Mr. Pile to Mr. Fish.
Caracas , May 26, 1873. (Received June 18.)
Sir: This country continues in apparent peace, but I perceive a marked decrease in public confidence since my return to Caracas, notwithstanding the much talked of termination of the “dictadura” and the inauguration of a constitutional government.
I have repeatedly stated in previous dispatches to the Department that in the establishment of a regular and stable government the two formidable obstacles that President Guzman Blanco would encounter would be the adjustment of the relations between the States and the general government and the reorganization of the financial administration of the country.
In reference to the first matter there have occurred bitter and heated discussions in the Congress, and there is much dissatisfaction among the representatives of the interior States.
Pulgar, at Maracaibo, in the State of Zulia, continues to be insolent and insubordinate. Altogether the outlook from this stand-point is not very satisfactory.
In reference to the finances the condition of affairs is in some regards much improved. Vigorous measures have been taken to prevent the wholesale smuggling that has hitherto been carried on from the islands of Trinidad and Curaçoa.
Some fifty or sixty small vessels have been seized and proceedings instituted against them. At the present rate of receipts at the customhouse (aduanas) the public rent will amount to five million pesos the present year.
The vigilance and supervision of the government over the administration at the various ports is much more rigid and exacting than previously, with a proportionate decrease in irregularities.
The “ley de Arancel” has been revised and modified, but in this instance there has been no improvement. If possible the present law is more contradictory, absurd, and impracticable than the former one, copy of which was sent to the Department.
In accordance with instructions given me in your dispatch No. 59, I have transmitted to the government here a copy of the law passed by the late United States Congress declaring the awards of the mixed commission final and valid, and have informed it that no further discussion of the proceedings of that commission can be entered into on our part. [Page 1173] Copies of my dispatch to this government and other correspondence will be transmitted to the Department by the regular mail via St, Thomas. I send this via Aspinwali by an English steamer, expecting that it will reach the United States some days earlier than by the regular mail via St. Thomas. The regular session of the Congress of Venezuela will terminate to-morrow, and I am informed that an extraordinary session will at once be convened by the President, and that he will by special message submit and ask some action by Congress upon the following matters, viz:
- The mixed commission with the United States and the action of our Congress in reference thereto.
- The approval of the proceedings of the commission between Great Britain and Venezuela.
- The pending question of boundaries between Venezuela and New Granada.
With respect to the action of the United States Congress in the matter of the mixed commission the government here has been very reticent since my return.
It is reported to me by some persons usually well informed that President Blanco will, in a courteous message, say to Congress that he has earnestly endeavored to secure a revision of the work of the commission, but has failed, and ask for such action in reference to the matter as Congress may deem proper. This with a view of securing the passage of a resolution instructing him to accept the result and by negotiation secure the best terms possible as to payment. From other sources equally creditable I am informed that he will declare his determination not to pay the amount awarded by the commission, and to resist payment at the risk of having the coast blockaded and the ports bombarded.
I am quietly awaiting the announcement of his policy. If he adopts the course first indicated, I have some confidence that an acceptable convention can be concluded having “in view the remarks” in your dispatch numbered 59; but if he adopts the second, of course all negotiations are at an end. In that case I shall discontinue all correspondence on the subject with this government, report the facts to the Department, and await further instructions. A convention was concluded between Great Britain and Venezuela in 1868 providing for a mixed commission to examine and decide upon claims of British subjects for torts committed upon them by the authorities of Venezuela. The commission concluded their work in 1869, making awards to the amount of $312,587, (pesos sencillos.) It is provided in the convention that these awards should be submitted to the approval of the Venezuelan Congress. They are to be now submitted for that purpose.
The question of boundaries between Venezuela and Colombia has recently excited much attention in both countries, and has produced some ill-feeling. Mr. Galindo, Colombian minister, came here one year ago with full powers to make a final settlement. He and the commissioner on the part of Venezuela have failed to agree. It has now been arranged that the President of the United States of Colombia and President Guzman Blanco shall have an interview at Baranquilla in July, for the purpose of attempting a final settlement of this question. The latter, it is expected, will leave Caracas about June 25 for Baranquilla. The decree convoking the extra session may be published in the morning before the steamer leaves for Aspinwali. If so, I will inclose copy, but will not be able to translate it, nor will I be able to send with this a copy of the message to the Congress at the opening of the special sesson. In view of the possibility of detention of dispatches via St. [Page 1174] Thomas by the mail of the 8th proximo, I send the facts transpired up to date via Aspinwall, in order that they may reach the Department as soon as possible.
I am, &c.,
P. S.—May 27th.—The decree convoking the extra session was transmitted to Congress at a late hour yesterday, but it has not been printed yet.