previous next


A letter from Capt. Maffitt.

Capt. Maffitt, of the Florida, at Brest, writes a letter to La Patrie, (Paris,) explaining the position of his ship according to international law. He says:


Brest, Sept. 12, 1863.

Sir:
Your number of the 10th inst. contains two errors, which I beg permission to rectify. It states: "Two incidents have just taken place in France and England which interest the American question. The first is the seizure at Brest, by a French ship-owner, of the Confederate privateer Florida, who claims from her an indemnity of 100,000 francs for the loss of a vessel belonging to him, and which was sunk by the said privateer." On this first point I have the honor to assure you that, in spite of the thrusts of certain persons who pretend to have claims against the corvette Florida, she has not been yet seized.

I protest in the most formal and energetic manner against the second allegation, the Florida has never had any reason for sinking a French vessel; that assertion is false, and I refer you on that point to the letter published by M. Peequet du Beller, in the Ocean, of Brest, which contains a faithful relation of the incidents of the encounter which took place between the Florida and the French vessel, the Bremontier. As to the qualification of privateer which you give to the corvette I have the honor to command, it arises no doubt from the fact of your having been ill-informed as to the armament of the Florida. A privateer, according to the definition given by Noel and Chapsal, is "a vessel armed by private individuals with the authorization of the Government." That definition has been, I believe, adopted by all writers who have treated on international law, but it accords but little with the real situation of the Florida. That corvette has, in fact, been built and armed by the Government of the Confederate States of America, and her officers hold their commissions from that Government.

She carries the national flag and the pennant carried by vessels of war, and receives her instructions directly from the Minister of Marine of the Confederate States. The European Powers having recognized the possession by the Government of Richmond of the rights of belligerents, among which are those of forming armies and fitting out vessels of war, I am at a loss to understand that the fact of my Government not being yet officially acknowledged, can take from it the rights inherent in every de facto Government, and place it in the category of a private individual fitting out a privateer, and thus change the nature and true character of its national navy. Such an interpretation of national law appears to me to be untenable. Relying on your impartiality. I beg you to insert this letter in the earliest number of your estimable journal.

Accept, sir, the assurance of my perfect consideration.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Brest (France) (4)
United States (United States) (2)
France (France) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Maffitt (2)
Paris (1)
Noel (1)
John N. Maffit (1)
Peequet Beller (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
September 12th, 1863 AD (1)
10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: