to Mr. Morgan.
Washington, June 21, 1881.
Sir: I had hardly completed my instruction to you of the 16th instant, No. 138, when information reached me from the United States minister at the Guatemalan capital, placing in a still graver light the condition of the relations between Mexico and Guatemala, touching the possession of the territory of Soconusco. In fact, so serious is the apprehension caused in the mind of the President by these untoward reports, that I feel constrained to supplement my previous instructions to you on the subject with even more of energy and succinctness.
It appears now as though the movement on the part of Mexico was not merely to obtain possession of the disputed territory, but to precipitate hostilities with Guatemala, with the ultimate view of extending her borders by actual conquest. Large bodies of Mexican troops are said to be on their way to Soconusco, and the exigency is reported to be so alarming that plans for national defense are uppermost in the minds of President Barrios and his advisers. Frequent border raids into Guatemalan territory have inflamed the passions of the residents of the frontier country, and the imminence of a collision is very great. Of the possible consequence of war it may be premature to speak, but the information possessed by the Department intimates the probable extension of hostilities to the other Central American States and their eventual absorption into the Mexican federal system.
I cannot believe it possible that these designs can seriously enter into the policy of the Mexican Government. Of late years the American movement toward fixity of boundaries and abstention from territorial enlargement has been so marked, and so necessarily a part of the continental policy of the American republics, that any departure therefrom becomes necessarily a menace to the interests of all.
This is a matter touching which the now established policy of the Government of the United States to refrain from territorial acquisition gives it the right to use its friendly offices in discouragement of any movement on the part of neighboring states which may tend to disturb the balance of power between them. More than this, the maintenance of this honorable attitude of example involves to a large extent a moral obligation on our part, as the strong but disinterested friend of [Page 769]all our sister states, to exert our influence for the preservation of the national life and integrity of any one of them against aggression, whether this may come from abroad or from another American republic.
No state in the American system has more unequivocally condemned the forcible extension of domain, at the expense of a weaker neighbor, than Mexico herself; and no state more heartily concurs in the condemnation of filibusterism in every form than the United States. It is clearly to the mutual interest of the two countries, to whose example the success of republican institutions on this continent is largely due, that their policy in this regard should be identical and unmistakable.
As long as the broadened international diplomacy of our day affords peaceable recourse to principles of equity and justice in settlement of controversies like that between Mexico and Guatemala, the outbreak of a war between them would, in the judgment of the President, involve much farther-reaching results than the mere transitory disturbance of the entente cordiale so much desired by the United States Government between all the American republics. Besides the transfers of territory which might follow as enforced compensation for the costs of a war, it is easy to foresee the serious complications and consequent dangers to the American system, should an opening be afforded to foreign powers to throw their influence or force into the scale in determination of the contest. Mexico herself has but too recently recovered from the effects of such a foreign constraint not to appreciate at its full force the consideration thus presented. The peaceful maintenance of the status quo of the American commonwealths is of the very essence of their policy of harmonious alliance for self-preservation, and is of even more importance to Mexico than to the United States.
I have adverted in my No. 138 to the desire of the United States that its neighbors should possess strong and prosperous governments, to the assurance of their tranquillity from internal disturbance and outside interference. While we wish this happy result for Mexico, we equally wish it for the other Spanish-American nations. It is no less indispensable to the welfare of Central America than of Mexico, and, by moral influence and the interposition of good offices, it is the desire and the intention of the United States to hold up the republics of Central America in their old strength and to do all that may be done toward insuring the tranquillity of their relations among themselves and their collective security as an association of allied interests, possessing in their common relationship to the outer world all of the elements of national existence. In this enlarged policy we confidently ask the co-operation of Mexico. A contrary course on her part could only be regarded as an unwise step, while any movement directly leading to the absorption, in whole or part, of her weaker neighbors would be deemed an act unfriendly to the best interests of America.
It is desired that you should make earnest but calm representation of these views of the President to the Mexican minister of foreign affairs. In addition to embodying the main points of my previous instruction, No. 138, you will make use of such temperate reasoning as will serve to show Señor Mariscal that we expect every effort to be made by his government to avert a conflict with Guatemala, by diplomatic means, or, these failing, by resort to arbitration. And you will especially intimate discreetly, but distinctly, that the good feeling between Mexico and the United States will be fortified by a frank avowal that the Mexican policy [Page 770]toward the neighboring states is not one of conquest or aggrandizement but of conciliation, peace, and friendship.
I have written this instruction rather to strengthen your own hands in the execution of the delicate and responsible duty thus confided to you than with a view to its formal communication to Señor Mariscal by reading and leaving a copy of it with him. If, in your discretion, the important ends in view will be subserved by your making the minister acquainted with portions hereof, you are at liberty to do so, while regarding the instruction as a whole in a confidential light, and as supplementary to my No. 138, which you have been authorized to communicate in extenso, if desirable.
I am, sir, &c.,