File No. 817.812/111.

Minister Hale to the Secretary of State.

No. 65.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 63 of February 3, I have the honor to enclose a copy and translation of the reply, under date of February 6, [Page 1108] by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to my informal note of February 3, marked Enclosure 1; and a copy of my informal note in response, of today’s date, marked Enclosure 2.

I have [etc.]

E. J. Hale.
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

The Secretary for Foreign Affairs to Minister Hale.

My dear Sir and Friend: I have the pleasure to refer to the communication which, under date of the 3d instant, your excellency addressed to me requesting that informally but frankly I should tell you what my Government thinks about the canal concession granted by Nicaragua to the United States.

I have not the slightest hesitancy in complying with your wish; on the contrary, I feel especial satisfaction in so doing, because I can thus dispel from your excellency’s mind certain erroneous constructions which for some days I have been noting in the cable despatches sent by the United Press.

Costa Rica’s attitude in regard to this matter cannot at the present time be other than that stated by our Minister in Washington, Mr. Joaquin Calvo, in the note which he presented to the Department of State on April 17, 1913.2

In this document, which appears in the Report published the same year by this Ministry, Mr. Calvo, in the name of my Government, presents a formal protest to the American Government against the conclusion of the Chamorro-Weitzel treaty on the ground that the said treaty had been agreed upon without one of the parties, Nicaragua, having the power so to do, and that the other, the United States, was cognizant of this incapacity.

In fact, Article 8 of the treaty celebrated between Costa Rica and Nicaragua on April 15, 1858—a treaty the validity of which was declared by President Cleveland—stipulates clearly and definitely that the Republic of Nicaragua cannot conclude any convention in regard to canalization or transit without hearing previously the opinion of Costa Rica, and that this opinion would cease to be merely consultative if such a convention should directly affect the natural rights of the latter.

The conclusion, therefore, of a treaty of this nature can not be brought about without Costa Rica saying first what it thinks in regard to the question, and as long as this indispensable requisite has not been complied with, my Government can only maintain the same attitude of protest which it adopted in 1913.

The foregoing does not mean that my Government is on principle opposed to the idea of the construction of a canal through part of its territory. No; my Government understands perfectly the responsibility toward civilization that it would contract if it prohibited the opening of a new oceanic route to the service of the world’s commerce.

My Government, on the other hand, is only too well aware of the impossibility it encounters of undertaking with its own resources an enterprise of such magnitude, and consequently is entirely willing that it should be another and more powerful nation which engages in accomplishing it.

My Government also takes full account of the interest which, for the United States much more than for any other Power, the building of a new route parallel to the Panama route possesses.

Now, granted the extremely cordial relations which at all times have existed between this and the powerful American Government, the thousand reasons whereby that great nation has won our gratitude, sympathy and esteem, my Government could look only with marked pleasure upon that nation being the proprietor of the work.

My Government, therefore, would never be opposed to negotiating a canal concession with that of the United States; indeed not. Only, what my Government desires is that this negotiation should be conducted in accordance with the stipulations of valid treaties and with what the very nature of the matter imposes.

[Page 1109]

That is to say: The treaty, if one is to be concluded, must be with the concurrence of Costa Rica and Nicaragua; its conditions will have to be discussed and approved by both countries; in this way, and only in this way, would the United States be able to acquire a canal concession clear from all blot.

Such, Mr. Minister, is the point of view from which my Government regards the question. I have set it forth with the frankness your excellency desired, congratulating myself very sincerely that the informal character of this communication, suggested by your excellency, should have permitted me to show you, with all clearness and without euphemisms of any sort, what, exactly, is our way of feeling in this matter.

This opportunity affords me [etc.]

Manuel Castro Quesada.
[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Hale to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs.

My dear Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s courteous note of the 6th instant in reply to mine of the 3d.

Your excellency refers to the rights and obligations of the Republic of Costa Rica in relation to the Nicaragua canal route; but in view of the message which I brought to your excellency’s Government when I presented my credentials in August 1913, namely that my Government desired that the relations between the two countries should be based on mutual advantage only, I have been at a loss to understand the friction which the subject under consideration has provoked.

It seems, however, from recent conversations at Washington between the Secretary of State and the Minister of your excellency’s Government there, that the friction noticeable here was due to a misunderstanding. When my Government assured Costa Rica of its willingness to make a treaty with Costa Rica similar to that with Nicaragua, it had in view only the purchase of an option; but it appears that Costa Rica understood that such a treaty would include what is known as the “Platt Amendment.” I am able to assure your excellency that my Government had no thought of including the “Platt Amendment” in its proposition, and no desire to do so.

My information is that all misunderstanding has been removed at Washington and that the only question remains as to the price and the terms of the option in question.

It is also understood that your excellency’s Government might be willing to sell the island of Cocos, which lies some two hundred miles west from Costa Rica in the Pacific Ocean, in view of its uselessness to the Republic of Costa Rica. My Government is willing to buy the island at a reasonable price and to include it in the treaty conveying the canal option.

I will thank your excellency if you shall find it convenient, in accordance with the informal character of this correspondence, to make known to me the views of your excellency’s Government on the subjects just mentioned.

I avail [etc.]

E. J. Hale.