The British Ambassador (Lothian) to the Under Secretary of State (Welles)

My Dear Mr. Under Secretary: With reference to your letter of November 15th, 19395 with regard to the proposed arbitration with Guatemala, I am instructed to inform you that His Majesty’s Government deeply appreciate the willingness of the President of the United States to nominate an American citizen who they understand will be of high judicial experience to act as umpire of an eventual ad hoc tribunal. They are now about to make their offer to the Guatemalan Government and they propose at the same time to inform the Guatemalan Government that His Majesty’s Government understand that the President of the United States will be willing to nominate an umpire for such a tribunal.

With reference to your letter of December 8th, 1939,6 I am enclosing for your information the terms of reference which His Majesty’s Government propose for the suggested tribunal. You will see that these terms of reference will empower the proposed arbitral tribunal to effect a settlement of all the issues involved in the event that there [Page 419] had not been compliance with Article VII of the 1859 Treaty.7 I am informed that these proposed terms will be presented shortly to the Guatemalan Government. I should be glad if you would keep them confidential until I have informed you that the communication of them to that Government has actually been made.

Believe me [etc.]


In order that there shall hereafter be no possibility of any misunderstanding, His Majesty’s Government desire to reiterate the view which they have adopted at all times hitherto that the dispute is one arising solely out of the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of 1859 and in particular out of Article 7 thereof. His Majesty’s Government are therefore prepared to submit this dispute to arbitration, in accordance with the proposals which have been set out above, for a final determination by the arbitrators of the following issues, viz:

Is there still any practicable method by which the original obligations laid down in Article 7, viz. “With the object of practically carrying out the views set forth in the preamble of the present Convention, for improving and perpetuating the friendly relations which at present so happily exist between the two high contracting parties, they mutually agree conjointly to use their best efforts by taking adequate means for establishing the easiest communication (either by means of a cart-road, or employing rivers, or both united according to the opinion of the surveying engineers) between the fittest place on the Atlantic coast near the settlement of Belize and the capital of Guatemala whereby the commerce of England on the one hand and the material prosperity of the Republic on the other cannot fail to be sensibly increased at the same time that the limits of the two countries being now clearly defined, all further encroachments by either party on the territory of the other will be effectually checked and prevented for the future” can still be effectually carried out?
If the answer to (1) above is in the negative, whether, and if so to what extent, His Majesty’s Government are responsible for a failure to carry out the mutual obligations under the said Article 7?
If there has been a failure to carry out the obligations imposed by Article 7, by what method, taking into account all the relevant legal and equitable considerations arising out of the said failure, shall His Majesty’s Government discharge their obligations in respect of that failure?
It can be clearly seen from the express words of Article VII of the Convention of 1859 that concurrently with the obligations mutually undertaken by the parties thereunder it was stipulated that the limits of the adjoining territories should be clearly defined so as to prevent all further encroachments by either party on the territory of the other. In accordance therefore with the plainly-expressed intention of both parties as shown by the terms of Article 7 of the Convention of 1859, His Majesty’s Government think it only right that their present proposals for a settlement of this long outstanding dispute should be made conditional upon the Guatemalan Government consenting to a final delimitation and marking of the boundary between British Honduras and Guatemala to take place in a mutually convenient manner immediately after the tribunal, as selected by the parties, has pronounced its final award.

  1. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. v, p. 189.
  2. Ibid., p. 192.
  3. Convention between Great Britain and Guatemala relative to the boundary of British Honduras, signed at Guatemala, April 30, 1859, British and Foreign State Papers, vol. xlix, p. 7.
  4. For complete text of note dated January 29, 1940, from the British Chargé in Guatemala to the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, see Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Guatemala, Continuation of the White Book, Controversy Between Guatemala and Great Britain, Relative to the Convention of 1859, on Territorial Matters: The Question of British Honduras, III (Guatemala, April 1941), p. 133.