previous next

Doc. 45.-British Consul at Richmond.1

confederate States of America, Department of State, Richmond, June 6, 1863.
No. 24.

sir: Herewith you will receive copies of the following papers:

A.--Letter of George Moore, Esq., Her Britannic Majesty's Consul in Richmond to this department, dated February sixteenth, 1863.

B.--Letter from the Secretary of State to Consul Moore, February twentieth, 1863.

C.--Letters patent by the President, revoking the exequatur of Consul Moore, June fifth, 1863.

D.--Letter inclosing to Consul Moore a copy of the letters patent revoking his exequatur.

It is deemed proper to inform you that this action of the President was influenced in no small degree by the communication to him of an unofficial letter of Consul Moore, to which I shall presently refer. [252]

It appears that two persons, named Molony and Farrell, who were enrolled as conscripts in our service, claimed exemption on the ground that they were British subjects, and Consul Moore, in order to avoid the difficulty which prevented his corresponding with this department as set forth in the paper B, addressed himself directly to the Secretary of War, who was ignorant of the request made by this department for the production of the Consul's commission. The Secretary of War ordered an investigation of the facts, when it became apparent that the two men had exercised the right of suffrage in this State, thus debarring themselves of all pretext for denying their citizenship; that both had resided here for eight years, and had settled on and were cultivating farms owned by themselves. You will find annexed the report of Lieutenant-Colonel Edgar, marked E, and it is difficult to conceive a case presenting stronger proofs of the renunciation of native allegiance, and of the acquisition of de facto citizenship, than are found in that report. It is to relation to such a case that it has seemed proper to Consul Moore to denounce the government of the confederate States to one of its own citizens as being indifferent “to cases of the most atrocious cruelty.” A copy of his letter to the counsel of the two men is annexed, marked F.

The earnest desire of this government is to entertain amicable relations with all nations, and with none do its interests invite the formation of closer ties than with Great Britain. Although feeling aggrieved that the government of her Majesty has pursued a policy which, according to the confessions of Earl Russell himself, has increased the disparity of strength which he considers to exist between the belligerents, and has conferred signal advantage on our enemies in a war in which Great Britain announces herself to be really and not nominally neutral, the President has not deemed it necessary to interpose any obstacle to the continued residence of British consuls within the Confederacy by virtue of exequaturs granted by the former government. His course has been consistently guided by the principles which underlie the whole structure of our government. The State of Virginia having delegated to the Government of the United States, by the Constitution of 1787, the power of controlling its foreign relations, became bound by the action of that Government in its grant of an exequatur to Consul Moore. When Virginia seceded, withdrew the powers delegated to the Government of the United States, and conferred them on this government, the exequatur granted to Consul Moore was not thereby invalidated. An act done by an agent while duty authorized continues to bind the principal after the revocation of the agent's authority. On these grounds the President has hitherto steadily resisted all influences which have been exerted to induce him to exact of foreign consuls that they should ask for an exequatur from this government as a condition of the continued exercise of their functions. It was not deemed compatible with the dignity of the government to extort, by enforcing the withdrawal of national protection from neutral residents, such inferential recognition of its independence as might be supposed to be implied in the request of an exequatur. The consuls of foreign nations, therefore, established within the Confederacy, who were in possession of an exequatur issued by the Government of the United States prior to the formation of the Confederacy, have been maintained and respected in the exercise of their legitimate functions, and the same protection and respect will be accorded to them in future, so long as they confine themselves to the sphere of their duties, and seek neither to evade or defy the legitimate authority of this government within its own jurisdiction.

There has grown up an abuse, however, the result of this tolerance on the part of the President, which is too serious to be longer allowed. Great Britain has deemed it for her interest to refuse acknowledging the patent fact of the existence of this Confederacy as an independent nation. It can scarcely be expected that we should, by our own conduct, imply assent to the justice or propriety of that refusal, now that the British Minister accredited to the government of our enemies assumes the power to issue instructions and exercise authority over the consuls of Great Britain residing within this country; nay, even of appointing agents to supervise British interest in the confederate States. This course of conduct plainly ignores the existence of this government, and implies the continuance of the relations between that Minister and the consuls of her Majesty resident within the Confederacy which existed prior to the withdrawal of these States from the Union. It is further the assertion of a right on the part of Lord Lyons, by virtue of his credentials as her Majesty's Minister at Washington, to exercise the power and authority of a minister accredited to Richmond, and officially received as such by the President. Under these circumstances, and because of similar action by other ministers, the President has felt it his duty to order that no direct communication be permitted between the consuls of neutral nations in the Confederacy and the functionaries of those nations residing within the enemy's country. All communications, therefore, between her Majesty's consuls or consular agents in the Confederacy and foreign countries, whether neutral or hostile, will hereafter be restricted to vessels arriving from or despatched for neutral points. The President has the less reluctance in imposing this restriction because of the ample facilities for correspondence which are now afforded by the fleets of confederate and neutral steamships engaged in regular trade between neutral countries and the confederate ports. This trade is daily increasing, in spite of the paper blockade, which is upheld by her Majesty's government in disregard, as the President conceives, of the rights of this Confederacy, of the dictates of public law, and of the duties of impartial neutrality.

You are instructed by the President to furnish [253] a copy of this despatch, with a copy of the papers appended, to her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. P. Benjamin, Secretary of State. Hon. James M. Mason, Commissioner, etc. etc., London.

1 see Doc. 6, page 9, ante.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George Moore (9)
Doc (2)
Molony (1)
James M. Mason (1)
Farrell (1)
Edgar (1)
J. P. Benjamin (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 6th, 1863 AD (1)
June 5th, 1863 AD (1)
February 20th, 1863 AD (1)
February 16th, 1863 AD (1)
1787 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: