The Chargé in Colombia (Belden) to the Secretary of State

No. 671

Sir: I have the honor to refer to my cablegram of the 29th ultimo6 relative to the Treaty pending between the United States and Colombia, in which reference is made to a speech of Senator Fall of New Mexico in relation to this Treaty, and to report that on the 10th instant Senator Vicente Olarte Camacho proposed in the Colombian Senate that Senator Fall’s speech be published for distribution. This proposal was opposed on the ground that it would be giving too much importance to the sentiments of Senator Fall. The President of the Senate, (who has just been appointed Governor of the Department of Antioquia), Pedro Nel Ospina, in suggesting that the proposition be withdrawn stated that the question of the Treaty would be dealt with anew in the American Senate in September or October and that he, therefore, considered that it would be inadvisable to attack the feelings (tener el sentimiento) of any American in the present moments, as an imprudent attitude might cause a new rejection of the Treaty. In view of these arguments, Senator Olarte Camacho withdrew his proposal.

I may add that it is strongly hoped and felt that the administration of President Suarez will succeed in bringing the question of the pending Treaty to a successful conclusion.

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In confirmation of my cable of the 29th ultimo I feel constrained to repeat that it is my belief that the presentation of a new Treaty, even though based on the terms of the present one, would only meet with hostility and probable defeat. A change in the wording of the first article of the Treaty in such a manner as not to offend either of the contracting parties would be far less apt to meet with opposition and, if the present Treaty with such modification should be approved by the Senate, I feel that whatever opposition might be met with could and would be overcome through the influence of President Suárez.

It is perhaps difficult for many to understand and appreciate the Colombian point of view as regards the Treaty. There are many in Colombia who feel that the question of the payment of money should never have been mentioned. Others believe that, inasmuch as the Treaty was proposed by the United States and approved by Colombia it should have been accepted in the United States without delay. Still others are of the opinion that it is better for Colombia to have the matter rest as it is. However, the greater part feel, and especially President Suarez, that the two countries cannot continue with their relations on such a false basis.

In his inaugural address President Suarez, speaking of the relations between Colombia and the United States, used the following terms in reference to the Panamá question (translation):

“All of this (referring to Colombia’s commercial dependency on the United States) proves how important are the relations between Colombia and the American Union, which unfortunately have suffered a lamentable rupture, especially from 1903 to 1914, because of the state of quasi warfare, for surely the impediments which various governments of the United States have presented to prevent Colombia from recovering the best of her provinces amount to such a state of quasi warfare.”

“In 1914 that situation was replaced by a frank friendship through the Convention of April 6th of that year contracted on the initiative of the Government at Washington and which proves on its part a high spirit of equity”.

While there are Colombians who feel that the Panama incident should never have taken place and that it should have been possible in some manner for the two countries to have come to a peaceful and equitable agreement, the feeling that a wrong has been done is too deep to be overcome by the presentation of arguments to the contrary. It is, however, to-day recognized that the two countries, friends for so many years, must come to an agreement relative to Panama. It is felt that Colombia must look to the United States (to-day more than ever) and that the United States needs the friendship of her sister republic. Finally, there comes the sentiment that [Page 728]the great cause for which the United States and her allies are fighting is the true cause of democracy for which Bolivar and his men fought.

It is, therefore that I so strongly feel that now is the time to urge the settlement of this long pending question. Once that the two countries have come to an agreement in the sense that I have had the honor to mention, it will be possible for their Governments and peoples to enter upon a new era of friendship, cooperation and peace.

I have [etc.]

Perry Belden
  1. Not printed; it was an answer to the preceding document.