Mr. Hicks to Mr. Gresham.
Lima, May 20, 1893. (Received June 13.)
Sir: The new cabinet was duly installed on the 13th, and for the first few days the ministers were receiving and making the visits of ceremony incident upon a change of cabinet. I have made three visits to the foreign office, having in mind the final settlement of the claim for indemnity presented by the acting consular agent of the United States, Don Enrique Meier, growing out of the assault upon the consular agency on the night of March 25 last.
To day I succeeded in getting a good interview with the minister, and discussed with him the claim of Mr. Meier at length.
Naturally the minister knew little or nothing about the matter, his knowledge having been obtained solely from newspaper reports of the affair when he was not in office, and he admitted that he had not read the official reports sent from Mollendo. I therefore related to him the incidents of the affair and mentioned my note to the minister, his predecessor, my telegram to the State Department, and the reply of the Department.
The minister then said that the law of Peru compelled the authorities, in case of damages by a mob, to begin a judicial process against the offenders and that Mr. Meier’s recourse was in a civil action against the leaders of the mob.
I assured him that the case of Mr. Meier was not an ordinary claim for damages, bat it involved a point which, perhaps, had escaped him. Mr. Meier’s claim was not based simply upon the fact that he had suffered damage to his house, his goods, and his person at the hands of a mob. The affair was far more grave than any ordinary outbreak, and the facts gave it an international importance which would continue until disposed of by the action of the Peruvian Government in complying with its promises.
The gravamen of the case was that the consular agency of the United States was invaded and the acting consular agent had his house partially destroyed and was seriously wounded in the leg by disorderly persons, who committed this outrage in the immediate presence of the gendarmes of Peru, who claimed that their noninterference, it is said, was by command of the subprefect, an official directly under the control of the President. While I did not believe for a moment that the act of the subprefect and the passiveness of the soldiers were authorized by the Government, yet, until the reparation promised by Peru and accepted by my Government was duly consummated, the responsibility was upon the Government of Peru.
The minister expressed his regret at the occurrence and inquired if his predecessor, Dr. Chacaltana, had expressed any opinion to me on [Page 519]the affair. I then explained that he had entirely disavowed any indorsement of the outrage, apologized for it, and had removed the subprefect and promised complete indemnity for the damages. Later, when his attention had been again called to it by me, Dr. Chacaltana had explained his delay by the statement that he was awaiting the receipt of the official report from Mollendo. However, I informed the minister the report was now on his desk ready for his action, as I had been told the day before by his chief clerk. He then inquired the amount of the claim. I informed him that it was 5,963.90 sols. I said, in addition, that Mr. Meier had been told by several parties that he had made his claim ridiculously small; that the amount asked for would not pay the expenses of a journey to Europe for surgical treatment, which might be necessary, and that he ought to have made a claim for 50,000 sols at least. I added that I had told Mr. Meier to make out his claim at a reasonable figure, not too large nor too small, and I was convinced that the sum was very reasonable.
The minister inquired if I could not get him to accept a smaller sum, as the country was very poor and it was with the greatest difficulty any money could be raised. I replied that if the Government was ready with cash in hand to make any reasonable offer of a settlement, even if it were less than the amount claimed, I would transmit the offer to the State Department and the claimant, with a view to an acceptance, although I believed the sum named was as small as the Government ought to expect in a case as serious as that of Mr. Meier.
The minister then explained that he personally was in favor of a prompt and satisfactory settlement of the case and on Monday he would take it up and give all the documents in the case a careful reading. But, he said, it was a matter of grave importance and must be dealt with by the President and the council of all the ministers. The President is now very ill and it may be several days before he is well enough to attend to any business. He assured me with great courtesy that the matter should receive prompt attention and he would be very glad to have it closed in a manner satisfactory to both parties.
I have, etc.