File No. 823.5048/80.
The American Consul at Iquitos to the Secretary of State.
Iquitos, July 31, 1912.
Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith duplicates of my dispatches No. 19 of the 15th instant and 20 of the 16th relative to the Putumayo question.
Although I am unable to point out at present anything specific, still my impression is now that the Government is no more anxious to have us make a trip to the Putumayo or to see personally the conditions existing there than the company is, so that we should probably gain no more information from a trip on one of the Government launches than from that of the company. Finding that the future dispatch of Government launches to the Putumayo is very indefinite, and learning that the company expected to make two dispatches of their launch Liberal at intervals that will enable us to do some traveling in the interior, away from the rivers, if we can figure out our allowances to cover the expense, my British colleague and myself decided to go up to Chorrera on the Liberal about August 5, travel to what interior points we can, and return from El Encanto. Accordingly we made arrangements with the company for this on July 20. The trip will keep me away from Iquitos from August 5 or a day or two after until about September 25 or later. It should also be borne in mind that one always runs the risk of stranding in this river, where there is practically no traffic at all, and it is possible to be tied up in this way for four or Eve weeks.
In making our arrangements with the company, we insisted on paying our passage and stated that we also wished to pay for anything that we might find it necessary to buy up the river, although they offered us free passage and all we might need.
The local situation remains much the same as it was two weeks ago, so far as the Iquitos public in general is concerned. The tone of the articles that have been appearing in the public press has produced, however, a feeling of irritation and resentment at what they privately characterize as meddling on the part of the United States and England among the Government officials here, but to both Consul Michell and myself they have continued studiously courteous. The officials are undoubtedly becoming nervous in regard to the situation.
My British colleague and X called on the acting prefect and applied for some document in the nature of a passport, to be addressed to the local authorities, and this lie said he would be glad to give us. He also suggested sending a military aide to accompany us, and though we were by no means enthusiastic over this proposition I fear that we may not be able to avoid it.
He also took occasion to repeat the remarks detailed in my dispatch No. 19 of July 15, minimizing the Putumayo question altogether, and [Page 1263] added that efforts to secure the extradition from Argentina of Normand (one of the accused criminals) were being made and bade fair to be successful. He complained that Sir Roger Casement had taken away all the worst criminals, and also that he had taken away with him two native boys, whom he later returned to Iquitos and left here without homes or support.
When I have been asked, and a reply seemed necessary or politic, I have stated that I have neither desire nor instructions to interfere on any way whatsoever with the administration of justice or the internal affairs of Peru, but that in the course of duty it falls to me as a consul to keep my Government informed as to labor as well as other commercial conditions in the district in which I may be stationed, no matter what part of the world, and that I shall report on these in the Putumayo as well as in the other rivers of the district; and that as public subscriptions are being collected abroad by persons with the same high ideal of serving humanity that has actuated the Peruvian Government in the steps it has inaugurated to put an end to excesses in the Putumayo region, for the announced purpose of sending missionaries to that region, information is desired as to the condition that American citizens coming on this mission may meet with and the conditions under which the money will be expended.
My British colleague has based his action in the matter on four grounds:
- The responsibility of an’ English company, still in existence though in process of liquidation, for the atrocities in the past and their share in the responsibility for conditions in the present.
- The presence in the region of British subjects.
- The collection in Great Britain of subscriptions with the object of sending missionaries to the region.
- The general idea of serving humanity by reporting to his Government the true conditions, to be published if they see fit.
I have [etc.]