723.2515/1928: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Arica ( Von Tresckow )


For Lassiter. Your February 10, 11 p.m.

(1) Department agrees with you and your advisers that although award contains no express provision for finding and declaring that fair plebiscite can not be held, power to find and declare is necessarily implied. It was not possible to provide expressly in award for such a contingency, as Arbitrator was bound to assume that both parties to the plebiscite would proceed in good faith and would do all that might be required to carry out both letter and spirit of the arrangement. The failure of either or of both of the parties, particularly that of Chile as administrator of the territory, to cooperate in establishing and maintaining conditions consistent with a fair plebiscite, manifestly entails abandonment provided such failure to cooperate can be adequately and convincingly established.

It has never been thought that this proceeding should be pushed relentlessly to its logical and legal conclusion against a properly supported conviction that actual celebration of plebiscite would be a vain and useless act, especially if it appeared with reasonable certainty that there might be serious disorder and possible bloodshed without any reasonable expectation of realizing actual settlement of controversy.

(2) From beginning, possibility that situation might develop in such a manner as to afford opportunity and to enforce duty of making definite effort to bring about settlement outside terms of award has been kept in mind. The policy has been to maintain consistently the technical position under award and to seize opportunity if and when it came.

For the last few weeks I have patiently explored various avenues of approach to parties involved and I am now in possession of a body of reliable information concerning their respective attitudes. Taking [Page 301] all evidence which has been assembled into consideration, together with recommendations of General Pershing, of yourself, and of your advisers, I have reached conclusion that time has arrived to make direct representation to both parties on this subject. I do not feel that this step could have been taken earlier and I am equally of opinion that it should not be longer delayed.

(3) Procedure to be followed is exceedingly important. For the moment we are standing in favorable position which should not be disturbed by any measure which might tend to alter attitude of the two parties which I am led to believe may be receptive. For some time Chile has intimated willingness to entertain suggestions for settlement. Peru has evidently adopted policy of pushing on toward an ultimate plebiscite, partly through confidence of winning it on face of returns, partly through the feeling that in any event developments were providing her at least a moral victory. Two factors have recently appeared that shake this confidence and that will possibly act to reverse this policy. The regulation allowing railroad employees to vote and practical difficulties in way of sending her voters to provinces and in voting them are, as you have reported, causing Peru to pause and to consider question of withdrawal from plebiscite. From all information available I am convinced, for first time, that Peru might welcome opportunity to discuss matter of adjustment on new lines.

(4) New complications are to be avoided. Chances of adjustment would, in my opinion, be diminished instead of enhanced through any action by which Peru might be induced to burn her bridges and to withdraw from plebiscite. For this reason you should for the present make no commitment to either party on question of abandonment of plebiscite. Procedure, outlined in part (7) of your telegram under acknowledgment, of delivering something in nature of an ultimatum to Chilean Commissioner seems to me to involve heavy risk which we need not at present assume. Peru should not be advised either directly or indirectly that you are ready to call off plebiscite and put blame on Chile, and to my mind there is much danger of word being conveyed to Peruvian representatives if you talk with Chilean Commission as you have proposed. I am sure that best interests of all concerned will be promoted if at this juncture you continue to maintain correct attitude of withholding judgment and of proceeding with plebiscite in accordance with terms of award and not permitting any intimation to escape of what action you will ultimately be disposed to take.

(5) Program which is being pursued and which I outline below for your information is as follows:

Decision on pending cross appeals will not be rendered until further notice.
Simultaneously with this message to you I am sending instructions to Ambassadors Collier and Poindexter to discuss present situation confidentially and personally with Foreign Ministers of Chile and Peru respectively, and to leave with them an identic memorandum.99

(6) Foregoing has approval of both General Pershing and Mr. Hughes.1

  1. See telegram No. 10, Feb. 16, to the Ambassador in Chile, p. 298.
  2. Charles Evans Hughes, Secretary of State, March 5, 1921–March 5, 1925; Mr. Hughes advised and consulted with Secretary Kellogg throughout the period of the plebiscite.