Mr. Seward to the Marquis de Montholon
Sir: Referring to your communication of the 23d of November last, and to my reply of the 5th of December, relative to the case of the Senorita, I have the honor to inform you that I have now been made acquainted, by the War Department, with the result of an investigation made by a military commission under its authority, with the circumstances attending the capture by the Mexican General Cortinas in the month of June, 1865, of the Mexican steamer Senorita and her cargo, comprising thirty-live bales of cotton claimed by Messrs. L. Mulor & Co., a French commercial house doing business at Matamoras.
It does not appear that any American soldier or citizen was a party to the capture, or that there is any ground for preferring a claim against the United States in respect thereto, except the alleged fact that the bands of Cortinas availed themselves of the disturbed state of the frontier of Texas to outrage our sovereignty by using the shelter of United States territory in making or securing the capture. Where a prize has been made within the jurisdiction of the United States by one belligerent, of the vessel of another, or when a vessel fitted out within the United States has had the temerity to bring her prize, though taken upon the high seas, within our jurisdiction, you are aware that it has been the practice of our courts of admiralty to decree a restitution upon the claim of the owner.
If, therefore, the cotton of Messrs. Mulor & Co. remained in specie within the United States, the remedy of the claimants was and is through an appeal to the courts of admiralty or of common law. If, coming into military possession, it may have been sold and the proceeds brought for custody into the treasury of the United States, the act of Congress, of which you have been informed by a copy of an opinion of the Attorney General heretofore communicated to you, has provided the proper remedy in the Court of Claims.
To one of these tribunals it will belong to determine whether the circumstances were such as to bring the case within the rule above referred to.
Accept, sir, the renewed assurance of my high consideration.
The Marciuis de Montholon, &c., &c., &c.