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‘  that retaliation will be extended so far as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice unknown to the warfare of civilized man, and so barbarous as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of inaugurating it.’ A reply was promised to this letter, but none came. Still later in the year the privateer Jefferson Davis was captured, the captain and crew brought into Philadelphia, and the captain tried and found guilty of piracy and threatened with death. Immediately I instructed General Winder, at Richmond, to select one prisoner of the highest rank, to be confined in a cell appropriated to convicted felons, and treated in all respects as if convicted, and to be held for execution in the same manner as might be adopted for the execution of the prisoner of war in Philadelphia. He was further instructed to select thirteen other prisoners of the highest rank, to be held in the same manner as hostages for the thirteen prisoners held in New York for trial as pirates. By this course the infamous attempt made by the United States government to commit judicial murder on prisoners of war was arrested. The attention of the British House of Lords was also attracted to the proclamation of President Lincoln, threatening the officers and crew of privateers with the punishment of piracy. It led to a discussion in which the Earl of Derby said: ‘He apprehended that, if one thing was clearer than another, it was that privateering was not piracy; and that no law could make that piracy, as regarded the subjects of one nation which was not piracy by the law of nations. Consequently, the United States must not be allowed to entertain this doctrine, and to call upon her Majesty's Government not to interfere.’ The Lord Chancellor said: ‘There was no doubt that, if an Englishman engaged in the service of the Southern States, he violated the laws of his country and rendered himself liable to punishment, and that he had no right to trust to the protection of his native country to shield him from the consequences of his act. But, though that individual would be guilty of a breach of the law of his own country, he could not be treated as a pirate, and those who treated him as a pirate would be guilty of murder.’ The appearance of this little fleet on the ocean made it necessary for the powers of Europe immediately to define their position relative to the contending powers. Great Britain, adopting a position of neutrality, and recognizing both as belligerents, interdicted the armed ships and privateers of both from carrying prizes into the waters of the United Kingdom or its colonies. All the other powers recognized the Confederate States to be belligerents, but closed their ports against the admission of prizes captured by either belligerent.
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