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WE have been induced to write this work in order to place international law upon the solid basis of principle. In ancient times, and even down to the 17th century, peace, justice and mercy were not deemed by kings, princes and rulers, necessary national virtues. During many centuries war waived her bloody flag over sea and land, filled the earth and seas with human blood, seized, sacked, burned or destroyed cities, merchant ships and private property, wherever found, as suited the pleasure of the strong men armed. Christianity has by slow degrees restricted the wrongs of war which are called by some belligerent rights. Private property on land is now deemed free from belligerent capture, and public edifices not devoted to arms and works of art are considered exempt from destruction in war. The reasons for immunity of private property on land apply to merchant ships and cargoes at sea. Still a great maritime nation insists upon continuing the ancient piratical practice of plundering merchant ships at sea, while the ware-houses of enemies noncombatant on shore are protected from capture. This is contrary to reason and principle, and as a relict of barbarism we propose to sweep it away. The same great naval power, which for near a century admitted the doctrine that free ships make free goods, has for the last forty years sought by her arms and her admiralty to destroy this principle, which guaran tees to neutral nations the peaceful pursuit of commerce, and secures the freedom of the seas. She has sought to establish by force a municipal jurisdiction over the ships of foreign nations, extorting tribute from and searching neutral ships, prohibiting and regulating their trade with her enemies, as though all neutral states were British colonies. These high handed and unprincipled practices have received the judicial aid of her admiralty, and the support of British publicists. But such has been the naval power and influence of Britain, that
though all the great nations of Europe and America have resisted these invasions of neutral rights, and of the freedom of the seas by arms, diplomatists, judicial tribunals, and writers on public law, are found echoing without reflection the decisions of the British admiralty, or sustaining these pretended belligerent rights.
The principal object of our work is to overthrow these piratical principles and practices, to establish on a firm foundation the freedom of the seas, to render wars unprofitable by giving absolute immunity to private property at sea as well as on land, to secure to neutral ships free trade, and to make a state of hostilities inconsistent with the interest of warring nations. Our aim is to prove that the interest and duty of states and empires demand in all inter national transactions the observance of peace, justice and mercy. Our code of public law rests upon the eternal and immutable principles of right reason, sanctioned by the King of kings.
The doctrine of the Gospel of peace, identical with the law of nature, form our immovable basis; and our effort has been to explain the elementary principles which God has made for the government of all nations.
Since writing this work, we have been politely shown by the agent of the Peace Society, the recorded sentiments of the venerable and learned John Quincy Adams, former President of the United States, a distinguished civilian and patriot, in favor of peace and of the practicability of restraining wars, and establishing permanent pacific relations among Christian nations. His opinions confirming our own, are concurred in by Henry Clay, and United States Senators Bates and Choate of Massachusetts, Merrick of Maryland, Woodbridge of Michigan, Johnson of Louisiana, Huntington of Connecticut, Miller of New Jersey, N. P. Tallmadge of New-York, and Phelps of Vermont. Silas Wright, the other United States Senator of New-York, and General Scott, have recorded similar pacific opinions. Senator Wright has well said that this great pacific condition is to be looked for by making the people of each nation more wise, just and humane. This will be the natural effect of general education, and a knowledge of the true principles of Christianity.
The sentiments of Mr. Adams were concurred in by the Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, member of Congress from Boston, and other members and distinguished civilians and divines. We are happy to find from such a source, a sanction of our efforts to establish pacific principles by a treatise upon the Moral Law of Nations.
Our First Part is intended to show the external or international duties of our Republic; and the Second Part its internal jurisdiction and duties. The latter is a brief and elementary illustration. Our plan is to exhibit our Republic in its external and internal relations, rights and duties. Our readers will judge of the degree of success that has attended our humble efforts.
TROY, N. Y., July, 1844.