No. 5.
Mr. Osborn to Mr. Fish.

No. 66.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a note, dated July 5, 1875, a copy of which I have retained for the archives of this legation, addressed to me by Dr. Pardo, minister for foreign affairs, in relation to the present boundary dispute between the Argentine Republic and Chili; and the protest of the Chilian minister, Mr. Blest Gana, against the law for a line of steamboats from Buenos Ayres to Santa Cruz River, with land-grants in favor of the company, and the reply of this government to the protest, copies of which I also herewith inclose.

I am, &c.,


Dr. Pardo to Mr. Osborn.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to address your excellency, inclosing an authorized printed copy of the protest which the minister plenipotentiary of Chili has addressed to this ministry, in reference to the discussion in Congress of a bill to grant aid to a line of steamboats to Patagonia, and to make a land-grant to the company having charge of this enterprise. At the same time, a copy is also inclosed of the reply made to this protest, which is as groundless as it is irritating in tone.

In that reply, and with the brevity required in a document of that nature, I have recapitulated the state of the pending question with the government of Chili, as well as the fundamental reasons for resisting its unheard-of pretension with regard to Eastern Patagonia. They will convince your excellency that it is not the Argentine Republic that raises groundless disputes, which may give rise to unpleasant and even fatal emergencies.

If your excellency has ever given your attention to our boundary question with the government of Chili, you must have observed with surprise that that government, while professing great anxiety for its speedy settlement by arbitration, has, practically, placed obstacles in the way of the realization thereof by acts which, like its recent protest, affect the honor and the national dignity of the republic.

Strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that the government of Chili claims that its assertions, destitute of any proof, should have greater weight than the evidence of our titles and the notorious character of the facts; because, in effect, the peaceful and tranquil possession in which it claims to be of Patagonia has no other foundation than those assertions, and no greater value than the declaration which it recently made that on taking possession of Punta Arenas, it intended to do so likewise of all the adjacent territories, in which it included all Patagonia. According to this doctrine, which implies inadmissible reserves, to which nobody would consent, the government of Chili would have had the same right to assert a claim to the Rio de la Plata itself.

The principle of the uti possidetis of 1810 having been adopted as the rule to be observed [Page 8] in fixing the boundaries of the two countries, the representative of Chili should not have forgotten that according to his own claim, the establishment of the colony of Punta Arenas in 1844, notwithstanding the protest of the Argentine Republic, in the only territory which was at that time in dispute, constituted the most flagrant violation of the status quo; while the charge which he makes that we have violated it, is without foundation, according to his own doctrines with respect to Eastern Patagonia, which, previously to the year 1810, as well as subsequently, was constantly under the absolutely undisputed jurisdiction of Buenos Ayres.

The Argentine Republic might then with a better right have initiated the discussion by raising a dispute with Chili with regard to that territory which she improperly and unlawfully occupied; but being actuated by other sentiments, she was always far from attributing designs to a neighbor which could compromise the dignity of a friendly and sister nation, preferring, with respect to actual possession, to leave the question of ownership to be decided by arbitration.

The Argentine government always expected from Chili the frank and friendly reciprocity to which it believed itself entitled by its constant acts of deference; and great was our surprise on seeing that simultaneously with the peaceable discussion she commenced her aggressions in order to claim, subsequently, to base her rights thereupon, forgetting that her government had by implication recognized the illegitimate nature of those acts, either by apologizing for their character, or promising not to continue them.

To our frank and friendly reclamation on account of acts of jurisdiction exercised by Chili at the eastern mouth of the Straits of Magellan, it replied by insinuating that we were opposing the free and untrammeled navigation of that body of water, as if such a charge could be made against the Argentine Republic, which, in its respect for the principle of free navigation, has gone so far to enforce it in its widest latitude in its own internal rivers.

The Argentine Republic only asked of Chili that, it should first solicit our consent and co-operation for the execution of the works which were necessary to facilitate the navigation of that interoceanic passage.

Can a request be conceived more in harmony with the principles of international law, in view of the nature of the dispute? The government of Chili, however, would not even enter into this arrangement, which, as your excellency will understand, might have been the stepping-stone to others, which would have resulted in the amicable settlement of our differences.

Thus the time for the decision of the question by arbitration has been retarded by causes over which we had no control, and good grounds have been given to think that under the semblance of a desire for settlement, there was rather a purpose to delay it indefinitely. Otherwise, every act of deference on our part would not be met with a new demand or aggression.

If the government of Chili sincerely desired the termination of this dispute, why, abandoning its unfounded pretensions, does it not place both itself and us in such a position as to have arbitration carried into effect?

Our titles to Patagonia are of such a nature, Mr. Minister, as really to exclude better ones, because it is impossible that, in founding the viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres, the Spanish sovereign should have assigned that region to this government and to that of Chili at the same time. Any other division would have been absurd, in view of the position of the Andes; and one of the best-known men in Chili truthfully said, in a moment of unrestrained frankness, that history, geography, and right constituted us masters of Patagonia.

Now, with such convictions we can place no difficulties in the way of the settlement of the dispute by arbitration, nor can we delay it in the hope that dangerous contingencies will give us what is our own.

But this same confidence which we feel in the result of the dispute inspires us with apprehensions in view of the agitation which it is sought to produce by presenting the prospect of a state of dangers. We live for progress; and the intervals of peace which we have enjoyed have of late years enabled us to catch a glimpse of what we may soon become by pursuing a policy of peace.

America, and the nation which your excellency so worthily represents, being connected with us by a considerable commerce and vast capital employed in promoting our progress, and by thousands of its sons who have met with cordial hospitality in this country, are, like us, interested in the maintenance and perpetuation of peace as well in the acts as in the minds of the people, undisturbed by the want of trust which grows out of groundless and menacing acts, which, though they may be sufficient to produce alarms which do us injury, will never be able to intimidate us. Our desire to continue in the path of progress will not lead us to abandon our rights, nor to consent to the dismemberment of our territory, because justice is on our side, and we have the courage to sustain it.

I beg your excellency to be pleased to lay before your Government the protest and reply to which I have referred in this note, that it may judge on which side are justice [Page 9] and moderation. And in order that your excellency may be able to give your testimony to it of the right which is on our side in refusing to yield to the demands of the Chilian government, and of the evidence of our right, I offer to your excellency to demonstrate it by exhibiting our original titles.

I desire thus to furnish a proof of the respect which my government entertains for the enlightened and impartial opinion of the friendly nations with which our own maintains relations of friendship and mutual interest.

I avail myself of this occasion to reiterate to your excellency the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency General Thomas O. Osborn,
Minister Resident of the United States.