Memorandum by the Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the Chief of the Division of the American Republics (Duggan)

Mr. Duggan: You will remember that the President’s conception of an international arrangement covering the Galápagos Islands was the setting up of a trust under the Pan American Union, the trust to be administered by representatives of the twenty-one American republics; the purpose of the trust being technically to preserve the natural flora and fauna on those Islands. The constitution of such a trust implied necessarily the purchase of the Islands from the Government of Ecuador inasmuch as it is of course clear that the Government of Ecuador would not relinquish her sovereignty, or agree to an abatement of her sovereignty, unless she received compensation in return. The President stated to me in principle that if he felt that public opinion at the time was favorable, he would recommend the purchase of these Islands by the United States for the purpose of then turning over the territory in question to the inter-American body above mentioned. It was agreed that pending a settlement of the Peruvian-Ecuadorean boundary dispute,29 it would be unwise for this Government to take any initiative in the matter inasmuch as Peru would [Page 852]undoubtedly fear that the receipt by Ecuador of several millions of dollars for the Islands would mean that Ecuador would invest the money in armaments and provoke a controversy over the boundary.

I do not know whether the Government of Ecuador would agree to vesting any jurisdiction or any real authority in the individuals who might be sent down to the Galápagos Islands by the Smithsonian Institution under the arrangements you describe. If it were understood that these individuals were solely observers, I can imagine the possibility of reaching an agreement, although I am convinced that the Government of Ecuador will not be in the slightest degree interested in this plan unless it could be envisaged as a step towards the purchase of the Islands, and for the reasons indicated above I do not think it would be a wise move at this time. In any event, I do not believe that it would be possible to conceive of reaching any agreement on this matter before the dates mentioned in your memorandum.