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[235]

The belligerent character of the Confederate States was thus fully acknowledged by the highest judicial tribunal of the United States. This involved an acknowledgment of the Confederate government as a government de facto having ‘the sovereign rights of war,’ yet the Executive Department of the United States government, with reckless malignity, denounced our cruisers as ‘pirates,’ our citizens as ‘insurgents’ and ‘traitors,’ and the action of our government as an ‘insurrection.’

It has been stated that during the war of the colonies with Great Britain many of the prizes of the colonial cruisers were destroyed. This was done by Paul Jones and other commanders, although during the entire period of the war some of the colonial ports were open, into which prizes could be taken. In that war Great Britain did not attempt to blockade all the ports of the colonies. Sailing vessels only were then known, and with these a stringent blockade at all seasons could not have been maintained. But at the later day of our war the powerful steamship had appeared, and revolutionized the commerce and the navies of the world. During the first months of the war all the principal ports of the Confederacy were blockaded, and finally every inlet was either in possession of the enemy or had one or more vessels watching it. The steamers were independent of wind and weather, and could hold their positions before a port day and night. At the same time the ports of neutrals had been closed against the prizes of our cruisers by proclamations and orders in council. Says Admiral Semmes:

During my whole career upon the sea, I had not so much as a single port open to me, into which I could send a prize.

Our prizes had been sent into ports of Cuba and Venezuela under the hope that they might gain admittance, but they were either handed over to the enemy under some fraudulent pretext, or expelled. Thus, by the action of the different nations and by the blockade with steamers, no course was left to us but to destroy the prizes, as was done in many instances under the government of the United States confederation.

The laws of maritime war are well known. The enemy's vessel when captured becomes the property of the captor, which he may immediately destroy; or he may take the vessel into port, have it adjudicated by an admiralty court as a lawful prize, and sold. That adjudication is the basis of title to the purchaser against all former owners. In these cases the captor sends his prizes to a port of his own country or to a friendly port for adjudication. But if the ports of his own country are under blockade by his enemy, and the recapture of the prizes, if sent there, is most probable; if, at the same time, all friendly ports are closed against the

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