Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Blaine.

No. 82.]

Sir: By constitutional provision, the national legislature of Venezuela is composed of two houses, one of senators and one of representatives. The senators are elected for the term of 4 years by the legislatures of the several States, each State being entitled to 3 senators and to an equal number of suplentes, or alternates. The alternates have no functions except in the case of death, inability, or absence of their principals. Only native-born citizens 30 years of age or upwards are eligible to either position. There are nine constituent States of the federal union, and consequently 27 senators and as many alternates.

The representatives are elected for 4 years by popular vote, and for this purpose there is no restriction of the suffrage, no qualifications other than age and sex. It is only necessary that the voter be a male citizen 18 years of age, and all persons born or naturalized in the country are citizens; so, too, are all residents who were born abroad of Venezuelan parents, and likewise all resident natives of other Spanish American countries who “manifest a desire to become citizens.” There is one representative and one alternate for every 35,000 inhabitants, and an additional member is allowed for every fraction of 35,000 over 15,000.

The meeting of the two houses takes place annually on the 20th of February, “or,” to adopt the language of the constitution, “as soon thereafter as possible.” The presence of two-thirds of each house is necessary to a quorum; but less than a quorum may organize as a “preparatory commission” and formulate measures for approval by a quorum of either house after organization. The organization is effected by the election of a presiding officer and subordinate officers, the appointment of standing committees, etc. The presiding officers of the senate and house are styled, respectively, “the president” and “vice president of Congress.” The sessions are open and public, but may be made secret by a majority vote in each house. All voting, whether in open or in secret session, is secret and by ballot. The constitutional limit of the session is 60 days, but may be extended to 90 by a majority vote in both houses.

The new Congress met in Caracas on the 20th ultimo. There being less than a quorum present, those who answered to their names organized themselves into a preparatory commission and proceeded to formulate business for the session. On the 25th, there being a quorum present, both houses were organized and the session formally declared open. On the 3d instant the President read his annual message (dated the 1st) to the houses in joint session.

The message (two copies of which I transmit under separate cover) is of great length and treats mainly of local and domestic matters.

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The President congratulates the country upon the fact that during the past year there has been a settled peace. There has been a grand “political transformation,” but without war or bloodshed, “without even riot or disorder of any kind.” He urgently recommends, however, that greater attention be paid to the coast defenses and to “the strengthening and improving of the military and naval forces:” says the financial condition of the country is satisfactory; that the interest on the public debt has been punctually paid and the debt itself materially reduced; and that, with the exception of the old difficulty with Great Britain, the relations of the Venezuelan Government with foreign powers are amicable and satisfactory. He expresses regret, however, that, in spite of the constant efforts made in London and in Washington looking to some just and satisfactory solution of the British Guiana controversy, nothing has been accomplished, and that the colonial authorities of Demerara are constantly encroaching upon Venezuelan territory.

Of the International Conference of American States now in session in Washington he says, “all the free states of both the Americas responded to the call of the great Republic, and it is hoped that a Congress, such as the world has never before seen, may be productive of beneficial results to all the countries represented:” and that “it is a consoling thought to see friendly arbitration gaining in favor as a means of settling international disputes.”

The reading of the message occupied nearly 3 hours, and was listened to with profound attention, with frequent applause from the galleries and from the benches of the members.

I have, etc.,

William L. Scruggs.