Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams,.
Sir: The mails of the Africa have arrived at last. I hasten to acknowledge the reception of your despatch of the 1st of October, (No. 505,) which informs me of the representation you have submitted to Earl Russell concerning the depredations of the Alabama in the waters which surround the Cape of Good Hope.
Thus far we have received no advices from our consul at that place, or from any other source.
The representation you have made is approved, and as the case shall be further developed you will be expected to maintain the rights of the United States in the spirit indicated in your note to his lordship. I submit for your consideration that the occasion seems to be a suitable one for representing to the earl that the toleration shown by the British authorities at the Cape of Good Hope to the Alabama, a vessel that has never touched American waters, and either burns and destroys all that she captures, or condemns them in pretended courts held by the captors themselves on the deck of their ship, is a virtual confusion of all distinctions known in the law of nations between national belligerent vessels and privateers, and, further, of all distinctions between privateers and pirates. If such is to become the practice of maritime, powers, it will be difficult to perceive what the world has gained by the declaration of Paris, or could gain if that declaration should be accepted by all commercial nations.
The ultimate interest of Great Britain in the reprobation of such practices is not less than the immediate interest of the United States in the question.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Charles F. Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.,