and to parole such of the so-called hostages as are not exchanged, and to support this construcion you refer me to your letter of May 23 to General Wool. Upon examining that letter I find that you use the following language:
I must be responsible that on the delivery of all the privateersmen all the officers retained as hostages will be released upon parole.
If this were the agreement there could be no doubt of your promise to reture all the "officers retained as hostages," but in the same letter you state that the agreement was contained in your letter of May 3 and you say:
I consider the War Department has fully agreed to the terms stated in my letter of the 3rd instants.
The letter of May 3 so far from promisign "to return all the officers retained as hostages" as you apparently suppose, cofines the proposed exchange to such as General Wool might name, and as would be equivalent to the privateersment according to the tariff agreed upon by the cartel between Great Britain and the United States in 1813 and consents that when that exchange had been made the other officers held as hostages might "be exchanged as usual. "
There can be no doubt about the agreement. Your language is perfectly explicit. You say to General Wool:
I will return such officers as you may name in exchange, according to the tariff agreed upon by the cartel between Great Britain and the United States in 1813. As soon as these men are exchanged any other officers that have been held as hostages will be exchanged as usual.
I am willing to perform the agreement which you stated to General Wool "that the Department had fully agreed to perform," but I cannot consent to carry out a palpable misconstruction of it much more disadvantageous to the Government of the Confederate States than the agreement itself and evidently the result of mere inadvertence on your part.
Even this erroneous interpretation of your promise is founded on the supposition that "officers were still retained as hostages," when in fact they had all been restored to the soners of war and a colonel and three captains were then actually on parole. It is therefore not only erroneous in its construction of the agreement actually made but is founded on such a misconception of facts that it would not bind you as an independent agreement.
You will therefore inform General Wool that the War Department will execute faithfully your agreement with him of May 3 without considering whether you were authorized to make it or not; that we will exchange such officers recently held as hostages as he may name for the privateersmen according to the cartel agreed on, but that we shall hold the others to be exchanged hereafter.
I might justly complain that General Wool after being informed by General Cobb that the "officers hitherto held as hostages for the privateersmen had been placed on the same footing as other prisoners of war," and knowing that a number of them more than equivalent to the privateersmen had actually been paroled, should yet negotiate with you as if they were all still held as hostages apparently taking advantage of the circumstance that you were not so well informed as himself.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War.