No. 51.

Mr. Whitehouse to Mr. Bayard.


Sir: Referring you to my despatch of the 6th instant reporting the publication of President Barrios’ decree proclaiming the union of the Central American States into one republic, I have now the honor to inclose a copy and translation of the decree and proclamation.

I would call your attention to article 9, of the decree, which states that no international treaties, &c., arranged by any of the other States of Central America after the date of said decree (February 28) will be recognized.

* * * * * * *

I am, &c.,


J. Rufino Barrios, general of division and supreme military chief of the Central American Union, to the Central Americans:

The nations of Central America, torn asunder by the enemies of its honor, greatness, and liberty, have been sighing for a long time for the reconstruction of their country, and all of them anxiously crave to form again one powerful and respectable republic.

Long have they appealed to me with energy and persistence to initiate, proclaim, and uphold the grand cause of the Central American nationality, basing all the hopes of the union and making its triumph dependent upon me alone.

In answer to this appeal I have issued this very day the decree in which I declare myself for the union, and in order to cover myself of the immense responsibility which would be laid upon me were I to remain inactive, and at the same, time to obey the sentiments which animate me in favor of the restoration of our country, which will be our most legitimate pride and glory, I have assumed the supreme military command.

Here, then, I am at the head of the ardently wished-for movement, hoisting the sympathetic flag, which is that of our future, the first on the list of these who will join to form the union army in the exclusive service of the idea of our liberation and in defense of its sacred banner.

There is nothing greater or more worthy than this cause, nothing that can be nearer to the hearts of every well-intentioned Central American. They think my action indispensable; they believe that upon me the victory is founded. Although I have not that presumption, I am unable to oppose their wishes or resist my own duty and sentiments. Therefore, inspired by the greatness of the idea, with undying faith in the triumph of a principle sustained by nature, public opinion, and patriotic dignity, I am ready to uphold it with my whole soul and with all my might and power. There is something within me, in these solemn moments, that tells me that the victory is ours, and that we shall be able to accomplish without great sacrifice the Central American Union.

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But if sacrifices are indispensable, lam ready to accept them all, and to offer upon their altars my duty in aid of my country, my repose, and my existence.

I would be proud and satisfied to obey and fight among you as a simple soldier, abandoning to another more worthy than myself the post of chief commander which public opinion has laid upon me.

This post, if it is a glorious one, is one chiefly of peril and responsibility, and for this reason I hesitate not a second to accept it with enthusiasm.

The ambition of commanding has no influence over me. I have had by sad experience time enough to taste its bitterness were I governed by this idea. I have had opportunities enough to satisfy this ambition without the penalties and responsibility with which I now willingly burden myself. Neither do I seek personal benefit or to procure the aggrandizement of the Guatemalians, for the position I now hold and the means I possess are sufficient for my wants, and this Republic in its present position of relative prosperity, power, and wealth has nothing for which to envy the others. It could even give something to them, and do much for their progress and welfare.

The contemplation of the deplorable fate to which these nations are condemned on account of their smallness and separation, and knowledge of my imperious duty as Central-American and chief, decide me to do something to revive our country out of its present unhappy condition, to struggle, exhaust my efforts, and, if necessary, to die so that my children and those of my countrymen may have a country, and with it rights, respectability, and guarantees.

All the states stimulate me, and although I have a great deal to risk and lose, I answer to their appeal by pledging my name and person with all the elements and forces at my disposal. They must how actively work on their side to increase the ranks of patriots, pronounce resolutely for the union, and, conquering or dying, be deserving of, immortal fame in the future history of the reorganization of the Central American country. If it is brought about peaceably so much more glorious will our triumph be, for it will prove the abnegation of the Central American citizens, and show how they can silence the cries of mean interests and personal ambition only to listen to the grand moving voice of country. If it is necessary to take to arms in the service of this idea, and to sustain the opinion by force against the attacks of those who, blinded by vile passions and carried away by miserable interests, are satisfied with misery and debasement, we have superabundant means and forces to sustain it, to allow the opinion to make its way, and issue successfully out of the struggle, so that victorious Central America may appear, crowned with brilliant and immortal splendor.

Soldiers of Central America, the banner you have longed to see floating beneath the sky of your native land is hoisted; come and rally around it, and to-morrow it shall wave triumphantly in all Central America. No more fratricidal wars; no more struggles and bloodshed in defense of ignoble causes to satisfy the hatred inspired by a mean local spirit; let us all unite to fight for one country, the country of which we have so long been bereft, which we lack to-day and of which our children are deprived, and which we cam bequeath to them as their dearest inheritance and most invaluable possession.

Those who do not assist are those who live content in opprobrious smallness, who do not feel their blood boil and their cheeks redden with shame considering the deplorable situation into which separation has thrown us; those who wish to live in slavery and inaction, contemplating with indifference the agonies of our native land, and wait until an obscure death comes to put an end to a life spent in degrading abjectness; those, finally, who are not worthy of the name of Central Americans.

But those will surely join who have patriotism and a heart; those whose ambition is to have a country, who love their children and long to bequeath to them a country and rescue them out of the abyss into which division has buried us. All good children of Central America will unite, and these form the immense majority.

Woe to those who do not assemble on this memorable occasion, for on their heads will the eternal maledictions of posterity fall, and their forehead will be forever marked with the terrible anathema of history.

Woe to the few who, giving way to the inspirations of a bastard interest, oppose the torrent of public opinion, for it will sweep them away.

Woe to the unnatural persons who oppose the true happiness of their country, for in a few short days they will be ignominiously crushed beneath the wheels of the triumphal chariot of the Central American Union.

Officers and soldiers of Guatemala, as your chief, friend, and comrade, I joyfully abandon my comforts and call you to my side to share with me the hardships and sacrifices as well as the glorious laurels of the brilliant day which dawns for the restoration of the Central American unity.

Happy may we feel to whom falls the honor of beginning and consummating this patriotic campaign in the noblest and grandest cause, the only one for which we ought and can fight and die, the only one worthy to be watered with the noble blood of the [Page 77] children of the country. You who in bloody and unequal battles have done prodigies of valor, raising to the skies the name of the Guatemalan soldier, you whose loyalty, energy, and point of honor have always answered my call, efficaciously helping me to obtain the victory, here you have a vast field to display your heroism. I trust in you, and, being with you, I fear nothing; every enterprise seems easy and the triumph certain.

Here I am first, for when it comes to marching together to the field of honor in support of the national cause I have no interests, children, or family; my faithful companions in arms and the idea we defend are all to me. At your side and mingled among you you will find me always, for your hardships will be mine, as also your glories, for I desire no other distinction than that of being always at your head, occupying the perilous post to present my heart to the enemy before yours, for the life of the last of my soldiers is far dearer to me than my own.

If we must perish we will perish together, but gloriously and covered with honor, defending the most sacred of all causes, deserving well of posterity, and meriting perpetual gratitude by assuring the establishment of the union. But we will not succumb. Not the idea will triumph, and we are called upon to make it triumph.

We may say that without boasting or being censured with presumptuous vanity, for we have more than fifty thousand Remington rifles abundantly ammunitioned, and provided with numerous and magnificent munitions of war, and what is much better than depending upon these, we depend upon opinion, which is stronger still, and upon the support of the patriots of all the Republics, who, true to their professions and promises, will combine all and dispose everything in order to render the victory unfailing and at little cost.

Our enemies, if any exist, are weak and insignificant and will not be able to resist the immense superiority of our numbers, precision of our firearms, the bravery and decision of our soldiers, and; most of all, the ascendance and prestige of the cause we uphold, and the terrible blows of public opinion which will rise against them, overthrowing them in confusion and disorder.

Happy we to whom it is given to initiate and carry out the greatest and most patriotic work which it was possible to undertake from the days of the independence till today, the grandest work which will be wrought for many a day, and I may say the sublimest of all which may ever be realized here—the union upon which our happiness is based, which has caused the actual greatness of Germany and Italy, which has made the United States so powerful, and changed the fate of almost all the republics of ancient Spanish America, among which we ought not to appear divided and small, a sad and shameful exception. Divided and isolated, we are nothing; united, we may and shall be everything.

I, for my own part, can say that I prefer a thousand times the position of chief of the poorest and most obscure department of a powerful and worthy nation to that of president of one of these republics, which cannot bear the weight of even that title; and I deem it more honorable to be the last of the soldiers in the union army than general of that of a State which causes derision on account of its weakness.

Once again let us be worthy of ourselves, and prove that Guatemala is deserving of the extraordinary enterprise at whose head it has had the good fortune to place itself; the idea can not be more glorious; its influence will furnish us with indomitable ardor; its greatness will reflect upon each one of its supporters, fortifying and increasing their numbers and, carrying the banner of Central America from victory to victory, removing the ridiculous boundaries which divide us, we shall find at the close of our journey the country of our ambition and hopes—the ideal of all our aspirations.

Let us hasten then to conquer it. The soldier of the Central American Union may gloriously die on the field of battle, but he cannot return vanquished nor outlive the dishonor of a defeat. Let us hasten to obtain the victory that is awaiting us, to secure country, liberty, fruitful and worthy repose, and greatness and lasting tranquillity, in order to dedicate ourselves afterwards, without interruption, to our peaceful labors, and to enjoy in security in the midst of abundance the fruit of all our work.

By the memory of the fathers of our independence, by the venerated ashes of our forefathers, and by the fate and future of our children I entreat you not to lay down your arms until the Union is definitely established, never to tread again upon this beloved soil, filled with all our remembrances and affections, until we can say we have now a home and a native country; we can now live worthily, for we have order, progress, and liberty; we can now die in peace for we have conquered, bequeathing to our children a country with effective sovereignty which assures them guaranties, respect, and liberty.

Officers and soldiers of the Central American Union, the Union is dependent upon you. Promise me to fight for its completion, and I will answer that it is already accomplished.

Long live the Republic of Central America. Long live the Union army.

Your companion in arms, and friend,


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Long live the Republic of Central America. J. Rufino Barrios, general of division and President of the Republic of Guatemala:

Whereas that since the unfortunate day in which the egotism and criminal intrigues of the aristocratic party dismembered into five fragments the once beautiful and flourishing Republic of Central America, the fractions which appear to-day as independent nations, vainly struggle to withdraw from the ruinous and lamentable consequences of this unnatural state, so contrary to nature, to the geographical situation of this region, to its traditions, antecedents and history, and also to its political, economical, material and social interests;

Whereas in their present divided state these nations are vainly striving to win, in the face of the civilized countries, the idea of importance and respectability which belongs to their autonomy, which they doubtless would enjoy were they to issue from the isolation to which their smallness reduces them; were they to form again, all united, a strong, rich and great republic, capable of making good its rights, exercise the plenitude of its sovereignty and occupy a worthy and honorable post in the concert of American and European nations, with which the relations arising out of their enviable position, fertility of soil, and the wealth it incloses, the variety of their productions, the vast field they offer to foreign speculation and the facilities they present for enrichment by agricultural, industrial or mercantile enterprises, put them in immediate contact;

Whereas the nations of Central America, already taught by long and painful experience, understand instinctively that the true motive and primary cause of all the calamities which have caused them to suffer so many disasters for more than forty years, the backwardness, agitation, poverty, and debility in which they have lived during that time, have their root in the inexplicable and lamentable division of the Central American country; they have not ceased to advocate and plead for its reconstruction, as their strength can only proceed from their union; from the union alone can they hope for respectability, peace upon solid basis, material advancement, culture, enlightenment, and republican morality;

Whereas one of our principal and most urgent necessities, that of attracting foreign capital, and large currents of honest, intelligent, and industrious immigration to work the innumerable sources of wealth which abound in this privileged soil, and make use of the immense treasures and natural resources which are yet mostly unknown or abandoned, cannot be gratified at present on account of the distrust arising out of the want of credit caused by our insignificance. This certainly would be remedied when the union is brought about, for when once the national Credit is established and consolidated through her, with positive guarantees of order, lasting tranquillity and fulfillment of all agreements entered upon, the capital to be invested would abound in a country which offers so many commodities for living and promises such extraordinary profits; and a large number of industrious foreigners would then come, who, reaping copious profits, would fecundate our numerous elements of production by the powerful help of their work, intelligence, and knowledge;

Whereas in the present situation each State has to attend to its own security and also to that of the others, as the agitation and disorder in any one of them rapidly propagate themselves in the others; the incomes of the governments which ought to be employed in the public advancement, improvement, and prosperity are unproductively spent in watching each other closely, looking after and defending themselves one from the other, in being prepared with arms and war implements to sustain military forces which compel them to keep and live on a permanent war footing; the proper weakness, mistrust, and diffidence which they mutually inspire and the fears and alarms which badly intentioned people take a delight in sowing; and all this renders a frank and cordial policy of affectionate correspondence and fraternity entirely impossible. On the contrary, a frightening, envious, and mean policy, full of jealousy, suspiciousness, and rivalry is thus created, which maintains uneasiness, aliments quarrels, and local hatreds, opening abysms of separation hidden by friendly appearances which, as time passes, it will not be possible to remove, and will at last completely overthrow the union and harmony which for so many reasons ought to bind them;

Whereas the States being constituted into one republic, with the interests and fate of all in common, the odious and expensive vigilance would disappear on one side, and the taxes which to-day weigh down the people would sensibly diminish on the other; and the necessity of investing considerable sums thus absorbed would be done away with, for there being but one administration to sustain, instead of five, all the other expenses would be reduced on a large scale, and the possibility of making considerable economies in many of the expenditures enhanced; and on the other hand the Government, formed with the forces and elements of the others, could surround itself with the most eminent and distinguished citizens of the different States, to be guided [Page 79] by the worthy confluence of their understanding, science, patriotism, and knowledge of general affairs and interests, thus assuring respect, power, popularity, and the protection of public opinion; and all the receipts could then be consecrated to sustain all its activity to impulse, protect and favor great enterprises for the public welfare; and in order to secure definitively the peace which in the sections of Central America is only disturbed by wars, originated between one State and the other by their separation and dissensions arising out of it, and to offer protection and confidence, so that under the support of inviolable guarantees and the strong arm of an effective and progressive authority all abandon themselves to work for individual good and wealth and for the welfare, greatness, and prosperity of the nation.

Whereas the union is equally indispensable to lay the foundations of and sustain democratic institutions, unrestrained by certain persons, and unsubjected to revolutionary fluctuations and the vacillation of diametrically opposed parties to establish, develop, and practice, with all the extent of which they are capable, the rights and guarantees which a citizen ought to enjoy under a truly liberal system; and the exercise of these rights and guarantees unembarrassed of obstacles and efficaciously defended would be impracticable without laying the authority open to ridicule or of felling into anarchy. The State being small, and its government weak, often stumbles against the obstacles that spring out of its insufficiency and insecurity, and the struggle with the elements which the same restriction in the circle of its actions allows to put into play. This often renders the primary necessity of maintaining order impossible without departing from the limits of strict lawfulness.

Whereas the idea of the Central American Union, which for some time appeared to be smothered by the enemies of the progress and welfare of those nations, has recently, and especially in these last years, revived with a new and vigorous life, has spread over the whole territory of the five States, acquiring vast proportions in the population and giving rise to glowing protestations of attachment; and it is openly proclaimed by all Central Americans of good faith as the only possible means of issuing from prostration and discouragement, being accepted with demonstrations of approbation and sympathy by the governments at their head, as also by the foreign Governments with whom they entertain relations; and it will be more convenient, expeditious, and decorous for these in international communication, discussion, and settlement of their affairs and interests to correspond with one government whose stability is secured and represents a nation which, on account of the extension of its territory, elements, and resources of all kinds, is worthy of reciprocating with them on the base of relative equality.

Whereas Guatemala, the most important State in the Central American federation, on account of the means and elements at its disposal, is that which has taken the lead under the present administration, and made the most positive efforts in favor of the reestablishment of the union, and it is to her that the other nations look up and the most prominent citizens, defenders, and partisans of the idea direct themselves; and they all claim of her a new and efficacious initiative, a vigorous and energetic action in order to undertake and happily carry out this glorious enterprise.

Whereas in trying to reorganize the national union, founded upon bases apart from the accidental inconveniences against which inexperience made it stumble in former times, producing the most complete and beneficial transformation in Central America, and which constitutes the only cause that is and must be sacred to all Central Americans, and the only one for which they can and ought worthily to fight and die; and all those who entertain sentiments of dignity and national love, and long to bequeath to their children the highest and most positive benefit to which they can aspire, a country of which they are destitute to-day, and with justice they ask for, are obliged under the strictest responsibility to make efforts for promoting and obtaining it by all means in their power, without being discouraged by any consideration, sacrificing all to it—their position, interests, life, and family.

Whereas, considering the greatness of the object, examining the future of Central America, we must lay aside on its account all contemplation, and elevate ourselves above all mean intrigues, offensive suppositions of ambitious plans, and the wicked cries of calumny; and we must scorn the hatred of those who, by a spirit of narrow localism, nurtured and upheld by miserable interests, or by low ideas of personal benefit, prefer a despicable advantage to the great interest of Central America, and try to remove the day of our union by raising against its promoters obstacles, which envy and meanness always throw in the way of all that is great; whereas the obligation of proclaiming the union and working resolutely and courageously to obtain it is much more imperious for those men to whom these dismembered sections of Central America have intrusted their fate, and of whom they justly hope to initiate, protect, and sustain all that which tends to better their condition, in particular the monumental work upon which it depends, and such as happened recently in the nations of America and Europe [Page 80] in order to issue from their prostration and annihilation, this grand enterprise of the union, without which it can be said that the future is forever shut out, without which nothing is done, for we must consider these wasted efforts as even less than lost, that are made in giving prosperity and greatness to that which cannot bear their weight as long as it labors under the constitutional vice of smallness produced by division.

Whereas on this understanding the chief of the Republic, intimately penetrated with the transcendency and signification of this duty, which the very constitution imposes upon him, and the respective constitutions upon the other governments; that if in all it is a crime, and in him a still greater one, to allow time to fly without doing everything that can be done to arrive at the desired reorganization, and carried moreover by his ardent sympathy for the Central American union, in whose favor he has at other times employed his most decided efforts and always is ready to consecrate them with an inflexible resolution, and stimulated as well by reiterated and energetic summons of the most distinguished and liberal men and circles of all the States in the name of the dearest and most vital interests of Central America, involving the principles he has defended, directing Mm to raise his voice in protection of the union, and to hoist and defend its flag; and taking also into account the state of actual effervescence and excitement of public opinion which might cause in the States revolutions unproductive of anything good, but fertile in disasters and confusions, which would be felt in this republic; unable to underestimate such powerful motives and unwilling to give reason in other times of blaming him for not laying to the service of the cause his person and influence, pledging in it all his interest, the high conception in which the nations hold him, his representation as military chief and supreme magistrate of Guatemala and the favorable disposition in which through documents and official publications the presidents and governments have manifested to be, the time has come to act as a good soldier and native of Central America taking in consequence the attitude which the enterprise demands in such a clear way as to leave no place for doubt or vacillations, and assuming by the initiative he makes the direction and responsibility of the works and operations to remove the ridiculous boundaries which divide us and to unite the nations of Central America into one great, happy, and respected country.

Whereas this frank and energetic proceeding in which he openly declares his intention is that which becomes the manifestations of the will of the nations and the nature and greatness of the work to be completed, in opposition to which are the hidden intrigues, the concealed devices, the protection of factions and other means which have suggested themselves, and to which we might resort with hopes of a more prompt and certain success, but, being neither decorous nor straightforward, would throw a tarnish upon a worthy and sublime cause, as this one is, when everything in relation with it should be praiseworthy and elevated, and especially the means to make it triumph so that its victory be the true expression and natural result of opinion, force only intervening to sustain and defend it against the machinations of the enemies both of the nation and greatness of Central America:

Therefore, in his turn, decisively and solemnly calling upon all the Central American patriots, all generous-hearted men of high ideas and aspirations, all the nations which fundamentally lay their hopes of tranquillity, aggrandizement, and fortune in the Union, and in perfect harmony with the council of ministers—

It is decreed:

  • Art. 1. That the chief of, the Republic of Guatemala proclaims the union of Central America into one sole Republic; initiates, protects, and upholds all the works, operations, and movements directed to obtain it, and for this purpose assumes the position of supreme military chief of Central America, and exercises absolute command as such till the accomplishment of the union of these sections into one sole nation and under one flag.
  • Art. 2. That this same chief shall receive the adhesion of the governments, nations, and chiefs that embrace the idea of the Union, according to the terms established by this decree.
  • Art. 3. That a general assembly, composed of fifteen members for each of the States, and publicly elected with the most ample liberty and independence, among the persons who, according to the respective laws can act as representatives, shall assemble in this city of Guatemala on the 1st of May next, to decree the political constitution of the Republic of Central America, and especially to determine upon the mode, time, and form for the election of a President, the duration of his presidential period, and the date on which the elected president shall receive from the assembly the supreme constitutional command, and to designate the city or place in the territory of Central America where the capital shall be established and where the supreme powers shall reside.
  • Art. 4. Any person of private or official character who declares himself against the Union, or opposes its operations and works, hindering them in any way, shall be considered as a traitor to the great national cause; he shall be incapacitated to fill any office or [Page 81] dignity in the Republic of Central America, and will subject himself to the responsibility and consequences which arise out of such actions, according to their nature.
  • Art. 5. That all the Republics of Central America be invited to pronounce in favor of the Union, and that Guatemala henceforward makes common cause with those who declare themselves for it, any authority which resists it being unrecognized.
  • Art. 6. That the chiefs and officers of the Central American militias who decide in favor of the Union and lend their services to the realization of this patriotic ideal will have a right to promotion of a step in the army of the Republic of Central America, and, should they have arrived at the highest degree, they will be solemnly decorated with a gold medal bearing an appropriate inscription recording their merit.
  • Art. 7. The classes and soldiers who shall be noted for their courage and conduct will receive, besides their promotion, a distinction and recompense, which will be duly given in reward of their services.
  • Art. 8. The standard of Central America, which from this date shall be used by the defenders of the Union, will be blue and white, disposed in three vertical bands, of which the central one white and the two extreme ones blue. The arms, consisting of a “Quetzal,” upon a column with the motto “Libertad y Union—15 Setiembre de 1821, 28 de Febrero, 1885,” which shall be painted upon the white band.
  • Art. 9. No negotiations for territory, international treaties, foreign or national loans, and other stipulations of like character or importance, arranged or concluded by any of the other States of Central America, shall be recognized after the date of this decree.
  • Art. 10. The minister of foreign affairs has charge of informing Congress of this and of laying it before the other Governments of Central America, as well as of those of America and Europe with whom he entertains relations of friendship or commerce.
  • Art. 11. The secretary of state for the interior and justice shall provide everything or the due installation of the general assembly of the states.
  • Art. 12. The secretary for war shall attend to everything else that the execution of this decree may require.

  • J. R. BARRIOS.
  • The Secretary of the War Department:
  • The Secretary of the Foreign Department:
  • The Secretary of Public Works:
  • The Secretary of the Finance and Public Credit Department:
  • The Secretary of the Interior and Justice:
  • The Secretary of Public Instruction: