No. 509.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Phelps.

No. 798]

Sir: With reference to previous correspondence concerning the boundary question pending between Great Britain and Venezuela, I now inclose herewith for your confidential information a copy of my note of the 18th instant to Mr. Olavarria on the subject, and a translation of his reply thereto of the 20th instant.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 798.]

Mr. Bayard to Señor Olavarria.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 15th instant, in which you communicate to me information furnished to you by the Venezuelan legation at Paris, to the effect that the legislature of Demerara has recently asserted a claim to British jurisdiction over the country along the Yuruari River; and that by a decree of the governor of British Guiana dated December 31, 1887, denial is made of the validity of a grant by the Venezuelan Government for the construction of a railway from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipati, a city in the Caratal mining district, on the ground that the road in question passes “in and over certain territories and lands within, and forming part of, the colony of British Guiana.”

No other foundation for the statement made to you by the representative of Venezuela, at Paris, appears than the article in the London Financier of January 24, of which you give me a copy. If you have any further information touching the railway grant mentioned, showing whether the projected road runs only from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipati, or branches eastward from the latter point, it might aid in rightly understanding the claim now put forth by the authorities of British Guiana.

[Page 703]

Meanwhile I have deemed it proper to send a confidential copy of your note and its inclosure to the United States minister in London, in order that, with fuller information, he might continue to urge an amicable settlement and be better enabled to continue his disinterested representations to secure abstinence from unjust or injurious proceedings by the British Government against the interests or jurisdiction of the Eepublic of Venezuela.

Accept, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 798.—Translation.]

Mr. Olavarria to Mr. Bayard.

Excellency: I have had the honor to receive your excellency’s note dated the 18th instant, in which, while acknowledging the receipt of mine of the 15th of the same month, your excellency is pleased to request of me any other information I may possess touching the grant of the projected railway from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipati which may help to a better understanding of the objection raised by the authorities of British Guiana.

I have likewise read with the greatest thankfulness—a sentiment which I have the honor to express to your excellency in the name of my Government as well as in my own—the information you are pleased to give me that you have instructed his excellency the minister of the United States in London in the sense that he is to endeavor to bring about a friendly settlement, and to continue his disinterested offices to insure the cessation of unjust and prejudicial proceedings on the part of the British Government against the interests and the jurisdiction of the Republic of Venezuela.

The grant for the railway from Ciudad Bolivar to Guacipati does not fix in advance the line of transit, but it is enough to cast a glance at the map of Venezuela to be immediately convinced that the natural line can not embrace any part of the territory of British Guiana, even accepting as legitimate the most advanced frontier line of the three which have been claimed in succession by the British Government from 1840 to 1881.

The grant in question is one to private individuals, who will certainly have no intention, in undertaking the work, to deviate from the most direct and nearest line to the prejudice of their own interests, since nothing else can enter into their calculations than the reduction, as far as possible, of the distance and the cost of the work.

This is why attention is being drawn to the claim of invaded rights put forth by the authorities of British Guiana, a claim that can spring from no justified right, but rests solely on the very recent pretension of extending their frontiers far enough to enable them to seize the rich mining region of the Yuruari. All the steps and invasions of the usurper lead to this end, and only thus can be explained the circumstances of his attempting in advance to judge of a grant so far away from his borders that the act can only be regarded as a confirmation of his new usurpation. And thus will he continue, your excellency, to advance more and more, day by day, ever claiming to be within his boundaries.

Disastrous and fatal consequences would ensue for the independence of South America-if, under the pretext of a question of boundaries, Great Britain should succeed in consummating the usurpation of a third part of our territory and therewith a river so important as the Orinoco. Under the pretext of a mere question of boundaries, which began on the banks of the Essequibo, we now find ourselves on the verge of losing regions lying more than five degrees away from that river; and under the same pretext a stride has been made from Cape Nassau to the seizure of the island of Barima at the mouth of the Orinoco.

I greatly rely on the friendly and disinterested offices of the Government of the United States of but in the supposition that the British Government will continue to regard the case as a simple question of frontiers, and will keep on protesting that she is operating within her territory, it occurs to me to respectfully suggest to your excellency that the opportunity has come for the Government of the United States, in view of the recent occurrences, to regard the question under a different aspect which will allow of a speedy and definitive settlement through the means of its effective intervention. I am sure that its authoritative voice would be heard with respect.

With the assurance etc.,

J. A. Olavarria.