The Assistant Secretary of State (Moore) to President Roosevelt

Dear Mr. President: A few weeks ago there was referred to me for consideration the alleged importance to our Government of Cocos Island and the Galápagos Islands and I have since given the matter consideration.

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While it is not probable that in the near future Japan or any other power will seek to acquire any of these islands which we could doubtless claim to be an infringement of the Monroe Doctrine, nevertheless it would seem that if any proper means of doing so can be found it would be well for our Government to obtain ownership or control of all of the islands.

The suggestion that they might be internationalized or neutralized does not impress me as desirable from our point of view. It would probably mean that our Government would have to pay the entire purchase price and then be subject to the will of other governments.

Assuming it to be important that our Government should be placed in position to fortify the islands as well as to make use of certain of the Galápagos group for aircraft landing fields, sooner or later we should obtain exclusive ownership or control by outright purchase or by a long lease.

In answer to the argument that this would stir resentment in Latin America, I have thought if acquisition could be effected under binding agreements that the purchase price should be used in the construction of the proposed Pan American Highway, in which all of the nations south of us are intensely interested, there would be general and enthusiastic approval and Mr. Thomas H. MacDonald, Chief of the Bureau of Public Roads, with whom I have talked very confidentially, is most fully in accord with this view.

I enclose (1) correspondence that has been had with the Navy Department;16 (2) the data that has been prepared showing the location, condition, et cetera, of the Islands;16 and (3) as a matter of interest a copy of a treaty negotiated with Ecuador in 1854 but not ratified.17

No question appears ever to have been raised as to the ownership of the Galápagos Islands by Ecuador, but it is stated that while Costa Rica has been generally recognized as owning the Cocos Island, Colombia has made some claim to ownership.

Secretary Hull has seen this letter.

Yours very sincerely,

R. Walton Moore
  1. Not attached to file copy.
  2. Not attached to file copy.
  3. Convention regarding the purchase and sale of guano discovered on the Galápagos Islands, signed at Quito, November 20, 1854. For Spanish text, see Ricardo Aranda (ed.), Colección de los Tratados, Convenciones, Capitulaciones, Armisticios y Otros Actos Diplomáticos y Politicos, vol. v, pp. 134–139.