The Guatemalan Minister ( Bianchi ) to the Secretary of State

No. 11

Most Excellent Sir: Under instructions received from my Government, I have the honor to send to Your Excellency this note bearing on the boundary dispute between Guatemala and Honduras.

The Government of the United States tendered its friendly mediation to the two countries to the end that they might adjust their differences under its auspices and in the house of a common friend. This timely proposition having been accepted by the parties in interest, they both appointed their representatives, who met in the city of Washington in May 1918.

After two years of strenuous labor and when both parties had presented their pleas, in so far as the defense of their interests demanded, the advice of the mediator alone was awaited. The mediator, represented by the then [Acting] Secretary of State, Mr. Frank L. Polk, notified the chiefs of the Honduran and Guatemalan delegations on the 1st of March, 1920, that on account of their failure to reach a direct settlement, he thought that the time had come to declare the mediation at an end unless the Governments of the two nations should ask the Government of the United States to fix a boundary line which they should previously agree to accept as final, and added that the Department of State had already, through its Legations, communicated with the Governments of Honduras and Guatemala in the same sense.

The Government of Honduras gave notice of its unrestricted acceptance of the American proposal on the 26th of March of that year, while that of Guatemala, engrossed by the momentous political events which were taking place in the country, was unable to return [Page 233] an answer until this date, when it replies by stating in a clear and precise manner the following points:

The Government of Guatemala declares to the Government of the United States that it is deeply grateful for its disinterested efforts in the cause of the maintenance of peace and harmony between Guatemala and Honduras, and that it was unable to answer the proposal duly made for the settlement of the boundary question on account of its being, as stated above, engrossed in the solution of the many important domestic problems that sprang up as a natural consequence of the political changes that had just taken place in the country.
Upon a thorough and calm examination of the proposal formulated by the Acting Secretary of State, Mr. Frank L. Polk, in March 1920, the Government of Guatemala finds that the mediation of a friendly Government, looking to the settlement of the boundary question with Honduras, has become strictly necessary, because in spite of the reiterated efforts of the parties concerned, and of Guatemala in particular, no direct agreement on the subject could be arrived at, and that therefore the continuance of disagreement evidenced in the conferences at Washington, instead of suggesting a termination of the negotiations which were opened under such favorable auspices upon the invitation of the American Government, has made them even more urgent and indispensable.
The previous engagement on the part of the litigants to accept as final and conclusive the advice of the mediator, would turn that advice into a genuine award and the mediation into an arbitration in disregard of the fundamental differences existing between the two [methods of settlement] and acknowledged by all publicists. Indeed, the mediator, with a view to a decision in the case, may and should take into consideration elements of all kinds, and on that account enjoys discretionary powers which are solely conferred upon him because his decision only bears the character of simple advice, compliance with which is not binding upon those who sought it. On the other hand, an arbitrator is a judge of law who may not take cognizance of anything beyond the question or questions referred to his decision and is held in rendering his award to consider the merits of the evidence as it is presented to him, but whose award is without appeal and final. It results therefrom that mediation and arbitration are acts of an essentially different character, and therefore the proceedings to be observed and the formalities with which they are to be surrounded so as to guarantee the rights of the parties concerned are likewise very distinct.
On these grounds the Government of Guatemala would feel satisfaction and pleasure in having the Department of State, whose [Page 234] impartiality and fairness are unchanging, take into account the sacrifices already imposed on the litigants by the negotiations carried out on its initiative, and reconsider the proposal made by [Acting] Secretary Polk, and agree to have the negotiations carried on on the basis of mediation pure and simple, which negotiations only require, for arriving at a successful issue, oral conferences between the delegates of the respective parties and the offer of advice by the friendly mediator; and
If, however, the Government of the United States for any cause should not find it expedient to accede to that request, the Government of Guatemala declares that it is willing to resort to arbitration, provided the requirements set forth in the boundary treaty of August 1, 1914, in force for this case, shall be observed, and that the parties shall first come to an agreement as to the concrete question to be arbitrated.

I assure [etc.]

J. Bianchi
  1. File translation revised.