Mr. Culver to Mr. Seward
Sir: I had the honor to receive, on the 15th January last, your despatch No. 113, of date 30th November, touching the provision for payment of interest in the convention proposed to be made with Venezuela. Owing to the long and severe illness of the minister of foreign affairs, I did not communicate to him your instructions therein contained until the 1st instant. On receiving my note containing them, he placed the same before the President, and I was promised an early interview with the latter.
But it was not until to-day, at a late hour, that I obtained such interview, and as this note must be despatched this evening to reach the ship which sails to-morrow, [Page 437] I must necessarily be brief in what I have to communicate touching that interview.
He seemed fixed in his determination not to stipulate for the payment of six per cent, interest on the award of the commission, urging as his chief and earnest reason therefor, that if allowed to the United States, his government will have to allow at the same rate to every other government; that he had liquidated the claims of all or nearly all the other governments, but had not yet agreed with them as to the manner of payment, hoping to be able to have the convention with the United States to present to them as a precedent; that if compelled to pay interest at the rate of six per cent, on the exorbitant claims of France, Spain, Great Britain, and Netherlands, his government could never get beyond the payment of interest.
Of course I met his arguments with such replies as I thought appropriate, basing them chiefly on the reasons set forth in your No. 113. After considerable conversation he said he would be willing to pay two percent., the amount provided for in their bonds for internal consolidated national debt. But beyond that he seemed resolved not to go.
He said in the course of his remarks that the commission could be authorized to take into consideration, in awarding damages, the length of time given for payment, which I accepted as meaning that they might make the principal large enough to cover the interest.
I informed him, however, that under your instructions I could not accede to any of his propositions, and must insist on interest at the rate of six per cent.
We thus left the matter, he begging me to write you at once to see if your instructions could not be modified, and not have the convention fail. I, however, gave him no encouragement to hope for a modification of your views, informing him it would require some fifty days to get your reply.
Thus the interview was terminated. My opinion is the government of Venezuela will allow the convention to fail rather than agree in terms to pay six per cent, interest.
I am further of the opinion, as expressed in my No. 136, that with a provision inserted that the commission may, in awarding damages, take into account the length of time for payments, that we should be morally certain of our interest.
If possible I should be pleased to hear from you by return ship.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of highest respect, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. G.