Fellow-citizens of the Senate and of the Chamber of Deputies:
You have convened to exercise the most important of political functions, viz, the legislative; and on this occasion I extend to you a cordial greeting and express the ardent desire that, being inspired by patriotism, your labors may prove fruitful in benefits to the Republic.
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There remains the international question to complete the array of political factors which play a part in the government.
It has just been seen that we still do not quite know what course to pursue with regard to some of the problems which confront the internal policy of the country, and it will be still less possible for us to exercise sufficient influence in order to direct the external policy in a manner favorable to our interests, and especially to the already threatened South American interests. Our international bearing is one of mere passivity; to guard what is ours, observe strict neutrality, and act with honor and good faith in all our dealings with other countries and with fidelity in our diplomatic relations; that is all.
However, times are changing and it is seen that the more prosperous nations are pursuing a policy of aggression in the name of commerce; commercialism to-day governs the world and commercial interests open a way for themselves by means of gold or violence, whether the latter be open or disguised. This tendency comes to us in a wave from the North, and we South American countries can not offer a sufficient resistance to counteract it because racial selfishness and petty disputes entirely prevent a union for safety.
This commercialistic policy is already affecting South America, and we citizens of Ecuador may even soon be the ones to suffer its violence.
Our islands of the archipelago of Colon, formerly Galapagos, already feel the impulse of the tide and this is a vital question for us. Traditions and customs, our haughty character and chivalrous spirit, preclude from us all idea of commercialism or gain, and we would rather consent to lose all than to have ourselves characterized as venal. Inasmuch therefore as this is the national sentiment, we ought at least to consider the means of making room in our islands for universal commercial interests without diminution of our sovereignty over them.
Meditate deliberately on this subject and evolve whatever plan you deem expedient; and, at all events, do not forget to enact a special law of colonization for the archipelago which shall apply both to citizens of Ecuador and to foreigners, and provide for the maintenance of daily and constant traffic between our coasts and said islands. Since it is obvious that we can not accomplish this with vessels of our own, because our resources do not enable us to acquire them, I am of opinion that you should appropriate a sum to subsidize some steamship company which shall obligate itself to keep up the traffic in question.[Page 296]
What occurred in Panama a few months ago is, in my judgment, an awful lesson by which we should profit.
Without pausing to consider the motives which induced the separation of the Isthmus, or to investigate the measures which might have prevented or postponed the lamentable event, I deem it a duty, as head of this nation, to sincerely deplore it and to express to the Chief Magistrate of Colombia the feelings of brotherhood and sympathy of our people, for I can not look with indifference upon the disintegration of our sister Republic.
The fact is that the territory of the Isthmus of Panama proclaimed itself independent, and that several nations have recognized this independence.
For my part, I did not consider that there was any hurry in the matter, firstly, because we owed deference to our neighbor and sister of the north, and, secondly, because I wished to wait and consult you as being the branch of the government upon which such recognition devolves.
The case is not contemplated in our laws, not being, as far as I can see, included among the powers attributed to the Executive in directing diplomatic negotiations and concluding treaties. These negotiations presuppose recognition, and owing to the important consequences which the latter implies, it should be given in a legislative decree. I await your decision in order to know what rule is to be followed in this matter.
I have said that we owed consideration to Colombia, apart from the fact that the event of Panama, in view of the assistance given the latter and the motives which led to the event, implied a disregard of South American interests; for these reasons, I repeat, I hastened to express to the head of the Columbian nation that we citizens of Ecuador all feel a profound regret at an occurrence so unfortunate for that Republic and for Latin America in general.
This expression of regret caused a vote of thanks to be sent by the illustrious matrons of Bogotá and by the President of Colombia.
Not only in order to respond to these demonstrations, but also in order to continue the negotiations initiated by Doctor Baquerizo, I accredited Gen. Julio Andrade as minister plenipotentiary of Ecuador to Columbia, who was given a most brilliant and enthusiastic reception.
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The Republic of Peru has sent us the distinguished Mr. Mariano H. Cornejo in place of His Excellency Mr. Melitón F. Porras, who retired as minister plenipotentiary to Ecuador.
Our minister of foreign relations and His Excellency Mr. Cornejo signed the protocol which you will find among the annexes to the report of the ministry of foreign relations. This protocol, it must be candidly confessed, did not win the favor of the people of Ecuador, doubtless because the latter did not duly appreciate it.
It is for you to study it, and I hope that you will judge it in a different manner than did the press, taking into account the reasons which the minister of foreign relations will explain to you.
The death of the President of Peru was a genuine calamity for that Republic as well as for our own. The illustrious Mr. Manuel [Page 297] Candamo had given great impetus to the prosperity of Peru, and as regards ourselves, he was resolved to compose all differences in a liberal spirit and without delay.
Perhaps if his death had not occurred our frontiers would be better respected than they are at present, for the prefect of Iquito is continually advancing over our eastern territory and obliging our frontier forces to remain constantly arm in hand. It is superfluous to mention that energetic protest has been made to the Peruvian Government and that the reply was, as usual, a demonstration of friendship, cordiality, and good understanding, coupled with a declaration that the said prefect had not received instructions from his Government to commit the acts complained of. This reply, apparently satisfactory, and the recent withdrawal of the atrabilious prefect, do not guarantee us, it is painful to admit, against the risks of future invasions which may easily lead to the dreaded international conflict, unless the Government of Peru, acting with honesty, will take effective means to prevent the frontier authorities from committing excesses in violation of rights which we consider ours.
As will be perceived, our eastern territory needs careful attention, not only as regards the international question which I have just mentioned, but also regarding internal and purely national ones. The first necessity in this latter regard is the opening up of short and expeditious routes which will place us in communication with that region and tend to attract capitalists and manufacturers toward a territory promising such excellent remuneration for labor. With this object in view the minister of public instruction, to whose department this subject pertains, called a meeting of the most prominent persons of the capital in order to deliberate on the measures necessary in behalf of our national interests in the east; and it was resolved to open the road via Bafios with the greatest diligence. Moreover, the idea was conceived of appealing to the patriotism of the citizens of Ecuador for the purpose of obtaining voluntary contributions for this work; as for myself, however, I am not in favor of this plan and hope that you will appropriate sufficient funds for the opening of the road in question.
In Brazil, another of the countries contiguous to our own, we have a minister plenipotentiary, having designated for this purpose Dr. Carlos E. Tobar, who was received in Petropolis with marked demonstrations of friendship and enthusiasm by the Government and the illustrious Brazilian people.