Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894
Mr. Baker to Mr. Gresham.
Managua, March 8, 1891. (Received April 4, 1894.)
Sir: Referring to my cablegram of this date in connection with the condition of affairs in that section of Nicaragua known as the Mosquito Reservation, I have the honor of submitting to you inclosures numbered from 1 to 9, inclusive, which contain all of the information within my possession.
I have had full conferences with President Zelaya upon the general subject, and he has shown me all of the correspondence which is in his possession upon the question. This correspondence, however, is quite limited.
The President informs me that the legal citizens—the native Indians—of the Mosquito Reservation have been crowded out of all participation in the affairs of the Government, and that Jamaica negroes, who are British subjects, have usurped the rule of the territory, to the detriment of the interests of both the native citizens and the white Americans who are doing business there. The President seems impressed with the duty of extending the power and jurisdiction of the Nicaraguan Government over the disputed territory.
By reference to inclosure No. 9, you will observe the commissioner of the Nicaraguan Government, Mr. Carlos A. Lacayo, and the British consul, H. F. Bingham, of Grey Town, have entered into an agreement by which the military of both Governments were withdrawn and the administration of the Government temporarily placed in the hands of a commission, which body is to be selected by Mr. Lacayo’s naming three members and Mr. Bingham two.1 In the meantime, the future of the territory will be discussed between the British minister at Guatemala and the Government in this city.
The President expresses satisfaction at the courteous manner in which the commander of the British man-of-war acted and with the present situation of affairs.
I have, etc.,
Mr. Braida to Mr. Baker.
San Juan del Norte, February 23, 1894.
Sir: I have the honor to report the arrival of Her British Majesty’s ship Cleopatra, Commander Howe; she dropped anchor yesterday morning at 8 a.m. off this port.
The captain called this morning at this consulate and at the governor’s.
The Cleopatra is to proceed to-morrow evening, with Consul H. F. Bingham on board, to Bluefields, and later to Cabo Gracias.
I beg to include herewith a telegram in cipher of the a. b. c. code No. 66, which I intended to send you to-day, and which was refused by order of Governor Rivas.
I am, etc.,
United States Consul.
Mr. Braida to Mr. Baker.
San Juan del Norte, February 26, 1894.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit you herewith the copies of Mr. Seat’s—the United States consular agent at Bluefields—report and inclosures of importance. The merchants in the reservation had been the beneficiaries of special privileges under the former administration, which they wished to be perpetuated by the new régime. For example, they had not been required to present certified invoices upon their importations; and consequently, the values of such importations were accepted upon the mere statements made by themselves or their agents, and these practices or privileges must have been allowed, either by agreement or through the ignorance of the former authorities.
Of course, honestly acquired vested interests should be recognized under any circumstances and protected, no matter what change of commission takes place; however, Mr. Seat did not ask the commissioner in his communication to protect any such special privilege acquired from the former Government through the ignorance of those who had control of affairs at that time, but all vested interests of Americans in the reservation should have full recognition and protection by the sovereign power.
The institution of martial law at once supersedes all other authority in the district in which it exists, and while it does exist all rights of every description might be swept away, as no means of relief are left to those upon whom it operates.
In his answer the commissioner did not give any assurance that any interests would be recognized, but expressed the opinion that the supreme Government would do so.
A large majority of Americans and others were ripe for some conservative reform of existing abuses, regarding as they did the controlling faction as corrupt and incompetent to govern, where the conditions required a higher order of intelligence and character than those then in authority, under the Mosquito chief. But the necessity of instituting martial law and declaring the whole reservation in a state of siege had not occurred to anyone, either native born or foreigner.
This sudden change from a comparative state of independence to one of purely bayonet rule has had a paralyzing effect upon every line of industry, and if it continues will certainly lead to a disastrous shrinkage in values of every description.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Seat to Mr. Lacayo.
Bluefields, February 15, 1894.
Sir: I have just received this morning a communication signed by a number of the residents of the reservation setting forth the fact that they represent property interests in the reservation amounting to one and a half million dollars or more; that they have inaugurated industrial enterprises, invested large sums of money, built up extensive business connections, established important trade relations with every [Page 244]portion of the said reservation, and that they hold leases, contracts, concessions, grants, etc., from the deposed Mosquito Government, which they fairly and honestly acquired from the said Government in good faith and at full, fair, and valuable considerations.
They further state that they have acquired the aforesaid interests, invested their aforesaid capital, and have projected and conducted their aforesaid various enterprises for years pastunder the guaranties afforded by the constitutional provisions of the Mosquito code and by the terms and stipulations of the treaty of Managua, and that the rights and interests so acquired have become vested rights and interests, of which they can not be justly deprived by any change of the local dominion; and that the said vested-rights and interests, if not fully recognized and protected by the new régime will signify the destruction of the local trade, the ruin of the commerce of the reservation, and the impoverishment of those who had endeavored to develop and advance the country. They further declare that they do not call into question the sovereign authority of Nicaragua to occupy the territory of the Mosquito or its right to change the local administration of the reserve, but they aver that in whatever changes are made they are entitled to be duly considered as an element whose interests must be affected by any and all changes that may be made which would ignore or deprive them of the rights and interests heretofore acquired in good faith under the former administration of affairs in the Mosquito Reservation.
They further state that they are fully aware of the cordial relations existing between their home Government and the Government of Nicaragua, and that they would wish to see such cordial relations perpetuated and strengthened, and that they believe that they will be, by a due observance of the rights and duties of each toward the other, and a due respect for their mutual interests; and they have full confidence that all their rights will be recognized and eventually adjusted according to equity and good conscience. But since the promulgation of martial law within the district of Mosquito, they are impressed with the necessity of an immediate recognition of their said rights in the reserve as American residents, and of assurances from the proper source that their interests will be protected and held to be inviolable by the sovereign power of the Republic.
They have therefore appealed to me as the American representative at this port to solicit from you some definite assurances that all vested rights and interests of Americans in the reserve will be respected and be given recognition and adequate protection by the sovereign authority.
During the existence of martial law in this district the liability of insurance companies is suspended; they therefore ask to be informed, in cases of loss by fire, how are the sufferers to be reimbursed and by whom?
They also respectively inquire if the Spanish language is to be substituted for the English in the business forms and transactions of the country, and in the local courts; and if so, will it not operate a hardship on the people of the reserve, this being almost purely an English-speaking community.
With great respect, I am, etc.,
United States Consular Agent.
Mr. Seat to Mr. Braida.
Bluefields, Nicaragua, February 22, 1894.
Sir: Since my last letter, written on the 15th instant, I have to report that there has been but little change in the situation.
The town continues under martial law, and some sort of military edict [is] issued almost daily from the headquarters of Commissioner Lacayo.
Early on the 10th instant a bulletin appeared and was distributed in the streets giving an account of the landing of the troops, and assuring the inhabitants of the town that they need not fear a few Nicaraguan soldiers, as Her Majesty the Queen of England would certainly carry out her treaty obligations to the chief of Mosquito. * * *
On the same day, the 10th, a proclamation from Commissioner Lacayo appeared, notifying the citizens of Bluefields of the existence of war between Honduras and Nicaragua, and assuring them that the Nicaraguan soldiers were here to defend the homes and interests of natives and foreigners, and that they had nothing to fear.
Between the 10th and 12th some communications were passed between Commissioner Lacayo and the Mosquito chief, the exact nature of which I could not ascertain, but was informed that the chief had notified the commissioner that he was violating the treaty of Managua by bringing armed soldiers into Bluefields, and that he (the commissioner), his officers and soldiers, were subject to arrest for such violation of the law.
On the morning of the 12th instant a proclamation was issued by Rigoberto Cabezas, declaring martial law and the town in a state of siege; a copy of which proclamation is herewith attached.
The promulgation of martial law naturally produced intense excitement, as it had not been anticipated. The chief and others of his Government officials left the town and a large body of the native negroes of Bluefields.
On the 15th instant the merchants and other American residents addressed an official letter to myself as the representative of America, asking me to communicate with the commissioner and solicit from him some special assurances that the vested rights and interests of Americans in the reserve would be recognized and protected.
The same day I prepared a letter, setting forth the requests made by the American residents, and asking the commissioner for assurances in behalf of my countrymen that their vested interests and rights would be recognized and protected by the sovereign authority.
On the 17th instant I received from the commissioner a reply to the above, acknowledging the receipt of the letter and stating that it would be forwarded to his Government for consideration, and that he entertained no doubt that the rights not only of Americans, but of all other persons would be recognized and protected.
On the 19th instant an order was issued directed to the merchants requiring all vessels bringing goods from abroad to discharge them at the Government’s wharf at the Bluff; second, prohibiting them from making fast to private wharves; third, requiring them to present their invoices in Spanish, and authenticated by a Nicaraguan consul at the port of departure, or by a notary public; and in case of noncompliance to be subjected to fine.[Page 246]
The same day a notice was served on the merchants requiring them to present themselves at the office of the collector at 3 p.m. on the 20th, for the purpose of liquidating their duties, and imposing a fine of $25 a day for every day’s delay in presenting their paid invoices.
This embraces the most important orders issued since the occupation of the town and since the promulgation of martial law.
I believe the orders have been complied with generally up to the present time.
This morning there are reports on the streets of a housebreaking and several persons abused by the Nicaraguan soldiers, and there is also reported to have been a considerable exodus of the negro population.
United States Consular Agent.
Saml. Weil & Co., and others, to Mr. Seat.
Dear Sir: Inasmuch as the commissioner of the Republic of Nicaragua to the Mosquito Reservation has deposed the local government and declared martial law, we, the citizens of the United States of America, merchants of Bluefields and vicinity, feel that our interests, which amount to at least one and one half million dollars, are not protected, and rights, privileges, and vested rights obtained and enjoyed are in danger of being taken away from us.
By the action of declaring martial law a serious fault is committed against our interests, for it makes all insurance policies null and void and places all our properties in jeopardy, and in case of fire our losses and hardships would be severe, and in many instances the possessions of citizens of the United States would thus be swept away and leave them in poverty.
Many of us have leases, contracts, grants, and concessions obtained honorably from the deposed Mosquito Government, and for valuable considerations; and from expressions uttered by Sr. Carlos A. Lacayo, commissioner, these are in danger of not being recognized by the Nicaraguan Government, to our injury.
We have made our investments in this reservation, knowing there existed a guaranty in the shape of treaty, which treaty has been observed and been in effect for over thirty years, and our capital, labor, and fortunes within this reservation have been placed here by us with the feeling that we were living in a free zone, with perfect security, and not to be affected by the well-known caprices of a Latin-American government.
Now, by the action of the said commissioner, the fruits of our labor, the commerce of the reservation, which has been developed and is upheld almost solely by the citizens of the United States, will be hampered and eventually ruined; for the duties existing here prior to the deposing of the local authorities were lenient and moderate, and it is now proposed by the Nicaraguan authorities now in charge of the Mosquito Reservation to increase said duties and collect them, and there is no telling where or when the further increase of duties will end.
The Spanish language to be introduced here, within a territory that has been an English speaking one for years, and all records kept in [Page 247]that language, will work hardships upon us, and can be used to entrap us to commit ourselves.
The new authorities will require consular invoices from the United States, en tailing extra expense upon the merchants and more labor. This was not required by the previous Government; and as our importations come mainly from New Orleans, La., U. S. A., and steamers remain in that port frequently only long enough to discharge and load, the time entailed to make these invoices in Spanish will work to our injury.
The officers appointed thus far by the said commissioner are collector of customs, treasurer, port surgeons, and some minor officers. The collector of customs has issued the inclosed circular requesting them to pay duties to him.
We recognize the supreme authorities of Nicaragua, and are not protesting against their placing troops here; for we acknowledge same to be their rights, simply protesting against Nicaragua interfering with any of the local laws of the reservation affecting our previous rights and privileges.
American shipping has been hampered by being required to obtain certain manifests, permits, and same serve to detain said vessels unnecessarily, and were not required heretofore by the local authorities.
Therefore, as our representative, we respectfully ask that you address a note to the acting authorities requesting that they give pledges and guaranties that the interests, vested rights, rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens of the United States shall remain intact and shall not be interfered with, and would also respectfully ask that you will inform our Government of the situation, the jeopardy our properties are placed in, and that we ask the good offices of the United States to secure for us the protection of our rights that we are entitled to.
Mr. Lacayo to Mr. Seat
American Vice-Consul, present:
I have the pleasure of referring to your communication of the 16th, in which you acknowledge the receipt of a communication signed by the American citizens, resident of the city, in which they joined for the purpose of representing that they possess acquired interests within the reserved territory; that they expect guaranties for those interests; that they recognize the right of the foreign authority of Nicaragua to occupy the territory, and hope that the cordial relations existing between the Government of Nicaragua and the United States will be cemented now [Page 248]with the respect which the interests of the Americans merit; and lastly, you ask to obtain through my official authority an immediate recognition of those interests, and that as the insurance policies on their said property are suspended during the existence of martial law, who is to reimburse them for their losses in case of accident by fire, and at the same time you inquire concerning the language to be adopted in this country.
Your very important communication will be forwarded to the supreme Government to be considered, and I have no doubt that not only will the rights of Americans but those of all other persons who possess such right will be protected.
In regard to the situation of affairs, and the consequences, they are clearly determined by the law of nations.
Nicaragua is not responsible for any private transactions.
With all consideration, I am, etc.,
Proclamation of Commissioner Lacayo.
To the Citizens of Bluefields, greeting:
You know that, challenged by the tyrant who reigns in Honduras, we accepted as a duty to our national honor the glove that was thrown down.
The war has been occasioned by an ambitious and criminal man whose barbarous actions are known to you.
It was he who bombarded an American vessel which had on board the minister of the United States.
He is the same cruel tyrant who failed to respect anything in his own country, even to women and children, and the same who, naming himself chief of the Mosquito Reservation, proceeded to throw his wild hordes on these unprotected, cities which would have happened, if in the battle of Ilaya our soldiers had not routed them.
Notwithstanding that we have fortified Cape Gracias a Dios, the marauders from Vasquez could invade this port, if Nicaragua were to leave it without defense.
Our forces have arrived and you have with you the vanguard of the soldiers of Nicaragua.
They come to defend your homes and your interests, and they come also to save the lives and interests of the strangers, for which Nicaragua is responsible by international law, and would be criminally negligent if she did not do all that is in her power to give them the protection of her flag and soldiers.
General Cabezas is the honorable chief of our military forces, who promises to have the laws of the Republic respected, which are the rights and guarantees of each person.
Have faith in our army, whose heroism and bravery have planted our glorious and victorious banner in the last bulwark of Vasquez.
The people of Bluefields have nothing to fear.
Our sovereignty is their safeguard.
Comisario de la Reserva Mosquitia.
Proclamation of Intendente General Cabezas.
Considering that having been refused the rights of Nicaragua of putting forces in its territory by the chief of the Mosquito Reservation;
That the same chief, in a letter addressed to the commissioners of the Republic, the contents of which letter were communicated to me, opposed openly the mobilization of Nicaraguan forces, menacing to capture and chastise the soldiers who carry arms;
That the referred note signified a categorical denial of the sovereignty of Nicaraugua and the disavowal to the legitimate authorities;
That in the war in which she is involved all acts which favor an enemy are crimes of high treason;
Therefore, by the powers and faculties invested in me, I decree:
- Art. 1. Military occupation of the city of Bluefields and declare it in a state of seige.
- Art. 2. To ignore the authorities in office appointed by the Mosquito Government. The commissioner of the Republic will organize, according to necessity, the régime of administration and police.
- Art. 3. No crafts can leave the city or port without a pass from my office.
- Art. 4. It is prohibited to form groups or public meetings, or to carry arms.
- Art. 5. The transgressions which are committed against the order and security of the State will be punished by martial law.
Intendente General of the Atlantic Coast.
From José Vita to President Zelaya.
Mr. President: I have the honor of communicating to Your Excellency the following:
Bluefields, March 4, 1894.
In the house of the governor of Nicaragua, in the city of Bluefields, there assembled the captain of the English man-of-war Cleopatra, the English consul, and the commissioner of the Republic to the reservation, to confer for the purpose of adjusting the present difficulties arising for the military occupation of the reservation. While the several governments are debating the question, a modus vivendi, conforming to the following articles, is established:
- First. The commissioner will organize a police for the protection and safety of Bluefields.
- Second. The commissioner will also organize a municipal, council, composed of five persons, two to be named by the consul (British),1 and three by the commissioner.
- Third. The military forces will be withdrawn from the city of Bluefields and from the reservation.
- Fourth. The commissioner acknowledges the validity of all international treaties existing between the Republic and Great Britain.
Carlos A. Lacayo.
H. F. Bingham.
(Sic H. Howe, Capt.)
I have the honor to be Tour Excellency’s obedient servant,
Note.— The above was kindly furnished me by President Zelaya.