When Peru obtained its independence in 1821, it had to establish its political system and the framework of its foreign relations. The Peruvian liberal sectors saw the political system of the United States and the European democracies as important models to reflect on democracy in the new Peruvian nation.


Lima, first half of 19th Century

Lima, first half of 19th Century


After the independence of Peru, the United States was perceived as an emergent country whose political system was characterized by the division and autonomy of the powers of the State, with an independent judiciary (Clayton. The United States and Peru, 2002, p. 22), which was close to the Peruvian liberal line of thought.

During the first half of the 19th century, the U.S. policy towards Peru was impelled mainly by Consuls, Chargé d’Affaires and Naval Officers, trying to broaden the relationship and increase the commercial exchange between both countries.

In 1824, the United States named their first Consul in Lima to the recently independent Republic of Peru, William Tudor, who, until 1827, was the only representative of its interests in our country.



Historically, the relationship between Peru and the United States dates back to the beginning of the 19th century.

View of the Rímac from Acho. First half of the 19th century

View of the Rímac from Acho. First half of the 19th century

By 1810, the Government of the United States had designated three resident agents for trade and navigation for Argentina, Chile and Peru. Among them, Mr. Joel Roberts was the resident agent for the Viceroyalty of Peru.

In 1817, the U.S Government named John B. Prevost as Special Agent to Peru and Chile and Jeremy Robinson as Commercial Agent to Peru.

A landmark of the bilateral relation is the year 1826, when the U.S. Government recognized the Republic of Peru and its government in an official and diplomatic manner.

In 1827, James Cooley arrived in Peru, designated by the Secretary of State Henry Clay as the first Chargé d’Affaires of the United States in Peru. Peru named its first diplomatic agent in Washington, D.C., 20 years later.

The important role of Tudor and Colley resides in their reports, points of view and vision of Peru, which left a deep track in the U.S. perception of Peru (Clayton, p. 69). Colley was replaced by Samuel Larned in 1829. Under his tenure, a trade and navigation treaty was to be negotiated, but the war between the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation and Chile threatened said agreement.

Since then, the United States became one of Peru's main trading partners, only then surpassed by Great Britain.

The responsibilities of the first U.S. chargé d’affaires were centered on promoting free trade, implementing a policy of preferential tariffs and broadening bilateral relations.

Juan Ignacio de Osma

Juan Ignacio de Osma

As stated, in the first years of the Republic of Peru, bilateral relations were impelled by economic, commercial, transport and navigation matters, along with some private claims, like those formulated by retailers and U.S. shipping companies against the Peruvian Government. These requests were a consequence of acts committed during the war of independence. An agreement on pending reclamations was signed between Peru and the United Stated in 1841.

In 1846, due to the increasing importance of the relationship between both countries, the Government of Peru named Juan Ignacio de Osma, as its first Plenipotentiary Minister to the United States.



Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation


A fact that strengthened the Peruvian-U.S. relations during first half of the 19th century was the discovery of “guano” (a substance composed chiefly of the excrement of seafowl and used as a fertilizer) in Peru, a product that – given its properties and agricultural virtues – attracted hundreds of boats from the United States to the Chincha Islands (Clayton, p. 83). As a positive consequence, the level of Peruvian exports to the American market significantly increased. Thanks to the business of operation and sale of the “guano,” the revenues of the Peruvian Government also increased significantly.

Under the administration of Marshal Castilla (President in 1845-51 and 1854-62), Peru's economy became more prosperous as the Peruvian state began a process of consolidation and modernization. This situation helped further strengthen relations between Peru and the United States. The consolidation of the guano business meant more and more of the product found its way to the agricultural fields of the United States during the second half of the 19th century.

Under the leadership of Chargé d’Affaires James C. Pickett both countries signed in 1851 the first Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which included a clause of most favored nation status.

This treaty was in force for 12 years and marked the beginning of a more fluid and constructive relationship. When Chargé d’Affaires Pickett concluded his mission, he was replaced by John Randolph Clay.

The relations between Peru and the United States of America had their differences. One controversy was on the Amazon river in 1854, where the Government of Peru confiscated U.S. boats carrying guano in 1858. As a result, in 1860 diplomatic relations were temporarily interrupted, but reestablished in 1861. A year later, an agreement of claims was signed as well as two additional agreements – in 1863 and 1868 – that ended these controversies.


During the time of the conflict with Spain, the United States offered to mediate in the dispute, but Spain rejected the U.S. offer because it preferred a bilateral solution. When war was declared, the Peruvian Government invited the United States to join the Peruvian-Chilean alliance. The U.S. Government, nevertheless, reaffirmed its neutral policy, although it repeatedly maintained its efforts as a mediator.

In September of 1870, Peru and the United States replaced the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1851, with one that differed from the previous one in several aspects. In August of 1887 a new Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, was signed, and later ratified in October of 1888. This agreement, together with other instruments subscribed between both countries, elevated  Peruvian-U.S. relations.

The War of the Pacific



During the War of the Pacific (between Peru and Chile), in the first months of 1880, the U.S. Government offered to mediate in the conflict. This initiative took shape during a Conference of Peace in Arica, on the navy warship Lackawanna, but it was not successful.

The following year, with the beginning of the Garfield Administration, the U.S. was favorable to finding a solution to the conflict between Peru and Chile. The U.S. Government supported an impartial mediation without trying to dictate the peace terms not involving European intervention. The mediation formula was maintained, even after Secretary of State James Blaine was replaced by Frederick Frelinghuysen in December of 1881.

With the coming of the 20th century, the U.S. investments in Peru increased rapidly, especially in the mining business, which contributed to the expansion of Peruvian exports into the United States.

       Miners, Cerro de Pasco, early 20th century

       Miners, Cerro de Pasco, early 20th century