Mr. John Slidell to Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, minister of foreign affairs.

[329] *Sir: On the 17th February last the Confederate States war-steamer Rappahannock having completed her repairs at the port of Calais and taken on board a supply of coal, her commander notified the authorities of the port of his wish to proceed to sea, when he was informed that instructions had been given by his excellency the minister of marine not to permit the departure of the vessel. On the 26th February, the undersigned had the honor to address your excellency on the subject of this detention, and to demonstrate conclusively, as he thought, that no just cause existed for the detention of the Rappahannock; no answer having been made to this letter, the undersigned, on the 14th March, again addressed your excellency, and requested to be informed of the reasons of the detention. This letter also remaining unanswered, the undersigned advised the commander of the Rappahannock to give notice of his intention to strike his flag, withdraw his crew, and abandon his vessel to the proper authorities of the port. This step was accordingly taken by the commander, who, on the 16th, informed in writing the commissary of marine at Calais of his intention to abandon his vessel on the 15th of May. In the mean while the undersigned was verbally informed that the question of the Rappahannock had been referred for examination and report, by your excellency, to a commission of jurisconsults, and having reason to expect a prompt and definite solution of the question, advised the commander of the vessel not to carry out the intended abandonment.

[330] More than month has now elapsed since the reference to the commission [Page 50] of jurisconsults, and the prospect of a definite solution of the question seems to be as remote as ever. The undersigned considering a longer acquiescence in the detention of the Rappahannock, without even the allegation of a cause for her detention, incompatible with the respect due to the flag of the government that he has the honor to represent, intends to renew the advice heretofore given to her commander to strike his flag and abandon his vessel. He ventures to express the hope that your excellency will favor him with a reply to this letter, in order that he may be able to communicate to his government the reasons which have induced your excellency to pursue a course so little in accordance, not only with the good will towards the Confederate States which was supposed to animate the government of the Emperor, but, as the undersigned thinks, in opposition to its proclaimed neutrality. The undersigned prays your excellency to receive the assurance of the great respect with which he has the honor to be your excellency’s most obedient servant,


His Excellency Mr. Druyn de Lhuys,
Minister of Foreign Affairs.