of nations, viz: "That foreign ministers of a belligerent on board of neutral ships are required to possess papers from the other belligerent to permit them to pass frec. "
Report and their assumption gave them the title of ministers to France and England, but inasmuch as they had not been received by either of these powers I did not conceive they had any immunity attached to their persons and were but escaped conspirators plotting and contriving to overthrow the Government of the United States and they were therefore not to be considered as having any claim to the immunities attached to the character they throught fit to assume.
As respects the steamer in which they embarked I ascertained in the Havana that she was a merchant vessel plying between Vera Cruz, the Havana and Saint Thomas carrying the mail by contract.
The agent of the vessel, the son of the British consul at Havana, was well aware of the character of these persons; that they engaged their passage and did embark in the vessel; his father had visited and introduced them as ministers of the Confederate States on their way to England and France.
They went in the steamer with the knowledge and by the consent of the captain, who endeavored afterward to conceal them by refusing to exhibit the passenger list and the papers of the vessel. There can be no doubt he knew they were carrying highly important dispatches, and were endowed with instructions inimical to the United States. This rendered his vessel (a neutral) a good prize and I determined to take possession of her and as I mentioned in my report send her to Key West for adjudication where I am well satisfied she would have been condemned for carrying these persons and for resisting to be searched. The cargo was also liable, as all the shippers were knowing to the embarkation of these live dispatches and their traitorous motives and actions to the Union of the United States.
I forbore to seize her, however, in consequence educed in officers and crew and the derangement it would couse innocent persons, there being a large number of passengers who would have been put to great loss and inconvenience as well as disappointment from the interruption it would have caused them in not being able to join the steamer from Saint Thomas to Europe. I therefore concluded to sacrifice the interests of my officers and crew in the prize and suffered the steamer to proceed after the necessary detention to effect the transfer of these commissioners, considering I had obtained the important end I had in view and which affected the interests of our country and interrupted the action of that of the Confederate.
I would add that the conduct of Her Britannic Majesty's subjects both official and others showed but little regard or obedience to her proclamation by aiding and abetting the views and endeavoring to conceal the persons of these commissioners.
I have pointed out sufficient reasons to show you that my action in this case was derived from a firm conviction that it became my duty to make these parties prisoners and to bring them to the United States.
Although in giving up this valuable prize I have deprived the officers and crew of a well-earned reward I am assured they are quite content to forego any advantages which might have accrued to them under the circumstances.
I may add that having assumed the responsibility I am willing to abide the result.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,