Mr. Strobel to Mr. Sherman.
Santiago , May 31, 1897 . (Received July 3.)
Sir: On the 26th instant I received a visit from the under secretary of foreign relations of Chile, Señor Ricardo Phillips, who stated that the claim of the French citizen, Charles Freraut, against Chile, based upon the confiscation of nitrate property and machinery during the war with Peru, had been pending for a number of years, and that the French legation had proposed its arbitration. The Chilean Government, he continued, was disposed to accept this proposal, and as an evidence of respect for the United States and appreciation for myself he desired to know whether I would be willing to act as arbitrator between the two Governments.
I replied that the task of an arbitrator was an ungrateful one, and that I had no desire to act in that capacity. At the same time, as a last resort, I should not feel justified in declining if the Governments of France and Chile requested my Government to authorize me to act.
I suggested, however, that before deciding upon the arbitration, further effort should be made in order to see whether a direct arrangement between the two Governments might not be practicable.
I am since informed that in accordance with my suggestion a definite proposition has been formulated by the Chilean Government which affords a basis of settlement. I therefore hope that the arbitration will not be necessary, and that the Department will not be addressed on the subject.
In any case, I have regarded the incident as worthy of mention, as showing the development of good feeling on the part of this Government toward the United States.
I have, etc.,