Despatch from Earl Russell to Lord Lyons (14 April 1864)

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Date: 1864-04-14
By: Earl Russell
Citation: Despatch from Earl Russell to Lord Lyons (14 April 1864) in Journal of the Legislative Council of the Province of New Brunswick (1865).
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Foreign Office, 14th April, 1864.

MY LORD,—Her Majesty’s Government have had under their consideration, in communication with the Law Advisers of the Crown, Your Lordship’s Despatches, Nos. 20, 111, and 139, of the present year, on the subject of the restrictions placed by the United States Government on the trade between New York and Her Majesty’s North American Possessions, and I have to inform you that Her Majesty’s Government adhere to the opinion which they have already expressed with regard to this question.

Her Majesty’s Government cannot but consider that this attempt to enforce Bonds, having for their object to govern and regulate not the immediate, but the possible future and contingent disposition of articles of lawful commerce, is a violation of the Treaty obligations of the United States to this country. Looked at from another point of view, their effect is not less objectionable. They inflict a great hardship on neutral commerce, and are in fact and truth an unjustifiable extension of the belligerent right of blockade, which has been and still is strained to its utmost extent in this war. The letters of Mr. Cunard enclosed in your Despatch No. 139 of the 29th of February, appear to be very just and sensible upon the whole matter.

Her Majesty’s Government cannot consider that the effect of these measures is veiled by the attempt of Mr. Seward to describe them as the operation of the right to suppress “contraband trade in our own Ports with our own insurgent citizens,” and their practical injustice was carried to the highest pitch, when. on a recent occasion, the United States Consul at Nassau refused to grant the Certificate for the cancellation of one of these new Bonds, (which never ought to have been exacted at all) upon the usual and stipulated terms, on the ground that the amount of “coarse heavy stores” exported from New York to Nassau, as to which the exporter desired to make the prescribed Declaration, exceeded (in the Consul’s private opinion) the wants of the Bahamas for home consumption or any legitimate trade.

The letter of Mr. Seward to Your Lordship of the 7th January last, in which he states that he learns for the first time the existence of any complaint with respect to the new restrictions on trade between New York and Newfoundland, and declares his intention of enquiring into it, is by way of a reply to a plain demand for satisfaction for palpable in- justice, a recriminatory catalogue of complaints against the British Government, on the score of offences committed by British subjects; all of which are again traced to the recognition of the so styled Confederate States as belligerents. Her Majesty’s Government do not deem it necessary to enter now into any discussion of these last questions, and they have only to repeat that the opinion which they have before expressed on the whole subject remains unchanged, and that nothing which has been alleged bas altered the strong conviction which Her Majesty’s Government entertain of the injury which has been and still is being done by those vexatious and unlawful proceedings.

Your Lordship will learn from the enclosed copies of Despatches from the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, the injurious effect of these proceedings upon the trade and shipping of that Province.

Your Lordship will bear in mind these instructions, and endeavour to obtain redress for the grievances of which Her Majesty’s subjects complain.

I am, &c. (Signed) RUSSELL.

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