File No. 817.812/135.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia. 1
Managua , December 24, 1913.
Mr. Minister: Your excellency’s note of September 25 last, in which you enclose a certified copy of the note which your excellency says was addressed to this Department under date of August 9 last2 through the Legation of Nicaragua at Washington, has been received here, with considerable delay. That and the further circumstance that up to the 22nd instant, as telegraphed by the Legation on that date, no note from the Department of Foreign Relations of Colombia had been received by the Minister of Nicaragua to the United States, will afford your excellency sufficient explanation to excuse the silence heretofore maintained by this Government and its delay in returning a precise and suitably prompt answer to the important questions touched upon by your excellency in the above-mentioned papers.
Your excellency says, in the note of August 9, that the Government of Colombia has become acquainted with Article 2 of the treaty concluded between Nicaragua and the United States of America whereby the former gives in leasehold to the latter the islands in the Caribbean Sea called Great Corn Island and Little Corn, over which your excellency asserts Colombia holds the right of sovereignty by unquestionable titles to which my Government’s attention was more than once called by your Government, as it has protested against what your excellency terms usurpation consummated in the said islands.[Page 1033]
Your excellency adds that the terms of that convention, which has been published by various periodicals in North and South America, again compel your Government to enter a formal protest against the disregard of Colombia’s aforesaid right of sovereignty and to reiterate the reservations made in several notes addressed to my Government by several of your predecessors in your Department, and your excellency concludes with a statement that the Minister of Colombia at Washington has also received instructions to formulate appropriate reservations at the Department of State of the United States of America.
In reply your excellency will permit me to say that inasmuch as the question involves a treaty, not yet perfected, between the Governments of Nicaragua and the United States, to the mutual advantage of both countries, which is kept secret for international reasons that concern the signatory nations only, I cannot enter into considerations of any kind bearing on any of the clauses contained in the said treaty.
But since your excellency, in referring to unofficial press reports on the subject, has taken occasion, in the notes I have the honor to answer, to make declarations about the right of sovereignty of Colombia over the mentioned islands, Great Corn and Little Corn, by turning to the protests of your excellency’s predecessors in your Department without adducing further arguments in support of that alleged right, I deem it my duty to adopt and reproduce in this answer those presented in their time to the Chancellery of Colombia by the Ministers of Foreign Relations of Nicaragua—Doctor Adán Cárdenas, in 1880, Doctor Benjamín Guerra in 1890, and Don José Dolores Gámez in 1896—wherein absolute denial is made of any right that Colombia claims or may claim to the Mosquito territory; denial is even made of any possibility to question, with any semblance of justice, the plain and unexceptionable rights of Nicaragua to that territory, and the suggestion of arbitration offered by your excellency’s Government is roundly rejected, for the reason that Nicaragua’s rights are clear and do not admit discussion and therefore there is no territorial question whatsoever pending between the two nations.
[Here follows a long analysis of the legal history of the case.]
Therefore the dominion of Nicaragua, incontestable in every light over the Atlantic Coast belonging to her between the Republics of Honduras and Costa Rica and over the islands comprised therein, and the non-interrupted possession for four centuries of the said territory and islands, leads me to return to your excellency’s Government, Mr. Minister, a definite and concrete answer to the particular point touched on by your excellency in the note of August 9 last, to wit: that if Nicaragua did or should lease the Great Corn and Little Corn islands, she did or would do so by virtue of the dominion or sovereignty she holds over them—a dominion and sovereignty that Colombia lacks over Nicaraguan territory, but necessary to an objection to the acts above mentioned.
And I must add here, on the same ground, that in respect to the archipelago of the San Andrés, Vieja Provincia and Santa Catalina islands, and all other islands and keys adjacent to the Mosquito Coast, Nicaragua most solemnly denies any right of sovereignty [Page 1034] Colombia may allege thereto, whether it be attempted to base it on a royal order that was never carried out and was considered as nonexistent from the time it was issued, or on some unlawful possession that bears all the marks of actual forcement; and consequently reserves to herself the right to vindicate at any time her dominion and sovereignty over the said archipelago.
I have [etc.]