Order for Second Reading read.
I have to move the second reading of a Bill of great importance, the object of which is what the late debate has shown to be the general wish of both sides of the House—namely, the preservation of the neutrality of this country. I do not propose to enter into the discussion of any vexed questions of International Law. I do not propose to discuss the extent to which a neutral country can be required by a foreign belligerent to interfere to prevent her subjects from taking part in hostile preparations. I do not propose to discuss what municipal laws, if any, she can be required to enact; to what extent she can be compelled to enforce them; or for what neglect to enforce them she can be held responsible. I do not propose to discuss these questions because, though Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to discharge all their obligations of neutrality, still it is well it should be understood that the main object of this Bill is not so much to satisfy any demands which foreign nations may be entitled to make against us, but rather to satisfy ourselves, to maintain the honour and dignity of the Crown, which are compromised when the subjects of the Queen take part in hostilities against a friendly State, and to avoid not merely all cause of offence, but, if possible, all cause of discussion with foreign countries. In a word, Her Majesty's Government have been less careful to ascertain what foreign nations would be entitled to require from us than what we consider due to ourselves—to our own dignity and our own self-respect. It may be that the provisions of our present Foreign Enlistment Act are as strong as can be required of us by a belligerent State—perhaps even stronger. But I think it will be generally agreed that they are not strong enough to satisfy ourselves, and we desire they should be made more stringent. I shall not enter into the Alabama question. The Alabama escaped by a stratagem which we could not foresee, and which, as we maintain, could not be prevented by ordinary care in the then existing state of our law. We deny that we are responsible to the American Government for the escape of the Alabama, though we are willing to submit that question to arbitration. But, whatever the issue in that case, I believe there is no man in this House who does not regret the escape of the Alabama, and I am willing to hope that that regret is shared even by the authors of the calamity. I trust there is not a man in this House who does not desire that measures should be taken, if it be practicable, to make the escape of future Alabamas impossible. I need not dwell upon the failures—for I fear I must call them such—of the attempts by the Government to enforce the Foreign Enlistment Act. We all know that a suit was instituted against the Alexandra, and although it appeared that that vessel had been built for the Confederate Government, and was to a certain extent equipped for their service, still the late Chief Baron directed the jury that, because she was not so completely equipped as to be in a condition to commence hostilities when she left our ports, therefore the Foreign Enlistment Act did not apply; and on appeal to the Court of Exchequer the Court was equally divided in opinion. I believe the ruling to have been wrong, though I am not entitled so to pronounce it, the Court having been divided; but if the law was rightly laid down by the Chief Baron, that law ought to be amended, and no other Alexandra ought to be allowed to escape. I need not name the steam rams which Earl Russell undertook to stop, acting, as I believe, within the powers of the law. We recollect, however, that the proceedings of Earl Russell were seriously impeached in this House, and that upon a Division — nominally for Papers, but really amounting to a Vote of Censure — his conduct in stopping the steam rams was approved by comparatively a small majority. These considerations point to an amendment of the law, and I have reason to suppose that considerations such as these induced the Government of Lord Derby to appoint a Commission in 1868, consisting of men of the greatest eminence, who made a very valuable Report. It was the intention of the Government to propose a Bill some time since, carrying into effect the recommendations in that Report; but the intended Bill gave way to other measures which then appeared more pressing. I think, however, the House will agree that, upon the breaking out of this unexpected and most calamitous war, Her Majesty's Government would have been very much to blame if they had delayed for a single day to introduce this measure. The Bill is founded almost entirely on the Report of the Royal Commission, but in one or two matters it goes somewhat beyond the recommendations contained in that Report. I am quite sure that there is no class in the community more patriotic or more desirous than the mercantile classes are of maintaining peace and neutrality. We must not, however, disguise from ourselves that there are a set of unscrupulous traders—men who seem to have proposed to themselves no object but that of private gain, and who will endeavour to evade the provisions of any Foreign Enlistment Act which we may pass. It is necessary, therefore, in order to meet the subterfuges with which we may expect to have to deal, that the law should be stringent, and leave no loophole for escape. I shall now proceed to state very shortly the main provisions of the Bill. In the first place, instead of the Foreign Enlistment Act being amended it will be repealed, and such of its provisions as are not altered re-enacted, in order that the whole law may appear in one Bill. With respect to enlistment, the provisions of the Bill are very much the same as those of the existing Act; but they are, I think, expressed in clearer language—a not very difficult task to accomplish, for the present Foreign Enlistment Act is not a good specimen of drafting. Generally speaking, the provisions with respect to enlistment apply to all British subjects in all parts of the world, and to aliens only within the Queen's dominions. There are provisions against enlisting persons under false representations, as in the case of those who engaged Irish navvies to go to America, where they were entrapped into the Federal service. There is a penalty for taking persons illegally enlisted on board ship and a power to detain the ship, accompanied, however, by a power to release her on security being given for the payment of the penalty. I now come to deal with the question of the equipment and fitting out of vessels, with respect to which there has been so much litigation. To this section of the old Act a very important addition has been suggested by the Commissioners, to the effect that it should apply not merely to the arming and equipping, but to the building of a ship. That recommendation was made by all the Commissioners, with the exception of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt), for whose authority I have the greatest respect, although I think that he, in the present instance, was wrong and that the majority of the Commissioners were right. If such a provision were contained in the existing Act, the Alabama, could not have escaped, and the Alexandra must have been condemned. It obviously is very unsatisfactory for a Government to be aware that a vessel is being built for a belligerent, to know her destination, to have to wait day after day till she is completed, and then one fine morning to find that she is gone. Now, that has more than once occurred, and it is desirable that it should not occur again. There is also a provision in this section which touches the case of the mere despatch of a vessel, and a clause containing a provision to the effect that if it is shown that a vessel has been ordered to be built for a belligerent, and is supplied to that belligerent and used for warlike purposes, that shall be held to be primâ facie evidence that she was built for the warlike service of the belligerent, unless the innocent destination of the vessel can be established. In a provision of that kind there is, I apprehend, no hardship. The Commissioners also recommended—and we have adopted that part of their Report, that proceedings should be taken in the Court of Admiralty rather than the Court of Exchequer. It is provided, therefore, that suits for the condemnation of vessels offending against the Act shall be instituted in the Court of Admiralty. I have now to call attention to a very important power which we propose to give by the Bill. It is the power which it confers on the Secretary of State, on his being satisfied that a vessel is being built or equipped for the service of a foreign belligerent, and is about to be despatched, to issue his Warrant ordering her to be seized and detained, which Warrant is to be laid on the Table of the House. It is further provided that the owner of a vessel may apply to the Court of Admiralty for her release, which he may obtain if he satisfies the Court that her destination was lawful, and not only may he obtain her release but damages for her retention. In order to prevent any hardship there is, moreover, a provision that the Admiralty shall release the vessel on a bond being given that she is not to be employed on any illegal adventure. There is another provision in respect to which the Bill, I admit, goes beyond the recommendation of the Commissioners. It gives power to the local authorities named in it to seize a vessel if they have reason to suppose she is about to escape; but then they will have to report immediately the seizure to the Secretary of State, who will be empowered at once to release her should he be of opinion that there were not sufficient grounds for the seizure, and assuming the vessel to have been seized without reasonable cause, and released by the Secretary of State, the owner will be entitled to claim damages for the detention. These are the provisions by which we propose to attain the object which we have in view, and to render extremely difficult, if not almost impracticable, the escape of any such vessel as the Alexandra or the Alabama in future. There is besides a provision against augmenting the force of a belligerent vessel in our ports, and one to the effect that a vessel illegally built shall not be received in our ports. This is a provision which we have introduced in conformity with the recommendation of the Commission; but I am bound to say it appears to me somewhat questionable whether it is not desirable to leave the matter to be dealt with by regulations to be laid down by the Government rather than deal with it in Acts of Parliament. The Bill, I may add, contains a prohibition against fitting out naval and military expeditions, and a provision, which is new to our law, but which is acted upon by all the American Courts, to the effect that prizes captured by a vessel illegally fitted out, if brought into our ports, shall be restored to their owners. These are the principal provisions of the Bill; but in consequence of some misapprehension which seems to prevail, I wish, if the House will permit me, to say a few words with respect to certain provisions which some persons think ought to be contained in the Bill, but which are not. I allude to provisions forbidding the exportation of contraband of war. Those who entertain misapprehensions on this score I would refer to a letter signed "Historicus" which, appeared in The Times of Saturday, and which contains a clear and correct expression of the Law of Nations on the subject. But as some hon. Members may not have seen that letter I will make a few remarks by way of explanation on the point. The Government of this country does not undertake and has not undertaken in former wars to prohibit the exportation of contraband of war. The exportation of contraband of war is not prohibited by the existing Foreign Enlistment Act, nor, strictly speaking, by the Queen's Proclamation. On this subject, however, it appears to me that a good deal of misapprehension exists. Some people seem to think that the Queen could by her Proclamation constitute a new offence against the law of the land; but to suppose that, would be tantamount to supposing that the Queen could exercise the functions of the whole Legislature. No Proclamation of the Queen can constitute that an offence against an Act of Parliament, or the law of the land, which was not an offence before, and if hon. Members will carefully read the recent Proclamation they will find that the effect of it is as follows:—It draws attention, in the first place, to certain provisions of the Foreign Enlistment Act which prohibit the furnishing of ships of war, &c, to belligerents, and it indicates that any offence against those provisions will be a criminal and indictable offence. The Proclamation proceeds to warn Her Majesty's subjects—first, against the breaking of blockades; and, secondly, against the supplying of contraband of war; but the consequence of disobeying these injunctions of the Queen are pointed out to be a liability to hostile capture. That is the liability, and the only liability which is pointed out in the Proclamation. The Government have not undertaken to prevent vessels from breaking the blockade, nor to prevent the exportation of contraband of war; but they say to any man who starts with a vessel intending to break the blockade or to supply contraband of war to a belligerent—"You do it at your own risk; you will be subject to capture, and in that case you will be subject to the law of the capturing country, and the Queen will not interfere for your protection." I think it well that this should be generally understood, because many complaints are made against the Government for not preventing the exportation of coal, of horses, of a variety of articles which may or may not be contraband of war. Let us see what has been our practice in former wars. During the Crimean War, for example, Belgium and Holland supplied Russia with large quantities of arms, but we did not treat that as a breach of neutrality. Again, during the American War, large quantities of arms, ammunition, and other contraband of war were supplied by us both to the Federals and the Confederates; but, although the United States complained of us for having allowed the Alabama to escape, they made no complaint that we did not undertake to prevent the exportation of contraband of war. They merely captured the vessels when they could catch them. Therefore, provisions to prevent the exportation of contraband of war are not to be found in this Bill any more than they are to be found in our existing Act or in the American Act. This, however, ought to be known. If it be shown that a vessel carrying coal or any other contraband article is so far in communication and correspondence with the fleet of either belligerent as to form a part of it, or acts as a tender to ships of war, such vessel will run the risk of being captured and forfeited as a store-ship in the service of the enemy. It is true that under the Customs Consolidation Act the Queen may stop the exportation of arms by an Order in Council; but that provision has never been put in force except when we ourselves were actually engaged, or were on the point of engaging in war. I admit that this Bill goes beyond the American Act. Indeed, as far as I am aware, it goes beyond any statute law passed in any country for the purpose of enforcing neutrality. If we had merely considered the strict measure of international duty which might have been imposed upon us, we need not have gone so far; but the Bill has been prepared for the sake of ourselves and of our dignity rather than in order to satisfy any demands which might be made upon us by foreign countries. Although some of its provisions against reckless and unscrupulous traders may be stringent, I think there are none which will interfere with the objects of legitimate commerce. At all events, the Bill has been prepared with much care and consideration by the Government, with the object of promoting what both sides of the House profess to desire — namely, the preservation of the neutrality of this country and the peace and tranquillity of Europe. It has been prepared with that object, and I, therefore, confidently venture to submit it to the candid consideration of both sides of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Attorney General.)
said, he cordially endorsed all the reasons adduced by his hon. and learned Friend (the Attorney General) in favour of the Bill; as this country certainly ought to endeavour by every means to maintain its position as a neutral State. But there were one or two of the clauses of this Bill to which he would like to draw the attention of the House. It was very necessary to prevent the recurrence of what happened during the American War, when this country was made a starting point for a ship of war which, as had been aptly remarked, was an expedition in itself. The Bill ought to go further than the Foreign Enlistment Act passed in the reign of George III., but ought not to go so far, in his opinion, as in any way to cripple our shipbuilding trade. It must be remembered, too, that this Bill would be referred to by a jealous belligerent as the text-book of our duties as a neutral. There were other interests, too, of higher importance than the claims of belligerents. Our shipbuilders ought not to be prevented from carrying on their trade, simply because it was possible that at some period or other some of the ships they constructed might be used in war against or by a friendly Power. The 8th clause made it an offence for any person, without the licence of the Queen—
&c. He would suggest that some additional words should be inserted in the clause to limit the time from which the liability should commence, and the clause would then read—"To build, or agree to build, or cause to be built, any ship, having reasonable cause to believe that the same shall, or will, be employed,"
&c., the words "friendly State" being defined in another part of the measure. The 5th clause directed a penalty against any persons leaving Her Majesty's dominions with intent to enter the service of any foreign State; but, surely, we had no right to interfere in that way with the subject of any other country who might be within our boundaries, and who might perhaps be leaving to join the service of his own country. We had no right or reason, for instance, to attempt to prevent an American subject from quitting our shores in order to join the French Army. With regard to the 19th clause, which provided for the jurisdiction over offences against neutrality, he regretted the transfer of jurisdiction which was there proposed. It was very possible that the decision of the late Lord Chief Baron in the matter of the Alabama might have been unsatisfactory to the Government; but it was to be regretted that, after the decision had been given, the Government should, in the first Bill on the subject, try to do away with the old method of hearing such cases before one of the Judges of the Common Law Courts and a jury, and send those cases to the Admiralty Court, where there would be no jury to hear them at all. There was only one other point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House. The power entrusted to officers who would be able to arrest these vessels was somewhat too large; and he believed when the Bill got into Committee his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General would find that Amendments upon the clauses to which he had drawn attention might be introduced with advantage, in order to keep England, when it was so designed by the Government, a thoroughly neutral State according to the old rule, "not of helping both, but of refusing to help either.""To build, or agree to build, or cause to be built, after the declaration of war, by or against any friendly State,"
said, it was delightful to find the House at last breathing a neutral atmosphere after a six hours' debate, which was calculated to do anything rather than enable them to preserve neutrality. He rejoiced at the appearance of this measure, notwithstanding the tardy action of the Government respecting the matter with which it dealt. The present law for enforcing neutrality was utterly insufficient. No one could dissent from Lord Russell's description of the case of the Alabama—that it was a scandal to the law of this country, and that the persons who were concerned in that disastrous fraud upon the laws of this country committed one of the most unpatriotic acts of which an Englishman had ever been guilty. He was glad to hear the Attorney General say that this Bill could not be regarded as a Bill founded upon international obligations. It went far beyond anything that could be required by the actual obligations that existed according to the law, as at present in force, between nations. Its object was to restrain private war on the part of subjects in cases where the State itself did not desire to enter into hostilities. But he would venture to say, what he was sure would be confirmed by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), and by the Vice President of the Council, both of whom were Members of the Commission, that the opinion of of that body was, that what was required was, to extend and enlarge the preventive power of the law rather than to aggravate its punitive provisions. There were two objects—to prevent the offence, and to punish it when committed. The use of punishment was small save so far as it would act as a deterrent; but, even from this point of view, it should be borne in mind, that if the code was made too severe, there was not in public sentiment, unfortunately, that conviction of moral turpitude attaching to offences of this character which would enable them to carry out the provisions of the Bill. Besides, if great weight was placed upon the punitive portions of the Bill, foreign Powers would be continually complaining of our not prosecuting sufficiently. It was not desirable, nor would it be possible, to get rid of the action of a jury in trying a misdemeanour, though he thought it was quite right — and therein he differed from his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Staveley Hill)—that in endeavouring to prevent the offence they should make use of the Court of Admiralty. A jury might be unwilling to give a verdict against a prisoner if the punishment was made too severe. He regretted that the punitive clauses, which, in certain states of public feeling, could not be carried out, had been multiplied, and that the strength of the Bill had not been thrown into the preventive clauses. It was also a matter of regret to him that the Bill was not brought forward earlier. But he had discharged his conscience, for last Session and this he pressed the Government to deal with the question. He could not conceive a measure of greater importance, and he was unable to understand why the matter had been postponed to a period at which they had very little time to give it the consideration it required. A Bill of this kind should have been sent to a Select Committee, who might carefully consider the clauses and see that they were properly drawn. They might have a case like the Alabama, where the law broke down owing to the imperfect wording of the statute, and the credit of this country might be sacrificed, all because the measure was introduced at a period when, owing to want of time, it was impossible to secure that the clauses should be so carefully worded as to obviate such a calamity. In the existing Foreign Enlistment Act, and in this Bill by which it was sought to amend that law, power was given to the Crown to suspend the Act and dispense with the provisions of the law altogether. He was unable to understand upon any principle either legal or constitutional, how such a course was defensible. If this measure was justifiable, it was because what it proposed to do was proper to be done by the authority of the Legislature. It was not a mere executive Bill. In an Act of that solemn and important character to give a discretion to the Executive to dispense with its provisions, at any moment enabling them to say that British subjects might take part in private war against a country with which the Government was at peace, was to give the Executive power to do what Mr. Canning denounced as "sneaking a country into a war which it had not the courage to declare"—a most dangerous power for any Government to possess. There was one case—that of the Spanish Legion—in regard to which the Foreign Enlistment Act was suspended by an Order in Council. For a Government not to declare war, and yet to allow subjects to carry on a private, and he would say predatory warfare, was discreditable to the character of any country, and was inconsistent with any principle on which the present Bill could be defended. Let the Executive Government declare war, with the responsibilities attaching to the act, if they declared it at all. In America, where the power of the Executive was certainly not small, no such thing would be allowed. As regarded Clause 5, he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Coventry (Mr. Staveley Hill), that in the case of foreigners in this country, the Government had no right to say, as they might fairly say to their own subjects, that they must not leave British shores with the intention of enlisting in the armies of other countries. They had no right to ask a foreigner who owed only a temporary allegiance to this country what he was going to do when leaving it. If he did any act whatever in this country which gave effect to his intention they had a right to punish him; but to lay hold of an intent which had not developed itself would be a proceeding not authorized by any principle of law. Clause 6 was a useful clause. It provided for the punishment of persons who induced others to enlist in a foreign army; the crimps of belligerents, who got hold of sailors and shipped them off without telling them whither they were going, and then endeavoured to make them sign articles at sea. That clause, however, concluded with a singular paragraph to the effect that if a person taken abroad should ultimately enlist in a foreign service it was to be deemed conclusively that such person quitted Her Majesty's dominions with the intent to accept an engagement in the military or naval service of such foreign State. This would be contrary to the fact; and was quite incompatible with what was before provided. He thought the clause would be better without that paragraph. The 9th clause related to illegal building of ships, and, in his opinion, it was open to considerable difficulty. If the Government took upon itself to forbid the building of vessels of any particular description, they would make themselves responsible for every keel laid in this country; and the representatives of foreign nations would think it their duty to be constantly urging them to interfere in a manner calculated to materially check their shipbuilding trade. The private shipbuilding trade in this country was a most important one, as it afforded them in time of war splendid dockyards which cost them nothing to maintain in time of peace. There were half-a-dozen places on the Clyde and the Thames which could turn out iron-clads as perfectly as the dockyards of Portsmouth and Plymouth. Those private yards were supported by the custom of foreigners, who had recourse to them in order to get their vessels built. He warned the House against passing—he would not say in a moment of panic, but without a sufficient amount of consideration—any measure which was calculated to drive away that trade, and thereby to transfer from these shores to other foreign nations the advantages which they now enjoyed in the private dockyards to which he had alluded. All that was necessary in order to carry out the intention of the measure was to prevent the despatch of the vessel when built, not to interfere with the building, and he thought that that object was fully provided for by another clause in the Bill. Under Clause 7, which supplemented the provisions of Clause 5, if any American were to leave this country for America by one of the Cunard Company's ships, and were subsequently to enter the service of any of the States of South America, the captain of the ship so carrying him would be liable to two years' imprisonment. That would be stretching the law to a most injudicious extent—because he did not think that Parliament had a right to inquire into the motives or designs of any foreigner when he left these shores, and he thought that it was absurd to say that the captain of the vessel conveying him should be responsible for what was concealed in the mind of the foreigner during the voyage. He trusted, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would consent to strike that clause out of the Bill. The Attorney General had stated that it was his intention to strike out Clause 11, which was intended to prevent the hospitality of their ports being extended to vessels that had illegally left that country, on the ground that he thought its object would be better carried out by means of a regulation to be enforced by the Executive. He (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) entirely agreed with the necessity that existed for the enforcement of some such regulation, because he believed that had the Alabama been excluded from our ports after she had escaped from this country, the difficulties that had arisen between this country and America in reference to that vessel would have been avoided. He certainly approved of the measure, which he thought the best and most complete law for the enforcement of neutrality that ever existed in any country.
said, he was glad that the House generally was so nearly agreed upon the importance of and the necessity for passing this measure. It was most desirable that the statement of the Attorney General that a nation was not bound by International Law to legislate upon this subject should be thoroughly understood and generally known. In fact, it was only in this country and in the United States that such legislation had occurred, although, no doubt, in many Continental nations there were elastic powers in force which enabled the various Governments to deal with cases of the description referred to in the Bill when they happened to arise. All subjects of the country owed to the Government the duty of being neutral when the State was neutral; and if the State found any tendency to a dangerous violation of that principle, it was the duty of the State to arm itself with powers to repress any attempt on the part of private citizens to oppose the public will to be neutral. The difficulty of enforcing neutrality was never more shown than in the case of the American War, though he believed that no Government ever discharged the duties of neutrality more faithfully and honestly than did the Government of that country at that time. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) had suggested that the House should seize the opportunity of doing what was not done by the existing Foreign Enlistment Act, and should take from the Crown the power of granting a licence to do any acts which, under the Foreign Enlistment Act, would be illegal if done without the licence of the Crown; but to legislate to deprive the Crown of the power of taking a single step of that kind, without going to war altogether, would be imprudent and foreign to the purposes of the present Bill, for there might be many cases in which it would be inexpedient to enter upon war, though the State did not assume an attitude of strict neutrality. A matter of high policy of that kind ought not to be dealt with by a side wind in such a Bill as the present. The 5th clause related to persons leaving this country to enlist in the service of a belligerent whose subjects they were not, and if it were expedient to retain such a clause, it was also expedient that the Crown should have the power of relaxing its operation. And so with regard to the important case of shipbuilding; if a power of relaxation was not given to the Crown, there would be involved in the penalties of the Bill any person who took a contract to build a ship before the commencement of war, and yet might be willing afterwards to go to the Government and ask for a licence, undertaking, at the same time, not to allow the ship to leave the country. With regard to the 7th clause, they must consider not merely the case of the solitary American alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, but must look at the larger case. There were in this country a great number of foreigners of various nations, and it could not be maintained that the principle of neutrality would be observed, if a recruiting sergeant were allowed to go through the country to enlist persons for the service of a foreign State of which they were not the subjects. With regard to the clause respecting illegal shipbuilding, he held that great injustice would be done to shipbuilders if they were allowed to build ships but were not allowed to despatch them to their destination, or deliver them to their customers after they were built. If the real object was to prevent such cases as those of the Alexandra and the Alabama, they must give the Government sufficient power in the first instance. Shipbuilders should, in fact, be invited to go to the Government and lay contracts before them which they had suspicion of, and take their opinion upon the question of whether they should or should not proceed with them. He was of opinion that if the power conferred by that clause were not given the Bill would be emasculated. He thought it of infinitely greater importance that all shipbuilders and traders in this country should obey the law with respect to the neutrality of their country, than that they should have a few contracts on their hands more or less.
said, he feared that much mischief would be done to the large and important shipbuilding industry of the country if this Bill were allowed to pass in its present form. Under certain clauses an honest and honourable shipbuilder might find himself rendered liable to imprisonment without his having any intention to commit an illegal act. He thought the whole objects of the Bill might be obtained by the fourth sub-section of the 8th clause, omitting all the others, avoiding all restrictions on shipbuilding, and only requiring stringent securities that the vessels should not be despatched without a certificate from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
said, in the name of the mercantile community, he thanked the Government for introducing this Bill, which only carried out the policy which the shipowners of Liverpool pressed on the Government of the day very soon after the escape of the Alabama. The mercantile community would give their utmost support to the Government in maintaining a faithful and true neutrality.
said, he would support the second reading of the Bill; but he regretted that it had not been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, and that they should now have the appearance of legislating to meet special circumstances, though the provisions had been matured in a time of profound peace. It was very necessary to review the provisions of the old Act. At the same time, Earl Russell was among the many distinguished persons who had formerly been of opinion that the Foreign Enlistment Act was sufficient for the purpose. The practice of neutrality was in many respects very embarrassing, from the fact that this country had become the arsenal, dockyard, and workshop for every nation in the world; and the man who delivered 1,000 rifles to one of the belligerent nations infringed the principle of strict neutrality as much, in his opinion, as the man who built them a ship. While, therefore, he agreed that further legislation was necessary, he recommended the Government to rely more on the preventive than the punitive clauses, and not to attach a brand of criminality to the acts of ship-owners, while others were allowed to go free.
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Bourke) in regarding this as an inopportune moment for bringing forward this Bill. The fact that war was raging on the Continent was no reason for not amending our municipal law in points where this was notoriously defective. It was ridiculous to say that a builder did not know that the vessel he was building was for war purposes; and it was a less evil that the shipbuilding interest should suffer a little, than that the whole nation should be involved in difficulties.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and committed for To-morrow.