Mr. Seward to Mr. Webb.

No. 233.]

Sir: Your dispatch of the 7th day of July, No. 68, has been received.

I learn from it that Rear-Admiral Davis, who commands the United States South Atlantic squadron, has sent the United States ship of war Wasp up the Parana, with a view to bring the United States minister, Charles A. Washburn, and his family, from Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, and thereby remove them from their embarrassing and possibly dangerous situation; and that the Marquis de Caxias, the commander of the allied forces, refused to permit the Wasp to pass through his blockade up to Asuncion, in consequence of which refusal the Wasp returned to Montevideo, after a delay of forty-seven days, without having accomplished the object of her voyage. Your dispatch is accompanied by a copy of a note which, on the first of July last, you addressed to his excellency Joáo Silveira de Souza, the secretary of state for foreign affairs of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, in which note you made complaint of this proceeding of the Marquis de Caxias, and requested that the same might be disapproved, and that the Wasp might, without delay, be allowed to proceed to Asuncion for the purpose of removing Mr. Washburn and his family. I find in an appendix to these papers a correspondence concerning the events which were the basis of your note to the Brazilian secretary, in which correspondence are contained letters from Rear-Admiral Davis, Commander Kirkland, of the Wasp, Charles A. Washburn, esq., United States minister in Paraguay, and the Marquis de Caxias. I have also received from Mr. Moran, late United States chargé de affaires in London, a cable telegram, from which it would appear that you have intimated a purpose to ask for a passport in case the Brazilian government should refuse to allow the request contained in your note before mentioned, I further find a reference to this latter point in your dispatch of the 8th of July, No. 69, which has been previously acknowledged. From this last paper I learn that at the time it was written no answer to your note had been received from the Brazilian secretary of state for foreign affairs, and that, in the event of an unfavorable reply, you contemplated making a request for a passport, and an immediate withdrawal from Brazil.

The grave and critical issue which it thus appears was pending at the date of your dispatch has probably before this time reached a solution, although many days may elapse before that conclusion shall become officially known to this government. It would be impossible, under these circumstances, to give you definite instructions upon the course to be pursued in the possible event of a sanction of the proceeding of the Marquis de Caxias by the Brazilian government; nor am I now authorized, nor is it deemed necessary, with such unauthentic information as we have, to pronounce the sense of the government concerning your [Page 299] contemplated demand for a passport and the consequent close of your mission at Rio.

It is thought, however, to be neither improper nor premature to consider the several matters in regard to the Wasp which are expressly brought in review by your dispatch.

The proceedings of Rear-Admiral Davis in directing the Wasp to go up the Parana to Asuncion for the purpose mentioned is approved.

This government holds that it has a lawful right to send a ship of war up the Parana to Asuncion, for the purpose of receiving the Uuited States minister and his family, and conveying them from the scene of siege and war to neutral territory or waters; that the refusal of Marquis de Caxias to permit the Wasp to pass up to Asuncion violates becoming comity on the part of Brazil and the allies towards the United States, and is in contravention of the law of nations; that Mr. Washburn and Commander Kirkland justifiably and properly declined the alternatives offered by the Marquis de Caxias. The requests upon the Brazilian government, expressed in your note to the secretary of foreign affairs, are approved and adopted.

Should this dispatch find you in the performance of your official duties, you will read it to the Brazilian secretary for foreign affairs, and deliver him a copy if he shall desire it.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


James Watson Webb., Esq., &c., &c., &c.