Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/312

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282

Messages and Papers of the Confederacy.

by a single cruiser of the Confederacy. One national steamer, commanded by officers and manned by a crew who are debarred, by the closure of neutral ports, from the opportunity of causing captured vessels to be condemned in their favor as prizes, has sufficed to double the rates of marine insurance in Northern ports and consign to forced inaction numbers of Northern vessels, in addition to the direct damage inflicted by captures at sea. How difficult, then, to overestimate the effects that must have been produced by the hundreds of private armed vessels that would have swept the seas in pursuit of the commerce of our enemy if the means of disposing of their prizes had not been withheld by the action of neutral Europe.

But it is especially in relation to the so-called blockade of our coast that the policy of European powers has been so shaped as to cause the greatest injury to the Confederacy and to confer signal advantages on the United States. The importance of this subject requires some development. Prior to the year 1856 the principles regulating this subject were to be gathered from the writings of eminent publicists, the decisions of admiralty courts, international treaties, and the usages of nations. The uncertainty and doubt which prevailed in reference to the true rules of maritime law in time of war, resulting from the discordant and often conflicting principles announced from such varied and independent sources, had become a grievous evil to mankind. Whether a blockade was allowable against a port not invested by land as well as by sea; whether a blockade was valid by sea if the investing fleet was merely sufficient to render ingress to the blockaded port "evidently dangerous," or whether it was further required for its legality that it should be sufficient "really to prevent access," and numerous other similar questions had remained doubtful and undecided.

Animated by the highly honorable desire to put an end "to differences of opinion between neutrals and belligerents, which may occasion serious difficulties and even conflicts" (I quote the official language), the five great powers of Europe, together with Sardinia and Turkey, adopted in 1856 the following "solemn declaration" of principles:

1. Privateering is, and remains, abolished.