Imágenes de página

Her Majesty's Treasury to Messrs. Laird Brothers.

TREASURY CHAMBERS, September 9, 1863. GENTLEMEN: I am desired by my lords commissioners of Her Majesty's treasury to acquaint you that their lordships have felt it their duty to issue orders to the commissioners of customs that the two iron-clad steamers now in the course of completion in your dock at Birkenhead are not to be permitted to leave the Mersey until satisfactory evidence can be given of their destination, or at least until the inquiries which are now being prosecuted with a view to obtain such evidence shall have been brought to a conclusion.

I am, &c.,

GEORGE A. HAMILTON. Messrs. LAIRD & Co., Birkenhead. (44) * The builders replied as follows:1 In reply, we beg to inform you that we have forwarded a copy of your letter to Messrs. A. Bravay & Co., at No. 6 Rue de Londres, Paris, on whose account we are building the vessels, and to whom we beg to refer you for further information ; inasmuch as our engagement with them is to deliver the vessels at the port of Liverpool when they are completed according to our contract.

The builders having informed the collector of customs that they wished to take the vessel which was nearest completion (named El Tousson) for a trial-trip, in order to test the machinery, but with an assurance that she should be brought back again, they were told that circumstances had come to the knowledge of the government which gave rise to an apprehension that an attempt might be made, without the privity and against the intention of the builders themselves, to carry away the vessel by force while on such trial-trip. The government, therefore, could not permit the trip to take place, unless on the condition that a force of seamen and marines, from Her Majesty's channel fleet, (which was then in the Mersey,) sufficient to defeat any such attempt, sbould be placed on board of the vessel.

On the 7th October, 1863, the builders were told that, in consequence of further information received by the government, it was deemed necessary to place an officer of the customs on board the vessel named El Tousson, with authority to seize her on behalf of the Crown in the event of any attempt being made to remove her from her actual position, and that he was instructed to obtain from the commanding officer of Her Majesty's ship of war Majestic any protection which might be necessary to support him in the execution of his duty.3

On the 9th October, 1863, orders were issued to seize both the vessels, and they were seized accordingly.* The vessel remained under seizure from that time until the month of May, 1864, when they were, by agree. ment, sold and transferred to Her Majesty's government for the aggregate sum of £220,000. The evidence which the government had up to that time been able to obtain was so imperfect as to make the event of. a trial doubtful; and in agreeing to the purchase, Her Majesty's government was mainly actuated by a desire to prevent by any means within its power (however costly) vessels of so formidable a character, constructed in a British port, from passing directly or indirectly into the hands of a belligerent.


On the 18th October, 1863, Earl Russell received from Mr. Adams the following note, (with an inclosure :)


Appendix, vol. ii, p. 358.
Ibid., pp. 388, 389, et seq.

2 Ibid., p. 367.
• Ibid., pp. 457-459.

3 Ibid., p. 387.
6 Ibid., p. 467.


Mr. ddams to Earl Russell.


London, October 17, 1863. MY LORD: It is with great regiet that I find it my duty once more to call your lordship's attention to the efforts making in this kingdom to aid the insurgents in America in carrying on their resistance to the Governinent of the United States. I have strong reason for believing that, in addition to a very formidable steam-ram now in process of construction at the port of Glasgow, but not yet so far advanced as fully to develop bier character, there is another steamer ready to be launched, ealled the Canton, having all the characteristics of a war-vessel, which is about to be fitted up and dispatched with the same intent from the same place. I beg leave to submit to your lordship's consideration some extracts from a letter addressed to me by W. L. Underwood, esq., the consul of the United States, giving some information in regard to this case. Mr. Underwood himself entertains no doubt of the destination of this vessel, although from the secrecy used in the process of construction and preparation, itself a cause of suspicion, he has been slow in gaining evidence on which to base a representation.

Not doubting that Her Majesty's government will take all suitable measures to ascertain the correctness of these allegations, I pray, &c. (Signed)

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS. The extracts inclosed in the above note contained a description of the Canton.

The information thus furnished by Mr. Adams was immediately communicated to the proper departments of the government, and the otticers of customs and local authorities were instructed to make immediate inquiry, and to take such legal ineasures as might prevent any attempt to infringe the law.

The inquiries thus directed were pursued for a considerable time with very little result. The vessel was carefully examined, both by the sur

reyor of the customs and by the commanding officer of Her Maj. [45] esty's ship Hogue, stationed in the Clyde; and the specifi* cations

on which she was constructed, as well as the contract for building her, were produced and exhibited by the agents through whom the contract had been made. It appeared that, though she was being fitted up as a passenger-ship, there were some peculiarities in her construction such as to render her capable of being converted, not indeed into a regular ship of war, but into a vessel serviceable for war purposes. She had been contracted for by a person resident in Londoni, through the agency of a Glasgow firm; and this firm, as well as her builders, stated that they believed her to be intended for the merchant service, and were not aware of any intention to dispose of her to the Confederate States.

The vessel was launched on the 29th October, 1863, (her name having been previously changed to the “Pampero;") and the United States consul at Glasgow soon afterward made a formal application that she might lie seized, supporting it by several depositions on oath, to which others were afterward added from time to time. No evidence what. ever of her being intended for the confederate service, beyond vague rumor and hearsay, was furnished by the United States consul in these depositions or otherwise, nor by Mr. Adams.

By the end of November, however, the inquiries directed by the government had led to the production of some evidence, and it was eventually ascertained that the real owners of the vessels were several persons resident respectively in London, Manchester, Glasgow, and Dumbarton, and that they were under a contract to sell her to one Sinclair, calling himself a citizen of the Confederate States; but that Sinclair had lately been, and then was, desirous of canceling the contract. A letter from Sinclair, asking that the contract might be canAppendix, vol. ii, p. 478.

? Ibid., p. 486.

celed, was placed in the hands of the law officers of the Crown for Scotland, and was as follows:

LONDON, September 24, 1863. MY DEAR SIR: When I made a contract with you in November last for the building of a steamship, I was under the impression, having taken legal advice, that there was nothing in the law of England that would prevent a British subject from building such a vessel for any foreign subject as a commercial transaction. Althongh the recent decision of the court of exchequer in the case of the Alexandra would seem to sustain the opinion, yet the evident determination of your government to yield to the pressure of the United States minister, and prevent the sailing of any vessel that may be suspected of being the property of a citizen of the Confederate States, is madle so manifest that I have concluded it will be better for me to endeavor to close that contract referred to, and go where I can have more liberal action.

In these circumstances I desire to put an end to our transaction, by your returning me the cotton certificates which I delivered to account of price, and my canceling the contract.

The increased value of shipping since the date of our transaction will, I have no doubt, enable you at once to meet my wishes in this respect. I shall feel much obliged by an early reply. (Signed)


On the 10th December the Pampero was, by direction of Her Majesty's government, seized by the collector of customs at Glasgow, and legal proceedings were instituted to obtain a declaration of forfeiture. 2 The case was appointed to be tried in April, 1864, when, no defense being made, a verdict was entered for the Crown, and the vessel was declared forfeited. She remained under seizure until October, 1865, and was then given up to her owners, all reasons for detaining her being at an end.3 THE AMPHION, THE HAWK, THE VIRGINIA, THE LOUISA ANN FANNY,


In the year 1864 representations were made by Mr. Adams to Earl Russell respecting two vessels named the Amphion and Hawk; and, in the year 1805, respecting three others, the Virginia, the Louisa Ann Fanny, and the Hercules, all of which he alleged to be fitting out in ports of the United Kingdom under suspicious circumstances, and to be probably destined for the naval service of the Confederate States. In each of these cases the information furnished was immediately transmitted to the proper departments of the government, and careful inquiry was made. In none of them were any reasonable grounds of suspicion found on examination to exist, which would have justified the executive in interfering, and none of the suspected vessels were ever in fact armed or used for pụrposes of war. The dates at which Mr. Adams's representations in these several cases were respectively first received, and were referred for inqniry, were as follows: The Amphion.-Received March 18, 1864; referred on the same day

to the home department. 4 [16]. * The Hawk.-Received April 16, 1864; referred to the treasury,

the home department, and the lord adřocate, (the law-officer of the Crown for Scotland,) April 18, 1864.5

The Virginia and Louisa Ann Fanny.-Received January 30, 1865; referred to the treasury February 1, 1865.6

The Hercules.-Received February 7, 1865; referred to the treasury and to the home department February 8 and 9, 1865.7 Appendix, vol. ii, p. 511.

• Ibid., pp. 543, 544. Ibid., p.520.

6 Ibid., pp.595, 596. 3 Ibid., p.533.

Ibid., p. 580. * Ibid., pp. 566, 567.

In acknowledging the receipt of Mr. Adams's note respecting the Hercules, Earl Russell wrote as follows:1

Earl Russell to Jr. Adams.

FOREIGN OFFICE, February 8, 1865. Sir: I have received your letter dated the 7th instant, and delivered at the foreign office at a late hour yesterday evening after the close of business; but not being marked immediate, it did not come under the notice of the under-secretary of state until 1 p. m. to-day.

The matter shall be immediately attended to, but, in the mean time, I wish to call your attention to the dates of tbe letters which yon inclose. The first letter of the United States consul at Liverpool is dated the 2d instant, and affirms that a steamer named the Hercules is fitting out in the Clyde for the confederate service, and that this vessel is to be ready for sea in eight days. The second letter which you transmit to me is dated Glasgow, the 4th instant, and contains further information respecting this vessel, and states, moreover, that the trial trip is to take place to-day.

In a former instance I was able by means of the lord advocate to prosecute the owr.ers of a vessel building in the Clyde, and to get a verdict entered by consent, which defeated the purpose of the confederate agert. But these operations are very quick, and unless I bave timely notice I can bave but little hopes of stopping these nefarious transactions.

I have, &c.,

RUSSELL. The attention of the government had been directed to the Amphion and Hawk, and inquiry made respecting them, before the receipt of any representation from Mr. Adams concerning those vessels. A vessel called the Ajax, as to which no representation had been made or information furnished, but which was suspected by some of her crew of being intended for the confederate service, was examined and searched by the officers of customs at Queenstown, and afterward, uuder instructions from the government, by the colonial authorities at Nassau?? She was not, however, found to be adapted or intended for warlike use, and was never applied to such use.

In sending information to Mr. Adams respecting the Virginia, Mr. Dudley, in a letter dated the 27th January, 1865, wrote as follows:

Like the Sea King, any steamer now destined for privateering fits away as a commercial vessel, and there is nothing about her movement before she leaves port, or until within a few hours of lier leaving, when she may suddenly change owners, and her master be given authority to sell at a given sum out of British waters, to create ans mistrust of the purpose of those who control her here.

Under such a mode of operations it is next to impossible for us to get testimony in season, and sufficiently strong, to ask for their detention. The only course left me, therefore, is to call your attention to all cases offering any reasonable grouud of suspicion, and leave them to be disposed of as you may deer most expedient.

SUMMARY. The preceding statement of facts shows the general course of conduct pursued by Her Britannic Majesty's government, in relation to vessels alleged to be, or suspected of being, fitted out or prepared within British territory for belligerent use. It includes all the cases (except those of the Florida and Alabama, which will be presently stated) in which information that any vessel was being built, equipped, or prepared for sea in any British port, and intended, or supposed to be intended, for warlike use, was received by, or came to the knowledge of, Her Majesty's government before the departure of such vessel.

It will have been seen

1. That in every case directions were given, without the least delay, for investigation and inquiry on the spot by the proper officers of gor.

[blocks in formation]

3 Ibid., p. 596.

ernment; and these officers were ordered to keep a watchful eye on the suspected vessel; and the directions and orders so given were executed.

2. That in some cases the attention of the government had been directed, before the* receipt of any communication from Mr. Adams,

to vessels as to which there appeared to be ground for suspicion. 3. That as soon as any evidence was obtained it was submitted, without delay, to the law officers of the Crown; and they were called upon to advise as to the proper course of proceeding:

4. That in every case in which reasonable evidence could be obtained the vessel was seized by the officers of the government, and proceedings were instituted against her in the proper court of law. By reasonable evidence is understood testimony which, though not conclusive, offered nevertheless a reasonable prospect that the government might be able, when the time for trying the case should arrive, to sustain the seizure in a court of law.

5. That in several of the cases in which a seizure was made the gov. ernment found itself unable, or uncertain whether it would be able, to sustain the seizure by sufficient evidence, and was under the necessity of either releasing the vessel and paying the costs of the trial and de. tention, or of purchasing her at the public expense.

6. That in every one of the cases enumerated either the information furnished to the government proved to be erroneous, and the supposed indicia of an unlawful intention to be absent or deceptive, or this intention was defeated or abandoned by reason of the measures taken and the vigilance exercised' by Her Majesty's government.

7. That it is easy to infer special adaptation for war from peculiarities or supposed peculiarities of construction which are really equivocal; and such inferences are liable to be fallacious, especially in cases where the vessel is constructed with a view to some employment which, though commercial, is out of the ordinary course of commerce.


The steady determination of Her Britannic Majesty's government to guard against any act or occurrence which might be supposed to cast a doubt on its neutrality, and its readiness even to go beyond, for this purpose, the strict measure of its international obligations, were exemplified in the case of the iron-clad rams, and were even more strikingly shown in that of the flotilla of gun-boats equipped for service in China.

In March, 1862, the Chinese government gave authority to Mr. Lay, inspector-general of Chinese customs, then on leave in England, to purchase and equip a steam-fleet for the Emperor's service;' and a sum of money was placed at his disposal for the purpose.

Mr. Lay accordingly entered into an agreement with Captain Sherard Osborn, an officer in Her Majesty's navy, according to which the latter was to take command-in-chief of the fleet, receiving orders from the Chinese government through Mr. Lay. Her Majesty's government, by orders in council, gave permission to enlist officers and men for this service.

In September, 1863, Captain Sherard Osborn arrived in China with the flotilla, consisting of six vessels of war. These were the Pekin, China, and Keang-soo, of six guns each, the Kwangtung and Tien-tsin of four guns, and the Amoy of two, the Thule yacht, and the Ballarat store-ship.

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »