Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the famous declaration that privateering is and remains abolished,' and the adhesion of the United States to this principle would go far to make the practice illegal by the law of nations. Hitherto they have declined, 'preferring the more comprehensive policy of prohibiting the seizure of private property of all kinds by ships of war. This point conceded, the United States would assent to the abolition of privateering.'”

It is strange that, now that the opportunity is all their own, the United States no longer show a disposition to abolish capture by ships of war. Waiving their former condition they have simply fallen in with the prohibition of privateering. The presumable objection to commissioning privateers is that the privateer frankly goes into the business on account of its profits. The distinction is shadowy. Both privateers and ships of war plunder under commission; both are controlled in their plundering by authoritative limitations and regulations, both of international and municipal law. The distinction between the two methods all but vanishes in the presence of the custom of dividing the value of prizes, taken by warships, among the officers and crew, under the name of prize money. The profits from seizures are actually being held out at the present moment, in the United States Press, as an inducement to enlistment in the navy. Calculations are publicly made of the fortunes already reaped by the Commanders. Is not the practice calculated to degrade the regular naval service to the standards of privateering ? How far are the new men enlisted in such a spirit really better than privateersmen ?

The invention of “Volunteer Fleets” by the very signatories of the Treaty of Paris, establishes that as long as capture is permitted privateering will not really be abolished.

Thus writes a Rear-Admiral of the French Navy in the Gaulois : “We shall patiently bide our time, and it will certainly come. Meanwhile we shall organize an implacable system of privateering against the trade of our eventual enemy. I know not what diplomatists may think of the Convention of 1856, but as for us sailors, let the English be assured beforehand that we shall carry on privateering against them, and let them take the ruin of their maritime trade into their forecasts."*

To such a point has the leaven of capture corrupted the service of a European nation. This naval officer of high rank betrays the spirit of the privateersman. He openly repudiates the honouir

* Rear-Admiral Dupont, London Times, May 19th, 1898.

of his country and his duty to submit to its engagements. The nation which claims to lead European civilization, and which invites the world to celebrate the close of the nineteenth century at its capital, declares by this spokesman that it is ready to repeat the equivalent at sea of that atrocity of the Middle Ages, the devastation of the Palatinate. Will it allege as its justification the repudiation by the United States, in their own case, of their former humanitarian stand on the morality of capture ?

From some acquaintance with its personnel and its methods I entertain a profound respect for the American Naval Service. Its achievements in the war of 1812, on lake and sea, let us be proud to own, showed that our kindred are also no unworthy descendants of the Sea Kings. While it was debarred by peace from feats of arms, it was winning better victories in the field of science. Dr. Kane led a creditable expedition in the track of Sir John Franklin, and in that icy prison supported the hearts of his crew through the gloom of two Arctic winters. Commander Wilkes revealed the outlines of the Antarctic Continent. Lieutenant Maury laid down the course and boundaries of that mighty river in the ocean, the Gulf Stream. Captain Mahan's monumental work, on the Sea power in History, is one of the great efforts of professional and historical learning. In the work of the United States Fish Conmission, in the survey of the lakes, in the lighthouse service, and far from least, in the wonderful system of the Hydrographic office, those able officers have rendered most distinguished aid to Science, Commerce and Humanity.

Once more set upon its mission of war, in the action of Manila and subsequently, the service has well maintained its record. Although the superiority in ships and guns made the result of any encounter almost a certainty, still boldness and strategy were necessary to obtain positions to make these advantages tell; and these qualities have been displayed in a high degree. The more does one sympathize with the mortification of the Commanders of that honourable service under the ridiculous press glorification of wretched exploits in the chase of helpless merchantmen. It is not a business to which brave men ought to be ordered. A noble professional standard ought not to be lowered by setting the navy upon the hunt for prize money. Gallant officers and crews ought not to be reduced to the position of bargaining lawyers, who are expected to make their costs out of the opposite party'.

Even if the barbarous notion of the objects and means of war, upon which the Government of 1812 took its stand, is to be condsidered maintainable to-day, regard must be had to the reason and limitations of the rule. Thus Vattel lays down wliat a nation engaged in a just war is allowed to do to her enemy: Book III.. Clap. 8, "The whole is to be reduced from one single principle from the object of a just war; for when the end is lawful, he wlio lias a right to pursue that end, has, of course, the right to employ all means which are necessary for its attainment. The lawfulness of the end does not give us a real right to anything further than barely the means necessary for the attainment of that end. Whatever we do beyond that, is reprobated by the law of nature, is faulty and condemnable at the tribunal of conscience. Hence it is that the right to such or such acts of hostilities varies according to circumstances. What is just and perfectly innocent in war in one particular situation, is not always so on other occasions. Right goes hand in hand with necessity and the exigency of the case, but never exceeds them. The sovereign who would preserve a pure conscience, and punctually discharge the duties of humanity, ought never to lose sight of what we already have more than once observed, that nature gives him no right to make war on his fellow men, except in cases of necessity and as a remedy ever disagreeable, though often necessary, against obstinate injustice or violence. If his mind is duly impressed with this great truth, he will never extend the application of the remedy beyond its due limits and will be very careful not to render it more harsh in its operations, and more fatal to mankind, than is requisite for his ownı security and the defence of his rights.”

Unhappily Vattel's doctrine is an appeal to conscience rather than a statement of law. But if the reasoning commends itself it remains for precedent to make it law.

In a desperate struggle for existence a nation on the defensive could not be restrained from using every means and striking out in every direction. But when a war is waged merely in the assertion of some definite principle or for the attainment of some limited object, without imperilling the substantial integrity of either nation, then every means which might be expedient cannot be considered lawful. The cause and object of the war by the L'nited States upon Spain is limited to obtaining the concession by Spain of liberty and independent self-government to a particular portion of her subjects. The right of intervention is claimed on humanitarian grounds, and is resisted on the point of honour of sovereign right. Never could there be a clearer case for treating war as a duel, to be fought with regular weapons, by the appointed military and naval champions of the respective contestants. Never could there be less justification for resorting to the savage principle asserted in 1812, that war is a work of hate and destruction, in which the methods of hatred and the agencies of destruction inay be used without limit, upon every subject, however innocent, to which they could be made to reach. Never was there better opportunity for setting an example assigning one more restraint upon the wickedness and destructiveness of international warfare. The captures have been comparatively small in number and value. It would be easy for the United States to make offer of compensation to the despoiled owners. At least the value ought to be deducted from the ultimate demand of a war indemnity.

I do not lose sight of the relation of this question to Canadian commercial interests. There has been a prospect of temporary gain to the trade of Canadian ports and Canadian carriers, through the peril to which the United States sea-going commerce is exposed, by liability to capture and destruction. This is a case in which the direction of our wishes will test the strength to which our morality has withstood the strain of the modern commercial spirit. I should hope for the honour, I will not say of Canada, but of humanity, that no consideration of temporary gain will prevent our uplifting our voices, in unison with the best thinking people of the neighbouring Republic, in appeal to the United States to take the course which will do honour to itself, to our great English race, to the civilization of which we boast, and to the humane and christianized principles to which we profess to adhere.

If the United States acquire military possession of Puerto Rico it will be a conquest and will be dealt with by the conquerors as may seem to them most in their interest. Their disposition of it is not a matter in which foreign opinion is likely to be invited or would have any weight. The possession of Puerto Rico will make one European Power the less to divide with the United States the naval oversight over the approaches to the future Isthmian Canal. Whether the canal shall be situated at Panama or Nicaragua will matter little. Its control will depend less upon commercial ownership or territorial title than upon practical naval ascendancy in the Caribbean Sea. There can be little doubt what will be the fate of Puerto Rico if the flag of the United States once waves over it. There will be plenty of opportunities in a settle

ment for the display of national generosity without going the length of national quixotry, such as Great Britain so often exhibited at the conclusion of her successful wars in former centuries.

The Philippines seem to be the subject of some illusions. They cannot yet be described as a conquest. It is possible that no event of the war with Spain will achieve that result. There is nothing which the United States can conquer from Spain, or which Spain has it in her power to cede, except the possession practically of a few factories on the outskirts of a populous native territory, much of it resembling in its political conditions the Congo State more nearly than a European colony. The interior has been a mission field rather than a possession. It is probable that the Spanish Government has not maintained the religious orders so much as the missions have secured submission to the Government. The semi-christianized Malays and other tribes have now revolted and overthrown the dominion of Church and State alike. It will be those tribes rather than the Spanish Government with wliom terms will have to be made to settle the future status of the Philippines. The suzerainty of millions of semi-independent Asiatics may on close contemplation not prove to be an inviting responsibility for the United States Government to assume.

The question will arise, what is to be done with Cuba; and the action taken by the United States will materially reflect upon her objects in instituting the war, and will influence the respect in which perhaps the whole family of English nations shall henceforth be held among the foreign countries of Europe.

The United States have undertaken the war upon a specific undertaking to pacify and then retire from the Island, as expressed in the published declaration, in the following terms: “Fourth : That the United States hereby disclaims any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over said Island, except for the pacification thereof, and asserts its determination, when that is accomplished, to leave the Government and control of the Island to its people.”

A disposition has been exhibited in a portion of the United States Press to assume that the disavowal of annexation is no longer binding, because the Spanish Government assumed the initiative of hostile action and dismissed the United States Minister in anticipation of the delivery of the ultimatum. Stronger ground might be taken. An ultimatum is a tender of conditions of peace. If the tender is not accepted, the offered conditions may be pre

« AnteriorContinuar »