Mr. Loomis to Mr. Hay.
Caracas, November 20, 1899.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the long-standing contention with the Venezuelan Government concerning the custody of the papers of foreign vessels, particularly those of the United States, while in Venezuelan ports, has been settled in what I trust you will find a satisfactory manner. As I have stated in previous dispatches, I have presented this matter several times to General Castro since he became the head of the de facto Government and have fully explained the desires of the United States Government, pointing out, too, that the position so long maintained by Venezuela was anomalous and unique among the civilized nations of the world.
I also explained the character of the ship’s register and the importance my Government set upon having this document remain in the possession of the master of the vessel or its regularly accredited consular officers in foreign ports. I made it plain that the Government of the United States was very much in earnest and hoped for prompt and favorable action.
General Castro seemed to feel that the position occupied by Venezuela was not a tenable one, and, as I have said, promised to give the matter careful and immediate attention.
When I called upon him to-day he said he had brought the question of the custody of ship’s papers before his cabinet and that it had been decided to issue a decree amending the treasury law so that hereafter the papers of foreign vessels in Venezuelan ports shall remain in the custody of the consul representing the nation to which the ship belongs. The port officials will reserve the right to inspect a ship’s papers, but are in no sense to have the custody of them, and the inspection must be made on board the ship.
General Castro promised that I should have official notice of the decree to-morrow.
I have, etc.,