Mr. Harvey to Mr. Hunter

No. 339.]

Sir: A Russian squadron of four ships, bearing the remains of the late Duc Héritier, entered the Tagus on the morning of the 10th instant. The United States ships Niagara and Kearsarge were then in port. The Russian minister, Mr. de Kondriaffsky, had previously informed me of the intention of the squadron to come in, and of the ceremonies proposed by the Portuguese authorities when it should appear and during its stay here. The Niagara had just returned from a cruise to Madeira, and I at once addressed a note to Commander Craven, requesting him to consult and co-operate with the Portuguese authorities, and to superadd to their action any peculiar tribute of respect permitted by the naval service of the United States on such occasions.

[Page 127]

Commodore Craven called upon me soon afterwards to say, that as he was going to Antwerp, he proposed to offer his ship as an escort to the Russian squadron. The suggestion struck me as a very proper and becoming expression of our sympathy, and at the same time as a manifestation of friendship towards a great power which, from first to last, had borne itself kindly and considerately to the United States during our whole struggle.

I fully concurred, therefore, in the view of Commodore Craven, and made the intention known to the Russian minister, in order that he might accept or decline the offer, according to the wishes of his government. He at once expressed the greatest satisfaction and gratitude for the courtesy, and made the purpose known to the Emperor, now at Darmstadt. I received a formal visit from him yesterday, being instructed, as he said, by the Emperor to express his acknowledgments for this act of considerate and welcome attention.

It occurred to me as proper for the Kearsarge to accompany the said cortege a certain distance to sea; first to render our respect the more imposing, and next in order that the progress of the voyage up to a particular point might be reported to the imperial court.

I feel quite confident that no manifestation of good feeling or of sympathy on this melancholy occasion could be made here which would not be acceptable to the President and the department, and therefore I have had no hesitation whatever in obeying my own impulses, because they responded, as I believe, to the wishes and sentiments of our people.

And if there had been no other reason to guide me, the expression and conduct of the Russian government at the great affliction which has recently been deplored by our people, and the language of friendly attachment addressed to the United States by the official press at Saint Petersburg, in the presence of the world, would have been sufficient to have determined any little responsibility on my part, if a doubt as to the plain course of duty had ever crossed my mind.

The Russian squadron is now about leaving the Tagus, under the convoy of the Niagara and Kearsarge, her Majesty’s ship Defence, detailed from the fleet recently here to escort the squadron to Plymouth, and the Portuguese ship Sagree, which will attend it ceremoniously a short distance.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William Hunter, Acting Secretary of State.