No. 50.
Mr. Shannon to Mr. Fish.

No. 147.]

Sir: During a conference which I had with the Viscount de Caravellas, at the foreign office, on the 2d instant, he said that he thought it would be well for the representatives of friendly nations to bring to the notice of their respective governments the present state of affairs here and at the river Plate. He alluded to the warlike attitude of the Argentine Confederation, spoke of the extensive armaments that were being collected at Buenos Ayres, and said it was the evident intention of the Argentines to fortify and arm the island of Martin Garcia, although such a step would be in direct violation of several treaty stipulations which provided for the free navigation of the Plate and its confluents. Among other treaties relating to the matter, he cited that one of our own Government with the Argentine Confederation negotiated in 1853, (July 10,) [Page 74] and prescribing the conditions for the free navigation of the rivers Parana and Uruguay.

The Viscount spoke at length of the unfortunate disposition shown by the Argentines to bring on a contest; said that the sentiment of dislike and almost hate between the two peoples was quite as strong on this side of the ocean as in the mother countries of Spain and Portugal, and that undoubtedly much capital was being made of this well-known national feeling by all parties in the conduct of the presidential campaign now in progress.

He said that Brazil would have to meet armament with armament; that such preparations would necessarily be very costly, and that whatever sums were expended in this way would be so much taken from the material development of the country. That was of course to be regretted; but Brazil could not allow herself to be surprised again as she was at the outbreak of the Paraguayan war. Then, Lopez, as the result of years of preparation, had immense stores accumulated in the country, and an army of 60,000 well disciplined troops all ready for the conflict. To oppose this force the empire had barely 20,000 troops, and these so scattered as to require months of time to bring them into the field. That war cost Brazil 600,000 contos of reis, ($300,000,000;) and it may be safely said that the larger part of this sum may be set down to want of preparation,

He then referred to General Mitre and the cry that had lately been raised in Buenos Ayres that he was the candidate of Brazil. He said that it was true that Brazil had interested herself in the negotiation of the Argentine treaties at Assumption. This she was bound to do according to the terms of the Mitre-São Vicente agreement of November, 1872. Brazil, he said, had gone so far even as to persuade Paraguay to make certain very important concessions of territory to the Argentines, as, for instance, giving up the missions, the island of Atajo, and relinquishing that part of the Gran Chaco below the Pilcomayo, General Mitre on his side consenting to abandon the villa Occidental. Upon these bases a treaty of limits, ad referendum, was finally signed, but the Argentine congress refused to ratify; and so this vexed question of the Chaco still remains open, furnishing cause for continued dispute, irritation, and discord.

Referring to the late secret session of the Argentine, congress, he said that one of the subjects then discussed was an alliance, offensive and defensive, between the Argentine Confederation, Bolivia, and Peru against Chili and Brazil. But it came to nothing. Congress, at the end of the debate, decided to take no present action.

Referring to the unusual energy just now being shown in the material development of this country, he declared that Brazil “was opening her doors on every side,” as witness her action in the matter of the Madeira Railway and her more recent approval of the project for a road across the lower country to Bolivia; and, finally, speaking with much feeling, he said, “No; Brazil wants nothing from her ‘neighbors,’ except peace and a liberal co-operation in the great work of progress.”

I assured the Viscount in return that I would make haste to transmit the substance of his remarks to my Government, which never ceased to take a lively interest in the affairs of South America, and would now learn with deep regret that there was any likelihood of a rupture of friendly relations between its two leading powers.

I have, &c.,