Mr. Tassara to Mr. Seward
The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, has had the honor to receive the note which, under date of the [Page 989] 23d instant, was addressed to him by the honorable Secretary of State, placing in his knowledge that, in consequence of the charges which previously had been made against some Spanish ships-of-war at New Orleans, in regard to which charges a statement had already been sought from this legation by your department, General Butler had prohibited the entry of any Spanish vessel-of-war further up than the forts of that port, until further orders from the Department of War. The honorable Secretary of State adds, that the explanations asked from this legation being still pending, he has thought it fit to recommend to the Secretary of War to direct the suspension of said order, hoping that, upon the knowledge of the facts, it may turn out to have been unnecessary.
On receiving the first communication of the 3d instant from the honorable Secretary of State upon this matter, the undersigned at once replied under date of the 5th instant, that due investigation should be made, and that the honorable Secretary of State might rest sure that satisfactory explanations would be given, as far as there should be room for them. I at once communicated the matter to the government of her Catholic Majesty, requesting, at the same time, reports from the captain-general of Cuba, and from the Spanish consul at New Orleans.
The honorable Secretary of State will, however, well understand, that as yet there has not been time to receive any reply, and, in consequence, not the means for making the explanations required. Even in respect of the consul of New Orleans, it is proper to. remark that the despatch from this legation was somewhat delayed by the existing irregularity of the communications with that port.
Thus things are; and while no fresh act has occurred to complicate the matter, the order fifteen days later of General Butler, resting only on the statements of some newspapers at Havana, could not but cause great surprise to the undersigned.
The alleged charges, besides, not having been even to this time presented in a distinct and formal manner, are not such even as might justify so extraordinary a measure. Even supposing there may have been incidents which might justify the complaints of General Butler, the honorable Secretary of State must understand that those incidents might have their explanation in the exceptional situation of New Orleans, or that this very situation may have modified or magnified them in the eyes of those authorities. In every view the matter is one which requires impartial and complete examination of the facts, and to prepare for this examination with extreme measures is to stamp things with a mark which neither Spain nor the United States would think it convenient to let them take.
Protesting, then, against the order of General Butler, and regretting that during the time it may have been in force some Spanish vessel may have become subject to it, the undersigned sees with satisfaction that the honorable Secretary of State has been prompt in suspending it, and pleases himself with the hope that the suspension will become a definitive counter order.
It is difficult, very difficult, to think that the commanders of Spanish vessels-of-war, who are referred to, can have broken the decisive orders; they have to submit themselves strictly to the laws of neutrality. The undersigned, nevertheless, must repeat that the government of the United States shall have the proper explanations, and that any violations of their laws shall be duly acknowledged, being assured that those or other vessels which may come to their ports shall comply, as they ever have done, with all their duties to this government and to this country, avoiding on their part all that may give occasion to ill understanding.
The honorable Secretary of State needs not to have explained to him all the gravity there is in the act of closing an open port of one nation to the vessels-of-war of another nation which is neutral and friendly, especially in the position [Page 990] in which, respectively, are placed as well the government of Spain in respect to that of the United States, as the ports of Cuba in respect to New Orleans.
The present crisis gives great room for questions whose consequences it is necessary to meet with loyalty and good faith, and the government of her Catholic Majesty will not fail, on this occasion, in those qualities never belied by it.
Relying, then, in his confidence, that the disposition made by General Butler has been disapproved in a decided manner, the undersigned avails of the occasion to reiterate to the honorable Secretary of State the assurance of his highest consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State of the United States.