Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the First Session Thirty-eighth Congress, Part I
Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.
Sir: On the 17th instant I addressed a note to Lord Russell calling the attention of her Majesty’s government to a war vessel now being prepared at [Page XXII] Glasgow for the insurgents in the United States? called the Canton. Copies of that note, of its enclosure, and of his lordship’s acknowledgment, are transmitted herewith.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Adams to Earl Russell.
My Lord: It is with great regret 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 government 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 her character, there is another steamer ready to be launched, called the Canton, having all the characteristics of a war vessel, which is about to be fitted up and despatched 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 your lordship to accept the assurances of the highest consideration with which I have the honor to be, my lord, your most obedient servant,
Right Hon. Earl Russell, &c., &c., &c.
Mr. Underwood to Mr. Adams.
Sir: It is my unpleasant duty to inform you that recently it has come to my knowledge that a ship-of-war, in addition to the formidable iron rams of which I have heretofore given you information, is now being built, and nearly ready to launch, in the ship-yard of Messrs. James and George Thomson, of this city, intended for and belonging to the Confederate States. She is after the model of the rebel ship Alabama. “Canton—London” are the words gilded on her stern. She is a clipper-built screw steamer, with three masts, two of which are iron, one of wood. Her length is from 280 to 300 feet from stem to stern; her beam about 56 feet. Her frame is iron, bordered up with teak wood planking, about five inches thick in the inside, up to the water-mark. She is pierced with four large port-holes and four smaller ones on each side, making sixteen in all; the larger ones seem suited for the sweep and play of pivot guns. She is constructed to carry the greatest portion of her coals in iron side pockets between decks, so as to give an unobstructed passage clear through from one [Page XXIII] fire-room to the other. Her water draught is marked fifteen feet. Has “eye-bolts” in her sides, suitable for and intended to handle and secure her guns. She is donkey or bark-rigged, and altogether similar to the Alabama, the only difference being that she has an iron frame, whilst the Alabama has a wooden one. She is probably from 1,200 to 1,500 tons burden, can be launched at any day, and is understood to be only waiting for the spring tide. Her propeller is two-bladed, and of composition metal, very hard, being a mixture of brass and copper, with the flanges so constructed that in case one is injured, another may be put in its place without interfering with the bush. She is known in the yard as the “frigate.” She has a screw hoistiog gear, for lifting her propeller, and when it is up, has a stern that falls down and makes her appear like a sailing ship. Her cylinder is 60 inches in diameter. Until now the eye-bolts and fixtures for running her guns in and out, her port-holes, and other characteristic contrivances that mark her a war vessel, were all visible and apparent, and with them so it was intended to have launched her on some day of last week.
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But in order to conceal the character of the vessel, and thus elude the vigilance and avoid the interference of the government, these characteristic fixtures have been and are being removed. The eye-bolts for the gun gear have been drawn, their holes stopped and effaced, and the bolts stored away, to be replaced when the ship gets to sea. The doors or shutters of the port-holes are to be taken from the hinges, the hinges removed, and the shutters to be screwed or fastened over the port-holes, so as to present a clean side, until she gets out. It is not expected she will take on her armament here. On the contrary, it is understood that, as soon as launched, she will take her boilers and heaviest machinery aboard, and will then be immediately towed to some place to me unknown, to which her remaining machinery will be transported on another vessel, and then be taken on board by her.
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The managers of the Canton are fraudulently seeking to evade responsibility by taking advantage of what is understood to be the letter of the British rule as to a war vessel’s responsibility in leaving her ports armed, &c, whilst by this very fraudulency they are additionally criminal, since her hostile intent is as flagrant and clear as if she had her guns on board.
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I can only hope you will lay this case before the British government, and that in its own wisdom it will take immediate steps to investigate the facts I have suggested, and to afford such restraint or remedy as may be consistent alike with its honor and duty.
I am happy to add that the Scotch law affords, as I am advised, peculiar facilities to such preliminary investigations as may be adopted in this case, inasmuch as, unlike the common law, it tolerates and permits an inquiry and interrogation under oath of the party immediately implicated.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. Charles Francis Adams, United States Minister, London.
Earl Russell to Mr. Adams.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 17th instant, and its enclosures, relative to a vessel said to be in course of construction at Glasgow, intended for the service of the so-styled Confederate States, [Page XXIV] and I have to state to you that I have lost no time in communicating copies of the same to the proper department of her Majesty’s government, in order that immediate inquiries might be made into the matter.
I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your most obedient, humble servant.
Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.