No. 508.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps.

No. 791.]

Sir: I transmit herewith translation of a note received by me on the 15th instant, wherein the Venezuelan minister sets forth the information lately supplied to him, to the effect that the legislature of Demerara has recently asserted a claim to British jurisdiction over the gold-mining district of Caratal, on the headwaters of the Yuruari River, and that by a decree of the governor of British Guiana, dated December 31, 1887, formal denial is made of the validity of a grant by the Venezuelan Government for the construction of a railway from Giudad Bolivar to Guacipaté,

[Page [Map 1]] [Page []] [Page 699]

a city in the Caratal district, on the ground that it passes “in and over certain territories and lands within and forming part of the colony of British Guiana.”

No other foundation for the minister’s statement appears than the article in the Financier of January 24, to which Mr. Olavarria’s informant refers.

The Government of the United States has hitherto taken an earnest and friendly interest in the question of boundaries so long in dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela, and, so far as its disinterested counsels were admissible, has advocated an amicable, final, and honorable settlement of the dispute. We have followed this course on the assumption that the issue was one of historical fact, eminently adaptable for admitting arbitration, and that the territorial claims of each party had a fixed limit, the right to which would without difficulty be determined according to the evidence.

The claim now stated to have been put forth by the authorities of British Guiana necessarily gives rise to grave disquietude, and creates an apprehension that the territorial claim does not follow historical traditions or evidence, but is apparently indefinite. At no time hitherto does it appear that the district of which Guacipatí is the center has been claimed as British territory or that such jurisdiction has ever been asserted over its inhabitants, and if the reported decree of the governor of British Guiana be indeed genuine it is not apparent how any line of railway from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipatí could enter or traverse territory within the control of Great Britain.

It is true that the line claimed by Great Britain as the western boundary of British Guiana is uncertain and vague. It is only necessary to examine the British colonial office list for a few years back to perceive this. In the issue for 1877, for instance, the line runs nearly southwardly from the mouth of the Amacuro to the junction of the Cotinga and Takutu Rivers. In the issue for 1887, ten years later, it makes a wide detour to the westward, following the Yuruari. Guacipatí lies considerably to the westward of the line officially claimed in 1887; and it may perhaps be instructive to compare with it the map which doubtless will be found in the colonial office list for the present year.

It may be well for you to express anew to Lord Salisbury the great gratification it would afford this Government to see the Venezuelan dispute amicably and honorably settled, by arbitration or otherwise, and our readiness to do anything we properly can to assist in that end.

In the course of your conversation you may refer to the publication in the London Financier of January 24 (a copy of which you can procure and exhibit to Lord Salisbury), and express apprehension lest the widening pretensions of British Guiana to possess territory over which Venezuelan jurisdiction has never heretofore been disputed may not diminish the chances for a practical settlement.

If, indeed, it should appear that there is no fixed limit to the British boundary claim, our good disposition to aid in a settlement might not only be defeated, but be obliged to give place to a feeling of grave concern.

I append, for your information, a copy of the map recently printed, with the boundary correspondence, by Venezuela, on which are roughly penciled the situation of Guacipatí and the line of demarkation according to the colonial office list for 1887. The line for 1877 nearly follows that shown on the map as “Sir Robert Schomburgk’s line.”

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard .
[Page 700]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 791.—Translation.]

Mr. Olavarria to Mr. Bayard.

Excellency: I have just received from the legation of Venezuela in Paris the important dispatch which I have the honor to transcribe to your excellency, as follows:

Paris, February 3, 1888.

Sir: I send you, herewith inclosed, a cutting from the Financier, of London, the number for January 24. You will thereby see that the English invasions of Venezuelan territory not only continue but are being boldly extended, and are about to reach the territory of the Yuruari.

“On the 29th of November there was proposed to the colonial legislature of Demerara the construction of a railway which, crossing the Mazaruni and Cuyuui Rivers, will extend to the boundaries of the colony. In the course of the discussion it was said that the Yuruari district was included within those boundaries. It was the Queen’s proctor who alleged this and who demanded urgency in the consideration of the measure.

“By the inclosed paper you will perceive that the bill was approved; that an armed force has been dispatched to the Yuruari; and that no resistance was there apprehended, because the Venezuelan inhabitants barely reached one hundred in number, the rest being English. In the same paper is copied a decree of the governor of Demerara, dated December 31, 1887, denying the validity of a contract entered into by the Government of Venezuela for opening a railway from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipati. It thus appears that they content themselves with no less than the possession of the mining district of the Yuruari, as well as the Orinoco, not merely as far as the Amacuro, but up to Ciudad Bolivar. I deem it urgent that you should lay these facts before Mr. Bayard and represent to him the scandalous progress of the British usurpations in Venezuelan territory.”

With these facts before you your excellency must be convinced that the British Government in such proceedings follows a preconceived plan with the object of gaining possession in the shortest time possible of the whole of the territory of Venezuelan Guiana and of the most important of South America rivers.

Already this movement is no longer concealed under pretended boundary rights; it is no longer confined to the capricious lines mapped out by adventurous engineers upon the charts of that important region in obedience to the will which pays them. England has at last declared, emphatically that her rights are without limit and embrace whatever regions may be suggested to her by her insatiable thirst for conquest. She even goes so far as to deny the validity of railway grants comprised within territory where not even the wildest dreams of fancy had ever conceived that the day would come when Venezuela’s right thereto could be disputed.

The fact is, that until now England has relied upon impunity; she beholds us a weak and unfriended nation, and seeks to make the Venezuelan coast and territories the base of a conquest which, if circumstances are not altered, will have no other bounds than the dictates of her own will.

And I can see no reason for such indifference on the part of the sole Government to whom it belongs, if only for its own convenience, to put a stop to such pretensions. I do not see why we are to be denied the inestimable intervention which with such success has been vouchsafed to others. I again implore the Government of the United States, through your excellency, in the trust that this time, in view of the evident and shameless (descarada) intention of the English Government, your excellency will find it opportune and necessary to put an end to so great an abuse.

I renew, etc.,

J. A. Olavarria.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 791.—The Financier, Tuesday, January 24, 1888.]

the british guiana boundary question.

By advices just received from Demerara, regarding an official proclamation by the British Guiana Government, a copy of which we publish in another portion of our present issue, it would appear that the promoters and friends of the once illustrious and powerful General Guzman Blanco have met with a severe check in connection with their proposed railway from the Orinoco to the Yuruari district.

[Page 701]

The proclamation in question has not been arrived at without full and good consideration by Her Majesty’s Government, extending over a period which persons interested consider has been unduly prolonged. Such being the case, it is not likely, as a Georgetown contemporary states, that the Imperial Government, having arrived at certain conclusions, are otherwise than in earnest to settle once and for all this long-pending boundary question. The question has now remained in statu quo for nearly half a century, necessarily to the great detriment of the colony, and has retarded, as might have been expected, the internal growth and development of British Guiana. We need hardly say that the moving spirit in bringing all the facts to the knowledge of the British Government has been Mr. Hugh Watt, to whom, therefore, the colony are infinitely indebted for the happy issue which has been tardily but at last arrived at.

A review of the history of the colony since its formation in 1570 leaves, we think, no room for doubt that the Venezuelans have gradually extended their jurisdiction mile by mile to the south until they have become trespassers upon a large amount of British territory. That they should have done so is not astonishing, in view of the rich discoveries of gold which were made about 1870.

Since that date it has been amply proven by the large and increasing monthly exportation of gold which has taken place from Las Tablas, the shipping port heretofore for the Yuruari mines, that the region in question is one of the richest gold-producing territories in the world.

The town of Guacipati was formerly the seat of government, and is situated about 15 miles to the north of the Yuruari River. The British Government, therefore, apparently mean to lay claim to the line indicated by Humboldt, and which has since been ably advocated by Mr. Watt as the northwest boundary between British Guiana and the States of Venezuela.

The energetic action of the colony in dispatching an armed force is worthy of commendation, and we quite agree with a local contemporary, who states that no resistance need be feared, looking at the fact that hardly one hundred of the residents south of the Yuruari are Venezuelans, and that nearly all the better class of those as earnestly desire the change of rule as the British or German inhabitants. We understand that nearly all the mines in the district belong to English subjects, and with regard to the population, at least three-fourths, if not a larger percentage, are British subjects, the German element constituting a comparatively small section of the community, and a majority of those being store-keepers or their assistants. We notice that the colony have already taken active steps for the formation of a road to the Yuruari, and that the court of policy have unanimously approved the action.

It now, therefore, only remains to cement this connection by the establishment of railway and telegraphic communication with the mines, which will then place Demerara and the English mining properties, in which from first to last nearly ten millions of money have been sunk, in communication day by day with their superintendents and managers at the mines. It is hardly necessary to add that such communication will once and for all put an end to the difficulties which have arisen from time to time, owing to the fact that the managers at the mines are virtually their own masters, being under no adequate control, and as such were recognized by the Venezuelan code, which declined to recognize the proprietors of these mines, but looked to and held responsible exclusively the resident attorney, who was invariably the superintendent.

The New Chili Gold Mining Company, Limited.—A British Government proclamation.

We are informed by the secretary that this company have received the following telegram from the mines:

“Guacipati, fifth; 900 ounces; nineteen days’work; twenty-five stamps. Strike miners. Works stopped. Ackman.”

The agents at Trinidad add the following to the cablegram:

“Above was delayed. Letter 14th advises work resumed 16th. Harriman.”

The official memorandum states:

“The manager confirms the recent opinions he expressed with regard to the quartz, and in a private letter states that, provided sufficient miners can be obtained to raise quartz enough to keep the sixty stamps running, the return ought now to be as high as during any past period. The miners having again resumed work, there ought therefore to be no difficulty with regard to this.

“The mail just to hand being the mid-monthly mail, and leaving the mines a day sooner than was anticipated, the manager’s letter is a hurried one.”

And the secretary adds the following important intelligence:

“It will be gratifying information to the shareholders of this company to learn by a public proclamation to the following effect, the territory in which the mines are situated may now be looked upon as British property. This in time will have a revolutionizing effect upon all charges, connected with the mines, and, with the prospects [Page 702] at last before the company of good paying quartz, even under the old Venezuelan regime, the directors see no reason why this company should not shortly be fn a flourishing condition.

Copy of proclamation.

British Guiana:

“By his excellency Charles Bruce, esquire, companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, lieutenant-governor and commander-in-chief in and over the colony of British Guiana, vice-admiral and ordinary of the same, etc.

“Whereas it has come to the knowledge of the Government of British Guiana that certain concessions have been granted by the President and by and with the sanction of the Government of the United States of Venezuela, purporting to give and grant certain rights and privileges for constructing a railway to Guacipati, and in and over certain territories and lands within and forming part of the colony of British Guiana;

“Now, therefore, I do hereby intimate to all whom it may concern that no alleged rights purporting to be claimed under any such concession will be recognized within the said colony of British Guiana, and that all persons found trespassing on or occupying the lands of the colony without the authority of the Government of this colony will be dealt with as the law directs.

“Given under my hand and the public seal of the colony Georgetown, Demerara, this 31st day of December, 1887, and in the fifty-first year of Her Majesty’s reign. God save the Queen.

“By his excellency’s command.

George Melville,
Acting Government Secretary.