Mr. Rodriguez to Mr. Olney.

The undersigned, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the Greater Republic of Central America, has the honor to address His Excellency Richard Olney, Secretary of State of the United States of America, officially submitting to his consideration, in pursuance of instructions received, one of the principal and most important matters [Page 372] of the mission of the undersigned near the Government of His Excellency Secretary Olney.

His Excellency President Cleveland, during his first Administration, had the kindness to act as arbitrator in a question relating to the validity of a treaty between the Republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Unfortunately the President’s decision in settling that question left, notwithstanding the rectitude of intention which has been recognized by both parties, room for doubt on secondary points which have been obstacles to the drawing of a boundary line between the territories of the two countries.

The principal difficulties which have been met with are the following:

1. The fact that the point of departure is fixed on the Atlantic side, said point being “the extremity of Punta de Castilla (Castile Point), in the mouth of the river of San Juan de Nicaragua, as both were on the 15th day of April, 1858.”

The commissions charged with the drawing of the line were unable to agree on the subject. Punta de Castilla does not really exist, having been formed as it was by unstable sands which the waves and currents had thrown together at the place where it did exist, and which they have caused to disappear, replacing them by new alluvial formations. To this circumstance is due the fact that, even if the aforesaid point could be found, it could not be maintained with the exactness and stability that are required in boundaries between nations.

2. The fact that the water of the San Juan River—the ownership and control of which, from the point where it leaves the lake to that where it empties into the Atlantic, belongs exclusively to Nicaragua, according to the treaty which the decision of the arbitrator declared valid—now empties at Harbor Head, the place of the old bay, which will remain on the Costa Rican side, whatever may be the approximate locality of Punta de Castilla, if the line is to begin there; the result of which would be that the water of the river at its mouth would be Costa Rican water, which would be in violation of the express stipulation of the treaty.

3. The fact that, in laying down the rules to be observed in fixing the center of Salinas Bay, in the Pacific, the decision, without doubt unintentionally, and perhaps owing to incomplete information with regard to the localities, contains a highly important error of fact, fixing as the western boundary of the bay “a straight line drawn from Punta Arranca Barba, almost due south, to the westernmost portion of the land via Punta de Zacate,” since therein are comprised 2 miles of sea which do not form part of the bay, the true boundary of which is the line running from Punta Mala to the easternmost port of Zacate, on Punta de Zacate, which lies further east, as was recognized by the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican commissioners when they undertook to fix that locality.

A notable mistake, which is prejudicial to Nicaragua, results from this error in the fixing of the end of the line, which, according to the words of the treaty, is the central point of Salinas Bay. To Costa Rica will belong, by the provisions of the decision, the major part of the water of the aforesaid bay, and seven-eighths of its coast; with the circumstance that the small portion of the coast that would belong to Nicaragua is covered with rocks, and is not suitable for the establishment of a port for commerce and traffic; while the ownership and possession of the coast would not be common to both of the contracting parties, as was agreed by them in 1858.

Proof of all this can be furnished by the undersigned, if it is desired, in [Page 373] original documents of the aforesaid commissions which documents have been intrusted to him for that purpose; although no less incontestable evidence is furnished by the fact of its having been necessary to conclude a special treaty, after long and fruitless efforts in order to meet the necessity of having that line of demarcation drawn without disregarding the decision of the arbitrator or the stipulations and spirit of the treaty to which it had reference.

One of the most essential stipulations of the special treaty to which the undersigned has just alluded, is that providing for the cooperation of an engineer-arbitrator, whom the President of the United States of America is to be requested to appoint, and upon whom the delicate power is to be conferred of definitely settling the difficulties that may arise in connection with the drawing of the boundary aforesaid, which difficulties will certainly be those enumerated, and perhaps others of minor importance.

The undersigned does not send a copy of said treaty1 to His Excellency Secretary Olney, for the reason that he understands that the Department under his charge has knowledge thereof, and because it will, in time, have to be submitted both by the legation of the Greater Republic and by that of Costa Rica.

The object of the Diet of the Greater Republic of Central America in instructing the undersigned to make this statement to His Excellency Secretary Olney, without prejudice to the formal request which it will make of the President, in confirmation with the representative of Costa Rica, to appoint the engineer-arbitrator aforesaid, is to explain the nature of the stipulation which was made on the subject by the Republic of Nicaragua before the formation of the Greater Republic, and which must now be considered as its own.

Moreover, not doubting that the President will be pleased to comply with the request to appoint the engineer-arbitrator in question from among those American engineers who are most competent in their profession and who are best known for their uprightness and spirit of justice, the Diet of the Greater Republic of Central America begs him, through me, to allow it respectfully to suggest that the instructions given to that officer should fully authorize him to settle finally such disputes as may arise between the two commissions with which he is to cooperate, and empower him, if he shall think proper, to call for an authentic interpretation of the arbitrator’s decision by competent authority and in the light of the treaty of April 15, 1858, in order that he may be enabled to base his decisions on such interpretation.

The undersigned avails, etc.

J. D. Rodriguez.
  1. For text of treaty see under “Costa Rica,” page 100, ante.