A diplomatic incident..

A feeling of national dignity impels us, as good Peruvians, to reply to and refute the article which was published in the Nacional, in its issue of 22d January.

There is nothing more sacred than international relations, nor is any one to be more respected than a foreign diplomatic minister. If we can read contemptuously the articles appearing in our journals about internal politics, we cannot with the same feeling peruse an article which, while treating on international questions, might compromise the national good name. We especially refer to articles which refer to diplomatic questions, or treat of the actions or the person of any representative of a great nation friendly to Peru.

This is what now has happened. We hope that Peruvians will always be found ready to defend foreign ministers when these may be attacked unjustly, or not treated with the high respect, the particular delicacy, and the especial consideration to which they are entitled, and which they receive from every civilized nation, every respectable government, and every reputable man.

We treat of the answer given by General Hovey, minister plenipotentiary of the United States, to Mr. Francisco Diez Canseco, superior military chief of the departments of the center, in answer to the circular which this gentleman thought proper to address to the diplomatic body, resident in Lima, on the 10th instant, concerning the new government just then established.

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In criticising the note of the American minister, the editors of the Nacional have proceeded with great haste and injustice, have committed grave errors, and have fallen into deplorable contradictions.

To begin with, the editors confess that Mr. Canseco did badly in writing the said circular, and really that is the only sensible remark made in the whole article. They say, “That it is to be regretted that an authority solely military, only encharged with the duty of attending to the first necessities of interior order, should have directed a circular to the diplomatic and consular corps announcing his position, relating the recent events occurred in the country, and reopening diplomatic relations.”

The editors, therefore, begin by contradicting themselves, attacking the reply of the American minister by admitting that it was caused by an absurd circular.

The Nacional says that the public have seen with marked surprise the reply referred to. This is an error. We have spoken with many distinguished persons and several persons of high position, who regard the reply as called for by the situation. The Nacional commits another error in saying that the American minister has been alone in his mode of proceeding, and he should have observed the same conduct as did his colleague.

Now, in the first place, it is simply ridiculous for a newspaper to pretend to dictate to a foreign minister the line of conduct which he should follow; and in the second place, as nations have different policies, so have their agents. But the replies of the ministers of France and England are, on the whole, the same as that of the American plenipotentiary. The English minister says, “I will improve the first opportunity of informing the government of her Britannic Majesty of the facts you communicated to me;” and the French chargé says, “I will fulfill the duty of remitting your dispatch to the cabinet of his Imperial Majesty, which will surely appreciate it.” The American minister says, “I deem it to be my duty to make known all these facts to my government and await its orders.”

The difference is that the American minister says he will await orders, which the chargés d’affaires mentioned had no necessity to say. If the representative of the United States believes it to be his duty to do this, no one can deny his right, and he, better than any one, knows what he does.

The Nacional commits a very great error in saying that “of two extremes the American minister could have adopted one—either to have roundly refused to recognize the representation of Mr. Canseco, or to follow the conduct of his colleagues.” As to the second extreme, it is absurd to suppose that all ministers can proceed alike when their governments have different policies; and as regards the first, the Nacional itself says that ministers cannot refuse to recognize a government; only governments themselves can do so. Therefore, this opinion being correct, the American minister did perfectly right in saying he would wait for his orders, and fulfilled his duties as a true diplomatist.

With respect to the other expressions contained in the dispatch of the American minister, it will be necessary to make some observations in order to clear up the rather obscure faculties of the editors. True diplomacy imposes on diplomatists generally the duty of not expressing a definite opinion as to the charges which may occur in the countries to which they are accredited. The minister of the United States has followed this rule. The diplomacy of the United States is frank and open; it declares truths with great clearness; from the beginning it calls things by their proper names, as bread “bread,” wine “wine.” This may not be agreeable to some, but the pill must be swallowed; it is the best way to avoid ulterior difficulties.

The American minister says, not only that he will acquaint his government with the facts, as do the English and French ministers, but that he will wait the orders of his government; this is his duty, a duty imposed by his government; and he tells the new government of Peru this fact frankly. The American minister does even more; he has the exquisite delicacy to explain his conduct, and he cites the precedent involved in the case of the recognition of Colonel Prado’s government, which was not recognized until several months after its establishment.

It is to be noted that the question interesting the United States is not, whether the government be dictatorial, monarchical, or republican; it is, whether the will of the people upholds it, and if it presents guarantees of stability. The imperial government of Napoleon III was very soon recognized by the United States. The government of Maximilian would likewise, no doubt, have been recognized had it been supported by the people. As to the government (dictatorial) of Prado, South America never saw a more popular movement, yet the United states recognized it only after the 2d of May.

It is necessary here to make reference to an incident which took place in those glorious days for Peru that some wish now to erase from history. When General Hovey presented his credentials to the supreme chief he said, among other things: “Our continent should be the mansion of freemen; and as, according to the language of Jefferson, ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,’ we should be more than vigilant of our republican institutions. Permit me to say that, during your short administration, which I have had the pleasure to witness, Peru has received new life, which the most remote generations will experience.”

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Colonel Prado commenced his reply thus:

“The great nation which you represent pointed out to us the path of independence and liberty; and although vicissitudes incident to nations in their infancy have made superficial minds believe that the principles of Washington had degenerated in our country, recent events have proved the contrary.

“To preserve liberty and independence, a people, guided by mysterious instincts, sometimes employ means which appear contradictory for the ends it desires to attain, and the most liberal government on earth—that of the United States—has invested itself with faculties at first sight incompatible with republican principles, but indispensable towards saving the institutions of that great nation.

“It is highly satisfactory to me that the minister of the United States has formed such an elevated opinion of the use which my government has made of an authority which, though in contradiction, apparently, to republican principles, was placed in my hands to consolidate and defend from unjust attacks the independence and the dignity of America, which I hold as dear as that of my own country.

“I trust, Mr. Minister, that, whatever apprehensions the establishment of a dictatorial government in Peru may have for a moment awakened, the people of the United States will see in my policy the practice of Washington’s doctrines, in whose defense the Peruvian nation has put in execution the vigilance of Jefferson.”

History will decide if Colonel Prado, styled dictator, exercised more power than our noted presidents de facto have done. Let it be proved that the present government is supported by the people, which we do not doubt, and that it presents guarantees of stability, (which God grant,) and we will see that the American government will speedily recognize it. But the suddenness of Prado’s fall is rather unpropitious.

We must tell the truth. Foreigners believe that now no government is stable in Peru. This belief can only be removed by seeing a government exist for several consecutive years. The man whose high destiny it will be to put an end to revolutions in this country has not yet made his appearance on the tragi-comic stage of Peru.

If some expressions in the American minister’s dispatch have caused surprise, the editors of the Nacional must know that the diplomats of the United States are more frank in their language (always neutral and impartial) than those of other countries. We were pleased to see in that dispatch the words “anarchy and monarchy;” these contain the whole history of Spanish America, and exactly those most hateful to the American people, and any anarchical or revolutionary movement is highly distasteful to that people, and any monarchical scheme repugnant in the extreme.

We learn, however, from the dispatch that we will receive the friendship of the citizens of the great republic in proportion to our ability to destroy in Peru the spirit of anarchy and monarchy. Unfortunately both exist, and both urge us towards our ruin. The influence of the great republic is every day more powerful in the whole world. In America it will be omnipotent; to resist it will be to perish. It is necessary to practice the great republican principles of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe; then we will be powerful and strong; then great and happy; then the friends of the people of the United States. Without that condition, one of three things is our destiny—either to eat ourselves à la Dupasquies, which is the case; or gome European power will conquer us, which would be difficult; or we will be absorbed by the United States, which very well may happen, for that republic is destined to be the new Rome.

Now, if the Nacional desires to know why the Americans express themselves with so much frankness, although diplomatic practice counsels no opinion to be hastily expressed, as the Nacional dogmatically remarks, we will reply, quoting the words of the great American statesman, Daniel Webster, contained in the dispatch which he wrote, while Secretary of State, to the Austrian minister in Washington, 21st December, 1850, in answer to a protest ordered by the Emperor of Austria to the instructions given to the American minister, A. Dudley Mann; these were to recognize the independence of Hungary, provided it seemed possible that it could be maintained. Mr. Webster says, interpreting the principle which the great republic has always followed: “At the same time, while observing faithfully its obligations as a neutral, no one can ever impede the government or the people of the United States from exercising, according to its own discretion, the rights which it holds as an independent nation, nor from forming and expressing its own opinions freely and on all occasions concerning the great political events which may take place between the civilized nations of the earth.”

That nation, observing its rights and practicing its duties faithfully, is not to be wondered at for being universally respected, and for increasing its power every day.

We now trust that the Nacional will comprehend the language used by the diplomatic agents of the United States. It manifests an unexampled audacity in asseverating that the conduct of the minister is based on notable errors; it shows a lamentable ignorance in affirming that his dispatch is an open condemnation of the events which have recently occurred in the country, and that it is an ill-timed menace; and it utters a stupid falsehood, in stating that the minister did not hold himself neutral in the affairs of Peru. The representative of the great American republic holds too elevated a position to mix in the personal, tricky, insignificant, and lilliputian politics of Peru.

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We will answer two other charges made by the Nacional, and then we will conclude.

The editors say that General Hovey congratulated the government on the death of General Castilla. In answer to this, we state that, in answer to Minister Osorio’s first circular to the diplomatic corps, dated June 9, 1867, the American minister wrote: “I congratulate myself for the opportunity which presents itself to enter into personal relations with your excellency, and, in conclusion, I beg to felicitate your excellency for the brilliant future upon which Peru, free from internal dissensions, is about to enter.” The editors of the Nacional will see that this was not a congratulation on General Castilia’s death, and that the minister of the United States, as well as his government and people, looked with horror on all revolutionary movements, and congratulated the government on every occasion when Peru was free from internal dissensions. On the other hand, this Castilla, a traitor by office, would have died in any civilized country with a rope around his neck.

Peru, which deems herself more civilized than the rest of the world, abolished capital punishments, and consequently proceeds rapidly to its dissolution. Instead of shooting three or four conspirators and traitors, they are allowed their liberty, and in their revolutions three or four thousand innocent lives are lost, immense amounts of property destroyed, the country demoralized and regarded with contempt by foreigners.

The editors of the Nacional have committed another error in asserting that General Hovey conceded asylum to some and denied it to others.

Every one knows the history of diplomatic asylum in Peru, and the efforts made by Secretary Pacheco to abolish it; all applauded the conduct of the plenipotentiary and the admiral of the United States in that question.

The American minister has not contradicted himself in the slightest degree, but has observed to the letter the principles which he laid down.

The two cases which have occurred at the American legation are well known—that of Colonel Zegarra and that of ex-President Prado.

One day the minister was proceeding to his house, and when he arrived at the corner of the street where he resides he was brusquely and suddenly seized by the arm by a person whom he did not know, Colonel Zegarra, and told that the person wished to speak to him in the legation. Once past the threshold, the unknown exclaimed, “I implore the asylum of the legation,” and at the same time a competent authority arrived with the proper writ against Colonel Zegarra, who had been pursued very closely. We ask, did not the minister of the United States fulfill his line of duty, denying the asylum, and not permitting himself to be surprised into consent?

The second case is this: ex-President Prado was pursued by no authority whatsoever; nevertheless, the evil passions of some ruffians and of a part of the populace were excited to the commital of wanton deeds. Colonel Prado then acted with prudence, seeking a house more secure than that in which he lived, and he went to the American legation, exactly in front of his own residence. As no one demanded him; the case of diplomatic asylum did not occur; nevertheless, the American minister hastened to tell him, from the beginning, “General Prado, no one shall touch you in my house, but you know better than any one else that this legation is no asylum for those which the justice of the country rightfully claims.” Several persons connected with the present government heard this—persons who visited Colonel Prado during the thirty-six hours he remained in the legation; persons who offered to aid him in his efforts to embark, and who, as we have been assured, did so. We have, therefore, in the case of ex-President Prado, three circumstances—first, the authority did not pursue him, but rather aided his escape; second, that he did not wish for asylum, but was the guest of a friend only for thirty-six hours; third, that the American minister informed him of his proposed mode of proceeding in time. We ask, did the American minister deviate in this from the rules which he himself laid down?

What say the editors of the Nacional now?

To inform them and many who are absolutely ignorant of diplomatic asylum in its international rights, we will repeat what we have said previously concerning its fundamental principles.

Whatever may be the rights of authorities of the country, or the duties of foreign ministers—problems to be resolved by the law of nations—there are two invariable principles which no nation, government, minister, or private individual can ever transgress: 1st. The domicile of a legation is inviolable, and never can any armed demonstration be made against it. 2d. The foreign ministers solely obey the orders of their governments. To deliver up a person taking asylum, is not to obey an order, but to fulfill a duty imposed by the minister’s own government and to act in consonance with his instructions. To disavow these principles, is to be ignorant of right; to violate them, is to provoke foreign war.

Now, messieurs the editors of the Nacional, what have you done in writing your editorial about so delicate a matter? What was your object in pretending to criticise a diplomatic note emanating from a minister so distinguished as that of the United States? What object had you in accumulating such a mass of errors, falsehoods, and contradictions? Why, finally, have you attacked so unjustly a foreign diplomatic [Page 855] agent? It really is unjust, most unjust, to say that the “American minister has by his conduct established a basis of hostility, and that he has disavowed, and on more than one occasion acted in contradiction to, that spirit of justice and moderation which he should have fomented.”

You, messieurs the editors, have in your publication, actuated by ignoble motives, demonstrated in a superlative degree a want of moderation, discourtesy, audacity, and a spirit of injustice unworthy of a civilized country and dishonorable to the press.

We have shed a tear of grief to see how the illustrious guest who has shown so much sympathy and interest in our country has been treated in Peru. He was accredited to our government, being “one of the most distinguished citizens of the United States,” according to the words of President Johnson; he who, without ceasing, has expressed and repeated, publicly and privately, his sincere desires for the greatness of Peru; he who has followed with great and unusual interest all the steps taken by this little republic towards making a name in the catalogue of nations, and to show to the world her growing strength; who, finally, has fulfilled his duty with Puritan severity, and has always labored to foment the love of liberty and of republican institutions, and the observance of the grand principles which are the foundation of American independence.

Can this be called “hostility” and “a contradiction of the feeling of justice and moderation?” When ideas are so perverted in a country, it must be very far on its rapid road to destruction.

But we believe that Peru is not in that condition, and in the name of the nation we protest against the discourteous words of the Nacional.

We can assure his excellency General Hovey that since his arrival at these shores he has been esteemed, respected, and beloved by all who have had the honor of knowing him, and by all who have had an opportunity to admire the rare and beautiful qualities which adorn him, as a man, as a jurist, as a soldier, and a diplomat.


Lima, January 25, 1868.

P. S.—With an unworthy motive, the editors of the Nacional have again occupied themselves with the dispatch of General Hovey, and they have the audacity to say in their review of the fortnight (which goes abroad, translated into three languages) “that if in a respectable paper of the United States a reliable and truthful account of the manner in which the representative of that nation in Peru has comported himself, it is almost certain that he would be recalled.”

If the ideas expressed by the Nacional were those of a respectable newspaper, and one that represented national feeling, they would have some value abroad. But it is known that the Nacional always adores the rising sun; it was established with the dictatorship and then adored Prado, then it began to adore Castilla, then it passed to Canseco, and now it adores Balta.

Such newspapers are condemned in foreign countries and exercise no influence whatsoever.

Moreover, to console the editors, we will tell them a painful truth. In all foreign countries without exception, in all the corners of the civilized world, there is but one Peruvian name which lifted us from the mire where we were lying, and which gave us some fame. There is only the name of one Peruvian which inspires universal admiration and respect; there is only the name of one Peruvian surrounded with an imperishable glory which reflects on his fellow-citizens abroad—that name is that of Maricano Ignacio Prado.

No one is a prophet in his own country, and much less in an ungrateful one.


January 28.