Mr. Gresham to Mr. Muruaga.
Washington, February 12, 1895.
Sir: I received in due course your note of the 22d ultimo, in which you advert to the leniency shown in the “strange proceedings” against certain vessels at Fernandina, Fla., recently detained on suspicion of being employed for unlawful purposes, and ask that the arms and supplies found on board be held by the Federal authorities until the alleged owners shall give a satisfactory account of their origin and lawful destination.
In response to a communication thereupon addressed to the Secretary of the Treasury I have been furnished with copies of all correspondence and documents relating to the detention of the vessels and arms in [Page 1188]question. It appears that the detention was based on suspicion and the apprehensions of the owner of the yacht Lagonda that she might be bound elsewhere than specified in the charter party. No evidence was at any time brought forward to show the true destination of the Lagonda. Her owner believed that she was to be taken by the charterer, Mantell, to Costa Rica. In a letter of the collector at Fernandina she is said to have been “bound to some port in South America.” Nor was any complaint made from any quarter upon knowledge or belief that the Lagonda and the associated vessels, Amadis and Baracoa, were engaged in any enterprise or expedition made unlawful by the statutes of the United States, although the detention was prolonged to afford ample opportunity for such complaint or evidence as might have permitted the courts to take cognizance of the matter. In the absence of legal ground for libeling the vessels or proceeding against the owners of the arms, and after reference of the matter to the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department was, on the 18th of January, constrained to cease the precautionary detention theretofore exercised against the Lagonda through the collector at Fernandina, and on the 25th the arms were in like manner released.
I fail to find in the record of the case anything justifying the statement that the proceedings of the United States officers were “strange,” or that they fell short of their duty. On the contrary, the circumstance that the arms were detained by the custom-house authorities a full week after the proceedings against the Lagonda had fallen through for want of complaint or evidence to charge that vessel with a violation of law, indicates extreme caution and a desire to invite such testimony as might have served to set the machinery of justice in motion against any persons charged with infraction of the laws.