to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru , November 20, 1878. (Received December 10.)
Sir: Don Manuel Pardo, chief and leader of the Civilist party and ex-president of this republic, was foully assassinated on the 16th instant, 2 p.m., in the act of entering the Senate chamber, of which he was the president.
To understand the present condition of affairs, I will relate the principal political events since the 14th of August, the date of my No. 273, premising that Mr. Pardo was elected in the October election of last year as senator from the department of Junin, and shortly after the opening of the Congress he was chosen president of the Senate by almost a unanimous vote, although then absent in Chili.
On the 2d of September last he returned from his self-imposed exile. I inclose an extract from the South Pacific Times, of Callao, September 5, relative to his return; also, another extract from the same paper of the 10th of September, Mr. Pardo’s address to the Senate on taking the chair as presiding officer of that body.
Many of his friends thought it was braving fate in returning to Peru. He answered that it was a duty to do so, as a citizen and a patriot to lead and consolidate his party which he considered necessary for the welfare of the republic. The Civilists having full power in Congress, with great majorities in both houses, considered it their political right to cause investigation into various acts of the government, one, particularly, of a loan of nitrate bonds given to the public works company; also of an over-emission in bank-notes. Another investigation proposed was of the attempted political movements in Puno and Arequipa, referred to in my dispatch No. 272.
The result was that the ministers of the interior and of finance resigned. It is a law of the country that ministers can be summoned before Congress and interrogated or questioned as regards their acts or policy in their various departments. Mr. Palacios, of the interior, was asked why the prefects of Puno and Arequipa were not submitted to trial for treasonable acts; the answer was that the government had discretionary power and in this case it was policy not to act. His resignation was demanded by a vote of censure; he resigned. Mr. Burinage, minister of finance, defended the action of the government in its loan of nitrate bonds as being justly due, and for the emission of the banknotes, because there were no funds in the treasury; and for the welfare of the country and to preserve peace they had to lay hands on any money they could get hold of to be replaced, and that, as his honesty of purpose had been questioned, he then and there resigned, stating that it was thought in Peru a man could not be honest in being a minister of finance. His resignation was not accepted, and a vote of confidence was passed, but he insisted upon resigning, and both ministers’ portfolios were delivered on the 19th of October.
On the 26th Dr. Don Burno Bueno, as minister of the interior, and Don Rafael Zene, as minister of finance, took office. Mr. Bueno has [Page 856] held various positions as prefect of departments, and lately was minister to Bolivia from Peru. Mr. Zene is an old employé of the treasury, of unblemished name, and last held position as chief collector of customs at Callao when appointed minister. On the same date Dr. Tabar a clergyman, deputy from Cuzco, offered to the House of Deputies a resolution to reward the persons who were aboard of the Huascar when in combat with the Shah and Amythist, May 29, 1877. The resolution asked for a gold medal, set in diamonds, for Pierola; gold medals for chiefs, officers, and civilians; and to the soldiers and sailors silver medals, all with inscriptions suitable to the event; to the mother or sisters of the soldier who was killed in the combat the pension due to the widow of a sublieutenant. The resolution was not admitted to debate. The Pierolist press attacked the Civilists for want of patriotism; thus the nation had been humbled by the English, who had not given any satisfactory answer to the demand of the government in relation to this affair.
A report was made in Congress by a commission to inquire into a mode of reducing the great number of officers on the pay-rolls of the army, and if carried out it would reduce the great number of half-pay, or “indefinites,” officers, which is judged by all thinking persons of the country to be very necessary; and lately a proposition was made in the Senate to impose direct contributions on the people. Mr. Pardo was the projector of the plan, having spoken in the Senate at great length of time on the 14th and 15th instant. On the 16th Mr. Pardo went to the office of El Comercio, leading party organ of the Civilists, and corrected the proofs of his speech to be published, and left there for the Senate, to be there at the opening of the session at 2 p.m. Passing through the entrance, where a guard was stationed, as customary when the president of the Senate appeared, the guard formed and presented arms as he passed. When near the side entrance, the sergeant of the guard lowered his rifle and fired, the ball passing through his body from the back and lodged in the wall. Mr. Pardo died in about an hour afterwards.
The assassin ran into the street, but was brought back. From various incidents that took place, there is no doubt that a deep and immense conspiracy was planned that included the death of Pardo, the massacre of the Congress, and also the assassination of President Prado. Great consternation reigned in the city as the news was spread. The stores were closed, and general fears of a revolution of some character were entertained. All dreaded some great catastrophe, and knew not from whence the blow would come. The Congress declared its sittings permanent, and demanded the appearance of the cabinet before it to answer the questions that should be asked.
I refer to the inclosed statement, with full details, taken from the South Pacific Times of yesterday, of the murder and general proceedings in Congress.
On the night of the 16th Mrs. Pierola, wife of the celebrated revolutionary character so often mentioned in the despatches from this legation, was arrested and is still imprisoned. Many other persons of more or less importance have been arrested. It is said that the authorities have a clew to the whole conspiracy, and the principal characters in it are known.
Yesterday the battalion Pichincha, of which the assassin was sergeant, was formed in the artillery barracks and disbanded, the soldiers being distributed around among the other regiments. The minister of war, in his declaration before the Congress on the 17th, stated he had no faith in this corps; it was entirely corrupted; but had full confidence in the rest of the troops.[Page 857]
I think the end is not yet, and fear there will be a serious outbreak. I must impartially relate that I noticed on the afternoon of the assassination very little regret marked on the faces of the masses, which were composed mostly of the lower classes; on the contrary, satisfaction. There is no doubt that the greater number of the unthinking mass are opposed to the “Civilists,” and justify in their own minds the terrible crime. From many instances that come under my own immediate observation, it is plain to me that there is a subtle current directing all feeling in favor of Pierola, now partly suppressed by the greater sentiments of regret of Mr. Pardo’s partisans, who no doubt represent the wealth and intelligence of the republic.
Mr. Pardo was born in Lima, son of a distinguished Spaniard and of a Peruvian lady; educated in the University of San Carlos, in this city; in early life a journalist, showing great talent in his articles on financial affairs and political economy; went to Europe on financial affairs connected with the state; in 1865 was minister of finance under Colonel Prado, then dictator, and one of the cabinet that signed the papers which brought on the conflict with Spain. His financial ideas were not acceptable, and to avoid making difficulties for the government, he resigned. In 1868, under the Batta government, he was director of the public charities of Lima, during the terrible yellow fever epidemic of that year; in 1869, mayor of the city of Lima; deputy from the province of Jauja in 1871, and in the same year elected President.
Mr. Pardo was the leading man of Peru; statesman, politician, literateur, linguist; and of deep thought, with a thorough love of country, and a great desire to improve its institutions; great abnegation and force of character; a great loss to his country; a man who might have been of use to the republic for many years to come if he had not been taken off at the very prime of life.
I have, &c.,