War in Disguise; or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags

War in Disguise; or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags

Bibliographic Details

London: University of London Press. 1917

Book Review

It does not often happen that a book of permanent value, written by one of the prominent lawyers of the day and which passes through three editions at home and two editions abroad within five months of publication, is so completely lost sight of by succeeding generations as has been the case with James Stephen's War in Disguise. When Sir Francis Piggott undertook the present publication of it, so rare had copies of the third English edition become that it was impossible to obtain one for the use of the printer, and it was necessary to photograph the copy in the British Museum.

Introduction to War in Disguise; or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags

The interest of the present generation in the personal history of James Stephen is enhanced by the fact that he is the ancestor of Edward and Albert Venn Dicey and of Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, and the brother-in-law of Wilberforce, in whose agitation against the slave trade he bore an active part. His interest in that subject had been aroused by his experience as a practitioner at the Bar of the West Indies, where he also had opportunity to witness the use made of neutral flags as a means of covering contraband trade.

Context of War in Disguise; or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags

When he took up his residence in London as a practitioner before the Prize Court, he could speak of the Rule of 1756 and of the doctrine of continuous voyage with a full knowledge of the commercial transactions which brought that rule and doctrine into existence. He was largely re-sponsible for the Orders in Council of 1807, and the pamphlet now reprinted, which issued from the press on the day that Trafalgar was fought, was a defense of the principles upon which the policy of the British Government toward neutral trade with the enemy was based.

Thesis Statement

The influence of the work upon English thought and policy was thus stated by Lord Brougham: “It is impossible to speak too highly of this work, or to deny its signal success in making the nation for a time thoroughly believe in the justice and efficacy of his Order in Council.” In his thoughtful introduction to the present edition, Sir Francis Piggott points out that one of the great merits of Stephen's pamphlet was his clear exposition of the principle upon which belligerent interference with neutral trade, whether by blockading the enemy or by the capturing of contraband, is based. There is no particular magic in the term “blockade,” or even “effective blockade,” or in the term “contraband.” These are simply two examples of the principle that a belligerent is justified in preventing a neutral from rendering any assistance to his enemy.

More about War in Disguise; or the Frauds of the Neutral Flags

If the neutral devises means of assisting the enemy which are not covered by the long-established rules of blockade and contraband, it must be expected that the belligerent will prove equally inventive in devising means to counteract such assistance. The present war has furnished many examples of this. Since the beginning of the present war there have been many illfounded statements as to the new situations which have arisen, and which will necessitate the re-formulation of the rules of international law. An examination, however, of the principles involved will show that the difference between the legal questions arising in the present war and those in previous wars are more superficial than real.

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan., 1918), pp. 224-225

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