Allow me for the first time to say one word in the way of counsel Our discreet friends here expect the Government to hold on to Mason and Slidell or to refer the question to the French Emperor. If the British Government decline that reference it will not fail to offend France, and whatever decision France makes in such a case will be international law hereafter. Excuse me for making bold to say this much.
Very truly, yours,
JOHN A. KENNEDY,
FOREIGN OFFICE, [London,] December 19, 1861.
Lord LYONS, K. C. B., &c., [Washington.]
MY LORD: Mr. Adams came to me to-day at the foreign office at 3 o'clock. He said ha came to ask two questions which concerned himself personally. I interrupted him to ask whether what he was going to say was by order of his Government or from his own sense of what he ought to do. Mr. Adams answered that the proceeding was entirely his own but that he had with him a dispatch from Mr. Seward* which he was authorized to read to me if he should think fit to do so. It appeared the said from that dispatch that the Government of Washington had not authorized the capture of the two insurgents, Mason and Slidell, and that the United States Government stood quite uncommitted at the time of sending the dispatch. I said that if the dispatch did not enter into any controversy with regard to the case of Messrs. Mason and Slidell I should be glad to hear it read. Mr. Adams then proceeded to read the dispatch.
It commenced by referring with approbation to a speech made by Mr. Adams at the Mansion House, and proceeded to notice with gratification the sentiments which had been expressed by Lord Palmerston in a conversation he had held with Mr. Adams in reference to the James Adger. Mr. Seward then proceeds to declare that he American Government value highly the friendship of Great Britain, and lament that certain causes of difference have arisen, owing as Mr. Seward imagines to the want of attention on the part of the British Government to the performance of the duties incumbent on a fiendly power during the struggle in which the United States are engaged. Mr. Seward gives as instances the case of communication to the Confederate authorities by Mr. Bunch; the admission of the Sumter, privateer, to purchase coal and provisions at Trinidad in contradistinction as he said to the conduct that [sic] every European State, and the arrival in the Southern States of vessels laden with arms and ammunition from England.
Mr. Seward then proceeds to the case of the Trent, from which ship the two insurgents had been taken. He affirms that no instructions ptain Wilkes which authorized him to act in the manner he had done. Neither had the Unted States Government committed itself with regard to any decision upon the character of that act. The Government would wait for any representations the British Government might make before coming to any positive decision. He desires that if Mr. Adams shall think it desirable this dispatch shall be read to me and also to Lord Palmerson.
In answer to Mr. Adams I touched upon most of the points treated of in the dispatch. I did not think it necessary, however, to recur to the case of Mr. Bunch. With regard to the Confederate privateer I
*Seward to Adams, November 30, p. 1108.