Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward

Sir: I feel it my duty at once to transmit to you a copy of a paper issued from the Foreign Office directing that all restrictions on vessels-of-war of the United States be taken off in British ports. This was sent to me last night with a note from his lordship,*** in which he also lets me know that [Page 611] the government has decided to send orders to Admiral Denman to detain the Shenandoah if she comes into any British port, and to capture her if found on the high seas.

I seize the opportunity to send you also a copy of the Times, which contains what is clearly an official correction of the version made in the leading article of the day before of Lord Russell’s proposal of a commission. It now appears as if this government gravely proposes this commission should be raised to deliberate upon trifling British claims, whilst it excludes beforehand the only important ones on the part of the United States to which the war has given rise. The only suitable answer to such a proposition would seem to be, all or none.

The newspapers are filled with discussions of the correspondence. The argument which has evidently made the deepest impression is that drawn from the possible consequences to British commerce of the establishment of this precedent.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

England and America.

In order to guard against any misunderstanding, we are requested to re-state that the proposal of Earl Russell to the American government was conveyed in the following words: “Her Majesty’s government are ready to consent to the appointment of a commission, to which shall be referred all claims arising during the late civil war which the two powers shall agree to refer to the commissioners.” These concluding words limit the subject of reference, since it would be inconsistent with the position taken up by her Majesty’s government, and with the arguments which induced it to decline arbitration, to permit the claims for losses by the Alabama and other vessels of the same character to be brought before a commission for decision. It must be understood, therefore, that if any such commission were agreed on, those cases would be excluded from its jurisdiction.

Earl Russell to the lords, &c., of admiralty and treasury, and others.

My Lords: With reference to my letter of the 2d of June last, prescribing the course to be taken by her Majesty’s several authorities in all ports, harbors, and waters belonging; to her Majesty, whether in the United Kingdom or beyond the seas, in consequence of the recognition by her Majesty’s government that peace was restored within the whole territory of which the United States of North America, before the commencement of the civil war, were in undisturbed possession; and with reference more particularly to that passage in my letter in which it was laid down that confederate vessels departing, in pursuance of requisitions to be made by her Majesty’s authorities, from any ports, harbors, and waters belonging to her Majesty, in which, at the time of the receipt by those authorities of the fresh orders, such vessels might be found, should then and for the last time have the full benefit of the prohibition theretofore enforced against pursuit of them within twenty-four hours by a cruiser of the United States lying at the time within any such ports,, harbors, and waters, I have the honor to state to your lordships that her Majesty’s government are of opinion that it is desirable that her Majesty’s naval and other authorities at home and in her Majesty’s possessions abroad should be formally apprised that, as full time has now elapsed since my letter of the 2d of June for giving effect to the provisions of that letter, all measures of a restrictive nature on vessels-of-war of the United States in British ports, harbors, or waters are now to be considered as at an end, and that it is the desire and intention of her Majesty’s government that unrestricted hospitality and friendship should be shown to vessels-of-war of the United States in all her Majesty’s ports, whether at home or abroad.

I have addressed a similar letter to, &c.

I have, &c.,


The Lords, &c. of the Admiralty and Treasury, Eight Hons. Edward Cardwell, M. P., Sir George Grey, Bart., M. P., Sir Charles Wood, Bart., M. P.

[Received at United States legation, London, October 13, 1865.]