Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward.

Sir: A few days after my last despatch the secretary of the Marquis d’Abrantes, a Greek of great learning and cleverness, who is a special favorite of the Emperor, and who is placed near the foreign secretary to relieve him from much of his duty, called at my lodgings in the city, and at once announced that he was sent to have an interview with me in relation to my last despatch. He conceded that the Marquis d’Abrantes had not understood or made himself familiar with the Sumter case when he wrote the despatch of which I complained; and what made it worse and peculiarly awkward for the marquis, who had authorized him to express in the warmest terms his personal friendship for me, as well as his friendship for the United States, was the unfortunate fact that he had just made a speech in the senate, in which he had used the identical language of the despatch.

He said he was authorized by the marquis to assure me, and that I was at liberty to say to you, that the removal of the governor of Maranham was solely and exclusively on account of his conduct in the affair of the Sumter, which should have been disclaimed at once. He said that in his judgment, and, he was happy to say, in the opinion of the Emperor and the marquis, Brazil is bound by every consideration of interest and safety to cultivate the closest relations with the United States, and is prepared to do so; and he begged that I would accept of these verbal explanations and assurances, to be repeated by the marquis in person, instead of a written reply to my note, to which I was justly entitled, but which would be exceedingly embarrassing.

I replied that to be content with a verbal reply was impossible; and I instanced the fact that Sr. Taques had agreed with me upon a mode of disposing of the Sumter case, which I had reported to my government, and which he had subsequently repudiated. I had resolved, therefore, not to be exposed to any similar contingency, although I well knew that the high character of the Marquis d’Abrantes rendered any such repudiation impossible. It was better, however, to have a rule upon the subject, and adhere to it; and I suggested that a despatch might be written which would, in a measure, meet the contingency, and relieve the marquis from his predicament. And inasmuch as he was authorized to assure me that this government could not comprehend wherein its position was different from that of the governments of Europe, the declaration of that fact in very precise terms would certainly be advisable, and could not be attended with any difficulty. Our conversation occupied more than an hour, and was very frank and free.

[Page 720]

In the course of our conversation I brought up the question of our claims, and actually (in confidence) read to him my intended despatch insisting upon their settlement. And I permitted him to infer that the order to me to demand a settlement of the three long pending claims was an evidence of the soreness of our government in regard to the Sumter difficulty, and its grave determination not to be trifled with longer by this government.

On the following day I forwarded to the foreign office my demand for a settlement of our claims, a copy of which I enclose, marked No. 1, and I think you will admit it does not mince the matter. With this despatch before the secretary, he wrote his reply of the 24th instant to my troublesome despatch, denying that the conduct of Brazil had not affected injuriously the feelings of friendship so long existing between the two governments; and I look upon that document, the original of which I forward, marked No. 2, as being a virtual carrying out of my conversation with Calogeras. It might have been stronger, and less diplomatic; but as it is to be published in the very teeth of what the marquis said in the senate, I think it all we should demand. The assertion that “Brazil neither had nor. has any intention to place itself in an exceptional position with the government of the Union,” and that her position “is perfectly identical with that adopted by other maritime powers,” is intended to cover all that portion of your just remonstrance.

I shall now wait to receive the action of the government upon our claims; and if, as I hope, it is prompt and favorable, I shall express verbally to the Marquis d’Abrantes my satisfaction with his reply, and hand him a copy of your despatch No. 26, dated May 9, although not instructed to do so. Its friendly tenor cannot fail to be acceptable.

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


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States.


The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States, has the honor to inform his excellency the Marquis d’Abrantes, counsellor to his Imperial Majesty, minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs, that he has been instructed by his government to call the attention of the government of Brazil to the long standing and much neglected claims of its citizens for reclamation in the cases of the bark Edna and the brigs Nebo and Caroline.

The case of the Nebo extends back to December, 1851, and its justice has been fully conceded by the government of Brazil.

The claim in case of the Caroline is founded on occurrences which took place in 1855, and the facts have been so clearly presented that the predecessor of the undersigned reported to his government the amount due would be promptly forthcoming.

The barratry, on the part of the captain, “in collusion with the judge municipal, under whose corrupt decree a sound and seaworthy vessel, with all her cargo in a good state of preservation, was fraudulently sold and sacrificed at auction, the master himself secretly becoming the purchaser with the knowledge of the Brazilian judge,” was proved in the courts of Brazil, on the trial of the captain, and a verdict was rendered accordingly. Brazil admitted the claim, and, in December, 1859, the minister of foreign affairs informed Mr. Mead that [Page 721] the adjustment of the amount of the claim had been referred to the minister of justice, for his immediate action, and “a prompt reply” was promised.

After a lapse of nine months, that is, on the 26th September, 1860, Mr. Mead called attention to the fact that no attention had been paid by the Brazilian government to their pledge made nine months previously, and he earnestly pressed for action on the subject.

The case of the bark Edna also occurred in 1855, and a demand for redress was made by Mr. Mead also. No notice was taken of the demand for four years, although it was attended by circumstances of an aggravated nature, well calculated to cause the United States to doubt the friendship and the justice of Brazil. Mr. Mead finally succeeded in procuring a hearing and consideration of the case, and he was led to believe by this government that the claim was established and would be promptly liquidated.

But it appears by the records of the Department of State, at Washington, that every reasonable expectation formed by my predecessor upon the promises of the government of Brazil were erroneous; and, in consequence, on the 3d of May, 1861, in obedience to instructions, he addressed an earnest remonstrance to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, from which the following is an extract:

“The undersigned hopes that his excellency the minister of foreign affairs, duly appreciating the patience manifested by the United States government towards that of Brazil, will now proceed promptly to consider and decide upon the three cases of the barks Nebo and Edna and the brig Caroline; the three together involving more than $100,000.

“It is not the intention of the undersigned to argue these cases further. He contents himself with the notes already addressed to the Brazilian government, some of which, though written more than a year ago, have never been replied to. This delay has sometimes given rise to the suggestion that it may not be the purpose of the Brazilian government to take further notice of them. Such a thought, however, is so repugnant to the preconceptions entertained of Brazilian courtesy, and to the very friendly relations that have always subsisted between the two governments, that it was suffered to abide but a very short time in the breast of the undersigned. He now calls the attention of his excellency again to these questions, in the full confidence that they will be speedily attended to and finally settled. No additional lights can be thrown upon a subject that has been under examination and discussed for periods of six and eight (and ten) years.”

And previous to Mr. Mead’s leaving this country, in July last, he reported to the government of the United States that although the principles involved in the claims of the Nebo, Edina, and Caroline, had been acknowledged, and in the two former cases inadequate compensation had been offered and declined, he despaired of any favorable action. And he added, “I am apprehensive that little attention will now he given to them. Until our own government is in a more settled condition, we may scarcely expect this to give itself much concern about our demands upon it”

The undersigned is reminded by his government that the earnest appeal to the justice and friendship of the Brazilian government, made by his predecessor more than fourteen months ago, was not responded to, and to this day has been treated with studied neglect. It is not for the undersigned to assume that the cause for such neglect is to be found in the internal difficulties existing in the United States. Such an inference would be insulting to his own government and exceedingly offensive to that of Brazil; and if his predecessor had not been in sympathy with those in rebellion against the government of the United States he could not have entertained such a sentiment without demanding the immediate settlement of our long pending claims or closing his mission at a court which could thus trifle with the government he represented. It is no part of the intention of the undersigned, therefore, to look for the causes of delay on [Page 722] the part of the Brazilian goverment to do justice to the claims of citizens of the United States which have been pressed upon its consideration from seven to twelve years past; but he is instructed by his government once again to call the attention of the government of his Imperial Majesty to the fact that the government of the United States, in the discharge of its duties, must insist upon an earnest consideration and early settlement of the claims of its citizens in the case of the Nebo, which has now been under consideration nearly eleven years, and in the cases of the Edna and Caroline, which have been pending some seven years. Further delay would virtually amount to a denial of justice, and it would better become the dignity of both governments that such denial of justice should be frank and specific than that these claims should be considered “pending,” after their merits have been discussed and conceded. The claimants have a right to be clamorous for their settlement, and they are, in the opinion of the undersigned, quite justifiable in saying to him, as they recently have, “if our government will not protect us in our just claims against foreign governments, then let them pay our claims out of the national treasury. Let it be just to its own citizens, even if it be not able to induce other powers to respect its nationality.” The undersigned is quite certain that whatever may have been the causes operating upon the Brazilian government to induce it to treat with apparent neglect, if not contempt, the most urgent appeals of our government for a settlement of the claims referred to, they cannot be founded in any want of respect for the government or people of the United States and while the extraordinary delay to act in the cases of the Nebo, the Edna, and the Caroline, during a period of from seven to twelve years, has virtually amounted to a denial of justice and caused the government of the United States to be censured by those whom it was instituted to protect, other causes than want of respect for the United States have doubtless produced this strange and unprecedented state of affairs.

The undersigned, therefore, indulges the hope that in reporting to his government that he has obeyed its instructions, and pointed out to Brazil the long suffering of our citizens and the forbearance and patience of the government of the United States, he will be authorized by your excellency to add that the causes for delay in the settlement of our claims, whatever they may have been, have ceased, and that they will be promptly and satisfactorily adjusted. And he avails himself of this occasion to convey to the secretary of foreign affairs the renewed assurances of his great personal regard and most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency the Marquis D’Abrantes, Counsellor to his Imperial Majesty, Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.


Central DivisionNo. 2.

The undersigned, of the council of his Majesty the Emperor, minister and secretary of state of foreign affairs, has before him the note which, under date of the 3d instant, Mr. James Watson Webb, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of North America at this court, has done him the honor to address to him.

The subject of the note referred to is the late period of that which, under date [Page 723] of the 16th of last month, the undersigned sent to Mr. Webb in relation to the Sumter question, declaring that, in view of the conclusions of the late despatches from the government of the Union, the imperial government deemed it proper to put an end to the discussion, it being flattering to it to observe that out of this would not result the slightest disturbance of the relations of friendship and good understanding between the two countries which both have so much interest in maintaining.

Alluding to the last-mentioned despatches from his government, and briefly calling to mind all that has taken place in regard to the matter in question, Mr. Webb concludes by saying that the reply which I had the honor to send to him does not seem to him to be in harmony with the state in which the discussion of this affair has remained.

The undersigned will not conceal from Mr. Webb that the imperial government has experienced the greatest sorrow, and at the same time the greatest surprise, in learning that the government of the Union, since the frank explanations which were given to it, still discovers hostility in the proceeding which the president of the province of Maranham had with the ship Sumpter of the Confederate States.

And because it does not in any way desire that the discussion of such a disagreeable subject should be renewed, the undersigned will only give to this note, in reply to that from Mr. Webb, the exclusive purpose of declaring that the government of his Majesty the Emperor has always entertained, and now entertains, the strong conviction that the president of the province of Maranham has never had the slightest intention of favoring the secessionist States, and still less of being unfriendly or hostile to the government of the Union.

This was the ground, and there could be no other, of the discussion which the imperial government maintained; and it was on this account that, conscious of the sincerity of its intentions, and persuaded that that sincerity would be comprehended by the government of the Union, it hesitated not in considering the discussion at an end, flattering itself that out of this would not result the slightest disturbance of the relations of friendship and good understanding subsisting between the two countries.

To what has been stated the undersigned will merely ask Mr. Webb’s permission to add that the principles of neutrality adopted and followed by the imperial government in the contest of which the North American Union is the theatre are those which are laid down in the note from this ministry addressed to Mr. Webb on the 23d of January of the present year, and in the circular of the 1st of August of last year, issued by said ministry to the delegates of the imperial government in the provinces.

These principles being perfectly identical with those which are adopted and followed by other maritime powers, and having to be scrupulously carried into effect, it becomes evident that Brazil has had no intention of placing herself in an exceptional position towards the government of the Union in the deplorable contest in which it is engaged.

In the hope that these explanations will satisfy Mr. Webb, the undersigned avails himself of the opportunity to reiterate to him the assurances of his high consideration.


Mr. James Watson Webb