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Henry D. White, Secretary of the United States Embassy in London to Secretary of State John Sherman


American Embassy,

Confidential.                        London, March 12, 1898.


    Referring to my Despatch No. 294, of 9th instant, I have the honour to enclose herewith the translation of a cipher telegram which I received from you on the 9th instant, late at night, and of the reply which I sent you on the 10th, after seeing the Brazilian Minister, and which speaks for itself.1

    I also enclose the translation of a ciphercablegram received during the nightbefore last by the Naval Attaché of this Embassy from the Secretary of the Navy,2 which the former immediately communicated to me.

    Accompanied by him, I called upon the Brazilian Minister yesterday morning, and asked him on what terms his Government would sell the Amazonas alone. He said on none whatever; that their only reason for parting with her was that they might sell the Amiral Abreu” also.

    Lieutenant Colwell then said that he had received instructions from the Secretary of the Navy to purchase the two, and I corroborated the statement in behalf of our Government, on the terms mentioned in my cablegram to you of the 10th.3

    The Minister then said--somewhat to my surprise, as he had distinctly given me to understand that he was authorized to conclude himself the sale of the two ships in question--that he would immediately cable our proposal to his Government, and ask for a prompt reply. He subsequently told me, when I met him later, at the Queen’s Drawing Room,4 that he had done so; but I regret to say that he has just sent me word, in reply to an inquiry which I made,5 that no answer has yet been received.

    I am informed by Mr. Colwell that an Agent, who--whether authorized or not he does not know--offered him the two ships in question, and who has a business house in Rio, and is believed to be in touch with the Brazilian Government, left for Madrid the night before last, in reply to a telegram from the Spanish Government. This may perhaps have some bearing upon the delay in our answer from Rio, although the Brazilian Minister here assures me that no Agent is authorized by his Government to offer any of its ships for sale, and that he has declined all overtures from any such to do so.6

I have the honour to be,             


Your obedient servant, 

Henry White  

Source Note: TDS, DNA, RG 59, roll 994. Below signature is a list of enclosures: “Enclosures./Translation—cipher—Mr. Sherman to Mr. White, March 9, 1898./" " Secretary of the Navy to Mr. Colwell, Mar.1/" " Mr. White to Mr. Sherman, March 10, 1898.” Enclosures included but not printed here.

Footnote 1: The Brazilian Minister was João Arthur Souza Corrêa.

Footnote 2: The United States naval attaché in London was John C. Colwell and the Secretary of the Navy was John D. Long.

Footnote 3: Amazonas, renamed New Orleans, sold for close to £293,865 ($1,425,224.25). “Dollar Pound Exchange Rate” (last modified 2014), accessed 7/21/14,

Footnote 4: The original Queen’s Drawing-Room was located at Windsor Castle, but most likely White is referring to one of three rooms in Buckingham Palace where ceremonies were presided by Queen Victoria.

Footnote 5: The words “which I” were handwritten.

Footnote 6: On 16 March, the contract was signed and two days later a telegram announced that the: “Naval Attaché took possession of Amazonas and hoisted flag at eleven to-day.” See, White to Sherman, 18 March 1898, DNA, RG 59, M30, roll 995.

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