Carl Nikolaus Riotte -> Carl Nikolaus Riotte in Costa Rica -> 1862 Colonization Of Free Blacks In Costa Rica


United States Department of State Message of the President of the United States to the two houses of Congress at the commencement of the third session of the thirty-seventh congress (1862), p. 886ff


Mr. Seward to Mr. Crosby.


      Washington, June 19, 1862.

 SIR: The enclosed copy of an instruction of the 4th instant, addressed to our minister in Costa Rica, will give you all the information at present in my possession in regard to the purposes of this government respecting the colonization of free blacks, to which you refer in your No. 12.

 The same remarks which I have directed Mr. Riotte to make to the Costa Rican government you are authorized to express to that of Guatemala.

 Any formal and authorized offer will be fairly submitted to the parties

concerned; and when their own election shall have been made, every possible facility will be extended to enable them to consummate their wishes.

 I am, sir, your obedient servant,



  Mr. Riotte to Mr. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.


     Costa Rica, San Jose, May 15, 1862.

    SIR: I have the honor of laying before you enclosed copy and translation of note of the government of Costa Rica (No. 13) of this date, in which it expressesa will ingness to ask from its congress, now in session, authority to set asideon one of the coasts of the republic a tract of land for the settlement of free negroes, and to enter into such arrangements with the government of the United States as will best secure that end. Since my arrival in the country, and especially since I was informed by trustworthy, unbiased persons of the perfect salubrity of the coast regions and their great fertility, I had, while conversing with members of the government and other influential persons on the civil-war in the States and its probable reaction upon slavery, several times directed their attention to the usefulness and practicability of negro colonization on those extensive coasts. When I perceived that the idea startled them at first I did not press it upon them, knowing well that prejudices of caste are not likely to be overcome by reasoning and and arguing. Yet I occasionally reverted to the subject, and laid before them all informa tion on the behavior of freed slaves contained in northern and English papers, and I soon perceived that their mind was undergoing a change, as the result of which the secretary of state yesterday communicated to me that I would re ceive a note like the one enclosed. Though I have bestowed upon the subject the most careful consideration, and I hope not without some result, still at present I do not feel warranted to make any propositions to the department, as it will entirely depend on the general views taken by my government and the basis it will adopt. But I feel assured that I have studied the subject so thoroughly that I shall be able soon to reach a satisfactory understanding with this government, whenever my government will favor me with its views.

    I have the honor to be, sir, yours, most obediently,

    C. N. RIOTTE.


    Mr. Iglesias to Mr. Riotte.

    NATIONAL PALACE, San Jose', May 15, 1862

 SIR: My government, informed of the legislative act authorizing the President of the United States to expend a certain sum to assist the colonization and settling of emancipated slaves who might wish to emigrate to other countries, and desirous of taking advantage of the congress of this republic being in session to ask for authority to set aside a part of the territory of our coasts for the foundation of a colony, and to enter into all arrangements pertaining to the project, the undersigned wishes, therefore, to know what may be the disposition of the government of the United States in this matter, in order to adopt coromit the above stated step, and I to this end address you, with the request to be pleased to lay the above statement before your government.

 With distinguished consideration, &c.,


 The above is a true copy and a correct translation.

       C. N. RIOTTE.


   Mr. Seward to Mr. Riotte.


      Washington, June 4, 1862.

 Your despatch of the 15th of May, (No. 33,) has been received, and also a copy of a note which has been addressed to you by the minister of foreign affairs of the republic of Costa Rica.  In that paper the minister alludes to a project which is under consideration in that republic, by which its government should set aside a part of the national domain upon the sea-coast for the foundation of a colony, to consist of free negroes who should emigrate from the United States, and occupy the territory under arrangements to be made between the two republics. The subject has been submitted to the President.

 The free negroes of the United States enjoy the right of remaining within the federal Union, and the right of emigrating from it whithersoever to them may seem best. The government of the United States exercises no power or influence in determining their choice. Congress has made a small appropriation to enable the President to assist such as may choose to colonize in any foreign country. That appropriation will be expended under the direction of the President, in accordance with the views of Congress.

 Several states have expressed, more or less directly, a desire to avail themselves of the benefit of the migration of persons of that class, and have made known to this government their readiness to offer inducements to them more or less liberal. The government has decided to allow these inducements to be submitted to the persons invited to emigrate in the presence of some official agent, who will be instructed to guard the free colored population against possible imposition or misappropriation. Such persons of that class as may intelligently accept the invitation of any foreign state will, of course, find no obstacles inte.rposed to their emigration, and the government will, at the same time, endeavor to take care that the inducements offered shall be realized. If Costa Rica should decide to submit a project to the United States of the character indicated by the minister in his note, all facilities for bringing it to the notice of the parties concerned will be afforded, as has been done in other cases.

 I am, sir, your obedient servant,



    Mr. Riotte to Mr. Seward.


 Costa Rica, San Jose, September 14, 1862.

 SIR: The speech which, on the 14th of last month, the President of the United States made to a committee of colored people, as reported in the latest papers, and particularly that part of it which points to Central America as his choice for the settlement of colored freemen, and describes the particular spot to be " a highway from the Atlantic or the Caribbean sea to the Pacific ocean, to possess on both sides harbors among the finest in the world, rich coal mines," &c., &c., has created a deep sensation, and is the theme of general comment here. I don't myself think the prevailing opinion far from the mark when it considers this spot to be the Isthmus of Chiriqui, between the laguna of that name, commonly called "Boca del Toro," on the Atlantic, and the "Golfo Dulce," on the Pacific side. And, indeed, I look upon this selection as an admirable one from all I can gather from trustworthy persons on the general character and topography of that country, though I must here emphatically warn you not to believe in either the maps or the reports of a certain expedition which, some years ago, were laid before Congress, with an offer of selling the Chiriqui coal mines (the samples of which had come from Pennsylvania) to the United States for the moderate sum of $500,000. From information received while at Washington and here, I am firmly convinced that the maps and reports mentioned are entirely worthless.          But the fact, to which I would respectfully call the attention of your department, is that the major part of what on maps, and also on Colton's Atlas of 1861, is called the territory of Chiriqui, state of Panama, republic of New Granada, is in dispute between that republic and Costa Rica. The merits of the question are slightly mentioned in Fel. Molina's "s Bosquejo de la Republica de Costa Rica," pp. 59, 112. Without a previous arrangement with the two republics, it would be extremely dangerous to settle in Chiriqui; and I feel obliged to dissuade you from such plan, though I do believe that the two republics could, under the mediation of the United States, be prevailed upon to settle the vexed question on equitable terms.        The speech of President Lincoln, and, more yet, a recent conversation you had with Mr. L. Molina on emigration to this country (an account of which I have been shown) have so strongly urged the question of emigration upon the public mind, that congress, in its sessions of 11th and 12th instant, took the matter in hand, much to the satisfaction of the government, which hitherto, with its liberal propositions in that line, met with very little favor. I hope you will not find it presumptuous if I assume to dissuade my government from spending, directly or indirectly, one cent for the purchase of lands for negro colonies. Land in abundance, and of the choicest quality, will be forthcoming, gratuitously offered by private persons, communities, associations, and states; while, in purchasing, the government would most surely be swindled, and the poor negroes robbed or perched upon miasmatic or miserably poor locations. The best use that can be made of the money at the disposal of the President is, paying of passage, furnishing of provisions ample for half a year, and, if then anything is left, aiding in the construction of harbor and other improvements.

 I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



    Mr. Seward to Mr. Riotte.

No. 27.]  DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, October 6, 1862.

 SIR: Your despatch of September 14th, No. 47, has been received. The apprehensions of attempts to colonize Americans of African descent in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, without the consent of their government, will doubtlessly be removed by the notes which I have addressed to Mr. Molina, copies of which are herewith transmitted for your information. You are authorized to give to the government of Costa Rica the same explanations which are presented in these notes.                  I am, sir, your obedient servant,           WILLIAM H. SEWARD.

 P. S. I enclose also a copy of my letter to the Secretary of the Interior, on the subject of colonization.

 W. H. S.


   Mr. Seward to Mr. Riotte.

No. 29.] DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, October 9, 1862.

 SIR: I transmit, for your information, a copy of an instruction of the 30th September, upon the subject of the contemplated colonization of persons of African extraction, addressed by this department to several of the diplomatic agents of the United States accredited to governments of Europe, who have possessions within the tropics.

 I am, sir, your obedient servant,


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