723.2515/1760: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru ( Poindexter )


1. While Department’s views on settlement outside plebiscite remain as stated in my No. 63, October 31, 2 p.m.,59 it is becoming more and more apparent that effective settlement by means of plebiscite is well nigh impossible to attain. Position is more difficult as it seems that neither party desires the plebiscite. It appears that Peru would prefer to have moral victory over Chile, maintaining the issue which is an asset in internal politics rather than to have matter settled through plebiscite. Military party in Chile also welcomes prolongation of issue as it furnishes excuse for keeping up military establishment.

The Government of Chile, however, appears to desire settlement of matter by compromise which will save prestige of both nations and will at same time settle once for all whole question of Pacific by including Bolivia. Department has not as yet had any indication of views of President Leguía and influential members of Peruvian Congress on settlement outside plebiscite. It is evident of course that at present stage while General Pershing60 is forced to take serious issue with the Chileans, that the Peruvians are content to do nothing until further developments. It seems likely, however, that after rules and regulations for registration are promulgated, time may come when General Pershing or his temporary successor will have to take serious issue with Peruvians to make them send in their voters in order not to delay the proceedings, and to put to practical test question whether conditions in provinces are such that plebiscite can be held. Dr. Dodds,61 who has just returned from Arica, expresses opinion, in which I [Page 261] incline to concur, that at that stage of proceedings Peru may decline to carry out plebiscite. It is evident that should she maintain that attitude, plebiscite would have to be held without her cooperation; when that becomes evident it is possible that there may be disposition in Peru to make settlement outside plebiscite.

I want you, for foregoing reasons, to follow matter very closely with President Leguía and others, and to report as soon as you have any intimation of their probable attitude. Of course, you will appreciate necessity of keeping Arbitrator’s position clear in matter.

As references which follow to statements in cables from Ambassador Collier in Chile and my reply will show, it is possible that some of Latin American diplomats in Lima may broach subject to Government of Peru, perhaps after consultation with you. Should any such steps be taken, they should not be discouraged. You will guide yourself by my telegram to Collier, December 22, 1 p.m., which is summarized hereafter.

On December 15 Collier reported62 that the Bolivian Chargé d’Affaires had discussed the situation with him at length, and had expressed the view that President Figueroa of Chile would be willing to make settlement with Bolivia and Peru. Chargé thought that it would be more difficult to obtain consent of Peru, but he believes that sufficient pressure may be brought to obtain it, and he suggested possibility that some of the South American nations suggest to Chile and Peru that they request President of the United States to settle matter by diplomacy. Chargé thought that Brazil or Uruguay might be in position to ascertain President Figueroa’s views on matter, and that their Ministers in Peru should be instructed to urge Peruvian Government to consent to make settlement.

The Uruguayan Minister to Chile also spoke to Collier and stated belief that partition of the territory was only way to settle question, and that if the Government of the United States did not wish to suggest this to the parties to the controversy and would not deem it offensive for Uruguay to suggest to both Chile and Peru that they agree upon some such settlement and to ask Arbitrator to accept it instead of holding plebiscite, the Minister said he believed that Uruguayan Government would be willing to take the step. He was emphatic on point that there would be no interference with the United States, as both he and his country fully approve course we have taken.

On December 17 Collier reported62 that Argentine Ambassador had stated as his personal view that the Government of the United States having consented to solve question, no other Power should interfere in any way, but that he was convinced that plebiscite could never be [Page 262] entirely satisfactory settlement. He referred to enlarged jurisdiction given British Crown in settlement of Argentine-Chilean boundary,64 and urged desirability of sounding out Chile and Peru to see if they would not advise the President of the United States that they appreciated fact that a more comprehensive settlement should be made than was thought of when question was submitted for arbitration, and that they felt that equitable as well as legal principles should be taken into consideration. The Ambassador expressed view that his Government would be willing to instruct Argentine Minister in Peru to sound out Peruvian Government and if it showed reluctance, he stated that he would favor identic representations by all Latin-American Ministers at Lima. He believed that President Leguía would not hold out against such expression of sentiment. He said that he had discussed matter with the Brazilian Ambassador to Chile, and that latter had stated that this suggestion was one of few ways in which matter could be settled.

On December 22, 1 p.m., I replied to Collier by telegram, summarized as follows:

There is no question about desirability of settlement by agreement, if that be possible. There is no reason why we should object to Governments of Argentina and Uruguay or any other government making suggestions to either Chile or Peru, or both, regarding desirability of settlement believed to be fair, and advisability of having Chile and Peru ask good offices of this Government to effect a settlement. In other words, if interested Governments can bring about request from Chile and Peru to ask our good offices, we would be very glad to offer them and to try to bring the parties to an agreement. The Government of the United States would not stand in way of any processes favorable to an adjustment as long as it is not compromised; that is, the integrity of the arbitration and the impartiality of Arbitrator must be maintained. Correct attitude is to maintain this impartiality and to be ready to use our good offices with both the parties on invitation emanating from them, not being committed by any understanding that we would bring pressure on either one, but that we would be willing to use our good offices to bring about settlement fair and agreeable to both.

We should avoid creating impression that if one of the parties is willing to adopt a certain course of action, we would bring pressure on the other to induce acquiescence. Anything affording an opportunity to assert an understanding that we were to try to bring about particular sort of settlement would only embarrass effective use of good offices if these be asked. I would not communicate formally with Argentine Ambassador or with Uruguayan Minister, as they might construe such action as asking them to intervene, but if opportunity should offer, you may say that the foregoing expresses the views of this Government.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1925, vol. i, p. 409, footnote 73.
  2. Gen. John J. Pershing, president of the Plebiscitary Commission.
  3. Harold W. Dodds, technical adviser with the American delegation.
  4. Telegram not printed.
  5. Telegram not printed.
  6. Boundary agreement between the Governments of Chile and Argentina, Santiago, Apr. 17, 1896; British and Foreign State Papers, vol. lxxxviii, p. 553.