No. 454.
Mr. Lowell to Mr. Evarts.

No. 47.]

Sir: So soon as possible after the reception of your instructions Nos. 30 and 33, I presented to Mr. Silvela the case of the three American whaling schooners, the Ellen Rizpah, the Rising Sun, and the Edward Lee. A copy of my note upon the subject is hereto annexed.

As yet I have received no formal reply from Mr. Silvela, but in an interview with him yesterday he informed me that the matter should receive speedy attention, but that his government naturally wished to hear the counter-statement of the. commanders of the Spanish guardacostas, and also to make inquiry as to the fairness of the damages claimed, before proceeding to a settlement; that the illness of the minister of ultramar (whose department they especially concerned) had prevented his bringing them before the cabinet, which, however, he expected to be able to do at a council which sits this morning.

In a previous interview, I informed Mr. Silvela, in accordance with your directions, that, should he so desire, I would furnish him with a copy of your instruction on the subject. He replied that he should be pleased to receive it, and I accordingly supplied him with a copy.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 47.]

Mr. Lowell to Mr. Silvela.

Excellency: I have received instructions to call your excellency’s immediate and earnest attention to the three cases of what I am sure your excellency will agree with me in considering wanton and unwarrantable outrages inflicted by Spanish guard-boats upon three American whaling schooners while engaged in the peaceful and legitimate exercise of their calling in the neighborhood of the island of Cuba.

Nothing can be further from the intention of the President, sincerely desirous of maintaining and confirming the friendly relations between the United States and Spain, than to attribute to His Catholic Majesty’s Government any connivance in such lawless (I might well say belligerent) proceedings, or the most qualified approval of them. His excellency Señor Mantilla, who so worthily represents the interests of Spain at Washington, when the matter was brought to his knowledge at once gave the most ample assurances that the Government of His Catholic Majesty heartily disapproved and disavowed, and was ready to make instant compensation for, the violent proceedings to which I am directed to call your excellency’s attention.

I am instructed to communicate to your excellency the satisfaction of the President at these friendly assurances, but at the same time to express his serious anxiety as to the effect of such outrages upon the public opinion of a nation especially sensitive to the sacredness of its flag, to the protection which it should afford, and to the international rights which it covers. It is not without reason, then, that he looks upon repeated occurrences of this kind as of peculiar gravity in their bearing upon those friendly relations between the United States and Spain which are equally for the interest of both countries.

Unhappily, no disavowal on the part of His Catholic Majesty’s Government, however acceptable in itself, can altogether efface the painful impression made upon the public mind by such arbitrary and unlawful proceedings on the part of subordinate officials in the service of Spain, and it is not now tor the first time that the culpable indifference of such officials in the island of Cuba to the orders of the imperial government has been made the subject of remonstrance.

I now proceed to lay before your excellency, in brief detail, the cases in question:

Toward the end of May last the schooner Ellen Rizpah, of Newburyport, Mass., [Page 776] engaged in the pursuit of whales, at a distance of 20 miles from the shores of Cuba, was brought to by a blank cartridge from a Spanish guarda-costa. On the Ellen Rizpah hoisting her colors, the guard-boat, having first reloaded her gun with ball, drew up under her stern within short range, and ordered her captain to come on board. This order he was forced to obey, and he was kept prisoner on board the guarda-costa for four days, exposed in wet clothing to all the inclemencies of the weather, and roughly denied permission, which he repeatedly asked, to have clothes and food sent him from his own vessel. His offer to show his papers was rejected. At the end of the four days a Spanish steamer arrived, his papers were examined, and he was rudely ordered to go about his business. When he attempted to do this, and was preparing for the capture of some whales then in sight, he was again chased by another armed boat for a distance of 20 miles, but, owing to the sailing qualities of his schooner, fortunately escaped a second detention and further outrage. By this violence he was deterred from returning to his fishing ground and his voyage broken up, at a loss to the owners estimated at $5,000.

Scarcely had the surprise occasioned by the treatment of the Ellen Rizpah had time to subside when another act of the same high-handed character, and if possible worse in its details, Was laid before the Secretary of State at Washington. The whaling schooner Rising Sun, of Provincetown, Mass., arrived off the South Keys on the 23d of May last. This is a well known resort for whalers, and two boats from the schooner, one in charge of the captain and the other of the mate, started in pursuit of some whales which they had sighted in the offing. While thus visibly engaged in their legitimate calling, a Spanish guarda-costa hove in sight and at once fired a blank cartridge in the direction of the captain’s boat, followed immediately by two solid shot. Captain Taylor steered for his vessel, leaving his mate to secure a whale which they had just struck. The guarda-costa now bore down, and when within easy range discharged three volleys of small-arms at his boat. The boat-steerer of Captain Taylor, a Portuguese, knew enough Spanish to understand what was said by those on board the guarda-costa, who declared that they would take the Rising Sun and sink her.

Captain Taylor was then ordered on board the cruiser, and complying found her, though a very small vessel, manned by a crew of twelve, none of them in uniform. Here he was informed that his schooner would be detained until the arrival of a gunboat, which would search her and examine his papers. The American captain was detained an hour and a half, and then only released on condition that the mate should take his place as hostage. The mate was detained five days without change of clothing, though he had come on board in his wet whaling suit. No one from his own vessel was allowed to visit him.

At the end of five days a gunboat arrived. One of her officers came on board the Rising Sun, examined her papers, and mustered her crew aft to answer to their names. On Captain Taylor’s asking why he was thus detained, he was answered in English “that there were a good many scamps in the world, and we don’t know whom to trust.” During all these proceedings the American flag was flying on the Rising Sun. In consequence of this seizure and detention the voyage of the Rising Sun was broken up, her loss thereby being estimated at $6,000. The mate, whose health has been seriously and permanently injured by the hardships and exposure to which he was subjected, claims what, under the circumstances, seems the reasonable reparation of $2,500.

The third case, for I am pained to say there is a third, is that of the whaling schooner Edward Lee, also of Provincetown, Mass. Scarcely arrived on the same cruising ground, this vessel was chased by a. Spanish gunboat, and fired at first with solid shot, then with grape, and at last with shell, one of the latter bursting within a few yards of her. A fair wind and fast sailing fortunately carried the Edward Lee beyond cannon-shot. The owners of the Edward Lee think themselves entitled to a compensation of $6,000.

The Government at Washington, having caused these cases to be examined into with care, is satisfied that the respective claims for damages are equitable and reasonable.

These violent proceedings seem to me, as doubtless they will seem to your excellency, the more inexplicable because the character of the vessels and the nature of their occupation must have been perfectly apparent to any one so familiar with the sea as the commander even of a guarda-costa must be supposed to be. A vessel engaged in whaling announces her character to more senses than one, Her boats, her kettles, her barrels, and the very condition of her decks are in themselves ample evidence of the nature of her occupation.

I cannot too often repeat to your excellency that lamentable occurrences such as these are the raw material out of which the emissaries and allies of the Cuban insurgents in the United States manufacture sympathy for their criminal undertakings, and your excellency is too familiar with the unscrupulousness of party spirit not to be aware that the opposition will insist upon and exaggerate them in order to cast upon a government which does not emphatically resent them the odium of pusilanimity and want of patriotism. The necessity of in some way appeasing an artificially irritated public [Page 777] sentiment has within recent memory led to consequences as calamitous as they were contrary to the intentions and expectations of those who, from motives purely selfish, had roused passions which they could not calm.

I am instructed to emphasize strongly the President’s hope that immediate and efficient measures will be taken by the Government of His Catholic Majesty to prevent a repetition by subordinates, who have hitherto seemed to be practically irresponsible, of excesses which, more than any others, must tend to embarrass the United States in their sincere efforts to maintain the friendly attitude in which they have thus far stood, and desire always to stand, toward Spain.

Permit me in conclusion to express my earnest hope that your excellency, sensible, as I am sure you will be, of the entire justice of these claims and desirous as you have always shown yourself to allay the well founded solicitude of a friendly government, will take immediate steps toward making good the cordial assurances of his excellency Señor Mantilla.

I gladly avail, &c.,