Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Foster.

No. 355.]

Sir: By the published schedules of the American Red D Steamship Company, its vessels plying between New York and La Guayra [Page 638] as terminal points are regularly appointed to call both ways at the Dutch port of Curacao. Thus, for example, the steamship Philadelphia of that line, which left New York October 22, arrived at Curacao on the 28th, at Puerto Cabello on the 30th, and reached La Guayra on November 1. On her return trip she touched at Puerto Cabello November 5, at Curacao on the 6th, and at La Guayra on her homeward voyage, November 9th.

This statement (verified by a copy of the published itinerary here inclosed) is necessary to a clear understanding of the following incident:

When the Philadelphia returned to La Guayra on her direct homeward voyage on the 9th instant, she had on board, among her other passengers embarked at Curacao for New York, one Pedro Vicente Mijares, a Venezuelan citizen. The local authorities at La Guayra, acting under orders from the minister of hacienda, demanded Mijares’s surrender on the ground that he was “an enemy of the government.”

The captain refused to surrender his passenger, and the customs authorities refused to clear the vessel or to return her register. The matter was then for the first time reported to me, and I instructed the United States consul, Mr. Hanna, to clear the ship, provided the only reason for detaining her was the captain’s refusal to deliver up Mijares. The consul gave her clearance accordingly, but she did not sail until next day.

It should be remarked in this connection that there was no specific charge of violation by Mijares of the ordinary law of Venezuela. It was stated merely (and that orally) that he was “an enemy of the government.” He was not a military man, nor does it appear that he was at the time in the service of any enemies of the government. The civil war had ended a month before, and there had been no proclamation of martial law in any part of the republic. In other words, there was no actual state of hostilities; consequently, no belligerent right of visitation and search. Nor was there any contract, verbal or written, between the steamship company and the Government whereby the latter might claim the right of interference with the passengers on board.

Late in the evening of the 9th, when it became known that the vessel had been cleared by the consul and would proceed on her voyage, Dr. Rojas, minister of foreign affairs, and Dr. Seijas, legal adviser of the ministry, called at my house and requested me to order the captain to give up Mijares. I courteously but firmly declined to do this and before they left succeeded in convincing them that the captain had acted quite properly in the premises.

They denied the truth of the report (then current) that an order had been issued to fire upon the Philadelphia, should she attempt to leave with Mijares on board. I then suggested, as a simple solution of the difficulty, that they induce the minister of hacienda to instruct the customs authorities to return the ship’s register or to deliver it to the consul if the ship had sailed. They promised to do this. The Philadelphia sailed next day (the 10th), but without her register, which was still in possession of the customs authorities.

Just as the mail is closing I have received the assurance of Dr. Rojas that the register and other papers of the Philadelphia will be delivered to the consul before the ship returns.

I am, etc.,

William L. Scruggs.