Mr. Foster to Mr. Snowden.

No. 116.]

Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your several dispatches, No. 70 of January 25, No. 73 of January 30, and No. 77 of February 2, in regard to the Caroline Islands incident and the reclamations of [Page 572] the United States arising therefrom. Your telegram of the 14th instant, intimating possible recourse to arbitration as an alternative solution, has also been received and answered by cable. Your reports of your interviews with the Marquis of Vega de Armijo show your keen appreciation of the importance of a just solution of this long-standing question, while the memorandum or historical statement of events in the Caroline Islands in connection with the settlement of American citizens there is in truthful and self-convincing fortification of the position we have assumed and consistently maintained. No countervailing proof or argument has been adduced to shake in the slightest degree the firm conviction here felt in the complete justice of our remonstrances and claims, or to diminish in any wise the President’s confidence that an equitable and friendly adjustment of the contention must prevail at no distant day.

With one exception only has this Government relaxed the vigor of its remonstrances and demands, and then only so far as Mr. Wharton’s instruction No. 198, March 24, 1892, to Mr. Grubb held out a favorable prospect by permitting the inference that the Duke of Tetuan had conceded the return of the missionaries and had offered to further consider the question of indemnity on receipt of certain information called for from Manila; an inference which, as you say in your note of January 25, 1893, to the minister of state, would seem to be justified by the terms employed by the Duke of Tetuan in his note. The hope that the matter was entering upon a much more satisfactory phase which promised its speedy disposition in accordance with equity and justice” was so far justifiable at that time as to enhance the great regret of this Government that the subsequent position of the Spanish Government has constrained renewed recourse to argument and postponed a settlement.

His Excellency the Marquis is pleased to allude to Mr. Blaine’s supposed admission of the right of a nation to exclude persons from its territory. No record exists here of any such admission. I can not admit that my honored predecessor could have made such a statement with the especial significance which Mr. Muruaga seems to have attached to it.

As you appear to have rightly intimated to the Marquis of Vega de Armijo, the naked and unqualified enunciation of the theory can have little relevancy to its application to the facts, which should not only be precise and incontrovertible, but should leave no room to doubt the necessity and justice of acting upon the theory in accordance therewith. That the facts in the present case justified arbitrary resort to such a theory is disproved by all the evidence in the possession of this Government which has been elaborately presented to that of Spain. Of countervailing proof there is none, beyond the vague assertions that the presence of the missionaries on the island “had stimulated to bloodshed,” and that “in the opinion of the governor of the island the missionaries could not continue their work without endangering the peace of the island.” In advancing these assertions the minister of state could hardly have had in mind the fact that the missionaries had, on repeated occasions, been the efficient instruments of the Spanish authorities in preserving tranquillity; that at the time of the revolt which forms the central feature of the incident the chief missionaries were not in Ponapé, Dr. Doane having died in a distant land and Mr. Rand being for some time absent; and that the remaining representative of the mission, Miss Palmer, risked safety and life in her earnest endeavors to avert the conflict.

It may be proper, moreover, to advert to the reiterated argument of [Page 573] the Marquis of Vega de Armijo, that the missionaries abandoned the island of their own accord. The facts, on the contrary, show that their departure was under stress. The treatment they had received from the Spanish authorities must be remembered. Their operation, conducted under the solemn pledges of the Spanish government, had been arbitrarily impeded, their property converted to Spanish use without compensation, their mission buildings destroyed, and they themselves accused of treason. With martial law over them, with daily manifestations of the hostile sentiments of the Spanish soldiery and clergy against them, with an inflamed native element threatening renewed outbreaks, their dwellings and property in ruins and themselves driven from the field of their peaceful and civilizing labors for many years past, their situation was necessarily so grave as to warrant and demand the action of the U. S. Government, through its naval commander, in removing them to a place of security for the time being. Under such circumstances and so performed, the act of deportation can not be pleaded against their just demands, nor impair the right of this Government, as their natural protector, to claim in their behalf the fullest reparation. Moreover, the Government of Spain makes itself a confirming and enforcing party to the exile of these American citizens by forbidding their return.

It is not, however, my purpose in this instruction to travel anew over ground so often and wearily trod in the effort to obtain common justice for these innocent and maligned laborers in the cause of civilization and Christian advancement, whose self-sacrificing lives have been devoted to spreading peace on earth and good will to man. Enough has been said to show that the Government of the United States does not and can not abate its earnest efforts to secure from the Spanish Government due reparation for these unfortunate sufferers and that full observance of the guaranties of 1885 and 1886 which it is convinced it has a right to ask.

Your note of the 25th ultimo to the Marquis of Vega de Armijo, reopening the case at his request, puts our position in the true and consistent light. The instructions heretofore given you are ample for your guidance, while your own treatment of the question so far manifests your deep conviction of its importance and your ability to press it to a settlement. His excellency’s significant announcement, that he had again called for information from, the government of the Philippines as to the return of the missionaries, and his admission that “whilst not conceding the full amount of our claim for the destruction and confiscation of property, he thought a reasonable indemnity was due,” are hopeful indications of a disposition to recognize the moral and vested rights involved in this question. As I said in my telegram to you of the 14th instant, we rely on the Spanish sense of justice to meet our just expectations.

I am, etc.,

John W. Foster.