Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward
Sir: The enclosed copy of a note which I had occasion to address to the Duke de Loulé on the 29th instant, and the papers which accompany it, will bring to your notice a vexatious incident, which has excited much interest and feeling in this community. It is not necessary now to repeat the details, since the complete history of the case is related in the note to the minister of foreign affairs. It may be observed, however, that no moral doubt was entertained that the offence complained of originated in the inexcusable mistake or excessive zeal of the imprudent officer in command of Belem castle, which, though bearing a very imposing name, is really little more than a beautiful architectural ornament to the harbor, and of no consequence in a military point of view.
The government of his Majesty served no notice of any kind upon me, applying to our ships what is known as the 24-hour rule, and I feel authorized to state, from that fact and others, that there was no intention on the part of the responsible authorities to impose any such restraint upon their movements.
In the midst of the confusion and alarm which prevailed during the presence of the Stonewall in port, and the apprehension that a collision might occur in the Tagus, verbal orders were probably passed among military officers, without definite instructions from their superiors, which led to this untoward circumstance; [Page 114] still the event was of itself of a character which could not be passed by in silence, and, after a lapse of 24 hours, I addressed the Duke de Loulé in such terms as seemed to be appropriate to the occasion, keeping in view the propriety of a dignified calmness, and not forgetting that our own government had been recently compromised by a similar indiscretion. That note was not delivered in point of fact at the Foreign Office until yesterday at 12.20 p. m., and was sent from there to the royal palace of the Ajuda, where the Duke de Loulé was attending the King in a council of ministers. It was kept back in order that there might be no appearance of precipitancy, and in the hope that the government would anticipate the necessity of any communication whatever.
At the usual audience of the diplomatic body later in the afternoon of yesterday, the Duke de Loulé stated to several of my colleagues that he was gratified with the moderation and tone of my representation, and that he would respond to it by ample reparation for the wrong. I permit myself to hope that this proceeding may merit the approval of the department.
The shots which struck the Niagara did not inflict the least injury, or I should have required the repairs to have been made.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.