April 22, 1863
President Lincoln writes Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, a frequent social guest of Mrs. Lincoln at the White House: “Mrs. L. is embarrassed a little. She would be pleased to have your company again this evening, at the Opera, but she fears she may be taxing you. I have undertaken to clear up the little difficulty. If, for any reason, it will tax you, decline, without any hesitation; but if it will not, consider yourself already invited, and drop me a note.”
President Lincoln writes to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles and Secretary of State William H. Seward regarding the handling of captured mail at sea: “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 bel[l]igerent 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.
Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes in his diary of his response: “Received the President’s letter and interrogatories concerning the mail. The evening papers state that the mail of the Peterhoff has been given up by District Attorney Delafield Smith, who applied to the court under direction of the Secretary of State, ‘approved’ by the President. It is a great error, which has its origin in the meddlesome disposition and loose and inconsiderate action of Mr. Seward, who had meddlesomely committed himself. Having in a weak moment conceded away an incontestable national right, he has sought to extricate himself, not by retracing his steps, but by involving the President, who confides in him and over whom he has, at times, an unfortunate influence. The interference with the judiciary, which has admiralty jurisdiction, is improper, and the President is one of the very last men who would himself intrude on the rights or prerogatives of any other Department of the Government, one of the last also to yield a national right.”
President Lincoln catches up on a number of small military matters in his correspondence. As he prepares to put together his list of appointments to West Point, President Lincoln reaches out to administration members for their recommendations.