to Mr. Blaine.
Mexico, July 19, 1881. (Rec’d Aug. 4th.)
Sir: I had another interview of Señor Mariscal on the 15th instant, at the department of foreign affairs, upon the subject of the differences between Mexico and Guatemala.
I informed him that since our last interview, an account of which I gave you in my dispatch No. 232, 12th instant, I had received other dispatches from you from which it would appear that great interest was felt at Washington upon the subject of the unhappy disputes between the two governments in question, and I had felt it to be my duty, before receiving his formal answer to the proffer made a few days since by the President of the United States, to act as mediator between them, to make some further suggestions to him with reference thereto. Señor Mariscal manifested something of excitement I thought, and interrupted me by repeating the complaints which Mexico had, as he said, just grounds to make against Guatemala of her want of fair dealing, and in fact duplicity, in pretending to negotiate a convention with him for the appointment of commissioners to survey the strip of territory which was in dispute, with the view of finally settling the boundaries between the two countries, while she had been secretly attempting to obtain the interference of the United States in their disputes, thus rendering the appointment of a commission unnecessary. He insisted upon it that it was Guatemala that had committed acts of aggression upon Mexico instead of Mexico upon Guatemala. He cited as a fact that it had been agreed between the two countries, when the convention which had been entered into between them for the appointment of a commission to survey the territory in dispute (the convention which expired by limitation without having accomplished its work) that pending the settlement of the boundary question, the line of demarkation should be at a certain [Page 776]point, and that not long since, Guatemalian troops had gone beyond that point, had planted the Guatemalian flag upon territory which was conceded to be Mexican, and had demolished certain monuments which had been erected thereon.
He spoke a great deal about the President of Guatemala, and the condition of the government of that country. But to this I paid little attention, as I had not gone to him to discuss either the conduct of the one or the condition of the other. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I said I had been informed that Mexico had sent a large body of troops to the Guatemalian frontier, and I asked him if my information was correct? He replied that some troops had been sent there, but that the number was not large, with orders to retake possession of that portion of the territory which had been occupied by the Guatemalian troops, and to rebuild the monuments which had been destroyed. (These monuments, he afterwards informed me, were a number of crosses standing on pedestals of stone, but not erected as marking the boundary between the countries.) I said to him, suppose the Mexican troops find troops from Guatemala on the disputed ground, and these latter deny the right of the Mexican troops to enter thereupon, what will be the result? He replied that the Mexican troops would then endeavor to take possession.
I remarked to him that all this only confirmed the information which my government had received, viz: that an angry feeling, to say the least of it, existed between Mexico and Guatemala, which angry feeling might at any time result in war, and that it was with the view of avoiding such a calamity that the President of the United States as the common friend of both parties would be willing to accept the position of mediator between them. He replied he did not think that the time for mediation had arrived; that a proposition for appointing a commission to survey the territory in dispute was then pending and until that was disposed of, he did not see what could be done; that Mexico had been insulted by Guatemala, and that before any further negotiations were entered upon, matters should be replaced in their former position.
Thereupon I said, I had called upon him in the expectation that he would declare that Mexico entertained no hostile purpose against Guatemala and I regretted to find myself mistaken, it being apparent to me that as Mexico had sent troops to occupy a disputed territory, if Guatemala had also sent troops there, the two armies were facing each other and a conflict might ensue at any moment; that this was a state of things which the United States could only look upon as a calamity, which it was their duty, if possible, to prevent.
He repeated that Mexico had been insulted by Guatemala, and asked “what is she to do?” I answered at once, submit the question of insult as well as the matters of interest which are in dispute between the two countries, to the arbitration of a common friend. I then directed his attention to the condition of affairs which would in all probability result from any open act of hostility on the part of either country; that one act of hostility would probably result in war, and that whatever might be the proximate cause of the war, or whatever might be the present purpose of Mexico to confine her efforts to maintaining what she claimed was the admitted boundary of her territory, there was no telling when a war was once commenced, where it would end, and that a war once begun between Mexico and Guatemala would almost of necessity resolve itself on the part of Mexico in one of conquest, for, I said, the result thereof could scarcely be doubtful; that Mexico would insist upon [Page 777]Guatemala’s paying the expenses of the war; that as she would not have the means of doing this, a portion of her territory would be taken from her, and that thus a movement would be inaugurated which would possibly result in the attempted absorption of all the republics, as far as the Isthmus of Panama, by the Republic of Mexico; that this raised the question far above the consideration of the individual interests of Mexico and Guatemala; That the preservation of all the republics on the continent in their present integrity of territory and under their present form of government was of the first importance, and that the United States could not look upon any act on the part of either of them which might result in breaking them up, or reducing their present territorial limits with anything but disfavor.
In evidence of the interest which the United States felt upon this subject, I reminded him of the position assumed by them towards France, then one of the most powerful empires of Europe, when a great portion of Mexico was in the power of French troops and when but for the intervention of the United States (and this at a moment when they had only just emerged from a struggle upon which their life had been at issue—a struggle which had taxed their resources to the utmost to enable them to maintain a war which had lasted for years and which had been waged upon a scale of enormous proportions) and without which action on their part it is possible that not only Mexico but all the territory south of it, as far as the Isthmus of Panama, would have become a French dependency—a result which the United States were prepared to take up arms, even in her then exhausted condition, against the French empire to prevent.
I called his attention to the fact that this was a question in which Mexico was as largely interested as any of the republics of Central America; that the Government of the United States and the people of the United States were opposed to filibusterism in any of its forms, but that it would be a bad example for Mexico to set to the world if she were to set about conquering neighboring territory, and that this example I hoped she would be slow to give.
I endeavored to impress upon him the fact that Mexico had now sufficient territory to support in comfort and happiness a population of one hundred millions of people; that the small territory of Guatemala would add only a trifle to that which Mexico already possessed, and looking at the question under discussion from the standpoint of her own interest, it was evident to me that the course which it seemed to me she was prepared to pursue could do her no good, and might do her a great deal of harm.
I also suggested to him the evil consequences which would probably result from the mere fact of a state of war upon the many and vast schemes of public improvement which were in progress of construction as well as in contemplation—schemes which, if carried out, would connect all of her territory, and make every portion thereof accessible, as well as give to her the means of communication with the United States by safe and rapid methods of transportation, all of which would certainly be disturbed, if they were not suspended by a state of war; that the money which had been, up to the present moment, spent upon these works had come from the United States; that our people were ready and willing to furnish all that might be required to complete them, and that they felt therefore a natural interest that the sums which they had already expended should not be lost, as well as that their future undertakings should not be embarrassed by war.
I urged upon him that a war between any two of the North American [Page 778]republics would be a reproach upon republican institutions which would not fail to be made against them by those whose interest it was to oppose our form of government; that from this point of view, the question was one of importance to the entire North American continent, and that when our common interests were threatened in this direction it was, I thought, the duty of the United States to interpose their good offices to prevent it; that as the United States were the pioneers upon this continent of republican institutions, they were justified in offering their advice when they saw that a war was imminent between either of the republics thereon, and, that their position and disinterestedness seemed to render it only proper that their advice should not be lightly rejected. I assured him that the suggestions of which I was the interpreter were prompted alike from the purest feelings of friendship which the President entertained for both Mexico and Guatemala as well as from his desire to see that the integrity of the two nations should not be impaired; that in the present advanced state of public opinion diplomacy should first be exhausted, and after that arbitration, before war should even be thought of, and that I therefore earnestly hoped he would, in the reply which he had informed me he was preparing, admit the justice of the position I had assumed and signify the assent of President Gonzalez to the offer made by the President.
This is the substance of my remarks. My words, tone, and manner were as conciliatory as I could make them, although I left, I think, no room for doubt as to my earnestness, or the views which I was instructed to present.
Señor Mariscal replied that the present purpose of Mexico was to cause the Guatemalan troops to evacuate the territory which they had, in the opinion of the Mexican Government, occupied without authority and to replace the “monuments,” as he called them, in the state in which they were prior to their demolition. This done he would then be ready to renew negotiations for the purpose of appointing a commission to survey the territory in dispute in order that the question of boundary might be finally settled. He denied that Mexico had committed any act of aggression upon Guatemala, and distinctly disavowed any intention on the part of Mexico to use her troops for the purpose of conquering any portion of the territory belonging to Guatemala, and stated that of this disavowal I might inform you. Thereupon I took leave of him.
In the mean while nearly a fortnight has elapsed since I first brought the matter to Señor Mariscal’s attention, and he has not furnished me with the written reply which he stated he would prepare, although I said to him in my last interview that I was anxious to forward it by this mail.
I do not feel justified in waiting for it before informing you of what has occurred up to date.
I am, sir, &c.,