Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small]

narrower and narrower limits until finally These shell-heaps or kitchen-middens reduced to their present territory. That have been observed attaining to a height they have long dwelt in their present of twelve or fifteen feet and to more than habitat is evidenced by the numerous one hundred feet in length. The time shell-heaps that have been accumulated consumed in the accumulation of such about the more favorable camping places quantities of shells indicates for them a along the bays and inlets of this coast. considerable antiquity.

LOCATION OF THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN

NICARAGUA AND COSTA RICA

By Arthur P. Davis, Chief HYDROGRAPHER, ISTHMIAN CANAL

COMMISSION

T

HE promise which the construc- Castillo Viejo, measured from the ex

tion of a water-way gives of terior fortifications of said castle to the

increased development and com- point indicated. From there a curve will mercial importance to the Central Ameri- start, the centre of which shall be said can republics, has been a source of con- works, and shall preserve a distance of 3 siderable jealousy between Nicaragua and English miles from it throughout its deCosta Rica, and until recently there was velopment, terminating at a point which continual dispute over the boundary line shall be 2 miles distant from the bank between these republics, each being anx- of the river, upstream from the castle. ious to preserve and increase its terri- From there the line shall continue in the torial interests in proximity to the pro- direction of the Sapoa River, which empposed canal route. Both states had been ties into Lake Nicaragua, following a wrought up by years of fruitless negotia- course almost 2 miles distant from the tions to a state of readiness for war in right margin of the Rio San Juan, with defence of what they considered their its circumvolutions, to its origin at the rights. In fact, war had actually been lake, and of the right margin of the lake declared by Nicaragua on November 25, itself to the said Sapoa River, where this 1857, when, through the mediation of line, parallel to said margins, will termithe Republic of Salvador, a final effort nate. From the point of intersection with to avert it was made. Another conven- the Sapoa River, which, from what has tion was held and a definite treaty was been said, should be 2 miles distant from concluded between the two republics in the lake, a right astronomical line shall be April, 1858, Article 2 of which runs as drawn to the central point of Salinas Bay, follows:

in the southern sea, where the demarca" The dividing line of the two republics, tion of the territory of the two republics starting from the northern sea, shall shall terminate." commence from the extremity of Castilla This boundary was for many years unPoint, at the mouth of the Rio San Juan surveyed, and after the treaty of 1858 a of Nicaragua, and shall continue its course change occurred in the regimen of the along the right margin of said river to a San Juan, by which the main portion of point 3 English miles distant from the its waters, instead of flowing to the sea

name

66

at San Juan del Norte, as formerly, fol- main San Juan and that it had been called lowed another course to the ocean, known Punta de Castilla by three authorities as the Colorado River, while the lower cited, one of them being a prominent San Juan, which was formerly the main Nicaraguan politician, Mr. J. A. Gamez. stream, became a subordinate distribu- The arbitrator pointed out, however, tary. This led to a new dispute, Nicara- that a large array of authority, including gua claiming that the main stream, or nearly all public maps, called this Punta Colorado River, was the true boundary, Arenas, and that if such an important conand calling in question in general the cession had been made by Nicaragua the validity of the provisions of the treaty of representatives of Costa Rica would cer1858. This dispute was submitted to the tainly have insisted upon mentioning the arbitration of President Cleveland, who

Punta Arenas ” in the treaty, and made an award on March 22, 1888, de- similarly, if the Tauro had been intended, claring the treaty to be valid, and the old the representative of Nicaragua would or San Juan River to be the line. This certainly have insisted upon the insertion decision was accepted by both republics, of that name; but neither of these names and at their request an umpire was ap- occur in the treaty. The point which was pointed by President Cleveland to decide the extremity of the headland of Punta doubtful points during the survey of the de Castilla in 1858 has now long been boundary line. General E. P. Alexander, swept over by the Caribbean Sea, and so of North Carolina, was appointed to fill many changes have occurred in the shore this position, and the boundary line has outline that it is not now possible to lorecently been surveyed.

cate the exact spot. The arbitrator thereDuring the progress of this survey sev- fore decided that under these circumeral interesting points of difference arose stances it best fulfils the demands of the between the representatives of Nicaragua treaty and of President Cleveland's award and Costa Rica, which were decided by to adopt what is properly the Headland the arbitrator to the satisfaction of both of to-day; or the northwestern extremity parties. The first point, and a very impor- of what seems to be the solid land on the tant one, related to the point of beginning, east side of Harbour Head Lagoon; and called in the treaty “ Punta de Castilla.” the initial line of the boundary to run as The lower San Juan, after separating follows, to-wit: from the Colorado, flows toward Grey- " Its direction shall be due northeast town for a considerable distance and then and southwest, across the bank of sand, sends a small distributary to the ocean from the Caribbean Sea into the waters of called the Tauro. The main river reaches Harbour Head Lagoon. the Caribbean near Greytown, through “ It shall pass, at its nearest point, three two mouths with an insular delta between hundred (300) feet on the northwest side them.

from the small hut now standing in that Nicaragua claimed that the mouth of vicinity. the Tauro should be considered as the “On reaching the waters of Harbour mouth of the San Juan, and that the point Head Lagoon the Boundary Line shall of beginning was at the right bank of the turn to the left, or south-eastward, and mouth of this distributary, but there shall follow the water's edge around the seems to have been little basis for this Harbour, until it reaches the river proper claim.

by the first channel met. Costa Rica claimed as the starting point “Up this channel, and up the river the western extremity of the deltaic isl- proper, the line shall continue to ascend and, the base of this claim being that this as directed in the Treaty." was the right bank of the mouth of the The next point of difference was that with regard to the edge of the river, Nica- level reached in years of minimum rainragua claiming that it should be the edge fall, or other extraordinary conditions. at high water and Costa Rica claiming * 5th. Mean water; the average bethe edge at low water. Both claims were tween mean high water and mean low overruled, that of Nicaragua including water. as a portion of the river large areas of “The argument presented to me in beland covered with vegetation submerged half of Nicaragua claims that the level to at extreme high water, and Costa Rica's be adopted in this case should be the first including within her territory numerous level named, to-wit: extreme high water. islands which were connected to the land It argues that this line and this line alone by sand-bars, exposed at extreme low is the true limit of what the argument calls water. As the river was referred to in the ‘bed of the lake.' Costa Rica clainis the treaty always as a navigable stream, the adoption of the third level, to-wit: General Alexander decided the line to be mean low water. This is argued printhat indicated by the surface of the water cipally upon two grounds: First, it is at the lowest navigable stage of the river, shown by a great number of legal deciwhich is rather above the average height, sions that, in most states, all water bounthe lower river being scarcely navigable daries are invariably held to run at either at mean stages.

extreme or mean low water. Second, it The survey followed this line on the is claimed that, in case of any doubt, right bank of the river to a point three Costa Rica is entitled to its benefits, as English miles below the Castillo Viejo. she is conceding territory geographically Here the line left the river, the point be- hers. ing marked by a large concrete monu- “I will begin with Costa Rica's first ment. From here, owing to the dense argument. The equity of adopting a low tropical jungle, the line was not actually water line in the case of all water bounrun, but points upon the line were located daries is readily admitted, even though inon streams, and at other places which stances of contrary practice exist. were accessible either by boat or by land, “Between all permanent lands and and every foot of the line from Castillo permanent waters usually runs a strip of to the Pacific is located by a compromise land, sometimes dry and sometimes subof the engineers.

merged. We may call it, for short, semiAnother important point of difference submerged. Its value for ordinary purwas with regard to the definition of the poses is much diminished by its liability expression the right margin of Lake to overflow, but, as an adjunct to the perNicaragua.” The argument and award of manent land, it possesses, often, very General Alexander are as follows: great value. If the owner of the perma

“ Under the influence of rainy seasons nent land can fence across the semi-subof about seven months, and dry seasons of merged he may save fencing his entire about five, the level of Lake Nicaragua water front. He also can utilize whatis in constant fluctuation. We shall have ever agricultural value may be in the semito discuss five different stages.

submerged land in dry seasons. Both of “ ist. Extreme high water; the level these values would be destroyed and reached only in years of maximum rain- wasted if the ownerships were conferred fall, or some extraordinary conditions. upon the owner of the water. Therefore

2nd. Mean high water; the average equity always, and law generally, confers high level of average years.

it upon the owner of the permanent land. 3rd. Mean low water; the average “I recognized and followed this prinlow level of average years.

ciple in my award, No. 3, where I held " 4th. Extreme low water; the lowest that the boundary line following the right

(6

bank of the San Juan River, below Castillo, that no further words were necessary. . follows the lowest water mark of a navig- Let us first call up pictures of the lake, able stage of river. And, if now the lake at different levels, and see which seems shore were itself to be the boundary of the most natural, obvious and reasonable. Costa Rica, I would not hesitate to declare “The very effort to call up a picture of that the semi-submerged land went with the lake, at either extreme high water the permanent land and carried her limits or extreme low water, seems to me immeat least to the mean low-water line. diately to rule both of these levels out of

“But this case is not one of a water boundary; nor is it at all similar, or 'on all fours' with one, for none of the equities above set forth have any application. It is a case of rare and singular occurrence and without precedent, within my knowledge. A water line is in question, but not as a boundary. It is only to furnish starting points whence to measure off a certain strip of territory. Clearly the case stands alone, and must be governed strictly by the instrument under which it has arisen. That is the treaty of 1858; and its language is as follows:

• Thence the line shall continue towards the river Sapoa, which discharges into the Lake of Nicaragua, following a course which is distant always two miles from the right bank of the river San Juan, with its sinuosities, up to its origin at the lake, and from the right bank of the lake itself, up to the said river Sapoa, where this line parallel to the said banks will terminate.

“The principles upon which the language and intent of treaties are to be interpreted are well set forth in the Costa Rica argument by many quotations from

A. P. Davis, Chief Hydrographer, eminent authors. All concur that words

Isthmian Canal Commission. are to be taken as far as possible in their first and simplest meanings—in their natural and obvious sense, according to further consideration. Both seem unthe general use of the same words '—' in natural conditions, and I must believe the natural and reasonable sense of the that, had either been intended, additional terms '-' in the usual sense, and, not in details would have been given. any extraordinary or unused occupation.' “Next; is the mean low water mark

“We must suppose that the language the first, most obvious and natural picture of the treaty above quoted suggested to called up by the expression, the bank of its framers some very definite picture of the lake?' It seems to me decidedly not. the lake with its banks, and of the two- During about eleven months of the year mile strip of territory. It, evidently, this line is submerged, invisible and inseemed to them all so simple and obvious accessible. It seems rather a technical

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »