ports, Bonaparte issued a decree protecting Russian commerce. Talleyrand was to send it to Russia with this explanation :
Que la Russie ne se trouve dans cette disposition contre l'Angleterre que pour la défense des droits de principauté de toutes les nations, et que pour délivrer les mers de cette nation, qui, à elle seule, prétend en être la dominatrice.
Freedom of the Seas
désire que S.M.I. voie dans cet acte de propre mouvement la considération et l'estime que j'ai pour elle et pour la grandeur de son caractère."
Napoleon's message to the Senate after the conclusion of the Treaty of Lunéville in February 1801 is conceived in the same strain. Speaking of King George III he says:-
"Tout le commerce de l'Asie et des colonies immenses ne suffisent plus à son ambition; il faut que toutes les mers soient soumises à la souveraineté de l'Angleterre.
"Il arme contre la Russie, le Danemarc, et la Suède, parce que la Russie, la Suède, et le Danemarc ont assuré, par des traités de garanties, leur souveraineté et l'indépendance de leur pavillon. Les Puissances du Nord injustement attaquées ont le droit de compter sur la France. Le Gouvernement français vengera avec elles une injure commune à toutes les nations."
But the projected alliance with Russia, always hoped for, never quite achieved, seemed the surest method of accomplishing his design. "La paix avec l'Empereur," he writes to Joseph, his plenipotentiary at Lunéville, "n'est rien en comparaison d'une alliance qui maîtrisera l'Angleterre et nous conservera l'Egypte." From denouncing England for all her alleged iniquities on the sea he passed easily to the promise of better things in store for the neutrals, which would result from the restoration of the supremacy of France at sea, when the oppression of all seas and of all peoples would come to an end: "L'Europe opprimée n'a plus qu'un désir raisonnable à former, et ne doit placer ses ressources que dans une seule espérance, le rétablissement de la puissance maritime de la France."
The possibility of establishing a naval supremacy and of making good the cry, "Brisons le sceptre de cette Rome de la mer!" had been almost annihilated by the battle of the Nile; and the effect of that victory on the neutrals had to be dissipated. An article was published in the Mercure de France, and reprinted in the Moniteur, in which the power of the sea was decried and the power of the land extolled. The conclusion was thus boldly stated:--" Jamais donc, la
raison le dit, et l'histoire l'affirme, une puissance mari-
It was the great dream of Napoleon's life, which, as Mahan points out, ultimately led to his ruin, to unite the Continent against the British Islands, and, as he phrased it, "to conquer the sea by the land." Yet his attention never wandered from the sea question. Free cargoes on neutral ships were still as essential to him as they were to Louis XVI in 1778.
Philosophers had devised another theory, which was more captivating than the rather vague principle of free ships making free goods, namely, that of the immunity of private property at sea. The suggestion seems to have been first made by the Abbé de Mably in a work on "Le Droit Public de l'Europe fondé sur les Traités," published in Geneva in 1774, and appears to have come into vogue among the philosophers who abounded in France at the end of the eighteenth century. This was the weapon which Bonaparte needed, one which was easier to handle than the older maxim with its dubious premiss and its still more dubious conclusion. It invited a larger appeal to the senses by clothing commerce with universal humanitarianism to the complete concealment of profit and loss. Thenceforward Bonaparte used it freely in his attack against England; and it was reinforced by another theory, still more vague, and resting on an inaccuracy-that war on the sea ought to be conducted, in the interest of humanity, according to the same principles as war on land. The second of these principles was merely an auxiliary to the first. The two must be read continuously, thus: Private property should be immune from capture at sea because it is immune from capture on land, since war on the sea should be conducted on the same principles as war on the land. Any attempt to treat the two ideas as independent leads to conMahan, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 271.
fusion, as the debates in Parliament in connection with the Declaration of Paris prove.
The theory of the immunity of private property, and also the auxiliary theory, have been completely demolished by Admiral Mahan in his War of 1812, published in 1906. He points out that private property is as immune at sea as it ought to be (but is not) on land, and that to take it is common theft, which war does not authorize; but that, when the property of merchants is sent across the sea, whether it be ships or cargoes, it is merged in the larger term
which is national, because the national wealth depends on it. The theory is, therefore, no more than a device for achieving immunity of commerce, and strikes at the foundation of maritime warfare.
Another important aspect of the question must be noticed. The arguments of the Manchester School, forcibly put by John Bright in the debate in 1862, supported "free ships free goods" as a beneficent principle, but held that it was incomplete. If enemy goods were to be free, there was no reason why the freedom should be limited to those goods on neutral ships; and, if the goods were free, the ships ought also to be free. By this process of reasoning Bright also came to support the "immunity of private property" theory. This argument emphasized the vice of the argument of the supporters of the maxim after it bad been introduced into the Declaration of Paris, namely, that "free ships free goods was a concession to the neutral alone, and did not confer any benefit on the enemy. Lord Palmerston declared that the Declaration of Paris related entirely to the relations between belligerents and neutrals, and that immunity of private property at sea related entirely to the relations of belligerents to each other; that the two doctrines were distinct, and rested on totally distinct grounds. What has already been said on the subject of the maxim is sufficient to show that the contention is unsound. Bonaparte definitely incorporated these two theories into his policy against