Mr. Fish to Mr. Williams.
Washington , December 11, 1873.
Sir: On the 29th ultimo, at a conference between the Spanish minister and myself, it was agreed that should Spain, before the 25th day of December, current, prove to the satisfaction of the Government of the United States that the steamer Virginius was not entitled to carry the flag of the United States, and was carrying it at the time of her capture without right, and improperly, then the salute which Spain was to give to the flag of the United States on that day should be spontaneously dispensed with, as in such case not being necessarily requirable. A copy of a protocol of the conference, in which this agreement is reached, is hereto annexed.
I received yesterday from Admiral Polo, the Spanish minister, a note* transmitting variousdocuments, which, he states, prove, in his opinion, that the steamer Virginius had no right, at the time of her capture, to use the flag of the United States, and I understand this to be the evidence upon which his government relies to substantiate that fact.
The President instructs me to lay before you this note from Admiral Polo, with its inclosures, which I nowdo, inclosing herewith a translation of the note, and the original of the evidence inclosed in it; and I will thank you to return both these papers to this Department when you havedone with them.
The President desires your opinion upon the force of this evidence, whether itdoes substantiate to the reasonable satisfaction of this Government that the Virginius was not entitled to carry the flag of the United States, and was carrying it, at the time of her capture, without right, and improperly.
It is proposed that the salute, should it take place, shall be made in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba. Orders have already gone to the commanders of United States vessels who are expected to be in that harbor on the 25th instant, to notify the proper Spanish officials, on that day at noon, of a readiness to receive and return the salute, unless previously informed of its waiver by this Government; and in order that a counter order (should one become necessary) may reach there in time, it is desirable that your conclusions on the incloseddocuments should be made known to this Department as early as the morning of the 16th instant. I take the liberty, therefore, to ask that it may be furnished by that day.
I have, &c,