Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Blaine.

No. 98.]

Sir: The recent occupation by a British police force of a large area of territory south and west of the limits hitherto claimed by England as the boundary of her Guianian possessions is creating grave apprehensions in Government circles here.

It will be remembered that Venezuela has steadily maintained, since 1836, that the Essequibo River is the limit of British possessions. It will be remembered also that in the earlier stages of this controversy England claimed only to the Pumaron. Subsequently she extended her claim westward to the Gulf of Morajuana and southward to the River Guaima. Later on, taking advantage of the unsettled political condition of the country, she further extended her claim, first to the River Barima, then to Braza Barima (including the fertile island of that name), and finally southward up the main channel of the Orinoco delta, as far as the Amacura, the starting point from westward of what is known as the “Schomburgk line.”

This line extends in general direction southeastward to the Otomonga, near its junction with the Cuyuni, between the sixtieth and sixty-first meridians; thence southward in general direction to the head waters of the Uriman, or Little Coroni (one of the navigable affluents of the Orinoco), between the sixty-first and sixty-second meridians; thence [Page 779] northward to the junction of the Maju and Tacutu Rivers, tributaries of the Braneo; and thence eastward along the margin of the Tacutu and beyond its source to the head waters of the Essequibo.

Never, I believe, until quite recently has England claimed this line as the southern boundary of her colonial possessions. On the contrary, she has more than once explicitly disclaimed any such pretension. Yet she now not only occupies the entire territory north of this line, but has taken possession of large districts south of it More than this, she now lays claim to almost the entire territory north of the Oaroni and east of the Orinoco below the mouth of the Oaroni. This includes, of course, the vast territory of Yuruary, wherein are situated the rich and productive gold mines of Oaratal and Oolloa.

Of course, the Venezuelan Government is not prepared to resist these bold encroachments; otherwise they would hardly be attempted. The Government here has been endeavoring for more than 6 mouths past to reëstablish diplomatic relations, restore the status quo of 1886, and have the question of boundary referred to arbitration, but without the slightest prospect of success. The British Government makes it a condition that Venezuela relinquish her claim to all territory north of the Schomburgk line, and that arbitration be limited to disputed territory south of that line.

Hence the difficulty in the way of reëstablishing diplomatic relations, of restoring the status quo, and thus bringing about a permanent adjustment by means of friendly arbitration. It can now be done, I apprehend, only by the friendly intervention of some neutral power which England respects.

I have, etc.,

William L. Scruggs.