Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Bogota, January 20, 1885. (Received May 11.)
Sir: There are some features of the present civil war in Colombia as deplorable as they are novel in the history of this country. Heretofore pending the issue of such commotions, the national post-offices and mails have been held sacred by both parties. Mail communication with the coast and, per consequence, between this capital and foreign countries, have been repeatedly interrupted by reason of the blockade of the river Magdalena; but in no instance now remembered were the mails or post-offices violated or robbed by either of the contending factions.
But the present strife for power has, from the very outset, been characterized by a spirit of lawlessness and savagery that is without precedent. The mails between Bogota and all the interior towns and cities have been robbed systematically by the insurgents, so much so that the general post-office here has been practically closed for a mouth past, while the mail-boats on the Magdalena have been plundered, the mail-bags opened, all valuables extracted therefrom, and the remainder thrown overboard. All the foreign mails, including those addressed to the different legations here, have met a similar fate. The Government has been, and is still, quite powerless to check these depredations.
Another feature of the present strife is its spirit of extreme vindictiveness. It was inaugurated by a most shameless and cold-blooded massacre of some eighty helpless victims in the town of Guaduas; and similar outrages have been frequent in other parts of the country ever since.
At the present moment, two ex-Presidents and one former minister for foreign affairs of the Republic are hiding away in order to save their lives. The right of private property, and even the sanctity of private dwellings, seem to be wholly disregarded, and what one faction fails to take in the form of forced loans, the other usually takes by force of arms. All the banks, except two, have closed their doors; and the two which still keep open, and continue to meet their obligations, will be forced to close before many days, unless, indeed, affairs should take a different turn.
Up to the present time, owing possibly to the watchfulness and efficiency of the diplomatic corps here, I have not heard of any outrages against the persons of foreign residents. But, taken altogether, this unfortunate country is in a most deplorable condition worse, perhaps, than it has been at any time since its independence of the Spanish Crown.
I have, &c.,