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Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.

[Extract.] No. 8.]


The Hague, July 12, 1861. SIR: I have communicated to Baron de Zuylen, as directed, your high appreciation of the course of his goveroment on our domestic affairs, as manifested and expressed in his reply to my predecessor's communication of the 8th of April last. I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

JAMES S. PIKE. Hon. William H. SEWARD,

Secretary of State, Washington.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 12.]


Washington, July 26, 1861. SIR: Your very interesting despatch of June 22 (No. 6) has been received. The President is gratified with the just and proper sentiments expressed by the government of Holland concerning the United States.

Subsequently to the sending of my despatch to you concerning the affairs of the western powers in Japan, communications have been received from the Tycoon, and his ministers for foreign affairs, measurably supported by Mr. Harris, our excellent representatative there, urging a delay in opening the ports under the treaty in terms so strong that the President has concluded that I shall have a conference here with the representatives of the powers interested in the question. This conference will be held next week. You will be advised of whatever is considered.

We have met a reverse in arms. But though at first it seemed appalling, because it was as severe as it was unexpected, yet the result is even now seen to be only a signal for greater effort and more determined resolution.

I send you, confidentially, a copy of my most recent despatch to Mr. Adams. I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. JAMES S. PIKE, Esq., &c., dec., dc.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 15.]


Washington, August 15, 1861. SIR: We learn, in a manner which obliges us to give unwilling credit, that the Sumter, an armed steamer, well known through all the American seas to be a přivateer fitted out for and actually engaged in depredations upon the commerce of the United States by some disloyal citizens, under the command of an officer named Semmes, on or about the 17th of July last, entered the port of Curacoa and communicated directly with the local author

ities of that island; that she was hospitably received there and was permitted to take a large quantity of coals, (said to be 120 tons,) and also to take on board a large supply of provisions; that the privateer's crew was allowed entire freedom in the place; that when one of the crew had deserted, an order was given by the authorities of the port for his arrest; that the attempt for that purpose having proved unsuccessful, the same authorities pledged themselves that the arrest should be afterwards effectually made, and that the deserter should be held in custody, to be surrendered to the pirate captain on his return homeward to the island.

You are instructed to bring this matter immediately to the notice of the government of the Netherlands. The subject of damages for so great a violation of the rights of the United States will be considered when we shall have properly verified the facts of the case. In the mean time you will ask the government of the Netherlands for any explanation of the transaction it may be able or see fit to give. You will further say that the United States, if the case thus stated shall prove to be correct, will expect, in view of the treaties existing between the two countries, and the principles of the law of nations, as well as upon the ground of assurances recently received from the goveror of the Netherlands, that it will disown the action of its authorities at Curaçoa, and will adopt efficient means to prevent a recurrence of such proceedings hereafter. If the case thus presented shall not be found entirely erroneous, or be very essentially modified, the United States will expect that the governor of the island of Curaçoa will be promptly made to feel the severe displeasure of the government of the Netherlands, à country with which we have lived on terms of unbroken friendship for three quarters of a century. I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

WILLIAM H. SEWARD. JAMES S. PIKE, Esq, &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.

No. 13.]


The Hague, August 18, 1861. Sır: I avail myself of the departure of my predecessor, Mr. Murphy, for America, who sails in the Arago from Havre on the 20th instant, to send you this communication.

The news from America to the 8th instant, which comes to-day by telegraph, is received with satisfaction. The continued successes in Missouri; the election of a majority of Union representatives to the Kentucky legislature, giving renewed assurance of the conservative position of that important State; the prevailing quiet in Maryland and Delaware; and the failure of the confederate commanders to take any advantage of their recent extraordinary good fortune, all tend to reproduce the general state of feeling that prevailed on this side of the Atlantic before the occurrence of the disaster at Bull Run.

But there has never been anything here to correspond to what appears to have been the momentary depression and alarm felt at home after the repulse of our troops. The event was never regarded here to be of great significance, as it was a flight without a pursuit, and a victory of which the victor was not aware.

The reverse seems now to be all summed up in the fact of a failure to advance on the part of the Union forces.

Still it is not to be disguised that the obstacles to be overcome in reducing the insurgents are regarded to be formidable when the large armed force they have been able to bring into the field is considered. There exists, however, a consideration which seems to check confidence in their ability to hold out, resting on the general belief of their destitution of resources to maintain a large body of troops in the field, and that the lapse of time will thus operate unfavorably on their levies.

Your despatch of the 26th of July (No. 12) is received. I am gratified to know that I am able to communicate anything which you deem of particular interest.

It affords me still greater satisfaction to have your assurance in the copy of your despatch to Mr. Adams, therewith enclosed, that "it is not likely anything will now be done here hastily or inconsiderately affecting our foreign relations." I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Secretary of State, Washington.

Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.


No. 14.]


The Hague, August 28, 1861. Sir: The mails of to-day bring intelligence from America that the privateer steamer Sumter, bearing the so-called confederate flag, has been permitted by the authorities at Curaçoa to enter and replenish her exhausted stock of fuel and supplies with which to renew her career of depredation upon the commerce of the United States.

I have instantly called the attention of this government to these reports, and have assured the minister of foreign affairs that, if they shall be borne out by the facts of the case, in view of the recent prompt and friendly action of the Dutch government in relation to privateering, they will be regarded by the government and people of the United States with equal regret and surprise.

I think it will prove that the orders of the Dutch government to their colonial authorities to exclude privateers from their ports, which were issued about the middle of June, and of which I apprised you on the 16th of that month in my despatch No. 4, have by some means failed to reach Curaçoa. The ships which were sent out were expected to rendezvous at Curaçoa and winter in those seas. But they may be delaying their visit to avoid the heats of summer. I hope to be able to afford you more detailed information by the ne mail, which want of time prevents me from obtaining now in season for this.

I thought of suggesting the publication in our newspapers of the Dutch proclamations, copies of which I forwarded to you with the despatch referred to, but I concluded the department did not need my suggestions on that head.




I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant.


Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.


No. 15.)


The Hague, September 4, 1861. SIR : Since writing to you on the 28th ultimo in regard to my action on the strength of the public reports in respect to the steamer Sumter, I have received your despatch, No. 15, under date of the 15th of August, and also its duplicate.

I immediately addressed a communication to this government presenting the substance of that despatch. I have since had two interviews with Baron Van Zuylen, the minister of foreign affairs, on the questions involved and likely to be involved in the case. Mr. Van Zuylen has informed me that his government has received a brief communication from the governor of Curaçoa stating that the vessel in question put into the port of Curaçoa in distress, and was not a privateer.

In the course of our first interview Baron Van Zuylen dropped the remark that it was probable the vessel was regarded as a ship-of-war of the 80called Confederate States, but he subsequently seemed to desire to withdraw the suggestion.

I felt it to be my duty to protest against the idea that aid and countenance could be afforded by a friendly power to the Sumter, though she did assume the character of a ship-of-war of the insurgents. I claimed that were she afforded shelter and supplies on this ground by the authorities at Curaçoa, and should the Dutch government approve the act, it would be, substantially, a recognition of the southern confederacy, and that in my judgment such an act would be regarded by the United States as an unfriendly, and even hostile act, which might lead to the gravest consequences. I held that nothing more need be asked by the so-styled Confederate States, as a practical measure of recognition, than that a ship like the Sumter, claiming to be a national vessel of those States, should be permitted to enter the neighboring ports of foreign nations, and there obtain the necessary means to enable her to depredate upon the commerce of the United States. That such a course on the part of any power, aggravated by the fact that she was unable to obtain such supplies at home, so far from being neutral conduct was really to afford the most efficient aid to the men who were in rebellion against their own government, and plundering and destroying the vessels and property of their fellow citizens on the high seas. I protested against such a doctrine as tending necessarily to the termination of all friendly relations between our government and any government that would tolerate such practices, whether that government were France or England, or Spain or Holland. I remarked that it was not for me to judge of the purposes of European powers in regard to the existing state of things in the United States; but if there were to be exhibited a disposition anywhere to take advantage of our present situation, I believed it would be found that such a course could not be taken with impunity now, nor without leading to alienation and bitterness in the future.

Baron Van Zuylen hereupon explained that the earnest desire of his government was to maintain friendly relations with the United States, and to do nothing to interrupt the existing harmony between the two countries. That the point in question had not been considered by his government, and that the whole case should receive careful attention so soon as the facts relating to it could be ascertained. He has since sent me a note on the subject, which I enclose.

The baron stated to me that the governor of Curaçoa had received the instructions of the Dutch government, and the baron was of the opinion that

the governor had paid too much attention to the letter, overlooking the spirit of the instructions, which remark I took to mean, that as the governor's instructions only ordered the exclusion of privateers and vessels not in distress, and that as the Sumter claimed to be a vessel of war, and to be in distress, the governor had sought to shield his action under this shallow and transparent device of the privateer, which could certainly deceive nobody who was not willing to be deceived.

I presume there is no danger of the Dutch government taking any position on this question in haste, as that is not their way. It is quite probable they will take time to send to Curçaoa for facts and particulars. Meantiine the British government seem likely to have to act on the same question, as I see the Sumter has been at Trinidad, which will afford them à precedent, for which I am the more sorry, as I learned enough while I was in England to satisfy me that that government was likely to indulge in loose practices in regard to vessels sailing under the confederate flag.

But there is nothing in the circumstances or dispositions of this government, in my opinion, to induce them to exhibit unfriendliness to us or grant favors to the confederates, whatever there may be on the part of some of their slaveholding governors, of whom I infer him of Curaçoa to be one. I expect therefore to find the authorities here pursue a course void of offence towards the United States, however others may act.

I shall make it my endeavor to induce the minister of foreign affairs to have sent out at once such instructions to the West Indies as will prevent the Sumter, or her confederates, from making use of the Dutch ports in future, whatever their pretensions.

Since penning the foregoing, and at the last moment before being compelled to close for the mail, I have had a third interview with Baron Van Zuylen. He states that the instructions sent out in June were framed purposely different from those of France, and excluded all reference to vessels of war, solely because that course was deemed more favorable to the United States government which had ships-of-war and no privateers. You will remember that I called attention to this peculiarity at the time.

In answer to my inquiry whether he would not immediately adapt his instructions to cover such cases as that of the Sumter, information of which I was desirous to transmit by the next steamer, he replied that the subject was now under consideration in the colonial department. He insisted, bowever, that the governor of Curaçoa declared the vessel was admitted on the ground of her being in distress, she baving carried away one of her masts, and that before admitting her he convoked his council, who recommend the course he pursued.

I renewedly represented to Baron Van Zuylen the very grave character of this question and its vital importance to the commerce of the United States.

Since the government here must by this time fully understand that our government is very much in earnest on this subject, I entertain the hope that they will hurry their deliberations to a favorable conclusion.

Allusion having been made on my part to the possible influence of slaveholding sympathies in this case, I was pleased to be informed by Baron Van Zuylen that the question of slavery had been finally determined in Holland, and that emancipation is to take place in all the Dutch colonies within two years. I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,


Secretary of State, Washington.

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