Chester A. Arthur

Special Message

February 21, 1884

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith a report of the Secretary of State of the 21st instant, whereby your honorable body, and through you the people of the United States, may become apprised of the generous contribution made by Her Britannic Majesty's Government toward the efforts for the relief of Lieutenant Greely's arctic exploring party by presenting to the United States the arctic steamship Alert.



Washington, February 21, 1884.


In the search for vessels suitable for the expedition now preparing to relieve Lieutenant Greely and his party, attention was early directed to the Alert , which is the property of the British Government, and was the advance ship of the expedition under Sir George Nares. It was desirable to secure this vessel, as she is peculiarly fitted for the intended service, and as the inspecting officers recommended her Mr. Lowell was therefore instructed to ask whether she could be spared for the service.

Information of the wish of this Government having previously and infernally reached the British admiralty, a private intimation was conveyed to the United States minister to the effect that the British Government had not forgotten the very considerate conduct of this Government on the occasion of the recovery of the Resolute , and that should any suggestion be made that the vessel would be of use to the expedition she would be presented. The Resolute , a vessel, as the President remembers formerly belonging to Her Majesty's navy, having been abandoned in the arctic region, was discovered and brought to the United States by American seamen, and thereupon was purchased by this Government of her sailors, repaired, and returned to Great Britain. On her arrival in England the vessel was received by the Queen in person, and the officers of the United States Navy who took the ship thither were treated with every official and personal courtesy.

The Government of Her Majesty has now given the Alert to the United States unconditionally, with her anchors, chains, and such of her equipment as can be utilized.

Recognizing this graceful and opportune act of courtesy on the part of Her Majesty's Government, the undersigned today instructed Mr. Lowell as follows, by telegraph:

"Her Majesty's Government having presented to the Government of the United States the ship Alert to aid in the relief of Lieutenant Greely and his party, you will inform the secretary of state for foreign affairs that the spirit which prompts this act of generosity, and this evidence of sympathy with the object in view, receives the highest appreciation of the President, as it will that of the people of the United States. The President sends his cordial thanks for the opportune gift of this vessel, which he accepts in the name of the United States, and which will be used in the humane enterprise for which it is so peculiarly adapted."

Respectfully submitted.


Chester A. Arthur, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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