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It is to be regretted I was not notified of the negotiations in Washington. The English legation here is better informed by its government of what transpires in Washington on this subject than this legation. I beg that the receipt of this telegram may be acknowledged.


No. 662.

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General Sickles to Mr. Fish. No. 893.]


Madrid, November 29, 1873. (Received December 26.) SIR : I have the honor to forward herewith some further correspondence with the minister of state.

On the night of the 27th it was informally agreed that, on a declaration made by me of the American nationality of the Virginius, the vessel and surviving passengers and crew would be delivered up, the flag saluted, and the other measures of reparation accorded in conformity with our demand of the 15th instant. With this understanding my note under date of 26th instant was written, and placed in the hands of Mr. Carvajal at 4 in the morning of the 28th. In order that no time should be lost, I intimated to the minister of state, through a friendly channel, that I expected an immediate reply, and unless it was received before 3 in the afternoon I would feel constrained, in obedience to my instructions, to renew the request for my passports. The council of ministers had meanwhile ratified the arrangement, and a draught of a protocol was prepared.

At noon Mr. Carvajal sent to me, by the hands of Mr. Rivero, a copy of a telegram that moment received from Admiral Polo, containing what purported to be a fresh proposal from yourself, agreeing to reserve all other questions on the immediate surrender of the Virginius and survivors. This proposition, the minister stated, was at once accepted, and of this you had been instantly notified through the Spanish minister in Washington. In the afternoon I received from his excellency an official confirmation of this announcement, in the note of which you will find a translation in appendix B. I am, &c.,


(Inclosure 1 in No. 893.]

General Sickles to Mr. José de Carrajal. (Sent in November 28, 1873–3.50 a. m.)

Madrid, November 26, 1873. The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note addressed to him to-day by his excellency the minister of state. Reserving to his Government, to whom the purport of the communication has been made known by cable, such reply as the President may direct to be made, the undersigned cannot do less than express his satisfaction in seeing what he hopes he may regarıl as a step toward an honorable settlement of the questions arising out of the capture of the Virginius. The undersigned understands the government of the republic to accept as just and reasonable the terms of reparation proposed by the United States in the note which the undersigned had the honor to address to Mr. Carvajal on the 15th inst. It remains only for the government of the republic to satisfy itself that the nationality of the vessel is ascertained. Upon this point, which undoubtedly is the essential one in the case, the undersigned begs to observe that the delay suggested for the purpose of obtaining testimony from Cuba to establish a fact already sufficiently certified seems quite unnecessary. Such evidence as might now be derived from the scene of the transaction would be secondary, inconclusive, and incompetent: Secondary, because, unhappily, the officers of the Virginius, the lawful custodians of her papers, are all dead; inconclusive, because it cannot be expected that those who are responsible for the catastrophe will furnish proof of their own misconduct; incompetent, because there is no judicial tribunal in Cuba by which the lawfulness of the capture can be determined A prize-court cannot have jurisdiction of the case, since prize-courts exercise their powers only between belligerents, and belligerents and neutrals, in time of war. War is not recognized as existing in Cuba, and Spain has been the foremost in denying that either party to the conflict enjoys, or is entitled to enjoy, belligerent rights.

The undersigned has heretofore declared, and he now repeats the declaration in the name of his Government, that the Virginius was at the moment of her capture on the high seas a regularly-documented American ship. The assertion of a government which has accorded to a vessel the right to sail under its flag is the best evidence of her nationality. Every such ship is registered in the public archives. It cannot be supposed that any respectable state would volunteer its protection to those having no right to claim it. Nor is it usual when, in a case like this, the injured government affirms the nationality of the ship, to put that averment in issue and demand proof as a preliminary to the consideration of reclamations for an affront offered to its flag.

The undersigned, therefore, submits to the enlightened judgment of Mr. Carvajal, that, in harmony with the usage and comity of nations, Spain my well dismiss all controversy as to the nationality of the Virginius, accepting as indisputable the fact that she was a regularly-documented American ship, and, moved by the traditions of a friendship uninterrupted for a century, proceed at once to accord to the United States that measure of reparation which she has already loyally recognized as befitting her own dignity and due to an ancient ally.

The undersigned avails himself of this opportunity to repeat to his excellency the minister of state the assurances of his most distinguished consideration.

D. E. SICKLES. His Excellency the MINISTER OF STATE.

(Inclosure 2 in No. 893.]

Mr. José de Carrajal to General Sickles. (Received November 23, 1873–5.30 p. m.)

[Translation. ]


Madrid, Vorember 28, 1873. Sir: The undersigned, minister of state and member of the executive power of the Spanish Republic, las the honor to state to General Sickles, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the republic of the United States of America, that he has received his communication dated the 26th, replying to the propositions made on the same day for the settlement of the question of the Virginius, and stating that you had communicated them by telegraph to Washington for the decision of His Excellency the President of the United States.

I had great pleasure in the perusal of your note, which was inspired by the highest sentiments of honor and dignity, and I would have especial satisfaction in treating fully the doctrinal points contained therein, if, happily, I had not to-day received from the minister of Spain in Washington a telegram, which I must, first of all, hasten to bring to your knowledge, as well as the determination of the executive power.

Mr. José Polo de Bernabé, duly authorized by Mr. Hamilton Fish, informs me that your Government, animated by the best desires of conciliation, would ailmit a settlement on the basis of the immediate return of the Virginius and the survivors, reserving the salute of the flag to be performed if the Spanish government do not prove to the satisfaction of that of the United States, before the 25th of December next, that the Virginius had no right to carry the American flag:

In reaching these conclusions the initiative was taken by the Spanish government, and was indicated in a telegram addressed to our representative, being founded upon the noble and loyal words uttered by Mr. Fish in his interviews with the same, that if Spain had any complaints or reclainations to make, by reason of the acts of the Tirginius, the United States were prepared in that case to apply the provisions of international law, and to prove that, being ever determined to do justice, they held the purpose to observe toward the Spanish republic a reciprocal and cordial friendship,

The executive power has confirmed its acceptance of those bases by means of a telegraphic message, which I am at this moment sending to Mr. Polo.

Knowing, as you do, the sincerity with which the executive power desires to draw closer the affectionate relations existing between the two republics, there is no need for me to impress upon you the satisfaction I feel on beholding the honorable and happy termination of a question which might have had grave consequences had not kindly ties and kindred political interests served as mediators between the two countries, and, permit me to add, had there not been at the head of the friendly nation and of its representation in Madrid minds fully up to the high level of their epoch. I improve, &c., &c.,


No. 663.

Mr. Fish to General Sickles.


WASHINGTON, November 29, 1873. Telegram of 9 in the evening of 28th received only this morning. Late last night Spanish minister informed me of proposal embracing all that was in demand of 15th, with a slight variation and provision for mutual consideration of reclamation and investigation of conduct of parties, which proposal was accepted, and this morning had been reduced in form of protocol, signed. Particulars will be sent by post.

Your telegram of 9 in the morning was not received until 11 this morning.


No. 664.

Mr. Fish to General Sickles.


WASHINGTON, November 29, 1873. Remain at post. Further instructions soon. Settlement being effected here.


No. 665.

General Sickles to Mr. Fish.


MADRID, November 29, 1873. At half past 10 to-night received your telegram of to-day, directing me, in plain, to remain at post.

It is announced here that settlement has been made in Washington, on basis of return of vessel and captives, leaving all other questions for subsequent adjustment.


No. 666.

General Sickles to Jr. Fish.


MADRID, November 30, 1873. General Pieltain denies that he directed the capture of the Virginius, and asserts that the order was given by the commanding officer of the fleet to take her wherever found.


No. 667.

Mr. Fish to General Sickles.


WASHINGTON, December 1, 1873. The arrangement with Admiral Polo is the following:

The Virginius, and the survivors of passengers and crew, are to be restored forth with. The United States flag to be saluted by Spain on the 25th December. If Spain before theu satisfies the United States that the Virginius was carrying the flag at the time of capture without right, the salute will be spontaneously dispensed with ; but Spain in such case is to disclaim an intent of indignity to our flag.

In the same event the United States will institute inquiry and adopt legal proceedings against the vessel, if it be found that she has violated any law of the United States, and against any person who may appear to have been guilty of illegal acts in connection therewith.

Spain is to proceed against the persons who committed the acts com. plained of in Santiago de Cuba, according to the second proposition made to you, and communicated in your telegram of 27th November, and to arraign them before competent courts, and to inflict punishment on those who may have offended.

Other reciprocal reclamations are to be made the subject of arrangement, and in case of disagreement are to be the subject of arbitration, if the Senate assent.

The time, manner, and place for the surrender and for the salute to be subject of arrangement within two days.

These details are sent in answer to your telegram of 4 in the afternoon of the 29th November.


No. 668.

Mr. Fish to General Sickles.


WASHINGTON, December 2, 1873. The two days agreed upon in the protocol signel with Spanish minister for arranging details have passed, and minister has not full instructions, and has asked a short extension. It is hoped the delay is acci

dental and has been unavoidable, but it gives rise to grave apprehension of the failure of the friendly accommodation to which this Government acceded on the request of Spain. You will see minister at once, and assure him of the President's disappointment at this delay, and that if he assent to any extension, it is in the interest of a continuance of friendly relations with the republic of Spain, but can be only for the most limited period. That he relies upon the immediate execution of the engagement to forth with surrender the vessel and the survivors of her passengers and crew, and that delay cannot be regarded otherwise than as inconsistent with the engagement.


No. 669.
(Circular. )

Washington, December 3, 1873. To the diplomatic officers and consuls-general of the United States :

I herewith inclose a copy of the President's message to Congress, and of an accompanying protocol * of a conference between the Secretary of State and the Spanish minister. I invite your particular attention to the latter. There is no reason to believe that Spain will find herself unable to comply with her engagements to the United States respecting the Virginius; yet it is proper that your attention should be called to the emergency, which it is hoped has now passed away, in order that you may exercise vigilance in watching the course of future events. Your obedient servant,


No. 670.

Mr. Fish to General Sickles. No. 415.]


Washington, December 3, 1873. SIR: I inclose copies of Consul-General Hall's Nos. 6 and 8.1

Respecting the former, which states that a guard of Spanish marines was placed at the consulate of the United States at Santiago de Cuba, you are instructed to bring the subject verbally to the attention of the Spanish government, and to ask the reason for the unusual course.

Respecting the latter, which sets forth the difficulty which Mr. Hall labors under in holding communications with the superior political governor in Cuba, I have to say that in the present juncture it does not appear to us that it is either prudent or a mark of good-will to throw impediments in the way of a free intercourse on pending questions between the principal representatives of the two governments in Cuba.

You may make this matter the subject of unofficial conversations, in the belief that the matter will be viewed at Madrid in the same light as here. I am, &c.,

HAMILTON FISH. * See correspondence with Spanish minister, infra. + See correspondence with Mr. Hall, infra.

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