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followed her example. In all the discussions on these topicks, we find nothing of the British claim to impressment; no acknowledgment of it in any treaty, or proof of submission to it by any power. If instances have occurred, in which British cruisers have taken British seamen from the vessels of other nations, they were, as it is presumed, in cases either not acquiesced in, or of an extraordinary nature only, affording no countenance to their practice and pretension in relation to the United States. Cases of this kind, if such there be, afford no proof of a systematick claim in the British government to impressment, or of submission to it by other powers. This claim has been set up against the United States only, who have, in consequence thereof, been compelled to discuss its merits.
This claim is in fact traced to another source, the allegiance due by British subjects to their sovereign, and his right, by virtue thereof, to their service. This has been distinctly stated in a late declaration by the prince regent. Knowing the nature of the claim, we know also the extent of the right and obligations incident to it. Allegiance is a political relation between a sovereign and his people; it is the obligation which binds the latter in return for the protection which they receive. These reciprocal duties have the same limit, they are confined to the dominions of the sovereign, beyond which he has no rights, can afford no protection, and can of course claim no allegiance. A citizen or subject of one power, entering the dominions of another, owes allegiance to the latter in return for the protection he receives. Whether a sovereign has a right io claim the service of such of his subjects as have left his own dominions, is a question respecting which also a difference of opinion may exist. It is certain that no sovereign has a right to pursue his subjects into the territories of another, be the motive for it what it may; such an entry, without the consent of the other power, would be a violation of its territory and an act of hostility. Offenders, even conspirators, cannot be pursued by one power into the territory of another, nor are they delivered up by the latter, except in compliance with treaties or by favour. That the vessels of a nation are considered a part of its
territory, with the exception of the belligerent right only, is a principle too well established to be brought into discussion. Each state has exclusive jurisdiction over its own vessels ; its laws govern in them, and offences against those laws are punishable by its tribunals only. The flag of a nation protects every thing sailing under it in time of peace, and in time of war likewise, with the exception of the belligerent rights, growing out of the war. An entry on board the vessels of one power by the cruisers of another, in any other case, and the exercise of any other authority over them, is a violation of right, and an act of hostility.
The British government, aware of the truth of this doctrine, has endeavoured to avoid its consequences in the late declaration of the prince regent.
It has not contended that British cruisers have a right to pursue and search our vessels for British seamen. It asserts' only that they have a right to search them for other objects, and being on board for a lawful cause, and finding British seamen there, that they have a right to impress and bring them away under the claim of allegi.
When we see a systematick pursuit of our vessels by British cruisers, and the impressment of seamen from them, not at a port of the enemy where a regular blockade had been instituted, and by the blockading squadron, but in every part of the ocean, on our coast, and even iy our harbours, it is difficult to believe that impressment is not the real motive, and the other the pretext for it. But to place this argument of the British government on the strongest ground, let it be admitted that the entry was lawful, is it so to commit an act not warranted by the purpose for which the entry was made ? There is a levity in this argument which neither suits the parties nor the subject. The British government founds its right of impressment from our ships on that of allegiance, which is a perinanent right, equally applicable to peace and war. The right of impressment, therefore, from the vessels of other powers must likewise be permanent, and equally applicable to peace and war. It would not, however, take this broad ground, lest the injustice and extravagance of the pretension might excite the astonishment and indignation of other powers, to whom it would be equally applicable. To claim it as a belligerent right would have been equally unjust and absurd, as no trace of it could be found in the belligerent code. The British government was, therefore, reduced to a very embarrassing dilemma. To acknowledge that it could not support the claim on either principle, would be to relinquish it, and yet it could rely on neither. It endeavoured to draw some aid from both. A state of war exists which brings the parties together, Great Britain as a belligerent, and the United States as a neutral power. British officers have now a right to board and search American vessels, but for what? Persons in the service of an enemy, contraband of war, or enemy's property. This would not accomplish the end. It is, however, the utmost limit of the belligerent right. Alle giance, which is an attribute of sovereignty, comes to her aid and communicates all the necessary power; the national character of the neutral vessel ceases; the complete right of sovereignty and jurisdiction over it is transferred to Great Britain. It is on this foundation that the British government has raised this monstrous superstructure. It is with this kind of argument that it attempts to justify its practice of impressment from our vessels.
The remark contained in the declaration of the prince regent, that in impressing British seamen from American vessels, Great Britain exercised no right which she was not willing to acknowledge as appertaining equally to the government of the United States, with respect to American seamen in British merchant ships, proves only, that the British government is conscious of the injustice of the claim, and desirous of giving to it such aid as may be derived from a plausible argument. The semblance of equality, however, in this proposition, which strikes at first view, disappears on a fair examination. It is unfair, first, because it is impossible for the United States to take advantage of it. Impressment is not an American practice, but utterly repugnant to our constitution and laws. In offering to reciprocate it, nothing was offered, as the British government well knew. It is unfair, secondly, because it impressment was allowable, a reciprocation of the practice would be no equivalent to the United States.
The exercise of a right in common, at sea, by two nations, each over the vessels of the other, the one powerful and the other comparatively weak, would be, to put the latter completely at the mercy of the former. Great Britain, with her vast navy, would soon be the only party which made impressment. The United States would be compelled to abstain from it, and either submit to the British rule, with all the abuses incident to power, or to resist it. But should the United States be permitted to make impressment from British vessels, the effect would be unequal. Great Britain has, perhaps, thirty ships of war at sea, to one of the United States, and would profit of the arrangement in that proportion. Besides, impressment is a practice incident to war, in which view, likewise, the inequality is not less glaring, she being at least thirty years at war, to one of the United States. Other considerations prove that the British government made this acknowledgment merely as a pretext to justify its practice of impressment, without intending that the right of practice should ever be reciprocated. What would be the effect of its adoption by American ships of war with British merchant vessels? An American officer boards a British merchant vessel, and claims, as American citizens, whom he pleases. How many British seamen would disclaim a title which would take them to the United States, and secure them there all the advantages of citizenship? The rule of evidence, as the ground of impressment in every instance, must likewise be reciprocated between the two governments. The acknowledgment of the men would surely be a better proof of their national character than the decision of a British officer who boarded an American vessel, however iinpartial he might be and strong his power of discrimination, when opposed by the voluntary and solemn declaration of the party. In this way we might draw from the British service the greater part, if not all their seamen. I might further ask, why was this acknowledgment made at this late period, for the first time only, after the declaration of war, and when on that account it could produce no effect? In the various discussions of this subject, in many of which it has been demanded whether the British government would tolerate such a practice from American ships of war, no such intimation was ever given.
If Great Britain had found the employment of her seamen in our service injurious to her, and been disposed to respect our rights, the regular course of proceeding would have been for her government to have complained to the government of the United States of the injury, and to have proposed a remedy. Had this been done, and no reasonable remedy been adopted, sound in principle and reciprocal in its operation, the British government might have had some cause of complaint, and some plea for taking the remedy into its own hands. Such a procedure would, at least, have given to its claim of impressment the greatest plausibility. We know that such complaint was never made, except in defence of the practice of impressment, and that in the mean time the practice has gone on, and grown into an usage, which, with all its abuses, had resistance been longer delayed, might have become a law. The origin and progress of this usurpation afford strong illustrations of the British policy. The practice and the claim began together, soon after the close of our revolutionary war, and were applicable to deserters only. They extended next to all British seamen ;-then to all British subjects, including, as in the case of emigrants from Ireland, persons who would not have been subject to impressment in British ports, not being seafaring men ;-and, finally, to Swedes, Danes, and others, known to be not British subjects, and by their protections appearing to be naturalized citizens of the United States.
Other views may be taken of the subject, to show the unlawfulness and absurdity of the British claim. If British cruisers have a right to take British seamen from our vessels, without regarding the abuses inseparable from the practice, they may take from them, on the same principle, and with much greater reason, every species of property to which the British government has any kind of claim. Allegiance cannot give to a sovereign a better right to take his subjects than ownership to take his property. There would be no limit to this pretension or its consequences. All property forfeited by exportation, contrary to the laws of Great Britain, every article to which her sovereignty, jurisdiction, or ownership would extend, in British vessels,