Mr. Culver to Mr. Seward

No. 124.]

Sir: I have the honor herewith to transmit to the department a translation of the draught of a convention communicated to me by the foreign secretary. It was not finished until the ship had left La Guayra, and I have with all practicable despatch translated, and herewith forward same, hoping to reach the vessel at Puerto Cabello.

I have only time to add, that since receiving the draught I have sought and obtained a brief interview with the secretary, and suggested to him to change the phraseology of the first article, so as to conform more strictly to that of the same article in the Ecuador convention, also to allow the American minister at Caracas, if his government shall see fit to clothe him with that power, to fill the vacancy in case of the death, &c., of the American commissioner, as in the Ecuador convention.

To these modifications he does not object.

I also suggested a modification of that portion of the first article which gives the right of selecting the umpire to the charge of Spain residing in Caracas. I offered, in case of commissioners not agreeing, to devolve the selection upon the representative of Switzerland, or Russia, residing in Washington, or Mr. Stirup, the Danish consul general in Caracas. He wished, however, to refer that matter to the President, and will then advise me.

I also objected that his draught made no provision as to interest. He replied at once that none was made in the Ecuador convention, but on a fuller interchange of views he intimated that in awarding indemnity the commissioners could pass on the question of interest.

In our convention with New Granada, interest was fixed by the terms of the convention. I knew not why it was omitted in that with Ecuador, nor am I advised what the action of the commissioners has been or may be under it, [Page 426] I hope he will accept the amendment I shall offer, either fixing the rate of interest or conferring authority on the commissioners to do so.

I am satisfied the claimants would deem it most unjust to defer payment of their claims for such a length of time without interest.

He also consents to stride out of article seven the words, “the constitutional requisite in each country being previously complied with,” but with the under-standing that their constitution requires a convention of this kind to be submitted to congress as ours does a treaty to the Senate.

I shall submit my draught to him, with the modifications indicated, at the earliest practicable moment, but could not do so until I had prepared my despatches for the ship now leaving.

All, of course, is understood to be subject to approval or amendment by the government of each country.

I shall hope for early advices.

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


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


Article I. All claims against Venezuela which citizens of the United States may have presented to their government shall be submitted to a mixed commission, consisting of two persons, appointed, one by the government of Venezuela, and the other by that of the United States.

The claims understood to be embraced in this article are such as shall be presented up to the day in which the commission shall be organized and enter upon its labors.

In case of the death, absence, resignation, or incapacity of either of the commissioners, or in the event of either of them omitting or ceasing to act, the government of the United States or that of Venezuela shall forthwith fill the vacancy.

The commissioners shall meet at the city of Caracas within ninety days from the exchange of the ratifications of this convention; and before proceeding to business shall make solemn oath that they will carefully examine, and with justice and impartiality, and in accordance with the provisions of this convention, will decide, all claims that shall be submitted to them, and such oath shall be entered in the record of their proceedings.

The commissioners shall proceed to name an arbitrator or umpire, to decide upon any case concerning which they may disagree, or upon any point of difference which may arise in the course of their proceedings. If they cannot agree in the selection of such umpire, he shall be named by the charge d’affaires of Spain to Venezuela, on the previous invitation of the high contracting parties.

Art. II. So soon as the said umpire shall have been appointed the commissioners shall proceed to examine and certify the claims which, in conformity with the requirements of this convention, the government of the United States may present to them, together with the proof in support of same; and they shall, if deemed necessary, hear one person in behalf of government on each separate claim. Each government shall furnish, on the request of either commissioner, such documents or papers in its possession as may be deemed necessary to. the proper determination of any claim or claims.

The commissioners shall make such decisions in reference to such claims as they shall deem in conformity to justice, even though such decisions amount to an absolute denial of illegal pretensions, since the inclusion of any such in this convention is not to be understood as working any prejudice in favor of any one, either as to principles of right or matters of fact.

In cases where they agree to award an indemnity, they shall determine the amount to be paid to the claimants, and in those cases wherein they may disagree the points of difference shall be submitted to the umpire, before whom either commissioner may be heard, and his decision shall be final and conclusive on the matter.

Art. III. The commissioners shall issue certificates of the respective sums due to the claimants, in virtue of their decision, or in virtue of those of the umpire; and the aggregate amount of such sums shall be paid to the government of the United States, in equal annual payments; the first payment to be made six months from the date of the termination of the labors of the commission and the whole amount to be fully paid within ten years from the same date.

[Page 427]

Art. IV. The commission stall terminate its labors in twelve months from the date of its organization. It shall keep a record of its proceedings, and shall appoint a secretary versed in the knowledge of the English and Spanish languages, who shall aid him in the course of their labors.

Art. V. The decisions of the commissioners, and those (in case there be any) of the umpire, shall be final and conclusive as to all pending claims. Those claims which shall not be presented within the twelve months herein prescribed shall be disregarded by both governments and considered invalid. In the event that upon the determination of the labors of said commission, there should remain pending before the umpire one or more cases awaiting his decision, said umpire is authorized to make his decision and issue the proper certificate, which shall be transmitted to each government; and be held to be binding and irrevocable. The umpire shall make his decision within thirty days peremptory from the day in which the commission shall have terminated its labors; and any decision made after the expiration of said thirty days shall be void and of no effect.

Art. VI. Each government shall pay its own commissioner, and one-half of what may be due to the umpire and secretary, provided such be appointed and enter upon their duties; and each government shall also pay one-half of the incidental expenses of the commission.

Art. VII. The present convention shall be ratified, the constitutional requisites in each country being previously complied with, and its ratifications exchanged so soon as practicable in the city of Caracas.