to Mr. Morgan.
Washington, June 16, 1811.
Sir: In my instruction of the 1st instant and to-day, I have so clearly amplified the spirit of good will which animates this government toward that of Mexico, that I am sure no room for doubt can remain as to the sincerity of our friendship. Believing that this friendship, and the frankness which has always distinguished the policy of this country toward its neighbors, warrant the tender of amicable counsel when occasion therefor shall appear, and deeming such counsel due to our recognized impartiality, and to the position of the United States as the founder and, in some sense, the guarantor and guardian of republican principles on the American continent, it seems proper now to instruct you touching a point upon which we feel some natural concern. I refer to the question of boundaries and territorial jurisdiction pending between Mexico and Guatemala.
In the time of the Empire, the forces of Iturbide overran a large part of the territory of what now constitutes Central America, which had then recently thrown off the Spanish domination. The changing fortunes of war resulted in the withdrawal of Mexican forces from most of that region, except the important provinces of Soconusco and Chiapas, which remained under their control. Since that time the boundaries between the two countries have never been adjusted upon a satisfactory basis. Mexico, becoming a republic, did not forego claims based on the imperial policy of conquest and absorption, while Guatemala, resisting further progress of Mexican arms, and disputing, step by step, the conquests already made, has never been able to come to a decision with her more powerful neighbor concerning the relative extension of their jurisdiction in the disputed strip of territory lying between the Gulf of Tehuantepec and the Peninsula of Yucatan.
Under these circumstances, the Government of Guatemala has made a formal application to the President of the United States to lend his good offices toward the restoration of a better state of feeling between the two republics. This application is made in frank and conciliatory terms, as to the natural protector of the rights and national integrity of the republican forms of government existing so near our shores and to which we are bound by so many ties of history and of material interest. This government can do ho less than give friendly and considerate [Page 767]heed, to the representations of Guatemala, even as it would be glad to do were the appeal made by Mexico, in the interest of justice and a better understanding. The events, fresh in the memory of the living generation of Mexicans, when the moral and material support of the United States, although then engaged in a desperate domestic struggle, was freely lent to avert the danger which a foreign empire threatened to the national life of the Mexican republic, afford a gratifying proof of the purity of motives and benevolence of disposition with which the United States regards all that concerns the welfare and existence of its sister republics of the continent.
It is alleged, on behalf of Guatemala, that diplomatic efforts to come to a better understanding with Mexico have proved unavailing; that under a partial and preliminary accord looking to the ascertainment of the limits in dispute, the Guatemalan surveying parties sent out to study the land, with a view to proposing a basis of definitive settlement, have been imprisoned by the Mexican authorities; that Guatemalan agents for the taking of a census of the inhabitants of the territory in question have been dealt with in like summary manner; and, in fine, that the Government of Mexico has slowly but steadly encroached upon the bordering country heretofore held by Guatemala, substituting the local authorities of Mexico for those already in possession, and so widening the area in contention.
It is not the present province of the Government of the United States to express an opinion as to the extent of either the Guatemalan or the Mexican claim to this region. It is not a self-constituted arbitrator of the destinies of either country, or of both, in this matter. It is simply the impartial friend of both, ready to tender frank and earnest counsel touching anything which may menace the peace and prosperity of its neighbors. It is, above all, anxious to do any and every thing which will tend to make stronger the natural union of the republics of the continent, in the face of the tendencies of other and distant forms of government to influence the internal affairs of Spanish America. It is especially anxious, in the pursuance of this great policy, to see the Central American republics more securely united than they have been in the past in protection of their common interests, which interests are, in their outward relations, identical in principle with those of Mexico and the United States. It feels that everything which may lessen the good will and harmony so much to be desired between the Spanish American republics of the Isthmus must in the end disastrously affect their mutual well-being. The responsibility for the maintenance of this common attitude of united strength is, in the President’s conception, shared by all, and rests no less upon the strong states than upon the weak.
Without, therefore, in any way prejudicing the contention between Mexico and Guatemala, but acting as the unbiased consellor of both, the President deems it his duty to set before the Government of Mexico his conviction of the danger to the principles which Mexico has so signally and successfully defended in the past, which would ensue should disrespect be shown to the boundaries which separate her from her weaker neighbors, or should the authority of force be resorted to in establishment of rights over territory which they claim, without the conceded justification of her just title thereto, and especially would the President regard as an unfriendly act toward the cherished plan of upbuilding strong republican governments in Spanish America, if Mexico, whose power and generosity should be alike signal in such a case, shall seek or permit any misunderstanding with Guatemala, when the path [Page 768]toward a pacific avoidance of trouble is at once so easy and so imperative an international duty.
You are directed to seek an interview with Señor Mariscal, in which, to possess him with the purport of this instruction. In doing so, your judgment and discretion may have full scope to avoid any misunderstanding on his part of the spirit of friendly counsel which prompts the President’s course. Should Señor Mariscal evince a disposition to become more intimately acquainted with the President’s views after your verbal exposition thereof, you are at liberty to read this dispatch to him, and should he so desire, to give him a copy.
I am, &c.,