No. 585.
Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Baker.

No. 215.]

Sir: Mr. John E. Wheelock has again brought to the attention of the Department his complaint against the Government of Venezuela, by a letter of the 22d ultimo, which he has addressed to the President, who has caused its reference hither. A copy of Mr. Wheelock’s letter is herewith inclosed.

Considering all the circumstances of Mr. Wheelock’s case, his impatience at the seeming unnecessary delay at its settlement is but natural. The Department’s instruction to you, No. 208, of the 24th of February last, will have thoroughly acquainted you with its views upon the subject, and I need, therefore, only now remark that in carrying out that instruction you will exert every proper effort to immediately secure for Mr. Wheelock some measure of justice, which he and this Government have every reason to expect should be accorded by that of the Republic of Venezuela for so gross an outrage.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 215.]

Mr. Wheelock to the President.

Sir: More than three years ago, while engaged in business in the Republic of Venezuela, I was the subject of a horrible outrage, probably exceeding in brutality anything [Page 903] ever perpetrated upon a citizen of these United States, and which has permanently injuured me both physically and mentally, and the particulars of which are fully set forth by Secretary Evarts in the volume of Foreign Relations, 1880, folio 1042, and partially in the inclosed slip from the New York Sun.

I have endeavored to obtain justice through the State Department at Washington, but the Venezuelan Government, which thinks only of enriching its members while in power, apparently treats with contempt all the requests of that Department. I most humbly and earnestly beg your excellency to request Congress to take such measures in the matter as may seem proper.

Your obedient servant,

[Inclosure.—Extract from the New York Sun.]

a story from venezuela.

John E. Wheelock, of 66 Willow street, Brooklyn, lately superintendent of the Eureka” gold mine, in the Caratal mining district of the Republic of Venezuela, returned to his home on Wednesday last. He was thin and worn, though he was a robust man when he quitted his home; and he had but little use of his left arm and hand, but rest and plentiful fare have mended his appearance, and restored strength-to his disabled arm.

He gives an account of almost unexampled ill-treatment on the part of Venezuelan authorities. “I am a native American,” he said last evening. “I was born in Ithaca, and most of my relatives still live there. I am fond of adventure, and have had for years a fancy for mining. I have been connected with many mining companies in the United States and South America. I went to the Caratal mining district of Venezuela in 1876, and was much pleased with my experience there. I returned to the United States, but made several other visits to the mining district.

“I set out from New York to make my last visit in May. In the city of Bolivar, Venezuela, I was engaged by the company operating the Eureka mine, in the Caratal district, as superintendent of the mine. The company is composed of native Venezuelans and Italian merchants engaged in business in Bolivar. I reached the mine and began my work on July 1. On September 5 the working of the mine was suspended, the company concluding that the ore that the mine yielded was not rich enough to encourage them to continue work. I was paid off in full, and had about $800 in my possession. Giovanni Patroni was put in charge of the mine, the peons being discharged. Patroni invited me to spend several weeks with him before I set out for Bolivar, whence I proposed to sail for New York; Patroni was very friendly, and I became very confidential with him; I told him how much money I had, and showed it to him. I intended, as he knew, to set out for Bolivar on September 13. My baggage was packed and ready on the evening of the 12th.

“I got up early the next morning and drank coffee, the uniform habit in Venezuela, with Patroni. He was as bland as usual. I walked to Chili, a mining town about one mile from the Eureka mines, to make some parting visits. After I had made several visits, I was arrested in the street by General Sotillo, commissary of the district. He is a negro and was attended by a guard of negro peons. My arms were tied behind my back, and Greneral Sotillo and the escort Began to march back to the Eureka mines. I asked one of the peons why I was arrested. He told me that I was charged with stealing $1,200 from a safe in Patroni’s house. I was taken into the room in Patroni’s house in which was the safe that I was charged with robbing. General Sotillo ordered that my baggage and the clothing that I wore be searched, but of course nothing but what was known to belong to me was found. Then Henry Smith, a negro, who has worked in the district for years, and is a British subject, was sent for to act as interpreter. Through him General Sotillo called upon me to tell where I had hidden Patroni’s money. I averred my innocence, but General Sotillo, as I understood him, said that he would find out the hiding place of the money or do away with me. Patroni had been sitting beside the general, speaking excitedly to him in Spanish, but when the general expressed his intention towards me he went out. The general ordered that the rope be tightened about my arms, and then I was raised up until the rope passed over a peg in the wall. Then I was allowed to hang down in agony. I was frequently told by Smith, the interpreter, that the general would release me if I would tell where the money was hidden. As I could give no satisfactory answer I was taken down.

“But I was not allowed to escape from my tormentors. A rope was wound once round my chest, and then the ends were rolled upon pegs until I was raised from the floor. I cannot give an idea of the pain that I suffered. I could hardly breathe. I must have died of suffocation, but two of the peons, at a signal from the general, raised me up occasionally in their arms, and I recovered my breath. When I was [Page 904] almost exhausted I was taken down and then forced to walk—my arms being still pinioned behind my back—about half a mile away from the house. Then, in a thicket, two slip-knots were made in a rope. A knot was put upon each of my bare ankles, and the rope being tied to two trees far apart, I hung head downward. I became dizzy and almost unconscious, and was then let down roughly to the ground; water was dashed in my face, and I recovered consciousness. The rope was taken from my ankles, my knees were bound together, and I was carried by four of the peons to the mouth of a prospect hole, usually about sixty feet deep. The peons threw me down at the side of the hole, where I could look into it. I was told that unless I divulged the place of concealment of the money I should be cast headlong into the hole. I was utterly regardless of the danger, having suffered until I was almost crazed, and I begged them to throw me into the hole, so that I might die at once. When General Sotillo saw that the effect that he desired was not produced, he ordered that I be hung again by the ankles. This torture was repeated several times.

“General Sotillo came to the conclusion that he could extort no confession from me. I was then taken to the nearest jail and locked in a cell. Patroni offered to have me released and cleared if I would pay him $600. Three days afterward a magistrate of the district gave a hearing to my case. Patroni, with increased bitterness, probably due to my declination of his offer in my cell, pressed the charge against me, but I was discharged.

“I made a sworn statement before United States Consul Dalton, in Bolivar, and he drew up a communication and forwarded it to President Dalla Coasta, at Venezuela. The President, who is a very well-informed and liberal gentleman, acted promptly. Here is a copy of the E Colaborador, the official organ, containing ah order for the suspension of General Sotillo from office and imprison ment pending an investigation in regard to his treatment of me. I came to New York direct from the South, where I landed, and have retained ex-Congressman Elkins, formerly of New Mexico, to make an appeal to the State Department.”