to Mr. Fish
Madrid, February 24, 1874. (Received March 27.)
Sir: I have the honor to forward herewith a copy and translation of a decree dated the 19th instant, and published in the “Gaceta” of the 20th, extending, until the 5th of March next, the time fixed for the enforcement of the decree of January 31, declaring the northern coast of Spain, from Cape de Penas to Fusnterrabia, in a state of blockade.
The proclamation of the blockade, as at first; promulgated, was met [Page 867] by energetic protests from the foreign powers whose Biscayan commerce would suffer interruption and hinderance by the sweeping measure proposed. These remonstrances acquired additional force in view of the grave international questions which might have arisen had the Peruvian blockade regulations of 1864 been applied in the present instance without modification, as seems to have been somewhat improvidently contemplated. The inconveniences likely to be entailed by such a course led to its essential modification, and fresh regulations were subsequently published for the guidance of the naval commander of the forces on the blockaded coast, and for the consular officers of Spain in foreign countries. Copies and translations of these, in the form of an order of the minister of marine, and of a communication from that officer to the minister of state, will be found appended hereto. These regulations, although changing to some extent the character of the proposed blockade and relieving it of the unqualified belligerent rights before assumed to exist, still failed to remove the weighty objections raised by foreign governments. Their representatives here pointed out the serious incongruities that remained. An extended line of coast was closed to commerce, while certain of its ports remained open under embarrassing restrictions. Ports not occupied by the Carlist insurgents, or even likely to be menaced by them, were blockaded. And the available naval force of Spain was inadequate to maintain an effective surveillance over two hundred miles of tempestuous coast, especially when the spring storms would constrain the blockading vessels to take frequent shelter in the widely separated harbors wherein safe anchorage could be found. The French government indeed gave official publication to the regulations of February 11, but under certain reservations.
Under these circumstances, the government of Marshal Serrano has determined to, at least partially, relinquish its contemplated purpose. As a preliminary step, the blockade is postponed until the 5th of March proximo, ostensibly for the purpose of giving time for an extended consideration of the whole subject with a view to adopting a definitive resolution which shall harmonize the many conflicting interests concerned. This is looked upon as merely a prelude to the final abandonment of the scheme.
I am, &c,