File No. 721.000/4 (p. 21); 721.000/5 (pp. 238, 244, 248 and 253).

Memorial of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Colombian Congress, July 20, 1913 1

[Translation of the passage relating to the United States.]

United States.

During the last days of February, at the time when the administration presided over by Mr. William H. Taft was drawing to its close, the Minister Plenipotentiary of the Republic in Bogota, James T. Du Bois, presented to the Government of Colombia the document which, owing to its importance, I take the liberty of quoting at length:

memorandum presented by his excellency the minister of the united states of america to the government of colombia.


The Government of Colombia confirmed the refusal already given by my predecessor, Doctor Pedro M. Carreño, to the proposals of Mr. Du Bois. The reasons on which our reiterated refusal was based are stated in the minutes of the conference, which I likewise find desirable to quote here in their entirety:

minutes of the conference between the minister for foreign affairs of colombia and the minister of the united states of america concerning the above memorandum.


In the annex to this memorial [File No. 721.000/5; p. 233] you will find the text of the note from the Plenipotentiary of Colombia, General Pedro Nel Ospina, to the Secretary of State, dated the 25th of November 1911,4 a very important document in our diplomatic history and which in a very precise manner condenses the national opinion of Colombia, which was faithfully recited previously in the Memorial of Grievances presented at Washington just after the spoliation of Panamá, and in the notes of the Plenipotentiary of Colombia, Dr. Diego Mendoza Pérez.5 The formal [sic] reference made to the note of General Ospina in the minutes of the conference with Mr. Du Bois, inserted here, and the character of the said conference, render unnecessary, in order to corroborate the request for arbitration, the extensive repetition of antecedents and causes which have been already stated so brilliantly in the above-mentioned documents. [Page 319] These antecedents and reasons have, by their very nature been already confirmed by many pages of the diplomatic history of the United States of America, which show how that Republic had solemnly accepted arbitration for the settlement of disputes of a political and international order, as were those submitted on a memorable occasion to the Geneva Arbitration in 1871, in relation to acts analogous to those forming the basis of our protests, by the two great nations of the Saxon world.

The rejection of the propositions, of the United States Plenipotentiary provoked the report which Secretary of State Knox presented to the Department of State [sic] on February 20th of this year. This report was transmitted by President Tart in his message’ of March 1st to the Senate and to the House of Representatives of the United States. It was greatly to be regretted that Mr Knox deviated on several points from the historic truth, in his statement of what had passed during the last ten years between Colombia and the United States. This circumstance obliged the Government of Colombia to instruct our Minister at Washington to make the necessary rectifications before the Department of State. This had already been done in another form, in a letter of the Consul General of Colombia in New York, which was given wide circulation by the American press.

After the rejection by the Government of Colombia of the proposals of the Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, certain acts of an important character have taken place in that country which may be the forerunners of a policy of justice and reparation to Colombia.

On the 4th of March of this year there again came into power the Democratic party, which has always prided itself on continuing the honorable international traditions of the founders of the Republic of the North and which has unceasingly condemned the imperialistic practice which culminated in the spoliation of Panama. That party returned to power under the leadership of a scholar and magistrate of beneficent antecedents whose repeated declarations show him to be a partisan of the cause of social and international justice. At his side and in the high office of Secretary of State will stand Mr. Bryan whose prestige among the nations of this continent is derived from his lofty and just declarations and from his adherence to those principles which he is now in a position to practice and to affirm through the high authority with which he is invested.

Among the men of his party are to be found those who in Congress, in the press, in seats of learning, etc., have protested unceasingly against the offenses committed on Colombia and have demanded the reparation that is due her. These are circumstances which indicate that reparation in the form demanded by the Colombian people may be about to be granted us. It does not seem possible that those who have acted in this manner up to this date, can, after they have become members of the Government of the United States or exercise a decisive influence thereon, remain unmoved and permit the opening of the Panama Canal, a work so important in human progress, to signalize, from the point of view of international morality, the confirmation of a spoliation which signifies so lamentable a retrocession to the empire of force.

[Page 320]

Although a painful experience shows us the precise limits in international affairs of even our flattering hopes, the truth is that nothing could be more significant as a favorable presage of a possible reparation for Colombia by the United States, than the presentation of bases for a general treaty by Secretary of State Bryan to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Senate. Those bases are as follows:

The parties hereto agree that all questions of whatever character and nature in dispute between them shall, when diplomatic efforts fail, be submitted for investigation and report to an international commission (the composition to be agreed upon); and the contracting parties agree not to declare war or begin hostilities until such investigation is made and report submitted.

The investigation shall be conducted as a matter of course upon the initiative of the commission, without the formality of a request from either party; the report shall be submitted within (time to be agreed upon) from the date of the submission of the dispute, but the parties hereto reserve the right to act independently on the subject matter in dispute after the report is submitted.1

Undoubtedly these bases comprise an important beginning in favor of international justice, and their acceptance, which apparently will be general, will become an effective guaranty for the weak nations. If, as indicated in the above-mentioned bases, the questions relating to the separation of Panama between Colombia and the United States had been submitted to investigation and report by an international committee, we should have had the way paved to a considerable extent for the reparation which we seek, because this investigation has been and continues to be implicitly demanded by Colombia in soliciting an international arbitration.

I must also mention, as significant proof of the sentiment of notable North American citizens, the resolutions introduced in the Senate and in the House of Representatives of the United States, relating to the pending questions between Colombia and the latter nation which propositions render their authors, Senator Hitchcock and Representative Rainey (you already know of the action taken by the latter some time ago) worthy of our gratitude. The proposition of Senator Hitchcock, unanimously approved by the American Senate on the 16th [15th] of April last, reads as follows:

[Text of Senate Resolution.]2

The resolution presented by Representative Rainey on April 23rd to the House, and which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, is as follows:

[Text of House Resolution.]2

On the 3rd of May of this year our Plenipotentiary at Washington, Mr. Julio Betancourt, presented to the Department of State the note3 which you will find in the Annex to this Memorial.4 By means of this carefully considered and deliberately written document, as you will see, our just demand for arbitration was again laid before the new administration of the United States.

[Page 321]

The Government of the United States has appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary to Colombia in the place of Mr. James T. Du Bois, Mr. Thaddeus A. Thomson, a distinguished member of the American Democratic party. It is to be presumed that the new American Plenipotentiary will come provided with full powers and instructions to treat here the pending questions and to find a solution which, in any case, the Government will require to be decorous and appropriate.

The resolutions approved by the Departmental Assemblies in their last sessions, growing out of the refusal given by the Government to the Du Bois propositions, and other similar expressions of approval show that the national sentiment was truly interpreted in making that rejection. Now, in the expectation of new proposals, I can say to you that the Government is convinced of the necessity of reaching an early, friendly and decorous solution of the questions existing between Colombia and the United States. I may, however, also quote the words of my predecessor, Doctor José M. González Valencia, in his memorial of last year, as follows:

If the occasion should arise, the Government is determined to proceed in this question in harmony with the genuine national sentiment and in accord with the Legislative Chambers, whose assistance is indispensable for the satisfactory settlement of a negotiation of this nature.

  1. Transmitted by the American Minister with his despatch 194 of July 31, 1913.
  2. The text is that contained in File No. 721.000/5 at page 248; that is, the English text that was published in Colombia; and although not identical with the original presented by the American Minister (see ante, p. 291) the variations are due only to the use by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of a translation into English of a Spanish version instead of the insertion of a copy of the English original; the purport of the text used is the same as that of the original.
  3. The text is that contained in File No. 721.000/5 at page 253 et seq., which is the English text published in Colombia; and although not identical with the translation furnished to the Department by the American Minister (see ante, p. 294) the variations are due only to the independence of the two translations of each other, the content being substantially the same in both.
  4. Printed ante, p. 284.
  5. For. Rel. 1906, p. 412.
  6. This is the “Peace Plan of the President” as submitted on April 24, 1913, by the Secretary of State to the diplomatic representatives at Washington; see Circulars, p. 8 of this volume.
  7. Not printed.
  8. Not printed.
  9. See ante, p. 309 et seq.
  10. File. No. 721.000/5, p. 262.