Question about Spanish maritime law 1860s

May 2019
215
Earth
The book Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America by Robert E. May mentions that during the American Civil War, Spain allowed Confederate ships (including blockade runners and sometimes privateers) to put in to Cuban and Puerto Rican ports, despite not formally recognizing the Confederate States of America. This raised a question for me which I'm hoping someone can answer:

Did Spain in the 1860s have any regulations against foreign privateers claiming or selling prizes in their ports?

Spain was not (at this time) a party to the 1856 Paris Declaration Respecting Maritime Law, which means that technically privateering was not illegal in their territory. So, would Spain have allowed Confederate privateers to claim or sell prizes in Spanish ports, for example in places like Cuba? There were Confederate agents/representatives in places like Havana who could have facilitated it, but I don't know what the position of the Spanish authorities was to this matter.
 
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betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,424
I don't know much about this, and apparently no one else here does. However, Spain and Spanish America do not go by rules and laws the way Britain and Germany do. If Confederate privateers wanted to sell prizes in Spanish ports, they probably just had to give officials a cut.

Most of blockade runners were based in British ports and Bermuda and the Bahamas. Britain also didn't recognize the Confederacy.
 
May 2019
215
Earth
Spain and Spanish America do not go by rules and laws the way Britain and Germany do. If Confederate privateers wanted to sell prizes in Spanish ports, they probably just had to give officials a cut.
Well, the authorities in Spanish America do seem to have been a bit ... negotiable. I remember reading that, despite Spain not recognizing the CSA, the Confederate representative in Havana (Charles Helm) was "politely acknowledged" by the Captain-Generals and allowed to go about his business on behalf of the Confederacy.

Most of blockade runners were based in British ports and Bermuda and the Bahamas. Britain also didn't recognize the Confederacy.
Many were, but we have to remember the importance of the Spanish Caribbean ports too. Havana in particular was served by many blockade runners taking cargoes to Galveston (Texas).
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,424
Well, the authorities in Spanish America do seem to have been a bit ... negotiable. I remember reading that, despite Spain not recognizing the CSA, the Confederate representative in Havana (Charles Helm) was "politely acknowledged" by the Captain-Generals and allowed to go about his business on behalf of the Confederacy.
The Confederacy had representatives in London and Paris despite neither country recognizing the Confederacy. They were famously intercepted by a retarded US Navy Captain, creating an international incident.

The only country that sort of recognized the Confederacy was the Vatican. The Pope wrote to Davis, as President of the Confederate States of America. The main reason no one recognized the Confederacy was they weren't sure it would last as a country. It was considered a rebellion which controlled territory.
 
May 2019
215
Earth
The Confederacy had representatives in London and Paris despite neither country recognizing the Confederacy.
Yes, and Britain also extended belligerant status to the Confederacy. As I said before though, the reason I'm focusing on Spain here is that, unlike Britain and France, they were not a party to the Paris Declaration outlawing privateering, so I have to wonder what their attitude was to Confederate privateers. I've read claims that some put in to Spanish ports, but I don't know if this was just to resupply or hide from Union warships, or if the issue of prizes came up there. After the first year of the war, the Union blockade made it increasingly difficult for Confederate privateers to get back into southern ports to visit a prize court, so I'm curious if Spanish ports were ever used for this purpose via Confederate representatives there, and what Spain's attitude to foreign privateers was at that time.
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,424
Spain actually had had problems with English privateering against their treasure fleets, which Spain considered piracy.

There may not be records of what Confederate privateers did with their prizes. However, it seems likely that they would have been sold in Spanish ports or maybe ports in what had been Spanish America. It is unlikely that the privateers would have kept records. The Spanish officials also would not want records if they were doing something shady and would not want to antagonize the US.
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,652
Spain
Yes, and Britain also extended belligerant status to the Confederacy. As I said before though, the reason I'm focusing on Spain here is that, unlike Britain and France, they were not a party to the Paris Declaration outlawing privateering, so I have to wonder what their attitude was to Confederate privateers. I've read claims that some put in to Spanish ports, but I don't know if this was just to resupply or hide from Union warships, or if the issue of prizes came up there. After the first year of the war, the Union blockade made it increasingly difficult for Confederate privateers to get back into southern ports to visit a prize court, so I'm curious if Spanish ports were ever used for this purpose via Confederate representatives there, and what Spain's attitude to foreign privateers was at that time.

Exactly, you are right. Spain didn´t recognize Paris declaration. Privateering was legal in Spain till 20th Century. In Spain, Privateer were lawful til the year 1908. From 1908 it is not possible to talk about Privateers in Spain... as best "Post-Privateering activities"....

About Spanish laws in Corsairs and Priveteering activities from 1356 to 1985 you can read (in Spanish) here.

Confederate ships used Spanish harbours to resupply, and hide from Yankee ships. I am sure you know the history of the CSS Stonewall...The ship was from Acores to El Ferrol (the ship hide in El Ferrol in Galicia when it was pursuited by US ships)... from El Ferrol to Lisboa - Canary islands - Havana harbour.
By the way, Spain it is the only monument in the world that honoured to the Corsairs, privateering etc... it was built in 1915 in honor Spanish Corsairs. It is in Ibiza

 
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May 2019
215
Earth
Exactly, you are right. Spain didn´t recognize Paris declaration. Privateering was legal in Spain till 20th Century. In Spain, Privateer were lawful til the year 1908.
Thanks martin. Do you know if Spain had any regulations against foreign privateers claiming or selling prizes in their ports? I can't read Spanish fluently so it will take me time to run that article you posted through a translator, so apologies if the answer to my question is already in there...
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,652
Spain
Thanks martin. Do you know if Spain had any regulations against foreign privateers claiming or selling prizes in their ports? I can't read Spanish fluently so it will take me time to run that article you posted through a translator, so apologies if the answer to my question is already in there...

Dear Hyuzy... Yes, Foreign privateers could selling prize in the Spanish ports with one stipulation: prizes should belong to a state at war with Spain. For example, if a French or a Dutch or an American privatteer took a British prize when Spain was in War with Britain...they could sell the prizes in Spanish harbours! it was legal! (of course, paying taxes). Or a British corsair when Spain was in War against France...

But I think.. I have not evidences.. but I am sure... in America.. Spain, France, Britain always were in a non-declared war.... in 18th Century.. so.... I guess....they sold prizes....in a kind of "black" market or a kind of "non-official" way.

But in 1861 - 1865.... Spain was not in war with USA.. Certainly Spain and Confederate relations were good ... and Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana maintained more than cordial relations with O´Donnell and Elisabeth II´s Spain... and Cadis and Havana harbours.... were not unknown to the Confederates ..

So.... Could they sell prizes in Spanish ports? Difficult to say... legally it was necessary to be in War... And Spain was not in War... but... it was a Civil War....So... I have the hunch.. Confederates sold prizes in Spanish harbours.... and the authorities blinked an eye! But not official data.

I know you can´t read this long book (400 pages) about Spanish Privattering laws and the different kind of corsairs/Privateers. But I put the link because maybe someone is interested.
From page 150 you can read "Buena o mala presa" (Good or bad prize). I think it is interesting this phrase:

According with Spanish laws...La legitimidad o ilegitimidad de una captura era determinada en base a lo estipulado en las leyes vigentes en el país de origen del corsario que había hecho la detención (...) y siempe ey cuando no pertenecieran a países neutrales.

(The legitimacy or illegitimacy of a prize was determined based on the laws in force in the country of origin of the privateer who had made the capture....and always when they did not belong to neutral countries). On page 154, you ca find the process to sell the prize (unfortunatlly only in Spanish).

So.. I think... it is possible to say... Yes... Confederate sold prizes... although not official evidences... I think.

Regards
 
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May 2019
215
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That's a helpful answer Martin, many thanks for taking the time to give me that explanation. Based on what you've said, I think I'd agree with your hypothesis that Confederates could have sold prizes in Spanish ports, but it would most likely have been "under the radar" if it happened. I will have to find out more from the Confederate side, about whether their laws gave CSA representatives in foreign countries the power to make prize court judgements, and if so, whether it actually happened. It's good to know where Spain stood, more or less, on the issue.