Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Evarts.
Lima, Peru, February 25, 1881. (Received April 5.)
Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 242, I have the honor to inform you that since then the Chilian authorities here have definitely determined not to treat with Piérola, at present the only recognized Government of Peru, recognized by all the other governments who have representatives here, and by Chili herself by treating with him at Arica.[Page 875]
A movement has therefore been initiated among some of the leading citizens of Lima and Callao, and encouraged by the Chilian authorities, to establish a new government in opposition to that of Piérola (who is still at Tarma or Jauja). And at a meeting of 110 of those citizens a Mr. Francisco Garcia Calderon was, by a fair majority of that meeting, declared to constitute, to use their own language, the “unipersonal government” of Peru.
At a superficial glance this would seem to be an attempt to get rid of one dictatorship clearly adopted by the people of the whole Peruvian Republic, and recognized by foreign governments, including Chili, for a new dictatorship, adopted by the majority of a self-constituted meeting of 110 men of Lima and Callao, and recognized as yet by nobody else except Chili. In this aspect merely it would, of course, be simply ludicrous.
But the intention, as professed by this new “unipersonal government” and by the Chilian newspaper here (for no Peruvian paper is allowed to be published here) is that this movement for the establishment of a new government shall be submitted in some form to the people of Peru; that an appeal shall be made to the people, who shall be invited to sanction this government until a Congress can be called together to ratify it or to establish another in some form. And, of course, if the people of Peru choose to ratify or concur in this or any other form of government, it must then be considered legitimate and acknowledged as such. But Chili does not intend to accept any treaty as final without its ratification by a Peruvian Congress, though she may, in the mean time, agree upon a provisional treaty with this merely provisional government, only to be submitted to and ratified by a Congress.
The friends of this new movement profess to have two objects in view: First (which no one doubts their desire to attain), to secure a peace with Chili; and, second, by this appeal to the people to get back to a constitutional government under the constitution in force before the dictatorship; but this last object many appear to doubt. Owing to the difficulty of communication, it will take some time, I should say nearly or quite two months, to get here an authentic expression of the will of the people in all parts of Peru in any fair and regular way. In the mean time the Chilian army will probably continue in Peru, living upon the country.
If the appeal to the people succeeds in securing the popular support, peace (upon such terms as Chili may choose to dictate) will probably be the result.
But if, as I fear may happen, the people of only a part of Peru may approve, and those of any considerable portion should still adhere to Piérola, the result would be likely to prove calamitous indeed to Peru, producing a civil war in addition to the war with Chili.
It is the opinion (or, I would rather say, the strong suspicion) of many that this result is what is desired by Chili, and that her efforts are intended to produce it for the purpose of enabling her to demand a larger cession of territory, if not to give her an excuse for seizing the whole of Peru.
The main ground for this opinion, or suspicion, is, that Chili refused to recognize or treat with Piérola, the only recognized government, after he had consented to treat and appointed his commissioners; but, until shown by further developments, I am not ready to attribute to them the design of attempting the permanent conquest of the whole of Peru, though there are some Peruvians and many foreign residents who [Page 876] would prefer this result as best calculated to give the country a more stable government.
In the proposed appeal to the people by the new provisional or proposed provisional government, I think it probable that the portion of Peru west of the Andes will ratify the movement, as much of it has already been overrun by the Chilian forces, and the people clearly see that the Peruvian Government, whether the new, or the old, is, and will be for along time, powerless to afford protection; and that peace, therefore, is absolutely essential.
But that portion of Peru east of the western range of the Andes, the best, but least peopled, part of Peru, the people have felt less of the evils and none of the ravages of the war. Piérola is among them; and if, now that Chili has refused to treat with him, he should conclude to attempt to sustain his own government, or induce the people to refuse the recognition of a new one, the worst consequences are likely to follow. He has, it is true, scarcely any arms or munitions, and no funds to purchase them or means to get them into the interior, if he could purchase any amount of them. Nothing more than a guerrilla warfare, could, therefore, be carried on; but this would be sufficient to ruin Peru, and justify Chili in the use of the harshest measures.
I am informed by General Adams, from La Paz February 6th, that the Bolivians do not take it for granted that the war is over; that they are just now importing arms through the Argentine Republic, and he thinks the war likely to continue. It may be that Piérola may make his way south and join with Bolivia to prolong the war; but this is not my opinion. I am strongly inclined to think that when Bolivia comes to understand fully the inability of Peru to take a principal part in the war, she will make a separate peace.
I have, &c.,