Mr. Garcia to Mr. Seward.

Sir: The war which the allied republics of the Pacific saw themselves compelled to declare against the government of Spain has assumed a character which can only be qualified, with propriety, as an imperfect peace. The active hostilities which terminated on the 2d of May, 1866, have been succeeded by a period of real tranquility, during which the opposing parties in the conflict, far from renewing acts of force, have visibly modified their policy and removed serious obstacles in the way of reconciliation. This is the historical period of contests between Spain and America. The capitulation of Ayacucho, signed in Peru on the 9th of December, 1824, was the starting point of forty years of imperfect peace—imperfect in form although real in feeling and in the practice of mutual relations. The 2d of May, 1866, likewise appears to be called to mark one of these characteristic terms, since it has been followed by two years of quiet which, if they do not express a covenanted cessation of hostilities, may at least be considered as years of reflection and oblivion.

The United States, in common with all other nations of the world, of their own free will deemed themselves released from all obligations of neutrality during the peace de facto which ensued after the war of independence between the new American republics and their mother country, and entered fully, with all of them, into the relations of a state of peace, in obedience to a sound principle of common justice and to the requirements of those great interests of the commerce and industry of the world which cannot tolerate indefinite wars.

It would have been better had no other occasion presented itself for the practice of this principle of positive consuetudinal right, for this would [Page 893] have proved that there had been no renewal of those unfortunate causes which make its application indispensible. But the truth is, this has occurred, and it becomes the duty of the government of the United States to renew the declaration of that doctrine, which has already been taken into consideration by the federal Congress in a resolution now before the House of Representatives, and which essentially declares this principle.

It is publicly known that in January last the belligerent governments of Chili and Spain, through their diplomatic agents at the court of London, conjointly asked permission of her Majesty’s government to remove beyond the jurisdiction of that kingdom armed vessels for the military service of both. It is also known in a reliable manner that Lord Stanley, after mature deliberation, and having consulted with the crown attorneys, who expressed the opinion that there was nothing in the case in violation of the principles nor contrary to the precedents of that government in matters of neutrality, granted their petition, notwithstanding a protest presented by the Peruvian minister, who did not deem it his duty to assent to an arrangement for which he had no authority.

This incident, which I recall not as an example of authority, but on account of the grounds which led not only to the joint action of Spain and Chili, but also to the policy of the British cabinet, amply justifies the clear and essential purpose of this communication, since it distinctly manifests that by express agreement, nay more, that by accomplished public, official acts, a stop has been put to the state of war; that the diplomatic act concluded in the office of a foreign government has expressly abrogated all the limitations imposed on non-belligerent states by the duties of neutrality; and finally, that the state of war having in this way ceased, all other governments have, although a formal peace may not have been celebrated, the right to restore both to the allied republics and to Spain the liberty of doing within their territories all such things as are lawful in the normal condition of international affairs, and for other purposes than for those of that interrupted war.

With these antecedents, which I doubt not will be accepted by your excellency as exact and conclusive, I take the liberty of asking your excellency to be pleased to inform me if, in consequence of the indefinite character which the war between the allied republics and Spain has assumed, your government considers itself with respect to said nations in the same relations as in a state of peace, and if they may, consequently, once again enter into free and unrestricted commerce with the United States without offense to their laws, which Peru with the other republics have ever observed and still propose to respect, or if you shall deem it your duty to maintain the position of a neutral, whatever time may elapse before a treaty of peace is made in the Pacific.

In view of the considerations which I have had the honor of submitting in this dispatch, I incline to believe that there can be no difficulty in your excellency’s government arriving at a resolution in the former sense, for it would be but in conformity with its previous conduct, and would at once be accepted by Spain, who having in fact herself annulled the state of war, and being at this moment occupied in fitting iron-clad vessels in the ship-yards of other nations, could not object to it without offense to her own character, nor without presenting her own conduct in flagrant contradiction.

I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurances of my distinguished consideration.


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