334.334 R 33/1

The Secretary of State to the Chargé in Paraguay (Southworth)

[No. 290]

Sir: Referring to the Department’s instruction No. 276, dated January 27, 1925,3 in regard to the so-called “Paraguayan Jewels”, there is enclosed for your information a copy of a despatch, No. 395, dated March 9, 1925, from the Legation at Montevideo,3 together with its enclosures, which you will note contain a complete inventory, with photographs, of the property referred to.

The Department believes that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any living claimants to identify satisfactorily many of the articles contained in the box, which is now at Montevideo. It is therefore believed that the most satisfactory disposition of this property would be to deliver it to the Paraguayan Government, without any responsibility on the part of this Government, in order that the articles maybe disposed of in any manner which seems to them proper.

For your information it may be stated that on December 30, 1887, the Department instructed Mr. Bacon, Chargé d’Affaires at Montevideo,3 to deliver to the Paraguayan Government all of these articles which were then in the possession of this Department, “with a distinct disclaimer of any responsibility”. The box, which was then in the Department, was accordingly sent to Montevideo, but, due to the discrepancy between the inventory which had been made by the Brazilian Government in 1871 and the inventory made by the Department in 1884, the Paraguayan Government refused to accept the delivery of the box and its contents. This information was conveyed to the Department as an enclosure to despatch No. 71 of October 29, 1895, from the Legation at Montevideo.3 In view of this fact the Department decided to make an effort to return the property to such individual claimants as might be able to establish their right to any of the articles. It was also proposed that if a claim for property be established to articles included in the Brazilian inventory of 1871, but not included in the Department’s inventory of 1884, Congress would be requested to appropriate a sum of money for the indemnification of the claimants. However, no claimant was able to trace his individual property through the various vicissitudes which the box encountered. It is believed by the Department that it would be virtually impossible for any claimant to do so. It may also be noted that possible claimants have had an opportunity to study the inventories of 1871 and 1884 and would thus be in a position to file claims based solely on the descriptions contained in those inventories, thereby opening a fertile [Page 670] field for fraud. While it might be possible, on the basis of the inventory which is enclosed herewith, to distribute certain articles to bona fide claimants who could identify the objects claimed to your satisfaction, it is obvious that numerous articles could not be so identified and the distribution of this remainder would still present an unsettled problem.

You may, in your discretion, point out these difficulties to the Paraguayan Government in an effort to induce that Government to accept the box and contents as it now exists, and to discharge this Government of all responsibility in connection therewith. It might also be pointed out that in January, 1902, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay caused to be published in the Diario, the official paper of Paraguay, a notice to the effect that all claims relative to this property should be presented within ninety days of the date of the publication of the notice, or be thereafter barred. A copy of this notice was transmitted to the Department in despatch No. 517, dated February 5, 1902, from the Legation at Montevideo.5

If the Paraguayan Government should still refuse to accept the box, and its contents under the terms outlined above, you will communicate this fact to the Department with any suggestions for the disposal of the property which may occur to you. It may be added that you will of course take care to see that the enclosed inventory, and particularly the photographs, are kept strictly confidential in order that no fraudulent use of them might be made by possible claimants.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Joseph C. Grew
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