The Nicaraguan Minister (De Bayle) to the Secretary of State

No. 954

Mr. Secretary of State: Under special instructions from my Government I have the honor to inform Your Excellency as follows:

The Ministry of Foreign Relations of Nicaragua presented to the American Legation in Managua, informally, a memorandum dated November 8,27 which contains a study of the diverse aspects of the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of August 5, 1914, between the Governments of the United States and Nicaragua, which had as a principal objective the cession in perpetuity to the former of the proprietary rights necessary for the construction, operation, and maintenance of an interoceanic canal by way of San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua, or by any other route over Nicaraguan territory.

The memorandum referred to records the proposal of the Government of Nicaragua, based on reasons as set forth therein, to “submit very respectfully to the consideration of the American Government [Page 804] the revision, not of the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty, but of the negotiations concerning the Canal which culminated in said Treaty, in order to adjust it, to the reciprocal convenience of both governments, to a higher plane of justice”.

In presenting the memorandum referred to, the Minister of Foreign Relations told Minister Nicholson that the President of the Republic proposed, if the Government of the United States considered it convenient, to go to Washington to discuss personally with President Roosevelt the requests of Nicaragua set forth in said memorandum.

Later the Minister of the United States in Managua visited the President of the Republic, and in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Relations, told him that the Department of State, after having been informed of the contents of the memorandum referred to, had instructed him to say: that the Government of the United States did not consider the ratification or revalidation of the Treaty by the Constituent Assembly to be desirable, because it did not wish new criticisms and protests with reference to that Treaty to be provoked; that his Government was considering very closely and favorably the demands of Nicaragua with reference to the canalization of the San Juan River; that it considered a new study of said work to be necessary and that it was disposed to approve a request in that sense from the Government of Nicaragua, separate from the memorandum referred to, for which reason it considered it unnecessary to present the memorandum in a formal manner. Minister Nicholson added, with reference to the President’s trip, that his Government’s opinion was favorable, but that it believed that the time to make it would be after the Pan American Conference in Lima.

The President expressed his thanks for the good will manifested by the United States in considering the requests referred to, and promised that the Nicaraguan Legation in Washington would send the State Department the communication suggested. He also reiterated at the same time his friendly attitude toward the United States, his great desire that Nicaragua’s future should for higher reasons of reciprocal advantage, security and defense become more closely bound up with the United States, within a relation of equality which would permit him to protect the larger interests of Nicaragua and to prevent grave and irreparable damage to that country.

On the basis of the foregoing, Your Excellency will permit me to indicate briefly the reasons for the request I have to make.

Under Article 1 of the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of August 5, 1914, Nicaragua ceded to the United States sovereign rights pertaining to it as a nation, in order to provide for the construction of an interoceanic canal across its territory, rights which now and forever belong exclusively to the Government of the United States of America, which alone can decide with reference to the construction of the canal.

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It should be noted that inasmuch as the Treaty did not indicate any period within which Your Excellency’s Government should decide to construct the interoceanic canal, it is completely free to decide to do it at any time, or to postpone it indefinitely, or forever, all of which constitutes an extremely disadvantageous situation for Nicaragua, since the latter would be unable to take advantage of the magnificent facilities, which the geographical configuration of its territories offers for the construction of such a work of universal importance as the interoceanic canal.

My Government desires very respectfully to call the attention of the Government of the United States to the circumstance that, as is public and notorious and as is set forth in the official documents of the Government of Nicaragua resulting from the negotiations for the approval of the Treaty, Nicaragua gave the concessions contained in the Treaty with the hope—almost with the assurance—that the interoceanic canal would be constructed in the more or less near future, so that the sacrifices made would bring great advantages for Nicaragua as well as for the United States and also for the traffic of the world.

Inasmuch as the construction of the interoceanic canal referred to appears to be indefinitely postponed, Nicaragua is faced with danger of losing forever and completely the privileges of its geographic situation, and of being deprived of the possibility of taking advantage of the means afforded by nature of hastening its development and progress. Nicaragua believes firmly that in justice to it the illustrious Government of the United States should consider this situation closely and equitably in order that, inspired by noble sentiments of justice and by an active devotion to neighborliness and solidarity, it may cooperate in helping Nicaragua to avoid the injuries pointed out which would definitely halt its potential progress.

If, as the Government of Nicaragua hopes, the foregoing considerations appear to the Government of the United States to be well founded and just, I beg Your Excellency to please give your friendly assistance to my Government, in order that American engineers, under instructions from the Government of the United States, should proceed to make a study of the possibility of canalizing the San Juan River, from Lake Nicaragua to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean, in order to prepare it for navigation of vessels of ordinary draft, and also to make an approximate estimate of the total cost of said work.

My Government desires, in case the request contained in the present note is favorably received, that the designation of the engineers and the studies referred to be carried out as quickly as possible.

Thanking you in advance on behalf of my Government for the deferential attention which Your Excellency may be kind enough to give this communication, I am pleased [etc.]

Léon de Bayle
  1. Not printed.