[Footnote 965: Russell Papers. Lyons to Russell, March 10, 1863. Lyons was slow to favour the emancipation proclamation. The first favourable mention I have found was on July 26, 1864. (Russell Papers. To Russell.) In this view his diplomatic colleagues coincided. Stoeckl, in December, 1863, wrote that slavery was dead in the Central and Border States, and that even in the South its form must be altered if it survived. (Russian Archives, Stoeckl to F.O., Nov. 22-Dec. 4, 1863, No. 3358.) But immediately after the second proclamation of January, 1863, Stoeckl could see no possible good in such measures. If they had been made of universal application it would have been a “great triumph for the principle of individual liberty,” but as issued they could only mean “the hope of stirring a servile war in the South.” (Ibid., Dec. 24, 1863-Jan. 5, 1864, No. 70.)]
THE LAIRD RAMS
The building in British ports of Confederate war vessels like the Alabama and the subsequent controversy and arbitration in relation thereto have been exhaustively studied and discussed from every aspect of legal responsibility, diplomatic relations, and principles of international law. There is no need and no purpose here to review in detail these matters. The purpose is, rather, to consider the development and effect at the time of their occurrence of the principal incidents related to Southern ship-building in British yards. The intention of the British Government is of greater importance in this study than the correctness of its action.
Yet it must first be understood that the whole question of a belligerent’s right to procure ships of war or to build them in the ports of neutral nations was, in 1860, still lacking definite application in international law. There were general principles already established that the neutral must not do, nor permit its subjects to do, anything directly in aid of belligerents. The British Foreign Enlistment Act, notification of which had been given in May, 1861, forbade subjects to “be concerned in the equipping, furnishing, fitting out, or arming, of any ship or vessel, with intent or in order that such ship or vessel shall be employed in the service ...” of a belligerent, and provided for punishment of individuals and forfeiture of vessels if this prohibition were disobeyed. But the Act also declared that such punishment, or seizure, would follow on due proof of the offence. Here was the weak point of the Act, for in effect if secrecy were maintained by offenders the proof was available only after the offence had been committed and one of the belligerents injured by the violation of the law. Over twenty years earlier the American Government, seeking to prevent its subjects from committing unneutral acts in connection with the Canadian rebellion of 1837, had realized the weakness of its neutrality