Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward.
Sir: In the dispatch of the minister resident, No. 34, dated May 27, 1868, there was expressed the hope that the treaty of peace then recently concluded between the contending factions in this country would be permanent. The result has been otherwise. This treaty was not accepted by General Monagas and the revolutionary party in the eastern States of the republic.
Having already in the field a considerable army, he continued his advance on Caracas, (not respecting the treaty which had been made without his knowledge or consent.)
It is reported that he is now within fifteen or twenty miles of the city, with an army of about four thousand men.
General Bruzual, the acting President, is making the most active preparations for the defense of the city. He has now at his disposal about two thousand five hundred men, and is expecting large re-enforcements from the eastern States of the republic, and will probably take the field in person. On the 15th instant he issued a proclamation, which, in effect, was a declaration of martial law. Since then very many of the able-bodied citizens have been seized and forced into the army, and all kinds of available property, including horses and cattle, have been appropriated by the government without scruple. I regret very much to inform you that the persons and property of foreigners resident here have by no means been properly respected.
Outrages of the most high-handed character have, as I learn, been committed.
No American citizens have suffered, that I am aware of. I promptly demanded and procured the release of two, who had been wrongfully arrested and taken to the barracks; to be forced into the ranks of the army. The government are preparing to hold the city to the last extremity. Barricades are building in several of the principal streets, and the government mansion itself is being made ready for defense.
Yesterday, the 17th instant, I attended by invitation a conference of the diplomatic and consular corps, called together by Señor Leal, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Brazil.
There were present the representatives of the Argentine Confederation, [Page 944] Belgium, Brazil, Chili, Denmark, England, France, Italy, Spain, the United States of America, and the United States of Colombia. I was informed that the object of the meeting was to decide if the diplomatic and consular body should offer their friendly services to bring about an interview between General Bruzual, the acting President, and General Monagas, chief of the insurgent forces. Knowing full well that it was the settled and invariable policy of my government to abstain from all interference in the domestic affairs of other states, I, in common with the representatives of France and Chili, refused to discuss the question until I should be informed that the proposed offer of friendly services was desired by the government of Venezuela.
Thereupon the Brazilian envoy, and the consular officer charged with the interests of the United States of Colombia, were appointed a committee to find out in an unofficial manner the disposition of the government. They immediately made a friendly and informal visit to Mr. Urrutia, minister of finance, at his private residence, where they found also General Bruzual, who declared that he would be very much pleased to accept the proposed offer of friendly services, if made. As the consular officer of Colombia, above mentioned, is known to be on terms of the greatest intimacy with Mr. Urrutia, and as he and the envoy of Brazil went immediately from the conference to the house of Mr. Urrutia, it may be reasonably supposed, especially as they there met General Bruzual, that this government was really desirous of the friendly services of the diplomatic and consular body, although with real Spanish pride and reserve they were too haughty to come out and ask for them in a frank open manner. With this fact in view, I yielded my assent, together with the rest of the minority of the meeting, to the note, a copy of which is herewith inclosed, (marked inclosure No. 1,) offered by the majority, a translation of which is herewith appended, (marked inclosure No. 2.) Copies of this note, the meeting decided, were to be dispatched immediately to Generals Bruzual and Monagas. If either of them refused the offer therein contained, the offer was to be considered as withdrawn from the other. Together with the representatives of France, Chili, and some others, I took the strongest ground against any offer or attempt by the diplomatic and consular corps at mediation, intervention, or arbitration between this government and its citizens in armed rebellion. Then it was unanimously declared, as the sense of the meeting, that the offer of friendly services conveyed in the note was only to be considered as an offer to arrange an interview (both parties consenting) between the two distinguished gentlemen therein named. Such interview once established, it was declared that all action in the matter on the part of the diplomatic and consular corps, as a collective body, was to cease entirely. Committees were appointed to deliver copies of the notes to Generals Bruzual and Monagas, and the conference adjourned, subject to the call of the presiding officer, Señor Leal, envoy of Brazil.
If an interview between the opposing chieftains can be brought about, and the present troubles of the country settled without further bloodshed, thanks will be due, among others, to the diplomatic and consular corps at Caracas. Whatever be the result, they will have the consciousness of having used every exertion that their duty permitted in the cause of peace and humanity.
I will endeavor, sir, to keep you fully advised as to all that may transpire here during this important crisis, and meanwhile I have the honor to remain, with great respect, your obedient servant.
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.