Mr. Snowden to Mr. Gresham.

No. 162.]

Sir: I append on overleaf copy of telegram* sent the Department announcing the settlement of the Carolines incident, which has been pending for more than six years, having had its inception under the previous administration of President Cleveland.

The case has perhaps received more attention for various reasons than any other that has been presented through this legation for very many years.

During the terms of office of four of my predecessors and two chargé d’affaires, who manifested sincere interest in the case, no near approach was made to a settlement.

[Page 582]

President Harrison in his last message to Congress referred to the subject, and, as you are aware, I received on assuming charge of this legation most explicit and earnest instructions on the subject.

The files of the Department present the evidence of my earnest efforts to close this case, and, as I desired to meet its wishes, and because I believed it was one involving to some extent our national self-respect and prestige in the Pacific Ocean. After months of unusual labor I was able, on April 12, to cable you that I had the positive assurance of the prime minister that the missionaries would be permitted to return to Ponapé; and I also had the promise of an early consideration of the question of indemnity.

It was agreed that to arrive at satisfactory conclusions a conference must be had, at which the minister of state and the minister of the colonies were to participate.

On the 26th instant I received a note from Señor Moret, naming 3 o’clock of the following day for the proposed conference.

At the hour named I was at the state department, where the minister of state was shortly joined by the minister of the colonies, who had fortified himself with voluminous notes and data.

After I had set forth our claims, giving an itemized statement of losses of property in the buildings and their contents, as furnished by Commander Taylor, I proceeded to present an estimate of the land taken and the indemnity due Mrs. Doane.

At the conclusion of my statement the minister of the colonies, who became spokesman, said that he had with him the sworn statement of witnesses that the land at Kenan was not the property of the missionaries. Among the affidavits was one to that effect from the chief from whom Mr. Doane claimed to have made the purchase. Another affidavit that Mr. Doane had confessed that he had no titles to the land until immediately before the Spanish Government took formal possession after the award of Pope Leo XIII, etc. To this I made reply that in the whole discussion of this question with His Majesty’s Government, extending over six years, this averment had never been made. That so far from its having any force it was disproved by the proffer of Governor Cadarso to pay $2,000 for the land; further, that he had taken the deeds from Mr. Doane, and although promising to return them, never had done so.

He replied that the evidence in his possession was entirely opposed to our continuation and asked for more time for a careful consideration of this point.

To this I rather impatiently replied that too much time had already been consumed on such pleas, and that we must settle the matter then and there as no new facts could be elicited.

He then referred to the destruction of the property at Ona as a necessary incident of war. That the missionaries had abandoned it and that there was no indication to show the character or ownership of the property.

I answered that the character and ownership of the buildings were so notorious that it required no designation to establish the same, that such an argument fell of its own weight. As to the destruction of the buildings being a necessity of war, I respectfully referred him to the note of the Duke of Tetuan of June 11, 1892, in which he admitted that the destruction of the buildings at Ona took place after the rebels had been driven therefrom, and was done to prevent their future misuse by the natives.

It followed from this admission that their destruction was not justified [Page 583] by the law of nations—was not required by the exigencies of the case—but was wanton, and therefore his Government must be held responsible for the losses resulting therefrom.

When the case of Mr. Doane was taken up the minister promptly said that he thought there was a small sum due his family.

After discussing the subject for over two hours I proposed to again return to each item of our claim for indemnity and settle each in succession. To this the minister would not assent, for the reason that on one or two points of indemnity he could not go before the Cortes to ask for an appropriation with any hope of success.

He was willing to agree to a lump sum which we could apportion as we saw fit, and he could ask for the appropriation to cover all our claims without specifying any item.

As this was agreeable to me the only question that remained was as to the amount. The minister of the colonies named a very small sum, I claiming $25,000. After a protracted discussion I came down to the sum named in my cable, to wit, $17,500—which I said was the minimum sum we would accept. At this juncture the minister of state spoke to his colleague, saying there was no use in further discussion; that he was willing to accede to my figures. After some hesitation the minister of the colonies assented, and thus was happily ended a controversy which has lasted for many years.

I will obtain from the minister of state a written confirmation of the conclusions reached, which I will forward to the Department.

Having succeeded in eliminating the Caroline incident as a cause of contention between the two governments, I am now prepared to quit Madrid with the assurance that my labors have not been in vain.

In the happy termination of this long pending and irritating incident I am sure both governments are to be congratulated.

I have, etc.,

A. Loudon Snowden.
  1. Not printed.