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Punta Arenas, 1891 -- Civil War
Petition for H. M. G. Protection

At the close of 1890, Chile was on the verge of civil war. The National Congress, supported by a large portion of the Navy (among other groups), was at loggerheads with President Balmaceda. The ramifications of these events were felt in Magallanes. In January 1891, when two newly acquired warships (bought in Europe) arrived in the port, their commanders defied the authority of the Governor, Valdivieso. Fearing a repetition of the havoc caused in the 1877 mutiny, Valdivieso deftly took control of the vessels and diverted them to Buenos Aires. To strengthen his position, 60 soldiers were sent to Punta Arenas by the central government. He also created a civil defence brigade, with arms supplied by the government (see reference below to requisitioning). Fortunately for the Magallanes colony, the civil war there never came to blows.

 link to Names of Signatories

Punta Arenas, Straits of Magellan
March 5th / 1891

To: R. Stubenrauch Esq.
H. M. Vice-Consul
Punta Arenas


We, the undersigned subjects of H. M., on behalf of our families and selves appeal to you for protection under the following circumstances.

Owing to the disturbed political state of the Republic of Chile we find our lives and interests are endangered, and in support of this assertion adduce the following facts. - A short time ago there were sent from Chile on behalf of the Executive some sixty men, as soldiers, who united with the small detachment of soldiers maintained here, under ordinary circumstances for police duties, form a body of some eighty (80) men. - This body of men is a great source of danger for the tranquility of this Colony. - It is generally believed that but a small amount of funds is held in the Local Treasury, and when these funds are exhausted, it is difficult to see how the troops are to be paid; it is certain that cash will not be obtainable against promissory notes against the National Treasury issued by the local authorities; it is unlikely that cash will be remitted from the National Treasury, and what will take place when these men find themselves without pay or resources may be imagined; some of us have a lively recollection of our suffering owing to the mutiny of troops here in 1877 and it is to prevent a repetition of the rape, bloodshed, robbery and incendiarisme which took place, that we appeal to you now.

Another source of danger also exists. Three days ago the german[?] Steamer "Titania" arrived in this port with a consignment on board of 7000 Rifles and ammunition for the Chilean Government. - The Governor of this Colony forcibly caused the arms to be landed here although they were consigned for Valparaiso; and in consequence any day may see the arrival of a Chilian Man-of-War. addicted to the Opposition with instructions to obtain at all cost the possession of these arms.

We therefore humbly venture to suggest that you should obtain from the Commanding Officer of either H. M. South Atlantic or South Pacific Squadrons the stay of one of H. M. [men?] of war in this port so long as the present disturbed state of affairs continues. The mere presence of such a vessel would insure us the security and protection to which we are justly entitled.

We believe the danger to which we are exposed, and which we have endeavoured to explain to you, to be imminent, and we therefore beg you to give this our earnest petition your immediate attention.

An interesting aspect of this letter is the vice-consul himself. Rodolfo Stubenrauch, a German citizen, represented the diplomatic interests of both Britain and Germany in Magallanes during the 1890's. Sadly, the advent of war in 1914 put an end to this cordial relationship. He was a well-respected local businessman, who contributed much to the development of the region.

(1)  Public Record Office, Kew
(2)  "Punta Arenas en su Primer Medio Siglo", Mateo Martinic B., Punta Arenas, 1988
Thanks: Arnold Morrison
Last updated: 20-II-2004