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Fallacies of the British "Blue Book"
on The Venezuelan Question





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Fallacies of the British ''Blue Book'


The Venezuelan Question,
By William L. Scruggs,

Legal Adviser of the Venezuelan Government,
and Special Counsel before the Boundary Commission.

McGixi, & Wallace, Law Printers, Washington, D. C.






The British Blue Book of March, 1896, entitled "Doc-
uments and Correspondence relating to the Question of
Boundary between British Guayana and Venezuela," is
perhaps as clever a presentation of the English side of
the case as the facts and circumstances would admit.
True, it seems to have greatly disappointed the English
people ; but its faults and failures are chargeable less to
the advocate of a bad cause than to the inherent weak-
ness of the cause itself.

In so far as its mistakes were foreshadowed or adopted
in Lord Salisbury's note of November last, and subse-
quently by a published synopsis, they have received due
attention already.^ There is, therefore, no necessity for
going over that part of the ground again. There are,
however, some additional statements in the Book which
may be thought worthy of notice. They may be briefly
summarized as follows :

1. That " prior to 1596, the Spaniards had established
no settlements" in Guayana; and, inferentially, that
no part of the country was then in their possession ;

2. That in 1648, at the time of the Treaty of Miinster,
"the Dutch settlements" extended westward to the
Orinoco and southward beyond the Cuyuni; and, in-

'In a pamphlet by the author, entitled "Lord Salisbury's Mistakes,"
submitted to the Boundary Commission.

fcrentially, that the whole of Giuiyana, with the possible
exception of the Garoni valley, was a Dutch possession ;

3. That up to 1723, the Spaniards had bnt one settle-
ment in Guayana, and that was at Saint Thome on the
Upper Orinoco ; and, infcrentially, that the Lower Ori-
noco, including its immense delta, was under Dutch do-
minion ;

4. That up to 179G, the Spanish settlements were lim-
ited to "a few Capucliin Missions and two villages above
the old town of Saint Thome; " jind, infcrentially, that
the Dutch held all the balance of the territory east and
south of the Orinoco;

5. That this Dutch occupancy, which is claimed to
have extended to the Orinoco Delta and Point Barima,
" was known to the Spanish Government," which, how-
ever, interposed no objection, or at least " failed to dis-
possess " the Dutch ; and

6. That " subsequently to 1706, Great Britain lias con-
tinuously remained in possession, and her subjects have
occupied further portions of the territory to luhich the
Dutch had established tJieir title."

Whilst these assumptions arc wholly unsustained by
historical evidence, or even by the very citations and
"extracts" produced in the Blue Book, they shall be
treated with all due deference and with the utmost

The following propositions arc nowhere denied, even
in the Blue Book, viz. :

1. 'i'hatni 1108, Cohunbus, sailing under Spanish Com-
mission, was the first discoverer of the Gulf of Paria and
the Orinoco Delta;

2. That in 1 100 Alon/.o dc Ojeda, a Spanish subject sail-
ing under Spanish Commission, was the first discoverer of

the Atlantic coasts of Guayana ; that he skirted the entire
coast from the Orinoco to the Marowine and beyond,
landing at many pLaces and taking formal j^jossession in
the name of the Spanish Government;

3. That in 1500, Vicente Yaiiez Pinzon, another
Spanish subject, likewise sailing under Royal Commis-
sion, was the first to explore the Orinoco Delta, taking
formal possession of its numerous estuaries and islands,
including Boca dc Navios and the island of Barima, in
the name of his sovereign.

4. That in 1531 Diego de Ordaz, another Spanish sub-
ject, was the first to explore the Orinoco River, which he
ascended as far as the mouth of the Meta, taking formal
possession of both banks and of its numerous affluents in
the name of his sovereign ;

5. That it was this same Ordaz who received from the
Spanish monarch the first European Charter of lands and
government in the territories thus discovered and ex-
plored ; and,

6. That these first discoverers, explorers, and grantees
complied with all the requisite formalities of interna-
tional law, as that law was then recognized and under-
stood, necessary to invest title in the King of Spain.'

These are historical facts so universally accepted that
it seems almost superfluous to burden this paper with
ponderous citations.

When, then, and under what circumstances, did Spain
relinquish her possessions in Guayana ?

Before proceeding to the consideration of this query,
perhaps it may be as w'ell to state in passing (especially

'Justin Winsor, " Nar. & Crit. Hist. America: Span. Explorations &
Settlemts. in America from the 15th to the I7th Centuries," Vol. II., p.
1.33 et. neq.: Irving, " Life of Columbus," &c.: Also Hackluyt So. Publi-
cations : also B.ancroft, Caulin and others.

since it is strangely omitted in the Blue Book), that as
early as 1528, in order to follow up Ojeda's explorations,
the Spanish Emperor agreed with a Dutch mercantile
house " to protect a colony to be sent out by them " to
the northeastern coast of Guayana ; and that this was
the origin of the Alfinger expedition of 1530, which, how-
ever, came to naught.'

The next year, 1531, an expedition inland, by way of
tlio Orinoco, was fitted out from Spain under Ordaz, who
penetrated to the valleys of the Cuyuni and Yuruary.
This became the only foundation for the pretended dis-
covery of the fabled El Dorado, sixty years afterwards,
of which Sir Walter Raleigh speaks.^ ^

In 1534 the Dutch made an attemi)t to penetrate the
interior of what is now Venezuela. The expedition was
headed by George of Spires, but was under tlie imperial
sanction and patronage of the King of Spain, who was
tlien also titular Emperor of Holland. Spires started
from Spain with 400 men, landed near where the present
city of Coro stands, penetrated some 1,500 miles into the
interior, and returned with the few survivors in 1538.^

In 1549 Ursua, a Spanish subject, who had superseded
Armendariz, another Spanish subject, obtained command
of an expedition and founded a town in Guayana, fjxr in
the interior; which, how(;ver, he had to abandon in
1552, owing to the hostility of the Indians. According to
the most reliable clironiclcs of the time, Ursua ascended
the Rio Negro, passed through the Casiquiari channel to
the Orinoco, and thence down the Orinoco to the Atlantic

^ Karl Kliipfel, Bib. des Literarischen Verens ; Stutgart, No. XLVII :
Kliinzenor, Arith. der Deuuschen an der Entelckung : Von Kloo's Die
We.sler : Augsburg, etc., etc.

'^ Works, pub. by Ilackluyt Society : Justin Winsor, "Spanish Explora-
tions," vol. II., .'J70.

•'' Winsor, vol. II. See, also, all the standard histories and geographies of
Colombia and Venezuela, by Ilestrepo, Caulin, and others.

Ocean.' Thus, as early as 1549 the Spaniards had com-
pletely circumnavigated the whole of Guayana.

In 15G8, the Spanish Government niap})ed out the
country, and appointed Pedro Mahxver de Silva and
Diego Fernandez de Serpa as Governors ; the first over
the ))art west of the Orinoco, the second over the eastern
section from the Delta.^

The compilers of the Blue Book assert that in 1505,
" Dutch settlements were formed near the mouth of the
Orinoco." But it was precisely in 1595 that Sir Walter
Raleigh made his first voyage to the Island of Trinidad,
and thence through Boco de Navios up the Orinoco to the
mouth of the Caroni. He reported that, after first over-
coming the Spanish force at Trinidad, he ascended the
great river as stated, where he found " theSj^aniards had
previously traversed the whole country ; " that they
(the Spaniards) had heen " cruel to the Indians;" that
he " made friends of the Indians," and told them ho had
come to deliver them from their Spanish conquerers and

In 1596, Raleigh sent Captain Keymis, a companioii
of his first voyage, to renew the search for the fahled
El Dorado, " with a view of planting a colony." Keymis
returned to England in June of the same year and re-
ported that " the Spaniards already occu})ied the country,
and had established settlements at the mouth of the
Caroni " and at " other places " with men sent out from

In June, 1017, Raleigh fitted out another exj^edition
of 11 vessels and 431 men, his son, Walter, and Captain

^ Winsor, vol. II. ; Bancroft, Cent. America, II., 61 ; also the Spanish
colonial historians.

^ Winsor, II., pp. 585-6 ; Certified MS. copies of Spanish Archives,
at Seville, now before the Commission.

^Raleigh's Works, Hacklyut ed.; Winsor, vols. II. and III.: also
Span. Colonial Archiv.

*Ib., id.


Keymis being of the number. The expedition was
resisted by the Spaniards at St. Thome, in which en-
gagement young Walter was killed. Ke3'mis continued
the search for the fabled El Dorado, but was met and
defeated by the Spaniards before he had proceeded very
far southeastward, in what is now the mining region of
the Yuruary. He returned to St. Thome for reinforce-
ments, but became despondent and committed suicide.
The next year (161(S) Raleigh was beheaded at tiie in-
stance of the Spanish King, who had been offended at
these meddlesome incursions.'

And yet it is gravely asserted in the Blue Book ^ that
in 1590 " the Spaniards did not then hold any part of
Guayana;" and a carefully-selected (I will not say
garl)led) "extract" from a letter of Don Roque de
Montes, the Spanisli Colonial Treasurer at Cumana, is
produced to prove this.^ But even this carefully-selected
extract proves just tlie contrary. The writer says he
had "instructed Captain Felipe de Santiago" of tlie
Spanish service to " ascend the River Orinoco and arrest
two Englishmen whom Raleigh had left there" as spies
and informers, and " to advise the Indian chiefs not to
admit or receive any foreigners except Spaniards;" that
tiiese instructions were faithfully carried out; that the
only surviving Englishman had been arrested, and that
the Indians were warned against the intrusion of " any
more foreigners." He closes by recommending better
facilities for navigating the Orinoco, as it was the great
fluviatile highway to western and southern Guayana
and the other Spanish provinces. If the Spaniards were
not tiicn in actual possession of the lower Orinoco, and
in fact of the whole of Western Guayana, how were they

• Winsor, " Nar. and Crit. Mist.," vols. IT. and III., and the authoritips
them cited.

» Page 4.

Blue Book, A pp., p. 50.

able to arrest the only foreigner found there, and to
warn the Indians against similar spies and informers in
tlie future ?

In 1619, two Spanish colonial military expeditions
were sent out from St. Thorme to the Esequibo and
Vervice Rivers to punish the Aruacas. The last of the
two was entrusted to Captain Geronemo de Grados, and
was composed of but thirty soldiers; yet it marched right
through the whole region, by way of Baruma to the
banks of the Esequibo and returned, without once en-
countering any Dutch or other European settlements or
forces; and no mention is made of any having been
even heard of. '

It is stated^ that "early in the 17th century various
Dutch Companies (afterwards merged into the great
West India Company) were employed in colonizing
Guayana, and had established several settlements there
before 1G14." But all these. trading Companies were
merely private commercial corporations. Not one of
them was ever, in any sense, a State. Not one of them
ever possessed eminent domain. Moreover, up to 1648,
they were all under Spanish allegiance, as was Holland
itself. Therefore any grants they may have made con-
veyed no sovereignty and jurisdiction. Nor can any
temporary inability of Spain or her colonies to ade-
(juately defend the Orinoco Delta and the coast west of
tlie Esequibo against pirates and smugglers (Dutcli, Eng-
lish, or other), be deemed an " abandonment " of domain
and jurisdiction.

In 1671 the Island of Trinidad and the Orinoco Delta
being threatened by the Dutch and Caribs, the Home
Government was recommended to cause an inspection

1 •' Noticias Historiales de los Couquestas de Tierra Firma ea las Indias
Occadentales," by Fr. Pedro Simon, etc., etc , 1626 : See Bogota ed. of 1882,
Chap. XXX., p. 401, et. seq.

2 Blue Book, p. 4.


of the most important forts, and to fortify the island
itself against possible attack. It was also recommended
that an additional fort be established at the narrowest
part of the Orinoco, as the Dutch were " said to be "
already " near the entrance of said river." But why this
should be gravely cited in the Blue Book to show that
the Spaniards had " abandoned " the Orinoco Delta, is
difhcult to conjecture!

The Caribs and other native Indian tribes had often
Ijeen incited to insurrection by the Dutch and English
during the seventy years' war which ended in the general
peace of Westphalia. The Dutch, and afterwards the
English, made annual presents to these savage tribes,
sought alliance with them against Spain, and finally
claimed to have established some sort of "Protectorate"
over them. But, in reality, this so-called " Protectorate "
never amounted to anything, as we shall see farther on.
It certainly conveyed no eminent domain and jurisdic-
tion. The Dutch never claimed that it did.'

At the time of the general peace of Westphalia, (1G48,)
the Dutch had four " establishments" or " settlements,"
as they were alternately termed, on the Atlantic coast
between the Corentyn and Esequibo rivers. By the
treaty of that date, usually referred to as the Treaty of
Miinster, these four " establishments " were ceded by
S[)ain to Holland. The first extended from the Corentyn
to the Surinam ; the second from the Surinam to the
Berbice ; the third from the Berbice to the Demerara ;
and the fourth from the Demerara to the Esequibo. The
cession embraced no others.'^ Indeed, there were then
no others in existence. There had been frequent preda-
tory raids into the Orinoco valley, as there had been in
other parts of what is now the Republic of Venezuela ;
but there were certainly no permanent Dutch " establish-

>l'08t, pp. 14, 15, 16, 17. ~

■^ Treaty of Miiuster, Oct. 24, 1648, Art. V.


iiieiits " west of the Esequibo River, or, at the very farth-
est, west of Cape Nassau and the Piiniaron/

The citation of the Treaty of Utrecht, of 1713, was
{)rohably an inaclvertance on the part of the compilers of
the Bhie Book. That treaty, so i'ar from streiigtliening
the English case, is almost fatal to it. In that treaty
England obligated herself (Article VIIL), to " aid the
Spaniards to recover their ancient possessions," in Guay-
ana as in other })ortioiis of the West Indies and the
Americas, " as they stood in the time of Charles II.,"
that is, as they stood from 1G61 to 1700 ; that is, as they
stood just 23 years before the enforced temporary " aban-
donment " by the Spanish forces of the coast between the
Esequibo and Orinoco, upon which so much stress seems
to be laid by the compilers of the Blue Book.

The correspondence between the Governments of Spain
and Portugal, of 1753-4, is cited to strengthen the English
case. The correspondeuce, however, shows nothing be-
yond an ctfort on the })art of Sjiain to arrange with Por-
tugal (who owned adjacent territory) to rid the Spanish
and Portuguese Guayanas of Dutch interference with the
Indian tribes, whom they were constantly inciting to
insurrection and pillage. Spain had become so exas-
perated at these meddlesome interventions, and at the
frequent raids into Spanish territory by Dutch adven-
turers and freebooters, that she had well nigh resolved
to try to find some means of ridding the whole Atlantic
Coast of them.^

The refusal by Spain to permit the Dutch to fish at
the mouth of the Orinoco, in 1758, has been often cited
in support of the Venzuelan claim, but never before in

1 Reynal, Hist. Indies ; Dalton, Hist. Brit. Guiana; Depon's Voy., III.;
Noire, Ueog. Works; Myer's Geog. II.; Bolingbroke, Voyages, &c.;
Brett, Indian Tribes of Guiana ; Caulin, Hist. Nueva Andalucia. See,
also, certified copies of MSS. Cor. Colonial Archives, Saville, during 16th
and I7th centuries, now before the Commission.

^Archivo General de las Indias. Seville, 131-2-17, Certified Copies, etc,
before the Commission.


support of the British contoiitioii. Just why it should
have been cited by the compilers of the Blue Book is
not clear. It is certainly against them.

The same is true of the otticial correspondence between
the Dutcli Ambassador and the Spanish Government in
1778. It clearly establishes the fact of Spanish dominion
on tlie lower Orinoco. Tiiere had been some very destruc-
tive raids, claimed to have been retaliatory in character,
though not authorized by the Spanish Goverimient, u[)on
the Dutch "establishments," not anywhere near the
mouth of the Onnoco,for the Dulch had none there, but
on the upper Ese(|uibo. It was one of these, which
seems to have been particularly destructive, that con-
stituted part of tlie Dutcii Ambassador's complaint. lie
was assured, in reply, that orders would be given to pre-
vent such occurrences in the future, and to " leave the
Dutch alone" in their recognized settlements.'

In 1788, the Conhdential Agent of the Spanish CJov-
ernment in Guayana recommended that no more timber
be cut on tlie lower Orinoco; and this fact is cited ^ to
show that the Dutch were then " in possession " of that
region ! But it may well l)e asked. Why such a recom-
meudtition if the S{>aniards were not then in actual pos-
session? True, the reconnnendation was made for pru-
dential reasons. The forests were about the only " safe-
guard and l)arrier against tlie Dutch," and their Carib
allies, who would otherwise " see our nakedness and attack
us." Apjirehending raids by these people, the Spaniards
thought it ])i'U(lcnt to leave the forests standing. But
tiiere is certainly no evidence of a purpose to " abandon "
the lower Orinoco. On the contrary, even the very
meagre and partial extract pi'oduced, shows that the
Spaniards were preparing to defend the country against

' Archive de las Indias: Seville: MSS. : Certified Copies before the

■''Blue Book, pp. 17, 18.


possible attack; and wlieii the letter is read as a wliole,
it proves just the reverse of the British contention.'

So, too, of the report of Antonio Lopez de la Puente,
in 1788, respecting the defences of the Cuyuni and
Ynruan valleys.^ He recommended that the Caribs be
l)revented from going to the Dutch settlement on the
Esequibo, lest the Indians should tell the Dutch of the
condition of the country, and they should attack the
8|)anish settlements on those rivers. Here is certainly
no evidence of "abandonment."

Again, it is asserted^ that "the entire absence of any
control by the Spaniards over the territory in question
is further shown by a Report of Don Miguel Marmion,
the Spanish Governor" of Guayana, in 1788. But even
tlie seven lines extract (in translation) adduced,^ fails
utterly to support this assertion. While the certified
copy and correct translation of the original Report as a
whole,^ dated August IG, 1788, tell quite a different story.

If in 1790, as intimated in the Blue Book, the Dutch
and the Caribs were again making raids upon the Span-
ish settlements in the interior, it was but natural that,
the Spanish Colonial authorities should refuse to estab-
lish a " new settlement," near Tumeremo, unless the
Home Government would agree to establish and main-
tain an additional military post " to prevent robberies
l)y the Indians and Dutch."®


England acquired title to what is now known as British
Guayana in 1814. Her previous militar}' occupations of

' Certified copy of original MSS. before the Commission.
2 Cited in the Blue Book, p. 18.
' Blue Book, p. 17.

' rb., id.

•'No. XVIII., Archive General de Indias : Seville : C, 131, S. 2, B. 17 ;
now before the Commission.

" Archive Confidencial, Caracas, 1790-6; certified copies before the

tliG country (in 1781, 179G, and again in 1803) conveyed
no title, as has been many times shown.' Whatever title
she may have claimed or acquired by those military
occupations, was swept away by the treaties of peace
which followed.^ By the supplemental treaty of 1814,3
Holland ceded to England " in full Sovereignty," and for
a monetary consideration, the three " Settlements of Ber-
bice, Demerara, and Esequibo," as the limits of those
" settlements " had been recognized by the Miinster
Treaty of 1G4S, as they had been interpreted by the
Treaty of Aranjuez of 1701, and as they stood at the time
of the cession of 1814. There have been no additional
cessions to England since, either by Holland, gpain, or
Venezuela; and it has been many times shown that the
native aboriginal tribes had no authority to make any
such cessions.*

It follows, then, that the alleged " marking out of
boundaries" by the British military authorities in 1790^^
was purely an ex parte arrangement, and amounted to
nothing. Plainly speaking, it was merely an unjusti-
fiable aggression upon Spanish territory by a military
and naval power which Spain was not at that time in a
position to successfully resist. There is not the slightest
evidence that Spain, if cognizant of this aggression, ever
assented to it for a moment.

Nor does it anywhere appear, even from the docu-
ments cited in the Blue Book, that the Dutch were, at
any time from 1G48 to 179G, in the " uninterrupted pos-
session " of a foot of territory west of the Pumaron River.
Indeed, there are very grave doubts whether they ever,
at any lime, held any permanent or " uninterrupted "

' " Lord Salisbury's Mistakes," pp. 2, 3, 4.

-Treaty of Amiens, Mar. 25, 1802 ; Peace of May, 1814; Treaty of Aug.
i:i, 1814.
•• Art. I.

*" British Aggressions, etc., or The Monroe Doctrine on Trial," pp. 11-15;
Wliait. I>ig., vol. I, sec. 7.
■•Blue I'.ook, p. 19.


possessions between the Pumaron and tlie Esequibo.
The evidence on this hitter point is somewhat conflicting ;
hut the weight of testimony is that tlie Eseqnibo was
regarded as tlic true divisional line between the Dutch
and Spanish possession, and that any Dutch intrusions
west and south of that river were constantly (and gen-
erally successfully) resisted by tlie Spanish authorities.
Even the documents and extracts cited or produced in
the Bhie Book fail to sliow to the contrary. They show
merely that while the Dutch and Caribs had made fre-
quent raids upon the Spanish settlements and missions
west of the Esequibo, and that even the Orinoco Delta
was sometimes infested b}^ bands of alien smugglers and
pirates (mostly Dutch) who incited the Indians to insur-
rection and pillage, the domain and jurisdiction always
remained with Spain.

The official Report by Don Felipe de Requena, of -Tuly
29, 1802, is cited in the Blue Book' to prove that the
Dutch held possessions on the Cuyuni and Caroni rivers.
The document, when read as a whole in the original text,
shows nothing of the kind. Even the partial and care-
fully selected " extracts " in the imperfect Englisli trans-
lation, as produced;'' fail to establish the British contention
on this point. It is there stated merely that tiie Dutch and
French had, many decades before, founded settlements on
the Surinam and Cayana rivers ; that the Dutch had sub-
sequently advanced up the Esequibo River ; and the ap-
prehension is expressed that they " might," in the course
of time, advance still further, by way of the Cuyuni and
Caroni rivers, to the Orinoco itself, and " take joossession
of the lower part of this great river " — thus clearly assert-
ing, by necessary implication, that at that very time
(1<S02) the Dutch had no possessions, " settlements," or
even temporary militar}'' stations whatever, either in the
Cuyuni or Caroni valleys, or at or near the mouth of
the Orinoco.

^ Pages 21 and 139.
2App. II., p 139.


Moreover, the Report of Major IMcCreagh of the British
army, made at the time of the English military occupa-
tion in 1802, although cited in the Blue Book ^ for a


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