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Art. 1. War in Disguise, or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags.
Second Edition. 8vo. pp. 252. London. 1806.
Thr his is a pamphlet of great merit, upon a subject of very general
importance. It is written with uncommon talent and considerable eloquence; and is distinguished by that full and systematic argument, and also perhaps by that tone of confidence, anxiety, and exaggeration, which we expect to meet in the pleadings of a professional advocate. Though we have been very much struck with some of the statements and reasonings of the ingenious author, we are not prepared to adopt the whole of his conclusions ; and as the subject is immediately interesting to a greater variety of persons than usually concern themselves with international discussions, we shall first endeavour to give a clear abstract of the views and doctrines set forth in this publication, and then subjoin such observations as have occurred to us upon the great question to which it relates.'
The question, our readers are probably aware, relates mainly to the right claimed by neutral nations to traffic with the colonies of our enemies in time of war. By the general policy of Europe, the trade of colonies has usually been monopolized by the mother country; and, in time of peace, no other nation has been permitted either to export their produce, or to furnish them with supplies. In the present, and in former wars, however, the colonial trade of France has been in a great degree thrown open to neutrals; and it is the object of this author to point out to his countrymen the nature and extent of the injury which has resulted to our cause from their interference; and the justice and expediency of endeavouring to put a stop to it.
He sets out with a short historical summary of the origin and progress of this evil, and of the means hitherto employed to resist it. It was in the war 1756, he informs us, that France was first VOL. VIII. NO. 15.
driven, by the pressure of maritime hostility, to relax her colonial monopoly, and to invite neutral nations to resort to her West Indian ports, for the purpose both of furnishing supplies to the colonies, and of carrying their produce, apparently as neutral property, to market. The prize courts of this country, however, had at that time no difficulty in determining this trade to be illegal, and condemning the vessels engaged in it, however clearly the property might appear to be neutral. The principle of these decisions, which has since been generally known by the name of the rule of the war 1756,' was substantially this, that a neutral has no right to deliver a belligerent from the pressure of his enemies' hostilities, by trading with his colonies in time of war in a way that was prohibited in time of peace.? This rule was asserted and submitted to during the whole period of that war, which only terminated in 1763. Previously to the accession of France to the American war, she had in some measure relaxed her monopoly, and admitted neutrals in time of peace to trade to a certain extent with her colonics : in that war, also, her maritime inferiority was by no means so decided as to disable her from protecting her trade; and though neutrals did then undoubtedly engage in the colonial trade to a much greater extent than they would have been permitted to do in time of peace, it was not thought adviseable, in the circumstances that have been mentioned, and in the peculiar political situation of the country, to assert to its full effect the rule of the war 1756, by which the trade might have been disallowed. The author assures us, however, that this rule was in no instance abandoned or reversed, though it was not thought proper to apply it, in a case of peculiar difficulty both legal and political.
As soon as peace was concluded, the colonial monopoly of France was resumed in its utmost rigour, and neutrals were again entirely excluded from a trade which had been entrusted in a great measure to their hands. Upon the breaking out of the war 1793, the same system of evasion was resumed, and neutrals openly invited to trade in the ports of the hostile colonies. This country. immediately reverted to the rule of the war 1756; and, in the end of that year (November 1793) issued instructions to seize all vessels bringing goods from the hostile colonies, or carrying supplies to them. This resolution, however, gave occasion to warm remonstrances on the part of America, and, in January 1794, the instructions were so far modified and relaxed, as only to subject to seizure vessels coming directly from any port of the colonies to Europe.'. Matters continued upon this footing till 1798, when a farther indulgence was given to the neutral trade, by permitting the produce of the hostile colonies to be carried to the mother country of the neutral trader, whether in Europe or in America,
and also to be brought by them into the ports of this country. This regulation remained in force down to the treaty of Amiens ; and immediately upon that pacification, the government of France returned to the principle of strict monopoly, and shut the ports of its colonies to all vessels but its own. On the commencement of the present war, the accustomed movements took place; the trade of the colonies was once more resigned by. the
into the hands of the neutrals; and our government issued an instruction subjecting to seizure all vessels carrying on trade between the said colonies and any country but the mother country of the neutral trader. This is the last public instruction which has been issued by government for the regulation of our cruisers and ships of war; and it is to the consequences of its subsistence, and the relaxation of the rule 1756, that the author of the work before us has directed the attention of his readers. In point of historical statement, it only remains to add, that in the treaty negotiated with America through Mr Jay, it was originally stipulated that the French colonial produce imported into that country should not be reexported to Europe during the war : but the treaty was ratified by the American government with the special exception of that article, and our administration thought proper to acquiesce in its rejection.
The author now proceeds to point out the consequences of this indulgence to the neutral traders, and the extent of the mischiefs which we have brought upon ourselves, by this practical relaxation of the rule of the war 1756.
The hostile proprietor of the colonial produce will naturally be anxious to transmit it to his own country, or to his accustomed markets in Europe ; and this he is enabled to do, our author assures us, in consequence of the subsisting regulations, in one of two ways. He embarks it in neutral bottoms in the ports of the colony, and invests it in the name of a neutral proprietor. If the vessel belong to an European neutral, she sails with a clearance for a port in her mother country, and is thus secured against our captors during the whole homeward voyage. When she arrives on the European coast, she slips into the mother country of the belligerent, or into any other port to which she had been consigned by the hostile owner. If the neutral be American, this mode of proceeding can scarcely ever be adopted ; and the practice, in such cases, is to proceed, in the first instance, to a pórt in America, and thence to export the cargo in the same or a different bottom to the European market, pointed out by the colonial proprietor.
These double voyages, undertaken for the express purpose of avoiding the seizure to which the vessels would have been liable, if they had run directly from the colonies to the European marA 2
ket, our author reprobates as most fraudulent and unjustifiable evasions of the belligerent rights reserved to us by our present indulgent regulations; and he spends a great deal of time in detailing the contrivances by which the device has been successively improved, so as to be now almost secure from detection. The great question on all such seizures is, whether the continuity of the voyage, from the colony to the European market, has really been broken by an effective and bona fide delivery in an American port, and a subsequent shipment on account of an American owner for Europe ; or whether it be evident, from all the circumstances, that the voyage to America was merely a colour and pretext, and that the original destination of the cargo was for the European market to which it is ultimately consigned ? The ingenuity of the neutralizing agents has enabled them to keep pace with the increasing sagacity or suspicion of the courts of prize ; and speedily taught them to provide, beforehand, all those facts and documents which the most recent decisions had declared to be necessary for their safety. At first, an entire new clearance and set of papers, taken on board in the American port, was thought to be sufficient; but afterwards, when it was made manifest that the vessel merely touched there for the purpose of procuring these documents, and instantly pursued her voyage to Europe, it was found necessary to cover the evasion by a greater complication of circumstances. Evidence was therefore successively required, of the goods having been actually landed, or of the property having been transferred by an actual sale in America ; of the insurance being made separately upon the voyages from the colony to America, and from that country to Europe, as upon two entire and independent voyages ;-and, finally, of the actual payment of the importation duties in the ports of the United States. Certain illusory certificates of this last circumstance having been rejected in our courts of prize in some recent instances, formed the sole occasion, our author assures us, of all the clamour which has been echoed from France and America upon the subject of our tyranny over neutrals.
The consequence of these devices has been, that the colonies retained by our enemies have gone on flourishing, in a commercial point of view, even more rapidly than in time of peace ; while their produce has been transported to the most advantageous market, under cover of the neutral flag, with a degree of cheapness and security superior to what we can command for our own by means of the unquestioned supremacy of our maritime power.
The fact is, our author assures us, that not a single merchant ship now traverses the Atlantic under enemies' colours ; nay, he adds, that, with the exception of a very insignificant