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Narrative of Services in the Liberation of Chili, Peru and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese Domination
Chapter VI


RETURN TO CALLAO--LIMA ABANDONED--HESITATION OF GEN. SAN MARTIN TO OCCUPY THE CITY--LOSS OF THE SAN MARTIN--EXCESSES OF THE SPANIARDS--PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE--SAN MARTIN ASSUMES AUTOCRATIC POWER UNDER THE TITLE OF PROTECTOR--MY REMONSTRANCE--HIS REPLY--MUTINOUS STATE OF THE SQUADRON FROM NEGLECT.

We arrived at Callao on the 2nd of July, when learning that Lima was no longer tenable from want of provisions, and that an intention existed on the part of the Viceroy to abandon it, I forebore to make any hostile demonstration which might interfere with such decision, and withdrew to a distance from the port, awaiting the result, which could not be far distant, as the people had become clamorous, and all hope of assistance from Spain was abandoned.

Having, however, learned, on the 5th of July, that an attempt was being made by the Viceroy to obtain a still further prolongation of the armistice, I again entered the bay with the San Martin--my former flag-ship, the O'Higgins, being absent on the coast.

On the 6th the Viceroy abandoned the city, retaining, however, the fortresses at Callao, the garrison of which was reinforced from the troops which had evacuated Lima; a large quantity of warlike stores being also deposited in the forts, thus securing greater efficiency than before.

To the astonishment of the Peruvians and Chilenos, no movement was made by the liberating army to take possession of the Capital; and as the Spanish troops were withdrawn, whilst no government existed, serious disorders were anticipated, so that the Cabildo applied to Capt. Basil Hall, then in command of the British ship of war Conway, for his assistance to maintain tranquillity and protect public and private property. Captain Hall immediately despatched a party of marines, who contributed to maintain order.

General San Martin having been apprised by the Viceroy of his intention to abandon the capital, had entered the harbour in the schooner Sacramento, but nevertheless gave no orders for its occupation. On the 7th a detachment of cavalry, without orders, entered Lima, and those on the 8th were followed by another detachment of infantry.

On working up to the port on the 8th, I was surprised to find General San Martin still afloat in his schooner, though the liberating army was now entering the city in a body, and the occupation was complete; General San Martin remained on board till the evening of the 10th, when he privately landed.

As the forts at Callao were still in the possession of the enemy, I made preparations to attack them, and to destroy the shipping still sheltered under them. Aware of my intentions, the garrison, on the 11th, sank the San Sebastian, the only frigate left in the harbour, in order to prevent her falling into our hands On the following day, the O'Higgins, Lautaro, Puyrredon, and Potrillo arrived, so that the squadron was again complete.

It was mentioned in the last chapter that I had seized a considerable quantity of wheat at Mollendo, on account of a breach of the armistice. This was still on board, and the city being in a state of famine, General San Martin directed that the wheat, of which there were upwards of two thousand fanegas, should be landed at the Chorillos free of duty. As the San Martin was deeply laden, I objected to this from the dangerous nature of the anchorage, but more especially, that the only anchor on board was made from the remains of two broken anchors lashed together; this objection was nevertheless overruled, and, as I had anticipated, she went ashore at Chorillos, where, from the heavy swell which set in, she became a total wreck.

On the 17th I received an invitation from the Cabildo to visit the city, and on landing, found that preparations had been made to give the visit the character of a public entry, carriages being provided, with deputations from the various corporations. Finding this to be the case, I declined entering Lima in a manner so ostentatious, as General San Martin had entered the city privately by night. I was, however, compelled to hold a levee at the palace, where the compliments of the established authorities and principal inhabitants were tendered to me. General San Martin declined to attend this complimentary manifestation, remaining at La Legua, about halfway between Lima and Callao, where he had established his head quarters; probably considering such honours out of place towards one whom as Captain-General he might regard as a subordinate, and the more so, as no such compliment had been offered to himself.

On the following day, General San Martin directed a civic guard to be organized in place of the Spanish guard which had evacuated the city, the Marquis of Torre Tagle being appointed its commandant. At the same time the General retained the whole of the liberating army, though had even a portion of these followed the retreating Spaniards, the greater part would have joined the patriot standard--it being afterwards ascertained that Colonel Rodil who commanded them, had shot great numbers in the attempt to desert; even the patriot guerilla parties, unaided, had defeated those who were kept together; so that had a division of the liberating army been sent to co-operate with the guerillas, the entire Spanish force might have been annihilated, in place of forming the nucleus--as they afterwards did--of a force which, after my departure from Chili, threatened not only the independence of Peru, but even that of the Chilian Republic itself.

Being thus unopposed, and the towns which had given in their adhesion tothe cause of independence being left defenceless--the retreating Spaniards committed great excesses amongst the inhabitants of the interior, who found themselves exposed to more than the rigours of martial law, without the least attempt for their protection; though a promise of this had formed one of the principal inducements for throwing off their allegiance to the Viceroy, at whose mercy--or rather want of it--they now found themselves exposed.

In place of protecting the Peruvians in the interior, a number of highly inflated proclamations were issued, in which it was left to be inferred that the city had been taken by hard fighting, though not a blow had been struck, except by the detachment of Colonel Arenales and the squadron, whose vigilance of blockade and previous actions had so dispirited the enemy and reduced them to such straits, that abandonment of the capital was inevitable. Nor was the large force present even required to maintain Lima, the inhabitants having for a long period been subjected to miseries which they had no disposition to re-encounter.

But General San Martin had other views in retaining the army than protecting those who had confided in his promises; the military force being required for very different purposes to that which had been set forth in his proclamations and in those entrusted to him by the Chilian government.

On the 24th I ordered Captain Crosbie to proceed to Callao in the boats, and cut out as many of the enemy's vessels as he could bring away. The service was gallantly performed, for on the following day he brought out two large merchantmen, the San Fernando and Milagro, and the sloop of war Resolucion, together with several launches; burning moreover two vessels within musket shot of the batteries.

On the 27th, the Cabildo sent me an invitation to be present at the public proclamation of the independence of Peru. As their letter fully recognises the obligations of the Limenos to the services of the squadron,--I shall transcribe it:--

"Lima is about to solemnize the most august act which has been performed for three centuries, or since her foundation; this is the proclamation of her independence, and absolute exclusion from the Spanish government, as well as from that of any other foreign potentate, and this Cabildo--wishing the ceremony to be conducted with all possible decorum and solemnity, considers it necessary that your Excellency, who has so gloriously co-operated in bringing about this highly desired object, will deign to assist at the act with your illustrious officers, on Saturday, the 28th instant."

Imagining that myself and officers had been mainly instrumental in establishing the independence of Peru--for I had in vain urged the Captain-General to action, as far as the army was concerned, the invitation was accepted, but judge of my surprise at the ceremony, when medals were distributed, ascribing to General San Martin and the army the whole credit of having accomplished that which the squadron had achieved! The inscription on the medals was as follows.--"Lima secured its independence on the 28th of July, 1821, under the protection of General San Martin and the liberating army." The declaration of independence was however complete, according to the promises and intentions of the Chilian government. On hoisting the national flag, General San Martin pronounced the following words:--"Peru is from this moment free and independent, by the general vote of the people, and by the justice of her cause, which God defend."

The inhabitants of Lima were in a state of great delight at this termination of centuries of Spanish misrule, and that their independence of action was fully recognized as had been stipulated by Chili. As a mark of gratitude, a deputation from the Cabildo, on the next day waited on General San Martin, offering him, in the name of the inhabitants of the capital, the first presidency of their now independent state. To the astonishment of the deputation they were curtly told that their offer was altogether unnecessary, as he had already taken the command, and should keep it as long as he thought proper, whilst he would allow no assemblies for the discussion of public matters. The first act of the freedom and independence so ostentatiously proclaimed on the previous day, being the establishment of a despotic government, in which the people had neither voice nor share; and this by the General of a Republic which existed only by the will of the people!

In this extraordinary assumption of power I had not been at all consulted, probably because it was known that I would not countenance anything but carrying out intact the intentions of the Supreme Director of Chili as declared in his proclamations. It now became evident to me that the army had been kept inert for the purpose of preserving it entire to further the ambitious views of the General, and that with the whole force now at Lima the inhabitants were completely at the mercy of their pretended liberator, but in reality their conqueror.

As the existence of this self-constituted authority was no less at variance with the institutions of the Chilian Republic than with its solemn promises to the Limenos, I again shifted my flag on board the O'Higgins, determined to adhere solely to the interests of Chili; but not interfering in any way with General San Martin's proceedings till they interfered with me in my capacity as Commander in Chief of the Chilian navy.

On the 3rd of August, General San Martin issued a proclamation to the same effect as his declaration to the now extinct Cabildo; setting forth that although it was abundantly notorious that he aspired only to retirement and tranquillity, nevertheless a moral responsibility required him to unite all government in his own person, and he therefore declared himself "Protector of Peru," with Don Juan Garcia del Rio, Don Bernardo Monteagudo, and Don Hipolito Unanue, as his three ministers of state.

Being at the time on board the flag-ship, I knew nothing of this proclamation; but as the squadron had not been paid their twelve months' wages, nor the 50,000 dollars promised by General San Martin, I went on shore on the 4th of August, to make the demand on behalf of the squadron, the seamen having served their time. Being ignorant of the self-imposed title which General San Martin had assumed, I frankly asked him to devise some means for defraying these payments.

I forbear personally to relate what passed at this interview; but as my secretary was present, and on his return to England published an account thereof, which is in every respect substantially true, I will give it in his words:--

"On the following morning, August 4th, Lord Cochrane, uninformed of the change which had taken place in the title of San Martin, visited the palace, and began to beg of the General in Chief to propose some means for the payment of the foreign seamen, who had served their time and fulfilled their contract. To this, San Martin answered, that 'he would never pay the Chilian squadron unless it was sold to Peru, and then the payment should be considered part of the purchase money!' To this Lord Cochrane replied, that 'by such a transaction the squadron of Chili would be transferred to Peru by merely paying what was due to the officers and crews for services done to that state.' San Martin knit his brows, and turning to his two ministers, Garcia and Monteagudo, ordered them to retire, to which his Lordship objected, stating that 'as he was not master of the Spanish language, he wished them to remain as interpreters, fearful that some expression, not rightly understood, might be considered offensive.' San Martin now turned round to the Admiral, and said--'Are you aware, my Lord, that I am Protector of Peru?'--'No,'--said his Lordship, 'I ordered my secretaries to inform you of it,' returned San Martin. 'That is now unnecessary, for you have personally informed me,' said his Lordship; 'I hope that the friendship which has existed between San Martin and myself will continue to exist between the Protector of Peru and myself.' San Martin then--rubbing his hands--said, 'I have only to say, that I am Protector of Peru!'"

"The manner in which this last sentence was expressed, roused the Admiral, who, advancing, said--'Then it becomes me, as senior officer of Chili, and consequently the representative of the nation, to request the fulfilment of all the promises made to Chili and the squadron; but first--and principally--the squadron.' San Martin returned--'Chili! Chili! I will never pay a single real to Chili! As to the squadron, you may take it where you please, and go where you choose; a couple of schooners are quite enough for me;' 'Chili! Chili, yo nunca pagare 'un real a Chili! y en quanto a la esquadra, puede V llevarla donde quiere, e irse quando guste, con un par de golestas me basta a mi.'"

"On hearing this, Garcia left the room, and Monteagudo walked to the balcony. San Martin paced the room for a short time and turning to his Lordship, said,--'Forget, my Lord, what is past.' The admiral replied--'I will, when I can,' and immediately left the palace."

His Lordship was now undeceived by the man himself; the repeated reports he had heard of his past conduct crowded on his imagination, and knowing what might be attempted, from what had been already done, his Lordship agreed with me, that his life was not safe ashore. He therefore immediately took horse--rode to Boca Negra, and went on board his frigate[1].

[Footnote 1: "Twenty Years Residence in South America," by W.B. STEVENSON, Secretary to Lord Cochrane, Vice-Admiral of Chili, &c. &c. 1825.]

One thing has been omitted in the preceding narrative. General San Martin, following me to the staircase, had the temerity to propose to me to follow his example--viz. to break faith with Chilian Government to which we had both sworn--to abandon the squadron to his interests--and to accept the higher grade of "First Admiral of Peru." I need scarcely say that a proposition so dishonourable was declined; when in a tone of irritation he declared that "he would neither give the seamen their arrears of pay, nor the gratuity he had promised."

On arriving at the flag-ship, I found the following official communication, requesting me to fire a salute in honour of San Martin's self-elevation to the protectorship:--

Lima, 4th Aug. 1821.

MY LORD,

His Excellency the Protector of Peru commands me to transmit to you the annexed organic decree, announcing his exaltation to the Supreme Authority; in order that the squadron may be informed of this momentous event, and that the new Government may be acknowledged by the naval department under your command, belonging to the Republic of Chili.

I hope, that duly estimating this high act, you will cause it to be celebrated with all the dignity which is compatible with the martial usage of the naval service.

(Signed) MONTEAGUDO.
Attested by the Rubrica of the Protector.

Though this was a request to acknowledge General San Martin as invested with the attributes of a Sovereign Prince, I complied with it in the hope that quiet remonstrance might recal him to a sense of duty to the Chilian Government, no less than to his own true interests. On the 7th of August, I addressed to him the following letter:--

Callao Roads, 7th Aug. 1821.

MY DEAR GENERAL,

I address you for the last time under your late designation, being aware that the liberty I may take as a friend might not be deemed decorous to you under the title of "Protector," for I shall not with a gentleman of your understanding take into account, as a motive for abstaining to speak truth, any chance of your resentment. Nay, were I certain that such would be the effect of this letter, I would nevertheless perform such an act of friendship, in repayment of the support you gave me at a time when the basest plots and plans were laid for my dismissal from the Chilian Service, for no other reason than that certain influential persons of shallow understanding and petty expedients hate those who despise mean acts accomplished by low cunning.

Permit me, my dear General, to give you the experience of eleven years during which I sat in the first senate in the world, and to say what I anticipate on the one hand, and what I fear on the other, nay, what I foresee; for that which is to come, in regard to the acts of Governments and Nations, may as certainly be predicted from history, as the revolutions of the solar system. You have it in your power to be the Napoleon of South America, as you have it in your power to be one of the greatest men now acting on the theatre of the world; but you have also the power to choose your course, and if the first steps are false, the eminence on which you stand will, as though from the brink of a precipice, make your fall the more heavy and the more certain.

The rocks on which the South American Government have split have hitherto been bad faith, and consequent temporary expedients. No man has yet arisen, save yourself, capable of soaring aloft, and with eagle eye embracing the expanse of the political horizon. But if in your flight, like Icarus, you trust to waxen wings, your descent may crush the rising liberties of Peru, and involve all South America in anarchy, civil war, and political despotism.

The real strength of Government is public opinion. What would the world say, were the Protector of Peru, as his first act, to cancel the bonds of San Martin, even though gratitude may be a private and not a public virtue? What would they say, were the Protector to refuse to pay the expense of that expedition which placed him in his present elevated situation? What would they say, were it promulgated to the world that he intended not even to remunerate those employed in the navy which contributed to his success.

What good can be arrived at by a crooked path that cannot be attained by a straight and open way? Who has advised a tortuous policy and the concealment of the real sentiments and intentions of Government? Has an intriguing spirit dictated the refusal of pay to the Chilian navy, whilst the army is doubly paid? Is it proposed thus to alienate the minds of the men from their present service, and by such policy to obtain them for the service of Peru? If so, the effect will, I predict, be the contrary, for they have looked, and do look, to Peru for their remuneration, and, if disappointed, they will feel accordingly.

See to what a state the Senate had brought the beautiful and fertile province of Chili. Nay, had not their notorious want of faith deprived them, notwithstanding their mines, their confiscated and public lands, of the means possessed even by the Spanish Government, and of the credit necessary to procure a dollar in any foreign country, or even in their own? I say, therefore, my dear General, that whoever has advised you to commence your Protectorship with devices unworthy of San Martin, is either a thoughtless or a wicked man, whom you should for ever banish from your counsels.

My dear General, look to the flattering addresses presented by the servile of all countries to the most base in power. Think not that it is to the person of San Martin that the public are attached. Believe not, that without a straight and dignified course you can obtain the admiration or love of mankind. So far yet you have succeeded, and, thank God, it is in your power to succeed yet farther. Flatterers are more dangerous than the most venomous serpents, and next to them are men of knowledge, if they have not the integrity or courage to oppose bad measures, when formally discussed, or even when casually spoken of.

What political necessity existed for any temporary concealment of the sentiments of Government in regard to the fate of the Spaniards in Peru? Were not the army and the people ready to support your measures, and did not the latter call aloud for their expulsion? Believe me, my dear General, that after your declaration, even the seizing on Spanish property belonging to those who remain, is an act which ought not to be resorted to without crime on their part subsequently committed.

In the feelings of my breast no man can deceive me. Of the sentiments of others, I judge by my own, and I tell you what they are as an honest man and a friend.

I could say much to you, my dear General, on other subjects of little inferior importance, but as the foregoing are the only acts immediately contemplated of which I have acquired a knowledge, and which are, in their consequences, ruinous, I shall, at present, only add, that had kings and princes but one man in their dominions who would, on all occasions, utter the naked truth, multifarious errors would be avoided, and the mischief to mankind would be infinitely less.

You will plainly perceive that I have no personal interests in these, or any other points, at variance with yours; but, on the contrary, if I were base and interested, I have now taken a decisive and irrevocable step to ruin my prospects; having no other security for such not being the consequence of my candour save my good opinion of your judgment and your heart.

Believe me, under all circumstances, your attached friend,

COCHRANE.

To this letter, on the 9th of August, General San Martin replied as follows:--

Lima, 9th August, 1821.

My Lord,

The best proof of friendship that can be given by you is the sincere announcement of your opinions as to the course I should follow in my new political character.

Assuredly you have not erred, when, under the title of Protector, you do not anticipate any change in my personal character. Happily, the alteration is only in a name, which, in my opinion, was required for the benefit of the country; and if, in the character in which you have known me, you have met with civility and frankness, it would be an injustice to deny me confidence, having always listened to you as an enlightened person, experienced in the world; especially as you do me justice in enabling me to make observations on the spirit of your last communication.

I am aware that good faith in one who presides over a nation, is the vital spirit of its prosperity; and as, in this respect, a singular current of success has called me temporarily to the supreme magistracy of this country, I should renounce the advantages acquired and betray my principles, if vanity or servile acquiescence in bad advice were to induce me to deviate from the social interests of Peru, and so expose it to the evils which in such case you dread.

I know, my Lord, that one cannot fly with waxen wings. I perceive the course I ought to pursue, and that, however great the advantages already gained, there are rocks which, without the aid of prudence and good faith, must be encountered.

By good fortune, I have not forgotten the maxim of religiously adhering to the word of a gentleman, which, as General, has been the pivot on which my anticipations have rested.

It now behoves me to explain my engagements towards the Chilian squadron, to which, it is very gratifying to declare that Peru, in part, owes its liberty; an acknowledgment which would have been made on the medals coined, if, in the hurry of business, I had been able to give my attention to the subject of the inscription that was presented to me as a model! You yourself have heard me eulogise its merits and services.

I have offered to the crews of the squadron of Chili twelve months' pay, as an acknowledgment of its services, and am employed in providing the means, and also in endeavouring to collect the reward of 50,000 dollars which you offered to the seamen who should capture the Esmeralda, and I am not only disposed to pay these sums, but to recompense valour displayed in the cause of the country.

But you know, my Lord, that the wages of the crews do not come under these circumstances, and that I--never having engaged to pay the amount--am not obliged to do so! That debt is due from Chili, whose government engaged the seamen. Although it may be just, in the state of its finances, to indemnify Chili in some degree for the expeditionary expenses, that will be, for me, an agreeable consideration; but in no degree will I acknowledge a right to claim arrears of pay!

If I could forget the services of the squadron, and the sacrifices of Chili, I should manifest ingratitude, which, neither as a public or private virtue will I ever forego; but it is as imprudent to lavish rewards, as to withhold them from the meritorious. I am engaged in finding means to realize measures as regards the squadron, which I intend to propose to the Supreme Government of Chili, and thus conciliate all interests.

Your affectionate friend,

JOSE DE SAN MARTIN.

To Lord Cochrane, Vice-Admiral of Chili.

In this letter, San Martin attributes his usurpation to a "singular current of success;" omitting to state that he neither achieved one blow, nor devised one plan which led to it, whilst he had all along offered it every obstruction in his power. He declares that the arrogation of the fall of the Spaniards, attributed by the inscription on the medal to the army and himself, was a mistake, brought about by "his not being able, in the hurry of business, to give attention to the model presented to him;" whereas the inscription was his own writing, after days of deliberation and consultation with others, who advised him not to mention the squadron in the inscription.

In this letter he repudiates all connection with Chili, though he had sworn fidelity to the republic as its Captain General. He denies ever having engaged to pay the squadron their wages, though on no other condition had it put to sea from Valparaiso, and his own handwriting to this specific promise was accepted as the inducement. Though himself an officer of Chili, he treats Chili as a state with which he had nothing to do, whose debts he declares that he will not pay, as he had previously told me on the 4th of August; finally, he says that he will propose to Chili to pay its own seamen! As to his promises to give the men a twelvemonths' pay in acknowledgment of their services, this was neither intended nor given; whilst, as to the 50,000 dollars promised to the captors of the Esmeralda, which he is "endeavouring to collect," he had long before "collected" many times the amount from the old Spaniards--who had offered a similar reward for the capture of any vessels of the Chilian squadron--and kept it. Fortunately, his own letters prove these matters, which otherwise I should have hesitated to mention, unsupported by testimony so irrefutable.

General San Martin afterwards denied to the Chilian Government that he refused, on the 4th of August, to pay the squadron. Here is the same assertion, in his own handwriting, on the 9th! During the whole of this time the squadron was in a state of literal destitution; even the provisions necessary for its subsistence being withheld from it, though the Protector had abundant means of supplying them; but his object was to starve both officers and men into desertion--so as to accelerate the dismemberment of the squadron which I would not give up to his ambitious views.

The sound advice contained in my letter General San Martin never forgave--and he afterwards fell exactly as I had predicted--there was no merit in the prophecy, for similar causes lead to like effects. Adhering to my own duty, I felt that I was free from his command, and determined to follow no other course than to carry out, as far as lay in my power, the pledge of the Chilian Government to the Peruvian people.

Concealing for the present his resentment, and reflecting that the forts of Callao were still in the hands of the Spaniards, the Protector endeavoured to explain away the disagreeable nature of our interview on the 4th of August, by asserting, "that he only said, or meant to say, that it might be interesting to Chili to sell some of her vessels of war to Peru, because the latter wanted them for the protection of her coasts;" adding, that "the Government of Chili would at all times devote their squadron to the furtherance of the cause of Peru." He repeated, that the arrears of pay to the squadron should be liquidated, as well as the rewards which had been promised.

As none of these were forthcoming, the squadron began to shew symptoms of mutiny at the conduct of the Protector. On the 11th of August I wrote to him, apprising him of the increasing discontent of the seamen, again requesting payment. On this a decree was issued, ordering one-fifth of the customs receipts to be set aside for the joint pay of the army and navy, but as the fortress and port of Callao were in the hands of the Spaniards, these receipts were most insignificant, and the measure was rightly regarded by the squadron as a subterfuge.

To this communication the Protector replied, on the 13th of August--at the same time hinting that I might reconsider my refusal to accept the command of the contemplated Peruvian navy.

The subjoined is his letter:--

Lima, 13th of August, 1821.

MY LORD,

In my official letter addressed to you on the disagreeable business of paying the squadron, which causes us so much uneasiness, I have told you that it is impossible to do as we wish. I have nothing to add, unless my previous declaration, that I shall never view with indifference any thing that interests you. I told you in Valparaiso, that "your lot should be equal to mine" and I believe myself to have proved that my intentions have not varied--nor can vary, because every day renders my actions more important.

No, my Lord, I do not view with indifference anything which concerns you, and I shall be deeply grieved, if you do not wait till I can convince you of the truth. If, however, in despite of all this, you determine on the course, which, at our interview a few days ago, you proposed to take, it will be for me a difficulty from which I cannot extricate myself, but I hope that--conforming yourself to my wishes--you will conclude the work begun, on which our common lot depends.

Adieu, my Lord, I repeat that I am, with sincere esteem, your eternal friend,

JOSE DE SAN MARTIN.

The assertion, that he could not satisfy the seamen, was a subterfuge; he had abundance of money, derived from the wholesale spoliation of the Spaniards, to which indefensible course I had alluded in my letter of August 7th. He also hoped that "conforming to his wishes," I would accept the appointment of "First Admiral;" the consequence of which--together with the decree transferring the Chilian officers--without their consent--to the service of Peru, would have been to turn over to his Government the Chilian squadron.


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