to Mr. Blaine
Santiago, Chili , March 23, 1881. (Received May 4.)
Sir: I have deemed it quite unnecessary to burden the archives of the State Department with the scattered information which has from time to time reached me from Peru since the occupation of Lima by the Chilian forces, as you have doubtless been placed in possession of all needed knowledge of events there by Minister Christiancy. Lima is but little farther from New York, in the matter of mail communication, than it is from Santiago, and you are, I judge, made acquainted with incidents there transpiring almost as soon as I am.
The negotiations regarding peace have, on the part of Chili, been intrusted to Messrs. Vergara and Altamirano, two of the ministers who participated in the Arica conference, and from what I learn I conclude that these gentlemen find their task by no means an easy one. While the war is practically at an end, yet serious difficulties appear to stand in the way of peace negotiations. Whether these difficulties might not in a measure have been avoided presents a question which I am not prepared to discuss, nor am I sufficiently informed to warrant an expression of opinion as to the real source of the blame, if blame there is. The fact is, there are two pretended governments in Peru, that of Piérola and that headed by Calderon.[Page 127]
The Chilian ministers, as you know, have emphatically declined to enter into negotiations with Piérola, alleging as a reason, as I understand, that his government is without the necessary strength. It is whispered, and perhaps truly, that other influences contributed to this determination, among which I may mention what is termed here an insulting and untruthful insinuation by Piérola in one of his recent official papers to the effect that the perfidy attached to the premature commencement of the battle of Miraflores, on the 15th of January, was chargeable to the Chilian army. It will be remembered that on the morning of the 15th, through the friendly efforts of the diplomatic corps in Lima, a qualified armistice was arranged between the two armies, which was to continue until midnight, but that notwithstanding at about two o’clock in the afternoon fire was opened, and the bloody battle of Miraflores followed. It is no secret here that in this engagement the Chilian army narrowly escaped serious disaster, and the government, the army, and the people, are alike severe in their denunciations of Piérola for what they term his treachery in this matter.
The government of Calderon has been accepted by several of the Peruvian provinces, but there still remains a considerable portion of country which has not acknowledged its authority. I am induced to believe, however, that President Pinto hopes that it will have acquired ere long sufficient strength to warrant this government in entering into negotiations with it. Mr. Altamirano is on his way down the coast now, and will reach Santiago in a few days. He comes, I infer, to confer with the government regarding the situation in Peru, and perhaps to receive final instructions touching the terms to be exacted in a treaty of peace.
There is every reason why Chili should conclude a peace at the earliest possible day, and I think the government so looks upon it. What terms are to be insisted upon I do not know, but judge they will be quite as severe as Peru, in its impoverished condition, can possibly comply with. In this regard, however, I see evidences here of a modification of public sentiment, and from this I expect much.
I need scarcely assure you that my efforts shall continue to be exerted in facilitating the restoration of peace. This, your instructions, as well as my sense of duty, would require; but I find an additional incentive in my great desire to avail myself of the leave of absence granted me by the State Department, and so long held in abeyance because of the war. Since the receipt of instructions No. 119, which came to hand by the last mail, I have had a friendly conversation with Minister Valderrama concerning the negotiations at Lima, and after the arrival of Mr. Altamirano I expect to see him again, when I may have something worth communicating. The information upon which the instruction above mentioned was based seems to have been somewhat faulty in that it indicated that President Piérola, with his army, had retired to the interior. It is reported here, and believed, that the Peruvian army was entirely dispersed, and that Piérola took refuge in the mountains surrounded by a few followers only.
About 6,000 of the volunteer troops have been returned to Chili and mustered out of the service. General Baquedano, the commander-in-chief, accompanied them, and they were received with universal rejoicing.
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I have, &c.,