their secretaries, Messrs. Macfarland and Eustis, on board the steamer Trent, dated U. S. steamer San Jacinto, at sea, November 16, 1861.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. STEAMER SAN JACINTO, At Sea, November 16, 1861.
Honorable GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.
SIR: In my dispatch by Commander Taylor* I confine myself to the reports of the movements of this ship and the facts connected with the capture of Messrs. Mason, Slidell, Eustis and Macfarland, as I intended to write you particularly relative to the reasons which induced my action in making them prisoners.
When I heard at Cienfuegos on the south side of Cuba of these commissioners having landed on the Island of Cuba and that they were at the Havana and would depart in the English steamer on the 7th of November, I determined to intercept them and carefully examined all the authorities on international law to which I had access, viz, Kent, Wheaton and Vattel, besides various decisions of Sir William Scott and other judges of the admiralty court of Great Britain which bore upon the rights of neutrals and their responsibilities.
The governments of Great Britain, France and Spain having issued proclamations that the Confederate States were viewed, considered and treated as belligerents and knowing that the ports of Great Britain, France, Spain and Holland in the West Indies were open to their vessels and that they were admitted to all the courtesies and protection vessels of the United States received, every aid and attention being given them, proved clearly that they acted upon this view and decision and bought them within the international law of search and under the responsibilities. I therefore felt no hesitation in boarding and searching all vessels of whatever nation I fell in with and have done so.
The question arose in my mind whether I had the right to capture the persons of these commissioners, whether they were amenablere was no doubt I had the right to capture vessels with written dispatches. They are expressly referred to in all authorities, subjecting the vessel to seizure and condemnation if the captain of the vessel has the knowledge of their being on board. Both these gentlemen were not dispatches in the literal sense and did not seem to come under that designation and nowhere could I find a case in point.
That they were commissioners I had ample proof from their own avowal, and bent on mischievous and traitorous errands against our country, to overthrow its institutions and enter into treaties and alliances with foreign States, expressly forbidden by the Constitution.
They had been presented to the captain-general of Cuba by Her Britannic Majesty's consul-general, but the captain-general told me that he had not received them in that capacity but as distinguished gentlemen and strangers.
I then considered them as the embodiment of dispatches and as they had openly declared themselves as charged with all authority from the Confederate Government to form teaties and alliances tending to the establishment of their independence I became satisfied that their mission was adverse and criminal to the Union and it therefore became my duty to arrest their progress and capture them if they had no passports or papers from the Federal Government as provided for under the law
* Wilkes to Secretary Welles, November 15, p. 1080.