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Imperial Parliament

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1204, p. 558.

May 23, 1863


...United States Prize Courts.--The Marquis of Clanricarde moved for copies of any reports from consular or diplomatic agents in North America of the decisions or proceedings of prize courts of the United States, and pointed out that, owing to the acts of the American Government, which were inconsistent with the law of nations, and pretensions asserted by them totally unheard of by any mercantile community, a large part of the trade of this country--that with the Gulf of Mexico--was paralysed; and if the present state of things went on there must be war between this country and the Federal States.--Earl Russell contended that it had not been shown that the United States had thrown aside the law of nations, and against all law and justice had interrupted British trade in neutral waters, and the Government was asked while proceedings were pending in the case of a particular ship to declare all those proceedings wrong. The United States' prize courts were proper tribunals, and, he believed, were impartial, and desirous of doing justice, while they deferred with respect to English decisions in maritime international law. It was a fact that many vessels went from Nassau to run the blockade of the Southern ports, and it could not be much complained of that the United States cruisers should be suspicious and vigilant. He counselled forbearance on both sides in any differences which might arise between this country and the United States.--The Earl of Derby was of opinion that the statement of Lord Clanricarde had been answered, and that he had somewhat rashly adopted the notion of the injustice of the American prize courts. He thought that this question should be approached with good temper and moderation, seeing that a large contraband trade was carried on with the Southern States.--Lord Clanricarde stated that the law was that any vessel carrying contraband of war bound for a neutral port could not be seized, whatever her subsequent destination might be.--The motion for papers was withdrawn, and the subject dropped.

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