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Doc. 174 1/2.-Mr. Seward's letter on treason.

The following important letter was written by the Secretary of State:

Department of State, Washington, May 16, 1861.
Sir: I have received your letter of yesterday's date, asking me to give you, in writing, my reasons for considering an acceptance on your part of Governor Letcher's proposition to purchase the steamships Yorktown and Jamestown, recently seized by his orders and now in his possession, an act of treason. With this request I readily comply. An insurrection has broken out in several of the States of this Union, including Virginia, designed to overthrow the Government of the United States. The executive authorities of the State are parties to that insurrection, and so are public enemies. Their action in seizing or buying vessels to be employed in executing that design is not merely without authority of law, but is treason. It is treason for any person to give aid and comfort to public enemies. To sell vessels to them, which it is their purpose to use as ships-of-war, is to give them aid and comfort. To receive money from them in payment for vessels which they have seized for these purposes would be to convert the unlawful seizure into a sale, and would subject the party so offending to the pains and penalties of treason, and the Government would not hesitate to bring the offender to punishment.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Wm. H. Seward. To G. Heineken, Esq., agent New York and Virginia Steamship Company, Washington.

--N. Y. Herald, May 18.

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