Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 6, 1910
Minister Dawson to the Secretary of State.
Bogota, February 26, 1909.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of the exposition of the minister for foreign affairs accompanying the recent Panama and United States treaties, together with a translation thereof. The translation I was not able to complete in time to go with my No. 240, of February 24 last.1[Page 366]
A full translation is sent of this very long document, not only because of its intrinsic importance, but because between its lines is shown better than I have ever seen it the real state of opinion in Colombia in regard to the United States and the secession of Panama. I also desire to call especial attention to pages 9 and 10 thereof, containing words appreciative of Mr. Root.
I have, etc.,
Honorable Members of the National Constituent and Legislative Assembly;
The minister for foreign affairs will submit to your consideration the treaties signed at Washington on January 9 last by our minister, Enrique Cortes, and the plenipotentiaries of the United States and Panama, Elihu Root and Carlos Constantino Arosemena. Rightly viewed, this important and delicate negotiation was begun in Washington by the diplomatic note addressed on December 23, 1903, to John Hay, Secretary of State, by the mission which I had the honor of presiding over, and whose members were Jorge Holguín, Pedro Nel Ospina, and Lucas Caballero.
By the celebration of these treaties oar legation in Washington has carried into effect the instructions given it by the Government through the various ministers who who have had charge of the portfolio of foreign relations during the present administration, and it is just to recognize the patriotism and intelligence with which our present minister to the United States, Enrique Cortés, has conducted the negotiations and brought them to a happy termination.
I cherish the hope that when the Colombian people become familiar with their contents they will give a decisive verdict in their favor, since in making them the executive has taken into account not only the interests and needs of the people but also their commands.
In fact, the junta of commissioners of commerce, agriculture, and industry, of the departments, which met in Bogota in the month of July, 1906, to deal with economic subjects, at that time of great importance, and whose members belonged to all political parties, and who, further, were favorably known on account of the high political and social position they occupy in our society, unanimously approved at their session of July 12, 1906, the following proposition:
The undersigned, commissioners of commerce, agriculture, and industry of the Departments of Narino, Cauca, Antioquia, Bolivar, Atlantico, and Magdalena, which are the coast Departments, some bordering on the Pacific and some on the Atlantic, respectfully represent to the executive the necessity of defining quickly and in a manner honorable and advantageous for Colombia the questions pending with the United States and with Panama, and ask that this proposition, which has been agreed upon with the minister for foreign affairs, be considered by the junta.
Oscar A. Noguera.
Ricardo Restrepo C.
The very respectable organs of the press received this proposition with applause and public opinion, once in possession of the knowledge necessary for forming a judgment on such a grave matter, did not delay in making its preponderant influence felt in a like sense, as appears by the multitude of documents which were printed and which may reasonably be considered as the result of a full plebiscite.
The executive, which considers our relations with foreign nations related in a certain manner to our interior policy, conscious of its duties and responsibilities, and at the same time acting as the interpreter of the national will and looking out for the moral and material interests of the country which have been confided to it, has, during the last five years, uninterruptedly worked with the greatest zeal to obtain an honorable and advantageous arrangement of this delicate question, and entertains the belief of having done so by the treaties which are submitted to your enlightened consideration, and which should be, on your part, approved without any amendment.
Exposition presented by the minister for foreign affairs to the honorable National Constituent and Legislative Assembly concerning the treaties celebrated by the Republic of Colombia with the United States and Panama.
Mr. President of the assembly, honorable deputies:
I have the honor to submit to your consideration the following international agreements:
A treaty between the Republic of Colombia and the United States of America, signed in the city of Washington on the 9th of January of the current year, by Enrique Cortés, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Colombia at that capital, and Elihu Root, Secretary of State of the United States.
A treaty between the Republics of Colombia and Panama, signed in the city of Washington on the 9th of January of the current year, by Enrique Cortes, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Colombia to the United States, and Carlos Constantino Arosemèna, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Panama to said Nation.
These agreements constitute the result of the long and difficult negotiations begun and carried on by the Government of the present President of the Republic, who, ever since he has occupied the chief magistracy, has been convinced of the necessity of regulating the relations of fact which have arisen as a logical consequence of the sad events which happened in Panama on the 3d of November, 1903, and of normalizing our situation and our rights as affected by the approaching opening of the Panama Canal. In order to arrive at the result now achieved, it has been necessary that the chief of state and those of us who have been his collaborators in the different epochs and phases of the negotiations, should, rather than complain over the cruel mutilation of our territory, that wounded our patriotism and caused national grief, pay attention to the imperious and not-to-be-neglected necessities of the future, and, accepting as irremediable facts that are so, should firmly confront the responsibility of putting an end to the terrible litigation which has stained and blackened so many pages of our contemporaneous history. Fully conscious of this responsibility before the country and before history, the Government presents to you to-day the agreements mentioned, with the desire that you give them your high sanction if you find them advantageous to our national interests, as the Government believes them to be.
In order to better aid your serene judgment, and before entering upon the analysis of the texts of the treaties, I am going to permit myself to call your attention succinctly to the history of the negotiations which have brought about the celebration of these treaties. These negotiations constitute antecedents of great importance in the matter, and have been so long and laborious that they make manifest that there has been no haste in this important negotiation, but that, on the contrary, they have been carried on with the calm serenity and prudence required by the magnitude of the question. As chief magistrate, Gen. Reyes has done nothing more than to carry on his labors to revindicate our rights, initiated immediately after the separation, when he went to Washington as chief of the special diplomatic mission, whose members were Jorge Holguín, Pedro Nel Ospina, and Lucas Caballero. The memorial of complaints of December 23, 1903, which so genuinely condensed the complaints of Colombian patriotism, was the point of departure for the process which has gone on ever since.
On February 28, 1905, Dr. Mendoza was named envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Colombia to the Government of the United States, with the object of procuring the arrangement of the matters pending between Colombia and the United States and between Colombia and Panama. The instructions given to Dr. Mendoza by the then minister for foreign affairs, Dr. Climaco Calderon, show the opinions of the Government as to the necessity of putting a dignified end to that situation, so disagreeable and prejudicial to our interests, which had been created by the separation of Panama.
Dr. Calderón, like the President, and like those of us who have been his successors in the department of foreign relations, well understood that the problem we had before us would only be complicated by indefinitely adjourning its solution, and that such a delay would be the origin, in the passage of time, of other problems equally complicated. I take the liberty of copying here certain of the paragraphs of the instructions given by Dr. Calderon to Dr. Diego Mendoza, since they state perfectly and simply the intentions of ‘the Government in relation to the transcendentally important duty confided to the new Colombian envoy. Dr. Calderón said as follows:
In the discharge of his functions, Dr. Mendoza will begin by persuading the Government of the United States that the present Government of Colombia is fully conscious of the responsibility of its great duties; that all parties are making efforts to maintain peace; that Colombia has entered upon the path of good sense; and that obligations which may be contracted will be faithfully executed.[Page 368]
In the opinion of the Government of Colombia, the independence of Panama is an accomplished fact; and if any doubts remain on this point, they would be dissipated by recalling that the first treaty celebrated between Panama and the United States contains an express guaranty of the independence of the new Republic. As a consequence of our recognition of Panama, the minister is authorized to make a postal convention, a consular convention, a general treaty of commerce, and one of extradition. The rules to be followed by the minister in adjusting the above-mentioned international agreements are not given in minute detail, because besides the general principles applicable to such matters, and which the minister is familiar with, ne should look to the particular circumstances of each case and bear in mind that Colombia does not ask for exorbitant concessions, but only for what will tend to mutual progress and good friendship between two nations of common origin and harmonious interests; for what will redound to the benefit of both and the well being of their citizens.
And further on, in the same instruction, Dr. Calderón adds:
Present general sentiment in Colombia tends toward the reestablishment of relations between the two entities. There are someo whdesire that Colombia should maintain a condition of hostility and rancor in respect to Panama. Such spirits will protest against anything that may be done. Nevertheless, having in view the great future interests of the country, the Government does not hesitate to follow a different policy from that devised by such citizens. They are doubtless zealous patriots, but they refuse to see the reality of accomplished facts. Therefore, the Government of Colombia assumes before contemporaries and posterity the responsibility of the policy which it now, after a thorough, serene, and impartial examination, orders to be followed. It is confident that the minister, freeing himself from prejudices and preoccupations of badly understood patriotism, will have the civil courage to assume in his turn the responsibilities of such a policy, and that he will not hesitate to attach his name to the transcendental acts we have spoken of, being sure that he will be acting as a good citizen and patriot. In its turn the Government is confident that the good sentiment of the country will prevail and leaves to the passage of time its historical justification.
The three years transpired since Dr. Calderón wrote these instructions have not lessened, but, on the contrary, accentuated and perfectly confirmed the logical force of his opinions. The Republic of Panama, recognized by the majority of the nations of the world from the beginning of its existence, has been able to continue its independent life under the same protection that sheltered its birth and its introduction into international society. The abnormality of our relations of public and private international law with an entity bordering upon us and profoundly linked to our own causes us continued difficulties. A very numerous group of our compatriots, formed by Colombians who have preferred to retain their original nationality in the territory of the new Republic and those who have gone to said territory since the 3d of November, 1903, live there without defined rights, seeing that, in the condition of our relations with the territory which, theoretically, we have continued to consider our own, notwithstanding its independence, in fact, from our sovereignty, legal normality, or even the application of the principles of international private law, have not been possible. Such compatriots have not been able to perform any civil act intended to take effect in the rest of the territory of Colombia without exposing themselves to an unavoidable refusal on the part of our national authorities to recognize such an act. In Panama the passage of correspondence addressed to Colombia has suffered difficulties highly prejudicial to our commerce. Recriminations for what had taken place continued opening an abyss which ought not to exist between two neighboring peoples still united by indestructible bonds, even though such bonds had ceased to be those of a common nationality. Resolutely and even at the cost of the sacrifice of our self-love it was necessary to throw across this abyss a bridge that will facilitate our march to the conquests of the future. There in that very territory where the Colombian spirit can not help continuing to live with the life of an indelible past, although now no longer under our national flag, there is being accomplished one of the greatest events which the history of humanity registers, an event certain to revolutionize the political and commercial world, and we, at the very borders of this stream of universal civilization, can not remain impassive, inactive, silent, absorbed in our rancors, hoping for the promised day of vengeance which does not come—which will never come. Out of the excess of evils we should snatch a good, even if in doing it we are forced to restrain the expression of sentiments which, although they may be generous, nevertheless must be recast in the mold of present necessities and advantages.
Unhappily the mission intrusted to Dr. Mendoza did not obtain the desired results. He was received by the President of the United States on May 30, 1905, and continued in charge of his post until July, 1906.
The luminous exposition of December 23, 1903, which the man who is to-day President of the Republic addressed as a memorial of complaints to the Secretary of State in his capacity as special envoy, was confirmed in the various notes that Dr. Mendoza addressed to the American Goverment in defense of our injured rights. By these notes were added new pages to those which from the first moment when the said event was known proved eloquently not only the soundness and the moral value of our rights, but also the practical impossibility of making them effective. However, the negotiations began by Dr. Mendoza made no progress, and my predecessor in this department thought it advisable to recall him to this capital, with the object of [Page 369] consulting in regard to the form of proceeding to be followed in the future. Thereupon there happened those incidents with Dr. Mendoza that the people are already familiar with and which I do not think it necessary again to refer to here. My predecessor, Gen. Vásquez Cobo, has already recited them in the report he had the honor of presenting to you in your 1907 session.
On September 24, 1906, the Secretary of State of the United States, Elihu Root, came to Cartagena on a final visit, the last one of his journey through South America. He was received at that port by the minister for foreign affairs, Gen. Vasquez Cobo, in virtue of the especial commission of the President of the Republic.
Mr. Root, who had just finished visiting the South American capitals, amid an uninterrupted ovation during which he did not neglect to show himself the determined defender of the great principles of international law, upon which the well-being of nations depends, was received by our minister for foreign affairs as a “herald of peace, of justice, and concord.” On his part Mr. Root manifested his—
sincere desire that all questions pending betewen the Republic of Colombia and the United States of America be peacefully arranged in conformity with a spirit of friendship, of mutual esteem, and in accord with the honor of the two contries.
Gen. Vásquez Cobo received from the President precise instructions to present to the Secretary of State the bases upon which the desired agreement could be reached. Upon these bases have proceeded the negotiations that have so seriously preoccupied this Government during the two years and some months elapsed since the visit of Secretary Root. They, with slight modifications, are to-day to be found in the treaties I submit to your consideration. Secretary Root has loyally fulfilled the promises made to Gen. Vasquez Cobo in Cartagena, and in the course of his negotiations of these treaties has once more proven his spirit of nobility and justice and his feelings of warm Americanism.
Since the Cartagena conference the negotiations in Washington have been in charge of Enrique Cortés, plenipotentiary named to replace Dr. Diego Mendoza. Mr. Cortés, who before his nomination as Colombian plenipotentiary in Washington had been accredited during the ministry of Dr. Clímaco Calderón as confidential agent to the Government of the United States with the duty of cooperating with Dr. Menoza’s labors, has in the performance of his delicate mission shown high diplomatic qualities, and I take pleasure in recognizing them on this solemn occasion as a tribute to his complicated labors—labors as patriotic as intelligent—and crowned by a result which, for fear of prejudicing a cause that affects me so much, I would not dare to characterize as happy had not that adjective already been agreed upon by the impartial and unanimous evidence of the American diplomats in Washington. In reaching this result the plenipotentiaries of the United States in Bogota, John Barrett and Thomas C. Dawson, have aided efficiently, and in the performance of their mission these gentlemen have shown themselves to be sincere and decided friends of Colombia.
When the negotiations had been renewed by our plenipotentiaries, Dr. Cortés, though he found a determined cooperation on the part of the Secretary of State, encountered an opposition that arose from elements interested in the prolongation of the indefinite status of matters, and that you will easily understand without the necessity of my specifying. Nevertheless, our legation succeeded in reaching an agreement which was embodied in a tripartite protocol, signed in Washington on August 17, 1907, by the plenipotentiaries of Colombia and Panama and Mr. Taft, Secretary of War of the United States, representing the Government of the latter Republic. In this protocol, whose text I furnish herewith, were embodied the substantial bases for the celebration of a treaty to be made immediately thereafter. When the text of this protocol was received the President and the minister for foreign affairs, Gen. Vázquez Cobo, gave it careful study, and the result of this examination was the sending of supplementary instructions to our minister in Washington calling attention to certain points that needed explanation, amplification, or modification.
After these instructions had been received, and when the work of embodying the clauses of the August, 1907, protocol in treaties was already under way, there arose the discussion over the proper boundary to be fixed between the Republics of Colombia and Panama. The Colombian Government, knowing the validity of its titles, taught by the experience of what our boundary disputes had signified in the course of our national existence, and wisely looking forward to what the future might bring, would not agree for a single moment to sign any treaty which did not recognize the boundary that, according to our laws, had divided the Departments of Cauca and Panama. The discussion between the representatives of Colombia and Panama on this point assumed a character that caused a fear that the negotiations might fall through, and the Colombian Government believed it its duty to occupy the Territory of Jurado, as you were informed in your former session. An expedition under the [Page 370] command of distinguished officers of our army traversed the virgin forests of the Choco with an intrepidity only to be compared with that of the early Spanish conquerors, and without encountering any resistance placed on those borders of the Pacific known as the Territory of Jurado the sacred emblem of our fatherland. Our authorities have since continued exercising peaceful jurisdiction there.
When I take up the clause of the treaty between Colombia and Panama in reference to the boundary I will call your attention in a more special and detailed manner to this very important matter. At present I will follow the history of the negotiations.
The recovery of Jurado by our forces and the establishment there of our officials provoked a formal demand for intervention by the United States from the Panamanian Government. This demand was based upon the stipulations of the treaty of November 18, 1903, between those two Republics. After a careful examination of our evidences of title and a special report of Mr. Taft, Secretary of War, the Government of the United States was of the opinion that the case did not justify a compliance with the demand of the new Republic. In spite of this refusal, the negotiations entered upon a period of complete paralysis that only ended several months later, when a new adminstration in Panama replaced the one presided over by Dr. Amador Guerro. Though negotiations were recommended, they progressed very slowly, and the moment came when the President made up his mind to declare his decision to withdraw the Washington legation if the disagreeable litigation which for more than five years had embarrassed the Colombian Government and people should not immediately end. Happily, at last an agreement was reached upon the stipulations contained in the treaties I now submit to you and which were signed by our plenipotentiary in Washington in accordance with the instructions given him.
Such is the synopsis of the history of the negotiations in Washington which followed the presentation of the memorial of complaints of December 23, 1903. They had been inspired by the very author of that memorial, the present President of the Republic, who has indefatigably sought satisfaction for the national honor. In this patriotic desire he was seconded by the ministers, my distinguished predecessors, Dr. Clímaco Calderón and Gen. Vázquez Cobo.
I will now go on to treat of the texts of the treaties:
treaty with the united states of america.
The Colombian and American negotiators in Washington had discussed the terms of a general treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation to replace the treaty of 1846 between the Republics of the United States and Colombia. In such a treaty it was understood that there should be incorporated advantages conceded to Colombia in relation with the Panama Canal. Afterwards it was found preferable to adjourn the consideration of a general treaty of friendship and to proceed simply to agree upon the special treaty now submitted to you, which was the one most imperiously demanded by our interests, and which we may consider as relatively a compensation for our injured rights.
There was another powerful consideration for preferring not to embody in a general treaty of friendship the clauses relating to our advantages in the canal. An ordinary treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation implies the usual clause for denunciation either by fixing a limit of time or by establishing a period within which it may be denounced. Such a provision has been embodied in the project that the Secretary of State, Mr. Root, presented to our plenipotentiary in Washington. If, therefore, we had embodied in such a treaty the clauses relative to the canal, we would have accepted a limit of time for the enjoyment of the privileges conceded to us, and this would be equivalent to notably reducing the value of the concession we are seeking. The advantages conceded to us are now perpetual in their character. Nor would this inconvenience have been avoided by giving certain of the clauses of a general treaty the character of perpetuity, seeing that, although this method of procedure is not unknown in certain treaties, it is always the origin of dangerous distinctions to enact in a treaty what part shall be limited in time and what shall not be subject to denunciation, especially when a treaty itself shall have been denounced or the time should have elapsed.
Article 2 is as follows:
In consideration of the provisions and stipulations heretofore cited, the following has been agreed upon:
The Republic of Colombia shall have liberty at all times to transport through the ship canal the United States is constructing through the Isthmus of Panama troops, military materials, and war ships of the Republic of Colombia without paying any duty to the United States, even in the case of an international war between Colombia and any other country.
During the construction of said interoceanic canal the troops and military materials of the Republic of Colombia, even in case of an international war between Colombia and any other country, shall be transported by the railroad between Ancon and Cristobal, or by any other railroad which may take its place, on the same conditions as like services are rendered to the United States.[Page 371]
The officials, agents, and employees of the Government of Colombia shall have the right of being transported gratuitously by the said railroad through the Isthmus of Panama, notice having been given to the employees of the railroad and their official character proven.
The foregoing dispositions of this article shall nevertheless not be applicable in case of war between Colombia and Panama.
This article was intended to give to the advantages in our favor that are embodied in the treaty a character of reciprocal compensation, although by themselves they perhaps do not have such a nature. Besides, the desire on the part of the Government at Washington that the treaties should have such a character was very natural on account of many reasons which will not escape your enlightened penetration. Even if it be thought that the renunciation on our part embodied in article 6 does not equal the advantages given by the other articles, such advantages could not be called gratuitous and would not place the Government at Washington in the position of being obliged to concede like advantages should they be solicited by other nations under the favored-nation clause.
The liberty of transporting our troops, war ships, and ammunition through the Panama Canal, which thereafter is given us by the said article 2, is of the greatest importance and we can truly say that it signifies for our future a precious concession. It would be such for any nation, but for Colombia, who has coasts on both sides of the canal, such a concession signifies in effect the reestablishing of the continuity of these coasts and the adjacent seas, a continuity which the segregation of Panama put us in the position of being obliged to obtain. The liberty of trade now obtained was the ideal which our negotiators in Washington had pursued energetically ever since the lamented Dr. Carlos Martinez Silva reached that capital with Colombia’s first propositions. As you may see by the reading of those propositions, there was always included in them a clause concerning canal traffic, analogous to the one embodied in the article of the treaty which I am treating. Article 17 of the treaty of January 22, 1903, the Herran-Hay treaty, also embodied a like stipulation. That article said:
The Government of Colombia shall have the right of transporting its ships, troops, and ammunitions of war through the canal at all times without paying any duty. This exception extends to the service railroad as to the transporting of persons in the service of the Republic of Colombia or the Department of Panama, and of the police charged with the preservation of public order outside of said zone as well as of their baggage, arms, and provisions.
The stipulation of the present treaty is broader and better secures our rights, since it expressly provides that the liberty of traffic exists even in the case of an international war between Colombia and any other country. The stipulation contained in the second and third clauses of article 2 of the present treaty in relation to our rights concerning traffic and transportation over the railroad between Ancon and Cristobal during the construction of the interoceanic canal is also broader than the analogous provision in the Herran-Hay treaty.
The liberty of transit for our navy, even in the case of international war, places us in an advantageous situation in respect to all the nations of the world, although by the concession itself and also by the circumstances already noted of our having coasts and important posts on both sides of the canal, this privilege will become more valuable in the lapse of time, and the day will come in which the generations that succeed us will esteem it in all its value for the benefit they will derive from it.
Further the restrictions embodied in the last clause of article 2 in the case of a war between Colombia and Panama is perfectly justifiable in view of the stipulations of the treaty between Panama and the United States, which imposes on the latter Republic, among other duties, that of guarding the integrity of the former.
Article 3 implies a concession of great importance for our economic and commercial interests, especially for those of the departments on the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. What is stipulated in said article can be of the greatest advantage for our cattle industry, especially during times when the difficulties placed in the way of the exportation of cattle to Cuba and other circumstances have produced a real over-supply in some of the Colombian markets.
According to very recent data there are 50,000 consumers in the Canal Zone to whom the zone commissariat sold last year articles of primary necessity to the value of $3,793,593 gold. The largest articles of this consumption are meat, flour, tobacco, potatoes, and others which we produce under conditions that permit the export of most of them to the Isthmus. Therefore a rich market is opened to us by the treaty with the United States, and it is opened to us under the most favorable conditions, seeing that our products are exempt from the payment of duties just as are products coming from the United States. Not even the Republic of Panama has conditions as favorable as Colombia in the matter of the introduction of her products into the Canal Zone, and in any case a privilege which would mean for Panamanian producers and merchants only a competition, and would be the origin of daily quarrels, is, for Colombian producers and merchants, simply an advantage which places them in exceptional conditions.[Page 372]
The stipulation relative to provisions for Colombian laborers not only favors our numerous compatriots who work on the canal, but is also a means of encouraging the export of products which we produce in great abundance on our coasts.
Article 4 of the treaties with the United States contains two stipulations not less important than the former ones—the one in relation to the transportation of our mail sacks and the one in reference to the transportation of our products, especially Colombian sea salt.
An account of the difficulties which we have encountered in regard to the passage of correspondence coming to Colombia by the Isthmus would be very long. Such difficulties were only slightly ameliorated by the creation of an agency in Panama charged with the duty of watching over our interests. The gratuitous transportation of our mail sacks through the offices at Ancon and Cristobal and the equality of treatment with the mail sacks of the United States, which is conceded for them, will noticeably better the previous unfortunate conditions.
In respect to sea salt, the advantages in its transport ceded by the treaty—advantages which have been sought energetically from the commencement of the present negotiations—will put the Government in the position of continuing, as at present, furnishing the Colombian departments on the Pacific with the sea salt produced by our departments on the Atlantic. Seeing that the Government was able to carry out its designs, even paying the high freight rate on the Panama Railroad, as happened last year with large shipments, it is evident the advantages now conceded will make it easy for the Government to finally effect the dislodgment of all non-Colombian salt from Colombian markets. For the economic future of the Republic, so intimately connected with the favorable trade balance we hope to obtain, the avoidance of the payment we now make to Peru of half a million dollars annually for our consumption of her salt will be of great value, and we can do this without endangering our purpose of enabling consumers to buy this article at a really low price.
The recognition of the transfer of 10 annual payments of $250,000 each, made in our favor by the Republic of Panama, obliges the United States to deliver these installments directly to the Government of Colombia. In the course of the negotiations we obtained the elimination from this article of any expression which might give it a character of compensation for the recognition of the new Republic, a compensation which certainly was not proper, and which we could not accept under any form.
Article 6 embodies the concessions and recognitions on our part which appear as a compensation for the concessions hereinbefore mentioned. In reality the right of refuge for ships in distress is one recognized by international law, and does not constitute a concession on our part, seeing that the restriction is imposed that such a permission shall, in case of war, be subject to the laws of neutrality. The concession we made by article 15 of the Herran-Hay treaty was much broader, since it did not contain any restriction in case of war, notwithstanding the commission which reported on said treaty in 1903 did not make any objection to the said article.
The renunciation we made at the end of article 6 amounts to a renunciation of the right which the Republic of Colombia formerly had under the concessions given Luciano Bonaparte Wyse, the Universal Panama Canal Co., the Panama Railroad Co., and the New Panama Canal Co.; that is to say, the same renunciation which is referred to in article 12 of the Herran-Hay treaty.
Although it may have been logical when we were negotiating in Washington before “1903 to discuss serenely what values these concessions had for us before accepting the compensation offered, at the present juncture and in view of accomplished and universally accepted fact there is nothing for us to do but to bow before the absolute power of the inevitable, leaving, however, evident to the world that the laws granting these conventions, their generosity and breadth, constitute a most eloquent proof that Colombia never opposed any obstacle to the civilizing stream that was trying to open the splendid throat of the Isthmus for the universal benefit; and of how, from the beginning of our republican life until the day when the immortal De Lesseps trod our beaches and was welcomed by the enthusiastic acclamations of the Colombian people, being received as the precursor of a new era of civilization, our governors and legislators never ceased a single day to occupy themselves in the prompt realization of the cherished conception, and that later, when the great Frenchman was dead and his gigantic scheme was dying, they preoccupied themselves in like manner. Colombia aided him by granting new and almost gratuitous extensions of time for the finishing of his work, and a support that the world had already denied him; 1835, 1838, 1851, 1852, 1858, 1866, 1868, 1870, 1876, 1878—there has hardly been a year in the history of new Colombia that does not register an act, a law, an effort, to show how intense were national preoccupation and desires in favor of the civilizing work, to whose realization an effort was made at a mournful time to make us appear as opposed—as if to add ridicule to injustice.[Page 373]
These brief reminiscences may appear out of place in this document were it not that the solemnity of the present moment requires them as a justification of the memory of those many illustrious Colombians who, with patriotic zeal and altruistic purposes, took part in the various negotiations relative to the Panama Canal and railroad.
Article 7 refers to the approaching revision of the 1846 treaty, seeing that, as I have previously indicated to you, it was not possible or deemed advantageous to include the clauses of the present treaty among those of a general treaty of friendship. In the new treaty stipulations should be included securing the putting into effect the principles of arbitration. Following its instructions from the Government, our legation has worked to secure its immediate signing. The Republic proves its determination undeviatingly to continue the honorable traditions of our foreign office, which come down from the glorious epoch of Bolívar and the Great Colombia.
Article 8 of the treaty establishes the interdependence of the three treaties—ours with the United States, ours with Panama, and the one of the latter Republic with the United States. If one of the three treaties fail, all three fail.
Further, this interdependence was inevitable. On one side, the United States recognized the transfer to us of certain sums it owes to Panama; it was, therefore, necessary that this transfer be perfected by the acceptance of the creditor and debtor nations. Further, the existing treaty between the United States and Panama provides that the annual payments of $250,000 should begin to be paid February 26, 1912, while, according to the treaty agreed upon with Colombia, these installments will begin on February 26, 1908, the date when the transfer begins to run in our favor. It is, therefore, necessary that the treaty altering such conditions and which further implies an increase of four years of payments (that is to say, a million dollars) be approved by Panama and the United States in order to be effective.
An intimate connection is very natural between treaties intended as a solution as far as possible of difficulties which arose and were developed inextricably and as a consequence of the same facts.
treaty with panama.
The principal articles of this treaty are those which provide for the recognition of the new Republic by Colombia, the sum to be paid us for the exemption of Panama from responsibilities as to the payment of our foreign and domestic debts, that which fixes the boundaries between the two Republics, and that which determines the conditions under which Colombians and Panamans, born in the territory of either of the two Republics before November 3, 1903, and who on that date resided within the territory of the other, may choose their nationality. The article relative to the recognition of the Republic of Panama requires no reasonings or commentaries. So far as we are concerned it does not even permit them. I would fear that the weakness of my words might not do justice to the immensity of the sorrow and misfortune of our fatherland. If I should say anything to-day about this article, it would be only to express the wish that the people who formed with ourselves during 82 years a single national entity should now be honored and respected, and to express my hope that the beautiful star which has been separated from the Colombian constellation may shine with an inextinguishable light in the heaven of American democracy.
By article 12 of the treaty the Republic of Panama cedes us 10 annual payments, of $250,000 each, in exchange for the recognition made by Colombia that said Republic shall have no obligation or responsibility to the holders of the foreign and domestic debt of the Republic of Colombia, or to the Republic of Colombia on account of the debts and reclamations originating said debts. Colombia assumes all responsibility for such debts and assumes the obligation of holding Panama harmless on account of them.
I will not enter upon arithmetical calculations to try to elucidate whether the proportion adopted was or was not a just one, whether taking population as the basis of the division as was done when the debt of old Colombia was distributed by the Pombo-Michelena convention of December 23, 1884, or whether taking other elements as a basis for calculation. For us the amount agreed upon has a secondary interest in comparison with the moral result obtained—that is to say, the obtaining of a recognition of the obligation to contribute to the payment of debts which, as was natural, also rested upon the separated territory—debts which Colombia had recognized as a whole and was regularly paying in accordance with her agreements and existing laws.
By article 4 of the treaty, the two Republics reciprocally declare themselves free of all pecuniary responsibility or obligation of whatever nature; but this exemption does not touch the rights and individual actions of citizens of either of the two Republics, providing that such reclamations can be considered valid in accordance with the laws now in force and those in force on November 3, 1903. This provision of exemption guarantees both Republics against ill-founded claims.[Page 374]
By article 5 of the treaty, Panama’s abandonment of every right and title to the 50,000 shares in the New Panama Canal Co. is confirmed. You already know the issue of the laborious litigation concerning these shares—a litigation intrusted from the beginning to the indefatigable as well as intelligent, enlightened, and patriotic efforts of Gen. Jorge Holguin, who, to-day present in the body of the legislative assembly, can give you, should it be necessary, an account of the tremendous efforts that he and his coadjutors, Gen. Marceliano Vargas and Dr. Juan E. Manrique, made in order at reach the final result which safeguarded our honor and our interests.
Article 6 settles, in accordance with international principles and practices, one of the problems which naturally resulted from the separation of the inhabitants of such territory, when it constituted itself into a new nationality. The right of choice of nationality which article 6 establishes in favor of those individuals born before November 3, 1903, within the territory that to-day belongs to the Republic of Panama, and who on the said date were residing within the territory that to-day belongs to the Republic of Colombia, and vice versa, in favor of the individuals born within the territory of Columbia who were in like manner residing in Panama, constitutes an exception to the ordinary rule of choice of nationality established by international law and which our constitution likewise recognizes, a rule that does not require residence. In order to determine the right to the choice the treaty permits, only two elements are taken into consideration; first, birth; and second, residence on the date when the separation took place. So, therefore, a native Panamanian, who on the said date was residing within our present territory, may now choose Colombian nationality and this whether or not he has continued to be domiciled in Colombia. But a native Panamanian who did not have such a residence can not choose Colombian nationality unless in accordance with our constitution; that is to say, by adopting said nationality by applying for letters of naturalization. This provision of the treaty, providing for the collective naturalization of Panamanians and Colombians, establishes nothing extraordinary, seeing that we know of like regulations having been adopted when the differences were settled which arose on account of the cession of the Territory of Louisiana, the annexation of Texas and Hawaii, when the treaties of Florida and Frankfort were celebrated, when the treaties between Spain and the United States were settled after the war of 1898, and in many other cases which it would be too long to enumerate.
Article 9 determines the frontier between the two Republics. This question of boundary was one to which the Government gave the greatest attention, as I have already indicated, on account of its intrinsic importance. At all hazards, the Government desired to determine the boundary, and that such determination should be made in accordance with what Colombia insisted should be considered as the norm of demarcation; that is to say, the Colombian law of June 9, 1855, which fixes the following limits between the departments of Cauca and Panama:
From Cape Tiburon to the headwaters of the River Miel, and following the Cordillera by the Cerro de Gandi to the Sierra de Chugargun, then the Sierra de Mali, following down the Cerros de Nigue to the Heights of Aspave, and from there to the Pacific between Cocalito and La Ardita.
The Panaman Legation based its claims on the decree by the President of New Granada, Thomas C. D. Mosquera (of August 7, 1847). This decree provisionally fixed the boundaries of the territory of Darien as follows: On the east, the River Atrato from its mouth to its confluence with the Napipi; on the south, the latter river throughout its course, and a straignt line from its source to the Bay of Cupica and the Pacific Ocean.
In contending for the boundaries according to the decree of Gen. Mosquera, the Panaman Legation in Washington in reality did nothing more than revive the old lawsuit between the State of Cauca and Panama, a lawsuit which the Supreme Federal Court decided against the latter on January 12, 1864.
The only point upon which we could permit discussion was on the determination of whether this or that portion of territory was or was not included within the line thus fixed, such line having been accepted in principle. This is what has been done with the region that extends from the Heights of Aspave to the Pacific Ocean; that is to say, the region of Jurado. Although the line provided by the law of 1855 must end between Cocalito and La Ardita on the Pacific Ocean, said law does not fix the exact point of such termination. Such a circumstance, added to various others which made it convenient for our interests to accept arbitration in the manner provided for by the treaty, decided the Government to agree on the terms of article 9. This article leaves our territorial rights perfectly assured over the splendid region drained by the Atrato and its tributaries, a region which is undoubtedly one of the most valuable of the territory of Colombia. Further, the constitution of the tribunal of arbitration, immediately after the ratification of the treaty and the brief periods fixed for the reaching of the decision, still further guarantees us, if it is necessary, that no disagreeable questions will remain to be resolved in the future between the two Republics.[Page 375]
Article 7 of the treaty, which provides that neither of the two Republics shall admit to form part of its nationality any part of the territory of the other which may be separated by force, embodies a prohibition which it would be very desirable to be adopted as a principle of American international law.
You will permit me, in conclusion, and as a supplement to the succinct analysis which I have just made of the two treaties, to say something to you in regard to their negotiation as a whole.
There have been those who believe that the question originating in the session of Panama is to be carefully kept alive by us as a heritage hereafter to be converted into an inexhaustive mine of various benefits for Colombia. It was said that we ought to leave to time and its evolutions and its possibilities the arrangement of the break of November 3, 1903. The Government, on the contrary, believed that the protection of the great interests of the Republic which the Constitution had intrusted to it required it to seek a prompt solution of the important problems whose gravity would not diminish by delaying their solution. Isolation is perhaps possible between two widely separated countries, but it is not admissible for two neighboring peoples, between whom exists in fact a daily interchange which in our own interests ought to be normalized. Communion between the peoples of the world is to-day so intimate on account of the bonds which the development of civilization has created that it is not now possible, as it was formerly, to adjourn indefinitely the arrangement of situations arising from facts. International history during the last decades shows this clearly to us, and it would be in vain for us to undertake to be blind to the lessons of history and to refuse to recognize its philosophy by opposing to the universal acquiescence of the nations of the world a stubborn negative which would injure our own interests. The first thing to do is, without any delay, to trace between the fragment of territory which has been segregated from our fatherland and the territory that remains to us the line which will indicate the boundary that can not be crossed without once again attacking our sovereignty. In view of the kind of territorial guaranty that the Republic of the United States has given Panama, no Colombian can disguise from himself the advisability of knowing immediately just how far this guarantee extends.
The feeling in favor of our rights which at first seemed to appear among some North American thinkers and which was the origin of a pleasant hope did not increase at all. The dignified though warm appeal made by the Chief Magistrate of Colombia, the enlightened Marroquín, in his telegram of November 3, 1903, to the President of the Senate in Washington, when he said “In behalf of justice, Colombia appeals to the dignity and honor of the American Senate and people,” remains to this day without any echo, and the verdict of the American people has rather confirmed than con-condemned the international policy of their Government.
Why, therefore, adjourn the matter if adjournment up to now has in no way bettered our painful situation?
When the Herran-Hay treaty was presented in 1903 in the Colombian Senate, the hall of the legislature resounded with the eolquent voice of Colombian patriotism that saw in this treaty a manifest attack on our Constitution and on the most important attributes of our sovereignty. There have been few times in the course of our national life when parliamentary debates have been inspired by such a sacred fire, and very few times when what was loyally believed to be the defense of national interests honor was defended in our tribune with greater heat.
History will tell whether the Senators of 1903 were or were not mistaken, but it will always show that their purposes were high and their patriotism pure. Frangi, non flecti, was their motto. We who as governors or legislators are to-day about to put an end to this vitally important litigation, perhaps would have also placed our austere negative on the pan of the balance in view of the problem and the circumstances of that time, even though we may have feared that the shock of such a negative with the great interests that were already interested in our Isthmus, might have destroyed our sovereignty there. Let us render this tribute of justice to the Senate of 1903 and hope that posterity will likewise do so.
It will be for that same posterity, it will be for time with what we call its surprises and which really are nothing except the logical consequences of historical fact, to say whether the shock that then broke the territory of the nation, and—something far worse—that broke the profoundest and most delicate national Colombian feelings, was nothing more than the first of the shocks which perhaps will take place between nations, between continents, between civilizations, even there amidst those same seas to whose borders Bolíver once summoned the nations to unite themselves around the fecund standard of law and peace. February 5, 1900, the date of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty, which replace the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and the 3d of November, 1903, the date of the secession of Panama, are perhaps nothing more than the initial dates of a new and vitally important chapter in the history of humanity.[Page 376]
Following out its marvelous purposes, Providence reaches its serene solution of the most arduous problems of nations as well as individuals; from evil it derives good, as it extracts as from the germs of to-day’s dissolution the life of to-morrow. The profound emotion that convulsed the Colombian people, Government, and Congress in 1903, has become less and less before the unscaleable wall of accomplished and accepted facts; the problem has been resolved by the joint action of inevitable causes; the painful alternative which the Senate of 1903 had before it, already does not exist for you, and I do not believe I am mistaken in saying that the very Senators of 1903, were they to-day in your chairs, would give their approval to the treaties I am submitting to you. Such approval has, with complete realization of his responsibility, been given by the author of the memorial of complaints, who is to-day President of the Republic. Feeling upon himself all the weight of duty in these solemn moments, he may recall the words of Thiers when the latter, finding it necessary to temper by the serene calm of the negotiator the indignant speech of the orator protesting against the dismemberment of France, exclaimed: “I would have believed that Providence might have spared me the performance of such a painful duty.”
Honorable deputies, the Executive trusts the serenity of your high opinion, and through me presents you the accompanying drafts of laws ratifying the treaties.
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