The Secretary of State to President Wilson

My Dear Mr. President: As you know the situation in Costa Rica has been an increasing cause of concern and the course of action to be adopted more and more perplexing.

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We are in this peculiar predicament. The policy of recognizing a government founded on unprincipled revolution is essentially bad and induces the hope of revolutionists in other small republics.

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There is no doubt but that in this case Tinoco took advantage for his own benefit of the unpopularity of Gonzales and without a shadow of legality usurped the executive power. There is nothing to be said in his favor.

On the other hand, the people of Costa Rica in general appear to have peaceably acquiesced in the change of government although the failure of Tinoco to rectify immediately the economic situation seems to promise further political disturbances unless his Government is stabilized by recognition by this Government.

Furthermore, there is no doubt from the evidence in hand but that the Gonzales faction is friendly to the Germans, while Tinoco is wholly friendly to the Allies. It seems to be almost certain that the German element in Costa Rica is stirring up feeling against Tinoco and is financing a revolutionary movement, of which Castro Quesada (the Minister here), now in Nicaragua, would be the leader and probably the president if the revolution succeeded. . . .

Viewed solely from the standpoint of expediency, it would seem as if the recognition of Tinoco was, under present conditions, probably the better policy.

When we gave strong assurances to Gonzales not to recognize Tinoco we were not at war with Germany, and we were not acquainted with the relations of the influential German colony to the rival factions in Costa Rica. We know now that Tinoco has been all along staunchly opposed to the Germans, and that Gonzales and especially Quesada have been most friendly with them.

In these circumstances it would seem to be unwise to aid by action or inaction the restoration of a pro-German government even if it is morally and legally entitled to be restored. As to the danger which might result from following a policy now we are at war, which policy would have doubtless been the better in time of peace, I call your attention to the enclosed telegram of yesterday from General Plummer,4 who recommends the immediate recognition of Tinoco on military grounds.

Both the British and French have unofficially indicated their desire that we recognize the present government for reasons which I assume to be known—friendliness of Tinoco and hostility of Gonzalez.

I make no reference to the fact that the recognition of Tinoco would undoubtedly benefit the Costa Ricans by preventing another revolution which would not be bloodless, as I think that at the present time the greater issues must alone be considered.

Things are moving very rapidly in Costa Rica. The situation may change any day. A decision should be reached very promptly and action follow immediately.

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I regret to have to ask you to go through so many papers but in this case I think that it is necessary as the state of affairs is very critical.

Faithfully yours,

Robert Lansing
  1. Not enclosed with file copy of this letter.