Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward.
Sir: It is proper for me to inform the department that a number of American merchant ships which arrived here recently with cargoes of grain and flour are unable to procure either return freights to the United States or charters for foreign ports, owing to the fears excited by the depredations of the cruiser Alabama.
Instances have been brought to my knowledge where salt even was refused to these ships for ballast, when their commanders offered to transport it without cost. This fact serves to illustrate how our commerce has already suffered, and why it must continue to suffer, unless efficient measures are adopted to remove the cause of this serious wrong.[Page 1297]
I confess to no small degree of mortification that, while these outrages have been perpetrated before the world, even the insufficient means at our disposal on this side of the Atlantic should not have been effectively and promptly employed. In the absence of steamers which were required for this description of service, one of the best provided and fleetest ships of the United States navy, the Constellation, is cruising in the Mediterranean, where her presence is not now, and has not been, needed at all, when she might have been of very great value elsewhere.
Having seasonably forewarned the proper department through my despatches that these depredations were to be apprehended, that the naval force in Europe imperatively required organization to be efficient, and that at least one additional armed ship of speed was necessary to protect our menaced interests, I have witnessed the developments since then with increased chagrin and regret.
An immense cost must be incurred in the pursuit of the Alabama, after the infliction of these serious injuries, which, in all probability, might have been saved by timely precaution, besides extending protection to innocent commerce which has suffered so severely.
I permit myself now at least to hope that some heed will be given to suggestions relating to the naval force in Europe, which painful experience has shown were not ventured lightly or without sufficient reason.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.