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Doc. 40.-the destruction of cotton.

The rights of neutrals.

confederate States of America, Department of State, Richmond, Va., May 16, 1862.
sir: In answer to your communication of this morning, I have the honor to state that the government has no desire to destroy any cotton belonging to neutrals; but, on the contrary, is willing to extend to it full protection while in its power, provided the like protection can be made effective when the cotton may fall into the possession of the enemy. The past conduct of the Government of the United States, and passive attitude of neutral nations whose rights have been violated by the United States, have satisfied us that, if cotton belonging to neutrals be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy, it will be seized and appropriated by them regardless of neutral rights, and that neutral powers will fail to afford any protection to the rights of their subjects when thus violated.

If, however, as you suggest, any official assurance shall be formally communicated by the government of any neutral nation to this nation, of a nature to satisfy us that cotton belonging to the subjects of such neutral nation shall be effectually protected against seizure and appropriation by the enemy, if allowed to fall into his possession, this Government will have no hesitation in issuing instructions to refrain from the destruction of such cotton, even when exposed to seizure by the enemy.

I am your obedient servant,

J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State. To C. G. Baylor, Esq.

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