Mr. Wood to Mr. Seward
Sir: Since my last despatch I have had several interviews with the acting minister for foreign affairs, Mr. Quaade, (Mr. Blumhe being ill,) and the director general of the ministry, Mr. Vedel. The affair of the Staerkodder, the iron-plated ram to which I referred in my last, is undergoing an investigation, and I have an assurance that the whole matter will be placed in my hands. From these interviews with the minister and the director general, I learn that the Staerkodder never belonged to the Danish government. Some time last winter or last spring they made a contract with one Arman, of Bordeaux, to build an iron-plated ram, carrying three heavy Armstrong guns, but as she did not fulfil the contract, she was rejected. Not withstanding, this she was sent to Copenhagen under the French flag, without guns; the guns following subsequently in an English ship. The ram, after arriving here, was again inspected and again rejected. In the mean time, or on her first arrival, she discharged her French crew. After lying here from the first of November until some [Page 168] time in January, either the agent of Annan, De Riviere, or Mr. Puger, a Danish merchant to whom she was consigned, applied for liberty to ship a crew, and permission to take her back to Bordeaux, under the Danish flag, inasmuch as she could not be taken back under the French flag, as two-thirds or three-fourths of the crew were not French; the French law, it was alledged, requiring it. This permission was conceded, and the Staerkodder, with a crew of forty-five Danes and Swedes or less, set out for Bordeaux, with De Riviere, the agent of Arman on board, and under the command of a Danish merchant captain. After passing into the Cattegat, for some cause or other, perhaps an alleged storm, she returned to Elsinore, and landed De Riviere. She again put to sea, but was compelled to put into Norway and coal, De Riviere having furnished the money. From thence she proceeded to the coast of Holland and took on board De Riviere and another man, and proceeded to Quiberon or Nantes, and, when anchored in French waters, De Riviere informed the Danish captain that he had sold the ship and he need go no further. The Danish captain and crew, (with, perhaps, the exception of two or three, said to be engineers or firemen,) left the ship, taking the Danish flag with them.
I should state that the Armstrong guns were placed in the hold of the Staerkodder when she left here. I must confess that the whole matter looks very much like a French trick on the part of Arman and his agent De Riviere, in which, perhaps, Puger had a hand, and in which the Danish government were the unsuspecting dupes. I have written Mr. Bigelow, our chargé d’affaires at Paris, but fear, from the state of the mails, the Baltic being closed, that he has not received my letter. We have communicated by telegraph.
I remain your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.