Mr. Shannon to Mr. Foster

No. 195.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 168 of the 17th ultimo, in which it is intimated that the Government of Nicaragua proposes soon to mate another effort to secure, if possible, the cessation of the English protectorate in the Mosquito Reservation, I have the honor now to inclose herewith copy of a note lately addressed to this legation by his excellency, the minister for foreign affairs of Nicaragua, transmitting copy of another note addressed by him to the English minister residing at Guatemala City, in which the claim of Nicaragua to exercise the rights of a sovereign state throughout the Reservation, as a recognized part of her territory, is plainly asserted, and the withdrawal of the English protectorate, alleged to be still existing there de facto, if not de jure, earnestly enjoined.

Translations of these notes are also herewith appended.

I have, etc.,

Richard Cutts Shannon.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 195.—Translation.]

Señor Bravo to Mr. Shannon.

Mr. Minister: For the information of your excellency’s Government I take the liberty of herewith inclosing a copy of the note addressed by this ministry, yesterday, to his excellency Charles Audley Gosling, Her Britannic Majesty’s minister plenipotentiary in Central America, regarding the state of affairs in the Mosquito Reservation.

I renew, etc.,

Jorge Bravo.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 195.—Translation.]

Señor Bravo to Mr. Gosling.

Mr. Minister: By direction of the Secretary of State at Washington, the American minister residing in this Republic has addressed an inquiry to my Government regarding an increase of duties to which a company of steamers from New Orleans [Page 171] has recently been subjected at Bluefields. My Government, Mr. Minister, has been unable thus far to make a definite reply to the American representative, as it will be unable to do to the representatives of any other nation, because, if it be true that the British protectorate does not exist de jure in the Mosquito Reservation, it does exist there de facto, since in every measure taken by this Republic, which the treaty of Managua, as well as the arbitral award of the Emperor of Austria recognizes as sovereign in the Mosquito territory, the Crown of England intervenes, notwithstanding the fact that those measures have never tended to restrict the self-government which the Indians may rightly claim, and in spite of the fact that Her Britannic Majesty took the engagement to use her good offices with the chief of the Mosquitos to secure the acceptance of the stipulations contained in the treaty referred to.

Neither that document nor the arbitral award authorized the Indians to collect duties for pilotage, light-houses, wharfage, and anchorage, but only those of importation upon merchandise destined for the territory of the Reserve.

It will not escape the notice of your excellency that these unauthorized acts of the Mosquito court can not fail to prejudice the interests of Nicaragua, since no merchant or company will care to subject themselves to the payment of increased and illegal duties of wharfage, pilotage, anchorage, etc., duties which only the sovereign can levy, according to the general principles of international law. The injury consists chiefly in this: that the commerce, which is carried on throughout that region of the Republic, and the industries established there, will be destroyed, thus causing the ruin of both natives and foreigners. Hence Nicaragua can not approve these duties, and has so declared to the minister of the United States.

The Mosquito Indians, according to the treaty of Managua, have the right to govern themselves in accordance with their customs and the regulations which, from time to time, may be adopted, if not inconsistent with the sovereign rights of Nicaragua.

This clause, by implication, grants to the Republic the power of revising the regulations which the Mosquito court decrees, since, otherwise, the distinction set forth as a necessary condition in article 3 would have no practical meaning. It is the fact, however, that the court mentioned does not respect the obligation it is under to submit to the approval of Nicaragua the regulations it adopts and at once carries into effect, although they may be inconsistent with our sovereign rights, as happens in the present case.

It is not the first time that my Government has had inquiries addressed to it for similar reasons, since the nations in general interpret the treaty of 1860 and the arbitral award in accordance with the spirit of those documents, recognizing the sovereignty of Nicaragua in the Reserve, an interpretation very different from that of Her Britannic Majesty, whose opinion upon this subject produces the strange result of making the Mosquitia to appear as a State within a State.

Frankly, Mr. Minister, there is no example in history where, recognizing the sovereign rights of a nation over a part of its territory, one, at the same time, pretends to intervene in the exercise of those rights; forgetting that such intervention encourages the subjects to show disrespect for and to disobey the mandate of their superior, and that there is no law, convention, or statute which can prevent the progressive development of peoples.

But this is no groundless assertion. It has the certainty of facts occurring again and again, and known throughout the whole country. Nicaragua has been opposed in its commercial movement, obstructed in its communications between the Atlantic and the towns situated to the west of the Reserve, in the prolongation of its railway lines on that side of the coast, and in the working of its gold mines, as well as in its measures of vigilance and territorial defense, and the establishment of stations in those places to facilitate immigration and to carry on the works of the Interoceanic Canal. The same as it is obstructed in its measures and acts of sovereignty, for fear of causing trouble to the English subjects which form the council of the Reserve.

Thus it is the opinion of my Government that so long as individuals take part in the Mosquito court who do not belong to the native caste, the period of incorporation of the Mosquitos will be put off indefinitely because it suits the interests of those persons that the semiindependent state of the Reserve be continued—a result entirely contrary to the spirit of the treaty of Managua, which gives to Nicaragua the right to procure and carry into effect that incorporation.

My Government, up to the present time, has observed and faithfully obeyed all the stipulations of the treaty referred to, although it might have been disregarded and considered null, since it rests upon the supposed dominion which Great Britain had acquired over the Mosquito coast, arising simply from military occupation, and since ten years before the English Government had voluntarily relinquished the same, as well as all influence and protection over the inhabitants of every part of Central America, by virtue of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty concluded with the United States of America the 19th of April, 1850, a compact which forbids to-day all intervention or claim which the Government of your excellency may make in matters relative to the Mosquito coast.

[Page 172]

In the interest of Nicaragua, Mr. Minister, as well as of all nations, it is fitting and desirable that this question be settled in a definitive manner, now that our country is attracting attention and exciting general interest on account of the enviable position which it occupies, and the splendid future that lies before it. Immigrants, by nature suspicious, will refuse to touch at our ports or establish themselves in the territory of the Reserve, lest they be at the mercy of a foreign authority, believing that Nicaragua is powerless to protect them, or to give answer even to reclamations which their respective Governments may present in a given case to save their interests.

Your excellency well knows that where there is not the beneficent shield of a constituted government, and where there is no responsibility for injuries suffered, there immigration will not go, and if the country needs immigration for its development and progress, as happens in the case of Nicaragua, that progress will never be attained because the chief element to secure it will be repelled from our shores.

My Government, Mr. Minister, in the name of that justice and right which belongs to it, trusts to the nonintervention of Her Britannic Majesty in the measures which Nicaragua may dictate in the Reserve, as an independent and sovereign nation—measures intended to provide for the defense and security of the Indians, and for their social improvement, as well as for the reincorporation of that territory, without violating in any manner the stipulations of former diplomatic documents.

In the opinion of my Government, it interests the good name of England not to have it believed that it is in any manner due to her acts that Nicaragua fails to advance with the desired rapidity, and to comply with its duties as a sovereign State; and my Government trusts that the Government of your excellency will give attention to this question, and when it has been settled in favor of this country, as equity and right demand, Her Britannic Majesty will have given one more proof of her elevated views in favor of the progress of the Republic, which opens its doors to all races, and is now struggling to reach that high place to which its destiny calls it.

With assurances, etc.,

Jorge Bravo.