War of the Rebellion: Serial 115 Page 1152 PRISONERS OF WAR, ETC.

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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 interest of my officer and crew in the prize and suffer her to proceed after the detention necessary to effect the transfer of those commissioners, considering I had obtained the important end I had in view, and which affected the interest of our country and interrupted the action of that of the Confederates.

I shall consider first how these reason ought to affect the action of this Government; adn secondly how they ought to be expected to affect the action of Great Britain.

The reason are satisfactory to this Government so far as Captain Wilkes is concerned. It could not desire that the San Jacinto, her officers and crew should be exposed to danger and loss by weakening their number to detach a prize crew to go on board the Trent. Still less could it disavowve of preventing inconveniences, losses and perhaps disasters to the several hundred innocent passengers found on board the prize vessel. Nor could this Government perceive any ground for questioning the fact that these reason though apparently incongrous did operate in the mind of Captain Wilkes and determine him to relase the Trent. Human actions generally proceed upon mingled and sometimes conflicting motives. He measured the sacrifices which this decision would cost. It manifesty did not occur to him, however, that beyond the sacrifice of the private interests (as he calls them) of his officers and crew there might also possibly be a sacrifice even of the chief and public object of his capture, namely, the right of his Government to the custody and disposition of the captured persons. The Government cannot censure him for this oversight. It confesses that the whole subject came unforessen upon the Government as doubtless it did upon him. Its present convictions upon the point in question are the result of deliberate examination and deduction now made and not of any impressions previously formed.

Nevertheless the question now is not whether Captain Wilkes is justified to his Government in what he did, but what is the present view of the Government as to the effect of what he has done? Assuming now for argument's sake only that the release of the Trent if voluntary involved a waiver of the claim of the Government to hold the captured persons, the United States in that case could have no hesitation in saying that the act which has thus already been approved by the Government must be allowed to draw its legal consequence after it. It is of the very nature of a gift or a charity that the giver cannot after the exercise of his benevolence is past recall or modify its benfits.

We are thus brought directly to the question whether we are entitled to regard the rease of the Trent as involuntary or whether we are obliged to consider that it was voluntary. Clearly the release would have been involuntary had it been made solely upon the first ground assigned for it by Captain Wilkes, namely, the want of a sufficient force to send the prize vessel into port for adjudication. It is not the duty of a captor to hazard his own vessel in order to secure a judicial examination to the captured party. No large prize crew, however, is legally necessary for it is the duty of the captured party to acquiesce and go willingly before the tribunal to whose jurisdiction it appeals. If the captured party indicate purposes to employ means of resistance which the captor cannot with probatle safety to himself overcome he may properly leave the vessel to go forward and neither she nor the State she represents can ever afterward justly object that the captor deprived her of the judicial remedy to which she was entitled.

But the second reason assigned by Captain Wilkes for releasing the Trent differs from the first. At best therefore it must be held that