Mr. Christiancy to Mr. Blaine.
Lima, Peru , March 8, 1881. (Received April 5.)
Sir: Referring to your dispatch No. 119, I have the honor to reply—
- That if any danger to neutral vessels ever existed from Peruvian boats “containing explosive materials” being “sent adrift on the chance of their falling in with some of the Chilian blockading squadron,” that danger had all passed some days before your dispatch was written, as you will have discovered from my dispatches; the Chilians having the entire possession of the Peruvian coast, and there being no further opposition to them along the entire coast of Peru.
- I know of no Government of Peru to whom I could present a remonstrance, except to Piérola, who is in the interior beyond the first range of the Andes at Jauja, and has not, so far as I am yet informed, appointed any minister of foreign relations with whom I can correspond.
- I will say that there never has been any real danger to neutral vessels from the cause mentioned, so far as I know or have been in [Page 877] formed. But three instances have occurred during the war (so far as I have ever heard) which could by any possible latitude of construction come within the grounds of complaint mentioned. The first was the case of the Loa, mentioned in my dispatch No. 183, which occurred in the bay of Callao far within the blockading lines, where no neutral vessel (except naval) had any right to come, and where for months they had not attempted to come; and the neutral naval vessels within the bay or near it, not being, like the Chilian vessels, likely to seek to take prizes, and knowing that both belligerents equally were using all the stratagems in their power to injure each other, and being on the alert for these, were in no danger of being caught in the trap set by either.
No complaint was ever made or suggested to me on behalf of any merchant vessel of the United States, nor of any of our naval vessels, on this score.
The only other cases which have come to the knowledge of the public, in which the Peruvians had put concealed dynamite in any boat or launch, was in the case of the blowing up of the Chilian naval vessel, the Covadonga. This took place in the harbor of Chancay, and in the following manner: The captain of the port had a very fine and attractive row-boat, in which he had formerly been accustomed to go out to the vessels anchoring there. In this boat it seems there had, just before the destruction of the Covadonga, been concealed a large quantity of dynamite between the outer and inner skin of the boat. The boat was then anchored or fastened to the shore. The Covadonga came in and destroyed several other row-boats and launches or sunk them; but this one being so fine a boat and so attractive the officers of the Covadonga could not resist the temptation of taking it for their own use. They therefore sent in a small boat for the purpose of taking her, and the seamen in the Chilian boat fearing some ruse de guerre passed their oars all around and under her before venturing to seize her, but finding nothing they took her and rowed her to the Covadonga, when ropes were put into the rings of this boat and they began to hoist her up by the aid of the ship’s davits; at this moment the explosion took place, sinking the Covadonga.
Surely here was no danger of any neutral vessel, merchant or naval, being caught in the trap, as none of them would have ventured to seize upon the boat recognized as that of the captain of the port.
There was one other case in which the Peruvians sent out a launch with dynamite in the port of Callao, toward the Chilian fleet, which blew up before reaching the fleet. This created no danger to the neutral naval vessels, and no merchant vessels were in the port or allowed to be there.
I have, &c.,