Mr. Washburn to Mr. Seward.
Sir: On the 14th of October last, in my dispatch No. 92, I had the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatches Nos. 68, 69, 70, 71, and to advise you of the condition of affairs in this country. Since then I have received nothing from the United States, as we are still cut off from all intercourse with the outer world. At the date of my last dispatch, No. 94, I did not suppose this war could last till this time, and then expressed a willingness to remain to the end, as I believed I might be of some service should the time for making peace ever arrive. But [Page 651] the aspect of affairs is so changed since then that I have considered that resolution. I see little reason why the war should not last another year. At least, the end has never appeared so remote to me as it does now. From what I can learn of affairs below everything is going badly with the allies. Several provinces of the Argentine Republic are said to be in revolution, and President Mitre has been obliged to resign his presidency and his post as commander-in-chief of the army on account of ill health, and has gone to Europe. Such at least are the reports here. Meanwhile I cannot learn that they are doing anything with their army or squadron calculated to bring affairs to a crisis. It seems as though it was their policy to starve out Paraguay; but they will find that a long process, and one to which I have no wish to be a victim. They appear afraid to make a general attack on the Paraguayan lines, and the Paraguayans have no idea of coming out of their entrenchments, so long as they can keep the way open for obtaining supplies. I have no reason to suppose they will not be able to do that for a long time, and therefore, with the policy now pursued on both sides, I see no light, no hope of peace for a long time. Even should the “triple alliance” be broken up, and Brazil be left alone to carry on the war, with her credit ruined and her home resources exhausted, I nevertheless believe that a large part of the squadron would remain in the river, and that Paraguay would still be effectually blockaded, perhaps as long as Montevideo once was, viz, nine years. I think that under such circumstances it would hardly be expected that I should remain here till the end of the war. I see no probability of my receiving anything from beyond the allied lines until some United States gunboat may come to fetch it. The English, French, and Italian governments have each recently sent a war vessel through the squadron to Curupaiti to communicate with this government, and I have no reason to suppose either of them will return for several months. The last that came (the Italian) left Buenos Ayres about the 10th of November, but it brought nothing for me, though there must have been an accumulation of two or three months’ mail matter for me in Buenos Ayres. I learned, however, with the most profound regret, that our minister there, Mr. Asboth, was so exceedingly ill that he could scarcely speak, much less attend to any business, and that his friends had small hopes of his recovery. He had previously been my entire dependence for receiving my dispatches or other correspondence, or any needed supplies, and I am well aware that in his state of health his efforts to alleviate the unpleasant position of myself and family have caused him great trouble and annoyance. It took him nearly four months to get through to me a small supply of stores that were indispensably necessary, and without which I could not have remained. I cannot expect him to be at as much trouble again, though I have advised him that the stock then sent would be exhausted before this time, as it actually is; but as the allies complained that it was preposterous that I should require so much, and detained everything for more than three months, I conclude that any other efforts to relieve me that he might make would be attended by similar discourtesies and embarrassments. The prices of almost everything here are such as are only known in times of siege. All these things could be endured were there any certainty, or even a probability, that they would come to an end within a few months. But as it is, the prospect of peace is so remote that I must again ask for my recall.
In your dispatch No. 66 you remark that the President desires that I should remain here, but say that if my resignation should be made absolute it would be accepted. From the preceding statement of the circumstances in which I am situated I think I shall appear justified in [Page 652] making my resignation thus absolute; but though it be absolute and unconditional, I trust with my recall may come a successor. I know that my presence as United States minister, and the only minister of a neutral power here, gives a great sense of security to many people, and especially to all foreigners. My departure before the arrival of a successor would also, I am persuaded, be regarded with great regret by this government. At the same time I think that at this crisis, when important political changes seem impending in this part of the world, this legation should be continued; but I do not want this to be taken as a condition of my resignation. On the contrary, I now ask my recall unconditionally, and with this make my resignation absolute.
I will add that whoever may be my successor, he will find it impossible to get here with the baggage and provisions necessary for a six months’ residence, unless a war vessel is sent purposely to bring him; but if no successor should come to take my place my letter of recall would probably not reach me for months unless special measures were taken to send it to me, and if it were received I could not, as circumstances now are, and very likely will be six months hence, leave the country with my family unless a national vessel were sent up the river and above the blockading squadron to take me away.
I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.