No. 78.
Mr. Williamson to Mr. Fish.

No. 60.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose you correspondence with the minister of foreign affairs of Nicaragua, in regard to a printed circular sent me to be forwarded to the Government, and also translated copy of said circular. Allow me to call your attention to my letter, of which a copy is inclosed.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 60.—Translation.]

Señor Rivas to Mr. Williamson

Sir: I have the honor to transmit to your excellency the inclosed communication, which under this date I address to the minister of foreign relations of Costa Rica, in answer to the circular-note which he addressed to the diplomatic and consular bodies on the 24th of October last.

Requesting your excellency to bring this document to the knowledge of your Government, I have the honor to subscribe myself your excellency’s very humble servant,

[Inclosure in 1 in No. 60—Translation.]

Circular of the government of Nicaragua.

Sir: The ministry under my charge has received the circular-note that your ministry thought proper to address, on the 24th of October last, to the governments with which the republic of Costa Rica holds intercourse, on the subject of the treaty of alliance, concluded on the 26th of August previous, between Nicaragua, Salvador, and Guatemala.

Your excellency says that, in view of that document, wherein solemn pre-existing engagements are completely forgotten, as well as the most common rules of international law, the forms in constant use among nations, and the respect and consideration [Page 118] due from one government to another, your government cannot remain indifferent, but must raise its voice to answer the injurious accusations and the threats made against it, and also to protest against the intervention of the other republics in affairs which concern Costa Rica exclusively.

Your excellency adds that, with this object, you have received instructions from your government to make a statement of its policy in regard to the other states respecting the acts which preceded the convention in question, and of the nature of the treaties broken by Nicaragua by the act of signing it; because, however much your government may wish it, it cannot consider that treaty under any aspect save that of an offensive and defensive alliance, concluded against the peace and independence of Costa Rica, and consequently it has to assume such an attitude as is proper in the situation in which it has been placed, declining at once all responsibility for the consequences that may be originated by said treaty, so unjust and so injurious to your excellency’s government.

Your excellency proposes to show in that statement, that since the triumph of the liberal revolution of 1871, in the republics of Salvador and Guatemala, up to the date of the circular-note herein referred to, no correspondence has taken place between Costa Rica and the other republics without expressions and acts of cordiality, there not being the least motive to suspect the existence between them of any cause of complaint; but, on the contrary, that everything has tended to show that they were to be considered as being in a state of profound peace, and perfect harmony with each other.

In regard to this republic, your excellency acknowledged that the existing relations, though friendly and fraternal, were somewhat impaired by coldness on account of the boundary question, the existence of which your excellency attributes to Nicaragua, because the executive power of this republic manifested some doubt before the congress of 1870 upon the validity of the boundary treaty concluded on the 15th of April, 1858, accepted and acted upon by both parties during twelve consecutive years.

Your excellency says that the question in itself is a grave one, because, if the treaty were annulled, as Nicaragua desires, Costa Rica would be free from the obligation which is thereby imposed upon it of keeping at a distance from the great lake and a part of the shore of the San Juan River, and it would be to the interest of Costa Rica to regain the limits it formerly possessed, to which it believes it has a right according to ancient titles. You further say that Nicaragua, for its part, with a prospect of opening the inter-oceanic canal, wishes to possess this route, to the exclusion of Costa Rica, and even now has a great interest in the Colorado River, which unquestionably belongs to that republic, throughout its extent; that in spite of this cause of difference between the two countries, and although at various times the question has been discussed with some warmth on either side, it has been agreed upon never to resort to extreme measures, but to arrange all disputes amicably by mutual consent or by arbitration, which method was lately accepted by Costa Rica, with the proviso that its right to Guanacaste should not be questioned, for the reason assigned in the presidential message of the 1st of May of this year.

As a proof of these assertions and of the prudence and justice that guide the acts of the government of Costa Rica, your excellency copied the first three articles of the treaty of friendship signed between Costa Rica and this republic; adding, that no communication having been addressed to your government for some time past by that of Nicaragua stating any cause of complaint, or demanding explanation of any act that might be construed as hostile to the tranquillity of Nicaragua, your government felt able to rest tranquil upon the faith of the treaties, believing them to have some significance in the relations between nations and governments; that, besides, the government of Costa Rica had another reason for believing itself secured by that of Nicaragua, and had full confidence in the personal character of the chief magistrate of this republic, whose previous conduct was, in its judgment, a guarantee of peace between the two countries; that with such a conviction it was to the interest of Costa Rica to use the influence of the government, if it had any, in arresting rather than precipitating the revolutionary movement in this republic, postponing it for the legal opportunity of the coming elections.

Your excellency says that, in view of all these precedents, your government remained tranquil, directing all its attention to the important work of the railroad already undertaken, and even thought to make it interoceanic for the good of Central America and the world, when it was painfully surprised by the treaty of alliance concluded by the three republics, which in its form and purport is highly offensive and threatening to the dignity, peace, and independence of Costa Rica, adding that its simple perusal reveals that in its conclusion nothing has been considered but private passions, individual hatred and prejudices, founded on superficial views, that ought never to influence negotiations of such importance and gravity; and after expounding the conduct that ought to be observed by states before agreeing to any alliance, and expressing especial surprise at that observed by Nicaragua, with which other treaties existed, your excellency ends by stating that the government of Costa Rica feels authorized to provide for the security of that republic, and to vindicate its offended dignity, without [Page 119] injury to the ties that unite it to Nicaragua; that in spite of the provocation offered to Costa Rica by said treaty, your government will maintain its programme of not raising a single Costa Rican soldier to invade the other states, on which it throws all the responsibility of the events that may occur in consequence of the adoption of measures suggested by prudence and necessity to provide for the security of the republic.

Mr. Minister, I have considered with due attention the allegations contained in your note, which I have brought to the notice of his excellency the President of the republic, in accordance with whose instructions I proceed to answer them one by one and in the order in which they are stated, having at the same time received orders to transmit copies of this dispatch to the governments to which your excellency addressed the circular-note in question, so that the nations interested may be able to judge with impartiality and accuracy concerning this important question.

Your excellency lays aside the vital question which led to the alliance of the states, making them appear as if moved by the impulse of secondary interests, or by an illegitimate wish to interfere with the internal affairs of your republic, which unquestionably only concern the people of Costa Rica.

In consideration of this view, so highly offensive to the honor of the states, and particularly to that of Nicaragua, which is the only one that has pending questions with your republic, it is the duty of my government to raise its voice most energetically against it, and to make manifest the true motives which have induced it to adopt the line of conduct it has recently followed in regard to its relations with the other states of Central America.

As may be seen by all the stipulations of the treaty, the object of the alliance is not the acquisition of material advantages, much less to favor the intervention of the states in affairs that do not concern them, but to provide for their mutual security against attacks which have been considered as proceeding from prominent members of the Costa Rican cabinet. Nor can any one dispute their right to adopt that measure, which vitally interests them; and if the Costa Ricans have any duty to fulfill under such grave circumstances, it is to investigate the facts and to lend support to their government, if those acts have been performed justly and legally and with a view to the advancement of the general interest; or to call them to account if, on the contrary, they have acted in violation of law, both domestic and international, and have disregarded the usages practiced by civilized and Christian nations and the obligations by which a nation is bound as regards its neighbors.

In the statement made by your excellency of the conduct of your government, you do not mention the protection received from it by certain exiles from the other republics; protection exceeding what humanity and other social considerations demand. Far be it from me and from the government of whose sentiments I have the honor to be the interpreter to criticise the generous and humane act of granting an asylum to citizens cast away from their homes by revolution. Nicaragua has also received and protected with its laws thousands of those unfortunate beings, even at the risk of its own peace, and although heavy expense was thereby incurred; but at the same time it has been very careful to prevent the asylum granted from being prejudicial to its neighbors, watching the emigrants very closely, and refusing entrance into the republic to those whose residence there, on account of their position in regard to the established governments, was deemed dangerous to the peace of the states whence they came. These acts have been a proof of the prudence with which the government of Nicaragua has acted with respect to those emigrants, it being now quite notorious that nearly all of them took an active part in the attempt made in the north of Honduras to upset the existing governments of Central America.

Can your excellency say as much of the conduct of your government? Even admitting that the expedition of the steamer “General Sherman” was undertaken in spite of the vigilance of the authorities, and that the conduct of the emigrants who concocted it during their stay in Costa Rica was so cautious as to conceal from the cabinet their intention to disturb the peace in the other states, how can the fact be explained that some of the leaders of that expedition, after having established their pretended constitutional government on the island of Utila, returned to your republic to reside in it, with the confidence of the soldier who returns to his quarters to rest after the fatigues of a campaign? How can the fact be explained that the semi-official press of your republic has been devoted to the publication of the most absurd news and of the most senseless effusions of the opponents of those governments?

I beg your excellency to allow me to say that such precedents were not of a nature to induce your government to rest upon the security of not having given cause for complaint, especially when the free press of all Central America had denounced the conduct of your government as hostile to the peace of all.

Be this said in regard to the republics of Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador.

With respect to Nicaragua, the inclination on the part of your government to provoke a rupture has been very evident. In the year 1870, when the present president of your republic held the supreme power provisionally, the provisional government committed an act of incivility toward Nicaragua, by declaring void the Montealegro-[Page 120]Jimenez treaty relative to the Ayon-Chevalier contract for the canal, without giving notice to this government, which the common usages of etiquette and the nature of the matter rendered obligatory upon your government. This proceeding was the more unjustifiable as the treaty thus annulled had been sanctioned by the congress of this republic. This it was that revived the old boundary question, not the doubt presented to the congress of Nicaragua concerning the validity of the treaty of 1858, which was due to that inconsiderate act on the part of your government, an act which, if allowed to pass without contradiction, would have subjected this republic to a degrading tutelage. Nevertheless, after some discussion of this vexatious question, it remained unsettled, and the relations between the two governments continued as if no such disagreeable incident had occurred, it being worthy of notice that the congress of the republic has abstained from saying a word about the proposed doubt, so as to leave to the respective cabinets the friendly adjustment of a question which properly belongs to them to settle.

If the question has again been revived, and has even assumed alarming proportions, it is not certainly by reason of provocations on the part of my government, which in this, as in other questions, has always tried to place itself in a defensive attitude, repelling the exaggerated pretensions of your cabinet, and at the same time seeking all the means of conciliation for the sake of the well-being of both countries.

The people of Nicaragua and of Central America generally have not failed to observe the marked disposition of your excellency’s government to seek causes of discord with this republic, which, from the beginning, has revealed the desire of attaining some ulterior object, nor have they been blind to the attempts of the head of the Costa Rican cabinet to acquire great prestige in Nicaragua, an attempt which first became evident at the time of the conferences at Rivas, and has subsequently been shown by the unofficial acts of the Costa Rican legation in this republic, and by the official press, which has more than once expressed the opinion that the extreme point sustained by my government in the pending question was the isolated opinion of the administration circle, mean, egotistical, and narrow, against the true sentiments of the people, whom they have tried to represent as more favorable to the pretensions of the cabinet of Costa Rica.

It might be said that this opinion was an error of the writers charged with the defense of your government; but the true meaning of those words cannot be mistaken when they are examined and compared with the official acts to which they relate. Such are, for instance, the acts of Juan Carrié, on the Colorado River, concerning which my government complained, and the refusal of that cabinet to give the frank and friendly explanations of those acts which the similarity of interests of both republics and the cordial relations existing between the two governments demanded.

In spite of the efforts which it was in the power of the government of Nicaragua to make, and which were made to re-establish harmony, the Nicaraguans have always suspected that your government is meditating plans against the peace of this republic; and even in the other states the same opinion prevails. Thus it was that, when my government established the legation to mediate between Salvador and Honduras, many insinuations were made to it that it would act wisely in instructing our plenipotentiary to negotiate an alliance with those governments, as the surest means of protecting the republic against the stratagems of your cabinet.

Although my government duly appreciated the justice of such insinuations, it would not act upon them, hoping that its conciliatory conduct would inspire better sentiments in official circles in your republic. The commissioner, however, being compelled by the public opinion of the country and by the prevailing ideas in the republic of Salvador, concluded sub sperati the Arbizu-Carazo treaty, of which, no doubt, your excellency received notice. In that convention it was expressly stipulated that the republic of Salvador should make common cause with Nicaragua in the settlement of the boundary question with Costa Rica, thus declaring justice to be on the side of this republic.

My government, however, not listening to the outcry of a great number of Nicaraguans, who saw in that treaty the salvation of the dearest interests of the republic, refrained from approving it, for the sake of peace and the positive interests of both countries, and because it is profoundly convinced that the pending question with that republic should be settled entirely by diplomacy.

In spite of this friendly and conciliatory conduct, your excellency’s government has not desisted from its disturbing and threatening course. It has imported extraordinary quantities of arms and munitions of war, whereby this people has been justly alarmed, the warlike stores in question being far in excess of what your republic requires, either to maintain order or to provide for its defense in case of an invasion.

My government has repeatedly been urged to demand an explanation from that of your excellency of an act which in all count lies is considered as a threat by neighboring nations; but it has refrained from taking this step for two reasons: first, because it has become convinced that your cabinet does not like to give clear explanations, as in the case of Carrié; and second, because it has relied upon the good sense of the [Page 121] Costa Rican people, who, whatever may be the character of their President, can never be induced to run after adventurers as if they were a pack of idlers and vagabonds. My government has felt and still feels confident that no war will be made against Nicaragua with Costa Rican soldiers. Would to God it could feel equal confidence in the personal character of some members of the Costa Rican cabinet, so that no suspicion could be entertained on account of such unwarranted acts, only calculated to disturb the peace of this republic.

Unfortunately, however, some blind opponents of this government, to whom patriotism is unknown, have felt themselves supported by the Costa Rican ruler. In small countries like these the steps and words of all the inhabitants are counted. Thus my country has been made acquainted, not officially, because the subject is not worthy of such means of information, but in a reliable form, with the conversations and mutual offers exchanged between members of your cabinet and some ungrateful sons of this republic.

Truly there has existed a close alliance between your government and its friends and the enemies of Nicaragua, so that, in the general questions of both countries, the opponents of this government are on the side of the Costa Ricans. Everything that is written in your country against the interests of Nicaragua or its government is at once reprinted here by those same opponents, and vice versa, all that the enemies of this government write is copied in the semi-official newspapers of your republic, with comments in support of the ideas therein expressed.

But even if my government had been inclined to doubt the facts brought to its notice, have they not been confirmed, one by one, by the semi-official press of your republic, showing, in the clearest manner, the relation existing between the designs of your cabinet and those of the enemies of order in this country?

But what reveals more clearly the alliance existing between the enemies of this government and the present administration of Costa Rica is the favorable reception met with in that republic by all who present themselves in the character of enemies of the administration in Nicaragua.

I should prefer not to speak of the money brought from Costa Rica by Don Paulino Salamanca, with the object of creating a revolution in this country, because this incident affects the personal character of your excellency. But what has occurred since the discovery of Salamanca’s treason is so serious, and shows so clearly at the same time the by no means friendly sentiment of your cabinet toward Nicaragua, that I should fail to fulfill my duty, if from personal considerations I were to omit in a document like this all the facts that have shaped the conduct of my government toward that of your excellency.

Your excellency has become aware, through the official publications of this republic, that Don Paulino Salamanca, having been charged with being the bearer of the money sent by the president of Costa Rica for the purpose of creating a revolution in Nicaragua, his apprehension was ordered for the purpose of obtaining proof of the fact; that Salamanca escaped from the escort that took him, and that he and Colonel Finoco, who received half the money, appeared some little time afterward in your republic. The reception which these traitors to Nicaragua have met with from the public functionaries of Costa Rica, the protection lately extended to them to enable them to carry out their treacherous designs, the same Salamanca having been the ring-leader in the piratical enterprises which have been organized in that republic for the purpose of disturbing the peace of Nicaragua and Honduras, Finoco himself having been the military agent of these undertakings—all this forms a concatenation of events tending solely to the object of destroying the precious gift of peace which this people enjoys, thanks to the conciliatory and impartial, as well as watchful, policy of my government. To cast a doubt upon the intentions that have dictated this conduct would be utterly in violation of the rules of logic.

But there is no necessity to resort to conjectures in regard to the views and inclinations of your government, when your excellency refers, in the dispatch which I am answering, to the existence of that alliance with the enemies of this government, emphatically saying that it was to the interest of your government to restrain rather than precipitate the revolutionary movement, postponing it for the legal opportunity of the coming elections.

Is not this, Mr. Minister, assuming to direct the electioneering movement in Nicaragua from the interior of your cabinet? By what right does your excellency’s government propose to interfere in such matters, which concern the Nicaraguans alone? Does it not reveal a design of unlawful intervention and the strange pretension, to which I have referred, on the part of the chief magistrate of your republic, to obtain prestige in Nicaragua?

It was the intention of my government to make a statement to your excellency in regard to several facts herein mentioned, and seriously to call the attention of the whole nation and its worthy representatives to said facts, so that, being aware of the conduct of their officers, they might check in time those abuses which could not fail to entangle the nation in serious complications.

[Page 122]

The sending of the embassy from the other states somewhat modified the intentions of my government, as, instead of making this statement separately, it preferred to make it in common with its allies, according to the spirit of the treaty of alliance which was concluded, but always with the design of enabling the Costa Rican nation duly to appreciate the official and unofficial acts of its officers, by which they have compromised its neutrality, violated its treaties, and endangered’ its peace and well being.

As the subject of this note is not the question of boundaries, but of the peace and security of Nicaragua and of all Central America, I will confine myself to contradicting three assertions of your excellency, only because they are made in a document of high diplomatic importance.

Your excellency asserts, in the first place, that Costa Rica formerly possessed the southern shore of the lake and the right shore of the river San Juan throughout its extent, and that it thinks it has a right to that boundary according to its old titles.

Secondly. That Nicaragua, having in view the opening of an interoceanic canal, wishes to possess that route to the exclusion of Costa Rica.

Thirdly. That Costa Rica has accepted the arbitration proposed by Nicaragua, with the proviso that its right to Guanacaste shall not be questioned.

All three assertions are utterly and notoriously inexact.

Costa Rica has never possessed the lake nor the river throughout its extent; for I do not think that your excellency means to call possession the precarious occupancy which the government of your republic held in those waters in 1857, which led to the conclusion of the boundary treaty of 1858.

It is true that Nicaragua desires to have no impediment in the exercise of its sovereign right to contract for the work of the canal or any other interoceanic communication; but your excellency has no reason to assume that Nicaragua wishes to enjoy the advantages of such communication to the exclusion of Costa Rica, it being quite notorious that the tendency of the measures taken by this government is to secure from enterprises of this kind the same advantages in favor of the citizens of Costa Rica as for those of Nicaragua.

The third assertion is contradicted by the very documents from which your excellency quotes. In the message of the 1st of May it is said “I believe that in no case whatever, nor with any motive, can we consent to have our right to the territory of Guanacaste questioned;” and in the report of the minister of foreign relations, dated the 13th day of the same month, to which the president alludes, it is said “the proposition for arbitration has not been accepted by Costa Rica, for the reasons which I will present to your enlightened consideration.”

He goes on to state these reasons, which are substantially those given by the president, adding that the boundary treaty is onerous to Costa Rica, on account of the valuable concession made by it to Nicaragua, and ends by asking, in the name of the president, for authority to break that treaty with the consent of Nicaragua. “The treaty once broken,” he says, “we will maintain the statu quo, but without the prospect of finding ourselves obliged to withdraw from the limits which nature has drawn between the two countries, viz, the lake and the whole of the San Juan River.”

“The Costa Ricans will not then forever see that strip of land, which, in the high equinoctial heats, prevents them from quenching their thirst in the waters of a lake partly formed by their large rivers.”

Nobody can but perceive the warlike disposition which guided the hand of the minister when he wrote the foregoing words, and I have quoted them with the object of rectifying their inaccuracy, only because they confirm the views of my government with respect to the sentiments of that of your excellency toward Nicaragua.

I have referred to the question of limits, because your excellency has been pleased to allude to it in the dispatch, and not because I believe it to be at all connected with the one now pending among all the states of Central America.

Let us now pass to the true state of things.

After showing the state of the boundary question, your excellency copies the first three articles of the treaty of friendship concluded between this republic and that of Costa Rica, in order to show to the Costa Rican people and to impartial nations that Nicaragua makes alliances for the purpose of supporting its pretensions in the arrangement of that question by force.

Mr. Minister, I repeat what has very often been said by my government, and clearly describes the treaty of friendship. The question of limits had not the least influence in the conclusion of that convention. If such had been the wishes of ray government, it would have accepted the Arbizú-Carazo treaty, which expressly treats of this subject; but it is firmly convinced that this question belongs exclusively to the diplomacy of both countries; that nothing can be arranged by force; and that whatsoever is done under its influence will vanish as soon as the force ceases to be exerted.

What causes, then, have brought about the alliance?

The treaty itself says: “It is the conviction of the allies that the present administration of Costa Rica is performing acts of hostility against them, violating the existing [Page 123] treaties, the usages which prevail among nations, and the respect and consideration due from one government to another.”

But your excellency says that ho explanations have been asked, nor has the time arrived for arbitration.

Mr. Minister, allow me to tell you that you have not appreciated at its just value the personal character of the chief magistrate of this republic, if you have thought that, in view of his essentially pacific and conciliatory disposition, he is capable of folding his arms in blind confidence in the presence of acts directly hostile to the peace of this republic, committed without the necessary tact to disguise appearances, and that he would send his commissioner to Belgium, or to some other neutral nation, to enter into a discussion upon flagrant acts, while, without any procedure, without respect or consideration, our enemies should be stirring up with impunity all the bad elements which society in this republic contains, paralyzing its commerce, its agriculture, and all its vital movements, all with the design of establishing a government that would permit the sacrifice of the national integrity and of the dearest interests of the Nicaraguans.

If your excellency believes, in good faith, that a government can rest tranquil upon the basis of treaties in presence of notorious hostilities committed by the other party, how is it that your excellency, interpreting the intention of the treaty of alliance as a design to make war against your republic, declares your government thereby free from the obligations of the treaties by which it was bound to Nicaragua? Why do you not ask explanations in regard to their supposed intentions, and ask for arbitration? A step of this kind would be the more reasonable, inasmuch as the act of Nicaragua is official, frank, and explicit, but rests, according to your excellency, upon an erroneous basis.

But it seems that the obligations imposed by treaties and by international law must only be binding upon Nicaragua, leaving rights and guarantees as the patrimony of your excellency’s government exclusively.

All the foregoing, Mr. Minister, shows that the treaty of alliance cannot have surprised your excellency’s government at a moment when it was entirely occupied with the great enterprise of the railroad; on the contrary, it must have been on its guard against very serious events, both from without and from within, from the moment that enormous sums of money, obtained at a great sacrifice on the part of the nation, were diverted from their legitimate objects, and great quantities of arms and munitions of war were imported with a design to disturb the peace of its neighbors.

I conclude, Mr. Minister, by repelling the insulting supposition that the treaty of alliance was dictated by personal hatred and other base passions, which cannot be explained in the relations of one people with another, and much less in acts sealed with the explicit approbation of the nations interested.

I beg your excellency to bring the foregoing to the knowledge of your government, and to accept the assurance of the distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be, your excellency’s obedient servant,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 60.]

Mr. Williamson to Señor Rivas.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, containing a request that the printed circular accompanying it may be transmitted to my Government.

The circular has been carefully read and considered, and I have caused a translation to be made for the purpose of forwarding it to my Government by the next mail.

I avail myself of this occasion to say that I have written to the government of Costa Rica, formally tendering my good offices for the settlement of the question of limits with Nicaragua, and that if it is possible for me to do so, I shall leave for Costa Rica by the next steamer, to see President Guardia in person upon that subject, and also upon the important subject of a meeting, at some convenient time and place, of the presidents of the five Central American states, with a view of establishing more amicable relations between them. All profess to desire peace, and the respective states need nothing so much to enable them to embark upon careers of prosperity as for the people and foreigners to be assured that the public order will not be disturbed. It is probable you will receive a communication on this subject from the government of Guatemala by this mail, as my mission to Costa Rica on the latter subject will be undertaken at the instance of President Barrios, who tells me he has recently discussed the matter with President Gonzalez, of Salvador. It is possible that President Guardia [Page 124] may not be disposed to listen to such unauthorized overtures as I can make, but it seems to me he will do so; and, whether he does or not, it is my duty, as well as pleasure, to make any reasonable exertions to maintain peace in these states, if I can do so without a compromise of my own dignity or that of the Government I have the honor to represent.

Your excellency will be pleased to accept the assurance of my distinguished consideration.

Your obedient servant,