Will you please consult John A. kennedy, esq., superintendent of police, and remit tome with your opinion thereon these papers?
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
F. W. SEWARD,
413 BROOME STREET, NEW YORK, November 2, 1861.
F. W. SEWARD, Assistant Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
DEAR SIR: Yours of the 24th October in relation to the case of Captain Michael Berry was received in due course ofmail. I have delayed replying for a few days, making search for evidence against Mr. Berry. I do not find any one who can prove any specific acts of Captain Berry. The officers and sailors who sailed under him to and from the port of Charleston during the time when he carried the rebel flag are now absent with the great naval expedition. The arrest of Mr. Berry was made upon the newspaper statements of the time.
For the purposes of this communication I assume that the allegations against him are true. He has talked secession loudly and publicly. When captain of a steamer running between this city and Charleston and after South Carolina had formally seceded he carried the rebel flag on his ship into and out of the port of Charleston, and this defiantly in the face of Fort Sumter while yet in possession of U. S. forces. I take him to be guilty enough and that his guilt could be established by competent proof. I come to this conclusion from circumstances and the general report of his conduct by his friends.
I suppose, however, that the Government does not desire to imprison every man who has been guilty of treason, but only those whose liberty is inconsistent with the public safety. Captain Berry is not a man of influence or position now has he any marked degree of ability. He is intemperate in his habits and indiscreet in his manner. In manner he ibed in vulgar phrase a "blover. " His conduct while running to and from the prot of Charleston was induced by commercial greed which leads astray numbers of better men than he. He flattered the self-love of the rebels and thus secured their applause, with which he was weak enough to be flattered, and their money. The carrying of the Palmetto flag was of little account practically. It did the United States no harm and the rebels no good. It was only abadge of treason indicating the animus of the man. Undoubtedly freights were carried in his ship which offered real "aid and comfort to the enemy. " But of this there are no proofs nor has that ever been alleged against him as an offense.
I think the public safety does not require the further detention of Captain Berry and that he may safely be discharged on taking the oath of allegiance. Captain Berry in his commercial intercourse with Charleston acted for Spofford & Tileson, the distinguished shipping house. The freights of his ship were theirs, and though there is no doubt that the firm in question forwarded vast quantities of freights which were contraband of war, even arms and ammunition, clothing and military stores, yet no one, not even the Federal officials, ever questioned their transactions. They were the principals I the treasonable business and he the agent. While they are at large and respected and cherished he ought not to be in durance unless the public safety demands it.
Nevertheless if you wish me in these respects to found my conclusions upon the legal guilt or innocence of the parties, then I should be