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Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams. No. 414.]
DEPARTMENT OF State,
Washington, November 30, 1862. Sir: I have received your despatch of the 13th of November, (No. 259,) and also your despatch of November 15, (No. 261.) They relate to the proposition recently made by the Emperor of France to the Emperor of Russia and to the Queen of Great Britain, to join him in recommending an armistice in our unhappy civil war. Your statements upon that subject are very interesting and satisfactory. At the same time I do not propose to discuss the transaction. • You will learn the impression which it has made upon the President from the
copy which I send you of my despatch of this date to Mr. Dayton. I send a copy of the same paper to Mr. Taylor, in Russia; and thus, by the President's direction, I leave the French proposal to take its place among the incidents already past of the lamentable civil war of which we again think we are beginning to see an approaching end. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. Charles Francis Adams, Esq., 80., 8c., sc. (The enclosure will be found in the correspondence with France.)
Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.
[Extracts.] No. 260.]
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATĖS,
London, November 13, 1862. Sir: Your despatch (No. 381) of the 25th of October covered copies of many papers received from Mr. Harvey, at Lisbon, touching the piratical depredations committed by the gunboat 290 off the western islands, which I am instructed to bring before the notice of Lord Russell in such manner as shall seem best calculated to effect two objects—first, due redress for the national and private injuries sustained ; and secondly, a prevention of such lawless and injurious proceedings hereafter
I shall take the earliest opportunity to execute these orders, and, at the same time, to add other papers which have been furnished to me by Mr. Dudley, the consul at Liverpool, embracing still other cases of a similar character. Even without the addition of this evidence I have reason to suppose that the atten. tion of the government here has been much drawn to the difficulty in which the acts of this vessel have involved them. There are statements current in the newspapers that they have actually stopped a vessel at Cork laden with supplies for the rebels, and have likewise prohibited the shipment of arms in the steamers going to New York. With respect to the latter part of the story, it seems to be admitted that the agents of those steamers no longer consent to receive them. though a different reason is given for it—the fear of some threat by Captain Semmes of what he would do if he found them on board. I am quite incredulous as to any disposition of that personage or of his owners in Liverpool voluntarily to incur the risk of difficulty with the authorities in England.
The only noteworthy circumstance in this connexion seems to be the great difference in the amount of evidence required to establish the destination in the respective cases. Although the equipment of vessels and cargoes from various ports of this kingdom, with the intent to run the blockade, has been so notori
ous for a year past that the instances have become a frequent item of newspaper gossip, the difficulty of establishing the proof by the necessary evidence has been constantly urged in extenuation of a refusal to do anything at all to check them. And the moment a determination to do something is arrived at, the first manifestation of it appears to be against the party that has committed comparatively no offence, and whose limited operations have never acquired notoriety.
In the interview which I am to have with Lord Russell on Saturday, for tho consideration of another matter, I hope to be able, incidentally, to gain a more complete insight into this. I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS. Hon William H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.
[Extracts.] No. 261.)
LEGATION OF THE UNITED States,
London, November 15, 1862. Sir: The reply of Earl Russell to the French note which is published in all the morning papers is sent herewith. It is sufficiently decisive to answer all. present purposes. I have just returned from my conference with his lordship on the subject of the convention. The conversation which ensued was too long to be reported to-day. I can only say that it was friendly and satisfactory. I inquired if he had any information of the answer of the Russian court. He: said that he had received only an abstract of it by the telegraph. I understood him that, in substance, it contained an expression o great interest in the com-munication, a desire not to stand in the way of any joint action that might be determined on by the two powers, and a profession of a wish to help on any measures to restore peace in America that might be likely to prove acceptable to the United States. * * *
It is a little remarkable that, both in England and France, the tendency of public opinion is gradually to fall into the old channel of party divisions. The advocates of strong power side with the rebels, whilst the more liberal and popular party befriend the cause of the government. This is becoming more and more visible as the struggle goes on. Efforts are now making here, with a good prospect of success, for a more effective organization of the anti-slavery senti. ment in our behalf.
Since writing the above I have received the following telegram, purporting to give the substance of the Russian answer :
"ST. PETERSBURGH, November 16. " The Journal de St. Petersburgh' of to-day contains the reply of Prince Gortschakoff to the note of M. Drouyn de l'Huys.
" The Prince, after recalling the constant efforts of Russia in favor of conciliation in America, says: 'It is requisite, above all, to avoid the appearance of any pressure whatever capable of chilling public opinion in America, or of exciting the susceptibility of the nation. We believe that a combined measure of the powers, however conciliatory, if presented in an official or officious (officieux) character, would risk arriving at a result opposed. to pacification. If, however, France should persist in her intention, and England should acquiesce, instructions shall be despatched to Baron Stoeckl, at Washington, to lend to both. his colleagues, if not official aid, at least moral support."" I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
• CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS.. Hon. William H. Seward,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.
LEGATION OF The United States,
London, November 20, 1862. Sir: I have to acknowledge the reception from the department of despatches, numbered from 383 to 388, inclusive. * * * I am directed in these despatches to make representations to the British government in three forms :
1. By No. 386, I am to protest against the construction of war vessels for the use of the rebels in the ports of this kingdom.
2. By No. 383, to present a copy of the resolutions of the Chamber of Commerce of New York on the depredations committed by the pirate 290 on American shipping.
3. By No. 384, to bring to its notice the conduct of the commander of her Majesty's gunboat Bull Dog, as described in a letter of Rear-Admiral Charles Wilkes to the Secretary of the Navy.
Being engaged at this moment in the preparation of a note to Lord Russell, in execution of your prior instructions contained in despatch No. 381, and intended to present the whole case of the government in respect to the action of No. 290, which, on account of its great importance, I have taken time to mature, I rather incline to postpone action on the other topics for a little while. I am led to do this, not simply because it does not seem to me the most propitious moment to multiply causes of offence with this court, but because there are accidental obstacles to my action in some of the despatches themselves.
For the various reasons thus enumerated, I shall venture to postpone, at least for the present, any particular remonstrance based on these later despatches. Much of the general subject will indeed be covered by the note to which I have alluded as already prepared.
The telegraphic despatch by the Edinburgh, which appears in all the morning newspapers, contains a report of the substance of a letter addressed by you to the Chamber of Commerce of New York on the depredations of No. 290, which announces that the minister at London had been directed to make reclamations of the British government. This intelligence has had a little effect in commercial circles here, it being charitably construed as symptomatic of a desire to create difficulties with England to counteract the tendency of the elections at home. For this reason I am glad that a sense of the importance of the proceeding has happened to delay my preparation of the note I propose to present until after this news was received. That note was finished yesterday, and is now in the hands of the secretary, who is preparing a fair copy for.my signature. A copy will likewise accompany this despatch. Lord Russell is not altogether unprepared for the reception of something of the kind, as in the last conference which I had with him, on Saturday, I apprised him that I had received a mass of testimony, upon which I was instructed to make a further representation on the subject. The labor of copying all the papers, with the present abridged force in the legation, has also contributed to the delay.
In the precise conjuncture of affairs in Europe it is a little unfortunate that this difficulty should interpose itself between Great Britain and the United States. I am rather inclined to treat it as a question of right and wrong, to be settled after amicable discussion at a convenient time hereafter, and not as a cause of immediate and pressing urgency. *
The publication of the notes of the three powers on the question proposed by France seems to have had an important influence upon opinion all over Europe. * * * As a consequence, there has been a slight tendency to reaction towards the cause of the United States. This has likewise been, to some extent, re-enforced by an active revival of the anti-slavery feeling among the people at large. I am particularly anxious at this time to avoid action which should have the smallest effect to modify this current. I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS. Hon. WILLIAM H. Seward,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Adams to Earl Russell.
London, November 20, 1862. My LORD : It is with very great regret that I find myself once more under the necessity of calling your lordship's attention to the painful situation in which the government of the United States is placed by the successive reports received of the depredations committed on the high seas upon merchant vessels by the gunboat known in this country as No. 290, touching the construction and outfit of which in the port of Liverpool for the above purpose I had the honor of heretofore presenting evidence of the most positive character.
It is my duty now to submit to your consideration copies of a large number of papers received from Washington as well as from the consul at Liverpool, all of which concur in establishing the truth of the allegations made by me of the intentions of that vessel prior to her departure from the ports of this kingdom. I then averred that the purpose was to make war upon the people of the United States, a nation with which Great Britain has now been for half a century, and still is, on a footing of the most friendly alliance, by the force of treaties which have received the solemn sanction of all the authorities regarded among men as necessary to guarantee the mutual obligations of nations. That I made no mistake in that averment is now fully proved by the hostile proceed ings of that vessel since the day she sailed from the place in this kingdom where she was prepared for that end.
It now appears from a survey of all the evidence-first, that this vessel was built in a dock-yard belonging to a commercial house in Liverpool, of which the chief member, down to October of last year, is a member of the House of Com. mons; secondly, that, from the manner of her construction and her peculiar adaptation to war purposes, there could have been no doubt by those engaged in the work, and familiar with such details, that she was intended for other purposes than those of legitimate trade; and thirdly, that during the whole process and outfit in the port of Liverpool, the direction of the details, and the engagement of persons to be employed in her, were, more or less, in hands known to be connected with the insurgents in the United States. It further appears that since her departure from Liverpool, which she was suffered to leave without any of the customary evidence at the custom-house to designate her ownership, sho has been supplied with her armament, with coals and stores and men by vessels known to be fitted out and despatched for the purpose from the same port, and that, although commanded by Americans in her navigation of the ocean, she is manned almost entirely by English seamen, engaged and forwarded from that port by persons in league with her commander. Furthermore, it is shown that this commander, claiming to be an officer acting under legitimate authority, yet is in the constant practice of raising the flag of Great Britain, in order the better to execute his system of ravage and depredation on the high seas. And lastly, it is made clear that he pays no regard whatever to the recognized law of capture of merchant vessels on the high seas, which requires the action of some judicial tribunal to confirm the rightfulness of the proceeding ; but, on the contrary, that he resorts to the piratical system of taking, plundering, and burning
private property without regard to consequences or responsibility to any legitimate authority whatever.
Such being the admitted state of the facts, the case evidently opens a series of novel questions of the gravest character to the consideration of all civilized countries. It is obviously impossible to reconcile the toleration by any one nation of similar undertakings in its own ports, to the injury of another nation with which it is at peace, with any known theory of moral or political obligation. It is equally clear that the reciprocation of such practices could only lead in the end to the utter subversion to all security to private property upon the ocean. In the case of countries geographically approximated to one another, the preservation of peace between them for any length of time would be rendered by it almost impossible. It would be, in short, permitting any or all irresponsible parties to prepare and fit out in any country just what armed enterprises against the property of their neighbors they might think fit to devise, without the possibility of recovering a control over their acts the moment after they might succeed in escaping from the particular local jurisdiction into the high seas.
It is by no means my desire to imply an intention on the part of her Majesty's government to countenance any such idea. I am fully aware of the fact that at a very early date, more than one month before the escape of the vessel, on my presenting evidence of the nature and purposes of the nameless vessel, together with the decided opinion of eminent counsel that a gross violation of the law of the land, as well as a breach of the law of nations, was in process of perpetration, an investigation was entered into by the law officers of the crown which resulted in an acknowledgment of the justice of the remonstrance. In consequence of this, I am led to infer, from the language of your lordship's note of the 22d of September, explaining the facts of the case, that an order to detain the vessel at Liverpool was about to issue on the 29th of July last, when a telegraphic message was forwarded to you from that port to the effect that the vessel had escaped that very morning. Your lordship further adds that instructions were then immediately sent to Ireland to stop her should she put into Queenstown, and similar instructions were forwarded to the port of Nassau. But it has turned out that nothing has been heard of her at either place.
It thus appears that her Majesty's government had, from the evidence which I had the honor to submit to your lordship's consideration, and from other inquiry, became so far convinced of the true nature of the enterprise in agitation at Liverpool as to have determined on detaining the vessel. So far as this action went, it seems to have admitted the existence of a case of violation of the law of neutrality in one of her Majesty's ports of which the government of the United States had a right to complain. The question will then remain, how far the failure of the proceedings, thus admitted to have been insti. tuted by her Majesty's government to prevent the departure of this vessel, affects the right of reclamation of the government of the United States for the grievous damage done to the property of their citizens in permitting the escape of this lawless pirate from its jurisdiction.
And here it may not be without its use to call to your lordship’s recollection for a moment the fact that this question, like almost all others connected with the duty of neutrals in time of war on the high seas, has been much agitated in the discussions heretofore held between the authorities of the two countries. During the latter part of the last century it fell to the lot of her Majesty's gov. ernment to make the strongest remonstrances against the fitting out in the ports of the United States of vessels with an intent to prey upon British commerce not, however, in the barbarous and illegal manner shown to have been practiced by No. 290, but subject to the forms of ultimate adjudication equally recognized by all civilized nations. And they went the further length of urging the acknowledgment of the principle of compensation in damages for the consequences