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Doc. 33.-seizure of specie at New-Orleans.

On the tenth of May, 1862, M. Conturie, Consul of the Netherlands at New-Orleans, laid before General Butler a statement of facts concerning the seizure of eight hundred thousand dollars in specie at the office of the Hope Insurance Company in that city. General Butler having learned that a large amount of specie was secreted at the office of the Consul of the Netherlands, ordered Capt. Shipley, of the Thirtieth Massachusetts regiment, with a proper guard, to take possession of the office. M. Conturie claimed that the specie was under his charge as Consul, and his statement, given below, sets forth his version of the affair:

Statement of facts.

On this day, May tenth, 1862, and at the hour of five minutes to two o'clock in the afternoon, I being in my consular office, No. one hundred and nine Canal street, was called upon by an officer wearing the uniform and the arms of a captain of the United States army, accompanied by a squad of six or eight men, under his command.

The captain informed me that he came to prevent the exit of any person or property from the premises.

I said I was Consul of the Netherlands, that this was the office of my consulate, and that I protested against any such violation of the same. I then wrote a note to Comte Mejan, Consul of France in this city, requesting him to come to me for consultation. This note was handed to the officer, whose name I then learned to be Capt. Shipley, who promised to send it, after taking it to headquarters.

Capt. Shipley returned, and stated to me that, by order of Major-Gen. Butler, my note would not be sent to Consul Mejan, and that he (the Captain) would proceed forthwith to search the premises. Capt. Shipley demanded of me the keys of my vault; these I refused to deliver. He remarked that he would have to force open the doors; and I told him that, in regard to that, he could do what he pleased. For the second time I again protested against the violation of the Consular office to Capt. Shipley, who then went out. Before he left, I distinctly put the question to him: “Sir, am I to understand that my Consular office is taken possession of, and myself am arrested by you; and that, too, by order of Major-Gen. Butler?” He replied: “Yes, sir.” During Captain Shipley's absence another officer remained in the office, and a special sentinel [129] was put on guard in the room where I then kept myself. The name of this second officer is Lieut. Whitcomb, as he informed me. Capt. Shipley returned, and was followed by another officer, whose name I could not ascertain, but from appearances ranking him.

This officer then approached me, and in a passionate, insulting tone, contrasting singularly with the gentlemanly deportment of both Capt. Shipley and Lieut. Whitcomb, made the same demand for the keys as had been made by Capt. Shipley; and I made the same refusal, protesting against the act, as I had done before. He then gave orders to search the office, and break open, if need be, the doors of the vault.

I then arose and said: “I, Amedie Conturie, Consul of the Netherlands, protest against any occupation or search of my office; and this I do in the name of my government. The name of my consulate is over the door, and my flag floats over my head. If I cede, it is to force alone.”

Search being begun in the office by the officer, I told him that the keys were on my person. He then, in a more than rough tone, ordered two of the soldiers to search my person, using the following among other expressions: “Search the fellow ;” “Strip him;” “Take off his coat,” “Stockings;” “Search even the soles of his shoes.” I remarked to the officer that the appellation, “fellow,” that he gave me, was never applied to a gentleman, far less to a foreign consul, in his consular capacity, as I was then; and that I requested him to remember that he had said the word. He replied it was the name he had given me; and he repeated over the word three times.

Both Capt. Shipley and Lieut. Whitcomb then stepped forward; the latter was the first to take two keys out of my coat-pocket; the former took the key of my vault from the right pocket of my pantaloons. Of the keys taken by Lieut. Whitcomb, there was one opening my place of business, which has nothing to do with my Consulate, and is situated in a different part of the city. I claimed it, but was told by the commanding officer that he would keep it for the present, but might let me have it to-morrow.

I must here state that when Capt. Shipley told me that my letter to the Consul of France would not be sent, I remarked that I had forwarded another message to the Consul, and was expecting him every moment, and that if he (the Captain) would delay action until I had seen the Consul of France, something good might come out of my consultation. Capt. Shipley replied that he could not delay action, and that the order of Gen. Butler was to “go on with the work he was charged with.”

The superior officer then took the keys, opened the vault, and, in company with Capt. Shipley and Lieut. Whitcomb, entered the same. What they did then I was unable to see, as I kept myself in the same place and in the same chair where I had been searched. After searching for some time, said officers retired, leaving the vault open; Capt. Shipley and Lieut. Whitcomb remaining with their men. Two other officers that I had not seen before came in and joined them for some time.

After an absence of about three quarters of an hour the officer in question returned, and, in the presence of the other officers, closed and locked the vault, taking the keys along with him. I then remarked to him that the key of my store was among those that had been taken away from my person, and I wished to have it. The same officer then asked me whether my store contained any goods or property belonging to the confederates? To which inquiry I answered in the negative. The same officer made use of the following language at the time: “You have placed yourself in a-bad position, and shall be treated without any consideration.” He retired after that; it was then about four o'clock P. M.

I then continued to be a prisoner under the charge of Capt. Shipley and a guard of armed soldiers, placed inside and outside of my office until about seven o'clock P. M., when Capt. Shipley, having communicated with another officer, who came in the consular office, approached me and said: “You are now at liberty to go wherever you please, sir.” I said: “I am at liberty to go wherever I please?” He answered: “Yes, sir.” I then remarked: “And it is by verbal communication that I am informed of the fact?” He replied: “The same as you were arrested.”

I then rose, and before leaving my office, made the following remark to Capt. Shipley: “You have taken possession of this office; I leave everything in your charge.” To this he replied. “I will take care of it.” Whereupon I left my office, and a short time after I took down my consular flag.

am. Conturie, Consul of the Netherlands.

On the twelfth of May, the foreign consuls sent to Gen. Butler the following formal protest:

New-Orleans, May 12, 1862.
Major-Gen. B. F. Butler, United States Army, Commanding Department of the Gulf:
General: It having come to the knowledge of the undersigned that the Consulate of his Majesty the King of Netherlands, in this city, had been forcibly entered by your order by some persons in the uniforms of soldiers in the service of the United States Government, the person of the Consul subjected to indignity and severe ill usage, and kept prisoner for several hours, it becomes the duty of the undersigned, in view of treaties now existing between the governments which we represent and that of the United States, to formally protest against such action, and against any act authorized by you or any authority of the United States that may be in contravention of such treaties. We have the honor to be, General, your most obedient servants,

Mejan, Consul of France. Lorenzo Callego, Consul of Spain.

Consul of Belgium,Consul of Portugal,
Consul of Hanover,Vice-Consul of Italy,
Consul of Brazil,Consul of England,
Consul of Nassau andConsul of Austria,
Brunswick,Consul of Hamburg,
Consul of Greece,Consul of Wurtemburg,
Consul of Bremen,Consul of Russia,
Consul of Sweden andConsul of Denmark,
Norway,Consul of Switzerland.


On the same day Gen. Butler returned the following reply to the protest:

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New-Orleans, May 12, 1862.
Messrs.: I have the protest which you have thought it proper to make in regard to the action of my officers towards the Consul of the Netherlands, which action I approve and sustain. I am grieved that, without investigation of the facts, you, Messrs., should have thought it your duty to take action in the matter. The fact will appear to be, and easily to be demonstrated at the proper time, that the flag of the Netherlands was made to cover and conceal property of an incorporated company of Louisiana, secreted under it from the operation of the laws of the United States. That the supposed fact that the Consul had under the flag only the property of Hope & Co., citizens of the Netherlands, is untrue. He had other property which could not by law be his property or the property of Hope & Co.; of this I have abundant proof in my own hands. No person can exceed me in the respect I shall pay to the flags of all nations and to the consulate authority, even while I do not recognise many claims made under them; but I wish it most distinctly understood that, in order to be respected, the consul, his office and the use of his flag, must each and all be respected. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding.

On the thirteenth of May, a committee of the Associated Banks of New-Orleans requested per-mission to restore their specie to their vaults. The General's reply was as follows:

headquarters Department of the Gulf, New-Orleans, May 14, 1862.
Messieurs: I have given very careful consideration to the matter of the communication handed me, through you, from the banks of the city. With a slight variation, to which I called your attention, you were correct in your understanding of the interview had by me with the banks. Specie or bullion, in coin or ingot, is entitled to the same protection as other property under the same uses, and will be so protected by the United States forces under my command. If, therefore, the banks bring back their specie, which they have so unadvisedly carried away, it shall have safe conduct through my lines, and be fully protected here, so long as it is used in good faith to make good the obligations of the banks to their creditors by bills and deposits. Now, as in the present disturbed state of the public mind, specie, if paid ,out, would be at ,once hoarded, I am contest to leave the time of redemption of all bills to the good judgment of the banks themselves, governed in it by the analogy of the laws of the State and the fullest good faith. Indeed, the exercise of that on both sides, relieves every difficulty and ends at once all negotiation. In order that there may be no misunderstanding, it must be observed that I by no means mean to pledge myself that the banks, like other persons, shall not return to the United States authorities all the property of the United States which they may have received. I come to “retake, repossess and occupy” all and singular, the property of the United States of whatever name and nature. Further than that I shall not go, save upon the most urgent military necessity; under which right every citizen holds all his possessions. But as any claim which the United States may have against the banks can easily be enforced against the personnel, as well as the property of the corporations, such claims need not enter into this discussion. In such form, therefore, as in good faith safe conducts may be needed for agents of banks to go and return with property of the banks, and for no other purpose whatever, such safe conducts will be granted for a limited but reasonable period of time. Personal illness has caused the slight delay which has attended this reply. I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,

Benj. F. Butler, Major-General Commanding. Wm. N. Mercer, J. M. Lapeyre, Committee.

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Shipley (17)
B. F. Butler (7)
G. F. Whitcomb (6)
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M. Conturie (2)
Amedie Conturie (2)
William N. Mercer (1)
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Lorenzo Callego (1)
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