Mr. Wilson to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 11th instant I addressed a note to the minister of foreign relations, Mr. Seijas, informing him that I was the bearer of a “convention between the United States of America and the republic of Venezuela, on the subject of the claims of citizens of the United States,” signed on the 25th day of April, 1866, and asking that as early a day as possible might be named whereon to exchange, with some person duly authorized by the government of Venezuela, the ratification of such convention of the President of the United States for that of the President of Venezuela, a copy of which note I enclose herewith, marked “enclosure 1.”
On the following day I received a reply from Mr. Seijas, stating that the ratification I had asked for could not take place at present, giving as reasons—
1st. That the executive was not authorized by the federal constitution to ratify or exchange diplomatic conventions, unless they had previously received the approval of Congress, (which, of course, I well knew;) and,
2d. That Congress having adjourned on the 10th of May following, there was not time for the three necessary discussions to take place upon the approval of such convention, after its signature.
A copy of this reply, together with its translation, is herewith enclosed, marked “enclosure 2.”
Satisfied in my own mind, from an examination of the papers of the legation, and also knowing it was the belief of our government that the convention was to be approved by the congress in session in Caracas, at the time such convention was signed, and understanding how prone the government of Venezuela was to delay everything like a settlement of its accounts, I addressed a second note to Mr. Seijas, on the 18th instant, in which I expressed my disappointment and regret at the non-ratification of the convention, and concluded by saying that I would refer copies of the three notes (viz: mine of October 11, 1866, Mr. Seijas’s reply of October 12, and my rejoinder of October 18) to the department and await its further instructions in the matter. (A copy of this note, marked “enclosure 3,” is herewith enclosed.)
I would respectfully call attention to the fact that by the neglect of the Venezuelan government to ratify this convention at the last session of congress they have gained eight or nine months’ time, thus putting the American claimants here to considerable expense, besides causing an immense deal of vexation. I fear that this is but the beginning of a series of annoyances and delays, which in the future, as in the past, will be continued interminably.
The leniency shown to Venezuela by the United States has been misunderstood by this government, and resulted to the disadvantage and prejudice of American claimants.
I do not know to what extent the government of the United States has heretofore interfered to compel the payment of the claims of its citizens, but I am convinced that to accomplish anything in this respect here it will be necessary to adopt a policy which will prove to the Venezuelan government that the United States are determined to enforce the liquidation and settlement of those claims of their citizens in which they can officially intervene.
The governments of France and Great Britain, by such a course, have already succeeded in securing the payment of large sums to their people, and if I am not mistaken the government of Spain has done likewise.
With much respect, I have the honor to be your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.