Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Blaine.
Caracas , June 7, 1890. (Received June 20.)
Sir: A special commissioner of the Venezuelan Government to that of British Guiana has just returned hither after an extensive tour of observation through the territory recently occupied by the British colonial authorities of Demerara. He reports the occupation as “a fact, formally and fully accomplished.” The governor of Demerara told him plainly that, “although Venezuela claimed this territory, it would never be given back.” The position and extent of this territory is fully shown in my Nos. 98 and 100 of April 25 and May 3 last.[Page 781]
According to the commissioner, the transformation plete. In 1883 “there was not a sign of human habitation” between the Rivers Barima and Amacura. “Now there are upwards of fifty English settlements, all in a most flourishing condition.” The soil is of inexhaustible fertility, admirably adapted to sugar and cotton culture, and the forests abound with richest and rarest cabinet and dye woods. The British have established a port of entry and a number of large warehouses at Barima Point, “thus affording increased facilities for smuggling European goods into the Venezuelan coast and river ports.”
In other portions of the disputed territory rich gold mines have been recently discovered and opened. These are worked at comparatively small expense and “yield enormous profits.” Hence, owing to the excitement thus caused and the extraordinary inducements held out to immigrants, the country is being rapidly settled up.
The Indians of the far interior receive special attention from the Demerara government. They are encouraged to visit and trade with the new settlements. They are not required to pay taxes or port dues of any kind, and when they visit the settlements they are protected from “sharpers” by a special police force, whose business it is to “see that they are not cheated.” They seem greatly pleased with these attentions, and already a profitable trade has sprung up between them and the new settlements. They are acquiring the English language and seem contented and happy in their new relations.
The trade between the new settlements and Demerara has already become quite extensive and is daily increasing. It is carried on by means of small coasting and river steamers, operating under subsidies from the British and colonial governments, and, to adopt the language of the commissioner, the rich valleys of the Pumaron, Guaima, Barima, and Amacura “have become the granaries of British Guiana.”
Acting under instructions from his Government, the commissioner made formal written protest against all these encroachments, and against the exercise of any and all British authority in the territory named; but little or no attention was paid to it.
In this connection I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your instruction No. 85, dated the 19th May, inclosing copy of Mr. Lincoln’s No. 229 of the 5th, in which he reports his conversation with Lord Salisbury in regard to the renewal of diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Venezuela and the settlement of the boundary dispute by arbitration. I have taken the liberty to communicate, informally, the substance of Mr. Lincoln’s dispatch to the Venezuelan minister for foreign affairs.
I have, etc.,