Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward.

No. 12.]

Sir: In dispatch No. 7, dated July 8, 1868, there may be found, in inclosure No. 10, a translation of a proclamation by the so-called Bruzual government of the “blockade of the Port of La Guayra in all the extent embraced between the port of Colombia and Cape Cordera.” I beg to refer you to this, and to the original of the same, (marked inclosure No. 9, in dispatch No. 7,) dated Puerto Cabello, June 27, 1868, and signed “M. E. Bruzual,” and also “El Ministro de Guerra y Marina, L. Arismendi.” No attempt was made to enforce the blockade until July 11th, on the morning of which day the following war vessels, manned by the partisans of Bruzual, appeared off La Guayra, viz., the steamer Bolivar and the Goleta Mariseal, without giving notice of the enforcement of the blockade to any person, They remained before La Guayra until the evening of the 15th, when they left it, as is supposed, to return to Puerto Cabello, having captured during their stay only two small coasting vessels, loaded with fish and fruit.

On the 11th instant, the members of the diplomatic and consular body called, by informal invitation, at the government house, Mr. Villegas, the minister of foreign affairs, wishing to consult with them about the blockade. Mr. Villegas argued strongly as to its illegality, and appeared anxious that the representatives of foreign powers should declare that they would not respect it. But these gentlemen declined making any declaration on the subject, reserving to themselves the liberty to act as each might deem proper, under such circumstances as should arise.

On the 16th instant a dispatch in relation to the blockade was received at this legation from the minister of foreign affairs, which will be found in inclosure No. 1, and a translation of the same in inclosure No. 2.

I am, Mr. very respectfully, your obedient servant,


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

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Señor Villegas to Mr. Pruyn.



The undersigned, minister of foreign affairs of the United States of Venezuela, has the honor to state to the incumbent of the legation of the United States, conformably to a resolution of the national executive, that the blockade decreed from the port of Colombia to Cape Cordera by General Manuel E. Bruzual is null and non-existent, as well from the want of legitimate power to decree it as from the lack of the requisites that the law of nations demands.

In unfolding the reasons that give rise to this declaration, the undersigned will add some of the arguments that justify him, according to the practice and principles generally admitted.

The capitulation has already been communicated to the incumbent of the legation of the United States, whereby the remainder of the forces of the government that existed in Caracas surrendered to the general-in-chief of the armies of the revolution, and bound themselves to the delivery of the towns of La Guayra and Puerto Cabello, and other points garrisoned by the national forces, of the vessels of the navy and of the elements of war that they might have. The chief of staff stipulated in the name of General Bruzual, who had spoken to several members of the diplomatic body of his disposition to surrender himself, desiring only guarantees for his person. The observation that Bruzual retains General Aristiguieta in Puerto Cabello in the same character of chief of staff, and of his not having contradicted the document which is treated of, gives more weight to this statement. From the instant, when, in virtue thereof, the combat ceased and the chief and the troops benefited by the capitulation remained at liberty, the government that was so called lost its character of a belligerent, without the violation of the word of honor pledged to the fullfilment of an act that all its circumstances rendered sacred, being able to restore it. It is just, then, to consider the faction of Puerto Cabello in the same case in which they would find themselves; for instance, the chiefs of the vessels, if they had risen up, on their own account, against the nation; and if in such mutineers no one would recognize the rights of belligerents, with like parity they must be denied to the others. Now, taking into consideration that they are reduced to one single point, already besieged by numerous forces, and opposed or without support in all the States of the Venezuelan Union; and that they cannot produce any other result than that of augmenting the misfortunes of the country, and prolonging the evils from which the revolution has sprung, with grievous injury moreover to foreign commerce, we are constrained to conclude that they have no authority to decree blockades, nor any other such measures.

As it relates to the blockade of General Bruzual, getting aside its illegitimacy, there would be wanting to it, in the first place, the diplomatic notification, which European powers have not though proper to preclude, as has been seen in the last wars of that continent. It will always be very useful to prevent the ignorance thereof from occasioning damages to the commerce of neutrals.

In the second place, the blockade of the coast being declared from the port of Colombia to Cape Cordera, it is not possible that the presence of one steamer and one schooner would be sufficient to impede effectually communication with the aforementioned coast.

In the third place, the decree commands the chief of the so-titled squadron to prevent the arrival of national and foreign vessels, when the blockade should have for its object to close as well their entrance as their departure; to render impossible, not only commerce, but every species of communication with the place blockaded. Only are vessels permitted to depart that might have entered before the blockade was established.

In the fourth place, it is ordered in the decree that the special notification of the blockade be made to the ships that are bound to La Guayra; but it is not provided that there should be entered on the papers of navigation of the same the day, and the place, or the latitude, in which they may have been found before being notified, as the treaty of Venezuela and France of 25th of May, 1843, in its 19th article requires, and also that which the republic and Denmark signed on the 19th December, 1862, article 17.

In the fifth place, vessels that pretend to violate the blockade shall be seized, and taken to Puerto Cabello, to be tried according to the laws of the matter.

The author of the decree forgot that the only tribunal called to take congnizance of prizes, according to article 89 of the constitution, is the high federal court, and that this body, appointed by congress, continues discharging its functions in Caracas. Any other tribunal whatsoever, created to take cognizance of prizes, would be unconstitutional, so much the more so since the executive has no power to establish them, nor to appoint judges.

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In the sixth place, the same decree, which is being analyzed, recognizes, in some manner, in the 5th article, the necessity of the diplomatic notification that it has not before prescribed, and, moreover, orders the seizure and trial of the vessels that attempt to violate the blockade, and in which contraband of war is found.

Here the treaty of Venezuela with the United States is broken, according to which, in its 16th article, ships which carry contraband of war must be left at liberty to pursue their voyage, if their commander offers to deliver it, not being in quantity greater than what may be conveniently received on board the capturing vessel. By the same treaty contraband is declared an object of confiscation, but free and in no manner contaminated by the goods prohibited, the vessel loaded with them, and the rest of the cargo.

The same was stipulated by the treaty in force of this country with Denmark. Finally, the continuity of the blockade would not exist, because of the two vessels thereunto destined, the steamer is not well provided with coal, and in case of making seizures, having to take to Puerto Cabello the ships detained, they would have necessarily to withdraw.

Since the preceding was written, facts have come to confirm the exactness thereof. The supposed blockading vessels steered their course last night for Puerto Cabello, and to-day the steamer Talisman, hailing from Liverpool, has arrived at La Guayra, without any hinderance. More than sufficiently founded therefore, is the hope, that the government entertains that the dipolmatic and consular bodies will not acknowledge the pretended blockade, extending the protests necessary for the effect, and acting in consequence thereof.

The undersigned, &c., &c. Union and liberty.