No. 390.
Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.

No. 7.]

Sir: On the 26th instant I signed with the British, French, and Italian Ministers, and the German chargé d’affaires, a document addressed [Page 873] to the officer in command of the Chilian fleet on the Peruvian coast, of which I inclose you a copy.

The document as at first drawn up and presented to me assumed the truth of the reports contained in the newspapers, in reference to the action of the fleet, and the British minister assured me that the official information he had from the British consuls at the various places along the coast fully justified the statements referred to in the document. But as I had no official information, except from our consul at Iquique, which exhibited the transactions there in a somewhat less flagrant light, I declined to join in the document, unless so altered as not to assume or assert the truth of the statements referred to, believing it to be in the interest of humanity, as well as for the interest of our own citizens along the coast who are the great sufferers by the war. And it seemed to me to be wise as a precautionary measure to put our citizens in as favorable a position as possible to claim damages for any violation of neutral rights.

The truth is, that most of the damages done and likely to be done along the coast in this war will fall upon neutrals, much the larger share of the heavy business in the coast towns being carried on by foreigners. And no nation, as it seems to me, is more interested than our own in maintaining a high standard of neutral rights.

I am responsible for the assertion in this document of the principle of declaring the duty of belligerents towards neutrals, it having been suggested by me and readily approved by all the other ministers signing the document.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 7.]

The ministers of France, United States, England, Italy, and Germany to Bear-Admiral Williams Rebolledo, commander-in-chief of the Chilian squadron.

Admiral: The undersigned, though desirous of preserving the strictest neutrality in the war now being carried on between Chili and Peru, consider it also their bounden duty to protect, as far as possible, the interests of the subjects and citizens of their respective countries.

The undersigned are perfectly aware that neutrals residing in a belligerent country must, to a certain extent, submit to many risks similar to those sustained by the natives; but they cannot admit that a belligerent has any right wantonly to destroy the property of neutrals, or to put them in peril of their lives.

The undersigned would remind your excellency that it is a principle of modern warfare not to destroy unfortified commercial towns, nor to fire into any peaceful community, without affording neutrals and non-combatants the time necessary to withdraw not only themselves but their personal property out of reach of the fire of the attacking belligerent.

Should this principle be or have been neglected, the undersigned may add that their respective governments will be entitled to hold the Government of Chili responsible for all losses to which their subjects or citizens may have been subjected.

According to the information we have received, but without wishing to decide as to the exact facts, it would appear that the commander of the Chilian iron-clad, the Admiral Cochrane, in reply to some rifle-shots discharged upon his boats, which were engaged in destroying the property of the inhabitants, suddenly opened fire with shot and shell on the large commercial town of Mollendo, inhabited by thousands of unoffending people, both foreign and Peruvian.

In Pisagua the course pursued is stated to have been even more regrettable, as, after a skirmish between the Chilian boats engaged in destroying trading launches, and the soldiers on the beach, the Chilian squadron opened fire upon this purely commercial town without any previous notice, and did not cease firing until nine-tenths of the houses were laid in ashes, with immense loss to neutrals, as at least two-thirds of this loss will fall on foreigners.

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It will be the painful duty of the undersigned to draw the attention of their respective governments to these bombardments of unfortified commercial towns, and to the heavy losses thus unnecessarily inflicted on neutrals.

They consider also that they are but fulfilling a distinct duty in thus drawing your excellency’s attention to the opinion they have formed of the proceedings of the Chilian squadron in Mollendo and Pisagua, and in a lesser degree at Iquique.

Accept, Admiral, the assurance of our high consideration.

(Signed by the ministers of France, United States, England, Italy, and Germany.)