No. 53.
Mr. Putnam to Mr. Blaine .

No. 74]

Sir: I have the honor to state that your dispatch No. 46, relating to the proposed treaty arbitration between the governments of Costa Rica and Colombia, duly arrived at the legation.

An incident which occurred within a few days left no doubt in my mind that the question of His Majesty’s acceptance of the trust as arbitrator had in some form come before him for his consideration. I felt so assured of it that I felt justified in calling upon Baron Lambermont, assistant secretary of the foreign office. I soon introduced the subject of the treaty, and stated that I was under the impression that His Majesty had the subject of acting as arbitrator between those two governments under consideration, if he had not already decided as to its acceptance. He said that as yet His Majesty had not received the formal official notice, but that informal communications on the subject had been made to the foreign office by the minister of Costa Rica. This satisfied me that I did not mistake in believing that the subject-matter of accepting the appointment had already, at least informally, been placed before His Majesty, and that the necessary formal notice—necessary even that the office of arbitrator might be declared and the duty transferred to His Majesty the King of Spain—would be positively given.

I stated to Baron Lambermont that, as he was aware, the Government of the United States had very important treaty rights and obligations in connection with the isthmus and territory of the State of Panama. That there were special and controlling reasons why the Government of the United States felt it due both to His Majesty and to itself that if the question of acting as arbitrator was presented to His Majesty he should be advised of the exact position of the Government of the United States toward the proposed arbitration; that it deemed this necessary to prevent any future misunderstanding or misapprehension on the part of His Majesty that might arise from any attitude the Government of the United States might feel it its duty hereafter to take, in view of its existing treaty rights and obligations; that I was instructed by my government if the question of acting as arbitrator was submitted to His Majesty, to seek an opportunity in a method most agreeable to himself to present to him its position in connection with the proposed arbitration; that the object was not to seek to influence in any degree any decision of His Majesty, nor to present any view of its own on the question to be submitted, but solely that its own position in connection with the arbitration might be understood by His Majesty; that it felt all the more desirous that it be understood because of the high consideration the government entertained for His Majesty.

Baron Lambermont asked me if my instructions were to present what I might have to communicate in writing. I replied that my government, I felt, would prefer a less formal method, as what it desired was in as simple manner as possible to make known its own position, as I had stated. At this point in the interview the assistant secretary said he would ask in Mr. Orban, chief of the “Direction Politique” of the office of foreign affairs, with whom all the communications on the subject had been made.

I repeated in substance to Mr. Orban, on his coming in, what I had previously stated to Baron Lambermont. He confirmed the statement [Page 75] of the baron, that the communications relating to the acceptance by His Majesty of the office of arbitrator had so far been informal; that it was proper His Majesty should be informed of the position of the Government of the United States to the proposed arbitration; that after the official notice had been duly given and His Majesty had decided to accept the trust, should he so decide, the opportunity I desired would be afforded me. I then replied that my government might desire its position to be understood by His Majesty while yet deliberating upon the question of accepting the office of arbitrator, that the subject might be fully before him, and, if so, that I would be glad of the opportunity to present it at that stage of the proceedings.

Mr. Orban then said:

I see your view, Mr. Minister. This is the situation. The treaty provides its arbitrator in this order:

The King of Belgium.
The King of Spain.
The President of the Argentine Republic.

As yet only informal communications on the subject have been made. After the formal official notices have been given and before His Majesty’s decision upon the question of acting as arbitrator, you will undoubtedly have the opportunity you wish, as you have here expressed, and be duly advised through the foreign office. This subject will be laid before the minister of foreign affairs, who will doubtless inform His Majesty.

With that understanding terminated the official interview. Nothing could be more kind than the manner in which the subject, as I presented it, was treated. I entered into no details, generalizing throughout as I have indicated.

I have, &c.,