Mr. F. W. Seward to Mr. Hawley.

No. 38.]

Sir: Your despatches (Nos. 34 and 39) having been received and referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, that officer has returned them to this [Page 1346] department with the remark that, “the power vested in the Secretary of the Treasury, under the act of May 25, 1862, to refuse clearances to vessels sailing to neutral ports, is limited to vessels laden with cargoes, but does not include vessels in ballast; and bonds cannot be required of vessels in ballast, though their ultimate destination as blockade runners is all but certain.”

The question by you is, whether the act of despatching an American vessel for such a purpose is not an offence against the laws of the United States, and for which arrests may be made, and parties concerned punished.

That question is not free of difficulties, and the Secretary of the Treasury has suggested that it should be referred to the proper law officer. This course has accordingly been taken.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

F. W. SEWARD, Assistant Secretary,

S. C. Hawley, Esq., United States Consul, Nassau, now in New York.