to Mr. Morgan.
Washington, November 28, 1881.
Sir: Referring to your correspondence with this Department since its instruction tendering the good offices of the Government of the United States in aid of the amicable settlement of the differences between Mexico and Guatemala, I have to remark that it would be a matter of the gravest disappointment if I found myself compelled to agree with you in the conclusion which you seem to have reached in your last dispatch.
Reporting in your No. 273, of September 22, 1881, your most recent conversation with Señor Mariscal, the Mexican secretary for foreign affairs, you say:
I venture to suggest that, unless the government is prepared to announce to the Mexican Government that it will actively, if necessary, preserve the peace, it would be the part of wisdom on our side to leave the matter where it is. Negotiations on the subject will not benefit Guatemala, and you may depend upon it what we have already done in this direction has not tended to the increasing of the cordial relations which I know it is so much your desire to cultivate with this nation.
“To leave the matter where it is,” you must perceive, is simply impossible, for it will not remain there. The friendly relations of the United States and Mexico would certainly not be promoted by the refusal of the good offices of this government, tendered in a spirit of the most cordial regard both for the interests and honor of Mexico, and suggested only by the earnest desire to prevent a war useless in its purpose, deplorable in its means, and dangerous to the best interests of all the Central American republics in its consequences. To put aside such an amicable intervention as an unfriendly intrusion, or to treat it as I regret to see the Mexican secretary for foreign affairs seems disposed, as a partisan manifestation on behalf of claims which we have not examined and interests which we totally misunderstand, can certainly not contribute “to the increasing of the cordial relations which you know it is so much our desire to cultivate with Mexico.”
But, more than this, “to leave the matter where it is” is to leave Mexico and Guatemala confronting each other in armed hostility, with the certainty that irritation and anger on the one side and extreme apprehension on the other will develop some untoward incident leading to actual collision. In such event no successful resistance can be anticipated on the part of Guatemala. Whether the claims of Mexico be moderate or extravagant, whether the cession of territory be confined to the present alleged boundary lines or be extended to meet the necessities of a war indemnity, there would be another lamentable demonstration on this continent of the so-called right of conquest, the [Page 815]general disturbance of the friendly relations of the American republics, and the postponement for an indefinite period of that sympathy of feeling, that community of purpose, and that unity of interest, upon the development of which depends the future prosperity of these countries.
The Republic of Guatemala, one of those American republics in whose fortunes the United States naturally feel a friendly interest, communicated to this government that there existed between it and Mexico certain differences which, after much diplomatic consultation, had failed to reach a satisfactory settlement. Recognizing the relation of the United States to all the republics of this continent, aware of the friendly services which this government has never failed to render to Mexico, and presuming not unnaturally that Mexico would receive our amicable counsel with cordiality and confidence, the Government of Guatemala asked our good offices with that power for the purpose of inducing it to submit to an impartial arbitration those differences upon which they had been unable to agree.
To refuse such a request would not only have been a violation of international courtesy to Guatemala, but an indication of a want of confidence in the purposes and character of the Mexican Government which we could not and did not entertain.
In tendering our good offices, the Mexican Government was distinctly informed that the United States—
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.
Before this instruction could have reached you, information was received that large bodies of Mexican troops had been ordered to the frontier in dispute. You were therefore directed to urge upon the Mexican Government the propriety of abstaining from all such hostile demonstration in order to afford opportunity for the friendly solution of the differences between the two governments. It is unnecessary now to repeat the reasons which you were instructed to submit to the consideration of the Mexican Government, and which were stated in the most earnest and friendly spirit, and which were communicated by you to the Mexican secretary for foreign affairs with entire fidelity.
I now learn from your dispatches that our information was correct; that Mexican troops have been ordered to the disputed boundary line, and that, while the Mexican Government does not absolutely reject a possible future arbitration, it is unwilling to postpone its own action to further discussion, and does not receive the good offices of this government in the spirit in which they have been tendered. The United States does not pretend to direct the policy of Mexico, nor has it made any pretension to decide in advance upon the merits of the controversy between Mexico and Guatemala. The Mexican Government is of course free to decline our counsel, however friendly. But it is necessary that we should know distinctly what the Mexican Government has decided. It is useless, and from your dispatches I infer it would be irritating, to keep before the Government of Mexico the offer of friendly intervention, while, on the other hand, it would not be just to Guatemala to hold that government in suspense as to whether there was a possibility of the acceptance of the amicable mediation which we have offered.
You will, therefore, upon the receipt of this instruction, ask for an interview with the secretary for foreign affairs. You will press upon his reconsideration the views which you have already submitted to him; assure him of the earnestness with which this government desires a [Page 816]peaceful solution of the existing differences, and inform him of our profound regret and disappointment that the tender of our good offices has not been received in the spirit in which it was made. You will, if he affords you the opportunity, endeavor to enforce the practicability of the solution which you suggested both to himself and the Guatemalan minister, by which the arbitration could be limited to the question of boundary without involving the title to the province of Chiapas.
If the Government of Mexico should be disposed to accept an arbitration, limited in its points of settlement as M. Herrera, the Guatemalan minister indicated would be acceptable to his government, you will ask the assurance of the Mexican Government that pending the discussions necessary to perfect such an arrangement all hostile demonstration should be avoided, and if possible that the Mexican troops should be withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of the disputed boundary. But this latter request you will not insist upon, if it should be an obstacle to obtaining the consent of Mexico to a limited arbitration.
Should the Mexican Government, however, decide that it was not consistent with its views to accept a friendly intervention in the differences between itself and Guatemala, you will inform the secretary for foreign affairs that you accept this decision as undoubtedly within the right of Mexico to make. You will express the very deep and sincere regret which this government will feel if it shall find the powerful Republic of Mexico unwilling to join the Government of the United States in maintaining and establishing the principle of friendly arbitration for international differences on the continent of America. Mexico and the United States, acting in cordial harmony, can induce all the other independent governments of North and South America to aid in fixing this policy of peace for all the future disputes between the nations of the western hemisphere. And it would be a marked and impressive precedent, if, in a dispute with a weaker neighbor, Mexico should frankly consent to a friendly arbitration of all existing differences.
You will further say to Mr. Mariscal that you are expressly instructed to call his attention to an expression of opinion which you have reported in your dispatch No. 253 of 11th of August, 1881, as follows:
He, Señor Mariscal, appears to entertain a very bad opinion of the President of Guatemala, and to think that his appeal to the United States has a purpose beyond the settlement of the boundary between the two countries. He said, for instance, he had been informed that you had expressed an opinion favorable to the consolidation of the Central American republics into one government; that the President of Guatemala was favorable to such a project; that he would like, in such an event, to become the President of the new nation, and that he was endeavoring to obtain the influence of the United States to further his ambition in that direction. He seems impressed with the idea that General Barrios is Mexico’s enemy, and that it would not be well to have his power increased.
Of course the Government of the United States has no information as to the personal ambitions of General Barrios, and it would deem any inquiry into or consideration of such a subject both unworthy and improper in any discussion of the great interests which concern the people of Central America, and their relation to the kindred republics of this continent. I am unwilling to believe, and, if compelled to believe, would deeply regret, that any such consideration could affect the temper or thought of the Mexican Government in determining its policy towards the republics of Central America.
But in reference to the union of the Central American republics under one Federal Government, the United States is ready to avow that no subject appeals more strongly to its sympathy nor more decidedly [Page 817]to its judgment. Nor is this a new policy. For many years this government has urged upon the Central American States the importance of such an union to the creation of a well-ordered and constitutionally governed republic, and our ministers have been instructed to impress this upon the individual governments to which they have been accredited, and to the Central American statesmen with whom they have been associated. And we have always cherished the belief that in this effort we had the sincere sympathy and cordial co-operation of the Mexican Government. Under the conviction that the future of the people of Central America was absolutely dependent upon the establishment of a Federal Government which would give strength abroad and maintain peace at home, our chief motive in the recent communications to Mexico was to prevent the diminution, either political or territorial, of any one of these States, or the disturbance of their exterior relations, in order that, trusting to the joint aid and friendship of Mexico and the United States, they might be encouraged to persist in their effort to establish a government which would both, for their advantage and ours, represent their combined wealth, intelligence, and character.
If this government is expected to infer from the language of Señor Mariscal that the prospect of such a result is not agreeable to the policy of Mexico, and that the interest which the United States have always manifested in its consummation renders unwelcome the friendly intervention which we have offered, I can only say that it deepens the regret with which we will learn the decision of the Mexican Government, and compels me to declare that the Government of the United States will consider a hostile demonstration against Guatemala for the avowed purpose, or with the certain result of weakening her power in such an effort, as an act not in consonance with the position and character of Mexico, not in harmony with the friendly relations existing between us, and injurious to the best interests of all the republics of this continent.
The Government of the United States has the sincerest sympathy and the profoundest interest in the prosperity of the Spanish republics of America, and is influenced by no selfish considerations in its earnest efforts to prevent war between them. This country will continue its policy of peace even if it cannot have the great aid which the co-operation of Mexico would assure; and it will hope, at no distant day, to see such concord and co-operation between all the nations of America as will render war impossible.
You will leave with Mr. Mariscal a copy of this dispatch.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,