Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward
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.[Page 980]
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.