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After the capture of New Orleans by the Union forces, in May, 1862, a large number of foreign-born persons, not naturalized, residing there, made numerous claims and raised a variety of questions which, through the ministers and consuls of their respective countries, were brought to the attention of the Secretary of State. Many of these questions were of an intricate and delicate character. The military authorities in Louisiana failed to render any satisfactory solution of them.

Mr. Seward conceived the idea of establishing a provisional court in New Orleans, to be entirely independent, with powers unlimited, and whose decisions should be conclusive in all cases. An executive order to this effect was issued on the 20th of October, 1862, proclaiming that whereas

"The insurrection which has for some time prevailed in several of the States of the Union, including Louisiana, having temporarily subverted and swept away the civil institutions of that State, including the Judiciary and the judicial authorities of the Union, so that it has become necessary to hold the State in military occupation; and it being indispensably necessary that there shall be some judicial tribunal existing there capable of administering justice, I have therefore thought it proper to appoint, and I do hereby constitute a provisional court, which shall be a court of record for the State of Louisiana, and I do hereby appoint Charles A. Peabody of New York to be a provisional judge to hold said court. . . his judgment to be final and conclusive.



All causes, civil and criminal, including causes in law, equity, revenue and admiralty, were within the powers of this court, and no review of its judgments by any other court was allowed. Its authority and the validity of its acts were considered in the Supreme Court of the United States and fully sustained.1

The Saint Albans raid added not a little to the duties and responsibilities of the Secretary of State. He sent an agent to Montreal and engaged able counsel 2 to endeavor to secure the rights and property of the citizens of Vermont in the courts of her neighboring province, but without avail.

The Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862, and that of January 1, 1863, both 3 received the hearty approval of Mr. Seward. At a cabinet meeting held to consider the September proclamation, Mr. Seward suggested two important amendments to Mr.

1 See Albany Law Journal, Vol. II, page 348.

2 George F. Edmunds, now United States Senator.

3 See post, pages 345, 594.

Lincoln's draft of the document. He had at a previous meeting advised a delay in issuing the proclamation, for the reason that we were then humbled by repeated defeats of our armies, and that a better impression would be made if the proclamation came after a victory, when it would not appear as a token of despair. The President accepted the advice and now that a grand success had been achieved at Antietam 2 the day had come. He called upon the members of his Cabinet for their views and criticisms on his important paper.

Mr. Seward suggested that it would be better to leave out all reference to the act being sustained during the present administration, and not merely say the government "recognizes" but that the army and navy will "MAINTAIN" the freedom proclaimed.

Mr. Lincoln characterized the suggestion as "very judicious," and favored its adoption. The modification was concurred in unanimously.

Mr. Seward then further proposed that in the passage relating to "colonization," it should plainly appear that the colonization proposed was to be only with the consent of the colonists and the consent of the States in which colonies might be attempted. This suggestion also was adopted.

When the first day of January, 1863, arrived, nearly all opposition had ceased, and the public mind was prepared for the great proclamation. At noon on that day, Mr Seward took the engrossed copy to the executive mansion, where, in the council chamber of the President, it was signed by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, and afterward received the seal of the United States at the Department of State, and was deposited among the archives.

During the period of gloom and excitement which succeeded the appalling defeat of the Union army before Fredericksburgh, December 13th, 1862, a caucus of Republican senators gathered and hastily passed resolutions advising the President to change the chief member of his Cabinet, and appointed a committee to lay the resolution before him.

Learning of the action of the caucus, Mr. Seward instantly wrote his resignation, and placing it in the President's hands, withdrew from the department. When the senatorial committee arrived at the executive mansion they found the President had convened all 1 September 22, 1862.

September 19, 1862.

the remaining members of the Cabinet to meet them and discuss the question. They were informed that if they proposed to take the untenable ground that Cabinet appointments or changes were to be dictated by Congress or caucuses, it would be making a radical change in the national system, in which the Cabinet were not prepared to acquiesce. The action of the caucus was the more unreasonable in this case, because the Secretary of State was in no wise responsible for the military disasters.

Rather than consent to the proposed change, the whole Cabinet were prepared to resign their seats. The Secretary of the Treasury had already placed his resignation in the President's hands, and the others would follow his example.

Meanwhile, as the news got abroad, protests and animadversions upon the uncalled-for action of the caucus began to pour in through the press and the mails. and the mails. More sober counsels then prevailed, and those who had taken part in the caucus began to explain and modify their course. The following letters show the result:



Gentlemen: :

You have respectively tendered me your resignations as Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. I am apprised of the circumstances which may render this course personally desirable to each of you; but, after most anxious consideration, my deliberate judgment is, that the public interest does not admit of it. I therefore have to request that you will resume the duties of your departments respectively.

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DEPARTMENT OF STATE, WASHINGTON, December 21, 1861. Sunday Morning.

My Dear Sir: - I have cheerfully resumed the functions of this department, in obedience to your command.

With the highest respect, your humble servant.


Mediation between the government of the United States and the rebels was offered by different foreign powers, at several stages of the war. The disloyal element of the North encouraged such propositions, while the government repelled every offer of the kind. Mr. Seward had promptly rebuked the first suggestion of foreign arbitration in his letter to the Governor of Maryland in April, 1861.1

1 See page 609.

Early in 1863, the Emperor of France made a formal presentation of the subject to our government through M. Mercier, the Minister of France residing at Washington.1

Under date of February 6, 1863, Mr. Seward prepared a despatch 2 to Mr. Dayton of remarkable ability, giving the reasons for declining to enter into diplomatic discussion with the insurgents.

In the autumn of 1864, the canvass for the Presidential election opened under very trying circumstances. The war was still raging with varied fortunes. The Union party nominated Mr. Lincoln for reëlection. The opposition presented as their candidate, General George B. McClellan, who had been retired from the command of the Union army two years before. The platform of the opposition declared the war to be a failure. General McClellan repudiated its treasonable features in accepting his nomination. He nevertheless received the support of the disloyal element of the North and the secret aid of the insurgents. Mr. Seward, in a speech 3 at Auburn, November 7, 1864, portrayed the situation in a clear and convincing manner.

The election resulted in the choice of Abraham Lincoln by an electoral vote of 212, to 21 for General McClellan. Andrew Johnson was elected Vice-President.

As early as November, 1862, Mr. Seward had directed that reclamation should be made on the British government for the damages inflicted upon American commerce by the Alabama and other vessels of British origin. In 1863, propositions for "any fair and equitable form of arbitrament" began to be discussed.

In 1865 (August 30), Lord John Russell announced that " Her Majesty's government must decline either to make reparation and compensation for the captures made by the Alabama or to refer the question to any foreign state."

On the 27th of August, 1866, Mr. Seward presented to the British government a list of individual claims on account of the pirate Alabama. Then followed a series of negotiations and correspondence between the two governments which continued until the close of Mr. Seward's administration as Secretary of State.

The several vessels built in Great Britain and devoted to the service of the confederates were a constant source of anxiety to the

1 See page 376.

2 See page 376.

3 See page 505.

Department of State, and a frequent topic of correspondence between the Secretary and our ministers abroad. He did not hesitate to denounce all these vessels, their officers and crews, as pirates 1 because they belonged to no nation or lawful belligerent.

The destruction of the Alabama by the Kearsarge in June, 1864, and the capture of the Florida in the waters of Brazil in October of the same year, elicited from Mr. Seward despatches of remarkable interest.

Owing to a change of ministry in Great Britain, during the controversy, and to other causes, more or less delay occurred in the negotiations.

The propositions made by Great Britain, through Lord Stanley, for arbitration were declined by the United States, because they contained reservations and limitations incompatible with the rights, interest and honor of our country. Mr. Seward nevertheless expressed a confident opinion that Great Britain would not finally refuse to satisfy our just and reasonable claims which involve the sacred principle of non-intervention — a principle, he added of not more importance henceforth to the United States, than to all other commercial nations.2 On another occasion he said, "I feel bound to declare my opinion before the world that the justification offered by Great Britain for the course pursued by her ministry cannot be sustained before the tribunal of nations." 3

On the 4th of July, 1871, a treaty was proclaimed by Mr. Seward's successor, Mr. Fish, providing for an amicable settlement of all causes of difference between the two countries by a joint high commission. This commission instituted a tribunal of arbitration which met at Geneva, in Switzerland, in 1872. This tribunal was empowered to determine whether Great Britain had failed to fulfil any of its duties toward the United States during the Rebellion, and, if so, to fix the proper sum of money to be paid, in gross, to the United States in satisfaction of the various claims presented. The

1 Mr. Webster, Secretary of State in 1851, defined a pirate thus: "An armed vessel fitted out obviously and flagrantly for warlike purposes, found sailing on the high seas without a commission from any acknowledged government . . . might be regarded as a pirate." (Private Correspondence, p. 477.) 2 See Despatches to Adams, August 27, 1866, January 12, 1867, and August 12, 1867.


* During the rebellion of the South American States against Spain and the administration of James Monroe, John Quincy Adams being Secretary of State, a similar course of privateering or piracy emanated from the United States. Baltimore, in 1820, rivalled Liverpool in 1863, in sending out piratical cruisers like the Alabama and the Florida. But the vigor of Monroe's administration in efforts to suppress and restrain the unlawful enterprises was in marked contrast with the feeble attempts of the British government in 1861-1864. See Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Vols. IV., V.

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