Library

 

first encrypted cable (1866),

Unclassified

first encrypted cable (1866),
Previous Next

Cable
to $73.79. For October, the bill was $76.3411 and November (minus the encrypted message) $46.94. But the charge for the 23 November encrypted message was $19,540.50! This cost, together with other cables sent in November, added up to $24,996. an amount equal to the yearly salary of the President of the US and three times more than that paid to Seward.12 The Secretary of State was unwilling, and unable, to pay the cable charges. its cable dispatches in gold before transmittal and had never made any request for "abatement or delay" in payment. The editor concluded that "it is a shame for the United States government not to be able to pay its telegraph bills as promptly as a New York newspaper."
More Trouble
Further, the use of expensive encryption was questionable, given that Seward, only days later, testified in some detail before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on the subject of the dispatch. And the Secretary of State provided the full plain text of the 23 November dispatch to the New York Herald! For more than six decades, the Monroe Code had provided a limited degree of protection for diplomatic communication. Seward's release of the information to the Senate Committee and to the Herald greatly lessened communications security and the value of the code. Another cable dispute involving Seward began in March 1867, when the Russian Minister to the US sent an encrypted 1,833-word cable to St. Petersburg. The cable was transmitted through the newly organized State Department telegraph office at a cost of close to $10,000.15 The cable, which contained the basic treaty conditions for the purchase of Russian America for $7 million, was sent, according to the Russian Minister, at the "...request of Seward who pays for it...."16The charges for the cable thus were transferred to the American account, which by now had grown to over $42,000!
At Seward's request, Wilson Hunt and Cyrus Field, the manager of the New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company, met with the Secretary to discuss the bill.13 Seward asked Field to accept a partial payment of between $5,000 and $6,000, based on the number of words in the original message before encryption. Field, recognizing that Seward had no idea encipherment would be so expensive, questioned the Secretary's decision to use a code that had been in use since the formation of the nation. Seward replied that a new, economical cipher would replace the old one. And he promised that the company would eventually be paid in full and that the State Department would continue to use Field's company. Seward's compromise offer was not accepted, and he ended the conversation by stating he would not pay the bill. He did, however, invite the gentlemen to dine with him.14 Wilson Hunt, acting on behalf of the telegraph company, made further efforts to recover the money from Seward. Always a tough negotiator, Seward succinctly replied: "I have received and attentively read your letter of the 1st instant. I am, dear sir, Your obedient servant."17 One week later, the cashier for the telegraph company asked the State Department accounting clerk if he could collect on the account and received a prompt "No."18
A New Code
Seward's unhappiness with the cable costs for transmitting dispatches in the Monroe Code brought into existence the first new State Department code in 50 years. This awkward code, devised for economy, was based on the letters of the alphabet. The 23 words used most frequently in dispatches were assigned one letter of the alphabet. For example, "a" was the; "b" was it; "c" was have; and so forth. "W" was not used for the code (though it was in cipher) because European telegraph operators were not familiar
Someone leaked the news about the Seward-Field-Hunt exchange to the New York Herald. The newspaper reported inaccurately that the company had charged $25,000 for the November dispatch and that Seward had paid only $5,000. The editor commented that the Herald had paid for all of
63

Previous Next

Unclassified


Posted: May 08, 2007 08:53 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 02:07 PM