to Mr. Trescot
Washington , December 16, 1881.
Sir: Some erroneous statements, now being circulated in a portion of the American press, may reach Santiago and create an injurious impression in the minds of the Chilian Government; and I write you this instruction from excess of caution, in order that no enduring harm may result.
The erroneous statements in the press to which I especially refer are those which represent this government as in some way giving encouragement to the Cochet claim against Peru, which, being acknowledged, should enable the United States to pay an indemnity to Chili and then [Page 152] practically own Peru, either directly or through an association of American citizens.
This is the extreme statement, and it has many shadings and variations.
You will take prompt and special care to anticipate any evil that might result from these rumors being circulated by a disavowal and denial of them in whole and in any part.
The only claim for which this Department has instructed our minister at Lima to use his good offices is that known as the Landreau claim, and this to the extent only of insisting that Mr. Landreau should be permitted to have an authoritative investigation of his claim by the Peruvian Government, and that if found to be good and valid it should be provided for in any treaty with Chili which might affect the property to which it attaches.
The law officer of the Department of State, as long ago as 1874, made an exhaustive report on this claim, and recommended that this government should interpose its good offices in behalf thereof.
On the 20th of July, 1874, my predecessor, Mr. Secretary Fish, instructed our minister at Lima to use his good offices with the Peruvian authorities in behalf of Mr. John C. Landreau, “with a view of securing from that government a speedy investigation and adjustment of his claim.”
On the 20th day of February, 1880, the House of Representatives of the last Congress unanimously passed the following resolution:
That the petition of John C. Landreau, the report made thereon by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the accompanying papers be transmitted to the Executive Department, with the request that the President take such steps as, in his opinion, may be proper, and in accordance with international law to secure to the said John C. Landreau a final settlement and adjustment of his claim against the Government of Peru; and that, if in his opinion it is proper to do so, the President invite the Government of France to co-operate with the United States in this behalf.
I inclose herewith, for your farther information, copies of my instructions to Mr. Hurlbut on this subject. It gives me pleasure to say in this connection, that Mr. Hurlbut’s action in regard to both the Landreau and Cochet claims has been marked by entire prudence and discretion.
While disabusing the mind of the Chilian Government of any impression that the United States meditates intervention on behalf of private claims, beyond the use of its good offices, you will say that justice seems to demand that Landreau should have an opportunity to be heard in support of his claim before a tribunal in Peru competent to decide it, and that, if decided in his favor, a treaty of peace which might cede territory to Chili should not be made in disregard of any rights which Mr. Landreau may be found, after an impartial judicial investigation, to possess.
Further than this the Department of State has not felt authorized to go, and I must express the hope that the Governments of Peru and Chili, to both of which you are accredited, will recognize the moderation and justice of the request made by this government.
I am, &c.,