Carl Nikolaus Riotte -> Carl Nikolaus Riotte in Costa Rica -> Jan 1867 Riotte still in Costa Rica

United States Department of State, Executive documents printed by order of the House of Representatives, during the second session of the fortieth Congress, 1867-'68, Vol. II, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1867-1868, page 277



                       Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Seward.

No. 1.]                     LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATFS,

                                     San Jose, Costa Rica, January

  SIR: I have the honor to announce to you that I arrived here on the 15th of January, after a journey of 56 days from New York.   When I received my instructions from you in Washington, you directed me to inform myself as to the difficulties in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, affecting the Nicaragua Transit Company; to see and converse with Mr. Molina and with Mr. Webb, president of the Transit Company; to be of service to that company, if necessary, as there was much American capital embarked in it; and, finally, to see Mr. Dickinson, United States minister to Nicaragua. I saw Mr. Molina several times; I also met Mr. Webb frequently, who related to me all the plans, intentions, and hopes of the company, in which he personally represents all the practical ability. He informed me that his line were building three new steamers; that they had greatly augmented their capital; that they were serious in their intentions of improving the harbor at Greytown and the navigation of the river San Juan. He went on to say that, in order to effect any material improvement, they would probably be obliged to dam up the Taura and Colorado rivers, as the bar at Greytown could only be prevented from continually reforming, by a much greater flow of water from the San Juan into the sea.    Thinking that the only way to inform myself about the merits of the questions that might arise between the Transit Company and the government of Costa Rica was by personal observation, I changed from the Panama line to the Transit Company, and sailed from New York on the steamer San Francisco, on the 20th of November. On the 22d, the machinery being damaged, we returned to Fortress Monroe. On the 28th of November the steamer Santiago de Cuba, of the same line, sailed from Fortress Monroe with the passengers of the disabled steamer. These amounted to 650, of whom 350 were recruits of the 8th United States cav'alry.    I have been minute in detail, for as the department requested me to inform myself about the Transit Company, I am led to suppose that you, sir, would like to be informed, especially as the government is making the experiment of sending troops and material by this route to California, how it is conducted and with what difficulties it has to contend.    The Santiago anchored on the evening of the 6th of December, in front of Greytown, in the roadstead outside the bar. Five days afterwards a few passengers were able to land in surf-boats. On the 15th all the passengers, troops, and freight were on shore,    This delay of nine days was caused by the heavy surf on the bar, by the insufficiency of surf-boats, and by the want of skill and energy on the part of the company's subordinates. At the junction of the Colorado and San Juan rivers there are no signs of the existence of any island. The Transit Company found their right to dam up the Colorado upon the fact of the former existence of such an island and its gradual disappearance, alleging that this gradual change has damaged the navigation of the San Juan river by causing the bulk of the water which formerly flowed into that river to flow into the Colorado, thus ruining the harbor of Greytown, and that they have the right to remedy by artificial means the injury done to their franchise. The Colorado is a splendid sheet of water, and at the fork above mentioned is 22 feet deep and about 400 yards wide. It was flowing slowly and grandly along, and if a dam or artificial island should ever be built, it would be at immense expense, and would be a triumph of engineering skill. There is a great prevalence of freshets and an entire absence for miles around of all stone or rock suitable for masonry or ballast.    At Castillo, on the 17th of December, the cholera broke out among the recruits. Up to the 20th, when we arrived in Virgin bay, there had been 17 deaths among the soldiers, itncluding Major Gambrill, 8th United States cavalry, and 13 among the passengers and crew. On account of the delay in the arrival of the steamer from New York, as narrated above, the agent of the company had taken the responsibility of sending the Pacific steamer back to California in ballast. The next steamer should be due at the port on the Pacific about the 3d of January.    I left everybody at Virgin bay in a very dissatisfied state of mind, and have since heard that Captain Merry, the agent, had been obliged to call upon the Nicaraguan government to furnish protection to him against personal violence. During the horrors of the cholera the devotion and skill of Dr. McMlillan, surgeon 8th United States cavalry, was deserving of the greatest praise. For five days and nights, and up to the time of my departure, he was more than doing his duty. I would not mention this, sir, in a despatch, but I know you are pleased in hearing of acts of gallantry.    While at Greytown I took the opportunity of making President Martinez's acquaintance, and experienced much courtesy from him, both there and at Managua. In passing through Leon I saw Mr. Dickinson, United States minister.

   Two days after my arrival at San Jose I received a letter from Mr. Volio, secretary of state for foreign relations, informing me that the President had appointed the next day, the 18th of January, to receive from me the letter from the President of the United States. I was introduced by Mr. Riotte, and upon handing my letter of credence to President Castro, made a few remarks-enclosure No. 1. The President answered me as in enclosure No. 2.    I forward the Gaceta Official of the 22d of January, containing my remarks and the President's speech. There is also in it a contract between Seiior Don Francisco Kentze, representing the government of Costa Rica, and John C. Fremont and others, to build a railroad through Costa Rica. I have not forwarded a translation, as the copy in the Gazette, I am informed by Dr. Montalegre, president of the senate, is not entirely correct, so I prefer to wait for the next mail and have the translation made from a perfect copy.   The Costa Rican government take one million of stock, payable in monthly instalments of $15,000 from the actual commencement of the work, and guarantee, dating from the completion of the road, 8 per cent. dividend on all stock up to the sum of twelve millions of stock. There are other privileges to establish a bank and to erect a telegraph.

     With great respect, I remain, sir, your most obedient servant,

                                                      A. G. LAWRENCE.

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