Mr. Perry to Mr. Seward.

No. 3.]

Sir: On the 12th instant I received from our consul at Teneriffe two communications, dated September 26th and October 1st, which came by the same mail steamer, and covered various documents relating to the dismissal from that port of the American whaling vessels Albert Clarence, Mattapoisett, and Minnesota. It will be borne in mind that, by the Spanish sanitary system, only two full quarantine stations are established—one at Vigo, on the Atlantic coast, and another at Mahon, in the Mediterranean.

Thus vessels proceeding from ports declared foul by Spain, although they bear clean bills of health are immediately dismissed from all other Spanish ports to the lazaretto of Vigo or Mahon.

The three vessels above mentioned were but the forerunners of a much larger fleet of whalers, accustomed to touch at the Canaries at this season to leave their oil, refresh their crews, and lay in provisions for their winter’s cruise. The merits of their case will be found succinctly stated in the memorandum sent by me to the Spanish minister of state, to which I beg leave to refer you.

On receiving the consul’s letters I immediately took the papers to the state department; and finding the minister engaged in cabinet council, saw and explained verbally to the sub-secretary of state and to the chief of the commercial bureau the condition of things at Teneriffe, translating verbally the [Page 536] documents and urging upon them the necessity of prompt action. I then returned and addressed to the minister, in Spanish, the official note and memorandum, of which I enclose copies translated. Yesterday was Sunday; nevertheless I found means to again see the sub-secretary of state and two of the chief officers of the department of state on this business. Not finding the minister, however, I addressed him the official request for an interview, of which I enclose a copy.

To-day, Monday, I have been early into the office of the bureau of public health, and found that an officer from the state department, Count Nava de Tajo, had already been sent in person to request the immediate action of that bureau on the statement contained in the memorandum I had furnished. I had, therefore, the satisfaction to see the orders prepared to be transmitted by telegraph to Cadiz immediately, to go out by the mail steamer which starts tomorrow, it being already too late to reach her by post from Madrid.

The result is satisfactory. I have addressed a telegram to our consul at Teneriffe announcing it, which, translated, you will find enclosed.

I have as yet received no official answer to my note, nor will it be likely to reach me before the departure of the mail which takes this despatch.

With sentiments of the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


Sir: I have the honor to enclose herewith a memorandum of what has happened at Teneriffe relative to varions whaling ships of the United States, and to call your excellency’s attention to the special manner in which the recent sanitary dispositions of her Majesty’s government have been interpreted in that island, applying an order, based on the supposed sanitary condition of America in August, 1867, to vessels which left those countries in May and November of the year previous and have not since returned.

Without exaggerating the importance of the traffic which the provisioning of this numerous whaling fleet brings to the Canary islands, forming a great part of their commerce at this season, and which, once turned aside by the measures, no doubt unpremeditated, of which they complain this year, can hardly be expected to return in coming years, I would beg your excellency to notice the circumstance that the mail steamer which leaves Cadiz on the 15th of this month will be perhaps the last which can carry to Teneriffe, in time to arrive opportunely, the resolution her Majesty’s government may think proper to dictate.

The consul, whose information serves as a basis for this communication, says that the whaling vessels, which usually resort to the Canary islands at this season to refresh their crews and lay in their provisions for the coming winter, will have all passed by before the 15th of the next month of November.

Thus your excellency will not fail to be impressed with the urgency of some resolution in the matter. And I avail myself of this occasion to renew to your excellency the assurance of my most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency the Minister of State of her Catholic Majesty.


On the 11th September last orders were received by the local government of the island of Teneriffe, (Canary islands,) declaring foul all the ports of the American continent, and subjecting to vigorous quarantine all vessels proceeding from them.

On the 16th September, arrived at Teneriffe the whaling schooner Albert Clarence, which left the State of Massachusetts, in the United States, on the 18th day of last February, and, after being occupied seven months in the whale fishery, made this port in search of a surgeon to set the leg of a man whose leg had been fractured by a fall. She was immediately dismissed from the port without receiving the succor she asked.

[Page 537]

On the 18th September, arrived the whaling hark Mattapoisett, which left the United States on the 13th day of November, 1866, and, after being engaged nearly a year in the fishery to which she is destined, came into these islands, as is usual, to refresh her crew, purchase fresh provisions, and prepare for the cruise of the approaching winter.

On the 21st September, arrived also the whaling bark Minnesota, which left the United States on the 29th May, 1866, or, in other words, a year and three months before the publication of the sanitary order which declares those ports foul and subjects vessels proceeding thence to quarantine. Nevertheless, ail these vessels were dismissed from Teneriffe under that order.

The consul of the United States in those islands made to the governor of the same such observations as he thought the case required, and it is presumed that the latter has consulted the Queen’s government at Madrid, for the consul claimed that a date should be fixed on after which the bill of health issued at those ports should be considered foul, but which should exempt from this measure vessels that left the United States months, and even a year, previous to the circumstances which were the motive for that order.

The decision is urgent, because the whaling fleet of the United States, which seeks these islands at this season of the year, to prepare for the fishery of the approaching winter, will have all passed by before the 15th of November; and if the desired amendment of this sanitary order should not leave in the mail steamer from Cadiz on the 15th of October, there will be no other mail to the islands in time to prevent the dismissal of almost all of these vessels. And it is to be feared that this numerous fleet, being thus dismissed this year, will not return, the Canary islands thus losing what is for them an important and lucrative trade.


Telegram sent to Cadiz October 14 to be transmitted by the mail steamer of October 15 from Cadiz to the Canary islands.

To the Consul of the United States at Teneriffe:

The quarantine question is arranged. Orders go out to admit to free pratique all vessels which had left the United States previous to the 1st of July.

HORATIO J. PERRY, Chargé d’ Affaires.