Front Page Titles (by Subject) PIRACY - Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 3 Oath - Zollverein
Return to Title Page for Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 3 Oath - Zollverein
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
PIRACY - John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 3 Oath - Zollverein 
Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 3 Oath - Zollverein
Part of: Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, 3 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
PIRACY is robbery committed by force of arms at sea. It was formerly much more frequent than it is now. It still exists, however, and it is likely that so long as there shall be highwaymen, there will be pirates; although it is much more difficult to equip a vessel to scour the ocean than to lie in ambush at the edge of a road or at the corner of the deserted streets of a large town, to rob a passer-by. Even in comparatively late years the Chinese seas were infested with pirates. This sort of robbery can be practiced only by an association of criminals; it has, too, this peculiarity, that entire hordes have been known to take to it, notably in the Barbary states before the conquest of Algeria, and even now from time to time on the Morocco coasts. Thus, it is always liable to happen, at the very time when Christian nations believe that safety reigns over all the seas, that buccaneers will dash from some unsuspected lair, and before repression can be organized, will have had time to plunder a large number of peaceable merchants. Within a few centuries, doubtless, when European civilization, enlightening even the remotest lands, shall have civilized the entire world, no barbarous tribe will be longer able to escape the action of a regular government, and piracy will lose many of its chances of success; but it may also, by an excess of audacity, organize in the midst of a civilized nation; and consequently, notwithstanding the gradual disappearance of this scourge, it can not be asserted that we shall ever attain to an absolute riddance of it.
—The early Greeks were nearly all pirates. M. Cauchy remarks (Droit Maritime International, 1862, vol. i., p. 180) that in ancient times the slave trade was one of the most powerful incentives to piracy, both public and private. Neither the Grecian states, when they had become civilized, nor Rome, appears to have had a naval force intended to protect their commerce against sea robbers. Piracy flourished also in the Mediterranean; it attained an extraordinary development during the civil wars of the Roman republic. These robbers formed at this period an immense confederation, the headquarters of which were on the hilly shores of Cilicia. They came very near starving Rome by intercepting the convoys of corn, and Pompey had to be charged with the destruction of their power. In order to prevent the recurrence of so disastrous a state of affairs, the Roman emperors maintained public fleets (M. Cauchy, loc. cit., p. 115), as all modern nations have done since. If we should cease to plow the seas with ships of war, it is probable that piracy would be revived in many parts of the world. Privateering gave rise, at the end of the seventeenth century, to an association of buccaneers, in parts of the Antilles, whose ravages rivaled the robberies of the ancient pirates of Cilicia. The difference between the corsair and the buccaneer is not sufficiently obvious in respect to these bold adventurers; for if the former carries his sovereign's flag, while the latter is outside of international law, both fight for booty. The abolition of privateering, proclaimed by the declaration of April 16, 1856, will thus aid in causing piracy to disappear more and more.
—The repression of piracy concerns international law as well as the public law of each nation. It generally happens, indeed, that the pirate and the captor are not subjects of the same sovereign, and that the crime has been committed on the vast expanse of sea which has no master and where no jurisdiction exists. The principal laws of the ancien régime in France, against piracy, are the decree of March, 1584, the declaration of Feb. 1, 1650, and the naval ordonnance of 1681; since the French revolution the matter has been regulated by the order of the second of prairial, year XI., and the law of April 10, 1825, entitled, "Law for the safety of navigation and maritime commerce." The ordonnance of 1681 and the law of 1825 have solved the difficulty which we have just indicated, by putting pirates outside of international law; they are considered as public enemies, and are amenable to the tribunals of their captor. Any vessel taking to piracy without letters of marque from any prince, or with letters of marque from two princes, is liable to seizure as a pirate. And further, the vessel which commits hostilities under any other flag than that under which it is commissioned, is to be regarded as a pirate. The laws respecting piracy are made by each nation in the interest of all the others. It matters little that the captor has not been attacked. The pirate may be justly seized for having attacked any vessel whatsoever, even foreign to the nationality of the captor. This is the remarkable feature in the legislation on piracy. The law appears to us unjust which punishes as a pirate a vessel to which nothing could be imputed but the lack of papers. It must be observed, however, that there is in such a case only a presumption, which must yield to proof of the contrary, but this is already too much, and here, as in all penal law, guilt is not to be assumed, and it is for the accuser, not the accused, to furnish the proof.
—Grotius thinks (book ii., chap. xx., § 40) that a government has the right not only to avenge its wrongs, but even the offenses which violate international law, whomsoever they may concern. "And it is even," says he, "as much more praise-worthy to avenge the wrongs of others rather than one's own, as it is to be feared, in those which affect us, that the resentment which we feel might make us pass beyond the limits of a just vengeance." We adopt fully this principle of the illustrious publicist, proclaimed before him by St. Augustine in the "City of God," which appears to us one of the foundations of international law. A nation has the right to declare war against a government which violates international justice, even when such violation does not directly harm it. Thus, any nation may lawfully make war on a piratical people, even if its commerce has not suffered from their depredations.30
—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Broglie, Sur la piraterie (Eorits, vol. iii., p. 335); Phillimore, International Law, vol. i., pp. 394-406; Wildman, International Law, vol. ii., p. 150; Wheaton, International Law, § 124; Heffter, Völkerrecht, § 104; Esperson, Diritto diplomatico, vol. ii. pp. 2, 12; Gareis, Das heutige Volkerrecht under Menschenhandel, 1879.
F. A. HELIE.
[30.]Kent. in his Commentaries (vol. i., p. 183), gives the following definition of piracy: "Piracy is robbery, or a forcible depredation on the high seas, without lawful authority, and done animo furandi, and in the spirit and intention of universal hostility. It is the same offense at sea with robbery on land; and all the writers on the law of nations, and on the maritime law of Europe, agree in this definition of piracy." Further on he continues: "They (pirates) acquire no rights by conquest; and the law of nations, and the municipal law of every country, authorize the true owner to reclaim his property taken by pirates, wherever it can be found; and they do not recognize any title to be derived from an act of piracy. The principle, that a piratis et latronibus capta dominium non mutant, is the received opinion of ancient civilians and modern writers on general jurisprudence; and the same doctrine was maintained in the English courts of common law, prior to the great modern improvements made in the science of the law of nations."