Blockade of Peru. Ships
Sir Thomas Hardy’s protests had already persuaded the Chilean Governmenttorestrict its blockade of Peru tothe few hundreds of miles of coast around Callao. Now he was back with another official complaint. O’Higgins was deeply embarrassed by Cochrane’s latest actions. Not only was he offending neutrals, but his licensing scheme nullified the whole point of the blockade. Writing to San Martin about the matter, O’Higgins bitterly complained ‘I have had to humiliate myself before the British commander-in-chief in order to make up for the stupidities of this man, and have repeatedly written to him about the need for moderation.’
Insimilar vein, when the new Peruvian Governmentexpelled allunmarried Spanish males after confiscating half their property, Cochrane demanded a fee before issuing them with the passport they needed to leave. The amount was said to be between $2500 and $10,000 a head – the sources of the information are divided as to the exact amount.Likewise, during the latter stages of the siege of Callaoin August, Cochrane offered surrender terms that would have permitted Governor La Mar to ship out all Spanish property in the port on receipt of a payment of 33 per cent of its value in cash.
But as far as he was concerned, the pay of the Chilean sailors was the responsibility of the Chilean Government, and should bedistributed inthe normal way when the squadron returned to its home port. In regard to Esmeralda, he pointed out that the frigate was owned by the Chilean Government, now flew its flag, and that the payment of prize money was therefore its responsibility. Cochrane and San Martin met on 5 August to sort out these problems. Itwas a dramatic encounter and was
witnessed on the one side by Bernardo Monteagudo and Juan García del Rio and, on the other, by William Bennet Stevenson. Monteagudo was now the Peruvian Minister of Marine and García del Rio was Minister of Foreign Affairs. In the course ofthe meeting, San Martin and Cochrane both became angry, but there are conflicting accounts about what exactly was said. Cochrane’s version –first retailed by Stevenson then repeated by all his other biographers –depicts theProtector astriumphalist, devious and obstructive, while the Vice Admiral isreasonable, honest and positive.