No. 38.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Hall.

No. 325.]

Sir: I transmit, for your information, copies of the correspondence exchanged between Mr. Jacob Baiz, consul-general of Honduras at New York, and this Department touching the movements of the American steamer City of Mexico outside of the jurisdiction of the United States. It will be seen from the letters of Mr. Baiz that he labors under the impression that to prevent a violation of our neutrality laws this Government should instruct its vessels of war to keep a watch on the City of Mexico, having as is alleged, an unlawful purpose against the peace of Honduras.

I have not thought it necessary to discuss the subject with Mr. Baiz. I have therefore confined myself to the statement that the acts complained of were committed, if at all, against the sovereign neutrality of Great Britain and should be dealt with according to British law, and that this Government had already given abundant proof of its desire to prevent any violation of its neutrality within the jurisdiction of the United States.

[Page 52]

With these prefatory remarks it appears not inappropriate to add a few general observations upon the subject.

It is usual, when application is made to this Department to take action to prevent what are supposed to be impending breaches of neutrality, to base such application on affidavits, or on statements of proof susceptible of being reduced to affidavits, on which the interposition of the Department is asked. This requisite has not been insisted upon in the present instance; for, supposing the case presented by the letter of Mr. Baiz to be fully verified, it is not one on which any present action of the Department could be based.

Breaches of neutrality may be viewed by this Government in two aspects: First, in relation to our particular statutes; and, secondly, in respect of the general principles of international law. Our own statutes bind only our own Government and citizens. If they impose on us a larger duty than is imposed on us by international law, they do not correspondingly enlarge our duties to foreign nations, nor do they abridge our duties if they establish for our municipal regulation a standard less stringent than that established by international law.

The complaint that Mr. Baiz makes is, that the steamship City of Mexico, a passenger and freight vessel, claimed to be entitled to carry the flag of the United States, took on board at Belize, January 12 last, when on her ordinary coasting route, some political refugees, who it is supposed were meditating hostile action against the Government of Honduras.

It will scarcely be contended that an act such as this, even supposing it would be regarded as a breach of neutrality if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States, can be imputed to the United States when committed in a foreign port; nor can it be justly urged that, because the vessel in question sails under the flag of the United States, it is the duty of this Government to send cruisers to watch her to prevent her from committing breaches of neutrality when on her passage from one foreign port to another. For this Government to send armed vessels to such ports to control the actions of the City of Mexico would be to invade the territorial waters of a foreign sovereign. For this Government to watch its merchant and passenger vessels on the high seas, to stop them if they carry contraband articles or passengers meditating a breach of neutrality, would impose on the United States a burden which would be in itself intolerable, which no other nation has undertaken to carry, and which the law of nations does not impose.

In what has been stated I have referred exclusively to the international obligations imposed on the United States by the general principles of international law, which are the only standards measuring our duty to the Government of Honduras. Whether the City of Mexico, when she returns to her home port, or those concerned in her or in this particular voyage, may be subject to adverse procedure under our neutrality statutes, I have not deemed it necessary here to discuss or decide.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 325.]

Mr. Baiz to Mr. Bayard.

No. 231.]

Most Excellent Sir: In the name of the Republic of Honduras, and as its representative, I have the honor to address your excellency, for the purpose of making known to you all the events and antecedents of the warlike expedition which, ever [Page 53] since the month of May last, it has been attempted, and is still being attempted, to send against the Republic which I represent. I do this for the double purpose of condensing the facts, and of begging this Government to furnish all possible aid, or such as, in view of the friendly relations existing between the two countries, it may be thought proper to grant, owing to the circumstance that the plans have been formed and the expedition set on foot in this port.

In the first place, the steamer Dorian sailed from New York on the 29th of May last for Bluefields, in Nicaragua, having on board a cargo consisting of the following articles: Fifty boxes of rifles and bayonets, one box containing a drum, ten boxes of carbines, one box of cornets, one box of sabers and belts, four boxes of cutlasses and scabbards, twenty boxes of knapsacks, three boxes of horse trappings, one box of tools, one box of bags, eight boxes of hardware, four boxes of shirts, six hundred and ten boxes of cartridges, three boxes of percussion-caps, and eighty-eight half barrels of flour. With this cargo she sailed, not for the port of Bluefields, for which she had been cleared, but for the Republic of Honduras, where she was to discharge her cargo. Owing to unfavorable circumstances, however, she found it impossible to accomplish her purpose, and returned with the aforesaid effects to the port of New York early in July last.

The vessel was cleared for that voyage by the firm of A. D. Straus & Co.

Toward the close of the aforesaid month of July I was privately informed that the firm of A. D. Straus & Co. had purchased the steamer City of Mexico, for the purpose of sending her to the northern coast of the Republic of Honduras with a revolutionary expedition. This furnished additional evidence of the object of the expedition which had sailed on board the Dorian, and, as will be seen, the news was subsequently confirmed, since the steamer was for a long time at the wharves in New York, and the detectives whom I had employed to keep watch told me of mysterious persons who visited her.

Early in September I was informed that, as it had been found impossible to organize the projected expedition, and as the purchasers had not yet paid for the steamer City of Mexico, that vessel was about to be sold at public auction, and the result was that the said steamer was, early in October, reincorporated into the Alexandria Line, to which she had previously belonged, and was cleared by said company for a regular trip to Mexico.

In the latter part of October the Government of Honduras telegraphed to me to keep a watch on General Delgado, Colonel Morey, Mr. Ayestas, and a few other persons, who had then recently arrived in New York tor the purpose, as was sad, of promoting a revolution. In consequence of this order of my Government I employed detectives, from whom I learned that the aforesaid persons, under the leadership of Don Marco A. Soto, were really forming plans to get up another expedition against that Republic; and early in the present month I learned that the firm of A. D. Straus & Co. was again in treaty for the purchase of the steamer City of Mexico, and that it was intended to fit her out once more for a new expedition. I therefore redoubled my vigilance, and learned that the ownership of the said steamer had really been transferred to a Mr. Hollander, who was simply an agent for Messrs. A. D. Straus & Co., who were getting the steamer ready for a voyage. I afterwards found that the cargo which had been brought back by the steamer Dorian, and which was then in Beard’s storehouses in Brooklyn, was to be put on board of the City of Mexico, together with some small pieces of artillery and two steam-launches, and that an effort was being made to recruit two hundred men, who were ostensibly to be sent to work in the mines of Honduras, where they were to have constant employment.

This being the case, it seemed to me that the time had come when it was proper for me to take some official steps to prevent the now possible and even probable expedition from being successful through aid afforded it by the United States. I consequently addressed the New York custom-house authorities, requesting them, in virtue of the laws which prohibit the organization of such expeditions against friendly nations, to prevent the departure of that vessel. While things were in this condition I called on your excellency, in company with the minister of finance of the Republic of Honduras, who happened to be here at the time, and we gave your excellency an account of all that was going on. This had a good effect, and the expedition was apparently broken up in consequence.

It now appears, according to recent investigations made by me, that the steamer City of Mexico sailed for Progreso, Mexico, with a cargo of merchandise, and that the munitions of war above referred to, which were to be taken by the City of Mexico, have been taken by the steamer Andes, which is bound to Jamaica, and I am assured that this has been done in order that the steamer City of Mexico, on her return trip, may touch at Jamaica and there take those munitions on board, thence proceeding to her original place of destination.

For this reason I again address your excellency, begging you, if it is your desire and in your power once more to do something to prevent this expedition from reaching its destination, to do so, either by making representations to the authorities of [Page 54] the Island of Jamaica, or by causing the American vessels of war now stationed in the waters of the Antilles and Central America to he instructed to watch the said steamer. I ask this in view of the fact that the munitions in question left; a port of the United States and in consideration of the friendly relations existing between our two countries.

To this effect I have addressed the consular representatives of Great Britain and Mexico, asking them to use their good offices in Jamaica and at Progreso, and I have had the satisfaction to receive such replies from them as were to be expected from the representatives of nations which are on friendly terms with the Republic of Honduras.

I hope that the action taken by your excellency will likewise be favorable, and that you will issue suitable orders in the case, using your influence, as far as possible, to prevent the expedition in question from being successful. This, I trust, that you will do, to prevent the tranquillity of the country which I represent from being disturbed, and to forestall, as a humanitarian act, the effusion of blood which will naturally take place if the success of the expedition can in nowise be frustrated.

In the name of my Government I have the honor to express to you my deepest gratitude for the assistance which I have received from the customs authorities in New York, and I desire to express the same in advance for anything that you may be pleased to do in compliance with the request which I take the liberty to address to you by this communication, all of which I shall report in detail to my Government.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 325.]

Mr. Bayard to Mr. Baiz.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 24th ultimo relative to alleged revolutionary attempts which have been made, and are still being made, by certain individuals against the peace of Honduras. A copy of your letter has been given to the Attorney-General and the Secretary of the Treasury for their information.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 325.]

Mr. Bayard to Mr. Baiz.

Sir: In connection with my letter to you of the 7th instant, I have now to apprise you of the receipt of a communication from the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, of the 9th instant, saying that his Department will use all legal endeavors, through its collectors of customs, to prevent any violation of the neutrality laws on the part of any individuals against the Republic of Honduras.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 325.]

Mr. Baiz to Mr. Bayard.

Sir: I have the honor of owning the receipt of the communications of your excellency, dated 7th and 12th instant, and in reply beg to tender best thanks, in the name of my Government, for the efficient measures adopted towards preventing a violation of the neutrality laws on the part of any individuals against the Republic of Honduras, which I have the honor of representing.

I shall consider it my duty to inform your excellency of any new occurrences that may transpire, regarding the revolutionary movements in question, and remain, &c.

[Page 55]
[Inclosure 5 in No. 325.]

Mr. Baiz to Mr. Bayard.

No. 248.]

Sir: I have the honor of confirming my note to your excellency of 18th instant? and now beg leave to inclose a clipping from the New York Times of this date, relative to the movements of the American steamer City of Mexico, since she left this port last month.

Your excellency will observe that the revolutionary purpose for which said steamer was intended, and which was frustrated here, as explained in my communication to your excellency of 24th of December last, is apparently being carried out now, and consequently I beg leave to reiterate my request, contained in my stated note, that orders be transmitted to the United States war vessels stationed in those waters to watch the steamer City of Mexico, and prevent her from perpetuating any hostile acts against the Republic of Honduras, said steamer having left this port ostensibly for that purpose.

In behalf of the Government of Honduras that I have the honor of representing, I beg to anticipate my thanks to your excellency for whatever measures the United States Government may deem convenient to adopt in this matter, and remain, &c.,

[Inclosure 6 in No. 325.—Extract from the New York Times of January 26, 1886.]

wrecked on the honduras coast.

The steamship City of Dallas, Captain Read, from Puerto to Cortez, via Livingston and Belize, Honduras, with a cargo of tropical products, arrived this noon. She reports that the heavy norther which prevailed on the coast of Honduras on the 8th instant destroyed thousands of banana plants and drove ashore many small coasting vessels, among which were the Mississippi and Cold Stream, belonging to the American Fruit Company at Tela. The American steamship City of Mexico, from New York, touched of Belize on the 12th instant and took on board a number of political refugees from the Spanish American republics, and sailed to the eastward. The report of the arrival of the City of Mexico, with a filibustering crew, alarmed the people on the coasts of Guatemala and Honduras, and caused a general suspension of business, the banana negro laborers and the mahogany wood-cutters fleeing to the bush to avoid being pressed into military service.

[Inclosure 7 in No. 325.]

Mr. Baiz to Mr. Bayard.

No. 249.]

Sir: In confirmation of what I had the honor of reporting to your excellency in my communication of 26th instant, relative to the American steamer City of Mexico, I now beg to transmit, for the information of your excellency, the following extract from a letter of the commander of Puerto Cortes, Republic of Honduras, dated 18th instant, and which I received to-day. It says thus:

“City of Mexico arrived on 10th instant at Belize, and sailed on 12th for Bluefields. Delgado, Morey, and twenty-odd more filibusters on board. She is said to go from Bluefields to Kingston for arms. I am sorry they did not come here; should have given them a hot reception. If they come again, and I get sure information where they are, I shall start with 100 men for them. We want to stop this; the effect on business is very bad, though they cannot do any harm. We are everywhere prepared for them.”

The foregoing, which I submit for the consideration of your excellency, confirms the former reports regarding the hostile intentions of the American steamer City of Mexico, and in behalf of my Government I respectfully solicit that your excellency [Page 56] adopt such measures as may prevent the consummation of hostile acts against the Republic of Honduras by a vessel under the United States flag.

Anticipating my thanks to your excellency for kind attention to the matter at issue, I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 8 in No. 325.]

Mr. Bayard to Mr. Baiz.

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of the several communications which, in the absence of the diplomatic representative of Honduras, you have addressed to me under date of the 26th and 28th instant, relative to the movements of the steamer City of Mexico in the waters of Belize and Honduras.

It appears from your statements that the acts of which your Government complains were effected while the City of Mexico was within the jurisdiction of Great Britain.

It is said that the City of Mexico took on board, at Belize, certain persons hostile to Honduras, and carried them to Honduranean territory. It is immaterial to consider whether this act was a fitting out of a hostile expedition, for, even assuming it to have been such, the offense would be against the sovereign neutrality of Great Britain, to be dealt with by British law, and not punished by the armed hand of the United States.

I have no desire to prejudge any judicial resort which may be sought, should the City of Mexico or the persons carried by her come hereafter within the jurisdiction of the United States. I desire merely to establish the principle that this Government is under no obligation to follow the vessels rightfully bearing its flag into the ports of any foreign country there to enforce the laws of such country with respect to neutrality.

Of its determination to enforce the laws of the United States within the jurisdiction of the United States, to prevent the fitting out and departure of armed force against the peace of our neighbors, this Government has given abundant proof.

I am, &c.,