No. 489.
Mr. Pile to Mr. Fish.

No. 60.]

Sir: Since my No. 50, referring to the steamer Virginias, that vesse has remained at Puerto Cabello. The parties owing the bottomry bond for $13,000 instituted legal proceedings to collect the money before the courts at Puerto Cabello.

In pursuance of these proceedings, and without any apparent opposition on the part of those who profess to represent the owners, the steamer was sold August 10, at public sale, to one Mr. Bailey for $18,000.

Suddenly the representatives of Patterson & Co. professed to have received instructions not to allow the vessel to go to sale. Mr. Bailey [Page 1170] was induced not to pay the purchase-money, or at least he did not pay it; and the captain of the vessel claimed the right to retain the American flag and character of the vessel.

In this complicated state of things, the United States consul at Puerto Cabello applied to me for advice and instruction.

I advised him that we could not interfere in any way with the legal proceedings in the Venezuelan courts, except to protest in case of “notorims” or “manifest” injustice to American interest; that we must be governed by the decision of the local authorities as to the sale. If they formally and officially declared the sale void, that would leave the vessel precisely as it was before the proceedings were consummated by sale, viz: an American vessel under “bottomry bond,” with proceedings against her to collect amount of said bond. August 19, the court of first instance at Puerto Cabello formally declared the sale null and void, sending copy of decree so declaring to the consul. Since then a compromise has been made with holders of this “bottomry bond,” and an extension of six months’ time secured. The costs have been paid, all proceedings against the vessel dismissed, and the holders of the bond have tiled with the consul their written consent for the departure of the vessel from that port.

There has been an air of mystery and indications of “tinkering” about all these proceedings, and, in fact, about all the doings of the Virginius and her people, that is very unpleasant, not to say suspicious; ut as I can learn nothing certainly establishing fraud or bad faith, I see no alternative but to recognize the apparent facts, and treat the vessel as any other American vessel, except in the matter of exercising more than ordinary care in dispatching her. I have so advised the United States consul at that port.

I am to-day informed that the Virginius has received coal from Curacoa and will sail in two or three days.

A Spanish man-of-war is watching the vessel, and may capture or sink her. If so, the facts will be promptly reported to the Department.

I am, &c.,