The Colombian Minister to the Secretary of State.
Washington, March 22, 1909.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication dated on the 19th instant.
Your letter refers to our conversation regarding the contents of Mr. Dawson’s cable to your excellency, transmitting the requirements of the Colombian minister of foreign affairs as to the meaning of Article VI of the treaty between Colombia and the United States signed on the 9th of January last. Said requirements are twofold. On the one part a matter of punctuation, suppressing the comma after the word “refugio” and putting it after the word “comercio.” On the other part, as to the meaning of the right of refuge granted to vessels passing through or bound to pass through the canal. The Colombian minister of foreign affairs desiring Mr. Dawson to hold himself in readiness to write a note to him saying that “the use conceded is understood to be only as that right of refuge recognized by international law to be subject to the usages established by international law with regard to right of refuge and not as involving any breach of Colombian sovereignty over her ports.”
As to the first point, your excellency accepts the suggestion as to punctuation, mentioning that by such alteration the Spanish text becomes equivalent to the English text. Furthermore, you mention that by initialing the text by Mr. Root and myself here and by Mr. Dawson and the minister of foreign affairs in Bogota all formalities will be fulfilled. I beg, in consequence, to ask your kindly advising me when may I call on you for the purpose of initialing the treaty.
As to the second point, your excellency explains the concession granted, as understood by the American Government, to mean the use of Colombian ports as places of refuge (in the sense of shelter) [Page 382] in case of stress or need for vessels passing through or bound to pass through the canal, and your excellency further adds—
That such use is merely by favor and without prejudice to the sovereignty of Colombia is shown by the rest of the article, which (1) subjects the granted favor to Colombia’s duty to enforce neutrality in time of war, and (2) grants the further favor of exemption from anchorage or tonnage dues, which, without such concession, Colombia would collect in virtue of her sovereignty.
Your excellency further adds that—
There would seem to be no possible objection to Mr. Dawson exchanging notes with the Colombian minister for foreign affairs in the sense suggested in his telegram. All the article does (you add) is to recognize the standing doctrine of international law concerning the friendly shelter of vessels in stress or need, plus the concession of exemption from anchorage or tonnage dues in such case.
Mention is made in your note of your sending a telegram to Minister Dawson in the sense of your note, trusting that it will remove the impediment that has arisen.
It affords me much pleasure, Mr. Secretary, to recognize and duly appreciate your readiness in disposing of the matter in question and the fair and clear manner in which you recognize the position, all which is entirely satisfactory and concurs with the views of my Government as to the complete maintenance of Colombia’s sovereignty over her ports not being in any manner affected by the concession as to right of refuge granted in article 6 of the Colombia-United States treaty of 9th of January.
I beg to present, etc.,