Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru, April 29, 1879. (Received May 27.)
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.,