Blockade Proclamation

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Mark F. Jenkins

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I understand when President Kennedy used the word "quarentine" instead of "blockade" during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was trying to avoid using a term that meant going to war.
Interesting... I hadn't been thought of quite yet at that point, so I don't have any contemporary memories of that. In the histories I've seen, it's almost universally referred to as a blockade (which, of course, is what it was, terminology aside).
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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Was just checking Amazon to see what they had in the way of general historical surveys of blockades... and this came up:

51n0Sc9zWrL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_.jpg


That's a very odd cover: the riverine ironclad Essex somehow engaging a Clyde-type steamer, apparently on the open seas.
 

matthew mckeon

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Interesting... I hadn't been thought of quite yet at that point, so I don't have any contemporary memories of that. In the histories I've seen, it's almost universally referred to as a blockade (which, of course, is what it was, terminology aside).

I'm basing my post of 13 Days, a movie. Not exactly an academic source. But they made a point of it.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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Where is the authority to make War against your own country?
That's a matter of definition, which I doubt you and I will be able to agree on. But as for commanding the deployment of the military forces of the US, that's clearly within the President's purview in his role as Commander in Chief.
 

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That's a matter of definition, which I doubt you and I will be able to agree on. But as for commanding the deployment of the military forces of the US, that's clearly within the President's purview in his role as Commander in Chief.
There is authority to call out the militia and use other military forces to suppress a Rebellion or Insurgency.
But a blockade is part of War.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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This goes back to an earlier point in the discussion.

Essentially, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles campaigned earnestly for Lincoln to declare the ports of the South closed, as that was something that was clearly legal under existing precedent and did not have the weakness of an implied recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent. But Britain would never have gone along with it, and attempts to coerce them into going along with it would likely have led to an increased chance of war with Britain. The blockade decision, though it had the "con" of implied recognition of belligerency, was something that Britain would tend to support; first, because it allowed her to remain neutral instead of forcing her to decide which side to support (as voluntarily abiding by the port closure would clearly be aiding the North); and second, because Britain herself was one of the most frequent operators of blockades, she had a national interest in increasing the legitimacy of blockade operations.

The actual proclamation, if one reads it, tried to have it both ways, giving the impossibility of collecting customs fees as the rationale for the blockade and declaring the ports both 'closed' and 'blockaded,' but this had no validity under existing international law.
 

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There is authority to call out the militia and use other military forces to suppress a Rebellion or Insurgency.
But a blockade is part of War.
Wouldn't you agree that cutting off supplies to a Rebellion or Insurgency is part of suppressing it? What would you suggest Lincoln do, fight the rebels on land but leave them free to export cotton and import all the weapons they can buy?

The authors of the Constitution - northerners, southerners, landowners, shipowners - wisely made no attempt to dictate the strategies or tactics the government might use in future wars. There is no specific Constitutional authority to conduct amphibious invasions, strategic bombing, mining, drone strikes, or any other operation of war.
 

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There is authority to call out the militia and use other military forces to suppress a Rebellion or Insurgency.
But a blockade is part of War.
War is an organized and often prolonged armed conflict that is carried out by states or non-state actors. Sounds like rebellion or insurgency to me. In terms of the ACW, the CSA was a belligerent and accorded the rules of war which not only required a blockade instead of port closure but accorded captured CSA servicemen POW status instead of being hung as criminals.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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It was a tricky and sometimes mindbogglingly complex line for the Lincoln administration to walk. The last thing they wanted to do would have been to grant any shade of legitimacy to the government in Richmond, so they (as consistently as they could) attempted to deny the Confederacy's existence... referring (at most) to "the so-called Confederate states," and so forth. And yet, in reality, there was a functioning government, a military, a diplomatic service, etc. An outside observer not familiar with the details would have assumed the Confederacy was a separate government (as did Gladstone in a rather unguarded statement that he later came to regret).

One of the weird situations resulting was that the British government perforce continued to act as if the British consulates in the South reported through Lord Lyons in Washington, whereas in reality some of them went for years with no contact. Even when the Foreign Office wanted to send a rather stiff note to the Confederate government in early 1865, it did so through the U.S. State Department, which was unofficially asked to ensure the communication reached Richmond. (As the gist of the message was that the Confederacy should expect no help from Britain, Seward was only too happy to comply.) And the U.S. State Department continued to act as if Her Majesty's Washington legation was receiving information from its consulates, even though everyone knew it was a fiction.

(And it was not unheard-of for someone in the Lincoln administration to slip up in maintaining the fiction...)

Sometimes looks like "the Emperor's new clothes...." in order to deny the right of the group of states "styling themselves the Confederacy" to assemble into a government, the U.S. had to pretend that they hadn't.
 

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Where in the Constitution and laws of the United States is the Prsident given authority to establish a blockade?
Article 2, Section 2.
Perhaps a better question is how does a government blockade its own ports? Remember, Lincoln never recognized the CSA as a separate nation.
At least under current international law, a blockade is defined as a "belligerent operation to prevent vessels and/or aircraft of all nations, enemy and neutral, from entering or exiting specified ports, airports, or coastal areas belonging to, occupied by, or under the control of an enemy nation." (emphasis added)<http://opil.ouplaw.com/view/10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e252>
 

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This is a common misapprehension. The pros and cons of "blockade" versus "port closure" were debated extensively in Lincoln's cabinet, and it was fully understood that "blockade" would grant de facto belligerent status to the Confederacy. But in the end, it came down to what Britain could live with. Britain would not cooperate with a "port closure" as that was administered under domestic law, and Britain, not being part of the US, had no reason to comply except voluntarily-- and that would be materially aiding the Union rather than remaining neutral. The administration was extremely reluctant to give the slightest shade of legitimacy to the Confederacy, but in this case the realities of international relations forced their decision.
This goes back to an earlier point in the discussion.

Essentially, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles campaigned earnestly for Lincoln to declare the ports of the South closed, as that was something that was clearly legal under existing precedent and did not have the weakness of an implied recognition of the Confederacy as a belligerent. But Britain would never have gone along with it, and attempts to coerce them into going along with it would likely have led to an increased chance of war with Britain. The blockade decision, though it had the "con" of implied recognition of belligerency, was something that Britain would tend to support; first, because it allowed her to remain neutral instead of forcing her to decide which side to support (as voluntarily abiding by the port closure would clearly be aiding the North); and second, because Britain herself was one of the most frequent operators of blockades, she had a national interest in increasing the legitimacy of blockade operations.

The actual proclamation, if one reads it, tried to have it both ways, giving the impossibility of collecting customs fees as the rationale for the blockade and declaring the ports both 'closed' and 'blockaded,' but this had no validity under existing international law.
 
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WJC

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If we could keep on topic, and avoid commenting on the appalling character of the people we disagree with, I, for one, would be happy.

I understand when President Kennedy used the word "quarentine" instead of "blockade" during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he was trying to avoid using a term that meant going to war.
Actually, he used both terms: he characterized his action as a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba” and contrasted it with the Soviet 1948 Berlin Blockade, saying, "We are not at this time... denying the necessities of life...." <https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4450332/president-kennedy-blockade>
Perhaps Lincoln- not a 20th century politician- did not feel it necessary to 'split hairs'.
 
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