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Baron Van Zuylen to Mr. Pike.


THE HAGUE, September 2, 1861. Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communications of the 28th of August and of 2d of September.

I hastened to communicate these notes to the minister of the colonies, and I hope to be enabled at an early day, and so soon as the reports of the Governor of Curaçoa respecting the affair of the steamer “Sumter" shall be known to me, to give you a reply upon this subject. Be pleased, sir, to accept the renewed assurance of my high consideration.


Minister Resident of the United States of America.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 21.]


Washington, September 5, 1861. SIR: Your despatch of August 18, (No. 13,) has been received, and the opinions it expresses seem to be just, while the information it gives is very satisfactory. Treason is apt to mature its energies before it strikes the first blow; on the other hand, loyalty is unapprehensive of danger and usually waits for conviction of the necessity for defence. The course of this domestic civil war illustrates this maxim. The fortunes of the insurrection hang on immediate success and despatch; efforts, therefore, are made to secure it. I feel sure, on the contrary, that the government has been continually gaining strength with every expenditure of vigor it has made. You will be gratified to learn that the paper issued by the government is at par in the market where gold and silver are recognized as the only lawful tender in the payment of debts.

While you will not hold out inducements of rewards or bounties for soldiers, you may say, whenever it shall seem expedient, that any foreigners arriving in this country will probably find no difficulty in finding military employment.

With a high appreciation of your discretion and vigilance, I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

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

Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.

[Extract.) No. 16.]


The Hague, September 11, 1861. Sir: Subsequently to the interviews I had with the minister of foreign affairs, of which I spoke in my last, and after the transmission to you of my despatch (No. 15) of the 4th instant, I addressed the following communication to Baron Van Zuylen:

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"The Hague, September 7, 1861. "Sir: I do not understand this government to have yet distinctly conceded 'belligerent rights' to the self-styled Confederate States.

“In behalf of my government I be to say that I trust Holland will not take this position now, and open the questions to flow therefrom. By doing so, this government may make an enemy of the United States, through the consequences growing out of that act. But Holland will not thereby make a friend of the rash and misguided men who lead the rebellion against the American government. For their object is to perpetuate and extend African slavery. With this object Holland can have no sympathy. Your government has just now determined to abolish that remnant of barbarism in your colonial possessions.

“The slaveholders' rebellion cannot be successful. The United States has determined it shall not be, and that it will preserve the union of the States at whatever cost.

“But even if we admit, for argument's sake, that some of the slaveholding States should be allowed hereafter to depart from the Union, still would the rebellion be unsuccessful in its objects, and hospitality shown to its progress be unavailing. The United States would be still resolute to defeat the purposes of the rebel slaveholder. They would do this by their own unaided efforts. They might readily co-operate with foreign powers to the same end. Such of those powers as hold possessions in America, wherein slavery has been abolished, would join in this object from anotives of justice and humanity, as well as from considerations of policy and consistency. Those who have colonies where the practice still prevails would gladly concur in self-defence. England having abolished slavery, France having put it under her feet, the position of these two great maritime powers on this subject is fixed. The recent action of the French Emperor is conclusive as to the policy of that powerful monarchy. Spain, in her late trespass upon St. Domingo, has been constrained to formally stipulate that she will not reintroduce slavery in that island; Mexico and Central America will be only too eager to enter into stipulations that shall save them from any attempted spoliation, and preserve the condition of freedom from slavery for all their inhabitants now and hereafter. A common civilization throughout the world will look with favor on a common union to crush the offensive purposes of the rebellious slaveholder. His success, therefore, is out of the question. Unless the world is to go backward, and history reverse its lessons, this rebellion in its leading purpose is foredoomed. Eren gớvernments cannot save that against which humanity revolts. Surrounded by communities on the north, on the south, on the west, that have expelled slavery; the islands of the Caribbean sea nearly all emancipated from this pestilent system; the fabric of the rebellious slaveholder, which he is so madly anıbitious to erect, were even its temporary establishment possible, would soon be washed away by the attrition of surrounding influence upon its crumbling foundations, and its remains left a ruin in the world.

“It is thus neither just nor politic, in any point of view, for the powers of Europe to do anything to encourage this abortive and criminal enterprise of the rebellious American slaveholder. For though they should do ever so much, the effort will be none the less abortive, through the operation of forces that governments cannot control.

"The recognition of belligerent rights'to the party in question by England and France was a precipitate and unnecessary act. It was surely time enough to do this when the alternative presented an embarrassing situation.

"The Dutch government has been wiser. In continuing to occupy the position of refusing all countenance to the authors of such a lateful rebel

lion, the Netherlands will do an act which will be viewed with the liveliest satisfaction by the United States, and, I may be permitted to add, one worthy the traditions of this ancient and renowned state, and will set an example well worthy the respect and consideration of other nations.

“The undersigned, &c., &c.
“Baron Van ZUYLEN, &c., &c."

On the 9th instant I had an interview with Baron Van Zuylen, again urging him in the most earnest manner to issue such instructions to the Dutch authorities in the West Indies as would peremptorily exclude from their ports every species of craft set afloat by the secessionists.

Baron Van Zuylen appears, and I have no doubt is, very desirous to do all he possibly can, under what be deems the requirements of public law, to carry out the wishes of the United States in this matter. He does not consider that his government has recognized belligerent rights, and desires not to be pressed on that point. I told him we had no desire to press him to do anything, except to issue such instructions to his colonial governors as will effectually exclude the piratical vessels of the secessionists from making use of the Dutch ports.

He asked then if we would consent to have our own ships-of-war excluded. I told him if that was necessary to relieve him from a dilemma, I did not know how far such an act might be tolerated for the sake of an advantage which we could procure in no other way. We might not find fault, if thereby we found our interests advanced. But, of course, I could not undertake to commit my government on the point. I remarked that exclusion would not operate to our disadvantage, inasmuch as we had command of the sea, while it would be fatal to the plunderers, as they had no retreat at home. He intimated that his government contemplated making the proposition to the United States. He also remarked that the course of our own government threw impediments in their way; for while we regarded the secessionists as rebels, we did not seem to treat them as such when taken prisoners, not even their privateers. I concluded the interview by renewedly urging every consideration I could adduce to induce him to issue the desired orders, and to lose no time in doing it.

He will soon make a written communication on the whole subject, which I will forward at the earliest moment after receiving it. After my interview, I addressed Baron Van Zuylen the following note:


The Hague, September 9, 1861. “Sir: Referring to our conversation of to-day, I beg to suggest that what appears to you a practical difficulty may, it seems to me, be properly overcome by your government issuing orders to its colonial authorities to regard all armed vessels bearing the so-called confederate flag as privateers. They are so in fact, and they should not be allowed to shield themselves under any other pretext. Unless a vessel claiming to be a ship-of-war exhibit some prima facie evidence of being such, in her size, and in her other external symbols and aspects, which these piratical craft do not, the proper authorities may well claim the right to decline all investigation of the case, and assume her unlawful character.

"The undersigned, &c. &c. “Baron Van ZUYLEN.”

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

JAMES S. PIKE. Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Mr. Pike to Mr. Seward.

No. 17.]



The Hague, September 18, 1861. Sir: The minister of foreign affairs has not yet furnished me with the promised communication on the Sumter case.

On the 12th instant I addressed him the following note:

“Sir: Referring to my recent communications to you on the case of the Sumter, I beg to say, in order to avoid all possibility of cavil or misapprehension, that, in speaking of or alluding to the marauding vessels of the persons in rebellion against the United States government as 'privateers,' I refer to them as such only in the sense of their own pretensions; the United States government, as you are well aware, regarding them solely as piratical craft, and the persons engaged thereon as pirates.

“I have the honor to be, &c., &c. “Baron Van ZUYLEN, &c., &c *





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


Secretary of State, Washington.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Pike.

No. 22.]


Washington, September 23, 1861. Sır: Your despatch of August 28, No. 14, has been received. We await with some interest the explanations of the government of the Netherlands concerning the affair at Curaçoa, but at the same time with very great confidence that it will be conformable to the good and friendly relations existing between the two countries. I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

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

Mr. Pikce to Mr. Seward.

No. 18.]



The Hague, September 25, 1861. Sir: I have the honor to enclose the communication from the Dutch government in reference to the Sumter case. Though dated the 17th, it did not make its appearance to me till the 20th.

You will perceive that the ground taken in regard to the harboring of the Sumter in the port of Curaçoa is, that it was the case of a vessel in distress.

This paper, however, goes beyond the case in hand, and argues the claim of the seceding States to be considered belligerents, and their rights as such, besides going over the whole ground of the rights of neutrals.

Baron Van Zuylen makes out to his own satisfaction that the secessionists hold that position, and that this carries with it the right of hospitality, 'in neutral ports, to their ships-of-war.

To my surgestion in my note of the 9th, that the Sumter was in no just sense a ship-of-war, but a privateer, or, as our government claims, a pirate, and that the want of the ordinary characteristics of a ship-of-war, besides the fact that she bore a strange flag of no recognized nationality, entitled us to ask of Holland, as a friendly nation, to assume her unlawful character. Mr. Van Zuylen opposes an argument to show that the Sumter was really a ship-of-war of the Confederate States, and that an impartial neutrality demanded that she be so treated. He finds his support of his position that this was the Sunter's real character in the declarations of her captain and in the allegation of Harpers' Weekly.

The minister of foreign affairs seems to admit the force of the argument I had previously urged, that it was inconsistent with all ideas of a just neutrality that these marauding vessels of the secessionists could be allowed to make free use of the neighboring ports of a power holding friendly relations with the United States, for hostile purposes, and this, too, while deprived of all shelter or resource at home. And, in reply to my earnest request that he would cause to be issued to the Dutch colonial authorities in the West Indies orders against such use of their ports, Baron Nan Zuylen de Nijevelt declares, under cover of his general principles, that orders shall be issued in the sense of forbidding the use of the Dutch ports as the base of operations against United States commerce, or, as he phrases it, by either of the belligerents.

In regard to this part of Mr. Van Zuylen's communication, I will here observe that much will depend upon the character of these instructions, and not less upon the spirit in which they are executed. It is in the power of the Dutch government, and of its colonial authorities, to so act, upon the basis of the rule laid down on this head, as to avoid further cause of complaint on the part of the United States, and to effectually prevent these sea robbers from making use of the Dutch ports as a means of pursuing their ravages; and I have so expressed myself to Baron Van Zuylen in the note of which I have the honor to annex a copy. I will add that I have confidence that such orders will be given.

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The following is a copy of my note to Mr. Van Zuylen:


The Hague, September 23, 1861. “Sir: I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 17th instant, which will, in due time, receive that attention its importance merits.

“Meantime I desire to observe that, as must have been obvious to you, I have hitherto contented myself with advancing general considerations appealing to the friendly dispositions of Holland, rather than in invoking the application of the strict rules of public law to the case under review.

"The Dutch government exercises its undoubted right in overlooking such considerations, and in assuming the championship of a so-called neutrality, which insists upon treating a domestic disturbance as a war between equals.

“For those who so desire, as I am sure Holland does not, it is easy to be persuaded of an incipient nationality in an insurrection, and to see a ship-ofwar in every pirate that insults mankind with her depredations or shocks it with her crimes.

"I have great satisfaction in learning from his communication that Baron Van Zuylen recognizes the force of the considerations I have had the honor

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