Mr. Williamson to Mr. Fish.
Guatemala , December 3, 1873. (Received December 30.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I embarked to day on the “Labrador” for Punta Arenas, in Costa Rica, at the urgent instance of the government of Guatemala, for the purpose of seeing whether it is practicable to bring about a meeting of the Presidents of the five republics, or southern states, in order to talk over and, if possible, settle their differences. Having acquired some knowledge of these people, I must confess that my trip seems to be rather quixotic, but taking all things into consideration, it has seemed to me best to undertake it. I consider all the governments in Central America as merely personal, except, perhaps, those of Salvador and Nicaragua. In those two states the administration of public affairs is conducted by the respective Executives with a considerable regard to the forms of law and the constitutional provisions. In Nicaragua the Executive, so far, has appeared to be desirous not to overstep his authority; but this is owing to his habitual caution or timidity, rather than to any restraining influence of an organized public sentiment. In Salvador, I think, President Gonzalez is restrained in some measure by public sentiment, for, in my opinion, there is more of the genuine spirit of republican liberty in Salvador than in any of the five states. The standard is low, but it is to be hoped will be elevated in time. The intelligence comes to me from Honduras that Arias intends to prevent the meeting of the constitutional assembly, and defeat thereby the election of Leiva. I am informed he is trying to raise men and means, and by making the assertion that Leiva is but the creature of Guatemala and Salvador, is trying to arouse popular pride and indignation. Judging from his character and the obstinacy with which he has held on to his office, I should not be at all surprised if the news is true. It is probable he is encouraged by the reported prospect of war between Costa Rica and Nicaragua which would involve Guatemala and Salvador. There is no danger of such a [Page 126] war, although Guardia has placed the executive power (as it is called here) in the hands of Minister Gonzalez, and has assumed command of the army, which he tells us in a flaming manifesto. His people will not follow him, unless I am misinformed. None of the other states or their governments desire war, and hence I hope Guardia may be glad to have an opportunity presented to him to assume a more peaceful “role.” Besides his own term of office depends much upon his personal presence at the capital. If he has any judgment or regard for himself or his country, he cannot go to war. I still believe Arias will be deposed and Leiva installed, even if it requires the joint powers of Guatemala and Salvador to accomplish that result. Hence if the meeting of the five Presidents occurs in a month or so, my belief is that Leiva will be one of the number.
I have, &c.,