Mr. Seward to Mr. McMahon.

No. 7.]

Sir: I transmit a copy of the orders which have been issued by the Secretary of the Navy to Rear-Admiral C. H. Davis, commanding the South Atlantic squadron, occasioned by recent events in Paraguay, in connection with your predecessor and other citizens of the United States. The department has not yet received from Mr. Washburn detailed reports upon the subject. No doubt, however, you will by personal intercourse with him, and from other sources, have obtained such a knowledge of the facts as will enable you to proceed judiciously in co-operation with Admiral Davis for the purpose of vindicating the honor of this government and the rights of any citizens of the United States in Paraguay who may not be able to obtain redress through the ordinary channels. You will notice that Mr. Welles expresses confidence in your discretion. This opinion the department trusts will be justified by the firmness and wisdom of your course under the difficult circumstances which will surround you upon your entrance on your mission.

After the foregoing part of this paper was prepared, your dispatch of the 26th of October, No. 6, from Rio Janeiro, was received. Your purpose therein mentioned of proceeding with Bear-Admiral Davis up the Paraguay River to Villeta is approved. You will forbear from presenting your credentials to the President of Paraguay until a satisfactory solution of the grievances which are the subject of my several instructions shall have been obtained, and you will in every case be governed by these instructions. This will not prevent you from opening and conducting in your official character as United States minister resident to Paraguay any correspondence which shall become necessary with the President of that republic, or with any other proper party in that country. All correspondence will thus be conducted by yourself, but it will be desirable that Bear-Admiral Davis should join you in the same.

This paper is necessarily hurried in order to avail myself of the mail steamer of the 23d.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


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

Mr. Welles to Mr. Seward..

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herein a copy of my instructions to Rear-Admiral Davis, of the South Atlantic squadron, prepared in conformity with the request contained in your letter of the 17th instant, and the advice given by you to the President.

It has been my practice to give as specific instructions as possible to our naval officers, and to impose upon them no greater responsibilities than the occasion demands. In all cases approaching this in magnitude and importance, they have been enjoined to act in conjunction with the minister representing our country at the government in question.

I see by the last arrival that General McMahon, our lately appointed minister to Paraguay, who left the country several weeks since on his mission, has arrived at Rio, and who, it seems to me, should at least be consulted in this matter.

I have great confidence in the judgment and ability of Rear-Admiral Davis; but shouldhe not be relieved of some degree of responsibility which belongs appropriately andpeculiarly to General McMahon, by consulting with and receiving the advice of thatvery capable gentleman, who is intrusted with that service, and is the selected representative of this government to Paraguay?

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I deem it my duty, moreover, to add in this connection that while instructions can be given without difficulty to Rear-Admiral Davis, he may find it difficult, and perhaps impossible, to execute them with his present limited command.

Asuncion is nine hundred and thirty miles from Montevideo, up rivers which are tortuous and filled with sand-bars, subject to heavy rises and great depressions, which render their navigation difficult.

Rear-Admiral Davis has no vessels adapted to river service, and not exceeding four of the smallest could, under the most favorable circumstances, reach Paraguay. He is without troops or supplies, and Lopez by the last accounts had fallen back from the river, and is wholly inaccessible to naval vessels. The demand for redress, if it cannot be enforced, ought not, it seems to me, to be made. To make the attempt and fail would be worse than if the attempt had not been made.

On a former occasion, when a demonstration was made against Paraguay, a naval force of light-draught vessels was sent out, and coal, provisions, and supplies were forwarded to Montevideo, Rosario, and Corrientes. The expedition was at that time duly prepared and cost the government several millions of dollars. As this subject seems to be intrusted to the naval officer on that station, instead of the minister, who is the selected representative, I would respectfully state that it will be necessary that Rear-Admiral Davis should be largely re-enforced, and that the Navy Department be furnished with authority and means to enable that officer, in the last resort, to carry into effect the instructions which have been sent him in pursuance of your communication, and of the advice given by you to the President.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

Mr. Welles to Admiral Davis.

Sir: I have received from the Secretary of State a letter in relation to a controversy which has arisen between Charles H. Washburn, esq., late minister to Paraguay, and President Lopez.

In his communication the Secretary of State informs this department that—

“Mr. Washburn’s dispatch conclusively shows that the situation of all foreigners, including United States citizens, at Asuncion, is greatly imperilled, and that, especially, Porter C. Bliss and George F. Masterman, United States citizens, lately in some way connected with the United States legation, have suffered personal violence, and have perhaps been murdered.”

Mr. Seward further informs the department that Mr. Webb has had an interview with you, but is unable to inform the Secretary of State whether you would assume the responsibility of complying with a request which he (Mr. Webb) had made to you to send an adequate naval force to Asuncion to protect American interests, without special instructions from the State Department.

It has not been usual for the naval officers to receive instructions from that department, and I apprehend there has been some mistake in this instance; but Mr. Seward writes me that “the situation thus presented seems to me so critical that I have thought it my duty to advise the President that the rear-admiral should be instructed to proceed with an adequate force at once to Paraguay and take such measures as may be found necessary to prevent violence to the lives and property of American citizens there, and, in the exercise of a sound discretion, to demand and obtain prompt redress for any extreme insult or violence that may have been arbitrarily committed against the flag of the United States or their citizens.”

I have nothing to add to the foregoing extract, further than to direct that, on the receipt of this dispatch, you will proceed to act in conformity with the views and suggestions of the honorable Secretary of State in his advice to the President. Should you, in the discretion therein given, come to the conclusion to proceed or send to Paraguay to make the demand indicated, I regret that you have not more suitable and better vessels to enforce it, and supplies more ample than you possess.

Very respectfully,

GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of the Navy.

Rear-Admiral Charles Henry Davis, Commanding South Atlantic Squadron.