I have been placed and am now detained within this fortress. Why, sir, am I thus in my old age deprived of my liberty? I know of no act on my part which can justify or even be a pretext for my imprisonment. For forty-five years man and boy I have been sailing between New York and Charleston and during all that time have changed employers but once and then only because the party with whom I first engaged withdrew from the line. This ought to be satisfactory evidence of my good character and good conduct. You, sir, have been a passenger with me between New York and Charleston and ought to know somthing of me personally.
I know not of any specific charge against me, certainly not of any offense against the law. But it has been rumored that I owe my arrest and imprisonment tomy having raised the Palmetto flag upon my vessel, the steam-ship Columbia, in March last. This I do not deny; but let me explain the circumstances. It was a flag that I had used as my private signal and as a racing flag for fifteen years. I had used that sameflag when you, sir, were a passenger with me some twelve or fifteen years ago, and Daniel Webster, JohnA. Dix, and many other distinguished citizens have sailed with me with that flag flying. To General Dix I rendered a great service with it only two years ago in signaling a vessel sailing from Charleston to Florida on which he wished to take passage for Florida to visit his sick wife then lying in a critical state. In March when I sued it in a way which it appears has given offense there was peace between the North and the South and business and intercourse between the two sections were prosecuted as usual. My vessel was still making her accustomed trips. In leaving New York on that occassion I made my departure at the same time with the Yorktown, one of the Richmond steam-packets which led to a trial of speed between her and the vessel which I commanded. In this as in all other cases of the like kind which had occurred hundreds of times I raised the flag before referred to simply as a racing flag and not as an act of any political significance whatever. In fact I am not and never have been a politician. I never even voted in my life. At the same time that I raised this flag I had and kept at its appropriate place on the peak of my vessel the U. S. flag. How this can be construed into an offense and tortured into a sufficient cause for my imprisonment I am unable to conceive. And I think, sir, when you give the subject your reflection you will cometo the conclusion that great injustice as been doneme and that I ought to be immediately discharged.
But I understand from Mr. Hawley, who has visited the prisoners here on your behalf, that I cannot expect a discharge unless I will consent to take the oath of allegiance to the COnstitution and Government of theUnited states. This I did when I was admitted to citizenship, for I am of Irish birth, but to do it again and under existing circumstances would probably subject me to great loss and leave me destitute in my old age. Already I have lost $30,000 in vessels recently seized and confiscated by the United States Government in consequence of their being in part owned by citizens of the SOuth. I own property to the amount of $25,000 in Charleston which would probably be confiscated by the South should I take the step which you require of me. Surely justice and humanity forbid that you should impose upon me such a hardship. I am ready to give such parole as under the circumstances would be safe for me and it would be reasonable and just for you to ask, and upon such terms I pray you to order my discharge.
I am, with great respect, yours, &c.,