No. 1120.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Scott.

No. 156.]

Sir: I inclose copy of a dispatch from our consul at Puerto Cabello complaining that he has been prevented from going on board American vessels at that port by Government officials, unfurnished with a permit in writing from the collector of the port.

You are instructed to make a courteous application to the Government of Venezuela to permit by some general regulation the consuls of [Page 1641] the United States to visit vessels of their nationality in their official capacity without a special permit from the local authorities.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure in No. 156.]

Mr. Burke to Mr. Rives.

No. 58.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 28, of June 28, 1887, I had occasion to make complaint and enter protest against a certain official at this port for preventing my going aboard one of the American steamers without a written permit from the collector of the port; though from a reading of the dispatch referred to, you will observe I had verbal permission from General Arismendi, then collector, to go on board any American steamers whenever I chose or official duty called me. The official who stopped me on the gangway at that time knew of this fact. I now make a like complaint and enter a like protest for a like reason against such law or regulation as is in force at this port, and other ports throughout the country, so far as their application to a representative of the United States Government is concerned. On Friday last, November 24, while going on board the steam-ship Philadelphia of the “Red D Line,” I was stopped by a custom-house official and told I would not be allowed to pass without a permit (written) from the collector of the port, though, as in the case referred to in dispatch No. 28, the recently appointed collector, Mr. Coronado, when courtesy compelled me to apply to him for a permit to discharge official duty on an American steam-ship, told me it was not necessary; I might feel at liberty to go on board any of the steam-ships at any time, when I chose. After the refusal by the custom-house official on Friday last to allow me to pass, I did not seek to obtain a written permit from the collector of the port; nor do I intend to do so, at least till hearing from the Department on the subject.

In reply to my dispatch No. 28, instructions No. 18, of July 19, 1887, Hon. James D. Porter, then Assistant Secretary of State, says:

“The regulation referred to is not in violation of the rules of international law which, in the absence of a treaty, govern our intercourse with Venezuela. You will have, therefore, to rely on the courtesy of the port officials for exemption from this restriction.”

In this case the order prohibiting any person from going on board without a permit, or those on board, Americans and others, from leaving the ship without a like permit, came from the Government at Caracas, I am informed. Why? Because, as one of the officials stated to me, the political affairs of the country looked serious. And because the political affairs wear a serious look I can be prevented from discharging my official duty. Why should the seriousness on the political countenance of the country affect me? I had no word, nor hand, nor act, nor part in such an unusual thing as forcing the face of Venezuelan politics to assume so serious and so grave a look.

I am neither urging those who hold the reins of government to cling to them, nor aiding the party out of power to seek to upset the Government coach and in the general confusion to grasp these reins, if possible, and hold them for the next two years.

I have no further interest in the candidates or the party than the desire every good citizen of a Republic like ours should have to see this country so governed as to develop most rapidly its great resources and advance the people in moral, intellectual, and material prosperity. Because the President of this Republic suspects of being on board an American steamer a Venezuelan citizen who is regarded by him, at least is said to be, as revolutionary, because he, this Venezuelan citizen, is also a candidate for President, this appears to me no just reason why a representative of the United States Government should be reduced to the condition of a suppliant entreating a port official to grant him a permit to discharge a duty that no man or no government should attempt to prevent him from discharging, at least so long as the country in whose harbor the American ship is anchored is at peace with other countries and the normal state of things exists within the confines of the country itself.

There is no reason for such an act, especially as I have treated all the officials with courtesy and civility, and have engaged in no other business but that of a strict performance of my duty in such a manner as to offend no one, and personally have so conducted myself as to be above and beyond reproach.

There have been at least four different collectors appointed for this port during the past fifteen months. The next few months may bring a more abundant crop of changes. Now, the same humiliating courtesy in the matter of discharging one’s official [Page 1642] duty on board an American steam-ship must be sought from each new appointee under the present law of this country and the port regulations. The representative of a great government like ours, in the performance of official duty under such regulations, is not only subject to a capricious government or an arbitrary executive, but also to the fancy of every new custom-house official. Clearly the fault lies not with the officials, but with the law or regulations.

The law should be such that neither government whim, executive order, nor any condition, no matter how irregular, of mind or of body of any official, could have the power to prevent a representative of the United States from going on board an American ship in the discharge of his official duty as long as such representative does not step outside the line of that duty.

Without pursuing the matter further, I beg to submit is not this a question the United States Government should adjust in such a way that its legally-appointed representative should not be, except through his own misconduct, subjected to whatever discourtesy, affront, or insult any port official may feel disposed to offer, and be compelled to accept as a special favor what should be demanded as a right, viz, the going aboard of an American ship whenever required to discharge an official duty? Awaiting your instructions, I have, etc.,

David N. Burke,