Mr. Seward to Mr. Hovey.

No. 83.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 123, of the 14th of April. It informs me of the pleasing fact that, at present, the political condition of Peru is only slightly disturbed, and that it is universally believed that Colonel Balta in the late elections has met with success as a candidate for the presidency.

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Having given me this information, you express a hope that if this election shall be fairly approved and sanctioned by the congress which will meet in July next, you may then be authorized at once to open relations with the government. You express an opinion that the precaution which we so habitually pursue in regard to a hasty recognition of revolutionary government does not work for the best interests of our country in Peru; and you observe that “the Lima newspapers have been teeming with most unjustifiable attacks against our country and yourself ever since your refusal to recognize the government of General Canseco.”

The views you have thus expressed will receive careful consideration. It is less than two years ago since the United States reluctantly recognized the government of President Prado, which came in by revolution against the constitutional system—the same constitutional system which General Canseco now claims to have been restored by a reactionary military force. The United States must be entirely indifferent to political persons and parties in Peru, as in all the South American republics, so long as all those persons and parties agree in maintaining a republican system as the only admissible form of government. To us an administration conducted by General Canseco, or by Colonel Balta, would be as acceptable as an administration conducted by any other chief. What we wait for in this case is the legal evidence that the existing administration has been deliberately accepted by the people of Peru. When a republican form of government is constitutionally established, we hasten to recognize the administration, and to extend to it a cordial friendship. We do thus because every state which constitutes itself a republic becomes by force of that very circumstance a bulwark of our own republic. We do not deny or question the right of any nation to change its republican constitution. We do not deny the right even to change it by force, although we think that the exercise of force can only be justified in rare instances. What we do require, and all that we do require, is when a change of administration has been made, not by peaceful constitutional processes, but by force, that then the new administration shall be sanctioned by the formal acquiescence and acceptance of the people.

We insist upon this because the adoption of a different principle in regard to foreign states would necessarily tend to impair the constitutional vigor of our own government, and thus favor disorganization, disintegration, and anarchy throughout the American continent. In our own late political convulsions, we protested to all the world against any recognition of the insurgents as a political power by foreign nations, and we denied the right of any such nation to recognize a government here independent of our constitutional republic until such new government should be not only successful in arms, but should also be accepted and proclaimed by the people of the United States.

We must be content to endure the temporary dissatisfaction which this policy may occasionally awaken in our sister republics.

In accordance with the principles I have mentioned, the United States will recognize the republican administration which may be organized in Peru so soon as it shall appear to have been deliberately accepted by the Peruvian people themselves. We cannot do it until then.

Should your position at Lima become uncomfortable in consequence of adherence to the policy herein set forth, you will be at liberty to withdraw from the republic temporarily, and await elsewhere the progress of events. I sincerely hope, however, that no such exigency will arise.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Alvin P. Hovey, Esq., &c., &c., &c.