Mr. Bowen to Mr. Hay.
Caracas, September 24, 1902.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 22d instant, at 7 p.m., I called on the minister for foreign affairs and told him that I had just received the confirmation of a rumor I had heard several days before, to the effect that the Venezuelan war ship Restaurador had steamed up the Orinoco and entered the port of Ciudad Bolivar flying the American flag at her foremast, it having been placed there with the object of deceiving the revolutionists and of approaching Ciudad Bolivar so closely as to permit her to bombard the town effectively. I then said to him:
Your captain dishonored the American flag; he should be ordered to raise it and salute it, and your Government should apologize.
He answered that he had heard nothing about the incident, and that he desired to have several days so as to investigate it. I replied:
The facts that I have presented to you are indisputable, and I can give you only twenty hours, for I feel that at the end of that time I must cable the facts to my Government.
He thereupon agreed to act within the time specified. Before I left him I told him that the captain of the Restaurador had called the day before on Captain Diehl, the commander of the U. S. S. Marietta, stating that he had displayed it simply as he would have a flag of truce, and that he hauled it down before beginning the bombardment. I characterized the captain’s explanation as neither credible nor satisfactory, and the minister’s silence proved that he believed I meant what I said.
The following morning the first secretary of state called on me at 11 o’clock, and, after stating that his chief was ill in bed, informed me that he had been sent by his Government to express its regret that the American flag had been used improperly by the Restaurador, and that orders would be sent to her captain that afternoon to raise it and salute it with 21 guns. He then spoke of the earnest desire entertained by his Government to maintain friendly relations with the United States, and to remain on the best of terms with this legation. I assured him that the sentiments he had expressed are reciprocated most warmly by both the United States Government and by this legation, and I sent by him my best wishes to the minister for foreign affairs for his speedy recovery.
After he had gone I sent word to Captain Diehl, through Mr. Gold-schmidt, our consul at La Guaira, that the Restaurador would salute our flag before sunset. Shortly after 5 o’clock Mr. Goldschmidt telephoned me that the full salute of 21 guns had just been fired by the Restaurador, and that our flag meanwhile had been displayed at her foremast.
My reason for not cabling to you for instructions, and for not entering into a written discussion with the Venezuelan Government, was because I feared if there was any delay the Restaurador might leave the port of La Guaira, and thus avoid doing honor to the flag she had insulted.
During my conversations with the Venezuelan authorities I took the [Page 1074] precaution to have Mr. Russell, the secretary of this legation, present, and I am indebted to him for several remarks he made that helped to render the settlement of the matter satisfactory.
I am, etc.,