ON CLAIM OF CAPTAIN JOHN DOWNES, OF THE NAVY, FOE REMUNERATION FOR PRESENTS MADE TO THE ACTIVE AUTHORITIES OF THE SANDWICH AND SOCIETY ISLANDS, AND EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES CONNECTED WITH THE CRUISE OF THE FRIGATE POTOMAC, IN 1832.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FEBRUARY 10, 1835.
Mr. E. Everett, from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, to whom was reported the memorial of Captain John Downes, of the navy of the United States, reported:
That, in. the summer of 1831, Captain Downes was dispatched, in the frigate Potomac, to perform an arduous and important service on the coast of Sumatra, and afterwards to take command of the United States squadron in the Pacific, and to visit the chief resorts of the American commerce in that ocean. He arrived on the coast of Sumatra in February, 1832, and, in pursuance of the instructions of the government of the United States, inflicted chastisement upon the people of Quallah Batoo for the outrages committed on the American ship Friendship. The beneficial effects of the discreet and vigorous manner in which this important service was performed by Captain Downes are believed, by the committee, to have been felt and acknowledged by our navigators who have subsequently visited the coast. After remaining twelve days near Quallah Batoo, Captain Downes proceeded to Batavia, and thence to Canton, where he rendered an essential service to an American ship, belonging to Providence, by taking out of her six mutineers and supplying their place with six men from the Potomac. From Canton Captain Downes pro-
ceeded to the Sandwich Islands, and arrived at Oahu on the 23d July, 1832. While there, it was in his power to render important services to several American vessels, and to secure the acknowledgment, by the King of those islands, of claims of American citizens against him, to the amount, as the Captain believes, of fifty thousand dollars. While in this quarter, Captain Downes received from the King supplies of animals, fruits, and vegetables, which were served out as fresh provisions to the ship's company, to the great advantage of their health and comfort, after a twelvemonth passed at sea. It was deemed proper by Captain Downes, and, as the committee think, with reason, to make some return for these supplies. Nor was it less desirable to perpetuate the favorable impressions, with respect to the United States, recently made by a visit of a public ship in these seas, and to cultivate a good understanding with the native authorities. Such a course was fully in accordance with the policy and instructions of the government, and highly important in reference to our extensive and growing commerce in the Pacific. To promote these ends, Captain Downes presented the King with swords for a troop of cavalry, with articles of clothing, and other articles of considerable value; and he also gave an entertainment, at his own expense, to the King and other persons high in authority in these islands.
From the Sandwich Islands', Captain Downes proceeded to the Society Islands, and arrived at Tahiti in the month of September, 1832. He here received from the Queen ample supplies of provisions, which were furnished to the ship's company, and, in return, deemed it his duty to present to her, and other persons in authority, articles of considerable value; and also to invite them to an entertainment on board his ship.
Captain Downes arrived on the coast of South America in the month of October. His official reports and dispatches contain the proof of the important services rendered, in the course of his voyage of circumnavigation, to the commerce of the country, to our extensive whale fishery, and to all the interests depending on a good understanding with the native authorities in the Pacific ocean. From the opportunities which the committee have had to acquaint themselves on the subject, they believe that no vessel-of-war has ever been dispatched from the United States to the Pacific which has performed more valuable services.
For the expenditures made by Captain Downes in gratuities to the native princes, the committee consider him entitled to a reasonable indemnity; the rather, as a portion of their value has already been realized in advance to the United States, in the form of provisions received from the islands, and consumed by the ship's company on board of the Potomac, with a consequent saving of an equal amount of the ship's stores. But the nature of the case seems to preclude an accurate statement of the precise amount of the advantage thus accruing to the United States.
In consideration of services of the same kind as those performed by Captain Downes, and in reimbursement of similar expenditures, made for the same objects and to the same authorities, by Captain Finch, in the United States ship Vincennes, two years previous, Congress appropriated five thousand dollars, the whole of which was allowed, by order of the President, to Captain Finch. On examining the report of the Fourth Auditor in reference to the cruise of the Vincennes, its great similarity with that of the Potomac is remarkable; and the same grounds of equity exist for a reasonable reimbursement to Captain Downes of the expenses incurred by him, as above set forth.
The committee have found some difficulty in satisfying themselves as to the measure of the allowance that ought to be made. The nature of the expenditures did not, in all cases, admit of an accurate account being kept, and Captain Downes thought he might safely rely on the willingness of the government to extend the same liberality to him which had been manifested to his predecessor. Among the articles furnished as presents were forty cavalry swords, with their appendages complete; a costly rifle in its case; twenty yards of blue broadcloth, with trimmings; thirty pieces of nankin; 268 pounds of Java coffee; 200 pounds of sugar; seven pieces of silk, and a great variety of articles of clothing of every description; the whole estimated by the Captain to have cost him one thousand and eighty dollars. For the entertainment to the King and persons in authority at the Sandwich and Society Islands, the committee are not prepared to recommend any allowance.
The committee, considering the foregoing facts, and referring to the case of Captain Finch, to whom five thousand dollars were allowed, having deemed the sum of one thousand and eighty dollars, at which Captain Downes estimates his expenses, as exceedingly reasonable, have, accordingly, reported a bill to allow him the payment of that sum.