Mr. Bartlett to Mr. Seward.
Sir: The subject of Norwegian Finmark is, with the Swedish government, one of continual anxiety and jealous watchfulness. Their great neighbor, Russia, who has wrenched from them Finland, now only awaits the color of an excuse, as their fears argue, to grasp that belt of land lying north of Russian Lapmark, and extending west to the open sea. This acquisition of territory would give to Russia large accessible harbors, free from ice the whole year, on the northwest coast of Norway. The nomadic tribes of Russian Laps, in considerable numbers, cross the border every spring with their reindeer herds to seek the better feeding grounds of Norwegian Finmark. The fishermen also sail to the Norwegian fiords and pursue their calling by the side of the Norwegians. This has been so long permitted by the government of Norway, that it is not surprising that it should now be demanded as a right. Last year, however, they attempted to put some restrictions upon the encroachments of the Laps, both on sea and land, which, I believe, were not very successful, but led to many collisions between the stranger tribes and the natives. At that time the Swedish papers pursued the subject with a bitterness of hatred towards Russia, which seems to have been augmented rather than diminished by the lapse of time since their loss of Finland. I believe it is the general impression among the Swedes that Russian agents are constantly on the ground stimulating the tribes to further aggression, and reporting to their government the need of protection.
You will observe by this statement that anything bearing upon this question in the remotest degree is eagerly seized upon by the press and argued into an approaching reality of their long-nourished fears.[Page 102]
The subject has been recently again brought before the public by the press, and it appears that I am one of the innocent causes. During the months of June and July I made the voyage to the head of the Gulf of Bothnia, and thence by land to Över Törnea, for the purpose of seeing the midnight sun from the mountain Aversaxsa. On my return I left the steamer at one of the northern ports, and traveled inland through Sweden back to Stockholm. The Swedish journals professed themselves at first flattered by my desire to see so much of the country that all Swedes love with an ardor I have never seen equaled outside my own. But, a few weeks ago they had, it appears, discovered the real object of my journey. I had, it seems, advised my government that in order to make the alliance between the United States and Russia more effective in case of war, it was absolutely necessary that Russia should have the ports on the northwest coast of Norway. (Inclosure No. 1, translation from the Aftonbladet, Stockholm, August 18, 1868.) Later, one of the journals of the interior, I was told, made the discovery that the Emperor of all the Russias did not cede the open ports of Russian America to the United States without having in return a bond securing to him their assistance to get ice-free ports on the Norwegian coasts.
I at first paid no attention to these attacks; but after considering with how much jealousy not only the government, but all the people, viewed this subject in whatever form it might be presented to them, I decided to call the attention of Count Wachtmuster, the minister of state and foreign affairs, to the articles mentioned, and assured him that so far as they concerned myself, they were the ridiculous inventions of sensation writers, and that I at first thought I would give them no attention; but upon considering how many people whom I would daily meet might believe them, to the detriment of my government and of my influence here, I had decided to call his attention to the subject, and leave him to deal with it in the manner he should consider most proper towards my government. His excellency, who had never believed, in the truth of the articles, said he would officially deny them in the official paper of the following day. I inclose (No. 2) the translation of the denial in the Post Och Inrikes Tidningar, Stockholm, August 24, 1868. I also inclose (No. 3) a translation of an article which appeared in the Aftonbladet September 15, 1868, which is in every way corroborative of the fact that even tourists, of whatever nationality, may be subject to such attacks in connection with Norwegian Finmark. The Prussian officer alluded to in inclosure No. 3 is General Schweinitz.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.