Mr. Koerner to Mr. Seward
Sir: On Monday last, (23d February,) I had an interview with General Serrano, and communicated to him in substance the contents of your despatch No. 27. He told me that, with the exception of the “Reaney” affair, he was wholly ignorant of the other occurrences, of which I had spoken, but would immediately write to the authorities of Cuba for information. He said, in very emphatic language, that if any discrimination had been made in admitting into port confederate vessels and those of the navy of the United States, it was very wrong and censurable. He condemned also, in very strong language, the giving of permission to the Florida to leave port within twenty-four hours of the departure of American vessels, and also the detention of the captured crew of the Estelle as prisoners, after their landing at Havana.
In regard to the firing into and detaining the W. B. Reaney, by the Spanish frigate Princessa de Asturias, he was not very explicit. He thought that the captain of the frigate had no intention whatever to offer any insult to our flag. He had merely desired to speak the W. B. Reaney to inquire why she had communicated with the Oneida; that the W. B. Reaney did not mind the signal, and so the captain of the Princessa de Asturias fired some shots, taking good care that they should not hit the boat.
The general accompanied his remarks with many assurances of the desire of the government of her Catholic Majesty to observe the strictest neutrality, and [Page 971] of its disposition to sustain, loyally and cheerfully, the good relations between the two governments.
I remarked to General Serrano, that I was not at the present time prepared to enter into any discussion upon the points presented by me, nor was I instructed to demand at this time any specified satisfaction and reparation. My object was merely to represent to her Majesty’s government the facts about which my government had brought complaint, giving time to his government to inform itself of the nature of the events in question, and to refute or modify them if such could be done.
I trusted, I said, that in case the facts should turn out to have been as represented, the government of her Catholic Majesty, in pursuance of the just and loyal course heretofore observed towards the United States, and which had been fully recognized and appreciated, would, of its own accord, offer such redress as was required by the nature of the very serious injuries inflicted upon the government of the United States. I would, consequently, wait for some time for a reply from her Majesty’s government, looking upon this conversation as rather an informal one, merely intended to place the government in possession of the facts as we understand them, leaving the matter to the further action of her Majesty’s government.
General Serrano said he preferred that I should send him a written statement of the matter of complaint, so that he could respond in writing, to which I agreed. In fact, I would have in the first instance read him your despatch, had not your instructions requested me to make first a mere verbal statement.
On Wednesday last, the 25th of February, I transmitted a note to General Serrano of which I send you no copy at this time, inasmuch as it embraces substantially your despatch, and in many instances uses its very language. I took occasion, however, to remark to him, that inasmuch as he had received the version of the Spanish authorities as regards the Reaney affair, I expected him to offer explanations on that subject at once, not waiting for the ascertainment of the truth concerning the other occurrences which I had brought to his notice.
It will be some time, perhaps, before I shall receive an answer to this note. On Thursday evening, the O’Donnel ministry again tendered its resignation, and it was accepted by the Queen. It had become evident to the ministry that its influence was fast wasting away. Resignations from high officers succeeded one another, particularly in the navy, where more than a dozen generals and brigadiers of the armada (admirals and commodores, as we would call them) resigned at once, on the plea that the new minister of the navy, Ulloa, was a civilian, and not competent for the place. * * *
I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington City.