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the speech of the Senator from Louisiana stands almost alone in its commendable brevity. He addressed himself with new force to the purpose of the bill, and, having made up his mind, stated his position clearly and emphatically. Senator Slidell's finest effort during the session undoubtedly was his erudite review of the Neutrality Laws, on the 8th of April, 1858, induced by a discussion on the presentation of a medal to Commodore Paulding for the capture of General Walker, of Nicaragua. The direct occasion of the speech was an amendment offered by Senator Slidell to the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations. This amendment authorized the President, during any recess of Congress, to suspend, for not more than a year, by proclamation, in whole or in part, the operation of the Act of April 20, 1818, if he deemed the public interests required it.
The Senator held that the Act of 1818 was not an enforcement of the law of nations, but a restraint upon what, without it, would have been lawful and, in many instances, meritorious actions of American citizens. The Queen of England, in Council, can always suspend the Foreign-Enlistment Laws or prevent the shipment of arms and military stores; and this power he desired to confer on the President when Congress was not in session, and then only when actual war existed between the Powers in reference to which the suspension was to operate.
In an historical point of view, the argument of the Senator was particularly interesting and instructive. ' A thousand examples might be given of the armed intervention of organized bands of citizens of a neutral State in the civil and other wars in Europe and America, without its being considered a casus belli with the Power whose citizens had thus interfered. Following Senator Slidell, a résumé of the more important cases may usefully be introduced here for future reference.
Switzerland has at all times permitted entire regiments and brigades to be enlisted within her territory for foreign belligerent States, and the cantons have frequently had their citizens regularly organized in the ranks of both the contending parties. Elizabeth permitted troops to be raised in England for the assistance of the Netherlands in the contest with Spain, although she was at peace with that Power. Charles the First authorized the enlistment of six thousand men for Gustavus Adolphus; and Major Dalgetty, immortalized by the author of “Waverley,” was but the type of hundreds of soldiers of fortune who, in those days, espoused the causes of various sovereigns through political or religious sympathy or the inducement of money. Service in foreign wars was then considered a graceful complement of the education of a gentleman. During the protracted struggle between Spain and her revolted colonies on this continent, several thousand men were raised in Great Britain and Ireland to aid the revolutionists. An entire legion, commanded by General Devereux, completely organized, armed, and equipped, sailed; and, although its destination was proclaimed to all the world, the English Government did not interrupt it. General Evans, then a member of Parliament from Westminster and an officer in the British army, raised from five to six thousand troops in England, organized them under the title of the “ British Legion,” and played a distinguished part in the Carlist War. He retained his commission and his seat in Parliament, and very many of his officers held commissions in the British army and regularly received their half-pay during the term of their service in Spain. Sir Robert Wilson was one of them, and at the same time retained his seat in Parliament. During the Greek War of Independence, and after the passage of our Neutrality Laws, levies of troops and contributions of money were made both in England and the United States. Two frigates were built in New York for the Greeks, and, the fund for equipping them falling short, one of them was purchased by our Government—and this under authority of act of Congress—to enable the other to be despatched. In 1832, Captain Sartorius, of the British navy, was made a Portuguese admiral, and openly fitted out a squadron, officered chiefly by gentlemen holding commissions in the British navy, and manned by British subjects, for the service of Don Pedro in the war against Don Miguel. Napier, then a captain in the British navy, and since the commander of the Baltic fleet in the war with Russia, succeeded Sartorius and captured Miguel's fleet. A large landforce, also of British subjects, took part in the war, under Sir Milly Doyle, M.P.
In the debate on the Foreign-Enlistment Bill, June, 1819, Lord Lansdowne said all history sustained him in asserting
that the bill then passed was the first to establish the principle that the subjects of one State could not, privately and individually, assist those of another, when their respective Potentates were not at war. For the last four centuries there never was a period when British subjects were not thus engaged, and no Government had interfered to prevent them. We have seen-adds Senator Slidell—that England, whenever it suits her policy, not only authorizes, but encourages, her subjects to take part in foreign wars. She twice or thrice suspended the execution of the Foreign-Enlistment Law, and will do so again whenever a sufficient motive offers. We alone have adopted the suicidal policy of so manacling ourselves that a law-abiding Executive cannot free us from our self-imposed fetters, although the best interests of the country may demand it.*
While Mr. Slidell maintained that Walker might legally have been arrested, not only on the high seas, but in the waters of Nicaragua, he condemned Commodore Paulding, as having "shown himself unequal to the delicate and responsible duties of his late command.” He was especially severe on the career of General Walker in Nicaragua, which drew from the latter gentleman a brief note denying the insinuations" and facts" contained in the speech.
In this speech Senator Slidell alluded to the change that had taken place in his views as to the means of acquiring Cuba. Four years previous he had moved the suspension of the Neutrality Laws, with a view toward Cuban action. Circumstances had changed, and public policy should accommodate itself to them. He now believed that all means of obtaining Cuba, other than negotiation, ought to be abandoned, and in the following session, on the 10th of January, 1859, introduced the famous bill into the Senate, proposing to make an appropriation of thirty millions of dollars, “to facilitate the acquisition of the island of Cuba by negotiation,” and, on the 24th, brought in an elaborate and able report from the Committee on Foreign Relations in favor of the
After having agitated the political world to a high state of party excitement, pro and con, for a month, it was withdrawn by
* See “Cong. Globe," 1st session of Thirty-Fifth Congress, Part 2, p. 1541. 2 D
the introducer on the 26th of February. He gave as a reason that Senators on the other side who had announced their determination to speak, had nevertheless, when requested to do so, refused obstinately either to speak or to vote, and evinced a settled purpose, by a series of dilatory maneuvres, to prevent any final action upon the bill. On the night previous, the Senator from Mississippi, (Mr. Brown,) a supporter of the bill, moved to lay it on the table, declaring at the same time that he should vote against his own motion, his object being to obtain a test vote. That vote resulted in the refusal of the Senate to lay the bill on the table, by a vote of 30 to 18,—thus establishing a clear majority of 12 in favor of the principle of the bill. Senator Slidell was thus satisfied that the bill could not be pressed to a vote unless by the sacrifice of the appropriation bills, thereby necessitating the calling of an extra session. On consultation with many friends of the bill, he found that they very generally concurred with him in the opinion that it would be injudicious to call it up again, considering that the sense of the Senate had been expressed with as much distinctness as if there had been a final vote on the bill. He gave notice, however, that he should again present this bill on the very first day of the next session of Congress, when, in accordance with the rules of the Senate, he could call it up.
Senator Slidell is not a frequent, but a forcible, speaker, and studies lucidity rather than length. As a member of the Committees of Naval Affairs and Foreign Relations, he is said to be exceedingly efficient. The reports known to be his are highly creditable to his statesmanship. As a financial lawyer he enjoys a prominent reputation; and in the monetary crisis of 1857, his presence, as chairman, on the special committee on the condition of the banks, gave great satisfaction to the clamorous newspapers. His mind is acute and full of resources, and his manner bold and decisive.
ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS,
The bright and graphic author of "The Bee-Hunter"* truly says that Mr. Stephens is the most prominent man intellectually, and the most remarkable man physically, of the few remaining celebrities to be met with in Washington during the session of Congress. An invalid from childhood, the fearful effect of suffering is seen in his singularly delicate frame, in his pale attenuated face, and in his feeble walk. But, if the case of the lantern is slender, the light it holds is brilliant. A first introduction to Mr. Stephens startles you, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to realize that there stands before you a man deservedly famous for his triumphs at the bar and the forum,—that one so frail could, by the strength of his intellect, give character to, by impressing himself upon, the legislation of a great nation. Soon, however, you feel the effect of the power which has accomplished these things; and his conversation, springing from the simplicity of his manner in a clear and bright stream, carries you on with an accumulating freight of anecdote and incident, broad views and bright speculations.
Alexander H. Stephens was born in that part of Wilkes which was afterward cut off to form Taliaferro County, Georgia, on the 11th of February, 1812. His grandfather, an Englishman, was an ardent Jacobite. He came to America some time between 1745 and 1750, was in the Colonial forces at Braddock's defeat, in time joined the American army, was an active participant in the Revolutionary struggle, and at the close of his service settled in Pennsylvania. In the year 1795 he went to Georgia, and
* T. B. Thorpe, Esq., who kindly furnished a sketch of which I have largely availed myself, especially as regards the life of Mr. Stephens previous to his Congressional career.