File No. 711.1215/357.

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 882.]

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 499 of August 25,1 relative to the Chamizal dispute, with which was inclosed for my information copy of the Department’s aide memoire of August 24 and a memorandum of a conversation between the Assistant Secretary of State and the Mexican ambassador at the time when the aide mémoire was handed by the former to the latter.

In compliance with the Department’s instruction to familiarize myself with these documents and then to energetically and informally take up with the Mexican Government the matter of securing its consideration of the proposals of the United States, I have the honor to report, as I telegraphed the Department to-day, that I had an extended interview with President de la Barra, who it will be remembered has reserved for himself the direction of Mexico’s foreign affairs, at noon to-day and urged upon him the desirability of considering the proposals of the United States as set forth in the Department’s aide memoire above mentioned.

The President replied to my initial remarks by saying that as the arbitration award had been given and was a matter of fact, he [Page 601] felt that the parties to the arbitration should abide by the results, and that this was especially true in the case of Mexico, as the award since it is favorable to her gives her concrete rights, and that he would therefore lay himself open to the reproach on the part of the Mexican people of having surrendered their advantages and of having violated the principle of arbitration to which both Mexico and the United States are committed if he ignored the fact of the award and undertook to enter upon a discussion of means for the settlement of the dispute in another manner.

To this I replied that it was not the intention of the Government of the United States that Mexico should give up or lose anything gained; that the matter of her advantages was one which would of course always be given due consideration, but that what was now wanted was the assent of the Mexican Government to consider and to enter upon a discussion of the points involved in the dispute with a view to avoiding future friction, troublesome discussion, and vexatious delays—all of which it seemed evident might be expected in the course of the future on account of the unsatisfactory condition in which the award, as far as the United States was concerned, had left the original controversy. I added that if our two nations simply left the present award out of consideration and could between themselves arrive at an arrangement by which the dispute could be finally settled to the satisfaction of both Mexico and the United States, such a procedure, by providing a better solution than the award, could hardly be considered to vitiate the principle of arbitration which the United States had no desire either to detract from or to weaken.

Continuing his observations, the President said that as his term of office was soon to come to an end and as he did not wish to embarrass the incoming administration by committing it to any certain line of conduct where it should be left free to determine its own course, he regarded this as another reason for not entertaining our proposals.

I here remarked that I felt certain that the new administration would admit that there was no one in Mexico more competent than he to deal with this question, and especially so as he had for some time been intimately connected with it, and that since his patriotism was undoubted he would hardly be accused of doing anything to his country’s disadvantage; that it would therefore seem especially beneficial for the matter of the dispute to be disposed of during his incumbency, and that an early disposition of it would be all the more advantageous. I therefore asked the President what in his opinion could be done. He replied that, in spite of the conviction of the American commissioner, as stated on page 2 of the Department’s aide memoire—which I endeavored to have him accept as evidence enough of the nonfeasibility of carrying out the award, as it would probably establish a precedent in the matter of fixing river boundaries which it would be found impossible to abide by—it would in his opinion be necessary to endeavor to trace the channel of the river as it was in 1864, and to this end to appoint an international commission to carry out this provision of the award. To accomplish this he is disposed to work with all speed, and said to me that should the commission find-it impossible to determine positively the course followed’ by the river in 1864 he would then be willing to at once open diplomatic [Page 602] negotiations for the purpose of agreeing upon bases for a final settlement of the dispute.

I asked the President at this point whether he meant that he would then be willing to consider our proposals as set forth in the aide mémoire, and to enter upon a discussion of bases for a final settlement upon a foundation of mutual accommodation and convenience; to which he replied that he could say nothing more than that he would be willing to enter upon diplomatic negotiations for arriving at some plan of settlement.

I infer from the foregoing that the President’s position as regards our proposals amounts to this, namely, that he feels he can not under the circumstances accept the opinion of the American commissioner and of the American agent that the award is incapable of execution and act accordingly, but that should the international commission find the course of the river in 1864 to be undiscoverable and thus prove the correctness of the position taken by the American commissioner and the American agent, he would then be free to go much further in meeting our wishes.

The President considers the appointment of an international commission and an effort to carry out the award as an indispensable preliminary to any consideration of our present proposals, and although I said everything I properly could to make him see the advisability of leaving the award in abeyance and in proceeding with a rapid practical discussion of the matter, I was unable to make him change his mind. He then said that the fact of the award having been given left Mexico no option but to endeavor to put its findings into effect. He admitted, however, the advantages to be gained through the negotiations of a declaratory treaty, and told me in confidence that once when in Washington at a conference at the Department of State, at which Mr. Knox, Mr. Huntington Wilson, Mr. Dennis, Mr. Clark, and others were present, he had even proposed such a solution in lieu of arbitration and had predicted just about the state of affairs that has arisen, but that at that time arbitration had been insisted upon. I observed to the President that if an interpretative and declaratory treaty was a good thing then, I could not see why it should be any less desirable now when the award would seem to have left the dispute no nearer a final solution, and that if he had once favored such a treaty he must be more clearly aware than anyone of its great advantages. The President’s rejoinder was that the award had placed Mexico in a different position and changed the aspect of affairs; that under the award Mexico now has rights she can not surrender (unless most fully compensated therefor), whereas before, when nothing had been decided, she had none.

In bringing our interview to a close the President declared that he would be most happy, in case his suggestions are accepted, to see the Chamizal dispute definitely settled before the end of his term of office; that if his suggestions are accepted he will do everything possible to expedite the. appointment of the Mexican commissioners and the final disposal of the case. He reiterated finally the friendly disposition of the Mexican Government and its desire to facilitate a solution of the difficulty in every proper way.

I have [etc.],

Fred Morris Dearing.
  1. Not printed.