Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/143

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Provisional Congress.

LETTER OF PRESIDENT DAVIS TO PRESIDENT LINCOLN.

Richmond, July 6, 1861.

To Abraham Lincoln, President and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.

Sir: Having learned that the schooner Savannah, a private armed vessel in the service, and sailing under a commission issued by authority of the Confederate States of America, had been captured by one of the vessels forming the blockading squadron off Charleston harbor, I directed a proposition to be made to the officer commanding that squadron for an exchange of the officers and crew of the Savannah for prisoners of war held by this Government "according to number and rank." To this proposition, made on the 19th ult., Captain Mercer, the officer in command of the blockading squadron, made answer on the same day that "the prisoners (referred to) are not on board of any of the vessels under my command."

It now appears by statements made without contradiction in newspapers published in New York, that the prisoners above mentioned were conveyed to that city, and have there been treated not as prisoners of war, but as criminals; that they have been put in irons, confined in jail, brought before the courts of justice on charges of piracy and treason, and it is even rumored that they have been actually convicted of the offenses charged, for no other reason than that they bore arms in defense of the rights of this Government and under the authority of its commission.

I could not, without grave discourtesy, have made the newspaper statements above referred to the subject of this communication, if the threat of treating as pirates the citizens of this Confederacy, armed for service on the high seas, had not been contained in your proclamation of the April last. That proclamation, however, seems to afford a sufficient justification for considering these published statements as not devoid of probability.

It is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war now existing as to mitigate its horrors as far as may be possible; and,