No. 417.
Mr. Foster to Mr. Fish.

No. 243.]

Sir: I inclose herewith a copy of a communication dated on the 3d instant, from Mr. Sutter, consul at Acapulco, with its accompaniments, giving an account of events subsequent to the assault to which my Nos. 237 and 241 relate, and of the state of public sentiment in that community. Your attention is directed to the recommendation of the consul, that a United States naval vessel be temporarily stationed at that port. In view of the facts developed in the interview which I had with the Mexican minister on the 11th instant, to which reference is hereinafter made, I respectfully suggest that the presence of an American man-of-war would have a salutary influence upon the community and encourage the local authorities to greater firmness and activity in punishing the assassins. I also inclose a copy of my reply to the communication of the consul, dated February 12.

On the 11th instant I called upon Mr. Lafragua, minister of foreign affairs, and read to him a translation in Spanish of the greater part of [Page 869] Mr. Sutter’s communication, as well as a translation of your dispatch, No. 178, of the 14th of January last, in relation to the assassination at Ahualulco, of which latter I left with him a copy.

After the reading was concluded, Mr. Lafragua said to me that the character of the people in the State of Guerrero made it very difficult for the government to deal properly with the affair at Acapulco; that it was very different from other parts of the republic, such, for instance, as Guanajuato or Puebla, where the laws and authority of the government were respected; but that in the south of Mexico the people were ignorant and fanatical; that the statements of the consul just read, which were confirmatory of the information received by the executive, showed the embarrassment of the authorities; neither the governor nor judges having sufficient power to inflict the full measure of punishment demanded; and that it would require a whole division of the federal army to do it. Mr. Lafragua asked me not to forget the present politico-religious condition of the country, the long struggle which the liberal party had carried on for years against the political power of the Catholic Churchy and that the government was now contending against three hundred years of prejudice and intolerance. He acknowledged the justice of my demand for the punishment of the criminals and for the protection of the lives and property of Americans in Acapulco, and said that the government was doing all it could to secure these ends, and hoped to fully vindicate the law and secure full religious toleration.

In reference to the judicial proceedings growing out of the Ahualulco affair, the cases were before the federal supreme court on appeal, and not under the control of the executive department of the government; that he (Mr. Lafragua) had three times asked for an early decision, and that he would again address the court upon the subject.

I answered the minister that I was far from forgetting the peculiar political situation of the country; that I had no disposition to embarrass this government by any factious or unnecessary demands, but was anxious to do all I properly could to strengthen it in its efforts to establish and maintain a liberal republican government, and that in this course I was satisfied I was representing the wishes of my Government; but that these religious massacres, in which American citizens were being murdered, could not be passed over in silence; that I was thoroughly convinced that it was an imperative necessity of the present liberal administration of Mexico, for its own safety and permanence, to repress and punish these outbreaks with a prompt and vigorous use of power 5 and that the lives and property of American citizens and companies at Acapulco, according to the report of the consul, confirmed by those of the local authorities, were exposed to the fury of a fanatical community, and it was for his government to decide whether Mexico or the United States would protect them.

I am just in receipt of a communication from the consul at Acapulco, a copy of which I inclose, from which it will be seen that, up to the 7th instant, the only culprits discovered by the judicial authorities were the two wounded assailants left in possession of the officials, who have since died. Twelve days have elapsed without any arrests, and it appears that the consul’s prediction, that no one would ever be convicted and punished, is in a fair way to be realized.

I am, &c.,

[Page 870]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 243.]

Mr. Sutter to Mr. Foster.

No. 27.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of January 27th ultimo. I presume that Mr. Skilton has communicated to you the contents of my letters to him of January 27 and 1st instant, Nos. 3, 4, 5.

Rev. M. N. Hutchinson left Acapulco on the evening of the 1st instant, per steamer “Montana” for San Francisco, in good health. His servant and his horse I have still here.

When I received your communication yesterday I had already paid my respects to the governor, General Alverez. This morning I addressed to him a communication, of which please find inclosed copy, (inclosure 1,) and delivered the same to him personally, before his departure for Coyuga. He requested me to assure you that he would do all in his power to bring the guilty parties to light, and would take measures to prevent a repetition of the massacre, and that in a few days he would return to Acapulco. He expressed already yesterday a hope to be able to discover the instigator (meaning probably the Catholic priest) of the crime, saying that the people, without any instigation, never would have committed so atrocious a murder. At the same time the governor had a fair opportunity yesterday afternoon to judge of the excitement existing among the population. A demonstration was made publicly by a band of, say, eighty women and about the same number of men, who, having assembled at and marched from the church-door, went to accost him while he was taking a walk with some friends, and asked him not to deprive them of the priest, and to banish or exterminate all the Protestants.

The governor spoke to the people, who then quietly disbanded: but, in my opinion, this demonstration means as much as the rough words the foreman of the Matricula of the port, on the night of the massacre, addressed to the district judge, Mr. Bonilla; that is, that they would rise armed to attack the federal troops should he dare touch the priest.

The State militia is not to be relied on; the parish priest has, in fact, more power than the governor, who would render himself very unpopular should he actively interfere.

These opinions of course cannot be expressed here with safety. The district judge, whom I visited to-day and handed the communication already mentioned, partakes of and concurs in them, however; but candidly confesses that he can do absolutely nothing if the supreme government does not station here a battalion of federal troops, for which he says he has asked already. Nothing to inculpate any person has been elucidated, and I fear ever will be discovered.

Threats against the Freemasons have also been uttered already; still it would be impossible to prove it.

A United States vessel of war should remain stationed here for some time. In case of a rising, the office of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, where everybody knows there is a good supply of money, and the bazar, the mercantile establishment of Mr. A. Dempwolff, who, among his stock of about $40,000, has rifles, guns, pistols, knives, powder, lead, &c., would be attacked very quick, together with the United States consulate, and the large German importing house of Oetling, Gericke & Co., and our lives just then might be in danger.

As far as the legal technicalities of the case are concerned, it appears that Mr. Procopio Diaz, the chief of the Protestants hero, probably for the reason of his being the secretary of the prefect of the district, carelessly neglected to give to the prefect due notice in writing of the establishment of the Protestant place of worship. All what Mr. Hutchinson says on the subject I have communicated to the district judge, and in all the proceedings so far, the place of the massacre has been called “el templo protestante,” whereby virtually the right to the name is acknowledged, and the existence of the congregation granted.

In closures numbers 2 and 3 are the letters of Mr. Hutchinson on the subject.

It is now frequently said, in extenuation of the massacre, that the Protestants have often insulted the Catholics and the priest personally. I doubt it, and as far as Mr. Hutchinson is concerned, I deny it in toto.

The antecedents of the priest are well known. He always has been, and is now, one of the most fanatical, pure-blooded Indian priests, who already in 1859 was found at the head of a revolution in Costa Chica, and when taken prisoner by General Don Juan Alvarez, sent to the fort of Acapulco, and sentenced to be shot. At the intercession of the people, however, General Alvarez pardoned him with the condition that he must leave the country. I was then in the office of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and procured him a free cabin-passage to San Francisco, whence he returned during the empire. You will perceive that I know Mr. Justo Pastor Nava well.

[Page 871]

Another incident which shows the situation of Acapulco is this: last Sunday two of the aggressors wounded were given up by the surgeons, and expressed a desire to receive the sacraments of the Catholic Church, which naturally was granted to them, but the authorities feared that, should the priest be seen entering the prison, people might believe he had been arrested and might rise at once against the garrison, consequently, as a measure of prevention, the wounded men had to be carried to the church, and after the ceremony back to the prison again. One has since died, the other one is still lingering; he says he was merely a spectator, looking on.

Should anything important take place I shall not fail to advice you of it, either by telegraph or by mail, as the case may require it, and remain,

Your obedient servant,

[Inclosure 1 in 1 in No. 243.]

Mr. Sutter to Governor Alvarez and the district judge.

Sir: In obedience to instructions received yesterday from Hon. John W. Foster, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States of America in Mexico, I have the honor to request you, in his name, to promptly take the necessary measures within your power to procure the speedy punishment, according to the law, of the instigators and perpetrators of the atrocious massacre of Protestants, which took place on the evening of Tuesday, January 26th ultimo, whilst they were peaceably assembled in their chapel for the purpose of religious worship.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

United States Consul.

Hon. J. W. Foster,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, Mexico.

[Inclosure 2 in 1 in No. 243.]

Mr. Hutchinson to Mr. Suite.

Friend Sutter: I am surprised to hear that Don Procopio Diaz did not give the proper notice respecting the place of worship. He came with Don Catarino Franco to speak of it, and it was understood that they should go at once and give the required notice, both that we were holding services in the house of Don Procopio, for the time being, and that San José had been taken for the same purpose, &c.

I was told that this notice had been given. I am sure the authorities took notice of this to the extent of putting another lamp at the upper corner of the church. I was therewith the chief of police in person to indicate what seemed to us the proper place to locate it. It was one of the first things I called attention to when I came, and, from what I saw and learned, concluded that the proper parties had given the necessary notice to the proper authorities. I was also told that there would be nine soldiers in readiness, &c.

The spirit of the law was practically complied with, I am confident. I am very sorry it was not to the very letter. * * * * * * *

Yours, most cordially,

[Inclosure 3 in 1 in No. 243.]

Mr. Hutchinson to Mr. Sutter.

Friend Sutter: * * * * * *

I am very sorry about the notice not being sufficiently formal. My relation to the church being a general one, it seemed more proper for those who had been in charge of [Page 872] the congregation for a year to give the notice in their name; hut I said, “If more is needed, rind out exactly what, and we will give it.” It certainly is the duty of the officer to whom this should be reported to indicate the legal form of the notice. It is a strong point, it seems to me, that the authorities did actually take notice of Don Procopio’s notice. I was in his house when the authorities (I speak of the authorities in general, not knowing each one in particular) sent to know where we thought another lamp would afford the most protection. We went, according to appointment, at 4 o’clock p.m. the same day, to consult, and the lamp was placed at the upper corner of the church, so as to give light behind and in front of the church. The chief of police was there in person. This was, it seems to me, a virtual acknowledgment of notice, and I did not think there was any question. If more details, &c., were required to fill up his report to be forwarded to the government, these could have been given at any time. I am not sure that all such details as a full report would call for are absolutely necessary before protection can be claimed under the law. I believe the case would stand the test of law for the purposes of protection. Of course it is to be regretted that there is any question about it. A contract may not be drawn in exact legal form, but if, with a knowledge of this, work is done or payments made, the contract takes a binding form, and so it seems to me in this case. The authorities took notice of pur opening a new place of worship by placing another lamp for special protection.

Yours, very truly,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 243.]

Mr. Foster to Mr. Sutter.

Sir: I thank you for your full and interesting report of the assault upon the Protestant church at Acapulco, No. 27, of February 3, with a statement of the subsequent events. I will transmit a copy of it to the Department of State for its information and action. I have called the attention of the government here to the condition of affairs as represented by you, and I am assured that the federal government is doing and will do all within its power to punish the criminals and preserve the peace.

Permit me to call your attention to a point which does not sufficiently appear in your letter to the governor. You will notice that in my letter I referred only to the murder of Americans, and not to Protestants in general. While we desire to see full enjoyment of religious worship for all, we can only officially interfere in behalf of American citizens.

Mr. Skilton has not yet returned.

Very truly,


John A. Sutter, Esq.,
Consul, Acapulco.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 243.]

Mr. Sutter to Mr. Foster.

No. 28.]

Sir: Confirming to you my communication (No. 27) of the 3d instant, I have the honor to report to-day that on the afternoon of the 3d, just as General Alvarez was ready to leave, a second demonstration, similar to the one of the day before, was made; otherwise the town is quiet, although in case of need I fear the State militia now here could not be relied on, and although menaces against the lives of the wounded Protestants, who are being taken care of together in the house of Mr. Procopio Diaz and guarded every night by some twenty resolute and well-armed brethren, (Mr. Hutchinson’s servant among them,) are repeatedly and openly uttered. The wounded men, I am happy to say, are all out of danger.

Yesterday afternoon I called upon the district judge to inquire if anything relative to the massacre had been elicited. He replied that everything remained in statu quo, [Page 873] the only culprits discovered so far being, singularly enough, the two aggressors who lost their lives in the affray, the second one having died on last Sunday, the 31st, from a pistol-shot received during the affray of the 26th.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

United States Consul.

Hon. John W. Foster,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, Mexico.