Mr. Vidal to Mr. Hunter.
Tripoli, (Barbary,) May 26, 1871. (Received July 19.)
Sir: I concluded my dispatch No. 10 with a promise to enter into a few details in regard to the visit of the frigate Guerriere to this port; but I had to examine, before writing this dispatch, a claim of $20 against that vessel, of which I will say something further below.
In regard to the Guerriere itself I must say that had I received beforehand reliable information about its coming I would not have neglected that opportunity to ascertain from the government of the regency whether in its relations with the United States it is ruled by our treaties with the successive Pashas of Tripoli, or by those we made with the Porte. All the consuls here pretend that in spite of the acknowledged suzeraineté of the Ottoman government over Tripolitania, all the treaties of their respective governments with the former bashaws are still in force; but, strange to say, not one of my colleagues has yet been able to make [Page 1139] out a case to test the value of those pretentions, the merit of which I cannot judge, for I cannot yet find out on what written document they rest. Now, it is said in article xiii of our treaty of 1805 with Tripoli:
“On a vessel-of-war, belonging to the United States of America, anchoring before the city of Tripoli, the consul is to inform the bashaw of her arrival, and she shall be saluted with twenty-one guns, which she is to return in the same quantity or number.”
But Captain Stevens, who probably never heard of that article, saluted the forts the moment the frigate cast anchor; and the latter returned the salute, and so I lost the opportunity to test the willingness of the Pasha to abide by our treaty of 1805.
It was an unfortunate circumstance that the Guerriere should come to us on Good Friday, when all the flags of my colleagues were at half-mast. In consequence the usual honor of hoisting the colors was not paid her, either on that day or the next. * * *
It is usual for the commanding officer of a war-vessel visiting an eastern port to acknowledge the courtesy done him and his vessel by the foreign consuls who have hoisted their flags by calling at the various consulates. But in this case, as no flags were hoisted, no visit could be expected by my colleagues. However, to my great surprise, the Italian consul-general, dining lately at my house, assured me that the captain and I had been guilty of a breach of international etiquette; that we ought to have acknowledged the politeness of the consuls even when no politeness had been done; and that on that account he for one would never more hoist his flag for an American war-vessel, whether it was on Good Friday or not. As I could not see the virtue of that logic, he added, in a friendly manner, that in order to prove to me that I was wrong he would write to his government, and he was sure I would be disapproved by our State Department. Now, I candidly want to know, for my future information, whether the commanding officers of our war-vessels visiting eastern ports have to acknowledge by a personal call to foreign consuls a politeness which, through good or bad reason, has not been done them.
A few hours after my visit on board the Guerriere, I addressed to the Pasha a letter requesting him to appoint an hour for the reception of the United States officers, and I soon received an answer, the style of which is so eminently literary that the letter was probably written by his excellency himself, for he is one of the most elegant Turkish writers of the age.
I have the honor to send you, herewith inclosed, copy of my letter, marked No. 1, and copy of the Pasha’s answer, with a free English translation, respectively marked 2 and 3.
In the evening of the same day I made arrangements with the director of foreign affairs to secure for our officers a reception of an extraordinary character. It is customary for the Pasha to receive official visits, either alone in his grand hall or in company with one or two of his household officers. But on this occasion, all the religious, military, and civil officers in Tripoli were ordered to be present in full uniform, and a military brass-band, with an array of about 500 soldiers, were on the wharf of the castle to receive us with all military honors when we landed from our boats. On the other hand, I had warned Captain Stevens that the reception would be exceptionally brilliant, and that for the good name of our country he and his officers should display as much gold lace as there would be to be seen in his excellency retinue. I am happy to say that in this, as in other more important cases, our country was not outdone by foreigners; and, on the next day, as I was sitting [Page 1140] at the upper end of the grand hall, on the right-hand side of the Pasha, smoking my latakié and sipping my moka, it was a matter of no little pride to compare the long line of elegant and proud-looking young officers of the Guerriere, on our right, with the two or three dozens of dignified, gold-laced Turkish high dignitaries sitting on our left.
After the presentation of all the officers on both sides to one party and the other, and the usual compliments, I renewed verbally my request to the Pasha for the authorization to take away the anchor of the Philadelphia. His excellency was pleased to say, with many eastern compliments, which I will not report, that he was but too happy to be offered that opportunity to show his good feelings toward the United States of America. Therefore, would he not only give the asked-for authorization, but it was a real pleasure to him to make our Government a present of the sum of eight thousand Turkish piastres which his officers had spent on various occasions to have that same anchor dug up and carried from place to place, to be finally left on the wharf where it was now lying.
In regard to that matter, let me here say that Captain Stevens engaged, for ten dollars, a man with his lighter, to transport the anchor from the wharf to the Guerriere. But, as the man pretended to have a previous claim of twenty dollars for carrying the same anchor, some two or three years ago, from one place to another, Captain Stevens did not pay anything, but requested me to investigate the claim and settle it as I saw fit. I have done so, and as nothing was produced to my satisfaction to corroborate the allegations of the man, I paid him ten dollars only, promised for the use of his lighter by the crew of the Guerriere. Will you be kind enough to tell me to what Department I have to present that little extra bill?
About one hour after we left the palace, his excellency and most of his officers went on board a Turkish man-of-war stationed in our port, and were conveyed to the Guerriere, where they were received in a semi-regal style. It is unnecessary to say that they visited every nook of the vessel, and were highly pleased with everything they saw.
* * * * * * *
When the Guerriere visited this port the Turks, of Tripoli at least, had come to think and speak of America a good deal more than was their wont, and to consider our friendship as more desirable than that of any other nation. Hoping that they will live on in those sentiments, and that that piece of information will be well received by you,
I am, &c.,