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had been filed at the War Department. In neglecting that commanding notice, in overruling that unprecedented caveat, so far as to allow these enormous supplies to be forwarded to the disarmed belligerent, they failed in that proper care required by the occasion. If I said that they failed in good faith, I should only give the conclusion of law on unquestionable facts.
In the case of the Gran Para, Chief Justice Marshall, after exposing an attempt to evade our neutral obligations by an ingenious cover, exclaimed, in words which he borrowed from an earlier period of our history, but which have been often quoted since : “ This would, indeed, be a fraudulent neutrality, disgraceful to our own Government, and of which no nation would be the dupe."1 I forbear at present to apply these memorable words, which show with what indignant language our great Chief-Justice blasted an attempt to evade our neutral obligations. In calling it fraudulent he was not deterred by the petty cry of a false patriotism, that his judgment might affect the good name of our country. Full well he knew that national character could suffer only where fraud is maintained.
I doubt much if the true rule can be laid down in better words than those I quoted on a former occasion from the Spanish minister at Stockholm, denouncing the sale of Swedish frigates. He protested against "arms and munitions furnished through intermediate speculators, under pretence of not knowing the result," which he exhibited as an "act of hostility” and a “political scandal.” According to this excellent protest, the sale is not protected from condemnation merely by “intermediate speculators ” and the “pretence of not knowing the result." And this is only according to undoubted reason. It is simply a question of good faith ; and if, taking into view the circumstances of the case and the condition of the times, there is reasonable ground to believe that “intermediate speculators ” are purchasing for a belligerent, then the sale cannot be made, nor will any “pretence of not knowing the result " be of avail.
17 Wheaton, R., 487.
2 See Appendix (A), pp. 43, 44.
In harmony with this Spanish protest is the calm statement of a Joint Committee of Congress, where this question of international duty is treated wisely. I read from the report of Mr. Jenckes on the sale of certain ironclads :
“Perhaps the international feature of this transaction is the most grave one for the consideration of Congress. It is a matter of notorious public history that war was being carried on in the years 1865 and 1866 between the Government of Spain, on the one hand, and the Governments of Peru and Chili, on the other. During the pendency of hostilities, applications were made to obtain possession of these vessels for one of the belligerents. If the Government of the United States had been privy to any arrangement by which these vessels of war should be delivered to the agents of a belligerent, either in our own ports or upon the high seas, it would certainly have violated its international obligations. Of course, when Congress authorized the sale of these vessels, it was known that individuals had no use for them; yet it might have assumed, as in the case of the Dunderberg and the Onondaga," —
Now mark the words, if you please,
" that the Executive Department would take care that any individual who should purchase with a view to a resale to some foreign power would not be permitted to violate the obligations of the United States as a neutral nation.” 1
Observe, if you please, the language employed. If the Government of the United States had been “privy" to any arrangement for the delivery of these vessels to the agents of a belligerent, it would certainly have violated its international obligations. This is undoubtedly correct. Then comes the assumption “that the Executive Department would take care that any individual who should purchase with a view to a resale to some foreign power would not be permitted to violate the obligations of the United States as a neutral nation." Here again is the true rule. The Executive is bound to take care that there shall be no sale with a view to a resale in violation of neutral duties.
All this is so entirely reasonable, indeed so absolutely essential to the simplest performance of international duty, that I feel humbled even in stating it. The case is too clear. It is like arguing the Ten Commandments or the Multiplication Table. International Law is nothing but international morality for the guidance of nations. And be assured, Sir, that interpretation is the truest which subjects the nation most completely to the Moral Law. “Thou shalt not sell arms to a belligerent,” is a commandment addressed to nations, and to be obeyed precisely as that other commandment, “ Thou shalt not steal.” No temptation of money, no proffer of cash, no chink of “the almighty dollar," can excuse any departure from this supreme law; nor can any intervening man-of-straw have any other effect than to augment the offence by the shame of a trick.
1 House Reports, 40th Cong. 21 Sess., No. 61, p. 5.
Here, Sir, I am sensitive for my country. I can innagine no pecuniary profits, no millions poured into the Treasury, that can compensate for a departure from that international honesty which is at once the best policy and the highest duty. The dishonesty of a nation is illimitable in its operation. How true are the words,
“ 'T will be recorded for a precedent;
And many an error, by the same example,
The demoralization is felt not at home only. Whatever any nation does is an example for other nations; whatever the Great Republic does is a testimony. I would have that testimony pure, lofty, just, so that we may welcome it when commended to ourselves; so that, indeed, it may be a glorious landmark in the history of civilization.
Therefore do I insist that international obligations, especially when war is raging, cannot be evaded, cannot be slighted, cannot be tritled with. They are not only sacred, they are sacrosanct; and whoso lays lands on them, whoso neglects them, whoso closes his eyes to their violation, is guilty of a dishonesty which, to the extent of its influence, must weaken public inorals at home, while it impairs the safeguards of peace with other nations and sets ajar the very gates of War.
This question cannot be treated with levity, and waved out of sight by a doubtful story. Even if Count Bisinarck, adapting himself to the situation, and anxious to avoid additional controversy, had declared in conversation that he would take these arms on the banks of the Loire,2 this is no excuse for us. Our rule of duty is not found in the courageous gayety of any foreign statesman, but in the Law of Nations, which we are bound to obey, not only for the sake of others, but for the sake of ourselves. All other nations may be silent; Count Bismarck may be taciturn; but we cannot afford to cry, “Hush !” The evil example must be corrected, and the more swiftly the better.
1 Merchant of Venice, Act iv. Sc. 1.
2 Letter of Treasurer Spinner to Senator Wilson, February 16, 1872: Congressional Globe, 420 Cong. 20 Sess., p. 1072,
On this simple statement of International Law, it is evident that there must be inquiry to see if through the misfeasance of officials our Government has not in some way failed to comply with its neutral duties. Subordinates in England are charged with allowing the escape of the Alabama. Have any subordinates among us played a similar part ? It is of subordinates that I speak. Has the Government suffered through them? Has their misfeasance, their jobbery, their illicit dealing, compromised our country? Is there any ring about the Ordnance Bureau through which our neutral duties have been set at nought ? Here I might stop without proceeding further. The question is too grave to be blinked out of sight; it must be met on the law and the facts.
In this presentation I do not argue. The case requires a statement only. Beyond this I point to the honorable example which our country has set in times past. The equity with which we have discharged our neutral obligations has been the occasion of constant applause. Mr. Ward, the accomplished historian of the Law of Nations, and also of a treatise on the "Rights and Duties of Belligerent and Neutral Powers,” which Chancellor Kent says “exhausted all the law and learning applicable to the question,” I wrote in 1801, four years after Washington's retirement:
1 Commentaries on American Law, Vol. I. p. 128.