Mr. Loomis to Mr. Hay.

No. 449.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a letter addressed to me by the United States consul at La Guaira, in which he describes several unpleasant episodes of recent occurrence.

As soon as I received Consul Goldschmidt’s letter I telephoned to the foreign office and arranged for an interview with the minister of foreign affairs. Then I secured a version of the incident from the British vice-consul, which I found corroborated in every way the report made by Mr. Goldschmidt. I saw the minister on Tuesday, the 15th of May, and read most of the consul’s letter to him, and then told him that I must ask an immediate investigation and that the delays to which we had had to submit upon former occasions ought not to occur again. I asked him to go to General Castro and request [Page 945] him to send a telegram to La Guaira in connection with the case, directing an immediate investigation. The minister promised to do this and agreed to give me copies of all pertinent correspondence between the President and the local authorities at La Guaira. He also asked me to send him a note containing the gist of my remarks. I inclose a copy of my note.

About noon the next day I received from the foreign office a copy of General Castro’s telegram to the jefe civil at La Guaira, which I inclose.

This telegram did not appear to me to be explicit enough, so, in acknowledging its receipt, I sent another short note to the minister of foreign affairs, a copy of which I also transmit.

Later I received the answer from the jefe civil and a communication from General Rivas, who was the jefe civil when the incidents complained of by Mr. Goldschmidt occurred.

Mr. Goldschmidt writes that he is not at all satisfied with what has been done, but I do not see that I can go further in the matter without instructions from the Department, and I have therefore submitted the case to your consideration.

I think, under a strict interpretation of the penal code, all has been done by the authorities that may be done, unless the consul desires to enter upon a regular prosecution.

What seems hard and inconsistent to the consul, doubtless, is that for an alleged political offense men are imprisoned indefinitely here, while one who threatens his life, in the presence of his family, suffers no more than six days of detention. The consul also insists that the “would-be” assailant was not in prison six days.

I have, etc.,

Francis B. Loomis.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Goldschmidt to Mr. Loomis.

Sir: I have this day forwarded to the State Department at Washington a request that I be transferred from this consulate to that of a country where one may enjoy the rights and protection against crime usually extended in civilized countries to the most humble citizen of foreign nations who may happen to be residing in such countries.

I regret to be obliged to take this step just now, as the salary attached to this consulate has just been increased by Congress, and I should certainly have remained, but matters are assuming such a disagreeable turn that I can not stand it any longer, and I owe it to my self-respect, I owe it to my wife, to take her out of a place where daily insults are offered without the authorities even showing the slightest disposition to protect the representative of a friendly foreign nation, or his family, and where, if you happen to protest against such treatment, they only laugh and connive at the doings of the transgressors, who, in any other country, would not be allowed to roam free and unhindered among the society of men.

I have at frequent intervals had causes for complaints and have made complaints which have not received the attention from the Venezuelan authorities which they should have received, but, owing partly to the politically troublous times and conditions which from the extraordinary seem to have reached the normal state, I have allowed them to pass over unnoticed and have never made the slightest report to the Department, always hoping that with peace returning conditions would be altered and one might, after all, be allowed to live and breathe unmolested from daily annoyances; [Page 946] but my hopes have been vain, and I now know that I can not expect protection to life for myself and wife and that insults and annoyances are only encouraged by the authorities rather than to punish the aggressors.

I have been forced to these conclusions by the following facts, which are the plain, unvarnished truth:

1. On Friday evening, May 4, at about 6.30 p.m., while returning to my residence, accompanied by Mrs. Goldschmidt, we reached a point near the Carmen Church where the street is only about 6 feet wide. Right at that point four young men were loitering, talking, and completely occupying the passage, with the exception of a few inches on either side of them, which we had to choose to pass through.

We succeeded in passing, when one of the four loudly asked why I had pushed against a boy who was standing with them. I replied that if they were gentlemen they would have allowed a lady to pass without so much trouble and adding that I had not pushed the boy. Thereupon my interlocutor began to abuse foreigners in general and ourselves in particular. After a few words from me I started to push him aside and go on, when the same fellow jumped with a motion to his hips as if to draw a revolver.

I did not give him time to draw, but struck him with my cane, and he desisted and troubled us no more. I gave him but one stroke, and it is possible that that stroke was a hard one, but I felt myself justified in doing so when a man threatens to shoot (I myself never carry arms of any kind).

This, I had supposed, closed the incident. I did not know my aggressor, but found out the next day that he was a son of a Mr. Golding and a nephew of the former vice-consul at this place, and that he was a leper, although he showed no outward signs of it.

On May 7 the following clipping appeared in “La Manana,” a local paper:


Me. Prefect of the District of Vargas, Present:

Sir: A few days ago one of my younger brothers was assaulted in a cowardly and unjust manner by Mr. Louis Goldschmidt, the American consul.

As this is a most disagreeable matter to me and as I am disposed to carry same to the farthest limit, I wish to make public the fact that a memorandum will be sent to your office to-day requesting that you make the necessary investigation and administer justice.

Relying on the justice of your acts and trusting that you will be impartial and unbiased in this matter, I am,

Yours, respectfully,

Genaro G. Golding.

La Guaira, May 7, 1900.

On the same day that this appeared I called on the jefe civil and explained the incident as it happened and told him that I should not have made any mention of the matter except for the false accusation in the paper.

The jefe civil admitted that the streets should be free to circulation and that no groups should be allowed to impede free passage to anyone.

2. On May 9, Wednesday last, while taking a walk along the sea wall at about 5.30 p.m., accompanied by my wife, Mrs. R. Schunck, and two children, a young man alighted from a bicycle directly in front of us all and at about a distance of 10 yards drew his revolver from his belt (which he carried in plain sight) and amid curses said he was going to shoot me.

Continuing brandishing his revolver, he frightened the ladies accompanying me to such a degree as to almost completely prostrate them from nervous excitement, when a man stepped up from behind and took his arm and, with another man who arrived later, succeeded in starting him away from the scene without disarming him.

This fellow turned out to be another son of the same Golding, under the influence of liquor, a fellow who is a noted “rough” and who has been mixed up in many nasty frays before, but who up to now escaped punishment.

I went to the prefecto of police with the ladies, and the prefecto told us that he would immediately have the man locked up and promised to notify us of his capture. Two days went along without hearing a word from the police. I called on the prefecto again yesterday morning, May 11, to inquire what had been done about the man, and they told me that he had been arrested and sent away from the city and that two men had given bonds for his nonappearance here, and that he thought that that was the best way of settling the matter, as they could not hold him in prison long enough to be effective.

Although the matter was not settled to my liking, as I know the constant worry [Page 947] my wife will be in as long as the man is at large, I thought that possibly, after all, it might be well done.

I concluded to let the matter pass unnoticed, when, in the afternoon at 3 p.m., I walked down from my house to the office and encountered my assailant at the corner of a street quietly talking with two men and apparently in perfect security against molestation of any kind.

My astonishment was great at the discovery that either the prefecto had deliberately lied to me or that they were making sport of the matter, and I made inquiries which confirm me in the belief that absolutely nothing was done by the police and that they care absolutely nothing about myself, about my safety, and about the safety of my wife.

I called immediately upon the jefe civil, General Rivas, and requested Mr. Schunck to accompany me, as I wished to have a witness.

I inquired of the jefe civil what had been done about the man, and he replied that they had decided to expel him for four months at least and that two responsible persons in La Guaira had gone bond for his nonappearance, and that we rest quiet; that he would not molest us again, and that he was sent away yesterday, the 10th.

I then told him that I had just met the fellow at a street corner and that he better take steps to bring in his bondsmen.

He again promised to have him arrested immediately and put in jail.

All this with apparently the greatest indignation, thus “rubbing it in,” as we say.

I requested him to advise me by telephone when they captured him, which he promised to do, but up to now I have not heard a word from them, and over twenty-four hours have again passed by and I am quite certain that nothing has been done.

Such is justice done in La Guaira, and such is public security against crime.

You can not wonder at my decision when such farces are enacted with the American consul and when neither his life nor that of his family can for one minute be considered safe; and if the authorities laugh at such proceedings, what can be expected from the ordinary Venezuelan citizen, whose hatred for any foreigner is very marked, and who take particular pains to show their hatred upon every occasion in La Guaira.

I have had enough of it, and I shall, when returning to the United States in July (leave of absence has been granted me), make a clean breast of it to the Department, who may then do as they please.

* * * * * * *

With all due regard for your efforts in my behalf in the past, and believing that it is my duty as American consul to report to my superior the treatment I am receiving here, to enable him to know existing conditions accurately, and believing that the United States expects her representatives abroad to be decently treated,

I am, etc.,

Louis Goldschmidt,
United States Consul.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Loomis to Dr. Palacio.

Mr. Minister: Yesterday I called, by special appointment, at the foreign office and had the honor of reading to your excellency a letter from the consul of the United States at La Guaira, in which he stated that his life had been threatened by a person of notoriously bad character in that city, and that an attempt to shoot him had been made in the presence of his wife and the wife of the British vice-consul. The consul also said that, owing to the laxness of the local authorities in prosecuting his assailant, he considered the situation so unpleasant and so unsafe that he had asked to be transferred to another post.

A few weeks ago it was my unpleasant duty to forward to your excellency two complaints from the United States consul at La Guaira. One was to the effect that a police officer of the Venezuelan Government had deliberately fired his carbine a few yards in front of Mrs. Goldschmidt, the wife of our consul at La Guaira, thereby frightening her and causing a pebble to be thrown from the ground, which struck her with such force as to penetrate her clothing and inflict a slight flesh wound near the shoulder.

About the same time Consul Goldschmidt was stopped in the street, in full view of [Page 948] the house and certain responsible members of the prefect’s family, and forcibly searched.

After long delay the man who fired the shot in front of Mrs. Goldschmidt was dismissed from public service.

In the case of the policeman who forcibly searched Mr. Goldschmidt and the prefect who permitted it, notwithstanding my repeated protests and representations on the subject, nothing has been done. As a sequel to this indifference on the part of the authorities, I have now to complain of the recent attempted assault on the American consul at La Guaira and the apparent purpose of the officials at that port to take no efficient steps toward the prevention of its repetition. If a proper degree of protection can not be given our consular officers at La Guaira, it seems to me that eventually they will have to be recalled or a war vessel sent to secure them from attack and annoyance.

Your excellency kindly promised to make a strong representation to General Castro on the subject of Consul Goldschmidt’s letter of complaint, and assured me that the Supreme Chief of the Republic would immediately send a vigorous telegram to La Guaira, directing the authorities there to take special precautions to see that the consul of the United States should enjoy immunity from further annoyance. Also your excellency promised to give me a copy of this telegram and of any other correspondence of interest bearing on the case.

I hope to hear within twenty-four hours that effective measures have been taken to give to Mr. and Mrs. Goldschmidt adequate protection. I inclose the salient passages of Consul Goldschmidt’s letter. His wife, I am just informed by telephone, is prostrated as a result of the violent experiences to which she has lately been subjected. I am also informed, by telephone, that as late as Sunday morning last the man who threatened to shoot Consul Goldschmidt was still at large in La Guaira.

I take this opportunity to assure, etc.,

Francis B. Loomis.
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Castro to the civil and military commander of La Guaira.


Sir: From a confidential note which I have just received from the minister of exterior relations, and which is signed by the American minister, Mr. F. B. Loomis, I learn that the American consul at your port complains of insults he has suffered from a citizen of La Guaira, to which fact I most earnestly call your attention, not only in order that you may carry out the regulations of the police code in case of a repetition of the act by a Mr. Golding, the party accused, but that you may make an investigation into the action taken by your predecessor in this matter.

Acknowledge receipt of this communication.

Capriano Castro.

The above is an exact copy.

The Director.

Manuel Fombona Palacio.

[Inclosure 4.]

Mr. Loomis to Dr. Palacio.

Mr. Minister: I am in receipt of the copy of the telegram addressed to the civil and military commander at La Guaira by General Castro, the Supreme Chief of the Republic, and beg leave to thank you for forwarding same to me and for the prompt action taken in this important and unfortunate matter.

I should like to be advised that the jefe civil military at La Guaira had been directed to take immediate steps to prevent a repetition of the attack upon Mr. [Page 949] Goldschmidt, if that has not already been done. General Castro’s telegram, it will be observed, orders the enforcement of the regulations of the police code in case of a repetition of the assault, but unfortunately does not seem to plainly direct prompt and severe measures to be taken to prevent such repetition.

I also in this connection desire to call the attention of your excellency to the fact that it is not of mere insults which the consul of the United States complains, but of an actual contemplated and violently threatened attack upon his life.

I should think, in view of the facts now in your possession, another and more explicit telegram should be sent to the authorities at La Guaira.

I take this opportuity, etc.,

Francis B. Loomis.
[Inclosure 5.—Translation.]

Mr. Palacio to Mr. Loomis.

Mr. Minister: Referring to your note received yesterday afternoon, in which you informed me of the receipt of a copy of a telegram sent by General Castro to the civil and military commander of La Guaira concerning the matter of Consul Goldschmidt, I inclose herewith copies of two documents for your excellency’s information, one from that same local official and the other from the outgoing civil chief, by means of which you will learn of the conclusion of the affair and of some of the circumstances of the same from its beginning until its end.

I renew, etc.,

R. Andueza Palacio.
[Inclosure 6.—Telegram.]

Mr. Casañas to General Castro.

Sir: By information obtained from my predecessor, and unprejudiced data about the matter of Consul Goldschmidt and Golding, I find that a personal quarrel took place between them, with fault on both sides. Golding has suffered a six days’ arrest, double the regular police punishment, and I have set him free to-day, so that he may go to work on a plantation near here, for, having spoken with the consul and explained our laws to him, in order that he might undertake the necessary prosecution, he answered that he would do this and that all he desired was not to be attacked anew.

Juan Casañas.
[Inclosure 7.]

Mr. Rivas to General Castro.

Sir: I have just seen your telegram to the new civil chief, in reference a claim of the American minister, in the case of occurrences at this port connected with the consul of the same nation.

As this telegram alludes to events during the time that I held the position of civil chief, I think it my duty to send you a special report on the matter, not only to render it clear, but to protect my reputation as a magistrate.

In the first hours of the evening a few days ago a disagreeable personal quarrel took place between the American consul and a young man, a minor, by the name of Golding.

Owing to this incident, the father of the young man complained against the consul, who, according to the complainant, had struck his son a hard blow with his cane, [Page 950] which felled him to the ground, and who, moreover, used offensive language toward his son.

The consul, in turn, gave his version of the matter, referring to abusive language made use of by the young man in the presence of his (the consul’s) wife, and he did not deny that owing to the feeling aroused in him by that lack of politeness, especially toward his wife, he had used his cane to give the blow. For reasons obvious alike to yourself and to the honorable minister and consul of the United States I endeavored to find a solution to the affair which might be satisfactory to both parties and which might be unofficial in character. I informed the consul of this, and he seemed well satisfied with my good offices. I had the young man’s father appear before me, and he also seemed contented with my intentions and authorized me to end the question by decorous and friendly methods. But hardly had I decided upon a conciliatory solution, when an elder brother of Golding unfortunately met the consul on the street, with his family, and wished to bring him to account for the incident with his brother, for which end he drew his revolver with hostile demonstrations. Although the quarrel thus provoked did not place, the police took immediate action against Golding. It was agreed that he should leave La Guaira for a period not less than four months, but as Golding did not carry out the agreement, he was arrested by the police and handed over by me to the new civil chief, with the necessary explanation of his case.

The statement that he has been seen at large since then is erroneous, and I can not allow it to pass without protest. This is the true relation of what has passed, narrated in brief, and which proves how great my desire has been to merit, as a magistrate, evidences of approval instead of complaints on account of my conduct, by which I spared the consul the police trial, at which, to my mind, he would not have had the best part, and by which I took the necessary measures to prevent the repetition of the threat before mentioned.

Jose M. Rivas.