There met in the office of the minister of foreign affairs of Peru, at 2 o’clock p. m., the undersigned, José Antonio Barrenechea, minister of foreign affairs, Juan de la Cruz Benavente, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Bolivia, Antonio Flores, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Ecuador, and Joaquin Godoy, chargé d’affaires of Chili. After the reading of the protocol of the conference of 19th August last, the minister of foreign affairs called to mind the fact that the adjourned meeting which was to have been held on the 22d of that month did not take place, owing to the delicate attention of Mr. Benavente, who, through his secretary, had expressed his opinion that he did not think it becoming to hold the conference at a time when the government had just received news of the destruction occasioned by the late earthquake, and was preparing to remedy the evil so far as possible.
He then went on to explain that the object of this meeting was to discuss the propriety of giving an answer to the proposal of meditation made by the government of the United States.
The minister plenipotentiary of Ecuador observed that the undersigned should endeavor to come to an understanding as to the necessity of putting an end to the actual condition of our relations with Spain, and as to the means to be employed for that purpose, and that the protocol of the conference held by him with his excellency Mr. Barrenechea on the 18th of August might be adopted as the starting point for the discussion.
This suggestion having been accepted by Mr. Barrenechea, he read the protocol, and inquired what, in the opinion of the gentlemen present, was the way of attaining the end proposed, all present having recognized the necessity thereof.
Mr. Flores replied that his determination to accept, in behalf of the government of Ecuador, whatever way the other allies might deem proper, was already known.
Mr. Godoy stated that his government’s opinion is expressed in the note of 26th of March, addressed to that of Peru, giving its reasons for preferring the proposition for an indefinite truce made by France and England, to that of the United States for mediation, which was then pending and referred to in a communication of Mr. Kilpatrick, annexed to the note of 26th March; that before giving a definite reply to the mediatory powers, it was necessary for the allies to communicate with each other the conclusions they might have arrived at as to the various propositions for an arrangement, in order to come to some determination; that the government of Chili, with that object in view, had made a frank exposition of its opinion and of the grounds upon which it was based; that the government of Bolivia, duly appreciating the reasons given, had expressed itself as agreeing in opinion with the government of Chili; that he thought the government of Ecuador, in view of its determination to accede to whatever the other allies might resolve, would not opine differently; and that, consequently, the agreement might be unanimous, and an indefinite truce decisively resolved upon, if the government of Peru had not reasons for thinking in a different manner.
Mr. Flores remarked that his government did not wish to stand in the way of any resolution of the allied governments, and would subscribe to any agreement, provided it be conducive to the re-establishment of commercial relations; but that he had, from [Page 912] his very first conference, stated in a positive manner that Ecuador, for her part, explicitly accepted the American mediation.
Mr. Barranechea, accepting the manner in which the honorable Mr. Godoy had stated the question, recapitulated the different proposals of mediation made in consequence of the Spanish question, as follows: In the year 1886 the French and English governments tendered their good offices, which were accepted on principle by the government of Chili; but those governments having presented bases for an agreement which were inadmissible, the government of Chili, in the name of the allies, declared them unacceptable. Another negotiation of good offices, initiated before that of France and England, by the United States, and for which the bases were not even framed, also fell through. Subsequently the government of the United States presented to the allies, as the bases of a new mediation, those agreed upon on the 17th of December, 1868, by the House of Representatives. But even before the formalizing of those bases, the government of Peru, which had known the general terms which the announced new mediation of the United States would contain, ever since November, had said to its representative at Washington that it unreservedly accepted the proposal of that government. This resolution of Peru having been communicated to her allies, was accepted by Bolivia, and, with a modification as to the choice of the arbiter, by Ecuador. But the government of Chili did not deem it well to accept this proposition without certain previous conditions, which, having been fixed with the concurrence of Peru, were made known by the government of Chili to the American minister at Santiago. According to Mr. Kilpatrick’s note, which was annexed to that of 26th March, referred to by the honorable Mr. Godoy, those modifications have not been accepted by Spain, which puts an end to that negotiation.
Mr. Barranechea then read the new proposition of the United States, contained in a circular note of Mr. Seward to the American diplomatic agents in the belligerent countries, and which consists in proposing an armistice, and this being accepted, the appointment by those nations of plenipotentiaries, to meet at Washington, in order to negotiate a positive peace.
He then proceeded to expound the antecedents of the indefinite truce, which, from the first, was accepted neither by Peru nor Bolivia, and touching which nothing was said by Ecuador. He added that so long a time had elapsed since the proposition was made, it ought to be considered as abandoned, and this seemed to him true, in view of a dispatch from the minister of foreign affairs of France to Mr. Vion, which the latter had shown to him confidentially, wherein it was said that the government of that empire would have satisfaction in seeing the proposition of the United States accepted. To recur now to the indefinite truce might, therefore, be looked upon as an inopportune suggestion, besides which the truce could not be looked upon as a true solution of the question.
He terminated, stating that, if it be deemed indispensable to put a stop to the actual situation, in his opinion, it should be done by accepting the American mediation. Mr. Flores insisted in his government’s desire to have the situation defined, and said that the government of Chili had been the first to express the same wish.
Mr. Barranechea said that the government of Peru, although it had no reasons for hurrying a solution, would not place itself in opposition to its allies in this particular.
Mr. Godoy, replying to what his excellency Mr. Barranechea had said with reference to the truce, offered the following considerations: The government of Chili has no greater interest than any other of the belligerents in putting a stop to the actual situation, but believes that it is manifestly proper to define that situation, in order to furnish commerce with the guarantees and security which she requires for her development and prosperity; the idea of a truce could not be considered as abandoned by the mediatorial powers which had proposed it, but on the contrary, without an express act to that effect, ought to be held as still pending. If it be certain that a long time has elapsed since it was proposed, this fact is but one more reason showing the necessity of answering the proposition which contained it. Mr. de Moustier’s dispatch proves no such abandonment, but his desire, above all, that the existing situation should cease. Therefore, any negotiations tending to accept the truce would in no event have the appearance of an inopportune suggestion or be unseemly on the part of the allies. The reverse of what occurs with the proposition for an indefinite truce happens to the peace proposition; the latter could not be accepted without first establishing the conditions already prefixed by the government of Chili, and not accepted by the government of Spain, as appears by the dispatch already referred to of Mr. Kilpatrick, which makes it supposable that Spain declines to discuss them, perchance because she deems it incompatible with her dignity to initiate pacific propositions; and what Spain, the provoker of the war, considers indecorous perchance, could illy appear decorous to the allies who were the provoked. On the other hand, it would be more than difficult to frame proposals for peace which, our honor and interests being consulted, would at the same time be acceptable to Spain. An indefinite truce differs from peace, in that it demands no conditions, explanations, or reservations; to obtain that object no [Page 913] discussion whatever is necessary; except it, and everything is said, nothing remains to be added; it has all the advantages offered by peace with none of its inconveniences. For these and other reasons the government of Chili has been in favor of a truce, and would accept the same from any of the mediatorial governments.
Mr. Godoy added to the foregoing that whatever be the course adopted, whether peace, a truce, or a continuation of the existing state of affairs, the most important thing, that which is indispensable before all else, is to establish a uniformity of views among the allies in order that their deliberations may weigh with the mediatorial powers.
Mr. Flores observed that no end could be reached in the present conferences, since Mr. Godoy had already stated that he lacked powers to modify his government’s opinion, and from which that of Peru dissented. That to arrive at any agreement it would be necessary that all should be clothed with full power.
Mr. Godoy answered that he had simply exposed his government’s opinion, which opinion was not unknown to any of the allies, and which had been expressly accepted by one of them; that the view expressed by his government, far from being any obstacle to the attainment of the wished-for result, did nothing more than excite to it; that justly seeking the decision of its allies, the government of Chili had solicited their judgment, and commenced by expressing its own without any reservation; but that not for this did it pretend to exclude different views, nor to avoid the discussion of the opinions which might be presented, however divergent they might be.
In order properly to fix the terms and spirit of the American proposition, Mr. Barranechea read it anew, and called attention to the fact that it contains two parts—an armistice, and, this being accepted, a meeting of plenipotentiaries to negotiate a peace, without any mention of arbitration, which was the cause of the failure of the previous proposition, and the government of the United States limiting itself, in case its counsels should be asked, to make impartial efforts to procure due attention to the claims of all parties.
Mr. Benavente remarked that all were agreed as to the end, and for the purpose of reaching the same unanimity as to the means, he would like to know what course the government of Peru preferred.
Mr. Barranechea said that it would prefer to answer, accepting the American mediation, and that he would give its reasons therefor.
Mr. Benavente compared both propositions, and after duly considering them in view of all the antecedents, he said that the opinion of the government of Chili, which had been accepted by that of Bolivia, recommended itself by the practical sense in which it was conceived; that Chili and Bolivia wished to reach the only possible point in the actual state of the Spanish question, and that they had therefore accepted the “indefinite truce;” that that combination which conciliates the exigencies of the commerce of the belligerents, and all the respect due by the allies to neutral interests, would leave to the action of time the lessening of those passions which the fruitless war had created for the government of Spain, and deferred the celebration of a treaty of peace for the restoration of diplomatic relations to another time and for other men, who, free from every susceptibility, would end by recognizing that the demands of Castilian dignity are only reconcilable with the strict justice due by the Spanish government to the Pacific alliance; that, nevertheless, and agreeably to what the honorable Mr. Godoy had said, he was very desirous of arriving at a common agreement, and that for a purpose so worthy of the good relations of the allies, he would listen with attention to the reasons which the honorable Mr. Barranechea had offered to give.
After calling attention to the fact that the government of the United States had foreseen the inconveniences pointed out by his excellency Mr. Benavente, and that said government had doubtless framed the proposition in the terms which are known in order to avoid the same, Mr. Barranechea stated the reasons which exist for paying consideration to that government whose solicitude has never changed since the beginning of the war. Those reasons are contained in the note of 4th of November, 1866, which Mr. Barranechea read, and addressed by him on that date as sub-secretary of foreign affairs, to Señor Don José Pardo, the then minister of Peru in Santiago, saying to him, first, that scarcely had hostilities between Chili and Spain broken out, when the American government, through its representative in Santiago, offered its good offices and even its arbitration to Chili, which suggestion was repeated in Washington to Mr. Asta Buruaga; second, that under date of 24th May of the aforesaid year, the American minister, General Hovey, renewed the offer of mediation on the part of his government, which offer he was authorized to make before his government was aware of the triumph of the 2d of May, and to which Peru replied that it highly esteemed the offer, and would listen with the greatest deference to any propositions which the President of the United States might think proper to make for the purpose of attaining an honorable and fair peace; third, that, finally, the American government initiated the negotiation already spoken of, on the bases proposed by the House of Representatives.
Mr. Barranechea added, that not to accept the mediation now under discussion [Page 914] would be to cast a slight on the government of the United States as unfounded as it would be inopportune; that, moreover, whilst Peru had, as already shown, manifested itself in favor of the American mediation, it had been opposed to the truce, and knew no reason for changing its opinion now; whilst Chili is free to accept the pending proposition, inasmuch as it does not contain the arbitration clause, and facilitates the celebration of an armistice or truce, to which Chili is inclined.
Mr. Godoy observed that the proposition of the United States does not, in his judgment, offer that indefinite truce which Chili had favored, but only an armistice or momentary truce, as a preliminary step, to be followed at once by negotiations for peace, concerning which he had already given his views. He added that his government, after learning the contents of Mr. Seward’s circular, had found no plausible grounds for changing its opinion, as is seen by the answer which it gave to the dispatch of the government of Peru transmitting said circular to the Chilean; that, besides, it seemed to him that the armistice proposed by the government of the United States as the first step, if not followed at once by peace, would leave us in our present position, and we should have advanced nothing.
Mr. Benavente said that the reasons which he had just heard had modified his opinions, and that without contradicting himself, he believed preference should be given to the American proposition, if for no other grounds than that of deference to the especial considerations mentioned by his excellency Mr. Barrenechea; that by accepting that proposition, with the explanation that the “armistice” shall have the formal character of an indefinite truce, the difference between this and the English and French proposition would be a mere accident; that the former leads at once to the negotiations of peace, and the latter defers them to the lapse of time; that although he entertained the unfortunate conviction that Spain would not accept the conditions presented by the alliance for the adjustment of peace, that noble end was embraced in the American proposition, and perhaps it might not be in accord with the honorable aspirations of the allies not to show some deference in such a case, sure as they are of their right and of their power; that at all events the situation would only be defined in its commercial aspect, and if the peace negotiations should be frustrated by new refusals on the part of Spain to obey the mandates of her own decorum and duty, the world would have another proof of such aberration, which would increase the sympathy with which it already honors the pacific alliance, whose moderation is proportionate to the valor with which it conquered its unjust aggressor; that he promised, himself, that his government, notwithstanding it had accepted the opinion expressed by Chili, would give all its attention to this conference, and he hoped the cabinet of Santiago would not be less complacential in estimating it in its real importance, for the purpose of establishing the necessary uniformity between the two nations principally interested.
Mr. Flores comparing the two propositions, found that of the United States decidedly the most advantageous, inasmuch as it at once established the truce, and did not exclude peace negotiations, which, in his opinion, ought not to be rejected à priori. He noted that a favoring of the American mediation were the contents of Mr. de Moustier’s dispatch.
Messrs. Barrenechea, Benavente, and Flores being thus agreed as to the advantages offered by the proposition of the United States, and Mr. Godoy insisting on his government’s reasons for preferring the indefinite truce, Mr. Flores suggested the necessity of having a conference of plenipotentiaries to decide definitively as to the course to be adopted; that he, for his part, was invested with full powers for every kind of arrangement.
Mr. Benavente said, that notwithstanding his character of plenipotentiary, the laws of Bolivia would not allow him to make any arrangement not ad referendum, and that consequently he must first ask instructions from his government.
Mr. Godoy promised to send Mr. Flores suggestion to his government. He repeated that the government of Chili in order to take a decided stand, had endeavored to obtain the opinion of her allies; that already having Bolivia’s, and as Mr. Flores was to make known to it that of Ecuador, his government only needed that of Peru; therefore if Mr. Barrenechea would be pleased to give an answer to the dispatch before alluded to of 26th March last, a great step would be taken towards the attainment of the desired end.
Mr. Barrenechea promised the honorable chargé d’affaires of Chili to answer the note of 26th of March in conformity with the views just expressed by him.
With what has been set forth the conference terminated, of which the present protocol has been made in four copies of like tenor, signed by the undersigned, and sealed with their respective seals.