Mr. Tassara to Mr. Seward

The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, deplores to find himself under the necessity to again call the attention of the honorable Secretary of State of the United States upon the arbitrariness of which, in regard to quarantines, the Spanish vessels at New Orleans are being subjected.

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The transport ships of war of the Spanish navy, Pinta and Mari Galante, coming from Habana in ballast, have arrived at New Orleans for the purpose of taking on board a part of the tobacco which the Spanish government has purchased in that city, and notwithstanding the health of their crews has been most excellent during the voyage, a quarantine of thirty days to both has been imposed, without regard to the time of passage.

The consul of her Majesty had officially addressed himself to General Butler, to know if the serious injuries which would arise from so extraordinary detention could be avoided, but up to the departure of the mail of the 23d of August no attention had been paid to his remonstrance.

It must be observed (held in mind) that at the same time that these hard quarantines are imposed upon the Spanish vessels, North American vessels, coming from the same place, are being admitted without any detention whatever, and also some foreign vessels, who observe it (the quarantine) during only two or three days.

In the note which the undersigned addressed to the honorable Secretary of State on the 7th of August last, respecting the quarantine of the Cardenas, mention was made of three vessels, to wit, the Marie Felicite, a French vessel, the English schooner Virginia Antoineta, and the North American steamer Roanoke, which, although coming from Habana, had been treated with less severity.

To these cases may now be added the ship Wild Cat, coming from Matanzas, which was detained but for two days, and the ship Statesman, from the same port, which was admitted after eight days.

In a correspondence which has taken place between General Butler and the commander of the Spanish war steamer Blasco de Garay, in relation to the scarcity of provisions on board this vessel, and in which the question of quarantine has been incidentally treated, General Butler says the following: “The question of the duration of the quarantine, and of the operations which are to be made to preserve us from contagion, I have submitted to the judgment of the proper medical officer of the lazaretto. I have never interfered by my orders with his dispositions. If he thinks that in a given case ten days suffice, ten days shall be imposed; if forty in another, it shall be forty; and if in another one hundred days, it must be one hundred. I think, however, that the medical officer can make a difference, with regard to the duration of the quarantine, between a vessel which has only touched at Habana and another which has loaded and taken her crew on board there. This must be borne in mind, in order to explain the difference of the duration of the quarantine.”

Above all it must be observed that, as is public and notorious, the state of New Orleans in point of salubrity is not to-day better, if indeed it is not already worse, than that of the island of Cuba; but setting apart this consideration, and even admitting the differences which General Butler establishes, either himself directly, or the medical officer of the lazaretto who fixes the duration of the quarantines, it is very singular that to the Pinta and the Mari Galante, as previously to the Cardenas, which arrived at New Orleans in the most satisfactory state of salubrity, a quarantine of thirty days should have been systematically imposed upon them, while to other vessels, under other flags, which at most could come under the same conditions, it has not been deemed necessary to impose them one or more than two days. Furthermore, it must be remarked that some of these vessels, the Pinta, had had a passage of twenty-one days when she presented herself at the lazaretto.

The undersigned, therefore, finds himself under the necessity of addressing himself in the most formal manner to the honorable Secretary of State, requesting him to be pleased to inform him what are the rules which, with regard to quarantines, attain in New Orleans, and especially the difference which appears to be intended to be established with respect to Spanish vessels.

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In the present case the circumstance even arises that the Pinta and the Mari Galante are the vessels which, with the knowledge of the government of the United States, have come to take on board quantities of tabacco which, to the injury of the Spanish exchequer, have been for a long time detained in New Orleans, and the honorable Secretary of State will judge whether he should or should not give the order, already too late, that they be immediately despatched. In any event, he must understand that in the island of Cuba the most rigorous reciprocity will be observed with regard to the vessels of the United States which may arrive at those ports. To use the phrase of General Butler, “If it is thought that in a given case ten days shall suffice, ten days will be imposed; if forty in another, it shall be forty; and if in another one hundred, it shall be one hundred;” the same in the island of Cuba as at New Orleans.

In the correspondence with the commander of the Blasco de Garay, and in other communications to the consul at New Orleans, General Butler expresses himself in terms of the greatest friendship toward the Spanish nation. His acts, however, are in contradiction with his words, and neither the government of Spain nor the undersigned, in consequence of the responsibility which he has therein, can see with indifference the unjustifiable arbitrariness with which the Spanish vessels are being treated in New Orleans, particularly the contrast being so great between this conduct and that which is being observed towards the vessels of the United States both in Cuba and in Spain.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to the honorable Secretary of State the assurance of his most high consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States, &c., &c., &c.