Mr. Foster to Mr. Scruggs.

No. 292.]

Sir: I have received your No. 325 of the 7th instant, inclosing copy of your letter to the agents of the Red D line, advising them to rigidly preserve the neutral character of their vessels during the present civil war in Venezuela.

The Department regards your letter as, under the circumstances, discreet. Avoidance of all interference in local conflicts is very desirable [Page 628] on the part of a mail line, although the suggested service to the titular or de facto authorities might not in fact infringe any statute of the United States.

For your information I inclose copy of a recent letter from the Treasury Department in regard to the effect of temporary foreign service on the American registry of a vessel.

I am, sir, etc.,

John W. Foster.
[Inclosure in No. 292.]

Mr. Foster to Mr. Foster.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated 21st instant, inviting my attention to a telegram from General Ponciana Leiva, President of Honduras, a part of which is reproduced below for ready reference and as a matter of record, viz:

“In order to circumvent the rebels, who had taken posssession of the harbors of La Ceiba and Trujillo, I was compelled to charter the American steamer S. Pizzati, her captain, Henrique Pizzati, being a colonel in the Hondurean army, and put aboard of her armed troops of infantry and artillery.

“In making use of said steamer I granted her for the time being permission to fly the Hondurean flag, and she was compelled to leave Puerto Cortez, in combination with the land forces, prior to the arrival of the officiale patente or permit from: the Honduras Government.

“Now Capt. Pizzati fears that the Government of the United States may order the confiscation of his steamer or subject him to a fine of some kind.”

* * * * * * *

“I desire, Mr. Minister, to have your opinion in this particular and I beg of you to be kind enough to interpose your kind offices with your Government with the view of exonerating said captain from any blame in the matter.”

In reply to your request for my opinion whether the action of Capt. Pizzati, as above reported, would affect the registry of his vessel, or subject it or himself to any penalty, I have to state that the case not being covered by section 4135, Revised Statute, relating to vessels “authorized to sail under a foreign flag, and to have the protection of a foreign government during the existence of the rebellion,” I am advised that the circumstances stated by the President of Honduras do not cause any penalty or disability to be incurred by the vessel, her owners, or master, under the laws of the United States, and that she can continue to enjoy the use of her documents granted by the United States, notwithstanding the transactions above mentioned.

Respectfully yours,

Charles Foster,