Mr. Koerner to Mr. Seward

No. 32.]

Sir: On the 1st of April I addressed a note to the minister of foreign affairs, of which I enclose a copy, (marked A,) and which will explain itself.

I also sent him, on the same day, another one covering the resolutions of Congress concerning foreign intervention, in which I informed him that, having received no answer to my request for a personal interview, made on the 28th of March, for the purpose of reading to him said resolutions, I felt constrained to transmit the same to him, as it was desirable that a document of such importance should be brought at an early period to the knowledge of her Majesty’s government.

An hour or two after I had sent the notes, I received a communication that the minister would see me on the 7th of April, and also a note dated the 1st of April, in reply to mine directed to the minister’s predecessor, General Serrano, (Duke de la Torre,) on the 23d February last, and which treats of the events which lately happened in and near the island of Cuba. I enclose a translation of said note, (marked B.)

You will perceive by its tenor that, with the exception of the complaint as to the discrimination made against us in admitting vessels at unusual hours into the port of Havana, and in regard to which the government here has asked information from the Spanish authorities there, to ascertain the facts, all the other grievances are considered by the Marquis of Miraflores as not well founded.

I have not yet replied to this last note, principally for the reason that on the 2d of April the high church festivities commenced, and that before Tuesday next no secular business is expected to be transacted. Without anticipating the final decision of the President on the question raised by our complaints, and the manner in which they are viewed by the government here, I shall certainly, either by note or verbally, state to the Marquis of Miraflores that I cannot share his belief that the President will be satisfied with the reasoning of the Spanish Department of State, suggesting to him my objections, and preparing him for similar ones, as likely to be expected from the President.

I am, sir, with very great respect, your obedient servant,


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

[Page 973]


Sir: On the 23d day of February last I had the honor to address a note to General Serrano, your excellency’s predecessor, according to his request, on the subject of certain important events which had happened in and near the island of Cuba, and on account of which I had been instructed by the President of the United States to make proper representations to her Majesty’s government, and to expect explanations which should prove satisfactory to the government of the United States. To this communication, as well as to others of less importance upon divers subjects, I have thus far received no reply.

I am not unmindful of what you remarked to me on the occasion of the two brief interviews which I had the honor to hold with your excellency on the 8th and 22d of March last, respecting the very large amount of business devolving upon you at your recent entrance into office as president of her Majesty’s council and first secretary of state, and the consequent delay which naturally would arise in the transaction of business, owing to the circumstances surrounding your excellency.

But your excellency having been pleased, in our last interview, to promise me an answer by note in a few days, and the questions pending being of such a character that my government has certainly expected me to report upon them a long time ago, I feel myself constrained to proceed according to my instructions, and to transmit to your excellency, enclosed, a copy of a despatch from the Secretary of State of the United States of the 30th of January last, relating to the events at and near the island of Cuba, with the urgent request that your excellency take the subjects therein mentioned into serious consideration, and act upon them as promptly as possible.

I beg to repeat here what I have stated in my note to General Serrano, viz: that the question as to the misdeed alleged to have been committed by her Majesty’s vessel-of-war the Princesa de Asturias, in firing upon and detaining the United States aviso W. B. Reaney on the open sea, is one which can be disposed of at once, since her Majesty’s government, as I have understood from General Serrano, is in possession of the facts of the case, as reported by the authorities of Spain at the Havana.

I embrace this opportunity of assuring your excellency of my most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency the Marquis of Miraflores, First Secretary of State of her Catholic Majesty.



Sir: Being informed of the confidential note which, on the 23d of February last, your excellency was pleased to direct to my predecessor, the Duke de la Torre, bringing to his knowledge various complaints brought by the honorable Secretary of State of the United States against the authorities of Cuba, and against the commander of her Majesty’s cruiser Princesa de Asturias, your excellency will permit me to observe that, in my opinion, among the events to [Page 974] which Mr. Seward refers, the only one that might give occasion for reclamations, if it should prove true, is the giving permission to the confederate vessel Florida to enter the port of Havana, where it arrived at 8 o’clock in the evening of the 20th of January, while it was denied to the federal vessel Wachusett, which arrived at 6½ o’clock p. m. on the 22d, on account of the lateness of the hour.

The government of the Queen my lady, which has undertaken to guard the strictest neutrality in the war through which the United States are now passing, could not tolerate the partiality which the denounced act would indicate on the part of the authorities of Cuba; and not believing them capable of deviating from the instructions they have received, asks them, tinder this date, to give information, in the shortest possible time, of what occurred concerning this subject. This same neutrality, of which so many proofs have been given, imposes upon the government of her Majesty the obligation to admit the vessels of the south into all Spanish ports; and in nowise has it wanted in faith towards the government of the Union, by permitting the Florida to enter Havana after having destroyed a ship of her enemy. And if the Florida was permitted to sail from that port before the twenty-four hours after the United States despatch steamer Reaney had put to sea had expired, it is because in the nineteen hours that transpired between the departure of both, the latter, which directed its course towards Cayo Hueso, was able to gain a much greater distance than sufficient to escape capture by the Florida; and in this manner the obligation which the law of nations lays upon neutral powers was complied with. Your excellency will easily understand that in that time the Reaney could not only arrive at her destination, but almost to return to Havana.

As far as regards the detention of the Reaney by the Princesa de Asturias, arising in the jurisdictional waters of Cuba, it is justified by the right belonging to every vessel-of-war to detain, and even to search, within the limits under the jurisdiction of its country, any merchant vessel, particularly when the latter pays no attention to its signal. And that this detention took place in the waters of Cuba is evident, not only from the declaration of the commander of the Princesa de Asturias, but also from what may be deduced from the fact that the Reaney returned to Havana, notwithstanding that she was carrying the official correspondence.

In respect to the answer given by the captain general of Cuba to the consul of the United States, the government of her Majesty finds nothing censurable in it, since the terms in which it is held are not less courteous than could be expected from that authority, and its laconic brevity may be attributed to the fact that the consul engaged himself to judge of questions of law, and of dispositions of her Majesty’s government which are beyond his power, and into the discussion of which General Dulce was not allowed to enter with him.

I believe that the government of the Union will be satisfied with the explanations I herewith give to your excellency, and that it will be convinced that that of the Queen my lady, which is anxious to preserve the truly friendly relations uniting the two countries, cannot disapprove of the conduct of the authorities of Cuba, which are in every respect in conformity with the requirements of law, and with the royal decree of neutrality, unless it should prove true that the entry into the Havana was refused to the Wachusett after it had been conceded to a confederate vessel under like circumstances, concerning which, as I assure your excellency, information has been requested of the captain general of that island.

I improve this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


The Minister Plenipotentiary of the U. S.