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CHAPTER IV
I have thus far dealt with this dispute as one in which Great Britain and Venezuela, the parties primarily concerned, were sole participants. We have now, however, reached a stage in the affair which requires a recital of other facts which led up to the active and positive interference of our own Government in the controversy. In discussing this branch of our topic it will be necessary not only to deal with circumstances following those already narrated, but to retrace our steps sufficiently to exhibit among other things the appeals and representations made to the Government of the United States by Venezuela, while she was still attempting to arrive at an adjustment with Great Britain.

I have already referred to the first communication made to us by Venezuela on the subject. This, it will be remembered, was in 1876, when she sought to resume negotiations with Great Britain, after an interruption of thirty-two years. I have also called attention to the fact 229 that coincident with this communication Venezuela presented to Great Britain a willingness to relax her insistence upon her extreme boundary claim, based upon alleged right, and suggested that a conventional line might be fixed by mutual concession.

Venezuela’s first appeal to us for support and aid amounted to little more than a vague and indefinite request for countenance and sympathy in her efforts to settle her differences with her contestant, with an expression of a desire that we would take cognizance of her new steps in that direction. I do not find that any reply was made to this communication.

Five years afterward, in 1881, the Venezuelan minister in Washington presented to Mr. Evarts, then our Secretary of State, information he had received that British vessels had made their appearance in the mouth of the Orinoco River with materials to build a telegraph-line, and had begun to erect poles for that purpose at Barima: and he referred to the immense importance to his country of the Orinoco; to the efforts of his government to adjust her difficulty with Great Britain, and to the delays interposed; and finally expressed his confident belief that the United States would not 230 view with indifference what was being done in a matter of such capital importance.

Mr. Evarts promptly replied, and informed the Venezuelan representative that “in view of the deep interest which the Government of the United States takes in all transactions tending to attempted encroachments of foreign powers upon the territory of any of the republics of this continent, this Government could not look with indifference to the forcible acquisition of such territory by England, if the mission of the vessels now at the mouth of the Orinoco should be found to be for that end.”

Again, on the thirtieth day of November, 1881, our minister to Venezuela reported to Mr. Blaine, who had succeeded Mr. Evarts as Secretary of State, an interview with the President of Venezuela at his request, in which the subject of the boundary dispute was discussed. Our minister represented that the question was spoken of by the President as being of essential importance and a source of great anxiety to him, involving a large and fertile territory between the Essequibo and Orinoco, and probably the control of the mouth and a considerable portion of the latter river; and he alleged that the policy of Great Britain, in the treatment of this question, had been delay—the interval 231 being utilized by gradually but steadily extending her interest and authority into the disputed territory; and “that, though the rights of Venezuela were clear and indisputable, he questioned her ability, unaided by some friendly nation, to maintain them.”

In July, 1882, Mr. Frelinghuysen, successor to Mr. Blaine, sent to our representative at Venezuela a despatch to be communicated to the government of the republic, in which he stated that, if Venezuela desired it, the United States would propose to the Government of Great Britain that the boundary question be submitted to the arbitrament of a third power.

It will be remembered that a proposition for arbitration had been made by Venezuela to Great Britain in February, 1881, and that Great Britain had refused to accede to it.

In July, 1884, Mr. Frelinghuysen sent a confidential despatch to Mr. Lowell, our minister to Great Britain, informing him that Guzman Blanco, ex-President of Venezuela, who had recently been accredited as a special envoy from his country to Great Britain, had called on him relative to the objects of his mission, in respect of which he desired to obtain the good offices of this Government, and that doubtless he would seek to confer with Mr. 232 Lowell in London. He further informed Mr. Lowell that he had told the Venezuelan envoy that, “in view of our interest in all that touches the independent life of the Republics of the American Continent, the United States could not be indifferent to anything that might impair their normal self-control”; that “the moral position of the United States in these matters was well known through the enunciation of the Monroe Doctrine,” though formal action in the direction of applying that doctrine to a speculative case affecting Venezuela seemed to him to be inopportune, and therefore he could not advise Venezuela to arouse a discussion of that point. He instructed our minister to show proper consideration to the Venezuelan envoy, and to “take proper occasion to let Lord Granville know that we are not without concern as to whatever may affect the interest of a sister Republic of the American Continent and its position in the family of nations.”

In July, 1885, the Venezuelan minister to the United States addressed a communication to Secretary of State Bayard, setting forth the correspondence which had already taken place between our Government and that of Venezuela touching the boundary dispute, and referring 233 to the serious condition existing on account of the renewed aggressions of Great Britain.

Mr. Bayard thereupon sent a despatch on the subject to Mr. Phelps, our diplomatic representative to England, in which, after stating that the Venezuelan Government had never definitely declared what course she desired us to pursue, but, on the contrary, had expressed a desire to be guided by our counsel, he said: “The good offices of this Government have been tendered to Venezuela to suggest to Great Britain the submission of the boundary dispute to arbitration; but when shown that such action on our part would exclude us from acting as arbitrator, Venezuela ceased to press the matter in that direction”; and the next day after writing this despatch Mr. Bayard informed the Venezuelan minister that the President of the United States could not entertain a request to act as umpire in any dispute unless it should come concurrently from both contestants.

In December, 1886, our minister to Venezuela addressed a despatch to Mr. Bayard, in which he reported that matters looked very angry and threatening in Venezuela on account of fresh aggressions on the part of Great Britain in the disputed territory; and he expressed the fear that an open rupture might 234 occur between the two countries. He inclosed a statement made by the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, containing a list of grievances, followed by this declaration: “Venezuela, listening to the advice of the United States, has endeavored several times to obtain that the difference should be submitted to the award of a third power.... But such efforts have proven fruitless, and the possibility of that result, the only one prescribed by our constitution, being arrived at, becomes more and more remote from day to day. Great Britain has been constant in her clandestine advances upon the Venezuelan territory, not taking into consideration either the rights or the complaints of this Republic.” And he adds the following declaration: “Under such circumstances the Government has but two courses left open: either to employ force in order to recover places from which force has ejected the Republic, since its amicable representations on the subject have failed to secure redress, or to present a solemn protest to the Government of the United States against so great an abuse, which is an evident declaration of war—a provocative aggression.”

Thereupon, and on the twentieth day of December, 1886, a despatch was sent by Mr. Bayard 235 to Mr. Phelps, in which the secretary comments on the fact that at no time theretofore had the good offices of our Government been actually tendered to avert a rupture between Great Britain and Venezuela, and that our inaction in this regard seemed to be due to the reluctance of Venezuela to have the Government of the United States take any steps having relation to the action of the British Government which might, in appearance even, prejudice the resort to our arbitration or mediation which Venezuela desired; but that the intelligence now received warranted him in tendering the good offices of the United States to promote an amicable settlement of the difficulty between the two countries, and offering our arbitration if acceptable to both countries—as he supposed the dispute turned upon simple and readily ascertainable historical facts.

Additional complaints against Great Britain on account of further trespasses on Venezuelan territory were contained in a note from the ............
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