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tribunals for which, rightly or wrongly, Englishmen have little respect. \Ve doubt whether, under such conditions, the proceedings even of French, German, or American Admiralty Courts would not be watched with considerable jealousy in this country. We are quite sure that no respect whatever would be paid to the decisions of such tribunals in any South American state, in Mexico, in China, in Turkey, in Russia; and that even those of Italy or Spain would not be regarded as impartial. This is the difficulty, the necessary and inevitable, if not insuperable difiiculty, in the way of the realization of Sir Travers Twiss’s proposal, and he fails entirely to show how it is to be overcome.”
It may be conceded, we think, in answer to this objection, that none other than a mixed tribunal is likely to satisfy objections of this character, but we see no insuperable difficulty in the way of constructing such mixed tribunals on the foundations of the existing consular jurisdiction. It would be necessary, in the first place, that the constitution of the tribunal should not militate against a cardinal principle of international law, that “the defendant should be convened before his own judge.” The same principle is embodied as regards suits for torts in the maxim: Actor sequitur forum Rei. This principle will be satisfied by constituting the Consular Court of the defendant's nation the tribunal before which he must be arraigned, if he is charged with any neglect of the rules of navigation, whereby a collision has been brought about with a foreign vessel on the high seas. The Consul, however, of the nation, to which the defendant belongs, ought not to sit alone. He should have the aid of one legal and two nautical assessors. and the Consul of the nation to which the complainant’s vessel belongs should be the fourth assessor. This organization differs materially from the organization of the Naval Courts, constituted under the provisions of “ The Merchant Shipping Act, 1854,” but those Courts were strictly Municipal Courts for the investigation of questions confined to British interests. The precedent, however, is valuable as regards the jurisdiction confided by Parliament to the consular oflicer of the Queen in foreign countries. It is unnecessary to cite any authority in favour of the Consul having the assistance of a legal assessor, and with regard to nautical assessors it has been one of the special objects of the Reform effected in the procedure of English Courts of ]ustice to secure to the High Courts of Appeal at Westminster in nautical matters the power of calling in the aid of one or more assessors specially qualified. Thus, in the case of The Dunkeld, as reported in the Times of February 9, I876, the question was raised for the first time before the newly constituted Court of Appeal in Admiralty matters, and the discussion is thus reported: “ On the opening of the Court it clearly appeared that it turned entirely on a question of navigation, as it was contended that the collision had arisen from wrong steering on one side or the other. Lord Justice James observed that it was a question to be determined by the light of nautical skill and experience; and Lord Justice Mellish observed that, this being so, it would be fitting that this Court should have the assistance of nautical assessors, as the Court below, and as the ]udicial Committee of the Privy Council had. Lord justice Baggallay further observed that it was expressly provided by the Judicature Act, that the Court ought to have the advantage of such assistance. Counsel on both sides assented, and accordingly the case was adjourned for such purpose.” No higher authority can well be cited than the above case in support of the suggestion, that the Consul should properly have the aid of nautical assessors. The suggestion, however, as to the Consul of the complainant’s nation being an additional assessor of the Court, does not rest upon the same considerations of fitness, which apply to nautical assessors, namely, by reason of the issue involving questions of nautical skill and experience. It rests, however, on other con
siderations of fitness, namely, by reason of the parties interested in the question being persons of different nationalities. Our ancestors thought it right in the time of our Plantagenet kings, that in trials for felony or misdemeanour in our Common Law Courts, where the party arraigned was a foreigner, he should be allowed to claim a jury dz medietaje linguzz, so as to ensure that some one or more of the jury should be capable of understanding the language of the witnesses produced for his defence, and for other reasons of a‘ cognate character. Modern reforms have abolished the jury de medietate lingua in England, and inquisitions before a jury have long since fallen into desuetude in the Admiralty Courts. We must also admit that the cases in the Plantagenet times are not exactly parallel. But a complaint has been publicly brought against the High Court of Admiralty of England in the present day, that under its procedure, foreign vessels have not an even chance against English vessels in cases of collision. Mr. H. H. Meier, of Bremen, a member of the German Reichstag, and the Chairman of the North German Lloyd’s, took occasion at the last Conference of the Association for the Reform and Codification of the Law of Nations, to express publicly his dissatisfaction with the present practice of the High Court of Admiralty of England, on the ground that foreign mariners, when examined and cross-ex amined in Court by means of an interpreter, are at a great disadvantage as compared with witnesses speaking the language, in which the proceedings of the Court itself are conducted. This objection to the fairness of the tribunal may not be practically so serious as it may sound in theory, seeing that the nautical assessors by whom the High Court of Admiralty is usually assisted, are selected from an experienced body of navigators, who are not liable to be misled in their appreciation of nautical facts by the unskilfulness of an interpreter. It is not sufficient, however, that the scales ofjustice should be evenly balanced in an International Court as a matter of fact, where it may be possible to place the evenness of the balance above all suspicion. On this ground we should suggest, that the Consul of the complaining party should be an assessor of the Consular Court, and as such, entitled to bring to the attention of the Court any involuntary shortcomings on its part to give due regard to the evidence produced on the part of the complainant.
We forbear to go into further details, but we venture to think that an International Court of the character above sketched out, will be more likely to prove acceptable to the civilised nations of the world than a further development of a system of Naval Courts, as instituted under the Merchant Shipping Act, I854, and amended by the Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Act of I855. But we must not omit to make a few observations about the necessity of a common Law. VVe are not disposed to think that offences on the sea can reasonably be dealt with on precisely the same principles as offences on the land. The driver of a waggon on term firma has more control over his course if he meets another waggon, than the oarsman of a barge on the River Thames if he meets another barge. There is something in the navigation of vessels on the high seas, “quod pendeat ex insidiis fortume;” and if it be found expedient to institute International Courts to punish culpable negligence in not observing the International rules of navigation, our own Merchant Shipping Acts have set us an example in defining the offences of mariners on the high seas and in fixing their appropriate punishments.
But after all, the true remedy for these wholesale sacrifices of human life by the collision of ships is not to be sought for in new and enhanced penal enactments against the parties in charge of them. The bane of the present day is the excessive speed of the steam vessel; the antidote must be found in the superior safety of her construction. It has been recently ascertained, with a totally different object in view, that iron steam vessels may be without difficulty constructed in compartments so adjusted that, although a compartment may be so sorely wounded as to fill completely with water, the buoyancy of the other compartments will be sufiicient to keep the vessel afloat. It is in this direction that the attention of the Board of Trade may be properly directed, so that after a certain period no sea-going steam vessel should obtain a certificate as a seagoing passenger steam vessel unless she be divided into water-tight compartments. The various Corporations of Maritime Assurance may also co-operate in promoting the building of iron vessels with similar compartments for the conveyance of goods, by reducing the rate of assurance in the case of vessels so constructed. Of two things we may rest assured, that iron will become more and more the ordinary material for shipbuilding, and that a fast vessel will always be regarded as the most brilliant feather in the cap of the shipbuilder. The last discovery has been the application of steel (a condition of iron) to shipbuilding under circumstances, which have enabled a steam vessel to attain the speed of twenty-five knots an hour on the waters of the Thames. The circumstances however, under which such vessels shall be allowed to put forth all their speed, will deserve serious attention from the Governments which think it fitting to employ them. Meanwhile, there can be no doubt that every measure which tends to secure a more careful observance of the International rules of navigation, tends to diminish the hazard resulting from the increased speed, at which the various mail steamers traverse the ocean under heavy penalties if they do not keep their time. It is for England to set an example to other nations of securing for the passengers on board of British steamships the greatest possible degree of safety on the high seas. The risk of life in our iron steamships need not be greater than it was formerly when only wooden ships were in use, and