No. 82.
Mr. Williamson to Mr. Fish.

No. 72.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of the memorandum of the conversation had yesterday morning with President Guardia, the result of which I gave you in my No. 71, written immediately after its occurrence, so as to send by the ship then in port, bound for Panama. You will notice that Mr. Edwin Corbett, Her British Majesty’s minister, took part in the interview and co-operated with me partly. Although I did not understand him to commit himself in the conversation to the plan of a personal conference of the five Presidents, yet I feel assured it meets his approval, and that his presence was taken by President Guardia as tantamount to an unqualified indorsement. So far everything looks favorable to the proposed personal conference, but I cannot say I feel certain it will take place, or that the good consequences will [Page 127] flow from it which I should be glad to witness. My belief, however, is (if the meeting is held) it will lead to a better understanding, if not to good-will, between the several Presidents, and thereby give the tranquillity to these states so much needed, and which, under these peculiar systems of personal governments, seems unattainable at present by any other means. The only man I have any doubt of is President Guardia.* * * A short time ago he placed the “executive power” in the hands of one of his friends and ministers, Gonzalez. In a few days afterward he resumed it, and Gonzalez and several of his advisers left the capital, it is presumed by order of the President. He retained the executive power for two days, accepted the resignation of all his ministers except two, and after appointing the two to perform all the ministerial duties, he placed the executive power in the hands of his uncle, Rafael Barroeta, who stills holds it nominally, while in truth Guardia is President and in command of the army as general-in-chief. These facts speak for themselves, and indicate a state of mind or condition of affairs not calculated to produce a conviction that President Guardia will attend the conference. On my way back to Guatemala I shall acquaint the Presidents of Nicaragua and Salvador with the result of the interview. If Leiva has been installed in Honduras I shall write him an unofficial note, or go to Comayagua to present my letter of credence if the state of the country will permit me.

I have, &c.,


Memorandum of conversation held this day between President Guardia, Edwin Corbett, esq. and Geo. Williamson, esq.

The conversation began by the two last-named gentlemen stating they felt assured the other republics of Central America, and especially Guatemala, were anxiously desirous of preserving and cultivating peaceful relations with Costa Rica. This assurance was given more emphatically for the states of Salvador and Nicaragua by the said George Williamson, esq., who had recently visited them and talked freely with their government officials and people, but in regard to the anxiety of the existing government of Guatemala for undisturbed peace with all the other Central American states the said Edwin Corbett, esq., and George Williamson were equally positive. President Guardia then stated he was as desirous of peace as any one could be, and he believed more so than the chief executives of the other states, because he and his country had more at stake than the others. He said that war would seriously embarrass (if it did not entirely prevent) the building of the Costa Rica Railroad, a grand enterprise which he had inaugurated, and in which his personal pride was involved as well as his sense of patriotic duty. His assurance of the pacific disposition of himself and the people of Costa Rica was quite strong. Mr. Williamson then stated he and Mr. Corbett had in their possession letters from the minister of foreign affairs of Guatemala, which they proposed to show to President Guardia, as they contained written assurances of the pacific intentions of that state. The letters were exhibited and read by President Guardia, and he stated that he had been advised of the discussion recenty held between the Presidents of Guatemala and Salvador at Chingo, so far as it affected Costa Rica affairs; and that after hearing the peaceable views expressed at said meeting by said Presidents, he had suspended his preparations for this war which he had believed it was intended to wage against Costa Rica. He said he was prepared for war at that time, and could have landed on any part of the hostile coast fifteen hundred armed men. He expressed satisfaction that the newspaper attacks on him in Guatemala and Salvador had been stopped. Mr. Williamson then stated that, of his own motion, it had occurred to him, from his personal knowledge of the Presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Salvador, and Nicaragua, and of the causes of misunderstanding between them, that, if they could be brought together face to face and talk over their affairs, a better feeling would result and a stop be put to the repeated [Page 128] threats of war and civil disturbances. The difficulty was to bring about such a meeting without a sacrifice of the official or personal dignity of any of the Presidents. He mentioned this subject first to the minister of foreign affairs of Guatemala, who told him the project of such a personal interview had been talked over at Chin go between Presidents Barrios and Gonzalez, and that Mr. Williamson had been mentioned in that interview as the person whose official position as minister to all the Central American states might enable him to invite such a personal conference. At the instance of the said minister and in his presence, and in the presence of Mr. Samayoa and others, government officials, Mr. Williamson had an interview with President Barrios on this subject. The President expressed himself desirous of such an interview, and the belief it could result in a good understanding between the states, but stated it would require tact for it to be brought about without touching the sensibility of some of the Presidents. He felt assured there would not be the slightest hesitation upon the part of the Presidents of Salvador and Nicaragua, and that he also felt assured that Leiba, who would very soon (in all probability) become the President of Honduras, would heartly concur. Mr. Williamson told him he thought he knew President Guardia well enough to feel assured that he would cheerfully consent to such an interview, and that he believed he could approach him on the subject without in any way compromising the personal or official sensibility of any one. President Barrios then insisted Mr. Williamson should make the attempt, and the latter consented, especially as he was also desirous of seeing President Guardia as to the amicable settlement of the boundary question between Nicaragua and Costa Rica. President Guardia said in reply to this he would be pleased to meet the other Presidents at a time and place to be agreed upon, and indicated as his choice of the place of meeting either San José or the city of Guatemala. The time and place of meeting could not be agreed upon for obvious reasons; but President Guardia said he was willing to meet the other presidents at any time and place that might be selected. After some further conversation on minor topics the conference closed.

This memorandum has been prepared since, in accordance with a suggestion of President Guardia that something should be written, and it is signed by all of the parties to said conference.


I recognize the correctness of the above statement as far as it relates to the interview of this day.