Mr. Hay to Mr. Merry.

No. 204.]

Sir: I inclose herewith for your information copies of the letters listed below, in relation to the collection by the lawful Government of Nicaragua of duties paid to the insurgent General Reyes at Bluefields, under compulsion, by American merchants at that place on merchandise imported by them.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Adee to Mr. Clancy, consular agent at Bluefields.

Sir: Referring to your dispatch of the 18th ultimo, reporting that American merchants at Bluefields are anxious to learn whether, in case they were compelled by the insurgent General Reyes to pay duty on merchandise imported by them, the amount can be again collected by the lawful Government of Nicaragua.

In reply I have to inform you that the payment of duties to an insurgent authority in temporary occupancy of a port is a case of force majeure.

Payments noted as made “under protest” might be made the ground of equitable representations to the titular Government should it proceed to re-collect duties on regaining control. Now that the revolution of General Reyes has been [Page 558] suppressed, you are directed to watch the matter and report whether any fresh demand for duties is made by the established Government of Nicaragua in respect to importations by American citizens doing business at Bluefields, giving full details in each case. If the question be so presented the Department can consider it and determine what action may properly be taken. While the parties in interest may reasonably allege the equities in their favor in case a second collection of duties be made, they could not be upheld in any refusal so to pay.

Similar instances have heretofore occurred, and the rule as to second collections has not been uniform. It is rather a question of gracious remission of duties to which the titular Government has a right, and should be so presented by the consul should the emergency arise.

I am, etc.,

Alvey A. Adee,
Second Assistant Secretary.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Hay to the Secretary of the Navy.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge, with thanks, the receipt of your letter of the 14th instant, communicating for my information voluminous copies of correspondence received from the commanding officer of the U. S. S. Marietta concerning the revolution in Bluefields, Nicaragua.

Upon careful perusal of the correspondence, I am gratified to express my high appreciation of the tact and good judgment displayed by the commander of the Marietta in the delicate and embarrassing situation in which he found himself placed. That peace was fortunately restored and the titular authority of the Government of Nicaragua reestablished in that quarter is, I doubt not, largely due to Captain Symonds’s intelligent action.

Among the papers you transmit, marked as “Appendix A” to Commander Symonds’s report of February 24, 1899, I note the action of the foreign consuls at Bluefields in deciding that during the revolution, and in view of protecting foreign interests at that port, merchants doing business there should cease to pay in cash any dues (customs duties) whatever; that the policies covering their respective duties should be kept in abeyance, and that bonds should be issued by the merchants instead of cash payments, payable at thirty days’ sight, or until such time as a legitimate government, recognized by the foreign powers, should be established at Bluefields.

The question of the proper course to be pursued by American merchants at Bluefields respecting the payment of customs duties levied and sought to be collected by the revolutionary forces holding that place had already had the attention of the Department upon a report made by the consular agent of the United States at Bluefields, and was made the subject of an instruction to Mr. Clancy, of which I inclose a copy for your information.

The expedient actually adopted appears to have been a rational solution of the difficulty, tending to protect the merchants in their just rights, and so far as it would appear to be indorsed by Commander Symonds, in his letter of February 24, his course merits approval.

I have, etc.,

John Hay.
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Bingham, British consul, et al., to F. M. Symonds, commanding U. S. S. Marietta.


Sir: During the present revolution unhappily existing against the Nicaraguan Government, and in view of taking proper steps to protect foreign interests at this port, the undersigned consular otficers, representing their respective countries, and supported by the British and American cruisers now lying off the port of Bluefields, consider it their duty to decide. That the merchants will cease to pay [Page 559] in cash any dues whatsoever, and that the policies covering their respective duties will be kept in abeyance.

It has also been decided that certain bonds will be issued by the merchants instead of cash payments, payable at thirty days’ sight, or until such time as a legitimate government, recognized by the foreign powers, is established at this port.

The goods are to be allowed to be discharged as heretofore by the usual steamers calling at the Bluff, and they are to be handed over to the respective merchants, as has been customary, on presentation of the aforesaid bonds.

The merchants have been directed to observe strict neutrality, and coal being contraband, even between two powers at war, they have been directed not to supply it to support the revolution.

Boats, steam launches, etc., belonging to foreign owners can not be allowed to be seized by the revolutionists for the purpose of conveying troops or stores, or for anything whatever connected with the revolution.

We have the honor to be,

  • H. F. Bingham,
    H. B. M. Consul.
  • J. A. Belanger,
    H. B. M. Vice-Consul.
  • M. J. Clancy,
    U. S. Consular Agent.
  • J. A. Peterson,
    Swedish-Norwegian Vice-Consul.
  • T. Percy Scott,
    U. S. Vice-Consul (Greytown).

I certify the above to be a true copy.

F. M. Symonds,
Commander, United States Navy, Commanding U. S. S. “Marietta.”