Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Third Session of the Fortieth Congress
Mr. Webb to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a communication from Rear-Admiral Charles H. Davis, commanding the United States South Atlantic squadron, in which he advises me that the United States steamer Wasp, sent by him to Asuncion to bring from there our minister, Mr. Charles A, Washburn, and family, and thereby remove them from their “embarassing and possibly dangerous situation,” has been prevented passing the [Page 274]lines of the allies by the Marquis de Caxias, the Brazilian commander of the allied forces.
You will perceive from the correspondence accompanying Admiral Davis’s communication, that the United States steamer Wasp arrived at Curupaiti, the headquarters of the allies, on the 25th of April, and remained there until the 11th of June, forty-seven days, when her commander was compelled to return to Montevideo without accomplishing the object of his visit, in consequence of the persevering refusal of the Marquis de Caxias to permit the steamer Wasp to pass up to Asuncion, although he was very willing to send a Brazilian iron-clad up the river under a flag of truce and the protection of the stars and stripes, to spy out the state of affairs in Paraguay. Nay, he was quite willing that on the return of the iron-clad she should, similarly protected, pass Humaita and land Mr. Washburn and family below that fortress, which iron-clad, it is said, cannot repass that stronghold!
The admiral’s report of what has occurred on the Paraguay was placed in my hands on the 1st day of July, and on the 2d, at 2 p. m., my private secretary and clerk of this legation placed in the hands of the minister of foreign affairs the official note of which inclosure B is a copy.
I assume that your opinions, as expressed in dispatches 170, 171, 174, and 180, and the instructions therein in regard to Mr. Washburn’s detention in going to his mission—there being no other mode of reaching it than by the Paraguay River—are equally binding upon me in regard to his return, when, at your request, a national vessel has been sent for him in the well-grounded conviction that “the settlement of this annoying question” in 1886 was a finality. The offense at that time perpetrated against the “sovereignty and honor of the United States” might be palliated on the plea of ignorance, but not so now; and consequently its repetition by the Marquis de Caxias, and the circumstances under which it has taken place, are doubly offensive, and doubtless are intended so to be. Such, at all events, is public opinion here; and as the fact of the Wasp’s return was officially known to this government and communicated to the press eight days before the admiral made his communication to me, and as up to this time it has not leaked out that I have moved in the matter, the triumph of Brazil is considered complete.
You will perceive by my note to the minister of foreign affairs that I assume the Marquis de Caxias has acted without authority, and that his conduct will be apologized for and disapproved; and, thereupon, I demand his censure in the language you used in instructing me to make a similar demand in reference to the conduct of the President of Maranham, and consequently I urge the immediate issue, of instructions to permit one of our national vessels to proceed to Asuncion without delay or hindrance from the allied forces at Curupaiti.
* * * * * *
I have recently asked for a furlough, and considering the state of my health and that of my family, there are those who, if I demanded my passport, would ascribe my doing so to my desire to return to the United States, even at the sacrifice of the peace of the country. To avoid this imputation, therefore, and at the same time be within reach of instructions from you, I shall, if compelled to demand my passport, repair to Buenos Ayres. * * * * *
Besides the mail line of steamers to Brazil, England has two commercial or freight lines to Rio. One of these, from Buenos Ayres, will touch here about the 12th instant. By that time the intentions of this government will have been communicated to me, and I shall of course [Page 275]write to our legation in London the necessary telegram, to be transmitted to you by the Atlantic cable.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Webb to Senhor Silveira de Souza.
The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from the United States, begs leave to inform his excellency Joáo Silveira de Souza, councillor to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor, minister and secretary of state for foreign affairs, that he has this day received a communication from Rear-Admiral Charles H. Davis, commanding the United States South Atlantic squadron, informing him that the United States steamer Wasp, sent by him to Asuncion for the purpose of bringing from that city the United States minister, Charles A. Washburn, and family, has been prevented by the commander of the allied forces from going to Asuncion, as her commanding officer was ordered to do, in the performance of a duty to which he was assigned, by command of Admiral Davis, in obedience to instructions from the Secretary of the Navy, based upon an application from the Hon. William H. Seward, the Secretary of State of the United States; and, in consequence of such grave denial of the rights of the United States, the commander of the steamer Wasp, after making repeated applications to pass the lines of the allies engaged in a war against the government of Paraguay, has returned to Montevideo, and reported to the commanding officer of the United States South Atlantic squadron that he has been prevented from executing the duty upon which he was detached by the peremptory refusal of the commander-in-chief of the allied forces, the Marquis de Caxias, to permit him to pass his lines on the Paraguay.
This very extraordinary and most unjustifiable proceeding on the part of Marquis de Caxias, “commander-in-chief of all the Brazilian forces, and, in the interim, of the allied armies,” as he signs himself, is in open defiance of the rights of the United States, and, in view of what transpired between the undersigned and the government of his Imperial Majesty in August, 1886, is an outrage against “the sovereignty and honor of the United States” which calls for prompt and severe censure of the offender.
When, in 1861, the President of Maranhao outraged the feelings of a friendly nation by admitting the pirate Sumter within his port, and furnished her with the necessary coals and provisions wherewith to continue her depredations upon the unarmed and unprotected commerce of the United States, and when the then minister of foreign affairs justified that act of the President of Maranhao, the Secretary of State of the United States said “the proceedings of the President of Maranhao, and the approval of his conduct by the minister of foreign affairs, is intolerable,” and the undersigned was directed to “ask that such measures shall be taken in regard to the case as will make the President of Maranhao sensible of his Majesty’s displeasure.”
The proceedings of the Marquis de Caxias against the “sovereignty and honor of the United States” is far more offensive than was the conduct of the President of Maranhao, because he well knew that in 1866 the United States had formally advised Brazil that she would permit no such violation of her sovereign rights, and that Brazil had thereupon reconsidered and reversed her offensive action. He has therefore acted with full knowledge that he was grossly offending the sovereignty and honor of the United States, and setting at defiance its remonstrances and the recognition of those remonstrances by Brazil.
Rear-Admiral Davis, in his official note to the undersigned, says: “Acting under instructions from the Secretary of the Navy, I recently sent the United States steamer Wasp, of my squadron, to the seat of war, for the purpose of taking Mr. Washburn and family out of Paraguay, in compliance with a request from the Secretary of State to relieve Mr. Washburn from his embarrassing and probably dangerous situation.” This humane purpose on the part of the government of Washington has, your excellency well knows, been thwarted by the representative of Brazil on the Paraguay, he well knowing at the time that he was outraging the “sovereignty and honor of the United States,” and setting at defiance the explicit understanding at which the United States and Brazil had arrived in 1866.
The undersigned therefore feels it his duty to ask such censure of the Marquis de Caxias as, in the name of his government, he demanded when the President of Maranhao offensively placed the piratical vessel of parties in rebellion against the United [Page 276]States on a footing of equality with the national ships of the friendly nation against which they were in rebellion.
That Brazil will promptly and most emphatically repudiate the extraordinary and very unfriendly conduct of the Marquis de Caxias, the undersigned does not for a moment doubt; and as his indefensible interference has already caused a delay of at least four months in relieving the United States minister and his family from what his government consider an “embarrassing” and possibly “dangerous situation,” the undersigned earnestly entreats that the government of Brazil will, without any unnecessary delay, issue instructions that all hindrance to the United States steamer Wasp passing through the lines of the allies be withdrawn, and promptly advise the undersigned that such hindrance has altogether ceased, in order that he may inform the commanding officer of the United States South Atlantic squadron that there will be no further interference by any representative of Brazil with the performance of his duty to humanity and to his government.
The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to his excellency the assurance of his respect and high consideration.
His Excellency Joào Silveira de Souza, Councillor to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor, Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
Admiral Davis to Mr. Webb.
Dear Sir: Acting under instructions from the Secretary of the Navy, I recently sent the United States steamer Wasp, of my squadron, to the seat of war for the purpose of taking Mr. Washburn out of Paraguay, in compliance with a request from the Secretary of State to relieve Mr. Washburn from his embarrassing and probably dangerous situation. The commander-in-chief, Marquis de Caxias, declines to allow the Wasp to go up to Paraguay, and while he professes a desire to facilitate Mr. Washburn’s departure, he proposes such methods of accomplishing it as are regarded by Mr. Washburn either as impracticable or illusory. It would be very gratifying to me, as a means of carrying out the wishes of the department, and very acceptable to Mr. Washburn, whose desire to leave Paraguay shows itself plainly in his letters, if you would procure an order from the government here to the commander-in-chief to allow the Wasp to go up the Paraguay to a convenient point of embarcation.
President Lopez offers no obstacles to Mr. Washburn’s departure, but, on the contrary, promises to aid it.
The inclosed copies of a correspondence with Mr. Washburn and the Marquis de Caxias will make you acquainted with the relations of the parties, and will save my writing a long letter.
Very respectfully and truly, your friend and obedient servant,
His Excellency J. Watson Webb, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States in Brazil, Boa Viagem.
Mr. Washburn to Commander Kirkland.
Sir: Your two letters of April 26 were received by me in Asuncion on the 7th instant. In your official note you advise me of the arrival of the Wasp, under your command, at Curupaiti, and that you are in readiness to take me, my family, and effects on board, and convey me to such point on the Rio de la Plata as I may prefer. You are probably aware that all land communication between this point and Curupaiti is very difficult, and that it would be impossible or nearly so for my wife, child, and servants to reach the latter place except by way of the river. You are also aware that for military reasons the Paraguay steamers do not go so far down the river. In order therefore that my family may be put on board the Wasp it is necessary that it should come higher up the river. I have therefore come down to this place to consult with his excellency Marshal Lopez, and ascertain if the military situation were such that the Wasp could without risk or difficulty come up the river to near this place. His excellency advises [Page 277]me that there will be no objection made on the part of Paraguay, and that the steamer can come without inconvenience to such point below the mouth of the Tebicuary as may be signaled on her arrival. At such point the transfer of all persons and effects from a Paraguay vessel may be easily made.
His excellency not only interposes no objections, to the coming up of the Wasp, but with great kindness and courtesy he has offered me letters to the commanders of the two fortified places on the river between here and Curupaiti, in which he has given orders that on your arrival at those places you will be allowed to pass without molestation. These letters I inclose to you herewith to be delivered by you accordingly as they are addressed. His excellency President Lopez has also offered kindly to provide a pilot for the steamer from Humaita to and above Timba, should it be found necessary. I think therefore you will have no difficulty in coming up to near this place.
With your letter of the 26th April I also received one, dated April 4, from Mr. Hollister, United States consul in Buenos Ayres. In this he advises me that a few days before he had delivered to the honorable Mr. Borges, Brazilian minister in Buenos Ayres, a package of correspondence, including dispatches from Washington, from Admiral Davis, and from Minister Webb, besides private letters, and that he had promised to forward them with a letter to the Marquis de Caxias, requesting him to pass them through the military lines. The consul also advised me that he had been presented with a bill against me for some provisions that had been sent some months before, and that he would notify you of the fact, that you may look for them and take them on board if you found them, and bring them up the river to me. But neither the dispatches nor the provisions have ever reached me, and you make no mention of having looked for them in your letters. It is very important that I receive everything intended for me before the Wasp returns, and I trust you will try and find all that may have been sent, and bring it with you.
I return immediately to Asuncion to have everything ready on being notified of your arrival near this place. There being constant telegraphic communication between here and the capital, you will probably be detained but a short time before all would be ready for your departure. The point on the river where you will probably come to anchor is off a place called Tacuaras, where there is a guard-house and some soldiers stationed. It is but a short distance below the Tebicuari.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commander William A. Kirkland, Commanding U. S. Steamer Wasp, off Curupaiti.
Mr. Washburn to Lieutenant Commander Kirkland.
Sir: Since writing my letter of yesterday President Lopez has given me some further information in regard to the navigation of the river above Humaita. His officers at all points will be advised beforehand of your coming, and when a little below Humaita you can communicate with the comandante, and deliver to him the order of President Lopez, and he will furnish you with a pilot to take you above Humaita, when you can put him ashore and move on towards Timba. As you approach you will do well to bear a little to the left, though keeping a good distance from the shore. Here you can communicate with the officer in command as at Humaita, and there pass on until you get near the mouth of the Bemajo. At this point it will be necessary to make a particular signal that the guard there may know that it is not an enemy, and that it is the same they have been advised of beforehand, and been ordered not to molest. The signals that the guards will be instructed to look for will be as follows: Astern the American flag as usual, at the fore the Paraguay flag, and an American flag at each of the other two masts: thus having up three American and one Paraguay flags. Another precaution, that probably will not be necessary, will be, in case there should be any signs after passing the Bemajo that the orders given by President Lopez have not been fully understood, to dip the two forward flags, the Paraguayan and the one at the mizzenmast. It is not apprehended, however, that this will be necessary, as orders will be sent to all points describing the steamer and giving the signals. But no special signals from the steamer until you get near the mouth of the Bamajo will be required.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commander William A. Kirkland, Commanding U. S. Steamer Wasp, off Curupaiti.[Page 278]
Lieutenant Commander Kirkland to the Marquis de Caxias.
Sir: I have this day received a communication from his excellency Charles A. Washburn, minister resident of the United States at Asuncion, Paraguay, in which he says as follows:
“You are probably aware that all land communication between San Fernando (the headquarters of the army of Paraguay) and Curupaiti is very difficult, and that it would be impossible, or nearly so, for my wife, child, and servants, to reach the latter place, except by way of the river. You are also aware that, for military reasons, the Paraguay steamers do not go so far down the river. In order, therefore, that my family may be put on board the Wasp, it is necessary that it should come higher up the river, and his excellency Marshal Lopez advises me that there will be no objection on the part of Paraguay, and that the steamer can come to such point below the mouth of the Tebicuari as may be signalized on her arrival; at such point the transfer from a Paraguayan vessel may be easily made.”
Under the above specified circumstances, therefore, I have the honor to request that your excellency will allow the United States steamer Wasp to pass through the allied fleet anchored below and above Humaita, in order that the said vessel may proceed to Tucuara, below the mouth of the river Tebicuari, for the purpose of embarking his excellency Mr. Washburn, with his family and private effects.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
His Excellency Marquis de Caxias, Marshal and Commander-in-chief of the Allied Army in operation against the Government of Paraguay.
The Marquis de Caxias to Lieutenant Commander Kirkland,
Illustrious Sir: I acknowledge the receipt of the note dated the 22d instant, directed to me by Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland, of the United States steamer Wasp, which reached me yesterday at 7 o’clock p. m.
Lieutenant W. A. Kirkland asks my permission for the steamer under his command to pass the Brazilian squadron, the division lying below Humaita, and that which forced its passage above, and to continue on up as far as Tucuara, below the mouth of the river Tebicuari, in order to receive on board Mr. Washburn with his family and baggage. Commander William A. Kirkland bases his request on the reasons given him by the above-mentioned Minister Washburn, which may be reduced to the following:
1st. The great difficulty which exists at present in the land communication between San Fernando (the headquarters of the army of Paraguay) and Curupaiti, which renders it impossible, or almost so, for his excellency, his family and servants, to arrive at the last-named place, except by water transportation.
2d. That since for military reasons the Paraguayan steamers do not descend the river so far, Minister Washburn infers that in order for himself and family to leave Paraguay, it is necessary that the United States steamer should go to some point below the mouth of the Tebicuari, signaling its arrival there; that Marshal Lopez advises him that there would be no opposition to all this on the part of Paraguay; and that, finally, at the point above mentioned, it would be easy to transfer to the North American steamer Minister Washburn and family, servants, and baggage, arriving there in a Paraguay vessel.
In reply, I will commence by expressing to Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland the great regret I feel at not being able to comply with his request, in which I am governed by considerations of the first importance and of manifest propriety.
Those military reasons of which his excellency Minister Washburn speaks as preventing the Paraguayan steamer from coming so far down the river, and which indeed hardly admit that they should go to the point indicated below the mouth of the river Tebicuary, are the same that govern me and place me in the disagreeable position of not being able to accede to the wishes of his excellency Minister Washburn and of Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland.[Page 279]
Operations and movements of war which shortly have to be carried into effect near the place indicated as the destination of the North American steamer render it less suitable and convenient for the proposed object of the worthy commander, whom on this occasion I ought to inform that a few days since a Paraguayan steamer, the Pirabete, I judge, in despite of these military reasons, arrived at Pilar, where she was seen and watched, and where she fired several cannon shots on shore.
What I have here briefly stated to Lieutenant Commander Kirkland does not mean that I intend to obstruct, in the least, the departure of his excellency Minister Washburn and his family from Paraguay.
If I cannot accede to the means proposed, I will point out another method which will produce the same result, uniting all the advantages prescribed by the laws of nations and of war for the observance of belligerents and neutrals. Let his excellency Mr. Washburn embark his family, servants, and baggage, as soon as may be convenient to him, in a Paraguayan steamer, which, with a flag of truce, can come down the river as far as Pilar or as Tagy. His excellency will find at either of these points all the vehicles of transportation which may be necessary to carry his family and baggage by land as far as Curupaiti, for which I will give immediate orders, satisfied that his excellency Minister Washburn will make a comfortable journey until he embarks on board the steamer Wasp at Curupaiti.
You herein see, Lieutenant Commander Kirkland, the good will and earnest desire that prompt me to aid his excellency Mr. Washburn in leaving Paraguay and in going wherever he wishes.
The reply of Lieutenant Commander Kirkland will guide me in taking the measures and the orders that may be necessary.
I cannot omit improving this opportunity of tendering to Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland the assurances of my high consideration and perfect esteem.
Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland, Commanding North American Steamer Wasp.
Lieutenant Commander Kirkland to Mr. Washburn.
Sir: Your communications of the 14th and 15th instant were received by me on the 21st instant. On the 22d I wrote to the Marquis de Caxias, and asked permission to pass through his fleet, in order to reach Tacuara, below the mouth of the river Tebicuary, for the purpose of embarking yourself, family, &c. On the 23d, (this afternoon,) I received his answer, which was partly as follows:
“In reply, I must express to Lieutenant Commander William A. Kirkland the great regret I feel in not being able to comply with his request, being forced to this by considerations of great importance, and moreover it would be very improper to do so. The military reasons given by Mr. Washburn why the Paraguay vessels could not descend so low, and why they might not be permitted to go to a certain point below the mouth of the Tebicuary, are agreed to by me, and put me in the unpleasant position of being obliged to deny the request of Minister Washburn and Lieutenant Commander William A. Kirkland, whom I must now inform that, a few days ago, a Paraguayan vessel, (the Pirabete, I think,) contrary to all supposition, came down as far as Pilar, where it was seen and watched, and whence several cannon shots were fired towards the shore.”
The marquis then goes on to say, if Mr. Washburn will embark in a Paraguayan steamer and come down the river to Pilar or Tagy, with a flag of truce flying, that he will meet at either of these two points all the vehicles which may be necessary to transport his family and baggage to Curupaiti by land; and he concludes his letter by assuring me that he will give the necessary orders, and that you shall be well provided for. He even goes so far as to say that he is convinced you will have a comfortable voyage until, in Curupaiti, you embark on board the Wasp.
The admiral is in Rio, and has sent me no orders. Therefore, if you wish to, and can come, it will be advisable to accept M. de Caxias’s offer, otherwise a very long delay may occur. Let me know at once whether I shall expect you. Your letters, I understand, were returned to Mr. Hollister at Buenos Ayres. Your other articles I have heard nothing about; but it must be all right, as you have the bill.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
His Excellency Charles A. Washburn, Minister Resident of the United States at Asuncion, Paraguay.[Page 280]
Lieutenant Commander KirMand to the Marquis de Caxias.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 23d instant, in which you state that you cannot satisfy the request made in my communication to you of the 22d instant, which was to the effect that the United States steamer Wasp should be permitted by you to pass through the allied fleet, and as far up the Paraguay river as a point called Tacuara, below the mouth of the Tebicuary river, for the purpose of receiving on board the United States minister resident at Asuncion, his excellency Charles A. Washburn, with his family, servants, and baggage.
Your excellency, as I understand it, proposes that the American minister, Mr. Washburn, should come to Pilar or to Tagy in a Paraguayan steamer, with a flag of truce, and that at one of these points to be agreed upon, your excellency will cause to be provided such transportation as under the circumstances may be fitting and necessary to bring himself, family, and baggage to Curupaiti by land. As the mission here of this vessel is to embark the American minister, your refusal to permit the United States steamer Wasp to pass through the allied fleet and up to Tacuara for that purpose, leave me only one course to pursue. I shall, therefore, inform his excellency Mr. Washburn of your answer and your courteous offer, and shall await his reply.
In conclusion I have to request that you will cause to be forwarded at an early moment the accompanying letter to his excellency Mr. Washburn at Asuncion.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
His Excellency the Marquis De Caxias, Commander-in-chief of all the Brazilian forces, and, in the interim, of the allied army in operations against the government of Paraguay.
Marquis de Caxias to Lieut. Commander W. A. Kirkland, U. S. N.
S. Sa. Lieut. W. A. Kirkland, Commander of the North American Steamer Wasp:
I have to acknowledge the receipt of the note dated the 24th instant, sent me by Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland, commander of the North American steamer Wasp.
In reply, I communicate to you, to-day, that, as you will perceive by the accompanying copy of a report made to me by the Baron of Passage, commander of the advanced division of the Brazilian squadron, the note directed to Mr. Washburn, American minister at Asuncion, was delivered to-day to a Paraguayan officer appointed to receive it, at the enemy’s fort in front of Timba.
As soon as a reply comes to hand I shall hasten to transmit it to Lieutenant Commander W. A. Kirkland, to whom I reiterate the assurance of my consideration and esteem.
Baron of Passage to Marquis de Caxias.
Illmo. Exmo. Sr.: In execution of your excellency’s order of yesterday, inclosing a letter from Commander Kirkland, commanding the North American gunboat Wasp, to the American minister, residing in Asuncion, which order reached this division at 4.30 p. m., I set out immediately in the monitor Para; but arriving at night at the camp in [Page 281]front of the island Guayacaru, I returned in the monitor, and this morning I went in the Tamandaré to the enemy’s fort fronting Timba, near which I delivered the letter in question to a Paraguayan officer who came in a boat to receive it.
God keep your excellency.
His Excellency Marquis de Caxias, Commander-in-chief, &c., &c.
Mr. Washburn to Lieutenant Commander Kirkland.
Sir: Your interesting letter, bearing date of the 23d instant, has been received. In it you advise me that you had asked permission of the Marquis de Caxias to pass through the allied squadron, which request had not been acceded to, but that he had promised that if myself and family would go down the river in a Paraguay steamer as far as Pilar or Tagy, he would provide all the vehicles necessary to transport us to Curupaiti. In answer to this proposition of his excellency the marquis, I have only this to say, that the state of Mrs. Washburn’s health is such that it is quite out of the question for her to think of making the proposed journey by land. Besides this, I consider that the Marquis de Caxias has no right whatever to prevent the passage of the Wasp above the squadron. I had supposed that all questions of that sort were settled by the case of the Shamokin. It is true that the Brazilian government on that occasion said it would protest, but when our government was informed of this, the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, wrote to our minister at Rio, Mr. Webb, that he “would not even consent to argue the question.” Since the passage of the Shamokin, the French, English, and Italian gunboats have all been allowed to pass above the squadron, and, so far as I know, without any protest or other objection being made. By what authority of law or justice do they deny to the United States rights and immunities that are freely granted to other nations?
The proposition of the marquis, that if we are so disposed we may go by land, is similar to that which was made to me by the Paraguayan government, in the case of the Brazilian minister, Senhor Vianna de Lima, after the taking of the Marquis de Olinda and the suspension of his diplomatic relations. When I interfered in his behalf, I was told he could go by land. But I rejected the proposition as absurd, and my conduct in that matter was highly approved by the Brazilian government and press, while that of Paraguay was universally condemned by both. Does the Marquis de Caxias expect me to accept terms for myself and family that I would not accept for a Brazilian minister? Will you please call his attention to this, if you have the opportunity?
You inform me that the admiral is in Rio, and that he has sent you no orders. Probably he did not anticipate that the allies would renew their discourtesy and unlawful proceedings towards the United States after the lesson they received at the time of my coming to Paraguay. He could not suppose that after the question of right had been established, and the allies had repeatedly conceded it by allowing the war vessels of other nations to pass unquestioned, that the Marquis de Caxias would have the assurance to deny to the Wasp the same right. In my opinion, your legal rights to pass were so clear and well established, that you were under no obligations to ask his permission, but only, as a matter of courtesy, to notify him of your arrival, and that in fulfillment of your instructions you would find it necessary to pass above his squadron. Of course, not knowing what your instructions were from the admiral, I therefore am not competent to give a definite opinion. But if they were similar to those of Captain Crosby when he came up with the Shamokin, you would have been justified in taking that course. And if you had no instructions at all, it would have been the same, as since the passage of the Shamokin the Brazilians have repeatedly recognized the right of neutral gunboats to pass the blockade. Under all the circumstances, therefore, unless you have positive orders to the contrary, my opinion is that on receipt of this you should advise the Marquis de Caxias that, for the reasons I have given, his proposition that we should go by land from Pilar or Tagy to Curupaiti cannot be accepted, and that therefore you will be under the necessity to pass through the squadron. Should he reply that he will not permit it, but will stop you by force, I should nevertheless start, and if he fires across your bows, then I should come to and fall back below the squadron and wait further orders. But do not on any account leave the river, or go below Corrientes, till so ordered. After having vindicated our rights a year and a half ago so effectively, let us not abandon them and have the whole work to do over again. It is a national question, and your position is one of great responsibility; and the government, I am satisfied, will sustain you in a firm and determined [Page 282]course. So far as I may and can do it, I take all responsibility of the course which I have recommended. If, after all, you should fail to pass the blockade, will you please advise the admiral of our situation here: that the family of the United States minister resident in Asuncion are, by the act of the Marquis de Caxias, virtually detained as prisoners in Paraguay. I say the family, for, of course, were I alone, I could go through the Chaco, or by any route through which there is military communication, and my departure would depend on emergencies or on instructions received from the State Department, as it must finally in any case.
You inform me that my correspondence referred to in my letter of the 14th ultimo has been returned to Consul Hollister. That is certainly a very strange proceeding, and looks like a trick so that I should not get it. You might, however, I would suppose, have sent us a few newspapers, or clippings from newspapers, to inform us of what is transpiring in a world from which we have heard nothing for the last seven months. If, however, you do not come up, you will probably write me again very soon. In that case do try and send us some news. Very likely the dispatches returned to Mr. Hollister will have come back by that time, with others additional. Also try and learn something of the provisions, and bring or send all and everything of mine that you can, Our necessities are very great.
Your obedient servant,
Lieut. Com. William A. Kirkland, Commanding United States Steamer Wasp.
Commander Kirkland to the Marquis de Caxias.
Sir: I yesterday received a communication from his excellency Charles A. Washburn, minister resident of the United States at Asuncion, Paraguay, extracts from which I herewith submit for your excellency’s consideration.
His excellency Mr. Washburn writes as follows, viz:
“In answer to the proposition of his excellency the Marquis de Caxias, to furnish all necessary transportation by land from Pilar or Tagy to Curupaiti, I have only to say that the state of Mrs. Washburn’s health is such that it is quite out of the question for her to think of making the proposed journey by land. Besides this, I consider that the Marquis de Caxias has no right whatever to prevent the passage of the Wasp above the squadron. Since the passage of the Shamokin, the French, English, and Italian gunboats have all been allowed to pass above the fleet. By what authority of law or justice do they deny to the United States rights and immunities that are granted to other nations? In the case of the Brazilian minister to Paraguay, Senhor Vianna de Lima, after the taking of the Marquis de Olinda, when I interfered in his behalf, I was told he could go by land, but I rejected the proposition as absurd. Does the Marquis de Caxias expect me to accept terms for myself and family that I would not accept for a Brazilian minister? Since the passage of the Shamokin the Brazilians have repeatedly recognized the rights of neutral gunboats to pass the blockade, and if you should not be allowed to pass through the allied fleet, you will please advise the admiral of our situation here, that the family of the United States minister resident are, by the act of the Marquis de Caxias, virtually detained as prisoners in Paraguay.”
Having thus brought to your excellency’s notice the situation as set forth in Mr. Washburn’s letter, I shall await for twenty-four hours, or longer if necessary, any communication which you may wish to direct to me in reply.
And assuring your excellency of the continuance of my high esteem, I remain your obedient servant,
His Excellency the Marquis de Caxias, Marshal and Commander-in-chief of all the Brazilian forces, and in the interim of the allied armies in operation against the government of Paraguay.[Page 283]
The Marquis de Caxias to Commander Kirkland,.
I have the honor to submit the following reply to the note of this date, addressed to me by Mr. William A. Kirkland, commanding the American gunboat Wasp.
I have read with due attention the letter of his excellency Mr. Washburn to Lieutenant Commander Kirkland, a copy of which was transmitted in the note to which this is a reply, and it gives me pain to perceive that Mr. Washburn declines to accept the plan which I had the honor to propose to him for conveying from Paraguay his family, his servants, and his effects, with every convenience and perfect security.
Lieutenant Commander Kirkland will oblige me if he will have the goodness to communicate to Mr. Washburn my regret that among the reasons assigned for his rejection of my proposition is the ill health of Mrs. Washburn, for whose recovery I sincerely pray.
With regard to the conclusions drawn by Mr. Washburn from the passage of the United States steamer Shamokin, and of the French, English, and Italian gunboats, it appears to me that they furnish no grounds for the opinion expressed by Mr. Washburn, that it is the intention of the allied powers to deny to the United States that which they have conceded to other neutral nations.
In order that Mr. Washburn may agree with me, it will be sufficient for his excellency to recall the prevailing circumstances at the period to which he refers, of the actual state of the operations of war, and also the point to which these vessels were allowed to ascend, which was Curusir, beyond which they did not pass, and where they were always in sight of Brazilian men-of-war. Moreover, I did not then direct the operations of war.
The generous conduct of Mr. Washburn in behalf of the Brazilian minister, Vianna de Lima, in Paraguay, and his kind interposition, based upon the clearest and most definite provisions of the laws of nations, cannot be adduced by his excellency as a motive by which I am to regulate my conduct at the present juncture, and in the distinguished position which I occupy as commander-in-chief of the allied armies and director of the war. His excellency must remember that the existing circumstances at that time were very different from the present.
The capture of the steamer Marquis de Olinda, and of her passengers and cargo, and the violence attempted against the Brazilian minister in Asuncion, without any previous declaration of war, show the unscrupulousness of the Paraguayan government in violating, in order to injure Brazil, all the laws and principles unanimously accepted by refined and civilized nations.
Mr. Washburn himself must admit, in his own mind, that the act of reciprocity on my part, which, in recalling the past, he appears to expect, would lose this character and assume the proportions of the most flagrant dereliction of the duties imposed upon me by my position.
Happily, the ground of my action in the proposition which I made to his excellency, through Lieutenant Kirkland, is independent of the judgment or will of any individual, and recommends itself to the impartial discrimination of all who examine it.
His excellency Mr. Washburn must be aware that the allied forces on shore and afloat occupy at present, and operate in, all the territory which extends from Paso da Patria to Tebicuari, conflicts actually occuring in all the intermediate space, and showing that the operations of war are in the greatest activity. It is but a few days since some of the iron-clad steamers of the advance division ascended the river, and they ought to be now at Tebicuari, or past it, while at the same time a column of the army marched in the same direction. This proves undeniably all that I have before said, for it is a fact that they are in the territory of the belligerents, and not in that where Mr. Washburn is, who resides in the capital of one of the belligerents.
Were it not for the painful information which Mr. Washburn furnishes us of the unsatisfactory state of his wife’s health, malevolence might attribute to his excellency intentions, which I take pleasure in being the first to deny the possibility of his excellency entertaining.
My desire to fulfill the wish of Mr. Washburn to leave Paraguay with his family is so great and so sincere, and so far am I from concurring in the slightest degree in his excellency’s remaining with his family and his servants in this situation, which his excellency calls that of prisoners in Paraguay, that I am going to offer him the only means which occurs to me which is in my power, and which, with my best judgment, I place at his disposal.
I will give orders that one of the Brazilian vessels of war above Humaita shall go [Page 284]up the river with a flag of truce to receive his excellency, his family, his servants and effects, at the point on the river previously indicated by his excellency, and this steamer on its return shall disembark his excellency at the nearest possible point to Humaita, or pass that fortification with the consent of the government of Paraguay, so that his excellency may be able to move immediately from her to the United States gunboat Wasp.
Lieutenant Kirkland, to whom I renew the assurances of my esteem and consideration, will transmit this answer of mine to his excellency Mr. Washburn, with the well-founded hope on my part that his excellency will accept the arrangement I propose to him.
Lieut. Com. W. A. Kirkland, Commanding United States Steamer Wasp.
Commander Kirkland to the Marquis de Caxias.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of June 8, in which you say that you still offer to Mr. Washburn the only means that are within your attributes, and which you place at his disposal with the greatest cordiality. The means are, as I understand it, these: That your excellency will send one of the Brazilian war steamers which have passed Humaita, with a flag of truce, to receive his excellency Mr. Washburn, and family, at that point of the Paraguay river which Mr. Washburn shall previously indicate to you, and that this steamer shall land Mr. Washburn either at the nearest point possible to Humaita, or that it may pass that fortification, with the necessary concurrence of the government of Paraguay, and that his excellency Mr. Washburn can then pass on board the United States gunboat Wasp.
Your excellency undoubtedly gives me credit for a knowledge which I do not possess, of that usage of warfare which permits one of the belligerents, by the use of a flag of truce, to pass by the fortifications and into the heart of the enemy’s country without molestation. I know that the Paraguayan government would be guided by a very false sense of courtesy did it permit such an act by a Brazilian vessel of war.
His excellency Mr. Washburn, the United States minister, could not embark in a Brazilian vessel in the enemy’s lines without being fired into, and perhaps attacked in other ways, which event would at once create a difficulty between his own government and that of Paraguay, and I must therefore decline any such proposition as the one which your excellency now wishes me to forward to the representative of the United States.
Your excellency makes an allusion to intentions which you say malevolence might well attribute to the United States minister at Paraguay, but your excellency does not explain those intentions. A conversation, however, sought by one of the members of your staff, leads me to believe that your excellency thinks that the family of President Lopez might seek protection under the American flag, and that to prevent such an occurrence you will not allow the United States steamer Wasp to pass through your fleet. The fact of virtually detaining as prisoners the United States minister and family in Paraguay, in order to prevent the suspected escape of the feminine and infantine portion of President Lopez’s family, is so unreasonable that it savors strongly of extending the dangers and difficulties of war to women and children.
I have already pointed out to your excellency the reasons why I decline your proposition of the 8th instant, and I have only to add that my vessel was sent here to remove the United States minister and his family with the least delay. I am now no nearer the accomplishment of that end than on my arrival, owing to the unsatisfactory and temporizing nature of the correspondence which I have had to carry on. I shall, therefore, unless your excellency grants permission for the Wasp to pass the allied fleet, proceed to-morrow, the 10th instant, at 3 p. m., to lay before my government the actual state of affairs, in order that prompt and active measures may be taken for the removal of his excellency, the American minister, from Paraguay.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
His Excellency the Marquis de Caxias, Marshal and Commander-in-chief of all the Brazilian forces, and in the interim, of allied armies in operation against government of Paraguay.[Page 285]
Commander Kirkland to the Marquis, de Caxias.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a communication for his excellency the United States minister to Paraguay, in which I have stated to him your excellency’s proposition of the 8th instant, and also my reasons for declining such proposition.
I also forward to your excellency a box and a package for Mr. Washburn, from the United States, which I have not hitherto sent to him because I expected to receive him on board. As your excellency’s action has thwarted such expectation, I have the honor to request that you will cause to be forwarded to his excellency Mr. Washburn, at Asuncion, the accompanying letter, box, and package.
And assuring your excellency of the continuance of my high esteem, I am, your obedient servant,
His Excellency the Marquis be Caxias, Marshal and Commander-in-chief of all the Brazilian forces, and, in the interim, of allied armies in operation against government of Paraguay.
Lieutenant Commander Kirkland to Mr. Washburn.
Sir: Your note of June 3 was received on the 7th instant. On the 8th I wrote to the Marquis de Caxias, giving him all your opinion, and calling his attention to the delicate state of Mrs. Washburn’s health. On the 9th I received an answer, in which he says:
“The report of the delicate health of Mr. Washburn’s worthy spouse might arise from malevolent intentions, which I will not venture to attribute to his excellency.
“As Mr. Washburn expresses the desire to quit Paraguay with his family, and complains that he is kept a prisoner there, I freely offer him the only means in my power to escape from his unpleasant situation.
“I will order one of the Brazilian war vessels to pass Humaita with a flag of truce, and go up to receive Mr. Washburn, his servants and baggage and family, at any point he will indicate in Paraguay, and then return with them, passing Humaita, with the consent of the government of Paraguay, and place them on board the United States steamer Wasp.”
To which I replied:
“Your excellency undoubtedly gives me credit for a knowledge which I do not possess, of that usage of warfare which permits one of the belligerents, by the use of a flag of truce, to pass by the fortifications and into the heart of the enemy’s country without molestation. I know that the Paraguayan government would be guided by a very false sense of courtesy did it permit such an act by a Brazilian vessel of war. His excellency Mr. Washburn, the United States minister, could not embark in a Brazilian vessel in the enemy’s lines without being fired into, and perhaps attacked in other ways, which event would at once create a difficulty between his own government and that of Paraguay; and I must therefore decline any such proposition as the one which your excellency now wishes me to forward to the representative of the United States.
“Your excellency makes an allusion to intentions, which you say malevolence might well attribute to the United States minister to Paraguay, but your excellency does not explain those intentions. A conversation, however, sought by one of the members of your staff, leads me to believe that your excellency thinks that the family of President Lopez might seek protection under the American flag, and that to prevent such an occurrence you will not allow the United States steamer Wasp to pass through your fleet. The fact of virtually detaining as prisoners the American minister and his family in Paraguay, in order to prevent the suspected escape of the feminine and infantine portions of President Lopez’s, family, is so unreasonable that it savors strongly of extending the dangers and difficulties of war to women and children.”
The Marquis de Caxias wishes to temporize and gain time. Your suggestions about what I am to do cannot of course be attended to; I shall therefore leave this at 3 p. m. to-day, provided nothing happens to prevent; and if Caxias does not say “yes” to the passing up, I shall proceed as rapidly as possible to Buenos Ayres, where I hope to catch a steamer bound to Rio. It will give more force to the affair than if I remain quietly here, and the admiral can at once act up to the emergencies of the case.[Page 286]
I imagine Caxias cannot take Humaita, and therefore wishes to be removed from command for some other cause; and if our government takes up the matter as it should, the allies will have to “eat dirt” very soon.
I know nothing, of your correspondence, or of your provisions. I send to Caxias to forward to you a box of papers and books, and one package from Washington.
I should recommend adherence to your plan not to embark in a Brazilian vessel within Paraguayan lines, as I think this vessel will be sent back immediately, with orders to pass the allied fleet; and besides, they have no right to hoist a white flag inside of Lopez’s lines for the purpose of traversing almost the half of his territory.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
His Excellency C. A. Washburn, Minister Resident of the United States at Asuncion, Paraguay.