Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Bogota, December 23, 1884. (Received January 16, 1885.)
Sir: Ever since the Presidential election of last year, this country has been constantly distracted by rumors of contemplated local and general “revolutions.” In some of the States, as, for instance, in Panama, there were serious disturbances, even before the inauguration of the new President. But as these soon subsided, hopes began to be entertained that the incoming administration might be peaceable.[Page 199]
But a few weeks after the inauguration, in July last, there was an outbreak in the State of Santander, growing out of a disputed election for governor, in which the federal Government had taken an active part. A compromise was, however, effected whereby an adherent of the Nuñez administration became governor ad interim, pending a new election which had been ordered.
A few weeks later a similar quarrel occurred in the State of Cundina-marca, resulting in the massacre of some 80 or 100 persons in the town of Guaduas. But the matter was patched up by a sort of compromise, whereby General Aldana was to remain governor two years longer!
Some ten days ago there was another outbreak, of a still more serious character in Santander. It originated, as did the first, in a quarrel over the local offices, deeply involving the national administration. A pitched battle was fought, in which the insurgents were defeated, but the disaffection continued to spread until it reached the adjoining State of Boyacá, and the latest reports are that there has been a similar uprising in Bolivar and Magdalena.
In consequence of this unsettled state of affairs, the President, on the 18th instant, issued a proclamation declaring Santander, Boyacá, Cundinamarca, and the district of Bolivar and Magdalena bordering on the river Magdalena, in a state of civil war. This proclamation, under existing Colombian laws, is tantamount to a suspension of the privileges of the habeas corpus, and to placing the States and districts named under martial law; and it has been followed by the usual military impressments.
It is understood that the main insurgent force, some 4,000 strong, under the command of General Daniel Hernandez, is marching upon Tunja. The Government here has already dispatched all its available force for the same place. So that, in the absence of some possible compromise, a general engagement may be expected very soon.
The National Government is in great straits for money. It has already exhausted its credit with the local banks, and is now levying forced contributions in order to defray its current expenses. Add to this the almost hopelessly bankrupt condition of the exchequer. * * *
Where it will end no one can at present conjecture. But in the present disordered condition of society we may reasonably anticipate the usual disregard of the rights of foreigners on the coast and Isthmus. I would respectfully suggest, therefore, that the presence of an American man-of-war near those localities would probably prevent the necessity for diplomatic reclamations against the Government.
I have, &c.,