Mr. Hill to Mr. Loomis.

No. 394.]

Sir: I confirm your telegram of the 12th instant reporting the Venezuelan Government’s protest against the presence of the Scorpion in the Orinoco River, and the Department’s telegraphic reply of the 13th instant.

I inclose for your information copy of the Navy Department’s memorandum of the 13th instant relative to the precedents for the visits of United States war vessels to the Orinoco River.

I am, etc.,

David J. Hill, Acting Secretary.


The records of the Department show that naval vessels have visited the Orinoco River on a number of occasions. When no survey has been undertaken these visits have been without previous notice, so far as the Department’s records show. Two recent cases of visits to the Orinoco are the visit of the Kearsarge, November 7, 1892, and the visit of the Wilmington, January 23, 1899. The Kearsarge carried on a running survey, without, however, erecting shore stations. There is no record of any protest or objection from the Venezuelan Government on the occasion of either of these visits.

The Navy Department understands the status of the Orinoco River, in regard to navigation, to be in all respects similar to that of the Mississippi River. Foreign war vessels pass freely up the Mississippi River without previous notice to this Government. Our war vessels have done the same in the Orinoco River. In the Amazon, for instance, the case is understood to be different. This river, though open to commercial navigation, is not open to war vessels except on special notice and permission.

It may be that the minister to Venezuela on his own account, in the case of the visit of the Wilmington, asked permission or notified the Government of what was contemplated. If so, this is unknown to the Navy Department.

On the occasion of the visit of the Wilmington the Venezuelan Government marked its acquiescence and gratification in that visit by desiring to decorate the commanding officer of the vessel with the order of Bolivar.

John D. Long, Secretary.