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THE VENEZUELAN AFFAIR IN THE LIGHT OF
INTERNATIONAL LAW. llurshey, amo thaithe I. THE CLAIMS OF THE ALLIES AGAINST VENEZUELA IN
THE LIGHT OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.
II. THE CONDUCT OF THE ALLIES IN THE LIGHT OF INTER
I. THE CLAIMS OF THE ALLIES AGAINST VENEZUELA IN
THE LIGHT OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.
It is not the purpose of this paper to pass judgment upon the validity of the particular claims of the Allied Powers against Venezuela, and still less to discuss the bearing of the Monroe Doctrinel upon the situation; it is rather the purpose of the writer to examine the general character of these claims in the light of international law, and to criti
* It cannot too often be reaffirmed, especially in view of some recent utterances to the contrary, that the Monroe Doctrine does not, strictly speaking, come within the scope of international law as such; it is an American policy based upon American interests and belongs to the domain of policy rather than of law.
cise the method of enforcing them adopted by the allies from this point of view. In order to make such a discussion intelligible, it will, however, be necessary to give a brief résumé of the facts, and especially to summarize the various claims of Great Britain and Germany.2
These claims may be classified as follows: 1. Acts of violence against the liberty of British subjects and the seizure of British vessels, viz: the false imprisonment and bad treatment of British subjects and the seizure of British fishing and trading vessels, together with the confiscation of their cargoes. Several of these seizures were made at or near the Island of Patos, a small and uninhabited island situated some three miles off the coast of Venezuela and about ten miles distant from Trinidad. This island is claimed by Great Britain as a part of Trinidad, which she conquered in 1797, and which was formally ceded to her by the treaty of Amiens in 1802. Venezuela also claims the island on the ground of cession by Spain in 1845, and denies that it formed a part of the cession of Trinidad in 1802. It is claimed by the partisans of Venezuela that this island is used as a base for smugglers who ship supplies into Venezuela and thus avoid the payment of the tax on goods imported into Venezuela from Trinidad. One of these seizures was made on the high seas and the vessel confiscated on the mere suspicion of having furnished arms to the revolutionists. 3
On the other hand, the Venezuelan government has complained of the conduct of the British colonial authorities at Trinidad in furnishing arms and ammunition to the revolutionists and for harboring blockade runners and filibustering expeditions. It claims to have a particular grievance in the case of “The Ban Righ,” a British steamship which was chartered by the insurgents for filibustering purposes and allowed to leave London after a brief detention on the assurance of the Columbian minister that she belonged to Columbia. “The Ban Righ” sailed to Venezuela, where she seems to have been of material assistance to the revolutionists.4
* The claims of Great Britain and Germany are the only ones taken into account in this paper, because they are the best known and the most important for our purpose.
• See correspondence respecting the affairs of Venezuela presented to Parliament in February, 1903. No. 108, pp. 126-29. Several of these seizures were made in Venezuelan waters, and seem to have been justified under the circumstances.
2. Losses of British and German subjects in the course of recent civil wars and revolutions. These are, as it would appear, mainly in the nature of forced loans, and of contributions and requisitions for military purposes.
It is claimed that plantations and buildings have been pillaged and destroyed and that movables, more particularly cattle, have been appropriated by insurgents and government forces alike.5
3. The claims of British and German creditors. These include the ordinary bondholders and a number of German and English investors, some of whose investments, at least, have been guaranteed by the Venezuelan government.
In examining these claims, it should be noted, in the first place, that the nature of the claims of Great Britain and Germany is by no means identical in all respects. Germany, as it appears, does not complain of acts of violence against her seamen or the seizure of her vessels and the confiscation of their cargoes.
The British have, on the
* See correspondence, or Par. “Blue Book," cited above, passim.
* See memorandum by the Imperial Chancellor on the subject of Germany's claims against Venezuela, published in the London Times, weekly edition, for December 12, 1902, and an interview with Chancellor von Buelow by a representative of the Associated Press in the New York Times for December 21, 1902.
• The chief loan is said to be one of 50,000,000 bolivares or about $9,000,000 bearing interest at 5 per cent, negotiated by the Berliner Disconto Gesellschaft in 1896, with the Venezuelan customs pledged as security. The interest on these bonds, held mainly by Germans, is four years in arrears. The most important of the investments guaranteed by the Venezuelan government are said to be those of the stockholders in the great Venezuelan Railroad Company, a railroad 200 miles in length, built by German contractors with German capital at a cost (?) of $20,000,000. The Venezuelan government guaranteed an interest of 7 per cent on this capital stock, and it is claimed that the government has not only failed to meet this obligation, but that it owes several million dollars for the transport of troops, munitions of war, etc. The British also presented claims on behalf of several English railroad companies in Venezuela for services rendered to the government and damage done to their property by government troops as well as for failure to meet deferred liabilities.
other hand, made these seizures and acts of violence and confiscation the chief burden of their complaints. Lords Balfour and Cranborne have repeatedly assured the British Parliament that the British government was influenced less by claims of British bondholders than by attacks on the liberty of British subjects. “Our first-line claims,” says the London Times,? “are for outrages on the liberty and property of our fellow-subjects, and, including the shippingclaims, would be covered by a few thousand pounds. We have been ready all along to refer our other claims to a mixed commission."
It should also be noted that very little stress seems to be laid in England upon the second class of claims, viz: losses sustained by British and German subjects in Venezuela during recent civil wars and revolutions. It is upon these claims, however, that Germany insists most strongly. In an interview with a representative of the Associated Press, Chancellor von Buelow is reported to have said: "Among German claims in Venezuela, we give precedence to those arising from the last Venezuelan civil wars. These are not mere business debts, contracted by Venezuela, but they have grown out of acts of violence against German citizens in Venezuela, either by forced loans or by seizure of cattle without payment, or by the pillage of German houses and
Let us now see what principles of international law should govern the settlement of these various sorts or categories of claims.
In respect to the first class of claims, viz: Acts of violence against the liberty of British subjects and the seizure of British vessels, it should be observed that the question of their legality and justice seems, in large part, to hinge upon the question of title to the small and barren island of Patos. If this island belongs to Great Britain, the Venezuelan government has, in authorizing or sanctioning several of these seizures, clearly been guilty of a series of violations of British territorial sovereignty in British waters for which full and ample apology and reparation should
' London Times, weekly edition, for December 26, 1902. See New York Times for December 21, 1902.