Mr. Smith to Mr. Blaine.

No. 141.]

Sir: On the 29th ultimo I received from the governor of Minnesota a telegram, of which the following is a copy:

Minnesota and the Northwest are preparing to donate cargo of breadstuffs for the famine-stricken people of Russia. This morning’s papers contain Washington dispatches of semiofficial character stating that reports of distress are very much overdrawn, and that outside contributions are not necessary. Please cable me immediately full information of status of affairs, and whether our contributions are needed and will be acceptable.—Merriam, Governor.

There could be no doubt of the nature of the reply which the facts required. General knowledge of the situation in Russia and of the [Page 365] attitude of the Government gathered in previous intercourse would have permitted an immediate response such as was ultimately sent; but as this was the first specific inquiry calling for the first explicit statement from this legation concerning the disposition of the Government respecting American contributions for the sufferers from the insufficient crops, and as further questions might be involved, I deemed it best, before replying, to submit the inquiry to the minister of foreign affairs.

I accordingly sought the first opportunity for an interview on the subject with M. de Giers. Upon my reading the dispatch of Governor Merriam, and explaining what had been done, M. de Giers expressed the warmest appreciation of the generous spirit which prompted the offer. We discussed matters of detail at some length and, in conclusion, he asked me to address him an informal note on the subject and to delay my response to Governor Merriam until he could confer with the minister of the interior.

Two days later, while awaiting the reply, I read in newspapers which reached the legation what seemed to be an entirely authentic statement that the Secretary of the Navy had placed a ship at the disposal of the donors of the proposed cargo of breadstuff’s to transport it to Russia. As the question of transportation had been one of the points referred to in our conversation, I sent a personal note to M. de Giers, advising him of this statement, as it appeared in the public journals, but adding that I had no other information. To-day I received a private note from him which warranted me in immediately sending a telegram to Governor Merriam as follows:

Distress in Russia from short crops is widespread and severe. Difficult to over-draw extent of suffering. Many provinces are destitute and must be helped till next harvest. Am able to say that proposed contributions of Minnesota and Northwest, indicated in your dispatch, will he accepted with most grateful appreciation.

Although the note from the ministry of foreign affairs is marked private, and is to be treated as such, I inclose a copy with a translation for the information of the Department. The position of the Government of Russia will be readily understood. The insufficiency of the crops this year has entailed a lack of food and great suffering through a wide portion of the empire. The Emperor and his chiefs of administration are laboring very earnestly to relieve the distress and mitigate this national affliction. Private charity is doing much to supplement and aid their work. As to foreign contributions, the Imperial Government manifestly could not appear in the attitude of soliciting help, and this sense of its position governs its action in reference to official communications; but at the same time it fully appreciates the kindly spirit which prompts the offerings of private benevolence, and will aid in every way in carrying out the wishes of friendly people who desire to come to the help of suffering communities. There appears to be a peculiarly grateful sense of the sympathetic movements of relief already undertaken among the American people, and in all quarters, official and private, I hear only the most appreciative expressions on this point.

I have, etc.,

Chas. Emory Smith.
[Inclosure in No. 141—Translation.]

The Adjunct of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Mr. Smith.

My dear Minister: M. de Giers has charged me to bring to your knowledge that, conformably to the notice which has just reached him from the minister of the interior, [Page 366] the donations offered by the millers of the State of minnesota in favor of the victims of the short crops in Russia will be received with the most lively thankfulness. The minister takes me also for intermediary to express to your excellency all his gratitude for the part which yon have had the kindness to take in the charitable work of your compatriots.

Pray, dear sir, accept the assurances of my perfect esteem and of my sincere devotion.