Memorandum of Conversation, by the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

The Minister of Nicaragua called to see me this afternoon and handed me the attached note,28 which he told me was largely a reiteration of the representations already made in Managua to Minister Nicholson. He said that, not speaking as a minister but as a friend, he wanted me to know his Government had felt when the Bryan–Chamorro treaty was signed that there was a likelihood that the Nicaraguan canal would be constructed in the not distant future. Now, he said, it looked as if the construction of the canal was to be postponed for an indefinite period with the result that Nicaragua would not obtain the benefits to her own national economy which would have arisen with the canal in operation. He said that consequently his Government felt that in view of their bad economic and international situation the Government of the United States should do something to help them out, particularly through assuming the expense involved in the canalization of the San Juan River.

I said to the Minister in the most friendly way that I could not agree with his premises. I said that the Bryan–Chamorro treaty had involved the payment by the United States to Nicaragua of $3,000,000 which had been regarded by Nicaragua as satisfactory and complete compensation for the rights accorded the United States in that instrument. I stated that I could not share his conclusion that the construction of the canal would never be undertaken, and that it seemed to me that that was a question which could only be settled as the need for the canal might be demonstrated. I said it seemed to me wise and expedient from the point of view of both Governments not to give any further thought to the considerations which he had advanced but to concentrate on what would in any event have to be the first step, namely, a study of a technical character undertaken by competent experts as to the possibilities for canalization of the San Juan River and the cost of the construction of such project, and that to this request of his Government I would give the most sympathetic consideration. I told the Minister I would let him know as soon as possible whether we could agree to furnish such expert services and if so, the individuals we might recommend for that purpose.

S[umner] W[elles]
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