New York, March 16,1863.
Memo. Instructions from the Navy Department to Messrs. W. H. Aspinwall and J. M. Forbes.
You will receive credits from the Treasury Department, which will enable you to use for the purposes of these orders £1,000,000 sterling. This, or any part of it, you will use at your discretion, to buy any vessels, or a majority interest therein, built or building in England or elsewhere, for war purposes. Your first object will be to secure such vessels as are most likely to be used by the insurgents and to be most dangerous in their hands. Your next object will be to get such as will be most useful to us, whenever it becomes possible and expedient to get them to some home port or friendly port where we can get possession of them. If in your opinion clearly expedient, you may send such vessels to such points, but you will endeavor to avoid establishing a precedent that may embarrass our minister when urging the British government to stop the sailing of vessels belonging to the rebels.
You will note that there may be vessels building, which, without being perfectly adapted to war purposes, are still so fast and have such capacity for a moderate armament, that they threaten to become dangerous to our commerce. In such cases, you must use your best judgment as to purchasing any of them. It may in some cases be expedient to secure a majority interest or a lien upon vessels instead of buying the whole, provided you feel sure that you can thus prevent their being fitted out by the rebels.
You may also be obliged to hold your title to all the vessels by a lien. Our main object is to prevent the rebels using these vessels, rather than the expectation of getting much valuable service from the vessels at present.
You will use your discretion as to how long you will pursue this experiment, and will relinquish it whenever you think no further good likely to come of it, or when directed by the Navy Department.
You will have letters of introduction to the consuls at Liverpool and London, and will get every information from them, but will finally use your own judgment upon the merits of each case.
Gideon Welles, Secretary.
J. M. F.
W. H. A.
SOURCE: Sarah Forbes Hughes, Letters and Recollections of John Murray Forbes, Volume 2, p. 5-7