I infer from Lord Palmerston's remark that the British Government is now awake to the importance of averting possible conflict and disposed to confer and act with earnestness to that end. If so we are disposed to meet them m the same spirit as a nation chiefly of British lineage, sentiments and sympathies-a civilized and humane nation-a Christian people.
Since that conversation was held Captain Wilkes in the steamer San Jacinto has boarded a British colonial steamer and taken from her deck two insurgents who were proceeding to Europe on an errand of treason against their country. This is a new incident unknown to and unforeseen at least in its circumstances by Lord Palmerston. It is to be met and disposed of by the two Governments if possible in the spirit to which I have adverted. Lord Lyons has prudently refrained from opening the subject to me, as I presume waiting instructions from home. We have done nothing on the subject to anticipate the discussion and we have not furnished you with any explanations. We adhere to that course now because we think it more prudent that the ground taken by the British Government should be first made known to us here and that the discussion if there must be one shall be had here. It is proper, however, that you should know one fact in the case without indicating that we attach much importance to it, namely, that in the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell on board a British vessel Captain Wilkes having acted without any instructions from the Government the subject is therefore free from the embarrssment which might have resulted if he act had been specially directed by us.
I trust that the British Govenment will consider the subject in a friendly temper and it may expect the best disposition on the part of this Government.
Although this is a confidentiale note I shall not object to your reading it to Earl Russell and Lord Palmerston if you deem it expedient.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, Washington, November 30, 1861.
[Captain CHARLES WILKES.]
SIR: I congratulate you on your safe arrival, and especially do I congratulate you on the great public service you have redered in the capture of the rebel emissaries. Messrs. Mason and Slidell have been conspicuous in the cospiracy to dissolve the Union and it is well known that when seized byn a mission hostile to the Government and the country. Your conduct in seizing these public enemies was marked by intelligence, ability, decision and firmness and has the emphatic approval of this Department.
It is not necessary that I should in this communication, which is intended to be one of congratulation to yourself, officers and crew, express an opinion on the course pursued in omitting to capture the vessel which had these public enemies on board further than to say that the forbearance exercised in this instance must not be permitted to constitute a precedent hereafter for the infractions of neutral obligations.
I am, &c.,