Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward.

No. 3.]

Sir: By the English steamer to Southampton, on the 9th instant, I had the honor to advise you of my arrival here on the 4th, and of my purpose to take immediate measures to punish such shipmasters as should be guilty of disrespect to our flag.

On the 9th I issued, accordingly, a circular addressed to all the consuls under the superintendence of this legation, a copy of which is enclosed and marked No. 1. The circular was virtually issued on the evening of the 8th for the guidance of our consul at this port; but inasmuch as the steamer was advertised to sail on the 9th at 9 a.m., and the mail closed early on the evening of the 8th, it was impossible to advise the department of my action in the premises by that steamer; the circular bears date October 9. This explanation is rendered necessary by a misapprehension of Mr. Parsons, our consul, who reported to the department that I was holding the subject under advisement; whereas I had promptly decided upon the course to be pursued, but wished the circular to embrace the whole subject.

On the same day, the 8th, I advised the minister secretary of foreign affairs of my arrival, and asked an interview to arrange the time and place for the presentation of my credentials to the Emperor. On the following day, the 10th, I received a note from the minister of foreign affairs, Senhor Benevenuto Augusto de Magalhaes Taques, appointing the 11th, at 6 p.m., for the interview solicited, and requesting that I would at an early day, in advance of my presentation, prepare my speech to be delivered upon the delivery of my credentials, in order that he might deliver it to his Majesty, who had intimated his intention to have the presentation take place on what is called a full court day. I took the occasion to explain to Senhor Taques that my speech would be somewhat longer than usual, in consequence of my immediate predecessor, Mr. Meade, having, both on the presentation of his credentials and at his audience of leave, indulged in language derogatory to our country, and at war with the facts of the case. He said that such a course would be irregular and could not be conceded: I admitted it’s irregularity, but insisted that it became necessary, and was my right, because my predecessor had been permitted to assail our country, to which he had proved himself a traitor, both on his reception and in his audience of leave; and it was just and proper that his misstatements should be corrected as publicly as they were made. To this Senhor Taques replied: “Ah, but his Majesty made no response to what Senhor Meade said.” I replied, “True, and in like manner I do not expect his Majesty to make any response to what I say. What I claim is, the right to refute slanders as publicly as they were made, and in the same distinguished presence.” After arguing the question at some length, I suggested that the better way might be for me to write and furnish him with a copy of my intended speech, which I would do within forty-eight hours, and sooner if he desired. This he assented to, promising in the meantime to have an interview with the Emperor on the subject.

On the following day, the 12th, at 12 o’clock, I was not a little astonished [Page 698] by a visit from the minister of foreign affairs, accompanied by his friend Senhor Pecunha, of the foreign office, who speaks English fluently. The minister, after pleasant conversation with the ladies, said he had come to see me in regard to my speech, which he begged might not contain any allusion to what Mr. Meade bad said; and he explained that his audience of leave was not a public audience, and that the Emperor would grant me a private audience to refute what Mr. Meade had said. I stated that I was not disposed to insist upon any course being adopted that might be unpleasant to the Emperor; and that while I waived the right of reply to what was said at the audience of leave, except at a private audience, I could not reconcile it to my duty, to my country, and the American people, not to claim the right of correcting Mr. Meade’s misstatements in regard to our government as publicly and in the same august presence in which they were promulgated. That right I could not waive; but having claimed it, I should bow with respect to his Majesty’s decision in regard to what should be omitted from my speech. It was finally agreed that I should have my intended speech copied, the original MSS. being then in process of preparation, and that I should forward a copy to the minister the same evening.

At eight o’clock p.m. I accordingly sent to the minister my intended speech, as enclosed herewith, and marked No. 2. About ten o’clock Senhor Pecunha waited upon me with my speech, and commenced by insisting that there was no allusion to slavery by Mr. Meade in his public audience of reception, or in his speech as on file in the archives of the department of foreign affairs, and that therefore that part of my speech which purported to be a reply to what he had said could not be spoken, but might be sent in a special despatch, while what Mr. Meade had said at his audience of leave was at a private audience, and an opportunity would be afforded me to reply in a similar manner. In reply to this, I opened the book of record containing Mr. Meade’s despatch to the State Department, dated Rio Janeiro, December 14, 1857, in which he embodies a copy of his speech, from which I had quoted, and in which he plumed himself upon having made a favorable impression upon the government by this very allusion to slavery which I deemed it my duty to refute. And inasmuch as the archives of the foreign office appeared to be at fault in regard to this speech of Mr. Meade’s, I politely offered to furnish a certified copy of it to be placed on file. He waived the objection taken to my reply, and said that quite possibly he had overlooked the paragraph referred to; that he would re-examine the record, and if, as he supposed, the quotation referred to had been omitted, he would apply to me for a certified copy. He then said, very frankly, that beyond all question it was my right, publicly, and upon presenting my credentials, to reply to what Mr. Meade had said on his presentation; that his Majesty conceded my right so to do, but that he would be embarrassed in making a reply, and equally embarrassed in not replying to what I said in condemnation of slavery. He begged, therefore, that I would not insist upon the exercise of the right to reply publicly, assuring me that if I would omit all except the beginning and conclusion of my speech, as proposed, and send the omitted portion in a special despatch, it would relieve the Emperor of all difficulty in regard to the question of slavery, and which is already making itself felt in the phases of party here. I at once said, “I do not insist upon anything, and will gladly meet the wishes of the government by withdrawing the speech submitted, and forwarding another copy, omitting all between the third and last paragraphs; it being understood, however, that I will, on the day after my presentation, forward to the minister of foreign affairs the omitted part of the proposed speech as a special despatch, which shall be published by the government. And it must be also understood that I will forward to my government my speech as proposed and sent to the foreign minister, marking thereon the parts omitted, and explaining under what circumstances they were omitted.”

Senhor Pecunha gave his cordial assent to this arrangement, and thanked me, [Page 699] in the name of the government, for having waived a right, the exercise of which might have caused embarrassment.

My reception by the Emperor having been arranged to take place at the palace of St. Christoval, on Monday, the 21st instant, at six o’clock p. m., at half-past four o’clock the minister of foreign affairs, who has apartments at the Hotel Estrangeros, where I lodge, called at our parlor and kindly offered to accompany us to the palace, where, of course, he was bound in order to present us.

I arrived at the palace at the proper time, accompanied by Mrs. Webb and my niece, and, on presentation to the Emperor, delivered the speech as agreed upon, which was in the following words:

Sire: It is to me a source of unalloyed pleasure, as well as a distinguished honor, to be permitted to present to your Imperial Majesty my credentials as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States.

“The President of the United States not only assures your Majesty of his profound respect and friendship, and of his anxious desire to cultivate the closest relations of amity between the two great nations of America, but he has done me the honor to express his confidence in my determination, to the utmost of my ability, so to discharge the duties of my mission as to accomplish a purpose which both he and the American people deem of the greatest importance, whether considered in a commercial or political aspect.

“And your Majesty may feel assured that it will be my pride, as it most unquestionably will be my duty, so to represent my country at this imperial court as to realize the wishes and the most sanguine expectations of the government of the United States; and when, in the course of events, my mission here will be brought to a close, I shall feel that it will have been a failure if the commerce between Brazil and the United States has not been greatly extended—if the cordial good understanding which now exists between the two nations has not been strengthened by renewed acts of amity and respect, having their foundation in sentiments of reciprocal esteem, as well as in those great principles of international polity which demand the most cordial and perpetual friendship between the leading American governments.

“I have but to reiterate the earnest desire of the President of the United States to cultivate the closest political and most friendly personal and commercial relations between the government and people of the United States and your Imperial Majesty and the government and people of Brazil, and it is made my duty, as it most assuredly will be my pleasure and the great aim of my mission, to accomplish this all-important object.”

To which the Emperor replied as follows, the original of which, furnished by the minister of foreign affairs, is enclosed, marked No. 3:

“I feel very thankful for this new proof of friendship on the part of my good friend the President of the United States. I feel confident, Mr. Minister, that you have faithfully interpreted both the sentiments of the government of the United States and that of the Brazilian, which will help to strengthen and develop the relations that exist to such an advantage between the two countries.”

The minister then proposed to the Emperor to bring forward the ladies for presentation, as is the custom; when the Emperor, as is not customary, said no, he would go to them in the ante-chamber; he accordingly left the audience chamber, followed by the court in waiting, and proceeded to the large antechamber and presented himself to the ladies, and continued in conversation with them about fifteen minutes. He then withdrew, followed by the persons in attendance, and we were taken by the grand chamberlain and minister of foreign affairs to the apartment of her Imperial Majesty the Empress, and formally presented. She invited us to be seated, and after an interview of about ten minutes we retired.

On the following morning Senhor Pecunha called, with a copy of the Emperor’s [Page 700] reply to my speech, and he was instructed by the minister of foreign affairs to say that the Emperor’s leaving the reception room to go to the ladies, instead of waiting to receive them, was altogether an unusual proceeding, and was intended to be a marked compliment. Hence my making reference to the fact in this despatch, as the compliment was, of course, to our country, and paid with the view to its being appreciated and reported.

I enclosed, marked No. 2, my speech, as originally prepared and placed in the hands of the minister of foreign affairs, in which I have quoted the portion actually spoken, while all the remainder was transmitted, as herein stated, as a special despatch on the 22d. It must be borne in mind by yourself and the President that I am here without any special instructions; and that in regard to the secession masters of vessels, as also in relation to what I deemed a rebuke of the treason of my predecessor, I have been left to act according to the best of my judgment, under the peculiar circumstances of my position. If my conduct meets your approval, I beg that you will so state, as the question may arise, whether, in what I have done, I have the sanction of my government.

I have just opened despatches from our consul at Maranham, apprising me of the visit of the pirate Sumter to that port; his, the consul’s, protest against her being permitted to coal, and the disregard of that protest by the governor of the province. He also advises me that he has transmitted to the Department of State a full report of everything relating to the Sumter’s visit, and of his action in the premises. I shall to-morrow call the attention of this government to the great breach of neutrality of which, the authorities at Maranham have been guilty, and I doubt not that by the next steamer I shall be able to make a satisfactory report upon the action of the Brazilian government in regard to the matter.

Mr. Meade asked me, in London, for a letter of introduction to the President, assuring me that, although a southern man, he had faithfully discharged his whole duty to the Union. This turns out to have been a deliberate misrepresentation. While here as minister he was openly and offensively a secessionist and traitor, and did all in his power to bring the government of our country into disrepute; and hence the great necessity which existed that when I entered upon the discharge of my duties I should impress upon the consuls, the shipmasters, the public, and the government itself, that I represented a nationality willing and abundantly able to protect itself and to compel the respect of foreign powers. “What has been done, whether right or wrong, has accomplished this purpose. The captain and officers of the steamer Tyne, in which Mr. Meade sailed to Southampton, and which brought me here on her return trip, informed me that on board that vessel Mr. Meade continually and in the most public manner denounced our government and justified the rebellion of the cotton States; and on several occasions he made proclamation that he and every true son of Virginia would sooner witness the return of that State to the colonial position it occupied before the revolution than consent to its ever going back into the American Union. And he unquestionably succeeded in impressing upon all parties here, where he was personally popular, a conviction of the weakness of the north, and the triumphant success of the “chivalric south.”

Robert Gr. Scott, our late consul, was an open-mouthed traitor and a loud talker. He said on different occasions, “Meade is the greatest traitor of the two, and if he ever gets back to Virginia it will be in consequence of his disguising himself.” He said he dared not show himself in New York or any northern State; and finally left here with his wife, who is from Maine, in an English ship for Liverpool. My impression is that he has sailed for Quebec under a feigned name, and if at the north, he is doubtless somewhere in the vicinity of his wife’s relations. It is fortunate for him that he is not here, as he would unquestionably find himself a passenger on board a coffee ship bound for New York, and under command of a loyal American shipmaster, as there would be [Page 701] no difficulty in sending the traitors home without coming in collision with the Brazilian authorities. Our consul reports that a very decidedly better feeling exists among all the Americans here, and that the oath of allegiance is cheerfully taken by nine-tenths of the shipmasters, while even those of rebel proclivities admit its justice, and, after making wry faces, take the oath sooner than be refused their papers. Some of them had sworn roundly that they never would take the oath prescribed: and it is a matter of great exultation and pride with the loyal masters to perceive how thoroughly the blusterers, who boasted of their secession propensities and their secession flags, have been humbled before the authority of the United States government exercised in the most quiet way possible.

There will be no more exhibitions of disloyalty in the ports of Brazil; but I indulge the hope that our government will find it convenient to afford the necessary protection to our commerce on this coast. The extent of the Sumter’s captures will not be known for some time, and I greatly fear that they will be much more numerous than has been anticipated. In connexion with Mr. Scott’s treason, Captain Kelly, of the bark Lapwing, reports to our consul that on his last voyage home Scott intrusted him with certain letters, with instructions to burn them if, after his arrival at Baltimore, he found any difficulty in placing them in the hands of the persons to whom they were addressed. Upon reflection he (Captain Kelly) arrived at the conclusion that it was better not to attempt the delivery of them, and thereupon he destroyed them all at sea without breaking the seals. * * * * * * *

I also send, marked No. 6, as I find recorded in the archives, notes of what occurred at Mr. Meade’s audience of leave, on which I based my right to enlighten the Emperor in relation to the character of the rebellion in the United States, and our determination to avail ourselves of our right to suppress it after our own fashion, and without recognizing the right of other governments to interfere between us and our rebels. Your admirable despatch to our minister in Paris afforded me the necessary data to speak authoritatively upon the subject; and, in my judgment, it was of importance to hold the language I did, in order to get rid of the false impressions produced by my predecessor’s treasonable conduct and conversation. Until I shall have thoroughly removed the idea that we are too weak to put down the rebels and re-establish the Union, it will be idle to expect that attention to the representations of our government which it may become my duty to make. * * * * *

Yesterday morning, the 22d, I sent to the foreign office the omitted part of my speech as originally prepared, accompanied by the following despatch, and I am assured by Senhor Rearpha that it will in due time—that is, immediately preceding the meeting of the general assembly—be published, as is the custom of the government:

“Legation of the United States, “Rio de Janeiro, October 22, 1861.

“The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America, has the honor to enclose to his excellency Senhor Counsellor Benevenuto Augusto de Magalhaes Taques, minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs, that portion of his speech intended to have been delivered upon the presentation of his credentials from the President of the United States to his Imperial Highness the Emperor Don Pedro II, but which, at the suggestion of his excellency the minister, was omitted in his presentation audience, with the understanding that it should be transmitted to his excellency as a special despatch, and in due course be published according to the custom of the Brazilian government.

“The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to convey to his excellency [Page 702] the assurances of his cordial respect and esteem, and of his most distinguished consideration.


“His Excellency

“Senhor Counsellor Benevenuto Augusto de Magalhaes Taques,

“Minister and Secretary of Foreign Affairs.”

* * * * * * * * *

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

No. 1.


You are hereby instructed, from and after this date, to grant no clearances from this port to American vessels, unless the masters of said vessels first take and subscribe before you an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and to sustain those in authority in the enforcement of the laws.

The refusal on the part of any master promptly and formally to renew his allegiance to the government of our country, at a time when its existence is threatened by a formidable and causeless rebellion, will be ample proof that such officer cannot safely be continued in the control of American property.

It has been repeated to the undersigned that in several instances shipmasters at this port, sailing under American papers, and claiming the protection of the American flag, have displayed in some part of their rigging the rebel flag of the so-called southern confederacy, and that when remonstrated with, they have claimed that inasmuch as they did not hoist the rebel flag at the peak, it was used by them only as a “signal” flag, the right to use which could not be questioned. This miserable pretence for publicly insulting the nationality of the United States cannot be tolerated, and you are hereby instructed, from and after this date, to displace any master of an American vessel who may be guilty of thus offending, and to place his first officer or such other suitable person as you may select in charge of such vessel.

The hoisting and displaying a secession or rebel flag on board an American vessel is to be considered as a declaration that the property over which it floats is in the possession of a rebel—virtually captured or stolen by one who proclaims allegiance to the so-called southern confederacy; and your dispossessing the master of the command of such vessel must be viewed as a recapture of American property from the pirates in whose possession it had fallen. The question will then legitimately arise for determination of this legation, whether vessels bound beyond the port where thus seized will be permitted to prosecute their voyage.

In cases where the voyage of the vessel or vessels taken possession of under these instructions terminated at the port to which you have been appointed a consul of the United States, you will instruct the mate or person put in charge by you to convey her direct to the port of the United States whence she cleared, provided she cleared from a port north of Baltimore, in the State of Maryland. If, however, the vessel cleared from Baltimore, or a more southern port, you will order her to be conveyed to the port of New York direct, with [Page 703] instructions to the person in charge to report himself to the collector of that port, and through him to the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States; and you will, in all cases, furnish the person in charge with a letter addressed to the collector of the port to which he is bound, detailing, for the information of the Secretary of the Treasury, the cause of the seizure, and the circumstances under which it was made.

You will, immediately on the arrival of American vessel in the port where you officially reside, serve upon the captain a copy of this circular, and retain in your possession evidence of such service.

The oath of allegiance to be administered under these instructions will be as follows:

“I,———, master of the———, of———, do hereby solemnly swear that I do owe true and faithful allegiance to the government of the United States; and that I will, to the best of my ability, defend the Constitution of the United States, and give a cordial support to all persons in authority duly elected or appointed to administer the government and execute the laws thereof. So help me God.”

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. WATSON WEBB, Envoy Ex’ y and Minister Plenipo’ y for the United States.