empire, for its absolute supremacy over the state governments; that the Constitution was rolled up and laid away among the old archives; that the conditions of their liberty, in the future, were to be decided by the sword or by ‘national’ control of the ballot box. With like disregard for truth, our cruisers were denounced as ‘pirates’ by the government of the United States. A pirate or armed piratical vessel, is by the law of nation the enemy of mankind, and can be destroyed by the ships of any nation. The distinction between a lawful cruiser and a pirate is that the former has behind it a government which is recognized by civilized nations as entitled to the rights of war, and from which the commander of the cruiser receives his commission or authority, but the pirate recognizes no government, and is not recognized by any one. As the attorney general of Great Britain said in the Alexandra case:
Although a recognition of the Confederates as an independent power was out of the question, yet it was right they should be admitted by other nations within the circle of lawful belligerents—that is to say, that their forces should not be treated as pirates, nor their flag as a piratical flag. Therefore, as far as the two belligerents were concerned, on the part of this and other governments, they were so far put on a level that each was to be considered as entitled to the right of belligerents—the Southern States as much as the other.The government of the United States well knew that, after the issue of the Queen's proclamation recognizing our government, the application of the word ‘pirate’ to our cruisers was simply an exhibition of vindictive passion on its part. A de facto government by its commission legalizes among nations a cruiser. That there was such a government even its own courts also decided. In a prize case1 Justice Greer delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court, saying:
It [the war] is not less a civil war, with belligerent parties in hostile array, because it may be called an ‘insurrection’ by one side, and the insurgents be considered as rebels and traitors. It is not necessary that the independence of the revolted province or State be acknowledged in order to constitute it a party belligerent in a war, according to the laws of nations. Foreign nations acknowledge it a war by a declaration of neutrality. The condition of neutrality can not exist unless there be two belligerent parties.In the case of the Santissima Trinidad2 the United States Supreme Court says:
The Government of the United States has recognized the existence of a civil war between Spain and her colonies, and has avowed her determination to remain neutral between the parties. Each party is therefore deemed by us a belligerent, having, so far as concerns us, the sovereign rights of war.