Mr. Culver to Mr. Seward

No. 123.]

Sir: I am gratified in being able to inform you that the government of Venezuela has come to the conclusion that a settlement of all claims due American citizens can be best effected through the intervention of a mixed commission, and the minister of foreign affairs, with the approval of the President, now proposes to me to unite in a convention for that purpose.

A convention was some months since concluded with the French government for the adjustment and payment of the claims of its subjects, and which is now being executed; so also with the Spanish government.

An arrangement, I learn, is also being made with the British legation to effect a settlement of their claims through the agency of a single commissioner.

Understanding all this, and reminding the government of its assurances that on the return of peace and tranquillity the claims of United States citizens should receive prompt and earnest attention, and that nearly four years had elapsed since a single claim had been adjusted, or even seriously examined on its merits, the minister of foreign affairs could not, consistently with his assurances, longer defer their consideration.

This I have no doubt, together with their action touching the claims of other nations, has led to the proposition for a convention.

Early in the last week, at his request, I furnished the foreign secretary with a copy of our convention with Ecuador, which the department had recently transmitted to me. He informs me he has submitted it to President Guzman, and that, in all its essential provisions, it has his approval. I have the secretary’s assurance, moreover, that he is preparing and will send me a communication on the subject, and that I should receive it in time to send a copy to my government by the ship now in port. But fearing delay, so common to this government and all its functionaries, I have thought it prudent to advise the department of the matter in order that I might the sooner be possessed of its views.

I informed the foreign secretary that I had not been clothed with full powers to conclude a convention. He thereupon suggested that we could draw up and agree preliminarily on the substance of one, and submit it to our respective governments for amendment and approval. This would at least save some considerable time.

Our citizens who have claims pending are, so far as I am advised, without exception, in favor of such a commission. They have long since come to the same conclusion to which I had arrived, that without some such instrumentality their claims will never be paid or liquidated. Some of them have been standing twenty-five or thirty years.

The convention with Ecuador will form the substantial basis of preliminary negotiations. In the accommodation of parties and witnesses living in the United States, it would be desirable that the commissioners should hold one session there and one in Caracas.

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Considering the state of their finances we shall have to be liberal in extending the time of payment. To this the claimants will not object, provided prompt and punctual payment of interest be exacted.

It would be desirable, perhaps, should the commissioners fail to agree upon the umpire, that he should be named by some diplomatic representative at Washington rather than by one at Caracas. * * * *

My own convictions are clear and strong that the best interests of our citizens demand that not a moment be lost in fixing upon a convention, the best we can obtain, and thus effect a full and final settlement of these claims. They will probably exceed half a million of dollars.

I shall hope to be advised at the earliest moment practicable of the views of the department, and to be furnished with such instructions and clothed with such powers in the premises as it may deem proper.

I have the honor to be, with sentiments of highest respect, your obedient servant,


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

The minister of foreign affairs breakfasted with me this morning, and was pleased to say that he would submit his draught of convention to-morrow. If so, I shall be able to forward by ship now in port.

E. D. C.