Mr. Seward to Mr. Dayton

No. 304.]

Sir: You will probably have noticed that a bill has passed the Senate conferring upon the President the power to issue letters of marque and reprisal in any war in which this country may at any time be engaged. It is expected that the bill will become a law. It is not unlikely, in that event, that the measure may possibly be misapprehended abroad. Should this prove to be the case at Paris, and explanations in regard to it should be asked of you, or in your judgment be likely to prove useful, you may say that, as the bill stands, the executive government will be left at liberty to put the law in force in its discretion, and that thus far the proper policy in regard to the exercise of that discretion has not engaged the President’s attention. If no extreme circumstances shall exist when it may become expedient to put the act in force against the insurgents, every proper effort will be made to prevent surprise on the part of friendly nations, whose commerce and navigation it might be feared would be incidentally and indirectly affected.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


William L. Dayton, Esq., &c., &c., &c.