Mr. Tassara to Mr. Seward.

The undersigned, minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, has read in the papers of this country a despatch from Commodore Rodgers, commanding the United States squadron in the Pacific, on the late events in Chili. If this document had another character, the undersigned would not have fixed his attention upon it; but from the moment when an official document has been published as such, he considers it his duty to address himself to the Secretary of State to make some remarks upon it.

This he would have done at the first instant if he had not thought it proper to await communications he might receive from the Pacific. Those communications, far from causing him to desist from his purpose, have confirmed him in it. Annexed in effect, the honorable Secretary of State will find another despatch, from Brigadier Nunez, commander general of her Majesty’s squadrons in the Pacific, which, although not in contradiction of that from Commodore Rodgers, may be considered as its necessary complement.

It is now beyond all doubt that both Commodore Rodgers and the admiral of the English squadron in those seas, not content with exceeding, perhaps, in their negotiations, the limits of all neutrality, used acts of intimidation, which, if they had been carried further, would have produced a conflict having the [Page 613] most serious consequences, because whatever might have been the forces they could have opposed to him, Brigadier Nunez would not have fallen back from the fulfilment of his duty. Another fact no less important follows, notwithstanding also, and this fact is, that Brigadier Nunez did all that was possible for him to come to an understanding, and that the said Commodore Rodgers and the said English admiral finished by acknowledging that not only right, about which there never could have been any doubt, but also moderation, were on the side of Spain in the negotiations which preceded the deplorable event of which Valparaiso ended in being the theatre. This is a point which it imports much to Spain to place conspicuously before America and before the world, and Commodore Rodgers, in place of showing his wonder at the terrible mode in which Spain proposes to make war in the other America, thus forgetting the examples which his own country has set in the recent war of four years, might very well have given a testimony of impartiality by confessing that Spain had used equal moderation after, as during, the negotiations. To blot out the impression that his despatch may have produced on the mind of the government at Washington this note is addressed to it, the undersigned, for the rest, contenting himself by responding to the historico-critical remarks of Commodore Rodgers on Spain, and chiefly on the tone in which they are made, that the very decadence of a nation which was more powerful than any other nation has yet been since then is a lesson to the most powerful, and that, without calling to mind her past predominance, Spain is assured of her future.

The undersigned avails of this occasion to reiterate to the honorable Secretary of State the assurance of his highest consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.

The Spanish-Chilian War.

We are indebted to the editors of La Cronica, the Spanish paper published in this city, for the following important official despatch from the commander of the Spanish squadron off Valparaiso, giving his version of the events attendant upon the recent bombardment of that city:

Headquarters of her Catholic Majesty’s Squadron in the Pacific, On board the Numancia, in the bay of Valparaiso, the 2d day of April, 1866.

Excellency: In order that your excellency may form an exact idea of the occurrences of last fortnight, I have the honor of placing before you a summary of the most recent events, regretting that want of time should prevent my sending copies of the despatches I have addressed to her Majesty’s government. On the 17th of last month I was invited to dine by the American Commodore Rodgers on board of his flag-ship. During dinner the commodore expressed ardent wishes for the termination of our difficulty with Chili, and suggested that, were I clothed with full powers, the attainment of such an object might, in his opinion, be accomplished. Upon being informed that I had the necessary powers, he said that he would immediately communicate with his minister, and see if their united efforts could not secure peace. A few days after, I received the visit of the commodore and General Kilpatrick. Both seemed animated by the best wishes, and invited me to join them in a conference, which, though of a private and confidential character, might, perhaps, result in the termination of the war. Upon my acceptance of the proposal the American minister said to me, that, although the conference was strictly confidential, the minister of foreign affairs of the republic had notice of the step that was now being taken, and that he, (the American minister,) as well as the commodore, who had taken the initiative in the matter, were very much interested in arriving at the object they had in view. The commodore made some remarks to show the inconveniences which he thought existed for Spain in the prolongation of this war, and giving me to understand that an unforeseen obstacle would be met with if the bombardment of Valparaiso were attempted. He proposed a plan for an arrangement which he considered equally honorable for both belligerents. In accordance with this plan there should be a cessation of hostilities, my credentials presented, and a new investigation made of the different grievances against Chili. As an earnest of peace there should first be a reciprocal salute of one and twenty guns in the following manner: The flags of Spain and Chili, hoisted at the mast-heads of the English and American flag-ships, should be saluted [Page 614] by the guns of the two squadrons, and in this salute a Chilian fort and the Spanish squadron should join in such manner, that, with the noise and smoke, it should never be known by whom the first gun had been fired. As your excellency may readily suppose, I rejected this arrangement, acknowledging, however, the good intention that had suggested it, and stating that the instructions of my government were so positive, that notwithstanding any difficulties I might have to overcome, and should I go to the bottom of the Pacific in the attempt, I must have from Chili the satisfaction which was due to us. Moved, nevertheless, by a sincere desire for reconciliation, I would take upon myself the immense responsibility of not requiring any other satisfaction than that contained in the arrangement proposed by England and France, and accepted by Spain, to which I would only add, the restitution of the Covadonga, with its flags, arms, and crew, in return for the prizes and prisoners I had in my power. I, at the same time, gave notice that if, by 8 o’clock on the 27th, I should not have received an answer, accepting the terms of this arrangement, I would address a communication to the diplomatic corps fixing a delay, at the expiration of which I would open fire on Valparaiso. Both the minister and the commodore found the terms honorable. General Kilpatrick said he would exert himself to his utmost to have them accepted by Chili, adding, that however strange it might appear, it was his predecessor, Mr. Nelson, who had most strenuously opposed any concession to Spain; so much so, that unpleasant words had already passed between them. On the following day General Kilpatrick left for Santiago, not without hope, and the promise, given of his own accord, that he would let me know the result of his negotiation. On the 27th, before 8 o’clock in the morning, General Kilpatrick again came on board of my ship with Commodore Rodgers. His efforts had been in vain. The reply of the Chilian government was, that in so short a time it was not possible to assemble and consult the accredited representatives of the allied republics. In consequence of this reply, I stated to the United States, that, as I had previously informed him, I would within an hour send him the promised communication. The commodore then told me more clearly what the unforeseen obstacle would be to which he had alluded in our former interview. He said that, probably, he would not be able to remain a passive spectator of the destruction of a defenceless city; that perhaps he might be compelled to oppose it by force; and he thought the commander of the naval forces of Great Britain would join him for the same purpose I replied that I should be extremely sorry to collide with him after the warm interest he had shown for Spain and her agents, but that such considerations would not be sufficient to prevent my executing the orders of my government. The commodore approved my resolution, and said to me, on taking leave, that whatever might be the consequences of the conflict, I must ever be assured of his friendship and esteem; the same words were repeated by General Kilpatrick. One hour after this interview I sent my communication to the American minister, in order that through him it might reach the other members of the diplomatic corps at Santiago. On the 29th of March I received the visit of Admiral Denman, who told me that he had been informed by the American commodore of my interviews with the United States minister; that the laws of war did not authorize the destruction of defenceless cities, inhabited almost exclusively by foreigners; that it would be impossible for him to be a passive spectator of such a deed; that he would have to adopt measures, the extent of which he could not then define; and that he begged me not to commence operations until the arrival of the mails from Europe. My answer was, that, as to the question of right, the decision belonged to my government; but that, as an officer, I should obey my orders; and that whatever might be the attitude assumed by the naval forces then in the bay; however reluctant I might be to come to such ad extremity; however formidable those forces might be, no earthly consideration should detain me from the discharge of my duty. The admiral grasped my hand, and left me with the same assurances of friendship and esteem as in the case of the American commodore. On the same day, the 29th, I was once more visited by the American commodore, accompanied by the secretary of legation, with the apparent purpose of handing the reply to my communication. On doing so, he said that he had intended to oppose the bombardment of Valparaiso by force, because he was at the time convinced that Spain could not lawfully do so, and that Chili was in the right, but that subsequently he had arrived at the conclusion that right, moderation, and dignity were on the side of Spain; wherefore, he not only should not oppose anything, but that his ships would move out of the way at 8 o’clock on the morning of the 31st.

He insisted, nevertheless, in proposing another plan, which was that I should write a manifest, stating that since nothing could prevent the bombardment, I would desist and spare Valparaiso. The commodore thought that such an act of generosity would be appreciated by the government of Chili, which would then declare its readiness to accede to my demands. My reply was, that although by so doing I would incur the heaviest responsibility, still, for the sake of peace, I would accept the proposition, provided a member of the Chilian government would guarantee to me personally, in the presence of the American minister, that my proceeding would be appreciated and reciprocated. The proposal of the commodore was, nevertheless, rudely rejected by Chili, and another one advanced in its stead so ridiculous that it has only served as a laughing stock to the English and American commanders. The idea was, that a sort of international duel should be enacted; and this in terms indecorous and even insulting. It being assumed that I dared not seek them at Chili, they proposed that we should meet with equal forces, the determination and [Page 615] equalization of which should be left to Commodore Rodgers. The result of the duel was to be the termination of the war; and to this no other declaration whatsoever was added. The proposal, I again say it, was simply ridiculous, and in this light it has been viewed by every one, without, perhaps, excepting the very persons who originated it. I consequently authorized the American commodore who bore the despatch to say, in my behalf, that such proposals deserved no answer. It is gratifying to me to be able to state that both the cominodore and English admiral approved my answer; the latter was so disgusted that, losing his habitual reserve, he said to me, “The letter you have Just received is in itself a sufficient justification for the act you are about to accomplish. Your conduct has been most dignified and proper; and your generosity has met no response from the government of this country.” Previously to these incidents, on the 27th, I had in like manner been called upon by the representatives of England and France. Instead of presenting themselves in the guise of friendly negotiators, and strictly neutral, these gentlemen showed themselves, on the contrary, altogether partial to Chili. They contended that the brief delay granted to the government for the acceptance of terms would make any resolution appear as dictated under the pressure of force; that sufficient time had not been allowed for consultation with the allies; that, in fine, a long delay should be conceded. They concluded by observing that they had strong reasons to fear for the lives of the Spaniards at present in Santiago, should the bombardment take place. To all these remarks I answered: That it was six months since the war had commenced, and that the government of Chili, who now complained of the short space allowed, had never, up to the present moment, made any proposal for an arrangement; that the terms offered by me were precisely those of their own governments of England and France; and that in the event of so savage a butchery taking place, it should be visited with new and terrible rigor. The interview terminated with marks of mutual coldness. On the 30th I received from the same gentlemen a plan for an arrangement, in which they proposed the cessation of hostilities, the withdrawal of my vessels, and the presentation of my credentials, all of which were, as your excellency perceives, totally inadmissible.

At 8 o’clock on the morning of the 31st the foreign vessels of war had withdrawn from my front. At the said hour of eight the two guns were fired that were to serve as an announcement that one hour later I would open on the city. At a quarter past 9 the frigate Blanca commenced firing at the government warehouses and a small fort, and was immediately followed by the frigate Villa de Madrid. Meanwhile the schooner Vencedora her guns against the intendencia, and the frigate Resolucion against the railroad terminus; all of which buildings were government property. At the end of two hours the warehouses were reduced to ashes; the fort was considerably damaged, as were also the intendencia and railroad terminus; and a portion of the city was set on fire by a grenade ricocheting the intendencia and exploding in a chemical laboratory. The firing was suspended at half past eleven. It is as yet impossible to estimate the damages.

The Chilian government had decided, on making no resistance, and consequently ordered that not a gun should be fired.

It was confidently expected that the forces of England and the United States would oppose the bombardment.

The property stored in the government warehouses, and entirely consumed by the firing, belonged to Frenchmen and Germans.

The government had opposed the removal of goods by the foreign merchants.

I remain, &c.,


“Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, at Washington.”