Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 14.djvu/467
Building Confederate Vessels in France. 461
was held in Paris, the result of which has already been reported to you, it was unanimously agreed that the ironclads must of necessity be sold, but it was thought that the corvettes should be completed, as the builders were confident that the government would not inter- fere with their departure, if despatched as commercial vessels, and under the assumed ownership of private individuals. Thus fortified by the opinions and advice of Messrs. Mason and Slidell, 1 gave M. Arman, the principal builder, written instructions to sell the ships, upon his representation that such a course was necessary in order that he might be able to show to the Minister of Marine that his business connection with me had ceased. There was at the same time an express understanding between M. Arman and me that the sale of the corvettes should be purely fictitious, and that the negotia- tions in respect to the rams should be kept in such a state that we might get possession of them again if there should be any change in the policy of the Emperor's government before their completion. Scarcely a month since, I had a long consultation with M. Arman regarding all of these matters, Mr. Eustis being present. M. Arman showed me a contract of sale of one of the ironclads to the Danish government, and told me he was then negotiating for the sale of the other to the same government. As Denmark was then at war, it had been arranged that the nominal ownership of the rams should vest in Sweden,* and that government, I was informed, having consented to do this piece of good service for Denmark, M. Arman said that a Swedish naval officer was then at Bordeaux superintending the com- pletion of the rams, as if for his own government. In the contract of sale, M. Arman had agreed to deliver the ships at Gottenburg, in Sweden, and he told me that he had made this unusual stipulation in order that he might be able to send the ships to sea under the French flag, and in charge of men of his own choice. ' Now,' said he, ' if you are willing to sacrifice one of the rams, and will consent to the bo7iafide delivery of the first one, I am sure that the second can be
- I reported this fact, just as I understood M. Arman to state it, at the
time of the consultation referred to; but upon subsequent inquiry, I learned that he did not mean me to infer that any public official of the Swedish government took part in the transaction, but that a Swedish banker had undertaken to carry out the arrangement. However, the whole plan fell through ; the ship was actually sold to Denmark, and was sent to Copenha- gen without any disguise, and under the French flag, with a French com- mander and crew.