Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward
Sir: The Stonewall was yesterday afternoon lying at Ferrol. Mr. Perry states, upon the authority of the consular agent at Ferrol, that she stands in need of repairs before she can take the sea, and that the Spanish government will refuse her permission to make them.
Captain Craven is at Corunna with the Niagara. He exhibits impatience to have the Sacramento join him. Mr. Harvey informs me that the Sacramento is undergoing repairs also at Lisbon, but as far as I can gather from their despatches, she will soon be, if she is not already, on her way to Corunna. I doubt if Craven feels entirely confident of his ability to meet the Stonewall single-handed. He asked me, ignorant, I presume, of what I have already attempted, to solicit the intercession of France with the Spanish government to detain her Mr. Perry informs me, confidentially, that the fortifications of Ferrol are not strong enough to keep the Stonewall, if she is determined to go out. If so, the only effectual mode of detaining her is by sending vessels-of-war, and I, doubt [Page 365] whether France has anything at hand that she would dare to expose to such an enemy.
I shall endeavor to shake Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys’s determination when I see him on Thursday. I am unwilling to reply in writing to his letter of the 7th February, because I think it my duty to leave to you the selection of the ground upon which the controversy over this vessel, which is impending, shall be waged.
I have reason to believe that Slidell wrote home by the last mail that the Spanish government had sent to their minister, Mr. Mon, in Paris, to ascertain whether France desired the detention of the vessel. That Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys said they had nothing to do with her, and that Mr. Mon sent for Mr. Slidell, who satisfied him that the Stonewall was a regularly commissioned confederate vessel.
If Slidell is correctly reported—and I suppose he is—it only confirms me in the opinion towards which I have been steadily drifting since my interview with the minister of marine on Sunday week, that the depredations which the Stonewall may occasion us will be the least of the troubles of the government. They don’t care how much these steamers wrong us, provided they do not give us an opportunity of fixing the responsibility for what occurs upon them.
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Though I am unable to assign any very satisfactory authority for it, I am strongly impressed with the conviction that, but for the Mexican entanglement, the insurgents would receive very little further countenance from the imperial government, and that a reconciliation of the national policies of the two countries on that question would speedily dispose of all other sources of dissatisfaction.
I am, sir, with great respect, your very obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.