Mr. Haselton to Mr. Gresham.

No. 36.]

Sir: Under date of December 7 last the minister of foreign affairs of Venezuela transmitted to me a note with reference to the boundary question between this country and Great Britain. After an examination of former correspondence between the legation and the Department of State I have been led to believe that the communication may with propriety be received and forwarded to you.

I have accordingly had prepared a copy and a translation of the same, and both will be found inclosed.

[Page 845]

The note of the minister illustrates the increasing gravity of this now historic dispute, the sincerity with which Venezuela seeks to secure the submission of the matter to arbitration, and the earnestness of her desire for the exercise of the good offices of the United States in that behalf.

I have, etc.,

Seneca Haselton.
[Inclosure in No. 36—Translation.]

Señor Rojas to Mr. Haselton.

Most Excellent Sir: The question pending between Venezuela and Great Britain in reference to the limits between the Republic and the Demerara colony has occupied for several years, as your excellency knows, the attention of the civilized world, and has led the press of many European and American countries, including the United States, to point out the necessity of determining, once for all, whether the theoretic equality of States merits actual respect, or whether superior strength and greater material power can override the doctrines and principles of international law.

This question acquires day by day a more serious aspect on account of the proceedings taken by the agents of England, who, disregarding the conciliatory advances of Venezuela, have, especially since 1886, been extending the British jurisdiction into territory which the Republic considers as appertaining to her.

Within the eight years last past several efforts have been made for an adjustment equitable to both parties with a view to ending the conflict, as is shown by the sending of the commissioners to London for the purpose of treating upon the question directly with the Government of Her Britannic Majesty. The most recent was last year, and in that, as can be seen by your excellency in the Yellow Book presented to Congress in 1894, the Venezuelan Government showed a most evident desire to end the question without prejudice to any principle of law, but, on the contrary, by a legal arbitration such as England herself resorts to and recommends in analogous cases.

The persistency of the British Government in declining to submit to arbitration that part of the territory that it has occupied some years made useless the action of the last Venezuelan commissioner, and rendered inefficient the just proposals of the executive power of the Republic, and stimulated the ambition of certain agents of the colony who have ever in view the inviting prospects offered by a territory rich as are few others in natural products.

Some of them presented a motion in the legislative chamber of Demerara, on the 24th of October last, relative to the opening of a road that should connect the Upper Barima with the Cuyuní, or the Yuruán, which involves a new plan of usurpation, and tends to make more difficult the peaceful settlement of this controversy.

The secretary of the colony requested that the matter be deferred until he had consulted the ministry for the colonies, and, what is still more serious, until he should have obtained its approval of a petition forwarded to it, in order to secure the power to raise a large loan out of which might be taken the necessary amount for the opening of the projected road.

The Venezuelan Government, through its consul at Demerara, has already given notice to the governor of the colony that the carrying [Page 846] out of the project (to wit, that relative to the road from Barima to Cuyuní) would produce, without doubt, a collision with the Venezuelan authorities in that region, and would be the cause of additional acritude in a controversy which it is important to both parties to carry on in a conciliatory manner.

As your excellency will understand, the conflict assumes already a threatening aspect, as the authorities of the colonies are disposed to extend still more their jurisdiction, under the pretext of uniting two points of the territory of Guayana, and thus to penetrate into regions where the Republic has already established regular stations.

In view of this, the Venezuelan Government, ever solicitous to exhaust all proper means of arriving at a friendly settlement, has resolved to inform your legation of the new danger which has arisen and to urge hereby the Government of the United States to exercise its efficient and direct intervention, a request which some time ago our minister plenipotentiary at Washington presented to the Department of State, and has since frequently reiterated.

The cooperation of your excellency would, without doubt, be productive of direct results, as it would rest on sound principles and emanate from one who, like your excellency, represents a Republic which rests its public acts upon grounds of justice and right. And, as moreover, the Government of the United States can not, without abandoning its dearest traditions, contemplate with indifference the disregard by a foreign power of the legitimate territorial rights of an American nation, it is to be hoped that its moral action be now as full and decisive in the matter as the magnitude and character of the threatened interests indicate, call for, and require.

The matter which I have explained to your excellency is almost as important to the United States as to Venezuela herself. The control by England of the entrance to the mouth of our great fluvial artery, and of some of its tributaries, would expose to constant peril the industry and commerce of a large portion of the New World, would, in fact, bring into ridicule the famous and salutary Monroe doctrine, and would establish abusive practices which in the end might make illusive for some American countries their own political entity as free and independent States.

I most sincerely ask that your excellency will be pleased to interpret the foregoing ideas to the Government of the United States.

I renew, etc.,

P. Ezequiel Rojas.