Thursday, March 2, 2017

William H. Seward to Gideon Welles, April 20, 1863

Dep't. Of State, 20th April, 1863.
Hon. G. Welles, &c.

Sir: In reply to your note of the 18th inst. on the subject of the mails of the “Peterhoff,” it seems proper for me to say that when the question of detaining the public mails found on board of vessels visited and searched by the blockading forces of the U. States, was presented to this Department last year, I took the instructions of the President thereupon. Not only the note which I addressed to you on the 8th day of August last, but also the note which I addressed to you on the 31st of October last, concerning this question, was written with the approval and under the direction of the President. The views therein expressed were then communicated to the British Government by authority of the President, as defining the course of proceedings which would be pursued when such cases should occur thereafter. On receiving your note of the 13th inst., intimating a view of the policy to be pursued differing from what had thus been determined by the President on the 31st of October last, I submitted to him that note together with all the previous correspondence bearing upon the subject, together with the act of Congress to which you have called my attention. I then asked his instructions in the case of the mails of the Peterhoff. The note which I addressed to you on the 15th was the result of these instructions, and having been read and approved by him, it was transmitted to you by his direction. I was also directed to communicate the contents thereof to the Dist. Attorney of the U. S. for the Southern District of New York, and also to announce to Lord Lyons, for the information of the British Government, that the mails of the “Peterhoff” would be forwarded to their destination. I was also directed by the President to make some special representations to the British Government on the general subject of the mails of neutrals, which are now in preparation.

I need hardly say that no part of my note of the 15th instant was intended or was understood by me as imputing to you the having raised or being disposed to raise new questions. What was said on that subject, was said by way of showing that a course of proceedings different from what I was recommending, would involve, on the part of this Government, the raising of a question which had been waived by it in my correspondence with the British Government in October last.

I have the honor to be &c.
William H. Seward.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 282-3

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