To William H. Seward and Gideon Welles

Hon. Secretaries of                  Executive Mansion,
State & of the Navy.                  Washington, April 21. 1863.

Gentlemen: It is now a practical question for this government, whether a government mail of a neutral, power, found on board a vessel captured by a beligerent power, on charge of breach of blockade, shall be forwarded to it’s designated destination, without opening; or shall be placed in custody of the prize court, to be in the discretion of the court, opened and searched for evidence to be used on the trial of the prize case. I will thank each of you to furnish me

First, a list of all cases wherein such question has been passed upon, either by a diplomatic, or a judicial decision.

Secondly, all cases wherein mails, under such circumstances, have been without special decision, either forwarded unopened; or detained, and opened, in search of evidence.

I wish these lists to embrace as well the reported cases in the books generally, as the cases pertaining to the present war in the United States.

Thirdly, a statement, and brief argument, of what would be the dangers and evils, of forwarding such mails unopened.

Fourthly, a statement and brief argument, of what would be the dangers and evils of detaining and opening such mails, and using the contents, if pertinent, as evidence.

And lastly, any general remarks that may occur to you, or either of you. Your Obt. Servt. A. LINCOLN.


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