File No. 722.2315/547.
The Ecuadorian Minister for Foreign Affairs to the American Minister.
Quito, January 16, 1911.
Excellency: It was only in the last mail that I had the honor to receive the note announced by his excellency the Argentine minister; a note which corroborated the invitation of the mediating powers to [Page 178] Ecuador and Peru to submit their boundary disputes to The Hague Tribunal. This will explain to your excellency my delay in answering the note which you were pleased to direct to me with the same object on the 27th of last month.
The solicitude with which the mediating powers have striven to remove the obstacles which were in the way of the peace of both countries could not be more praiseworthy or more deserving of gratitude; and the history of America will register in its best pages the great benefit of the mediation, so generously offered at the moment when a disastrous war between two sister peoples was about to commence. Out of gratitude for this offer, my Government wishes that it were able to accept the friendly and benevolent suggestions of hose powers, so that all the glory of having cemented the peace between these two nations should belong to them.
But unfortunately our dispute with Peru does not rest upon a mere demarcation or settling of frontier lines, but also upon the dominion and sovereignty of very vast territories; upon the very life of Ecuador, which, without the zone which Peru disputes now with us, would remain dead for the future, as even the Peruvian minister, Dr. Garcia, himself confessed in his report before the congress of his country in 1890. The question of boundaries for us is a question of existence, and it can not, therefore, be included in article 38 of The Hague Convention.
In the said article it is stated that arbitration is the most just and efficacious means of finding a solution for legal controversies, especially those relative to the interpretation or application of international conventions. But what are these merely legal questions which should be solved before the above-mentioned international tribunal? In order to answer this we have but to consult the acts of the Second International Peace Conference, the true source of interpretation of the resolutions made by the congress referred to. There we find the genuine explanation of the doctrines held by the nations represented at the conference above-mentioned, and we see, specifically stated, the cases to which article 38 of the convention refers. And in order to exclude every doubt, I will permit myself to make special mention of the doctrines sustained by the delegation of the United States of America, whose proposition is to be found in Appendix 37, page 899 of the second volume of acts, official edition of 1907.
Article I of the said proposition textually states:
Controversies of a legal nature relative to the interpretation of existing treaties * * * and which have not been able to be settled by diplomatic channels, shall be submitted to arbitration: Provided, however, That the vital interests, the independence, and the honor of neither State shall be in question, and provided that the interests of other States strangers to the dispute shall not be affected.
This article, so wisely conceived, is but the exact and faithful expression of the doctrine of the principal and most renowned jurists; a doctrine which has been put into practice by all the nations that have celebrated treaties of general arbitration. We may say that there has been an understanding, almost unanimous, about the doctrine sustained by the North American delegation in the Second Hague Conference; and consequently my Government could not in any form submit our dispute with Peru to the Permanent Court of Arbitration, since it refers to the dominion and sovereignty of [Page 179] Ecuador over not less than two-thirds of her territory. And please note that the consideration of the nature of the controversy concerns us exclusively. The delegation of the United States of America—founded, of course, upon law—proclaim this very doctrine in the following terms, as can be seen in Appendix 37, already referred to:
Each one of the signatory powers has the right to determine whether the difficulty which has arisen affects its vital interests, its independence or its honor; and consequently if it is of the same nature as those that are excepted from arbitration by the preceding article etc.
And this declaration is corroborated by those of other nations which participated in the same international conference. So that, in the matter which is now in hand, Ecuador is the only one called upon to decide whether the dispute with Peru affects or does not affect her vital interests, the national honor and the very sovereignty of the State.
There is another great difficulty which prevents my Government from accepting the kindly suggestions of the mediating powers, namely, the solemn treaties which bind Ecuador with Colombia. Without taking into consideration article 26 of the treaty of July 9, 1856, renewed and ratified in the treaty of the 10th of August, 1905, we have the treaty of May, 1910, a convention according to which the defense of the Amazon territory must be made jointly by Ecuador and Colombia, forming a single party. This treaty makes it impossible for either of the two powers to proceed separately and without the agreement of the other. If, therefore, we should accept the friendly counsel of the mediators without the express acquiescence of Colombia we should break, your excellency, a solemn international treaty, which would be contrary to justice, to national honor, and to the sincere friendship which unites us to our sister to the North. If the arbitration of The Hague were possible we could not therefore go to that tribunal except jointly with Colombia.
These, your excellency, are the very strong reasons which my Government has the regret to express to the mediating powers, and on account of which it does not believe that it is in a position to accept the kindly invitation which it has received, although it gratefully acknowledges the generosity and noble zeal with which these powers have proceeded from the time that our conflict with Peru commenced until to-day, when the fears of a war between the two countries are entirely removed. At present nobody in Ecuador, Mr. Minister, thinks of confiding to arms the triumph of our rights; and Spanish arbitration having been eliminated, and the excitement of the Republic of Peru being calmed, I believe that there will not be great difficulties placed in the way of entering into friendly and direct arrangements. This would be the most decorous and appropriate means for sister nations to terminate definitely their boundary dispute; and an equitable and noble transaction, celebrated under the auspices of friendly powers, would be the most beautiful example which we could give to our continent; to terminate the differences as in a family, without other judicial procedure than the good offices of our illustrious and great friends, would be to lay new and firmer foundations for American concord, and to present ourselves before the world as peoples worthy of the civilization to which we have attained.[Page 180]
And if, in discussing this honorable compromise, difficulties should prevent its satisfactory conclusion, we then might have recourse to amiables compositeurs, charged with splitting the difference on the basis of equity; and my Government, always animated by the most earnest spirit of conciliation, would designate for the friendly duties referred to Governments or political personages whom Peru would accept with applause. I repeat, your excellency, that the Ecuadorian people and their Government desire only peace with their neighbors and will lend themselves to any arrangement based upon equity and honor.
I seize, etc.,