No. 132.
Mr. Roberts to Mr. Bayard.

No. 168.]

Sir: In dispatch No. 166, November 11, I had the honor to advise the Department that the cholera had re-appeared in Santiago, and that the Government of Colombia had closed her ports to vessels sailing from Chili. On the 16th instant I wired to you a dispatch reporting the closing of the ports of Colombia to arrivals from Chili; that the deaths in Santiago were but ten daily, the cholera being of a mild type, easily controlled, and that the action of Colombia appeared to be unwarranted by the facts and injurious to American interests, not justifiable, and should not be permitted to continue.

On the 23d instant I telegraphed you again to the effect that all Chilian ports were free from cholera, and that as Peru had refused to accede to the Colombian request that Peruvian ports should be closed against Chili, Panama refuses all communication.

And on the 29th as follows:

Bayard, Washington:
Peru closes ports.


I hesitated before sending the first dispatch, but believing the information of importance to the Government and perhaps to the public, I concluded to send it; my chief object, however, in cabling to you was the hope that the influence of the United States Government would be successfully exerted in preventing the Colombian Government from closing the port of Panama to vessels from Chili.

Not alone, however, has the Government of Colombia closed her ports to vessels from Chili, but she has succeeded in compelling Peru and Ecuador to pursue a similar policy, under the threat that a refusal on their part would be followed by a decree of prohibition such as that issued against Chili.

That the Government of Colombia would be justified in submitting vessels from Chili to quarantine regulations is beyond question, but the absolute prohibition of ships, merchandise, and even the mails, is without reason or justice, seeing that it takes twenty days to reach Panama by steamer from Valparaiso.

The steam-ship lines bound to run to Panama from the south coast will [Page 180] receive the subsidy of the Chilian Government as though they performed the service for which they are subsidized, as they are not responsible for the failure to perform their part of the contract, and it will simply transfer the commerce crossing the isthmus to their own steamers running to and from Europe 5 the gain therefore is altogether on their side and the losses altogether on ours. There are other influences which may also have operated, but I mention this one for your consideration.

The fact that cholera is likely to be an annual visitant of South America for years to come presents to the United States a very serious problem, as to whether the Government of Colombia shall at its discretion under some plausible pretext prevent free transit across the Isthmus of Panama whenever cholera, small-pox, or some other epidemic shall make its appearance on this coast. I am thoroughly of the opinion that other influences than sanitary ones have operated in the present case and may operate again, and we can not too soon meet this question, which so deeply concerns our interest and our prestige on this hemisphere.

I hope to have this dispatch taken by the City of Pueblo, that reached Valparaiso to-day and leaves to-morrow for San Francisco, Cal., in which case it will reach Washington, accidents excepted, within twenty-five days.

In future I may have my dispatches forwarded by way of Europe, as the surest and perhaps the swiftest route during the embargo at the isthmus.

As yet the deaths from cholera in Santiago are averaging about twenty daily. So far as known the disease has not increased since then throughout the country. About 30 per cent, of the persons infected die, and the number of deaths among the well-to-do classes is greater than it was at the beginning of this year, but there is an entire absence of the excitement and panic which were so general on its first appearance in Chili.

I have, etc.,

William R. Roberts.