No. 139.
Mr. Roberts to Mr. Bayard.

No. 192.]

Sir: The President and cabinet returned to Santiago on the 1st of April, a special session of Congress having been called for the 2d to ratify an amendment to the constitution, permitting the free exercise of all religious creeds which was approved of three years previously by [Page 195] Congress, as required by the constitution. There was but one month remaining of the time in which it had to be ratified.

Scarcely had the discussion in Congress commenced when a rupture occurred in the cabinet. Señor Zañartu, minister of interior, resigned in consequence of some misunderstanding with the President. Within a few days the entire cabinet retired from office, and a few weeks more passed before a new cabinet was announced.

In the meantime the proposed amendment to the constitution was abandoned for the present. It is said that, in consideration of this, the church will reconsecrate the cemeteries and recognize the civil marriage laws.

As soon as I received official notice of the appointment of the new cabinet from Señor Demetrio Lastarria, the minister of foreign relations, I called to pay my respects, but he not being in his office, I then called upon President Balmaceda, who received me very cordially, as usual. I was accompanied by the secretary of legation, and Señor Quadra, minister of interior, was with the President and remained during the interview.

After some general conversation I said: “Mr. President, I called to pay my respects to the new minister of exterior, Señor Lastarria, at whose appointment I am very much gratified, but was not fortunate in finding him in his office. My intention was to have a conversation with him on the subject of the claims of American citizens resulting from the war with Peru. It was also my intention to mention the matter to your excellency, in order that you might learn directly the views of my Government, with the hope that the minister may be prepared to discuss the matter fully when I should have the honor to call on him for that purpose.

“The administration of President Cleveland,” I said, “has abstained from presenting these claims for consideration, from a desire not to embarrass the Government of Chili while negotiations were pending with European Governments for the settlement of similar claims, but now that these have terminated by settlement, my Government, naturally solicitous for the interest of its citizens, who for some time have been pressing their claims upon its attention, would like to negotiate for the appointment of a commission for their adjustment, believing also that such a settlement would promote the good relations existing between the two Governments.”

The President replied that he was very glad to hear what I said, but that tribunals were a very expensive means of settlement. I replied that I did not see how a convention for the settlement of our claims could be very costly; that our claims were few, and the gross amount was not large; the questions that would necessarily arise in their adjustment were not likely to lead to protracted discussion, and that for many reasons’, which doubtless the President could well understand, my Government preferred to settle them through a convention.

The President again repeated, “Tribunals are very costly.”

I said: “Mr. President, I hope before I leave Chili to be instrumental in settling all questions in dispute between the United States and Chili, so that there will be no questions pending which could possibly interfere with the continuance of the most cordial and friendly relations between the two countries.” To which he replied that he hoped it would be so.

I have, etc.

William R. Roberts.