No. 28.
Mr. Titus to Mr. Frelinghuysen .

No. 5.]

Sir: Your dispatches Nos. 202 and 203 to Mr. Logan, the latter dated April 13, have been received at this legation.

Referring to the dispute between Guatemala and Mexico on the subject of boundaries, which is the subject of your No. 202, I have the honor to inclose certain documents which may give you some information of the state of affairs here. No. 1 is a translation of a note from the Mexican minister here to the Guatemalan minister of foreign relations, and No. 2 is the answer of the latter. These translations were very hastily made, but I think they will be found to be substantially correct. * * *

A few days after this correspondence President Barrios sent a message to the Assembly, asking for full powers to arrange the boundary question with Mexico as he thought best. His request was granted in a decree of which the following is a translation:

Only article. The President of the republic, General J. Rufino Barrios, is authorized in an especial and ample manner to arrange definitely, and in the manner which he may judge most beneficial to the true interests of the country, the question of frontiers pending with the United Mexican States.

* * * * * * *

I have, &c.,

[Page 43]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 5.]

Mr. Loaeza to Mr. Cruz .

Mr. Minister: I have just received two copies of the report presented by your excellency to the legislature last month; which document I have read attentively, giving special attention to the portion referring to the relations between Guatemala and Mexico. Speaking of the question of boundaries, your excellency says that, “It is believed with sufficient reason that before the termination of the year the said question may be completely and satisfactorily arranged, it being impossible for the Government of Guatemala to have any other aspiration than that of maintaining its rights, and that the territory legitimately belonging to the republic may not be dismembered, for whose integrity it has to watch according to the fundamental law.” Your excellency also expresses your opinion that all the charges made against the Government of Guatemala in the report which the secretary of state and of the department of foreign relations of Mexico remitted to the Congress of the Union of my country, the 10th of last September, “are absolutely destitute of justice.” That the government of which your excellency forms part is pleased that Mexico recognizes the judicial fact that the Uriarte-Vallarta convention has legally expired; “and that the President of the republic does not remember having proposed that a new convention be made with the intention of reviving the former ones.” Finally, your excellency, penetrating into the slippery region of suppositions, affirms that, “it is hidden from no one, that if it were sufficient that the federal Government of Mexico should declare, upon its own authority, that to it belonged any part whatever of the territory of Guatemala, the day that it should be pleased to declare that the whole extent of the republic belonged to it, your excellency’s government would have to acknowledge that resolution, and to recognize the legitimacy of the title which it would create, or else to give an offense which would necessitate a reparation.

I wish that your excellency’s hope that during the present year the question of boundaries may be terminated in a satisfactory manner may as soon as possible be an accomplished fact, because the desire, of my government in regard to the affair is: that the dividing line between the two republics be fixed, perfectly determined, in order that there may be no room for doubts, and that the vexatious difficulties which are making themselves felt may be avoided.

As your excellency’s report to which I refer contains asseverations which affect the good name of my country, and it may be necessary that they be removed, I remit to my government a copy of the said document; but this does not prevent me from fulfilling the duty of expressing in the present note my dissent from the facts and appreciations (?) given by your excellency, in order that at no time consequences may be deduced from my silence. I permit myself to rectify only the most important errors.

Although it cannot be considered as a serious hypothesis that it could occur to Mexico to declare of its own authority that all the Republic of Guatemala belonged to it, taking into consideration the elevated character and illustriousness of the functionary who formulates it, I am obliged to inform him that there is no fact authorizing a supposition of such a nature.

Mexico, Mr. Minister, prides herself on nothing so much as on her never deviating from rectitude; my country does not need nor wish for foreign territories; she possesses sufficient territory for a population ten times greater than that she has, and if your excellency will please to read the declarations that, competently authorized, are made by the editor of the Diario Oficial of the Government of the United Mexican States, in No. 59 of this periodical, dated the 10th of last month (of which I take the liberty of inclosing a copy), you will be convinced of the truth stated.

It is certain that the Government of Mexico recognizes that the effects of the convention of December 7, 1877, and those of its prorogation of May 3, 1879, legally ceased on account of the termination of the first period stipulated in the last, without the commission of experts having finished its labors in the first section of the frontier line, and as the Most Excellent President of this republic does not remember, as your excellency says, having proposed that a new convention be made, with the intention of reviving the former ones, I am able to clear up that fact.

In a note dated June 25, 1881, I had the honor to inform, among other things, the department under your very worthy charge, as follows: An incident which concerns the minister of foreign affairs of my country, in the note which causes this answer, is not referred to by your excellency in your very esteemed note which I have the honor to answer, and it is the fact that the undersigned, by order of his government, had the honor to insinuate to the Most Excellent President of this republic the convenience of celebrating a new convention, which should revive that of December 7, 1877, and that, having received such insinuation favorably, the First Magistrate himself dictated his agreement, that it might be transmitted to the minister of Guatemala in Mexico, in order that the treaty might be celebrated; and that Señor Herrera had not [Page 44] informed the department of foreign relations of Mexico that he was authorized to that effect.” And the 29th of the same month, Dr. Lorenzo Montufar, in his character of secretary of foreign relations, which he was then, had the kindness to answer me, among other things, as follows: “Instructions were sent to Señor Herrera, that immediately he address himself to the secretary (department) of state of the Mexican Republic, with the end of entering into negotiations over the new convention referred to in your excellency’s esteemed note, which I answer to-day.”

In consequence, when the secretary of foreign relations of Mexico stated in the report of last September that the Most Excellent President of this republic had accepted the proposition which the Mexican Government made him, through me, to revive the said conventions, he expressed a truth entirely indisputable.

Before closing, will your excellency permit me to express my surprise to see expressed, in the document to which I refer, that: the Government of Guatemala is pleased that Mexico recognizes the juridical truth that the Uriarte Vallarta convention has legally expired, because this manifestation of pleasure contrasts with that of the desire which your excellency says the government has to come to a prompt and complete arrangement of the question of boundaries, when the scientific investigations stipulated in the said convention must have been exceedingly useful, furnishing the data necessary for its greater exactness.

Although at the risk, Mr. Minister, of abusing your excellency’s kindness, I permit myself to ask you to be pleased to insert this dispatch in the Guatemalteco, providing there should be no objections.

Renewing, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 5]

Mr. Cruz to Mr. Loaeza .

Mr. Minister: I have attentively studied the esteemed communication which your excellency was pleased to address me under date of yesterday, with the object of expressing your dissent to certain statements and observations contained in the last report made to the Legislative Assembly, and of rectifying the principal errors which, in your excellency’s judgment, are contained in the portion referring to the relations between Guatemala and Mexico, in the said document, which for my part I also took care should reach your excellency’s government. I might, from this moment, abstain entirely from entering into discussion concerning the statements and observations contained in the said report; and so doing, would do no more than imitate the conduct which, in a recent and analogous occasion, the secretary of state of the Republic of Mexico saw fit to observe, when our minister addressed him, expressing the astonishment caused him by certain words used by the President, in giving an account to the chambers, on the 16th of September last, of the state of the relations between Guatemala and Mexico. The answer which that elevated functionary gave him was, that without establishing a promiscuous precedent, the documents issued by the executive, in conformity to a constitutional requirement, to inform, not foreign countries, but the representatives of the nation, of its political state, although they might be given the greatest publicity for the information of the latter, could not be taken as a theme of discussion with foreign ministers, because they are acts of interior polity, although they may be found to contain references to exterior affairs. Without prejudice of the right to make use of this example, nevertheless, I do not make use of it now, through deference to your excellency, and because I do not wish to deprive myself of the pleasure of giving you an answer, rectifying in my turn the errors into which it appears to me you have fallen. The report presented to the Assembly does not say, nor could it say in any part, that it is believed that Mexico is going to declare, of her own authority, that all the Republic of Guatemala belongs to her, nor does it say in any part that there is a presumption that such a thing will happen, or that there are facts which authorize that presumption or suspicion. The report only says, if your excellency will permit me to recall it to you, “that referring to the reclaim for the invasion of Tonintana, the representatives of Mexico stated to this department that his government denied the satisfaction asked, because it had declared that that territory teas part of the Mexican soil, and had given him orders to so communicate it.

It says “that on our part it was answered that Mexico was not competent authority to make a declaration of that nature, because the party himself interested in a question cannot be competent to decide it, and because nations cannot make themselves by their own authority, and by the title of their sole declaration, owners of a territory.

It says “that in spite of this the reclaim of the Government of Guatemala was not attended to,” and it says finally, to demonstrate roughly to what point the consequences might come, if one nation had to abide by the declarations made by the other in disputed [Page 45] matters, that “it is hidden from no one, that if it were sufficient that the Federal Government of Mexico should declare upon its own authority that to it belonged any part whatever of the territory of Guatemala, the day that it should be pleased to declare that the whole extent of the republic belonged to it, my government would have to acknowledge that resolution, and to recognize the legitimacy of the title which it would create.” I have not penetrated then, Mr. Minister, into the. slippery region of supposition, because I have not said nor believed that that would happen, as 1 have not been able to believe nor say that Guatemala would ever agree to a resolution to this effect. The only thing I have wished to do, and have done, is to make manifest how iu admissible and absurd it would be to recognize in one of the contending parties the right to itself determine the question by means of the declarations it should see fit to make, imposing them upon the other as obligatory. For this purpose I have made use of a style of argument, very well known, which is that of pointing out the extremes to which the logical application of a principle would lead, in order that its falsity might be recognized, by all who could see the impossibility of accepting its consequences. Your excellency knows perfectly that certain inflexible principles of justice are neither more nor less in” small things than in great. If a nation once believes itself to have the right to decide for itself that a span of territory which it disputes with its neighbor belongs to it, with the same right it could decide afterwards that it owned an immense territory which might be the matter in dispute. If in a question between two individuals for a few cents one of them could constitute himself judge, there would be no reason why he should not constitute himself judge in the same manner when the question might be for many millions of dollars. But as it frequently happens that, when treating of the relatively insignificant, all the importance of fixing an unsustainable principle is not clearly seen, it becomes necessary to apply that same principle to a greater extent and to present all that would happen in that case, that there may be no doubt that the principle should be repulsed, although in the very insignificant and small. They are, therefore, as I conceive, two things very different, to suppose, that is to say believe or presume, that a certain thing is going to happen, and to only feign the hypothesis that it might happen, in order to calculate the consequences of a principle. I agree perfectly with your excellency that it cannot be believed or seriously presumed that it could occur to Mexico of her own authority to declare that all the Republic of Guatemala belongs to her, but exactly the circumstance that that deed gives force to the argument presented to the Assembly, choosing the most unrealizable hypothesis, that is to say, demonstrating the inexactitude of a principle by means of the absurd consequences, that would have to be derived from the application of it. Referring to the remarks which your excellency is pleased to make respecting the fact that the President of this republic does not remember having proposed that a new convention be made with the object of reviving those of December 7, 1877, and March 3, 1879, I must inform you that this affirmation contained in the report, in virtue of data furnished me by the President, is in no wise opposed to what my predecessor said to you, on the 29th of June of the last year, about sending instructions to the minister of Guatemala with the object of entering into negotiations concerning the new convention to which your excellency refers, for continuing the study of the frontiers. It has not been said that a new convention is not desired or has not been authorized, because, as the report itself says, even without it no difficulty has been raised to prevent the Mexican engineers from continuing their labors in the territory of Guatemala: and furthermore, although it were unnecessary, there was no objection whatever to a convention limited exclusively to that, unless it should offer to reproduce some of the inadmissible provisions contained in the first. It was said, then, that there would be no objection to making a new convention, which should have the same object of continuing the study of the frontier, but not exactly a new convention in terms leaving subsistent the same ones of the first, which, as is mentioned in the report, encountered opposition in the council of state, and even among some of the members of the Guatemala cabinet, who were not inclined to ratify it, and it was only approved by the President of the republic acceding to the request of the representative of Mexico, who assured him that that convention had no other object than that of a simple reconnoissance. I believe I am able to remove the surprise which your excellency has experienced at the contrast which you have judged to exist between the manifestation that the Government of Guatemala is pleased that Mexico recognizes the juridical fact that the Uriarte-Vallarta convention has legally expired, and the expression of the desire, which the government asserts itself to have, of coming to a prompt and complete arrangement of the question of boundaries. I have not been able to find the difference of meaning between the two declarations, which your excellency supposes. The Government of Guatemala is pleased that Mexico recognizes the expiration of the Uriarte-Vallarta convention, because this having expired according to its judgment, as it declared to the Assembly, it is natural to be pleased that the Government of Mexico, with which it was celebrated, shares in the same opinion, so that the two are agreed on that point. It is pleased that this expiration is recognized, because if the convention has no other [Page 46] object than the study or reconnoissance of the frontiers, it is entirely unnecessary, seeing that this can be done by means of simple notes, and that it is being done even without them, and because, if it have any ether object aside from this, as was presumed from the terms in which it was expressed by the individuals of the council, and those of the cabinet, who opposed its ratification, that peril is avoided, without prejudice to the making, if it were believed indispensable, a convention actually limited to its proper object. Therefore, the complacency that that convention, as it was conceived, has expired, and the sincere desire which animates my government that a prompt and complete settlement of the question of boundaries be reached, are perfectly reconcilable. If, in order to reach if, there are any scientific studies which it may be indispensable or useful to make, nothing opposes their being made, if it were agreed to make them, and this were convenient, but without the terms and agreements of the Uriarte-Vallarta treaty being reproduced in the convention, but that it be made in terms which offer no difficulty, and be limited to providing that the studies and reconnoissances required be made. Under the condition of frankness which presides over my relations with your excellency, and of the publicity which my government wishes all acts which interest the country to have, I have no objection to complying with your excellency’s desire, that the dispatch which I answer be inserted in the official periodical, to which I promise to send, in the future, reclamations and other matters, which, from their nature and importance, may opportunely be brought to the knowledge of the public.

Reiterating, &c.,