Mr. Gresham to Mr. Baker.*

[No. 28.]

Sir: You will find on the files of your legation the full record of the correspondence exchanged during the past few years, touching the attitude of the Government of the United States toward the arbitration of the long-pending boundary dispute between Costa Rica and Colombia under the convention between those States of December 25, 1880, and the additional convention signed at Paris January 20, 1886.

The arbitration so agreed upon was initiated with the acceptance of the office of arbitrator by the Queen Regent of Spain on behalf of His Majesty Alfonso XIII; but a contention having arisen touching the date from which to compute the twenty months prescribed by the convention for the presentation of the cases of the respective parties to the arbitrator it has been alleged by Colombia that the cases have not been presented within the stipulated term, and that the power of the arbitrator to act in the premises has lapsed. The cases have not in fact been presented, and the Queen Regent’s Government has accepted the position of Colombia, although not without expression of its view that the prescribed period was still open, and with expression of cordial readiness to resume the function of arbitrator should the Governments of Costa Rica and Colombia compose their difference in this regard and request continuance of the arbitration.

The Government of Costa Rica has on several occasions solicited the good offices of the United States toward continuing the arbitration and requested this Government to represent to that of Colombia the propriety and advantage of so doing.

The Government of the United States, maintaining the friendly and impartial consideration for both the parties to the dispute which it has consistently shown since the settlement thereof by arbitration was first broached, is as indisposed to support the claim of Costa Rica that the arbitration is still validly open as it is to accept the converse claim of Colombia that it has lapsed. Not being in any sense a party to the arbitration, and moved only by the desire to preserve the rights of its citizens in the territory in dispute and to fulfill the international obligations of existing treaties the Government of the United States has consistently testified its lively interest in the controversy and its earnest desire that a settlement be reached. It is especially led to this course by the fact that the United States are, by the treaty of 1846 with New Granada, now Colombia, guarantors of the rights of sovereignty and property which Colombia has and possesses over the territory of the Isthmus of Panama “from its southernmost extremity until the boundary of Costa Rica,” and this Government is therefore interested in knowing the limits of the guarantee it has so assumed, and regards it as a solemn duty of friendship and good neighborhood to do what it can toward the determination of its own rights and duties in respect to a territory the bounds of which are unfixed and in controversy.

Without, therefore, expressing any opinion touching the merits of the dispute now pending between Costa Rica and Colombia concerning the continuing validity of the boundary arbitration under the treaty of December 25, 1880, and without relinquishing the stand it has heretofore taken in regard to the rights of third parties in such arbitration, the Government of the United States, in a spirit of complete disinterestedness, [Page 203] feels constrained to represent to the two governments of Costa Rica and Colombia its earnest desire and hope that they shall , waive the comparatively trivial obstacle to the accomplishment of the larger purpose of amicable arbitration which they have both advocated, and that they shall come to an understanding whereby that high aim shall be realized, either by the continuance of the arbitration under Her Majesty the Queen Regent of Spain, or if Her Majesty be indisposed to resume her functions, then by the alternative method already agreed upon, or by resort to any impartial arbitrator.

The President, in directing you to convey these views to the Government of Costa Rica, especially desires you to impress upon the minister of foreign relations his sincere conviction that the agreement of arbitration entered into by the two nations constitutes an obligation between them which neither is morally free to disregard on grounds of technical formality, and his confidence that they will use their concurrent endeavors to promote its successful issue.

I am, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.
  1. Same, mutatis mutandis, to the United States Minister to Colombia.