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Message of the President

in the senate of the united states.

in response to

The Senate resolution of December 4, 1894, transmitting a report from the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers, relating to affairs at Blue fields, in the Mosquito Territory.

January 3, 1895.—Read, referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, and ordered to be printed.

To the Senate of the United States:

In response to the resolution of the Senate of the 4th ultimo, requesting “any reports or correspondence relating to affairs at Bluefields, in the Mosquito Territory,” and also information as to “whether any American citizens have been arrested or the rights of any American citizens at Bluefields have been interfered with during the past two years by the Government of Nicaragua,” I transmit herewith a report from the Secretary of State, with accompanying papers.

Grover Cleveland.

The President:

The Secretary of State, to whom was referred a resolution adopted by the Senate on the 4th ultimo, requesting the President, “if not incompatible with public interest, to send to the Senate any reports or correspondence relating to affairs at Bluefields, in the Mosquito Territory; and also to inform the Senate whether any American citizens have been arrested or the rights of any American citizens at Blue-fields have been interfered with during the past two years by the Government of Nicaragua,” has the honor to submit the correspondence called for, that the same may be transmitted to the Senate should the President deem it compatible with the public interest to do so.

Although the resolution covers affairs at Bluefields during the past two years, the events to which it relates occurred within the last twelve months.

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In December, 1893, war broke out between Nicaragua and Honduras. In January a detachment of Honduranean troops seized Gape Gracias á Dios, in Nicaragua, about 60 miles above the Mosquito strip. The Kearsarge was ordered to Bluefields to protect the interests of American citizens, but was wrecked on the way on Roncador Reef. Early in February the Government of Nicaragua sent a military force to the strip to repel the threatened invasion. On February 11 the Nicaraguans occupied the Bluff, and on the 12th they took possession of Bluefields, and proclaimed martial law in the reservation. Against this action Clarence, the so-called Mosquito chief, protested.

War vessels of Great Britain and, later, of the United States were sent to Bluefields to protect the respective foreign interests in that locality. The Nicaraguan commissioner to the reservation attempted, with the concurrence of the British naval and consular representatives, to organize a provisional administration for the strip, in which Nicaraguans and foreigners were to take part, but the endeavor proved abortive. This Government withheld its sanction of the scheme as inimical to the sovereignty of Nicaragua, and American citizens at Bluefields refrained from participating in the proposed administration, British marines were temporarily landed to protect life and property in view of threatened disturbance, but they were withdrawn when the necessity for their presence no longer existed, and thereafter an American vessel sufficed for all needs of foreign protection.

In July last a movement against the Nicaraguan authority was temporarily successful, the so-called Indian Government was for a time restored, the Bluff captured with loss of life on the part of Nicaragua, and the Nicaraguan garrison of Bluefields expelled. A few citizens of the United States who are believed to have taken part in this insurrection left the country. Two Americans, Lampton and Wiltbank, accepted municipal office under the short-lived régime, and they and ten or twelve others, mostly English and Jamaicans, were arbitrarily arrested and banished. The urgent remonstrance of this Government and its demand that the two Americans be allowed a hearing, and in any event an opportunity to arrange their affairs before expulsion, resulted in permission being given them to return to Bluefields under pledge of good behavior.

With these exceptions, and perhaps that of one Ausburn, whose return was for a short time refused, but afterwards allowed, the undersigned is not advised that American citizens in Bluefields have been arrested. Sundry complaints growing out of interruptions of trade and use of American vessels by the Nicaraguan authorities have had proper attention, and will doubtless yield to the usual methods of treatment.

During the period covered by the events in question the Nicaraguan Government withdrew the exequatur of Mr. Braida, the United States consul at San Juan del Norte, on the ground of his alleged unfriendly acts, but it was subsequently restored.

An unfortunate incident for a time threatened to strain the good relations between this Government and that of Nicaragua. One Wilson, an American citizen, having been murdered at Rama by Argüello, the temporary governor of the town, a demand for the trial and punishment of the criminal and his accomplice was made. Argüello was arrested at Rama, but escaped, with the evident connivauce of the local authorities, and his rearrest and detention at Bluefields were followed by a second escape, under circumstances indicating gross negligence, to say the least, on the part of those responsible for his safe custody. He is said to have fled the country, thus baffling the efforts of the proper [Page 3]authorities to do justice in the case. The Nicaraguan Government, however, testified its abhorrence of the atrocious crime by dismissing Torres from the office of governor of Rama, and by sending another commissioner to the reservation in place of Lacayo, who was in command at Bluefields at the time of the second escape.

The facts above stated and incidental references to the treatment of the question of the interoceanic canal by the Government of Nicaragua appear in the correspondence.

It will be observed that from the beginning of the conflicts, which at times were serious, this Government has steadily recognized the paramount sovereignty of Nicaragua over the entire reservation, yielding to no pretentions inconsistent with that sovereignty.

At no time during the last forty or fifty years has the so-called native Indian government in the strip been real. On the contrary, it has been an alien municipal government administered according to alien methods. Although Americans and American interests have for sometime predominated in the strip, this Government, while intervening in proper cases for their protection, has consistently disavowed any right of its own or of its citizens to govern the reservation or participate in its political affairs. Whatever right of self government the Indians enjoyed under the treaty concluded between Great Britain and Nicaragua was to be exercised by themselves and not by aliens in their name. That treaty contemplated the eventual surrender by the Indians of their right to govern themselves and other inhabitants of the strip, and their “incorporation into the Republic of Nicaragua on the same footing as other citizens of the Republic.”

A copy of a convention, concluded on the 20th of November last, is herewith communicated, by which it is declared that the Mosquito Islands, while retaining “special privileges” in accordance with their “customs” and “racial disposition,” have “agreed wholly to submit to the laws and authorities of Nicaragua for the purpose of forming part of the political and administrative organization.”

Great Britain, it is proper to say, has given this Government the most positive assurance that she asserts no right of sovereignty or protection over the territory, but on the contrary respects the full and paramount sovereignty of the Government of Nicaragua.

Respectfully submitted.

W. Q. Gresham.