No. 68.
Mr. Williamson to Mr. Fish.

No. 34.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose you herewith a decree of President Barrios authorizing civil marriages in Guatemala among foreigners residing here. It is a step in the direction of liberalism which I hope will soon be followed by one which will place the right of civil marriage within the reach of the citizens of Guatemala who are disposed to avail themselves of it. At present Roman Catholic supremacy feels able to assert its power to such a degree that notwithstanding the decree was issued and the church party stands in awe of the rude but prompt measures of President Barrios, the Swiss gentleman, Mr. Grubber, reported to me he was unable to find a civil magistrate in this city who would consent to solemnize his marriage. I advised him strongly to leave no exertions untried to have his marriage contract entered into before a civil magistrate, and tried myself to get an officer to perform the act. Not one objected on religious grounds, but all feigned or presented excuses of one kind and another, thus conveying to my mind the impression they feared the responsibility. Up to this point my mind was decided not to celebrate the act of marriage in person, but being urged by the Swiss citizen, I consulted with President Barrios, his chief minister, Mr. Samaoya, his minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Soto, and also with a prominent lawyer, Mr. Ramirez, ex-minister of foreign affairs, and, after having taken the friendly consultation of the minister of Her Britannic Majesty, Mr. Edwin Corbett, I consented to celebrate the marriage at the legation. Such an event was too important both in its relations to the parties and to our government to be entered upon unadvisedly, and, although my own opinion was adverse to the validity of the act of marriage, I consented to yield to the opinions expressed, and to perform the ceremony at the legation to-night in the presence of the distinguished persons named. The Duke d’Linguand, chargé d’affaires of Italy, and Mr. Cabarrus, chargé d’affaires of France, promise to be present with their families, although they are Roman Catholics. They also promise to sign the act of marriage as witnesses, and under their authority I have prepared a proces verbal which has their names inserted as acting in that capacity.

The President, Barrios, his chief minister, Samaoya, his minister of foreign affairs, Soto, all say they will be glad to lend their presence to such a ceremonial.

I have, &c.,

[Page 102]


The President of the republic has thought fit to issue the following decree, No. 105:

J. Rufino Barrios, President of the republic of Guatemala, considering that the liberty of religious worship having been decreed, as a natural consequence of such decree marriage contracted between persons professing a different religion from that which predominates in this country will be recognized as valid. That such recognition, founded in the principle of toleration adopted lately in the republic, tends to remove one of the principal obstacles which the existing legislation offers to foreign immigration.


  • Article 1st. Marriage contracted between foreigners residing in the republic in accordance with the laws of their respective nationalities, are valid, even when in such celebrations the forms and requisites which are in force in Guatemala are not observed.
  • Article 2d. Such marriages shall be productive of the same civil effects as the law recognizes to the natives of the country who marry in accordance with its laws.
  • Article 3d. For the purpose of establishing and registering such acts, and while the law upon civil registry is being prepared, the contracting parties will present to the ministers of the government within the termination of one month, counting from the date of the marriage, an authentic certificate of its celebration; with these documents a book will be formed, which will be in charge of the clerk of the high court of justice, from which can be taken the required certificates.