No. 81.
Mr. Hall to Mr. Bayard.

No. 621.]

Sir: I inclose a translation of a protest of the minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua against the alleged encroachments of Costa Rica on the San Juan River, as a violation of the intent and spirit of the convention signed at Guatemala on the 24th December, 1886, by which the two Governments have agreed to submit the question as to the validity of their treaty of 1858, the cause of the present difficulties, to the arbitration of the President of the United States.

The Nicaraguan minister to Guatemala has been instructed to confer with the Guatemalan Government in regard to these encroachments. The conference took place on the 22d instant, and resulted in the signing of a protocol, of which a translation is also inclosed. This Government will no doubt offer its mediation should the reply of Costa Rica be unsatisfactory to Nicaragua.

The point on the San Juan River which it is supposed Costa Rica intends to fortify is near to the Machuca Rapids, from whence the proposed canal eastward will commence.

The reply of Costa Rica, which I shall forward as soon as received, will no doubt afford an explanation of the real intentions of Costa Rica, and enable the Department to better understand this new phase of the dispute.

I have, etc.,

Henry C. Hall.
[Inclosure 1, in No. 621.—Translation.]

The minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua to the minister for foreign affairs of Costa Rica.

Mr. Minister: By special instructions of the President, I have the honor to address you and to call your attention to a matter of manifest gravity, which has attracted the notice, not without good reason, of the people and Government of Nicaragua. From trustworthy information it is known that many days ago a Costa Rican engineer arrived at the place known as “Los Chiles,” accompanied by several individuals; that he has taken measurements of the ground from that spot to a point called “El Infiernito,” near to the “Machuca Rapidsthat he is opening paths and roads along the route which, considering the fact that that zone is uninhabited, cannot be otherwise than for strategic purposes, and, still more, Costa Rican troops have arrived at the same place, “Los Chiles.”

[Page 108]

The fact that the Costa Rican Government established last year a corps of customs guards at the mouth of the Colorado River, dependent upon the general inspection department of the treasury, placed at the disposal of the corps a national steamer to run over the San Juan, Colorado, Sarapequi Rivers at least once a week, and has laid out a town on the left bank of the Colorado, giving it the name of Yrazú, was the cause of the revival between the two Governments of the old question of boundaries, and that the dispute should attain to such proportions as apparently to close the door to a peaceful settlement.

That same aspect of the dispute moved the President of Guatemala to offer his mediation, which, after long conferences in which the minister plenipotentiary of Costa Rica did not manifest as conciliatory a spirit as was to be desired, resulted in the signing, on the 25th of December last in that capital, of a convention, which after ratification will bind both contracting parties to submit the question as to the validity or nullity of the treaty of limits of 1858 to arbitration, and designates as arbitrator the President of the United States of America.

The difficulty being placed under such enlightened auspices, it was not to be supposed, judging the affair according to the accepted principles of civilized peoples, and by the rules for their reciprocal relations, that either of the two contracting parties should, before the decision of the question through the medium agreed upon, take any step that would alter the status existing at the time I have referred to.

For all these reasons this Government observes with much concern that while we have withdrawn the troops which were to reinforce the garrisons of San Carlos and Costillo, the peace establishment only remaining there, aud at a time when it was in the act of approving that convention the Government of Costa Rica unexpectedly assumes the singular attitude in which she appears to be placed by the acts that have given occasion for this dispatch, inasmuch as, according to the spirit of the convention referred to, while it remains unratified by the Congresses of the two Republics, the Government of Costa Rica has no right to exercise acts of jurisdiction that are equivalent to eminent domain over the same territory whose ownership the Government of Nicaragua maintains does not pertain to Costa Rica.

One of two propositions, either the Government of Costa Rica is disposed to accept the convention or to reject it; if the former, the status of the question as it was when brought up in June last ought not to be changed, as has been done, more especially after the acceptance of mediation and, as its result, arbitration; if the second, the good faith Nicaragua has given proof of in this affair, as in all others, gave it the right to expect that the Government of Costa Rica would select in such event the unequivocal course of frankness, and would publicly and categorically refuse its approbation of that convention.

I promise myself, Mr. Minister, that your excellency, in view of the gravity of the circumstances and of the powerful reasons herein set forth, will be pleased to honor me with an explanation which, while defining clearly the intentions of the Government of your Republic in regard to the status of the question of boundaries as established by the convention, will permit the Government of Nicaragua to understand the line of conduct it must follow in regard to the same matter, and to comply with its unavoidable duties to the nation.

Moreover, be the intentions whatever they may be, the President wishes me to demand, as I now do, of the Government of Costa Rica that as soon as possible it shall order a cessation of all military engineering work and that the troops referred to in the beginning of this dispatch shall be withdrawn from the right bank of theriver San Juan, so that there may be no obstacle in the way to prevent the convention of arbitration having its desired results.

Trusting sincerely that nothing will occur to alter the cordial relations of friendship between Nicaragua and Costa Rica,

I have the pleasure to renew, etc.,

Joaquin Elizondo.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 621.—Translation.]

Protocol of a conference between the minister plenipotentiary of Nicaragua and the minister for foreign affairs of Guatemala.

On the 22d day of February, 1887, his excellency Señor Don Modesto Barrios, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Nicaragua, called upon the minister for foreign aifairs of Guatemala, Señor Cruz, and stated that he had received special instructions from his Government to make known to the Government of Guatemala in private conference with the minister for foreign affairs the following:

That the Government of Nicaragua has learned with great surprise that the Government of Costa Rica has sent to a point known as “Los Chiles,” near to the San Juan River, an engineer who in association with other persons is making surveys of [Page 109] the ground between that point and Machuca Rapids, at a place called “Infiernito,” and opening paths and roads which, in view of the fact that all of that zone is uninhabited, can not be considered otherwise than strategic. In addition, the Government of Nicaragua knows that Costa Rica has sent forces to the point called “Los Chiles.”

That, as ho has already stated, his Government (Nicaragua) has witnessed these acts with surprise, from the fact that such attitude is incompatible with the recent agreement to submit the question of boundaries pending between the two countries to the peaceful and humane recourse of arbitration; on the contrary, that attitude represents a bellicose spirit tending to provoke hostilities, the more, it is believed, inasmuch as military positions have been taken, intercommunicating by the strategic roads referred to, which may be used to dominate the San Juan River. For these reasons my Government has demanded the necessary explanations of Costa Rica, demanding also that she define her intentions and purposes in such a manner as will suggest to Nicaragua the action to be taken in future.

That the Government of Guatemala having with fraternal interest mediated in the question of boundaries between the two Republics, and having made use of its good offices to the extent of obtaining the submission of these pending difficulties to the arbitration of the President of the United States, the Government of Nicaragua has instructed him to bring these facts to the knowledge of the Government of Guatemala, and to place in the hands of the minister for foreign affairs a copy of the dispatch addressed to the Government of Costa Rica, to which reference has been made, and although he wishes and expects that the Government of Costa Rica being impressed with the powerful reasons that Nicaragua has in asking of Costa Rica that she observe a conduct with her neighbor more in harmony with the spirit of fraternity that ought to preside over the relations of the two countries, more in accord with the situation of friendly abeyance in which they have been placed by the convention of arbitrament, and in fine, more in accordance with the sentiments of peace, loyal friendship, and harmony that have inspired the labors of the congress of plenipotentiaries of the five Republics that has just closed its sessions in this city—a congress convened in virtue of the laudable initiative of the Government of Guatemala.

He repeats that although he hopes and looks for a satisfactory reply from the Government of Costa Rica, in anticipation of the unfortunate event ever to be lamented, that the asked for explanations should not be obtained or should not be satisfactory, he now desires to prove to the Government of Guatemala the loyalty, good faith, arid prudence that his Government has maintained in this matter in refraining to give to these long-continued provocations such an answer as would satisfy the justly indignant national sentiment, a prudence that has been observed on former occasions in deference to that peace which is so dear to nations, and a desire to avert, so far as possible, a shedding of kindred blood, a conduct also observed on this occasion as a proof of special consideration for the Government of Guatemala, which has manifested so much interest in averting a war between the two countries, a war which the Government of Nicaragua, always essentially peaceful, has never provoked nor will provoke, but will be under the necessity of accepting when all the measures of conciliation initiated and favored by the Government of Guatemala shall have been exhausted, leaving to its authors the responsibility of the calamitous consequences of a fratricidal contest and the scandal to which it would give rise in the civilized world.

The minister for foreign affairs of Guatemala expressed the thanks of his Government to that of Nicaragua for the deferent consideration it has shown in making known to him the matters hereinbefore mentioned, that his Government vehemently desires peace in Central America, and that the solution by arbitration of the difficulties pending between Nicaragua and Costa Rica shall not fail. That to obtain such solution his Government is disposed to do whatever may be in its power in deference to the common fraternity for which it has cordially labored in the Central American Congress. He, Señor Cruz, hopes that he may be informed of the reply that Costa Rica may give to the note, a copy of which has been delivered to him, and that in case it should not satisfy the Nicaraguan Government, and the latter should be pleased to make it known to him, his Government will take special satisfaction in exhausting all the means at its disposal, and in exercising its friendly offices to the end that all may be arranged according to the spirit of compromise and conciliation that inspired the convention; and that for no cause shall matters ever reach the extreme of a war between sister Republics; above all at a time when the foundations are being laid for an enduring peace among all.

The minister for Nicaragua expressed his thanks for these friendly manifestations and further stated that his Government would keep the Government of Guatemala informed of all that may transpire in the premises; that the attitude of the Government of Guatemala and the interest it manifests are new proofs of the cordial harmony that unite Guatemala and Nicaragua.

  • Modesto Barrios.
  • Fernando Cruz.