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[217]

The United States government then, through its minister, Charles Francis Adams, made the absurd demand of the English government that they should be delivered up to her as escaped prisoners. To this demand Lord John Russell replied as follows:

With regard to the demand made by you, by instructions from your Government, that those officers and men should now be delivered up to the Government of the United States, as being escaped prisoners of war, her Majesty's Government would beg to observe that there is no obligation by international law which can bind the government of a neutral state to deliver up to a belligerent prisoners of war who may have escaped from the power of such belligerent, and may have taken refuge within the territory of such neutral. Therefore, even if her Majesty's Government had any power, by law, to comply with the above-mentioned demand, her Majesty's Government could not do so without being guilty of a violation of the duties of hospitality. In point of fact, however, her Majesty's Government have no lawful power to arrest and deliver up the persons in question. They have been guilty of no offense against the laws of England, and they have committed no act which would bring them within the provisions of a treaty between Great Britain and the United States for the surrender of the offenders; and her Majesty's Government are, therefore, entirely without any legal means by which, even if they wished to do so, they could comply with your above-mentioned demand.

It will be observed that Her Majesty's minister mercifully forbore to expose the pretensions that ‘the persons in question’ had been prisoners, and confined his answer to the case as it would have been had that allegation been true. There are other points in this transaction which will be elsewhere presented.

The Oreto, which sailed from Liverpool about March 23, 1862, was, while under construction at Liverpool, the subject of diplomatic correspondence and close scrutiny by the customs officers. After her arrival off Nassau, upon representations by the United States consul at that port, she was detained and again examined, and, it being found that she had none of the character of a vessel of war, she was released. Captain Maffitt, who had gone out with a cargo of cotton, here received a letter which authorized him to take charge of the Oreto and get her promptly to sea. She was a steamer of two hundred fifty horse-power, tonnage five hundred sixty, bark-rigged; speed, under steam, eight to nine knots; with sail, in a fresh breeze, fourteen knots; crew twenty-two, all told. The United States minister, Adams, had made a report to the British government which, it was apprehended, would cause her seizure at once. This was soon done, and with great difficulty the vessel was saved to the Confederacy by her commander. She arrived at Nassau on April 28th, and was detained until the session of the Admiralty Court in August. As soon as discharged by the proceedings therein, she sailed for the

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