Mr. Goñi to Mr. Seward.

The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, has the honor to reply to the note, in the matter of the monitors Catawba and Oneota, which the honorable Secretary of State of the United States was pleased to address to him on the 9th instant, and passes on to notice the contents thereof.

The honorable Secretary of State, in the note referred to, informs the undersigned that the government of Peru maintains that the state of war between Spain and the allied republics has terminated, alleging, for reason, that active hostilities have been suspended for more than two years, and quoting that Spain and Chili had reciprocally consented to the departure of some vessels of their respective flags, which were detained in British ports, from which fact the government of Peru infers that Spain cannot say she is at peace in respect of the British government, and say that she is at war in respect of the government of the United States.

The undersigned can do no less than state that the singular pretension of the government of Peru causes him extreme surprise. To say that a state of war does not exist when, nevertheless, no proposition of peace has been accepted, is an affirmation equally gratuitous and new, which it is not necessary to contest.

As to the facts alleged, no one of them implies, even remotely, the cessation of war. The fact of hostilities being suspended on the part of Spain is the consequence of the acceptance of the good offices offered to the belligerents by the government of the United States on the 20th of December, 1866. In respect of the departure of Spanish and Chilian vessels, detained by the government of Great Britain in fulfillment of her duties as a neutral power, the undersigned does not know, with exactness, what happened in London, although he has reasons for thinking [Page 36] that there was not any formal and direct agreement between the representatives of both nations, but at all events, and even if such had existed, that could not alter or modify the situation in which both parties find themselves. To pretend that the consent to the departure of the vessels respectively means a declaration of a state of peace, would be equivalent to maintaining that any special agreement of two belligerent States, whether about an exchange of prisoners, or furnishing supplies, or any other partial and limited point, would imply the termination of the war. It is, therefore, not a logical consequence which the Peruvian government deduces from the act which occurred in London, nor the signification attached to it, well founded. Besides, it is proper to note the fact, that whatever might be the importance of the arrangement of London, that arrangement took place between Spain and Chili, and not between Spain and Peru; and the Peruvian government, however much allied with, that of Chili in the contest with Spain, could not invoke in its favor a special agreement made with another state.

It follows from what has been said that although Spain, through the effect of its sincere desire for peace, has suspended active hostilities, she still finds herself in a state of war, and can do no less than maintain the rights which correspond with such condition according to the laws of nations whilst that state continues to subsist, and a solution satisfactory to both belligerent parties is not reached.

The honorable Secretary of State, in connection with this question, discusses in his note a grave matter which the undersigned can do no less than notice. The honorable Secretary states that because of the interference of the House of Representatives in the question of the monitors Catawba and Oneota, the President may not deem the occasion opportune for deciding whether the war between Spain and the allied republics has or has not practically come to an end; but considers that it is nearly time to decide upon this, and the more so, that he recognizes the difficulties which that solution presents. He adds that inasmuch as a state of war may be established without a previous declaration, so also may a state of peace be re-established without an express treaty; and, as it has not as yet been settled how much time must elapse from the suspension of hostilities until peace may be presumed to be re-established, it ought to be decided in view of the facts and circumstances of each case; and concludes by declaring that the United States when they consider themselves obliged to determine whether war still exists between Spain and Peru, or has come to an end, such will be reached after having carefully examined the facts, and given due consideration to the representations of the parties interested.

The undersigned cannot assent entirely to the preceding assertions, but will confine himself to observing only that the state of war and state of peace between two nations, first of all, and beyond all, are facts which depend upon the will of the parties interested, it belonging to them to decide by common accord what is the state in which they find themselves, and what the character of their respective relations.

As for the determinations which the United States may believe themselves to be obliged to adopt under given circumstances, the government of the United States, and especially the honorable Secretary of State, on whom this matter is incumbent, has too much enlightenment and uprightness to separate himself in these matters from the recognized principles of the law of nations and international usages, and thus he disposes of the finale of the note of the honorable Secretary of State. Besides, the government of the United States holding on the present occasion the character of mediator, in virtue of the acceptance of its good offices on [Page 37] the part of Spain, the undersigned cannot for a moment doubt that while it holds that trust it will respond with its accustomed loyalty to the confidence of the Spanish government.

In the last place the Secretary of State informs the undersigned that by reason of the above-mentioned intervention of the House of Representatives about the sale and departure of the monitors, orders were dispatched by the President that clearances should not be given to them, nor that they should be permitted to go to sea, and that in consequence the vessels are detained, and will so continue temporarily. The undersigned, as is just, appreciates the issuance of such orders, and must hope that, the detention of the vessels being found just in itself by the provisions of the law of neutrality, and the prescriptions of international law, such detention will not cease until the state of war ceases. As for what the government of Peru may have offered to that of the United States as security that the monitors shall not be employed in hostilities against Spain, the undersigned will make no reply, not having any cause to doubt the sincerity and good faith of such offers; but that circumstance cannot discharge him from his duty of making just reclamations.

The undersigned recapitulates the contents of the present note by stating that Spain is disposed to re-establish honorably her friendly relations with the allied republics, and therefore desires to return to the state of peace, but that unfortunately she now still finds herself in a state of war; that neither the suspension of hostilities, nor the concerted departure of the Spanish and Chilian vessels from London, change or alter the existing status.

That the determination of said state of war cannot be brought about except by the declaration of the interested belligerent parties.

That the state of war existing, Spain can do no less than maintain the rights which belong to her, and reclaim their observance by neutral governments.

That in addressing the government of the United States, which combines the character of neutral with that of mediator, Spain finds herself assisted by a double right to request the detention of the monitors Catawba and Oneota belonging to Peru.

And, in conclusion, that he hopes that the government of the United States, as friend and neutral, will continue to cause to be respected the right and the laws of neutrality; and that as mediator it may succeed in obtaining a solution honorable to the contending parties, and beneficial to the interests of all nations.

The undersigned reiterates again to the honorable Secretary of State the assurance of his highest consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.