Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of the 8th of December, No. 1288. It is accompanied by a statement which Lord Stanley made to you on the 7th instant. (This date of the statement is inferred from your despatch.) The statement shows that this government would be furnished with copies of the records in tire trial of Lynch and McMahon, who have been lately convicted, and that like copies of records would be supplied in future cases. The statement, however, declares that her Majesty’s government, in consenting that these copies of records shall be furnished, do not accede to my application for them on the ground of absolute right. The statement also expresses the views of her Majesty’s government in regard to the policy of leniency in the cases of political convictions.
The United States have no disposition to find an occasion for difference with her Majesty’s government in either of the matters thus referred to. In point of fact, copies of the records have been and are being received from the Canadian authorities, and the rigorous course of the law has been already stayed by a respite of the convicted persons from execution. It is much more pleasant to us to express a high appreciation of these proceedings on the part of her Majesty’s government than it would be to raise complaints upon any merely abstract questions which could arise out of the transactions themselves.
It is important to understand clearly the ground which the United States assumed when asking for the records referred to. It appears that, in the indictment upon which the parties named were tried, it was expressly charged, as a material and integral portion of their crimes, that the accused were citizens of the United States, and that their offences were committed in that character. This government, in such a special case, where citizenship of the United States constitutes a material element of a conviction, thinks itself entitled and obliged by international law to review the proceeding in all its parts, and to ask from her Majesty’s government a full and perfect exhibition of all the proceedings which resulted in capital conviction.
I have stated the point thus distinctly for the reason that in the criticisms which have been made abroad, upon the application for the records, it seemed to be assumed that citizenship of the United States did not enter at all into the allegations of guilt against the accused.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.