The German brig the 'Marie Louise' was seized by Spanish forces off the Sulu Islands in the Philippines in August 1873. The vessel had been chartered by Augustine Heard & Co. with a view to opening up trade with this region, but the islands had been blocked by Spain, which was in dispute with the Sultan. The Spanish claimed the vessel after the authorities discovered muskets on board and accused the crew (inaccurately) of gun-running. The brig was put into service transporting coal, and was purchased by Spain the following year.
This document is a printed letter sent by Augustine Heard & Co., Hong Kong, to John F. Cordes, Consul for Germany, 26 November 1873, describing the seizure of the 'Marie Louise' off the Sooloo (Sulu) Islands by the Spanish Navy and requesting assistance. It includes a manifest and list of the ship's stores. There is also a manuscript memorandum of goods, sundries and personal effects. The following is a transcript of the letter:
HONGKONG, 26th November, 1873.
John F. Cordes, Esq.
Consul for Germany.
With reference to the seizure of the German brig "Marie Louise" off the Sooloo Islands in August last, there have been so many contradictory reports, both as regards the movements of the vessel, and the nature of her cargo, that we are desirous of laying before you a narrative of the entire business of that vessel.
We are able to do this as we were the charterers of the vessel, and the voyage upon which she was engaged was planned by us. Our statement therefore can be relied upon, as made with a full knowledge of all particulars, and in requesting you to bring them to the notice of your Government, we may add as evidence of our respectability and of the faith that can be placed in our statement that our Senior Partner is the Consul for Russia at this port and our Partner at Shanghae is the Consul for Russia there, and that it is in that capacity of Consul, that we were made acquainted by His Excellency Admiral Possiet of the Russian Navy with the Treaty of 1851 between Spain and the Sultan of Sooloo referred to below; which Treaty was communicated to H. E. Admiral Possiet by the Governor General of the Phillipine Islands [sic.] in person, and was, prior to this communication, unknown to the Admiral, as it was also to the general public.
In June last Mr J.B. Field came to us with very respectable introductions, representing himself to be a British subject, and requested us to assist him in organizing a system of trading between Hongkong, and the Islands to the Southward, naming the Sooloo Archipelago, Palawan, Sool[oo,] Borneo and other Islands. He said that he had just returned from a voyage thither in the American Schooner "Scotland," and had, without hindrance, traded with the natives at sundry and various places in these Islands.
In planning a voyage thither we had no idea that there was any obstacle in the way on the part of the Spanish, or other authorities, and we were informed that the "Scotland" was seen, and boarded by a Spanish gunboat, and after examination was allowed to proceed on her voyage. We were aware of the Treaty referred to above, between the Spanish Authorities and the Sultan of Sooloo, whereby the ports of Sooloo were opened to trade (see Art. VI. and XII.). No proclamation of the abrogation of that Treaty has ever been made, that we have heard of, neither have we heard that any blockade of the Sooloo Islands has been proclaimed at Manila or elsewhere.
After thorough investigation we decided to assist Mr. Field in attempting to open trade. Our plan was to buy cargo of miscellaneous merchandize for sale or barter under Mr. Field directions [sic.], at any place offered an opportunity to do so favourably without aiming at an particular spot.
The cargo was purchased partly on our own and partly on Mr. Field's account, and we [text missing] a memorandum showing everything that was put on board, both cargo and stores, (except ship's provisions), marked.
Reference to this manifest will show that with the exception of 60 old muskets, picked up in the Bazar for $84, and 200 cartridges belonging to a private rifle of Mr. Field for his own
protection, there were no arms and no powder.
We then chartered the German Brig "Marie Louise" on July 4th, and loaded her with the above mentioned articles; she cleared out for Singapore, the final destination of the vessel, and sailed on the 14th July.
In addition to Mr. Field, who went as supercargo, we engaged the services of a Dane, Mr. Hagan, as interpreter, and we sent down in the Brig a young man from our office as assistant, Mr. W. R. Hodgkins by name.
On August 4th the vessel was anchored in Rock Bay near the South End of Palawan Island, and the only trade that was done was the barter of 1 case Tobacco and 2 pieces of Manufactured Goods for 16 peculs of Gum. No arms or ammunition was landed there. The next day the vessel put to sea again, bound to the Southward. On the 14th August, being then becalmed about 60 miles from the Island of Sooloo, Messrs Field, Hagan and 5 Chinese sailors left the Brig, (taking no cargo or anything with them but stores), in the long boat with the design of reaching that Island and the brig was to follow. On the next day she anchored at a distance of about 9 miles from the nearest point of the Island of Sooloo, and 12 miles from the city of Sooloo itself. Half an hour after she had anchored, a Spanish Gunboat steamed up to her and without warning put an armed crew on board, and took possession of her. The next day, August 16th, the boat returned from shore on board with Messrs Field and Hagan; they were separated, and put in confinement on board the gunboat, the boat's crew put in irons, and the Brig was towed to a point between the Pangasinan and Morangas Islands, about 4 miles from shore, she having been a long way out of shore jurisdiction when boarded and seized. Messrs Field, Hagan and Hodgkins were then transfered [sic.] to frigate, thence to a gunboat, and the Brig was towed to Zamboanga, and thence, on the 19th August, to Isabela, on the Island of Basilan. On the 20th, and 21st Mr. Field and Mr. Hodgkins were sent on board the Brig where they were kept close prisoners.
On the 6th September the Brig was again taken in tow and arrived at Cavite, near Manila, on the 10th; permission was asked and refused to Field, Hagan and Hodgkins to send letters to their friends on shore and their Consuls. All this time the hatches of the vessel were kept sealed and closed. The "Marie Louise" was taken to Manila between the 10th and 23rd September, and on or about the 24th, was condemned by an Admiralty Court as a legitimate prize; we are informed that the Court held it sessions in secret and no Consul, or representative of the concerned was allowed to be present. We have been unable to obtain any redress for the outrage, and at the last da[ ]es from Manila neither the cargo nor vessel have been released.
We have been unable to obtain any aid from our own authorities, for the reason that the flag covers the cargo, and we trust that the German Government, in taking cognizance of the facts of the case as regards the ship, will also use their endeavours to obtain for us the value of the cargo, and indemnity for the losses, and expenses to which we have been put.
We have thought it well to have this statement verified before the American Consul, and we annex marked the sworn affidavits of Messrs Hagan and Hodgkins as to the truth of the facts we have herein set forth. Mr [Field] absent at Man[ila] we are unable to hand you his declaration to the same effect. Thanking you in advance for your friendly services.
We have the honor to be,
Your Obedient Servants,
Augustine Heard & Co.