Privateersmen and prisoners of war.
--The New York Times comments as follows upon the letter from President Davis
to Abraham Lincoln
, relative to the fate of our privateersmen now in the hands of the enemy:
, unfortunately, has it in his power to make this threat effective.
He has in his hands a very large number of our prisoners, and will unquestionably retaliate upon them whatever treatment we may extend to these privateers.
, in his proclamation, has announced his purpose to treat all who may accept letters of marque and reprisal from the Confederate Government as pirates, and the general sentiment of the public would unquestionably sustain him in so doing.
It cannot be concealed, however, that the current of events may render it necessary to act with caution in this matter, and not take a position which may augment greatly the horrors — great enough at best — of this civil war.
By taking and holding prisoners at all, it would seem to be recognizing the Southern States
We do not, therefore, concede to them any civil rights, nor in the slightest degree commit ourselves to a recognition of their political existence.
But we do concede that they are entitled to the benefit of those usages which obtain among all civilized nations in a state of war. We exchange prisoners with them; we treat their men taken in arms as prisoners of war, and not as rebels, and we recognize the sacredness of flags of truce.
We are by no means sure that we do not thus put ourselves in a position which will render it necessary to recognize their issue of letters of marque, so far, at least, as to distinguish it from piracy.
We shall, undoubtedly, soon have a proposition, from one side or the other, for an exchange of prisoners, and then this matter must be finally settled.