Mr. Hovey to Mr. Seward.

No. 117.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, for the information of the department, the copy of an unofficial letter received by me from [Page 858] Commander J. H. Gillis, commanding the United States steamer Wateree, giving an account of the state of affairs in the north of Peru.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Commander Gillis to Mr. Hovey.

Sir: While the Wateree was absent from Callao on the cruise from which she has just returned, I enjoyed opportunities of ascertaining the condition of some parts of the coast of Peru, and avail myself of the honor of hereby informing you of what I trust will be of interest to you. At San José I met the American consul of Lambayeque, and accompanied him to that city, and while there, saw enough to convince me that that section is in a very unsettled state. Indeed there seems to be a perfect reign of terror.

On the 17th instant a party of two hundred and eighty “montoneros” came into Lambayeque for the purpose of welcoming Colonel Balta on the following day, and were received in a public manner by the authorities of the place. While formed in the public square, these men applauded themselves on account of the depredations which they had committed, and cried death to those whose estates they had plundered. On the 8th instant Balta entered the city and received an ovation, the “inontoneros” being the chief participants besides the authorities. On the morning of the same day, as a party of officers from this vessel were riding through the public square of Lambayeque, they were stopped, and the horse of one of the officers demanded by some of the same party who had been publicly received the evening previous. I brought the affair to the notice of our consul, and demanded redress, but came away before I could receive a reply.

No serious public outrages occurred, so far as I heard, but they were expected, and indeed the well-disposed citizens appear to heartily despise these roving bands, but feel too weak to offer any resistance. About the time of my arrival at Lambayeque, a wealthy land owner, who claims unusual privileges through the favor of Colonel Balta, shut off the water from a rice plantation belonging to the United States consul, and up to the time of my departure, February 15th, Dr. Montjoy had been unable to obtain any redress, and his crops were fast being ruined.

I will further state that Colonel Balta is reported to have six hundred armed men at his disposal, and it is believed that he intends to instigate another revolution, if he fails to be elected at the coming election.

This vessel also stopped at Santa and Culebras, where there seemed to be no serious difficulty, though the people are apprehensive of trouble. I did not touch at any other port, because, as far as I could learn, there was nothing to demand the presence of a man-of-war, most of the towns being comparatively quiet, though by no means in such a state as one could wish.

I brought as passengers from Lambayeque, two men who were obliged to leave that place, as their lives were in danger at the hands of the lawless. One is an American citizen, and the other a Prussian, both sent on board by the American consul.

I shall do myself the honor to have a personal interview with you as soon as possible.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JAMES H. GILLIS, Commander United States Navy.

General Alvin P. Hovey, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States in Peru.