to Mr. Evarts.
Buenos Ayres, November 18, 1878. (Received December 30.)
Sir: A telegram from our minister at Santiago, Chili, under date of 19th instant, informs us that the American bark Devonshire has been, delivered up without conditions to the master of the vessel, who reached Punta Arenas, or Sandy Point, about the 2d instant, after traveling some three hundred miles on horseback across a desolate country.
The first proposition made by Chili to deliver up the vessel on condition that the master of the vessel and the owner of the cargo would give their personal bonds to abide the decision of the Chilian court, was not accepted by the owner of the cargo; and I so informed Minister Osborn at Santiago, Chili, and that we had at the time no communication with the master of the Devonshire.
The President and his ministers with a few of the leading men of the country are in secret conference almost daily in reference to the Chilian troubles. The press has been requested to publish nothing in relation to the movements of the Argentine fleet. Two of the iron-clads have already sailed under secret orders for Santa Cruz River, and three other war vessels will follow as soon as they can be put in readiness.
Reports are here, and are believed, that Chili has sent some two or three gunboats to Patagonia with engineers on board to fortify the Strait of Magellan.
Since the surrender of the Devonshire to the master, I think this government is not disposed to press the issue with Chili to a final settlement by war if it can be avoided with honor; but there is a war party which appears to want war at any price, if the immediate settlement of the question cannot be obtained by peaceful means, and this party is led by the president of the lower house of Congress, a former Argentine minister to Chili, and who, it appears, was badly treated while there by that government.
In an interview with the minister of foreign affairs, at his request, in answer to his question as to how the United States would feel, &c., in case his government should come to an open rupture with Chili, I said to him that our government, and our people, took a deep interest, not only in the progress and prosperity of the Argentine Republic, but of all the republics of South America, and would very much regret to see the question of limits between his country and Chili brought to the arbitrament of war. He replied that his government did not want war; that everything had been offered and done to avoid it; that arbitration had been offered, was accepted, and then refused by Chili; was still willing [Page 14] to arbitrate if Chili would accept; that Chili had been and was aggressive; had planted colonies on Argentine territory, and had assumed jurisdiction by the capture of vessels of other nationalities in Argentine waters; and a surrender by the Argentines of the territory in dispute without a fair settlement, involves the Argentine honor, and that war would be more acceptable than peace obtained at such a price.
The population of the Argentine Republic and of Chili are about the same; the people are of the same origin and of the same characteristics; and the question which is now troubling both republics appears to me to be one more of honor than one of solid real estate or territorial value.
In case war should break out between the two countries, it might benefit this country by harmonizing and consolidating all interests and parties, and save her from internal struggles. The same may be said of Chili; but a struggle between the two would, in the end, prove disastrous to both, and in view of that fact, I am inclined to think it might be a proper question for the consideration of our government whether as the Devonshire, the captain of which has brought on this fresh trouble between the two countries, is an American vessel, the tender of the kind offices of the United States to both governments would not bring the question to a peaceful solution.
I am quite sure this government would gladly accept the good offices so tendered.
I have, &c.,