to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru, March 19, 1879. (Received April 14.)
Sir: On the 12th instant I read in the morning’s edition of El Comercio that on that date there had arrived from Valparaiso, in Chili, and intermediate ports, the steamship Itata, under the American flag.
I wrote a note to Mr. Clayton, United States consul at Callao, in reference to the statement, requiring an answer. I inclose copy.
Before receiving an answer the evening papers of the same date confirmed the information given by El Comercio. I then wrote Mr. Clayton, as per copy inclosed, requesting a meeting with Captain Barclay, Lieutenant-Commander United States ship Onward.
On the 13th I went to Callao, held a consultation with Captain Barclay, and gave him verbal instructions of what I thought it would be necessary to do.
Mr. Clayton wrote me on the 13th, sending to the legation copy of the bill of sale, as inclosed.
I sent Mr. Clayton by Captain Barclay written instructions what to do, as per copy. I also conversed with Captain Barclay, and requested that the instructions be carried out in a quiet way, to inform the captain, or in his absence the chief officer, that the flag must be lowered, should not be hoisted again, and instructions to Mr. Clayton to return the papers and give no clearance. These orders were carried out satisfactorily, and the Itata sailed for Valparaiso and intermediate ports, under her true flag, the Chilian. I inclose copies of Mr. Clayton’s report, and the clearance given by the consuls at Valparaiso and Iquique.
The Itata, Loa, and Rimac are three large English-built merchant steamers belonging to the Chilian Compañia Sud Americaña de Vapores. They formerly were in opposition to the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, but some time ago were, by contract, taken by this company and run in connection with the English boats, all under one agency.
It is thought that, owing to the threatened rupture between Chili and Peru, the owners had them transferred by sale to a person named Henry L. Stevens, an American citizen residing at Valparaiso, with the idea that this simple sale gave the right to carry the American flag.
I have been informed that the sister ships are also carrying the flag. If they arrive at Calloa during my stay here, I shall pursue the same course as with the Itata—order the flag down.
I will call the attention of the department to the fact that, as far as I can learn, and by the papers presented, the captain and crew were all aliens, with the exception, I understand, of one person in the crew.
I did not call upon the Peruvian authorities, which I suppose I had a right to do, to order the flag down, but used simply the moral force of an intimation from the United States minister. Any other course would have complicated matters here, and at the present state of excitement could easily have been made a source of trouble.
I have, &c.,