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Admiralty, declared, concerning the law of nations relating to pirates:
"If it was clearly proved that the accused committed robbery and murder on the high seas, they were adjudged to be pirates, and suffered accordingly.. It does not follow that, because rebels and insurgents may commit against the ruling powers of their own country, acts of violence, they may not commit piratical acts against the subjects of other states.
The same question arose shortly after the abdication of James II., in a manner to make it, in all essentials, precisely parallel to the one on hand.
"That case involved a discussion of the general principle, whether, a deposed sovereign, claiming to be sovereign de jure, might lawfully commission privateers against the subjects and adherents of the sovereign de facto on the throne; or whether they were to be regarded as pirates, inasmuch as they were sailing animo furandi et deprædendi without any national character."
And, after stating at length the argument on both sides, Mr. Phillimore gives as his judgment;
'That, after allowing every deduction in their favor, the reason of the thing must be allowed to preponderate greatly towards the opinion of Tindal, that these privateersmen were, by the law of nations, pirates." (1 Philli. 398-406.)
But, whatever may be the correct judgment upon this point, one thing is certain, that all the character these vessels possess, is British; and that if they are pirates at all, they are BRITISH PIRATES, roaming the seas, with the implied permission, if not actual connivance, of that government; and that for the depredations of these vessels, Great Britain is, by the spirit of the law, the usage of nations, and, especially, the precedent established in her favor and on her demand in 1794, bound to pay, even to the last dollar of loss.
I have undertaken this hasty investigation, on account of the importance which international affairs are assuming in consequence of the outrages of these lawless rovers, and because of the prevalent ignorance-in which I fully shared—as to the true character and extent of our right in the premises. Fortunately, the historical facts which have been cited, are such as carry the argument upon their face; and, for the few conclusions which it has been necessary to draw, it is not doubted that they will be found by those who may give this grave subject more deliberate consideration-to be, in all essential characteristics, sustained by both the letter and spirit of the law. For the purpose of a brief recapitulation, these conclusions may be
stated as follows: First. The obligation of neutrality which Great Britain owes this nation is based on international law, international comity, gratitude, the spirit of treaties, and, last and least, upon that compact with all the world, called the Act of 59 Geo. III. Second. That international law is the science of the external relations of nations, and that its sanctions are neither derived from nor dependent upon things municipal, but bear equally upon democracies, aristocracies, and despotisms. Third. For this reason, no government can excuse itself from full performance of its international obligations by the suggestion of any lack of internal authority; and within the scope of this proposition, it may be safely asserted that, if that radical defect in the internal organization of this republic, which prevented the President of the United States from exercising control over the sheriff of an interior county of New York, was not a good excuse in McLeod's case, England will hardly make a defect of power in her revenue officers suffice in the matter of the Florida; nor a queen's advocate's "malady" in that of the Alabama. Fourth. That it was the duty of the British goverment in both cases, after the application of Mr. Adams, to have followed the "Maury" precedent by seizing and holding the vessels, and thus preventing mischief, until a full investigation could have been had; and having failed in this, it was a duty all the more imperative, when the real purpose of these vessels was known, to follow the Portuguese-Terceira precedent, by sending British cruisers to the ends of the earth, to prevent the consummation of the fraud, as well as bring the criminals to justice for their offence against the dignity and peace of England. Fifth. That the action of the British government, certainly, and its motive, apparently, have been grossly in breach of its neutral obligations. Sixth. That it is a maxim in universal justice, as well as in the common law, that there is no wrong without a remedy; and the remedies for these injuries are of two kinds: 1st, by civil action and criminal prosecution against the English owners, their servants, agents, and abettors; and, 2d, by the demand, and receipt from that government, of full compensation to private sufferers; and in default of the latter, by reprisals and war.
And, in justification of such a war, we may appeal to English state papers, where the reasons will be found, set out with all requisite particularity by England's greatest historian for one of her greatest kings.