Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.

No. 530.]

Sir: In my despatch No. 527, of the 30th of October, sent last week, I mentioned my intention to address a note to Lord Russell, in reply to his of the 26th of that month, and at the same time seize the opportunity to send in the papers which yet remained in my hands relating to cases of depredation committed by the Oreto, alias the Florida. A copy of that note is herewith transmitted.

In relation to the extraordinary proceedings of the Alabama at Cape Town, reported in my despatch No. 505, of the 1st of October, probably one of those detained by the accident which happened to the Africa, I have now received from Lord Russell a reply to my representation. A copy of his note is transmitted, as well as of my acknowledgment of it. I presume the assurances to be given to you through Lord Lyons are intended to be satisfactory. I am not unwilling to be relieved of the necessity of arguing here a new question, which adds another heavy responsibility to those already incurred by this government from its feeble and fluctuating policy. It is alleged in the newspapers that a portion of the merchandise taken in the captured vessel was actually sold by the commander of the Alabama at Cape Town. This would seem to involve a question of restoration. I do not perceive that Lord Russell alludes to this. Perhaps it was not necesary, as I think there was no reference to it in the consul’s representation, upon which my first note was based.

Since writing the above I have received a letter from Mr. Graham, the consul at Cape Town, a copy of which, at his request, I transmit It appears to establish the fact that the governor considered the sale of captured property as not prohibited by the Queen’s proclamation. Hence it is scarcely to be doubted that such sales were actually made. I shall write to Mr. Graham to obtain, in some form or other, the evidence to which he refers, and send it to the department.

Judge Pringle has likewise sent to me a supplement to the Cape Town Advertiser of the 17th of September. last, containing the private journal of an officer of the Alabama, giving a full account of all her operations from the commencement. It goes far to corroborate the statement of the paymaster, Mr. Yonge, who was one of the principal witnesses in the case of the Alexandra. Although not available as evidence, I shall cause it to be reprinted here and send copies to the attorney general and other parties, who may be open to further conviction.

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


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

[Page XXXIV]

Mr. Adams to Earl Russell.

My Lord: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your note of the 26th instant.

The conclusion to which it would seem that both governments arrive, in regard to the disposition to be made of the claims growing out of the depredations of the Alabama and other vessels issuing from British ports, appears to render further discussion of the merits of the question unnecessary. It is only to preclude the possibility of any inference growing out of an omission to notice it that I beg permission to make a single remark in connexion with your lordship’s observation, that “the British government declines to be responsible for the acts of parties who fit out a seeming merchant ship.” So far as the vessels now complained of are concerned, I think no reasonable doubt can be entertained, from the evidence which was obtained before their departure, that they never bore the semblance of merchant ships, even to her Majesty’s officers who reported upon them.

I now beg permission to lay before her Majesty’s government a number of memorials and other papers connected with the depredations of the vessel formerly called the Oreto, and now the Florida, which I am instructed to request may be disposed of in the manner indicated in my note of the 23d instant, to which your lordship’s was in answer.

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.

Earl Russell to Mr. Adams.

Sir: I acquainted you in my letter of the 2d instant that the matter connected with the proceedings of the confederate steamer Alabama at the Cape of Good Hope, to which your letter of the 29th September referred, were under the consideration of her Majesty’s government.

Those matters were the capture by the Alabama of the United States vessel Sea Bride within, as was alleged, the territorial jurisdiction of Great Britain; secondly, the character of the Alabama herself; thirdly, the manner in which the Tuscaloosa, alleged to be a tender of the Alabama, was dealt with by the authorities of the cape. On these several points I have to state to you—first, that her Majesty’s government are satisfied, by the concurrent testimony of the colonial and naval authorities at the cape, that at the time of capture the Sea Bride was considerably more than three miles distant from the nearest land; secondly, that as regards the character of the Alabama, that vessel is entitled to be treated as a ship-of-war belonging to a belligerent power, and that neither the governor nor any other British authority at the cape was entitled to exercise any jurisdiction over her; thirdly, that as regards the Tuscaloosa, although her Majesty’s government would have approved the British authorities at the cape if they had adopted towards that vessel a course different from that which was adopted, yet the question as to the manner in which a vessel under such circumstances should, according to the tenor of her Majesty’s orders, be dealt with was one not altogether free from uncertainty. Nevertheless, instructions [Page XXXV] will be sent to the British authorities at the cape for their guidance in the event of a similar case occurring hereafter. And her Majesty’s government hope that under those instructions nothing will for the future happen to admit of a question being raised as [to] her Majesty’s orders having been strictly carried out.

Copies of the reports from the colonial and naval authorities on the matters in question will be sent to her Majesty’s minister at Washington, who will thereby be enabled to give to the government of the United States any further explanation they may desire to obtain on the subject.

I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.,

Mr. Adams to Earl Russell.

My Lord: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your note of the 29th instant, in reply to my representation of the proceedings of the steamer Alabama at the Cape of Good Hope.

Inasmuch as your lordship intimates that further explanation will be made to my government through the agency of her Majesty’s minister at Washington, I shall confine myself to the transmission of a copy of your note.

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. Graham to Mr. Adams.

Sir: The Alabama sailed again from Simon’s bay yesterday at 3 o’clock a.m. I have not had any further intelligence direct from the Vanderbilt, though she is reported as having been seen by one vessel off Cape l’Aguthas on the 22d instant, and by another off Danger Point on the 23d. The latter reported her to be going eastward.

On the 20th instant I sent despatches for the Vanderbilt, in charge of American seamen going eastward in vessels, to be delivered if spoken; and if not, to be handed to my consular agent at Algoa bay, or the consul at Mauritius. The bearers were men I could trust, and the despatches contained the information that the Alabama was here. The despatches were probably not delivered in time, or the Vanderbilt would have been here before the Alabama sailed. The latter vessel, I believe, has now gone to the coast of Brazil direct.

Fourteen seamen taken prisoners from American ships by the Alabama at different dates, and who subsequently joined her crew to get out of irons, made their escape from her while here, (the last time,) and are now under my protection. Many others also escaped from her at the same time, but as they were British subjects who joined her originally, I would have nothing to do with their support.

I encouraged them, however, to desert and secrete themselves till her departure, [Page XXXVI] and then to claim support from the British authorities here. In furtherance of my object to cripple her for want of men, I visited the governor on the 22d instant, and asked him by what authority the police could arrest deserters from the Alabama in this colony. And he answered, “None whatever.” He added, that the seamen must not resist any attempt of the police to take them before a magistrate, (in which case I could appear in court,) but they would have the right to resist an attempt to place them in custody of officers of the Alabama.

I immediately informed the men of the decision, and wrote to the captains of the city and water police, informing them that I should hold them responsible in the court for false imprisonment and kidnapping if they attempted to make such arrests. This had the desired effect, as no arrests were made, and the Alabama sailed with about twenty-five men short of her complement. ,

At the above interview with the governor he stated that I had been misinformed as to the evidence taken in relation to purchase of prize cargoes, for none had been taken before a magistrate, as I had assumed.

I then stated to him the substance of the information I had received, and handed him the names of the six witnesses whose depositions I desired should now be taken under his authority. He declined, however, to give his authority for the examination, alleging that the purchase of prize cargoes was not distinctly forbidden in the Queen’s proclamation. I endeavored to show, in reply, that as the proclamation forbade the entry of captured vessels into British ports, it was intended that British subjects should have nothing to do with them; but this argument failing to persuade him to authorize the examination, the interview ended.

Please send a copy of this despatch to Washington, as the immediate departure of the French steamer Tigre for Suez leaves me no time to make a duplicate copy. Enclosed please find list of consular appointments published at my request in the government gazette of yesterday.

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

WALTER GRAHAM, United States Consul for the Cape of Good Hope.

Hon. Charles F. Adams, Envoy Extraordinary, &c., &c., London.

Government notice, No. 295, 1863.

It is hereby notified that his excellency the governor has been pleased to recognize the following consular appointments made by the consul general for the United States of America:

To be deputy consul at Cape Town.—John Philip Christie, esq.

To be consular agents.—At Port Elizabeth, Joseph C. Hess, esq.; at Simon’s Town, John M. Hoets, esq.; at Mossel bay, Edward Eagar, esq.; at Port Natal, George C. Cato, esq.

By command of his excellency the governor.

RAWSON W. RAWSON, Colonial Secretary.