File No. 817.812/151

The Minister of Colombia to the Secretary of State


Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to send your excellency a copy of an English translation of the award rendered by the President of France in the arbitration whose object was to define the boundary between the former Vice Kingdom of New Granada and the Captaincy General of Guatemala of which the colonial provinces of Nicaragua and Costa Rica formed part.

The award, as your excellency will see, clearly establishes Colombia’s right of dominion over the Mangles Islands as well as all the other islands of the Mosquito archipelago which, together with the coast from Cape Gracias à Dios to Chagres, was separated from the Captaincy General of Guatemala and made part of the Vice Kingdom of New Granada by royal order of November 30, 1803. All the nations that were formerly Spanish colonies in America have accepted the principle of the uti possidetis rule, that is to say that the boundaries of the now independent States are the same that were assigned to the colonies by royal acts of the former sovereign. Nicaragua, in particular, expressly accepted that principle, as evidenced by the Treaty of 1825 between Colombia and the United Provinces of Central America of which Nicaragua was one. Article 5 of that [Page 813] solemn covenant says that the contracting parties “guarantee one another the integrity of the respective territories—as they stood before the present War of Independence” that is, as they had been apportioned and defined by the Spanish sovereign.

Yet Nicaragua disposes of the Mangles Islands as if they were hers and leases them for 99 years to the United States, thus invading Colombia’s perfect right of dominion and without heeding her reiterated protests.

My Government has directed me suitably to remonstrate to your excellency’s Government, to the end that the said islands called “Great Corn Island” and “Little Corn Island” be excluded from any engagement already made or hereafter to be made by Nicaragua with the United States. I hereby enter, through your excellency, like protest in regard to the Mosquito Coast which is shown in the enclosed memorandum to be the property of Colombia, and which has been occupied by Nicaragua against the many protests of my Government.

I renew [etc.]

Julio Betancourt


On February 8, 1913, the Government of Nicaragua closed with that of the United States a secret convention regarding the construction of an interoceanic canal, by route of the river San Juan and the Great Lake of Nicaragua, article number 2 of which is as follows:

To facilitate the protection of the Panama Canal and also the rights considered in the present convention and in order that the Government of the United States may dictate any special measure to the Government of Nicaragua with the end of protecting the interests herewith expressed, the Government of Nicaragua leases, in favor of that of the United States and for a term of ninety-nine years, the Islands of the Caribbean Sea, known as “Great Corn Island” and “Little Corn Island”, and also agrees to accept the establishment of a naval base of the Government of the United States on the Gulf of Fonseca. At the expiration of this lease, the Government of the United States shall have the right to renew the present convention.

As soon as the Colombian Government had knowledge of the referred to convention, it protested, in its note of August 9, 1913,4 against the definite leasing of the Mangles Islands (Corn Islands), and renewed its former protest against the unlawful occupation that Nicaragua had been exercising during the last years in said territory which belongs to us. In accordance with the provision issued by the Committee of Foreign Affairs, it was communicated to the Colombian Minister at Washington that, in the form and at the moment in which he would deem it proper, he was to let the Government of the United States know that, regarding the Mangles Islands (Corn Islands), the signed agreement with Nicaragua could not be carried out because those islands belong to Colombia.

To the referred to note of our Chancery, the Government of Managua replied in a long communication, dated December 24, 1913,4 which is the one that has come to our attention and is the cause of the present report:

[Note.—Here follows an analysis of the history of the case.]

The arbitral award that His Excellency Emile Loubet, President of the French Republic, announced on September 11, 1900, in order to terminate the boundary litigation, declared, on the basis of documents, the probatory force of which remained solemnly established, the following:

As regards the most distant islands of the Continent and comprised between the Coast of Mosquitos and the Isthmus of Panama, especially Mangle Chico (Little Corn Island), Mangle Grande (Great Corn Island), Albuquerque Keys, San Andrés, Santa Catalina, Providencia, Escudo de Veraguas, as well as any other isles, islets and banks which before were depending on the old province of Cartagena, under the denomination of Canton of San Andres, it is understood that the territory of those islands, without excepting any, belong to the United States of Colombia.

[Page 814]

This solemn award was given after a long and debated international litigation, upon the basis of innumerable authentic documents of juridical decisive force, presented before the arbiter by the Republic of Colombia, whose cause was defended by their excellencies Señor Don Francisco Silvela and Don Antonio Maura, ex-presidents of the Council of Ministers of Spain, and by Mr. Raymond Poincaré, now President of the Republic of France; the appreciation that such eminent personalities of the political world and of the forum, held of the titles and of the rights of Colombia—recognized by the sovereign who rendered the award as arbiter—, makes it of an incomparable international juridical value, and there will be no Government who would want to ignore the incontrovertible efficacy.

And much less the illustrious Government of the United States of America, who has made formal declarations upon the award of His Excellency Mr. Loubet, the execution of which and just interpretations of which were entrusted by Costa Rica to the Honorable Chief Justice of the United States, in the arbitral compromise with Panama, whom, however, Colombia does not and can not recognize, since it has bound the highest representative of the Judicial Power of the American Union. It does not seem reasonable that after this explicit official recognition—which could not be otherwise—, made by the Government of Washington upon the international permanent value of the declarations and territorial adjudications contained in the award given by the Chief Magistrate of the Republic of France, the Public Powers of the United States of North America, should accept from Nicaragua a perpetual lease of the Islands of Mangles (Great and Little Corn Islands), which the French Sovereign recognized and definitely declared were, in truth and in justice, as they are and have been, solely and exclusively the property of the Republic of Colombia.