Mr. Tassara to Mr. Seward.

The undersigned, minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, has the honor to address himself to the honorable Secretary of State, to call his attention to affairs concerning the neutrality which the government of the United States has deemed proper to declare in the hostilities between Spain and Chili.

Notorious is the frequency, the impunity, and sometimes even the data, with which the daily press of this country is publishing plans said to be in process of execution, or carried into effect, for supplying arms and vessels to Chili, in contravention of this neutrality. The undersigned has many reasons to believe of these revelations that they rest on some foundation, and perhaps has, in some degree, compromised his responsibility by not having before this given notice of his information about them; but grave considerations, among them and foremost of all the thought of the frankness and loyalty which, during years and despite of critical situations, have reigned over the relations of Spain and the United States, have prevailed in his mind to the present hour, and he has not thought of distracting the attention of the department by reclamations which might not be completely justified; but, notwithstanding, at this day he would fall short of his duty if he should keep silence, in view of an article and a correspondence which have seen the light in one of the leading newspapers of this country, the World, of New York, whose number of the 6th instant is annexed to this despatch, keeping to the very language of the World, as well as leaving to it the whole responsibility for its revelations:

“For account of Chili two vessels have been purchased, laden with a certain class of munitions of war, and escaped to sea, with the purpose of steering for the coast of Chili, blowing up the Spanish ships of war, and thus raising the blockade. One of these vessels was in the United States service in the late war, and has been sold by the Navy Department to the individual from whom the Chilian agent bought it. The officers who went on board were also in this naval service. The torpedoes were manufactured in the city of New York. At the New York custom-house, certificates were procured as for vessels belonging to Chilian citizens, and the ships went to sea under the Chilian flag.”

Whatever may be the foundation for these proceedings—and the undersigned does not mean to compromise the responsibility of any one, much less that of the government of the United States and that of the Navy Department—it is difficult, nevertheless, to ignore the character of complete asseveration with which they are enunciated; and it is right to expect that the Department of State will assure itself, not only that its agents have taken no part in this, nor in any other plan of the same nature which may be formed, but that it will hasten to prove, in a manner direct and irrefutable, that, in compliance with the laws of international right, which on this point are the same with the act of neutrality of the United States, that it is resolved to hinder the violation, in that or any other manner, on this occasion, within this territory, of the laws of neutrality referred to. With this purpose, it is proper to point out a fact, of character more indubitable, [Page 590] which two months ago took place in a port of Central America, and which proves in the plainest manner the foundation for revelations such as those of the World. Annexed also to this note the honorable Secretary will find the literal translation of a letter dated at Panama the 11th of November last, narrating the explosion in the port of Taboga of sundry barrels of inflammable matter, which chemical analysis proved to be of no other use, unless for the working of mines or the manufacture of torpedoes, which barrels came from the port of New York, and proved their explosiveness by killing three men and wounding six others, on being transhipped to the vessel which was to carry them to Peru, with every indication of being intended for Chili.

In making this communication the undersigned not only takes into account the necessity for rigorous compliance with the laws of neutrality, but also that, at the same time, he may discharge a duty by indicating to the government of the United States the danger there may be to passengers going to Panama by vessels whose cargo might contain materials like those which caused the suspicious catastrophe at Taboga.

The government of the United States understands all the antecedents of the Chilian question, and knows very well that Spain has done no more than ask a satisfaction which it deemed to be due to it on the most unshaken principles of the law of nations, and that even such satisfaction has not been put in form, except on conditions more acceptable than in such cases other nations would have done. The government of the United States knows, moreover, that Spain, manifesting to the last moment the good feelings which actuate her towards the nations of the other America, has accepted first the good offices of the United States, and then those of France and of England, to avoid an extreme solution. The government of the United States knows, in fine, that it is purely and simply a parade of declamation to pretend, at this day, that Spain now comes to violate principles or rights on this continent. The same loyalty, nevertheless, and the same good dispositions give the Spanish government a right to demand the use of the same conduct towards it, trusting sincerely that the United States will continue to observe an impartially neutral course, for which I have given my thanks in my recent despatch which has been communicated to the department.

Lately, it having been published in this country that the Chilian government was disposed arbitrarily to extend the rights of its flag to all foreigners who shall enter in service in this war, the undersigned thinks he should call to mind, even excluding the rules of international law established on this point, there is in existence article XIV of the existing treaty of 1793 between Spain and the United States, which article refers especially to the citizens of this country, and whose tenor is as follows:

“No subject of his Catholic Majesty shall take any charge or commission for arming any vessel or vessels to act as corsairs against the said United States, or the citizens, people, and inhabitants thereof, or against the property or inhabitants of any of them, from any prince so ever with whom the United States may be at war. In like manner, no citizen or inhabitant of said States shall seek or accept any charge or commission to arm any vessel or vessels for the purpose of pursuing the subjects of his Catholic Majesty, or of taking possession of his property, from any prince or state that may be, with which his Catholic Majesty may be at war. And if any individual of one or of the other nation should take such charge or commission, he shall be punished as a pirate.”

This article was brought to the mind of the Spanish government during the war of the United States and Mexico, in 1846.

In virtue of all these facts, the undersigned trusts that this government will: make proper investigations, will repeat the orders which, without doubt, have been given to the judicial and fiscal authorities, and will, in fine, show its resolution to maintain the neutrality which it has shown with such loyalty from the [Page 591] beginning in the question between Spain and Chili; not thinking, moreover, to call its attention to the particular, also enunciated in the World, of the sale of a monitor to an agent of the other South American republic, because of the antecedents laid down by the government of the United States on a former occasion; and it is not to be apprehended they will be belied on the present one.

The undersigned avails of this fresh opportunity to renew to the honorable Secretary of State the assurances of his highest consideration.


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.


I wish to call your attention to a very interesting fact. The steamer Limena, Captain Blomfield, was at Taboga taking her cargo for the south, and shipped several barrels marked C. M., oil, Callao, and E. M., oil, Callao, sent by the house of———, New York, to a Peruvian residing in Callao by the name of———. A terrible explosion took place, without apparent cause, on board of the ship which carried them to the steamer. Three men were killed, six wounded, and the flames invaded the rest of the cargo. Captain Blomfield withdrew from the scene of the fire and caused the fourteen barrels already shipped to be thrown into the sea. A chemical analysis, made by order of the English company, has shown that these barrels contained not oil, but an explosive and inflammable mixture of extreme strength, and which could only be applied to mines or torpedoes. In fact, one ounce of this liquid mixed with water and beaten together exploded when a lighted match was placed at a distance of a half a foot in the surface of the water. It is more than probable that this terrible matter was destined to the fabrication of some engine of destruction, and it is easy to devise against whom were prepared these infernal machines. It was not feared to expose the lives of the passengers on board of the English steamer and the ship which carried the fifty explosive barrels from New York to Callao.

Esta conforme.

[From the New York World of January 6, 1866.]


important disclosures regarding the spanish chilian war.—the spanish blockading fleet tobe blown up.—americans to perform the work.—departure of vessels with torpedoes from new york.—how the enterprise is conducted.—a fleet of iron-clads for chili, etc.

[Special despatch to the World.]

Facts of the most startling character bearing upon the war between Spain and Chili have come to light at this capital within the past few days. It has been ascertained, in a manner that places the matter beyond a doubt, that certain Americans of considerable prominence, especially in New York, have engaged in an enterprise the success of which will involve the raising of the Spanish blockade of the Chilian ports by the most thorough and effective means; nothing less, in fact, than the total destruction of the Spanish fleet through the employment of torpedoes. All the vessels of the blockading squadron, six in number, are to be blown up simultaneously, or as nearly simultaneously as possible. The way in which the affair was brought about is, shortly, this; When the Chilian agent, Señor McKenna, arrived in this country some time since, one of his final acts was to hasten to Washington, solicit and obtain an interview with a very high official connected with the Navy Department. To this gentleman’s consideration Señor McKenna submitted a plan for the raising of the Spanish blockade by the means above alluded to. The agent also be sought unofficial assistance the gentleman in question could give, consistedly with respect for his position. The result was that Señor McKenna at once returned to New’ York, fortified with a letter of introduction from the high official to an engineer and inventor then residing in that city, but formerly in the federal service—a gentleman who invented as well as superintended the manufacture of the torpedoes used by the government during the late war. The engineer at once set about preparing an expedition. The order for the construction of the torpedoes was given to a prominent iron, manufacturer in New York; a steamer, sold by the government at public auction and subsequently purchased by the Chilian agent, was fitted out; a ship was also purchased to be used as a tender; the torpedoes were delivered on board at the appointed time; regular [Page 592] clearances for Chilian ports were obtained, and, carrying the Chilian flag and manned by crews selected for the purpose, embracing many adventurous young men, the vessels sailed away. Several weeks have now elapsed. In a short time, in all probability, news of the success or failure of the undertaking will be received. The moving spirit in the enterprise is a man whose filibustering tendencies are well known in New York. He is an incurable speculator, and, with some of his relatives and friends, recently sent a shipload of goods to Matamoros, sinking a fortune in the operation. He is to receive thirty thousand dollars in gold when the flag-ship of the Spanish admiral is blown up, and proportionate amounts for the destruction of other vessels. He receives a salary of five hundred dollars in gold per month during the whole term of his service under the Chilian government. The same amount is paid to his associates. All engaged in the enterprise are under the protection of the Chilian government. The leaders have commissions, signed by the Chilian authorities, declaring that they are citizens regularly employed in the military service of Chili.

One of the chief promoters of the enterprise is an American, a native of New York, brother to the actual commander, and best known by his connection with the construction of the Chilian railways. Ten years he has enjoyed the favor and confidence of the Chilian government. For reasons that are sufficiently obvious I am not permitted to mention names; but of the truth of the facts above related there is no doubt whatever.

the spanish squadron.

Admiral Pareja’s squadron, at last accounts, except the Villa de Madrid, which was at Valparaiso , were distributed among the Chilian ports of Coquimbo, Caldera, and Ancud.

the republic of chili.

Chili, or Chile, as it is indifferently written, the most populous and important of the South American republics, is a strip of land between the Andes and the Pacific, in length of coast line about two thousand two hundred and seventy miles, and in breadth averaging from two hundred miles to twenty. The harbors along her extensive coast are neither numerous nor good. The best of them is Talcahuana, in Talcahuana. Valparaiso, though the busiest port in the country, lies open to winds from the northward, and accidents to the shipping in the harbor I are frequent. Besides Chili proper, the Chilian government exercises jurisdiction over a large number of outlying islands. The population, according to a census taken, probably with the looseness of Depew, in 1857, was 1,558,453.

The population is very heterogeneous. It is estimated that only between one-fourth and one-third of the Chilians are of pure Spanish blood; the remainder being made up of domesticated Indians, and the fruit of their intercourse with the dominant race. The industry of the country takes mostly an agricultural, at least a bucolic turn. The labor is done by subjugated Indians, who are reduced to a sort of peonage; and the territory is chiefly in the hands of great proprietors. The farms often comprise thousands of acres, and the elevated plains afford pasturage for immense herds of cattle, which are bred and slaughtered for their horns and hides. The tillage is very rude, and but for the singular fertility of the soil would be almost without profit. But the washings from the mountains, which are spread by the freshets over the lowlands, and further diffused by a system of irrigation, which, like that of the Egyptians, is more advanced than the other processes of the country, makes the soil so rich that the surface scratching which is given to it is rewarded by a yield of from thirty to sixty fold. The mineral wealth of Chili is very great. Gold is found in the Cordilleras near the coast, and is mined for after a fashion; but the region which contains it is so inaccessible, and so exposed to the incursions of predatory Indians, of whom bands infest the whole interior country, that the amount obtained yearly is reckoned j at less than half a million of dollars. Silver is worked more successfully. In 1858, the last year of which we have exact information of their condition, there were exported, of the product of the mines, over four millions of dollars. But copper is the most important of the minerals of Chili; the export in 1858 amounting to $10,700,000, considerably more than half the value of the entire exports of the year. The commerce of the country, against which the existing blockade is directed, is not, it would seem, of such extent that its destruction would seriously cripple Chili. In 1858 the merchant fleet numbered 269 vessels of all sorts. The government of Chili is, in name, a republic; but, as always happens when freedom is thrust upon a race not fit to receive it, it is a dictatorship; but the forms of freedom are sedulously preserved; a cabinet of four ministers—of home and foreign affairs, of finance, of war and marine, and of religion and education—is ordained to assist the President in his exalted functions, and their integrity is assured by a constitutional provision that they shall not depart the realm within six months after the expiration of their official term.

[Page 593]

[Special despatch to the World.]


This morning the Peruvian minister and an officer of the Peruvian navy visited the splendid monitor Miantonomoh, now at the navy yard, for the purpose of inspecting it. The Peruvian government has already one double-turretted monitor, and her neighbor, Chili, has two, being built in England, and the minister from Peru is anxious to purchase one of our monitors for his government.