811.0141 SW/4–2748

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Central America and Panama Affairs (Newbegin)

Participants: Sr. Julián E. Cáceres, Ambassador of Honduras
Major Juan da Costa, former Military Attaché of Honduran Embassy
Robert Newbegin, CPA

Upon his arrival this afternoon to discuss other matters, Ambassador Caceres took a look at the map of Central America hanging on my wall and made reference in a joking manner to the Swan Islands, which he claimed as Honduran. I promptly stated that as far as the Department was concerned the Swan Islands were possessions of the U.S. In this connection, I referred to the Department’s lengthy note rejecting a Honduran claim, stating that I could not recall the exact date since it was sometime before my service in the Department, but that I was of the opinion that it was approximately six years ago. The Ambassador suggested it was much more recent (the note is actually dated January 20, 19401 ).

The Ambassador was informed that in the opinion of this Government, the islands belonged to the U.S., and that it had been assumed since no further comment had been made by the Honduran Government, that the latter was in accord.

Since it was not clear from the Ambassador’s remarks whether he was being serious in his contention, that the Swan Islands were Honduran, I asked him if there was any intention on the part of his Government to raise the question again. He replied that this was the case; that a protest was contemplated on the basis that the Department of Agriculture had recently established an agricultural station there.2

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The Ambassador said that in looking over the files on the case, he had reviewed the Monroe Document [Doctrine] and various statements made by President Monroe, one of them to the effect that the Western Hemisphere was entirely settled, and that consequently it must be deduced that the Swan Islands belonged to Honduras at that time. I told him that I was not entirely familiar with the alleged assertion of President Monroe, but it was obvious that Monroe’s statement was contrary to fact.

The Ambassador was informed that we would naturally be interested in any comment that his Government had to make, but there seemed to be little reason to suppose that there would be any change in our own position in the matter.

R[obert] N[ewbegin]
  1. Foreign Relations, 1940, vol. v, p. 927.
  2. For H. J. Res. 364, Public Law 522, July 24, 1946 providing for the establishment of an international animal quarantine station on Swan Island, see 60 Stat. (1) 633. For documentation on the joint United States-Mexican campaign against foot-and-mouth disease in Mexico, see Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. viii, pp. 811 ff.