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The Trent Case and the Blocking-Up of Charleston Harbour

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1129, p. 105.

February 1,1862

THE TRENT CASE AND THE BLOCKING-UP OF CHARLESTON HARBOUR.—When Mr. Seward's despatch on the Trent prisoners arrived in this country, stating various grounds on which they might have been detained at the very time their release was effected, Earl Russell stated in reply that, while he cheerfully accepted the result, he could not acquiesce in his arguments, and added that on a subsequent occasion he would give his reasons for dissent. That task he has now executed, and his despatch appears in Tuesday's Gazette. The Principles of Mr. Seward from which his Lordship specially dissents are two—namely, that ambassadors or agents, or their despatches, are to be regarded as contraband of war; and next, that either persons or goods, of whatever kind, proceeding in a neutral ship from one neutral point to another are in any case liable to capture. These principles, he says, are repudiated by all writers on international law, whether English, American, or Continental. In conclusion he notices the "singular passage" in Mr Seward's despatch in which that gentleman says that he would have detained the prisoners if the safety of the Union required it. "His frankness," says his Lordship, "'compels me to be equally open, and to inform him that Great Britain could not have submitted to the perpetration of that wrong. —From a despatch from Lord Lyons to Earl Russell we learn that Mr. Seward declares that the blocking up of Charleston harbour is only temporary; that the Federal Government will themselves remove the obstructions "as soon as the Union is restored;" and that the best proof of its being incomplete and partial is "that in spite of the sunken vessels and of the blockading squadron a British steamer laden with contraband of war had just succeeded in getting in."

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