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.