The Ambassador in Chile (Collier) to the Secretary of State
[Received 11:40 p.m.]
20. Department’s No. 10, February 16, 5 p.m. Yesterday afternoon I called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, read him the memorandum and left it with him, and impressed him thoroughly with the seriousness of the situation. Minister was somewhat surprised and keenly regrets conclusion you have reached, as he accepted his position here hoping to obtain plebiscite satisfactory to the United States.
Since early in January public opinion has gained impression that retirements of Pershing and Edwards had produced harmony; and the [Page 304] insistence of press and of Government that order be maintained was being reasonably well complied with, although there were many who feared that new clashes might occur if enough Peruvians should return to the province to make Chilean element doubtful of success.
Lately the general feeling among Chileans has been that earlier suggestions of a diplomatic settlement had been abandoned and that a plebiscite would surely be held; the newspapers, particularly those which belong to Edwards, have been constantly urging the Chileans in the plebiscitary territory to do nothing to justify delay and above all to avoid any sort of conduct which would permit Arbitrator to declare plebiscite impracticable. Confidence exists generally that Chile will win in honest plebiscite, though overwhelming majority once predicted is not now expected. The sentiment which three months ago was strongly in favor of a diplomatic settlement has changed greatly, and any move now by Chilean Government to accept settlement except through plebiscite will encounter some bitter opposition. It is probable, however, that the President, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and certain business and political elements who have influence would be willing to accept and possibly to favor by means of a diplomatic settlement either the independence of the province with neutralization, or partition, or cession in return for a proper compensation; but they will need a little time for sounding out and preparing public opinion and to shape events.
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… It is my personal belief that a diplomatic settlement can be brought about that will not offend national feeling, but care must be exercised in regard to manner in which it is presented and to form it takes. I think a delay in deciding appeals taken about two weeks ago would facilitate diplomatic settlement.