Señor Bolet Peraza to Mr. Foster.


Sir: I have had the honor to receive the communication of the 22d instant, in which your excellency is pleased to reply to my telegram of the 21st soliciting the detention of the steamer South Portland, on the ground that the acquittal of Francisco Gonzales did not disprove the charge against said steamship.

In the note to which I refer, your excellency advises me that the United States attorney, having before him the proofs adduced by me and my legal adviser, with lists of witnesses in support of my allegations, the arrest and examination of Gonzales was a convenient and speedy means of bringing to judicial test the charge that the steamer [Page 646] South Portland had violated the neutrality laws of the United States; and that, the charges and evidence having been insufficient, the Federal commissioner had dismissed the case and discharged the defendant.

I very respectfully beg to represent to your excellency in my quality as complainant in the matter of a wrong committed against the nation I represent, in which a vessel bearing the American flag appears guilty, that it was natural that I should request the United States attorney to proceed against the steamer South Portland, since, in all criminal cases, the first thing necessary to be proved is the fact of the crime, and, so soon as the illegal act has been established, to proceed against the apparent author of it.

The result of the action taken by the United States attorney goes to show that it was the one the least fitted to satisfy the just complaint of the Government of Venezuela, since the principal witnesses requested by the representative of Venezuela were not even subpoenaed, it being claimed that they could nowhere be found, as in the cases of Capt. Bowman and J. B. Garcia, whose depositions would have been conclusive. Notwithstanding the fact that the marshal stated that these witnesses could not be found, one of them, Capt. Bowman, was interviewed on that same day by a reporter of the New York Herald, and the other, Garcia, was seen publicly in the streets of New York, as the undersigned could have proved had the opportunity been afforded him. It appears, therefore, that the advantage derived from the speedy proceedings adopted by Attorney Mitchell was in favor of the violators of the neutrality laws and the enemies of the peace of Venezuela, leaving my Government without the legal means of proving its charges against the South Portland.

Otherwise, the representative of Venezuela might have proved:

That the above mentioned steamer, South Portland, was adequately armed and in a state to make war upon the Government of Venezuela, whose men-of-war are, for the most part, not better armed than the South Portland, none of them being provided, like the latter, with the Gatling gun, which is eminently useful in naval warfare.
That the South Portland, although ostensibly bound for Trinidad, with munitions of war, intended, as claimed, for legitimate commerce, was in reality destined for Venezuela and the service of the revolutionaries.
That Francisco Gonzales and J. B. Garcia, charterers and freighters of said steamer, are rebels against my Government.
That there were on the South Portland seven or eight other rebels belonging to the junta established at New York.
That the said charterers and freighters of the South Portland and the other revolutionaries in league with them openly boasted of their violation of the neutrality laws of the United States.

Finally, had the legal opportunity which I solicited in vain been granted me, I could have furnished as corroborative proof, public notoriety, since neither with the press nor with anyone did there exist the least doubt that the steamer South Portland was fitted out in this port to make war upon the Government of Venezuela, and that the flag of the United States was made treacherous use of to violate the neutrality guaranteed to Venezuela as a friendly nation.

My Government, having been informed of these circumstances, instructed me by telegram on the 23d instant to enter this just protest, as a preliminary step to the claim which would arise in the event of any act of hostility being committed by the steamer South Portland [Page 647] against the Government of Venezuela, in the waters or ports of the Republic.

I will conclude this note by acquainting your excellency that my Government has further instructed me to make an appeal in its name to the cordiality of the United States in soliciting, as I respectfully do, that your excellency will be so good as to telegraph the necessary instructions, to the end that the United States war vessels now in our ports may be required to prohibit the American steamer South Portland, which has been cleared for Trinidad, to disembark contraband of war at Puerto Cabello, now in the hands of the revolutionaries.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,

N. Bolet Peraza.