to Mr. Evarts.
Caracas, September 13, 1878. (Received October 4.)
Sir: In referring to my No. 38, I further send parts of an editorial from La Opinion National, of the 30th of August last past, as tending to help to a just idea of the present condition of Venezuela. I translate from said editoral as follows:
Let us see clearly.
Letters which we have just finished reading from Puerto Cabello complain bitterly of the tremendous financial crisis through which the country is passing, and which exhibits itself in that locality with awful menaces of ruin and misery, notwithstanding the fact that port has always been an emporium of wealth, activity, and life.
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It neither can, nor in truth ought to be concealed, that the financial situation of the country in general grows more distressing every moment. To conceal it would be treason to our duty, and would place us in the hypocritical ranks of those who, yielding perhaps to secret designs of hostility to the present administration of the republic, cover the brink of every abyss with flowers, in order to lead its steps unconsciously to the precipice.
Such situations are always a grave danger to governments; for the generality of citizens do not pause to study the true causes of the evil; and as it is a habit of these people to expect everything from the authorities—to be never more prompt than when charging them with the sufferings which they endure—they notwithstanding show themselves obstinate when they ought to credit the authorities with the benefits which they receive. The evil condition is felt, and is imputed simply to the government, as the most natural thing in the world. This is a fact, wrong as it is.
Such a state of things, then, involves serious danger to the public order.
We speak our true sentiments with that frankness, loyalty, and honesty in which we glory, inspired always by the most disinterested patriotism.
If we reflect dispassionately, we shall see that the causes of this critical financial situation are clear, evident, and tangible.
The low price of coffee in the European markets coincidently with the scantiness of the last crop is notorious, and nobody is ignorant that coffee is the first source of our national production. This deficit of production, aggravated by the lowness of its value, has diminished our circulating wealth to the extent of five or six millions of pesos,* and has necessarily produced perturbations of fatal consequence in the operations of credit.
One of these has been the necessity under which merchants have been of making exportations in coin in order to meet their engagements abroad; so that a sum of not less than three millions of pesos in gold coin has left our ports, which is thus removed from circulation, and which has deranged exchanges. Far from being exaggerated, this figure is a moderate one, since, according to our information, the sum of one million and a quarter of pesos in coin approximately has been sent abroad from the custom-house at Puerto Cabello alone.
We may mention another cause, viz, the competition which contraband trade has been carrying on with honest commerce on the entire Venezuelan coast ever since—the ports of the west being opened—no care has been taken to establish coast-guards, and the active and faithful watchers which have been constantly required by those ports, always so prone to encourage smuggling.
To these causes is to be added the remarkable diminution of imports, especially during the past few months, a necessary consequence, on the one hand, of the deficit of production, and on the other of the menaces to, and even the real perturbation of, the general tranquillity which we have just witnessed; these combined evils have given rise to the alarming crisis which is experienced throughout the country, and even in this capital have terrified the minds of men by the proportions which they really assume, and by those which are attributed to them by disordered imaginations.
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The causes stated in the preceding extracts for the existing business stringency in Venezuela, are, I think, substantially well put as far as [Page 944] they go. The gravest feature of the case is the intimated dangerous relation of the prevailing hard times to public order.
I have, & c.,
- The peso being 80 cents in silver.—J. B.↩