Mr. Seward to Mr. McMahon.

No. 3.]

Sir: When, on the 18th day of August last, you were on the eve of your departure for Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, as minister resident of the United States to that republic, this department, by direction of the President, requested you to remain in the United States until you should receive farther instructions. The occasion of that direction was that Bear-Admiral Davis, who commands the United States South Atlantic squadron, had just then reported that he had sent the United States ship of war Wasp up the Parana for the purpose of bringing away your predecessor, Mr. Charles A. Washburn, and his family, from Asuncion, thereby removing them from an embarrassing and possibly dangerous situation. Rear-Admiral Davis had further reported that the Marquis de Caxias, who commands the allied forces, had refused to permit the Wasp to pass through his blockade up to Asuncion, in consequence of which refusal the Wasp, after a long delay, had returned to Montevideo without having accomplished the object of her voyage. The admiral having brought this transaction to the knowledge of Mr. Webb, the United States minister at Rio, that minister had made it the subject of a representation to the government of Brazil, in which he demanded that the proceedings of the Marquis de Caxias might be disapproved, and that the Wasp might be allowed to proceed without delay to Asuncion, for the purpose of removing Mr. Washburn and his family from that place. Mr. Webb, at the same time, gave intimations to this department that, if the demands he had thus made upon the Brazilian government should be denied, he should, in that case, ask for a passport, and immediately withdraw from Brazil. The Brazilian government was still holding the demands of Mr. Webb under consideration at the time when your intended departure was arrested by this department.

It was then supposed that the opposition which the Brazilian commander of the allied forces made to the use of the United States ship of war for the removal of Mr. Washburn from Asuncion, if persisted in, would equally embarrass your journey to Asuncion. It was necessary, in any case, to wait for the answer of the Brazilian government to Mr. Webb’s demands, before the President could properly determine what measures should be adopted, either to bring your predecessor away from Asuncion, or to secure you a safe and speedy passage to that capital. What the government did determine, at that time, on the subject was communicated to Mr. Webb. This government thought it neither improper nor premature to consider the transaction of the hinderance of the Wasp, which had been brought by Mr. Webb to its notice. The proceeding of Bear-Admiral Davis in sending the Wasp up to Asuncion for the purpose of bringing Mr. Washburn away was approved; and this government held that it has a perfect right to send a ship of war up the Parana to Asuncion for the purpose of receiving a United States minister and his family, and conveying them from scenes of siege and war to neutral territory or waters; that the refusal of the marquis to permit the Wasp to pass up the Parana violated becoming comity on the part of Brazil and the allies towards the United States, and was in contravention to the laws of nations; that Mr. Washburn and Commander Kirkland properly declined the alternatives which had been offered by the Marquis de Gaxias, and the requests which Mr. Webb [Page 669] had made to the Brazilian government in regard to the whole transaction were approved and adopted.

On the 22d of August last a voluminous dispatch was received from Mr. Webb, which bears the date of the 22d of July last, and which was accompanied by a copy of a further correspondence which had taken place between himself and the Brazilian minister for foreign affairs. This correspondence, however, had not reached a definitive conclusion, and the demands which Mr. Webb had made still remained without a definite reply on the part of the Brazilian government, so that on the 22d of July last Mr. Webb’s demands still remained under the consideration of the Brazilian government. Important events are unofficially known to have occurred on the Parana since that date. The fortress of Humaita has been evacuated by the Paraguayan forces, and the allies have advanced somewhat further up the river, in the direction of Asuncion.

It is not improbable that the military considerations which may have influenced the Marquis de Caxias to refuse permission to the Wasp to pass through the blockade may now have ceased. It is deemed not improbable that Mr. Washburn and family may have already descended the river.

To-day I received from Mr. Webb a dispatch, which bears date August 7, and which came from London by cable, in which dispatch he says that the Brazilian ministry has yielded to his request, and that the Wasp goes to Asuncion.

The information thus received is deemed sufficient to warrant your proceeding at once by the next United States steamer to the seat of your legation. You will, however, stop at Rio long enough to communicate with Mr. Webb, and also at Montevideo and Buenos Ayres to communicate with the consulate and legation at those places, and to ascertain whether the military obstructions to your voyage up the river, which were heretofore apprehended, have been removed. It is very desirable to avoid the trouble and expense of sending a ship of war up the Parana merely for the purpose of conveying you to your post. You will therefore proceed by such other conveyance as shall offer itself, if it be reasonably safe and feasible. If no such conveyance shall offer, you will then confer with Rear-Admiral Davis in regard to the most suitable way of reaching the capital of Paraguay. You will be expected to show this instruction to Mr. Webb and to Mr. Worthington, and to the rear-admiral. In so doing you will take care to say that I have altogether refrained from discussing in this paper the diplomatic question, which has been raised at Bio, concerning the hinderance of the Wasp on the previous occasion.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Martin T. McMahon, Esq., &c., &c., &c.