Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward

No. 379.]

Sir: I yesterday saw Mr. Drouyn de l’Huys for the first time within the last fortnight. His absence from Paris, and pressing engagements the week before, have prevented his receiving the diplomatic corps for business.

[Page 2]

I called his attention at once to the Florida at Brest, and to the repairs and recruitment of her crew, reading to him extracts from letters I had received on the subject. He begged I would give him a copy of these papers, and I have this morning sent the same to him. I send you herewith a copy of my communication to him, which will itself explain the condition of things here, both as respects the Florida and the vessels now being built at Bordeaux for the confederates.

I ought to add that he said that if any change or improvement in the batteries or fighting powers of the Florida had been made, it was against law and against orders. He said, furthermore, that he had himself personally informed Messrs. Arman & Yoruz, (the constructor and iron founder,) engaged on those vessels now being built at Bordeaux and Nantes, that the work thereon must cease, unless they could satisfy him that they were honestly intended for another government; and he added to me that he would at once refer their proceedings to the minister of marine.

We have obtained an elaborate opinion from——that all the parties engaged on those vessels, at Bordeaux and Nantes, are responsible to the criminal laws of France. We cannot proceed, however, against Mr. Arman personally, except by an application to and permission from the Corps Legislatif, of which body he is a member. I have already asked you what you thought of the propriety, or rather the wisdom, of this course of proceeding. I am very averse to initiate a ptoceeding at law unless quite sure of the result. If adverse, the consequences would be injurious.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.


Monsieur le Ministre: Herewith I enclose to your excellency the copy of an extract from a letter addressed to me by Mr. Davisson, United States consul at Marseilles, dated November 24, 1863, in reference to the construction of two of the vessels now being built for the confederates at that port. One of these vessels is advertised in the “Gironde,” of that city, to sail on the 28th of February, and the other on the 31st of March. The pretence that they are intended for the China seas is yet kept up in this advertisement, though the papers heretofore shown to your excellency (especially the letter of Mr. Arman) afford the clearest evidence that this pretence is a false one.

I enclose you, likewise, the copy of an extract of a letter from Captain Winslow, of the United States ship Kearsarge, in reference to the assistance and repairs made upon the confederate ship Florida, at Brest. To these two subjects I called the attention of your excellency on yesterday, when I likewise apprised you of the fact that they were recruiting a crew for that vessel in the ports of France, and that twenty-six men had already been enlisted in the ports of Havre and Nantes, prior to the 11th instant. They have not yet been received on board the Florida, though kept in pay by that vessel, and ready to be shipped when the complement is complete. The Florida is ready now to go to sea, and may do so at any day, unless prevented by the authority of this government.

I regret, likewise, to be under the necessity of enclosing to your excellency the copy of a letter received this morning from our consul at Calais. It would seem from this that another confederate steamer, the Rappahannock, has just arrived in that port, and is awaiting aid. The same protests which have been made in respect to the others, I beg to extend to her.

I am, sir, your very obedient servant,


His Excellency M. Drouyn de l’Huys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paris.