No. 582.
Mr. Baker to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 617.]

Sir: Referring to my more recent dispatches * * * relative to the matter of the 30 per cent, additional duty, I have the honor to inclose herewith * * * a copy of Mr. Seijas’s note, of date December 31 last, relative to the matter of the additional duty in question and the associated matter of a certain treaty between Venezuela and Great Britain, and in response to my note to him of the 28th of the same mouth relative to the same matter of additional du’ly, together with a copy of the translation, * * *a copy of my note to Mr. Seijas, of date 6th ultimo, in response to his of the 31st of December last, and printed copy of the decree of the 26 ultimo (as the same appears in the Gaceta Oficial of the 27th ultimo) modifying the law imposing the 30 per cent, additional duty, together with a translation.

It will be seen that this decree admits transshipment, and also disembarkation and re-embarkation, in foreign colonies, without the merchandise so transshipped, or disembarked or re-einbarked, being considered as proceeding from such colonies, subject to the regulations provided for in the decree; and this is the practical result so far accomplished in the matter. It falls short of what I expected, * * * but it is a substantial move in the right direction.

I saw the President, in compliance with his invitation, on the evening of the 30th of December. On reflection, it seems sufficient to say that what he said is sufficiently indicated by the note of Mr. Seijas of the day following, written by the direction of the President to embody the substance of what he put forward in the interview. I committed my Government to nothing, and myself no further than is covered by the expression of a sentiment to the effect of my being spontaneously ready to aid Venezuela in her troubles as far as I could properly and rightly do so.

It will be seen that the note of Mr. Seijas invites some sort of assistance from the United States in connection with the matter of the treaty, between Venezuela and Great Britain. In a subsequent interview with the President (on the 29th ultimo), to which I will further refer in its proper place, I suggested that an entire copy of the treaty had better be [Page 898] furnished me, and Mr. Seijas, who was present, said he would send me one. I have not yet received it, but presume it will be sent. It appears to me that the question with Great Britain, to which your attention is called by the note of Mr. Seijas, is not (in the absence of a full copy of the treaty involved officially brought to your notice) fitly ripe for your consideration.

This seems sufficient for the present dispatch. Other facts and circumstances connected with the subject will be duly reported.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 617.—Translation.]

Mr. Seijas to Mr. Baker.

Mr. Minister: I have had the honor to receive and elevate to the attention of the President of the Republic the note which your excellency addressed to me on the 28th, concerning the decree in which is established an additional duty of 30 per cent, on merchandise proceeding from the Antilles.

Your excellency therein exposes various effects of the measure, by which you believe, as your Government, that in practice and without doubt contrary to the intention of that which dictated it, it has resulted prejudicially to the commerce of the United States with Venezuela, and constitutes an obstacle to the development of mutual traffic, and especially to the progress of the line of steamers which now run between the two countries. In consequence, and recognizing the plenitude of the sovereign rights of this Republic, that legation earnestly and politely solicits a remedy for the situation, invoking the friendship and consideration which both parties protess.

As the President said to your excellency in the interview last night, he does not think that the decree causes the prejudices spoken of. On the contrary, he holds the opinion that it would at length exert an influence in the increase of the mercantile relations of the two peoples. The reason is obvious. All the commerce which, on account of the duty (impuesto), ceases to be made with the Antilles, would pass into the hands of the United States, particularly by virtue of the short distance which there is from our ports to hers, compared with that which separates us from the markets of Europe. But if these advantages have not yet presented themselves in full, for the reason that they need some time, it is indubitable that they begin already to be felt. The illustrious American has just received a letter from the administrator of the custom-house at Ciudad Bolivar, of date the 21st of this month, in which he informs him of the considerable increase which the commerce with Europe and the United States takes. Besides the vessels which had till then arrived there, information was had that six were en route, so that the custom-house promised very good entries.

Respecting Maracaibo, it is true that the entrance only permits vessels of little draft.

But, being consulted upon as is consulted upon, the removing of the port to Cojoro, by which the passage of the bar will be avoided, that inconvenience has to disappear, and larger ships can be employed in the traffic.

As, however, the Government of the United States prefers the actual advantages to those to come, and has recourse to the friendly disposition of Venezuela, the President of the Republic, stimulated by the purpose of adding a new demonstration of the sincerity of these, accedes to the solicitation”, and offers immediately to take the subject into consideration, with the view of excogitating a measure which may save the commerce of the United States from the present embarrassments.

In proceeding in this manner with the United States, it appears to him opportune and suitable (convenient) to touch here upon other points connected with the matter.

The motives of the decree were three: (1) To put the Republic under cover from the revolutionary attempts proceeding from Trinidad; (2) to make war against the contraband which is incessantly practiced from there with proximate places of Venezuela; and (3) to bring Great Britain to the condition of hearing the claims of this country for the fixation of the term (termino) of the treaty of commerce which binds (liga) both states. The last object demands brief exposition.

The old Colombia, composed of Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador, concluded in 1825 a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with Great Britain. It was made with precipitation, because the nascent Republic—then recognized by the United States only, and which owed to them and to the English nation the breaking up of the attempts to reconquer the heretofore colonies of Spain—was anxious for the recognition of the British crown, so much the more as many subjects of that crown had aided the revolution of independence with their blood and their property.

[Page 899]

In 1834 Veuezuela, separated from the other Colombian sections from 1830, adopted and confirmed, word for word, the pact of 1825.

Well, now, this commences—“There will beperpetual, firm, and sincere friendship between the Republic and people of Colombia and the dominions and subjects of His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, his heirs, and successors.” This is the language of all treaties, and only serves to translate the actual intention of the parties, but so far is it from converting them into perpetual that they always contain an article restrictive of their duration.

Nevertheless, it was not put in that, and, being a thing indispensable to it, must refer the Article XIV, in which it is declared that the treaty lacks articles which, for want of time and the pressure of circumstances, could not then be drawn up with due perfection; that it would be suitable (convenient) that they should be proposed and added, in order the more to facilitate good correspondence between the two contracting parties, and to avoid, in the process of time, every class of difficulties; and it is convened that they will lend themselves, without the least possible delay, to treat and convene on the articles which are wanting, and which may be judged mutually advantageous.

On the 16th of February, 1866, Great Britain celebrated with the United States of Colombia a new treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation, by the twenty-second article of which is substituted that of the old Colombia of 1825, and with the duration of only ten years.

Venezuela has requested an equal thing, or, at the least, that the treaty of 1825 and 1834 be additioned with an article specifying its terms, and it has been denied her, and the absurdity sustained that it is eternal because none were fixed.

To attribute perpetuity to stipulations on commerce, a matter so changeable, and which is touched by a multitude of internal laws, such as the fiscal, those of the customs, &c., would be equivalent to annihilating the sovereignty of a state. The change of circumstances has necessarily to exert an influence in modification of the obligations convened (convenidas) by treaty. Thus it is evidenced by the communication of his excellency Mr. Frelinghuysen to Lord Granville on the decrepitude (caducidad) of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, to which neither was a term fixed.

In the treaty, with which it is aspired to replace the primitive one of 1825, the precedences* (procedencias) from the British colonies would be equalized with the pro cedences from the mother country (metropoli), by which the decree of differential duties would be abrogated. The cabinet of London esteems it now repugnant to the treaty which it calls perpetual; but that of Caracas sustains the contrary, among other reasons, for the very valid one that at the epoch of its celebration there existed, and afterwards continued for a long time, those same duties, first in Colombia and then in this Republic, without reclamation of Great Britain, they having been abolished by spontaneous act of the Congress of Venezuela.

On account of the justice which attends Venezuela in the question; on account of the manner in which she receives the friendly solicitation of the United States; and on account of the interest which, to them, the disagreements between the sister Republics and European nations have always merited, interposing their high influence and respect in favor of their satisfactory solution—as this same country has experienced before now, and experiences to-day with pleasure and gratitude—the illustrious American hopes that they may vouchsafe (dignen) to make some recommendatory intimation to Great Britain in order that she may accede to the reasonable desires of Venezuela.

Thus they have just done also for the sake of the Republic of Liberia, for the adjustment of her limits with the English establishments of Sierra Leone; thus in respect to the proscription of the Hebrew race in Russia.

He promises himself also that your excellency, for the sake of the adduced arguments, will desire to put in the balance the weight of your own judgment and very appreciable (atendibles) indications.

I renew, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 617.]

Mr. Baker to Mr. Seijas.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s very friendly note of the 31st ultimo, relative to the matter of the additional duty of 30 per cent, and the associated matter of a certain treaty between Venezuela and Great Britain. [Page 900] I confine myself in this note to thanking your excellency, and through your excellency the Government of Venezuela, for the very prompt and obliging manner in which it has taken my note of the 28th ultimo into consideration, and to assuring your excellency that I shall, by the earliest opportunity and in a proper and friendly manner, bring your said note to the knowledge of my Government.

I avail, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 617.—Translation of decree.]

The President of the United States of Venezuela, using the power which article 2d, law 6th of the Code of Finance, concedes to him, in order to regulate the fiscal laws, with the affirmative vote of the federal council, decrees:

  • Art. 1. The fruits, merchandise, and effects which may come from the United States of North America, or from Europe, dispatched for Venezuela, with all the documents required by the law for the regimen of the custom-houses, maybe transshipped in foreign colonies from vessel to vessel, in order to proceed to their destination, and will be considered as of direct precedency from the ports of their dispatch.
  • Art. 2. When for want of transports the aforesaid merchandise, fruits, and effects may have to be disembarked in foreign colonies, they may be re-embarked for Venezuela without being considered proceeding from them, their owners or consignees always presenting in the custom-house of the Republic where they may be imported, together with the consular documents of the port of the primitive procedence, a certificate of the Venezuelan consul in the colony, showing that they have been there deposited for want of vessels to proceed to their destination.
  • Art. 3. The dispositions contained in the anterior articles will take effect from the 15th of February next, henceforth.
  • Art. 4. The minister of finance is charged with the execution of this decree.


The minister of finance,
  1. This word is not yet in any of our English dictionaries, I presume, but I think it is a fit one.—J. B.