Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru, February 16, 1881. (Received March 18.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatches Nos. 230 and 232 in reference to the question of peace, and with what Peruvian Government it is to be made, I have the honor to state that though, in many respects, the condition of things remains substantially the same as when those dispatches were written, yet some slight progress has been made toward a solution.
- The Chilian authorities here, even before the last battle, had declared that upon the question of peace they should decline the mediation of any other nation, and since they have been in Lima they have declared that they would not accept even the good offices of any neutral government, nor those of their diplomatic representatives here, and that they will only treat with the Peruvian Government.
- While for some time after their entrance into Lima they professed to be ready to treat with Piérola as the only recognized government of Peru, yet, after the letter of Piérola, or rather his secretary-general, to the diplomatic corps, dated the 20th January, 1881, had been published (I think by Piérola in some paper in Peru), a copy of which, with a translation, will accompany my next dispatch, No. 243, the Chilian authorities here have declared that they would not recognize Piérola as the Government of Peru nor treat with him until that letter should be withdrawn. And efforts have been made to initiate another Peruvian Government under the auspices of the “notables” at and near Lima. But none of the various parties seem to have men of sufficiently commanding influence to secure the general popular support, and none of them to be willing to incur the hazard of assuming powers of government while Piérola remains as dictator and does not resign.
In the mean time the Peruvian judicial officers, having been invited to enter upon the exercise of their jurisdiction, which they have declined [Page 870] to do, martial law, which is certainly better than no law, has been proclaimed in Lima, Callao, and the surrounding country in possession of the Chilian forces; their courts-martial adjudicating summarily and giving only verbal decrees and judgments, which are promptly executed by their military authorities. And I am glad to be able to testify that the Chilian officials have conducted themselves with great propriety and fidelity in the preservation of the peace and good order of the city of Lima.
Several outrages, rapes, robberies, &c., it is true, have been committed by individuals of the lower classes of their soldiery, but for which, as I am informed, the offenders have been severely punished as soon as they could be discovered.
Piérola remains at Tarma, and sometimes at Jauja, beyond the first range of Andes, the Chilians having control of the whole of the Callao, Lima and Oroya Railroad to Chicla, its present termination.
Several Peruvian missions have been sent to confer with him, with the sanction of the Chilian authorities, and though he was, at first, averse to any attempt at negotiation, yet, since then, finding himself without funds or arms, and utterly unable to carry on the war, he, nearly a week since, resolved to negotiate for peace, and for that purpose appointed three plenipotentiaries resident in Lima, and the necessary instructions were given them. But one of these commissioners has declined to accept, and this produces another delay of about a week.
But the two other commissioners have had informal conferences with the Chilian authorities, who, as I am informed, do not refuse to treat with Piérola, provided the letter in question shall be withdrawn.
The terms will, of course, be such as Chili chooses to dictate, a capitulation or surrender at discretion on the part of Peru, which is utterly prostrate, and, from the Andes to the sea, virtually in their possession and completely under the control of Chili.
But Chili has, by this last supreme effort, also exhausted herself, and could not continue to contest much longer, except as she can contrive to live upon Peru, and make her bear the expenses, which she is now attempting to do, having just sent an expedition of some 6,000 men to the region of Trujillo, probably for the purpose of levying contributions and destroying property which does not pay them. They have also established a commission here to levy upon the inhabitants of Lima and Callao a forced contribution, and it is understood the lists are now being made out. The decree or bando for this does not expressly exempt even neutrals, though it is the opinion of the diplomatic corps generally that neutrals are not intended to be included. We shall soon see; and if neutrals shall be included there will probably be an energetic protest from the diplomatic corps.
It is evident that Chili means to leave Peru in a condition which shall not render her a dangerous neighbor hereafter. She will now probably demand the cession, not only of Tarapaca, but of the province of Moquehua, including Arica and Tacna, thus depriving Peru of most of her nitrate deposits and many of her guano-beds. And, judging from the tone of the Chilian paper in Lima (the Actualidad), there is some reason for supposing that Chili is now endeavoring to instigate the government of Ecuador to seize upon the northern portion of Peru, a part of which once belonged to Ecuador; and I should not be surprised if Brazil, taking advantage of this opportunity, should take possession of a large portion of Northeastern Peru (the best portion of it, but now held by the wild Indians), and that by these several means the most important portions of Peru should be partitioned among her neighbors, a result [Page 871] which, should it take place, will not be calculated for the preservation of peace in any of these countries.
I have, &c.,