Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Hay .

No. 643.]

Sir: I am now able to inform you that this Govennment has received word that the British Government has recently named the Right Honorable Lord McNaughton, Maj. Gen. J. C. Ardagh, and Col. Sir T. H. Holdich as a commission to examine and study the treaties and documents which may be presented by the Argentine and Chilean Governments bearing upon the limits controversy between the latter countries which they have referred to the Government of Great Britain for arbitration, as you are aware from previous dispatches.

Their commission will have a rather knotty problem to solve at the outset, since there will unquestionably be presented to it two distinctly different translations of the first article of the Argentine-Chilean treaty of 1881—the foundation stone of the whole controversy which has been since carried on between the two countries—as to whether or not the “watershed” theory should apply to the demarcation problem existing between the two countries.

The chief contention before the commission just named will be, I am sure, over what the proper meaning of “vertientes” is in Spanish, and the correct equivalent of the word in English.

The word I refer to, it will be remembered by those who have followed the origin of the limits difficulty between the two countries, occurs between the first and second periods in article 1 of the Argentine-Chilean treaty of 1881, negotiated, as is well known, through the medium of our legations here and in Santiago de Chile.

The original scheme for the treaty was proposed by Chile and presented to this Government by our minister here.

In the scheme, article 1 read as follows:

Base primera: El límite entre Chile y la República Argentina es, de norte á sud hasta el paralelo 52 de latitud, la cordillera de los Andes. La línea fronteriza correrá en esa estensión por las cumbres más elevadas de dichas Cordilleras que dividan las aguas.* * *

This Government stated in reply that the article would be accepted “with a small addition to complement it.”

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The article as thus changed by the Argentine Government and afterwards approved by both countries reads as follows, the words in italic being those added by this Government:

Articulo 1. E1 límite entre la República Argentina y Chile es, de norte á sur, hasta el paralelo 52 de latitud, la cordillera de los Andes. La línea fronteriza correrá en esa extensión por las cumbres más elevadas de dichas cordilleras que dividan las aguas y pasará por entre las vertientes que se desprenden á un lado y otro. * * *

Chile has persistently claimed that the part of the phrase added by the Argentine Government means “watershed.” This Government has, as persistently, denied that it so means.

It will, therefore, be interesting to you, I am sure, to note, in the pamphlet I am forwarding you under separate cover, the definition given by Dr. Emilio Lamarca, in the translation he has made for the Argentine ministry of foreign relations, of the word “vertientes” occurring in the article of the treaty to which I referred. Dr. Lamarca was at one time translator in the Argentine foreign office and is now one of the most widely known and proficient attorneys in this city. He is also an excellent linguist, and I therefore need not say great confidence is placed in the presentation he has made of his foundation for the translation of the 1881 treaty he has thus made.

You will notice he calls attention to and challenges the translation of the treaty printed both in our Foreign Relations and in the British State Papers.

The wide difference between his translation of “vertientes” and that made by Chilean writers, and, by whoever it was who translated the 1881 treaty for our legation here, as also by the translator in the case of the British foreign office, consists, as will be seen, in this: Dr. Lamarca does not believe the word “vertiente” has anything to do with water, whereas all the remaining have so connected the word.

I have, etc.,

William I. Buchanan.