Mr. Seward to Lord Lyons.

My Lord: I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your note of yesterday in relation to the case of J. M. Vernon. Your lordship judges rightly, that you are bound to consider that person a British subject on the grounds of [Page 639] a written deposition which he has made claiming that character. I cannot doubt, however, that your lordship will admit that a British subject may, when domiciled in the United States, compromise himself in a civil war so as to subject him to necessary legal and military restraints which could not be properly imposed upon a foreigner who conducted himself inoffensively towards the government of the United States. Foreigners who have never cast off their native allegiance are found acting as officers and soldiers in the insurrectionary forces as well as in the armies of the United States. Such foreigners have voluntarily waived the immunities which belong to the character of peaceful, law-abiding aliens. I have the honor to place in your hands documents which will show your lordship: First, that J. M. Vernon has been for an indefinite period dwelling in and exercising the privilege of a citizen of the United States entirely inconsistent with the idea of any conscious reservation of allegiance to the government of Great Britain. Secondly, that he has been an active partisan and abettor of the present insurrection, with the expressed design to effect the separation of certain States of this country from the American Union and the destruction of their independence as a sovereign nation, of which he declares himself in advance a member. Thirdly, that he is a contractor with the insurgent rebels of the United States, by contract made, not abroad but within the United States, to furnish their rebels with supplies for the overthrow of this government, and that when he fell into the hands of the naval forces of the United States he was found with those contracts upon his person, and was actually engaged in the performance of the treasonable obligations contained in the contracts. Fourthly, that to all practical purposes he long ago abandoned his native allegiance, took up his residence among and cast his fortunes with the insurgents of the United States, and that his present pretence of allegiance to Great Britain to escape the consequences of that crime, and to regain the ability to carry out his aforementioned treasonable designs against the United States, is a fraud against your country as well as against my own.

The first of these papers is a copy of a letter from W. B. Carlisle, directed to the Press of Nassau, dated January 14, 1863. The second is a copy of a letter written by the same Carlisle, dated January 17, 1863, and addressed to Edwin De Leon, or any South Carolinian; said De Leon being a well known and notorious public agent of the insurgents. The third paper is a copy of a letter which was written by Vernon himself, dated April 7, 1862, addressed to G. W. Randolph, in which Vernon asks employment by Randolph as a pretended head of a department in the insurrectionary administration at Richmond, and bases his claims thereto on a letter from the pretended president of that treasonable administration. In this letter he places himself upon ground which repels the idea of his owing allegiance to Great Britain.

A.—Memorandum of an agreement entered into November 14, 1862, between George W. Randolph, pretended secretary of state of the insurgent ad ministration, and Vernon & Co., for the furnishing of military stores and munitions to the insurgents.

B.—List of articles wanted by the so-called ordnance department.

C.—List of articles wanted by the so-called medical department.

D.—List of supplies wanted by the so-called quartermaster’s department.

E.—Letter signed “J. Gorgas, colonel and chief of ordnance,” enumerating laboratory stores to be imported under the above-named contract.

F.—Letter addressed to “H. K. Mallory, insurrectionary secretary of navy,” dated December 15, 1862, not signed, proposing to furnish steam engines and iron-clad ships.

G.—Letter addressed “Captain P. C. Headington, so-called quartermaster, General Price’s insurgent army, &c,” proposing to supply shoes and clothing for that army.

H.—Letter addressed Messrs. J. M. Vernon and J. D. James, present, (Richmond,) [Page 640] dated October 3, 1862, signed George W. Randolph, secretary of war, stating terms of payment for such supplies as may be required.

I.—Vernon & James to G. W. Randolph, October 4, 1862, same subject.

K.—Vernon, James & Co. to Gr. W. Randolph, October 3, 1862, same subject.

L.—Account of H. T. Pate against J. M. Vernon.

M.—J. R. Powell, Montgomery, December 2, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, respecting price of cotton.

N.—H. L. P. McCormick, Charleston, December 2, 1862, in reply to a letter, offers for sale the steamer General Clinch for forty thousand dollars, addressed to J. M. Vernon.

O.—Allen & Sprague, Columbia, December 27, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, on contracts and cotton.

P.—George P. Bennett, Rome, Georgia, November 2, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, as to partnership in business.

Q.—Israel Putnam to Mr. Vernon, dated Griffin, Georgia, December 9, 1862, declining to enter into partnership.

R.—J. M. Vernon & Co. to George W. Randolph, insurrectionary secretary of state, November 12, 1862, as to loading the steamer Water Witch to run out from Charleston.

R.—Octavius Cohen & Co., Savannah, December 8, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, answering inquiry as to price of cotton.

S.—Rees & Linton, Augusta, December 3, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, answering inquiries as to purchase of cotton.

T.—Executive department, Montgomery, Alabama, December 22,1862. John B. Taylor, private secretary, to Mr. Vernon, reply to inquiries as to importation of cotton and wool cards; governor has entered into arrangements for all needed.

U.—J. M. Vernon to Reese & Linton, dated Augusta, December 29, 1862, as to shipment of cotton by the Tropic to run out from Charleston.

V.—From J. M. Vernon, Charleston, November 20, 1862, without address, as to importation of railroad supplies, machinery, &c.

W.— J. M. Vernon, Charleston, January 10, 1862, addressed “Colonel A. R. Chisolm,” terms of shipment of cotton to Nassau.

X.—McDaniel & Isley, Lynchburg, October 15, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, care of Messrs. Brown, Fleming & Co., Atlanta, informing him of a purchase and shipment of one hundred barrels of flour for him.

Ya.—George P. Bennett, Atlanta, October 27, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, as to a proposed partnership between them.

Yb.—Allen & Sprague, Columbia, December 31,1862, to J. M. Vernon, “getting the government to terms,” &c.

Yc.—Thomas Steers, Atlanta, November 3, 1862, to J. M. Vernon, as to indemnification for flour, seized by insurgent authorities.

Yd.—Form of agreement between J. M. Vernon and ______, owners and agents of steamers Huntress and A. R. Chisolm, to ship cotton from Charleston to Nassau and return shipment.

Letter signed “John,” evidently in Vernon’s handwriting, dated New Orleans, January 25, 1862, addressed Dear Jennie, respecting direct trade, &c.

Letter from J. M. Vernon, of Vernon & Co., addressed “Hon. J. A. Seddon, (insurgent) secretary of war,” dated Richmond, December 15, 1862, as to the proposed transfer of the steamer General Clinch to Vernon & Co.; her purchase by insurgent government; proposed plan for importing steel, iron, copper, zinc, ordnance, and munitions of war, &c, for the insurgents.

All these papers were found upon the person of J. M. Vernon when he became a prisoner of the United States.

Upon carefully examining these papers I have, with the approval of the President, come to the conclusion that J. M. Vernon’s affidavit insufficient to [Page 641] establish his claim to be a British subject; and, secondly, that if it were sufficient, yet that, under the circumstances, J. M. Vernon is not entitled to protection by the British government so far as to deprive this government of its right to subject him to restraint and confinement during the war, or to exchange him in a cartel as a prisoner of war, as the public safety and welfare may require.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your lordship’s obedient servant,


Right Hon. Lord Lyons, &c., &c., &c.