Señor Pedro Montt to Mr. Blaine.


Sir: I have received from my Government various documents relative to the unfortunate occurrences which took place in Valparaiso on the 16th of October last between sailors belonging to the Baltimore [Page 327] and Chilean sailors, and, as you have expressed a desire to read them, I take pleasure in furnishing them to you. The documents which I have the honor to send you are the following:

A.—Reply of the minister of foreign relations of Chile, dated October 26, to the note addressed to him on the day previous by the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Santiago, relative to the occurrences which took place at Valparaiso on the 16th of that month.

Señor Matta, among other things, says in his reply to Mr. Egan that, immediately after the unfortunate affair of October 16, the judicial authorities instituted legal proceedings against the parties who were responsible for the offenses committed on that day, which was known to the commander of the Baltimore. He promises to inform Mr. Egan of the result of the investigation when it shall have been concluded, and states that, out of regard for the harmony which it is his duty and his desire to maintain between the United States and Chile, he passes in silence over the improper expressions used by Mr. Egan in certain portions of his note.

B.—Note of October 22, from the criminal judge of Valparaiso to the intendente of the province, who transmitted it to the commander of the Baltimore, and to which reference is made in the aforesaid note of Señor Matta. In this note of October 22 the criminal judge requests the intendente of Valparaiso to inform the commander of the Baltimore that the preliminary examination concerning the affair of October 16 has been nearly concluded.

C.—Note of October 30, addressed by Señor Matta to Mr. Egan. In his note of October 26 Mr. Egan made grave charges against the police of Valparaiso and called their action cowardly and brutal. Señor Matta, after making inquiry of the intendente of Valparaiso, informs Mr. Egan, under date of October 30, that the disorder began at about 6 o’clock p.m., in a quarter of the city inhabited by low people, where liquor shops and sailors’ boarding houses are numerous. The intendente was notified at about a quarter past 6, and he immediately gave orders, by telephone, for a sufficient force to proceed without delay to the spot in order to put down the riot. This was done, and when the police arrived, which was at about half past 6 o’clock, the mob had increased to about 1,000 people, extended from Echaurren Square to the passenger wharf, and formed a genuine battlefield, in which all, including the American sailors, were fighting with stones, sticks, and swords.

The police and soldiers did nothing more than quiet the tumult, arrest those who were most drunken and most riotous, and disperse the crowd. An hour after the disturbance had commenced, everything was quiet and the parties arrested had been turned over to the criminal court.

When the police began to arrive at Echaurren Square, a shot from a gun or pistol was heard behind the captain who commanded them. The captain turned and saw a sailor from the Baltimore fall, having received a wound in the neck. The shot had doubtless been fired from a large group of persons standing near. The officer dismounted from his horse, took care of the wounded man, had him carried into the nearest drug store, kept by Mr. Guzman, so that his first wants might be attended to, and afterwards sent to the hospital. Unfortunately he died on the way.

The local authorities could not have done more than they did on the occasion of this unfortunate affair.

Thirty-one American sailors and several Chileans were taken before the judge. More than 100 sailors from the Baltimore had come ashore [Page 328] on that day, and the remainder, who were more than 80 in number, took no part in the riot.

The local authorities and the police, so far from committing any outrages, did all in their power in behalf of the wounded men and to restore order. The riot had begun, as it appeared, in a quarrel between drunken sailors.

In his note of October 30 Señor Matta reiterates to Mr. Egan his offer to communicate to him the result of the judicial inquiries, and assures him that, if the guilty parties are discovered, full justice shall be done.

D, E, F, G, H.—Notes from the minister of foreign relations of October 26, from the intendente of Valparaiso of October 27 and 28, and from the chief of police of October 17 and 27, on which the note from Señor Matta to Mr. Egan of October 30, marked C, is based.

I.—Note of November 6 from the criminal judge to the intendente of Valparaiso, transmitted by the latter to the commander of the Baltimore.

In the course of the trial the criminal judge deemed it necessary to hear the testimony of several sailors belonging to the Baltimore, and a direction of the court to that effect was transmitted by the intendente to the commander of the cruiser. Before he would allow the sailors to appear, Mr. Schley demanded that they should be accompanied by an officer who was to serve as their adviser; that their statements should at once be made public, and that the commander should be permitted to read them.

The judge was unable to comply with these requirements, because they were at variance with the Chilean laws governing judicial procedure. The witnesses must declare what they know, without their statements being influenced by the suggestions of an adviser. Criminal proceedings are conducted in secret until the preliminary examination is terminated and an indictment is prepared, just as proceedings before the grand jury, serving as a basis to the indictment, are secret according to the laws of the United States. Proceedings in criminal trials are made public when the preliminary examination is concluded, according to the laws of Chile, just as they are according to the laws of the United States when the functions of the grand jury are terminated. The commander would have been at liberty to read the statements of the sailors when the preliminary examination was ended, but not before.

The criminal judge told the commander that he might send the sailors with some officer in whom he had confidence, who was familiar with the Spanish language, and that such officer might act as interpreter. There are interpreters at the court who lend their services whenever the witness does not understand Spanish and who explain to the witness the questions addressed to him by the judge. The written statement signed by the witness is previously translated and explained to him by the interpreter, so that the witness does not sign it until he knows what it means and is sure that it is a faithful reproduction of what he has said.

The willingness of the judge to allow the sailors or the commander of the Baltimore to designate an interpreter who should be present when they made their statements shows what guaranties are furnished by the laws of Chile in criminal cases.

J.—Note of November 3 from the criminal judge at Valparaiso to the minister of justice. The criminal judge, in obedience to the law which provides that judges shall endeavor by every means in their power to elicit the truth, and as an act of impartiality and international courtesy, asked for such information relative to the occurrences [Page 329] of the 16th of October as might have been obtained by the American consul and the commander of the Baltimore. These two officers had declined to furnish any information because the case had been laid before Mr. Egan by order of their Government. The commander of the Baltimore, in his reply, had added that Mr. Egan could, if requested to do so, furnish a list of names of persons who could, in their turn, give the names of others who had witnessed the death of the seaman Riggin and the wounding of several others belonging to the crew of the Baltimore.

The criminal judge, in the note of the 3d of November, applies to the ministry in order that it should request of Mr. Egan such information as he might have in respect to the disorders of the 16th of October, and in particular the names of witnesses to whom the commander of the Baltimore refers.

In his note of the 3d of November to the ministry, the criminal judge adds that neither the American consul nor the commander of the Baltimore, nor any person whosoever, has imputed before his court to the authorities or the police participation in or responsibility for the occurrences of the 16th of October, neither has any specific or general charge been preferred against them because of their not having endeavored to prevent those occurrences or their deplorable and ultimate consequences. On the contrary, the greater part of the sailors testify that the police rendered them timely aid and endeavored to protect them by removing them from the action of the populace and conveying them to their own barracks.

The commander of the Baltimore himself, in an official visit paid in company with the American consul to the criminal judge in his office, made to him satisfactory declarations concerning the conduct of the police during the disorders of the 16th of October, and added that the conduct of certain officers toward the sailors had been delicate and considerate.

The judge also says that, as the result of active measures and with the coöperation of the police, they have succeeded in arresting several of the persons who were said to have taken direct part in the eyents of the 16th of October, of whom two have confessed.

K.—Note of Señor Matta to Mr. Egan, of November 9. In view of the foregoing communication of the criminal judge of Valparaiso, Señor Matta begs of Mr. Egan that to the end of clearing up the facts and ascertaining who are the guilty parties, and in order that the truth may be discovered and known concerning the occurrences of the 16th October, he will be pleased to submit the information furnished to him by the American consul and by the commander of the Baltimore, and that he inform him also of the substance of the reply of the commander of the Baltimore—that is, that Mr. Egan should furnish, if so requested, a list of the names of persons who, in turn, could give the names of others who witnessed the death of the sailor Riggin and the wounding of several other members of the crew of that cruiser.

Señor Matta further says to Mr. Egan that the delay in conducting the proceeding en sumario has already lasted several days by reason of the sailors of the Baltimore having been excused from appearing before the court, and that this delay would continue so long as the testimony asked for should be deferred; so that not only to hasten, but also to complete, the sumario it was necessary for the important testimony of Mr. Egan to reach the ministry in order that it might be immediately transmitted to the court.

According to telegraphic advices received by me up to the 14th of the [Page 330] current month of December, Mr. Egan had not, to that date, furnished the report which had been requested of him by the note of the 10th of November, and there was lacking to the sumario the evidence of the eyewitnesses to be pointed out by the persons known to Mr. Egan and whose names had not been communicated up to that date.

On two occasions, in the conferences which you were pleased to grant me on the 3d and the 9th of this month, I had the honor to state to you that Mr. Egan had not furnished the report which had been requested of him. The authenticated copy which I now send to you gives testimony of the importance of the facts to which that information relates.

From the documents which I have the honor to transmit to you it clearly appears, without prejudice to the result of the criminal proceeding, which I hope will be speedily terminated, that the police of Valparaiso discharged their duty in the lamentable occurrences of the 16th of October without having wounded or maltreated anyone, and that they gave assistance to the unfortunate sailor who was the victim of a bullet fired from the midst of one of the groups of men there assembled.

It appears, moreover, that the judicial authority has been active and zealous in the discharge of its functions in order to proceed against the guilty parties, and that the judicial proceedings have been prolonged by reason of the considerable number of persons whose testimony must necessarily be heard, and for causes which it did not lie with the Chilean authorities to avoid.

From the accompanying documents there appear, moreover, no grounds whatever to warrant the assertion that the sailors of the Baltimore were attacked in various places in the city at the same time. On the contrary, it is seen that the riot took place in one part of the city only; in that part which is well known by reason of frequent disturbances of this character, and that within an hour from the beginning of the tumult and within half an hour after the arrival of the police and of the other forces which were sent to quell it, tranquillity was restored, those who appeared most compromised in the disturbance having been taken before the judge.

The judicial proceedings which were instituted without delay will throw full light upon the affair, and the undersigned doubts not that the spirit of justice which animates the Government of the United States and that of Chile will be duly satisfied by the judgment with which the investigation is to terminate.

With sentiments of the highest consideration, I subscribe myself

Your most obedient servant,

Pedro Montt.