Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 5, 1881
to Mr. Evarts.
Santiago, Chili, November 23, 1880. (Received January 3, 1881.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a circular note addressed by this government to the diplomatic representatives in Santiago, explanatory [Page 115] of Chili’s purposes in the war in which she is engaged, as also an English translation thereof.
The government evidently fears that the discussion in the Aria conference may have left an impression that in exacting Tarapacá as a condition for peace, Chili has proclaimed the right of conquest, and the minister’s note seems to be directed mainly to the removal of any such belief. It is insisted, as you will observe, that the territory mentioned was demanded as indemnity for damages sustained by Chili because of the war-damages which, it is claimed, Peru is powerless to liquidate in any other way.
The minister also touches upon the proposition made by the allies in the conference to submit the questions in dispute to the arbitration of the United States, justifying the action of his government upon the ground that the results of the war have given to Chili certain rights which cannot well be determined in the manner proposed. As I have heretofore written to you, my judgment is that the proposition for arbitration was not made with the expectation that it would be seriously entertained. Had the reverse been true, I assume that it would have been submitted in some practicable form, rather than in the intangible shape in which we find it.
I have, &c.,
Chilian circular to the foreign representatives.
Santiago, November 10, 1880.
Sir: At the commencement of the war into which Chili was provoked by the injustice of Peru and Bolivia, my government made haste to lay before the friendly powers the all-powerful reasons that compelled her to seek in war satisfaction for her grossly offended honor and seriously imperiled interests, ends which, notwithstanding Chili’s repeated efforts, it had been impossible to attain by conciliatory measures.
The absence of all military organization consequent upon years of peace; the habits of the people of Chili, devoted to peaceful toil and industry; the financial crisis that then weighed upon the country, the wholly unarmed condition of the republic, which had reached the point even of disbanding the national guard, her sale at public auction of a number of her war vessels; will demonstrate to your excellency’s government how distant from Chili was the thought of her tranquility being interrupted, how sincere was her love of peace.
The Republic of Chili would never have abandoned her peaceful attitude had it not been for the continued violations of her most sacred treaty obligations on the part of Bolivia, the discovery of the existence of a secret compact against her integrity, entered into between Peru and Bolivia, at a time when the outward relations of these powers with Chili were of the most friendly character, and finally the outrages committed against her citizens, all of which compelled her to resort to arms in vindication of her rights. Involved thus in a war against her will, and after having exhausted all peaceful means, she found herself compelled to accept it, as a last resort, and she now relies to the end upon the justice of her cause and the unfailing zeal of her people.
The hopes entertained by Chili have not been disappointed by the course of events; since the declaration of war her navy has annihilated the maritime power of Peru, and now holds her principal seaports under blockade. Her armies, in numerous engagements, have everywhere overcome her enemies; and she is now the mistress of all the Bolivian coast, and a very considerable portion of that of Peru. An uninterrupted series of defeats have made it impossible for the allied forces to recuperate their losses, and rendered them powerless to resist our attacks. In the face of events already consummated, and the stern reality of what has already occurred, the attempts made by them to conceal the truth or misrepresent facts are futile.
Under this condition of affairs, so unquestionably in favor of Chili, the Government [Page 116] of the United States, through its representatives near the three republics, tendered their good offices as meditator for the re-establishment of peace. The Government of Chili, true to its traditions and sincere in its international policy of loyal friendship with all nations, with a firm resolution that she would interpose no obstacle toward securing peace upon a firm and lasting basis, accepted the offer of the great Republic of the North, notwithstanding her repeated successes against the allied powers.
Mediation having been accepted by Peru and Bolivia, it was also accepted by Chili, and for this purpose a conference was held at Arica. The mode and result of this meeting your excellency will find by a perusal of the copies of the documents I have the honor to herewith transmit.
By the protocol at the first meeting of the conference, a memorandum was submitted of the conditions that Chili deemed essential for the attainment of peace, which, as I will proceed to explain to your excellency, were the only ones that could have permanently and equitably put an end to the war.
In view of the situation of the belligerents, the series of victories obtained by Chili, both on land and sea; the enormous expenditure of blood and treasure that the war had cost the country; the blind tenacity with which the enemy persisted in carrying it on, thereby uselessly increasing the expense and injury; the outrages committed on our citizens whose property was confiscated and they expelled from the country; the obstacles thrown in the way of the development of our industries and commerce; in view, I repeat, of these antecedents, it was not reasonable to suppose that Chili would appear at the conference of Arica with other than a firm resolution to insist upon an indemnity that should, in part at least, compensate for so many and so great sacrifices on her part.
But two courses presented themselves that could make the attempt at an understanding and peace a success. One, the surrender of the territory according to the first clause of the memorandum submitted to the plenipotentiaries of the allies, as indemnity for the expenses and damages of the war, or the exaction of a stipulated sum of money upon the same grounds, Chili holding the territory now in her possession as security and until the final payment of such idemnity.
The adoption of the latter course found an insuperable obstacle in the deplorable condition of the finances of both Bolivia and Peru. For years past the embarrassed financial condition of the allied powers has been well known. Crushed by the weight of an enormous debt, without credit abroad, and, what is still worse, without order or stability at home, they had totally ignored their obligations. Unable to meet the interest on their debt, the fact of the bonds of Peru appreciating in value upon the occupancy of her territory by Chili, will show the point of insolvency she had reached in the estimation of Europe. How, then, would it have been possible for Chili to obtain from such powers the payment of the indemnity to which she was justly entitled?
An arrangement by which Chili should hold the territory occupied by her armies as security for the payment of the expenses of the war by means of the income derived from the same, was wholly inadmissible. The holding of this territory would necessarily involve the military occupation of it by the conquering power, and this could not be done without a heavy outlay to be paid by the allies. On any other terms the result, as far as regarded Chili, would be illusive. Such an arrangement never could have put an end to the war; however moderate the sum agreed upon as indemnity might be, it, increased by interest and the charges of a military occupation, would very soon place the sum beyond the power of the debtors to pay, while the irregular condition of affairs in the territory, by reason of the coexisting authority of Peru and Bolivia on the one side, and the forces of Chili on the other, would be productive of serious conflicts that could not long delay in again resulting in war, thus defeating the prime purpose that Chili has in view, the attainment of a solid and lasting peace.
The security being thus inadequate, Chili had no other resource but to demand the surrender of the territory as the only means of securing indemnity for her sacrifices and expenses. The government, in insisting on this stipulation in its instructions to its plenipotentiaries, did not simply seek an extension of its frontier. The faithful exponent of the feelings of its people, it adopted the only means that the depressed condition of the finances of the allies rendered it possible for them to grant; one that circumstances had imposed, and which they were powerless to change.
The allied governments will no doubt endeavor to make it appear, as did their plenipotentiaries at the conference, that Chili maintains the right of conquest.
The truth, however, will prevail in spite of all that may be said. The fact, clear and indisputable, alone remains, and that is, that Chili is entitled to indemnity for the expenditures and sacrifices incurred by her in the war, and that the allied governments have not the means of satisfying them.
The surrender of the territory furthermore involved on the part of the successful power a recognition of the mortgages and incumbrances created upon it by Peru to her foreign creditors.
The Republic of Chili possesses an extensive and fertile soil whereon her people [Page 117] may toil in peace. She has always lived in harmony, devoted to her own internal improvements. She has ever given proofs of her desire to seek a peaceful solution of all international questions. She has always been ready to defend the integrity and independence of her sister republics, when threatened. She has been the champion of Peru herself, and never could she have suspected that her demand that Bolivia should live up to her treaty obligations would have been the cause of war. The Republic of Chili, with such antecedents, never appeared at the Arica conference for the purpose of maintaining the principle of the right of conquest. She appeared there solely for the purpose of obtaining indemnity for the expenses of the war, and the assurance of a solid and lasting peace in the future. Such was her right and the natural consequence of the justice of her cause, confirmed by the successes of her armies. The powers that forced her into an unjust war and that still insist on carrying it on, notwithstanding their reverses, are the ones responsible for the sacrifices and damages of which they were the cause. Chili under these circumstances commits no more act of conquest than does a creditor commit an act of despoliation when he seeks payment of the debt due him through the real estate of his debtor who has nothing else with which to discharge his obligation.
The demand of Chili is, furthermore, founded on other considerations not less worthy of notice. The territory belonging to the allied powers, lying south of the Camarones Valley, consists for the most part of desert lands with a very small native population. The greater part of its occupants are foreigners, of which the Chilians are the most numerous. It is they who are the principal owners and workers of the country. It is their capital and enterprise that have given value and importance to those hitherto barren wastes. The peculiar topographical conditions of this territory, the fact of its being at so great a distance from the seat of its own government, while its commerce and traffic largely depended on Chilians, made the character of the surrender demanded, as far as national susceptibilities were concerned, much less obnoxious than may have been the case in other instances of the annexation of neighboring territories. National susceptibilities, as is well known, do not exist in that locality, and this would have gone very far toward facilitating an easy assimilation of its elements, tending to the development of its wealth and prosperity.
Chili seeks that compensation to which she is justly entitled; she seeks a guarantee of peace for the future. In assuring these important ends, she proposes as a basis of arrangement a means that is not now and never has been ignored among civilized powers. Her frank and open demands should not be viewed with suspicion, nor should they inspire the other portions of the American continent with any feelings of uneasiness.
The other conditions demanded by Chili are the natural sequences of the first condition. They are in perfect harmony with the obvious and rightful considerations emanating from the subject.
The war has not only entailed enormous sacrifices of treasure and of blood upon Chili as a nation, but it has also been productive of similar sacrifices to her commerce and industries, and to her private citizens who were business residents of the territory of the allied powers from whence they were forcibly expelled after being despoiled of their real estate, their capital, and their personal property. The second and third stipulations of the memorandum provide for the indemnification of such injured parties. Their future, after the manner in which they were treated, cannot be a matter of indifference to my government.
The fourth stipulation is open to no objection whatever. It simply provides for the delivery to Chili of a transport that was the property of the republic.
The fifth becomes a matter of absolute necessity, when we take it into consideration that the war grew out of a secret treaty, and that the incentive to the treaty of alliance now sought to be brought about between Peru and Bolivia, as stated by these governments themselves, was to more effectually hostilize Chili. Such a treaty would be a standing menace to the peace that Chili so earnestly desires.
The sixth stipulation, with reference to the holding of certain territory as a guarantee for the fulfillment of the other conditions imposed on the allied powers, is absolutely necessary.
The seventh and last becomes important, in order to give to the peace sought to be obtained that stability which the interests of the belligerents themselves, as well as the other powers of the Pacific, demand. If the northern frontier of Chili should be established at the Camarones Valley, and the port of Arica thereafter fortified and converted into an impregnable fortress, it would be a constant source of danger to Chili, obliging her also to fortify her own frontier. In either case peace would always be in jeopardy, and this may be avoided by making the said port tor all time simply and exclusively a commercial port.
Furthermore, it is known that when the boundaries of Bolivia were arranged, she was given a geographical position inimical to the logical development of her resources. It is also known that the port of Arica is the most suitable and best adapted to the commercial requirements of Bolivia. This fact would render its fortification still more dangerous and improper.[Page 118]
Before concluding the present communication I deem it proper to notice two important points submitted to the Arica conference, viz, the proposition of the plenipotentiaries of the allied powers to bring the war to a close through the arbitration of the power then acting as mediator, and the interpretation given by his excellency Mr. Baptista, the Bolivian plenipotentiary, to the secret treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, so mysteriously entered into between Peru and Bolivia in 1873, and which has been the cause of the lengthened struggle in which we now find ourselves involved.
Unquestionably the method most in harmony with the interests of humanity, the one best calculated to preserve friendly international relations, is, in cases of conflict, to submit to the arbitration of a third power, which might impartially and without prejudice decide as to which side was right; but this method has its appropriate time for application; unfortunately, the time at which it was suggested by the plenipotentiaries of the allied powers deprived it completely of its applicability. When diplomacy had exhausted all its resources and war appeared to be inevitable, Chili proposed arbitration to Bolivia and it was peremptorily declined. War was the consequence, and your excellency is aware of the results and sufferings that have followed. Chili, through her efforts, has obtained decisive advantages over her adversaries, and has by reason of the war become invested with clear and important rights. What point, therefore, would the arbitrator be called upon to decide? The question of rights is one no longer open to discussion; it is now simply a question of accepting or declining through war what has already been accomplished by war.
Success has its obligations, and they increase in the ratio of the sacrifices and the risks incurred in obtaining it. These obligations are still further increased when dealing with an enemy who, although defeated by land and sea, tenaciously holds out in the struggle when resistance is vain.
Bolivia rejected arbitration when it was offered by Chili; Peru became her ally with a full knowledge of all the facts, and it is now both logical and natural that she should accept the consequences of a war that she might have prevented, but did not choose to prevent. If such was not the case, if it should be held that a power is obliged to suspend hostilities at the request of its antagonist, when the antagonist bad provoked the war and been unsuccessful in its issues, war would cease to be a right. In the midst of the train of evils that it entails it would fail to achieve the only benefit to be derived from it, that of compelling the vanquished to repair the injury they had caused, and to respect in the future the rights of others in accordance with international treaties. But for these considerations Chili would have accepted the proposed arbitration with full confidence in the impartiality of the arbitrator.
With regard to the interpretation of the secret treaty of 1873 given by his excellency Mr. Baptista at the conference, I will take occasion to say that the circumstances under which it was negotiated, and the means adopted to give it effect, show a purpose directly the opposite of the one sought to be attributed to it, viz, that of strengthening the fraternity and union of the republics of America. In no other light can explanation be given for the secrecy that was observed with regard to it for more than six years; for the irregular manner in which it was passed by the congresses of Peru and Bolivia; the denial of its existence by the former of these powers when interrogated by Chili with regard to its existence; and, finally, the exclusion of Chili from it when Chili at the same time was the ally of the powers that were conspiring against her. The treaty was a measure directed against Chili, and my government so demonstrated at the commencement of the war.
The foregoing statement I trust will convince the sober judgment of your excellency’s government that Chili took part in the conference with a sincere desire of putting an end to the war; that the conditions submitted by her plenipotentiaries were the only ones that could be productive of a lasting and equitable peace; that her conditions were neither exaggerated nor onerous under the circumstances in which the belligerents are now placed, and that whatever may be the consequences of the continuance of the war, the allies, through their persistence in refusing to accede to the just demands of Chili, are alone responsible for it.
My government, sir, profoundly regrets that the Arica conference has been barren of results, and that the noble efforts of the mediating power in its endeavor to re-establish peace have been sterile, for all of which efforts Chili is sincerely grateful.
With the request that your excellency will be pleased to make this statement known to your government, I have to beg you will accept the assurance of my distinguished consideration, and remain your most, &c.,