Mr. Tassata to Mr. Seward.
The undersigned, her Catholic Majesty’s minister plenipotentiary, begs to inform the honorable Secretary of State, that on thè 27th March a vessel called the Varuna left the port of New York under strong suspicion of going to be fitted out as a privateer against Spain by Chili. As is well known, the Varuna was built by the Messrs. Forbes, of Boston, to be used as a war vessel for the government of the United States, and although rejected by the Navy Department because it did not fulfil the conditions of the contract, it was in the service of said government for two years during the late war, remaining finally the property of its builders. The Varuna was advertised some time ago for New Orleans, but it gave up the trips, and having been newly coppered in great haste, was again announced for Hong Kong, (China.)
The Varuna being a war vessel, and its owners being the same as those of the Meteor, at present under process for violation of the neutrality laws, elicited, for these and other reasons, suspicions sufficiently great to induce the district attorney and the marshal of New York to give notice to the custom-house not to clear the vessel, and, whilst proof was being gathered, the undersigned had reason to hope that the vessel would not leave until he had at least been informed that she was about to do so. It was with surprise, therefore, that he recently learned that the Varuna had sailed on the said 27th day of March for Hong Kong, the clearance having been taken by the same agent, Mr. Carey, who was employed for the Meteor, with no other cargo than coal and a few muskets, and with the very suspicious circumstance of virtually refusing to take passengers, by fixing an unusual rate of passage, which, from two hundred and fifty dollars, had been put up to six hundred and fifty, gold. It even appears that the voyage was announced as an expedition gotten up by a few friends, without any present intention of returning to this country. The above facts have, within the last few days, acquired greater weight from the discoveries elicited by the trial of the Meteor. In that trial, besides the evidence which appears against Mr. Forbes, there is a declaration of Mr. Ronald MacNichols, showing that the Varuna was on the list of vessels furnished to the Chilian agents as suitable for their purposes.
The character of the vessel, the name of its owner, the change in its destination, the hurried repairs, the absence of cargo, the indirect manner in which passengers were refused, its being on the above-mentioned list, the trial of the Meteor—everything conspires to increase the suspicions which existed from the beginning that the Varuna is going to be armed as a privateer. If, as it had been hoped, this vessel had been detained, there would probably have been occasion to furnish proof in reference to the suspicions.
The undersigned did not at once make application to the State Department, because he did not know in time some of the circumstances that have been related; but he deems it his duty to now call attention to this subject, hoping the government of the United States may think proper to take such measures as will insure the observance of neutrality.
The undersigned improves this occasion to reiterate to the honorable Secretary of State of the United States the assurance of his very high consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward,&c., &c., &c.