File No. 817.812/152

The Secretary of State to the Minister of Salvador

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your note of February 9, 1916, in which, pursuant to instructions of your Government, you [Page 825] again protest against the Canal Convention entered into between this Government and that of Nicaragua.

The points relied on in your note in support of the protest of your Government (and these are in addition to the reasons set forth in a former protest of Salvador dated October 21, 19136), are:

That the Treaty concluded between the United States and Nicaragua impairs the principle underlying the permanent neutralization of Honduras by the Treaty of Peace and Amity concluded between the Central American Governments at Washington in 1907;
That Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have common and indivisible interests in the Bay of Fonseca giving to each of those countries the right to oppose the act of any other which threatens its safety, and that the Treaty between the United States and Nicaragua threatens the safety of Salvador.

These contentions find expression in the following excerpts from your note under acknowledgment:—

The indivisible community of interests in Fonseca Bay shared alike by all the countries to which it belongs (Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) is sufficient to justify the rights of each to oppose any act of any other that threatens its safety.

And again:—

It is an unquestioned principle of international law that a naval base, shipyard or military establishment located on a coast constitutes a threat against the neutrality of the waters controlled by the naval or military forces of the place where such base or establishment is located.

The proposed agreement between Nicaragua and the United States for the establishment of a naval base on the coast of Nicaragua in Fonseca Bay is an attempt to violate in a flagrant and open manner the principle of the neutrality of Honduras, and overturns the juridical basis which the Washington conference established for the preservation of peace, order and harmony among the contracting states.

Charges which impute to the Government of the United States an attempt to disrupt the political relations and the status jure existing between the Central American Governments are not to be passed over lightly. Happily this Government has no such design and there is no ground for asserting that the Treaty which the United States has concluded with Nicaragua threatens the safety of any of the Central American States.

The recitations in Article 3 of the Treaty of Peace and Amity to which your note refers reflect the occasion, as well as the object, of the so-called neutralization of Honduras.

Article 3. Bearing in mind the central geographical position of Honduras and the facilities which this circumstance has afforded in order that its territory should have been most often the theater of Central American conflicts, Honduras declares from now on its absolute neutrality in any event of conflict amongst the other republics; and the latter, in their turn, provided such neutrality be observed, bind themselves to respect it and in no case to violate the Honduranean territory.

I am not able to appreciate a contention that the right granted by Nicaragua to the United States to construct a naval base at the Bay of Fonseca, or for that matter the construction of such a naval base, would tend in any degree to render the territory of Honduras the theater of Central American conflicts, or to tempt Honduras to depart from her attitude of neutrality in possible conflicts between [Page 826] her neighbors. I shall not entertain the thought that it was intended by the protest to impute to the Government of the United States a design to employ the rights granted to it by the treaty under consideration to favor one of the Central American Governments to the injury of another.

In this relation I direct your attention to a proviso to be found in the resolution adopted by the United States Senate on February 12, 1916, giving its consent to the ratification of the Treaty with Nicaragua as follows:—

Provided, That whereas Costa Rica, Salvador and Honduras have protested against the ratification of said convention in the fear or belief that said convention might in some respect impair existing rights of said States, therefore it is declared by the Senate that in advising and consenting to the ratification of the said convention as amended such advice and consent are given with the understanding, to be expressed as a part of the instrument of ratification, that nothing in said convention is intended to affect any existing right of any of the said named States.

If any doubt remained as to the absence of design on the part of the Government of the United States in concluding the convention with Nicaragua to impair or ignore any right of Salvador that doubt should now be removed by this explicit declaration of the Senate of the United States at the time of giving its consent to the ratification of the treaty under consideration.

Accept [etc.]

Robert Lansing