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THE CHILEAN CONTROVERSY.
THE Chilean Controversy between the United States government and that of Chile originated from the assault in the streets of Valparaiso, Chile, upon sailors of the United States Steamer Baltimore, in command of Captain Schley, on October 16, 1891.
The incidents of the affair are, briefly, as follows:-On October 16, Captain Schley who had returned to Valparaiso two days previously with the Steamer Baltimore, gave shore leave to one hundred and seventeen petty officers and sailors of the ship. These men left the ship about 1.30 P.M. No incidents of violence occurred; none of the men were arrested, no complaint was lodged against them, nor did any collision or outbreak occur until about 6 P.M. Captain Schley states thåt he was himself on shore and about the streets of the city until 5.30 P.M., that he met very many of his men who were on leave; that they were sober and were conducting themselves with propriety, saluting Chilean and other officers as they met them. Other officers of the ship, and Captain Jenkins of the merchant ship Kerceenar, corroborated Captain Schley as to the general sobriety and good behavior of the men. About 6 P.M. the assault began, in which a mob of between 1,500 and 2,000 men were engaged. The outbreak began by a Chilean soldier spitting in the face of an apprentice from the Baltimore, named Talbot. This was resented by a knock-down blow. Talbot at the time was accompanied by another sailor from the Baltimore named Riggin. The two men were immediately beset by a crowd of the Chilean citizens and soldiers, through which they broke their way to a street car and entered it for safety. They were pursued and driven from the car, and Riggin was so seriously beaten that he fell in the street apparently dead. The fight continued through several streets of the city, and the American sailors (other than Talbot and Riggin), unarmed and defenseless as they were, fled for their lives, pursued by overwhelming numbers armed with clubs, stones and guns. Eighteen of them were cruelly stabbed and beaten. The Sisters of Charity at the hospital to which the wounded men were taken, when inquired of, stated that they were “sober when received.” Two of the men died from their wounds.
A number of American sailors were arrested and taken before Judge of Crimes Foster, but were, during the four days following the arrest, every one discharged, no accusation of any breach of the peace or other criminal conduct having been sustained against a single one of them.
The United States promptly demanded an apology and reparation from the Chilean government for this outrage upon her sailors.
Considerable correspondence passed between the State Department and the Governor of Chile, in which not only the assault upon the American sailors was discussed, but issues anterior to it, and which arose after the flight of Balmaceda, and when our Minister at Santiago, Mr. Patrick Egan, gave shelter in the legation to certain adherents of the Balmaceda government who applied to him for an asylum. This seems to have elicited a bit. ter hostility against Mr. Egan by some of the Chilean people, and his recall was requested by Senor Pedro Montt.
The Chilean government made a judicial investigation of the incidents and sad results of the assault, of which Pedro Montt, in a note to Mr. Blaine of January 23, 1892, says: “It appeared that the disorder of October 16 began by a quarrel among drunken sailors, which assumed considerable proportions owing to the condition of the locality in which it originated, and that the police performed their duty by re-establishing, tranquillity and placing the persons who seemed to have been concerned in the disorder at the disposal of the Court. The goverment of Chile has no data authorizing it to think that the quarrel was due to any dislike of the uniform of the United States, or that the police failed to perform their duty. It was the desire and duty of the government of Chile to discover the truth, in order to make its future proceedings conform thereto, and in order that the United States government might be satisfied that nothing was neglected in order to do full justice."
In reference to what was considered by the United States government an insulting note addressed to Mr. Eyan by Mr. Matta (December 11) and the demand for its recall, Pedro Montt says: “ The first time that the honorable Secretary of State saw fit to call my attention to the aforesaid note of Mr. Matta, I told him that that note contained instructions addressed to me by Mr. Matta, and that as I had not been directed to communicate it officially to the Department of State, there was no reason why the honorable Secretary should take cognizance of it.”
Secretary Blaine in his reply to Senor Montt concerning Matta's note says: “By your own statement you evidently attempted to justify the Matta note. The Matta note was highly discourteous to the President and the Secretary of the Navy, imputing io them untruth and insincerity. Such language does not admit of conditional or contingent apology, which you offered. It could be apologized for only by a frank withdrawal. You did not see the great difference involved by your government sending the Matta circular to all the legations of Chile and requesting its several Ministers to publish it; so that Chile was not only responsible for the discourteous language, but for its publication throughout the civilized world. That you did not comply with Chile's request to publish it here was the strongest proof of your own dis approval of the note.”
Minister Egan's recall having been asked for, Mr. Blaine replied to Senor Montt to the effect, that Chile has the right to ask that a change be made provided she assigns a reason why such Minister is persona non grata. That twice had arisen occasions for the United States government to ask Great Britain to recall her Minister, and in each case a reason was given why the Minister had ceased to be useful, and that it is hardly necessary to observe that conditions which the United States complied with should likewise be exacted of Chile.
January 25, 1892, Minister Egan telegraphed Secretary Blaine, “I have this day received the following reply to my note of 22 instant:”
The reply in substance from Luis Pereira, is as follows:
“From the nature of the incident it would be impossible to prove that there was no doubt as to the special cause which served as its origin or pretext; but the undersigned can assert that that cause was not a hostile feeling toward the uniform of the Navy of the United States, because the people of Chile have always esteemed and respected that uniform ever since the time when they saw it figuring honorably in the ranks of the soldiers and sailors who, in a generous struggle, gave it independence and established the Republic. The undersigned admits that the occurrence of October 16 was of greater gravity than those which usually occur in the same district between the sailors who frequent it, and the fact that knowing that two deaths have resulted from it among the sixteen wounded men of the Baltimore, has sufficient to give it an extraordinary character, and to induce the government of Chile to hasten to adopt the measures necessary to discover and punish the guilty parties, to offer in due time, if there should be ground for so doing, such reparation as might be due. The preliminary examination was commenced on the morning which followed the night of the conflict, some days before you presented your complaint, but the investigation could not be finished with the rapidity that the government of Chile desired, because the rules of procedure in criminal matters, which are established by our laws, are of slow application and it was not possible for the President of the Republic to modify or set them aside. This delay, which was inevitable, owing to the independence with which the judicial authorities must act, has compelled the government of the undersigned to delay, greatly to its regret, the settlement of the difficulties pending with your government, and a spontaneous offer of reparation for the injury done to the sailors of the Baltimore, that might be attributed to Chilean soldiers or sailors, or that might affect the responsibility of Chile. In view of your communication, and considering that up to date, it has been impossible for the trial initiated by the Judge of the Criminal Court of Valparaiso to be decided, the undersigned regards it as his duty to declare once more that the government of Chile laments the occurrence of October 16, and by way of showing the sincerity of his feelings and the confidence which he has in the justice of his course, he declares his willingness not to await the decision of the examining judge, and proposes to the United States government that the case be submitted to the consideration of the Supreme Court of justice at Washington, to the end that that high tribunal, with its learning and impartiality, may determine without appeal whether there is any ground for reparation and in what shape it should be made.”
Previous to the receipt of this telegram, President Harrison had submitted a message to Congress, January 25, in which he says in effect: “I have as yet received no reply to our note of the 21st instant, but in my opinion I ought not to delay longer to bring these matters to the attention of Congress for such action as may be deemed appropriate. In submitting these papers to Congress for that grave and patriotic decision which the questions involved demand, I desire to say that I am of the opinion that the demands made of Chile by the government should be adhered to and enforced. If the dignity, as well as the prestige and influence of the United States are not to be wholly sacrificed, we must protect those who, in foreign ports, display the flag or wear the colors of this government, against insult, brutality, and death, inflicted in resentment of the acts of their government, and not for any fault of their own. It has been my desire in every way to cultivate friendly and intimate relations with all the governments of the hemisphere. We do not covet their territory: we desire their peace and prosperity; we look for no advantage in our relations with them except the increased exchanges of commerce upon a basis of mutual benefit. It must, however, be understood that this government, while exercising the utmost forbearance towards weaker powers, will extend its strong and adequate protection to its citizens, to its officers, and to its humblest sailor, when made victims of wantonness and cruelty in resentment, not of their personal misconduct, but of the official acts of their government.”
This message from the President was looked upon by the American people as the precursor of a virtual declaration of war by Congress, and it looked as if little Chile was doomed. For months previous to the sending in of the message, the most active preparations had been carried on in the navy-yards, in the fitting out of the cruisers, and the air on all sides was filled with talks of war and in some instances disapprobation of such a great nation as the United States going to war with such a weak nation as Chile, and a sister Republic
That there was no war, is explained by the following subsequent message sent to Congress by President Harrison:
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
I transmit herewith additional correspondence between this government and the government of Chile, consisting of a note of Mr. Montt the Chilean minister at this capital, to Mr. Blaine, dated January 23, a reply of Mr. Blaine thereto of date January 27, and a dispatch of Mr. Egan, our minister at Santiago, transmitting the response of Mr. Pereira, the Chilean minister of foreign affairs, to the note of Mr. Blaine of January 21, which was received by me on the 26th instant. The note of Mr. Montt to Mr. Blaine, though dated January 23, was not delivered at the State Department until after 12 o'clock, meridian, of the 25th, and was not translated and its receipt notified to me until late in the afternoon of that day.
The response of Mr. Pereira to our note of the 21st withdraws, with acceptable expressions of regret, the offensive note of Mr. Matta of the 11th ultimo, and also the request for the recall of Mr. Egan. The treatment of the incident of the assault upon the sailors of the Baltimore is so conciliatory and friendly that I am of the opinion that there is a good prospect that the differences growing out of that serious affair can now be adjusted upon terms satisfactory to this government, by the usual methods and without special pow. ers from Congress. This turn in the affair is very gratifying to me, as I am sure it will be to the Congress and to our people. The general support of the efforts of the Executive to enforce the just rights of the nation in this matter has given an instructive and useful illustration of the unity and patriotism of our people.
Should it be necessary, I will again communicate with Congress upon the subject.
BENJ. HARRISON. EXECUTIVE MANSION, January 28, 1892.
The courts will determine in due course what amount of indemnification is to be allowed the families of the dead sailors and the others who were injured in the streets of Valparaiso.*
* For most recent action in this matter, up to the moment of going to press, see Addenda, preceding Index.