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Law of Blockade

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BLOCKADE, LAW OF. Whenever a war takes place, it affects in various ways all states which have any connexion with the belligerent powers. A principal part accordingly of the science of inter national law is that which respects the rights of such neutral states. For obvious reasons this is also the most intricate part of the subject. There is here a general rule, namely, that the neutral ought not to be at all interfered with, conflicting with a great variety of exceptions, derived from what is conceived to be the right of each of the belligerents to prosecute the object of annoying its enemy, even though (within certain limits) it inflicts injury upon a third party. In the first place there is to be settled the question of what these limits are. It evidently would not do to say that the belligerent shall not be justified in doing anything which may in any way inconvenience a neutral power; for such a principle would go nigh to tie up the of the belligerent altogether, inasmuch as almost any hostile act what: ever might in this way be construed into an injury by neutral states. They might complain, for instance, that they suffered an inconvenience, when a belligerent power seized upon the ships of its enemy that were on their way to supply other countries with the ordinary articles of commerce. On the other hand, there is a manifest expediency in restricting the exercise of the rights of war, for the sake of the protection of neutrals, to as great an extent as is compatible with the effec Mal pursuit of the end for which war is waged. Accordingly it has been com monly laid down, that belligerents are not to do anything which shall have a greater tendency to incommode neutrals than to benefit themselves. It is evident however that this is a very vague rule, the application of which must give rise to many questions.

i It is by this rule that publicists have endeavoured to determine the extent to which the right of blockade may properly be carried, and the manner in which it ought to be exercised. We can only no tice the principal conclusions to which they have come, which indeed, so far as they are generally admitted, are nothing more than a set of rules fashioned on positive international morality (that is, so much of positive morality as states in general agree in recognising) by judicial decision. Accordingly perhaps the most complete exposition of the modern doc trine of blockade may be collected from the admirable judgments delivered during the course of the last war by the late Lord Stowell (Sir William Scott), while presiding over the High Court of Ad miralty, which have been ably reported by Dr. Edwards and Sir Charles Robin

son. A very convenient compendium of the law, principally derived from this source, has been given by Mr. Joseph Chitty in his work entitled A Practical Treatise on the Law of Nations,' 8.o. Loud. 1812. The various pamphlets and published speeches of Lord Erskine, Mr. Stephen, Mr. Brougham, Lord Ashburton (Mr. Alexander Baring), Lord Sheffield, and others, which appeared in the course of the controversy respecting the Orders in Council, may also be consulted- with advantage. To these may be added various articles in volumes xi. xii. xiv. and xix. of the 'Edinburgh Review,' par ticularly one in volume xix. pp. 290-317, headed " Disputes with America," written immediately before the breaking out of the last war with that country.

The first and the essential circumstance necessary to make a good blockade is, that there be actually stationed at• the place a sufficient force to prevent the entry or exit of vessels. Sir William Scott has said (case of the Vrow Judith, Jan. 17, 1799), " A blockade is a sort of circumvallation round a place, by which all foreign connexion and correspondence is, as far as human power can effect it, to be entirely cut off." Such a check as this, it is evident, is absolutely necessary to prevent the greatest abuse of the right of blockade. The benefit accruing to a belligerent from blockading its enemy's ports, by which it claims the privilege of seizing any vessel that attempts to touch or has actually touched at such ports, and the inconvenience thereby inflicted upon neutrals, would both, without such a pro vision, be absolutely unlimited. In point of fact, belligerents have frequently affected, in their declarations of blockade, to overstep the boundaries thus set to the exercise of the right. France, as Mr. Brougham showed in his speech delivered before the House of Commons, 1st April, 1808, in support of the petitions of Lon don, Liverpool, and other towns, against the orders in council, had repeatedly done so both since and previous to the Revolu tion. She did so in 1739 and in 1756, and also in 1796, in 1797, and in 1800.

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