Mr. Bayard to Mr. Becerra .
Washington , March 25, 1885.
Sir: On the receipt of your note of the 17th instant complaining that certain ordinary merchant vessels have sailed, or are about to sail, from the port of New York, having on board as part of their cargoes boxes of arms and of ammunition, intended for the purpose of assisting armed rebels who are now resisting on the Atlantic coast of Colombia the authority of that Republic, I did not fail to communicate the subject of its contents to the proper authorities.
I now have the honor to inform you that it appears from a recent communication from my colleague, the Attorney General, that the United States attorney at the port of New York has been directed to be vigilant in enforcing those statutory provisions which apply to the circumstances in which Colombia is unhappily involved.
In this connection I deem it proper to invite your attention to the fact that the existence of a rebellion in Colombia does not authorize the public officials of the United States to obstruct ordinary commerce in arms between citizens of this country and the rebellious or other parts of the territory of the Republic of Colombia. It is a well-established rule of international law that the allowance of such commerce is no breach of duty towards the friendly Government whose enemies may thus be supplied with arms.
As no charge is made that the vessels in question are armed vessels intended for the use of the rebels mentioned, or that military expeditions are being set on foot in this country against the Republic of Colombia, the duties of this Government are limited to the enforcement of the statutory provisions which apply to such cases.