A civil war breaks the bonds of society and governments, or at least suspends their force and effect. It produces in the nation two independent parties who consider each other as energies, and acknowledge no common judge. Those two parties, therefore, must necessarily be considered as thenceforward constituting, at least for a time, two separate bodies, two distinct societies. Though one of the parties may have been to blame in breaking the unity of the State, and resisting the lawful authority, they are not the less divided in fact. Besides, who shall judge them? Who shall pronounce on which side the right or the wrong lies? On earth they have no common superior. They stand, therefore, in precisely the same predicament as two nations who engage in a contest, and being unable to come to an agreement, have recourse to arms. This being the case, it is evident that the common laws of war-those maxims of humanity, moderation and honor commonly observed-ought to be observed by both parties in every civil war. For the same reasons which render the observance of those maxims a matter of obligation between State and State, it becomes equally and even more necessary in the unhappy circumstances of the two incensed parties lacerating their common country. Should the sovereign conceive he has a right to hang up his prisoners as rebels, the opposite party will make refusals; or, to destroy their country, they will retaliate. The Duke of Alva made it a practice to condemn to death every prisoner he took from the Confederates in the Netherlands. They, on their part, retaliated, and at length compelled him to respect the law of nations and the rules of war in his conduct toward them.The above the rule and example of nations, and applying it to this case, I think that any one can understand it.
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