Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the one to the other sea may not be interrupted or embarrassed in any future time while this treaty exists; and, in consequence, the United States also guarantees, in the same manner, the rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada has and possesses over the said territory.

"It may be said that the power of the United States is for the time being limitless, not only by reason of its laws and its resources of every kind, but also on account of the respect with which its greatness inspires the world. But in order to deal justly with a weak country this circumstance should be taken into account—that, in stipulating to guarantee the perfect neutrality and property of the Isthmus' it could not be supposed that the words 'neutrality' and property' could be given any other interpretation than the technical one they have. If, by a coup de main, the revolutionists have snatched from Colombia the property of the Isthmus, it seems natural that the United States, in view of the aforesaid stipulation, should return the property to its legitimate owner.

It does not seem right to give the word 'neutrality' the interpretation that, by its application, the acts of the revolutionists shall be left free, because, among other reasons, the stipulation contained in the thirty-fifth article above quoted excepts no case; nor did it foresee, as it could not have foreseen, that the United States would prevent Colombia from landing her forces in Panama territory in case of secession.

“If Colombia had not sufficient force to compel Panama to remain a part of the national unit, it would, without doubt, have asked the mediation of some friendly country in order to reach an understanding with the de facto government which has been established there.

“But for it to have been able to subdue it by force it was necessary that Your Excellency's Government should remain neutral in the dispute; in not having done so, your Government itself violated 'the rights of sovereignty and the property which Colombia has and possesses over the said territory,' not complying, consequently, with the obligation it contracted to guarantee those rights as set forth in the above-cited part of the thirty-fifth article of the treaty. And it may be observed that the United States continues deriving the advantages granted under the treaty, while we lose those which we gave in order to obtain such guaranties.

“The true character of the new state of Panama is revealed in the fact that it came into existence by a coup de main, effected by the winning over of troops, valorous without doubt, but who have fought against no one, assaulted no intrenchment, captured no fort-contenting themselves with putting in prison the constituted authorities.

“If conserving our national integrity, with a few years of peace, we could recover the powers we have lost through unfortunate civil wars, and could hope, by reason of the moral and physical capacity of our

[ocr errors]

race, to take a distinguished position in the American Continent; but if the Government of the United States, by preventing the military action of Colombia to subject the rebels to loyal obedience, should, in a way, make itself the ally of the Panama revolutionists, that Government will be responsible for any new secession movement that may occur, and also, before history at least, for any anarchy, license, and dissolution which a further dismemberment might occasion. Sad indeed is the fate of my country, condemned at times to suffer calamities from its own revolutions and at others to witness the unexpected attacks of a powerful but friendly state, which for the first time breaks its honored traditions of respect for rightespecially the right of the weak-to deliver us pitilessly to the unhappy hazards of fortune.

There shall be a perfect, firm, and inviolable peace (says the first article of the aforesaid treaty) and sincere friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of New Granada (now Colombia) in all the extent of their possessions and territories, and between their citizens, respectively, without distinction of persons or places.

“If the United States repels by force the action of our armies in Panama, is not this a clear violation of this article, since peace in one of the Colombian territorial possessions is broken?

“The Panama revolutionists, counseled by speculators from several countries, who had assumed the direction of affairs, did not consult the opinion of the inhabitants of their own territory, for there are good reasons for the belief that there are in that territory thousands of persons who, respecting order and authority, have condemned the separatist movement with a determined will and in most energetic and severe terms.

“Colombia, in its internal law, has never recognized the principle of secession, because, among other reasons, the obligations contracted with foreign nations by treaty, or with private parties by contract, rest upon the mass of the assets which the State possessed at the moment when the common authority contracted such obligations.

“If the people of Panama, animated by the noble sentiments which induced men of action to seek quicker and more rapid progress, had proclaimed their independence and, without foreign aid, been victorious in battle waged against the armies of the mother country, had organized a government, drawn up laws, and proved to the world that it could govern itself by itself and be responsible to other nations for its conduct, without doubt it would have become entitled to recognition by all the powers.

“But none of these things having occurred, and judging by the practice which in similar cases has guided the conduct of the American Government, the belief is warrantable that the recognition that has been given would probably not have been made if there had not existed in Panama the best route for the isthmian canal.

“In the former case Colombia would have had no right to complain of the failure to fulfill the existing treaty, nor would it have shunned any legitimate means for seeking an arrangement that should dissolve the civil bonds which unite it with those enterprises radicated on Panama territory by contracts made in the exercise of a perfect right.

“But Panama has become independent, has organized a Government, has induced a few powers prematurely to recognize her sovereignty, has usurped rights which do not belong to her in any case, and has ignored the debts which weigh upon Colombia (debts contracted, many of them, to reestablish order which her sons have often disturbed), because the Government of the United States has desired it; because, with its incomparably superior force, the United States has prevented the landing of Colombian troops destined to reestablish order after our having exhausted every possible means of friendly understanding; because the United States, even before the separatist movement was known in Bogotá, had its powerful war vessels at the entrances of our ports, preventing the departure of our battalions; because, without regarding the precedents established by statesmen who have dealt with this matter, the United States has not respected our rights in that strip of land which Colombia considers as a divine bequest for the innocent use of the American family of states; and, finally, because the Government of the United States, invoking and putting into practice the right of might, has taken from us by bloodless conquest-but by conquest, nevertheless—the most important part of the national territory.

“Every nation is responsible to other nations for its conduct, whence it follows that all have among themselves rights and obligations, but these rights and obligations are limited by the right of property. The owner of an estate can not oppose the passage through his land-for example, of a railroad which the community needs—but he may demand that he be indemnified for the damage done him. In the same manner a state should certainly not obstruct the passage through its territory of a canal which the progress of the age and the needs of humanity have made necessary, but it has the right to impose conditions which shall save its sovereignty and to demand indemnification for the use thereof. Reasons based on the needs of humanity are undoubtedly very powerful, but they do not convincingly prove that the legitimate owner shall be deprived of a large part of his territory to satisfy such needs.

“ It might be said to me that exaggerated demands or obstacles which are intentionally raised are equivalerit to a refusal. But this is not our case.

Colombia has made divers treaties and contracts

with foreign countries for the construction of a Panama Canal, and if they have not been carried into effect, as was the case with the treaty with the United States in 1870 and the contract with the French company later, it was not the fault of Colombia. Our demands have not been exaggerated, inasmuch as the terms of the treaty negotiated with the American representative were more advantageous than those stipulated with the French representative, and the conditions set forth in the Ilay-I lerran convention were much more disadvantageous than those made with the French company. The fact that the United States demands from us, in order to carry out the enterprise, a part of our sovereignty, which, under our laws, we can not legally concede so long as the constitution is not modified, because the powers that did it would be responsible before the judicial branch, does not mean that we have been opposed nor that we are opposed to the realization of the greatest undertaking of the kind which the past and future centuries have seen or

will see.

“ Civil wars are a calamity from which no nation has ever been able to free itself. This being true, to hold responsible the Government which suffers revolutions because it can not prevent them or because it hastens to remedy them when danger menaces seems a notorious injustice, because, if the principle of foreign intervention in civil conflicts were accepted, there would be few cases that would not be converted in the end into international wars. To refrain from dealing or treating with a state for fear of civil wars might be deemed equivalent to refraining from constructing ships for fear of shipwrecks or building houses for fear of fire.' Nor is it understood what power there would be that would assume the unhappy task of imposing peace upon the rest, nor under what conditions it would do so, since to take away portions of their territory would be a punishment greater than the fault.

“In this crisis of the life of my country, as unlooked for as it is terrible, Colombia rests its most comforting hopes in the sentiments of justice which animate the Government of your excellency, and confidently trusts that that Government, which has so many times surprised the world by its wisdom, will, on this occasion, astonish it by its example.

"In any event, Colombia complies with the duty imposed upon her by the treaty of 1846 in that part of the 35th article which says:

... neither of the two contracting parties shall ordain or authorize any acts of reprisal, nor shall declare war against the other on complaints of injuries or damages, until the said party considering itself offended shall have laid before the other a statement of such injuries or damages, verified by competent proofs, demanding justice and satisfaction, and the same shall have been denied, in violation of the laws and of international right.

“Since the aforesaid treaty is the law which governs between the two countries, and now that the weakness and ruin of my country, after three years of civil war scarcely at an end, and in which her bravest sons were lost by thousands, place her in the unhappy position of asking justice of the Government of your excellency, I propose that the-claims which I make in the present note on account of the violation of the aforesaid treaty, and all other claims which may hereafter be made in connection with the events of Panama, be submitted to the Arbitration Tribunal of The Hague.

General Reyes, special minister of Colombia, to Mr. Ilay, Sec. of State, Dec. 23, 1903, 'For. Rel. 1903, 284-291.

“The Government of the United States has careMr. Hay's note of Jan. 5, 1904.

fully considered the grave complaints so ably set

forth in the 'statement of grievances' presented on behalf of the Government and people of Colombia, with your note of the 23d ultimo.

“The Government and people of the United States have ever entertained toward the Government and people of Colombia the most friendly sentiments, and it is their earnest wish and hope that the bonds of amity that unite the two peoples may forever remain unbroken. In this spirit the Government of the United States, mindful that between even the most friendly nations differences sometimes unhappily arise, has given to your representations the most deliberate and earnest attention, and in the same spirit it will employ every effort consistent with justice and with its duty to itself and to other nations not only to maintain but also to strengthen the good relations between the two countries.

“At the present moment the questions which you submit can be viewed only in the light of accomplished facts. The Republic of Panama has become a member of the family of nations. Its independence has been recognized by the Governments of the United States, France, China, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and Norway, Belgium, Nicaragua, Peru, Cuba, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Costa Rica, and Switzerland. These solemn acts of recognition carry with them international obligations which, in peace as in war, are fixed by the law of nations and which can not be disregarded. A due appreciation of this circumstance is shown in your admission, made with a frankness and fairness honorable alike to your Government and to yourself, that 'Panama has become independent—has organized a government.'

“The action not merely, as you observe, of a 'few powers,' but of all the so-called 'great powers' and many of the lesser ones, in recognizing the independence of Panama, leaves no doubt as to the public opinion of the world concerning the propriety of that measure. The law of nations does not undertake to fix the precise time at

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »