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What Did President Benjamin Harrison Do After American Sailors Were Attacked In Chile In 1891?

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The “Baltimore Crisis: was a diplomatic incident that took place between Chile and the United States during the Chilean Civil War in 1891 during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. It occurred as the result of the stabbing of two United States Navy sailors from the USS Baltimore in front of the “True Blue Saloon” in Valparaíso, Chile on October 16, 1891.

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In the early 1880s the Chilean navy was considered to be the strongest fleet in the Pacific. In 1882 Chile was involved in the “War of the Pacific” with Bolivia and Peru and it refused a US offer of mediation in the war. In 1885, as the United States Navy occupied the port of Colón, then part of Colombia, something that the Chilean government viewed as a threat. It ordered its navy to occupy Panama City and not to leave until after the American forces evacuated Colon. By 1891 the United States had significantly improved its naval power. A civil war took place in Chile and during the Chilean Civil War, the American government supported the forces of President Jose Manuel Balmaceda. It enforced a ban on exports for the insurgents that was supported by the United Kingdom. This strained relations between the United States and the victorious revolutionaries, who in 1891 defeated the presidential forces and took power in Chile.The United States minister in Santiago, Patrick Egan, gave diplomatic asylum to various insurgent leaders during the war and to Balmaceda”s supporters after the war. The victorious insurgents called upon Egan to surrender the newest refugees to the authorities but it was refused. On October 16, 1891, a mob attacked a group of sailors on shore leave from the cruiser USS Baltimore outside of a bar in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Two sailors were killed and another eighteen were injured. Three dozen American sailors were arrested by the Chilean police.Secretary of State James G. Blaine was away at the time so President Harrison drafted a demand for reparations. The Chilean minister of foreign affairs responded by saying that Harrison”s message was “erroneous or deliberately incorrect.” He said that the Chilean government was treating the affair as a criminal matter. Tensions increased between the two nations and Harrison threatened to break off diplomatic relations unless the United States received a suitable apology.

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But when Blaine returned to the capital, he took conduct of the matter and the administration made conciliatory overtures to the Chilean government. Harrison”s letter of protest was withdrawn. Fearing the possibility of war however, the new Chilean government issued an apology and paid $75,000 in gold. It appears that Blaine and Harrison effected some sort of “good cop bad cop” routine that was able to avert war and save face for the Americans.

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