Group Title: reluctant diplomacy of José María Rojas: 1873-1883
Title: The reluctant diplomacy of José María Rojas: 1873-1883
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 Material Information
Title: The reluctant diplomacy of José María Rojas: 1873-1883
Physical Description: xi, 338 leaves. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Harris, William Lane, 1929-
Publication Date: 1973
Copyright Date: 1973
Subject: Foreign relations -- Venezuela   ( lcsh )
History thesis Ph. D   ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- UF   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis -- University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 326-336.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098376
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000577613
oclc - 13996423
notis - ADA5311


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Copyright by
William Lane Harris

For David
it all so

Bushnell, who understands
well, and Mai Surran and


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


G.C. Gonzalez Guindn, Francisco. Historia conteti- 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 Archivos del MinisLLcrio de Relaciones
E:-:teri .orcs.

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-
venios .

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
y conferencias.

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
Dretana .

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
National," 1874.

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

187:3--1 83


illii Lane Hacrris

ugu.ti: 1973

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






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, 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

activities, that

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
absolute independence.4

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-

descended nations.5

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
whatever reasons.

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

entire period.

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.




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
mining enterprises.

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

left Venezuela.

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

the caudillo.

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,
Caracas, 1859."

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-
ford, ibid.

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.



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
for 1
for Rojas.

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

foreign claims.

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 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

long run.


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

completely interrupted.25

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-
tive work.

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

reasonable time.5

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

than most.

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
"Guzman Blanco."

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),
pp. 39-43.

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,
p. 152.

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,
fol. 249.

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,
pp. 52-53.


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.



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

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