Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams

No. 2108.]

Sir: Your dispatch of the 29th of November, No. 1485, has been received. I thank you for your attention in furnishing me copies of the British statutes on treason-felony. When I shall have received expected copies of the indictments of citizens of the United States who have been tried and are to be tried under these statutes, I shall have occasion to give you at large the President’s views concerning the conflict which exists between the United States and Great Britain in regard to the just rights of naturalized citizens under prosecution for offenses committed in Great Britain.

I have read the letter which Colonel Nagle addressed to you on the 22d November, and which you have transmitted at his request. I have been advised by the consul at Dublin that Colonel Nagle, subsequently to writing that letter, applied to the court, in the customary form of law, for an immediate trial or for his discharge from imprisonment; that the court denied the application, and that the trial stands postponed, to take place at Sligo in March next. You will take care that he be defended by proper counsel, at the expense of the United States.

Her Majesty’s government determines for itself upon the policy of rigorous criminal prosecution in these frequent cases, which I have had more than one occasion to say are popularly regarded in the United States as incidents of popular movements for political reform. It would be unbecoming on my part to speculate upon the effects which this policy secures in Great Britain. Charged, however, as I am with the duty of extending legal protection under treaties and the law of nations to the citizens of the United States sojourning abroad, and with the duty also of preserving good and favorable relations between the United States and foreign countries, I have constantly thought it right to let her Majesty’s government know, in every proper way, that the practice of exceptionable severity in these cases produces in the United States consequences very unfavorable to the interests of Great Britain. It was with a very clear foresight of these results that, under the President’s direction, I so earnestly and so frequently urged the discharge of Colonels Nagle and Warren before their prosecution, upon a full understanding with the lamented Sir Frederick Bruce of his approval and concurrence in that proceeding. Similar motives induced the President to recommend clemency to the United States citizens recently convicted at Manchester. If I may judge from the tone of popular and legislative sentiments in the United States, the policy of these recommendations has been fully vindicated. It is my deliberate conviction that, so far as our own country is concerned, it would be an act of wisdom on the part of the British government to dismiss its prosecution against Colonel Nagle, and to discharge Colonel Warren and the prisoner Costello from penal imprisonment.

You will please communicate the substance of this dispatch to Lord Stanley, and give him a copy thereof if he shall request it.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.