No. 553.
Mr. Adee to Mr. Fish

No. 180.]

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,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 180.]

Decree of February 19, 1874, extending the time for the enforcement of the blockade of the Biscay an coast to March 5, 1874.

[Translated from “La Gaceta de Madrid,” February 20, 1874.]


The decree of the 31st January ultimo, declaring in a state of blockade the coast of Cantabria comprised between Cape de Peñas and Fuenterrabia, as a necessary measure for the isolation and prevention of the introduction of outside aid for the Carlist insurgents now infesting several provinces in the north, has given occasion for the presentation of petitions from commerce, in good faith, both national and foreign, to the government, setting forth the prejudices which necessarily will accrue thereto from such a measure, by reason of the continued transactions and the large interests affected thereby in the greater portion of the ports of the above-mentioned coast.

The government of the republic, which, while giving heed in the first instance to putting down the insurrection, does not for a moment forget the importance of our industry nor the necessity of encouraging it and protecting, as it should, our mercantile [Page 868] transactions, has decided to take into consideration the representations above mentioned, and until, after subjecting them to an extended examination, a definitive resolution shall be adopted which shall harmonize all interests so far as it maybe possible, the government, in a council of ministers, decrees the following:

  • Article I. The term established in article 6 of the decree of the 31st of January ultimo, for the commencement of the enforcement on the coast of Cantabria of the state of blockade therein ordered, is prorogued until the 5th day of March proximo.
  • Art. II. The ministers of state and of marine shall give immediate information of this resolution to whom it may concern for its full publicity, for its communication to the representatives of Spain in foreign countries, and for its exact fulfillment on the part of the naval forces of operations.

The President of the executive power of the republic,

The minister of marine,
Juan Bautista Topete.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 180.—Translation.]

Order of February 11, 1874, fixing the regulations to be observed in the blockade of the Biscayan ports and coast, published February 13, 1874.

ministry of marine.

The government of the republic, in agreement with the council of ministers, has been pleased to decide that the rules and regulations expressed in the following articles shall be observed by the vessels ordered to cruise off the Cantabrian coast now declared in a state of blockade, according to the provisions of the 7th article of the decree of January 31st last.

  • Article I. The commanders of the vessels detailed to cruise off the coast of Cantabria comprised between Gape de Peñas and Fuenterrabia, shall take especial care to search all suspicious vessels, and shall endeavor to prevent the introduction of articles contraband of war into the blockaded ports.
  • Art. II. The following articles shall be deemed contraband of war for the effects of the blockade: Gannons, mortars, howitzers, guns, pistols, revolvers, and all kinds of arms; shells, grenades, balls, caps, metallic cartridges, fuses, gun-matches, powder, saltpeter, and sulphur; equipments, such as uniforms, straps, and belts, harnesses, saddles, and, in general, all instruments or articles manufactured for or of direct application to warlike purposes.
  • Art. III. As for the exercise of the right of search, especially with respect to foreign vessels, the commanders of the naval vessels should bear in mind that the jurisdictional maritime zone comprised within the limits of the blockade extends from the line drawn from one to the other of the salient points of the inlets and bays for the space of three miles outward; such being the situation of the blockade coast, that only those vessels bound to its ports are obliged to sail close to the land, and consequently any others doing to, and having a different destination, are to be deemed suspicious, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • Art. IV. Although the right of search in time of war may be exercised on the high seas as well as in the territorial waters of either belligerent, the government, desirous of protecting, as far as possible, commerce carried on in good faith, as well under the national as under a foreign flag, enjoins the commanders of the forces detailed for operations on the coast of Gantabria to limit the search and indispensable detention of merchant-vessels to those found within the jurisdictional limits specified in article 3, except in cases of justified suspicion, in which they will proceed in a different manner.
  • Art. V. As for the form of the Adsitation, when it becomes necessary, it is to be performed in the terms laid down as a general rule in article 120, title 5, of the General Naval Ordinances of 1793; that is, the cruiser shall stop, whenever nautical circumstances permit, at the distance of a cannon-shot from the vessel which is to be searched, sending a boat out to her, from which only one officer and two or three men shall go on board, the first of whom shall limit his action to examining the papers showing the nationality and the nature and destination of the cargo.
  • Art. VI. Every foreign merchant-vessel found within the limits of the blockade with goods contraband of war shall be good prize.
  • Art. VII. Those foreign merchant-vessels which come for the first time to the limits of the blockade shall be especially notified that the coast is blockaded, an entry being made to that effect in their log-book, in their roll, and in the register or manifest of the cargo, under the signature of the officer who performs the search. If, subsequently, [Page 869] the same vessel, with such entries on her papers, he found within the line of the blockade, she shall be good prize whatever may be the character of her cargo.
  • Art. VIII. The Spanish vessels which may be found within the limits expressed in article 3, or which, being laden in our ports for other loyal ports, may change their course and make for another occupied by the rebel forces, shall be detained and judged by the competent tribunals.
  • Art. IX. The blockading forces shall set no impediment in the way of the continuation of the voyage of any national or foreign commercial vessel which, having cleared from a port in Europe, America, or Asia with the requisites and guarantees expressed in a separate order of this date, may be bound direct to the ports of Gijon, Santander or San Sebastian, which are excepted from the blockade for this purpose alone.
  • Art. X. The commander of the cruiser shall give immediate and detailed notice, at the first opportunity, of all visits effected upon national or foreign vessels, to the general commanding officer of the blockading forces for his information and for circulation among the vessels of the same.
  • Art. XI. Fishery being for the present prohibited along the coast of the provinces, of Vizcaya and Gimpuzcoa, comprised within the limits of the blockade, the commanders of the cruisers shall seize the vessels and their crews which shall infringe this regulation.
  • Art. XII. The general commanding officer of the naval forces on the coast of Cantabria shall fix a sufficient period of time for national and foreign vessels to quit the blockaded ports and roads in which they may be at the time, which they shall do in ballast, or with a cargo shipped prior to the day of the establishment of the blockade.

By order of the government of the republic I inform you of this for your information and its circulation and exact fulfillment.

May God guard you many years.


The General Commanding Officer of the naval forces on the coast of Cantabria

[Inclosure 3 in No. 180.—Translation.]

Communication from the minister of marine to the minister of state, reciting the regulations for the blockade of the Biscayanports of Spain, dated February 11, 1874, and published February 13, 1874.

ministry of marine.

Your Excellency: In compliance with the precepts of articles 2 and 3 of the decree of January 31st ultimo, which declares in a state of blockade the coast of Canta-bria from Cape de Pefias to Fuenterrabia, with the sole exception of the ports of Gijon, Santander, and San Sebastian, which for the present shall continue open to lawful commerce, the government of the republic, in a council of ministers, has decided upon the observance of the following rules:

  • First. The consuls, vice-consuls, or consular agents of Spain in foreign ports, will continue to dispatch, in the usual manner, every Spanish vessel which may be completely and legally qualified to enter the ports of Gijon, Santander, and San Sebastian, the only ones comprised in the blockaded coast to which this privilege is extended.
  • Second. The captains or consignors of the said vessels shall present to the consuls, vice-consuls, or agents referred to a statement of the packages, boxes, &c, expressing generally or in bulk the contents thereof, which compose their manifest and entire cargo, which latter must consist altogether of articles of lawful commerce, to the absolute exclusion of such as are declared contraband of war.
  • Third. The said consuls, vice-consuls, or consular agents shall remit to the administrators of customs of the above-mentioned ports excepted from the blockade and to which the vessels are bound, a general note of the total cargo they carry thither, in order that they may be examined and searched for other articles not specified therein. The naval authorities in the above-mentioned ports, or their delegates, may undertake the search of these vessels, even though on passing the line of the blockade and while on the open sea they may have been already visited by the Spanish cruisers for the self-same purpose of ascertaining that they carry no prohibited articles of war, or unregistered goods.
  • Fourth. Merchant-vessels legally cleared from foreign ports for those of Gijon, Santander, and San Sebastian, shall, to enable them to pass the line of the blockade and be admitted to those ports, be subject in every particular to the regulations laid down for Spanish vessels in the preceding rule.
  • Fifth. The provision contained in the 3d rule is extended to the administrators of customs of those Spanish ports from which national or foreign vessels may clear for the three ports before mentioned excepted from the blockade.
  • Sixth. For the present the following articles are declared contraband of war: Cannons, mortars, howitzers, guns, pistols, revolvers, and every kind of fire or side arms; shells, grenades, balls, caps, metallic cartridges, fuses, gun-matches, powder, saltpeter and sulphur; military equipments, such as uniforms, straps and belts, harnesses, saddlery, and, in general, all instruments or articles made for or of direct application to warlike purposes.
  • Seventh. To the end that the measures of which the adoption is compelled by the state of war shall be least prejudicial to maritime commerce carried on in good faith and to the industrial enterprises which develop Spanish interests under the shelter of the laws, those vessels, both national and foreign, which, while the blockade lasts, may seek clearance from national or foreign ports to any of those not excepted above, and comprised in the blockaded coast, belonging to the province of Santander or Asturias, may do so, clearing, in the terms fixed in these instructions in the first, second, and third rules, for the ports of Gijon and Santander, and thereafter, if the circumstances of the war permit, they may sail for the ports to which they are bound provided with the corresponding safe-conducts which shall be issued to them by the naval authorities in conformity with the instructions they may receive to that effect.

By order of the above-mentioned government of the republic, I have the honor to communicate the foregoing to your excellency for your information and for immediate circulation among the representatives of Spain in foreign countries.

May God guard your excellency for many years.


To the Minister of State.