Mr. Tassara to Mr. Seward.

The undersigned, minister plenipotentiary of her Catholic Majesty, thinks it his duty to place in the hands of the Secretary of State an article which, [Page 607] under the heading of Chilian strategy, has been published in the New York Herald of the 16th instant, by Chilian agents. Although without other importance, this article has that of being additional evidence that there exists in this country an official agency of the Chilian government, at whose head, with the title sometimes of secretary of legation, at others of envoy, is Mr. Vicuña McKenna, which not only has for object the violation of the laws of neutrality, but also makes public profession thereof. The letter spoken of came in fact into possession of this legation under suspicious circumstances. The honorable Secretary of State will decide whether this document should be sent to the court which is proceeding in the case of the said Mr. Vicuna McKenna.

The undersigned avails of this occasion to reiterate to the honorable Secretary of State of the United States the assurance of his highest consideration.


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

Chilian strategy.

a huge hoax on the spaniards—thirty thousand dollars spent in hunting imaginary privateers—explanation of the sudden departure of the spanish war vessels from this port—a bogus letter, a delusion and a snare—fronti nulla fides, etc.

It will be recollected that a few weeks since two Spanish war vessels, the Carmen and the Isabel la Catolica, arrived at this port from Havana, whence they had been despatched, according to one report, to watch the alleged Chilian privateer Meteor, and protect the Spanish shipping along this coast from Chilian or Peruvian privateers; while another reason assigned for their unexpected visit to New York was that they had been ordered here to be overhauled and repaired preparatory to a cruise in unknown waters. The authorities at the Brooklyn navy-yard, upon the latter supposition, tendered the commanders of these vessels all requisite facilities, at the instance, it was reported, of the State Department at Washington; and this offer was duly animadverted upon at the time in the columns of the Herald, as being more than neutral, and in strange contrast With the course pursued toward the Chilian envoy here by our government. Instead, however, of going into dock at Brooklyn, or lying in wait for the Meteor and other expected privateers, the next fact that transpired in the visit of the Spaniards was that her most Catholic Majesty’s men-of-war had departed as suddenly and mysteriously as they had arrived, leaving nothing to indicate their destination or the motive of their abrupt departure. That a stay of several weeks at least in this harbor was expected is evident from the preparations which the officers of the Carmen and Isabel had made to enjoy the festivities and amusements of New York. Arrangements were made, a day or two after their arrival, to give a grand ball on board the Carmen; but the pleasing expectations of enjoying a little broken English with the fair señoritas Americanas, amid the music and mazes of the dance on the deck of her most Catholic Majesty’s frigate, were not destined to be realized. Orders were given to put to sea at once. The officers, especially the juniors, were terribly chagrined to be torn away thus suddenly from the dolce far niente they had but begun to enjoy on shore. From their superiors they could not obtain the least word of explanation of the unexpected change of programme. Nothing further was heard of the vessels here until Wednesday last, when the news of the arrival of the Isabel—the Carmen following—at Havana was published in the Herald.

After considerable manœuvring and diplomatizing we finally discovered the grand secret of the mysterious movements of the two Spaniards, which have perplexed so many.

the plot.

The facts are as follows: It appears that the Chilian agents, both in Europe and in this country, have been working hard to create a panic in Spain by circulating alarming reports of the presence of privateers in various waters. By skilfully concocted reports five formidable privateers were believed to be off Valencia, two at Puerto Rico, and several more in the gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. The consequence was that the commerce of Spain was seriously embarrassed; insurance on Spanish vessels could not be effected; ships loading at various ports were unloaded upon receipt of the dread intelligence; the Spanish mail steamers were afraid to put to sea, unless convoyed by a vessel of war; public alarm meetings were held at Barcelona and Cadiz; and, lastly, the attention of the Cortes was directed to the privateer question. One of the leading spirits and chief conspirators in these manœuvres turns out to be Señor B. Vicuña McKenna, the Chilian envoy resident in this city, who [Page 608] has already been before the public as an active agent of the Chilian cause in connection with the steamer Meteor. Acting on the maxim that “stratagems are fair in love and war,” Señor McKenna’s attachés, at the suggestion of one of their number, Mr. Sarrotea, devised the following scheme to “sell” the Spanish authorities here and in Washington, and at the same time to remove obnoxious war vessels from this port:

With the envoy’s consent a letter in Spanish to the Chilian minister at Buenos Ayres was written on his official paper, bearing an excellent imitation of his signature. Here is a literal translation of the document:

translation of the bogus letter.

My Esteemed Friend: With sincere regret I have read your letter dated from Buenos Ayres, in which you inform me of your unpleasant rupture with the government of Uruguay. The hand of Spain may be plainly seen in this intrigue, and it is evident that we have nothing to hope for from that republic. With regard to La Platte, I am confident that when the deplorable war in Paraguay is over, our old and excellent friend, General Mitre, will know what position to assume in the Chilian question. I proceed to give you, as usual, a hasty sketch of the progress of our operations. The most notable event which has taken place is the capture of a steamer called the Meteor, which, it is supposed, was going from here as a privateer, and the subsequent arrival of two Spanish men-of-war from Havana—the Carmen, of forty guns, and the Isabel la Catolica, of sixteen guns. The Spaniards here have been led to suppose that the aforementioned steamer was intended for a privateer in the Antilles, and they have succeeded in detaining her. You will understand that this event has not troubled us since, without having had anything to do with any such vessel, we have detained here, with but a shadow, two Spanish vessels. This circumstance has been the happier inasmuch as it has withdrawn the attention of the enemy from the real points of importance. As I informed you in my last letter, our friend A. M., who was the confidential agent of Peru here before war was declared, was so fortunate as to carry out several enterprises with the $500,000 in gold which he brought with him, and certain operations in the consignment of guano, in which prominent men of Washington and of this city have taken part. I could not associate myself with those enterprises for two important reasons: First, because of that fatal principle of absolute neutrality in this country which is so prejudicial to us, and which must be observed; and, second, because we have no money, not having yet contracted the loan in London. Besides, as the cause is common, it matters not who has done these things. His operations concluded, whose base was the southern ports, because those of the north are so vigilantly guarded, A. embarked for Aspinwall on the 21st of January, taking with him the celebrated Captain C. J., who commanded the Merrimac in the famous combat of Hampton Roads, and three other officers of high grade in the confederate and federal navy of the north. By this J. and his companions (who it is believed here are on their way to Callao) should be on board of the two corsairs fitted out in Savannah and Galveston, Texas, and it is possible that they have already completely destroyed the Spanish mercantile marine between Cuba and the Peninsula.

According to the plans of A., J. ought, in preference, to attack the semi-monthly steamers between Havana and Cadiz, disembarking the passengers, whom he should treat with the utmost consideration, at St. Thomas and Curacoa, sending the vessels thence to the Pacific with the arms and reserved crews at his disposal. We have lately learned that a frigate had sailed from Cadiz as an escort to one of those steamers, but we suppose that it may be only for a few hundred miles, while the Spaniards believe themselves menaced by the Eagle, which, as you know, is commanded by the brother-in-law of Williams, and the Condor, which we have also learned sailed from Glasgow in the direction of the Canaries. But even in case J. should meet a frigate he will attack her, since his vessel is magnificent, and carries three hundred pounders, which J. himself constructed in the foundry at Selma, upon the banks of the Alabama river, when he had charge of the establishment during the war with the South.

So you already see, my friend, that if you in Montevideo have not been able to despatch the privateers, neither can I do it here, in order not to have any difficulty with the laws of this country, which shows itself so well disposed towards us. Our allies, the Peruvians, had the chance of doing it with perfect ease at the opportune moment, and without violating any law. Oh! my friend, if we but had the Chincha islands what prodigies we should perform. At the same time we know that an active and ingenious friend, S. C., has despatched from the slightly guarded port Cette, in the south of France, a vessel which was got ready in Toulon, but that he could not arm her in that city for fear of the vigilance of the French authorities, who undoubtedly sympathize with the Spanish government. According to what L. has written us the corsair from Cette is very fast, has a first-class engine, and masts capable of carrying heavy sail. She will carry on destruction in the Mediterranean, and afterwards will go to the Canaries, Montevideo, and Chili. It appears that this is certain, for it would not be advisable that a vessel which has cost nearly a million and a half of francs should remain longer than a month in the Mediterranean. The Spaniards, French, and, perhaps, the English would pursue her. For some days we have believed that she is the same vessel [Page 609] which was seen near Valencia, and we attribute the belief that she is iron-clad to a light plating of iron which she has on either side of her engines. She was not further clad, to avoid making her heavy.

This, my friend, is all that I have to communicate to you respecting the privateers. You will learn, then, with satisfaction that before six months the commerce of Spain will have no existence in the world, and thus O’Donnell will suffer for the evil which he has done to his own country, which for so many reasons is deserving of a better fate. Here we amuse ourselves, nevertheless, with wild alarms, since, according to the Spanish journals, the seas will swarm with privateers. Meanwhile there are positively none except those of which I tell you. It may be that there are others of which I am ignorant, for it would not be strange, since previous to my departure from Chili one hundred and twenty letters of marque were issued, and nobody knows how many more have been issued. I know that the Chilians in Califorma are hastening to send privateers to Manilla from Honolulu, and that for this purpose Captain Finch, who came from Chili with Santa Maria in the month of October, went to San Francisco from Lima in December. Poor Spain! How dearly she is about to pay for her rashness.

The affairs of the country are progressing happily, as you will learn. The government writes us that it will not make peace except with honor to itself. There is a great deal of enthusiam in Peru. M. writes me from Caraccas that an alliance will be formed with Chili, and that New Granada, when Freiro, the Peruvian minister, has arrived, will follow. So O’Donnell must take care now of his “ever faithful island,” when we are assured by the Cubans resident here there is a profound dissatisfaction which will break out ere long. R. also writes us from Paris that he keeps up an excellent espionage in Madrid; that O’Donnell despairs of the war, and is anxious to make peace; so I have written to the Chilian government by the steamer which went out to-day.

God grant, then, my friend, that this war, so unfortunate for all of us, may be concluded. The suicide of Pareja must have opened their eyes to their folly. The wrongs which they have done us up to the present time are, nevertheless, infinite. In return, the Spanish name will not be heard in South America for a century.

I send you No. 7 of La Vox d’América. In the next we shall discuss the Uruguay question.

A thousand remembrances to Grillermo, Blest, and Demetrio, and dispose always of your affectionate friend and disciple,

B. VICUÑA MacKENNA. (Signature imitated.)

Señor Don José Victino Lastarria, Minister of Chili in the Argentine Republic.

the spanish spies snap at the bait.

The above was enclosed in an official envelope, printed similar to the heading of the letter, and intrusted to a person familiar with the haunts and habits of the agents of the Spanish officials. Watching his opportunity, this actor in the farce contrived to drop the important and compromising letter, as if by accident, in a street near the post office, at a moment when he was but a few feet in advance of two members of the Spanish secret service corps, and no other persons passing close by. The bait took splendidly, as the Chilian messenger saw from a building on the opposite side of the street, which he entered immediately after coming his little “drop game.”

Off they started to the Spanish consulate as swiftly as their legs could carry them, with the extra weight added by the conviction of having discovered a Chilian document of importance, may-be even a sketch of the enemy’s plan of campaign; for the Chilian official heading and the name of the addressee suggested the confidential nature, at least, of the contents. From the Spanish consulate the “highly important discovery” was, of course, communicated to the United States marshal and to the Spanish officials in Washington. Hine illæ lacrymæ. Hence the departure of the Carmen and Isabel.

the gup and the lip.

The letter, we believe, is now in possession of the United States district attorney, to whom it is said to have been handed as evidence to corroborate the charges brought against the Chilian envoy in the Meteor case. It 1s estimated that the cost to the Spanish government of the voyage of the two war vessels, and their ridiculous return to Cuba, will not fall far short of thirty thousand dollars. The above are the leading points of this successful farce of “the biter bit.”

While the Spanish agents are rejoicing at their good fortune, and exulting over the coming doom of the irrepressible McKenna, that astute son of Chili is in all probability chuckling quietly to himself at the easy manner in which he managed to outwit the officials of her most Catholic Majesty, and allowing them to have the first laugh, for the reason that rira bien qui rira le dernier!