Earl Russell need not be reminded that the necessity which has existed for meliorations of the law of maritime war in regard to neutrals has been a subject of debates and even of convections of such powers. The friendly relations which this Government holds to such powers require that all that it does in this connection shall be done with their full knowledge and with an expressed desire for their co-operation. This Government has taken an active part in seeking to promote such meliorations through such convention. Its views on this subject have undergone no change. It will cheerfully second any negotiations to that end which Great Britain or any other maritime power will inaugurate. If it shall seem preferable it will itself initiate such proceedings. Our ministers accredited to such powers will at an early day receive full instructions to this effect.
In the mantime your lordship may assure Earl Russell that while the United States will justly claim as their own the belligerent rights which the customary practice allows to nations engaged in war according to our present convictions there is no melioration of he maritime law or of the actual practice of maritime war that the leading maritime States including Great Britain shall think desirable which will not be cheerfully assented to by the United States, even to the most liberal asylum for persons and the extreme point of exemption of private property from confiscation in maritime war.
I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to your lordship the assurance of my night consideration.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD.
WASHINGTON, February 25, 1862.
To the SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
I transmit to Congress a copy of an isntruction from Prince Gortchakiff to M. de Stoeckl, the minister of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia accredited to this Government, and of a note of the Secretary of State to the latter relative to the adjustment of the question between the United States and Great Britain growing out of the removal of certain of our citizens from the British mail steamer Trent by order of the commander of the United Staes war steamer San Jacinto.
[Inclosure Numbers 1.]
SAINT PETERSBURG, January 9, 1862.
M. DE STOECKL, &c.
SIR: The Federal Government cannot doubt the lively interest with which we have followed the diverse phales of the incident which has lately held in suspense the anxious attention of both worlds.