Handbook of Maritime Rights/The Maritime League for the Resumption of Naval Rights in Great Britain

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Council of the League.—Chairman,
Stewart E. Holland, Esq. Treasurer,
Thomas Gibson Bowles, Esq.

The The importance to the British Empire of the retention and the exercise to their full extent of those naval rights founded on the Law of Nature and sanctioned by the Law of Nations, by which alone a maritime country can maintain its power on the seas, must commend itself to all who attach any importance to the existence of their country. The unauthoritative Declaration of Paris of 1856 assumes to abolish those rights, and Parliament, often appealed to to resume them by an authoritative declaration, has as repeatedly failed to do so.

It is manifest that Great Britain, being essentially a maritime country, must depend mainly for her defence upon the power of waging war effectually at sea. It is equally manifest that war can only be waged effectually at sea by the capture of enemy's property, whether in enemy's or in neutral vessels, and that the full strength of the country can only be put forth by arming and commissioning private volunteer vessels as an auxiliary to the State Navy. The right of any nation to do this is not contested, but by the two articles in the Declaration of Paris which declared that the neutral flag should cover enemy's goods not being contraband of war, and that privateering is abolished. Great Britain is held to be bound to deprive herself of these two weapons of defence, and must remain deprived of them until that Declaration is authoritatively denounced and the rights resumed, which can only be done in time of peace.

It is apparent, therefore, that a more thoroughly combined and organized action is necessary to obtain the desired result—that of freeing this country from the fetters of the Declaration of Paris—and it is felt that the time has come for uniting in one association all persons of every class who desire that the British Empire should remain a first-class naval Power, and who feel it their duty to work to this end.

The following propositions are laid down, as showing summarily the necessity for action in this matter:—

  1. That England, being a maritime country, must depend for her defence upon the power of waging war effectually at sea.
  2. That war can only be waged effectually at sea by the capture of the enemy's property.
  3. That by the Law of Nations every State when at war has the right to capture its enemy's property at sea, of whatever nature it be and in whatever vessels it is found.
  4. That every State has also a right by the Law of Nations to arm and commission private vessels as an auxiliary to its naval force.
  5. That the use of this auxiliary force is esential to the effectual capture of enemies' goods, as well as a necessary element in the development of the whole fighting power of the country.
  6. That the exercise of the right of seizure and confiscation, whether by State vessels or commissioned private vessels, while it is the most effective, is the mildest and least cruel of all methods of making war.
  7. That a document, known as the Declaration of Paris of 1856, nevertheless assumed to abolish this right, and to prohibit its exercise by Great Britain.
  8. That an adherence to the rules laid down by the Declaration of Paris would in the event of war immediately deprive Great Britain of the whole of the carrying trade, and drive it into neutral vessels; would deprive her of the power of acting against the enemy's commerce, by enabling it to be carried on in security under the neutral flag, thus rendering naval warfare unnecessary to the enemy, and therefore impossible to Great Britain; and, finally, would deprive her of the power of issuing commissions to volunteer vessels as an auxiliary force to the Navy.
  9. That by this Declaration the authority and the position of Great Britain are weakened in peace, while she is rendered powerless at sea in war; and that unless she withdraws from it in time of peace she will be held bound by it in time of war, not by her enemy alone, but also by the neutral nations who will profit by it.
  10. That it is therefore necessary that Great Britain should without delay withdraw from the Declaration of Paris, and declare it not to be binding.

The sole object of this League is to Procure the withdrawal of Great Britain from the Declaration of Paris of 1856.

The action of the League will be to spread the knowledge of the subject in every possible way—whether by disseminating that which has been already written and spoken on it by the most eminent statesmen and publicists; by private and public discussion; by lectures and public meetings; by addresses to Her Majesty to Her Ministers, and to both Houses of Parliament; or by deputations to influential men.

The subscription to the League is One Shilling per annum, which entitles the subscriber to a card of membership.

A subscription of £1 per annum entitles the subscriber to one copy of all publications issued by the League and to attend and vote in its meetings.

Subscriptions from two or more persons, amounting to £1, entitles any one of the subscribers, duly delegated by the rest of them for that purpose, to receive one copy of all publications issued by the League, and to attend and vote in its meetings.

Members of the two Houses of Parliament on joining the League are immediately placed on the list of Honorary Members without payment of any fees.

Those who desire to join the League are requested to communicate with the Secretary at the Office, 31, Essex Street, Strand.


Office of the Maritime League,
31, Essex Street, Strand,