Mr. Dayton to Mr. Seward

No. 402.]

Sir: Mr. Adams has enclosed to me copies of papers from England in reference to the Rappahannock, alluded to in your despatch No. 454, and these papers I have generally, not always, promptly submitted to the minister of foreign affairs, by whom they were at once referred to the minister of marine.

These papers are principally affidavits, of which I presume you have copies, forwarded from London. One or perhaps two of these affidavits I have not thought important; I have felt, moreover, that if we continued to put in papers merely cumulative, this government might at length say, as the British government did in the case of the Alabama, that our case was not made out until the last affidavit was filed. A copy of the ship’s register sent from England, showing that the Victor yet stands registered in the name of a private subject of Great Britain, I have not used here, and for the simple reason that, if it proved anything, it was against us, being evidence that the vessel in question belonged to an English subject, and was not a confederate ship. Yet our whole claim for interference upon the part of this government was predicated upon the allegation that she was what she claimed to be, a confederate vessel. I should add, too, that this government acts more on the report of its own port officials than on affidavits or loose papers from other sources. They do not, as on the other side of the channel, try a question of international law as on some municipal statute, or like a case in the quarter sessions.

It is evident that this government mean to admit the equipment of the Rappahannock at Calais as a commercial ship, while they will take, as they assure us, the utmost care that no armament or ammunition of any kind shall be put on board of her; or, in other words, that she shall not be in condition upon leaving that port to take the offensive against us. My despatch No. 400, with the papers accompanying it, however, explain their view on this subject very clearly. The vessels lately undergoing repairs in French ports (the Georgia and Florida) are yet in port, and the Kearsarge watching them. I enclose to you, herewith, the copy of a letter written to the captain of the Kearsarge, which will explain itself.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


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

[Page 22]

Mr. Dayton to Captain Winslow

Dear Sir: I have been advised from London that some seventy men have recently been sent from England to France, and, as it is believed, for Brest. I presume that you have already learned that the crew of this vessel has been filled up in whole or in part, but I think it best to advise you of the above fact. The journals are stating that the captain of the Florida has given you notice that early in next month he will fight you off the French coast. I do not attach much importance to these newspaper statements, but should anything of the kind be in contemplation, and you need additional men, do not permit anything heretofore written to you to interfere with your enlisting them if they can be had. The Georgia and Florida will probably join forces. The Rappahannock, now at Calais, will not be permitted to take arms or ammunition aboard before she sails. I have the express assurance of the government for that.

What is the force of your vessel as compared with the aggregate force of the Florida and Georgia? Have you received any such notice from the Florida as intimated; and if so, do you consider it a serious offer?

Respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain Winslow, United States Ship Kearsarge.