Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Gresham.

No. 142.]

Sir: Late on Saturday evening, April 28, I received from Mr. Robert Henderson, U. S. consular agent at Ciudad Bolivar, the following telegram:

Difficulties in the clearance of the American steamer Bolivar. The collector of customs refuses to grant permission to load cargo and dispatch her unless a bond is given for the result of suit entered in the courts of Ciudad Bolivar for accused violation of the decree of the Venezuelan ministry closing the caño Macareo, said vessel having passed through that channel. Bolivar carried the American flag. Agents anxious for answer.

To this I replied as follows:

Give bonds under protest if clearance is desired.

For a clear understanding of this matter I beg to call your attention to Mr. Partridge’s No. 58, of July 10, 1893,1 which contained a copy of the decree of July 1, closing to navigation the Macareo and Pedernales channels to vessels in foreign trade, but permitting them to use the “Boca Grande,” said law to take effect from December 31, 1893.

On the 30th of October last a petition was sent to the Venezuelan Government by the Red Star, of the Orinoco Line, requesting an extension of the time to December 31, 1894. This was granted, but soon afterwards revoked in consequence of a request made by Mr. Ellis Grell, an Englishman, who had secured a concession for a coasting trade between Ciudad Bolivar and Maracaibo, which allowed him the exclusive navigation of these channels.

The several companies running steamers between Trinidad and Ciudad Bolivar then became indignant, notwithstanding that their trade was a foreign one, and that they were running their steamers without a contract or concession of any sort.

On the evening of the 25th instant I received a hastily written note from Mr. W. P. Pierce, the U. S. consul at Port of Spain, Trinidad, informing me that he was “preparing papers, as provided for by paragraph 313 of the Consular Regulations, under which the Bolivar might without hesitation display the American flag as her national colors, and claim the protection of the United States accordingly,” and, as Mr. Henderson’s telegram shows, this was done.

Immediately upon receipt of the aforesaid telegram I called upon the minister of foreign affairs to use, if possible, my good offices in behalf of the company. I read to him the telegram and asked that the [Page 784]steamer be permitted to clear for Trinidad, provided her agents would not repeat the offense.

He informed me that he was not in favor of any decree prejudicial to Venezuelan interests; that on the previous morning he had held a long conference with Gen. Crespo with relation to the decree; that the vessel knew of the existing law, and that during its enforcement it was unwise to have violated the same; and that she had displayed the American colors merely to defy the law.

He then called the minister of hacienda by telephone to ask for the latest information from Ciudad Bolivar and to transmit my request, and he was informed by him that the matter had passed to the courts of Ciudad Bolivar. I then thanked the minister for his interest in the case and departed.

* * * * * *

Trusting that my action will meet with your approval, as I have endeavored to make the case as clear as possible in the short time before the closing of the mail to-day.

I have, etc.,

R. M. Bartleman.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 142.—Translation.]

Resolved, That the petition dated the 30th of October last, addressed to this department by Dr. José Manuel Gabaldon, attorney of the Venezuelan Stock Company, “Red Star of the Orinoco,” having been considered in cabinet, in which he requests from the National Government a special extension of time to December 31, 1894, of the permit which according to Article ii of the executive decree of July 1, 1893, the steamers of said company have availed themselves of for navigating through the channels known as Macareo and Pedernales, which are reserved to coastwise commerce, and in view of the impossibility, as he manifests, under which the said company labors of improving the condition of its steamers and making them suitable for navigating the Boca Grande, according to the terms of the said Article ii, and at the same time consulting the lawful convenience of the commerce of Ciudad Bolivar; the president of the council of government, in charge of the executive power, has deemed it proper to resolve:

That the permission conceded by Article ii of the decree of July 1, 1893, to the line of steamers that now carry on the trade between Cuidad Bolivar and Trinidad, through the Macareo and Pedernales channels, be extended until the 31st of December of the present year 1894, in order that they can continue carrying on the commerce through them during the period indicated.

Let it be known and published.

For the National Executive.

Feliciano Acevedo.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 142.—Translation.—Official Gazette, Monday, February 26, 1894.]

Resolved, Having been read in cabinet the petition of Mr. Ellis Grell, dated the 13th of February of this year, in which, by virtue of the concession and franchises conceded to him in the contract made by him with the Government on the 17th of the same month of January, he asks that the anterior resolution of the 8th of said month be declared annulled, according to which was granted a special extension of time to the lines of steamers plying between Ciudad Bolivar and Trinidad, through the channels Macareo and Pedernales, they being thereby allowed to continue doing so until December 31, 1894, and in consideration of the reasons given by said Grell, and moreover, as his line has for its principal object the establishment of a coasting trade between the ports of the whole coast of the Republic, the president of the [Page 785]council of government, in charge of the executive power, has been pleased to resolve:

That said petition be granted, and that in consequence thereof the resolution of the 8th of January dictated by this ministry, with reference to the extension of the permission granted by Article ii of the decree of July 1, 1893, be annulled.

Let it be known and published.

For the National Executive.

Victor Antonio Terpa.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 142.—Translation.—Official Gazette.]

Dr. Feliciano Acevedo, minister of the interior of the United States of Venezuela, sufficiently authorized by the chief of the national executive for one part, and Edgar Peter Ganteaume, attorney for Ellis Grell, in name and in representation of him, who is a resident of Port of Spain, for the other part, with the previous consent of the council of government, have made the following contract:

  • Article 1. Ellis Grell agrees to establish and maintain an active navigation by steamers, between Ciudad Bolivar and Maracaibo, within six months, to count from the date of this contract, so that there be no less than one trip every 15 days, touching at the ports of La Vela, Puerto Cabello, La Guayra, Guanta, Puerto Suere, and Carupane, with the right to extend the line to other open ports of the Republic.
  • Art. 2. The steamers to sail under the Venezuelan flag.
  • Art. 3. The contractor agrees to transport free the mail bags that are placed aboard the steamers by the authorities and merchants by means of the respective post service, for which the vessels of the line shall be considered as mail steamers and as such exempted from all national taxes.
  • Art. 4. The contractor shall make a tariff for passengers and freight, with the approval of the Government.
  • Art. 5. The company shall carry on board of each vessel a Government inspector, named by the minister of hacienda, with the object of caring for the distribution of the mails and other fiscal interests. The company agrees also to transport public employees, under orders from the Government, for half the tariff rate, provided that they embark with an express order signed by the minister of hacienda, or by one of the presidents of the states. Military officers on service and troops shall be transported for one-quarter part of the tariff. The company agrees also to carry free elements of war, and for one-half of the tariff other effects that they ship for account of the order of the National Government.
  • Art. 6. The National Government agrees not to concede to other lines of steamers any of the benefits, concessions, and exemptions stipulated in the present contract, as compensation for the services the company will render, as much to the national interests as to the personal ones.
  • Art. 7. The National Government will pay the contractor a monthly subvention of four thousand bolivars (B’s 4,000), provided he complies with the promises contained in the present contract.
  • Art. 8. The National Government agrees to admit free of duty machinery, tools, and implements and other necessities that are imported for their steamers and for their repairs; likewise they are permitted to procure coal and supplies for the mess room of their crews in the ports of Curacao and Trinidad.
  • Art. 9. The company shall have the right to cut in the national forests wood for the construction of vessels or necessary buildings and for burning in the steamers of the line.
  • Art. 10. The officers and crews of the steamers, as well as the woodcutters and other employees of the company; shall be exempt from military service, except in case of international war.
  • Art. 11. The steamers of the company will have in all ports of the Republic the same franchises and advantages, conforming with the law, that are granted to steamers of established lines with fixed schedules.
  • Art. 12. In the meantime the Government will fix definitely the port of transshipment for merchandise proceeding from foreign ports, and whilst making the necessary changes vessels of the line will be permitted to touch at the ports of Curacao and Trinidad, with power moreover to navigate the steamers that leave the last Antilla by the Macareo and Pedernales channels of the Orinoco River, provided, all the formalities are observed which the minister of hacienda may dictate, in order to impede smuggling, for the security of the fiscal interests, to which formalities the contractor submits beforehand.
  • Art. 13. This contract shall exist for fifteen years, counting from the date of its approval, and may be transferred by the contractor to any other person or corporation [Page 786]after previous notice to the Government. The transfer shall not be made to any foreign government.
  • Art. 14. Doubts and controversies that may arise in the understanding and execution of this contract are to be settled in the tribunals of the Republic, conforming with its laws, and in no case will they be a motive for international reclamations.

Made in duplicate, both equally effective.


  • Feliciano Acevedo.
  • E. P. Ganteaume.