Señor Bolet Perasa to Mr. Foster.

Dear Sir: You must pardon my so frequently troubling you about the matter of the steamship South Portland, now detained at this port, and containing a large quantity of munitions of war, consisting of Gatling guns, muskets, rifles, cartridges, etc., but the importance of this matter to my country, the possibility that many innocent lives may suffer if this vessel be permitted to sail to engage in warfare against my Government and people, must be my excuse for my earnestness. Acting in accordance with your direction, I visited the United States district, attorney, Mr. Mitchell, made him fully acquainted with all the facts in my possession, and finally caused affidavit to be made in due legal form by the secretary of our consulate in this city that the vessel in question had been armed and loaded with munitions of war for the purpose of being used in warfare against my country. This affidavit was prepared by the district attorney, in the presence of our counsel, Mr. Douglas A. Levien, jr., who is familiar with all the facts and who advises us that the charge can be substantiated. The district attorney, I must say, however, does not seem to me to render the hearty coöperation I had anticipated and had the right to expect as the representative of a friendly Republic. He has subjected me to rigid cross-examination in the premises and requires me to produce other witnesses. This I can do, but not unaided. I require subpœnas from your court, which, I am informed, I can not obtain unless the vessel is libeled. The witnesses are merchants and others engaged in and about vessels, who are unwilling to lose time (as they necessarily would be required to) in a matter in which they have no personal interest.

These facts, however, we do know: That there is a rebellion in Venezuela; that Mr. Garcia and Mr. Francisco Gonzales are in sympathy with the rebel cause, Mr. Garcia being a member of the rebel aid committee which exists in this country. Mr. Gonzales landed from Venezuela in August. Our Government advised us of his coming and that his object in so doing was to buy arms for the rebel government. We had him watched, and our detectives report his visits to the committee of rebel sympathizers. Then secret purchases are made of the arms and munitions of war, now on board the vessel South Portland, together with provisions in large quantities. They make inquiries of a Mr. Bowman for the purchase of a vessel, informing him that they desire to use it for the purpose of carrying arms to Venezuela and engaging in warfare against the government of that Republic. The vessel did not prove sufficiently strong, and we subsequently find them chartering, with the privilege of purchasing, the vessel in question, the South Portland, which is a larger and stronger boat and better adapted for warfare. The parties are found in continuous consultation with a legal firm as to the best way to avoid legal responsibility under our neutrality laws. Their whole action and conduct shows it to be their intent and purpose to do an illegal and unlawful act against my Government.

In this connection, it will be well to consider that there is no market in Trinidad (to which port they pretend to be bound) for such wares as are carried on this vessel.

I respectfully submit to the honorable Secretary of State that an affidavit made by the responsible representatives of a government is [Page 643] sufficient to justify the United States district attorney to take such legal proceedings as will enable to enforce the attendance of witnesses before a tribunal authorized to determine the issue, and which possesses the power to administer oaths and punish perjury. If the district attorney has power to determine the sufficiency of proofs, then he has judicial powers as high as those of a court and should be clothed with the authority a court possesses to compel the attendance of witnesses and to punish false swearing.

I beg that you will instruct your district attorney to take such action as will enable me by legal process to compel the witnesses to appear and testify as to the proof of the facts I charge, the names and addresses of which I have already furnished to the district attorney.

If this is done, and not until then, shall I feel the satisfaction of knowing that to my Government has been afforded all the legal resources of the United States Government in its efforts to prevent the commission of a very grave and serious offense against the peace of my country.

Awaiting your reply, I remain, etc.,

N. Bolet Peraza.

P. S.—I have omitted to inform you that I have information that our Government intercepted a letter written by Mr. Madriz, a Venezuelan resident in this city and an active member of the revolutionary committee here, in which he writes to the revolutionists in Venezuela that their committee were now arming and fitting out a vessel to engage in warfare on behalf of the rebels of that country. I also desire to add that six of the persons (the passengers, so called) who took passage on the steamer South Portland were all Venezuelan revolutionists, one of them, Mr. Larralde, being the president of the committee. Since the stoppage of the vessel the last-named gentleman has left and taken passage for Curacao, a few hours sail from Venezuela. I have also thought best to inclose you a copy of a letter sent by our counsel to the district attorney, showing his views in the matter.


Mr. Levien to Mr. Mitchell.

Dear Sir: The affidavit in your possession, sworn to by Mr. Carlos C. Bolet, charges an attempt to fit out and use a vessel (the South Portland) in warfare against a friendly republic, viz, the Republic of Venezuela. The charge is in due form made by a legal representative of the Venezuelan Government on behalf of that Government, and is entitled to be heard before an officer duly authorized to subpoena witnesses and to administer and examine them under oath in due legal form. It seems to me (and I say this with all due respect, for I am confident of your earnest desire to do justice) that in assuming to conduct a secret examination of the accused parties, their counsel and friends, out of court, you are exceeding your authority, giving yourself needless trouble, and cui bono? You have no power to pass on the guilt or innocence of the accused, no power to administer oaths, and you certainly can not expect them to voluntarily admit their guilt. It seems to me that if there is probable cause disclosed to you to lead you to believe a crime against the Government you represent is about to be committed that then it is your duty to institute legal proceedings. “Probable cause” is shown by this affidavit of a responsible representative of this our sister republic, and the honor and integrity of the United States is concerned in seeing to it that its laws are enforced, and that in such legal form and such legal way as provided by law the guilt or innocence of the accused should be ascertained. On behalf of the Venezuelan Government, by whom I am retained as counsel, I protest against any other course than the one I have indicated, being pursued. These suggestions I make with all due respect, and I have the honor to be, etc.,

Douglas A. Levien, Jr.