to Mr. Evarts
Santiago, Chili , February 24, 1881. (Received April 5.)
Sir: Referring to your instruction No. 115, wherein you quote from remarks made by me at the Arica conference touching the suggestions there made concerning the submission of the questions in dispute to the President of the United States as arbiter, and in which you express an apprehension that possibly I may not have correctly interpreted the views of the Government of the United States in that regard, I have to say that I have read your instruction to the minister of foreign relations, [Page 125] as therein directed, and am assured by him that his government has not been misled in the least by the remarks quoted by you from the protocol.
For nearly two years this government has known of the earnest desire of the President of the United States to see an honorable termination of the unfortunate war in this section, and of his willingness to contribute in every proper manner to the accomplishment of that result. This assurance in the precise sense of your instruction, if not in its exact language, has been given not once only, but repeatedly, until there has been left no room for doubt upon that subject.
The remarks quoted, to be correctly appreciated, should be read in connection with the discussion which was then going on in the conference, and in the light of surrounding facts. They were not intended to qualify or change, in the slightest degree, the views of the Government of the United States as hitherto made known to the several belligerents. Their purpose was to cover the single question then being discussed, and I am not informed that either of the belligerents understood them in any other sense.
As you well know, since the Chilians succeeded in getting possession of the province of Tarapacá this government has not been willing to listen to suggestions regarding peace which did not involve a cession of such province by Peru. The State Department contains many dispatches from me to this purport, and I judge the allies were well informed on this point. It is impossible that they should have remained ignorant of the fact that the condition of public sentiment here was such as to preclude the possibility of a peace upon any other basis. When Mr. Christiancy was here, prior to the conference of Arica, President Pinto told him emphatically that our mediation would come to naught unless Peru was ready to make this concession. I assume that the Piérola government was informed of this by Mr. Christiancy, upon his return to Lima, and prior to the acceptance by Peru of our mediation; but, be that as it may, I am positively assured that President Piérola was made acquainted with the facts in this regard by the European representatives in Lima. That they could not have been ignorant in Peru on this point is evidenced by the fact that Mr. Christiancy felt himself warranted in saying to President Pinto that he was confident that the demand made by Chili would be conceded.
With this understanding, then, our mediation was accepted, and the conference convened at Arica in October. The ministers who went from Chili were instructed to demand, among other things, Tarapacá. The sentiment of the country was a unit upon this point, and the government could not have done less and stood.
In the presence of these facts you will, perhaps, be able to comprehend with what surprise and mortification I listened to the reply of the allies in the second conference, wherein they announced that the very condition which was irrevocable presented an “insurmountable obstacle” to the conclusion of a peace. It was after this announcement of the conclusion reached by the Peruvian ministers, that Mr. Baptista, of Bolivia, following an assurance that he and his colleague were quite in accord with the representatives from Peru, suggested that perhaps the difficulty might be solved by leaving the “remaining questions” to arbitration on by the United States. The allies knew perfectly well that the “remaining questions” were comparatively nothing in the settlement of the difficulty. They understood then, as the Peruvian Government at least had understood before our mediation was accepted, that the unbending demand of Chili would continue to be the cession of Tarapacá, [Page 126] and that peace was impossible unless that point should be yielded. In view of all this, how hollow was the proposition touching arbitration; how insincere.
It will not be forgotten that circumstances conspired to make our mediation exceedingly unpopular in Chili. For present purposes it will be sufficient to refer to this fact generally without calling attention to the causes therefor. So strong was the sentiment in opposition to the movement immediately preceding the holding of the conference that I am confident the government would have gladly retraced its steps in that matter if it could have honorably done so. The country was exceedingly sensitive upon the subject, and there was very great danger that the government would fall. All this I knew perfectly well, perhaps better than my colleagues. I felt the full responsibility of my position, and endeavored to so discharge my duty as to leave the United States Government blameless, let what might be the result of the movement. With this knowledge, and this determination, the remarks which you quote were made, and now, in the light of subsequent events, I do not hesitate to say that if a different course had been pursued by us—if we had given to the proposition submitted regarding arbitration a quasi approval—American influence here would have been very seriously crippled, if not entirely destroyed. As it was, the United States Government came out of the movement standing better here than it had ever stood before.
Trusting that this explanation may prove satisfactory,
I am, &c.,