Mr. Snowden to Mr. Foster.
Madrid, February 2, 1893. (Received February 17.)
Sir: I have the honor to send on overleaf copy of my cable giving substance of the second important interview with the Marquis of Vega de Armijo on the Carolines incident.
At this interview the conversation took a wide range, embracing international obligations and the right of a nation to exclude from its territory the citizens or subjects of another.
I said that the exclusion of the missionaries from the island, after nearly forty years of faithful labor in the cause of civilization and Christianity, and especially in view of the pledges of his Government as to the protection to be afforded them, could not, in my judgment, be justified on any theory.
That the exclusion of citizens or subjects of one country by another could only be justified when their presence was a menace to civilization or dangerous to good morals or the public peace. That in view of the facts I had presented there could be no doubt that the labors of the self-sacrificing men and women composing the band of missionaries at Ponapé had been in the interest of good government and of civilization, as well as of Christianity.
He again referred to the right and duty of a government to exclude from its territory any person or persons who might, in the judgment of the authorities, endanger its peace; that whether it was so intended or not, the presence of the missionaries on the island encouraged the natives to believe that they would have their support and that of their Government, in case they revolted against Spanish authority; that it was most unfortunate, but nevertheless true, that in the opinion of the governor of the Islands the missionaries could not continue their work without endangering the peace of the island. Further, that when the assurances were given in 1885 and subsequently by his Government, as to the protection of the missionaries in their work, there was every reason to suppose that their presence on the island was calculated to promote the welfare of the natives and the harmonious relations between them and the Spanish authorities; that much to the Government’s regret the contrary was the result, and as the missionaries had voluntarily abandoned the island, His Majesty’s Government must be assured of the pacific result of their return before permission would be granted to enable them to resume their work.
He took especial care to emphasize the fact that the mission had left the island of their own accord, having asked permission of the governor to do so.
I said the retirement of the missionaries from the island was because the commander of the U. S. war vessel believed their personal safety required this step; that the abandonment of the island by the missionaries was not voluntary in the true meaning of that word; that their property had been confiscated, their mission buildings destroyed, and their lives believed to be in danger; that under these circumstances a truthful statement would be that, having lost nearly all for which they had labored for over thirty-five years, and believing their lives to be in danger, they consented, under the advice of the U. S. officer, to leave the island in his vessel, which had been sent there for their protection. He replied that there was no evidence of any threatened danger to their persons when they left the island.[Page 570]
He again referred to the rights of a Government to exclude persons from entering its territory when their presence was undesirable, and instanced the “extreme legislation” of our country in excluding the Chinese which, he insisted, had been done in violation of the terms of the treaty which, the United States had been anxious to make with. China. I replied that the laws which a civilized country might enact to exclude from its territory Mongolians and kindred people should not be quoted as an example to justify a Christian nation in excluding from its borders persons whose only purpose was to advance civilization and spread the Gospel of Christ.
He replied that the avowed purpose of the missionaries, with which he had much sympathy, could not be taken into consideration when, as in this case, the evidence clearly established the fact that, whilst claiming to be preaching the gospel of peace, their presence had stimulated to bloodshed; and further, that whilst he had quoted our anti-Chinese legislation as an example in point, he believed our Government held the right to exclude any person coming from any nation, Christian or otherwise. I replied that I could not conceive that my Government would assume the attitude he assumed for his in regard to the incident under discussion.
That he must remember that for more than a third of a century the missionaries on Ponapé had been doing a noble work in civilizing and Christianizing the natives, whilst his Government, which claimed sovereignty over the island, had neglected to do anything to advance their intellectual or moral condition.
On again referring to his obtaining information from the governor of the Philippines as to the return of the missionaries, he said he had made the request of that official.
He further said that whilst not conceding the full amount of our claim for the destruction and confiscation of property, he thought a reasonable indemnity was due.
I have, etc.,