TI: REL'LUCT.ANTi DI-LOM OACY 0i JOSE M ARIA ROJAS:
WIVlIAH LANE BARRIS
A DISSERTATI. uN PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL
OF Ti'. U.NIVERSlTY O V'ORIYDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF 'HI REQ:TIRL I:TS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTO OF P'HLOSOPIUf
UNIVERSTIYf OF FLORIDA
William Lane Harris
it all so
Bushnell, who understands
well, and Mai Surran and
TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Abbreviations .... . . . . . . .. vi
Abstract . . . . . . . . . .. . ix
Chapter I. Nineteenth-Century Venezuelan Diplomacy:
The Setting .. ... . . . . . . . 1
Notes .... . . . . . . . .... 8
Chapter II. Introducing Jose Maria Rojas . .. .. .. 10
Notes . .... . ... . ........ 27
Chapter III. The Early Years: English Bondholders,
Venezuelan Railroads, and Spanish Claims . . .. .32
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . 69
Chapter IV. The Dutch Interlude: Short and .harp . . 77
Notes .. .. . . . ..... . . . 121
Chapter V. The Many Problems with Great Britain:
The Setting and the Guiana Boundary . ..... .131
Notes . . . ... . . . . . 166
Chapter VI. The Many Problems with Great Britain:
Fiscal Postscripts and a Comiercial Treaty . .. .176
Notes . . . . . . . . . .. . 209
Chapter VII. Natural Products and Commercial Treaties:
France and Spain . . . ... . . ... .216
Notes . . . . . . . . ... .. ... .257
Chapter VIII. The Fringes of Diplomacy . . . . .. .266
Notes . . . . . . . . ... .. . . 285
Chapter IX. The Great Break: Rojas and the GuzmAns . . 290
Notes . . . . . . . . ... . . . 316
Ciipter X. Epilogue . . . . . . 321
Notes . . . . . . . . . 325
E biography . . . . . . . .. . . . 326
oOgraphical Sketch .... .... ............. 337
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
G.C. Gonzalez Guindn, Francisco. Historia conteti-
.pord.na de Venezuela. 15 vols. 2d. ed.
Caracas: Ministerio de Educacidn, 1954.
G.o. Vene;:uela. Gaceta official (1872-1883).
L.o. Veneziielao .Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores.
o!ria /Llbro amarillo/ (1856, 1863, 1868,
1874-1878, 1880-1883, 1836-1887),
Mecm de Vnes.ela.. Ministerio de Crddito Piblico.
C, p. M, ori' (1874-1875, 1880).
4R1 C:raio.as. Archivos del MinisLLcrio de Relaciones
ilRE/ ILid., Indice general de ERpaoa.
r.E/E/CC I-iRE/E, Cart.s de Gabinete.
MiIRE/E/tF ~RiE/E, Funcionarios diplonmticos de Venezuela.
MRE//i MRE/E, Invi aciones para exposiciones, con-
gresos y conferencias.
MRLE/E/N HR.E/E, Negociciioncs para tratados y con-
ILE/J Cnracas. Archivos del Ministerio de Rela-
cioncs Exteriores. Indice general de Francia.
I'RJ'/F/CLP Ibid., Correspondencia con la legaci6n de
Venezuela en Paris.
ME//F/CM MR/!F, Comisi6n mixta venezolana-franccsa.
MRE/F/FDEV MRE/F, Funcionarios diplomaticos en Venezuela.
MRE/F/FDV MRE/F, Funcionarios diplomiticos de Venezuela.
MRE/F/IE iRE/F, Tnvitaciones para exposiciones, congress
MRE/F/IRR MRE/F, Interrupcidn y restablecimiento de rela-
ciones diplorlticas entire Venezuela y Francia.
MRE/F/TC MRE/F, Trutidos, convenciones y convenios.
MRE/GB Caracas. Archivos del Minis-erio de Relaciones
Exteriores. Indice general de Gran Bretasa.
MRE/GB/(C TIb]d., Cartas de Gabinete.
MRE/GB/CI MRiE/GC, CaIt osa iternacional.
LMRT/GB/CLVL CE/GCI, Corresponu'idencia don la. egacidn de
Venezuela en L.ol.dres.
IM'E/GB/CR .IMRE/GB, Cor:-respontde.ncia robre -reclamaciones.
MRE/GB/CVGB MRE1iG/C1i, Clnsules y vice consules de Venczuela
en Gran Bretaila.
MRE/GB/E MRE/i(G, Ex-tradi ci .n.
1IRE/GB/FDGB MI!E/GB, Frincionarios dipl]omaticos de Gran
MRE/GB/FDV ERE/GB, Funcionarios diplomrticos de Vbnezuela.
MRE/GB/GR MRRI/GB, Gestiones y reclamaciones de Gran
MRE/GB/IP ME/GB, Isla de Pato.
MRE/GB/LG MIRE/GB, Limites de Guayana.
MRE/GB/SP MEE/GB, Seguridad public.
IRE/GB/TC MRE/GB, Tratados y convenios.
MRE/1.i C(ataccas. Archives del Ministerio de Relaciones Ex-
teriores. Indice general de Holanda.
IRL/i/!AV Lrbid., Asuntos varies.
R 'E/il/CCV .QEi/H, Correspondencia con los consules de Venezuela.
MRE/H/CD / i'._/Hi, Correspondencia diplomatica.
EA/H/Cl -/E/i'i, Cortesia international.
RE/ i/cVR R ii.H, Consules y vice consules de Venezuela en
E//ID' ) 'MRC/I Funcionarios diplomAticos de Venezuela.
I-DE/UI./OD" M'. RI Funcionarios diplomiticos en Venezuela.
MRI/iH/Gl! .E/H, Gestiones, quejas y reclamaciones de Holanda.
r,/:/V _KP/F/' Gestiones, quejas y reclamos de Venezuela.
lMpE/H/I D i/i'", I nteriupeiL6n de relaciones diplomaticas.
!/Hi'P'. V ?,':/l, Pretenciones de Holanda contra Venezuela.
MRi/i.lU ifRS/H, Restablecmiiento de la. relaciones diploma ticas.
mPu//''/SP M E/iH, Seguridad pdblica.
IMRE/:I'/C RtE/I, Tratados y convenios.
hRE/?-V Cariacas. Archives del Ministerio de Relaciones Ex-
teriores. Indice, anos 1596 a 1891, documents sobre
Guayana. Colecci6n de 26 tomos en pasta verde, per-
teniciente a la compilaci6n de tomos del acervo docu-
mental del archive antiguo del Ministerio de Rela-
ciones Exteriores de Venezuela. Cuesti6n limites de
Venezuela- con la Guayana Britdnica.
R eom. \Vel.n-uela. Recopilaci6n de Ieyes y decretos de
Venezuela furmada de orden del Ilustre Americano,
General Guzinn Blanco, edici6n official. Vols. 2, 5,
7-10, and 12. Caracas: Imprenta de "La Opini6n
TratadoE. Venezuela, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores. Tra-
tados pdblicos y acuerdos internacionales de Vene-
zuela. Vol. 1. Caracas, 1957.
Abstract of Disseri!a.i-on Fr;:csen-ed to the Graduate Council
of the Universit ojf Ilorida in Partial Fulfillment
of the Require.qmnt fcr tlhe Diegree of Doctor of Philosophy
TIE RELUC'TAIT DIPLOCY OF JOSE MARIA ROJAS:
illii Lane Hacrris
Chairman: David F.shncll
Major Department: Hisio::y
Venezuela was still .11 ,gall, young nation in the latter
half of the nineteenth' ce,.itury. Witi:h. foreign recognition already
accomplished, tihe ia;;ti; nc.w fc ;ed the diplomatic problems of
commercial relations, Lbou:dary disputes, the large foreign debt,
and growing nationalism. A chronic shortage of permanent ministers
abroad complicated this diplomacy. Wlin Antonio Guzmin Blanco be-
came President in 1870, he wished to develop Venezuela both cul-
turally and materially. The success of this program depended, in
part, on effective diplomacy and international fiscal operations.
Jose Maria Rojas, a life-long friend of Guzmin Blanco, did
valuable work in implementing his President's program. Rojas, a
caraquelo lawyer, businessman, and intellectual, belonged to the
Guzman Blanco coterie. Rojas left Caracas in 1873 for personal
reasons and settled in Paris. While he did not seek them out, Guz-
man Blanco thrust upon him the responsibilities of Fiscal Agent of
Venezuela in London and diplomatic portfolios in Spain, Holland,
Great Britain, and France.
Rojas handled these various responsibilities over the next
decade. Using his Paris home as a base, he wrote letters and tra-
veled as necessary. lie was a competent diplomat and fiscal agent
on the basis of his own ability, his friendship with Guzman Blanco,
which meant many direct orders, and his general availability. Fi-
nancially, these operations probably were profitable to Rojas.
Rojas achieved several of the goals he sought. His success
as Fiscal Agent was outstanding. Twice he renegotiated the foreign
debt and exhibited talent in bargaining with the London bondholders.
lie also arranged and signed various construction contracts. The
most notable of these called for the construction of a railroad from
Caracas to the sea.
In a purely diplomatic sense, Rojas had less success. lHe
negotiated a convention with Spain whereby Venezuela would pay its
Spanish debts but failed to achieve a desired reverse convention.
He also went to The Hague to settle current problems with Holland
about exiles on Curatao. Acting on instructions born of concern
with internal security and nationalism, he broke diplomatic rela-
tions with Holland.
Rojas faced many problems as Minister to Great Britain. He
vainly negotiated several years for a renewed treaty of commerce
and sought to settle the boundary problem with British Guiana. In
both instances Rojas worked hard and cleverly but without ultimate
He also sought treaties of commerce as Minister to France
and Spain. France flatly refused to negotiate and then broke rela-
tions with Venezuela because of its poor debt payment record. WiLh
Spain, however, Rojas achieved the treaty, including a most-favored-
nation clause, but it later underwent modification in Caracas.
During this entire period Rojas also led a private life
and performed the lessor diplomatic responsibilities. A widower,
he raised and educated his children in Paris, remained intellec-
tually active, pursued business opportunities, and even led a pri-
vate, private life. He also handled the multitude of Ministerial
details such as supervising consuls, forwarding letters of interna-
tional courtesy, etc. Some of this was humorous, some tragic.
As early as 1881 Rojas wished to return to a complct-ely pri-
vate life. Antonio Leocadio Guzmdn, Guzman Blanco's father and con-
sultant to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, seemed to make Rojas'
diplomatic life more difficult, particularly in the Guiana boundary
and Spanish commercial treaty negotiations. GuzmAn Blanco himself
also made greater demands.
In 1883 a Rojas publication, apparently without malicious
intent, raised embarrassing questions about the patriotism of the
elder Guzman. Venezuela now accepted his prior offer to resign.
The resignation was almost lost in the swirl of resultant personal
charges that spelled the end of the friendship between Rojas and
Guzman Blanco. Ten years later the two old friends had a tender
NINJILENT1- CEiiTU'Y VENEZUELAN DIPLOMACY:
The Repuiblic of Venezuela, on the very northernmost part
of the South Aliiorican continent and forming much of the southern
shore of the Cairihbbcn Sea, is bounded on the west by Colombia,
the south by Tra.il, nnd the east by Guiana. In the nineteenth
century VenezueLa was a young, pastoral republic with a variety
of geographical conditions ranging from the hot shores of the
Caribbean to the cool Andes highlands and the alternate wet and
dry 11anos and bishland of the broad Orinoco valley. The
majority of the settled areas were in the spots along the coast
and the Andes valleys.
The geographical location of Venezuela made it suscep-
tible to potential diplomatic problems. Pirates raided the early
coastal settlements from the sixteenth century. In the nineteenth
century there were vestiges of the outposts of ancient enemies
still-close at hand. A few miles off the eastern coastal tip of
the young nation lay the British island of Trinidad. To the west,
above the Coro Peninsula, lay the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire,
and Curacao. South of the Orinoco and to the east lay the vast,
uncharted lands of Guiana, still waiting for the line to divide
them between Venezuelan and British Guiana. The problems
to be handled,hopefully by diplomacy rather than force,were pre-
sent merely in the geography of the area.
The land with these potential problems had a Spanish
heritage, Venezuela bloomed as a Spanish outpost only late in
the colonial period. The Captaincy General of Caracas dated
from 18--. Despite this lateness, Venezuela took its full
measure of Spanish institutions. Indian and African institu-
tional infCuences were minimal; the Spanish heritage was supreme.
In the niiieeenth century the oligarchy in Venezuela probably
was pri~iar;ily criollo, although the total population approached
a mixture of mulatto and mestizo. The 1825 census indicated a
populat-ion of 659,000, while that of 1881 counted 2,075,000. In
1829 the population of the capital city, Caracas, was 29,320,
while the official census of 1869 listed 47,013.1
This small land produced a variety of exportable agri-
cultural products. Notable among them were coffee and cacao.
Other major nineteenth-century products were cotton, beef, and
tobacco. Exportation of these products implied a diplomatic
policy that would enhance their international marketability.
Cacao, in particular, became a sensitive commodity in the
Spanish market. Venezuela consistently had a favorable balance
of trade during the nineteenth century, even though the economy
was essentially pastoral.2
Venezuela had a rich and stimulating diplomatic experience
during its independence movement. The first real break with
Spain dated from 19 April 1810. One of the hotspurs in the
activities of the Caracas Cabildo was the young aristocrat, Sim6n
Bolivar. Bolivar, later to be immortalized as the "Liberator,"
led the first real diplomatic mission of the small revolutionary
junta that later became the Republic of Venezuela. As the con-
fusing sequence of events transpired over the next twenty years,
thle diplomacy pursued by the junta, then the larger Gran Colombia,
and, finally, Venezuela was oriented toward aid and recognition.3
While Bolivar led the way with his mission to London in
181.0, other individuals in the years to come went to European
capitals, the young United States, and the other emerging states
of Latin America. It has been observed, on the basis of these
The origins of Latin American diplomacy were found
in the initiative of the Junta of Caracas that
directed, from the first moment, the international
politics of the new states toward that double goal
of American understanding and the guarantee of
The patriotic urge aside, diplomatic recognition meant the oppor-
tunity to trade and exist on the basis of goods wanted abroad.
Recognition by foreign powers was of prime importance
for Venezuela. Recognition by any power implied legalization of
existence, even if Spain, the country against which the Venezuelans
and others were rebelling, did not recognize their independence.
There were three such important treaties while Venezuela was
part of Gran Colombia, during the decade of the 1820's. The
United States, Great Britain, and Holland signed treaties of
friendship, navigation, and commerce in 1824, 1825, and 1829,
respectively. When Venezuela went its own way in 1830, the trend
continued with France, in 1333, and smaller European nations,' in
the next few years to come. Spain finally signed a treaty of
peace and recognition with Venezuela in 1845. Venezuela thus be-
came an accepted member of the community of European and European-
Diplomatic recognition a!lon did not assure the young
Republic of Venezuela smooth international relations. Many of
the problems the country hl.d throughout the nineteenth century
stemmed from the independence period. One such problem was.
Venezuela's external deb.t. This debt began with the assumption
in 1834 of the young republic's share of the exterior debt of
Gran Colombia, a debt incurred during the independence period.
Due to lack of punctual servicing of this debt, Venezuela
generally had a poor credit rating in European financial circles.
Additionally, beginning in 1835, the country incurred numerous
liabilities in the form of damage claims by various foreign
nationals. Other problems, inherent in the geography of the
area and left unsettled by independence and even recognition,
centered around the off-shore islands belonging to other nations
and the land boundaries, particularly that of British Guiana
to the east.
The settlement of these problems required skilled diplo-
mats working over time. While Venezuela had the time, the small
country had few diplomats or people who could become diplomats.
The smallness of the total population base meant that there was
a very small pool indeed from which properly qualified people
could be drawn for diploim ;lc posts. It was not surprising, then,
that various and sundry pcitiicians and military figures often
carried diplomatic papers w;ich them when they went abroad for
A mid-century exception to this practice was the diplo-
macy of the great Alejo l n-rtique. Born in Valencia in 1797,
Fortiquc planned, at the :,e of thirteen, for the priesthood but
ultimately hecaie a lawyer in Caracas. He made his first voyage
to Europe in 1832 without any diplomatic sanction. Seven years
later he returned in the capacity of Minister to Great Britain.
For the next six years, until his death in 1845, Fortique labored
on behalf of Venezuela. His duties included work on the foreign
debt, the majority of the bondholders being British, the Guiana
boundary, and the treaty of commerce. Fortique also negotiated
the treaty of peace and recognition with Spain in 1845. After
Fortique, however, there was relatively little Venezuelan diplo-
macy abroad for the next thirty years.
Domestic political turmoil perhaps was the major factor
in impeding Venezuelan diplomacy abroad after Fortique. From
1830 to 1848, even though Venezuela could already be considered
in its caudillo period, the political situation was essentially
stable under Jose Antonio Paez and his allies. From 1848 to
1870, however, Venezuela went through a period of "Anarchic
Caudillism." Within this period, from 1859 to 1864, the young
republic suffered near anarchy during the Federal War. It is
not surprising that diplomacy abroad suffered throughout the
Domestic stability showed relative improvement beginning
in 1870 with the consolidation of power by Antonio Guzmdn Blanco.
Cuzmin 'lanco ran Venezuela either personally or through henchmen
until his fall in 1889. While he was a vain and corrupt man, he
brought many benefits to Venezuela. Domestically, he was re-
sponsible for many material and cultural improvements. His pro-
jects ran the gamut from sewage and street improvements to a
broadeiLng of educational facilities within the country..
Guzmin Blanco's foreign policy can be viewed as an adjunct
to his domestic policy. He needed internal stability, good fi-
nances, and overseas markets to achieve his planned development
of Venezuela. These three characteristics, in turn, depended on
an effective foreign policy. Internal stability was a case in
point. He would not have survived without controlling domestic
insurrections. Such actions became diplomatic concerns when the
revolutionaries used the island of Curacao as a base for staging
filibustering expeditions against the Venezuelan mainland. The
great uncharted area of Guiana also served as a haven for rebels.
Thus, GuzmL n Blanco had reason to negotiate with The Netherlands
and Great Britain on the basis of internal stability alone.
Consciously tied in with these negotiations was a dose of
nationalism over the issue of sovereignty.
A strong financial base for Venezuelan governmental opera-
tion also had diplomatic overtones. The young republic was not
on firm financial ground due to the debts incurred during the
independence period and the mid-century turmoil which delayed
their servicing. Much of this debt was foreign. Hence, Guzman
Blanco's foreign policy included attempts to stabilize the
foreign debt, even lower it if possible, so the development of
the nation could proceed apace. Finally, to insure the resources
for his planned development, Venezuela needed guaranteed and
favorable markets for its export commodities. This meant, on
the basis of foreign relations, good and workable treaties of
amity and commerce and, if possible, even sheltered markets
under mast-favored-nation arrangements.
Considering the chronic shortage of personnel available
for ministerial duty abroad, it is not surprising that Guzmdn
Blanco had difficulty in pursuing these key issues to his foreign
policy, his domestic policy, and his own political survival in
Venezuela. As it turned out, the European phase came to be im-
plemented by a life-long friend from Caracas. This friend, Jos6
Marfa Rojas, ultimately better known as a Venezuelan historian
and literary figure than diplomat, spent almost a decade, though
reluctantly, in the diplomatic service of his country.1 An
adequate examination of Rojas and the experiences of both himself
and those around him, including Guzman Blanco, sets the stage for
a detailed study of his diplomatic experience.
1. Mariano Pic6n-Salas et al., Venezuela independiente:
1810-1960 (Caracas: Fundaci6n Eugenio Mendoza, 1962), pp. 351-52,
2. Ibid., 356 ff. A series of charts between pages 416
and 417 includes production figures for various items. There also
is a chart on "Comercio exterior," which clearly indicates that
exports consistently had more value than imports. See also Fe-
derico Brito Figueroa, Historia econ6mica y social de Venezuela,
2 vols. (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1966), vol.
1, 272 ff.
3. There is extensive printed material available on the
Latin American independence movement, generally, and Bolivar,
specifically. A good selected bibliography on Bolivar is found
in David Bushnell, ed., The Liberator, Sim6n Bolivar, Borzoi
Books on Latin America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), pp.
4. Cristobal L. Mendoza,.Las primeras misiones diploma-
ticas de Venezuela, Biblioteca de la Academia Nacional de la
Historia, 8 vols. (Caracas: Academia Nacional de. la Historia,
1962), vol. 7, p. 57.
5. Copies of these various treaties are located in Tra-
tados., vol. 1, 28 ff. Somewhat more detailed background infor-
mation on diplomatic problems with particular nations is contained
in the body of the text.
6. Venezuela, Ministerio de Hacienda, Bosquejo hist6rico
de la vida fiscal de Venezuela (Caracas: Tip. Vargas, 1924), 44 ff.
This source is also available in an English translation, Venezuela,
Ministerio de Hacienda, Historical Sketch of the Fiscal Life of
Venezuela (Caracas: Litografia e Imprenta Vargas, 1925). Pedro
Manuel Arcaya, Historia de las reclamaciones contra Venezuela
(Caracas: Pensamiento Vivo, 1964), 35 ff.
7. For examples of incidental, or timely, diplomatic
appointments see above pp. 46, 55 and n. 23, p. 71 and n.34, p. 73.
8. A brief summary of the life and diplomatic experience
of Fortique is found in Alejo Fortique, Los papeles de Alejo
Fortique, edited by Armando Rojas (Caracas: Ediciones Universidad
Central de Venezuela, 1962), pp. 7-56. The Spanish treaty of
1845 is reproduced in Tratados., vol. 1, pp. 157-162. The vast
majority of the treaties, conventions, etc., signed by Venezuela
and other parties were signed in Caracas, an indication that the
other parties displayed greater initiative during the period. See
Tratados., vol. 1, pp. 1775-77.
9. Robert L. Gilmore refers to the period of 1848 to 1870
as one of anarchic caudillism in a chart of "Political Periodiza-
tion and Presidential Administrations of Venezuela," in his study
of Caudillism and Militarism in Venezuela, 1810-1910 (Athens, Oh.:
Ohio University Press, 1964), pp. vii-viii.
10. A brief introduction to Guzman Blanco and his technique
of caudillismo is George S/chneiweis/ Wise, Caudillo: A Portrait
of Antonio G:.zmn Blanco (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood Press, 1970).
11. The sources on which the European phase of the foreign
policy of GuCmn Blanco can be based are the main substance of this
study and constitute much of the footnote material in the following
12. There has been little direct work on the life of Ro-
jas. A brief biographical sketch is in Enciclopedia universal
ilustrada, europeo-americano, 70 vols. (Bilbao: Espasa-Calpe,
1907-1972). More detailed material, a major source in the follow-
ing chapter, is in Pedro Grases, Investigaciones bibliogrdficas,
2 vols. (Caracas: Ministerio de Educaci6n, 1968), vol. 2, pp. 7-36.
INTRODUCING JOSE MARIA ROJAS
Jose Maria Rojas, one of Guzmin Blanco's collaborators
for the development of Venezuela and, also, for enhancing the
prestige of Venezuela among the nations of the world, was an
integral part of the Caracas scene for many years. Born in the
capital city in 1828, he grew up and lived in Caracas, with the
exception of several trips abroad, until 1873. That year he left
Caracas and Venezuela permanently, except for a brief visit in
1876, and lived the remainder of his life in Europe, primarily
Paris, until his death in 1907.
While the focus of this study is centered around the
diplomatic activities of Rojas on behalf of Venezuela, beginning
in 1873, it is worthwhile to examine in moderate detail the life
of Rojas before he left Caracas. In those days Caracas was a
small city, everyone knew everyone else, and the coterie of those
who ran the country was small and interwoven. Rojas definitely
was a member of that coterie, and he and the principals of the
government were friends and acquaintances of long standing.
Rojas was a first-generation Venezuelan. His parents,
Jose Maria de Rojas and Dona Dolores Espaillet, were aristocratic
natives of Santo Domingo. The elder Rojas, born in 1793 into one
of the leading families of Santiago de los Caballeros, was
trained to be a financier. In that role, as a very young man,
he became associated with the then important customs house of
Puerto Plata. When the Haitian forces invaded Santo Domingo in
1821, Rojas was one of the commissioners to deal with the repre-
sentatives of Jean Pierre Boyer, the Haitian leader. In the wake
of these negotiations, Rojas was offered certain advantages by
Boyer if he would identify with the Haitian authorities. This he
would not do and instead migrated to Venezuela in 1822 with his
wife and young family.
The elder Rojas settled in Venezuela and lived the balance
of his life in Caracas and its environs until his death from
cholera in 1855. In 1825 he became Director of the La Guaira
customs house and administered it well until outside pressure
forced his resignation, and he looked for other pursuits. He
seriously considered moving to Peru and even got a letter of
recommendation from Sim6n Bolivar in 1827 for that purpose. In-
stead, he remained in Caracas and rather quickly gained acceptance
into the inner circle of business, letters, politics, and society.2
Rojas' activities were many and varied. He founded, in
1838, the famous bookstore Almacen de Josd Maria de Rojas. This
enterprise quickly prospered and became the center in Caracas for
books, pamphlets, and periodicals. It was a focal point where
literati exchanged ideas that were important in the years to come.
Young Jose Maria and his six brothers, including the well-known
Aristides, carried on this family business under the name of
Rojas Hermanos after the death of their father.3
The elder Rojas also published and edited periodicals.
He founded, in 1841,.El liberal, an organ which served the
interests of the conservative party, even though at times Rojas
appeared more liberal than many of the self-styled liberals of
the time. Rojas' counterpart, both journalistic and political,
during the early 1840's, was Antonio Leocadio Guzman, the editor
of El venezolano, the organ of the opposition or liberal party,
and also the father of young Antonio Guzmin Blanco. While the men
were rivals and espoused divergent programs, they fought each
other with dignity and gallantry. To many, these were the halcyon
days of Venezuelan politics and letters. Shortly before his death
Rojas published, in the spring of 1855, another journal, the
short-lived El economist. By then, however, his political
experiences had disillusioned him to the point that he editorially
lamented that after forty-five years of independence, Venezuela
had reached an epoch in which it was more enslaved than under the
colonial government from which the Liberator's sword redeemed it.
This disillusionment came out of the prior political ex-
periences the senior Rojas had in Caracas. Actually, he had
shown his colors as early as 1830 by supporting the break from
Gran Colombia. Then he had done public service as a member of
the municipal council of Caracas and as spokesman for groups
advocating the development and beautification of. the capital.
By 1841 he was a member of the provincial deputation of Caracas
and the following year participated in the creation of Plaza
Bolivar in the heart of the city. By 1845, however, he had
acquired political enemies to the extent that a mob stayed out-
side his home the night of March 10 and threatened him. Moreover,
he did not think highly of the presidency of Carlos Soublette, the
chief executive from 1843 to 1847. On 18 August 1846, writing in
response to a friend who had urged him to reassert himself poli-
tically, Rojas commented that,when a government can neither do
good nor stop bad, then the forces of patriotism are sterile, and
the most he could do was continue writing in El liberal. Never-
theless, lie did rejoin the political fray and the very next year
won an election to the Chamber of Deputies as a representative of
the province of Caracas. As such, he became one of the most
enthusiastic supporters of the new President, General Jos4 Tadeo
It was under Monagas, however, that Rojas witnessed the
end of an era of relative peace and order in Venezuelan politics,
based on the ascendancy of PAez and the Constitution of 1830.
Monagas owed his triumph in 1846 to the aid of the conservatives.
He preferred to govern, however, with the liberals, and shortly
after gaining power he replaced several conservative ministers
with liberal henchmen. This flew in the face of the conservative
congress. Then, the Chamber elected Rojas Vice President on 23
January 1848. The next day, January 24, Rojas and other members
of the Chamber led a confrontation with Monagas' liberal Minister
of the Interior, Jos6 Tomis Sanabria. Sanabria had come to deliver
a message from Monagas and to transmit certain of his decrees.
Rojas and others knew what this implied; they were losing power to
Monagas. Thus, they challenged Sanabria. The Deputies tried to
detain him in their chamber wliile they sent for other ministers.
Word that Sanabria was imprisoned spread to the street, where
both sides had partisans, and the fight was on. Rojas, fearful
that the fight might spread to the chamber itself, pulled his
dagger and told Sanabria that he would be the first person killed
if the guards or others entered the chamber. While Rojas did not
carry out his threat, five people did die in the streets. Rojas
now retired from public life, and the era of anarchic caudillism
had begun in Venezuela. Seven years later, after a period of
political reticence and just before his death, Rojas would briefly
resume his role as a political gadfly by publishing El economist.
It was in these at first pleasant and then hectic days
that young Jose Maria Rojas grew up. He and his childhood friend,
young Antonio Guzman Blanco, attended primary school together. It
is easy to imagine these two youngsters, both the sons of volatile
and outspoken fathers, studying together in class and running and
playing together in the streets of Caracas. Subsequently, young
Josd Maria attended the Colegio de Feliciano Montenegro y Col6n
and received his degree in law from the Central University of
Venezuela in 1852. Young Guzman Blanco also was a contemporary
in law school, except for a period after 1846 when the elder
Guzman was accused of conspiracy.
The stormy political life of Guzman had begun as early as
1840 when he broke with the government of the old llanero, Jose
Antonio Pdez, because of personal problems with the Minister of
Justice, Angel Quintero. Subsequently, he became the leader of
the various anti-PAez groups and used his newspaper, El venezolano,
as the focal point of liberal opposition to the power structure in
Caracas. This had been the setting for the journalistic jousting
with the senior Rojas and his El liberal. In 1846, as a candidate
for the presidency, he sought a political alliance with Paez.
While Guzmdn was en route to Maracay for a meeting with Paez, one
of his supporters, apparently without his authority, triggered
an uprising in his name. As a result of this, the government of
Jos4 Tadeo Monagas, the victor, accused Guzmin of conspiracy.
GuzmAn was convicted, and the new Minister of Justice, the same
Angel Quintero, sought the death penalty. But, in the wake of
the resignation of Quintero and supplications by Senora Guzmin
and her children, including young Antonio, Monagas commuted the
sentence to permanent exile. Guzmin subsequently returned to
Venezuela, however, and held important diplomatic, legislative,
and advisory positions until his death in 1884.8
These were the circumstances under which the two young
caraquenos grew up, one the son of a stormy, aggressive, at times
exiled liberal, the other the son of an aristocratic immigrant
with an oligarchic identification who sought solace from his
political misfortunes in his prestigious bookstore. The fathers
were of different political persuasions and at times had jour-
nalistic confrontations, but there is no indication that they had
personal animosities. Antonio Guzman Blanco, so positively
identified with the activities of his father, became active in
the liberal political camp and subsequently worked his way up in
positions of power through the medium of the Federal War. The
story of his rise and subsequent domination of the Venezuelan
political scene is well known. The friendship of young Jose
Maria and Antonio survived their divergent careers, however,
and later Rojas would do important diplomatic and fiscal work
for the liberal caudillo.9
Rojas, unlike Guzmdn Blanco, pursued a career as a young
lawyer and businessman in Caracas, beginning in the 1850's. While
on the fringes of being a major figure in the city and nation, he
still led a rather private family life. He married a daughter of
Angel Quintero, the nemesis of the elder GuzmAn. Quintero was a
politician of some note and had been a member of the Venezuelan
Constituent Congress of 1830. Later, under Jos4 Tadeo Monagas,
he served briefly as Minister of Justice and was even offered the
Ministry of the Interior. But, he soon broke with Monagas and
took to the field with PAez after the Chamber of Deputies confron-
tation of 24 January 1848. He spent the decade of the 1850's as
an exile in Puerto Rico. Quintero made one brief visit to
Venezuela in 1861 but misjudged things politically and rather
quickly returned to Puerto Rico. He finally returned to Caracas
in 1866 in poor health and died there on the second of September
of the same year. Perhaps the fact that Quintero was a political
exile during so much of Rojas' young-married period of life con-
tributed in part to the privacy of his life. Doubtless he lay
low. Even so, he and his wife had seven children, and it is
likely that the family life was pleasant, even if screened from
public view. His wife died in the latter part of 1867, and Josd
Maria Rojas, the young Caracas lawyer and businessman, reacting
sorrowfully to the personal tragedy, now had the added burden of
raising and educating his children alone. He never married again.
But, Rojas adjusted his life as necessary and continued his career.0
By the time his wife died, Rojas and his brothers had
been operating the firm of Rojas Hermanos for twelve years.
When their father died in 1855, the brothers had decided to pursue
strictly commercial undertakings and avoid political activities.
The charter of this mercantile company, accordingly, even had a
clause prohibiting all political activity both jointly and indi-
vidually. Aristides, Carlos, and Josd Maria, the last being in
charge of the business end of the enterprise, were the three main
participants in this undertaking, an admirable sequel to the
Almacdn of their father.1
The firm of Rojas Hermanos was one of the outstanding
business and literary endeavors in all of Latin America during
its heyday of the 1850's, 60's, and 70's. The brothers wrote and
published their own works, published the works of others, and
sold still other publications. Brother Marco Aurelio, for example,
published a book on the animal kingdom, Aristides published his
Libro en prosa (1876), and Josd Maria published his famous Biblio-
teca de escritores venezolanos contemporAneos (1875). In 1870
they published in Paris the first compilation of the original
poems of Andrds Bello, the great Venezuelan man of letters who
had established the National University of Chile in 1842. As
an example of the offerings of Rojas Hermanos, the eighth edition
of their catalog (1865), 128 pages in. length, included such
offerings as selections of Lamartine, Zorilla, Dumas, etc. Per-
haps the best-known of their publications, and certainly the one
that omde the firm a household name in Venezuela, was the Almanaque
para todos. This almanac, published annually from 1870, contained
not oi,.y the standard weather projections, business statistics,
etc., but also ecclesiastical and literary sections. The
publishing house, however, appeared to be merely a point of de-
parture for Jose Maria, and he used it for advancement of other
It was through Rojas Hermanos, for example, that Rojas
established a long-lasting relationship with the firm of H. L.
Boulton and Company. The Boulton firm, established by an English
migrant in the early nineteenth century, engaged in general
business and trade in Caracas, La Guaira, and elsewhere. From
1856 to 1870 Rojas Hermanos ran the Caracas agency of H. L.
Boulton. Jos4 Maria directed the Caracas office and played a
variety of roles in this position. He both loaned and collected
money, acted as attorney, and wrote at least one tract in defense
of the company when its favorable position in the imported wheat
and flour .market was threatened. From 1871 to 1876 Rojas had a
specific, personal.working agreement with the Boulton firm. He
was described as representative and second of the firm--in other
words, a partner. His activities with H. L. Boulton and Company
doubtless made him much money and put him in a position to capi-
talize on other endeavors.3
Rojas' other business activities were many and varied.
Beginning in 1857 he acted as attorney for Henry Shelton Sanford,
the United States lawyer who was pressing the Aves Island claims
against the government of Venezuela. Sanford represented North
American clai.mants who resented having been ousted from tiny Aves
Island in 1855 by Venezuelan forces. Both sides thought the
island contained c.unercial quantities of guano. Rojas pursued
this activity through the signing of a claims convention at the
Valencia Convention of 1853 and then assisted Sanford off and on
for the next thirty years in the latter's efforts to collect the
final payment due under the convention. Rojas and Sanford also
became firm friends over the years, and Rojas often revealed in
private correspondence to his Yankee friend what he would not
reveal to others.1
The business activities of Rojas also included such various
undertakings as being Consul of Chile in Venezuela in the early
1860's and President of the Ferrocarril del Este, a line established
under a contract gained by Rojas at that same Valencia convention
in 1858. This proposed line was to run from Caracas eastward to
Petare. By 1861 there actually was an engine on the tracks, but
Rojas and his associates did not complete the line. Even so,
the Chilean activity gave the young caraquefo an entrde into the
diplomatic circles of Caracas, while the Petare undertaking was
the beginning of Rojas' activities for many years in railroad and
Rojas certainly was an aggressive young businessman in
his own right, but the gaining of the Aves Island convention
and the railroad contract, both at the Valencia Convention of.1858,
plus the diplomatic position gained three years later, indicate
that he was not holding true to the business arrangement with his
brothers to avoid politics. Actually, the reverse was the case.
Jos6 Tadeo Nonagas had been the president in 1848 when his father
had narrowly escaped death in the Chamber of Deputies on January
24. The same Maongas was President again in 1857, after a term by
his brother, Jos6 Gregorio, and proceeded to replace the Consti-
tution of 1830 with one that would allow him to succeed himself.
This action so irritated both conservatives and liberals that,
after briefly jockeying for a leader to satisfy both factions,
they joined together under Julidn Castro and ousted Monagas in
the March Revolution of 1858.16 Rojas, writing his Yankee friend
Sanford about these activities, commented that he was "involved
in the secret of the revolution up to the ears."17 Another
time he wrote, "I have much influence in the new order of things,
because I have worked much in favor of the revolution. They have
proffered me offices, but my mercantile career does not permit me
to accept them."18 So Rojas was involved politically, and in the
turbulent years that followed, while his role in politics was
subtle, it does appear that he turned it to his own advantage.
Perhaps Rojas' trips abroad in the next few years can be
seen in this light. His first trip to the United States in the
summer and early fall of 1858, it appears, was for business on
behalf of the Boulton firm and, also, for pleasure. But, his
trips to Europe in 1863 and 1864 more properly might be described
as financially beneficial spinoffs from his political and business
connections in Venezuela. In 1863 he went to Europe with Antonio
Guzmdn Blanco to assist in the acquisition of the Loan of 1864,
sometimes referred to as the Loan of the Federation. While
Guzmdn Blanco went as the authorized fiscal commissioner of the
new government of General Juan Cris6stomo Falc6n, Rojas described
his presence with Guzmin Blanco to his Yankee friend Sanford as
that of "only. . his friend or private councilor.2" Be that
as it may, Rojas did play an important part in the consummation
of the loan. The next year, in the summer and fall of 1864, he
was in various points in Europe, helping tidy up the final details
of the controversial loan.21
Rojas' reasons for these activities were varied. First,
he and Guzmdn Blanco were friends of long standing. Perhaps he
hoped the alliance of GuzmAn Blanco and Falc6n would lead Vene-
zuela back to the desired position of political stability; perhaps
Venezuela could once again achieve a political life marked by the
free exchange of ideas under the law as he remembered it in the
early 1840's. Second, he stood to profit personally from the loan.
While he modestly described himself as the friend or private
councilor of Guzman Blanco, the fact remains that he signed his
name to much of the business correspondence about the abortive
loan agreement of 1863 and the Federation Loan of 1864. Surely
he did not do this merely out of the goodness of his heart for
his old friend Guzman Blanco; indeed, he later confirmed that
he, too, had profited from the 1864 loan. Finally, he doubtless
was protecting the interests of his firm, H. L. Boulton and Com-
pany. Thiscompany--described by Edward B. Eastwick, the com-
missioner sent to Venezuela in 1864 by the General Credit Company,
the lending agency, to verify the conditions of the Federation
loan, as incontestablyy the most respectable house in Venezuela"--
was rather heavily involved in Venezuelan government finances as
early as 1860.22
Rojas returned to Caracas after his two trips abroad in
1863 and 1864, but things were not the same. Perhaps his horizons
had been broadened to the point that he dreamed of permanent change.
Perhaps the continuation of anarchic caudillism depressed him. His
wife died in 1867, and that tragic event, saddling him with the
added responsibility of raising his children, must have contri-
buted further to his depression. Whatever the reason or reasons,
beginning as early as October 1863, Rojas intimated to at least
one confidant that he was seriously thinking of leaving Venezuela
permanently and that the country was quite incapable of political
Rojas' thoughts along these lines are interesting,if not
necessarily complimentary, to his home country. From Paris, in
the fall of 1863, he wrote his friend Sanford that on learning
of the military authorities fighting the civilians and Falc6n
in Venezuela, he was completely sick and thinking more than ever
of leaving Venezuela for good. He thought of Spain as the country
of the future for making money. By August of 1865 he was thinking
of establishing himself in either Spain or New York. In 1869,
two years after the death of his wife, Rojas wrote Sanford about
how his children were growing and becoming educated. "Actually,
I have the two oldest ones in a good colegio in Curacao, and in
1871 they will go to Germany, probably with me. Anyhow, my desire
is to emigrate from the fatherland of Bolivar!" 24
Even earlier, Rojas seriously had his doubts as to whether
it was worthwhile to remain there. For example, writing Sanford
in December 1863 that he planned to return to Europe the next
May, Rojas rather flippantly commented that "this project pre-
supposes that this country does not fall to pieces." The next
fall, writing from Paris about new disorders in Venezuela, he
expressed the opinion that "that land gives no hopes." Three
years later he advised Sanford not to invest money in a project in
Coro, because "this property, like those of other things of Vene-
zuela, is a real humbug. .. 25 Perhaps Rojas' greatest out-
pouring of vitriol came in November 1869 when he wrote Sanford,
Here /Caracas/ things continue in the same state
of disorder you know. This mixed and unenlightened
race cannot practice democracy, which is a form of
government that requires enlightenment and homogeneity
in the people. Actually, we are in civil war, and
the-public treasury, in place of being applied to the
payment of the pledges of the nation, is being spent
sadly on elements of destruction and ruin. This is a
lost country, and within some years no one will take
it into consideration in the catalog of nations!!26
These were the feelings of Rojas in the decade before he actually
Meanwhile, Rojas spent his last few years there in pursuit
of general business, particularly on behalf of the Boulton firm.
He handled numerous loan and collection details and presumably
also was involved in the Almacdn with his brothers. It was also
during this time that he made the study of the flour and wheat
market for Boulton.7 An outsider who encountered Rojas during
those active days was James Mudie Spence, an English investor who
was in Venezuela in 1871 and 1872. Spence met Rojas at one point
in his travels and described him as "one of the best scholars in
the republic and an energetic businessman of Caracas."28 Rojas
definitely was a visible man in Caracas in the early 1870's, but
the urge to emigrate remained.
While Rojas' motives for emigration remained in his mind,
his criticism of political anarchy in Venezuela was.not as justi-
fiable when he finally did leave, in 1873, as it had been several
years earlier. What had happened was that his friend Antonio
Guzman Blanco had achieved power in 1870, and at least there was
hope for stability. The hope was threatened by continuous re-
bellions against Guzmdn Blanco in the early 1870's.29 Even so,
Rojas cast his lot with Guzman Blanco and openly identified with
It might even be said that Rojas was a member of the
clique around GuzmAn Blanco, a retainer of the caudillo, ready to
praise him and willing to work for him, particularly if a profit
could be realized. For example, he fed the vanity of the leader
in early 1872 when the merchants' association of Caracas held a
banquet on March 6 in honor of Guzman Blanco and his victories
over assorted enemies. Rojas, the treasurer for this special
banquet, also acted as a member of the reception committee who
greeted the guests at the door to the principal banquet room of
the liotel Ledn de Oro. This visible political life continued into
1873 as Rojas supervised, under a decree of 11 September 1872,
the construction of the new federal capital. Interestingly, the
area of construction included a store owned by H. L. Boulton and
Company, thlie firm in which Rojas held a partnership. Surely the
profit was there to be made in the condemnation proceedings.3
Despite the open identity with Guzmsn Blanco and the fi-
nancial advantages such a relationship offered right there in
Caracas, particularly since the caudillo seemed to be strengthening
his hold on the country, Rojas still planned to migrate from his
homeland. For several years he studied German under the locally
well-known Professor Adolf Ernst.31 Surely this action was in
line with his plans of 1869 to go to Germany for the continuation
of the education of his children. As it turned out he went, in-
stead, to Paris, the mecca of so many Latin American leaders, in-
tellectuals, and exiles. There he pursued various private under-
takings and also engaged in diplomatic and fiscal activities on
behalf of Venezuela and rather specifically Guzman Blanco.
To put it simply, Jos6 Maria Rojas was exceedingly literate,
politically shy but with both conservative and liberal connections,
well versed in financial affairs, willing to take a risk for
profit, contemptuous of political disorganization, intellectually
arrogant, a seeker of the good life, and quite capable of being a
good diplomat for his native Venezuela, even though he had not
planned on it.
1. Grases, Investigaciones, vol. 2, 8 ff. A good brief
sketch of the senior Rojas is contained in "Jos4 Maria /de/
Rojas" /by Ram6n Azpurua/, Fundaci6n Boulton, Caracas. The
Fundaci6n also holds a geneological study of the Rojas family,
"Documentos de la familiar Rojas (Informaciones justificativas de
la limpieza de sangre y distinci6n de ]a familiar de los Rojas y
sus conexiones)," Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic,
19 February 1821, Fundaci6n Boulton, Caracas. G.G., vol. 5, p.
475. Gonzilez Guinin, while smacking of antiquarianism, is the
definitive, fifteen-volume work of the period.
2. Grases, Investigaciones, vol. 2, pp. 8-9.
3. Ibid. Aristides Rojas was a prolific writer in late
nineteenth-century Venezuela. See, for example, his Obras esco-
jidas de Aristides Rojas (Paris: Garnier Hermanos, 1907).
4. G.G., vol. 5, p. 475; Pedro Crases, ed., Materiales
para la historic del periodismo en Venezuela durante el siglo
XIX (Caracas: Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1950), p. 85;
and Grases, Investigaciones, vol. 2, pp. 9-10.
5. "Jos4 Maria /de/ Rojas" /by Ramdn Azpura/ and Vene-
zuela, Presidencia de la Repdblica, Pensamiento politico venezo-
lano del siglo XIX, textos para su studio, 15 vols. (Caracas:
Ediciones Conmemorativas del Sesquicentenario de la Independencia,
1961-1962), vol. 10, pp. 357-60. This second citation contains
a letter of the senior Rojas dated Caracas, 18 August 1846, to
Juan Vicente Gonzdlez. See also G.G., vol. 5, p. 475.
6. Venezuela, Gaceta de Caracas, no. 898 (23 January
1848), p. 189 and G.G., vol. 4, pp. 412-14, vol. 5, p. 442.
Josd Gil Fortoul, Historia constitutional de Venezuela, Obras
completes de Jos4 Gil Fortoul, vols. 1-3, 4th ed. (Caracas:
Ministerio de Educacidn, Direcci6n de Cultura y Bellas Artes,
Comisi6n Editora de las Obras Completas de Josd Gil Fortoul, 1954),
vol. 2, 291 ff. See also Pic6n-Salas et al., Venezuela, p. 106.
A very readable account of the events of 24 January 1848 is in
William D. Marsland and Amy L. Marsland, Venezuela through Its
History (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., c. 1954), pp. 186-87.
7. Jose Maria Rojas, Tiempo perdido: Colecci6n de
escritos sobre political, literature, v hacienda pdblica, Colecci6n
distinta, edited by Efrain Subero, vol. 7 (Caracas: Fundacidn
Shell, 1967), p. 54,and Grases, Investriacion"o:, vol. 2, p. 14.
Tiempo perdido was originally published in Paris in 1905 by
Gamier Hermanos. Life among the established families in Caracas
atthe end of the nineteenth century is delightfully described in
T/homas/ R/ussell/ Ybarra, Young Man cf Caracas (New York: Ives
Washburn, Inc., 1941), passim. The e:.ploits of Ybarra lead the
writer to believe that youngsters such as Rojas and Guzman Blanco
played in the streets of Caracas even fifty years earlier.
8. See pp. 295-341 and passim in the critical biography
of the elder Guzmdn by Ram6n Diaz Sdnchez, Guzmn: Elipse de una
ambici6n de poder, 3d ed. (Caracas: Ediciones "Hortus," 1953).
R. A. Ronddn Marquez, Guzman Blanco. "cl aut6crata civilizador":
Parabola de los partidos politicos tr'dicionales en la historic
de Venezuela, 2 vols. (Madrid: Imprenta Garefa Vicente, 1952),
vol. 1, p. 25; Grases, Materiales, p. 85; Wise, Caudillo, pp. 41-
43, 45-46; G.G., vol. 4, pp. 345-47; and Cil Fortoul, Historia,
vol. 2, 264 ff. Rojas, Tiempo perdid, pp. 84-89, claims that
Quintero resigned his position, because he would not appoint cer-
tain directors to the customs houses as Monagas demanded.
9. A good working tool on Guzmin Blanco, both chronolo-
gical and analytical, is that of Rond6n Mirquez, above, though it
has no index or bibliography.
10. There is a rather good sketch of the life of Dr. Quin-
tero in Rojas, Tiempo perdido, pp. 83-106. Rojas, Caracas, 24
October 1867, to Henry S. Sanford, box 35, folder 16, Henry
Shelton Sanford manuscripts, General Sanford Memorial Library,
Sanford, Fl.; hereinafter cited as Sanford MSS, 35-16 (indicating
box and folder numbers).
11. Grases, Investigaciones, vol. 2, p. 10.
12. La reina animal of Marco Aurelio is cited in Grases,
ibid., vol. 2, p. 11, n. 1. Rojas Hermanos, No. 11. Catdlogo
general de obras de fondo y de surtido de la libreria y casa
editorial de Rojas Hermanos, con un suplemento que contiene los
principles articulos de escritorio y variedades que se encuentran
en este establecimiento. Gran reduccidn de precious (Caracas:
Rojas Hermanos, 1874), passim, contains similar citations covering
a wide variety of offerings. The writer has examined the follow-
ing Almanaques: Almanaque para todos (Caracas: Rojas Hermanos,
1871, 1874, 1875, 1881, 1882).
13. Concepto: "Ramas y dependencias," Nombre: "H. L.
B. y Cia Agencia de Caracas, 1865-1870," Fundaci6n Boulton manu-
scripts, 1828-1910, Fundaci6n Boulton, Caracas; hereinafter cited
as Boulton MSS, plus appropriate Concepto. The year-end journal
balance for the Caracas office during these years is signed
"Messrs. Rojas Hrns., Nuestros Agentes," "Jos4 Maria Rojas," or
"Para Jose Marfa Rojas." The Concepto "Pagares y vales" contains
a variety of notes and correspondence indicating the activities
of Rojas on behalf of Boulton. "Personal y privado: Jose Maria
Rojas" contains a copy of the letter of separation between Rojas
and the Boulton firm, dated Caracas, 16 August 1876, attesting
to the relationship between Rojas and the firm and the separation
of the same. Jos4 Maria Rojas, La cuesti6n harina de trio en
sus relaciones con la sociedad y con el fisco (Caracas: Imprenta
de Espinal e Hijos, 1869).
14. Sanford first went to Caracas in early 1857. The
first correspondence from Rojas in the Sanford MSS is dated 11
August 1857, Sanford MSS, 35-13. A detailed study of the Aves
Island claims is contained in William Lane Harris, Las reclama-
ciones de la Isla de Ayes: Un studio de las tdcnicas de las re-
clamaciones, translated by Jerdnimo Carrera (Caracas: Ediciones
de la Biblioteca, Universidad Central de Venezuela, 1968).
15. Rojas, Caracas, 7 November 1861, to Sanford, Sanford
MSS, 35-14, and Boulton MSS, "Embajada de Chile, Caracas," "Nego-
ciaciones comerciales: Charles Congreve & Son, New York, 1859-
1861," and "Actividades pdblicas: Cia del Ferrocarril del Este,
16. Gil Fortoul, Historia, vol. 3, pp. 75-90, has a good
summary of the events leading to the downfall of Monagas. Article
108 of the Constitution of 1830 (Venezuela. Constitution (1830))
prohibits the President from succeeding himself, while the Monagas
Constitution of 1857 (Venezuela, Constitution (1857)) contains no
such prohibition. The various Constitutions of Venezuela have
been published.together by Luis Marinas Otero, ed., Las consti-
tuciones de Venezuela (Madrid: Ediciones Cultura HispAnica, 1965).
17. Rojas, Confidential, Caracas, 20 May 1858, to San-
ford, Sanford MSS, 35-13.
18. Rojas, Confidential, Caracas, 13 April 1858, to San-
19. Rojas, Philadelphia, July 9, September 13, New York,
September 20 of 1858, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-13, and Venezuela,
Bosquejo, p. 45.
20. Rojas, n.p., 9 September /18637, to Sanford, Sanford
MSS, 35-14. Edward B/ackhouse/ Eastwick, Venezuela, or Sketches
of Life in a South American Republic, with the History of the
Loan of 1864 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1868), pp. 102-103, in-
cludes the order from Falc6n under which Guzmdn Blanco went to
21. Rojas, London, 23 September 1863 (letter and telegram),
London, July 10 and 13, Very Confidential, Liverpool, July 16,
Confidential, Paris, July 20, Confidential, and Berlin, 4 August
1864, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-14, 15. For rather vituperative
accounts of the Loan, see Marsland and Marsland, Venezuela, pp.
196-99, and Dfia Snchez, Guzmin, 490 ff. On p. 491 Dfaz Sanchez,
comparing the two Guzmans, states that "si su padre ha sido un
mago de la dac-agogia political, 41 es un brujo de las finanzas."
Even more polemical is Felix E. Bigotte, El libro de oro. A la
memorial del GeeLaral Exequiel Zamora. Dfcese asesinado en San
Carlos por ordcYi de los Generales Falc6n v Guzman el dia 10 de
enero del aim de 1860, por haber mostrado mas inteligencia, mas
heroicidad v r Ai orden en todas las batallas que se dieron antes
y despues dc Santa Incs, hasta San Carlos, en que del propio
rifle del General Falc6n sali6 la bala que el asesino traidora-
mente dirigi. (Caracas: En casa del autor y por medio de los
agents, 1868). In note 1, p. 194, Bigotte wondered why the name
of Rojas instead of the name of someone known to the public was
put to the letters having to do with the Loan.
22. It appears that Guzman Blanco realized 176,580 out
of the transaction, and it is safe to assume that Rojas shared in
this. See Rond6n Mlrquez, Guzm~ n Blanco, vol. 1, pp. 146-152,
and Bigotte, El libro de oro, text and notes p. 175 and note,
p. 194. Eastwick, Venezuela, p. 117, and Boulton MSS, "Activi-
dades pdblicas: Emprestitos various Rojas later commented to
Sanford that he had lost in business all the money he had made
-from the loan of 1864, Rojas, Caracas, 8 August 1865, to Sanford,
Sanford MSS, 35-16.
23. Gil Fortoul, Historia, vol. 3, p. 90, relates how
revolutions were unsuccessful between 1830 and 1857 but that they
became successful in the years beginning with the latter date.
See below for citation of the 1863 Rojas correspondence.
24. Rojas, Paris, 20 October 1863, Caracas, 8 August
1865, 22 November 1869, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-14, 16.
25. Rojas, Caracas, 7 December 1863, Paris, 19 October
1864, and Caracas, 17 December 1867, to Sanford, Sanford MSS,
35-14, 15, 16.
26. Rojas, Caracas, 22 November 1869, to Sanford, San-
ford MSS, 35-16.
27. "Pagares y vales," Boulton MSS, contains numerous
entries indicating Rojas' activities in the late 1860's and early
28. James Mudie Spence, The Land of Bolivar, or War,
Peace, and Adventure in the Republic of Venezuela, 2 vols.,
2d ed. (London: Sampson, Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1878),
vol. 2, p. 116.
29. Pic6n-Salas et al., Venezuela, pp. 126-28, briefly
describes the coming to power of Guzman Blanco. See also rele-
vant sections of such works as Rond6n Mdrquez and Wise.
30. G.G., vol. 10, pp. 58-59, 106-107, 140-41. Rojas
was involved in the capital construction perhaps, in part, by
virtue of the fact that his firm, H. L. Boulton and Company, was
one of the Caracas business houses tied into the Credit Company.
The Credit Company actually constructed the capital. Guzman
Blanco created this company originally as a stop-gap company to
provide income to the government while the Franco-Prussian War
disturbed the normal international trade of Venezuela and, there-
fore, the customs income. See Recop., vol. 5, doc. 1731, 79-80,
decree of 9 December 1870, establishing the Credit Company, and
doc. 1731a, 80-81, decree of 24 December 1872, approving the
government contract established with the company.
31. Grases, Investigaciones, vol. 2, p. 16.
THE EARLY YEARS: ENGLISH I1ONDHOLDERS, VENEZUELAN
RAILROADS, AND SPANISH CLAIMS
After years of thought on the matter, Rojas finally made
the decision to leave Venezuela. He departed Caracas on 6 May
1873. While he went to Europe to educate his children, he also
went in the service of the governmi.i;t he was, at least privately,
forsaking. Perhaps the lure of the money and prestige was too
great. Whatever the reason or reasons, he carried with him the
portfolios of Fiscal Agent of the Republic in London and Minister
Plenipotentiary of the Republic to Spain. Thus began a new career
Even though Rojas graciously accepted the appointments,
his later recollection implied that these two and subsequent
government posts were not really attractive to him. There is no
question that he was a reluctant diplomat for the positions con-
formed little to his personal temperament. "I love frankness and
not simulation, and the hypocrisies and falsehoods of the career
repel me." Despite the distaste Rojas performed well for his
government. Within three years he had negotiated a thorny re-
organization of the Venezuelan foreign debt, signed a contract
for the construction of a railroad from Caracas to the port of
La Guaira, and signed a claims convention with Spain.
Rojas' movements during these three years were rather
complicated due to his own interests, the requirements of the
Venezuelan government, and the conditions of the negotiations or
the political circumstances of the countries where he bargained.
Using Paris as his base of operations, he went back and forth to
London and Madrid as necessary or prudent. In 1875 he spent some
time in The Hague on a rather distinct problem with Holland.3
His governmental services first began, however, as Fiscal Agent,
or Special Commissioner of the Republic of Venezuela, to the
English holders of Venezuelan bonds.
The background of the Venezuelan foreign debt, what Rojas
began working with in the summer of 1873, was a tangled web of
fiscal affairs. Born of Venezuela's 28.5 percent share of the
Gran Colombian loans of 1822 and 1824, the debt was divided into
two categories, internal or external, on the basis of the
nationality of the original creditor. The external debt was
next divided into Active and Deferred categories, but in an
agreement with the English bondholders in 1859, the Deferred
Foreign Debt had been made convertible at 50 percent to the
Active Foreign Debt. In July 1862 Dr. Hilari6n Nadal negotiated
a further loan for 1,000,000 with the London firm of Baring
Brothers and Company. The same year Venezuela issued additional
bonds to cover the back interest owed on previous debts. Two
years later the Loan of 1864, or of the Federation, in the amount
of 1,500,000, was negotiated with the General Credit Company of
London. And, in 1872 the Venezuelan government, by a law-decree
of November 30, specified how the revenues fron the customs
houses, the major source of government funds, were to be handled.
Excepting that portion collected for the use of warehouses, 60
percent would be applied to the General Budget, and 40 percent
would be applied to specific items. Within the 40 percent por-
tion, 27 percent would be applied to the Interior Debt, 27 per-
cent to the Exterior Debt, 33 percent for the internal development
of the country, and the final 13 percent for foreign claims. In
effect 10.8 percent of the customs receipts went to the Foreign
Debt, 13.2 percent for internal development, and 5.2 percent for
While at first glance it all seems rather neat and orderly,
actually the Venezuelan financial picture was a shambles. The
foreign debt was tremendous and did not seem to be getting any
better. It had risen from V.26,188,130.45 in December 1859 to
V.44,763,786.08 in June 1873. There had been considerable de-
faulting on the debt, even to the point of not servicing the
interest payments due. Politico-military struggles within the
country contributed greatly to the defaulting. Furthermore,
the loan of 1862 had been issued at only 63 percent of its face
value and the one of 1864, at 60 percent. Thus, the amount of
money actually reaching the treasury on these recent loans was
much less than the debts incurred. The deduction of service
charges, commissions, etc., made it still less. And, for years
venality and graft had been one of the characteristics of fiscal
life in Venezuela.5 The picture was dour, but even before Rojas
went to Europe, a new policy was emerging whereby the government
might spend even more money and thereby, in the end, pay off its
debts more readily.
The idea was that the Venezuelan government would be able
to pay its debts if only the country were more developed; then,
the general economic picture would improve and governmental
revenues increase. The development of Venezuela was one of the
stronger themes during the various administrations of Guzman
Blanco and one that Rojas himself pushed, both for Guzm6n Blanco
and Venezuela and for his own benefit. Debt payment through
development was an idea shared by many. Spence, the British in-
vestor in Venezuela in 1871 and 1872, was of the opinion that
investments in railroads, telegraph systems, etc., would have
been more beneficial to everyone than the ordinary foreign loans.
Furthermore, he felt that the development would come from outside
investors readily if Venezuela would only service its debts. He
expressed this opinion to Antonio L. Guzmdn, then the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, in an interview in August 1872, shortly before
leaving Venezuela. While Spence seemed to advocate paying
interest on the debt and then benefitting from new investments
of various types, the Venezuelan approach seemed to be to develop
and then to pay the debts, or do both simultaneously. At any
rate, that-was what Jos4 Maria Rojas tried to do for his govern-
ment beginning in 1873, and the people he had to face were the
holders of Venezuelan foreign bonds. The majority of these
people were English, and the bonds they held had little market
The British holders of foreign bonds were an important
segment of the financial community in nineteenth-century Great
Britain. Their investments in Latin America had begun with the
various independence movements and, as was the case with Vene-
zuela, defaults on loans to early independent govern'iients had
left an accumulation of bond issues that were often of dubious
value. These bondholders, over the years, were highly independent
investors. Whether as individuals, contractors, or partners in
investment houses, they had made their loans abroad without regard
for the government of Great Britain. It is a myth that they
always called for and got the aid of their government when their
investments were threatened. British government intervention was
the exception rather than the rule. As early as 1823 Canning
refused to intervene in the case of the default by Gran Colombia
on a loan. This was the pattern for the entire century. Mean-
while, the holders organized themselves into committees for the
separate debts in default. In late 1868 they established the
Corporation of Foreign Bondholders to provide a focus for their
activities. In 1873 Rojas dealt specifically with the Council
of Venezuelan Bondholders, one of several groups in the Corpora-
Rojas, having left Caracas on May 6 and presumably
having settled his children in schools on the continent, was in
London by July 1873. There, as fiscal agent of the Republic of
Venezuela, he proceeded to execute the orders given him by the
Ministry of Public Credit and also personal orders given by
Guzmin Blanco. While he already held the diplomatic portfolio
to Spain, he would not go there until late in the year. His
actions in London consisted primarily of negotiating with the
Council of Venezuelan Bondholders by writing letters and memoran-
dums and holding private conferences.
Rojas' first action was to circulate a letter written on
5 May 1873 by Guzmln Blanco. lHe addressed this letter to the
Council and also to Baring Brothers, agents of the loan of 1862,
and the General Credit Company, agents of the loan of 1864.
President Guzman Blanco urged a confidential negotiation that
would be satisfactory to both Venezuela and its creditors. That
is, he wanted to refinance the foreign debts of Venezuela, and
Jos4 Marfa Rojas would communicate his ideas on the matter to
them. As an impetus to successful negotiations, Guzman Blanco
announced that funds currently being collected under the law of
30 November 1872 for payment of foreign debts were being held in
trust in Caracas.8
Rojas supplemented the Guzm;n Blanco letter with a memoran-
dum dated July 5. In this memorandum he spelled out how the
government hoped to refinance its foreign debts. He mentioned
how twenty-five years of civil war had damaged the general rich-
ness of the country and affected the national income, and, thus,
made necessary the law of 30 November 1872. Venezuela asked
nothing more than the same kind of concessions given other coun-
tries so that its credit might be reestablished in a solid manner
and the creditors might recoup their losses. Rojas then proposed
"to the Briti.sh creditors the cancellation of all the bonds of
the present debt, substituting for them the emission of 2,000,000
(10,000,000 vene :olanos) of bonds of the Exterior Debt of Vene-
zuela that will draw interest from 1 February 1873 at the rate of
3 percent: per year." The existing bonds would be converted at
varying ratios to compensate for their different interest rates.
Now the bondholders had to respond.
The response that came, despite the good efforts of Rojas,
was unfa\vcarable to the cause of Venezuela. Baring Brothers wrote
Guzman Bl.nco in this light on July 16. They sympathized with
him in his aii to restore credit to the Republic and wished him
well in the effort. They also complimented Rojas on his effective-
ness and courtesy in explaining the proposal in a conference.
Still, according to information they had from some of the princi-
pal interested parties, the consideration of the Rojas proposi-
tions was not favorable. Rojas, meanwhile, before returning to
Paris by the end of July, even met unofficially with a few members
of the bondholders group. This small clique apparently had plans
that ran counter to the plans of both the Council of Bondholders
and Venezuela. Rojas, assuming such action would not be to his
advantage in the long run, advised the Council of the meeting and
squelched it. His position was that he could deal only with the
three parties to whom the Guzmin Blanco letter of May 5 was
addressed.0 Perhaps this position stood Rojas well in the
At any rate, activity intensified in October with a
series of meetings held by the Council. The Council first met on
October 17 in the London Tavern on Bishopsgate Street, London.
By now the Council was working with a formal draft of a finan-
cial convention. Maxwell G. Turnbull, President of the Council,
proposed a resolution that the terms as outlined by Rojas be
accepted by the Council. However, the Council decided to defer a
decision until October 31. In the interim, Turnbull and the other
officers prepared a letter for the bondholders. They noted that
the only disadvantage would be a reduction of dividends but that
even this handicap would diminish as the credit of Venezuela im-
proved and the country generally developed its industry and
They also solicited letters of assent from the bondholders
if they were unable to attend the October 31 meeting.11 Apparently,
Rojas had done his work well, or the officers, out of desperation,
felt anything would be an improvement, or both.
The Council approved the proposed convention at their
meeting of October 31, but with a reservation. That reservation
was that the Venezuelan government guarantee a minimum annual
sum of 80,000 in case the collections allowed in the 30 November
1872 decree-law did not reach that amount. Rojas, advised of
this in Paris by Frederick H. Hemming, the Venezuelan Consul in
London, responded immediately that such a modification could not
be made to the convention. He argued that the Venezuelan Con-
gress had specifically determined how the proceeds of the national
income would be divided and that the President had been given
full power to make an arrangement with the creditors without
going back to the Congress. Accordingly, he suggested another
The British creditors thus met for a third time on Novem-
ber 7. At this meeting they voted down a minority effort to
gain stronger assurances from the Venezuelan Congress and approved
the draft of the convention by a vote of almost four to one.
Rojas either attended the meeting or was waiting in the wings,
for he and Turnbull signed the formal convention the same day in
London. Rojas left London shortly thereafter and proceeded to
Madrid, via Paris, on purely diplomatic matters.13 While he did
not concern himself directly with the bondholders for the next
few months, the Rojas-Turnbull Convention generated considerable
action in Caracas and reaction in London.
It is better to consider the Rojas-Turnbull Convention of
7 November 1873 within the context of its adoption than flounder
with its multiplicity of details, such as interest conversion,
etc. What is important was that Venezuela had consolidated its
foreign debt. Guzman Blanco probably directed this action.
Rojas had been his front man in London. The success of Rojas can
be seen in that he persuasively convinced the bondholders that
consolidation should be realized and also beat back attempts to
get stronger guarantees of payment from Venezuela. The result
was that Guzman Blanco now had fiscal breathing room, it appeared,
and could seriously begin the material development he so strongly
wanted for his country. But, the Convention came to be jeopardized
by being tied too closely to a particular phase of the Illustrious
American's development plans.
The main problem facing the Convention was a proposed
railway between Caracas and that city's principal port, La Guaira.
Serious railway endeavors had begun in Venezuela as early as 1853,
with the concession for a line to be developed between Puerto
Cabello and San Felipe. The government granted other contracts,
including the one to Rojas in 1858 for a line to Petare, in the
years that followed. A contract for a line from Caracas to the
sea dated from 1857. But, the line had never materialized, and
Guzman Blanco included a renewed effort in his development plans
for 1873. On January 31 he decreed the construction of a narrow-
gauge railway from Caracas to the sea. This construction would
be financed by the 33 percent of the forty units allotted to the
interior development of the country as outlined in the decree-law
of 30 November 1872. Furthermore, a special Development Committee
of leading Caracas companies and individual businessmen would
oversee the construction of the line. Among the participants was
H. L. Boulton and Company, Rojas' primary business connection in
Caracas. And, Rojas as an individual, also, was a member of the
Later in the year when he went to London, Rojas did not
deceive the bondholders about the railway and other plans. His
correspondence with the English investors and their comments
about the economic development of Venezuela were quite open.
They knew various economic projects would be afoot, and they
endorsed them.15 Rojas even spent part of the fall negotiating
a railroad and related contracts in London. On October 14 and
15 he signed contracts with Lt. Colonel Alexander Strange, the
President of the New Qucbrada Company. New Quebrada controlled
the Aroa copper mines west of Puerto Cabello and was in the pro-
cess of linking the mines to the port of Tucacas. The October
contracts concerned clarification of prior railroad agreements
and the construction of a link of track from Palma Sola to San
Felipe.6 This action, however, unlike the railway from Caracas
to the sea, did not affect the English bondholders as a group.
Meanwhile, action on the railroad to the sea continued in
the wake of Guzman Blanco's decree of 31 January 1873. Both
English and Venezuelan engineers worked on the proposed line that
year and the next. R. F. Farlie acted as the consulting engineer
in London for the Venezuelan government. By March 1874 the chief
engineer, F. A. B. Geneste, submitted a detailed report on the
project. A minor flap developed in the months that followed
over just how much work the Venezuelan engineers had done on the
surveying, etc., but Guzman Blanco smoothed this over. The
important thing was to build the road. In line with this Rojas
himself began the preliminaries of seeking a contractor in Europe
in March. He was now back in Paris after his initial diplomatic
trip to Madrid. He wrote his Yankee friend Sanford that while
he was awaiting word to ratify the convention made with Turnbull
the prior November, he also was interested in getting the road
under contract. He speculated that maybe this could be done in
Belgium, and if such were the case, then he and Sanford both
would profit personally.17 Events in Caracas, however, would be
delaying both the ratification of the Rojas-Turnbull Convention
and the desired railroad contract.
What happened in Caracas was that a joint legislative
decree of May 28, signed into law by Guzman Blanco on 1 June 1874
tied foreign debts and railroad construction together. In the
words of the decree, "The President of the Republic will ratify in
all its parts the arrangement celebrated by the Fiscal Agent of
the Republic, Doctor Jos4 MPria Rojas, with the British creditors
as soon as he has assured the construction of the railroad from
Caracas to the sea." The decree also contained the comment that
the Convention had not been celebrated in accord with the bases
proposed by Guzmdn Blanco, bases held to be more equitable and
advantageous to the Treasury and the national credit. Perhaps
this was meant as a stimulus to Rojas to get the construction con-
tract as quickly as possible, or it could have been because he
did not follow the implication of his original orders. The legis-
lators further offered this action as proof to the British
creditors that, without abandoning the material development of
the country, they only would do that which the resources of the
Treasury would allow. The harsher words, though, were that if
the-President's plans to build the railroad failed, then the
funds in the national budget destined for foreign credit, would
be used to realize the railroad.18
In fairness to Rojas, his activities in London and the
response of the bondholders in the summer and fall of 1873 do
not indicate that a specific contract to construct a railroad
from Caracas to the sea was a prerequisite to the agreement
signed by Turnbutll. While the decree of May 28 dealt somewhat
harshly with Rojas, a communication from the Minister of Public
Credit, including citations from Guzmdn Blanco, was rather frothy
and complimentary of Rojas' capabilities.19 Surely Rojas had
not known that a particular condition would be attached to his
agreement with Turnbull.
News of the congressional decree came as a real shock to
the bondholders. Turnbull wrote Guzmin Blanco on July 1-and
clearly stated that Rojas represented himself as having full
authority to execute the original arrangement. Such was not the
case, it appeared, and the Council knew nothing of railroad con-
struction as a condition of the proposed convention. Turnbull
ended his letter by observing that such action would certainly
have adverse effects on any future Venezuelan attempt to gain
funds in the London money market. Guzmin Blanco responded by
pointing out that Rojas was acting at his request and that he did
indeed have the authority to approve the arrangement. But,
Guzman Blanco insisted, the legislative power was greater than
the executive power, and, thus, he had to defer to the conditions
laid down by the national legislature. While, in reality, this
last point probably was a fiction, the Illustrious American urged
the Council to work things out with Rojas so that he could approve
the Convention with Turnbull.20
Rojas, meanwhile, received word of the congressional ac-
tion in Paris in late June. He went to London early the next
month, once again in pursuit of the British bondholders. On
July 11 he addressed a letter to Turnbull, the Chairman of the
Council of Bondholders. He spelled out very clearly the legisla-
tive decree of May 28, tied the hopes of the bondholders to the
development of Venezuela, and mentioned that respectable business
houses in London would be disposed to take on the construction of
the rail line as outlined in the plans and budget of the chief
engineer, Farlie. Rojas then sweetened the offering to the bond-
holders by stating that when they assured the construction of the
railway, then the foreign credit funds collected by the govern-
ment, a sum of 133,018 as of May 31, would be released to Baring
Brothers for disposition to the creditors. The next day he met
with the officials of the Council and outlined a plan whereby the
bondholders themselves might finance the railroad. Very simply
he asked the bondholders for authorization to use the foreign
credit funds to construct the railroad. In return, they would
receive mortgage certificates on the railroad at 8 percent annually
and, meanwhile, an annual sum of 12,000 would be reserved to re-
duce portions of the current foreign debt.21
The bondholders rejected the plan. Turnbull embellished
the-point, in his letter of July 18 to Rojas, that he could not
"express adequately the profound pain and disappointment of my
committee in the result of these long negotiations, a result of
which it is in no manner responsible, but which ought to be
attributed completely to the bad faith of Venezuela." Two days
later Rojas declared the Convention of 7 November 1873 null and
void and criticized the Council, in turn, for questioning the
faith of Venezuela in the negotiations. These two strong communi-
cations of July 18 and 20 did not stand up. Rather, according to
Rojas, the response of the Council to his declaration led to
further negotiation. On the twenty-first both notes were changed
so as to prevent a complete break, and softer versions were then
published. Fortunately, the line of negotiation between the
two parties remained open, although an untimely incident
temporarily threatened it.
The threat to this delicate negotiation came from a
schemer named General Venancio Pulgar. Pulgar, a supporter of
Guzma'n Blanco in the liberal cause in Venezuela, had obtained
heroic credentials by breaking out of a prison at Puerto Cabello
in 1870. Now, four years later, this Zulian caudillo was in
Europe, presumably enjoying the fruits of being on the winning
side. He came to London on July 20 in the midst of the delicate
Rojas-Turnbull negotiations. Carrying credentials as the
Venezuelan Minister to France, Pulgar had interviews with the
officials of Baring Brothers Company and Frederick C. Pawle, one
of the most important holders of Venezuelan bonds. Pulgar
advised these people that they should not make an arrangement with
Rojas, because it would not be approved by Guzmin Blanco. Further-
more, within a few weeks he himself would have the necessary
powers to negotiate and would propose a new plan whereby the
arrangement with the creditors would be independent of the rail-
road loan. While some of the bondholders might have found this
proposal attractive, the influential ones chose to continue
negotiating with Rojas. Pawle, for example, took the opportunity
to compliment Rojas on the frankness with which he had always
carried on the negotiations and viewed the entire Pulgar inci-
dent as an intrigue. Hemnin-g, the Venezuelan Consul in London,
after talking with the persons involved, was of the opinion that
Pulgar acted without authority. Despite its illegality this
Pulgar incident embarrassed all parties concerned; while it did
not stop the negotiations, it did delay them, and the Venezuelan
government still did not have its railroad money from its old
Rojas, after an appropriate cooling-off period and per-
haps private instructions from Guzman Blanco, resumed his action
with the bondholders in the fall of 1874 and simultaneously
sought a railroad construction contract. Guzmin Blanco even did
his part and sweetened Rojas' position by sending 6,000 to
the Fiscal Agent's account in London. This money would be
applied to the foreign debt if the bondholders signed the agree-
ment; otherwise, it was to be applied to the expenses of building
the cherished railroad to the sea. While this token offering
did not produce results with the bondholders, Rojas did sign a
convention for the construction of the railroad. This convention,
executed in London on September 15 with George 0. Budd and
William L. Holt, called for the line to be built within two years.
Despite Rojas' optimism expressed to his friend Sanford, this
convention did not get off the ground. Perhaps the major reason
was that it called for the government of Venezuela to deposit
100,000 to the account of the contractors before the work began.24
As the fall of 1874 wore on, the Venezuelan position with
the Council of Bondholders in London grew more difficult. Hemming,
acting as both Consul of Venezuela and an individual bondholder,
sought to counter this trend by writing the bondholders a special
message. Rojas then submitted a soothing, detailed proposal for
their consideration. Hemming succeeded in gaining the support of
several bondholders whose bonds valued 150,000, but personalities
then became part of the issue, and Hemming had to publish a tract
containing certain of his letters to the Council so his position
would be vindicated. The net result of all this, despite the good
works of Rojas and Hemming, was that the Council, meeting on
November 24, determined that the negotiations with Venezuela were
There the negotiations remained until the spring of 1876.
Rojas, in this interim, spent much time in pursuit of purely
diplomatic endeavors. From late May 1875 until the spring of
1876, he worked diligently on the diplomatic problems with
Holland. During this time, also, he continued relations with
Spain, an off-and-on situation due to the circumstances of
Spanish politics. And, then, he also pursued his own private
work in Paris and environs. It is certain that GuzmAn Blanco
and his ministers continued to make plans to achieve that rail-
road from Caracas to the sea while simultaneously seeking a
workable solution to the impasse with the English bondholders.
Perhaps the only exception to the lack of visible activity
during the sixteen months from November 1874 to March 1876 was
the railroad equipment contract of 15 March 1875. Under this
contract Gabor Naphegyi, a North American citizen, and Vicente
Coronado, the Venezuelan Minister of Development, agreed that
Naphegyi would introduce steam locomotives, cars, and other
equipment for the Caracas-La Guaira railway.26 Despite this con-
tract there was yet no guarantee that the engines would have rails
on which to run.
It appeared, though, that both the road itself and the
refinanced foreign debt were in the making in the spring of 1876.
Rojas went to London on March 9 and presented a proposal to
modify the Convention of 7 November 1873. The officers of the
Council of Bondholders accepted his proposal and sent it to the
creditors of record for their approval. Essentially, the agree-
ment was that overdue coupons or interest payments up to June
1876 would be converted to a "Passive /Foreign/ Debt" and the
government would pay 20,000 per year to amortize these particular
bonds. Subsequent coupons up to 1 January 1879 would be replaced
by first-mortgage bonds worth 200,000 at 8 percent interest and
a 2 percent sinking fund, all on the Caracas-La Guaira railroad.
After 1 January 1879 the creditors would receive all of the 27
percent of the forty units of the revenue of the customs houses,
as outlined in the decree of 30 November 1872. In essence, the
main change was that now the bondholders would be allowing
200,000 of their future dividends to be applied to the railroad
rather than the 405,752 anticipated total cost of thec railroad
With the possible acceptance of the bondholders now in
hand, Rojas pursued a construction contract. This contract would
have to be self-financing, at least in part, for the immediate
obligations would now only be half met by the English bondholders.
In the days following his presentation in London, ha feared that
the group he had been dealing with in Paris might not agree to
the contract proposed. To him, the French were "siniple jobbers
and humbuggers." Accordingly, he sought the aid of his friend
Sanford in an attempt to acquire the contract from other finan-
cial sources in Europe. Naturally, Rojas expected to receive a
personal commission if such an arrangement were made. But, as it
turned out, the humbuggers of Paris accepted his proposal. It
can be assumed that these people, too, were liable to pay him a
personal commission for his services. At any rate, on 27 March
1876 Rojas signed, in Paris, a construction-financial contract
with Josa Maria Antommarchi Herreros. The terms of this con-
tract neatly brought it all together. Antommarchi H. and his
associates would build the railroad. Fr.5,000,000 (200,000)
would be issued in preferred bearer bonds. The Council of Vene-
zuelan Bondholders in London was to hold these bonds. Further-
more, the concessionaire would issue Fr.8,000,000 in bearer bonds,
and Venezuela would subscribe to seven-sixteenths of the issue
(140,000 of 320,000).28 Now, only the agreement with the bond-
holders needed formalizing and the entire operation approved by
the powers in Caracas.
Rojas completed the preliminary agreement with the bond-
holders in the Rojas-Turnbull Convention of 18 April 1876. This
Convention followed Rojas' proposals of March 9, except that the
government of Venezuela would pay 40,000 annually to the bond-
holders up to 1 January 1879, instead of 20,000 as initially pro-
posed. Two days later the exultant Rojas shared his happiness
with Sanford in a letter that began, "Gloria in excelsis Deo!
I have signed, sealed, and remitted today to my government an
agreement with the Venezuelan bondholders, and I have also con-
tracted the construction of the La Guaira railway with a French
conite in conjunction with the Venezuelan government, the first
subscribing four and one-half million francs." Back in Caracas
Guzman Blanco and his ministers and national congressmen acted
quickly on the agreement. He signed the resulting decree on
12 May 1876, approving both the Turnbull and Antommarchi Conven-
Finally, on June 16 Rojas met with the Council of Bond-
holders in London, and there, after explanations from both Rojas
and the officers of the Council, the bondholders ratified the
Convention approved by Guzmdn Blanco the prior May. Meanwhile,
Antommarchi H. reported that work had already begun on the rail-
road.3 At this juncture it appeared that Venezuela would
realize its rail connection between the capital and the sea,
and also the English bondholders would be tied to the successful
completion of the railroad.
By now Rojas had been in Europe for three years. Diplo-
matically he had had appointments in Spain and Holland. But, he
spent most of his time as Fiscal Agent of the Republic in London.
Paris had been his base, but he had made several trips to London.
The work seems to have been based on instructions from Guzman
Blanco, both directly to Rojas and through governmental inter-
mediaries and, also, on Rojas' own initiative. At times the in-
structions were not clear or the circumstances at Caracas changed,
as witnessed the insistence on tying the Rojas-Turnbull Conven-
tion of 1873 to financing a railroad to the sea. Even so, the
work was profitable and satisfying, both to Rojas and to his
government. It was a good finish to the seven-year "reign" of
Guzman Blanco, that period from 1870 to 1877 known as the "Sep-
tenio." Guzman Blanco, greatly pleased with the successful work
of Rojas, decreed on 15 May 1876 that Rojas be honored with a
gold medal. The inscription read
Arreglo de la Deuda Exterior de Venezuela
Ferrocarril de la Guaira a Caracas
Afo de 1876
El General Guzmin Blanco, Presidente de
Venezuela, al doctor Jose Maria Rojas.31
The success Rojas enjoyed with the foreign bondholders
and railroad contractors by the spring of 1876 was not to be
accompanied, though, by equal success in his negotiations with
the Spanish government. When he had left Caracas in May 1873,
he had gone to Europe as both Fiscal Agent to London and Minister
Plenipotentiary to Spain. ie began his fiscal work in London, as
described above, in July 1873 but did not seriously undertake his
negotiations in Madrid until late the same year. While it is
possible that Rojas was instructed by GuzmAn Blanco to begin
first the London phase of his work for Venezuela, there still
was good reason for him to be in no hurry to get to Madrid.
The understatement is that Spain was in the midst of
political convulsions. These convulsions had burst through the
political veneer as early as the First Carlist War of 1834-1839
and were entering a phase of increased intensity in the summer of
1873. Labeling the political arena of nineteenth-century Spain a
"labyrinth" is quite appropriate. Queen Isabella, the nympho-
maniac, was deposed in the September Revolution of 1868. The
next year Don Carlos VII, the young Pretender, launched the
Second Carlist War. From 1871 to 12 February 1873, Amadeo of
Savoy led a democratic monarchy in Spain. He abdicated in the
face of the development of a republic. But, rather quickly,
the republican adherents began to split among themselves, and
this political confusion, compounded by the pressure of other
events, made the entire situation untenable. The Carlists began
a strong drive from the north of Spain in March. By August they
controlled several provinces, and young Don Carlos even set his
court in Estella and ruled as King of Spain. To the south the
cantonal movement, a form of extreme federalism, threatened the
fragile republic. By June such principal southern cities as
Cadiz, C6rdoba, and Malaga had rebelled against the central
government, formed local cantons, and ruled themselves through
committees of public safety. As the year wore on, the republi-
cans suppressed the cantonal movement, but the Carlists still
held sway to the north. The rebellion in Cuba and the "Virginius"
affair, the seizing of a United States ship bound for that troubled
island, brought additional trauma to the shaky republic.32
The above being the political situation in Spain in 1873,
the comment of the Venezuelan Consul in Madrid, in August, that
"the lamentable interior condition of this unfortunate country"
detained Rojas in Paris doubtless was accurate. Despite all
this turmoil, however, and despite the rapid ministerial changes,
Spanish diplomacy had continued at a rather intensive rate. It
is not surprising, therefore, that Rojas finally did go to Madrid
in November.33 The Convention of 1873 had been signed with Turn-
bull, Rojas probably did not yet know that it would encounter
difficulty in Caracas, and the threads of Venezuelan-Spanish
diplomatic relations needed to be picked up.
The rather threadbare relations between Venezuela and
Spain had begun as early as 1841 when the two nations initiated
working commercial relations. The great Alejo Fortique signed
the treaty of peace and recognition with Spain in 1845. In the
years that followed,..particularly under the Monagas brothers,
these relations ran into numerous difficulties, especially over
the issues of debts, nationality, and naturalization. The brief
treaty of 12 August 1861 lessened the problems somewhat by
calling for renewed negotiations concerning damages done Spanish
subjects, and a convention of 17 April 1865 specified how the
amount of damages might be established. In the interim Guzmdn
Blanco made a trip to Europe. The then Vice President and Secre-
tary of State for Finance and Foreign Relations went in 1863, as
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, to Great Bri-
tain, France, and Spain. He carried abroad the good news about
the Venezuelan brand of federalism but accomplished nothing con-
crete with Spain. Guillermo Tell Villegas enjoyed the appoint-
ment of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to
Spain in 1869, but nothing came of it.34 In the early 1870's,
when Rojas went to Europe, Venezuela and Spain had a rather hap-
hazard diplomatic relationship, and both countries had domestic
Despite the confusion and lack of contact, Rojas left
Paris in November 1873 and went back to Madrid. The trip itself
even seemed to be haphazard and full of problems. At the time
there was cholera in France, so Rojas and his secretary had to
pass through a fumigation process when they arrived at Santander.
After this they spent the night in a railway coach and managed
to get it for themselves by simulating the beginning stages of
cholera, moans, etc., to keep other passengers out. They
arrived in Madrid-on November 24 and, once there, acquired suitable
housing to serve as a base for the diplomatic mission.35
The original instructions of 5 May 1873 formed the basis
for Rojas' mission to Spain. They were, at once, a combination
of the clear and the vague. For one thing, Rojas was to carry
out the stipulations of Article 2 of the Convention of 17 April
1865. That is, he should examine scrupulously the Spanish
claims against Venezuela and determine which of the claimants
would become creditors. The limit on these claims was 2,000,000
pesos. Furthermore, the resultant debt would be paid from its
proportionate share of the 13 percent of the forty units, as
described in the decree-law of 30 November 1872. Rojas also was
to seek a convention in which Spain would pay damages to Vene-
zuelan citizens who had claims against the former mother country.
Article 8 of the treaty of peace and recognition of 1845 stipu-
lated that Venezuela would reimburse Spanish citizens who had
lost both fixed and movable property in the wars of independence.
Rojas should get the same treatment for the claims of Venezuelan
citizens against Spain. Perhaps the vaguest point in the instruc-
tions was that on Cuba. Minister of Foreign Relations, Jesis
Maria Blanco, the immediate author of the instructions, reminded
Rojas that the conditions between Spain and Cuba affected rela-
tions between Spain and all the South American republics.
Accordingly, Rojas was to use his good offices, etc., to get
Spain to recognize the autonomy of Cuba.3
Prior to the working diplomacy, however, Rojas went
through the formal phase of being received by the head of state
and his cabinet. This was Rojas' first such experience, and surely
he enjoyed every moment of it. The preliminary action was an
interview with Jos4 de Carvajal, the Spanish Minister of State,
on the afternoon of December 7. The formal reception came on
the tenth and, just as the trip to Spain, had its element of
humor. Rojas understood that the Introducer of Ambassadors
would come for him with coaches provided by the President. At
the appointed time a bemedaled groom presented himself at the
door to Rojas' house and stated that the Introducer waited down-
stairs with the President's coaches. Rojas told the luckless man
to tell the Introducer that the Minister of Venezuela awaited
him in his dwelling so that they could go down together. On
learning this, the Introducer dashed up the stairs like a buck
and apologized for having forgotten. The two men then proceeded,
accompanied in their coaches by flagmen and musicians, to the
offices of Emilio Castelar, the President of the Executive Power,
where the formal reception occurred. Rojas presented his cre-
dentials and mouthed the proper phrases of courtesy. Castelar
received them and made the proper response. And thus ended the
official reception. Rojas reported it in detail to Caracas.
There, Guzmdn Blanco, who appreciated a good show himself, was
greatly pleased by it all.37 Now it was time to go to work.
Rojas handled his diplomatic responsibilities just as he
had his fiscal ones, through letters and interviews. On Decem-
ber 13 he wrote the Spanish Minister of State, Carvajal, and
informed him rather specifically that he was in Spain in reference
to the Convention of 1865. He wanted to settle the details of
Venezuelan debts to Spanish subjects as quickly as possible,
cited the law of 30 November 1872 and hoped that Carvajal would
soon appoint a plenipotentiary. A few days later, on Christmas
Eve, he wrote the Minister of State again and broadened his
approach. Now, he also made reference to Venezuelan citizens'
claims against Spain, specifically from 5 July 1811 to 1823.
This period dated from the Venezuelan Declaration of Independence
to the end of effective Spanish rule in Venezuela. On December
29 Rojas conferred with the Minister of State about the Spanish
claims against Venezuela, Carvajal reserved plenipotentiary
rights for himself bul, meanwhile, advised Rojas that he would
appoint a special commissioner for the detailed work of the claims
Thus it stood at the end of 1873.3
Before Rojas could pursue the negotiations further, there
was a coup in the Spanish government. The government of Emilio
Castelar fell as a result of the in-fighting between the republi-
can right and left, the latter being the extreme federalists who
wanted nothing less than a cantonal federation. Rojas referred
to them as radicals and communists. Castelar did not get the
necessary vote of confidence on the night of 3 January 1874, and
the deputies finally found themselves expelled by the military.
Rojas saw the coup coming, as he had practice in these things in
Venezuela. He was not surprised, therefore, to be invited to
witness the coup. He declined and chose to await further results.
It was all rather simple. Within a day or so, another republican
government was formed, and now Rojas had to use different names
in his letters.39
The diplomatic work continued apace. Rojas spent the
next few weeks examining the various Spanish claims against Vene-
zuela. He completed this work on February 24, and the agreed-
upon list of approved creditors had a total claim against Vene-
zuela of 1,540,891.53 fuertes venezolanos. Rojas then met on
March 6 with the new Minister of State, Praxedes Mateo Sagasta,
and signed the covering convention on 10 March 1874. The con-
vention itself specified the total amount of the claims, referred
to the list of claimants and individual amounts annexed, stated
that Venezuela would issue certificates for the claims, provided
for the Spanish legation in Caracas to receive its pro rata share
of the 13 percent of the forty units as prescribed in the law of
30 November 1872, and protected Spain from any change that might
be made to its detriment with other creditor nations. Both
governments approved the convention, with only minor modifica-
tions, in the months that followed. Within a week of the
signing of the convention, Rojas left Madrid and returned to
Left incomplete with Rojas' departure were the issues of
Cuba and the claims of Venezuelan citizens against Spain. Cuba
presented problems from the beginning for Rojas did not under-
stand the original instructions of 5 May 1873.' He wrote the
Ministry in Caracas and asked for clarification of the instruc-
tions to use his good offices to push for the autonomy of Cuba.
He feared, understandably, that such action could complicate the
other negotiations, for the Cuban issue, as seen from the Spanish
point of view, involved nothing less than the possible loss of
Spanish territory overseas. The supplementary information from
Caracas, though received too late to help Rojas before he left
Madrid the first time, was just as vague as the original instruc-
tions. Blanco, writing on behalf of GuzmAn Blanco, stated rather
vaguely that Rojas was "explicitly authorized to work diligently
in favor of the island of Cuba; therefore, nothing /can be7
more opportune or proper in the case than to reiterate to you
the content of the said instruction." Thus, Rojas had nothing
to act on, and the supplementary instructions, quite apart from
their lateness, did not help the matter of Cuba. For these
reasons the Cuban action was deferred.41
The other issue, that of Venezuelan citizens' claims
against Spain, did receive slight though inconclusive considera-
tion before Rojas left Madrid. He mentioned, in his letter of
24 December 1873 to the Spanish Minister of State, how Venezuela
had honored its debts as cited in the treaty of 1845 and a sub-
sequent clarifying document of 1846. He also mentioned that the
same treaty stated that the citizens of either nation might have
claims and that either nation should not impede such claims.
While the letter was rather straightforward, the Ministry in
Caracas later characterized it as an extensive and vigorous note,
proving the right of Venezuela to the indemnities demanded.
These subsequent praises notwithstanding, the Minister of State
in Madrid merely responded to Rojas that he was occupied in the
study of this important subject so as to resolve it.42 But,
Rojas did not stay in Madrid for an answer.
Rojas left Madrid in March 1874. He had come to Spain
during a period of prolonged domestic turmoil. A coup occurred
soon after his arrival. Doubtless all of this affected the
Spanish capacity for diplomatic negotiations, particularly if
they would cost Spain money. Accordingly, Rojas achieved the
Convention of March 10, whereby Venezuela would pay debts to
Spanish citizens, but he only scratched the surface on the issue
of Spain paying debts to Venezuelan citizens. And the delicacy
of the Cuban situation, plus insufficient instructions, precluded
any action on that issue. Thus Rojas determined, as in his
letter of March 9 to Foreign Minister Blanco in Caracas, that
for reasons that I give under separate cover to
the Exemplary Mr. President of the Republic, I
will not await here the result of this negotia-
tion that, in the actual state of the country,
appears to me slow and uncertain, and I will re-
turn within a week to Paris, where I hope to
receive my letters of retirement.43
Perhaps there were other reasons in the separate letter to Guzm6n
Blanco. Even so, Rojas later recalled that the fall of the
Castelar government and the successful signing of the Convention
of 10 March 1874 determined his immediate return to Paris.
Rojas return trip to Paris was perhaps even more exciting
than the fumigation encounter of a few months before while on
his way to Madrid. He and his secretary traveled by land
through Pamplona in hope of avoiding the Carlist forces. Just
beyond Pamplona they encountered a skirmish, and after watching
it for awhile, they tipped the coachman to cross the lines with
the aid of a white flag. As they crossed no-man's land, they
encountered a small group of regulars carrying a dead comrade on
a stretcher. Then they met the Carlists, identified themselves,
and reported that the group with the stretcher had set up an
ambush for the Carlists. This fabrication was to halt the Carlist
advance, at least temporarily, so the Rojas party would not be in
danger of rear-guard fire from the regulars. Later in the same
day, they had to pass a major Carlist checkpoint. They wished
the Carlists well, went on to Bayonne, and then to Paris.45
Suffice it to say that the life of a diplomat in Europe in the
1870's was not necessarily dull, particularly if he traveled
between Paris and Madrid.
Back in Paris Rojas waited for his letters of retirement
to be forwarded to the Spanish government. lie also devoted some
time to the problems with the bondholders in London. Rojas
reported to his friend Sanford that he had "passed a delicious
time" in Spain. Still, he wanted his retirement, and it came
from Caracas on 20 April 1874. With other irons in the fire
and with the uncertainty in Spain itself, the atmosphere was not
conducive to the art of diplomacy, particularly if the issue
was one of claims against Spain.
While Rojas' activities for most of the next two years
were primarily in Paris, London, and The Hague, both he and the
Caracas government spent some effort on the outstanding problems
with Spain. Guzman Blanco acted on the claims against Spain as
soon as he learned that Rojas had left Madrid. By his orders
the Ministry of Foreign Relations published a resolution in the
Gaceta official of 23 May 1874. Through this resolution the
Ministry solicited claims and supporting documents that might be
used in the negotiations with Spain. Rcjas himself stated from
Paris, in June, that he planned to return to Madrid to push the
claims. These plans did not materialize in the near future,
though. The following November Rojas received the list of
Venezuelan claimants, but he still did not return to Madrid.
The political situation in Spain continued too fluid for effec-
Republican Spain, preparatory to a restoration of the
monarchy, was turning more conservative in its political struc-
ture. By December 1874 conservative officers completely surrounded
General Francisco Serrano y Dominguez, the President of the
Executive Power. Meanwhile, young Alfonso XII, the son of the
deposed Isabella II, came of age on November 28 and marked the
occasion by issuing his Sandhurst Manifesto. That is, Alfonso
called for restoration of the monarchy with himself as king.
This monarchy, furthermore, would maintain representative insti-
tutions and observe modern, rather than feudal, principles.
The restoration of the Bourbons did, in fact, follow, and on
9 January 1875 Alfonso XII arrived in Spain.4
Rojas watched all of this from Paris with great interest.
Personally, he was uncertain how long Alfonso would last, for
the Carlists and republicans continued active in Spain. Still,
he planned to go to Spain again to press the claims of Venezuelan
citizens as a final task before retiring definitely from the post
of Minister to Spain. The prior April the Foreign Ministry in
Caracas had sent him the necessary letters of retirement, but,
apparently, he had not used them. Now, he needed new credentials
for the monarchy had replaced the republic.49
As the spring and summer of 1875 progressed, Rojas found
himself more and more involved in other diplomatic pursuits.
In April he inquired about new credentials for Spain. Blanco
promptly assured him they were on the way. By the end of July,
he still had not received them. The Ministry assured him again,
in early September, that they were on the way. By then he was
fully involved in affairs with the Dutch, in The Hague, and the
mission to Madrid had to wait. Even so, Rojas apparently re-
ceived his new credentials in the fall of 1875, for he wrote'the
new Spanish Minister of State on 23 October 1875 and requested
an answer to his old note of 24 December 1873. Ministerial
tardiness in Caracas surely delayed Rojas' return to Madrid,
but it is doubtful that this really weakened his position. He
did receive the credentials, though, and prepared to return to
Rojas left Paris on 4 January 1876, on his second diplo-
matic mission to Madrid. Once again the trip had its dangerous
and humorous aspects. He mistakenly got off the train at
Badalona, because he misunderstood it to be Barcelona. A coach
dash through the night got him back on the right connection at
the real Barcelona. Then a derailment, a pleasant walk through
the snow, and time in an inn delayed him a full day in arriving
in Madrid.51 The difficult trip now completed, Rojas resumed his
Once in Madrid Rojas had two things to do. First, and
necessarily, he had to be received formally by the King so that
Venezuela might reestablish relations with the restored monarchy.
Also, he planned to pursue seriously the question of Venezuelan
claims against Spain. The possible Cuban issue, already delicate
and vagle, remained just that. Rojas certainly had not ignored
it. At that very time his personal correspondence with his
friend Sanford reflected considerable concern over the question
of Cuba. Rojas particularly liked the possibility of discrimina-
tory tariffs against slave-grown Cuban sugar and the role the
United States might play in such plans. All of this was extra-
official, though, and nothing came of it. Thus, the official
reception and Venezuelan claims were the main thrust.52
The ceremonial phase of Rojas' activities in Madrid
probably went as expected. Alfonso XII received Rojas on
January 17, a few days after his arrival. After the reception
by the King, Rojas also was presented to the infant Isabel.
Despite the shortness of this visit of etiquette, the lady
impressed Rojas greatly. A few days later the Minister of State,
Calder6n Collantes, invited Rojas to view the fiesta of the
King's saint from the balconies of the palace. Rojas recalled
that all the pretty girls at the fiesta thought Alfonso was "cute."
Rojas also attended an official banquet in the royal palace and
greatly admired the good tone and distinction of that gathering.
A final ceremonial note is that Rojas learned, the day after
being received by the King, that the King had presented GuzmAn
Blanco with the Gran Cruz de Carlos III.53 The high formalities
now completed, Rojas got to work on the real issue.
Rojas' work in Madrid focused on the question of the
claims of Venezuelan citizens against Spain. His long letter of
24 December 1873 and the follow-up note of 23 October 1875
remained unanswered. Rojas made a good effort on behalf of his
government. lie talked with Calder6n Collantes, but to no avail.
He also visited with the President of the Council of
Ministers. This gentleman advised Rojas he might get quicker
answers if he consulted with the Minister of Finance. An inter-
view there produced nothing. The Minister of Finance fell back
on the principle of prescription and blocked Rojas once more.
Prescription was relevant under the terms of the peace treaty of
1845, whose Article 10 specified that claims must be filed
within four years of the signing of the treaty. In the years
that followed, the claims issues between Spain and Venezuela
always centered around Spain's claims against Venezuela, but
never Venezuela's against Spain. The claims convention that
Rojas signed in 1874 implied that the Spanish claims were in
order. The Venezuelan claims, on the other hand, simply were
not in order. All of this must have been very frustrating to
Frustration in Madrid and orders from Caracas prompted
Rojas to ask for his passport on 5 February 1876. Rojas advised
Calder6n Collantes that his government had called him to go to
Paris on a grave assignment. Perhaps he had orders from Guzmrn
Blanco to resume the railroad and bondholders negotiations, or
perhaps he saw the futility of it all in Spain. Calder6n
assured Rojas that he and the Minister of Finance were' studying
the Venezuelan claims and even promised a reply. Rojas supplied
his Paris address for such a reply, but he was not very optimistic.
He advised Blanco that he would send his letters of retirement
from Paris to Madrid if he had not received a reply within a
Subsequent activity at this time was merely formal. Rojas
left Madrid on February 8 and arrived in Paris four days later.
He worried about the continuing anarchy in Spain and waited for a
reply from Calder6n. The reply did not come, not surprisingly,
and on 14 June 1876 he sent his letters of retirement to the
Spanish Minister of State. A month later Alfonso XII supplied
the necessary lip service and advised Guzman Blanco that he had
been quite satisfied with the actions of Rojas in Spain. And,
thus ended the first part of Rojas' diplomatic negotiations with
Spain. More than three years later, toward the end of 1879,
Rojas would resume formal negotiations with that country.5
Meanwhile, there were other things to do for Venezuela.
Any review of Rojas' activities in Spain from 1873 to
1876 must take account of so many extenuating circumstances that
there is difficulty in reaching any firm judgment. His own
government supplied many problems. For example, there were con-
tinuous demands on Rojas to attend to other, more important
items, such as bondholders, railroads, and Holland. Furthermore,
the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Caracas was lax in giving
him both proper credentials to Spain and clear instructions on
the issue of Cuba. Perhaps the greatest problem was that
possible Venezuelan claims against Spain had been allowed to
lapse because of inexcusable negligence over the years. Combine
these handicaps with a Spain that was in terrible domestic and
political-straits, but had a firm claim to Spanish claims
against Venezuela, and no Venezuelan minister would have accom-
plished much. Rojas probably did as well as the best, and better
Despite the Spanish handicaps Rojas signed and negotiated,
as instructed, the convention on Spanish claims, negotiated a
troublesome refinancing of the Venezuelan foreign debt in London,
and successfully achieved an important railroad contract in Paris.
The other phase of his early years' service for his government
focused on Holland, the subject of the following chapter.
1. Copies of the various documents appointing.Rojas to
the Spanish position, all executed by Jes6s Maria Blanco, the
Minister of Foreign Relations, and Guzman Blanco, dated 5 May
1873, are in MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 177-78, 182, 184. Rojas,
acknowledging receipt of the appointment on May 6, stated that
he was leaving for Spain the same day, Caracas, May 6, to Blanco,
MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 186. Rojas, Tiempo perdido, p. 55. Much
of Rojas' fiscal activity was based on private appointments and
instructions from Guzman Blanco. While such correspondence is
not available to this writer, its results are, and they serve as,
the primary source of Rojas' role as Fiscal Agent of Venezuela.
2. Rojas, Tiempo perdido, p. 55.
3. The problem with The Netherlands, part of Rojas'
early diplomatic experience, is treated in the following chapter,
"The Dutch Interlude: Short and Sharp."
4. Venezuela, Bosquejo, pp. 35, 44-46. Foreign debts
were obligations based on loans incurred by the revolutionary
and subsequent governments, while foreign claims were obligations
based on damages suffered by foreigners and recognized by the
5. G.G., vol. 7, p. 157 and vol. 9, p. 248. Venezuela,
Ministerio de Hacienda, Memoria de Hacienda (1880), vol. 3, pp.
8-12, contains a section on the "Sistema fiscal de Venezuela"
which is essentially a diatribe against all Hacienda personnel,
before the coming of Guzman Blanco, for poor management, specula-
tion, fraud, smuggling, and all other fiscal sins. Venezuela,
Bosquejo, p. 45. Rojas, himself, profited from the loan of 1864,
p. 45, above. See also Wise, Caudillo, Ch. 9, "Aspects of a
Caudillo Regime: Financial Chicanery," pp. 145-60. According to
Spence, Land of Bolivar, vol. 1, p. 216, 1 was the "equivalent
of 5.2 venezolanos or fuertes (hard dollars)." The symbol is
the regular dollar sign, "$," or the "V." That is, 1 equals
$5.2 or V.5.2.'
6. Spence, Land of Bolivar, vol. 2, pp. 140-41, 145-46.
7. Desmond Christopher St. Martin Platt, Finance, Trade
and Politics in British Foreign Policy, 1815-1914 (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1968), pp. 25, 34-35, 398-401. Platt explains,
p. 12, that government intervention in loans arose only in cases
with a real national interest. In this respect, he mentions
the Greek guaranteed loans of 1833 and 1898 and the Turkish
guaranteed loan of 1855.
8. The Guzman Blanco letter, Caracas, 5 May 1873, is
printed in Mem. de C. P. (1874), pp. xix-xx. The date and na-
ture of the letter imply that Rojas left Caracas as Fiscal Agent
of the Republic.
9. "Memorandum presentado a los acreedores exteriores
por el comisionado del gobierno de Venezuela," London, 5 July
1873, Mem. de C. P. (1874), pp. xx-xxi.
10. Baring Brothers, London, 15 July 1873, to Guzmin
Blanco and Rojas, Paris, 30 July 1873, to the Secretary of the
Council of Venezuelan Bondholders, Mom. de C. P. (1874), pp.
11. Mem. do C. P. (1874), pp. xxiii-xxvi.
12. Mem. de C. P. (1874), p. xxvi, and Rojas, Paris, 2
November 1873, to Turnbull, Mem. de C. P. (1874), pp. xxvii-xxviii.
13. Mem. de C. P. (1874), pp. xxvii-xxviii. On p. xxix
there is a reference to Dutch bondholders, but apparently the
primary action occurred in London. Texts of the Rojas-Turnbull
Convention of 7 November 1873 maybe found in ibid., pp. xxix-
xxxi, and in Recop., vol. 7, doc. 2032, 487-88. The early
Spanish activities of Rojas begin on page 52, below.
14. G.G., vol. 5, p. 285, vol. 6, pp. 77, 329, vol. 10,
131-32. The decree is printed in G.o., no. 40 (1 February 1873),
p. 173, and Recop., vol. 5, doc. 1813, 238. It can be assumed
that there was some predatory overtone to this action. The reader
will recall that Rojas profited from his role in the Loan of 1864.
15. Rojas stated in his memorandum of 5 July 1873 to the
bondholders that Guzmdn Blanco aspired to "dejar consolidado el
orden, restablecido el crddito y desarrollada la riqueza pdblica
por medio del fomento material del pafs. .. ." Mem. de C. P.
(1874), p. xx. The letter of the officers of the bondholders of
24 October 1873 refers to railroads and other work of public
utility to be constructed to augment the great scale of commerce
in Venezuela, ibid., p. xxiv.
16. Spence, Land of Bolivar, vol. 2, pp. 136-38, contains
a description, including a map, of the Aroa mines. The complete
text of the Strange contracts and the enabling decree of 6 June
1874 are in Recop., vol. 7, no. 1904, pp. 212-15. They are also
contained collectively in the following issues of G.o.: No.
168 (25 December 1873), pp. 298-99; no. 170 (30 December 1873),
p. 307; and no. 353 (16 September 1874), p. 1007. G.o., no.
2886 (15 FcbruLry 1883), pp. 1-2, contains further activities,
without the involveeicnt of Rojas, about these railroads. It
appears that: r.any Venzuelans were quite excited about the de-
velopment of their country, particularly railroad building. G.G.,
vol. 10, pp. 233-34, mentions that the publication of the San
Felipe-Palma Sola contract coincided with the inauguration of
the first locomotive for the line. The engine bore the name
17. The Geneste report, dated 24 March 1874, is printed
in G.o., no. 270 (9 June 1874), pp. 672-73, and Venezuela, Minis-
terio de Obras Pdblicas, Memoria (1875), pp. 48-60. G.o., no. 324
(12 August 1874), 892-93. Rojas, Private, Paris, 9 May 1874, to
Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-16.
18. C.o., no. 265 (2 June 1874), p. 652, and no. 843
(26 May 1876), p. 2974. Recop., vol. 7, doc. 1881, 56.
19. J. G. Cchoa, Ministry of Public Works, 2 June 1874,
to Rojas, Mem. dc C. P. (1875), pp. 144-45.
20. G.o., no. 314 (31 July 1874), p. 851.
21. Rojas, Paris, 27 June 1874, to J. R. Tello, Minister
of Public Credit, Mem. de C. P. (1875), p. 145. Rojas, London,
11 July 1874, to Turnbull, copy encl. in Rojas, London, 16 July
1874, to Tello; both printed in Mem. de C. P. (1875), pp. 145-47;
and G.o., no. 322 (10 August 1874), pp. 883-84. See also Rojas,
Paris, 31 July 1874, to Tello, Mem. de C. P. (1875), pp. 148-49;
and G.o., no. 336 (26 August 1874), p. 939.
22. Turnbull, London, 18 July 1874, to Rojas; Mem. de
C. P. (1875), pp. 150-52; and G.o., no. 336 (26 August 1874),
pp. 939-40. Rojas, London, 20 July 1874, to Turnbull, Mem. de
C. P. (1875), pp. 152-53; and G.o., no. 336 (26 August 1874),
p. 940. Both versions of the Turnbull letter of July 18 are
printed in the sources cited above. Interestingly, the strong
Rojas letter of July 20 is printed in the Venezuelan sources,
but not his moderated one of July 22. Rojas, London (two letters)
31 July 1874, to Tello, Mem. de C. P. (1875), pp. 148-49; and
G.o., no. 336 (26 August 1874), p. 939.
23. The activities of Pulgar can be found in Juan Besson,
Historia del Estado Zulia, 5 vols. (Maracaibo: Editorial Hermanos
Belloso Rossell, 1943-1957), vol. 3, 130 ff., and passim. Rojas,
Paris, 31 July 1874, to Ministry of Foreign Relations, MRE/E/F, vol.
5, fol. 246. Enclosed with this letter are Hemming, London, July
24, and Pawle, London, July 25, 1874, both to Rojas, MRE/GB/CLVL,
vol. 3, fols. 11, 13. The Pawle letter, exclusive of the Pulgar
information, is printed in G.o., no. 336 (24 August 1874), p. 940.
The archives of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Relations do
not indicate a Pulgar portfolio for London.
24. Tello, Ministry of Public Credit, 4 September 1874,
to Rojas; to Santiago Goiticoa, Minister of Hacienda; and Goiticoa,
4 September 1874, to Tello, Mem. de C. P. (1875), pp. 155-56.
The Rojas-Budd and Holt Convention is in Venezuela, Ministerio de
Obras P6blicas, Memoria (1875), pp. 62-70. Rojas, Paris, 18
September 1874, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-16.
25. The Rojas proposal, "Deuda de Venezuela;" Rojas,
Paris, 28 November 1874, to Tello; end. "A los tenedores de
bonos venezolanos. . Fred. H. Hemmning. . noviembre 20 de 1874;"
Mem. de C. P. (1875), pp. 159-70. Rojas also wrote the President
of the Amsterdam Stock Market, offering a partial settlement to
the Dutch bondholders on the same basis as that offered the Bri-
tish counterparts; Paris, 2 October 1874, ibid., pp. 157-58. It
does not appear that the number of Dutch bondholders was very
26. G.o., no. 493 (18 March 1875), p. 1594. See p. 77 below
for Rojas' other activities in 1875.
27. "Proposiciones que hizo. . Jos6 Maria Rojas. .
al Comitd. . el 11 de marzo pr6ximo pasado," G.o., no. 843
(26 May 1876), p. 2975, and Rojas, Confidential, Paris, 17 March
1876, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-16.
28. Rojas, Confidential, Paris, 17 March 1856, to San-
ford, Sanford MSS, 35-16,.which includes "---Very Confidential---
To give the concession, I believe it very natural to demand a
sum---." The Rojas-Antommarchi H. Contract is printed in G.o.,
no. 843 (26 May 1876), p. 2974, and Recop., vol. 7, doc. 2060,
29. The Rojas-Turnbull Convention of 18 April 1876 is in
Venezuela, Ministerio de Hacienda,Memoria (1880), vol. 3, pp. 115-
16. The other information relevant to the successful completion
of this construction-fiscal effort, including an agreement extend-
ing the construction time for the railroad from two to.two and one-
half years, and one specifying equipment for the road, is located
in G.o., no. 843 (26 May 1876), p. 2974-75, and Recop., vol. 7,
doc. 1881(b), 57-58.
30. Printed working copy of the proposed convention,
London, 16 June 1876; Maxwell G. Turnbull,_Chairman of the Com-
mittee, "To the Venezuelan Bondholders," /London/, 17 June 1876;
and "The Venezuelan Bondholders," clipping from Money Market
Review, London, 17 June 1876; in MRE/GB/TC, vol. 5, fols. 173-75.
Antommarchi 1H., Caracas, 22 May 1876, to Jesus Mufoz T6bar, Minis-
ter of Public Works; Go., no. 843 (26 May 1876), p. 2975. The
indefatigable Rojas also met with representatives of the Bolivar
Railway Company and the New Quebrada Company, in Boulogne, to
clarify certain contractual misunderstandings in July; Rojas,
Paris, 19 July 1876, to Mufoz Tdbar. The clarifying document is
dated 14 July 1876; G.o., no. 973 (23 October 1876), p. 3493.
See also G.G., vol. 11, p. 139.
31. G.o., no. 833 (15 May 1876), p. 2933, and G.G., vol.
11, p. 70.
32. Gerald Brenan's The Spanish Labyrinth: An Account of
the Social and Political Background of the Civil War (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1960) is aptly titled and gives a
good idea of the religious, political, and sectional turmoil in
that unfortunate land in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Joseph August Brandt, Toward tlhe New Spain (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1933), pp. 170, 73, 86, 202, 214-16, 302-303.
Brandt sympathetically ties his study to the Spanish Republic of
1931, in that he sees the experiences of 1873 as a necessary pre-
liminary. See also the older study of Edward Henry Strobel, The
Spanish Revolution, 1868-1875 (Boston: Small, Maynard, and Co.,
33. F. Barrie y AgUero, Madrid, 5 August 1873, to the
Ministry of Foreign Relations, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 194. Jer6ni-
mo Bdcker, Historia de las relaciones exteriores de Espaha durante
el siglo XIX (Apuntes para una historic diplomatica, 3 vols.
(Madrid: Estab. Tip. de J. Rat6s, 1924-1926), vol. 3, pp. 194-95.
34. Bdcker, Historia, vol. 2, pp. 696-700. Tratados.
vol. ., pp. 157-63, 169, 177, 243-44, contains the referred con-
ventions or treaties. This source does not contain the convention
of 17 April 1865. It may be found in Spain, Coleccidn de los
tratados de paz, alianza, comercio, etc., ajustados por la corona
de Espafa con las potencias extrangeras, desde el reynado del
sehor don Felipe Quinto hasta el present (Madrid: Imprenta
Real, 1796-1890), vol. 4, pp. 173-74. The convention of 12 August
1861 is labeled one of "reclamaciones" in the Venezuelan source,
p. 243, while the Spanish source refers to it as a convention
"para reanudar las relaciones interrumpidas," p. 241. "G. F. V.,"
Ministry of Foreign Relations, 5 and 6 August 1863, to Guzman
Blanco, MRE/GB/FDV, vol. 1, fols. 207, 213. J. P. Rojas Paul,
Ministry of Foreign Relations, 30 March 1869, to G. Tell Villegas,
MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 166.
35. Josd Maria Rojas, Recuerdos de la patria, Colecci6n
"Venezuela peregrina," vol. 5 (Caracas: Ediciones de la Presi-
dencia de la Repdblica, 1963), pp. 47-48, and Rojas, Madrid, 11
December 1873, to the Ministry of Foreign Relations, MRE/E/F,
vol. 5, fol. 201.
36. Blanco, copy, Ministry of Foreign Relations, 5 May
1873, to Rojas, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 184.
37. Carvajal, copy, Ministry of State, 7 December 1873,
to Rojas, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 200. Copies of the formal docu-
ments Rojas presented to Castelar are in MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols.
177-78. Rojas, Recuerdos, pp. 48-49; Rojas commented, p. 49,
that with this exception the Introducers were very skillful and
distinguished. The reception itself is described in detail in
L.a. (1874), pp. 60-61. Rojas, Madrid, 11 December 1873, to
Blanco, and Blanco, copy, Ministry of Foreign Relations, 20 Janu-
ary 1874, to Rojas; MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 201, 216.
38. Rojas, Madrid, 13 December 1873, to Blanco; copy,
December 24, to Carvajal; December 26, to Blanco; December 31,
to Blanco; and Blanco, copy, Ministry of Foreign Relations, 31
January 1874, to Rojas; MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 203, 205, 210, 211,
224. The Rojas letter of December 24 is printed in L.a. (1875),
39. Prdxedes Mateo Sagasta, new Minister of State, copy,
Ministry of State, January 5, to Rojas; Rojas, copy, Madrid,
January 7, to Sagasta, January 8 and 29, to Blanco; Blanco, copy,
Ministry of Foreign Relations, 2 March 1874, to Rojas; MRE/E/F,
vol.. 5, fols. 213, 222, 223, 229. Brandt, Toward the New Spain,
pp. 316-28; Rojas, Recuerdos, p. 49; and Brenan, Spanish Labyrinth,
40. Rojas, Madrid, March 9, to Blanco; Blanco, copy;
Ministry of Foreign Relations, June 20, entry note, June 20, to
Rojas; and Rojas, Paris, 31 July 1874, to Blanco; MRE/E/F, vol.
5, fols. 230, 239-40, 245. Copies of the convention are found
in Tratados., vol. 1, pp. 287-88, and Recop., vol. 7, doc. 1897,
200-201. See also comments under the heading of "Espaia," and
Dionisio Roberts, Legation of Spain in Caracas, 30 November 1874,
to the Minister of Foreign Relations, L.a. (1875), pp. xxii-xxiii
and 33; L.a. (1876), xxxvii ff., and G.G., vol. 10, pp. 289-90.
41. Rojas, Paris, 2 November 1873, to Blanco; Blanco,
copy, Ministry of Foreign Relations, 4 March 1874, to Rojas;
MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 198, 231.
42. Rojas, copy, Madrid, 24 December 1873, to Carvajal,
and Rojas, Madrid, 9 March 1874, to Blanco; MRE/E/F, vol. 5,
fols. 205, 230. L.a. (1875), p. xxiii. Tratados., vol. 1, pp.
162-63, contains an agreement of 7 August 1846 between Venezuela
and Spain in which all financial obligations to Spain terminated
as of 5 July 1811, the formal date of Venezuelan independence.
43. Rojas, Madrid, 9 March 1874, to Blanco, MRE/E/F,
vol. 5, fol. 230. On several occasions, Rojas referred to pri-
vate correspondence with Guzmdn Blanco, correspondence that was
quite relevant to diplomatic and fiscal activities.
44. Rojas, Recuerdos, p. 49.
45. Ibid., pp. 49-51.
46. Rojas, Private, Paris, 9 May 1874, to Sanford, San-
ford MSS, 35-16, and Guzman Blanco, copy, Caracas, 20 April 1874,
to Spanish President of the Executive Power, MRE/E/F, vol. 5,
fol. 236. There is no record of the Spanish acceptance of the
letter of retirement from Guzman Blanco. Therefore, it is assumed
that Rojas probably held the letter.
47. L.a. (1875), p. xxiii; Rojas, Paris, 26 June 1874,
to Blanco, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fol. 243; and Blanco, Ministry of
Foreign Relations, 4 November 1874, to Rojas, printed in L.a.
(1875), pp. 43-44.
48. Brandt, Toward the New Spain, pp. 336-39, 344.
49. Rojas, Paris, 16 January 1875, to Blanco, MRE/E/F,
vol. 5, fol. 248. The Marquis of Molins, Minister of Marine and
Interim Minister of State of the restored monarchy, sent a packet
of current political information on Spain to General Venancio
Pulgar, the then Venezuelan Minister to France. Pulgar sent, it
to Caracas. From there the information went back to Rojas in
Paris. The time delay notwithstanding, Rojas probably knew more
about what was going on in Spain than he could learn from the
official pamphlets. Pulgar, Paris,.25 February 1875, to Blanco,
MRE/F/CLP, vol. 3, fol. 107, and Blanco, copy, Ministry of
Foreign Relations, 3 April 1875, to Rojas, MRE/E/F, vol. 5,
50. Rojas, Paris, 30 April 1875, July 31, to Blanco,
October 23, to Spanish Minister of State, and Blanco, copies,
Ministry of Foreign Relations, 22 May 1875, September 3, to Rojas;
MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 254, 256, 257, 259. See also L.a. (1876),
p. xxxvi. The writer has been unable to locate the new creden-
tials for Rojas in the Ministerial archives in Caracas.
51. Rojas, Recuerdos, p. 52.
52. Many of Rojas' letters to Sanford refer to Cuba.
See, for example, Rojas, Paris, 4 November 1875, February 27, 23
April 1876, to Sanford, Sanford MSS, 35-17, 16. (The letter of
November 4 is misfiled in the Sanford MSS, hence, the incorrect
sequence in the citation.)
53. Rojas, Madrid, 31 January 1876, to Blanco, and
clipping from Gaceta de Madrid, 18 January 1876; MRE/E/F, vol.
5, fol. 262, clipping between 262 and 263. Rojas, Recuerdos,
54. Rojas, Madrid, January 30, Paris, 19 February 1876,
to Blanco, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 262, 264. See also Tratados.,
vol. 1, p. 160, and L.a. (1877), p. Ivi. A Congressional decree,
signed by Jose Tadeo Monagas on 8 May 1850 called for a conven-
tion or additional treaty to clarify Venezuelan claims against
Spain, but nothing came of it; Recop., vol. 2, doc. 748, 512.
55. Rojas, copy, Madrid, February 5, to Calder6n;
Calderdn, copy, Ministry of State, February 7, to Rojas; and
Rojas, Paris, 19 February 1876, to Blanco, MRE/E/F, vol. 5,
fols. 260, 264.
56. Rojas, Paris, 20 February 1876, to Sanford, Sanford
MSS, 35-16, and Rojas, Paris, 18 June 1876, to Blanco, MRE/E/F,
vol. 5, fol. 274. Alfonso XII, Royal Palace, Madrid, 17 July
1876, to Guzmin Blanco, MRE/E/F, vol. 5, fols. 247, 277 (two
formal notes of the same date). See below, 238 ff., for the de-
tails of Rojas' second assignment to Spain.
CHAPTER IV -
THE DUTCH INTERLUDE: SHORT AND SHARP
One of the tasks that occupied much of Rojas' time during
1875 and 1876, and probably a handicap to his simultaneous nego-
tiations with Spain, was his work in The Hague. Beginning in
June 1875 he made several trips from Paris to The Hague as Vene-
zuelan Minister to The Netherlands. In this particular case, the
issues were clear, the instructions were clear, and Rojas did
exactly what he should have done under the circumstances. He
broke diplomatic relations with The Netherlands, and his superiors
in Caracas approved his action.
The break was neither the first nor the last between the
two countries, and all of them have had their roots in the peculiari-
ties of Caribbean area politics and geography. Very briefly, Vene-
zuela had a rather turbulent political history until the rise to
power of Guzmdn Blanco in 1870. And, even in the years that
followed, there were numerous attempts to overthrow him. Just off
the coast of western Venezuela are the three Dutch islands of
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. These islands, particularly Curaqao
with its excellent harbor, have been focal points of trade in the
Caribbean. Having no natural resources of their own, they de-
pended on trade as the single source of income. It developed that
much of this trade came to be in armaments, particularly with
Venezuelans. A common sequence of events was that political
exiles would regroup and resupply on Curacao for an attempt to
overthrow the mainland government, be it de facto or de jure.
Over the years members of just about every faction in Venezuela
had traded at Curaqao. And the government in power at a parti-
cular time might purchase arms on the Dutch islands. Understandably,
there were many incidents between mainland Venezuelan authorities
and the Dutch colonial officials on Curacao.
While it is neither necessary nor desirable to give a de-
tailed accounting of the many incidents in the relations between
Venezuela and Curaqao, a sampling will set the stage, as it were,
for the final incident which prompted the Venezuelan decision to
break relations if The Netherlands did not meet specific demands.
In 1835 the government of Jose Antonio PAez purchased "piezas'de
artilleria" on the island. Thirteen years later Antonio Leocadio
GuzmAn himself, acting as representative of the Venezuelan govern-
ment, executed an agreement with the merchants Jacobo A. and D. A.
Jesurun to buy various arms and goods. The next year The Nether-
lands made a naval demonstration against Venezuela in protest over
certain indignities. In 1855 the Dutch complained about mistreat-
ment of Dutch nationals in Coro. Three years later, in 1858,
after Abraham Jesurun had sent arms to Santo Domingo, the Dutch
authorities published an island regulation prohibiting the ship-
ment of arms to regions in rebellion. The vague point with this
law was how one defines these regions. Furthermore, the entire
law might be circumvented by shipping arms to a port intermediate
to their final destination. Still, The Hague was not completely
insensitive to what the island merchants were doing.
The action continued in the same vein for the next few
years. Venezuelan authorities, for example, imprisoned two Dutch
nationals in Coro in 1862 for political activities. In 1866 Guzmin
Blanco himself instructed the Minister of Foreign Relations to
write the Dutch representative in Caracas about the bad circum-
stances that had befallen General Venancio Pulgar in Curaqao.
Two years later Minister of Foreign Relations Guillermo Tell
Villegas wrote a long letter of complaint to The Netherlands Con-
sul General in Caracas. In this letter of 28 August 1868, Tell
Villegas cited the recent parallel of the United States Civil War.
He mentioned how the Dutch had become strictly neutral as far as
Confederate ships were concerned and felt the same should be the
case with ships from the rebellious western portion of Venezuela.
A broader problem treated in the late sixties centered around
Venezuelan representation in Curacao. Dutch policy was that
regular consuls were not allowed at overseas colonies unless the
country in question had a treaty of amity and commerce with The
Netherlands on this specific point. The lack of such a treaty
clouded the relations between Venezuela and The'Netherlands, par-
ticularly over the island.colony of Curaqao. Commercial agents
rather than consuls fulfilled Venezuela's role on this and other
islands. At the end of the decade, in 1869, Venezuelan authorities
caught The Netherlands' ship Mara unloading weapons in the port of
La Vela, Coro, but this still was not the end of the troubles.3
The period beginning in 1870 was one of extremes, both
good and bad. The Netherlands Charge was declared persona non
grata in Venezuela in 1870. The next year The Netherlands changed
its policy on the arms trade. A decree of 27 February 1871 pro-
hibited the export of weaponry until 1 April 1872. Meanwhile,
Lucio Pulido went to The Hague in the spring of 1872 to begin the
formalities of reestablishing full diplomatic relations with
Holland. He and Baron Gericke van Ilerwynen, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, signed a preliminary protocol on March 21. The
protocol formalized an agreement that M. Rolandus, the Charge in
Caracas, would not be reassigned, even temporarily. Pulido
enjoyed a very nice reception by the King, William III, on March
27 and recommended a few days later that since conditions in
Venezuela were stable, there should be no objections to arms
coming out of Curasao. Of course the Dutch embargo expired in the
Venezuelan-Dutch relations seemed definitely improved
after the protocol between Pulido and Gericke. J. Brakel replaced
Rolandus and received his appointment as Charge d'Affaires and
Consul General to the Republics of Venezuela, Colombia, and
Ecuador in May. His formal reception in September 1872 marked
the return to normal relations in Caracas. Actually a Captain and
Quartermaster in the Dutch army, it is doubtful that Brakel was
the right man in the right place at the proper time. Furthermore,
he did not find the appointment an attractive one and commented to
a friend that he had.not accepted it gladly. While he was not a
prime diplomat, the fact does remain that Brakel was in Caracas,
and the business of diplomacy could proceed.
Despite the optimism, there was trouble ahead. Clandestine
commerce remained a nagging problem in spite of the temporarily
successful efforts in the winter of 1872-1873 of the Venezuelan
government to crack down on that undesirable part of foreign trade.
Then the Foreign Ministry in Caracas sought to negotiate a treaty
of amity and commerce and consullar conventions with The Nether-
lands. Brakel responded that ih would pass the request on to
The Hague. Meanwhile, continued Brakel, would Venezuela please
look into the various Dutch claims against Venezuela? The response,
in turn, from Minister of Foreign Affairs D. B. Barrios was that
Dutch claims were under consideration along with those of other
nations. Brakel still wanted special attention, however, as he
wrote Barrios on 24 February 1873 that his understanding from
prior correspondence was that the Dutch claims would be settled
promptly. The issue continued unresolved, however, as a year
later Alexandro Goiticoa found himself serving as Special Pleni-
potentiary for Venezuela on the issue of the Dutch claims. Still
other problems were in the future, though, and the ingredients
were an abortive revolution in western Venezuela, the seizure by
Venezuelan authorities of a ship of Dutch registry, perhaps bull-
headedness on the part of both countries, and a good dash of
assertive Venezuelan nationalism.
Smuggling and its parallel activity, the use of Curaqao
as a base of operations for the enemies of the current regime in
Caracas, caused the tension to rise in 1874. One Luis Maria Diaz,
a Venezuelan resident in Curapao, was one of the leaders of a
revolutionary junta on the island. The new Venezuelan Minister of
Foreign Relations, Jesus Maria Blanco, wanted the activities of
Diaz stopped. Blanco presented proof of these activities to Bra-
kel who, in turn, passed them on to Curacao. The result was that
Diaz was put under close watch, and The Netherlands government
gave the Governor of Curacao additional authority to crack down
on the exportation of munitions from the island.7
While the Diaz issue seemed to be somewhat controlled,
other incidents in late 1874 broadened the base of Venezuelan com-
plaints. These incidents also centered around the activities of
the revolutionary junta, or committee, headed by Diaz. Other
members of the committee were Abraham T. Jesurun, a Curacao mer-
chant, and his son. The Jesuruns, in the eyes of the Venezuelan
authorities, had been plotting against the mainland since 1858.
Meanwhile, in October 1874 a revolution against the central
government in Caracas broke out in Coro, in the western state of
Falc6n. Jesurun's ships supplied the rebellion by transporting
arms from Curacao to the port of La Vela de Coro. Other Jesurun
ships presumably went to such places as Santo Domingo or Trinidad
or St. Thomas but never seemed to arrive at their destinations.
These ships carried arms and munitions as they made their rounds.
Perhaps the best known of the Jesurun ships was the Midas.8
The voyages of the Midas in October 1874 have a touch of
both intrigue and humor. From the seventh to the fourteenth,
according to the Venezuelan sources, the ship sailed from Curagao
to St. Thomas, picked up a cargo of powder, and returned to
Curacao. Later this powder was transferred to the Julieta for
shipment to Core. On the twenty-third the Midas sailed from
Curagao to Trinidad. The schooner was under charter to a Mr.
Waldemar Worm, also a passenger on the ship. On 30 October 1874
Venezuelan authorities detained the Midas in the port of Sucre,
Cumana. What happened during the intervening seven days in
October is debatable. The Dutch Captain's version was that the
ship ran out of water, made one or two unsuccessful stops on
islands for watcr, and finally came into Sucre for a fresh supply.
The Venezuelan version was that Worm was an agent for the Jesurun
interests and that the Midas carried arms for insurgents. The
Midas was to meet the schooner Mary and tranship some of the arms
to the Mary. Instead, the encounter did not occur, and the Midas
dropped arms and munitions off to rebels on the islands of Tor-
tuga can Coche. Then the ship went to Cumana to inform certain
conspi.: ors to go to the islands to get the arms.
There were several items that tended to discredit the ver-
sion of the Dutch crewmen of the Midas. While, the Captain usually
kept a log of the movements of his ship, he had no log when de-
tained in CumanS. And, for some curious reason,there was not
enough fresh water on the ship for the voyage to Trinidad when
it left Curaqao. Yet, there was ample water on the ship when the
Venezuelans detained it. The implication is that the Captain did
not contemplate a direct voyage to Trinidad. Furthermore, the
Dutch crewmen could not get their stories straight when they made
depositions--which, in fact, are quite humorous--to the Venezuelan
authorities. Suffice it to say that both the Midas and the crew
were detained, and the entire incident became one of the main
rallying points for both sides.9
In the wake of the ship movements to La Vela de Coro and
the erratic voyage of the Midas, the authorities of both nations
took quick steps. Venezuela, as has been seen, seized the Midas
and jailed its crew. Furthermore, the Caracas authorities
specifically advised Brakel that compensation for damages in Coro
would be sought, for the Governor of Curaqao had the authority to
stop the activity of Dutch subjects who were aiding the revolution
there. And, perhaps most damaging of all to the Dutch, Venezuela
closed the ports of La Vela de Coro and Maracaibo to Dutch trade
until such time as payment might be made for the damages. The
Governor of Curacao, meanwhile, on October 26 reinstated the royal
decree of 1871 which stated that everyone, particularly merchants
and shippers, should avoid any political activities involving
Venezuela. Brakel, understandably, sought the release of the
Midas and its crew and the reopening of the ports. Blanco
responded from the Venezuelan position that the closure of the
ports was an internal affair, and compensation must be made for
the damage in Coro. Blanco pointed out, furthermore, that the
damage had been done before the Governor of Curacao acted and
that,despite his embargo on munitions exports, they continued to
come from the island. He noted that various rebel leaders found
sanctuary there and continued their activities. Also, it irritated
Blanco that the CuraSao authorities tended to equate Venezuelan
rebels and Venezuelan authorities.0
By May 1875 the situation was that Foreign Minister Blanco
and Charg4 d'Affaires Brakel were exchanging letters in Caracas
about the problems between Curaqao and Venezuela, and that was
about all. The Venezuelan authorities apparently saw no profit
in dealing with Brakel. Perhaps more could be accomplished in
The Hague by a fully accredited Venezuelan Minister before the
government of William III. Guzman Blanco, accordingly, called
on his friend Jose Maria Rojas to take the post. At the time
Rojas was in a state of suspended negotiations both with his
Venezuelan claims in Spain and with the bondholders in London. In
addition to his proximity, Rojas might have been the only qualified
person available. At any rate, the call went out on 4 May 1875.
Guzmdn Blanco specifically offered Rojas the job, named him
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, and appealed to
Rojas' patriotism to accept the position.11
Guzman Blanco and his Foreign Minister, Blanco, did all of
this with a certain amount of secrecy. They wanted to get Rojas
accredited to The Hague before Brakel could notify his own govern-
ment. Presumably, the idea was to get in the first diplomatic
thrust unopposed. In this respect Blanco urged Rojas to hurry to
The Hague with his mission. Also, he sent a box of letters and
supporting documents to Rojas by way of the Consuls at Saint
Nazaire and Paris with instructions to expedite them on to Rojas.
Later, when Brakel complained about not being informed of the
appointment of Rojas, Blanco rather lamely replied that Rojas had
been expected home, and the Ministry did not believe he would
receive the appointment before leaving Europe for Venezuela.
While there was a certain amount of truth to this, Rojas did
receive the box in Europe and was in The Hague shortly.12
The instructions Rojas received from Blanco this time were
clear enough for him to pursue a definite course of action.
Rather specifically, he was to claim indemnity for damages and
injury suffered by Venezuela in the October 1874 revolution.
The reasoning was that a group of Dutch subjects and Venezuelans
resident in Curaqao had promised and sustained the revolution.
Also, Rojas was to demand security measures so that Dutch
colonies no longer would be a threat to the peace of VenezuelA.
In each case Rojas was to seek a treaty or convention. Blanco
advised Rojas that he would be supplied with a chart of the
damages suffered in the rebellion. They would come to a little
more than 2,000,000 pesos, but Rojas could lower the amount if
necessary, for the important point was to get the claim recog-
nized. Rojas also was to seek the removal of the Governor of
Curaqao and the expulsion of seven enemies of the government of
Venezuela presently in refuge in Curaqao. Finally, Rojas was to
seek an effective ban on the introduction of armaments and muni-
tions of war into the colonies of The Netherlands that might
affect Venezuela. This last demand, hopefully, would impede the
business of the arms speculators. Rojas felt the claims of
Venezuela were proper, but,since it was a question of a weak
nation dealing with a less-weak nation, he doubted the success of
the venture.3 Ultimately, his analysis proved to be correct.
Rojas arrived in The Hague on June 1 and proceeded to
prepare for his diplomatic mission. He lodged in the Hotel Paulus,
also the residence of the Marqu4s de Arcic6llar, the Spanish
Minister to Holland. Rojas found this relationship very helpful,
for Arcic6llar knew the situation in Holland and was, in the words
of.Rojas, a very skillful diplomat. And Rojas would need all
the help he could get. Rojas took as his secretary Antonio
Parra Bolivar, the Venezuelan consul in Le Havre. While Parra B.
now worked for Rojas, later he would work against him.14
Rojas' first step was to contact the Dutch Minister of
Foreign Affairs about being received by the King, a necessary
formality to the mission. Accordingly, on June 1, probably the
same day he arrived in The Hague, Rojas wrote the Minister, der
van der DoesWillebois, enclosed copies of his credentials, and
asked when he might be received. On the third he received a ver-
bal invitation from Willebois to meet in the latter's chambers
the following afternoon.5 Now the real action would begin.
The meeting between Rojas and Willebois on the afternoon
of 4 June 1875 was one, figuratively, of steel fists under velvet
gloves. At one point the two men smoked fine Havana cigars; at
other points they came close to removing their velvet gloves.
The first issue, basic to the entire mission, was Rojas' presence
at all at The Hague. Willebois first learned of Rojas' mission
from the press and from other diplomats. This he did not like.
Furthermore, Lucio Pulido, the Venezuelan Minister to Holland in
1871 and 1872, had never been recalled. Under those circumstances
Willebois could hardly receive Rojas. And then, Brakel had com-
plete instructions in Caracas and could handle any problems there.
Rojas replied that he was the new Minister and that all dealings
would be with him. In reality it was a delicate situation, for
the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry had not sent a letter recalling
Pulido. Rojas probably assured Willebois that this problem would
be cleared shortly. The very next day, Pulido, doubtless at
Rojas' instigation, wrote Willebois from Paris and announced that
Venezuela had terminated his mission. He rather weakly stated
that since his mission in 1872 had been only to reestablish diplo-
matic relations, his government did not think it necessary to send
a letter of recall. A postscript to this issue is that Pulido
later wrote Blanco that he had never received the letter of recall
and wanted to know what was going on. But, Rojas survived this
initial problem, and the meeting of June 4 proceeded to other
The two men engaged in considerably sparring over the
problem of Curaoao. Willebois commented that Venezuelan ports
were closed to Dutch trade. Rojas countered that they were only
closed to contraband and that Curacao was a center of contraband.
Willebois responded that a Dutch ship had been seized. This
reference to the Midas brought Rojas' rejoinder that the ship had