Mr. Abbott to Mr. Blaine.
Bgota , October 24, 1890. (Received November 22.)
Sir: In continuation of the question of the interpretation of section 10 of article in of the consular convention of 1850, which was the subject of my No. 120 of August 22 last, I herewith inclose a copy and translation of the minister’s reply to my note of August 22, which was forwarded to you as inclosure No. 5 in said dispatch.
In the Diario Oficial of August 24, which was distributed about September 1, appeared a “resolution” signed by the foreign minister in reply to an inquiry of the governor of Panama in relation to the “Smith case.” Reciting the arguments employed in inclosures No. 1 and No. 2 of my said No. 120, the “resolution” informs the governor that the proceedings of the judge of Colon have been in accordance with Colombian law, with the treaty with the United States, and with the principles of the law of nations. This conclusion is not so remarkable as the fact that the “resolution” was dated on the 19th of May and only published on the 24th of August.
About September 1 I received notice from the consul-general at Panama that the judge had “decided against us in the matter of Mrs. Smith’s estate,” and that the case had been referred to the superior tribunal at Panama. The consul-general furthermore asked if he “should or should not pay any attention to this case in court; any further.”
On September 5 I wrote to the consul-general that I thought he [Page 271] “must continue to answer all lawful summonses of the Colombian courts, depending for final success upon diplomatic action here,” and advising him to “keep a strict account of all your (his) expenses and losses.”
All these proceedings on the part of this Government seemed to me contrary to the understanding I had reached with the minister, as I explained in my No. 120 aforesaid.
Still, the minister had always been so absolutely straightforward, even in the most trivial matter, that I felt it his due to seek an explanation; and in the first week in September I called upon him for that purpose. He said that he fully understood that the houses in question were not to be sold until after we had reached a decision here, but that he could not “order” an absolute suspension of court proceedings, on account of the entire independence of the judiciary in respect of the executive department. He said that he was assured that no definitive action would be taken by the courts of the Isthmus until the result of the discussion here was reached, and that nothing had occurred that would prevent him from considering the question fairly and impartially. He furthermore said that he would write to the authorities of the Isthmus, asking that no decisive steps be taken in the “Smith case” until the result of our conferences should be ascertained.
The minister and myself have had several short informal conversations in regard to the subject under discussion, which have been unimportant, except as they indicate a desire on his part to consider the same in a conciliatory and friendly spirit. His constant duties in Congress and the general press of business have made it practically impossible for me to engage his serious attention. I have therefore not pressed the matter as diligently as I otherwise should have done, believing that it will be better to enter upon the serious discussion when the minister is not so preoccupied as he is at present.
I had hoped to report more progress in this matter before now, but believe that undue pressure just at this juncture would do no good. I trust that the Department will not think me negligent on account of the delay, which will be continued no longer than is deemed necessary.
I am, etc.,