Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward

No. 93.]

Sir: Your attention will have been arrested by the description given by our consul at Teneriffe of a suspicious new and very swift steamer, which called at that port on the 10th and 11th of last month, and took one hundred tons of coals. She was called the Keang-Soo, and bore the Chinese flag, pretending to be a Chinese man-of-war; carried six guns and one hundred and ten men, all Englishmen; had just sailed from the Clyde, and was to be followed, as her officers announced, by other sister ships destined to the same service, and which would also call at Teneriffe for coals.

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I enclose for your perusal the copy of a letter I have just addressed to Mr. Adams on this subject.

Is there not a fleet of English-built and English-manned steamers collecting in some distant sea, to be transferred openly hereafter to the service of our rebels?

You will perhaps be able to confirm or reject this suspicion by additional information received from other quarters, but I beg you to aid me and guide my action by your instructions.

I confess that, as the facts appear here at present, I should feel very much tempted to advise any commander of a sufficient naval force in our service to overhaul one of these Chinese men-of-war, or all of them, and take them into port, if his examination of their character should not prove completely satisfactory.

I should feel confident that any question with his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China, resulting from a mistake in the detention of these vessels, armed and manned in England, would not be beyond your power to arrange satisfactorily after the mistake (if any were made) should be corrected. But there is no naval force now near me fit for such service.

I lack not merely the advantage of your instructions, and the considerations of your better judgment to decide such a point as this, but the material means for any efficient action are completely wanting.

The President will probably have already taken such action as the government may have deemed adequate upon receipt of the letter of the consul at Teneriffe, which he informs me he addressed to you on or about the 14th of last month.

With sentiments of the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,


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

Mr. Perry to Mr. Adams

Sir: I have received information from the consul of the United States at Teneriffe (Canary islands) to the effect that a very suspicious craft called the Keang-Soo, bearing the Chinese flag and pennant, and purporting to be a Chinese man-of-war, was at that port on the 10th and 11th of June, on her way from the Clyde to China, as she said. She was officered and manned by Englishmen, carried six guns, with a crew of one hundred and ten seamen, and was an exceedingly swift craft. The consul believes her to be a new confederate cruiser, and that, he reports, was the general opinion in the island.

The ship having no bill of health, and her flag being unknown to the local authorities, she was not admitted to pratique, but took one hundred tons of coals in quarantine and proceeded on her voyage.

Her officers said at Teneriffe that more vessels under the same flag were now fitting out in England, and would also call at Teneriffe for coals. The consul wrote immediately to the government at Washington, and I hasten to put this matter in your knowledge for such effect as you may think proper to give it in England.

Would it not be well to advise the captain of some one of our national vessels to proceed to the Canary islands, in the hope of overhauling one of these crafts?

I have no ship for this service near me; an old sailing sloop at Cadiz is the [Page 981] only man-of-war in Spanish ports. Perhaps you may know of a steam sloop or gunboat near your legation. Perhaps you may know also that these crafts are really intended for service in China, where, I am told, our English friends do not see two belligerents, but only a legitimate government and a rebellion, which it is quite proper for them to aid in suppressing.

Whether Chinese or confederate, will not these ships be transferred to the rebel service in the eastern seas? Is there not a fleet of them collecting in those distant seas, either to destroy our commerce or to come back in force upon our unprotected Pacific coast, or even to undertake some bold enterprise in the Atlantic ports, or in the gulf of Mexico?

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


His Excellency Charles F. Adams, &c., &c., London.