Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Having received, during the fortnight ending July 6, several communications from the United States consul at Puerto Cabello, both of an official and private character, in which were described the terrible state of affairs existing there, that the life and property of foreigners were in daily peril, and that there was an immediate necessity of a United States war vessel to protect our interests at that place, (as you have without doubt heard,) I wrote to the naval officer in command at Santa Cruz, informing him of these facts, and requesting that a man-of-war should be immediately sent to Puerto Cabello. I also mentioned to him the fact that the so-called Bruzual government had declared a blockade of La Guayra and the coast, which, even if legal, I had no idea they would be able legally to enforce. My information and opinions as to both of these matters were in accordance with those of all the foreign representatives and foreign merchants in Caracas, La Guayra, and Puerto Cabello. During the last days of June I had serious thoughts of sending a special messenger, in a vessel chartered for the purpose, to Santa Cruz and Saint Thomas for a war vessel, but as the cost of such a step would have been at least six hundred dollars in United States gold coin, I determined to wait a little longer for the regular packet of July 7, from La Guayra to Saint Thomas.
This packet the government ordered detained for twenty-four hours, until the evening of the 8th, and the special messenger to whom I had intrusted the mail of the legation, including the dispatch to the commanding naval officer at Santa Cruz, was in readiness to embark at that time. It so happened, however, that through some accident or neglect the government order was not obeyed, and the vessel sailed on the evening of the 7th; consequently the legation mail was left behind.
Reflecting on the serious state of affairs in this country, and also bearing in mind the fact that I had already delayed some ten days or more in sending for a war vessel, I determined that it was my duty, particularly as the state of affairs was becoming daily worse, to send at any expense or trouble for a war vessel. The case being so urgent I decided to go in person, everything being quiet in Caracas. I gave the legation in the hands of a confidential friend, an American gentleman of high character. I was not obliged to charter a special vessel, having, after some difficulty, made an arrangement to go to Saint Thomas in a small vessel of about forty tons, together with an agent of this government, who had business there of a pressing nature.
This was much less expensive than taking a special vessel. I left Caracas on the 9th instant, and La Guayra on the 10th. The vessel was of the most miserable and uncomfortable description, very slow and very dirty. She had a bad leak, and the pumps had to be worked very frequently. We arrived at Saint Thomas at six o’clock on the evening of the 14th, having suffered every inconvenience on the voyage.
I immediately saw the acting consul, Mr. E. B. Simmons, of the house of G. W. Smith & Co., who told me that there were no vessels of the United States navy either at Saint Thomas or Santa Cruz, and that the only places to which information could be speedily conveyed, where he thought any of our men-of-war might be found, were Jamaica and Aspinwall. I accordingly wrote dispatches to the United States consuls at both of those localities, conveying information as to the state of affairs in this [Page 953] country, and asking them to request the nearest officer commanding any United States war vessel to proceed hither immediately. These dispatches went on the 15th instant by the English mail steamer.
I left Saint Thomas on the 16th in the regular mail packet, and arrived at La Guayra late on the evening of the 18th. On the 19th I returned to Caracas and resumed charge of the legation, finding all in order.
I was absent from my post exactly ten days.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.