Mr. Seward to Mr. Clay

No. 278.]

Sir: I recur on this occasion to my dispatch No. 273, which related to alleged hostile demonstrations of a Russian armed vessel against a United States whaling vessel in the sea of Okhotsk. That communication was grounded upon mere rumor, which, furnished no details and was supported by no evidence. Prince Gortchacow, in his reply, answered substantially that the Russian government had no information of the alleged conflict, and had given no orders or directions under which any hostile demonstrations could have been made.

At last I have received details which, however, are very limited, and testimony which is very incomplete. This subsequent information is contained in a dispatch of Morgan L. Smith, esq., United States consul at Honolulu, which is accompanied by a deposition made by Manuel Enos, master of the American bark Java. In brief, Mr. Enos’s statement presents the following facts, namely: that on the 27th of July, while he was cruising for whales in Shantar bay, and standing towards Silas Richard’s bluff, a Russian armed vessel came towards him apparently under full steam, hoisted its flag, and threw open its ports. An officer from that Russian vessel went on board of the Java and ordered. Captain Enos immediately on board the Russian steamer. The Russian commander demanded to know the business of the United States vessel there. Captain Enos answered that his business was whaling, where-upon the Russian commander ordered Captain Enos to leave the bay within 24 hours, under a threat of taking Captain Enos with his vessel to Nicolawasky, or blowing him out of the water, as the Russian captain should think proper. Captain Enos replied that he had whaled in those bays for the last 17 years, and had never heard of any one being driven out, or of any purpose of excluding whalers. Captain Enos thereupon immediately left Shantar bay. Captain Enos further says that he afterwards learned from some of the crew of the American bark Endeavor, that they, knowing nothing of the trouble, went into the same place, Shantar bay, a few days afterwards, and that their boats were tired into by the same vessel before mentioned, and that they were commanded to leave the bays by threats to the same effect with those which had been made against Captain Enos. The consul transmitting this statement says that he has been unable to procure the name of either the Russian vessel or her commander; that he is informed by the master of the English bark Cobang, that some Finns, subjects of the Czar, have a whaling station there, keeping two schooners in the bay, and having their trying works on shore. If we were at liberty to assume these special statements to be true, and if we were not assured by the Russian government that the transactions complained of occurred not only without its knowledge, but without any authority, we should in that case have reason for profound concern.

[Page 468]

As the matter stands, with the possibility that similar armed hostile demonstrations may be made on the same quarter, there is reason to apprehend that discontent will arise and perhaps conflict may occur between citizens of the United States and the subjects of Russia in the Sea of Okhotsk. Nothing could be more inconvenient than such difficulties at the present moment, as I am well assured nothing could be more sincerely deprecated by the Russian government.

You will give a copy of this communication to Prince Gortchacow, and of its accompaniments, Consul Smith’s dispatch and Captain Enos’s deposition, and invite Prince Gortchacow to give his attention to the same at his reasonable convenience.

I am, sir. your obedient servant.


Cassius M. Clay, Esq., &c., &c., &c.