Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.

No. 13.]

Sir: I have the honor to enclose two papers referring to the case of the Mary Scaife, rebel brig, which has recently sailed from Barcelona, loaded with a valuable cargo, ostensibly for Vera Cruz, but really, as is supposed, for running the blockade of our southern coast. I formerly informed you that this vessel had succeeded in running the blockade outward from Charleston, and had arrived safely at Barcelona, with a cargo of cotton, which she there discharged.

The correspondence of our able and efficient consul (Mr. J. P. Little) at that port will have kept you informed of what happened at Barcelona, and the manner in which this vessel was transformed into the Good Luck, and placed under the British flag. I do not, therefore, burden the mail with documents which will have reached you directly from Barcelona. My reply to Mr. Little of August 12, approving his temperate, business-like, and effective action at Barcelona, will be found marked B.

Our consul at Gibraltar (Mr. Sprague) has been active, under my direction, as our consular agent for Algecir as; and Captain Pickering, with the Kearsage, (steamer,) has been incessantly cruising to the eastward of the straits, for the purpose of intercepting this vessel, but with no result up to my last advices.

Your instruction (No. 37) of the 21st of July, in reference to the projected coal depot at Cadiz, has been immediately put in course of execution; and I shall probably be able to send you the full and minute report desired by the Navy Department by next mail steamer from Liverpool.

Your No. 38, of July 28, has also just reached me; and for the flattering expressions it contains I beg to return my thanks.

* * * * * * * * *

With the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Page 512]


Sir: I have the honor to enclose to you herewith copies of two communications just received from the captain general, by which you will see that in the question of the Mary Scaife he has acted in accordance with the authorities he cites as having consulted—that is, the captain general has not in any way intervened in the matter, except to declare my protest as not sufficient to authorize him to prevent the departure of the brig, and in stating that the non-compliance on the part of the seller, a citizen of the United States, with the necessary and legal forms of sale, as the indorsement and registering of the same in this consulate, does not in any manner affect the validity of the purchase on the part of the British subject; and, further, that the entry at this port of the said brig under a flag adopted by a portion of the southern States of the United States of America, now in rebellion against the legitimate government of the said United States, and the sale of the brig without having complied with the requisite registering of said sale in this consulate, as required by the laws of the United States, does not and cannot, either directly or indirectly, imply the recognition of the said rebellion. This seems to me impossible, as either the Mary Scaife was admitted subject to the laws of our treaties with Spain, and to the maritime laws of the United States, or she was admitted as independent, and not owing obedience to said laws and treaties. The captain general does not, however, decide this point, as he states only that the legality or illegality of the sale is a question not to be decided by the Spanish laws, but by the existing treaties between Great Britain and the United States. The British consul, however, affirms that the sale and purchase, having been duly made through a notary public of this city, and the purchaser having presented himself before him with a passport and other proof of his nationality, he could not refuse to furnish him a temporary register, by which the vessel is placed under the British flag for the term of six months, or until she can be regularly registered in some British port. You will see, therefore, that the local authorities pretend to show the good faith and legality of the sale by the recognition of the same by the British consul, and the consul asserts that the sale has been duly and legally made through a notary public, and that the vessel has thereby become British property—each party relying upon the other to sanction the course he has pursued. As I now submit to your inspection the final papers in regard to this sale and change of nationality of the brig Mary Scaife, and the vessel having left this port, any further action on my part will probably not be demanded. However, in calling your attention to the latter part of the captain general’s more lengthy communication, I beg to inform you that, should the course I have taken in this difficult matter meet with your approbation, I should be exceedingly obliged to you if you would notify me as soon as convenient, as I am anxious to inform the captain general of your approval, in reply to this part of his communication, and also to inform him that questions and events of great importance sometimes arise, even as the present, where a consul is obliged to act in a partially diplomatic manner, both on account of the seriousness of the event or question and for want of time to be able to bring the matter for decision before the legation from which he depends.

I have applied to the custom-house for a list of the cargo outward, and as soon as received shall forward to Washington, with the description of the vessel, as I am sure she will again attempt the blockade.

I am, sir, your most obedient servant,


Horatio J. Perry, Esq., Chargé d’ Affaires, United States Legation, Madrid.

[Page 513]

Mr. Perry to Mr. Little.

Sir: Your communications to No. 16, inclusive, of August 7 have been received, with their enclosures, and inform me of your own proceedings in the case of the brig Mary Scaife, as well as those of the Spanish authorities, British consul, and other parties at your port. These papers are very interesting, and I take pleasure in acknowledging the very efficient, temperate, and business-like way in which you seem to have managed this whole affair.

It is the province of the captain general to see that you do not take upon yourself the discharge of diplomatic or political duties, especially as he himself would lack authority from his own government to correspond on such subjects; but it is quite within your province, and is, indeed, a prominent part of your consular duty, to watch over the proper execution of all treaties, ordinances, and customs, which affect the condition of ships and mariners from the United States at the port of Barcelona; and, in the case of anything extraordinary occurring, to make the facts known to the local authorities, with such observations as you may think necessary, in order to convey a proper idea of the case, so that their action, if any be taken, should be adequate, and based on a full knowledge of the case.

I have failed to see that you have transcended your duty in any respect in the course of this affair.

I have been in frequent correspondence with our consuls at Gibraltar, Malaga, and Cadiz, on the subject of the vessel referred to, and trust she may be intercepted in the straits, or taken on our coast, where her description would have preceded her.

Respectfully, &c, your obedient servant,


John Albro Little, Esq., United States Consul, Barcelona.