Mr. Fish to Mr. Robeson.
Washington , December 17, 1873.
Sir: Referring to the protocol signed on the 29th day of November, and to the agreement signed on the 8th day of December, instant, between the Spanish minister and myself, of which copies were furnished [Page 1116] to you with my letter of 8th instant, I have the honor to call your attention to the provision in these two papers relative to a salute to the flag of the United States, to be made by Spain, in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba, on the 25th day of December instant, and to the agreement in the protocol that “if, before that date, Spain should prove to the satisfaction of the Government of the United States 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, the salute will be spontaneously dispensed with, as in such case not being necessarily requirable.”
The Spanish minister, in behalf of his government, has submitted certaindocuments, including depositions taken before a United States commissioner, in the presence of the attorney of the United States for the southern district of New York, by whom the parties making the depositions were cross-examined.
These depositions, together with copies of the register, and other papers of the Virginius, were, by direction of the President, submitted to the Attorney-General, requesting his opinion upon the force of the 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.
The Attorney-General holds, upon the evidence presented, that the register of the Virginius was a fraud upon the navigation laws of the United States, and is of the opinion that she had no right to carry the flag of the United States, and he “decides that the Virginius, at the time of her capture, was without right, and improperly, carrying the American flag.”
By direction of the President, I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of this opinion and decision of the Attorney-General.
The President directs me further to say that the conditions having thus been reached, on which, according to the protocol of the 29th of November last, the salute to the flag of the United States is to be spontaneously dispensed with, he desires that you will give the necessary orders and instruct the proper officers to notify the authorities of Santiago de Cuba of that fact, in time to carry out the intent and spirit of the agreement between the two governments.
I have, &c.
[For inclosure see page 1103.]