No. 69.
Mr. Williamson to Mr. Fish.

No. 35.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith the correspondence between the secretary of foreign affairs and myself in regard to the report of the consul at Guatemala about the actions of the General Sherman, and the bombardment of Omoa by the British man-of-war Niobe. It is proper for me to mention that the report is but a written declaration of the verbal statement made to me by the said consul at the President’s house, at the invitation of the President and in the presence of the chief members of his cabinet. At my suggestion it was reduced to writing. The British minister, Mr. Edwin Corbett, also did me the honor to read to me the report made to him by a Mr. Bain, who was acting as vice-consul of Her Britannic Majesty at Omoa at the time of the occurrences referred to. The two statements correspond as to the conduct of the “Sherman,” and do not, in my judgment, vary materially as to the bombardment, except that in the British statement very great prominence is given to the sacking of Omoa, and insult to the British flag, and trespass upon the (so-called) British soil of the island of Zapodilla, when the authorities of Honduras (General Straeber commanding) captured the Spanish and Portuguese consuls there.

In the absence of any report from our own consul at Omoa, Mr. Chas. R. Follin, I have had to rely upon their statements in order to make up an opinion on the subject. I wrote to Mr. Follin, but presuming he lived at one or the other of the ports to which he is nominated as consul, I addressed my letter wrong. It seems he does not reside at Omoa or Truxillo, but a little village opposite the village of Puerto Cadballo. Hoping that it may not be considered improper, but on the contrary perfectly proper, that I should give you my opinion, I beg leave to say that I am compelled to believe the captain of the Sherman has [Page 103] unjustifiably and outrageously abused the flag of our country, and also that General Straeber’s conduct in the sacking of Omoa and pillaging (or allowing to be pillaged) the British consulate was disgraceful, to say nothing of his barbarity in firing upon a party from the General Sherman, which, under a flag of truce, approached the fortress of Omoa to accept its delivery according to previous arrangement with the treacherous fellow who was in command. This fellow’s name I have been unable to learn. Whether the said party was composed of filibusters or not does not alter the barbarity of slaughtering in cold blood human beings who had a right to believe they were protected by a white flag, and who, relying upon the sanctity given by such protection among civilized nations, placed themselves at the mercy of their slayers. I also venture to recommend that the General Sherman be seized. Is she not a pirate? If the reports about her repeated changes of flag be true, and she is an armed vessel of a private person, General Palacios or any of his confederates, and is being used for hostile purposes against peaceful states, would she not be rightfully classed among those piratical vessels in the possession of a crew and acknowledging obedience to no flag whatever, but, in defiance of all law, levying war for purposes of private gain? It occurs to me she could not complain of such a classification, if the statements made in regard to her are true. I venture to throw out the suggestion.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 35.—Translation.]

Señor Soto to Mr. Williamson.

Señor: I have the honor to inclose to yon the certified report of Señor Don Delfino Sanchez, our consul at the establishment of Belize. From this document you will be able to inform yourself concerning the principal facts of Pallacio’s expedition, and especially the facts concerning the abuse of the American flag and of the strange behavior of the American vice-consul. I hope that you will transmit the report to your Government, and in the meanwhile, with your known disposition for justice, you will take whatever steps in your power to put a stop to the evils occasioned to the governments of Guatemala and Honduras by the expedition, which is assisted, directly Or indirectly, by agents and citizens of the nation which you so worthily represent.

With the most distinguished consideration, I have the pleasure to subscribe myself your humble servant,


To his Excellency the Hon.Geo. Williamson, &c.

[Inclosure in 1 in No. 35.—Translation.]

Report of the consul of Guatemala at Belize.

Having been honored by the supreme government of the republic as consul to the establishment of Belize, I arrived at that place about the end of last July.

I immediately presented to the lieutenant-governor my credentials, and was recognized provisionally in the character of consular agent of Guatemala while the customary exequaturs should be received from England. I am happy to be able to state that my reception by the lieutenant-governor was truly frank and cordial, showing on his part a spirit of consideration and friendship for the republic of Guatemala which was confirmed afterward by acts conducive to the peace and general welfare of this republic which I will mention presently.

In compliance with one of the principal charges in the mission which I carried to Belize, I went to the lieutenant-governor’s, soliciting the embargo of the armament which is in the house of Guild & Co. This armament, as the government knows, was [Page 104] brought from the United States for Vincente Cerna, to be employed in hostilities agains this republic: but when he wished to carry them away from Belize they were not delivered, because our minister in England had interposed and obtained a retention. Afterward, when that retention had been countermanded by the same English government, there appeared in the Belize waters the steamer Gen. Sherman, with the American flag flying, claiming the arms for the purpose of carrying them off; the consul of Honduras, Señor Nutrie, affirming that Don Vicente Cerna sold these arms to the president of Costa Rica, Thomas Guardia, presenting in corroboration a letter from Señor Cordez, vice-consul of that republic in Colon. Notwithstanding, the governor would not permit the arms to be delivered, being certain that they would be used against this republic, as they surely would have been, as is proved by the warlike acts of the Gen. Sherman immediately after her departure from Belize. The house of Guild & Co., in view of the governor’s negative, presented him a writing, with the view, perhaps, of bringing charges against him for these proceedings. The governor then, with the advice of his council, prohibited for the space of six weeks the exportation of all material of war in consideration of the state of invasion of the coast of Guatemala and Honduras, which disposition was legalized by reason of the continuance of the same causes which prompted the act. By that very just and loyal disposition the governor of Belize has given to these republics menaced by filibusters a proof very much to be appreciated of his good intention not to permit those who are disposed to war against us to have direct or indirect assistance from the establishment, which is now at peace with us and desirous of maintaining the best political and commercial relations. I can add with satisfaction that that proceeding, so favorable to the order and good of these republics, does not altogether ensue from the good spirit of English legislation, but principally from the honor and impartiality of the lieutenant-governor and his council, who, understanding perfectly the purposes why the arms were wanted, did not permit themselves to be surprised into delivering them on frivolous pretexts or menaces. In order to explain the foul measures adopted by the invaders, headed by Palacios, for recruiting men in Colon, I will give a few dates and facts obtained from the attorney-general of the Queen in Belize, which will elucidate the subject. At my request, he gave me the following: Some natives of Jamaica, and English subjects which were in Colon, were asked by Captain Gordon to be employed in the Sherman, telling them that the vessel was his by virtue of purchase, and carried the American flag. Twelve of them agreed to go for six weeks to the port of Limon and Belize, not suspecting that the voyage was of a hostile character. In Colon about forty embarked with them as passengers, among whom was one they called General Palacios.

From Colon they went to the port of Costa Rica, where they met a schooner which carried the flag of Costa Rica, from which was transferred to the Sherman a great number of boxes; some were long boxes, which contained Remington rifles. They then proceeded to the Key of Culabra, in the colony of Belize, where were disembarked the greater part of the passengers, the steamer proceeding to Belize, where she remained a few hours, while Captain Gordon went on shore and returned with some provisions. On returning to the key, several boats came to her from Belize, bringing the Englishmen Morgan and Garnier, the Americans Tracy and Clotter, and various others. Those who were left at the key were re-embarked. They then commenced to open the boxes which were taken from the schooner and to arm the passengers; they then proceeded, flying the American flag, to the islands of Utilla and Ruitan, taking prisoner the governor of the latter, leaving in his place the Englishman Garnier, who obliged the inhabitants to take arms and embark on the Sherman for Truxillo, which place they took, always flying the flag of the United States. After they had disembarked, there took place a little firing, when Colonel Oriza was killed. Two days after the taking of Truxillo was celebrated the installation of the government of Honduras, which they called “legitimate constitutional,” and they also changed the name of the steamer to “Col. Oriza,” and hoisted the Honduras flag. From here they went to Zapotiila Key, where they took a sloop with a Colonel Lubin, six soldiers, and two Spanish subjects, keeping all in confinement except the Spaniards, who were free. They went to the port of Cortes and Omoa, having also made a trip to Livingston and Santo Tomas, where they took by force about thirty men. At the port of Cortes the witnesses to the above report demanded to be dismissed, as their time of contract had expired and they had no wish to belong to any filibustering expedition. These men testify that they went to the vice-consul of the United States, Mr. Brinton, to complain against Captain Gordon for the swindle which he had put upon them, and that this functionary refused to receive any information whatever upon the matter, and even advised them to desist from their intentions. That which proves the partiality of the United States vice-consul is his reply made to the lieutenant-governor’s observations in regard to the Sherman and the arms, that there was nothing to fear, since the papers which she carried were all regular, when it is known to the undersigned that she had no papers whatever. Another event upon which I deem it necessary to enlighten the government is the bombardment of the castle of Omoa, which was done by the captain of the English ship Niobe. The captain of this vessel communicated to General [Page 105] Straeber the peremptory demand to deliver the sum of one hundred thousand dollars as a guarantee for the losses sustained by English subjects at Omoa when that place was sacked by his permission, the immediate surrender of the English subjects held as prisoners in the castle, and the salute of twenty-one guns to the English flag. General Straeber requested an interview, which was denied. He then sent Gen. Mariano Alveres to inform him that the demands were altogether unjust; that he had no money; that he was not responsible for the losses of the English citizens, but the government of Honduras; and that, inasmuch as he could not submit to such demands, he protested against the threat of bombardment. The captain of the ship then modified his demand to fifty thousand dollars, the delivery of the prisoners, and the salute to the flag, giving until two in the evening of that day, the 19th of August, to decide, when, unless satisfied, he would commence the bombardment. Not being able to give the satisfaction demanded, the bombardment commenced at a quarter after four, and continued until six; commencing next morning at four and continuing to half past five, when they ceased, on seeing the white flag on the fort. That entering on a new arrangement, the captain remained satisfied with the delivery of the prisoners and a document signed by General Straeber obligating the government of Honduras to pay all losses claimed, and dispensing with the salute of twenty-one guns. This salute was required by the captain of the Niobe in satisfaction for supposed outrages toward the English consulship in Omoa, which was in “charge of Senor F. Debrot, he having abandoned Omoa some time before, even before any hostile demonstrations took place, and went to Belize, leaving in charge Mr. Baine, the director of the railroad of Honduras, who resides in Porto Cortes. It was not then possible to have outraged the consulship when the person who was in charge lived in another place. This Mr. Debrot knows very well, that he, more than any other, has assisted Palacios, and that he abandoned Omoa, fearing the consequences of a toast made in public in favor of J. M. Medina, ex-president of Honduras. General Alveres remained on board the Niobe, and says that he met the vice-consul, Mr. Baine, who he believes to be complicated in favor of Palacios, since it is a fact that the forces of the latter used the trains on the railroad to carry on the war, using one of the cars with a mitrailleuse during the battle at the Chemilicon, and after the defeat to carry off their wounded. He also provided the Sherman with engineers and coal belonging to the same road. There is nothing more at present of any importance to report.

Your obedient servant, &c., &c., &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 35.]

Mr. Williamson to Señor Soto.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed communication of the 4th instant, inclosing a copy of a report made to your excellency on the 2d instant by Don Delfino Sanchez, the consul of Guatemala at the establishment of Belize, in regard to the movements of the steamship General Sherman and the bombardment of the fortress of Omoa by the British man-of-war Niobe. This very interesting report will be promptly forwarded to my Government, and I do not hesitate to assure you that I shall recommend the adoption of such a course toward the General Sherman as will be likely to prevent her, or similar crafts, from engaging in revolutionary expeditions against any of our neighbors of Central America.

I shall also call the attention of my Government specially to the statement of the consul in regard to bombardment of Omoa; but, at the same time, it will be my agreeable duty to communicate the facts upon which the commander of the Niobe (as I understand) rests his justification for bombarding the fort of a friendly power without having first afforded the government an opportunity to make redress for the wrongs complained of. It is probable the government of your ally and our friend, Honduras, will put me in possession of the statement or report of its commanding officer at Omoa, General Straeber.

Before concluding this communication, I beg to thank your excellency for the copy of the report of your consul, and to renew assurances, heretofore given, that my Government takes the most lively interest in all matters that concern the peace and prosperity of Guatemala and the other states of Central America, and cordially sympathizes with their governments in their efforts to suppress factious disturbances of public order.

I have the honor to assure your excellency of my distinguished consideration, and to subscribe myself your obedient servant,


His Excellency Senor Lic’do Don Marco A. Soto,
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala.