FOREIGN OFFICE, [London,] January 10, 1862.
[Lord LYONS, Washington.]
MY LORD: In my dispatch to you of the 30th of November after unforming you of the circumstances which had occurred in relation to the capture of the four persons taken from on boad the Trent I stated to you that it thus appeared that certain individuals had been forcibly taken from on board a British vessel-the ship of a neutral power-while such vessel was pursuing a lawful and innocent voyage; an act of violence which was an affront to the British flag and a violation of international law.
I concluded by directing you in case the reparation which Her Majesty's Government expected to receive should not be offered by Mr. Seward to propose to that minister to take such redress as alone would satisfy the British nation, namely, first, the liberation of the four gentlemen taken from on board the Trent and their delivery to your lordship in order that they might again be placed under British protection; and secondly, a suitable apolorgy for the aggression which had been committed.
I received yesterday your dispatch of the 27th ultimo inclosing a note to your Mr. Seward which is in substance the answer to my dispatch of the 30th of November. Proceeding at once to the main points in discussion between us Her Majesty's Government have cerfully examined how far Mr. Seward's note and the conduct it announces complies substantially with the two proposals I have recited. With regard to the first, viz, the liberation of he prisoners with a view to their being again placed under British protection I find that the note concluded by stating that the prisoners will be cheerfully liberated, and by calling upon your lordship to indicate a time and place for receiving them. No condition of any kind is compled with the liberation of the prisoners.
With regard to the suitable apology which the British Government had a right to expect I find that the Government of the United States distincly and unequivocally declares that no directions had been given to Captain Wilkes or to any other naval officer to arrest the four persons named or any of them on the Trent or on any other British vessel, or on any other neutral vessel at the place where it occurred or elsewhere.
I find further that the Secretary of State expressly forbears to justify the particular act of which Her Majesty's Government complained. If the United States Government had allgh Captain Wilkes had no previous instruction for that purpose he was right in captruring the persons of the four prisoners and in removing them from the Trent on board his own vessel to be afterward carried into a port the United States, the Government which had thus sanctioned the proceeding of Captain Wilkes would have become respondible for the original violence and insult of the act.
But Mr. Seward contents himself with stating that what has happened has been simply an invadvertence, consisting in a departure by a naval officer free from any wrongful motive from a rle uncertainly established and probably by the several parties concerned either imperfectly undertood or entirely unknow. The Secretary of State goes on to affirm that for this error the British Government has a right to expect the same reparation which the United States as an independent State should expect from Great Britain or from any other friendly nation in a similar case.
Her Majesty's Government having carefully taken into their consideration the liberation of the prisoners, the delivery of them into your hands