Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward

No. 47.]

Sir: The European and American mail, by the French steam packet Guienne, reached me on Tuesday evening, the 19th, at 7 o’clock, and brought full reports from our consuls at Bahia and Pernambuco of the doings of the pirates Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, on this coast. By their reports, [Page 1266] copies of which they forwarded to the Department of State, I was informed that the Alabama and Georgia were lying in the harbor of Bahia, and receiving the hospitalities of those ports; while the Florida was in Pernambuco refitting and repairing her engine, to enable her to renew her depredations upon American commerce. They also reported that they now had on hand about 250 of crews and passengers of the American vessels captured and destroyed by the pirates; and as the law makes no provision for the support of ship-masters and passengers in foreign ports, they asked instructions from me in relation to the course to be pursued by them now, and under similar circumstances hereafter.

At 6 o’clock on the following morning I was on my way to this city; and at 11.30 was in the foreign office, where I learned that the Marquis d’Abrantes was with the Emperor at the palace of St. Christoval. I called again at 3 p. m., just as the office was being closed, and was informed that he was still at the palace, and that when he left there he would go direct to his residence at Botofoga bay, which is four miles from here, (the United States consulate.) I was at his residence twice during the evening, and left word with his private secretary that I should call at half-past eight on the following morning.

* * * * * * * * *

I got at work at 12 m., and at 1.22 p. m. placed in his hands at Botofoga my despatch herewith, marked No. 1. Please bear in mind that this was written, copied, and delivered in person, four miles from here, in my brief time, and that the necessity for accuracy was paramount to all other considerations; and find therein any apology necessary for deficiency in the manner of doing the work.

This morning at a quarter before nine I was again with the Marquis, when he assured me he was then engaged in preparing a preliminary despatch, which would be satisfactory, and which I should have in possession late this evening, or early to-morrow, Sunday—the steamer not sailing until Monday. This will give me time to finish this despatch.

* * * * * * * * *

Our consuls at Bahia and Pernambuco having exhibited great energy and judgment in the discharge of their duties, in the embarrassing position in which they were placed, I addressed to them each an official letter, in reply to their communications, a copy of which, marked 2, is enclosed. All the prisoners, both male and female, were robbed by the pirates, our consul to Cherpoo being the only one who saved a few dollars by throwing them into his boots. Passengers and masters are alike destitute; and being rendered so while under our flag, I think I cannot be wrong in having directed the consuls to care for them, precisely as if the law embraced their case.

The pirate fleet—for such it has become—now consists of six vessels; and will very shortly consist of fifty, if the pirates can manage to possess themselves of the necessary guns to arm their prizes. How far they succeeded in Bahia and Pernambuco, I cannot say; but we know that the Alabama had armed the ships Lapwing and ————, and the Florida had armed the Clarence, from this port to Baltimore. There is no difficulty about getting crews, as the foreigners on board our vessels promptly volunteered to serve on board the pirates; one of the conditions being, as Semmes admitted to the ladies landed in Bahia, who sought to recover certain family relics, that his men may plunder and pillage all crews and passengers captured, but must abstain from rape and murder! Thus these steamers are not only pirates themselves, but they assume the right of converting all their prizes into pirates. What commerce can exist under such proceedings, and who is it that reaps the reward?

* * * * * * * * *

I enclose herewith, marked No. 3, a letter from an intelligent German [Page 1267] gentleman, who came passenger in the Guienne, and saw the Mohican at St. Vincent, and the Florida, Alabama, and Georgia at Pernambuco and Bahia, by which it appears that the Alabama claims to have captured 49 vessels besides the Hatteras, the Florida 10, and the Georgia 2—sixty-one in all. Semmes, however, is said to claim that the Alabama alone has destroyed 64 vessels; and the possession of nearly 200 chronometers, which he displays in his cabin, would appear to sustain the claim; and as our unprotected commerce is just as much in danger from her armed prizes, with one gun, as from the steamers, and as he avows his purpose to convert every fast-sailing prize into an armed pirate, and is actually doing so, the destruction of the fleet, wherever met with, appears to be a duty which overrides all considerations of comity between nations, and respect for neutral waters.

Semmes says he is bound for the Pacific, from which I infer that he is going round the Cape of Good Hope, and into the China seas; while, probably, the Florida and Georgia will go into the Pacific, all of them first cruising near St. Helena in the track of our homeward-bound Indiamen.


I have just received from the Marquis d’Abrantes a reply to my despatch, which I enclose herewith, marked No. 4. It is full of the most friendly professions and assurances, and I doubt not it will, in due time, be followed by one disclaiming the acts of the governors of Pernambuco and Bahia, and condemning their conduct. The governor of Pernambuco is an Albuquerque, and belongs to the most powerful and influential family in northern Brazil.

* * * * * * * * *

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

No. 1.

Mr. Webb to the Marquis d’Abrantes

The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States, has the honor to call the attention of his excellency the Marquis d’Abrantes, councillor to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor, minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs, to a gross breach of neutrality, perpetrated, and now being perpetrated, on the part of the representatives of his Majesty’s government, at the ports of Pernambuco and Bahia.

When the French steamer Guienne left these ports, the pirate Florida was lying in Pernambuco, receiving the hospitalities of that port, coaling and taking on board provisions, and undergoing the necessary repairs to enable her to continue her cruise. And what was the openly avowed purpose of such cruise? The destruction of the commerce of the United States, a friendly nation, and one with whom Brazil has close and most amicable relations. Did there exist any doubt of the character of the Florida? Most assuredly not. She was known to the governor of Pernambuco as being the consort of the Alabama, and bearing the same piratical flag; and the Alabama [Page 1268] had been declared by the governor to be a corsair, which had violated the sovereignty and neutrality of Brazil by outrages upon the commerce of the United States in Brazilian waters; and, therefore, ordered to leave a port in the island of Fernando Noronha. And yet, with the knowledge of the piratical character of the Florida and her flag, and in defiance of the protest of the consul of the United States, the governor, in an official communication addressed to the pirate on the 8th of May, conceded to him the right to remain in port twenty-four hours to land prisoners, to supply himself with such coals and provisions, and to make such repairs, as were necessary to enable him to continue his cruise against the commerce of the United States.

On that day the Florida, under such authority from the governor, did land the officers, crew, and passengers of the United States brig Clarence, from the port of Rio Janeiro to Baltimore, in the United States, captured by the pirate two days previously, as known to the governor; and, on the same day, made application to the governor for permission to remain in port four days instead of twenty-four hours. In reply the governor, in a communication to the pirate, now before the undersigned, dated the 9th of May, informed the applicant that, inasmuch as he represents to him that a compliance with his order to leave in twenty-four hours will compel him to do so in a distressed condition, because the repairs to his engine, necessary to his safety, cannot be completed in that time, and would be illiberal and inhuman, and expose him to danger, and Brazil to the consequences; and inasmuch as he, the governor, does not wish to be inhuman or illiberal, or endanger the safety of the pirate, or to lessen his means of defence, or expose him to imminent risks, therefore, believing the representation to have been made in good faith, and that he cannot in safety continue his cruise (against American commerce bound to Brazil) unless given time to repair his engine, the said governor, representing the sovereignty of Brazil, and recognizing the traitors in rebellion against the United States as belligerents, does accord to the commander of the pirate bearing their flag all the time he asks for repairs, and privilege of taking in such coals and provisions as may place him in a condition to continue his depredations upon the commerce of a friendly power. A grosser breach of neutrality has never come to the knowledge of the undersigned.

There is no difference in the eye of the international law between taking a part or the whole of a prize into a neutral port; and although the Florida did not bring the Clarence into Pernambuco, having fitted her out as a privateer, yet the fact of bringing in her officers, crew, and passengers, and the goods of which they had robbed her and those on board, was, to all legal intents and purposes, the same as bringing in the captured vessel or vessels, some of which she had burned, and one, at least, armed as a privateer. And the goods so pillaged and robbed from the United States vessels were openly sold and peddled in the streets of Pernambuco; articles known to be worth or to have cost from four to six hundred milreis selling, as the undersigned is assured, for fifteen milreis. And thus Pernambuco becoming, as was justly remarked by a permanent merchant of that place, not an American, “a mart for the sale of goods taken by pirates out of American vessels almost within sight of the port; and the pirate captors at that moment lying in the harbor, and receiving the protection and hospitality of the port of Pernambuco, with the full sanction of the government of the province, who is the immediate representative of his Imperial Majesty.”

The undersigned doubts not but that all the facts of the case have been officially reported to the government of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor; and also that it is known to your excellency that both the pirates Alabama and Georgia were in the port of Bahia when the steamer Guienne sailed [Page 1269] from there on the 14th instant. The Alabama arrived on the 11th, and the consul of the United States, as it was his duty to do, not only demanded, that as her character was known, and her outrages upon American commerce in Brazilian waters have been proclaimed and acted upon by Brazilian authorities, that all supplies should be refused to her, but that the ship itself should be seized, and held subject to the action of the imperial government for its piracies within Brazilian jurisdiction; and for which Brazil would be responsible were it not that the vessel is a pirate, and belongs to no recognized nationality.

The undersigned, knowing the character of these corsairs, was satisfied that the government of his Imperial Majesty had done all that it was in its power to do when it removed the commandant of Fernando Noronha from his place, and ordered the pirate to leave its waters, because the government has not the means of capturing him. But when the pirate entered the port of Bahia, and placed himself in the power of Brazil, and in a position where he could be seized, and made responsible for his piracies upon American vessels within the waters of Brazil, it was the bounden duty of the governor of Bahia to have seized the pirate until the pleasure of the imperial government should be known in the premises. Your excellency will not for a moment deny, that having, by your official acts, and those of the governor of Pernambuco, recognized the fact that this pirate has violated the waters and outraged the sovereignty of Brazil, it is your duty, when opportunity offers, to vindicate your violated sovereignty, and by his capture, if possible, remunerate the injury done to American commerce within your waters. And should the pirate come into this port when the ability of Brazil to capture and detain him admits of no question beyond all doubt, the neglect to do so would be not only an unfriendly act towards the United States, but would render Brazil responsible for all and every aggression which he might commit on American commerce after leaving this port.

The law officers of the crown of England gravely decided that the fitting out of this pirate in the port of Liverpool, and the Florida and Georgia in Scotland, on a well-grounded suspicion that they were intended to prey upon the commerce of a friendly nation, demanded, for the English government, their forcible detention. An order for the Alabama’s detention was accordingly issued, but arrived at Liverpool within one hour after she had sailed.

The government of the United States, therefore, has given notice to the government of England that they will hold England responsible for all the injuries done to American commerce; and the leading statesmen of England, on the floor of the house of commons, have conceded that it was the duty of the crown to have captured her on the bare suspicion, apparently well founded; and the law officers having decided that a case of justifiable suspicion was made out, the government neglected its duty, and cannot plead, in bar of our claim, that it failed in carrying out a good intention.

* * * * * * * *

The undersigned, therefore, submits to your excellency whether, if the fact be as stated, that the mere suspicion, well grounded, of the purposes of this pirate, rendered it the duty of the English government, according to her statesmen and law officers, to detain her, what is the duty of Brazil? The Alabama’s purposes, and the purposes of her associate pirates, sailing under a flag not recognized by Brazil or any other nation, are no longer subject to suspicion only. They are avowedly and openly freebooters upon American commerce, without any nationality, and they have practiced their calling all along the Brazilian coast, and, in several instances, to the knowledge and just indignation of Brazil, within Brazilian waters; and yet they impudently run into Brazilian ports for protection, and to refit, and render [Page 1270] more certain their ability to capture, pillage, burn, and destroy American vessels, At this moment—or, rather, as recently as the 14th instant—it is officially reported to the undersigned that there were no less, than two hundred and twenty-eight persons in Pernambuco and Bahia, composing the officers and crews of American ships destroyed by the three pirates now in the harbor of Brazil; and all of them, captured individuals, according to law and the decisions of the undersigned, are now being supported at the cost of the government of the United States, Each and all of the three pirates have landed their prisoners in Brazilian ports, made proclamation that they were captured in American ships, by them destroyed, and then claimed at the hands of Brazil the right to refit for further plunder and depredations upon the unprotected commerce of a friendly nation. With the knowledge of Brazil in regard to the practices of these pirates, would not her responsibility to the United States, to humanity, and the civilization of the age, be far greater than was the responsibility of England in not detaining them on well-grounded suspicion only? Can there be a solitary plea devised, not founded on hostility to the United States and a desire to see its commerce injured, which would justify the government of Brazil in permitting them to refit in her ports, and supplying themselves with provisions and coal?

The Georgia lands prisoners avowedly taken from a captured American ship, and asks permission of the governor of Bahia to coal and buy provisions, and the permission is cordially granted.

The Florida lands her prisoners, officers, crews, and passengers of American vessels captured and burned, and not only asks and receives permission to coal and purchase provisions, but, further, asks to be allowed whatever time is necessary to repair her engine and refit for her work of destruction; and, in defiance of the solemn and most earnest protest of the consul of the United States, this privilege is accorded to her by the governor of Pernambuco, from a desire not to diminish his means of defence and security!

The Alabama goes into Bahia, and does not even ask permission to remain. She arrived on the 11th, and was still there when the Guienne sailed, on the 14th. The consul of the United States protested against her presence, and demanded that she should be seized and held subject to the orders of the Brazilian government, for having destroyed American property in Brazilian waters, for which the government of the United States will hold Brazil responsible, if, now that the opportunity presents, the authorities do not vindicate the sovereignty of Brazil and capture the pirate. The governor of Bahia sends to the United States consul the communication of the governor of Pernambuco to the captain of the pirate, complaining of his piracies, charging him with a violation of Brazilian sovereignty, and ordering him, in consequence of such disgraceful conduct, to leave the waters of Brazil within twenty-four hours. The governor of Bahia thus demonstrates that he knows the piratical character of this vessel, and is familiar with her violation of the sovereignty of Brazil by destroying American vessels within the waters of that empire. He knows, too, that the imperial government, by its acts, had proclaimed this pirate guilty of violations of its sovereignty, and ordered him to leave their port of Fernando Noronha; and yet he deliberately permits him to enter the port of Bahia, refuses to regard the protest of our consul, and, at the last accounts, had harbored him four days without pretending that his presence was not acceptable!

Thus, at this moment, the ports of Brazil are made harbors of refuge and places of resort and departure for three piratical vessels, avowedly designed to prey upon the commerce of the United States. The waters of Brazil are violated with impunity in this piratical work, and after the imperial government had admitted and declared its indignation at such violation of sovereignty, the guilty party is received with hospitality and friendship by the [Page 1271] governor of Bahia, and instead of being captured and imprisoned, and his vessel detained, he is feted, and supplied with the necessary provisions and coal to enable him to continue his depredations upon American commerce. The wharves and streets of Bahia and Pernambuco have been, for weeks past, swarmed with American sailors and passengers from merchantmen trading with Brazil, which have been captured, and the persons on board robbed, by the pirates of the Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, and they have been compelled, in the ports of a friendly nation, to witness their clothing and jewelry, and even family relics, sold on the wharves and in the streets of Bahia and Pernambuco by their piratical captors, at a tenth of their value, while the piratical vessels and all on board were received and treated as friends, and supplied with the necessary materials to continue their nefarious practices. The scenes which history informs us were rife in the 17th century, in the islands of the West Indies, are now being enacted in this the 19th century, in the ports of Brazil, and that through no fault of the imperial government—which has already done its whole duty as rapidly as circumstances have permitted—but because the governors of Pernambuco and Bahia, in their sympathy with piracy and pirates, have neglected their duty to Brazil and brought discredit upon the civilization of the age.

Your excellency is aware that the facts in connexion with the presence of these piratical vessels in the ports of Brazil are even stronger than in this hasty communication they are presented; and, therefore, the undersigned will not for a moment doubt but the imperial government will promptly visit upon the offending governors the punishment they have so richly merited. But it appears to the undersigned that the government of Brazil has still another duty to perform, itself, to the government of the United States, to humanity, and to the civilization of the age, and that is, the capture of the Alabama whenever she enters a Brazilian harbor. That piratical vessel has violated the sovereignty of Brazil by destroying the vessels of a friendly nation within the waters of the empire. The government of Brazil, by its acts, has proclaimed this fact; and, most assuredly, if, when, it has the power to do so, it does not capture and detain the offender, it makes itself a party to his acts and compels the government of the United States not only to look to Brazil for compensation for injuries done to its commerce within its waters, but also to hold Brazil responsible for permitting this pirate to proceed in his depredations upon American commerce.

The undersigned does not visit upon the imperial government the conduct of its governors towards the Florida and Georgia, well knowing that it will, as heretofore, do its duty in the premises. But the case of the Alabama is a very different one. She has violated the neutrality and outraged the sovereignty of Brazil by capturing and burning American vessels in Brazilian waters; and if, when Brazil possess the ability, and the opportunity offers, she does not take possession of her, assuredly, the government of Brazil assumes the responsibility of her acts, and the United States will be compelled to look for redress to Brazil, as she did to Portugal in the case of the General Armstrong. The privateer General Armstrong was destroyed by a British man-of-war, in 1813, in a Portuguese port. The United States persisted in its demand for redress from Portugal for more than thirty years. It was then referred to a friendly power.

The undersigned alludes to this case to show the right of the United States to demand the capture of the pirate Alabama by Brazil, if possible, as a duty due alike to itself, to the United States, and to humanity and civilization. And he takes this occasion to render to your excellency his cordial respect and confidence, and his most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency the Marquis d’Abrantes, &c., &c., &c.

[Page 1272]
No. 2.

Mr. Webb to Consuls at Bahia and at Pernambuco

My Dear Sir: Accept my warmest thanks for myself, and in behalf of our country, for the prompt, efficient, and energetic manner in which you have discharged your duty as consul, under the trying circumstances to which you have been exposed. Your conduct not only meets my hearty approval, but my decisive commendation, as it assuredly will that of the government at home.

I have had various interviews with the government, and last evening handed in a despatch of thirty-two pages, which is to be submitted to a special meeting of the cabinet to-day at 12 o’clock, and I hope in a postscript to this letter to give you the result.

It does not become me to interfere with your instructions, or to decide upon the construction of the law; but when the law is silent, as it must of necessity be in a case like the present, which could not be anticipated, somebody must assume the responsibility of legislating temporarily in the premises. The law does not compel you to support the officers and passengers of vessels sunk at sea by pirates, but humanity and the honor of our country does. You will, therefore, in all such cases, continue to do as your own good sense and kind feelings prompt, and consider this your authority for so doing until otherwise instructed from Washington.

Believe me, my dear sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


————, United States Consul, ————.

No. 3.

Mr. Grebert to Mr. Webb

Mr. Minister: With pleasure I am ready to give to your excellency knowledge of what I have observed of the secessionist privateers on my recent voyage from Bordeaux to this port on board the French packet Guienne, agreeably to the request with which your excellency has honored me.

In Europe I was in an uncertainty as to where the privateer Alabama and the other privateers were. Until we arrived at St. Vincent I learned nothing more of the Alabama or of the other privateers. On our entering St. Vincent, at 7 o’clock in the morning on the 5th day of this month, we found anchored in that port the North American vessel-of-war Mohican, and I there gathered information that, in the neighboring waters, another vessel-of-war was cruising, supposed to be the Vanderbilt. We were informed at St. Vincent that, a few days before our arrival, a steamer had appeared in sight of the port, but had immediately disappeared. It is supposed that this steamer must have been a secessionist privateer.

On the 12th day of this month, at 6 o’clock in the morning, we arrived at Pernambuco, and, to our general surprise, found quietly anchored in that port, inside the reef, the privateer Florida; and immediately on the port visit of the officer of customs and other visitors, we learned from the authorities that the privateers Florida and Alabama were committing, in the [Page 1273] waters of Brazil, acts of landing the captive crews of numerous American merchant vessels. I learned, further, that the Alabama had been in the gulf of Fernando Noronha, where she had landed a large number of the captive crews of destroyed vessels. I was told by inhabitants of Pernambuco that the governor of the gulf of Fernando Noronha had received Captain Semmes, the commander of the privateer Alabama, and his crew, with much sympathy; that he even offered him a salute, and a ride on horseback. In consequence of this the president of Pernambuco had dismissed this governor; but when we arrived at Pernambuco he was already restored to his place, my informants not being able to explain the reason. The Florida arrived in the port of Pernambuco in the morning of the 9th of this month, and at 5 o’clock of the afternoon of the 12th she sailed, together with us, the Guienne accompanying us until dark, when she took her course to the east. I was told, by several persons in Pernambuco, that this privateer only sailed from the port in order not to disobey the commands of the president, who had permitted only four days’ stay in the port for making repairs to her engine, and for supplying herself with coal and provisions. It was said, moreover, that she would return after a day or two, and that this was probable, because she had purchased various articles that she had not received when she sailed; among others 800 yards of cloth, for clothing for the crew. To me, and many of my fellow-passengers, the maintenance of strict neutrality was inexplicable, in view of what was going on in the gulf of Fernando Noronha and at Pernambuco, especially when we were informed at Pernambuco that the crew of the Florida had sold the large quantity of articles (prize goods) which they had plundered from the destroyed vessels, at prices which were insignificant in comparison with their real value.

On the 14th, at 4 o’clock in the morning, we entered the port of Bahia, where we were surprised at the state of the Alabama and Georgia, which were anchored “side by side” in that port, these privateers having been there for two days. On the same day (the 14th) Commander Semmes had opened his vessel to the curiosity of the public; two small steamers were all day (of the 14th) from morning till night engaged in carrying visitors from the shore on board that cruel and atrocious pirate, and back again. At the least, there were, on that day, more than two thousand persons on board the Alabama. I went on board the Alabama at noon, and more than two hundred visitors were present at the same time. I remained on board more than an hour, examining the vessel, her equipments, and crew, as much as circumstances would permit. Captain Semmes was not on board, because he had an invitation to an entertainment given to him by the Railroad Company, to which he had gone. I had a conversation with an officer, Marfit, [Maffit,] the son of the commander of the Florida. He told me that, in nine months’ cruising, they had captured, in all, 49 merchant vessels, besides destroying the Hatteras. (The Florida had, up to the 12th of this month, captured ten vessels, and the Georgia two.) A German seaman told me that he and the other seamen had each, in pay and allowances in the concern, £1,800, which he expected to be paid at the conclusion of the war. An officer of the Georgia told me that the Georgia had been seen at St. Vincent, but went higher up when she discovered the Mohican in the port of St. Vincent; he told me, moreover, that in her cruise from Greenock (in England) to Bahia, she had captured and destroyed two American vessels, whose crews she landed at Bahia.

We resumed our voyage, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon of the 14th, for this port, leaving the two pirates at their anchorage, where we found them in the morning.

The foregoing is what I have seen and observed, together with information which I was able to obtain from interested and disinterested persons; [Page 1274] and, with much pleasure, I communicate it to your excellency, in compliance with your request, and in the hope of doing some good for the cause of humanity, which is so cruelly offended by these wicked pirates.

I am, with high esteem and consideration, your excellency’s friend,


Mr. Webb, Minister, &c., Brazil.

No. 4.

The Marquis d’Abrantes to Mr. Webb

(Central Division.)


I hasten to acknowledge the reception of the note which, under date of the 21st instant, Mr. James Watson Webb, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States at this court, has done me the honor to address to me, with a view of calling my attention to a serious violation of neutrality which has been perpetrated, and is now being perpetrated, by two representatives of the imperial government in the ports of Pernambuco and Bahia.

Mr. Webb, in referring to the proceedings of the presidents of said provinces towards the steamers of the Confederate States which come into their ports, accuses said presidents, and complains of their having afforded hospitality to those steamers, and of having permitted them to make repairs, to receive provisions, and to land merchandise of vessels which they had captured.

Mr. Webb bases his complaints on a series of acts, which he enumerates, and which he characterizes as violative of the neutrality which the government of his Majesty the Emperor imposes on itself, in the deplorable contest of the American Union.

The affair in question is undoubtedly grave and important, and the imperial government gives to the authorized language of Mr. Webb all the consideration which is due to it.

But for this very reason—and Mr. Webb will certainly acknowledge it—the imperial cabinet is under the unavoidable necessity of proceeding in such a delicate matter with the greatest discretion and prudence, in order to observe religiously the position which it has assumed since the manifestation of the first events which tended to the result of a division of the United States.

The position to which I allude Mr. Webb perfectly understands, as he also understands the principles on which it rests, since they were laid down in a circular, which was issued by the imperial government to its delegates in the provinces, under date of the 1st of August, 1861.

Conforming to the rules generally admitted among civilized nations, the imperial government in that circular prescribes the practical mode of rendering effective the neutrality which it imposes on itself.

Without at present confirming or denying the acts as set forth by Mr. Webb, and without entering into an appreciation of the observations with which he accompanies the narration of them, what I can at once most positively declare to him is, that the government of his Majesty the Emperor is firmly resolved to maintain, and to cause to be respected, the neutrality, in the terms in which it has declared it assumed it, and what is important to declare, that it is not disposed to allow this neutrality to be violated in any [Page 1275] way, by those interested in the contest, and still less by the delegates of the government itself.

Of the sincerity of this declaration Mr. Webb has an indisputable proof, in my note of the 7th instant, relative to the steamer Alabama, of the Confederate States, as in it I voluntarily hastened to bring to the knowledge of Mr. Webb not only the official communications which the imperial government has received in regard to the acts committed at Pernambuco by that steamer, but also the resolution adopted by the government to approve entirely of the proceedings on that occasion of the president referred to, and to resort to the necessary measures to repress the abuses of the captain of the Alabama, and cause the neutrality of the empire to be religiously observed.

Therefore, Mr. Webb, certain as he must be of the intentions of the imperial government, and of all the respect which this government pays to his word, will assuredly not be surprised that, before coming to a final decision on the important acts which form the subject of the note with which I am now occupied, the imperial government should hear what their delegates in the provinces have to relate, and should strive scrupulously to verify their exactness.

By the French packet which leaves this port on the 25th instant, the imperial government sends the most positive and conclusive orders to the presidents of Bahia and Pernambuco, that, without loss of time, they will circumstantially report in regard to each of the acts alleged in the note of Mr. Webb, of which he gives to them full information.

And, as soon as the reports referred to shall arrive, Mr. Webb may rely that the imperial government will not hesitate to put forth its hand to the means necessary to render effective the neutrality which it imposes on itself, provided it has been violated, and to leave beyond all doubt the fairness of its proceeding.

Flattering myself that this brief answer will tranquilize Mr. Webb, I profit by the occasion to renew to him the assurances of my high consideration.


Mr. James Watson Webb, &c., &c., &c.