Mr. Seward to Mr. Goñi.
The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a note from Mr. Goñi, minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, written on the 30th of June last, in which Mr. Goñi directs the attention of the undersigned to the affair of the monitors Catawba and Oneota. Mr. Goñi mentions two circumstances which move him to insist upon the detention of those monitors, namely: first, that the minister plenipotentiary of Peru has solicited permission from the United States government to take possession of the monitors, contending that the existing situation between Spain and Peru is no longer one of war, which assertion Mr. Goñi pronounces to [Page 33] be entirely without foundation; and secondly, that the monitors now in the port of New Orleans are not apparently sufficiently guarded to prevent them from going to sea, as the undersigned is aware of no official measures having been taken to prevent their departure.
Mr. Goñi dwells upon the fact that the United States have tendered their good offices to Spain and to her antagonists, the Pacific republics, and that while Spain has promptly expressed her disposition to accept those good offices with a view to the establishment of peace, Peru has not accepted them, nor given any conclusive reply upon the subject. Mr. Goñi argues from this fact that the government of Peru cannot rightfully claim that the government of the United States shall, during those overtures, pronounce the state of war to be closed and the state of peace to have been reached by the silent consent and concurrence of the parties.
Upon the grounds thus mentioned Mr. Goñi feels himself obliged to insist upon the adoption of peremptory measures to prevent the departure of the monitors in question. He fortifies this position by stating from common report that the vessels are not in the hands of the local authorities, and it is not known what orders have been issued about them. He begs, therefore, that immediate measures be taken to detain the monitors Catawba and Oneota.
The undersigned has the honor, in reply, to inform Mr. Goñi, in the first place, that the Peruvian government on its part insists that the situation of war between herself and allies on the one part, and Spain on the other, has practically come to an end by the cessation of all hostilities on either side since the second day of May, 1866.
The undersigned has further the honor to inform Mr. Goñi that the Peruvian government alleges in support of its position the fact that Chili and Spain, Chili being one of the allied belligerents and Spain the other belligerent, have, in the present year, voluntarily joined themselves together in peaceful and friendly concert and co-operation in waiving objections to the clearance from British ports of ships of war for the respective parties. So far as this department is informed, this statement is not controverted by the Spanish government, and Peru insists that the proceeding is equivalent to an acknowledgment on the part of Spain of the pretensions made by Peru that the situation of war between the belligerent republics and Spain has come to an end. Peru agrees in this respect that Spain cannot claim before the government of Great Britain to be at peace and at the same time claim before the government of the United States to be at war with Peru and her allies, the position of the United States and Great Britain in regard to the belligerents being identical.
Mr. Goñi is informed, in the third place, that the Peruvian government distinctly proposes to the government of the United States that, if it shall consent to the clearance of the Catawba and the Oneota, the Peruvian government will give adequate security that those vessels shall not be employed in any hostile proceeding against Spam or any other nation on their way to the port of Callao, in the Pacific, but shall keep the peace until the vessels shall have arrived in the harbor of Callao, there to be used for purposes of domestic defense and security.
Mr. Goñi is further informed, in the fourth place, that the House of Representatives having taken the subject of the sale and proposed departure of these vessels into consideration with a view to some possible legislative action thereupon, directions have been given by the President that those vessels shall not receive clearance or be permitted to depart while the subject is engaging the attention of Congress. The vessels are for this reason detained at present, and will be so temporarily [Page 34] deained, whatever appearances or presumptions to the contrary may anywhere exist.
In consequence of the proceedings of the House of Representatives which have been referred to, it seems to the President that the occasion has not yet arrived when it will be necessary for him to decide the grave question which has been raised before this government between the ministers of Spain and Peru, namely the question whether the war which was heretofore waged between those nations has been practically brought to an end or not. Frankness, however, obliges the undersigned to say that unless some unforeseen circumstances shall soon occur, the time for acting upon that question would seem to be near at hand.
The undersigned freely admits the difficulties which are likely to attend the decision of the question. It is certain that a condition of war can be raised without an authoritative declaration of war, and, on the other hand, the situation of peace may be restored by the long suspension of hostilities without a treaty of peace being made. History is full of such occurrences. What period of suspension of war is necessary to justify the presumption of the restoration of peace has never yet been settled, and must in every case be determined with reference to collateral facts and circumstances.
The proceedings of Spain and Chili which have been referred to, although inconclusive, require an explanation on the part of either of those powers which shall insist that the condition of war still exists. Peru, equally with Spain, has as absolute a right to decline the good offices or mediation of the United States for peace as either has to accept the same. The refusal of either would be inconclusive as an evidence of determination to resume or continue the war. It is the interest of the United States, and of all nations, that the return of peace, however it may be brought about, shall be accepted whenever it has become clearly established. Whenever the United States shall find itself obliged to decide the question whether the war still exists between Spain and Peru, or whether that war has come to an end, it will make that decision only after having carefully examined all the pertinent facts which shall be within its reach, and after having given due consideration to such representations as shall have been made by the several parties interested.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Señor Don Facundo Goñi, &c., &c., &c.