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[103] transpired, it is certain that if I had escaped capture upon the Caledonia, there would have been no saving of time at all commensurate with the heavy expense to the Government which the employment of that vessel would have involved. The Alpha did not reach this port until the 23d of March, having been delayed for two days by a severe storm which it encountered soon after leaving the Gulf Stream. Upon my arrival I learned that the prisoners, whose delivery had been demanded by the United States under the extradition treaty, had been released by the judicial authorities of New Brunswick upon habeas corpus; and although new warrants are out for their arrest, it is not probable they can be executed. The most embarrassing phase which this case could assume would be presented for solution by the surrender of these men. Whatever may be the light in which the captors of the Chesapeake should be regarded according to the strict rules of law, the Government and people of the Confederate States cannot be indifferent to their fate. They imperilled life and liberty in an enterprise of great hazard, which they honestly believed was invested with the sanction of law, and to which, as a body, I have reason to think, they were mainly impelled by a generous sympathy with our cause. Whilst, therefore, in exercising the discretion confided to me, I have determined at least for the present to interpose no claim to the Chesapeake as prize of war on behalf of the Confederate States, I have endeavored to observe a diplomatic reticence as to the view which our Government may ultimately take of that transaction. I can imagine the existence of circumstances under which the Government, to save these brave and innocent men from a cruel and unrighteous doom, might claim the benefit of principles which it would not think it judicious to assert if the only interest at stake was one of property.

As to the Chesapeake, I find that she had been surrendered to her original owners without the almost invariable requisition of bail to answer prospective demands.

The reasons which induced the judge to depart from the established course of admiralty practice are contained in the opinion (of which I send you a copy). Taking the opinion and the conduct of the magistrate himself during the progress of the cause (of which I also transmit a history) together, I do not believe any judicial proceeding has taken place in a British court for a century and a half so discreditable to its dignity, its intelligence or its justice.


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