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A program having been evolved which was thought fully responsive to all the needs of the situation, as fresh evidence of the sincere desire of the United States to allay once for all the ill-feeling existing in Colombia, the Minister was given full instructions and proceeded to his post. In view of the experience of this Government in seeing adjustments carefully made twice shattered by the failure of their final acceptance at Bogotá, it was felt that any fresh formal proposals should certainly emanate from the Colombian Government. The Minister was therefore authorized simply to make known through informal and confidential conversations certain bases which, if reduced to the form of proposals made to the United States by the Government of Colombia, would receive sympathetic consideration by this Government as forming a practical means of complete adjustment of all existing differences with Colombia.
The program which the Minister laid before the Colombian Government in the tentative and informal manner indicated comprised the following points:
(1) That if Colombia would ratify the Root-Cortés and CortésArosemena treaties as they stood, the United States would be willing to sign an additional convention paying to Colombia $10,000,000 for a permanent option for the construction of an interoceanic canal through Colombian territory and for the perpetual lease of the islands of St. Andrews and Old Providence. In the event that the Colombian Government felt that on account of their relationship with Panamá there existed difficulties in which they might desire the assistance of the United States the Minister was to intimate that there might be added a stipulation that the United States would be willing to use its good offices with the Government of Panamá for the purpose of securing an amicable adjustment by arbitration or otherwise of the Colombia-Panamá boundary dispute and of any other matters pending between the two countries. Again, if such a proposal by Colombia seemed impossible the Minister was instructed to intimate that in addition to the foregoing the Government of the United States would be willing to conclude with Colombia a convention submitting to arbitration the question of the ownership of the reversionary rights in the Panamá Railway, which the Colombian Government asserts that it possesses, and looking to proper indemnity should the Colombian contention be sustained.
(2) In the event that the Colombian Government should be strongly averse to making a proposal involving the ratification of the CortésArosemena treaty with Panamá, then the Minister was to intimate that this Government would be willing to consider the foregoing proposal, even with certain amendments. These amendments were to be: First, the addition of a protocol whereby the United States would undertake to use its good offices on behalf of Colombia in the adjustment of boundary questions between it and Panamá; and, second, a convention whereby the Root-Cortés treaty between Colombia and the United States should be amended to the extent of eliminating its interdependence upon the Cortés-Arosemena treaty while preserving to Colombia the important advantages it would give that country in reference to the use of the Panamá Canal-one effect of this charge change?] being that Colombia would have either definitively to
forego the payment of $2,500,000 to be made it under the original tripartite arrangement, or at least to forego such payment until such future time, if ever, when the Colombian Government might find it convenient to ratify the Cortés-Arosemena treaty.
The Minister returned to Bogotá on January 15, 1913, and at once proceeded to carry out his instructions.
The foregoing constituted the complete program of the extreme limits to which, in the judgment of the Department, the Government of the United States would be justified, from any point of view, in going in the rather extraordinary efforts thus undertaken to eliminate once for all all causes of friction, whether justified or not, between the two countries.
The lease of Colombia's rights in two small Caribbean Islands was included as a possible safeguard in the matter of canal defense and for the purpose, regardful of Colombia's dignity, of clothing the discussion with a larger aspect of mutuality of consideration. The option for an interoceanic canal through Colombian territory where there has been, from time to time, recrudescent discussion of such a possible canal project in the Atrato region was introduced in accordance with the same policy which actuated the Government of the United States in encouraging the recent convention with Nicaragua, although the probability of such an undertaking in that region is regarded as far more remote than is true with reference to the Nicaraguan route. In pursuance of the same broad policy of setting at rest once for all all talk of any rival interoceanic canal not controlled by the United States, the Department was convinced of the desirability of such a convention, which, like the lease of the islands above mentioned, offered further opportunity to give semblance of consideration for the payment proposed.
The remainder of the program is quite simple and offers to give to Colombia all the advantages given by the tripartite treaties and in a manner most considerate of the present Colombian feeling toward the Republic of Panamá, while, at the same time, as is of paramount necessity, jealously guarding the fixed rights and interests of the United States, which, of course, could not be permitted to be called in question.
On January 20, Mr. Du Bois had a preliminary conversation with the President of Colombia and informally discussed with him the first alternative of the program, viz, that including the ratification by Colombia of the tripartite treaties. He was informed by the President that he could not and would not consent to recommend to the Colombian Congress ratification of the Arosemena-Cortés treaty. In reply to an inquiry from the Minister whether he should proceed to offer the second alternative, he was informed by the Secretary of State that he could do so if and when he was absolutely satisfied that the decision of the Colombian President was final, it being understood that the United States could not consider any other or further concession than indicated in the second form of the program.
The Minister then proceeded further with his conversations, and on January 27, 1913, telegraphed to the Secretary of State that the proposition for the perpetual lease of the islands of Old Providence and St. Andrews was embarrassing to the Colombian Government, being regarded as practically a sale of the islands, which could not
be ratified. Inquiry was made by the Minister for his information and guidance whether a liberal option for coaling, airship and wireless stations on one or both of the islands, together with a 60-year option on the Atrato canal route would be acceptable to the United States. The Minister in reply was cautioned to avoid making any proposals, which should logically come from the Government of Colombia, but was informed that if he could assure the Department of State that that Government would accept and the Colombian Congress ratify the agreement, without seeking any additional concessions, should this Government be willing to accept coaling stations instead of the perpetual lease of the islands, the proposal would be considered. With respect to placing a time limit on the canal-route option he was instructed that he should discourage positively any thought on the part of Colombia that a 60-year term would be acceptable if the United States were to pay any such figure as was named in his instructions.
The next information received from the Minister was contained in a telegram, dated January 31, 1913, and was to the effect that the Colombian Government seemed determined to treat with the incoming Democratic administration.
These friendly, considerate, and conciliatory efforts to put the relations between the United States and Colombia on a more cordial basis having thus failed, the Minister at Bogota was instructed by telegraph on February 7, 1913, to drop the matter after communicating to the Colombian President a personal note as follows:
Although your excellency will doubtless appreciate that those intimations which I have been able to give of the nature of a proposal which, if made by Colombia, would be considered by my Government naturally had reference only to the time at which I had the honor to make them, nevertheless, in order to avoid even a remote possibility of misunderstanding, I am directed to make it entirely clear to your excellency that nothing which has transpired in these purely personal and informal conversations is to be regarded as any indication of what may be the future disposition of the Government of the United States or as committing my Government in any respect whatever, my efforts to arrive at some definite conclusion having, to my regret, come to naught.
The Minister has informed the Department that after final discussion he has presented a note in the above sense.
The most recent telegrams from the Minister show that quite aside. from his instructions and acting upon his personal responsibility, Mr. Du Bois, as a matter of curiosity, sounded the Colombian Government still further in order to elicit a clearer idea of its pretentions. it was intimated to the Minister that if the Colombian Government would make proposals in accordance with his informal suggestions a revolution would, in its opinion, result.
Continuing in his evident personal desire to sound, if possible, the limits of Colombian pretensions, the Minister also inquired whether an offer of $10,000,000 without the considerations which had been suggested would be acceptable. To this he was informed that it would not; that all his suggestions fell short by far of what Colombia could accept. To his inquiry, what terms Colombia would accept, the reply was: "The arbitration of the whole Panama question or a direct proposition from the United States to compensate Colombia for all the moral, physical and financial losses sustained by it because of the separation of Panama." This, it was intimated, was the last word of the Colombian Government.
The very latest telegram from Mr. Du Bois shows that in a subsequent interview he took it upon himself informally to ask whether if the United States should, without requesting options or privileges of any kind, offer Colombia $25,000,000, its good offices with Panama, the arbitration of the question of reversionary rights in the Panama Railway, and preferential rights of the canal, the Government would accept; to which he was answered in the negative.
Included in this most recent telegraphic correspondence is a statement of the impression of the Legation at Bogota that the Colombian Government cherishes the expectation that the incoming administration will arbitrate the entire Panama question, or will directly compensate Colombia for the value of the territory of Panama, the Panama Railway, the railroad annuities, and the contract with the French Canal Company.
I merely mention the results of these personal inquiries made by Mr. Du Bois, as I have said, in his personal capacity and without any authority, because they throw so much light upon the Colombian obsession with regard to this whole subject. This attitude resulting in the rebuff of generous overtures by the United States is undoubtedly due in a great measure to a radical misconception of real public opinion in the United States, engendered probably by reiterated criticism in certain uninformed quarters leveled at the policy of this Government at the very time it was bending every effort to adjust its relations with Colombia and required for such adjustment an atmosphere of calm instead of one of captious attack and unreasoning encouragement of an arbitrary attitude on the part of the foreign country with which it was dealing.
Feeling that this Government has made every effort consistent with the honor, dignity, and interests of the United States in its sincere aim to bring about a state of better feeling on the part of the Government of Colombia, it is with regret that I have to report that these efforts are thus far still met by a desire for impossible arbitrations, and so have proved unavailing unless, indeed, they may yet prove fruitful in the course of time of a more reasonable and friendly attitude on the part of Colombia.
Meanwhile, the Government of Colombia would appear to have closed the door to any further overtures on the part of the United States.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, February 20, 1913.
File No. 711.21/142.
P. C. KNOX.
The Minister of Colombia to the Secretary of State.
LEGATION OF COLOMBIA, Washington, February 28, 1913. EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to inform your excellency that, according to information which I have just received from my Government, the bases proposed by Mr. DuBois and the minutes of the
last conference between the Plenipotentiary of the United States and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Doctor Urrutia, were published today in Bogotá. Doctor Urrutia stated in the said minutes, in the name of the Government of Colombia, that, as the said bases were unacceptable, if it was not possible to obtain by direct negotiation the moral and material reparation which the country demands with perfect justice, no recourse remained except arbitration for the settlement of the question pending between Colombia and the United States.
Mindful of the solemn declaration which the illustrious Mr. Taft as well as his worthy Secretary of State and other eminent personages of this great country have made in favor of arbitration as a means of settling, in civilized countries, international differences of any character whatsoever, my Government hopes that when this means shall have been adopted the good friendship that for so many years existed between Colombia and the United States will soon be reestablished.
Sincerely hoping that we may soon obtain this result, of interest to all America, I renew to your excellency the assurances of my highest and most distinguished consideration.
File No. 711.21/142.
The Secretary of State to the Minister of Colombia.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, April 15, 1913.
SIR: I regret to inform you that your note dated February 28, 1913, in regard to the solution of the difficulties unhappily existing between the United States and the Republic of Colombia, has, owing to the pressure of business incident to the change of administration, but recently come to my notice.
In reply I have the honor to inform you that pending a full study of this matter, which will be made at the earliest available moment, it will not be possible for me to enter into a discussion in regard thereto.
Accept, Sir, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration. W. J. BRYAN.
File No. 711.21/169.
The Minister of Colombia to the Secretary of State.
LEGATION OF COLOMBIA,
EXCELLENCY: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency's polite note dated the 15th ultimo, in which, referring to the questions of the highest importance unhappily pending be
1 Not printed.