formed that his conduct was approved, but a word of caution was added against any expression that should give cause of offence to an independent government.

Mr. Webb, our Minister to Brazil, appears often in these documents, in consequence of the difficulty interposed by the allied fleet to the free passage of the rivers Parana and Paraguay. He twice had occasion to demand energetically of the Brazilian government that it should permit a United States vessel of war to pass through the attacking fleet for the purpose of conveying our Minister, Mr. Washburn, to and from the Paraguayan capital. The Brazilians, with some apparent reason, objected to the demand, but it was, in both instances, at length complied with. Subsequently, when two persons connected with the American legation in Paraguay had been forcibly detained by Lopez, Mr. Webb urged upon Admiral Davis an immediate resort to force to procure their release, with an earnestness which, though prompted by honorable motives, went beyond the bounds of customary intercourse between co-ordinate branches of the public service, and drew from the Admiral a reply briefly declining further correspondence. Admiral Davis afterwards, however, under instructions from the Navy Department, repaired to Assumption, and procured the liberation of the persons detained.

It is, however, the correspondence of Mr. Washburn, our late Minister to Paraguay, which presents the most important questions, and sheds most light upon the state of affairs in the country to which he was accredited. We have seen this gentleman coming forward in a manner suitable to the high trust committed to him, to defend against the despot of Paraguay the rights of the Brazilian Minister. We find him afterwards, with the same boldness, giving to oppressed foreigners in Assumption the protection of his flag, the most marked case being that of the acting consul of Portugal, Mr. Leite Pereira, who found an asylum beneath the roof of the American Minister till he voluntarily withdrew from it; and we find him infleribly asserting the immunities of his embassy for the two persons already alluded to, Messrs. Bliss and Masterman. In the long and excited correspondence on this subject, between the Minister and Señor Benitez, the Paraguayan Secretary of

State, the charge was made, that, together with Bliss and Masterman, Mr. Washburn himself was engaged in a conspiracy against President Lopez. The President's own brothers, his brothers-in-law, and his former minister, Señor Berges, were also implicated. Confessions of some of the accused were produced, to the effect that Mr. Washburn was one of the most active members of the conspiracy, and conducted, through the facilities he possessed as Minister, their communications with the Marquis de Caxias, the Brazilian commander. The assassination of Lopez, it was asserted, entered into the plan, and the American Minister had already received large sums of money, and was to be yet more fully rewarded for his perfidy. What is most extraordinary, Bliss and Masterman themselves, who were arrested by order of Lopez while on their way to embark with Mr. Washburn, finding themselves unprotected in the power of the Paraguayan chief, accused the American Minister, and admitted their own parts in the alleged conspiracy, in testimony given at great length. These statements they afterwards declared to be true in the presence of two American officers, but in the presence also of their Paraguayan jailers, who had not yet transferred them to the protection of the United States. They were also compelled to write letters to friends abroad, to the same effect, admitting their guilt, and expressing the hope that their lives would be spared by President Lopez. It is not surprising that, on these statements of their own, they were received on board the United States squadron rather as prisoners than as guests, although their condition was at length improved by order of the Admiral. On their arrival in this country they submitted a memorial to Congress, relating the circumstances of compulsion under which their self-accusing statements had been made, utterly denying the truth of those statements with regard to themselves and to Mr. Washburn, and complaining of their treatment by the naval officers of the United States.

Mr. Bliss, in this memorial, uses the following language :

“Suffice it to say that when the repeated application of torture had forced us to subscribe to confessions of our guilt and accusations of Mr. Washburn as the head of a vast conspiracy, we were called upon to put into narrative form these fictitious depositions, which were then pub

lished as pamphlets by order of Lopez. These pamphlets were written by us while in irons and suffering the same barbarous treatment previously referred to, under the constant direction, supervision, and censorship of one or all of the three priests who constituted the inquisitorial tribunal of Lopez; two of them being fiscales, or prosecuting attorneys, and the third escribano, or secretary. There was in that so-called tribunal neither judge nor jury, neither counsel nor citation of witnesses for the accused, nor any possible means of defence ; nor was any body of laws recognized as authority; and this singular organization was supplemented by an officer whose special duty it was to superintend the application of torture. He also took an active part, in my own case, in keeping watch over the progress of my pamphlet."

Mr. Bliss then states the circumstances under which he was induced to assert before, American officers the truth of that account which he now declares to have been false :

“ I had no suspicion of the presence of any other American vessel in Paraguayan waters than the “ Wasp,” which I was given to understand had come to bring the new Minister to his post. Nothing was said to me of the presence of the Admiral, much less of any demand having been made upon Marshal Lopez for the delivery of our persons, which was represented as being a gracious act of clemency conditional upon our conduct in answering the expectations of our judges. The naval officers alluded to chatted familiarly, smoking and jesting with the other members of this special tribunal, which comprised at this time two Paraguayan officers who spoke English, and the head torturer, who sat directly opposite me, sword in hand, with his warning and menacing gaze riveted upon me. The depositions extorted from me, as heretofore stated, were then read over, occupying nearly or quite four hours in the process, and I was called upon to acknowledge my signatures and to reaffirm my confessions, which were thereupon certified to by the naval officers along with the priests, the torturer and other witnesses present adding their own signatures. Not a word was said to me by these officers except to ask me my name in a rude manner, and to say, “Speak in English,' when I recognized my signature for the first time.”

Messrs. Bliss and Masterman also state that, when they were forcibly separated from Mr. Washburn, that gentleman told them they might say anything about him which they found necessary for their own safety, as it would not be believed by any one except in Paraguay.

The statement of Mr. Masterman with regard to the tortures he underwent and witnessed is too long for insertion, but we present the following extracts :

"Without food, and only a single draught of dirty water, I lay on the ground in a state of utter prostration until sunset, when I was ordered to present myself before the tribunal. I walked there, a distance of about half a mile, painfully and feebly, in my heavy irons, the soldier who guarded me thrashing me savagely all the way with a stick, and twice knocking me down, because I could not move faster. Within a copse of trees I found Captain Falcon and a priest ; the former said in Spanish, Ah, we have got you at last ! Come, now, confess that you are a conspirator ; that Washburn is the chief of the plot, and that you took refuge in the legation in order to conspire against the supreme government,' or words to that effect. . . . . I replied that I knew nothing of any conspiracy, otherwise than from the depositions of Don Benigno, Carreras, and others, which had been sent from the foreign office to Mr. Washburn, and read aloud to us; that I had not in any sense taken refuge in the legation ; that I was perfectly innocent of any designs against the government, and firmly believed that Mr. Washburn was also so. He listened to me impatiently, and said in a loud, menacing voice, “Then you will not confess; I will see if I can make you.' He called two men, told them to take me outside and apply the potro, - literally the rack, but used by him in the sense of torture in general. I silently prayed, while they were getting ready, that help and strength might be given me to bear it unflinchingly, but I had been greatly reduced by ill health and the weary anxiety of the past three months, and feared that in spite of my determination to do my duty as a man and a Christian, I should be soon compelled to give in. At last I was bound hand and foot, and they applied the cepo uruguayana, which I need not describe here. The pain was very severe, but I endured it in silence; the priest meanwhile, in a loud voice, exhorting me to confess and save my life, and perhaps gain honor and rewards from the 'merciful and generous Marshal Lopez.' After a time, which seemed very long to me, I was unbound, and in a few minutes tied up again with the added weight of a third musket; my lips were badly cut against my teeth, and the blood nearly choked me; and when the thongs were tightened I fainted from the pain. I was lying on the ground when I recovered consciousness, so exhausted that I felt that I could hold out no longer, preferring death as a confessed conspirator to the repetition of such terrible suffering."

“ The negro was tortured for a long time, as his shrieks and cries of

• No sé nada,' and prayers for mercy, which I plainly heard, made evident to me; for he, poor fellow, had no idea of the charges against his master and the rest, and could not save himself by lying, if he would."

"I managed to speak, unobserved, to Dr. Carreras. He said, Haz Mr. Washburn gone?' I replied “Yes,' and added, “How could you tell such falsehoods about him ?' He removed some dirty rags from his hands, and showed me that the first joints of his fingers had been crushed and were still suppurating. He had also a deep, unhealthylooking wound extending across his nose. He held out his mangled hands and said, “That terrible Father Maiz tortured me on three successive days, and then crushed my fingers with a hammer, as you see. Have you confessed ?' “Yes,' I replied, sadly. You have done well; God help us!' While we were resting I managed to speak to him again, and asked him how much money he had said in his depositions he had received. He told me $15,001, and added, · Lies, lies, all lies!'"

“ Before starting, Mr. Bliss and myself were temporarily removed to a hill-top, where we found Don Venancio and Don Benigno Lopez, Don Gumesindo Benitez (the latter two in irons), Don José Berges, Captain Fidanza, Doctor Carreras, and Señor Leite Pereira. An immense crowd of prisoners accompanied us on the march, and I witnessed such scenes of horrible cruelty during that terrible journey that I feel no description can picture them. It must be remembered that nearly all the prisoners were fettered ; that the road was rough and hilly, and the heat suffocating. I saw feeble old men, sinking under the weight of their irons, flogged with sticks, or cut down remorselessly by the swords of the officers, if they did not move fast enough. I saw tender women, belonging to the best families in Paraguay, toiling onward, barefoot and in fetters, and exposed to every indignity. I saw an officer stamping on the head of a tall, gentle-looking old man, who had fainted from exhaustion, till his white hair was dabbled with blood. And I saw others, too fatigued to stand, dragged along by their feet, and then thrown, covered with blood and dust, into the carretas.”

“On the 23d of September I saw Don Benigno, the younger brother of Lopez, put to the torture, and on the 27th, Dr. Carreras and Señor Benitez led out to execution.”

The accounts given by Messrs. Bliss and Masterman of the tyranny of Lopez receive melancholy confirmation from the pamphlet published by order of the Argentine government, and

« VorigeDoorgaan »