to Mr. Buck.
Washington, October 8, 1888.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your No. 420 of the 7th ultimo, in which you inclose copies of correspondence with the minister of foreign relations of Peru, on the subject of the outrage upon Mr. V. H. MacCord in 1885.
Your note of the 3d ultimo to Mr. Alzamora is generally approved, but, for your guidance in the future, it is proper that the Department should state some qualifications of the doctrines you have announced on the subject of the liability of a Government for the acts of insurgents whom it could not control, and for the violence of mobs.
In respect of the latter, it is the doctrine of this Department that a Government can not be held to a strict accountability for losses inflicted by such violence. This subject has recently been discussed in the correspondence between this Government and that of China, in relation to the outrages inflicted upon Chinese subjects at Rock Springs and other places in the United States by bands of lawless men. While the United States have paid a considerable sum towards the relief of the unfortunate victims of these outrages, yet this has been done as an act of generosity and friendship, and not in pursuance of an acknowledged liability. The position of the Government was the same in reference to the attacks on the Spanish consulate in New Orleans, in 1850, to which you advert in your note to Mr. Alzamora as affording an acknowledgment of the liability of a Government for acts of mob violence towards foreigners. A full discussion of that incident will be found in the note of Mr. Bayard to Mr. Cheng Tsao Ju, of the 18th of February, 1886, published in Foreign Relations for that year.[Page 1378]
In regard to the question of the liability of a Government for the acts of insurgents whom it could not control, it may be admitted that there is some contrariety in the opinions the Department has heretofore expressed. But, while you cite to Mr. Alzamora the contention of his Government in regard to the liability of the United States for the destruction of a Peruvian ship by insurgents in the Chesapeake Bay, in 1862, it must also be remembered that the position the United States took on that subject was that such destruction having been effected by a sudden attack of insurgents which could not, by due diligence, have been averted, the Government of the United States was not bound to make indemnity.
On the whole, the Department has to commend the industry and care exhibited in the preparation of your note.
Inclosed herewith is a copy of a letter of the 2d instant, with accompanying papers from Mr. S. Newton Pettis, who has addressed the Department as counsel for Mr. MacCord.
I am, etc.,