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Doc. 68.-foreigners at New-Orleans.

The following correspondence passed between the foreign consuls at New-Orleans and General Butler:

New-Orleans, June 11.
sir: It has been represented to the undersigned by Mr. Covas, of the commercial firm of Covas & Negroponte, carrying on business in this city, that certain sugars bought by that firm, conjointly with Messrs. Ralli, Benachi & Co., also carrying on business here, are not allowed to be sold or taken from the place in which said sugars are stored, without further orders from you.

We beg here to state that Mr. Covas represents to the undersigned that the sugar in question (three thousand two hundred and five hogsheads) have been bought for and are the property of British, French, and Greek subjects, and with which fact you are already acquainted.

The purchase of these sugars were effected at various times, ranging from January to March last, paid for at the time of purchase, in the usual manner in which such business is carried on here by foreign commercial houses, when purchasing for account of distant parties, that is, by the proceeds of bills of exchange, drawn by the purchaser here upon the bona-fide owner of the produce.

These transactions were strictly mercantile, and feeling assured by the proclamation issued by you under date of May one--had they had any fears before — that this, the property of foreigners, was safe and would be accorded that protection, as stated in the proclamation, had been granted heretofore to such property, under the United States laws, the purchasers of these sugars were anxious to ship them at a time when other such shipments were being made; but, by your order as stated above, were prevented, thereby entailing upon the foreign owners great loss. But as the undersigned are disposed to waive all past proceedings, they beg that the order not permitting the removal of the produce in question be rescinded, and that the sugars left at the disposal of the purchasers, to do with them as they may seem fit, or that the undersigned, if compatible, in consideration of the interests concerned, be placed in possession of the facts which caused such order to be issued; the enforcing and existence of which materially retards and stops the legitimate business of our countrymen.

We beg to remain, sir, your obedient servants,


George Coppell, H. B. M. Acting Consul. (Signed) Ch. Mejan, French Consul. (Signed) M. W. Benachi, Greek Consul. To Major-Gen. Benj. F. Butler, Commanding Department of the Gulf, New-Orleans, La.

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New-Orleans, June 12, 1862.
gentlemen: In the matter of the sugars in possession of Mr. Covas, who is the only party known to the United States authorities, I have examined with care the statement you have sent me. I had information, the sources of which you will not expect me to disclose, that Mr. Covas had been engaged in buying confederate notes, giving for them sterling exchange, thus transferring abroad the credit of the States in the rebellion, and enabling these bills of credit to be converted into bullion to be used there, as it has been, for the purpose of purchasing arms and munitions of war. That Mr. Covas was one of, and the agent of, an association or company of Greek merchants residing here, in London, and at Havana, who had set apart a large fund for this enterprise. That these confederate notes so purchased by Mr. Covas, had been used in the purchase of sugars and cotton, of which the sugars in question, in value almost two hundred thousand dollars, are a part.

I directed Mr. Covas to hold these sugars until this matter could be investigated.

I am satisfied of the substantial truth of this information. Mr. Covas's own books will show the important facts that he sold sterling exchange [203] for confederate treasury notes, and then bought these sugars with the notes.

Now this is claimed to be “strictly mercantile.”

It will not be denied that the sugars were intended for a foreign market.

But the Government of the United States had said that with the port of New-Orleans there should be no “strictly mercantile” transactions.

It would not be conceded for a moment that the exchanging of specie for confederate treasury notes, and sending the specie to Europe, to enable the rebels to buy arms and munitions of war there, were not a breach of the blockade, as well as a violation of the neutrality laws and the proclamation of their majesties, the Queen of Great Britain and the Emperor of France. What distinguishes the two cases, save that drawing the sterling bills is a more safe and convenient way of eluding the laws than sending bullion in specie, and thus assist the rebellion in the point of its utmost need?

It will be claimed that to assist the rebellion was not the motive.

Granted “causa argument!”

It was done from the desire of gain, as doubtless all the violations of neutrality have been done by aliens during this war — a motive which is not sanctifying to acts by a foreigner, which, if done by a subject, would be treason or a high misdemeanor.

My proclamation of May first assures respect to all persons and property that were respectable. It was not an amnesty to murderers, thieves, and criminals of deeper dye or less heinousness, nor a mantle to cover the property of those aiders of the rebellion, whether citizens or aliens, whom I might find here. If numbers of the foreign residents here have been engaged in aiding the rebellion, either directly or indirectly, from a spirit of gain, and they now find themselves objects of watchful supervision by the authorities of the United States, they will console themselves with the reflection that they are only getting the “bitter with the sweet.” Nay, more, if honest and quiet foreign citizens find themselves the objects of suspicion too, and even their honest acts subjects of investigation by the authorities of the United States to their inconvenience, they will, upon reflection, blame only the over-rapacious and greedy of their own fellow-citizens, who have, by their aid to rebellion, brought distrust and suspicion over all. Wishing to treat you, gentlemen, with every respect, I have set forth at length some of the reasons which have prompted my action. There is one phrase in your letter which I do not understand, and cannot permit to pass without calling attention to it. You say, “the undersigned are disposed to waive all past proceedings,” etc.

What “proceedings” have you, or either of you, to “waive” if you do feel disposed so to do? What right have you in the matter? What authority is vested in you by the laws of nations or of this country, which gives you the power to use such language to the representative of the United States, in a quasi official communication?

Commercial agents, merely of a subordinate class, consuls have no power to waive or condone any proceeding past or present of the government under whose protection they are permitted to reside so long as they behave well. If I have committed any wrong to Mr. Covas, you have no power to “waive” or pardon the penalty or prevent his having redress. If he has committed any wrong to the United States, you have still less power to shield him from punishment.

I take leave to suggest, as a possible explanation of this sentence, that you have been so long dealing with a rebel confederation, which has been supplicating you to make such representation to the government whose subjects you are, as would induce your sovereigns to aid it in its traitorous designs, that you have become rusty in the language proper to be used in representing the claims of your fellow-citizens to the consideration of a great and powerful government, entitled to equal respect with your own.

In order to prevent all misconception, and that, for the future, you gentlemen may know exactly the position upon which I act in regard to foreigners resident here, permit me to explain to you that I think a foreigner resident here has not one right more than an American citizen, but at least one right less, that is, that of meddling or interfering, by discussion, vote, or otherwise, with the affairs of the Government.

I have the honor to subscribe myself,

Your obedient servant,

B. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding.

Messrs. George Coppell, claiming to be H. B. M. Acting Consul; A. Mejan, French Consul; M. W. Benachi, Greek Consul.

General orders no. 41.

New Orleans, June--, 1862.
To Major-General B. F. Butler, Commanding Department of the Gulf:
General: The undersigned, foreign consuls, accredited to the United States, have the honor to represent that General Orders No. 41, under date of tenth inst., contains certain clauses, against which they deem it their duty to protest, not only in order to comply with their obligations as representatives of their respective governments, now at peace and in friendly relations with the United States, but also to protect, by all possible means, such of their fellow-citizens as may be morally or materially injured by the execution of an order which they consider as contrary, both to that justice which they have a right to expect at the hands of the Government of the United States, and to the laws of nations.

The “Order” contains two oaths: one, applicable both to the native-born and to such foreigners as have not claimed and received a protection from their government, etc.; the second applicable, it would seem, to such foreigners as may have claimed and received the above protection: [204] thus, unnaturalized foreigners are divided into two categories, a distinction which the undersigned cannot admit.

The “Order” says that the required “oath will not be, as it has never been, forced upon any;” that “it is too sacred an obligation, too exalted in its tenure, and brings with it too many benefits and privileges, to be profaned by unwilling lip-service ;” that “all persons shall be deemed to have been citizens of the United States who shall have been resident therein for the space of five years and upwards, and, if foreign-born, shall not have claimed and received a protection of their government, duly signed and registered by the proper officer, more than sixty days previous to the publication of this order.”

Whence it follows that foreigners are placed on the same footing with the native-born and naturalized citizens, and in the alternative either of being deprived of their means of existence or forced implicitly to take the required oath if they wish to ask and do receive “any favor, protection, privilege, passport, or to have money paid them, property or other valuable thing whatever delivered to them, or any benefit of the power of the United States extended to them, except protection from personal violence.”

Now, of course, when a foreigner does not wish to submit to the laws of the country of which he is a resident, he is invariably and everywhere at liberty to leave that country. But here he does not even enjoy that privilege; for to leave, he must procure a passport, to obtain which he must take an oath that he is unwilling to take; and yet that oath “is so sacred and so exalted in its tenure that it must not be profaned by unwilling lip-service.”

It is true that the “Order” excepts those foreigners who claimed and received the protection of their government more than sixty days previous to its publication; but this exception is merely nominal, because the very great majority of foreigners never had any cause hitherto, in this country, to ask, and therefore to receive a “protection of their government.” Besides, this exception implies an interference with the interior administration of foreign governments — an act contrary to the laws of nations. Whether the foreign residents have or have not complied with the laws and edicts of their own governments is a matter between them and their consuls, and the undersigned deny the right of any foreign power to meddle with, and still less to enforce, the laws of their respective countries, as far as their fellow-citizens are concerned. When a consul extends the high protection of his government to such of his countrymen as are neither naturalized nor charged with any breach of the laws of the country in which they reside, he is to be supported by a friendly government; for it is a law in all civilized countries that if foreigners must submit to the laws of the country in which they reside, they and à fortiori their consuls, must, in exchange of that respect for those laws, receive due protection; that protection, in fact, which the foreigners have invariably enjoyed in this country up to the present time. Now, foreigners are deprived of that protection unless they become citizens of the United States; and this is done without a warning, and in opposition to the laws of the United States concerning the mode in which foreigners may become citizens of this country. The undersigned must remark that a just law can have no retroactive action, and can be enforced only from the day of its promulgation, while the order requires that acts should have been done, the necessity of which was unforeseen, especially in this country.

The required oath is contrary not only to the rights, duty, and dignity of foreigners, who are all “free born,” but also to the dignity of the Government of the United States, and even to the spirit of the order itself.

1. Because it virtually forces a certain class of foreigners, in order to save their property, to swear “true faith and allegiance” to the United States, and thereby to “renounce and abjure” that true faith and allegiance which they owe to their own country only, while naturalization is, and can be, but an act of free will; and because it is disgraceful for any “free man” to do, through motives of material interest, those moral acts which are repugnant to his conscience.

If the order merely required the English oath of “allegiance,” it might be argued, according to the definition given by Blackstone, (i. p. 370,) that said oath signifies only the submission of foreigners to the police laws of the country in which they reside; but the oath, as worded in the “order,” is a virtual act of naturalization. A citizen of the United States might take the oath, although act six of the Federal Constitution, and the act of Congress of June first, 1789, do not require as much. But no consideration can compel a foreigner to take such an oath.

2. Because, if, according to the order, the “highest title known was really that of an American citizen,” it would be the very reason why it should be sought after, and not imposed upon the unwilling, whether openly or impliedly.

3. Because, while the order advocates the “neutrality imposed upon foreigners by their sovereigns,” it virtually tends to violate that neutrality, not by forcing them openly to take up arms and bravely shed their blood in defence even of a cause that is not their own, but by enjoining upon them, if they wish to redeem their property, to descend to the level of spies and denunciators for the benefit of the United States.

The undersigned will close by remarking that their countrymen, since the beginning of this war, have been neutral. As such they cannot be considered and treated as a conquered population. The conquered may be submitted to exceptional laws; but neutral foreigners have a right to be treated as they have always been by the Government of the United States.

We have the honor to be, General, your most obedient servants,

Juan Callejon, Consul de Espana. Ch. Mejan, French Consul. Jos. Deynoodt, Consul of Belgium. [205] M. W. Benachi, Greek Consul. Joseph Lanata, Consul of Italy. B. Teryaghi, Vice Consul. Ad. Piaget, Swiss Consul.

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New-Orleans, La., June 16, 1862.
gentlemen: Your protest against General Orders, No. 41, has been received.

It appears more like a labored argument, in which the imagination has been drawn on for the facts to support it. Were it not that some of the idiomatic expressions of the document show that it was composed by some one born in the English tongue, I should have supposed that many of the misconceptions of the purport of the order, which appear in the protest, arose from an imperfect acquaintance with the peculiarities of our language.

As it is, I am obliged to believe that the faithlessness of the Englishman who translated the order to you, and wrote the protest, will account for the misapprehensions under which you labor in regard to its terms.

The order prescribes--

I. A form of oath, to be taken by those who claim to be citizens of the United States, and those only who desire to hold office, civil or military, under the laws of the United States, or who desire some act to be done in their favor by the officers of the United States in this department, other than protection from personal violence, which is afforded to all.

With that oath, of course, the alien has nothing to do.

But there is a large class of foreign-born persons here who, by their acts, have lost their nationalities.

Familiar examples of that class are those subjects of France (Francais) who, in contravention of the Code Civile, have, without authorization from the Emperor, joined themselves to (the) a military organization of a foreign State, (s'afilicrait à une corporation militaire etrangere,) or received military commissions (fonctions publiques, conferees par un gouvernement etranger) from the governor thereof, or who have left France without intention of returning, (sans esprit de retour,) or, as in the case of the Greek Consul, have taken the office of opener and examiner of letters in the post-office of the confederate States, or the Prussian Consul, who is still leading a recruited body of his countrymen in the rebel army.

As many of such aliens had been naturalized, and many of the bad men among them had concealed the fact of their naturalization, it became necessary, in order to meet the case of these bad men, to prescribe some rule by which those foreign-born who might not be entitled to the protection of their several governments, or had heretofore become naturalized citizens of the United States, might be distinguished from those foreigners who were still to be treated as neutrals.

This rule must be a comprehensive one, and one easily to be understood, because it was for the guidance of subordinate officers, who should be called upon to administer the proper oath.

Therefore, it was provided that all those who had resided here five years--a length of time that would seem to be sufficient evidence that they had not the intention of returning, (esprit de retour,) and who should not have, in that time, claimed certificate of nationality, called commonly a “protection” of their government, should, for this purpose, be deemed prima facie, of course, American citizens, and should, if they desired any favor or protection of the Government, save from violence, take the oath of allegiance. But it is complained that the order further provides that they must have received that “protection” sixty days previous to the date of the order, so as to have the “protection” avail them.

The reason of this limitation was that, as some of the consuls had gone into the rebel army, and some of the consuls had been aiding the rebellion here, and as “protections” had been given by some of the consuls to those who were not entitled to them, for the purpose of enabling the holders to evade the blockade, it was necessary to make some limitations to secure good faith.

Indeed, gentlemen, you will remember that all rules and regulations are made to restrain bad men, and not the good.

For instance : if I allowed the “protections” given now to avail for this purpose, that Prussian Consul might give them to the whole of his militia company that live to get back; and they might come, claiming to be neutral, as did that British guard who sent their arms and equipments to Beauregard.

The naturalization laws of the United States were in abeyance for want of United States courts here. These provisions permitted all foreigners who had resided here five years and not claimed the protection of their government, who felt disposed to avail themselves of them, and thus become entitled to the high privileges of an American citizen, which so many foreigners value so greatly that they leave their own prosperous, peaceful, and happy countries to come and live here, even although allowed to enjoy those privileges to a limited degree only. So greatly do they compliment us upon our laws that they prefer to, and insist upon, stopping here, even at the risk of being exposed to the chances of our intestine war, which chances they seem willing to take, in preference to living in peace at home under laws enacted by their own sovereigns. But it is said that, unless foreigners take the oath of allegiance, they will not be allowed a “passport.”

This is an entire mistake, and probably comes from confounding a “pass” through my lines, which I grant or withhold for military reasons, with a “passport,” which must be given a foreigner by his own government.

The order refuses all “passports” to American citizens who do not take the oath of allegiance; but it nowhere meddles with the “passports” of foreigners, with which I have nothing to do.

There is nothing compulsory about this order. [206]

If a foreigner desires the privileges which the military government of this department accords to American citizens, let him take the oath of allegiance; but that does not naturalize him. If he does not wish to do so, but chooses to be an honest neutral, then let him not take the oath of allegiance, but the other oath set forth in the order.

If he chooses to do neither, but simply to remain here with protection from personal violence, a privilege he has not enjoyed in this city for many years until now, let him be quiet, live on, keep away from his consul, and be happy. For honest alien neutrals another oath was provided, which, in my judgment, contains nothing but what an honest and honorable neutral will do and maintain, and, of course, only that which he will promise to do.

But it is said that this oath compels every “foreigner to descend to the level of spies and denunciators for the benefit of the United States.”

There is no possible just construction of language which will give any such interpretation to the order. This mistake arises from a misconception of the meaning of the word “conceal,” so false, so gross, so unjust and illiterate, that in the Englishman who penned the protest sent to me it must have been intentional, but an error into which those not born and reared in the idioms of our language might easily have fallen.

The oath requires him who takes it not to “conceal” any wrong that has been, or is about to be done, in aid or comfort of the enemies of the United States.

It has been read and translated to you as if it required you to reveal all such acts. “Conceal” is a verb active in our language; “concealment” is an act done, not a thing suffered by, the “concealers.”

Let me illustrate this difference of meaning:

If I am passing about and see a thief picking the pocket of my neighbor, and I say nothing about it unless called upon by a proper tribunal, that is not “concealment” of the theft; but if I throw my cloak over the thief, to screen him from the police-officer while he does it, I then “conceal” the theft. Again, if I know that my neighbor is about to join the rebel army, and I go about my usual business, I do not “conceal” the fact; but if, upon being inquired of by the proper authority as to where my neighbor is about to go, I say that he is going to sea, I then “conceal” his acts and intentions.

Now, if any citizen or foreigner means to “conceal” rebellious or traitorous acts against the United States, in the sense above given, it will be much more for his personal comfort that he gets out of this department at once.

Indeed, gentlemen, if any subject of a foreign state does not like our laws, or the administration of them, he has an immediate, effectual, and appropriate remedy in his own hands, alike pleasant to him and to us; and that is, not to annoy his consul with complaints of those laws or the administration of them, or his consul wearying the authorities with verbose protests, but simply to go home--“stay not on the order of his going, but go at once.” Such a person came here without our invitation, he will be parted with without our regrets.

But he must not have committed crimes against our laws and then expect to be allowed to go home to escape the punishment of those crimes.

I must beg, gentlemen, that no more argumentative protests against my orders be sent to me by you as a body. If any consul has anything to offer for my consideration, he will easily learn the proper mode of presenting it. It is no part of your duties or your rights.

I have, gentlemen, the honor to be your ob't servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding.

Messrs. Ch. Mejan, French Consul; Juan Callejon, Consul de Espana; Jos. Deynoodt, Consul of Belgium; M. W. Benachi, Greek Consul; Joseph Lanata, Consul of Italy; B. Teryaghi, vice-Consul; Ad. Piaget, Swiss Consul.

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