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unnatural and wholly unprovoked and causeless civil conflict, including the several proclamations of the president of the United States, and of the leader of the insurrectionists, calling himself the president of the Confederate States, together with that of the sovereign of Great Britain, etc., will be found in the appendix. The language of the proclamation of the British Proclamation
of Great Britqueen, especially when considered in connection ain recognizwith that used, apparently with much delibera- ing
ern insurrection, by the lords who speak for the British min. tionists as law
ful belliger. istry, seemed to leave no doubt of the original de- ents." termination of the British government to regard the persons in revolt against the constituted government of the United States as lawful belligerents, and to observe a strict neutrality between them and the federal government. The naval power of the federal government being Efect of this
by the law of quite sufficient to effect a complete blockade of all nations. the ports of the rebel territory, this position on the part of Great Britain would assume a vast practical importance, inasmuch as it would, open the British ports, wheresoever situated, as a shelter, asylum and protection to the privateers of the rebel community, into which they might carry their prizes and hold them in safety, to await a condemnation of a court, purporting to possess the powers of admiralty in the country of the captors.
In the carefully rehearsed colloquy upon this sub. ject in the British Parliament, the distinguished lord by whom it was specially announced as the policy of the British government, cited as a precedent justifying the position, the recognition of Greece as a lawful belligerent, during her efforts
the United States.
to become independent of Turkey, before her independence was recognized by Great Britain or any
other nation. Legislative The learned lord (John Russell), by consulting and judicial precedents in the records of the highest judicial tribunals of the
United States, and the opinions of the most distinguished jurist who has ever adorned the American bench (Chief Justice Marshall), might have found precedents much more to his purpose, though perhaps not more susceptible of being distinguished from the case presented in the present revolt against the integrity of the United States government.
One Palmer and others were indicted in the Circuit Court of the United States in the district of Massachusetts, for an alleged robbery and piracy on the high seas. They were defended as lawful privateers, acting under the authority and commis. sion of a lawful belligerent.
Upon a division, the question certified for the determination of the Supreme Court of the United States was as follows:
“Whether any revolted colony, district or people, who have thrown off their allegiance to the mother country, but have never been acknowledged by the United States as a sovereign and independ. ent nation or power, have authority to issue commissions to make captures on the high seas, of the persons, property, and vessels of the subjects of the mother country who retain their allegiance; and whether the captures made under such commissions are, as to the United States, to be deemed lawful; and whether the forcible seizing, with violence, and by putting in fear of the persons on board of the vessels, the property of the subjects
of the mother country who retain their allegiance, on the high seas, in virtue of such commissions, is not to be deemed a robbery or piracy within the act of Congress.”
Upon this question, the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States, pronounced by Chief Justice Marshall, was clear and explicit.
“When," says he, “a civil war rages in a foreign nation, one part of which separates itself from the old established government and erects itself into a new and distinct government, the courts of the Union must view and treat the newly constituted government as it is viewed by the legislative and executive departments of the government of the United States. If that government remain neutral, but recognizes the existence of civil war, the courts of the Union cannot consider as criminal those acts of hostility which are authorized, and which the new government may direct against its enemy.” “The government of the United States having recognized the existence of the civil war in question, the acts of the defendants were justified under the commission of the revolting territory, as a lawful belligerent, and were in no manner unlawful or in violation of the act of Congress.”1
In a later case, in which the same question arose, the same court says:
“The government of the United States having recognized the existence of civil war between Spain and her colonies, our courts are bound to recognize as lawful, those acts which war authorize, and the new government in South America may direct.
United States vs. Palmer, 4 Curtis, S. C. Decisions; 3 Wheat. 310
Captures made under their commissions must be treated by us like other captures. Their legality cannot be determined in our courts unless made in violation of our acts of neutrality.”
And in a still later case in the same court, in which the same question was discussed with great learning and ability by distinguished counsel, the court says: “Another objection has been urged against the admission of this vessel to the privileges and immunities of a public ship, which may as well be disposed of in connection with the question already considered. It is, that Buenos Ayres has not yet been recognized and acknowledged as a sovereign, independent government by the executive or legislature of the United States, and therefore is not entitled to have her ships of war recognized by our courts as national ships.
“We have, in former cases, repeatedly had occasion to express our opinion on this point. The government of the United States has recognized the existence of a civil war between Spain and her colonies, and has avowed a determination to remain neutral between the parties, and to allow to each the same rights of asylum, and hospitality, and intercourse. Each party is therefore deemed by us a belligerent nation, having, so far as concerns us, the sovereign rights of war, and entitled to be respected in the exercise of those rights. We cannot interfere, to the prejudice of either belligerent, without making ourselves a party to the contest, and departing from the position of neutrality. All captures made by each must be considered as having
The Divina Pastor, 4 Curtis, S. C. Decisions, 345; 4 Wheat. the same validity; and all the immunities which may be claimed by public ships in our ports, under the law of nations, must be considered as equally the right of each, and as such, must be recognized by our courts of justice until Congress shall prescribe a different rule. This is the doctrine heretofore asserted by this court, and we see no reason to depart from it.""
Thus it will be seen, that so far as mere precedent is concerned, considered apart from the circum-stances which induced it, that which has been established by the government, and enforced by the judiciary of the United States, might sustain the position taken by Great Britain. But though such a precedent, of the recognition Legislative
precedents of of a revolting people as lawful belligerents, were ho binding a sufficient justification of the course pursued by authority. Great Britain toward the nation by which the precedent was established, it is not here pretended, that such, or any number of precedents, could impose an imperative law of action upon nations, or that Great Britain, under the existing circumstances, would not be entirely justified in the eyes of the civilized world, in a departure from such a precedent.
The annals of the world furnish no parallel to the The rebellion present atrocious combination to overthrow the con- against the
government of stitutional government of the United States. In all the U. States
being wholly those cases to which reference has been made, and unprecedented
in all its cirindeed, in every instance recorded in history, of a people revolting against a government of which it the history of
nations, no ex. forms a part where the revolt has assumed propor. isting prece
'The Santissima Trinidad, 5 Curtis, S. C. Decisions, 268; 7 Wheat. 283.