Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Gresham.

No. 145.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 142, of April 30, as to the detention at Ciudad Bolivar of the American steamer Bolivar, of the General Steamship Company, she having navigated the Macareo channel of the Orinoco River contrary to the navigation laws of Venezuela, I have the honor to inform you that on the day following the departure of the last mail for the States I received a second telegram from Mr. Henderson, dated April 30, stating that the collector of customs had refused to accept bonds under protest; that the bond was exorbitant, being for 60,000 bolivars; that the vessel was still detained; that the agent claimed she had not violated the law and demanded her immediate release.

Upon receipt of this I called upon the minister of foreign affairs and said I hoped we could come to some satisfactory arrangement, and suggested that the steamer be permitted to depart for Trinidad, provided she did not repeat the act; that the bond called for was exorbitant, and I requested that it be reduced to 10,000 bolivars, which I thought a nominal and sufficient amount. This met his approval and he said he would see the President, and later in the evening give me his (the President’s) reply.

At 6 p.m. I called at his house and was informed by his excellency that instructions had been sent to Ciudad Bolivar to reduce the bond to the figure named by me, and to clear the Bolivar for Trinidad via the Boca Grande. This fact I wired to Mr. Henderson.

The next day, the 4th instant, I was requested by the minister to call at his office, when he informed me that Venezuela was doing all in her power to please the United States and show her friendship for that Republic, citing the payment of debts and the questions before the Congress and asking me to say to you that he hoped the United States would reserve its decision in this matter until the arrival of the correspondence. I said I would do so.

About 5 p.m. on this same evening I received another telegram, dated the 2d instant, saying that the agent refused to give bonds, and that the only available routes practicable for such river boats were the channels opening into the Gulf of Paria.

Again I called upon his excellency, suggesting that the vessel be permitted to depart by the Macareo, owing to her small size. He then informed me that navigation on these channels was allowed only to coasters, such trade being under the Venezuelan colors. I then asked that she be given a special permit for this trip, provided she did not touch at any of the intermediate ports, in case there be any, thus making a foreign voyage. He said he would again see the President, and informed me in confidence that when the case came up for trial the probability was [Page 787] nothing would be done, as the law had failed to provide any penalty for the act. I then wired Mr. Henderson that I saw no reason why the agent should refuse to give bond, pending the court’s decision, as he (the agent) claimed there had been no violation of the law.

On the 5th and 6th instant I received two telegrams from the agent of the vessel, dated the 2d, in which he says he fails to see why he should be advised or compelled to give bonds; that Mr. Pierce, the U. S. consul at Trinidad, is fully posted on the subject, and had informed the company of its right to navigate the Macareo until closed by an act of Congress, and requested the immediate release of the steamer.

I then wired Mr. Carpenter that the act closing those channels had been approved on the 23d of April; that it was also in accordance with the Codigo de Hacienda (Ley vi, Art. 2°, 1a), that he move with caution, otherwise it might injure my expectation for the vessel’s return.

On yesterday, the 8th instant, I received a third telegram, dated the 7th instant, in which Mr. Carpenter, states that the charges against the steamer are not for violating the laws of the Republic, but that she has disobeyed the orders of the National Government.

It is apparent to me, in the absence of any information from Ciudad Bolivar by mail, that the agent of the General Steamship Company is not convinced that the law closing these channels was passed; that the statements contained in his messages are conflicting, and that in the last one there is apparently an error. I am, moreover, of the opinion that the agent has been acting indiscreetly, perhaps having been ill advised by other parties.

I had practically arranged for the vessel’s return to Trinidad by way of the Macareo, but this result is being delayed by indiscreet remarks which have come to the notice of the Government here, and which have been made in Ciudad Bolivar, notwithstanding my warning to be cautious. I hope, however, to settle the matter within a few days.

With reference to Mr. Grell’s contract, mentioned in my No. 142, I have the honor to state that same has not as yet been approved by the Yenezuelan Congress.

Trusting that my actions in this matter may meet with your approval,

I have, etc.,

R. M. Bartleman.
[Enclosure 1 in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Henderson to Mr. Bartleman.

Collector refuses to receive bond under protest. He demands 60,000 bolivars, which agent considers exorbitant.

Myself have seen the letters which say he can make no other arrangement, acting as he does under orders direct from Caracas.

Steamer continues detained. Agent prefers not to give bond, as he claims the Bolivar has not violated the laws of the Republic by passing through the Macareo.

Agent respectfully demands protection from the U. S. Government, to which owners are entitled, and the immediate release of vessel, as the detention has and will cause the heavy loss in freight and passengers, and prevent connection with European and American steamers.

Robert Henderson,
U. S. Consular Agent.
[Page 788]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Henderson.

I am informed that instructions have been sent to clear Bolivar for Trinidad, provided bonds for 10,000 bolivars are given. This is the best I can do. It is better that the act is not repeated. I write by this mail, and await your dispatch with full particulars.

[Enclosure 3 in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Henderson to Mr. Bartleman.

Your telegram of yesterday’s date received. Agent refuses to give bond and steamer continues detained, for which he holds the Venezuelan sover [Government?]. One of the branches of the Orinoco and opening into the Gulf of Paria, is the only available route practicable for such river boats as the Bolivar, which, on account of her build, can not venture on the sea. This steamer was built in Wilmington, Del., by the General Steamship Company of that place, by which she is run, and is under the American flag.

Robert Henderson,
U. S. Consular Agent.
[Enclosure 4, in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Henderson.

Your telegram of 2d just received. I see no reason why agent should refuse to give bond pending court’s decision, as he claims there has been no violation of the law.

Will wire to-morrow if permission is obtained for clearance by Macareo.

R. M. Bartleman.
[Enclosure 5, in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Carpenter to Mr. Bartleman.

(Received May 5.) Inasmuch as we have not violated or infringed upon the laws of the Republic of Venezuela, we fail to see why we should be compelled or be advised to give bonds. Bolivar been navigating the Macareo for thirteen years and serving the Venezuelan Government gratis for that length of time.

Pierce, U. S. consulate of Trinidad, fully posted on subject, and says we have the right to navigate Macareo until closed by an act of Congress, and this has not been done as yet.

We respectfully request immediate action and release of our steamer.

The General Steamship Company,
L. A. Carpenter, Agent.
[Page 789]
[Inclosure 6 in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Bartleman to Mr. Carpenter.

Yours of 2d just received. Act closing caños approved April 28, 1894. Also by codigo de hacienda. Move with caution, otherwise it may injure my expectations for return of Bolivar.

R. M. Bartleman, Chargé d’affaires United States.
[Inclosure 7 in No. 145.—Telegram.]

Mr. Carpenter to Mr. Bartleman.

Collector of customs won’t accept bonds under protest or without a guaranty not to pass through the caño Macareo.

Said caño simply closed by a concession from the Venezuelan ministers, not by an act of Congress, which is necessary, according to the constitution, for it to become a law. Bolivar has not in any way violated or infringed upon the laws of the Republic of Venezuela, and is therefore illegally detained. We, as American citizens, respectfully demand the protection of the U. S. Government and the immediate release of our American steamer.

The detention causing us heavy loss and damages. Bolivar can not proceed by the grand mouth of the Orinoco, as it is absolutely unsafe. Proceeded from Trinadad under instructions from Mr. Pierce, U. S. consul at that place, who put her under the American flag.

The General Steamship Company,
A. L. Carpenter.
[Inclosure 8 in No. 145.—Translation.]

Mr. Carpenter to Mr. Bartleman.

Yours of fifth received. Charge against Bolivar was not for violating the laws of the republic. Judge of the court admits Bolivar has violated no law, but holds that she has disobeyed the orders of the National Government, and is therefore subject to fine. The bond exacted must consist for disobedience only, and for this reason I decline to give it, as decision would naturally be against us, and because by law the extent of the penalty is a fine of 100 bolivars or twenty days’ imprisonment.

The bond exacted must be accompanied with a guaranty not to pass by Macareo, the very point we are fighting against, claiming caños can only be closed by act of Congress, which act, according to the latest journals, of April 23, has not as yet been passed.

We fully appreciate the interest you have taken in our behalf, and sincerely hope you will succeed in obtaining immediate clearance via Macareo, with permission to navigate the caño until closed by law.

A. L. Carpenter, Attorney.
[Page 790]
[Inclosure 9 in No. 145.—The Port of Spain Gazette, Saturday, April 28, 1894.]

the bolivar and the venezulean government.

The vessel will likely be seized. There is trouble existing between the authorities of the Orinoco Line of steamships and the Venezuelan Government in consequence of the Bolivar having passed through the Cano Macareo into the river Orinoco, which passage has been closed against the Bolivar in favor of the steamer Delta, whose agent (Mr. Grell, of Port of Spain) has exclusive official authority to pass through that channel. The Orinoco Line company were duly informed of the contract that had been made with Mr. Grell, and that the Boca Grande alone was open to them by which to navigate the river. The Bolivar authorities ignored this notification of the Government. Thus arises the difficulty.

As soon as the breach committed by the Bolivar was known in Ciudad Bolivar steps were taken to prevent her departure from that port for Trinidad; but no definite action was decided upon till she had been duly cleared, the delay being caused by an interruption of telegraphic communication with Caracas. When, however, instructions were received from the capital the customs authorities endeavored to make reasonable arrangements, and required the captain of the Bolivar to sign a bond for 25,000 pesos to secure her return to Bolivar, and thus avoid the detention of the vessel, cargo, and passengers. The captain went on board before the instrument could be prepared, weighed anchor, and steamed off. An attempt was made to stop the steamer lower down the river, but without success.

The owners of the Bolivar have deemed it necessary to change her flag, and, as will be observed from the appended correspondence, she now sails under the “Stars and Stripes” of the United States. The Macareo is a purely Venezuelan channel in Venezuelan waters, under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic, and not being on the open seaboard, like the Boca Grande, a violation of national rule has been committed. It is difficult to see how a change of flag can remove the responsibility of this serious breach from the shoulders on which it lay under the flag of the Republic. The Bolivar is in danger of being seized, and developments are being anxiously awaited. Information on the subject will probably be to hand on Thursday.