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Ir seems, from the official correspondence recently published by the State Department, that the present administration had scarcely been two weeks in power before it was called upon to show its fixed purpose to discharge the duties of neutrality towards the belligerents of Europe with the strictest impartiality. The circumstances of the case

were as follows:

The Germanic Confederation, desirous of building up a German navy, . applied to the government of the United States, through their minister, Mr. Donelson, in the latter part of the preceding year, to sanction its taking a number of American naval officers into its employment and pay for a stipulated time. Mr. Polk, with the concurrence of his cabinet, naturally gratified by this compliment to the American navy, was disposed to favour the application so far as it could be done with propriety, but deemed it prudent to learn the precise character and duration. of the services expected, with other details, before he decided whether he would ask of Congress authority to grant the permission applied for. With this view, Commodore Parker was despatched to Berlin and Frankfort, and directed there to obtain, under the direction

VOL. III.—SEPT., 1849.


of Mr. Donelson, the desired information. In the month of January he communicated to Mr. Mason, Secretary of the Navy, the result of his inquiries, by which it appeared that "little or nothing" had been done towards the creation of a German navy; that two British mail steamers, recently purchased, and another authorized to be purchased in the United States, constituted the whole naval force they had to oppose to the Danish navy, then consisting of 1,085 guns, and 9,755 men, and comprehending five line of battle ships of eighty-four guns each. He remarks that on the expiration of the armistice between the Confederation and Denmark on the 26th of March, a renewal of hostilities was confidently expected; and, with such disparity of force, he saw no field for an American officer to acquire credit for himself or his country, and further, that the German Confederation itself could not be established without a civil war; he therefore thought, that in the existing state of things, it would be unwise for an American officer to take any part in German affairs, except in the way of advice.

It seemed, from the letter of the German minister of commerce and marine to Commodore Parker, that the American officers wanted were, one commodore, one lieutenant or commander (as the Commodore should choose,) three lieutenants to command three steam sloops, ten lieutenants to command smaller steamboats or gun-boats, and twentyfour passed midshipmen. All of which officers were to be advanced to one grade higher than that which they severally held in the American navy. He also wished for a superintendent of naval construction, and two assistants; and lastly, he requested that an officer should be furnished to aid in arming and manning the steam frigate they had ordered to be purchased in the United States.

Before Commodore Parker's despatches were received by the American government, Baron Roenne, the Envoy from the German government to the United States, applied to Mr. Mason for minute information on the subject of organizing a navy; on the naval school, navy yards, dry docks, naval hospitals; draughts of sailing and steam vessels; guns, and gun-carriages; the police of the navy, and the bureaux for its management, the expense of procuring which information he was ready to pay. Some days afterwards, Baron Roenne asked Mr. Mason to designate an officer to assist in selecting a steam frigate; to take the command of her when purchased, and to superintend her equipment as a vessel of war; and, finally, to take her to Bremerhaven, there to await the further orders of the German government.

The information sought for by the German envoy seems to have been promptly given by Mr. Mason, on the authority of the President, and the proper officers of the Navy yard at New York were required to give such facilities in the equipment of the war steamer, as should be "consistent with the public interests and the business of the yard." An answer to the further requests of Baron Roenne was deferred until Commodore Parker's report was received. Accordingly, on the 1st of


March, Mr. Mason informed Baron Roenne that he had received that report, a copy of which, as well as of the instructions to the Commodore, he transmitted to the Baron. He informs the envoy that the President does not, under existing circumstances, consider it advisable to ask of Congress to permit American officers to enter into foreign service, and that they could not constitutionally enter such service without the sanction of Congress. He farther states that, in case of war between Germany and Denmark, American officers could not be permitted to take part with either. His application, therefore, for an officer to take command of the war steamer must be refused.

Such was the state of things when the present administration came into power. But it was soon perceived that further precautions must be taken to maintain for the United States the character of neutrality in the very probable contingency of renewed hostilities between Denmark and the German government. The order to the officers of the Navy yard to afford facilities for the equipment of the German steam frigate, "the United States," was revoked by the Secretary of the Navy; and, on the 10th of April, Mr. Clayton, the Secretary of State, wrote to Baron Roenne that the president, soon after he came into office, learnt that a large steamer, then fitting out in New York, was to be employed by the German government in its war with Denmark; that the United States, at peace with all nations, wished to preserve those relations of amity which are at once enjoined by their treaties with foreign powers, and by the constitution of the United States. He then refers to the act of Congress of April, 1818, one section of which requires the forcible detention of vessels like the steamer United States, probably intended to commit hostilities against a friendly power; inflicts fine and imprisonment on all persons engaged in such enterprises, and requires the owners of such vessels to give bond that they shall not commit hostilities against any nation at peace with the United States. He states that Denmark, by its minister here, had protested against the fitting out of this steamer, and had received satisfactory assurances from the President that the duties of neutrality should not be thereby violated. He adds, that the President, desirous at the same time to manifest his friendly feelings towards the German nation, and his confidence in their envoy, would make no opposition to the departure of the steamer United States, if the envoy would give his solemn assurance that such steamer would not be employed against any power with which the United States were then at peace.

To this communication, Baron Roenne replies on the 14th, at great length. He refers to the desire of the German people to possess a navy, and the measures they had taken to effectuate their purpose; he says, that having decided on adopting a federal government, they had naturally looked to the United States for aid and advice. They had, therefore, hailed with lively satisfaction the mission of an American envoy to Frankfort, and one of the first requests to him had been to

secure the assistance of American officers in building up a German navy. He adverts to the appointment of Commodore Parker, and to his report to the American government, and complains of his advice against the employment of American officers in the German service, as inconsistent with the office he himself had undertaken in Germany, relative to the employment of such officers, and the advice he had given relative to the purchase and equipment of a war steamer in the United States. He notices, also, his own correspondence with Mr. Mason, and he relies on these and other details to show that there was no secresy in this affair, and that when the facilities were granted by the American government for fitting out the steamer, it was known to all that she was intended to be used as a vessel of war. He does not, however, admit that she was designed to be employed against Denmark. The real object, as had been stated to Mr. Mason, was that the vessel was to be taken to Bremerhaven, the German naval station on the North Sea, there to remain until farther orders; that the armistice which existed when the steamer was ordered, had been continued to the 15th inst., and that there was reason to hope that peace had been already concluded. He insists that the purchase of this steamer, as well as of others, had no reference to the war with Denmark, but grew out of the determination of the German government to have a navy. He says, that desirous not to involve the United States in difficulties, or to violate its laws, he had consulted eminent counsel in New York on the act of Congress of April, 1818, according to whose opinion, which he cites, the steamer in question, though "fully furnished, fitted out, and armed," would not come within the provisions of the act, if she were not intended to cruise or commit hostilities against any foreign power then at peace with the United States.

He insists that the "ulterior purpose" of using a vessel of war is not made criminal by the act of Congress, it is only "the proximate and immediate intent" which is looked to; and he gives a solemn assurance that the steamer United States was not purchased or fitted out with intent to commit hostilities against the subjects or property of Denmark, or other powers at peace with the United States, but to go to Bremerhaven, and there receive further orders. These further orders he claims not to know, and says they will depend upon contingencies not now foreseen. He says that although he conceived that the German government might fit out and arm their steamer without violating the act of 1818, yet that their agents, in their anxiety not to compromise the neutrality of the United States, had decided not to fit out the vessel as a war steamer until the consent of the proper authorities was obtained: that consent he hopes will now be granted. He concludes with reiterating the intention of his government, not to violate the laws of the United States, and expresses surprise and mortification at the revocation of the orders to grant facilities for the equipment of the steamer, since like facilities had been granted on many

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