commanding officer at Mobile, a copy of which is inclosed. That communication has since been forwarded to Richmond, and formally sanctioned by the appointment of commissioners by the Confederate Government. Shall I get out the cotton upon the basis proposed? Of course I shall let all cotton come out under the arrangement which may offer before I may hear from the Government.
I desire therefore a reply by return mail. While this letter is being copied I have received from Admiral Farragut the inclosed instruction of the Secretary of the Navy. Whether these have been had upon full consideration of the subject set forth above I do not know. If literally carried out they would starve the neighboring country and would great embarrass us here for supplies of lumber, wood, naval stores, and fresh provisions. We have to get these through the rivers and over the lakes in exchange for provisions. I do not mean to make this a matter of favoritism; under favor, that this is not the way the war is carried on here. I desire but to carry out the policy, as I supposed, of the Government, and I administer to the necessities. I have no personal wish on the subject. It becomes therefore of the utmost importance to know exactly what the Government desires, and I need not assure you that I shall govern myself with strictness by its direction.
Acting under this same policy I allowed the West Florida to go out to Sabine Pass, having cleared for Matamoras with a cargo not contraband of war, for the purpose of bringing cotton from Texas. She belonged to a loyal citizen, and in order that there might be no mistake I gave the permit, a copy of which is inclosed. The West Florida has been detained and sent to Pensacola. You will remember that I published a correspondence with the Hon. Reverdy Johnson upon this subject of cotton, and I learned that I had been approved by the State Department through a letter to General Shepley, military governor. May I ask your intervention to have the Florida released, whatever may be the decision of the Government as to her proceeding on her voyage?*
You will see that by the form of the letter it was to go to the admiral for the purpose of preventing all misunderstanding. It is impossible to overrate the importance of this question of obtaining a supply of cotton to the Northern manufacturer, to say nothing of the effect upon European powers.
It is infinitely of more importance to get the cotton even for our sails and tents than whether A or B loses or gains in the exchange of commodities. Being purchased in this manner prevents the Jews from gathering up all the gold in the country to exchange it with the Confederates for cotton. The day of cotton-burning is past.
I have the honor to be, most truly, yours,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
[Inclosure No. 1.]
NAVY DEPARTMENT, September 21, 1862.
Rear-Admiral D. G. FARRAGUT,
Comdg. West Gulf Blockading Squadron, Pensacola:
* * * * * *
Hereafter you will allow no vessel to import or export merchandise
*See Stanton to Butler, November 11, p. 591.