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Imperial Parliament

The Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1214, p. 86.

July 25, 1863

...HOUSE OF COMMONS.--Thursday.

The Confederate States of America.--Privateering.--Mr. Cobden called attention to the exploits of the Oreto, alias the Florida; the Alabama, alias the 290; and the Japan, alias the Virginia. The hon. gentleman having dwelt upon the provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act, and to the attacks which the above-named vessels had made upon the merchandise of a friendly Power, remarked that every vessel which was captured by them was taken note of by the American Government. In all cases the value of the vessels seized were taken by deposition on oath, and in all cases a claim was made for compensation on this country. The Government always resisted these claims; but that was the most serious part of the matter; and he contended that in such cases every man ought to constitute himself a detective policeman, in order that these proceedings might be frowned down. By every feeling of reciprocity towards the American people we ought to strive to put down these illegal practices. He thought there was every claim upon the Government to prevent these armed vessels from leaving these shores. He hoped that by no technical evasion another vessel for Confederate purposes would be allowed to escape from these shores. The terrors of the civil war in America were frightful; but he hoped they would not be extended by any connection with it on our part. All he asked for was neutrality. Whatever might be the issue of this dreadful war, let England keep clear of it. His voice would be mute; and what he asked was that England should be silent and sorrowful until this dreadful civil war was over.--Mr. Laird denied that the Alabama went out of Liverpool in an improper way.--Mr. Cobden said he quoted Earl Russell.--Mr. Laird said he was not responsible for what Earl Russell said. She went out of dock in the broad daylight.--Mr. Cobden: Did she take a clearance?--Mr. Laird: She did not require a clearance.--Lord Palmerston looked upon the two parties in America as in arms agains[t] each other, and, as such, belligerents, and therefore entitled to all the right[s] and privileges of belligerents. That which was running in the head of the hon. gentleman, and which guided his reasoning as well as his feeling, was that the Union was in legal existence, that there were not two belligerents, but a legitimate Government and a rebellion against that Government. Now what was the duty of a neutral with regard to two belligerents? The American Government had laid it dawn for themselves; for they had laid it down that a neutral might supply a belligerent with ships, arms, ammunition, or anything else, although they might be important ingredients in naval and military operations. The hon. gentleman complained that her Majesty's Government had not taken proper steps in this matter, but had rested upon information derived from the American Minister. He assured the hon. gentleman that that was not the case, and he believed that the hon. gentleman and the Federal Government were not entitled to say that the Government had omitted to do anything that by law they could do in reference to this matter. At the same time, he thought this country ought to enforce its law in these matters as stringently as possible.

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