Page images

toward us. Is that any reason why I should not also insist upon inquiry into the conduct of officials at home, to the end that the Government may be saved from reproach? Surely we shall be stronger, infinitely stronger, in demanding our own rights, if we show a determination to allow no wrong among ourselves. Our example must not be quoted against us at any time. Especially must it not be allowed to harden into precedent. But this can be prevented only by prompt correction, so that it shall be without authority. Therefore, because I would have my country irresistible in its demands, do I insist that it shall place itself above all suspicion.

The objection of Senators is too much like the old heathen cry, “Our country, right or wrong." Unhappy words, which dethrone God and exalt the Devil! I am for our country with the aspiration that it may be always right; but I am for nothing wrong. When I hear of wrong, I insist at all bazards that it shall be made right, knowing that in this way I best serve my country and every just cause.

This same objection assumes another form, equally groundless, when it is said that I reflect upon our country and hurt its good name. Oh, no! They reflect upon our country and hurt its good name who at the first breath of suspicion fail to act. Our good name is not to be preserved by covering up anything. Not in secrecy, but in daylight, must we live. What sort of good name is that which has a cloud gathering about it? Our duty is to dispel the cloud. Especially is this the duty of the Senate. Here at least must be that honest independence which shall insist at all times upon purity in the Government, no matter what office-holders are exposed.

Again it is said that our good name cannot be compromised by these suspicions. This is a mistake. Any suspicion of wrong is a compromise, all the more serious when it concerns not only money, but the violation of neutral obligations. And the actual fact is precisely according to reason. Now while we debate, the national character is compromised at Paris, at London, at Berlin, at Geneva, where all these things are known as much as in this Chamber. But your indifference, especially after this debate, will not tend to elevate the national character either at home or abroad.

Such are some of the objections to which I reply. They are words only, as Hamlet says, “Words, words, words.” From words let us pass to things.

Mr. President, I come now to the simple question before the Senate, which I presented originally, whether there is not sufficient reason for inquiry into the sale of arms during the French and German War. I state the question thus broadly. The inquiry is into the sale of arms; and this opens two questions, - first, of international duty; and, secondly, of misfeasance in our officials, the latter involving what may be compendiously called the money question.

My object is simply to show grounds for inquiry; and I naturally begin with the rule of international duty.

In the discharge of neutral obligations a nation is bound to good faith. This is the supreme rule, to which all else is subordinate. This is the starting point of all that is done. Without good faith neutral obligations must fail. In proportion to the character of this requirement must be the completeness of its observance. There can be no evasion, not a jot. Any evasion is a

breach, without the bravery of open violation. But evasion may be sometimes by closing the eyes to existing facts, or even by acting without sufficient inquiry. These things are so plain and entirely reasonable as to be self-evident.

Now nothing can be more clear than that no neutral nation is permitted to furnish arms and war material to a belligerent power. Such is a simple statement of the law. I do not cite authorities, as I did it amply on a former occasion.1

But there is an excellent author whom I would add to the list as worthy of consideration, especially at this moment, in view of the loose pretensions put forth in the debate. I refer to Mr. Manning, who, in his Commentaries, thus teaches neutral duty:-

* It is no interference with the right of a third party to say that he shall not carry to my enemy instruments with which I am to be attacked. Such commerce is, on the other hand, a deviation from neutrality, — or rather would be so, if it were the act of a State and not of individuals." ?

The distinction is obvious between what can be done by the individual and what can be done by the State. The individual may play the merchant and take the risk of capture; but the State cannot play the merchant in dealing with a belligerent. Of course, if the foreign

. power is at peace, there is no question ; but when the power has become belligerent, then it is excluded from the market. So far as that power is concerned, all sales


1 Speech, February 14th : Congressional Globe, 421 Cong. 2d Sess., p. 1016.

For the portion of the Speech referred to, setting forth the authorities on this subject, see Appendix (A), pp. 41-44.

2 Law of Nations, p. 281.

[ocr errors]

must be suspended. The interdict is peremptory and absolute. In such a case there can be no sale knowingly without mixing in the war, — precisely as France mixed in the war of our Revolution in those muskets sent by the witty Beaumarchais, which England resented by open war.

And this undoubted principle of International Law was recognized by the Secretary of War, when he directed the Chief of Ordnance not to entertain any bids from E. Remington & Sons, who had stated that they were agents of the French Government. In giving these orders he only followed the rule of duty on which the country can stand without question or reproach; but it remains to be seen whether persons under him did not content themselves with obeying the order in letter only, breaking it in spirit. I assume that the order was given in good faith. Was it obeyed in good faith ? Here we start with the admitted postulate that it was wrong to sell arms to France.

But if this cannot be done directly, it is idle to say that it can be done indirectly without a violation of good faith. If it cannot be done openly, it cannot be done privily. If it cannot be done above-board, it cannot be done clandestinely. It is idle to reject the bid of the open agent of a belligerent power and then at once accept the bid of another who may be a mere man-of-straw, unless after careful inquiry into his real character.

Nothing can be clearer than the duty of the proper officers to consider all bids in the sunlight of the conspicuous events then passing. A terrible war was convulsing the Old World. Two mighty nations were in contlict, one of which was already prostrate and disarmed. Meanwhile came bids for arms and war material on a gigantic scale, on a scale absolutely unprecedented. Plainly these powerful batteries, these muskets by the hundred thousand, and these cartridges by the million were for the disarmed belligerent and nobody else. It was impossible not to see it. It is insulting to common-sense to imagine it otherwise. Who else could need arms and war material to the amount of four million dollars at once ? Now it appears by the dispatches of the French Consul-General at New York, which I find in an official document, that on the 22d October, 1870, he telegraphed to the Armament Commission at Tours :

“The prices of adjudication have been 100,000 muskets at $9.30; 40,000 at $12.30; 100,000 at $12.25 ; 50,000,000 cartridges at $16.30 the thousand : altogether, with the commission to Remington and the incidental expenses, more than four million dollars."

Such gigantic purchases, made at one time, or in the space of a few days, could have but one destination. It is weakness to imagine otherwise. Obviously, plainly, unquestionably, they were for the disarmed belligerent. The telegraph each morning proclaimed the constant fearful struggle, and we all became daily spectators. In the terrible blaze, filling the heavens with lurid flame, it was impossible not to see the exact condition of the two belligerents, - Germany always victorious, France still rallying for the desperate battle. But the officials of the Ordnance Bureau saw this as plainly as the people. Therefore were they warned, so that every applicant for arms and war material on a large scale was open to just suspicion. These officials were put on their guard as much as if a notice or caveat


« PreviousContinue »