Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward
Sir: The English steamer brought me despatches from our consul at Pernambuco, copies of which I enclose, marked 1 and 2. These came to hand by the second delivery on Monday evening.
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Before retiring to rest, I addressed to the Marquis d’Abrantes the despatch marked No. 3; and after it had been copied, on Tuesday morning, I took it in person to the foreign office. I saw the under secretary, who informed me that the president of Pernambuco had reported to the government the proceedings of the Alabama at Fernando de Noronha, and that I would, probably, find the Marquis at the chamber of deputies. I accordingly drove to the chamber, where, after great delay, I ascertained that he had gone to his residence on Botofoga bay, some four miles distant, complaining of indisposition.
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We met at four o’clock, and after listening to my representations, in the course of which I pointed out the animus of the English consul, in furnishing our consul with a copy of his report from the officers of the Oneida, which was calculated to excite ill blood between the United States and Brazil, he heartily expressed his regret at what had occurred, and his determination to have written me a note in anticipation of receiving one from me; in which note he intended to express the determination of the government to remove and otherwise punish the offending governor of Fernando de Noronha. I expressed my satisfaction at this; and said, I had refused to comply with the request of the under secretary to leave the despatch at the foreign office, because I anticipated the willingness of the government to act without prompting, in which case I could abstain from giving him the despatch, and, therefore, had opened it myself, and obtained his consent to read it to him in advance, in order that I might withdraw it in case he was prepared to take the initiative; and I, accordingly, offered to retain my despatch and assume that I had not written it. He said “No; your despatch makes no claim at present, but leaves the whole question to the justice of Brazil; a compliment which we appreciate, and I will lay it before his Majesty the Emperor.”[Page 1261]
I then informed him that it was my intention to have returned to Petropolis on that day. And as it was not possible to return until I had received an official communication from him on this subject, and forwarded it to you, I indulged the hope that he would give me his reply to my despatch at his earliest convenience. He assured me it should be in my possession last evening. It failed to arrive, however, and at 9 o’clock this (Thursday) morning I was again at his house on Botofoga bay, determined to have an interview with him before he went to his office or the senate, or chamber of deputies, where he is in attendance daily, there being a kind of ministerial crisis pending, and it being the right and duty of ministers to speak in both houses in defence of their measures.
He laughed at my pertinacity in persisting in having his reply in possession at once, and promised it for this evening.
It was whispered to me that a Brazilian coasting steamer arrived last evening from Pernambuco, with two days later news, which was the cause of my not getting a despatch last night. I know not how this may affect the question; but if the facts on investigation turn out as represented, I have not a doubt in regard to the action of the imperial government.
Thursday, 4 o’clock p. m.
I received the promised despatch at 1.35 p, m., instead of 11 a. m., and immediately came to the city and had it translated by the consul’s clerk, and enclose it herewith, marked No. 4. You will perceive it covers the whole ground, and that the officer in command has been removed, in consequence of an investigation into the affair, made by the president of the province of Pernambuco. It is only just to the imperial government to bear in mind, that previous to any such formal investigation, and upon the mere, prima facie aspect of the case, and general rumor, the commandant’s removal was determined upon and reported to me.
I shall, of course, address a letter to the government immediately on my return to Petropolis, acknowledging the receipt of the Marquis d’Abrantes’s despatch, and thanking him for the promptness which the imperial government has exhibited in punishing one of its officials for his neglect of duty, and I hope in due time to receive from you a despatch on this subject, to be sent to the foreign office.
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I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, &c.