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Mr. Pidal to Mr. Barringer.
FIRST BUREAU OF THE OFFICE of STATE,
Palace, September 25, 1850. Sır: I have had the honor to receive your excellency's letter of the 19th instant, relative to the prisoners taken at Contoy by the naval forces of her Majesty.
Your excellency endeavors to repel the arguments contained in my note of the 15th instant; and the reasons of which you avail your. self, in my opinion, add little to the illustration of the subject, as indeed would those of which I might make use in my reply, because the ques. tion is already sufficiently debated on both sides. I think, therefore, that the best course will be to await a knowledge of the manner in which the government of the United States appreciates the response of that of her Majesty, which I had the honor to transmit to your excellency in my note of the 15th instant, reserving to myself until then to enter upon new explications, if it should be necessary. Í improve this occasion to renew, &c , &c., &c.
PEDRO J. PIDAL. The MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY
of the United States.
Mr. Barringer to Mr. Webster.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
Madrid, October 9, 1850. Sir: On the 5th instant I met, by appointment, the Marquis of Pidal, her Majesty's Minister of State, at his office, for the purpose of having some conversation on the subject of the existing relations between Spain and the United States, and more especially to fulfil the instructions contained in your despatch No. 25, of the 5th ultimo.
The conference commenced by a remark on my part, that I had lately received a despatch from Mr. Webster, Secretary of State of the United States, with which came enclosed copies of a recent correspondenre between him and Senor Calderon de la Barca, her Majesty's Minister Plenipotentiary at Washington, on the subject of a supposed new expedition then being organized in the United States against the island of Cuba, and that I was particularly instructed to repeat to the Spanish government the assurances of the most friendly disposition of that of the United States; that the latter would perform all its duties towards Spain; and that it was the fixed resolution of the President to cause a rigid enforcement of the existing laws, and to impede, if possible, the sailing of any such expedition.
I added, also, that I presumed his excellency was in possession of copies of the correspondence referred to.
The Marquis of Pidal answered, in effect, that he had read that cor. respondence; that the government of her Majesty had seen with the greatest satisfaction the reply of Mr. Webster to Senor Calderon de la Barca, and the disposition manifested and the measures taken by the neu government of the United States; and now that I had come to repeat to him the assurances of the friendship and good will of my govern. ment, he would frankly say that he was grateful, and gave thanks, for these sentiments and this conduct on the part of the United States; and that they were fully appreciated and would be reciprocated on the part of Spain, who desired nothing more than to live in relations of the striciest friendship with the United States.
I then said that I wished to know, if it was agreeable to the Marquis, what had been done, and what would be done, by the government of her Majesty, in reference to the remaining American prisoners taken at the island of Contoy.
The Marquis said that he had received no very late news from the Havana, but that orders had ben sent out by the government of her Majesty to suspend entirely the execution of any sentence which might be giren again I those still retained on trial, until it had been submitted to the government al Madrid. This was the actual state of things.
I replied that I was very glad to hear that such orders had been issued, and that I was now in hopes that all difficulty on this subject would be soon and amicably settled. I was of opinion that the questions between the two governments had been already sufficiently debated, and they ought now to be put at rest; my object was, not to revive the discussion, but simply to know the intentions of her Majesty's government in regard to these prisoners. The opinion of the government of the United States had undergone no change; and, as the probable judgment of other nations had been alluded to in the previous argument of the question, I must be allowed to say that I had had an opportunity to learn the opinion of one government very powerful in Europe. I had seen the written official opinion of Lord 'Palmerston on this subject, which sustained in every particular the justice and reason of the demand made by the Uni
The Marquis said that the government of her Majesty was interested chiefly in the establishment of the principle involved; that, as regards
present case, the government of her Majesty would not find it very difficult to satisfy that of the United States, so far as the facts were concerned; but the principle that Spain could not impede the formation or existence of bands of adventurers on those Mexican islands, leagued against the peace of her colonial possessions, would be hard to admit. But it was in the question of abstract principle, applicable as such upon one side as well as the other, in which they found the difficulty, and not in the actual circumstances of the present case; for, in fact, it now mattered comparatively little to Spain what became of the individual men
I answered, that if the men should be released now, all the principles involved in the case would remain as they were in the beginning, and that each government might preserve its own opinion of those principles,
for I trusted that no future occasion would arise in which they would necessarily be called in question.
Having noticed that the action of the new government of the United States, and of Mr. Webster, was particularly commended by the Marquis, I felt bound to say that the course of the late President and his cabinet had also been, throughout, full of good faith and friendly spirit towards Spain; and that Mr. Clayton especially, whilst asserting whai he believed to be the just rights of the United States, had been very unjustly accused, and his policy wholly misrepresented by some journals, among which I would mention "La Cronica,” a Spanish periodical of New York; that I had seen copies of the private correspondence of Mr. Clayton on this subject, and among others a copy of a letter to Sir Henry Bulwer, enclosed in a letter of the latter to Lord Palmerston, in which Mr. Bulwer also gave his testimony to the good faith and honorable course of Mr. Clayton and the American governinent in this whole matter,
The Marquis rejoined, that in commending the action of the new cabinet he had not meant, in any way, to reflect upon the old; that he had heretofore endeavored to do justice to the late illustrious President of the republic, and that he had never doubted the good disposition and honorable course of the higher authorities of the American government towards Spain; and that, if there had been any dissatisfaction, it had been with the conduct of certain inferior authorities. He would remark, merely, that, under Mr. Clayton, the style of the correspondence between the two governments had come to be a little animated, (animado) and a little vivid, (vivo) but that the calm tone of the communication of Mr. Webster had had the effect to replace everything in the minds of her Majesty's government upon the old footing of cordial and friendly feeling towards that of the United States; and that, according to present manifestations and spirit, the arrangement of all questions pending between the two governments would be easy.
I then said that I had no doubt the Marquis of Pidal possessed too much penetration not to perceive how false and unworthy of all reliance were the representations of the Spanish newspaper "La Cronica” upon the action and policy of the authorities of the government of the United States; that it was only some three or four days since I had seen republished here in Madrid an article from that paper, full of the most infamous accusations against Mr. Webster and the new government of the United States, as false in point of facts as it was bitter and vile in spirit.
The Marquis said yes, he was aware of all that; but that I would observe that article had been republished only in the opposition papers of Madrid; that “La Cronica" was under the influence of those who were in opposition to the actual government of Spain; that this government had nothing to do with it; but that he had written, however, to see if they could not exert some influence upon the course of that periodical.
Upon my inquiring when General Concha, the newly appointed Captain General of Cuba, would set out to take possession of his charge, and suggesting that this change in the local government might be a favorable occasion to release the remaining prisoners of Contoy, even as an act of grace, the Marquis of Pidal said, good humoredly also, that they, too, must consider what effect such an act would have upon themselves; that General Concha would sail some time during the present month; that he would take out instructions to cultivate, in every way, relations of good
neighborhood and friendship with the United States; and that, meantime, by the orders before referred to, all determinate action against the prisoners of Contoy would remain suspended for the further consideration of her 'Majesty's government.
The conference here closed with mutual expressions of regard, and evident good feeling on the part of the Spanish Minister of State.
lly opinion is, that if the government of the United States adheres to its demand, the remaining prisoners of Contoy will ultimately, and perhaps soon, be released, notwithstanding the previous refusal of her Majesty's government.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient serrant,
D. M. BARRINGER. Hon. DANIEL WEBSTER,
Secretary of State.
Mr. Barringer to Mr. Webster.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
Madrid, November 8, 1850. Sir: Having understood from a confidential, but reliable source, that her Majesty's mail packet ship for Cadiz sailed from Havana on the 10th of September last, having on board the Count of Mirasol, and also the captain and two mates of the vessels taken at Contoy, and who were condemned by the marine court at Havana, (as will more fully appear by the enclosed official copy of the sentence published by the press of this city) and were then probably at Vigo in quarantine, I addressed, on the 5th instant, to her Majesty's Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, a note, of which I enclose a copy, marked A.
Yesterday I received, in answer, a note from his excellency, a copy of which, marked B, is herewith enclosed, from which it appears that her Majesty, on the 13th ultimo, pardoned the remaining prisoners taken at Contoy, causing to be issued, on the same day, an order to the authorities in Cuba for their discharge; and also that, on the 1st instant, a similar order was directed to the authorities at Vigo.
I enclose, also, a copy of my acknowledgment of this note, marked C.
I presume that, ere this, all the said prisoners have been liberated. This result, as you will perceive from my despatch No. 37, of the 9th ultimo, was not unexpected to me. I trust that this action of her Majesty's government will terminate all the serious difficulty arising from the capture and imprisonment of these persons.
If it be the purpose of our government to take any further step in reference to their case, or that of the two vessels taken at the same time,
and condemned and sold by order of the Spanish courts, I will await your instructions on that subject.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,
D. M. BARRINGER. DANIEL WEBSTER, Esq
Secretary of State.
Mr. Barringer to Mr. Pidal.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES IN SPAIN,
Madrid, November 5, 1850. Sir: In the conference which I had the honor to have with your excellency on the 5th day of October ultimo, on the subject of the demand for the liberation of the American prisoners taken at Contoy, I was informed by your excellency that orders had been sent to the Havana to suspend entirely the execution of any sentence which might be given against the prisoners still retained on trial, until the further advice and direction of her Majesty's government upon such sentence, to be submitted for its consideration at Madrid.
I have recently learned, from sources which I think entitled to credit, that the captain and two mates of the two vessels taken at Contoy are now at Vigo on board of one of her Majesty's mail packet ships, bound for Cadız, confined as prisoners, in pursuance of a sentence of a tribunal at Havana, condemaning the said prisoners to ten, eight, and four years of hard labor, (de presidio) respectively. And if the said prisoners are not now at Vigo, they are being taken to some place within her Majesty's dominions for the execution of said sentence.
1 desire to know of your excellency if this supposed state of facts is true; and especially whether any direction has been, or will be given, by her Majesty's government, for the execution of said sentence; and where said prisoners are now confined.
I take this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurances of my most distinguished consideration, and remain, Your obedient servant,
D. M. BARRINGER. His Excellency MARQUIS OF PIDAL,
Minister of State.
Mr. Pidal to Mr. Barringer.
PRIMERA SECRETARIA DEL DESPACHO DE ESTADO,
Palacio, 6 de Noviembre de 1850. Muy Sr. Mio: En contestacion a la nota de V. S. fecha de ayer, tengo la satisfaccion de manifestarle que el dia 13 de Octubre ultimo, fueron