Mr. Smith to Mr. Blaine.
St. Petersburg , March 23, 1892 . (Received April 7.)
Sir: I have the honor to report that the steamer Indiana, laden with flour and provisions, contributed mainly by citizens of Philadelphia, for the relief of the sufferers from the famine in Russia, reached the port of Libau on the 16th instant. Tempestuous weather and constant headwinds on the Atlantic prolonged her voyage and delayed her arrival four days beyond the time expected.
In conformity with your telegraphic instructions of the 18th and 24th of February, arrangements had been made for the proper reception of the steamer and for the prompt unloading of her cargo. I had also taken the responsibility, as explained in my No. 156 of February 26th, of providing for the immediate distribution, subject to the approval of the donors or their representatives, of this American gift among the needy and distressed people for whom it was designed. It is a source of satisfaction to be able to report that, arriving on the 16th, the cargo of the Indiana was fully discharged by the 19th, that the steamer started on her return voyage on the 20th, and that, directly loaded on cars furnished by the Russian authorities and immediately dispatched on their mission of mercy, all of the flour and provisions had left Libau in seven different trains, which were on their way to the famine region within three days from the arrival of the steamer.
In the absence of a regular consul at Libau I asked Consul-General Crawford to proceed thither to receive the steamer and render whatever service might be required. Mr. N. P. A. Bornholdt, the American consul at Riga, had, with a generous spirit which deserves the warmest [Page 375] recognition, volunteered to unload the cargo at his own expense. As he is the head of a shipping house with every facility, his liberal offer was gladly accepted, and his work was performed in the most energetic, thorough, and satisfactory manner.
The members of the Philadelphia committee, Messrs. Blankenburg, Drexel, and Biddle, reached Russia in advance of the steamer, and, after examining and approving the arrangements made here, two of them proceeded to Libau. On the part of the Russian authorities Count André Bobrinsky was sent as the delegate of the special committee appointed by the Emperor, under the presidency of the Czarivitch, which had undertaken to dispatch the cargo according to the several allotments.
These various representatives cooperated in carrying out the details at Libau.
As soon as intelligence was received of the coming of the Indiana I sought an interview with Count Vorontzoff Daschkoff, minister of the Imperial House, who is vice-president of the special committee appointed by the Emperor in charge of relief measures.
In answer to my representations he gave me assurance that the committee would provide for forwarding the flour and provisions to whatever persons and places within the famine region the American representatives might designate, and that it would be agreeable to the Russian Government if the American representatives would indicate where and how they wished the distribution to be made. This secured cordial coöperation and a complete understanding. To await the arrival of the committee from Philadelphia would involve great delay. I therefore assumed the responsibility of proceeding upon the best information attainable to apportion the expected cargo, and to assign the several divisions to the localities where they were most needed and to persons upon whose conscientious distribution full reliance could be reposed. In this work I asked the members of the relief organization of the British American Church to join me. The persons to whom the distribution was intrusted were in almost every case known to them or to me as worthy of entire confidence. Many of them were men or women of the highest station, who were already doing noble work in the same direction. When this labor was finished I delivered the completed list to the delegate of the Emperor’s special committee, and under his personal supervision the cars loaded with the respective amounts apportioned, were marked and dispatched to the persons designated, who had already been notified of the coming of this relief. On the submission of the arrangements to the Philadelphia committee, immediately on their arrival, they gave their unreserved approval, and thus there was no delay. Under this plan the cargo of the Indiana, consisting of 4,186,830 pounds food-stuffs, was sent in seven trains of nearly two hundred cars in the aggregate, to ten different distributors, and consigned to forty-five different centers or agents of distribution, and destined to bring relief to several hundred destitute people.
The reception of this American offering and its transfer to Russian hands were signalized by every manifestation of good will and appreciation. The Indiana was met in the harbor with appropriate salutes and with every mark of honor, not only by the officials already named, but by the mayor and other authorities of Libau and by a large number of people. Every day of stay in port witnessed demonstrations of regard for the captain and all the American representatives. Large numbers of American flags were improvised and everywhere displayed. On the last day an official banquet was tendered on the part of the [Page 376] mayor and municipal council to the American guests, at which toasts were offered to the President of the United States, to the Emperor of Russia, to the city of Philadelphia, etc., and at which speeches were made by the mayor, Consul-General Crawford, the members of the Philadelphia committee, and the delegate of the Emperor’s special committee. Before the Indiana took her departure the Emperor sent a special message that he desired to present Capt. Sargent with a souvenir of his memorable voyage. Every train which bore a part of the American offerings was decorated with the blended Russian and American flags, and dispatches from the interior indicate that these trains were received en route with enthusiasm. Extended reports of the proceedings have appeared in the journals of the capital, and many expressions of grateful appreciation are heard. There is no doubt that the manner, spirit, and substance of the American donations have made a marked impression in Russia.
It was a fortunate circumstance, as all observers testify, that the first vessel bringing these American contributions was an American ship, manned by an American captain and crew, and flying the American flag.
I have pleasure in stating that Consul-General Crawford and all the others who coöperated in carrying out the arrangements at Libau fulfilled their parts in the most satisfactory manner. To Consul Bornholdt, whose measures, as vigorous and intelligent as they were liberal, insured the prompt unloading of the steamer and loading of the cars, great credit is due; and I suggest that his service merits the special recognition of the Department.
I have, etc.,