Mr. Partridge to
Legation of the United States,
Caracas, November 15,
1893. (Received November 28.)
Sir: With reference to my dispatch No. 95, of
the 17th ultimo, relative to the Guiana boundary question, I have the
honor to report that in the course of a conversation with Señor Rojas,
on the 6th instant, he [Page 806] said to
me confidentially that the present condition of that question is very
serious, and that Venezuela’s only hope of a favorable settlement is in
the friendly offices of the United States. In another conversation, the
14th instant, he said to me more specifically that the reply of the
British Government to Señor Michelena practically refused to discuss its
rights to such part of the disputed territory as it is occupying, and
that the character of the reply is uncompromising and unsatisfactory. He
added that he thought that it would be equally for the general interests
of the Government of the United States to take some steps in the matter.
He did not ask me to report the foregoing to you, but as I said in my
previous dispatch: I anticipate that the matter will be brought to your
attention by the Venezuelan legation in Washington. On both occasions I
assured Señor Rojas of the friendly disposition of the Government and
people of the United States, but beyond that I refrained from the
expression of any opinion and, especially, I said to him that I could
not anticipate what further action, if any, the Government of the United
States might think proper to take.
I inclose, simply for your information, some unofficial correspondence
between Dr. Pulide, a former agent, and Señor Michelena, the present
Venezuelan agent in London, printed in El Tiempo August 26 and October
24, and which is not without interest in this connection. The former
article did not come under my observation until the appearance of the
answer thereto the 24th ultimo. Perhaps the most suggestive thing about
it is that Señor Michelena, having thought best to answer at all, did
not do so more satisfactorily.
I have, etc.,
[Inclosure 1 in No.
102.—Translation.—From the El Tiempo, Caracas, August 26,
1893.—Correspondence from Paris.]
the english question.
Señor C. Pumar,
Manager El Tiempo, Caracas:
In the boulevards of Paris are met people of the most distant and
diverse countries. So it happened that I met Sir W—, an English
diplomat, an influential person and very well informed, who did me
important services during the mission which I discharged in London
in 1890. After saluting each other, I said to him that I desired to
make him a visit; and we agreed upon the next day at 10 o’clock in
the morning at his home.
I met him, in fact, at the hour fixed; and we had the following
conversation, which I think useful to communicate textually to your
Sir W. You left us waiting for you, Señor Pulido; we thought you
would return in 1891 after the winter.
I. I was convinced in London that my return was useless. And besides,
the Venezuelan Government was hoping for a better occasion to resume
Sir W. However, the English Government made you concessions which
were considered very substantial. It withdrew its former ultimatum,
left the negotiations open and, more than all, abandoned its claim
to the principal mouth of the Orinoco and its adjacent territories.
It was thought that this abandonment would quiet the United States,
as in fact it did, and would encourage your Government to continue
I. Venezuela has never thought that the exclusive possessions of the
Orinoco and its adjacent territories could be reasonably disputed.
The abandonment was not considered sufficient to serve as a basis
for a settlement. For my part, the mission seemed to me so difficult
that I accepted it, counting upon the mediation of the United
States; but you know that when I arrived in London Mr. Lincoln had
already offered that to Lord Salisbury, and the latter had refused
it, without the United States giving afterwards a sign of life.
Sir W. With regard to the Orinoco, you are not ignorant that the
English about two centuries ago, being at war with Holland, occupied
the Dutch possessions to the [Page 807] Orinoco and destroyed a fort at Barima, constructed there by the
Dutch, without Spain having made the least opposition. They found
also the Dutch in Barima exploiting the land granted by the States
General. With the peace they evacuated these territories, which
Holland continued to possess. They assure me that recently the
English Government has discovered in Amsterdam documents which leave
no doubt upon this.
I. All this was usurpation by the Dutch without their having the
least title for it. But let us put aside these histories, which the
different ministers that Venezuela has had in London (I among them)
have explained and contradicted; and let us occupy ourselves with
the present. You will know, without doubt, that the Venezuelan
Government has sent to London a diligent agent to settle these
questions. He is an illustrious Venezuelan, competent in these
matters, Señor Michelena. As he has been in London since the end of
May, and as I know these proceedings, I suppose that his mission
ought to be terminated. I do you the justice of not liking to lose
time nor to deceive, and that one knows quickly upon what you
Sir W. I am informed of all by my friends in the colonial and foreign
office. You know that I followed with much interest this matter when
I was in London, and I have not lost it from view. This obliged me
to study this immense and interesting region which they call Guiana.
In fact, Señor Michelena, who as a journalist counseled making war
against England or at least stopping all commerce with her,
presented himself very much as a peacemaker. If he had the character
of a public minister there is no doubt that the Queen, in view of
these antecedents, would not have received him; but he presented
himself as a distinguished foreigner who came to investigate the
situation in an informal manner; and so the affair offered no
difficulties. Lord Rosebery did not receive him, but Sir J. H.
Sanderson, the under Secretary charged with these matters did; and
in one conference, by means of an interpreter, all was in fact
Señor Michelena ingratiated himself by proposing a general
arbitration which Lord Salisbury had already twice refused; and it
could not be accepted now either, nor continued to be discussed.
England would accept it only with respect to the territories which
are outside of the Schomburgk line and which go to Upata and perhaps
to the foot of the Orinoco.
I. The Venezuelan Government has thought that the Liberals, being in
power now, would be more conciliatory. As regards the territories to
which you refer and which are outside of the Schomburgk line,
England has never claimed them until these late years, and Venezuela
will never consent that its rights over them should be put in
Sir W. It is an error. In England the international and colonial
policy does not change with parties. They are superior interests
which all of her statesmen consider in the same way. As regards
interior policy it is different. Besides, you know that Mr.
Gladstone and Lord Roseberry, in his former ministry in the year
1885 to 1886, had already refused unlimited arbitration.
I. But if England considers herself with valid titles, why refuse
arbitration upon all the points in discussion? Its claim to
territories to the west of the Schomburgk line, will it not have for
its only object to appear to accept arbitration, although in reality
it may be concerning territories which she knows belong to Venezuela
and little concern her?
Sir W. This is a question of principle for England. She does not
admit arbitration when she thinks her rights indiscussable, as she
considers those within the Schomburgk line. As to rights to
territories which are to the west of this line, she would present
very respectable titles before an arbitral tribunal.
I. Would it not “be better, Sir W., to say that she only accepts it
when she treats and discusses with great powers capable of arriving
at an armed conflict? If not, gee that which is occurring now with
the United States in the question regarding fishing in Bering
Sir W. I should have to enter into extensive considerations to refute
your idea. But be convinced that this question cannot be settled
except by a direct transaction with England.
Sir W. was already going to take leave of me, when he said to me,
“Mind you that your conversation has every character of an
interview. Do you think of publishing it?”
I. I am not a journalist.
Sir W. But you can communicate it to a newspaper.
I. If you permit me to do so.
Sir W. I have no objections, but with one condition, and that is that
you do not give my name.
I. However, it is your name which would give it authority. Permit me
at least to give your initials.
Sir W. No, because they would all know me in London, and I do not
wish to be considered indiscreet. Make use only of one of my
I. Very well.
So I concluded this conversation, which has seemed to me interesting
and worthy of being published in your daily. We hope that for the
next Congress our illustrious minister of foreign affairs will
publish everything concerning the mission of Señor Michelena, as
Señor M. A. Saluzzo published in 1891 everything relative to the
English question and the mission which it fell to me to discharge in
1890. The Yellow Book would take in fact with time the character of
a classic work for those who wish to study and know the question.
These publications are necessary to the end that public opinion may
at least form a rational understanding upon so important a
Señor Michelena was here a few days with his family and has just
returned to London. They say that Dr. Paul has resigned the
secretaryship of the mission.
* * * * * * *
Your attentive and sincere servant,
Ex-Minister Plenipotentiary of
[Inclosure 2 in No.
102.—Translation.—From El Tiempo, Caracas, October 24,
Paris, September 29,
Manager of El Tiempo,
My Dear Sir and Friend: Through the
courtesy of a friend I have been able to read No. 145 of El Tiempo,
dated the 26th of August last. There I find under the title
“Correspondence from Paris and the English question” (signed by Dr.
Lucio Pulido), a conversation which he says he has had with an
Englishman, “a diplomat, an influential person, and very well
That conversation having appeared in El Tiempo I request you to
publish this necessary reply.
There are such inaccuracies committed by the gentleman so “well
informed,” and something more than inaccuracies, that it compels me
to put things in their place, although I am obliged to hold myself
to two points; and that necessarily because Dr. Pulido is mixed in
it, whom it is not my purpose to accuse of crooked purposes.
I suppose because of the phrases and the tone of Sir W. that he is no
other than a poor man and in the pay of the colonial office which
began working against Venezuela some years ago, who introduced
himself cautiously to all envoys from there, and whom the subscriber
had to show the front door. I see him portrayed in the following
paragraphs of said conversation:
“Sir W. Yes, I am informed of all by my friends in the colonial and
foreign office. You know that I followed with much interest this
matter when I was in London, and I have not lost it from view. This
obliged me to study this immense and interesting region which they
call Guayana. In fact, Señor Michelena, who as a journalist
counseled making war against England or at least stopping all
commerce with her, presented himself very much as a peacemaker. If
he had had the character of a public minister there is no doubt that
the Queen, in view of these antecedents, would not have received
him; but he presented himself as a distinguished foreigner who came
to investigate the situation in an informal manner; and by the
affair offered no difficulties. Lord Rosebery did not receive him,
but Sir J. H. Sanderson, the undersecretary charged with these
matters; and in one conference, by means of an interpreter, all was
in fact concluded.”
Thus, the “well-informed diplomat” acquiesces in a great falsehood,
since the Government of the Republic has proof in valid documents
that the subscriber was received by Lord Rosebery and not by the
undersecretary, Sir J. H. Sanderson, a person whom to this date I do
not know even by sight, a permanent employé of the foreign office
with whom other envoys of Venezuela have had to treat.
In the same evilly disposed manner the diplomat Sir W. asserts that
if Michelena had presented himself in the character of a public
minister the Queen would not have received him, because * * * (as a
journalist and as a patriot he wrote against England).
Does not that diplomat know that in order to be received by the
secretary of state and to establish negotiations, etc., he had to go
invested with a public character, well defined; and that in
consequence, the foreign office being the representative of the
British Government, the Queen could not impugn that which was done
by the Government? Does not that gentleman so well informed know
that, in order for a solemn reception to be held by the Queen, it
was necessary that political relations should be resumed between the
two countries by means of a convention, which is that which they are
trying to settle?
It seems that that cheap rumor that Michelena would not be acceptable
to Her Britannic Majesty, although it has completely vanished, still
furnishes some with a fruitful theme, and it seems as if it was
desired that the mission to Venezuela might be discharged by a
Venezuelan, who is not one, because he is a party to some indecorous
Enough, Mr. Manager, with what has been explained; although on
account of the innumerable blunders and inaccuracies of Sir W. I
could say much more.
Dr. Pulido closes his correspondence by expressing the desire, which
is mine also, that the Government order the publication,
opportunely, of the documents which constitute my mission. Then it
will be seen that if this last one has not accomplished (as former
ones) the result desired by true patriots, neither has it
compromised the fortune of the negotiations by imprudences, and that
it has left the dignity of the Republic in a very high position as
well as its illustrious rights.
I am your attentive and sincere servant and friend,