No. 2.
Mr. Macdonell to the Earl of Derby .—(Received August 23.)


In accordance with your lordship’s instructions, I addressed a note to the minister of foreign affairs, copy of which I have the honor to inclose, informing his excellency that Her Majesty’s government could admit of no farther delay in the settlement of the claims arising out of the capture and subsequent execution of the British subjects on board of the Virginius.

In delivering the above note to Señor Ulloa, I expressed the hope that he would consult with his colleagues as to the best mode of settling this question, which, under the circumstances specified in my note, admitted of no further postponement.

Señor Ulloa again assured me that the Spanish government were most desirous to see this affair brought to a close, so far as Her Majesty’s government were concerned, but that unfortunately it was not in the power of the Spanish government to act as promptly as your lordship desired; that, owing to the United States Government having also an interest in this matter, the Spanish government would find itself in an embarrassing position, were it to establish a precedent by favoring the English claimants; but the different claims and counter-claims between the United States and Spain were now under consideration, and that if Her Majesty’s government would be good enough to postpone the settlement of their claims for a short time longer, he could give me the positive assurance that as soon as the council of state re-assembled (at the end of September) the payment of the indemnity would immediately be effected.

I expressed great regret at not being able to comply with his excellency’s request; that your lordship’s instructions on the subject were definite, and that all I could do was to submit to your lordship’s favorable consideration any reasonable suggestion his excellency might make; but that steps must be taken to satisfy the just demands of the families of the sufferers.

After some discussion, I agreed to submit to your lordship the proposal, which Her Majesty’s government have since accepted, and the acceptance of which I have notified to the Spanish government, viz, that a certain sum should be paid, under the name of an advance, for the relief of the families of the victims, without prejudice to the principle involved: and I availed myself of that occasion to acquaint Señor Ulloa with the amount of the indemnity claimed.

On calling upon the minister the following day, his excellency said that he considered the sum demanded by Her Majesty’s government very large, and far more considerable than he had been led to anticipate.

I pointed out that it was far below the estimate of the Spanish government, as applied to the families of those who fell at the hands of the Carlists.

However, I thought I might venture to make the following arrangement, which has since been accepted by the Spanish government, viz, that the sum of £1,000, by which the Spanish government seem desirous of reducing the claim, should be held by them as the balance to be paid on the final settlement of this question; by this means Her Majesty’s government will eventually receive payment in full of the total amount claimed.

Accordingly, Señor Ulloa has now addressed to me a note, informing me that orders have been given to the ministry of finance for the immediate payment to Her Majesty’s government in London of the sum of £6,700, it being clearly understood that the balance of £1,000 shall be paid when the question of the Virginius claims shall have been definitely settled by the council of state.

In submitting the above arrangement to your lordship, I trust that your lordship will not be of opinion that I have gone too far in assuming the responibility of accepting the modifications proposed by the Spanish government.

[Page 1232]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 2.]

Mr. Macdonell to Mr. Ulloa.

M. le Ministre: Having reported to the Earl of Derby your excellency’s desire that Her Majesty’s government might defer for the present pressing for a settlement of the Virginius claims, I am instructed by his lordship to remind your excellency that many months have now elapsed since the execution of the British subjects taken on board the Virginius, and that in several instances the families of the persons executed are in distress. The latter consideration will, I am convinced, have full weight with your excellency, as well as with the Spanish government.

Her Majesty’s government have desired me to add that, though they are most unwilling to add to the difficulties of the Spanish government, yet they cannot allow these claims to be postponed indefinitely, and I trust, therefore, that your excellency will be able to give me a decided promise that the matter shall be settled by a fixed and not too distant date.

I avail, &c.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 2.]

Señor Ulloa to Mr. Macdonell .


Sir: I have received your note of the 5th instant, in which, by instructions from Lord Derby, you state to me that many months having elapsed since the occurrence of the sad events connected with the Virginius, the families of the English persons captured on board of her and executed at Santiago de Cuba renew their requests to Her Majesty’s government to obtain some indemnity for the relief of their misfortune.

The British government is aware of the reasons which have, up to this time, obliged the Spanish government not to refuse to arrange, but to put off the arrangement of this indemnity with regard to British subjects, but, as you very justly suppose in your note, the consideration of the present miserable state of the families of those unfortunate persons cannot but have an influence on the Spanish government and move them not to wait for the moment when, in a definitive and formal manner, the said families may receive some sum of money.

To that end, the executive power of the Spanish republic, without prejudging the essence of this matter, will have no objection to give orders for handing over a sum of money for distribution among the families of the British subjects captured on board the Virginius and executed at Santiago de Cuba, reserving the delivery of what may be necessary for the completion of the whole amount of the indemnity that may be agreed upon between the two governments when the principal question may have been definitely settled in that sense.

You can, if you think fit, bring this proposal to the knowledge of Her Britannic Majesty’s government, inspired as it is by the strongest wish not to delay the sending of succor to the parties interested, without precipitating the official course indispensable for coming to a right decision in the present question.

I avail, &c.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 2.]

Mr. Macdonell to Mr. Ulloa.

M. le Ministre: I beg to thank your excellency for the ready acknowledgment of the communication I had the honor to address to you on the 5th instant, and I hasten to inform your excellency in reply that I have been authorized by Her Majesty’s government to accept an advance on the sum which they deem due, as compensation, to the families of the British subjects captured on board the Virginius and subsequently shot at Santiago de Cuba.

This point having been settled, it now becomes my duty to acquaint your excellency with the total amount claimed by Her Majesty’s government on behalf of those who suffered on that occasion. The individuals executed numbered nineteen, of whom nine were men of color, and ten were white men. For the colored men Her Majesty’s government [Page 1233] claim of £300 sterling each, and for the white men £500 sterling each; which constitutes at otal of £7,700 sterling, it being clearly understood that in the event of no near relative of these men coming forward to establish a claim, or failing to substantiate it, within a reasonable period, the amount paid to Her Majesty’s government on behalf of such individual or individuals shall be forthwith restituted to the Spanish government.

In submitting the above figures to your excellency, I have no hesitation in looking forward to a favorable reply, confident that the Spanish government, guided by their high sense of justice, will readily agree with the government of Her Majesty in considering the amount of compensation claimed both fair and equitable.

I avail, &c.

[Inclosure 4 in No. 2.—Translation.]

Mr. Ulloa to Mr. Macdonell.

Sir: I have received your note of the 15th instant, in which you state to me, in answer to the note which I had the honor of addressing to you on the 14th, that you are authorized by Her Britannic Majesty’s government to accept the proposal made by me in the name of the executive power, to give the sum to which both governments might agree, for distribution, in the light of an advance, among the families of the British subjects taken on board the Virginius and executed at Santiago de Cuba.

You add, in the note to which I have the honor to reply, that as there were nineteen of those unfortunate persons, of whom ten were white men, and the other nine were men of color; and as the British government think that they ought to fix, as the rate of indemnity, the sum of £500 sterling for each white man, and £300 for each man of color, the sum total would amount to £7,700, to be given by the Spanish government for the purpose agreed upon.

The executive power of the nation agree, on their side, to the sum fixed, and will give the necessary orders, through the ministry of finance, so that £6,700 may be at once placed in London at the disposal of Her Britannic Majesty’s government, and the remaining £1,000, wanting for the completion of the whole sum of £7,700, will be handed over when this matter shall be definitely settled according to that which is proposed in my note of 14th instant; the British government promising, in their turn, to re-imburse to the Spanish government the sum or sums corresponding to those individuals whose relations may make no claim, or may not fully prove, within a reasonable time, their right to receive the indemnity.

I avail, &c.