January 25, 1892: Message Regarding Valparaiso Incident
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
In my annual message delivered to Congress at the beginning of the present session, after a brief statement of the facts then in the possession of this Government touching the assault in the streets of Valparaiso, Chile, upon the sailors of the United States steamship Baltimore on the evening of the 16th of October last, I said:
This Government is now awaiting the result of an investigation which has been conducted by the criminal court at Valparaiso. It is reported unofficially that the Investigation is about completed, and it is expected that the result will soon be communicated to this Government, together with some adequate and satisfactory response to the note by which the attention of Chile was called to this incident. If these just expectations should be disappointed or further needless delay intervene, I will by a special message bring this matter again to the attention of Congress for such action as may be necessary.
In my opinion the time has now come when I should lay before the Congress and the country the correspondence between this Government and the Government of Chile from the time of the breaking out of the revolution against Balmaceda, together with all other facts in the possession of the executive department relating to this matter. The diplomatic correspondence is herewith transmitted, together with some correspondence between the naval officers for the time in command in Chilean waters and the Secretary of the Navy, and also the evidence taken at the Mare Island Navy-Yard since the arrival of the Baltimore at San Francisco. I do not deem it necessary in this communication to attempt any full analysis of the correspondence or of the evidence. A brief restatement of the international questions involved and of the reasons why the responses of the Chilean Government are unsatisfactory is all that I deem necessary.
It may be well at the outset to say that whatever may have been said in this country or in Chile in criticism of Mr. Egan, our minister at Santiago, the true history of this exciting period in Chilean affairs from the outbreak of the revolution until this time discloses no act on the part of Mr. Egan unworthy of his position or that could justly be the occasion of serious animadversion or criticism. He has, I think, on the whole borne himself in very trying circumstances with dignity, discretion, and courage, and has conducted the correspondence with ability, courtesy, and fairness.
It is worth while also at the beginning to say that the right of Mr. Egan to give shelter in the legation to certain adherents of the Balmaceda Government who applied to him for asylum has not been denied by the Chilean authorities, nor has any demand been made for the surrender of these refugees. That there was urgent need of asylum is shown by Mr. Egan's note of August 24, 1891, describing the disorders that prevailed in Santiago, and by the evidence of Captain Schley as to the pillage and violence that prevailed at Valparaiso. The correspondence discloses, however, that the request of Mr. Egan for a safe conduct from the country in behalf of these refugees was denied. The precedents cited by him in the correspondence, particularly the case of the revolution in Peru in 1865, did not leave the Chilean Government in a position to deny the right of asylum to political refugees, and seemed very clearly to support Mr. Egan's contention that a safe conduct to neutral territory was a necessary and acknowledged incident of the asylum. These refugees have very recently, without formal safe conduct, but by the acquiescence of the Chilean authorities, been placed on board the Yorktown, and are now being conveyed to Callao, Peru. This incident might be considered wholly closed but for the disrespect manifested toward this Government by the close and offensive police surveillance of the legation premises which was maintained during most of the period of the stay of the refugees therein. After the date of my annual message, and up to the time of the transfer of the refugees to the Yorktown, the legation premises seemed to have been surrounded by police in uniform and police agents or detectives in citizen's dress, who offensively scrutinized persons entering or leaving the legation, and on one or more occasions arrested members of the minister's family. Commander Evans, who by my direction recently visited Mr. Egan at Santiago, in his telegram to the Navy Department described the legation as "a veritable prison," and states that the police agents or detectives were after his arrival withdrawn during his stay. It appears further from the note of Mr. Egan of November 20, 1891, that on one occasion at least these police agents, whom he declares to be known to him, invaded the legation premises, pounding upon its windows and using insulting and threatening language toward persons therein. This breach of the right of a minister to freedom from police espionage and restraint seems to have been so flagrant that the Argentine minister, who was dean of the diplomatic corps, having observed it, felt called upon to protest against it to the Chilean minister of foreign affairs. The Chilean authorities have, as will be observed from the correspondence, charged the refugees and the inmates of the legation with insulting the police; but it seems to me incredible that men whose lives were in jeopardy and whose safety could only be secured by retirement and quietness should have sought to provoke a collision, which could only end in their destruction, or to aggravate their condition by intensifying a popular feeling that at one time so threatened the legation as to require Mr. Egan to appeal to the minister of foreign affairs.
But the most serious incident disclosed by the correspondence is that of the attack upon the sailors of the Baltimore in the streets of Valparaiso on the 16th of October last. In my annual message, speaking upon the information then in my possession, I said:
So far as I have yet been able to learn, no other explanation of this bloody work has been suggested than that it had its origin in hostility to those men as sailors of the United States, wearing the uniform of their Government, and not in any individual act or personal animosity.
We have now received from the Chilean Government an abstract of the conclusions of the fiscal general upon the testimony taken by the judge of crimes in an investigation which was made to extend over nearly three months. I very much regret to be compelled to say that this report does not enable me to modify the conclusion announced in my annual message. I am still of the opinion that our sailors were assaulted, beaten, stabbed, and killed not for anything they or any one of them had done, but for what the Government of the United States had done or was charged with having done by its civil officers and naval commanders. If that be the true aspect of the case, the injury was to the Government of the United States, not to these poor sailors who were assaulted in a manner so brutal and so cowardly.
Before attempting to give an outline of the facts upon which this conclusion rests I think it right to say a word or two upon the legal aspect of the case. The Baltimore was in the harbor of Valparaiso by virtue of that general invitation which nations are held to extend to the war vessels of other powers with which they have friendly relations. This invitation, I think, must be held ordinarily to embrace the privilege of such communication with the shore as is reasonable, necessary, and proper for the comfort and convenience of the officers and men of such vessels. Captain Schley testifies that when his vessel returned to Valparaiso on September 14 the city officers, as is customary, extended the hospitalities of the city to his officers and crew. It is not claimed that every personal collision or injury in which a sailor or officer of such naval vessel visiting the shore may be involved raises an international question, but I am clearly of the opinion that where such sailors or officers are assaulted by a resident populace, animated by hostility to the government whose uniform these sailors and officers wear and in resentment of acts done by their government, not by them, their nation must take notice of the event as one involving an infraction of its rights and dignity, not in a secondary way, as where a citizen is injured and presents his claim through his own government, but in a primary way, precisely as if its minister or consul or the flag itself had been the object of the same character of assault.
The officers and sailors of the Baltimore were in the harbor of Valparaiso under the orders of their Government, not by their own choice. They were upon the shore by the implied invitation of the Government of Chile and with the approval of their commanding officer; and it does not distinguish their case from that of a consul that his stay is more permanent or that he holds the express invitation of the local government to justify his longer residence. Nor does it affect the question that the injury was the act of a mob. If there had been no participation by the police or military in this cruel work and no neglect on their part to extend protection, the case would still be one, in my opinion, when its extent and character are considered, involving international rights. The incidents of the affair are briefly as follows:
On the 16th of October last Captain Schley, commanding the United States steamship Baltimore, gave shore leave to 117 petty officers and sailors of his ship. These men left the ship about 1.30 p.m. No incident of violence occurred, none of our men were arrested, no complaint was lodged against them, nor did any collision or outbreak occur until about 6 o'clock p.m. Captain Schley states that 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 upon 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 Keweenaw, corroborate Captain Schley as to the general sobriety and good behavior of our men. The Sisters of Charity at the hospital to which our wounded men were taken when inquired of stated that they were sober when received. If the situation had been otherwise, we must believe that the Chilean police authorities would have made arrests. About 6 p.m. the assault began, and it is remarkable that the investigation by the judge of crimes, though so protracted, does not enable him to give any more satisfactory account of its origin than is found in the statement that it began between drunken sailors. Repeatedly in the correspondence it is asserted that it was impossible to learn the precise cause of the riot. The minister of foreign affairs, Matta, in his telegram to Mr. Montt under date December 31, states that the quarrel began between two sailors in a tavern and was continued in the street, persons who were passing joining in it.
The testimony of Talbot, an apprentice, who was with Riggin, is that the outbreak in which they were involved began by a Chilean sailor's spitting in the face of Talbot, which was resented by a knockdown. It appears that Riggin and Talbot were at the time unaccompanied by others of their shipmates. These two men were immediately beset by a crowd of Chilean citizens and sailors, through which they broke their way to a street car, and entered it for safety. They were pursued, driven from the car, and Riggin was so seriously beaten that he fell in the street apparently dead. There is nothing in the report of the Chilean investigation made to us that seriously impeaches this testimony. It appears from Chilean sources that almost instantly, with a suddenness that strongly implies meditation and preparation, a mob, stated by the police authorities at one time to number 2,000 and at another 1,000, was engaged in the assault upon our sailors, who are represented as resisting "with stones, clubs, and bright arms." The report of the intendente of October 30 states that the fight began at 6 p.m. in three streets, which are named; that information was received at the intendencia at 6.15, and that the police arrived on the scene at 6.30, a full half hour after the assault began. At that time he says that a mob of 2,000 men had collected, and that for several squares there was the appearance of a "real battlefield."
The scene at this point is very graphically set before us by the Chilean testimony. The American sailors, who after so long an examination have not been found guilty of any breach of the peace so far as the Chilean authorities are able to discover, unarmed and defenseless, are fleeing for their lives, pursued by overwhelming numbers, and fighting only to aid their own escape from death or to succor some mate whose life is in greater peril. Eighteen of them are brutally stabbed and beaten, while one Chilean seems from the report to have suffered some injury, but how serious or with what character of weapon, or whether by a missile thrown by our men or by some of his fellow-rioters, is unascertained.
The pretense that our men were fighting "with stones, clubs, and bright arms" is in view of these facts incredible. It is further refuted by the fact that our prisoners when searched were absolutely without arms, only seven penknives being found in the possession of the men arrested, while there were received by our men more than thirty stab wounds, every one of which was inflicted in the back, and almost every confused wound was in the back or back of the head. The evidence of the ship's officer of the day is that even the jackknives of the men were taken from them before leaving the ship.
As to the brutal nature of the treatment received by our men, the following extract from the account given of the affair by the La Patria newspaper, of Valparaiso, of October 17, can not be regarded as too friendly:
The Yankees, as soon as their pursuers gave chase, went by way of the Calle del Arsenal toward the city car station. In the presence of an ordinary number of citizens, among whom were some sailors, the North Americans took seats in the street car to escape from the stones which the Chileans threw at them. It was believed for an instant that the North Americans had saved themselves from popular fury, but such was not the case. Scarcely had the car begun to move when a crowd gathered around and stopped its progress. Under these circumstances and without any cessation of the howling and throwing of stones at the North Americans, the conductor entered the car, and, seeing the risk of the situation to the vehicle, ordered them to get out. At the instant the sailors left the car, in the midst of a hail of stones, the said conductor received a stone blow on the head. One of the Yankee sailors managed to escape in the direction of the Plaza Wheelright, but the other was felled to the ground by a stone. Managing to raise himself from the ground where he lay, he staggered in an opposite direction from the station. In front of the house of Senor Mazzini he was again wounded, falling then senseless and breathless.
No amount of evasion or subterfuge is able to cloud our clear vision of this brutal work. It should be noticed in this connection that the American sailors arrested, after an examination, were during the four days following the arrest every one discharged, no charge of any breach of the peace or other criminal conduct having been sustained against a single one of them. The judge of crimes, Foster, in a note to the intendente under date of October 22, before the dispatch from this Government of the following day, which aroused the authorities of Chile to a better sense of the gravity of the affair, says:
Having presided temporarily over this court in regard to the seamen of the United States cruiser Baltimore, who have been tried on account of the deplorable conduct which took place, etc.
The noticeable point here is that our sailors had been tried before the 22d of October, and that the trial resulted in their acquittal and return to their vessel: It is quite remarkable and quite characteristic of the management of this affair by the Chilean police authorities that we should now be advised that Seaman Davidson, of the Baltimore, has been included in the indictment, his offense being, so far as I have been able to ascertain, that he attempted to defend a shipmate against an assailant who was striking at him with a knife. The perfect vindication of our men is furnished by this report. One only is found to have been guilty of criminal fault, and that for an act clearly justifiable.
As to the part taken by the police in the affair, the case made by Chile is also far from satisfactory. The point where Riggin was killed is only three minutes' walk from the police station, and not more than twice that distance from the intendencia; and yet according to their official report a full half hour elapsed after the assault began before the police were upon the ground. It has been stated that all but two of our men have said that the police did their duty. The evidence taken at Mare Island shows that if such a statement was procured from our men it was accomplished by requiring them to sign a writing in a language they did not understand and by the representation that it was a mere declaration that they had taken no part in the disturbance. Lieutenant McCrea, who acted as interpreter, says in his evidence that when our sailors were examined before the court the subject of the conduct of the police was so carefully avoided that he reported the fact to Captain Schley on his return to the vessel.
The evidences of the existence of animosity toward our sailors in the minds of the sailors of the Chilean navy and of the populace of Valparaiso are so abundant and various as to leave no doubt in the mind of anyone who will examine the papers submitted. It manifested itself in threatening and insulting gestures toward our men as they passed the Chilean men-of-war in their boats and in the derisive and abusive epithets with which they greeted every appearance of an American sailor on the evening of the riot. Captain Schley reports that boats from the Chilean war ships several times went out of their course to cross the bows of his boats, compelling them to back water. He complained of the discourtesy, and it was corrected. That this feeling was shared by men of higher rank is shown by an incident related by Surgeon Stitt, of the Baltimore. After the battle of Placilla he, with other medical officers of the war vessels in the harbor, was giving voluntary assistance to the wounded in the hospitals. The son of a Chilean army officer of high rank was under his care, and when the father discovered it he flew into a passion and said he would rather have his son die than have Americans touch him, and at once had him removed from the ward. This feeling is not well concealed in the dispatches of the foreign office, and had quite open expression in the disrespectful treatment of the American legation. The Chilean boatmen in the bay refused, even for large offers of money, to return our sailors, who crowded the Mole, to their ship when they were endeavoring to escape from the city on the night of the assault. The market boats of the Baltimore were threatened, and even quite recently the gig of Commander Evans, of the Yorktown, was stoned while waiting for him at the Mole.
The evidence of our sailors clearly shows that the attack was expected by the Chilean people, that threats had been made against our men, and that in one case, somewhat early in the afternoon, the keeper of one house into which some of our men had gone closed his establishment in anticipation of the attack, which he advised them would be made upon them as darkness came on.
In a report of Captain Schley to the Navy Department he says:
In the only interview that I had with Judge Foster, who is investigating the case relative to the disturbance, before he was aware of the entire gravity of the matter, he informed me that the assault upon my men was the outcome of hatred for our people among the lower classes because they thought we had sympathized with the Balmaceda Government on account of the Itata matter, whether with reason or without he could of course not admit; but such he thought was the explanation of the assault at that time.
Several of our men sought security from the mob by such complete or partial changes in their dress as would conceal the fact of their being seamen of the Baltimore, and found it then possible to walk the streets without molestation. These incidents conclusively establish that the attack was upon the uniform--the nationality--and not upon the men.
The origin of this feeling is probably found in the refusal of this Government to give recognition to the Congressional party before it had established itself, in the seizure of the Itala for an alleged violation of the neutrality law, in the cable incident, and in the charge that Admiral Brown conveyed information to Valparaiso of the landing at Quinteros. It is not my purpose to enter here any defense of the action of this Government in these matters. It is enough for the present purpose to say that if there was any breach of international comity or duty on our part it should have been made the subject of official complaint through diplomatic channels or for reprisals for which a full responsibility was assumed. We can not consent that these incidents and these perversions of the truth shall be used to excite a murderous attack upon our unoffending sailors and the Government of Chile go acquit of responsibility. In fact, the conduct of this Government during the war in Chile pursued those lines of international duty which we had so strongly insisted upon on the part of other nations when this country was in the throes of a civil conflict. We continued the established diplomatic relations with the government in power until it was overthrown, and promptly and cordially recognized the new government when it was established. The good offices of this Government were offered to bring about a peaceful adjustment, and the interposition of Mr. Egan to mitigate severities and to shelter adherents of the Congressional party was effective and frequent. The charge against Admiral Brown is too base to gain credence with anyone who knows his high personal and professional character.
Recurring to the evidence of our sailors, I think it is shown that there were several distinct assaults, and so nearly simultaneous as to show that they did not spread from one point. A press summary of the report of the fiscal shows that the evidence of the Chilean officials and others was in conflict as to the place of origin, several places being named by different witnesses as the locality where the first outbreak occurred. This if correctly reported shows that there were several distinct outbreaks, and so nearly at the same time as to cause this confusion. The La Patria, in the same issue from which I have already quoted, after describing the killing of Riggin and the fight which from that point extended to the Mole, says:
At the same time in other streets of the port the Yankee sailors fought fiercely with the people of the town, who believed to see in them incarnate enemies of the Chilean navy.
The testimony of Captain Jenkins, of the American merchant ship Keweenaw, which had gone to Valparaiso for repairs, and who was a witness of some part of the assault upon the crew of the Baltimore, is strongly corroborative of the testimony of our own sailors when he says that he saw Chilean sentries drive back a seaman seeking shelter upon a mob that was pursuing him. The officers and men of Captain Jenkins's ship furnish the most conclusive testimony as to the indignities which were practiced toward Americans in Valparaiso. When American sailors, even of merchant ships, can only secure their safety by denying their nationality, it must be time to readjust our relations with a government that permits such demonstrations.
As to the participation of the police, the evidence of our sailors shows that our men were struck and beaten by police officers before and after arrest, and that one at least was dragged with a lasso about his neck by a mounted policeman. That the death of Riggin was the result of a rifle shot fired by a policeman or soldier on duty is shown directly by the testimony of Johnson, in whose arms he was at the time, and by the evidence of Charles Langen, an American sailor, not then a member of the Baltimore's crew, who stood close by and saw the transaction. The Chilean authorities do not pretend to fix the responsibility of this shot upon any particular person, but avow their inability to ascertain who fired it further than that it was fired from a crowd. The character of the wound as described by one of the surgeons of the Baltimore clearly supports his opinion that it was made by a rifle ball, the orifice of exit being as much as an inch or an inch and a quarter in width. When shot the poor fellow was unconscious and in the arms of a comrade, who was endeavoring to carry him to a neighboring drug store for treatment. The story of the police that in coming up the street they passed these men and left them behind them is inconsistent with their own statement as to the direction of their approach and with their duty to protect them, and is clearly disproved. In fact Riggin was not behind but in front of the advancing force, and was not standing in the crowd, but was unconscious and supported in the arms of Johnson when he was shot.
The communications of the Chilean Government in relation to this cruel and disastrous attack upon our men, as will appear from the correspondence, have not in any degree taken the form of a manly and satisfactory expression of regret, much less of apology. The event was of so serious a character that if the injuries suffered by our men had been wholly the result of an accident in a Chilean port the incident was grave enough to have called for some public expression of sympathy and regret from the local authorities. It is not enough to say that the affair was lamentable, for humanity would require that expression even if the beating and killing of our men had been justifiable. It is not enough to say that the incident is regretted, coupled with the statement that the affair was not of an unusual character in ports where foreign sailors are accustomed to meet. It is not for a generous and sincere government to seek for words of small or equivocal meaning in which to convey to a friendly power an apology for an offense so atrocious as this. In the case of the assault by a mob in New Orleans upon the Spanish consulate in 1851, Mr. Webster wrote to the Spanish minister, Mr. Calderon, that the acts complained of were "a disgraceful and flagrant breach of duty and propriety," and that his Government "regrets them as deeply as Minister Calderon or his Government could possibly do;" that "these acts have caused the President great pain, and he thinks a proper acknowledgment is due to Her Majesty's Government." He invited the Spanish consul to return to his post, guaranteeing protection, and offered to salute the Spanish flag if the consul should come in a Spanish vessel. Such a treatment by the Government of Chile of this assault would have been more creditable to the Chilean authorities, and much less can hardly be satisfactory to a government that values its dignity and honor.
In our note of October 23 last, which appears in the correspondence, after receiving the report of the board of officers appointed by Captain Schley to investigate the affair, the Chilean Government was advised of the aspect which it then assumed and called upon for any facts in its possession that might tend to modify the unfavorable impressions which our report had created. It is very clear from the correspondence that before the receipt of this note the examination was regarded by the police authorities as practically closed. It was, however, reopened and protracted through a period of nearly three months. We might justly have complained of this unreasonable delay; but in view of the fact that the Government of Chile was still provisional, and with a disposition to be forbearing and hopeful of a friendly termination, I have awaited the report, which has but recently been made.
On the 21st instant I caused to be communicated to the Government of Chile by the American minister at Santiago the conclusions of this Government after a full consideration of all the evidence and of every suggestion affecting this matter, and to these conclusions I adhere. They were stated as follows:
First. That the assault is not relieved of the aspect which the early information of the event gave to it, viz, that of an attack upon the uniform of the United States Navy having its origin and motive in a feeling of hostility to this Government, and not in any act of the sailors or of any of them.
Second. That the public authorities of Valparaiso flagrantly failed in their duty to protect our men, and that some of the police and of the Chilean soldiers and sailors were themselves guilty of unprovoked assaults upon our sailors before and after arrest. He (the President) thinks the preponderance of the evidence and the inherent probabilities lead to the conclusion that Riggin was killed by the police or soldiers.
Third. That he (the President) is therefore compelled to bring the case back to the position taken by this Government in the note of Mr. Wharton of October 23 last * * * and to ask for a suitable apology and for some adequate reparation for the injury done to this Government.
In the same note the attention of the Chilean Government was called to the offensive character of a note addressed by Mr. Matta, its minister of foreign affairs, to Mr. Montt, its minister at this capital, on the 11th ultimo. This dispatch was not officially communicated to this Government, but as Mr. Montt was directed to translate it and to give it to the press of the country it seemed to me that it could not pass without official notice. It was not only undiplomatic, but grossly insulting to our naval officers and to the executive department, as it directly imputed untruth and insincerity to the reports of the naval officers and to the official communications made by the executive department to Congress. It will be observed that I have notified the Chilean Government that unless this note is at once withdrawn and an apology as public as the offense made I will terminate diplomatic relations.
The request for the recall of Mr. Egan upon the ground that he was not persona grata was unaccompanied by any suggestion that could properly be used in support of it, and I infer that the request is based upon official acts of Mr. Egan which have received the approval of this Government. But however that may be, I could not consent to consider such a question until it had first been settled whether our correspondence with Chile could be conducted upon a basis of mutual respect.
In submitting these papers to Congress for that grave and patriotic consideration which the questions involved demand I desire to say that I am of the opinion that the demands made of Chile by this 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 this 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. We regret every civil contest that disturbs their peace and paralyzes their development, and are always ready to give our good offices for the restoration of peace. It must, however, be understood that this Government, while exercising the utmost forbearance toward weaker powers, will extend its strong and adequate protection to its citizens, to its officers, and to its humblest sailor when made the victims of wantonness and cruelty in resentment not of their personal misconduct, but of the official acts of their Government.
Upon information received that Patrick Shields, an Irishman and probably a British subject, but at the time a fireman of the American steamer Keweenaw, in the harbor of Valparaiso for repairs, had been subjected to personal injuries in that city, largely by the police, I directed the Attorney-General to cause the evidence of the officers and crew of that vessel to be taken upon its arrival in San Francisco, and that testimony is also herewith transmitted. The brutality and even savagery of the treatment of this poor man by the Chilean police would be incredible if the evidence of Shields was not supported by other direct testimony and by the distressing condition of the man himself when he was finally able to reach his vessel. The captain of the vessel says:
He came back a wreck, black from his neck to his hips from beating, weak and stupid, and is still in a kind of paralyzed condition, and has never been able to do duty since.
A claim for reparation has been made in behalf of this man, for while he was not a citizen of the United States, the doctrine long held by us, as expressed in the consular regulations, is:
The principles which are maintained by this Government in regard to the protection, as distinguished from the relief, of seamen are well settled. It is held that the circumstance that the vessel is American is evidence that the seamen on board are such, and in every regularly documented merchant vessel the crew will find their protection in the flag that covers them.
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: