The Minister in Colombia (Philip) to the Secretary of State

No. 118

Sir: Adverting to my cable messages numbers 114 and 117 of August 15:10 p.m. and August 21:10 a.m.,21 respectively, and to other correspondence relative to the action of the Senate of the United States in recommitting the treaty with Colombia to its Committee on Foreign Relations, I have the honor to transmit herewith copy and translation of a note received by me from the Colombian Minister for Foreign Affairs, dated the 19th instant.

I am given to understand that this note has been drawn up after mature deliberation by the Colombian President, his Cabinet and representatives of the Congress of the Republic, and that it is to be considered as a definite reply of the Colombian Government to the proposal of Senator Lodge to amend the pending treaty as set forth in the Department’s cabled instruction of August 9:5 p.m.

[Page 741]

The details of the statement made to the United States Senate in its session of the 7th instant have not yet become public here and I apprehend that when such is the case they will have the effect of increasing the Colombian feeling of resentment toward the action and suspicion of the motives of the United States in connection with the present stand taken in the treaty matter.

. . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Hoffman Philip

The Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs (Holguin y Caro) to the American Minister (Philip)

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to refer to the various conversations with Your Excellency during the last few days relative to the suspension by the Senate at Washington of the consideration of the Treaty of April 6, 1914.

According to information furnished by Your Excellency and by our Legation in Washington, the cause of that suspension was the fear that a decree in regard to petroleum which was issued on June 20th last might affect legitimate rights of American citizens. As to this point, Your Excellency already knows that the decree in question was suspended a short time after its issuance because it was considered to be a matter which the Congress should consider during its present sessions. And as the Congress has already commenced to consider legislation in regard to this, the Government does not intend to revive that decree in any form but will leave to the Congress the ample and complete regulation of this affair. The Congress, then, in its enactment of a law in accordance with peremptory terms of the Constitution, will have to protect the rights which foreigners as well as nationals have previously and legitimately acquired.

Now that this point has been cleared up, I should state to Your Excellency that my Government is convinced that it is impossible to-day to introduce into the body of the treaty referred to any clause which is foreign to the subject matter of that treaty, that is, the secession of Panama, and that if such a course is pursued it would result in the rejection of that important pact by our Chambers and by the public opinion of Colombia. It is because my Government lends [attaches] great importance to the approval of the Treaty and sees in it a means of wiping out all causes for disagreement between Colombia and the United States that it abstains from proposing any new modification which would frustrate the persistent [Page 742]labor of years, thanks to which bases for an understanding between the two Governments have been arrived at.

Now that the idea of introducing new modifications into that pact has been discarded, my Government is disposed to give to the Government of Washington full guarantees relative to the rights of American citizens in Colombia, rights which, like those of all foreigners, are guaranteed by us in the same way as are the rights of our own nationals. My Government desires that the Government of Washington shall not have the least doubt about this point.

And for this purpose I state to Your Excellency that our Legation has communicated to us that, according to information lately received, complaints have been made to Your Excellency’s Government by entities which have interests in Colombia; the American Bank, the Santa Marta Railway, the Fruit Company and the Platinum Company.

I anticipate by saying that, as Your Excellency already knows, relative to the American Bank my Government has not done otherwise than to make some just complaints to your Excellency’s Government, and that on doing so it has only desired to dissipate opportunely all causes for misunderstanding with an important American institution, to conserve the common rights of the Government and to avoid the formation among us of an atmosphere unfavorable to that institution, which might later prejudice others of an analogous character or origin.

The Santa Marta Railway Company has not made any complaint against the Government; so that I do not understand what rights have supposedly been denied it.

Relative to the Fruit Company, I had the pleasure of requesting through Your Excellency that an intimation be made to it as to the desirability and justice of raising the price of fruits, as has happened in other countries, and it seems that that request will be attended to.

Doctor Urueta also spoke to us about platinum operations. The tax levied on this industry, which is in no way prejudicial, has been well received in the Choco region and it is not seen how this can be the cause of any disagreement.

In short, my Government is ready to make the necessary explanations about this or any other points which the Government at Washington may consider doubtful; for its constitutional duty and the sentiments by which it is animated harmonize in the enforcement of every legitimate right, without exception of persons.

My Government is, as I so stated to Your Excellency at the beginning of this note, unable to involve in a pact which treats of a particular and single subject questions which are absolutely foreign to that negotiation; and it therefore expects that Your Excellency will [Page 743]give a new proof of the high spirit of rectitude which animates you by transmitting these observations to your illustrious Government which, without doubt, will consider them as being an unequivocal demonstration of the sincerity of purpose which guides the Government of Colombia in its desire for the development and maintenance of their mutual relations.

I take [etc.]

Hernando Holguin y Caro
  1. Latter not printed; it transmitted a summary of the note enclosed with this despatch.