The Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs (Paredes) to the Secretary of State

No. 752

Mr. Secretary of State: The Republic of Salvador maintained a benevolent neutrality during the gigantic war which for more than four years disturbed the world. Her small geographic size kept her out of this hecatomb; but notwithstanding her neutrality, on every occasion she showed her sympathy with the ideals which led the United States to participate in the conflict, now decided, thanks in great part to the lofty and noble efforts of His Excellency the President of the American Union, who was able to condense, in his important fourteen points, an entire gospel of new life for the political and social relations of the peoples.

When peace was signed, Salvador took part in the unanimous rejoicing over such an outstanding event, because the termination of the war brought to the fore the triumph of right and liberty, which shone again, free from shadows, in all their fullness and splendor.

And this great North American statesman, who today rules the destiny of that great Nation, is entitled to the glory of having crystallized the legitimate desires of a fruitful peace, presenting to the Conference of Versailles the plan of a League of Nations, formed to encourage international cooperation by permanent and firm respect for the immutable principles of the law of nations and by devotion to universal peace and justice.

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More than thirty nations welcomed that noble conception, which translates into reality the ideal cherished by illustrious publicists who have long since commended the reign of law as the only support for a stable and lasting peace; and with the approval and signature of the memorable treaty, in the plenary session of the Congress of Versailles, on June 28 of the current year, President Wilson covered himself with glory; and America felt proud that the arbiter of peace should come from the very bosom of the first American democracy.

The Government of Salvador has received the very great honor of being invited to participate in that world confederation, according to the communication which was made to it through His Excellency the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and expects that if, will desire to adhere to the said treaty, which consecrates arbitration as the only means of settling disputes between the nations, establishes absolute respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of great and small nations, and consolidates, besides, the very substantial bases of modern public law.

All of the text of the treaty is suggestive and attractive. It gives spiritual encouragement to the revival of canons of life long hoped for by sociologists and publicists, which might not emerge except for the fact that, from the ashes of martyred Justice there arise beautiful gospels with new force and power, which, in moments of blind and senseless passion, are lost sight of by the very ones who are called upon by the unchanging laws of international coexistence to sustain and embellish them.

But in the text of the treaty there exists an article which has provoked vehement discussion throughout the American continent, including the United States, without doubt because of its brevity and lack of clearness. I refer to article 21 couched in the following terms:

“Nothing in this Covenant shall be deemed to affect the validity of international engagements, such as treaties of arbitration or regional understandings like the Monroe Doctrine, for securing the maintenance of peace.”

The international juridical construction of that clause lends itself to varied interpretations, once the great plan of the League of Nations is made to embrace recognition and sanction of regional understandings or agreements, such as the Monroe Doctrine, concerning the high pacific objects of which there is no harmonious meeting of wills and no absolute and effective criterion.

Since the year 1823, when the illustrious President James Monroe rejected all intervention on the part of the European nations in American affairs, that doctrine has, in fact, undergone various applications, depending on the various predominating political tendencies in the American Government.

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In truth, Mr. Secretary, one has only to make a careful survey of the different opinions of the prominent thinkers and public men of the United States, on the genuine and faithful interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, which the ex-Secretary of State, Mr. E. Root, came to consider as “a declaration based upon this nation’s right of self-protection”, which “can not be transmuted into a joint or common declaration by American states or any number of them”.84

My Government recognizes that the Monroe Doctrine consolidated the independence of the Latin continental states and spared them the grave danger of European intervention. It understands that this doctrine is the determining cause of the existence of the democratic system on this continent and that it erected a barrier against colonization by Europe; but, as the Covenant of the League of Nations does not indicate or define its scope nor determine any positive standard of international community life in America, and on the other hand, the said doctrine will presently have to be transformed—by virtue of the full sanction of the nations—into a principle of universal public law juris et de jure, I request Your Excellency to be kind enough, if you think fit, to set forth the authentic idea of the Monroe Doctrine, as the illustrious Government of the White House understands it in the present historic moment and in its intentions for the future. It must be evident to that Government that my own Government keenly desires a declaration which will put an end to the prevailing confusion of interpretation in this respect, which state of affairs, as is well known, is not the most favorable for development of the ideals of true Pan Americanism. Contrary to the authoritative and weighty opinion of the ex-Secretary of State, Mr. Root, the Monroe Doctrine, in consequence of its inclusion in the Covenant of the League of Nations, will be transformed, without doubt, into the basic principle of American international law.

Since amendment of the text of the treaty, or even the rejection of the whole of its provisions, by the American Senate, would leave the different points comprised in that international engagement unaffected so far as the other signatory nations are concerned, by virtue of its general and express acceptance, and since the Monroe Doctrine would thereby remain virtually accepted by all the countries which ratify or adhere to the Treaty of Peace as the fundamental enactment of American public law, there is all the greater need for an interpretation of the basis and scope of the Monroe Doctrine, not only as regards the evolution of the lofty program of Pan Americanism, but also in order that the doctrine may retain all its original purity and all the lustre of its prestige.

I avail myself [etc.]

Juan Franco Paredes
  1. File translation revised.
  2. Elihu Root, “The Real Monroe Doctrine”, Proceedings of the American Society of International Law, 1914, p. 19.