TOPICS OF THE DAY.
THE LAW AND POLICY OF BLOCKADE.
TUE Sultan has announced to the Pasha of Egypt the terms which the Four Powers have ordered him to offitr ; anti the Pasha bas re- jected them. MEHEMET ALI declares that he will rest on the defensive, but will repel force by force. And in consequence, we are told that the coasts of the provinces held by the Pasha are to he blockaded., What is a blockade? MARTENS F1nys, (vol. II. § 3140 " Une puissance belligerante peut defendre tont commerce tIVCc une place, forteresse, port on camp eunemi qui elle tient tenement Moque on assiege qu'elle se voic en etat Wen empacher l'entree; CL dans co cas cue peat proceder a la confiscation des biens, des navires, contre ceux qui s'aviseraient de faire le. commerce avec l'ennemi en violation de ces defences, et lame leur inffiger des peines aftlictives et de mort." In a note to the definition of blockade contained in this sentence, he edds-sa" C'est a quoi la loi naturelle semble homer le clroit d'une nation belligerante sur le fait du blocus ; une simple deciaratien on ttn ordre qu'elle fait kmauer ne peut pas plus suffire pour imposer la loi aux nations neutres, qu tine simple declaration ne pent suffire pour occuper." This is the original acceptation of the term " blockade' in the international law of Europe ; and this is the meaning attached to it up to the commencement of the present century. It is a restric- tion of the rightspf Neutrals. Neutral nations have an undisputed right to carry on commerce with either or both of two belligerent nations, in every thing except contraband of war. But this right is liable to a restriction : when eitlnr of the belligerents has actually invested every town, harbour, &c. of its enemy, with a view to ob- tain possession of the place, it has a right to prevent all access to the besieged. The blockade is respected by neutrals as an act of war ; to Interfere with, to frustrate which, would be to abandon their neutral character and to take part with one of the belligerents. The right of blockade, however, as an encroachment upon the rights of neutrals, ought to be jealously restricted to its real object ; and this is the reason why MARTENS, and other writers upon Interna- tional Law, take so much care to define its limits—" C'est ii quoi la loi naturelle semble boner le droit (rune nation belligerante sum le fitit du blows ; une simple declaration on tin ordre qu'elle fait kmaner no peut pas plus slit-nee pour imposer la loi aux nations neutres, qu'une simple declaration no pout suffire pour occuper."
Since the commencement of the present century, however, insi- dious and persevering attempts have been made to extend the field of operations of blockade. To be sure, such outrageous extensions as those contemplated by the Milan decree of NaeonEoN, and the British Orders in Council, will scarcely be again attempted. It is not likely that we shall hear of paper blockades again—except in some nook of the Black Sea, where they can be hidden from cap- tious observers. But it is taking too partial a view of the mis- chievousness of these attempts, to consider their fictitious cha- racter as their only vice : they are to be deprecated as an attack upon the rights of neutral commerce. It is a fearfhl and most unjust extension of the right of debarring the access of neutrals to a besieged place—to a definite locality and for a limited time—when, under the same name, the infinitely more exten- sive power is claimed to debar the access of neutral connnerce
to a whole nation and for an indefinite period. Such a mea- sure is, indeed, (what Ii tos, v littouenaat most happily termed it, in those attacks upon the Orders in Council which first established his reputation, and are still second in importance to none of the services he has rendered to his country) " war in disguise" upon unoffending neutrals. We are not surprised that a Government like that of Russia, whose existence depends upon its maintaining an aggressive attitude, should favour the insidious ex- tension of the meaning of the word blockade. We are not much surprised that the French Government (not altogether liberated yet from the fallacies of NAPOLEON) should commit the same fault. But that the Government of Great Britain, which so ostentatiously disclaims all lust of conquest, and professes to desire the extension and security of commerce, should follow their example, does seem inexplicable. It was bad enough in our Government to tolerate a Russian paper blockade in the Black Sea, and to acquiesce in the undue extension of the practice of blockade by France on the coasts of the Argentine republic : but to propose taking a part in instituting such an illegal blockade, i3 a blending of folly and criminality exceeding any thin,*b we could have anticipated. Up to this time, the voice of Great Britain, though less decided in its tone than we could have wished, has been against the pernicious extension of the application cf blockade of which we are speaking. It was exposed by evidence and by argument in Parliament ; and although no decision was pronounced by the Legislature, the re- scinding of the Orders in Council was a confession of error on the the put of the Government. The present Administration have not admitted the right of Russia to blockade the coast of Cireassia by an ordinance ; nor have they expressly recognized the right of France to blockade the ports of the Argentine republic as a sub-
stitute for a declaration of war : they have only allowed these two states to act Nvithout challenge. But if the Syrian and Egyptian coasts be blockaded, as the Downing Street journals say they are to be, the Whig Governmeut will have given the formal and explicit vote of Great Britain in favour of the deadliest blow that ever has been struck at the rights of neutral commerce.
The ease of Syria will serve as well as any other to illustrate the workings of this innovation. Suppose the blockade established. It must be a real one : France, in her isolated policy, will not recogs nize a paper blockade. Every harbour in the Pasha's territories must be invested by a naval force competent to prevent merchant. vessels from running in. Every port on the line of coast from Scanderoon to Alexandria in the Mediterranean, and from Jidda to Suez, from Suez to Massowa, in the Red Sea, must be invested by its complement of ships. And when this has been accomplished, what the worse is the Pasha ? The commerce of the countries he occu- pies is not of a nature to require such immense facilities of conveyance, or such regularity and rapidity of operation as Eu- ropean commerce, It can put up with delays, and it can be con- ducted overland by caravans. After we have shut up all access to Egypt and Syria by sea, how are we to prevent merchants entering these provinces across the frontiers of Turkey, Persia, and the independent states of Arabia, or from Tripoli ? The first effects of the blockade would be to convert Trebisond, Diarbekir, Bagdad, Basra, Muskat, Mocha, Derna, into depots of goods for the Egyptian and Syrian trade. There would be a temporary interruption of commerce, and there would be a substitution of less convenient "routes; but there would be no such stagnation of trade in the pro- vinces held by Maurauer Ant as would be calculated to excite revolt. Then as to his military power : he would be deprived of the facilities of transporting men and warlike stores between Syria and Egypt by sea. But if it were necessary, men might be marched from Egypt to Syria by land, as they have been ere now. Nor does there exist any urgent necessity for such a movement. ME- HEMET ALI has a strong ;miry in Syria, and another hi Egypt ; and each province furnishes the materials for supplying the wear and tear of arms and expenditure of ammunition. Egypt is quiet ; the Syrian insurrection has died out; the Sultan has no fleet ; and although an army is said to be mustering at Constantinople, the insurgents around Tocat and on the Upper Euphrates may find sufficient employment for it.
Really, it does not appear that the Pasha of Egypt, if he adhere to his resolution of not committing any act of aggression and merely repelling force by force, is likely to suffer much inconvenience by the blockade. But how will it stand with England ? Upon us will fall, in the first place, a large share of the expense incurred by keeping up the blockade. Prussia has no navy, and Austria little beyond- the mane : these two states will pledge themselves to some future contingent operations, and devolve the trouble and expense of the blockade upon Russia and England. In the second place, France, England, and Austria, are the only nations whose trade with Syria and Egypt is worth speaking of. More than one-third of the trade from Europe with these countries is British ; and the interruption and obstruction of commerce, which will fall so lightly upon the Syrians and Egyptians, will, in this land of large credits and sleepless activity, fall heavily on our merchants trading with the Levant. In the third place, the blockade of the coasts of Syria and Egypt will close against us the direct line of communication with our Eastern dependencies,—a serious inconvenience at any time, but something more at the moment when we are carrying on war in Afghanistan and Beloochistan on the West and China om. the East of them. Lastly, it remains to be seen whether France, the United States of America, and other neutral powers, will ac- knowledge our blockade. It is not Only clear that the Pasha can be little inconvenienced by the adoption of that measure, but also clear that Great Britain will be seriously injured by it. This is to act like children—beating ourselves because we are angry with Manastrr
But we are told, that when a blockade is spoken of we are not to take the word in its most extensive sense: nothing more is meant than to prevent the Pasha from transmitting men, arms, and ammunition, by sea from Syria to Egypt. Commercial intercourse is to be left free. The meaning of' this is—The Allies are to in- sist upon the Pasha holding Syria by a Syrian army, and Egypt by an Egyptian army, totally separated from and independent of each other. And, lest this task should prove too difficult, they will generously allow the Posits, who bolds in his own hand almost the whole foreign trade of his dominions, to replenish his coffers by an uninterrupted conunerce with Europe.