The Colombian Minister ( Olaya ) to the Secretary of State

No. 1226

Sir: In compliance with instructions from my Government, I have the honor to enclose with this note a memorandum concerning information [Page 5] of an official character published by the press regarding a claims convention signed by the Governments of the United States of America and Panama on July 28, last.20

I avail myself [etc.]

Enrique Olaya

The Government of Colombia to the Government of the United States


The Government of Colombia has been informed by its Legation in Washington that the Department of State gave official information to the press concerning the conventions signed with the Government of Panama in July, last. According to this information one of the conventions contained the following stipulations:22

“The United States and the Republic of Panama have concluded a General Claims Convention providing for the arbitration with certain exceptions, hereinafter noted, of all claims against the respective Governments, which when they arose were those of citizens of the other Government. The exceptions referred to are:

“(1) The claims for losses suffered by American citizens as the result of a fire in the city of Colon in 1885, as to which Panama agrees in principle to arbitration under a Convention to which the Republic of Colombia shall be invited to become a party.”

The Government of Colombia is animated by a desire to avoid the unnecessary reopening of those incidents in its relations with the Government of the United States which long since have been closed; and it will not attempt to discuss the reasons which have previously been alleged in support of the right to present claims on account of the Colon fire. The Government of Colombia expressed its opinion regarding these claims at that time. It deems it necessary most cordially and frankly to state to the Government of the United States that these claims have ceased to concern the Government of Colombia, and consequently, have not been a subject of possible discussion or dispute from the day when the Republic of Panama was proclaimed in November, 1903, and recognized in the manner and terms it was by the United States.23 The territory of the Isthmus of Panama was placed under the sovereignty of, and became the property of, the new Republic; and the United States by its categoric and solemn declarations assigned all the rights and obligations that were derived, or could be derived, from the treaty of 1846,24 or which, from it, with [Page 6] or without basis, could be alleged. All questions relating to the Isthmus of Panama or to the treaty of 1846 which since 1903 could have been pending between the United States and Colombia were studied and discussed by the two Governments during the negotiations which led to the signing of the treaty of April 6, 1914,25 and all these were definitely and wholly resolved when the ratifications of this treaty were exchanged on March 1, 1922.26 In no event, therefore, could the Government of Colombia accept an invitation to take part in disputes with the United States which, because of the facts mentioned in this memorandum, have ceased to concern it.

All causes for a misunderstanding between the two Republics over the Isthmus of Panama or treaties relating thereto have been eliminated, and in making the above declaration to the United States the Government of Colombia wishes to record that not the least of its reasons for this declaration is its earnest desire that its friendship should continue to develop on the firm basis which has served so efficaciously in latter years in their diplomatic, economic, and commercial relations.

  1. File translation revised.
  2. Post, p. 865.
  3. File translation revised.
  4. The following quotation, transmitted in English, is from a Department of State press release of Aug. 3, 1926.
  5. See Foreign Relations, 1903, pp. 132349, 689691; ibid., 1904, pp. 543655.
  6. Miller, Treaties, vol. 5, p. 115.
  7. Foreign Relations, 1914, p. 163.
  8. See ibid., 1922, vol. i, pp. 974 ff.