Mr. Foster to Señor Bolet Peraza.

Sir: I had the the honor yesterday to receive from you a telegram in relation to the case of the South Portland, reading as follows: “The acquittal of Gonzales does not disprove charge that the vessel South Portland is armed to be used against my Government. I urge the libeling of the vessel. Will you direct and detain her? If you require it, will personally visit you and present my proofs to-morrow. Please answer by telegraph.”

The necessity of some elaboration in replying to this statement precludes the convenient use of telegraph, as requested.

The reports of the United States attorney show that, having before him the proofs adduced by you and your legal adviser, with lists of witnesses in support of your allegations, the arrest and examination of Gonzales by a United States commissioner was naturally resorted to as a convenient and speedy way of bringing to judicial test the charge that the South Portland was being fitted out and armed in violation of the neutrality laws of the United States. Such a process, moreover, afforded an immediate and full opportunity to subpoena witnesses and conduct their examination under oath, which was lacking to the United States attorney in the conduct of the investigation he had been duly requested to undertake. The charges and evidence being insufficient to prove a violation of the law on the part of the charterer and freighter of the South Portland, the commissioner dismissed the case and discharged the defendant.

The essential charge having failed, no room remained for the libeling of the vessel. The attorney having so reported, the executive discretion of this Department to request the further detention of the South Portland by the customs authorities came to an end, and it became my duty so to advise the Secretary of the Treasury.

As you are doubtless aware, the sale of arms and munitions of war, even to a recognized belligerent, during the course of active hostilities, is not in itself an unlawful act, although the seller runs the risk of capture and condemnation of his wares and contraband of war.

Accept, etc.,

John W. Foster.