Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Captain William T. Sampson

 

CONFIDENTIAL.                [Washington, D.C.] March 1, 1898

Sir:-

     As soon as the Court of Inquiry of which you are President has reached its findings, you will transmit the same privately, through the Commander-in-Chief of the North Atlantic Station,1 to the Department. You will not, however, adjourn, but will continue your sittings for the purpose of putting your findings in proper form, etc.

     The object of the Department in giving you these instructions is to enable the Administration to determine upon a policy in advance of the official announcement of the findings of the Court. You will, therefore, use the utmost caution to prevent the fact becoming public that the Court has reached a finding or that its finding has been transmitted privately to the Department.2

Very respectfully,

John D Long

Secretary

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 45, Entry 29. Addressed below close: “Captain W.T. Sampson, U.S. Navy,/President, Naval Court of Inquiry./Key West, Fla./(C.-in-C.).”

Footnote 2: According to contemporaries and historians, political leaders in both the United States and Spain realized the report of the Court of Inquiry would have profound political consequences. As the Spanish chargé d’affaires Juan du Bosc reported to the Foreign Minister of Spain Don Pío Gullón Iglesias:“All await with feverish anxiety the American official report. If it declare that the catastrophe was due to an accident, I believe I can assure your excellency that the present danger will be over; but if, on the contrary, it alleges that it was the work of a criminal hand, then we shall have to face the gravest situation.” See, Spanish Diplomatic Correspondence, 88.

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