Mr. Andrade to Mr. Gresham.


Sir: A proposition was introduced on the 24th of October last, in the legislative chamber of Demerara, for the construction of a road uniting the Upper Barima with the Cuyuni or with the Yuruan. The Government secretary asked that action on the subject might be deferred until a consultation could be had with the colonial ministry and until the approval of a petition had been obtained which was designed to secure authority to raise a large loan, from which was to be taken the amount necessary for the construction of the projected road.

The Government of Venezuela thinks that the design in question involves a fresh purpose to unlawfully appropriate the territory of the Republic, and that its execution would doubtless give rise to a conflict with the national authorities of that district, and would occasion greater acrimony in the boundary dispute now pending with the British colony. Consequently, desiring to forestall the construction of the road, it has already communicated its views to the colonial Government through the Venezuelan consul at Demerara, and has, furthermore, addressed the communication which is reproduced below, to his excellency Seneca Haselton, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary [Page 842] of the United States in Venezuela, and it instructs me to earnestly support the request therein contained:

The dispute pending between Venezuela and Great Britain on the subject of the boundaries between the Republic and the colony of Demerara has for years past, as you are aware, engaged the attention of the civilized world, and has induced the press of many European and American countries (that of the United States included) to declare that it must be decided at once whether the theoretical equality of states is entitled to real respect, or whether the prestige of force or the greater material power of nations has greater weight than the doctrines and principles of right. The question under consideration daily presents a more unpleasant aspect, owing to the course pursued by the agents of England, who, deaf to the conciliatory representations of Venezuela, have, especially since 1886, extended British jurisdiction over territory which the Republic considers to belong to it.

Repeated attempts have been made during the last eight years to settle the dispute by means honorable to both parties, as is shown by the sending of three commissioners to London with instructions to discuss the matter directly with the Government of Her Britannic Majesty. The most recent attempt was made last year, and the Government of Venezuela (as your excellency will see by a perusal of the Yellow Book laid before the Congress of 1894) manifested the most earnest desire to put an end to the controversy without sacrificing any principle of right, but by such legal means as are used and recommended by England under similar circumstances.

The persistency of the British Government in excluding from arbitration all that portion of the territory which it has held for years, rendered the action of the last commissioner of Venezuela null and void; rendered inefficacious the good intentions of the Executive of the Republic, and stimulated the ambition of certain agents in the colony who have in view nothing but the pleasing prospect presented by a territory exceedingly rich in natural productions. Some of them, on the 24th of October last, procured the introduction in the legislative chamber of Demerara, of a proposition looking to the construction of a road which is to unite the upper Barima with the Cuyuni or with the Yuruan, which involves a fresh project for the unlawful appropriation of Venezuelan territory, and the manifest tendency of which is to increase the difficulty of reaching a peaceable settlement of the controversy.

The secretary of Government requested that the proposition should be postponed until he could consult the colonial department, and what was still more important, obtain its approval of an application for power to raise a large loan from which could be taken the amount necessary to open the proposed road.

The Government of Venezuela, through its consul at Demerara, has advised the governor of the colony that the execution of the project (that relating to the road from the Barima to the Cuyuni) would undoubtedly bring about a collision with the Venezuelan authorities in that region, and would be the cause of further embittering a controversy which it is important to both parties to put on a more friendly footing.

As your excellency will understand, the controversy assumes an appearance which may be called threatening since the authorities of the colony are disposed to extend their jurisdiction still further, under pretext of connecting two points in the territory of Guiana, and thus to penetrate into regions where the Republic has established regular centers of occupation.

In view of this fact, and the further fact that the Government of Venezuela has been constantly endeavoring to exhaust all lawful means to reach a friendly understanding, it has thought proper to inform your legation of the new danger caused by this matter and to press its request, made some time ago to the Department of State, and constantly urged by our minister plenipotentiary at Washington, for the active and direct intervention of the United States.

The cooperation of your excellency will undoubtedly produce immediate results, both because it would be based on sound reasons and because it will proceed from one who, like your excellency, represents a Republic which unites its most effective action with the practice of justice and of law. And as, on the other hand, the Government of the United States, without proving false to its dearest traditions, can not view with indifference the usurpation of a foreign power over the legitimate territories of an American nation, it is to be hoped that its moral action will be as ready and decisive as the magnitude and character of the interests endangered call for, demand, and most urgently need.

The subject I am discussing with your excellency is almost as serious and important to the great Republic of the North as it is to Venezuela herself. England’s control over the mouth of our great fluvial artery, and over some of its tributaries, will be the cause of permanent danger to industry and commerce throughout a large portion of the New World, will effectually destroy the celebrated and beneficent Monroe doctrine, and will perpetuate measures of usurpation which may in the [Page 843] future, in the case of certain American countries, render illusory their political existence as free and independent States.

I most urgently request your excellency to he good enough to express the foregoing views to the Government of the United States.

I avail myself of the opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurances of my high and distinguished consideration.

José Andrade.