Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Langston.
Washington , December 15, 1883.
Sir: I have received your number 593, of the 20th ultimo, in relation to the action of President Salomon in declaring the vessel La Patrie a pirate and asking that she be so regarded by foreign governments. The conclusion reached by you, in company with your colleagues, that the consuls could not properly take the steps suggested, is approved.
The expedient of declaring a revolted national vessel to be a “pirate” has often been resorted to among the Spanish-American countries in times of civil tumult, and on late occasions in Europe. At the time of the Murcian rising, in 1873, the insurgents at Cartagena seized the Spanish iron-clads in harbor and cruised with them along the coast, committing hostilities. The Spanish Government proclaimed the vessels pirates and invited their capture by any nation. A German naval commander then in the Mediterranean did in fact capture one of the revolted ships and claimed it as a German prize, but his act was disavowed. The rule is, simply, that a “pirate” is the natural enemy of all men, to be repressed by any, and wherever found, while a revolted vessel is the enemy only of the power against which it acts. While it may be outlawed so far as the outlawing state is concerned, no foreign state is bound to respect or execute such outlawry to the extent of treating the vessel as a public enemy of mankind. Treason is not piracy, and the attitude of foreign governments toward the offender may be negative merely so far as demanded by. a proper observance of the principle of neutrality.
I am, &c.,