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Accordingly, after a careful examination of the subject, the President brought it to the attention of Congress. In his message of December 8th, 1857, after referring to the treaty and to the Water Witch, he adds:
"Citizens of the United States, also, who were established in business in Paraguay, have had their property seized and taken from them, and have otherwise been treated by the authorities in an insulting and arbitrary manner, which requires redress.”
This was the judgment of the President of the United States, as deliberately published to the world in his annual message. And so important did he deem the subject that he made the following recommendation :
"A demand for these purposes will be made in a firm but conciliatory spirit. This will the more probably be granted, if the Executive shall have authority to use other means in the event of a refusal. This is accordingly recommended.”
The recommendation of the President was responded to by the Committees on Foreign Affairs, both in the Senate and House. The reports of both committees are before the commissioners, and set forth, in the most clear and emphatic manner, the wrong done by Paraguay to the company, and the justice of their claim to redress.
On the 2d of June, 1858, Congress adopted a resolution authorizing the President to adopt such measures and use such force to secure justice from Paraguay as he might think necessary.
A large expedition was at once formed by the Secretary of the Navy, and placed under the command of Commodore Shubrick. Willing, however, to avoid, if possible, the use of force, a commissioner was appointed, (Mr. Bowlin,) who accompanied the expedition, bearing definite proposals of adjustment to be laid before Paraguay. These proposals of course, were the terms dictated by this government, upon which alone hostilities could be avoided. They are contained in the instructions of General Cass to Mr. Bowlin, and speak for themselves. In reference to the claim of the company, they relate wholly to the question of amount. question of wrong or injury, Mr. Bowlin was entrusted with no discretion whatever. That question was regarded as fore
As to any
closed. Concerning this part of the subject, his instructions left him no possible room for doubt. The injuries done to the company were detailed to him at length, and he was distinctly told that the loss of the company was occasioned by the wantor violence of the Paraguayan Government," and that there was " no doubt that the Paraguayan Government ought be held to make it good to the injured party.” “If, therefore, it was added,) the Government of Paraguay should consent to the payment of the sum of $500,000, in full discharge of the entire claim of the company, you will not refuse to make the adjustment for that amount.
This was the first discretion entrusted to Mr. Bowlin in reference to the claim of the company. He might adjust it for $500,000. This failing, he had one alternative. Such was the confidence of the company in their case, that they preferred to present it to a joint commission rather than adjust it for a less sum than $500,000, which they regarded as a liberal compromise of their just claims.
"If you find it impossible," adds, therefore, General Cass, "to reach an agreement with the Paraguayan Government as to the amount of indemnity to be made to the company, (not as to the wrong and injury done--that was concluded,) you may propose to leave this to be determined by an impartial commission." “An indispensable preliminary, however," he was carefully admonished, " to this adjustment, will, of course, be an ackmowledgment on the part of the Paraguayan Gov. ernment, of its liability to the company."
This was his second mode of adjustment. If Paraguay would pay $500,000, he might adjust the claim for that sum. If not, he might refer the question of amount to be settled by commissioners under specified treaty provisions, provided, however, that the Paraguayan Government must first acknowl. edge its liability to the company. Unless this was acknowl. edged, he had no authority to make the treaty, but must refer the subject to the commander of the American squadron, who could then have employed force.
It will not answer to say that the naval expedition had special reference to the Water Witch and the treaty, for this idea is directly contradicted by the instructions. You will state," writes General Cass, " that the President desires friendship with Paraguay, and trusts that this desire may be reciprocated. In the cases of the Water Witch and Paraguay Navigation Company, however, he can accept no other proof of such a desire on the part of that Government than the ac
ceptance by it of the basis of settlement of these cases which has been indicated.”
Thus, in order to avoid the use of force against her, Paraguay was either to pay $500,000 to the company, or else to acknowledge its liability, and consent to refer the question of amount to a joint commission. This was the whole of Mr. Bowlin's discretion in reference to the company.
To say that he made the treaty without this acknowledgment of liability, would be to charge him with a direct violation of his instructions, of which I am quite sure he could never be guilty.
To say also that the President of the United States thus limited Mr. Bowlin's discretion, in a case involving peace or war, without having fully satisfied himself that the
wrong had been done and the liability incurred, would be to charge that distinguished functionary with a dereliction of duty which no man living is less likely to commit.
But, in point of fact, Mr. Bowlin is not chargeable with any such violation of his instructions. In his despatch accompanying the treaty, he declares that he has literally obeyed them, except in reference to a suggestion which was made to him as to the place where the award should be paid. This he deemed unessential. His obedience is shown, moreover, by the treaty itself. We come, now, to the treaty.
The preamble recites "a pending question” to be settled. The only pending question was the question of amount. The liability had been conceded, but there was a failure to agree upon the amount. President Lopez was willing to pay $250,000, but Mr. Bowlin was not authorized to receive less than twice that sum. There was “a pending question, therefore, of amount, and this was to be determined by commissioners.
The first article binds Paraguay, in substance, to pay the award of the commissioners,
The second article is specific as to the whole object of the convention, " The two high contracting parties" [it says]
appreciating the difficulty of agreeing upon the amount of the reclamations,” &c. The difficulty is not as to agreeing upon the question of wrong, or injury, or liability, but only upon
the amount; and “to determine the amount of reclama. tions, (not the wrong,] it is therefore agreed,” continues the article, “ to constitute such a commission." By the terms of the same article the two commissioners are to meet in Washington to "investigate, adjust, and determine the amount of the claims,” &c., and in the fifth article the mode of payment of such “amount" is specifically indicated.
The letter of the treaty, therefore, is in strict conformity with the purpose of it, in strict conformity with the instruc. tions under which it was made, in strict conformity with the views of Congress who authorized the expedition, in strict conformity with the views of the President, and in strict conformity with the whole history and justice of the case. Nothing was intended to be embraced in the treaty but the question of amount; and human testimony, it is respectfully submitted, cannot possibly make anything more clear than that no other question was embraced in the treaty.
Nor was there anything novel, under the practice of our government, in thus requiring an admission of liability as an indispensable condition of delay. Such cases have been of frequent occurrence. In the recent instance of the “ Aves claim," where Venezuela was charged with having evicted a party of American citizens from a guano island, our Minister at Caraccas was finally instructed to demand his passports, unless Venezuela would admit its wrong and acknowledge its liability. In that event he was authorized to remain, and leave the computation of damages for subsequent arrangement. To avoid the acknowledgment, Venezuela sent a special minister to this country, with an earnest request that the negotiation should be transferred to Washington, where the damages, it was alleged, might be more equitably assessed, for several reasons, which were given, than could possibly be done in Caraccas. But our government would only consent to the transfer upon the condition of an admis. sion of liability, and the special minister returned home. The government of Venezuela, having then exhausted all its efforts to avoid doing so, at last made the required admission, and our Minister remained at his post. Some time afterwards the claim was adjusted to the satisfaction of the parties. This is only a recent case to illustrate a common practice. And the reason for the practice is quite obvious. Whenever a wrong has been done to a citizen, there is an injury done also to the national honor. The question of damages may require time, and can wait; but when the facts are once known, a nation jealous of its honor will demand the most prompt atonement. The acknowledgment of wrong and the promise of indemnity are, in the beginning, of course, , a sufficient satisfaction. It will only remain then to compute the loss and see that the promise is complied with. In the present case, the commissioners are to ascertain the loss, and Paraguay has agreed to make it good.
But even if this were all otherwise, and the whole ques. tion of wrong still remained to be determined, there is abund. ant evidence in the case to satisfy the most reluctant mind. The same facts which convinced Governor Marcy, which convinced General Cass, which convinced President Buchanan, which convinced both branches of Congress, and which led to the extreme measure of an armed expedition, it may fairly be taken for granted, would convince also this honorable commission. It is difficult, indeed, to find, in all the crowded catalogue of our Spanish-American claims, a single instance where, considering the magnitude of the enterprise, the assurances under which it started, the favor which met it in the beginning, the great success it had begun to realize, and the means by which it was finally destroyed, there has been a greater outrage inflicted upon the rights and interests of American citizens, than was inflicted by the government of Paraguay upon the rights and interests of this company. The conduct by which President Lopez advanced to his purpose, after he had once resolved upon it, we hesitate, before this honorable commission, to characterize as it deserves. We content ourselves with remarking that the injury committed was none the less certain and disastrous because it was not accomplished by one bold act of violence, but was gradually reached by a series of contrived and cunning measures which led inevitably to the same result. It was a system which, beginning with popular insults and annoy. ances, for which there was no redress, and proceeding through arbitrary decrees, which, though general in their language, were yet specific in their application, culminated at last in the use of military force, and the threat of personal imprisonment.
In order to understand clearly the character and effect of these measures, it is essential to keep in view the peculiar relation which President Lopez bears to the Paraguayan people. He is not only the chief magistrate of the country, but he is practically, also, its unquestioned dictator. “The judiciary, elections, and Congresses," says Lieutenant Page, “are alike controlled by the President, who governs with an authority as unquestioned as if he were supreme dictator." Nor is is his authority confined to the leading departments of the government or to the principal transactions of the State. It penetrates everywhere, and is exercised on all