December 2, 1861.
SIR: In response to the resolution of Congress addressed to you and referred to me for answer, making inquiry "whether any restrictions, and if so, what, have been placed upon vessels leaving the ports of the Confederate States other than those imposed by law; and if any such have been imposed, by what authority," I have the honor to report: That having been reliably informed that certain vessels were engaged under color of neutral commerce in furnishing to the enemy supplies of naval stores by voyages ostensibly undertaken for British ports, but really intended for Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, I determined to arrest a traffic so unlawful and so hostile to our safety. I accordingly addressed to General Anderson, then in command at Wilmington, on the 8th of October, the order contained in the annexed extract, marked A. Having been subsequently informed by the Secretary of the Treasury that he had, without knowledge of this order, granted a clearance to two vessels laden with naval stores and alleged to be neutral and bound for British ports, a second order was issued by me, on application of the owners of those vessels, under date of 21st of October, followed by two others of 15th and 25th of November, hereto annexed, marked B, C, and D. These orders explain themselves. They had reference exclusively to naval stores, known to the law of nations as contraband of war. The enemy greatly needed such stores to fit out the naval expeditions then in progress of preparation, and known to be intended for invasion of our coast. The enemy's fleet was blockading the very harbor from which these naval stores were about to be sent, and there was imminent risk of their capture. The authority for retaining the vessels loaded with these stores under the circumstances was that general authority vested in the executive power of all nations engaged in war to prevent any aid, assistance, being given by persons within their jurisdiction to the public enemy.
No interference with any other cargoes has occurred, but I shall deem it my duty, unless otherwise ordered, to prevent any cargo from leaving any blockaded port whenever reasonable cause is shown for suspecting that the cargo is not shipped in good faith for the purpose of running the blockade, but is intended to be captured by the enemy. It is obvious that collusion of this sort under neutral flags would be the easiest possible mode of furnishing supplies to our foes, and that the military authority must have some discretion to prevent the accomplishment of such schemes. The discretion may be abused undoubtedly. The best remedy in such cases is the dismissal of the officer who abuses the discretion.
Your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War.
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT,
Richmond, October 8, 1861.
Brigadier Gen. J. R. ANDERSON,
Wilmington, N. C.:
SIR: * * * The Department is not willing that you should permit vessels to depart from your command, laden with naval stores, no