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Since the researches and recommendations of the Royal Commission on Extradition were published, however, many changes have passed over the face of European political society. A great fear seems to have laid hold of some countries that all organised government is in danger of being overthrown by a vast network of conspiracy, culminating in the more or less successful committal of atrocious crimes. Under the impulse of this fear, there seems to have grown up a tendency to consider nations which give a broad interpretation to the right of asylum, as participes criminum, and to demand of them the curtailment, or what amounts to the curtailment, of that right. Of such nations, it so happens, Great Britain is one of those most resorted to by refugees of all kinds, and therefore—her military impotence being at the same time elaborately established in a high-class English periodical, by a critic belonging to the staff of a great foreign army—-Great Britain is, for the moment, one of the best abused States in Europe. It must not be supposed, however, that other countries escape scotfree. Switzerland, which is known to be full of discontented Russians and Poles, to use the mildest language applicable, is also found to be a house that very much requires setting in order. It is scarcely likely that Belgium will, in the long run, be more fortunate, though she does not just now appear to be suffering under such direct forms of censure as Great Britain and Switzerland. We may, perhaps, be permitted to suggest a doubt whether the anathematisers have remembered the Arabian saying that “curses, like chickens, come home to roost.” '
We are told that incendiary letters pass our frontier. We greatly regret that there should be persons who write incendiary letters, but it is difficult to see how we can prevent their doing so. The tacitly suggested remedy, no doubt, is an extension of one which has on different occasions been tried in this country, but which never has been, and we think it may be said, never will be, popular here—viz., the detention and perusal of private correspondence under warrant from the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. If this power, with which the Home Secretary is armed by Parliament, were to be extended as some of our foreign critics clearly desire, it can scarcely be doubted that the revenues of the Post Office Department would be the greatest sufferers, and we doubt whether the Department could stand that long. Short of opening every letter addressed to a continental country,‘ there could be no safety against the departure from our shores of “incendiary ” missives. How the postal service would be carried on under such delays, we leave to the lively imagination of our critics. As for an increased severity of passport and custom-house regulations, that would, we believe,,effect as much and as little as the suggestion already discussed. It would, doubtless, prove an excellent irritant, if that be the desired object. But we have yet to learn that the most elaborate of Passport and Customs’ Regulations have availed to keep out an Orsini and his bombs.
These suggestions, therefore, we dismiss as not requiring serious consideration. - It is quite possible, perhaps indeed probable, that alarmed Continental nations may make the pleasure-trips of the British tourist a burden to that awkward but innocent gamboller, who is generally guileless of any understanding why he should feel like a criminal if he has not taken pains to provide himself with a “properly attested” passport. It is quite possible, also, that “all persons and things” coming from our shores will soon be “ subjected to rigorous surveillance, as is done in time of plague or cattle disease.” There is something imposing, and which might, taken by itself, have been flattering to our feelings, in the likening of our political naughtiness to the Plague; but the alternative reference to the “ Rinderpest ” spoils the dramatic effect of the threat and reminds us somewhat of stage-thunder. Still, all these things may
be done, probably will be done; will the plague therefore“
be stayed? Will another Phinees arise and pray? Here, however, we may seem to be treading dangerously near the
domain of Theology. And there is plenty of juridical‘
matter still awaiting discussion, more, in fact, than we can hope to compass in the present article.
A recent Belgian writer, M. Wouters, of Ghent, discussing Extradition in the pages of the Rivista Penale for December, I88o—January, 1881, says of the non-Extradition of subjects (nazionali), that it is the “last relic of the olden Right of Asylum,” and distinctly regards it as one which is crumbling to pieces. Yet he admits that the general principles of modern public law do not allow this desuetude, which he, nevertheless, claims to be almost an established fact. We are not sure that a certain ambiguity does not hang about the phrase “ Right of Asylum.” What does it mean ? It has certainly not the significance of that mediaeval right, so valuable in its day, whereby a serf who fled to a communa, and lived there undetected by his lord for a year and a day, became a free man. All that we understand it to mean is that alien visitors are free to come and free to go; free to reside within the British dominions as long as they please, without anyone saying them nay, provided they do not offend against the law of the land, to which they owe a temporary and local allegiance. Correlative with the duty of the resident alien to bear allegiance to our laws is the duty of our State to afford him protection in life, limb, liberty, and property during the period of his residence among us. That, as we understand it, constitutes his asylum. His liberty, we take it, is not to be infringed upon without just cause, any more than the liberty of the British subject. The question, then, really turns upon the interpretation of just cause. Offence against the law of the land would unquestionably be such cause. \Vhen an offence against the law of his own country is alleged against a commorant alien, it seems obviously necessary that the circumstances should be subjected to judicial investigation, in order that it may be made clear whether or no the general right of protection implied in the alien’s sojourn intra fvrcesidia has been forfeited. This investigation may be permitted even where, as in the Hoffmann case, no Extradition Treaty ‘exists, for it is, of course, within the competence of a State to accede to a demand for Extradition ad hoc, though probably, as in the case we have cited, the demand would be accompanied by the offer of reciprocity in regard to the particular offence charged. But, outside of Treaty stipulations, such surrender can only be, as Heffter puts it, a matter of mutual propriety and utility.
Reduced to the simple proportions which alone are of its essence, stripped of all rhetorical ornament, the Right of Asylum seems to be a simple consequence of the principle of sovereignty. It is identical in kind with the permission which we are all year by year accustomed unconsciously to receive, and more or less to profit by, of visiting and so-. journing in foreign countries'. We take a ticket from London to Rome, Vienna, Berlin, or Constantinople, without giving a thought to the possibility that some day the Government seated in any one of those capitals might decline to allow us to cross its frontiers. We should like to see the rueful countenances of a band of “personally conducted” tourists under such circumstances. It would be worth the journey to -the frontier of the repellent State. The case doubtless appears, when thus put, to be so monstrous as to amount to a practical impossibility. Yet there have been times and countries—neither of them far removed from our sl1ores and our day— when aparticular shape of hat or coat, a particular mode of wearing the hair, sufficed to render individuals obnoxious to paternal Governments. How much more, then, may not such a Govern
ment——~and the leg-bone of that political dodo has not yet been sent to the Natural History Department of the British Museum—bar and ban all strangers from an infected country, which it may deem a land of “ poison, of brigands, and murderers ? ” The texts on the subject are quite free from ambiguity. “ Every State,” says Heffter (Droit International, p. 63), “is free to refuse entrance into its territory to foreign refugees, and to foreigners generally.” That is a doctrine quite broad enough to sustain the accuracy of our hypothetical case. Bavaria, it is clear, might have referred to Heffter, p. 63, in support of a refusal to admit British and American visitors to the Passion Play at Ober-Ammergau. Italy might similarly refuse to let the Briton pass his Easter in Rome ; and Austria might yet put an extinguisher on the proposed Vienna Meeting of the International Literary Congress. Only—it would not pay. So we have practically no fear that we shall be turned back from the frontiers even of the rigorous and virtuous German Empire. It may suffice that our luggage shall be searched with an activity of ten thousand dynamite power, and that our tours shall be turned into penitential pilgrimages, by dint of constant scrutiny into the adequacy of our “ properly attested ” Passports. But we shall be admitted, we doubt not, even into the sacred land, to tread the red Westphalian soil, to shelter ourselves beneath the wings of the single-headed eagle of the Margraves of Brandenburg, and the doubleheaded eagle of the old Roman Empire, whether borne by Austrian Kaiser or Russian Czar. So far, we have no fear. As for the proposed League, whether it is likely to extend beyond the limits of the States of the German Empire, is a matter which we may at present consider open to considerable doubt. Whether it will be acceptable even to the States of the Empire may also be doubted. It seems to us rather like a. revival, in a slightly varied shape, of an Inter-State Extradition Convention, which has already