File No. 817.812/179

The Minister of Nicaragua to the Secretary of State


Excellency: I have especial instructions from my Government to communicate to your excellency that the Executive of Nicaragua has today called a special session of Congress, with the object of considering, among other things, the Canal Treaty between the Republic of Nicaragua and the United States, already approved by the American Senate.

My Government informs me that the members of Congress are favorably disposed to the ratification of the treaty, in general, but there have arisen among them certain doubts respecting the actual sense and comprehension of the treaty, that is whether its real interpretation is that of an option or of a definitive sale of the canal route.

As this will be the most important point to be discussed regarding the treaty in Congress, my Government has considered it wise, in order not to abide alone by its own interpretation, to request that I ask of your excellency a statement as to the interpretation of the Government of the United States of the said treaty.

In order to present the reasons which Nicaragua has for considering the treaty as a simple option conceded to the United States for the construction of an interoceanic canal by the route through its territory, I take the liberty of making in this note certain references to the history of the negotiation.

In the several conferences between the Minister of Foreign Relations and Minister Weitzel, in the presence of the President of Nicaragua, with the object of carrying out the Canal Treaty of February 8, 1913 the Minister for Foreign Relations called the attention of the American Diplomatic representative to the protocol signed December 9, 1901, between Dr. Fernando Sanchez, the Nicaraguan Minister, and Mr. William Lawrence Merry, the Minister of the United States, in which there was given a lease of the exclusive right [Page 823] to construct a canal through Nicaragua in the sum of six million dollars, American currency. Minister Weitzel declared that said concession was definitive, and that what they were then discussing was merely a simple option which gave to Nicaragua a further indemnity from the United States upon negotiations to fix the conditions under which the said canal was to be constructed.

Later when this treaty, called the Weitzel-Chamorro treaty from the names of the diplomatic representatives who signed it, was submitted to the Nicaraguan Congress, its true interpretation was warmly discussed, and the Committee on Foreign Relations, in order to clear up the discussion, proposed to Minister Weitzel a series of questions which, together with their respective answers, I attach hereto.5 As your excellency will note Minister Weitzel recognized, by these replies, that what was signed was a treaty of a simple option.

In addition to this, Secretary of State Mr. Bryan gave the same interpretation to the clauses of the Convention mentioned, in his note of June 24, 1913,9 in reply to my communication dated the 5th of the same month and year,10 in which I stated, “that the Convention of February 8, 1913, is not properly speaking a definite contract for the canal, but merely an option regarding the rights which the United States might exercise upon the possible construction of an inter-oceanic canal through the territory of Nicaragua,” and I referred to the reply which Nicaragua made to Costa Rica upon the latter’s protest to the signing of that Convention.

In this connection I would advise—and this is a point of the utmost importance, respecting which I desire to call your excellency’s valued attention—that if instead of an option it is intended to treat of a definitive Canal Treaty, there should have been taken into account, before the signing of the Canal Convention, the “Tratado de Limites” of 1858, between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in order to hear the opinion of the latter concerning difficulties which the transaction would have occasioned both countries, a requisite not considered necessary to observe because the contracting parties believing the pact to be a mere option, realized that the rights of Costa Rica could in no way be injured by it.

If it is true that the Treaty of February 8, 1913 was afterwards amended on 5th of August, 1914, it must necessarily be taken into consideration that in interpreting the latter there existed always in treating of its clauses the same spirit in which the former was negotiated, so that the understanding of Nicaragua has always been the same, that is, that of considering the treaty a simple option.

My Government believes that a statement of your excellency to the effect that the Government of the United States interprets the Canal Treaty in the, same sense as Nicaragua, besides eliminating in the future all cause for controversy as to the interpretation of the Canal Treaty, will contribute at this time to effectually smooth out any difficulty which might arise from the doubts of the members of the Nicaraguan Congress.

In view of the foregoing I beg that your excellency will be good enough to accede to the wishes of my Government, in order to assist [Page 824] the latter in its efforts to obtain the ratification of the treaty in the Nicaraguan Congress.

I avail myself [etc.]

Emiliano Chamorro