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Attempted Arrest of B. Vicuña Mackenna, Confidential Agent of Chili in the United States, with the Preliminaries of his Trial for Alleged Violation of the Neutrality Laws of the latter country, "in fitting out an Armed Expedition against the Dominions of the Queen of Spain."
Although it was not our intention to devote any space to the subject referred to above, we deem it interesting, particularly to the readers of this pamphlet who have given their attention to the proceedings and opinions on the Monroe Doctrine, and the feeling exhibited on that occasion by the people of the United States, to understand how those opinions and feelings have been carried out in reference to the so-called "sister republic" of Chili by the Government of the United States.
We purposely refrain from any commentary. The facts to which the following documents refer speak for themselves.
On the 6th of February, just a month after the great Monroe Doctrine meeting took place, and on which occasion the letter from the Hon. District Attorney, Daniel S. Dickinson, expressing his warmest sympathies with the cause of the republic against the attempts of the European monarchies (see page 64), was read, Mr. Vicuña Mackenna, confidential agent of the Republic of Chili, now at war with the Spanish Monarchy, was arrested at his residence by order of the above functionary, as appears from the following letter, addressed by Mr. Vicuña Mackenna to the Editor of the New York Herald, on the 8th of February.
NEW YORK, Feb. 8, 1866.
The New York Herald, and most of the daily papers of this city, having published erroneous statements concerning the attempted arrest made of my person by the United States Marshal on the evening of the 6th inst, I hope that you will permit me to state the facts in the case, and place this affair, with which the public is so intensely interested, in its true light. What really took place is simply as follows:
I was enjoying the quiet of my residence when I was informed that one or several persons unknown to me wished to see me. As I have given the strictest orders to the servants to admit no one to my presence without first bringing me their names, their admission was denied. Nevertheless, my private secretary, who expressly occupies a room for the reception of those who solicit interviews with me, so as to leave me free from the innumerable importunates who assail my house every day, received the persons who sought me, and inquired the object of their visit, such being the instructions which he had received.
The United States Marshal, who came accompanied by five officers, resorted at the commencement to subterfuges altogether unnecessary; but as soon as he declared his name and business, my secretary ascended to my room, and I at once went down stairs to present myself to that functionary.
I asked to see the warrant of arrest, and, after having read it, quietly observed that I could not be arrested, because, although my position in this country had been that of special agent of Chili, I could also claim diplomatic immunity as Secretary of the Chilean Legation at Washington, which title I had in my possession, and could show then and there.
The Marshal, who conducted himself with the utmost courtesy and respect, as also his subordinates, went to consult the United States District Attorney, and I despatched several telegrams to Washington, so that the Chilian Minister might take the necessary steps with the Secretary of State.
After the lapse of half an hour the Marshal returned, and told me that I might remain in my house, go to the
opera, or wherever I saw fit, and that one or two officers would accompany me with all due respect.
I accepted these conditions; and one deputy-marshal only having remained-Mr. Robinson, an extremely civil young man he did me the honor to dine with me and accompany me to the house of my banker, the highly-respectable and worthy merchant, Mr. George G. Hobson; and to the house of my counsel, Mr. E. W. Stoughton, returning afterwards to his house, and I to mine, where I slept free of the custody of any one.
All the mysterious details, the novel incidents, and the inventions of all sorts published by the press, are each and all of them fictions, gotten up to excite curiosity, or have, perhaps, been dictated by less noble motives. I have been assured that Spanish agents were found in the neighborhood of my house at the time when the attempt was made to take me to prison, and that those same agents insisted that the public functionary should execute it.
Be that, as it may, Mr. Editor, nobody respects the prestige of the press more than I do, for I have been one of its members since my early youth. But not for that will I consent by my silence that any one should forge falsehoods in order to excite the public interest to the detriment of my name or the position which I occupy. I am a man who, knowing how to respect the laws and the Commonwealth, also know how to respect myself, and to make myself respected by others. Besides I am accustomed to live in a country, where the residences of citizens are considered sacred, according to the constitution, the law, the press, and the public customs; and I wonder why the case should not be the same in the United States of America.
With regard to the motive of my attempted seizure, it is, "that I propose to fit out an expedition against the dominions of the Queen of Spain," according to the terms of the accusation, I will not at this time say a single word, neither will I explain the errors made by the telegraph in the transmission of the despatches of my honorable friend, Mr. Asta-Buruaga, the Chilian Minister at Washington. For all this the proper time will come before the tribunal of justice, and before the grand jury of public opinion.
Until that time comes, and which I desire may be very
soon, I will only permit myself to say that had I not been born in a country where treason has never been known, and where the people are taught from the cradle to regard betrayal and espionage as an infamy, I could force to accompany me to the tribunal of the United States a brilliant array of numberless prominent men of every public profession in this country-generals, commodores, senators, bankers, diplomatic ministers, journalists, and even the highest functionaries of the republic-who have nobly offered to sustain the cause of the country which I represent, and for which same crime I have been accused.
Nevertheless, it shall not happen, so far as I am concerned; on the contrary, divesting myself, perhaps voluntarily, of the diplomatic privileges to which I am entitled by law, in order to make its action more expeditious, I will come forward alone to maintain the justice and legality of my proceedings, and then the people of the United States, and the civilized world in general, shall know if the grand principles which were the glory, the power, and the prestige of this country in the old time, are to-day only shadows of the past, or if they may still be seen like a rainbow of hope by free men and free peoples, who may be subjected to the aggressions of crowned usurpers; from the Rio Grande to the Archipelago of Chiloé.
My judgment by these measures will be, not the trial of an individual, but a trial of the present policy, of the oldest and best loved doctrines, of the public sentiment, in fact, of the United States, so strongly uttered every day from the precincts of the humblest country club to the splendid halls of the Capitol of your great republic.
Before concluding, I beg that the journals which have published false or deceptive versions of the event to which this letter refers will have the goodness to reproduce this, for it is the only true one.
I have the honor to be, sir,
B. VICUÑA MACKENNA.
In consequence of these proceedings, Mr. Vicuña Mackenna's trial commenced on the 14th of February, before the Circuit Court of the United States, by a preliminary
debate, in which Mr. Vicuña Mackenna proved that he was entitled to diplomatic privileges, as claimed in the letter we have just reprinted; after doing which, he declined all immunity, and asked to be tried as a simple citizen.
The following documents, presented and read in court by Mr. Vicuña Mackenna's counsellor, Mr. E. W. Stoughton, refer to the position assumed by the accused.
United States of America,
Southern District of New York, ss. :
Benjamin Vicuña Mackenna, being duly sworn, says :That he was born in Santiago, the capital of the State of Chili; that his family have been connected for many years with the public service of that country, his maternal grandfather, General Mackenna having been a member of the earliest executive Government when the country broke the yoke of Spain in 1810, and his paternal grandfather a president of the republic some time after; that he is a lawyer and an author by profession, having published several historical and political works, and, consequently, member of many learned societies, both in Europe and South America; that for the last two years he has been a member of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Chili, and Secretary of that body, which position he still retains; that, when the Spanish Government sent a fleet to humiliate and plunder his country, under the most scandalous pretexts, he was requested by the Secretary of State of the republic, Hon. Alvaro Cavarrubias, to come to this country in the capacity of Secretary of the Chilian Legation at Washington, and as confidential agent of the Government, to awaken the public opinion of this country to the righteousness and justice of the cause of Chili, and by this means to increase the feeling of friendship and mutual interest existing between the two countries, which has always (and particularly since the war of the rebellion broke out) been of the most amicable and intimate character, Chili having consented to pay the only claim made by this country upon her treasury, and which before the rebellion the Government had refused to yield for more than thirty years; that he unhesitatingly consented to serve his country in that capacity, and sailed from Valparaiso on the