Mr. Morse to Mr. Adams.
Sir: Your kind favor of yesterday has just reached me, for which I am greatly obliged.
The copy of Mr. Hull’s affidavit, by which it is accompanied, I had never before seen, nor was I aware that he had made an affidavit of such a character. It certainly has greatly surprised me. It is not true that I took the first steps to obtain an interview with Mr. Prioleau, or that I in any manner solicited the interview. I made no advances whatever in such a direction. Prior to receiving Mr. Prioleau’s request for an interview I had had several interviews with Mr. Henry Lafone, and had engaged him in the service of the United States to aid in discovering and securing to said States confederate property in England.
On the afternoon of Friday, the 2d of November, Mr. Lafone came into the consulate and said he was authorized by Mr. Prioleau to say to me that if I would meet him as one gentleman should meet another, he would like to have an interview with me, and see if some just terms of settlement could not be arrived at. If not literally correct, this is substantially the language that was used. Such a message from such a quarter was by me entirely unexpected, and rather took me by surprise, and I at once inquired what had brought Mr. Prioleau to a desire for à settlement. Mr. Lafone replied that he knew a great deal about Prioleau’s transactions with the confederacy, and could seriously injure him, but that they had been and were friends, and, on reflection, he could not make up his mind to operate against him in the dark; that it would not be honorable for him to do so, &c.; and therefore he went to Mr. Prioleau and told him his position and what he intended to do. He said Mr. Prioleau was offended, and said to him, “Have you turned traitor?” After further conversation in a similar vein, Prioleau asked or said, “In such a state of things, with you against me, what am I to do?” Mr. Lafone replied, “You had better bring the whole matter to a close, secure your lawful claims against the property held by you, and hand what is left over to the United States.” Prioleau said, in reply, that he could not meet any United States officer without subjecting himself to harsh treatment, or words to this effect. Mr. Lafone told him that if he met me I would treat him civilly, and as one gentleman should treat another. He then left, advising Mr. Prioleau to reflect well before he decided. Mr. Lafone said the next day Mr. Prioleau called at his office and said he had been thinking over the subject of their conversation of the day before, and had, after considering all the circumstances connected with the case, concluded to act on his advice, and he had come to London to see if I would consent to meet Mr. Prioleau.
Such were the preliminary steps which brought about the meeting with Mr. Prioleau, given in detail as they succeeded one another; and to the facts as above stated I am willing to make oath.
Mr. Gibbs was not in London at the time, and did not know that a meeting with Mr. Prioleau had been arranged until his arrival in London, on the morning of Monday, the 4th, at my request, communicated to him by telegraph.
As to what Mr. Hull declares about the scope of my authority to act, I can only say, that I put no construction on it. My presence there was perhaps a sufficient indication of how it was viewed by me. The papers were carefully examined by Mr. Prioleau’s counsel, and were considered satisfactory. I did say, however, that in case we entered into an arrangement which would be just to the United States, and properly guard her interests in the matters to be acted upon, I thought you would readily sanction it.
I cannot command language sufficiently strong to express my great regret and pain at the many unlooked-for misunderstandings and misrepresentations of that unfortunate attempt to do what I firmly believed would prove to be for the honor and best interests of our country, without injury or disrespect to any one.
With sincere thanks for calling my attention to the subject, I remain your obedient servant,
Hon. Charles Francis Adams, United States Minister.