Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Brigadier General George G. Meade to Margaretta Sergeant Meade, December 9, 1861

CAMP PIERPONT, VA., December 9, 1861.

Most persons here pooh-pooh the news from England, but I think it very serious, as it confirms my apprehension that England would feel herself compelled to intervene in our domestic troubles, and would seize the first plausible pretext for doing so. There is no earthly doubt but that we were justified by the laws of nations in arresting Mason and Slidell. It is, however, a question whether it was done in the right mode, and whether Wilkes ought not to have captured the vessel and carried it into port, where an admiralty judge could have settled the legal points involved, and have ordered the release of the prisoners, in case their arrest was contrary to national law. This I understand is the point England now makes, viz.: that no naval officer is empowered to decide on the spot questions of international law — which can only be settled by admiralty courts.

SOURCE: George Meade, The Life and Letters of George Gordon Meade, Vol. 1, p. 234-5

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