Mr. Hale to Mr. Seward

No. 24.]

Sir: Yesterday I had an interview with Mr. Bermudez de Castro, and communicated to him the contents of your despatch, No. 20, dated March 1, 1866.

He expressed himself as entirely satisfied, nay gratified, with the perfectly fair and honorable manner in which the government of the United States had met and discharged all the duties and obligations of an impartial neutrality in the war between Spain and Chili, and subsequently Peru also. He disclaimed in the most decisive and emphatic manner, on the part of his government, any such ulterior views against the integrity or independence of any or either of the South American States, as you suggest they apprehend, and added that these declarations he had frequently made in the most explicit manner, both publicly and privately, on various occasions, both orally and in writing, in public documents, and still more recently in a speech which he had delivered in the senate, a copy of which he has promised to, furnish me, and which I will send to you when I receive it. On the other hand, he said this war had been forced on Spain without her agency or consent, and that she could no more be justly charged with seeking or provoking it than could an individual upon whose head a tile might be thrown from the top of a building, as he passed along the street, be charged with provoking a quarrel with him who threw it.

[Page 569]

In the course of this conversation he remarked that he not only recognized the fact that the conduct of the United States in this controversy had been strictly fair and honorable, and such as afforded not the least ground of complaint on the part of the government of her Catholic Majesty, but that it had been further characterized by a just and liberal friendship for Spain.

I then ventured to suggest that, notwithstanding that the tender of the good offices of the government of the United States was vague and indefinite, yet I had no doubt that, if any practical way could be devised or suggested by which the good offices thus tendered might be made practicable and efficient in promoting the restoration of peace between the belligerents, I had no doubt that my government would, by adopting it, show that its offer meant something more than an unmeaning compliment.

To this Mr. Bermudez de Castro replied that he had no doubt of it, and that you were well advised of the character and merits of the whole controversy, and that there was no other individual in whose intelligence and integrity to form a correct judgment he should place more confidence than in yours; and further, that if you would express in some concrete or distinct formula the offer which thus far was only vague and indefinite, he had no doubt that you might propose something which would probably be acceptable, and might lead to a termination of hostilities honorable to both parties.

I do not know that I distinctly and definitely understand the idea which Mr. Bermudez de Castro meant to communicate, but I believe it to have been that if you would carry out your tender of friendly offices by a distinct proposition of a mode of adjustement by the belligerent parties, it would in all probability be acceptable to Spain, and, he hoped, to Chili and Peru also.

That I might be sure that I had not misunderstood any part of the interview I had with Mr. Bermudez de Castro yesterday, I have submitted to him the first draft I made of the conversation for his inspection, and he assented to its accuracy entirely, only suggesting that I might add, if I pleased, what further he said yesterday, which was that what he had said was in the full confidence that you would propose nothing to Spain incompatible with the dignity of the Spanish nation, of which this government in the last resort be the ultimate judge.

I have received from Mr. Bermudez de Castro the Gaceta de Madrid of the 10th of March, containing the speech referred to, which I send you by this mail enclosed.

I have the honor to remain, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant;


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.



Senator Llorente. * * * * * The part which I consider most important, passing by those general views of which I make little account, in the manifesto to which I refer, is that which has relation to the negotiations had between the minister of state and the minister plenipotentiary of Peru, or Peruvian agent of this court, since the preliminaries of the 27th of January. The document to which I refer says thus, (to the lines which I am about to read I call the attention of the Senate:) “The Spanish government, during the course of the negotiation initiated, has not omitted any measure to make the Peruvian agent clearly understand its decided purpose to impose on Peru the most humiliating and burdensome conditions. The minister of state of Spain has not hesitated to declare:

“First. ‘That in the opinion of the present cabinet, that preliminary treaty deserves severe [Page 570] censure, because it did not meet the first exigencies of Spain. That the course pursued by his predecessor, Mr. Pachero, equally deserves it, and the conduct of Admiral Pareja was no less deserving of it, for having ceased to occupy the Chincha islands.’

“Second. ‘That the right of revindication existed against Peru until Spain should have formally recognized her independence, because, in the judgment of the government at Madrid, the treaty of the 27th of January did not impart that recognition.

“As for the conditions which the Spanish government required from Peru, in order to conclude with her a treaty of peace and amity, the Peruvian minister enumerates them thus:

“First. ‘The insertion, indispensable in the treaty, of a clause in which the present Queen of Spain, using the privilege which a decree of the Cortes concedes to her, renounces the sovereignty, rights, and acts which pertained to her over the heretofore vice royalty, now the republic of Peru.’

“Second. ‘The selection of the treaty concluded between Spain and Bolivia as the type of that which was to be concluded with Peru.’

“Third. ‘Obligation on the part of Peru to pay (here Mr. Pachero cites, without doubt, the text of a despatch from Mr. Valle Riestra) all that which was a charge upon the treasury of the old vice royalty of Peru, weighing on the consular tribunal, the central treasury, the revenue from tobacco, the mint, the funding office, as well as all credits on the said treasury for pensions, salaries, aids, advances, forced loans, deposits, or by any other title, whenever originated by direct orders of the Spanish government, or of its authorities in Spain, and in the territory which is now the republic of Peru, up to the date at which she last evacuated it in 1824, and that debt to carry interest, and the privilege which the most favored debt of the republic can now enjoy or might or should enjoy in the future.’”

Among the declarations which I have just read, and which are diverse, there are some to which I attach no great importance, and others which are in my opinion of the greatest weight. But I must say, sirs, decidedly, that when I had the first knowledge of this document, I never hesitated for a moment, never vacillated in the belief that the assertions contained in the lines I have just now read are completely false or at least extremely inexact.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Minister of State, Bermudez de Castro. In the manifesto, the government of Peru acknowledges, or rather boasts, that that nation has twice managed to establish relations with Spain, adding that its propositions were frustrated by causes for which the republic was not to blame, leading error which Mr. Pachero, minister of foreign relations of Lima, falls into. Twice, in effect, Messrs. Senators, has Peru attempted to establish diplomatic relations with its ancient metropolitan, Peru, one of the last of the American republics which came, to solicit their recognition by Spain. The first time was in the year 1853, when there came, commissioned to negotiate, Mr. Osma, a worthy person, well known to the whole court, who adjusted in that year a treaty, which was acceptable in almost all its clauses, which stipulated, as is usual, that it had to be ratified.

The treaty was returned to Lima for such purpose, and that government neither replied nor made excuse of any sort to justify the silence it thought proper to observe. Only upon a revolt and tumult, which happened at Lima, in which the department of foreign affairs was sacked, the papers of the archives were scattered in the streets, and the causes came to light which moved the government of Peru not to ratify the treaty made with Spain. * * *

The second occasion was in 1859, when Mr. Calvez, Peruvian minister at Paris, came to Madrid, but before a conference with the ministry, wished to present his credentials to her Majesty.

His obstinacy on this point could not be overcome, although it was explained to him that a presentation would be equivalent to a recognition, and after that the treaty would be in every respect useless. These reasons did not convince him, and he went back to Paris. * * Things so continued till a treaty was made at Callao, between General Pareja and the Peruvian General Vivanco, which was ratified by both governments, and faithfully executed by both. A plenipotentiary went to Lima, and one came to Madrid, and it was only after several months that a government growing out of a revolution set up that the treaty of the 27th of January was completely void and illegal, because, under the constitution, the government which made it had not the faculties necessary to sanction it. What need I say of that—a question of domestic policy—with which we have nothing to do, but Peru solely. * * Suppose the treaty did not suit Pezet; could not the actual government of Lima offer remarks to that of her Majesty, setting forth the reasons for its conduct, or seeking a modification of what was agreed on? Ought it not to have done this? What is the reason it has preferred war to this course of action?

* * * * * * * *

On the 3d of February, a few days after the treaty, the Spaniards are charged with being the aggressors. When the marines of our squadron went on shore, on leave, and in entire trustfulness, they were made the innocent victims of an unlooked-for attack. Every one remembers the heroic resistance of a corporal, who, attacked by thirty men, long defended himself against his assailants, till killed by a blow from a stone. Mr. Pachero says that unfortunate event was owing to the arrogance and aggression of the Spaniards.

* * * * * * * *

In my view, what is now happening is nothing but the result of committals of the revolutionists [Page 571] with Chili and its government for the aid it should give them in overthrowing Pezet, and that nothing else causes the war against Spain. Peru has no other motive for declaring it.

When the present ministry came in there was here a plenipotentiary from Peru to adjust the treaty, Mr. Valle Riestra, At a first conference we talked slightly. I told him I could not allow a most important suppression that existed in his project—that is to say, his omission of the bases of the recognition and liquidation of the debt to Spain—which were left for another treaty, to be made at Lima.

Here I should remind senators that Spain does not absolutely reclaim from Peru anything for herself. The debt in question is that which all the American republics which derive their origin from the Spanish monarchy have recognized, liquidated, and paid, and is composed of credits in favor of Spanish subjects who have been ejected, and whose property was confiscated or sequestrated—in a word, credits in favor of private persons. * * * *

I say this, because it cannot but have been observed with what pertinacity the manifesto dwells always upon debts which the Spanish government claims, as if speaking of amounts which were to come into the public treasury.

I recollect that when the question of Chili was stirred the chargé d’affaires to the United States of America came to learn what the Spanish government proposed to do. He asked if revindication was thought of. I told him the government disapproved the word—had never thought of it. I added, besides, and can speak of it, because an official statement of that conference has been given to the government at Washington, that the could assure Mr. Seward that such was the determination of her Majesty’s government, and so decided its policy as to what behooves Spain in her relations with the American republics, that, if it were possible, the Chinca islands should be made a present to her, or any part of the territory of Peru, not even as a gift would such be received—words which are embraced in the despatch in which that agent gives account to his government of his interviews with me—in the same form in which I relate it to the senate.

I turn to the interview with Mr. Vallé Viestra, and he claimed from the outset that the settlement of the debt due to the Spanish subjects should be the object of a special convention that should negotiate at Lima, and I was obliged to tell him that I would not agree to any such request. * * * * * *

He then said that he had intimated to Mr. Benavides that the part relative to the arrangement of the debt should be postponed for a special convention; that, afterwards, he had also said this to Mr. Arrayola, and that both had agreed to it. I could do no less than have him understand he must be under a mistake; that there appeared absolutely nothing in the department of state to show that Mr. Benavides and Mr. Arrayola had acceded to these pretensions; that it was impossible they could have acceded, because that would have been to depart openly from what is prescribed in the preliminary treaty of 27th of January, in virtue of which we were negotiating; and that, as that compact established rules entirely distinct, and contained clauses we must conform to, it was impossible that any of my predecessors could have approved his proposition, which seemed to me to be unacceptable.

Article 5 of the preliminary treaty says, and note how imperative is its wording: “In said treaty shall at the same time be defined the bases for the liquidation, acknowledgment, and payment of the sums which by sequestration, confiscation, loans of the war of independence, or other things, Peru may owe to the subjects of her Catholic Majesty, provided they combine the conditions of Spanish origin, continuation, and existing condition.”

* * * * * * * * *

Mr. Riestra agreed that it was convenient to insert the clause; but, not thinking that enough, he added, after Peruvian republic, and wished it annexed, “and the islands and other possessions which had become a part of the old viceroyalty of Peru.”

* * * * * * * *

But, in the second note I addressed to him on the same subject, I took care to sum up in a few lines the object of the divergence. I said to Mr. Vallé Riestra:

“If you have no powers to treat, article 5 of the treaty of Callao is infringed by Peru, by which that republic engaged to send a plenipotentiary clothed with ample powers. If, on the other hand, you do not choose to make use of the powers you have, you are the infringer of the treaty; at any rate, the responsility of the infraction does not weigh upon the Spanish government.”

Well, then, in the second note, August 15, 1865, I wrote what follows:

“1. Are you disposed to make a treaty, which, as article 4 of the preliminary convention prescribes, may be similar to that ajusted with Chili and other American republics?

“2. Supposing an answer in the affirmative, do you find yourself agreeing that, as article 5 of that convention prescribes, the treaty is to contain an article by which the basis can be established for the liquidation, settlement, and payment of the debt which burdened the treasury of the ancient viceroyalty of Peru until the Spanish authorities evacuated it, deducting such portion of said debt as may pertain to the republic whose territory pertained to the old viceroyalty?

“3. Supposing, also, an affirmative answer, that you accept the principle to establish said bases, and to designate the debt which, under various heads, may remain a charge on Peru, that there be adopted as a rule and principle what was agreed on this point with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador republics—some of them bordering on Peru, and others not [Page 572] far distant therefrom—which, when they made their treaties with Spain, were at full liberty to accept or refuse the terms by which they bound themselves to pay their respective debts, have subscribed thereto by a spontaneous act, and not by force of a compromise, such as that which now binds Peru; (and with this I respond to another assertion of the manifesto, in which it is asserted that the requirement of the Spanish government, or mine, was that the treaty of Bolivia should be strictly followed and copied.) Bolivia did not propose it. Chili always proposed it, or four or six republics which were in the same case.

“4. * * * * * Passing by the other four, * ** * and holding to the agreement between Spain and Chili, do you desire to consider the article about debt, contained in that stipulation, ‘as not in any way correspondent with the position of Peru towards Spain?’ * * * * * * * * * * The reasons are obvious; and now that we are at war with Chili, I have much pleasure in declaring that that republic, moved by a sense of justice, long before the acknowledgment of her independence by Spain, passed a law recognizing, liquidating, and marking out the proceedings for the payment of every debt in favor of Spanish subjects. * * * *

“5th, and last. Taking into account the antecedent consideration, you desire that the treaty with Peru be like that with Chili, substituting, however, for the article about the debt, another which determines the obligation of Peru: on this point, the same way as with the four republics above cited.

“You cannot conceal from yourself that the propositions in the preceding questions are within the limits of the convention of Callao, and in nowise exceed what is already agreed upon by other republics treating with Spain in a better position than Peru.”

To these questions the following categorical reply was given to me:

* * * * * * *

3. That his instructions do not authorize him to establish such bases, nor to designate the classes of debt which Peru must recognise by adopting as a rule on this point what has been done by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador, * * * * which cannot be regarded in the like position with Peru as to the settling of the debt. * * * *

4. That Peru and Spain not being in like relation as Chili and Spain about the debt, and being restrained by limited instructions, he could not assume so great responsibility as would result to the undersigned, not only with his government, if he should consent to the substitution of the clause, pure and, simple, relative to debt in the treaty with Chili, for the clause on the same point of any for the treaties cited with the four republics.

* * * * * * * *

That the governments of the American republics may be covinced more and more of the justice of the views which animate Spain in her relations with them, and also that they may not suffer from the misunderstanding which would be occasioned by a readiness in mastering all sorts of reclamations of Spanish subjects, without reference to their origin and causes, it is necessary and of great convenience that due distinction be made between claims proceeding from illegalities, assaults, acts of violence done, endangering the persons and interests of subjects of her Majesty entitled to the protection of the government of the country in which they reside, and those founded only on damages caused by contracts, voluntary laws, advances, and other matters of like kinds, in which some Spaniards willingly take part, acting with absolute free will, and seduced, perhaps, by the hope of immoderate gain.

Claims of the first class, that is to say, resting on undoubtedly just causes, ought ever to be the object of the most efficient support of her Majesty’s legation, which cannot refuse protection to the interests of Spaniards when an injustice is inflicted by arbitrary measures or abuses of authority for which no cause has been given.

But if the damages, indemnity for which is claimed by Spaniards interested, proceed from their completely free acts, the nature of which is of some engagement between parties, on conditions freely enterered into, it is just and natural that the question should be ventilated previously by courts of justice, as is the practice in all cases,, in which persons, governments, corporations, or any moral entity, fail to comply with an obligation clothed with the legal formalities which it requires. Consequently, in claims of the class I have indicated, the intervention of her Majesty’s representative does not proceed until the parties in interest show that they have been hindered in the exercise of their rights and the use of their legal recourses before the proper court, or that, after presenting their claims, justice has been denied by an open refraction of the laws involved in their form. Either extreme being established, the reclamations referred to acquire the character of being caused by abuse of power; and this legitimates the official aid of the legation in favor of the party interested, which is not the case when he has neglected the legal means for obtaining due justice.

These are the principles by which the conduct of the representatives of her Majesty in America must be governed when they make reclamation for Spanish subjects, and I doubt not you will know how to meet the views of the government in what concerns it.


This shows the senate how cautiously the Spanish government has acted.

* * * * * * * *

I sent to our minister in Peru all that had passed between the Queen’s government and Mr. Valle Riestra, with full power to negotiate there the treaty which ought to have been [Page 573] made in Madrid. What better proof can be given by her Majesty’s government of its desire to make such treaty and its freedom from exaction, than to renounce the advantage of negotiating here, and transferring it to Lima, for discussion, not with the Spaniah government, but with one of its agents; not with the Peruvian representative, but with the supreme government of that country?

I have always instructed the representatives of Spain that their first duty is to persuade and convince all parties that Spain is firmly resolved not to mix in domestic differences; I that she wants a good understanding with the Peruvian government, whoever may be the men who compose it; that it does not aspire to any exclusive privilege or influence; and only claims for its commerce and subjects that protection the republic concedes to other nations. * * * * * * *

The ready reception given by the legations in America to some unjust claims of Spanish subjects, often of cases devoid of title to official protection, has produced inconvenience, and henceforth it is resolved that official aid shall only be given when the complaint is of acts of violence, spoiliation, or something contrary to the law of nations or to treaties in force.

* * * * * * * *

Before concluding, I can do no less than to recommend to you to endeavor by all means to inspire full confidence in the intentions and purposes of the government in respect to the parties, endeavor to tranquilize operations, avoid everything wounding to self-respect in order to facilitate the settlement of pending questions, and setting aside the possibility of a fresh conflict which may impose on Spain the necessity of barren and costly sacrifices. The government of her Majesty does not wish in any manner that the dignity of the country be in the least degree derogated from; but would avoid useless contests, and the heavy charges they accumulate.


* * * * * * * *

October 30, 1865.

* * * “I regret that advices from this place have caused the belief there, although temporary, that the difficulties we have stumbled on grow out of fresh requisitions on my part.” Thus I wrote to Valle Riestra, on the 30th October. Would I have disapproved a treaty which I invoked in every document which has been read? If I had asserted the revindication of the Chincha islands—if I had asked for the seventy millions of dollars which some Lima newspapers said were claimed by the Spanish government—could I have addressed this letter to the very agent of Peru, with the certainty that he would flatly contradict me? The text of our notes will dissipate the error.

I have also written to Lima that I regretted the delay the more, because having to present all the papers relating to Peru to the Cortes, I found myself obliged, because the treaty was not completed, to publish the notes which had passed between us, that there might be no room for recriminations. * * * *

Biarritz, November 4, 1865.

“I have received yours of the 30th ultimo. The fresh instructions I awaited from my government to continue negotiating the treaty reached me yesterday (there having been a delay of the mail.) I will very soon address you that we may reopen the negotiations which I earnestly desire. * * * * * *

* * * * “I observe the necessity you are under to render to the new Cortes an account of this matter, but as they will not meet till December, I hope you will find no inconvenience from want of time.” * * * *

“San Ildefonso, November 7, 1865.

* * * * * * *

“In a few conferences we will conclude the negotiation of the treaty, a consequence of the preliminary convention at Callao, on which you and I are already personally busied, and I shall bein a situation to render an account of the result of our labor at the first sittings of the new parliament. I allow myself a slight suggestion of this, because official and private advices from Lima tell me many remarks are made there about our tardiness in completing the treaty, from which they infer, adversely to Pezet, new difficulties between the governments, which none better than you and myself can contradict. I am ready, as soon as possible, that we should bear public testimony to the union of the two countries, and of the good faith in which you and I have blotted out the traces of old differences.

“I avail, &c., &c.,


I have said Riestra sent me a note of articles prepared for the settlement of the debt. This comprehended:

First. That mentioned in article 1 of the laws of Peru, of August 25, 1834, bearing on the branches of the consular courts, central treasury, tobacco privileges, mint, and consolidated fund.

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Second. All sums arising from sequestrations, confiscations, loans, deposits, &c, made or taken by the independent government or its authorities for carrying on the war of emancipation.

On these bases we opened fresh negotiations, and if I have anything to excuse myself for it would be for not having done all for the interests of Spanish subjects. But I attributed such importance to this arrangement with Peru that I made no difficulty about passing unnoticed the payments of debts of small amount.

Mr. Riestra differed from me as to my scheme of settlement, but such was my desire to conclude the treaty that I yielded by admitting that nothing that remained due on account of the armies of Ferdinand VII’s reign should be funded, and that no more should be paid than what the independent government had taken from Spanish subjects.

There remained only one point of difference, and on that we agreed at our latest conference.

* * * * * * *

To facilitate the arrangement, I conceded that we would consider the republic as a foreign nation from the moment when an American or European State had recognized it as such republic.

After such concessions, to remind me that I had made requisitions, had created difficulties, had renewed claims for seventy millions, had abandoned the assured base of the treaty of January 21, of Callao, is completely absurd.

News came that Pezet was replaced by Canseco. Riestra told me he should go away. I asked him to address me officially on the subject. He replied he would not. I rejoined, if he would not I must write to him, because on such a grave occasion it was necessary that each should maintain the position proper to him. My note bore date of February, 1886.

Mr. Llorente wished to know something of the good offices offered by France and England. It is indeed true, that from the beginning of the contest with the republic of Chili, when news arrived that Admiral Pareja had established the blockade of Valparaiso, both the English and French governments hastened to offer their kind services, to try if it were possible to settle these disagreements. The Spanish government accepted those good services, declaring it could not accept mediation of any kind, because, in questions such as that pending between the republic of Chili and the Spanish nation, it could not accept of it, nor have any other judge than its own honor. It then accepted their kind offices, which was communicated by the respective governments to their ministers at Santiago, and I have no hesitation in mentioning the compromise offered by Spain, because it is a proof of the moderation of its requirements, as it is also a proof of the moderation of the administration which immediately preceded us.

The satisfaction asked by Mr. Benavidez was a salute of twenty-one guns, and explanatory notes which should contain full satisfaction to Spain of the affronts she had received. Nothing was said of indemnity, except in case hostilities should have broken out.

Well, then, the requirements being so moderate, the conduct of Chili appears consequently so strange and so anomalous, that the two nations I speaks of and the United States of America, which had before employed all the means suggested by friendship—the United States, whose kindly sentiments, impartial and friendly conduct toward this nation in these circumstances, the Spanish government can never too highly appreciate—found not only that these propositions were not exaggerated, but that from themselves came the proposal that their good offices should be exercised to obtain from Chili, to advise Chili, to cause Chili to see that it was its obligation to give satisfaction to Spain, and the same as that which the Spanish government asked from it.

The Spanish government had not asked indemnity of any kind, and had said it would ask it if hostilities should break out. As for the salute, the Spanish government accepted at once, as a modification, that in place of the twenty-one guns fired in succession, they should alternate, Chili taking the initiative. This, however, is a delicate subject, and Mr. Llorente will understand why I cannot enter upon it. These good offices may, perhaps, have to be modified, because the circumstances and situation have changed by the unfortunate loss of the Covadonga.