Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Gresham.
Caracas, April 30, 1894. (Received May 8.)
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.
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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.,