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NOTE ON THE DECLARATION OF PARIS
Lx his interesting article on French Naval Policy in Peace and War' Major À Court shows that the naval strength of Great Britain and her geographical position are such as to entitle us to feel confidence in the issue of a naval war, even were it waged (which God forbid !) with France, the only country besides Great Britain which possesses a navy properly so called.
But I would respectfully submit that Major À Court bas overlooked in some important respects the laws and conditions of naval warfare as settled by the law of nations, and as partially modified by the conventions of international law, and that this oversight bas led him to suggest some false conclusions.
Thus he suggests that French cruisers would have the right to sink out of hand the defenceless merchant vessels which come in their way.' No such right exists, nor could; for this would imply the right of every captain of a cruiser to constitute himself an authority to decide whether such merchant vessels were good prize, whereas it is a duly constituted prize court which alone bas power to decide that. Hence the necessity, never get denied, for bringing prize into port for the judgment of the prize court. For a captor to act otherwise would be as though a constable were to hang out of hand a man whom he had arrested on suspicion of murder. Nor would a captor (who desires his share of the prize) be likely so to act; neither has any French Government ever authorised its commanders thus to act in wars gone by. Captain Semmes, of the Alabama, did indeed thus act; but his action was piratical, and Great Britain, being held responsible, paid damages for it.
Major À'Court truly says that, during the last war with France, British seaborne trade nearly doubled, while that of France was nearly destroyed. But the conclusion he seems to suggest, that a similar result would follow on another war, is not warranted. For the last war was fought under the old laws of warfare, whereas, if a war broke out to-morrow, it would be fought under the new laws assumed to be laid down in the Declaration of Paris of 1856. Under the old laws duly commissioned privateers' or 'corsairs ’ were allowed ; under the new they are declared to be abolished.' Under the old laws the neutral flag did not cover the cargo, and enemy merchandise was capturable even in neutral bottoms. Under the new laws (as between England and France) the neutral flag does cover the cargo, and enemy merchandise (except contraband of war) is only capturable in enemy bottoms.
Yet Major À'Court contemplates action against our trade by the steamer corsair,' and says: 'No neutral flag can compensate for the absence of a great protecting navy; and if this neutral is not strong enough to ensure respect for his flag by force of arms, his newly acquired trade now, as in the past, will be at the mercy of the belligerent, who will not fail to use his advantage.' But the point is that things will not be as in the past’ at all; for the Declaration of Paris has changed all that as between the States which have agreed to it, in which are included Great Britain and France. The Declaration affirms that la course est et demeure abolie; and no corsair, steam or sailing, can, therefore, be commissioned or cruise. The Declaration declares that le pavillon neutre couvre la marchandise ennemie, à l'exception de la contrebande de guerre, and no protecting navy or force of arms will, therefore, be required to protect the trade under the neutral flag from belligerents who have agreed to be bound by this new law.
If, indeed, Great Britain-as in time of peace she honourably might, and as she certainly should do—were to denounce and to retire from the Declaration of Paris, and its new and purely conventional laws, and were to resume her maritime rights under the general law of nations—rights which the United States have never renounced, and which they retain to this day—then, indeed, the case would be different. But as matters stand at present, upon the outbreak of war there must ensue these results : (1) French merchandise would generally cease to be carried in French ships, and would be carried in neutral ships, whose flag would protect it from capture.
(2) British merchandise would largely, if not generally, cease to be carried in British ships, and would fly (driven by war premiums of insurance) to neutral ships, whose flag would protect it from capture. (3) Neutral merchandise would desert British ships, because, although a neutral cargo therein would not be good prize, the ship itself would be, which would be of serious inconvenience. (4) British carrying ships would therefore largely, if not generally, be unemployed and laid up. (5) The neutrals, having a large increase of carrying trade offered to them, and needing ships for it, would buy, at a cheap price, many of the unemployed British ships ; nor is there any reason why they should not ship as many of the unemployed British seamen as they might require to man them. There is nothing in the law of nations to prevent either operation.
In short, the new doctrine, that the neutral flag covers the cargo, will, on the outbreak of such a war, at once deprive Great Britain (perhaps only for the time, bui possibly for ever) of her carrying trade, and will also deprive her of all power of using her naval strength for attacking the sea-borne commerce of her enemy, besides having other and scarcely less serious indirect effects which I need not now particularise.
I gather from Major A'Court's language that he has left out of sight this new doctrine, and the Declaration of Paris, whereby Great Britain first accepted it, after an unswerving and unflagging resistance to it of a century, both by argument and by arms, sometimes against the whole of Europe. And it is because of the tremendous importance of the absent factor, and of its too common neglect or treatment as non-existent, in the consideration of the modern maritime resources of the country that I ask permission to call attention to the existence and the effect of that Declaration of Paris, which must most effectually cripple our sea power.
Thos. GIBSON BOWLES.
The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
to return unaccepted MSS.
No. CCXLI–MARCH 1897
FOR GREECE AND CRETE
STORM and shame and fraud and darkness fill the nations
full with night : Hope and fear whose eyes yearn eastward have but fire and
sword in sight: One alone, whose name is one with glory, sees and seeks
Hellas, mother of the spirit, sole supreme in war and peace, Land of light, whose word remembered bids all fear and
Lives again, while freedom lightens eastward yet for sons of
Greece, where only men whose manhood was as godhead
ever trod, Bears the blind world witness yet of light wherewith her
feet are shod: Freedom, armed of Greece, was always very man and very
VOL. XLI-No. 241
Now the winds of old that filled her sails with triumph,
when the fleet Bound for death from Asia fled before them stricken, wake
Ships full-winged again for freedom toward the sacred
shores of Crete.
There was God born man, the song that spake of old time
said : and there Man, made even as God by trust that shows him nought
too dire to dare, Now may light again the beacon lit when those we worship
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE.
THE CRETAN QUESTION
Who knows if this Cretan crisis, which has burst out at the most untoward season, just when the Powers were about at last to take in hand, after such procrastination, the work of reform at Constantinople, may not be, nevertheless, a blessing in disguise ? Undoubtedly it is a just reward for the incredible supineness with which diplomacy has let time fly after the settlement of the 25th of August, 1896. There is, besides, a broader Nemesis taking vengeance on that pusillanimous policy which dares only to deal piecemeal with the Eastern problem, and which, anxious to make the task more easy by balancing and shuffling and trimming, has not taken to heart the lesson of the Hydra of Lerna and of her innumerable heads only to be cut down at a blow.
However, if the Powers understand this last teaching of events, if they are firmly resolved at once to maintain the beneficent, necessary agreement between themselves which is just now the only bulwark of peace, and to take time by the forelock in order to give Crete the measure of self-government to which it is entitled, and which would more than satisfy the immediate aspirations of its citizens, I, for one, shall see in this emergency, at one moment so threatening for the tranquillity of the world, a providential interference in a most complicated business.
Let us keep or resume our cool-headedness. The problem is certainly not insoluble. The Powers have, by instinct and unpremeditatedly, put their finger on the true means of solution. To act unanimously; to forbid to the Porte the sending of troops; to occupy the coast towns; to call upon Greece to let Europe take the island in charge—such were the successive or simultaneous steps taken by the Western Cabinets. Perhaps they ought to have been a little quicker, and to have peacefully, but resolutely, cut off the way from Greek intermeddling by blockading the ports of the kingdom. Their policy is perfectly consonant with the best traditions of our century. They have a right to ask the public not to deliver itself up wholly to hysterics, but to try to judge a great complex situation, not with its nerves only, but with its reason and conscience, and in relation to the whole duty of civilised nations.
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