Mr. Hart to Mr. Day.

No. 104.]

Sir: I beg to confirm my telegram of the 30th instant, as follows:

Day, Washington:

Referring to your dispatch of August 20 (111), minister for foreign affairs answers, resuming all that he has said before and adding declaration of present owner, that he has not and never had any claims. Minister for foreign affairs regards this as conclusive. I await instructions. Now is the time to push the matter, before the adjournment of Congress, so provision can be made to pay.


Also to acknowledge receipt of your No. 111 of August 20 in the matter of the Panama Star and Herald claim. Immediately upon receipt of your instructions I prepared a note to the Colombian foreign office and went with it in person that I might present more fully to the minister for foreign affairs the reasons for taking up and dispatching the matter without further delay. On Friday of this week, having occasion to talk with the minister for foreign affairs on the Radford case, I again brought up the Star and Herald matter, and was informed that the reply was in course of preparation. At the same time gave me to know that his Government considered the whole matter as ended, laying great stress on the statement made by the present owner of the Star and Herald, and of which he has since sent me a copy with his answer to Mr. Sleeper’s note of April 1, 1897.

I inclose herewith a copy of the reply of the minister for foreign affairs. I do not translate and forward Duque’s statement, because its essential parts are included in the note from the foreign office. I can not find in the legation a copy of the statement filed by Duque with the Department of State, so that I am of course unable to make any comparison between the two documents. Mr. Duque is the principal owner of the Panama lottery, a valuable property operated under a concession. At the time of making the declaration now in possession of the Columbian Government he was engaged in a controversy over the concession for a lottery in Cundinamarca, the department of which Bogota is the capital.

[Page 233]

I inclose also a copy of my reply to the Colombian foreign office, and to this I take the liberty of directing the Department’s special attention. On the point of the mistranslation, which I have raised in my reply, the Department need have no apprehension. The point is beyond dispute. My own view in this respect is confirmed by the best English-Spanish authority in Bogota.

I find no record of Mr. Sleeper’s acknowledgment to the Department’s No. 259, of February 24, 1897, but on April 1, 1897, Mr. Sleeper did address the Colombian foreign office a lengthy note following the line of Mr. Olney’s instructions. On May 31, 1897, he wrote again, pressing for a reply. Mr. Sleeper’s note of April 1, 1897, is one of the communications of this legation to which I have repeatedly asked answers, but it is true that I have not felt at liberty to make anything in the nature of a demand without special instructions from the Department.

The present session of the Colombian Congress, unless extended, which is not now thought probable, will close in 120 days from July 20 last. In my first talk with the new minister for foreign affairs, after receiving your No. 111, he agreed with me that it was desirable to conclude the matter while Congress is in session, so that this body might make the necessary provision for payment. This was before he knew anything about the Duque declaration and the stock arguments to be found in his archives.

If this matter be not pushed now, I think it will have no better chance of settlement in the future. I shall, of course, do my best to carry out such instructions as the Department may be pleased to give me.

I am, etc.,

Chas. Burdett Hart.

Mr. Paul to Mr. Hart.

Sir: By note dated the 26th instant, to which I have the honor to reply, your excellency has thought well to call my attention to a dispatch of the 1st of April, 1897, signed by the chargé d’affaires ad interim of the United States, Mr. Sleeper, relative to the claim of the Panama Star and Herald, and to ask that an answer be given as early as possible.

In the course of the prolonged discussion sustained in the matter, the Government of Colombia has supported the reasons and arguments in which it has thought it right to establish itself, to decline the responsibility which has been sought to make effective for the suspension of the said newspaper: such as those referring to the nationality of the company; to the evident hostility of the newspaper against the policy of the Government and the integrity of the national territory; and the disapproval, notwithstanding that hostility, of the conduct of the governor of Panama, who ordered the suspension. At the same time that, in the above-mentioned dispatch of April 1, a refutation is attempted of the arguments advanced in the proper sense by a note of this ministry addressed to your honorable legation November 10, 1896, revelations are made which determine the question, cutting it up by the root. Says Mr. Sleeper in the said dispatch: “Your excellency does not deny that the claim was sold to the person who is now publishing the Star and Herald; but to remove all doubts, I beg to inform your excellency that the said person has placed on the files of the Department of State his authority to Mr. Myers to represent his claim.” It results, then, that the rights which the claim may represent belong to Mr. Gabriel Duque, present owner of the Star and Herald. Well, this ministry has [Page 234] in its possession a declaration, of which I inclose a copy with this note, made the 17th of August of the past year, before the consul of the United States, by the same Duque, an American citizen and managing director of the Star and Herald and Estrella de Panama, in which he affirms that neither he nor the enterprise of which he is manager has cause of action against the Colombian Government growing out of the claims instituted for the suspension of the newspaper called the Star and Herald and Estrella de Panama, in the year 1886, neither as the cassionary of such rights nor for any other reason of those which have been advanced, in the name of the said Star and Herald Company, to demand of the Government of the Republic an indemnity “which,” he adds, “I renounce now and henceforth, because in my conscience as an honest man and as the principal member of the said enterprise, it (the enterprise) is guided only by those acts which may have for their foundation only the most legitimate right, with which, from all points of view, the above-named claim is in conflict.”

To what has been said may I be permitted to add that the Colombian Government is confident that, although that (the Government) of the United States thought it its duty to lend its favor to that claim because it believed it well founded, it will not continue giving its support to a claim which, by the spontaneous declaration of the only person who would profit by making it effective, is from every point of view unwarranted and unjust.

Your excellency will be good enough to accept, etc.,

Felipe F. Paul.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Hart to Mr. Paul.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s courteous note of the 29th instant, in the matter of the Panama Star and Herald claim, in reply to the note of this legation of date April 1, 1897, and I beg your excellency to accept my thanks for replying promptly, at my request, to a communication of which, until now, it has been impossible to get even the formal acknowledgment of receipt.

I note with surprise that the document which your excellency regards as conclusive in favor of the contention of the Colombian Government is more than a year old, and I am unable to understand why this legation, or my Government at Washington, was not favored with advice of the same at a much earlier day, for your excellency’s Government has been aware of the earnest desire of my Government to bring to a just conclusion this matter of more than twelve years’ standing.

Your excellency will permit me to suggest, with due respect, that there has been an error in translating an important phrase in the quotation from Mr. Sleeper’s note of April 1, 1897, with which your excellency favors me. According to your excellency’s note now under consideration, Mr. Sleeper said:

“Es verdad que V. E. no discute que la reclamación fuese vendida á la persona que hoy está publicando el Star and Herald,” etc.

This I translate: “It is true that your excellency does not deny that the claim was sold to the person who is now publishing the Star and Herald.” In fact, Mr. Sleeper, in his note of April 1, 1897, in the passage quoted by your excellency, says: “Your excellency, indeed, does not contend that this claim was sold to the person who is now publishing the Star and Herald,” etc.

I may be permitted to suggest further that the English verb “to contend” as therein used by Mr. Sleeper, can not be translated by the use of the Spanish verb “discutir.” The attempt so to do has reversed completely the meaning of the phrase as it was written by Mr. Sleeper. It is as though your excellency were to say to me: “Bogotá es la capital de la República de Colombia,” and I were to translate this: “Bogota is not the capital of the Republic of Colombia.” In the translation from Mr. Sleeper’s note the perversion of meaning is as marked as this. If your excellency will read “sostiene” instead of “discute,” Mr. Sleeper’s meaning will be entirely clear.

It follows, then, that the conclusion which your excellency is pleased to base on this misconception of Mr. Sleeper’s meaning falls with the mistranslation, and Mr. Gabriel Duque’s relation to the matter is at once seen not to have the importance which your excellency was misled into giving it. The same misconception is made the connecting link between the claim of the real claimants and the declaration of [Page 235] Mr. Duque, of which your excellency is kind enough to send me a copy. This link being broken, the declaration of Mr. Duque will scarcely be regarded as an important document in the case. Moreover, I have to repeat that which I had the honor to say to your excellency in our interview of yesterday, to wit, that Mr. Gabriel Duque could not relinquish and sign away rights which he did not possess. I shall esteem the courtesy if your excellency will kindly name an early day when we may take up and dispose of this matter, in which my Government, entertaining always the most friendly sentiments toward that of Colombia, has certainly been most patient, and which now sees no reason to delay further the settlement of this business.

I embrace this opportunity to renew, etc.,

Charles Burdett Hart.