No. 140.
Mr. Seibert to Mr. Bayard

No. 201.]

Sir: Since my last dispatch on the delays and irregularity of the mails from the United States, instructions Nos. 84, 85, and 86 from the State Department have been received. As each of these came by a different route, I will give the dates of receipt, etc., as a matter of information. No. 84, dated April 17, arrived at Buenos Ayres on May 29, as indicated by the post-office stamp on the envelope. On May 30 it was restamped for transmission, overland, to Chili, arriving at Los Andes, on this side of the mountains, on June 30, and the following day, July 1, at Santiago, seventy-five days after being mailed at Washington. Several other letters and a few newspapers were also received on that day. As instructions Nos. 81, 82, and 83 are wanting, as nearly all newspapers between the dates of April 7 and 27, it is supposed these are detained in the mountains, as it is known here that a number of mail bags with correspondence from the United States are snowed in and will arrive when the pass is again open.

No. 85, dated May 5, coming, as it appeared by the post-mark, by way of San Francisco, Cal., was received on July 5 (sixty-one days).

No. 86, dated May 10, via England, arrived here on the 15th instant (sixty-six days).

As the Panama route was known to be open in New York on June 1, as we are informed by a gentleman who left that city on the day mentioned, and arrived here the first week of this month, it is hoped that the mails for Chili have ere this been forwarded via Panama, as Minister Roberts, in his dispatch, No. 188, dated March 31, requested the mails to be sent via England only “as long as the Panama route was closed.”

It may be interesting to the Department to know the fate of five bags of correspondence which left Valparaiso for Central and North America, on January 29, 1887, just at the breaking out of cholera in Santiago, and did not reach their destination.

From the Consular correspondence “published in the Diario Oficial of the 12th instant (eighteen months after the occurrence) it appears that the authorities at Panama declined to receive the “mail bags and that the steamer Cordelia took them to Acajutla, Salvador; there the postmaster, after being unsuccessful to have them re embarked upon one of the Pacific mail steamers, carefully and solemnly “buried them in the bottom of the sea, and in the presence of many witnesses.”

The referred to article is inclosed herewith; It will be remembered that dispatches Nos. 118 and 119, January 27 and 28, 1887, as several other letters from this legation, were amongst the correspondence thus destroyed.

I have, etc.,

C. M. Seibert,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
[Inclosure in No. 201.—Extract from the Diario Oficial of July 12, 1888.]

The port of Pa mini a being closed to vessels from Chili, on account of the epidemic (cholera) winch prevailed in that country during the early part of the year 1887, the [Page 197] postmaster at Valparaiso availed himself of a trip made by an English steamer to the port of Sasn José de Guatemala for the purpose of sending correspondence, and to that end five mail bags, containing letters and printed documents for Central America, the Antilles, Mexico, the United States of America, etc., were placed on board of the said steamer (the Cordelia) on the 29th of January of that year.

As that port was likewise closed for the same reason, the said steamer delivered the correspondence in question to the post-office at Acajutla, Salvador.

Instructions were issued to the consul and postal agent of Chili at Panama to inquire what had become of that correspondence; and that officer addressed the postmaster of Acajutla, from whom he received the following reply:

Acajutla, April 23, 1886.

“I have received your very polite communication of the 5th instant, together with a duplicate of your letter of the 29th of October last, which, I regret to inform you, did not reach me, for what cause I know not. I therefore beg you to pardon my lack of attention in not replying to your aforesaid communication; believe me that if that communication had not been lost I should have regarded it as a great pleasure and a high honor to comply with your wishes, as I hereby do.

“The correspondence to which you refer and concerning which, through you, the postmaster at Valparaiso inquires, was delivered in this port by the captain of the steamer Cordelia to the agent of the Pacific Mail Steam-ship Company; this was not properly done, because the correspondence had been intrusted to the captain to be taken to San José de Guatemala in order that it might thus reach Panama; and as that correspondence came from a place where the cholora prevailed, my predecessor, in obedience to his duty, declined to receive it. The agent of the Pacific Mail Company did all in his power to get it placed on board of the steamers of the company which he represents in this port, but being unable to do so, he had recourse to my services when I took charge of this post-office; for that purpose he delivered to me the five mail-bags which I endeavored to place on board of one of the Pacific mail steamers, but after I had got them on board they were immediately returned, when it was found that they were from Chili. As I had unofficially taken charge of the correspondence in question, simply with a view to pleasing the agent, I was alarmed when I found that all the steamers of the line declined to receive it, merely on the ground that it was from Chili, in which country the cholera prevailed. I then realized the fact that I had taken a serious responsibility upon my shoulders, and desiring to meet that responsibility, I took the precaution to order that correspondence to be sunk to the bottom of the sea in the presence of many persons in this port.

“This measure seemed to me to be the most suitable, because, if I had endeavored to fumigate it, I should not have been able to do so without exposing the correspondence to violation, since it was not addressed to this country, and all the Republic might have become the victim of that scourge of mankind. Before taking this measure, I considered that the correspondence might be replaced, but that the victims to the disease, in case it broke out, could never be replaced. I thus reply to your two communications aforesaid, and with assurances of esteem and consideration, I take pleasure in signing myself

“Your obedient servant,

Antonio Ezeta.

“To the Consul and Postal Agent of Chili at Panama, United States of Colombia,