Mr. Bayard to Mr. Gresham.

Sir: I had the honor by my dispatch of the 16th instant, to communicate to you some remarks upon the status of the “Mosquito Reservation,” in the territory of Nicaragua. Since then I have received from [Page 259]Lord Kimberley, on the 24th instant, a memorandum in relation to the incident of the landing of a British armed force at Bluefields, and inclose herewith a copy.

As I have before had the honor to state, the political status of these Mosquito Indians and the extent of their rights of local self-government are illy defined, and it is highly desirable for the interests of all concerned that the lines of lawful authority should be more distinctly established and agreed upon.

The theater of the events under consideration is remote, and the region is occupied by a population imperfectly civilized and scattered.

The most influential residents of Bluefields are traders, English and American, with some negroes from the Island of Jamaica, and information of a reliable and satisfactory nature is necessarily difficult to obtain. But it does not appear that the alleged intervention by the British armed force was for the maintenance of the rights of the Mosquito Indians against alleged Nicaraguan oppressors—but, rather, to protect other classes of residents, who are not mentioned in the treaty of Managua, of 1860, between Great Britain and Nicaragua, and are not parties to any stipulations, express or implied, by that convention.

At the close of the memorandum, now transmitted herewith, it is stated that interviews and arrangements for the purpose of restoring peace and order at Bluefields were between the British consuls and the Nicaraguan general, in which it was by and under Nicaraguan authority alone all the measures to restore and maintain peace were to be executed.

This arrangement, so far as it goes, implies a recognition of Nicaraguan sovereignty, and the subordination of Mosquito affairs to the (not unqualified) control of the former. I am informed that Nicaragua has paid in full the annuity of $5,000 stipulated for ten years by the treaty of Managua, and I am disposed to believe that, by the exercise of moderation, discretion, and just humanity, Nicaragua can remove all vestige of pretext or reason for any foreign intervention for the settlement of questions of a social or political nature between herself and the Mosquito Indians, and that race and that class are the only individuals who have any recognition or standing under the terms of the treaty of Managua, which contained restrictions upon the sovereignty thereby ceded to Nicaragua by Great Britain.

It has been reported that Admiral Benham has been asked to visit Bluefields, and I hope it is true and that a reliable report of the condition of that region may thus be furnished.

Sir John Hopkins, the British admiral, is a man of the same stamp, and his account may be looked for with interest and respect by all parties.

As a possible contribution to knowledge of the locality and events in question, I inclose copies of a communication by a correspondent of the Times, of the 27th instant, which is, however, evidently colored by the views and prejudices of the writer in the interests of a Moravian mission.

The treaty rights of Nicaragua, under the convention of 1860, at Managua, must be interpreted by the then existing state of facts, and it will not be safe to interpolate additional restrictions upon the sovereignty of Nicaragua, as to subjects and interests not then existent and not even contemplated at that time.

The spiritual welfare of the Mosquito population was not, and is not, among the responsibilities with which Great Britain was charged or is chargeable.

[Page 260]

Upon obtaining further information on the subject I will communicate it to you.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure 1.]

Memorandum handed to me March 24 by Lord Kimberley, personally, at the foreign office.

The latest information respecting the state of affairs at Bluefields is contained in two telegrams from the admiral commanding the West Indies Station and the captain of the Canada, from Colon.

From these telegrams it appears that the captain of the Cleopatra, Captain Curzon-Howe, had, on the 5th of March, at the request of the consuls and the Nicaraguan commissioner, landed 100 men at Bluefields for the protection of life and property; that this detachment had, on the 16th of March, been replaced by a detachment from the Canada (Captain Wilson), the Cleopatra being under orders to proceed to Newfoundland. The men were reembarked on the 20th, the Nicaraguan commissioner at Bluefields having undertaken to form a provisional government.

It is not known what was the exact nature of the disturbances which led to the landing of the men from the British ships, but on the 17th of March Her Majesty’s minister at Guatemala had telegraphed that disturbances had occurred at Bluefields, and that there had been serious loss of life and property.

The information which had been previously sent by Mr. Gosling, and which was received on the 4th of March, was that the Nicaraguan authorities had, on the 12th of February, overthrown the Government of the Mosquito Reserve, and had proclaimed Nicaraguan authority; that Her Majesty’s consul had telegraphed to Jamaica for a ship of war.

On dispatching H. M. S. Cleopatra to Grey Town and the coast of the Mosquito Reserve, Admiral Hopkins gave orders to the captain that his stay in those waters should not be longer than he might consider necessary (after consultation with the local representatives of the British Government) for the protection of British interests and subjects. The same orders were given to the captain of the Canada, which relieved the Cleopatra.

The Cleopatra arrived at Grey Town on the 22d of February, and there her captain learned that early in the month 126 Nicaraguan soldiers had arrived and had proceeded to Bluefields, of which they took possession during the night of the 12th, martial law and a state of siege being declared, and all the Mosquitian officials being deposed and the Nicaraguan flag being hoisted.

The Cleopatra took on board Her Majesty’s consul, and arrived at Bluefields on the 25th of February. The captain and the consul had interviews with the Nicaraguan commissioner and the general in command of the Nicaraguan troops. The result of these interviews was that the general undertook (1) to raise the state of martial law, (2) to hoist the Mosquito flag alongside the flag of Nicaragua, (3) to form a council, (4) to organize a civil police, (5) to send away a portion of his troops.

The Cleopatra left on the 27th of February for Colon, to coal, leaving some armed boats in sight of Bluefields, to which place she subsequently returned to await the arrival of the Canada to relieve her.

[Page 261]
[Inclosure 2.—From the Times, Tuesday, March 27, 1894.]

The Nicaraguan attack on Bluefields.

[From a correspondent.]

Allow me to draw the attention of your readers to an act of aggression on the part of Nicaragua. She violently took possession of the Mosquito Reservation on the morning of the 12th instant, invading its capital, the town of Bluefields, with an armed force of soldiers when all its inhabitants were fast asleep, breaking open the Government buildings, and placing them under a strong guard, temporarily arresting those who might have escaped to raise an alarm, forcing open the gaols and letting loose all the prisoners, hoisting her flag on the Mosquito flagstaff, and declaring the natives Nicaraguan citizens. By these measures the Nicaraguans have deprived the chief, Robert Henry Clarence, of his authority as president of the council, dismissed the, members of that body, removed the judges of the supreme court, the magistrates, and every government official in the service of his excellency the chief They have also appropriated moneys, and roughly handled a British subject, the custom-house collector, to obtain the keys of the safe. Up to the present date we have been under martial law, which was proclaimed on the 12th instant.

In this way Nicaragua has used force and intimidation to deprive the Mosquitos of their rights. She has also offered bribes to many influential persons to agree and consent to this when the final settlement comes. The natives are opposed to any closer relation with Nicaragua, with whom they have no sympathy, their customs, manners, and character being so much at variance. The Mosquitos have a great liking for England; they were happy and contented while under her protectorate from the latter part of the seventeenth century to 1860, and a pang went through the whole of the tribes when the best part of their territory was handed over to Honduras and Nicaragua. However, they were pacified by having a portion set apart for their use and at being free to govern themselves without any interference from the supreme Government; and they implicitly believed that England would see that all, the stipulations of the treaty of Managua made between Her Britannic Majesty and the Republic of Nicaragua in 1860 were carried out. So far they have done their best to comply with all the stipulations of this treaty, and have respected the rights of the sovereign power. They have borne patiently the encroachments and oppression of Nicaragua for many years past, protesting and reporting to the foreign office from time to time as they occurred; but, for some reason or other, no satisfaction was ever obtained. For the last ten years the commercial development of this country has made rapid strides. Foreign capitalist, especially American, have established the banana trade, which is now very extensive; other investments have also been made in connection with the natural products of the country according to the laws of the Mosquito Government, and if this radical and sudden change is to have effect, concessions, grants, leases of lands, and Government obligations will have to be taken into consideration and regulated accordingly, all having been done upon the strength of the treaty.

The Nicaraguans have long looked with a jealous eye upon the revenues and harbor advantages of this country, never failing to encroach where they saw a chance, and holding on tenaciously in spite of all remonstrances and opposition. They obtained a footing at Rama City, [Page 262]situated at the mouth of the Rama and Siquia rivers, tributaries of the Eseondido or Bluefields River, a few miles east of the western boundary, and they invited their wealthy men to come there from the interior, granted them lands in the vicinity, irrespective of claims or leases issued by the Mosquito Government, built a quartel for the soldiers, appointed a governor, and extracted dues and revenues from the people. Then they began to watch a large mahogany company who are cutting valuable woods, and wherever a chance could be seen declared the works to be in Nicaragua, thus obtaining the extraction dues. Another instance of encroachment was the establishment of a military station and governor on the Bio Grande or Great River, about 15 miles due east of the western boundary. The next step was to strip the reserve of its islands and bays, which the natives possessed for fishing and growing cocoanuts long before the treaty of Managua was ever thought of. Several other encroachments have been reported to the foreign office, the last and most serious being the forcible occupation of Bluefields, the capital of the reservation, and other towns on the coast.

The Mosquito constitution and code of laws are well adapted to both natives and foreigners, and the Government is liberal. The Administration had many defects, and must change gradually to suit existing circumstances as commerce and civilization advances; but this does not concern Nicaragua, who has “no control” over the governing powers within the limits of the reserve. Now that these unwarrantable proceedings have taken place, we should like to know definitely how this country stands, and what step England will take. A British man-of-war was sent for by Her Majesty’s consul at Grey Town some time back, but up to date it has not arrived.

I may here give an account of the beginning of this serious trouble. General Carlos A. Lacayo, the appointed commissioner to the reserve from Nicaragua, arrived here with a staff of officers on November 2, 1893, seemingly on a secret mission to annex the country. He erected immense buildings to serve as quartel offices and dwelling-house. Building a wharf out into the lagoon, he compelled all ships going up the river to take a pass from him here. He imposed a heavy duty on bananas, principally coming out of the reserve. From the first the natives had their suspicions as to his intentions, and murmurs of disapproval increased day by day. The chief and his council had their attention drawn to the matter, and they also began to look upon it with alarm. To favor the secret scheme there was the war between Honduras and Nicaragua.

About 200 soldiers came from Grey Town, without any notification to the chief, to be shipped to Truxillo. During their eight days’ sojourn in Bluefields, on board the steamer Mabel Comeaux, the anxiety of the people was raised to an alarming extent, but upon the advice of the chief and his Government they did not do anything which might have helped to bring about the incorporation which they mortally dread. The soldiers left here for Cape Gracias a Dios, with an addition of volunteers consisting of Honduras rebels and many others of doubtful character. Other troops, sent for specially by the commissioner, arrived on the steamship Miranda, and were landed by small boats. When the chief again heard of the arrival of troops he immediately invited the commissioner to the Government house and put forward several important questions, one of which was whether he still respected the treaty of Managua and the award by the Emperor of Austria. To these questions he received very evasive answers. His Excellency then protested against the soldiers walking about the streets armed, it being quite [Page 263]unnecessary and against the laws of the municipal government. This appears to have given great offense. No doubt the incident was misrepresented to the Nicaraguan Government, and the commissioner received secret instructions to take the bold step spoken of at once. If the chief had been courteously notified at the very first of the expected arrival of the troops and of their object, he would have used his best endeavors to accommodate and facilitate their movements to the frontier while hostilities between Honduras and Nicaragua were pending.

General Carlos A. Lacayo and General Rigoberto Cabezas have now taken over the whole management of affairs in the country, and have already filled up the several offices for the collection of dues and taxes, etc., by an entirely new staff. For these places there was no lack of applicants, principally foreigners, who rushed into the scramble for the plums of office. The generals are about to form a new code of laws, to govern according to the constitution of Nicaragua, and to get everything in working order before there is any investigation by Her Britannic Majesty’s Government.

Business is almost at a standstill, and many people have closed their houses and taken refuge in the bush and up the rivers. Terror prevails where a few months ago all felt secure and happy. To add to this chaotic state of affairs, another revolution has broken out in the interior.

I also earnestly wish to call the special attention of England to the Moravian mission churches and schools that have been so long established in the country and supported in every way by the Mosquito Government, who gave annually a handsome donation from the treasury toward their support. This institution, which stands alone, has done much noble work among the Indians in educating them both spiritually and morally, and so bringing them gradually to a state of civilization. What is to become of them in a country where Protestantism is merely tolerated and the Sabbath only observed as a holiday, with drinking, gambling, bullfights, heavy betting around a cockpit, and reveling and fighting in the streets? Is this little Territory, that was at peace with the whole world, to be brought within the jurisdiction of a country that is always in a state of revolution and turmoil? Are all the enterprises that were built upon the existence of the treaty to diminish and gradually die out? A great deal of pressure will be brought to bear in many ways upon the merchants and residents that will compel them to quit, and so make room for the Spaniards to come in and fill up the vacancy.

Having laid before your readers the true facts of our present situation, I would advise England for the sake of her honor to take immediate steps to relieve a people from a future serfdom, and a prosperous little country from ruin, by a thorough investigation of all the wrongs this country has suffered, and insist upon the whole of the treaty of Managua and the award by the Emperor of Austria being carried out faithfully by Nicaragua. Even for diplomatic reasons she should not relax her hold in this little spot of Central America, which eventually she may need. Her Britannic Majesty’s pro-vice-consul and the United States consular agent are doing their very best, in the interests of the people they represent, with the limited powers they have at their disposal.

February 25.

Early this morning Her Majesty’s ship Cleopatra arrived from Grey Town with Mr. H. F. Bingham, the British consul, on board. Capt. Assheton G. Curzon-Howe, R. N., accompanied by his secretary, came [Page 264]ashore with important dispatches to the Nicaraguan commissioner. Mr. E. D. Hatch, Her Britannic Majesty’s pro-vice-consul, introduced the officers to Gen. Carlos A. Lacayo. On their return to the British vice-consulate, accompanied by a peaceable crowd, the Nicaraguan soldiers rushed down, shouting “Viva Nicaragua!” to disperse them with loaded revolvers and rifles, for the martial law forbids an assemblage of persons either walking or standing about. Fortunately an officer saw the danger that might arise, and stopped it just in time.

February 26.

A meeting of investigation was held on shore to-day, Capt. A. G. C. Howe, R. N., and Mr. H. F. Bingham, British consul, representing Her Britannic Majesty, and Gen. Carlos A. Lacayo, the commissioner, representing the Republic of Nicaragua. The British representatives demanded that the Mosquito flag should be hoisted again, that martial law should be raised within a certain time, and that a written guarantee should be given for the lives of the chief and his late officials, but none of them to be replaced in office at present. The commissioner’s plea that Mosquito was being misgoverned wholly by Jamaica negroes is entirely unfounded, and in any case it is of no concern to Nicaragua. The chief, whose life was threatened, has been in hiding since, but arrived here late this evening, and is now under the charge of the British consul. He is just 21 years of age.

February 27.

All is quiet in town. Gen. C. A. Lacayo returned the official visit to Captain Howe on board the Cleopatra to-day. It is rumored he has telegraphed for further instructions to his Government. Her Majesty’s ship Cleopatra, after landing fifty marines and two Gatling guns at the Bluff for the protection of the inhabitants against any disturbance, left for Colon or Jamaica this evening to cable for further instructions from the foreign office, and is expected to return in about four days.

February 28.

The Mosquito flag was hoisted by the side of the Nicaraguan flag this morning. All seems quiet, but everything is at a standstill till the matter is settled. Many Indians, with their headmen, from the upper part of the coast are arriving here every day. Before this the Mosquito Government used to look after their accommodation and comfort, but now, as there are no buildings or funds, they will either have to be entertained by the Nicaraguan officials or depend upon the generosity of their friends.

As Her Majesty’s ship Cleopatra has been here and taken the business in hand, our misgiving as to England’s moving in the matter is at an end.