Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward
Sir: Information from various sources and directions has reached this legation within the last ten days, all tending to show that several rebel cruisers are afloat in these and the neighboring waters, and that a serious hostile demonstration against our commerce is meditated. Copies of the notes and telegrams on this subject are communicated herewith, in the order that they were received.
The United States steamer Sacramento left here about a month ago for Cadiz, principally to take in stores deposited there, and at the same time to make some necessary repairs. As soon as I was made aware of the facts above stated, a telegram was sent to her commander, inquiring if the ship was ready for efficient service, and upon receiving an affirmative reply, he was requested to come here immediately. It is to be presumed he is now on his way to this port.
The United States steamer Niagara is supposed to be in one of the ports of Belgium or Holland, and as her services are not needed in that quarter but are imperatively required hereabouts, I deemed it proper to telegraph Mr. Sanford at Brussels yesterday, requesting him to give that information to Commodore Craven.
The steamer Ajax, referred to in Mr. Moran’s note, put into the Tagus on the 3d instant, owing to stress of weather. From inquiries made yesterday, I am led to believe that she is an intended blockade runner and not a cruiser.
The ram mentioned in Mr. Montagnie’s despatch has not yet appeared here.
Immediate steps will be taken in regard to the representations made by Mr. Bayman at Funchal, but it will be necessary to proceed with a certain degree of prudence, as this government, under any pressure, might be inclined to follow the example of the larger powers, and apply a rule to our vessels-of-war which, under existing circumstances, would be far more injurious to the public interest than the impertinent proceedings to which attention has been called.
My first endeavor and duty, in the midst of these complications, and with but a single ship-of-war at hand, must be to protect our exposed commerce, and, if possible, to punish the armed depredators.
I venture to suggest, as Lisbon is a much more available point than Cadiz for the information by which the movements of our ships-of-war in these waters must be to a great extent determined, that it would be a material economy of time and of money if the supplies intended for them were stored here, so as to be quite at hand in case of emergency. Whatever naval force can be spared for Europe should be so disposed in all respects as to give it the fullest vigor and efficiency. The want of systematic organization has been and is still seriously felt
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.