File No. 823.5048/128a.
letter of submittal.
To the President:
The undersigned, Secretary of State, to whom was addressed the following resolution of the House of Representatives:
[Text of the above-printed resolution.]
has the honor to submit correspondence on file in the Department of State containing information sought by the resolution, with a view to its communication to the House of Representatives if in the judgment of the President it be not deemed incompatible with the public interest so to do.
The circumstances under which the Governments of Great Britain and the United States, responding to the public sentiment which had been aroused in both countries by reports of the cruel treatment of the indigenes in the rubber-gathering districts of the tributaries of the upper Amazon, had taken concurrent steps to ascertain the actual conditions in that region are set forth in the initial paper of the subjoined correspondence, being an instruction given on the 6th of April, 1912, to Mr. Stuart J. Fuller, who had been a short time before assigned to the reopened consulate at Iquitos, in Peru, in order that an impartial agent of the United States might cooperate in obtaining first-hand information regarding the asserted brutal extermination of the native inhabitants of the important outlying district of the Putumayo, over which Peru claims jurisdiction and in which Peru exercises administrative control under a modus vivendi entered into with Colombia, whose claims to the sovereignty of a large extent of the territory conflict with those of Peru, and, in part, with rival claims advanced by Ecuador.
In taking this step the Government of the United States was mindful of the sensibilities of the Government of Peru, and, in the light of the measures then being considered by that Government to put an end to the barbarous practices reported to exist, it was believed that an impartial ascertainment of conditions in the Peruvian part of the Putumayo district could not fail to strengthen the hand of the Government of Peru in dealing with a problem of such magnitude and gravity. The entire friendliness of this Government and its sincere desire to aid Peru in acquiring knowledge of the facts and in applying the needful remedy for the existing evils have been consistently impressed upon and, it is believed, are well understood by that Government.
In pursuance of that instruction Mr. Fuller visited the Putumayo region during August and September of the past summer, in company with Mr. George Babington Michell, the British Consul at Iquitos. Mr. Fuller’s report, dated October 28, 1912, gives a full narrative of the extended journey as undertaken and sets forth his views of the labor conditions in the rubber-gathering region, with suggestions as to the treatment of the evils which have existed and to a great extent are believed still to exist therein. Mr. Fuller’s report was received in December last.
The circumstances under which the journey was made, the inaccessibility of the native country, and the difficulty of obtaining trustworthy information at first hand from the Indians themselves handicapped Mr. Fuller and his British colleagues in their onerous task. [Page 1242] That the natives of the region have been inhumanly treated by the mercenaries of the rubber-gathering concerns and been reduced to a state of peonage indistinguishable from slavery is undenied and unquestionable; that the horrible conditions laid bare by the testimony, of observers in the past still exist in all their enormity in the districts visited by the inquirers is not fully substantiated by the scanty evidence they were able to collect, but enough is known to show that whatever amelioration of labor conditions has been effected falls short of the demands of common humanity, and that the efforts of the Peruvian Government to work a remedial change and clear itself before the bar of the world’s opinion have been for the most part painfully inadequate and unhappily misdirected to a degree making the results unresponsive to the unquestionable desire of the administration at Lima that .its control of the vast and almost trackless regions of the Putumayo, embracing some 12,000 square miles of territory, shall be just and humane. The more energetic action of the present administration in Peru in sending a prefect of recognized ability and integrity to Iquitos and in pushing the prosecution of Messrs. Arana and Vega is considered significant as indicating the attitude that will be henceforth assumed by the Peruvian Government.
Supplementing the report and cognate dispatches of Mr. Fuller, the undersigned submits other papers found in the Department of State bearing on the subject of the resolution, including the British Blue Book, entitled “Correspondence respecting the treatment of British colonial subjects and native Indians employed in the collection of rubber in the Putumayo district,” which was laid before the Parliament in July last. A knowledge of the contents of this publication appears to be needful, inasmuch as the inquiry of the House of Representatives is based on a journalistic recital of its import.
Among the interesting papers herewith subjoined are two reports made in November and December, 1907, by Charles C. Eberhardt, then the American Consul at Iquitos, The first of these, dated November 30, 1907, is a carefully prepared paper on the condition and characteristics of the native Indians of Peru. As an ethnological study its scientific value led to its publication by the Smithsonian Institution, in volume 52 of the Miscellaneous Collections. Incidental to that investigation, and in view of the assertions in American journals that American companies were exploiting the rubber production in the upper Putumayo district under concession from the Government of Colombia, Mr. Eberhardt submitted, under date of December 3, 1907, a report on the general conditions in the Putumayo River district of Peru. This report, while exhibiting the condition of virtual slavery to which the native tribes were subjected, showed that the cruelties so disclosed were not the work of American citizens, nor affected American interests, and, it would seem, did not call for representations to any of the three Governments concerned in the disputed territory. Indeed, the prospect that the controversy as to the sovereignty in that quarter was about to enter on an acute stage might have made it a delicate matter for a neutral government to impute territorial responsibility to any one of them.
The undersigned has not deemed it advisable to expand this report, pendente lite, by including any correspondence in regard to the [Page 1243] conflicting territorial claims in the upper Putumayo district or to do more than make passing reference to this circumstance as bearing on the difficulty of practical and effective administration in that quarter.
Washington , February 1913.