Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Foster.

No. 336.]

Sir: Late in the evening of the 23d instant Dr. Urbaneja, minister of foreign affairs for the Pulido Government, called at my residence to say that he had just learned that the South Portland, laden with munitions of war for the revolutionists, had left New York for Puerto Cabello. [Page 626] He said her entrance would be a violation of the neutrality hitherto preserved by the United States, and expressed the hope that I would instruct our naval force, then in Venezuelan waters, to prevent it.

I said I had no official information whatever on the subject, but that I had understood, from unofficial sources, the case of the Portland had been referred to the courts, in which event there could be no interference except in execution of the decision unless, indeed, the vessel had escaped before trial. In the event last named, both the Admiral and myself would have been so notified from Washington; but, as neither of us had received such notice, the probabilities were that the Portland had left New York in accordance with the decision rendered.

He then asked me if I would not cable you a request by his Government that the vessel be prevented from entering at Puerto Cabello.

I said I would do so, after consulting the Admiral, who would be at my house next morning, but that he must put his request in writing.

He returned an hour later with the memorandum, copy, and translation of which I inclose, and after consultation with Admiral Walker next morning (the 24th) I cabled you. Your telegram, in reply, received by me on the morning of the 25th.

The minister of foreign affairs, to whom I read your telegram, said he thought it not unlikely the decision of the court had been disregarded by the Portland, in that, whilst she ostensibly cleared for Trinidad, her real destination was Puerto Cabello direct. He asked me to telegraph you in this sense, and to inquire whether, in such case, our naval force could not interfere, as desired by his Government, in vindication of the court’s decision and in the maintenance of our strict neutrality.

I pointed out that the mere exportation of arms and munitions of war from the United States had never been held an offense against our neutrality laws; that as all the belligerents in Venezuela enjoyed this right equally, none of them could justly complain; that his Government had the right, under the law of nations, to seize contraband of war on its transit to the enemy, and we would not be likely to complain, should this right be exercised in a legitimate, and proper manner; but that, as neutrals, we could hardly be expected to employ our naval force to make the blockade of Puerto Cabello effective, nor to police the high seas in the interest of one belligerent against another.

He still insisted that I would, as a favor to him, send you, at his expense, the cablegram of the 27th instant.

I have advised Admiral Walker, now at La Guayra, of the contents of this dispatch, and furnished him copies of the telegrams to which it relates.

I have, etc.,

William L. Scruggs.
[Inclosure in No. 336.—Translation.]


The Government of Venezuela knows that the steamer South Portland, which by the efforts of the Venezuelan minister at Washington was detained in New York, has finally departed thence for Puerto Cabello, carrying munitions of war, and asks your excellency to order the commanders of your war ships anchored at La Guayra to repair to Puerto Cabello to prevent the entrance of the revolutionary steamer, and defend the neutrality which the United States should observe.

The Venezuelan Government would be pained should your excellency not do it justice in the premises.

Received September 23, at 8:30 p.m.