No. 558.
Mr. Buck to Mr. Bayard.

No. 171.]

Sir: I have received Department’s No. 97, of September 23, 1886, and I have to report that Congress, on the 24th instant, passed an act similar to the one referred to in that number, annulling all the interior acts of the Pierola and Iglesias Governments. I inclose a newspaper copy of the act, not yet signed or officially published, and translation. As the President has not the veto power, the signing and putting into effect is perfunctory.

The President has also signed the act annulling the Darsena contract. * * *

It will be observed the terms of the general act, referring to the Pierola and Iglesias Governments, at least ostensibly, are sweeping in their effect, and how far the act may reach, and whether it will affect foreign interests generally, will depend upon the construction given it. * * *

I concluded that I had best put into writing the substance of what I had to say to the minister of foreign relations on the subject. This I did, heading it “Memorandum,” as see copy herewith sent; and when I met him yesterday evening, per appointment, I had it read to him, and then left with him a copy. He said that the general principles announced were correct, and no one with the least knowledge of international law would deny them; but as no American interest was as jet infringed, he thought it premature that I should pass to him the [Page 923] note. I replied that the act of Congress was in its terms general and sweeping, and I thought my Government desired that he should be advised of its view of the international principles involved in the abstract; but since he had expressed full agreement with the views I had presented, I did not demand an answer, but would leave the paper as a “memorandum” of what I had said, so he might have it translated at his leisure, and I should send a copy to Washington, in a report to my Government. He then again expressed agreement with the general principles; but said he would reserve the right to reply if it should seem proper upon more careful consideration, but thanked me for relieving him of the necessity of answering. The whole interview, as was the previous, was perfectly agreeable and cordial.

After my interview of Monday my colleagues of England, France, Germany, and Brazil called to see and consult with me relative to the proper course, in view of the action of Congress, whether there should be joint diplomatic expression or not. I advised that I thought joint expression was not required; that I had already myself seen the minister of foreign affairs and should, perhaps, embody my views in a “memorandum.”

But the French minister afterwards asked General Salazar, the dean of the diplomatic corps, to call a meeting of the body, which he did for yesterday evening. I then expressed to my colleagues, collectively, the view somewhat more strongly, which I had previously presented at my own house, that it did not seem to me advisable that there should be joint expression; indeed, that I had taken such separate action as I thought best, and had an engagement for a future personal interview, made at the minister’s request, and I could neither join in a united expression nor permit any one else to speak for my Government in the premises; that I thought it would both be more friendly to the Government here, and more effective that each representative should act separately, according as the interests and the views of his Government should suggest.

So, when the question was put, whether it was proper that there should be joint diplomatic action, it was unanimously determined in the negative.

However, the English minister had already directed a note to the Government here, stating that England would never admit the non-responsibility of the present Government of Peru for the acts of its predecessors, and he sent a long cablegram to London announcing the fact.

The French minister had also addressed a short note to the Government here.

The Spanish minister had presented his views in a personal interview, and the German minister had expressed some intention of doing likewise, and the Chilian minister cabled for instructions.

But I think there is no difference of opinion among the members of the corps concerning the principle of responsibility. It did not seem to me worth while to cable at a considerable cost, as I know no immediate necessity for doing so.

I have, etc.,

Chas. W. Buck.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 171.—Translation.—From “The Commercial,” October 25, 1886.]

All the governmental interior acts proclaimed by Messrs. Nicolás de Piérola and Miguel Iglesias are declared null, and the latter shall be held responsible according to the military and civil laws. (Sitting of the 24th October, 1886.)

[Page 924]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 171.]

Mr. Buck to Mr. Ribeyro.

Mr. Minister:

In view of the recent action of the Peruvian Congress, declaring null all interior acts of certain Governments anterior to the present, recognized by foreign nations; and in consideration of the fact that what were internal acts and what were acts affecting foreign interests may become, under the said action of Congress, matters for executive or judicial construction, I think it proper to advise your excellency of the view entertained by my Government relative to the principles Of international law involved, so far as they may affect the interests of United States citizens vested under obligations incurred by the Governments of Peru referred to.

For the greater part of the several years since 1879, the Piérola or Iglesias Government was recognized by foreign powers as the lawful government of this country, and throughout that long period of national strife and varying fortunes which happily terminated in the national peace of last December, when the diplomatic representatives of foreign nations in this capital, prompted by the desire to stay the shedding of fraternal blood, exercised their intermediary good offices in bringing about a peace, under which Generals Iglesias and Cáceres mutually manifesting “there should reign in all political parties complete oblivion of past differences, leaving neither conquerors nor conquered, but Peruvians, bound by the indissoluble tie of love of country” (seethe act signed by General Cáceres and the members of the diplomatic corps in the building of Congress of this capital, on the 2d of December, 1885), and under which previously contending parties transferred their powers and arms into the hands of the provisional government, under whose auspices the present executive and legislative powers of this country were elected and installed. During all that anterior period, the United States, in company with other nations diplomatically represented in Peru, acted upon the principle of recognizing that political organization which manifested the ability to maintain international and commercial relations “with foreign countries.

The acts of such a government are universally considered binding upon the nation it represents.

This view is considered undeniable from an international standpoint, even when change in the essential form of government is involved, and it applies with greater force still when the change is only in the personnel of the government.

Foreign cabinets can not, as a rule, pass judgment upon questions which may divide a people as pertaining to their internal political condition, nor become partisans in the rights or the wrongs involved in the local political issues of other countries, nor can they question the motives that produce results without also questioning the capacity of a people to influence their own conditions and destinies; they can only accept facts as they appear.

The interests of recognizing nations, as well as both the interest and dignity of the nation recognized, demand this.

Obligations affecting foreign interests, incurred by a government which has been able to secure general recognition from the nations with which it maintains diplomatic and commercial relations, and contracts made by it, in accordance with the then existing laws of the country, are to be regarded as the obligations of the people it represents, and not as the personal engagements of the rulers.

The latter may change with the currents of popular impulses, with the ebb and flow of varying influences, and the mutations of public opinion, or with the fluctuation of circumstances, or with the fortunes which a people may suffer or create for themselves, but the people remain bound.

It results, as I think your excellency will see, that my Government could not consent that the interests of her citizens should be prejudiced through the instrumentality of decrees, whether they be legislative or executive, which proceed merely upon the assumption that some former government which has been internationally recognized as the lawful Government of Peru, was not such government.

I do not anticipate that the action of the Peruvian Congress will be construed to have held in its contemplation a disclaimer or repudiation of responsibility for the acts of any former duly recognized government, as affecting the interests of United States citizens.

But it seems to me proper the present Government of Peru should understand the views, based upon international principles, which have actuated the United States Government in its relations with this Republic, and the bearing of those views upon the interests of United States citizens.

With this frank and friendly presentation of what I understand in this connection to be the position of my Government, I take pleasure in presenting again to your excellency, etc.,

Csas, W, Buck.