Mr. Seward to Lord Lyons.

My Lord: I have the honor to enclose to you an extract from a despatch of the 30th ultimo, addressed to this department by the consul of the United States at Nassau, New Providence, with a copy of the correspondence therein referred to, between the colonial secretary and himself, relative to Commander Trenchard’s anchoring of the gunboat Rhode Island in Matthewtown roadstead without previously communicating with the authorities of Inagua on the subject.

I have the honor to request that you will be so good as to inform me whether communication of a desire to anchor is required to be made to minor officers of ports in the Bahamas, and I trust you will have it duly considered whether the governor general shall execute his threat of ordering ships-of-war off the ports of the colony. It would be very inconsistent with the natural courtesies prescribed by both governments.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your lordship’s obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

Right Hon. Lord Lyons, &c.

[Extract.]

Mr. Hawley to Mr. Seward.

No. 28.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the 12th instant, at about 8 o’clock, an American steamship-of-war appeared to the east-northeast of this port, in chase of a steamer carrying English colors. The chase continued from the time they have in sight, the ship-of-war firing shell after the steamer until within about four miles from land, when the chase ceased. The English steamer ran into land at Salt cay, some three or four miles to the eastward of this port. The war steamer stood in for the entrance of this harbor, displaying a signal for a pilot. She proved to be the Rhode Island, S. D. Trenchard, commander. A pilot ran out to her, but stated that he could not board her until she had leave from the governor to anchor off the port.

While the Rhode Island was approaching, I received at my office from his excellency C. J. Bailey, governor of the Bahamas, a note, which I enclose a copy, marked No. 1. I immediately replied thereto, a copy of which is enclosed, marked No. 2. The Rhode Island arrived at the anchorage outside the harbor. A boat was despatched with an officer, who came to the consular office. At the request of Commander Trenchard, through the officer, I transmitted to his excellency the governor a note, a copy of which I herewith enclose, marked No. 3. The governor replied immediately; I enclose a copy, marked No. 4. I immediately went on board the Rhode Island, and communicated to Commander Trenchard, (notes 3 and 4,) whereupon a salute was fired by the Rhode Island, and responded to in due form.

Commander Trenchard then came ashore, and paid his personal respects to the governor. On my introducing him to the governor, he informed his excellency that “he had landed for the purpose of paying him an official visit, and that his orders required him to proceed on his voyage, waiting only to make this call, and, with his excellency’s permission, to procure some fresh milk for a sick seaman.”

[Page 645]

The governor replied that it would be (or had become) his duty to detain him longer. The commander said, in reply, “What do I understand your excellency to suggest ?” He then said, “I must put an embargo on you (or on your ship) for twenty-four hours.” The commander said quietly, but firmly, “I touched at your port with despatches for the American consul; I asked and had your permission to anchor for a few hours; my orders require me to proceed on my voyage at the earliest hour; I cannot entertain the idea of any delay whatever.”

I stated to the governor that “in asking leave to anchor I informed him that the intention was to remain but a few hours, and that if any attempt was made to detain the ship I should have been seriously misled by his granting leave without notice of this condition; that the position was one of gravity, and if he seriously thought of taking the course suggested, I claimed to know the grounds on which such an exercise of power could be predicated.” He replied that he was “acting in obedience to the Queen’s proclamation of March 11, 1862; that since he granted me leave to anchor, he had been informed by the colonial secretary that there was a confederate vessel in port, and therefore it became his duty to detain the Rhode Island as he had suggested.” I asked to know the date on which it was assumed that there was a confederate vessel in port, and whether it was claimed to be a public or a private vessel. He replied “that he had no knowledge on the subject.”

The commander requested the governor, “in view of the grave consequences which must result from the contemplated proceeding, to recur to the Queen’s proclamation before deciding that his power to detain a United States ship-of-war was applicable to the case of the Rhode Island.”

On examining the proclamation, it was apparent that its provisions did not apply to the Rhode Island, no confederate vessel having left the port within the preceding twenty-four hours.

Whereupon his excellency was understood to recede from his position, and the commander took leave, and weighed anchor and put to sea about 6 p.m.

* * * * * * * * * *

I have the honor to remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. C. HAWLEY, United States Consul, Nassau, N. P.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Enclosure No. 1.]

Mr. Bayley to Mr. Hawley.

Private.]

My Dear Sir: In order to prevent any misunderstanding, or the possibility of even unintentional hostilities, I do not wait to write you officially, but I at once write privately, to remind you that Admiral Wilkes cannot anchor either in the roadstead or the harbor without my permission; but that permission will be readily granted, when asked, subject to the conditions of the Queen’s proclamation of 11th March, 1862, which was duly sent to your consulate.

Neither, consistent with comity, can the Vanderbilt stand off and on the port, in a menacing manner. If she does so, I shall hand over the matter to the discretion of the senior naval officer on this station.

I hope I may reckon on your good offices to assist in preventing what might be a very momentous misunderstanding.

I lose no time in writing this unofficially. The chase of this morning was, I presume, out of the three-mile limit; if so, there is, of course, nothing to say [Page 646] against it. But a foreign man-of-war, standing off and on the port at the line of limit, is a hostile proceeding.

Believe me, dear sir, yours truly,

C. J. BAYLEY.

S. C. Hawley, Esq., United States Consul.

[Enclosure No. 2.]

Mr. Hawley to Mr. Bayley.

My Dear Sir: I am impressed with the kind intentions evinced in your note of this morning. I know nothing of the circumstances of the chase of this morning, but assume that it was justified, and ceased outside of the three-mile line.

I have no doubt the commander approaches the port for the purpose of making a proper communication” in relation to the vessel that has taken refuge in your waters and jurisdiction.

The ship is not the Vanderbilt; what it is I do not know. If the commander is advised of the necessity, he will, no doubt, ask permission to anchor. I have no time or means to communicate with him to prevent his doing so inadvertently

Of course the ship will not stand off and on opposite your port, except so long as is necessary to get leave to anchor.

You may rely on me to do all in my power to maintain amicable relations, and to prevent the least infringement of the rules of law and comity.

Will you oblige me with a copy of her Majesty’s proclamation of March 11, 1862, as the copy furnished this consulate could not be found when I took possession of the office.

Yours, very respectfully,

S.C. HAWLEY, United States Consul, Nassau, N.P.

His Excellency C. J. Bayley, Governor of the Bahamas.

[Enclosure No. 3.]

Mr. Hawley to Mr. Bayley.

Sir: The United States man-of-war Rhode Island is off your port. The commander, S. D. Trenchard, desires me to request permission to cast anchor, as he wishes to remain a few hours. The commander presents his requests, and would be happy to exchange salutes, and pay his respects to you in the customary manner.

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

S. C. HAWLEY, United States Consul, Nassau, N. P.

His Excellency C. J. Bayley, Governor of the Bahamas.

[Page 647]
[Enclosure No. 4. ]

Reply to Mr Hawley.

Sir: I am desired by his excellency the governor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of this day’s date. His excellency desires me to say that he is engaged with the executive council, and is unable to reply personally, but has much pleasure in complying with your request. The customary salutes will be exchanged.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient servant,

A. ROGER, Lieutenant, Private Secretary.

S. C. Hawley, Esq., U.S. Consul.

[Enclosure No. 5. ]

Commander Trenchard to Mr. Hawley.

Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith the statement of facts in relation to our firing into an English vessel this morning, 12th instant.

While running in for this port, and when from ten to twelve miles E.NE. of Cochran’s anchorage, we made the black smoke of a steamer, about eight miles to the northward and eastward of us. Supposing she was a blockade-runner, a vessel of highly suspicious character, we changed our course and stood so as to cut her off. The chase fired up and increased her speed, and perceiving that we were gaining upon her, and discovering our intention to cut her off, ran in for the shore, hoisting English colors, and we our own ensign. We then fired a blank cartridge for the purpose of bringing her to, but she still retaining her speed, we fired a shell ahead of her, and she still keeping on, we kept up a brisk fire from our long range rifled guns—the stranger being now from two to two and a half miles from the Rhode Island, and from 8 to 10 miles from the shore. The chase still continued standing in for the land, and when within four to four and a half miles distant from it, in order to prevent a violation of neutrality, we discontinued the firing, still hoping that we might be able to cut her off before running ashore, as that appeared to be the last resort of her commander, and soon after she came to anchor at Salt cay entrance. The Rhode Island terminated the chase outside the three-mile line. I have since learned the steamer to be the Sirius, of Liverpool, which has entered your port.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,

STEPHEN D. TRENCHARD, Commander, U.S. Navy.

S. C. Hawley, Esq., U. S. Consul, Nassau, N. P.