723.2515/2713a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Peru (Poindexter)41


84. Immediately upon receipt of this message you are directed to deliver textually to President of Peru and to Minister for Foreign Affairs the memorandum quoted below. You will state at the same time that I am handing copies of it to the Chilean Ambassador and to the Peruvian Ambassador at this capital on or about noon, November 30, Tuesday. You will further state that the memorandum, [Page 505] as I shall inform the Chilean and the Peruvian Ambassadors here, is being brought to the attention of all South American Governments for their information as its subject is obviously of continental importance.42 You will also say that it will be released to the press for the morning papers of Thursday, December 2, in order to avoid public misunderstanding of the nature of the proposal and to guard against its being prejudiced by the publication of vague or incorrect rumors in regard to its actual tenor.


The Tacna-Arica controversy has engaged my closest attention ever since I assumed the duties of Secretary of State. All of my predecessors in this office during the past 40 years have followed with the deepest interest the varying phases of the problem, and several Secretaries, particularly my immediate predecessor, Mr. Hughes, have been intimately concerned, as I have been, with the task of contributing, if possible, to its solution. It is, I know, fully appreciated, not only by the parties themselves but by the world at large, that the Government of the “United States never has had, nor can have, any motive or interest in relation to the matter other than that of a friendly adviser to both parties, anxious to do what it can to enable them to escape from the unfortunate situation in which they find themselves. This spirit, combined with an abiding faith in the sincerity of the contestants, has guided every step taken by my Government. I have at all times endeavored conscientiously to observe the strictest neutrality, and have, I think, been able to arrive at a sympathetic appreciation of the respective points of view which have been presented.

In the present state of the controversy I am persuaded that it may be helpful to the parties if I outline candidly certain observations and conclusions which I have formed as the result of my experience with the matter during the past year and a half.

1. The numerous efforts which have been made since the Treaty of Ancon to effect a solution within the scope and intent of the treaty itself, whether by direct negotiations between Chile and Peru, or as contemplated by arbitration and plebiscite, have been thus far unproductive.

2. The recent negotiations for settlement outside the treaty with the aid of the good offices of the United States have unquestionably served to explore the possibilities of adjustment, and define the positions of the principals. Representatives of the two Governments have explained their respective attitudes to me with the utmost frankness, and I am convinced that there is a sincere desire on both sides to arrive at a final and constructive adjustment.

3. We are obviously dealing with a question which turns upon a point of national honor. Now national honor is a very real thing, and in this particular case, it is perfectly clear that national susceptibilities in this regard are peculiarly sensitive in both countries and must be fully protected. [Page 506] I see no reason why this cannot be done. It is my conviction that this problem should be, and can be, definitively solved without the slightest sacrifice of national honor and dignity, or injury to national susceptibilities on either side. On the contrary, nothing could possibly redound so much to the honor and dignity of Chile and Peru as a high-minded settlement of this controversy, so as to permit them to stand before the world as friends unembarrassed by any serious differences between them.

4. I have studied with the greatest care the various types of solutions which have been advanced throughout the negotiations, and I have patiently listened to the views which have been so freely expressed by the representatives of the contending powers. Leaving out of consideration the attempt to carry out the unfulfilled provisions of the Treaty of Ancon, it would appear that from the nature of the case there are but three ways to deal with the disputed territory: You can assign it all to one of the contestants; you can divide it between them on some basis to be defined; or you can effect some arrangement whereby neither contestant shall get any of the territory. These three general types comprise an exclusive classification of the logically possible ways to dispose of the res. I think it may fairly be said that the first of them, namely, delivery of the disputed territory in its entirety to one or the other of the parties, has virtually ceased to be regarded as a practical solution by anybody who really hopes for a permanent settlement.

The second method, that of division has also seemed to me to recede further and further into the background. The parties have not been able to find any formula or basis, either of straight division, or of division coupled with a “corridor” feature or a “free city” device, which is acceptable to both of them. The prospect of success by following this path is not encouraging. Apparently no scheme of division, however ingeniously worked out, has yet been able to overcome the stubborn fact that neither of the Governments considers that it can afford to make an adjustment which involves making substantial concessions to the other. The essential elements of compromise in the true meaning of the term are lacking. We may as well face the issue squarely, and recognize that division of this territory between Chile and Peru on any basis of agreement presents almost insuperable difficulties so long as each applies to every arrangement suggested the test of whether it may conceivably enable the other to claim a moral victory. I am not criticizing this attitude; I only state it as a fact which militates powerfully against a territorial compromise.

There remains the possibility of some arrangement by which neither contestant shall face the possibility of giving up anything to the other. Manifestly a solution of that character would possess the distinct advantage of eliminating all apprehensions arising from a comparison of relative territorial benefits secured. It would involve a joint, as distinguished from a mutual sacrifice, and would rest fundamentally upon the realization that m all the circumstances neither country can expect to receive any substantial part of this long disputed area, and at the same time enjoy the security and satisfaction accruing from a complete adjustment which they themselves, as well as the rest of the world, could regard as permanent. Concerning myself with the practical aspects of the problem, and conceiving it [Page 507] to be my duty to find, if I can, a plan which both Governments can afford to accept in the names of the peoples to whom they are responsible, I have come to regard this third method as one meeting the more vital conditions, and offering decided advantages from the point of view of permanent peace. I am moved to this conclusion principally because such a formula does not call for a moral surrender, or anything that can be so construed, by one country to the other.

5. In the course of the negotiations I have suggested for consideration, in one form or another, all three of these logically possible types of solution. On no one of them have the ideas of Chile and Peru converged. I have suggested various combinations, such as division of territory with the “corridor” feature and the “free city” device annexed. Interesting discussions of details as to boundaries, etc. have ensued, but these discussions have led to no conclusion. I have also suggested the neutralization of the territory but this has not been received with favor by both parties.

To recapitulate: The proceedings under Article 3 of the Treaty of Ancon have not been successful. The parties have not agreed upon any division of the territory upon any basis whatever. They have not agreed to neutralization of the whole or of any part of the territory. No suggestion which has been put forward has proved acceptable to both Chile and Peru. What remains?

Notwithstanding the fact that an agreement has thus far not been obtained, and in the light of all that has taken place, I feel bound to consider what step it may lie in my power now to take, in the pursuit of a friendly and disinterested effort to assist the parties; and after mature reflection I have decided to outline and place before the two Governments a plan which, in my judgment, is worthy of their earnest attention. I venture to express the sincere hope that they will adopt it. This plan calls for the cooperation of a third power, Bolivia, which has not yet appeared in any of the negotiations, at least so far as my Government is concerned. While the attitude of Bolivia has not been ascertained, save that her aspiration to secure access to the Pacific is common knowledge, it seems reasonable to assume that Bolivia, by virtue of her geographical situation, is the one outside power which would be primarily interested in acquiring, by purchase or otherwise, the subject matter of the pending controversy. With this preface let me now define the concrete suggestion which I have in mind:

The Republics of Chile and Peru, either by joint or by several instruments freely and voluntarily executed, to cede to the Republic of Bolivia, in perpetuity, all right, title and interest which either may have in the Provinces of Tacna and Arica; the cession to be made subject to appropriate guaranties for the protection and preservation, without discrimination, of the personal and property rights of all of the inhabitants of the provinces of whatever nationality.
As an integral part of the transaction provision to be made for adequate compensation to be given by the Republic of Bolivia for said cession, including public works, railways and improvements in the territory transferred, and taking into account the present value of all such public works, railways and improvements made by both Chile and Peru during the periods when they have respectively been [Page 508] in control and occupation of the territory; such compensation to be determined in direct negotiations participated in by Chile, Peru and Bolivia; it being understood that the Secretary of State will place at the disposal of the three Governments his good offices, if they are required either to promote an agreement, or to fix the character and amount of compensation in case it should prove impracticable to determine the same in the tri-partite negotiation.
Chile and Peru to agree in direct negotiation upon the equitable apportionment between them of any cash compensation which may be provided for; it being here also understood that the Secretary of State will place at their disposal his good offices, if required to assist them in making the apportionment, and that he will himself undertake to apportion the compensation if asked to do so by both Chile and Peru.
The promontory known as the Morro of Arica, with boundaries appropriately defined, to be reserved from the transfer to Bolivia, and to be placed under the control and jurisdiction of an international commission which shall be charged with maintaining it as an international memorial to the valor of both Chile and Peru, with the suggestion that there be erected on the Morro a lighthouse, or monument, to commemorate the friendly settlement of the Tacna-Arica question.
Simultaneously with the completion of the foregoing arrangement, or as soon thereafter as may be practicable, suitable treaties of friendship to be entered into between Chile and Peru covering the resumption of diplomatic and consular relations, commerce, navigation, and all other matters necessary to reestablish normal and friendly intercourse between the two countries.
The territory now comprised in the Provinces of Tacna and Arica44 to be, by agreement between Peru, Chile and Bolivia, perpetually demilitarized in the fullest sense of that term.
The City of Arica by appropriate agreement among the three powers to be made forever a free port, and adequate provision to be made insuring that no discriminatory rates or charges, as among the three countries, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, shall be made with respect to the port, or to the railroad, or to any other means of communication within the said territory now comprising the Provinces of Tacna and Arica.

6. In submitting this plan I have not undertaken to do more than sketch its broad outlines. The details should, in my judgment, present no serious difficulties. The main advantages which this type of solution has over others which have been considered need little emphasis.

It furnishes a substitute for the unfulfilled provisions of Article 3 of the Treaty of Ancon, and thus forever disposes of the controversy which has existed ever since that treaty was signed.
It is a clean, simple solution free from obvious complicating factors attendant upon other plans.
It is comprehensive and definitive, leaving no room whatever for claims and disputes, and maneuvers for revision of territorial dispositions.
It can injure no national susceptibilities, either Chilean or Peruvian. Neither country makes any concession to the other and the moral positions of both, so far as the original controversy is concerned, are left intact.
It takes into account the continental interest in the controversy and embodies a settlement which South America as a whole could welcome as one insuring permanent peace and stability.

Frank B. Kellogg
Secretary of State.

Washington, November 30, 1926.”

You are also instructed to cable the Department immediately the hour of memorandum’s delivery and a full account of your interview.

  1. Similar telegram sent to Chile Nov. 30, 1 a.m., as Department’s No. 158.
  2. Circular telegram, Nov. 30, 11 a.m.; not printed.
  3. Text of memorandum not paraphrased.
  4. The Chilean Province of Tacna comprised the former Peruvian Provinces of Tacna and Arica. The Province of Tacna was divided into the Departments of Tacna and Arica.