Señor Garcia to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have had the honor of receiving your excellency’s note, bearing date 20th ultimo, in which you are pleased to reply to my communication of 14th of same month, stating that any declaration your government might make, under present circumstances, upon the question of neutrality, would be unnecessary and gratuitous, and might ultimately prove to have been prematurely and erroneously made.
Referring to some of the considerations submitted by me, your excellency bases your conclusions upon the ground that the government of the United States has no official or authentic information of the arrangement made in London between Spain and Chili for the removal of armed vessels of both nations, while on the other hand your government knows that Spain continues to assert, in a correspondence with the United States of Colombia, the existence of a state of war between herself and the allied republics. Your excellency also adds that no transaction has recently occurred within the United States, giving occasion to your government to make an authoritative declaration as to whether such state of war ought to be deemed as still continuing, or whether by the intermission of neutral hostilities it is to be deemed as having come to an end.
Although the object of my communication of 14th ultimo is evident, your excellency will permit me to explain it fully. Peru having, as your excellency knows, interests of great value on her coasts, and islands to watch over and protect, was desirous of obtaining some vessels of war with which to augment her standing squadron, without special reference to the interruption in her relations with Spain, and for that purpose found a very favorable occasion in the public offer made by the Secretary of the Navy of this country for the sale of a large number of vessels. That a formal state of war no longer exists between the allied republics and Spain, but, on the contrary, a condition of imperfect peace, has been expressly recognized by other nations which, in their relations with them, have resumed the normal condition of affairs, and this proof would have been enough to persuade Peru that she might freely equip and remove from beyond the jurisdiction of this country such vessels as she may have engaged, had not the profound respect she has ever paid to the laws of other nations, and the particular friendship and high consideration she entertains for the United States, impelled her to seek from your excellency a declaration deliberately and explicitly releasing yourself from all obligations of a neutrality inconsistent with the existing state of affairs before carrying into effect her intention of sending to Peru the vessels which she has acquired, and which she will certainly defer doing until the declaration asked for shall have been made, or the consent of the government of the United States been given. Such is her firm resolution with due regard to the position assumed by the United States, whose strict neutrality commenced twenty months prior to the formal declaration of war, and is still continued two years after the cessation of hostilities. In the years 1865 and 1866, Peru obtained in France and England, with the knowledge of their respective governments, the vessels which she sent for to the United States, but whose neutrality would not permit her to secure, and, in 1868, Chili and Spain have obtained like benefits, undoubtedly because the present situation has been deemed identical with the former.[Page 901]
The example which I had the pleasure of recalling to your excellency’s mind, of the conduct observed by the United States and other powers subsequent to the war of independence between Spain and the new American republics, is so analogous to the events of the present time, and its significance so great, that the necessity of putting an immediate stop to the obligations of neutrality in consonance with the de facto cessation of war, can only be ignored by condemning the five nations involved in the Pacific difficulties, and the neutral states to which they are bound by the ties of commerce and industry, to all the restrictions of a state of war which does not exist, and for an indefinite period which an unhappy precedent might prolong to another forty years. When the new American republics triumphed over their adversary, obliging her to abandon the continent of America, in 1824 and 1826, not only were they recognized by the United States, Great Britain, and other nations, but they at once found all markets open to them for the purchase of vessels, armaments, and whatever else they needed, notwithstanding they had made no treaty with Spain, and in spite of the latter’s persisting in defending as natural her right to reconquer her lost colonies. The policy which inspired such a course was prudent, humanizing, and productive of great good to civilization, and it is to-day demanded by the same great interests suffering from a similar state of affairs.
Differing from the past, there now exists in support of my opinion the agreement made in London between Spain and Chili for the removal of their war vessels, which clearly and of right annuls the state of war. Your excellency has, nevertheless, not taken that significant event into serious consideration, because, as you are pleased to say, it is not known to your government in an official or authentic manner.
A fact so notorious, the publicity of which commenced in the British Parliament, and which has been repeated by the press throughout the world, would of itself place beyond doubt the truth of its existence; but your excellency has, in the United States legation at London, the sure means of acquiring that information which may also be obtained from the representatives of Spain and Chili in Washington, and of the truth of which I now formally assure your excellency. I permit myself to insist on this point, as it shows that the wishes of my government are in strict conformity with the conduct of Chili and Spain, and that it is due to justice to acknowledge that in seeking to increase their respective navies, which during the past four years have suffered considerably, all are yielding to the same peaceful inspirations, and to the same motives of convenience, and the requirements of their home service.
It would not be just to deem an act of Peru vituperable, which has a precedent in the doings of the other two nations, when they declare that what they do is in the exercise of a perfect right. The acts being identical, it is in the nature of things to qualify them alike; it cannot be wrong for Peru to acquire vessels in the United States, and right and praiseworthy for Spain and Chili to obtain them in England.
The fact of Spain’s continuing to assert in a collateral correspondence with the United States of Colombia the existence of a state of war, cannot be a reason to guide the government of the United States in its resolutions. That fact, if it proves anything, shows an open contradiction in the conduct of Spain. To ask from the British government, conjointly with one of the republics allied against her, permission to remove armed vessels, allowable by international law only in time of peace, and to assure another government, in furtherance of different interests, that a state of war still exists, your excellency will permit me to say, is, at least, not logical. Moreover, a state of war cannot be maintained by mere [Page 902] written declarations. Should so absurd a doctrine be recognized, smaller powers unable to carry on an effective war against strong nations, or the latter, should they wish not to waste their time and means in fighting weaker countries, would prefer to carry on a paper war, as being both easier and cheaper than those which are settled by arms, as well as more disastrous to the commerce and industry of the world. For the simple act of hostility, termed a blockade, the law of nations requires the employment of an effective force sufficient to keep the ports closed: with how much more reason, then, should it be claimed, as but just, and as demanded by common sense and the requirements of other countries whose interests suffer so greatly by the ravages of international wars, that all hostilities should also be effective, so that they may be brought to a speedy termination, and not mere written manifestations, which would make wars all the more lasting and disastrous according to the obstinacy of the belligerents, or of the one who had the least to lose in the struggle.
Nor is the London agreement the only act which proves the cessation of a state of war. The acknowledgment of such cessation is also found in public official acts done in the United States by the agents of Spain, acquiesced in by the national authorities, and not objected to by the allied republics. The Spanish war vessel Gerona arrived in this port in the beginning of the present month, and after exchanging salutes with the forts of this harbor, took out her guns, entered a dock, repaired her bottom, painted her hull, and examined her machinery, &c. The ironclad Tetuan is now en route for this port for like repairs. A manufacturer in the State of New York is manufacturing arms for Spain, and is to-day preparing forty thousand of Bordeaux rifles for the military service of that nation. None of these acts would be lawful if it were deemed that a state of war exists. When the Spanish frigates Carmen and Isabel la Catolica arrived at this port for repairs early in 1866, I announced to your excellency, in compliance with my duty, that war had broken out between the allied republics and Spain, and solicited from you a declaration of neutrality. Your excellency was pleased to make such declaration, and the above-mentioned vessels left New York without doing that for which they came, notwithstanding the statement published in the newspaper, which serves as the organ of Spain here, that the free use of the Brooklyn navy yard had been tendered to them. But now the allies have neither protested, nor has the government of the United States of its own motion prevented an act which international law forbids a belligerent’s doing within neutral territory. Thus perfectly have all coincided in their estimate of the actual condition of things, and which it would be necessary to invest with characters it does not possess, to qualify in any other way than that of an imperfect peace.
If for want of any preceding act the government of your excellency has hitherto found no occasion for the declaration which I asked for, as to the suspension of neutrality, the present offers one worthy of all consideration. It will serve not to define past occurrences, but to authorize future doings, permitting Peru to equip and remove from within the jurisdiction of this republic, for her service, two vessels which she will otherwise keep in your waters until she can lawfully send them away without offense to your laws. Peru has no intention of changing the existing condition of affairs in her relations with Spain by renewing hostilities to which she may not be directly provoked, and much less does she propose to attack or invade the colonies of that nation. In completing her fortifications on land, and her naval defenses, she has no special view as to the war with Spain nor any other power. Taught by the events of the past, she merely wishes to supply herself with all the [Page 903] means which a nation should possess, at the present time, in order to make her autonomy and her rights respected, as an independent nation, against any unjust aggressor who may attempt to attack them.
These declarations, which your excellency should accept upon the faith of my government, furnish the most ample security as to the use which it proposes to make of the military elements it now possesses within its own territory, and of those it has subsequently sought in this and other countries.
If, in order to accede to the request which I have thus expressed, it should be necessary to give you a positive promise that the vessels which leave the United States will go direct to Peru, without attacking or in any way molesting those of other nations, without any exception whatever, and without injuring or threatening their possessions, I thereunto pledge the honor of the government of Peru to that of the United States.
I avail myself with great satisfaction of this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurances of the high respect and esteem with which I subscribe myself your excellency’s most obedient servant.
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.