No. 49.
Mr. Trail to Mr. Bayard .

No. 72.]

Sir: Herewith is inclosed a brief report upon Brazilian foreign aft fairs for the year 1886.

I have, etc.,

Charles B. Trail.
[Page 55]
[Inclosure in No. 72.]

brazilian foreign affairs, 1886.

The year 1886, while not affording matter of striking moment as regards this Empire touching her exterior relations, yet “gives us several subjects worthy of mention.

As diplomatic action in South America is largely engaged in the presentation and management of claims, I briefly outline the following:

The French passenger steamer La France, or Marseilles, on December 30, 1885, entered the bay of Bahia, and being signaled to stop by the national gun-boat for the purpose of undergoing sanitary inspection before proceeding to her anchorage, disregarded the signal, whereupon the gun-boat fired two blank charges at her. This warning likewise receiving no attention, the fort of Gamboa gave her two shots, one of which struck her on the prow, killing a passenger, an Italian. The French Government, on behalf of the owners of La France, sent in a claim for damages caused by the cannon-ball fired from the fort, and proposed to the Imperial Government that in the future the firing of ball be discontinued, substituting for this fines graded to suit the gravity of the case. It was alleged by the captain of the packet that the first signal was not given; that the two blank shots were supposed to come from a man-of-war at gun practice, and, finally, that his vessel had a clean bill of health, and did not come from an infected port. Brazil replied that the damage done the vessel and the death of the passenger were the result of systematic disobedience of port regulations on the part of commanders of foreign packets, and of utter disregard for the signals from the gun-boat, which were duly given in the case; that the only way to prevent the introduction of disease from foreign ports was to subject vessels coming from those ports to rigid inspection before entering the inner harbor, and the only way to compel them to stop, when they disregarded the signals, was to fire on them with shot. The claim of the Italian Government in behalf of the family of the passenger killed was likewise rejected. Claims made by English companies for firing upon their vessels under circumstances similar to the above were not entertained by the foreign office.

Of a different nature was the reclamation of the Waring Brothers (English) for the payment of an indemnity due them from Brazil caused by rescinding the Victoria and Natividade Railroad contract made with them in 1882. Waring Brothers are railroad contractors, and were employed by the Brazilian Government to survey and commence work upon a road the Government proposed constructing. They had scarcely begun when the Government concluded that a railroad in that locality was uncalled for at the present time, and so decided to abandon the work. The contract with the Warings was rescinded, and to indemnify them a decree was had fixing their loss at £70,000, which they accepted. This decree was of April, 1885. In September of the same year this decree was revoked by a law (No. 3271), which stated that the rescission of the contract in question needed the approval of the legislative power. In other words, the Chambers did not regard the Imperial decree as binding upon them, but proposed to investigate the matter and consider it de novo. The Warings applied to their Government for assistance at this stage of affairs, and Her Britannic Majesty minister in their behalf insisted, that the Imperial decree must be made good.

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[Page 56]

The Brazilian minister of foreign affairs, being interpellated while the Chambers were in session, advised the payment of the stipulated sum. His view of the matter prevailed, and the sum was paid.

* * * * * * *

On September 22d ultimo, notice was given by Brazil that the consular convention existing between her and Great Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland would cease to be of effect on and after September 22, 1887. The convention with Belgium expires September 4, 1888; the treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with Paraguay, in May, 1890. As the subjects of foreign countries, for the most part, retain their original nationality after settling in this Empire, and living in colonies, upon their decease their estates are administered upon by their respective consuls, acting as surrogate or probate judges. Such estates, after September next, will have to pass through the national courts, as do those of American decedents, and the fees incident to the administration of the same—in alia very considerable sum—will be collected and retained by Brazilian officials.

With her surrounding neighbors Brazil had no serious trouble the past year. The commission to locate the rivers which form the subject of the boundary dispute between this country and the Argentine Republic commenced their preliminary work, and the mobilization of the Imperial army on the southern frontier near the territory in litigio had no serious result. A revolution having broken out in that unfortunate Republic of Uruguay, Brazil announced her determination to observe a strict neutrality. * * * The leader of the revolution party, General Arredondo, was encouraged in his scheme by the Argentines, and formed his army on their soil. The so-called dictator, Santos, however, managed to keep the national army on his side, and the insurgents, being practically without arms, were soon overcome. Arredondo tied into Brazil, but by the time he reached Rio last year Santos magnanimously set at liberty all the prisoners and declared a general amnesty. The whole affair was a matter of less than six months duration.

* * * * * * *

Our manufacturers complain because the balance of trade between ns and South America is in favor of the latter. Now, this enormous difference is caused solely by our Brazilian trade. Our importations and exportations with the five Republics just about balance.

The Jornal de Comercio of Rio de Janeiro is the leading newspaper of South America. From an editorial of January 5, 1887, I take the following:

What we observe particularly * * * is the necessity of drawing closer the bonds between the different nations of this continent. The Chilian press, one of the best instructed in this part of America, occupied itself the latter months of the year with the necessity of celebrating treaties of commerce between the countries of South America, and expressed the suitableness of forming an union of the custom-houses (union aduaneira) for the free exchange within the continent of its products. The press of the Argentine Republic and of the United States discussed the project of a Latin-American congress, to be held in Washington, with the object of consulting about the better reciprocity of advantages and interests of the different states. This new affair is made important from the coming of the North American commission to South America, where they visited various capitals and entered into relations with the Governments, and it caused sufficient impression in Europe, being principally treated of by the French papers. Our neighbors of the Plate consider the project as merely ah Utopian one, and though they won by their kind reception the good graces of the commissioners, they do not believe that important and lasting conventions can result from the congress which is to adjust valuable and reciprocal interests.

According to the version of the Tribuna Nacional, of Buenos Ayres, the United States Government proposes to convoke in Washington, in October of 1887, delegates from the different states of the American continent, with the exception of Canada, for [Page 57] the purpose of opening a congress which will have for its object the study of all the questions which tend to the increase of the commercial relations and to the common prosperity of the American states. Last June Mr. Frye introduced a bill which was approved by the American Senate for the purpose of stimulating this initiative. On the 7th of July,* 1886, the Congress named a commission composed of four members to examine and propose the measures opportune for increasing the commercial importation between the United States and South America. This commission, before undertaking its excursion abroad, commenced its labors by visiting all the commercial and industrial centers of North America to observe and hear the opinions of their fellow citizens. To complete their investigations the members of the commission, traveled through Mexico, Central America, Ecuador, Chili, Uruguay, and to finish visited the Argentine Republic, although only hastily. They were sorry that the brevity of the time at their disposal prevented them from traveling over Brazil. On this excursion they gathered abundant data and agreed upon the suitableness of ail the states of the South (America) sending delegates to the Washington congress.

In the bulletin of the Merchants’ Exchange of Paris (Lo boletin da camara syndical dos negociantes de comissiões de Paris) it was said that Chili did not ratify the ideas of the Washington cabinet. Peru demanded absolute reciprocity. Ecuador conceives that she can not cut off her customs duties, which are the chief revenue of the state. Venezuela stated she was negotiating treaties with the European nations. The Argentine Republic and Uruguay exacted the introduction of their wool free of duty into the United States. In this manner only the states of Central America agreed to the proposals of the agents of the American Union.

Charles B. Trail.
  1. 1884.