FORT MONROE, February 10, 1862.
Honorable EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.
SIR: We were barely able yesterday to forward to you by the boat for baltimore (which General Wool detained a short time for the purpose of transmitting our letter) a copy of a letter from General Huger addressed to Major-General Wool covering a copy of instructions from Mr. J. P. Benjamin to Messrs. Seddon and Conrad, commissioners to meet and treat with us on the subject of a general exchange ofprisoners. A copy of these instructions was also inclosed with our letter of yesterday.
These instructions of Mr. Benjamin to his commissiones very sutdiously ingore the humane and Christian objects of our appointment and the injuction contained in our instructions (of which General Huger has been furnished a copy by General Wool) that our "mission was purely an errand of mercy," and that we were expected not to "have communication on any subject not immediately relating to its humane and Christian object," while they attempt to give to our appointment a political significance and attribute to us a title and powers not conferred or contemplated by our instructions, but which if recognized by us might inferentially aid a cherished object on the part of those in rebellion to the Government.
Thus regarding the papers received by General Wool from General Huger as a refusal to allow us to execute our duties and as the rejection of a benevolent and humane proposition on the part of the Govenment of the United Staes to meliorate and to humanize the practices of war we should have flet it our duty to return immediately to Washington, but were restrained from so doing only by the consideration that such act on our part might be construed by Mr. Benjamin and his associates into a rejection of a proposal for a general exchange of prisoners, an object which we believe not to be contemplated with disfavor by you, and one to which we should be very unwilling by any act of ours to interpose any obstacle.
Permit us now to say what the necessary haste with which we sent our letter of yesterday did noit allow us time to say that (although remaining here to await your further instructions) in the event of your deciding to enter into an agreement for a general exchange of prisoners we earnestly insist that neither our presencppointment as visitors, nor Mr. Benjamin's unwarranted assumption that we are clothed with powers for that purpose, shall be permitted to embarrass you in the selection of suitable agents on the part of the Government. We are and ever shall be ready to makeall sacrifices and to render to our Government and country every duty and every assistance within our power, but we are not ambitious or desirous of this appointment. We are fully aware that a negotiation for an exchange of prisoners of war must require a practical and technical knowledge of which we probably are not possessed.
In view of the allusion in Mr. Benjamin's instructions and of the clause in General Huger's letter referring to the privateersmen it has occurred to us that the releaseof our gallant officers so cruelly held as hostages and treated as felons might be expedited by a communication to the rebel authorities of copies of the official orders of the State Department transferring the privateersmen to the military prisons. We have therefore furnished copies of those orders of the State Department transferring the privateeersmen to the military prisons. We have therefore furnished copies of those orders to Major-General Wool and have suggeested to him the propriety of communicating them to General Huger. He assented to the propriety of so doing and, as we understand, transmits them to-day.