to Mr. Pettis.
Washington , June 23, 1879.
Sir: The British Government has lately received information that the Government of Bolivia has decreed the issue of letters of marque, with authority to privateers to seize Chilian property in neutral vessels, and that agents have departed for the United States.
You are directed to call the attention of the Bolivian Government to the treaty of 1858, and more especially to the XVIth article thereof, which stipulates for the freedom from capture or confiscation of effects or goods belonging to subjects or citizens of a power or State at war when found on board of neutral, vessels, with the exception of articles contraband of war.
The neutrality act of 1818 (section 5281 et seq. of the Revised Statutes) specially prohibits the fitting out, arming, or equipping in this country of any vessel for the purpose of committing hostilities against [Page 126] the people of a country with whom the United States are at peace. Should it prove true that the Bolivian Government has dispatched agents to this country for the purpose, as is understood, of engaging in this enterprise, you will remind them of the existence of this act and of the necessity which will compel this government to adopt measures for preventing a violation of it.
I am, &c.,