The War of Paraguay: Chapter XXXIX, Mitre Sent to Paraguay. — Proposal of Arbitration. — Brazil’s Position.

twop-c-10This post remains available for posterity’s sake, but a much revised and much expanded version of this translation is available completely for free! The revised version includes translated footnotes, a translated appendix, an expanded introduction, and a map of disputed territory and important locations. You can download a copy in the following formats: DocxEpubMobiPDF. Or, if you want to throw some money my way, you can set your price for it on Smashwords. And it’s in the public domain!

Meanwhile, General Mitre was going to Paraguay to negotiate peace, and Brazil was being represented in these negotiations by the Baron, later Viscount, of Araguaya (1). The Argentine government did not approve of Mitre’s conciliatory approach, Mitre being content with the line of Pilcomayo and Isla del Cerrito, for which reason that general left the capital of Paraguay at the beginning of September, without having obtained anything. The Buenos Aires government’s final proposal was this: the line of Pilcomayo with Isla del Atajo (Cerrito) and arbitration regarding the Chaco, including Villa Occidental, with the status quo maintained until the verdict; or Pilcomayo and Villa Occidental, with the Argentine Republic desisting from the rest of the Chaco. But Paraguay only accepted arbitration for all of the Chaco, including from the Pilcomayo down to the Bermejo. In October of 1873, when Mitre’s negotiation was interrupted, or ruined, war between the allies was believed to be inevitable; in Argentine newspapers, the campaign which appeared at the beginning of 1872 was reborn. Brazil and Argentina armed themselves, made grand orders of Remingtons, ironclads, Krupp canons, and torpedoes. The Alsinist (2) newspapers attacked Mitre, showing him entitled to the Brazilian crown and representing him, in caricature, making a monkey dance—the monkey being the symbol for Brazil in the Argentine Republic.

Such is the situation we see reflected in the following summons for the Foreign Affairs Section of the Council of State, for which summons Nabuco was speaker (20 November 1872):

“By the 4th article of the agreement of December 19 of last year, published in December of the same year, the imperial government is obligated to effectively collaborate with its moral force towards the goal of bringing the Argentine Republic and Uruguay to a friendly arrangement with Paraguay, respecting their definitive peace treaties.

“By virtue of that commitment, the extraordinary envoy and minister plenipotentiary of H.M. the Emperor in Buenos Aires, senhor Baron of Araguaya, received instructions and powers to be transferred to Asunción, and there aid señor General Mitre, entrusted with the Argentine mission. The Argentine government seemed very satisfied with the selection of the Brazilian plenipotentiary and Brazil’s rapid cooperation.

“Señor General Mitre initiated negotiations with the Paraguayan government, without requesting Brazil’s direct involvement, and without even discovering Brazil’s thoughts on the conditions that Argentina would accept, maintaining this caution at the same time that it maintained the most courteous and agreeable relations with senhor Baron of Araguaya.

“As can be seen in the protocol of said negotiation, signed by the Argentine and Paraguayan plenipotentiaries, the Baron proposed, and so it was agreed, that before anything else they would occupy themselves with the border treaty, as this was the only issue that could present difficulties.

“The Paraguayan government’s inclinations regarding the borders of the River Paraná were well-known and clear, and, given this, the two plenipotentiaries quickly agreed to mark the course of said river as a border between the two nations. This agreement obtained, señor General Mitre did not show a great hurry to continue talks on the matter of the Chaco, and as a revolution against the Paraguayan government suddenly arose, he awaited the outcome of this conflict. The revolution was defeated, with both the Brazilian and the Argentinian minister lending the government their moral support.

“When talks resumed, an unavoidable disagreement on the matter of the Chaco arose.

“The Brazilian plenipotentiary then desiring to understand the definitive scope of Argentina’s aspirations, he held a frank and animated discussion with señor Mitre, because Mitre declared himself prepared to yield nothing in the most perilous part of the negotiations, despite the declarations the Buenos Aires government previously made upon occupying Villa Occidental, and despite what was most recently made public in a document that went to press, containing the instructions given to General Mitre himself when he came to the Court of Rio de Janeiro on diplomatic mission.

“In the Argentine instructions to which I just referred, printed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Report, one can read the following:

“‘If, to obtain or facilitate the result, it seems necessary to him to explain to our ally the Argentine government’s disposition, favorable to conceding to the Republic of Paraguay the territories recognized as theirs in the treaty of 1 May 1865, he is authorized to make that declaration in general terms, without committing it in writing, which would give it the character of an imposed condition, resulting in the benefit of Brazil and discredit to the Republic.’

“Despite the great effort made, he still offered two new solutions to move the Paraguayan government to cede all of the Chaco up to Bahía Negra. The first was that Argentina’s right to this portion of the Chaco, extending from the mouth of the Paraguay up to its tributary the Pilcomayo, be recognized as such, as a matter of course, leaving the territory to the north up to arbitration—with Villa Occidental, in the meantime, under control of the Argentine government; the second definitively resolved the issue, adopting the same line of Pilcomayo but with the addition of Villa Occidental, this being separated, to the Argentine side, by a line drawn from the Pilcomayo to the closest tributary.

“Our minister did not want to accept responsibility for this solution; with frankness, he made it known to his colleague that the solution did not seem conciliatory nor did it seem to conform with the Argentine government’s offering; but he allowed Paraguay to accept or reject it freely.

“The Paraguayan government, which, only yielding to Brazil’s advice, had resigned itself to surrendering the Chaco up to Pilcomayo, including Isla del Cerrito (whose neutrality the Argentine plenipotentiary refused to accept), did not accept that proposal.

“Even when there is no document signed by the negotiators that stands witness to this, it is known, by what General Mitre told senhor Baron of Araguaya, that he proposed to the government in Buenos Aires, as a solution to the border dispute, the withdrawal of all aspirations for territories located north of Pilcomayo. The Argentine government’s response was awaited for a long time, Mitre thinking that his proposal would be favorably received.

“But this did not happen, and the Argentine plenipotentiary presented a memorandum inspired by his government’s thoughts, returning to Buenos Aires.

“The Paraguayan government rejected the last official declarations of General Mitre and promised to respond to the memorandum at the appropriate time.

“At the same time, said Argentine plenipotentiary addressed a letter to the minister from Brazil, who hurried to answer it, in which the efficacy of collaborating with Brazil was called into question.

“These letters, the memorandum, and the provisional response given by the Paraguayan government can be found in the appendices which accompany the present summons.

“After came the examination of that outcome, an examination made with great mystery by the Argentine government, engendering rumors that were echoed in the newspapers of the Río de la Plata and Brazil. Those rumors were born principally from the Argentine government’s having held secret sessions to understand the issues that the president of the republic submitted to its consideration.

“The Argentine government criticized the indiscretion committed by the press, disseminating such rumors, and declared whoever gave publicity to what happened in the Congress traitors to the country; but it did not officially deny any of the versions that circulated, nor did it believe it necessary to give our minister in Buenos Aires explanations to dispel the suspicion that, behind those secrets, there was hidden some purpose hostile to Brazil; it did not take this step until we required it.

“Meanwhile, it was said that in those secret sessions a plan of alliance with Bolivia was discussed, and it was insinuated that the Buenos Aires government had discovered an alliance between the empire, Chile, and Paraguay against the Argentine Republic’s territorial claims.

“Those rumors attributed to Brazil were and are completely baseless, and the Brazilian government did not believe itself obliged to provide any explanation because of this, and because of, for another thing, the guarded discretion of its ally’s government.

“Finally, the Baron of Araguaya was invited to a conference that took place October 16th, in which the Minister of Foreign Relations communicated his government’s resolution to him.

“This resolution, and the manner of communicating it, feature in our minister’s record and in the note that accompanies it; both documents are attached.

“After this, senhor Baron of Araguaya, in compliance with the orders received, invited señor Tejedor to give explanations regarding the secret sessions.

“The note from the Brazilian legation and the Argentine government’s explanation are found in the final document attached.

“In view of everything explained, and considering the gravity of the issue, with the imperial government desiring to show itself faithful to its commitments without damaging its dignity nor sacrificing the legitimate and essential interests of the empire, H.M. has been kind enough to summon the sections of Justice and Foreign Affairs of the Council of State with urgency, the speaker being Councilor José Tomás Nabuco de Araújo, with the section’s report expected to serve for the Council of State’s deliberation in full, regarding the general character of the response that the imperial government should give the Argentine Republic, and especially anything that, in such a serious emergency, may occur to those councilors in their wisdom and foresight. To this end, he calls the attention of the Councilors of State mainly to the following points:

“1st. Can it be understood that the Argentine government’s note touches on Article 5 of the November 19th agreement, which says: ‘If the Republic of Paraguay does not acquiesce to an amicable agreement, Brazil and the other allies will examine the issue and arrange among themselves adequate measures to guarantee peace, defeating the difficulties presented.’

“2nd. Does the imperial government find itself obliged to comply with what was agreed in Article 6 (3) of the November 19th agreement, before the arrangements of Article 5 are executed, and regardless of the talks the allies hold in compliance with Article 5?

“3rd. Will it be best that the imperial government consent to an immediate evacuation of Paraguayan territory by H.M.’s forces, before the outstanding dispute between Argentina and Paraguay is resolved, and without even Brazil’s borders having been arranged, and the joint commission, which understands our particular claims regarding damages caused by the war, still not finished with its work?

“Should it do so in such circumstances, without, at the same time, the Argentine government evacuating Villa Occidental and promising not to occupy Isla del Cerrito, while the question of the borders of the Chaco remains undecided?

“4th. Will it be best that the imperial government, desiring that the dispute be resolved in an amicable fashion, but without damage of dignity, propose arbitration? To achieve this should it work its influence on both parties and request, with the same goal, the cooperation of the Eastern State, the third ally?

“With the Paraguayan government requesting general arbitration and the Argentine requesting partial, which of the two should Brazil choose?

“How should the imperial government proceed in the event that all conciliatory measures fail?

“Should Brazil abandon Paraguay or should it support it even at risk of provoking a war?”

The summons is signed by the Viscount of Caravelas, new Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Rio Branco cabinet.

Against this speech by Nabuco, the viscounts of Jaguari (Sousa Ramos) and Niterói (Saião Lobato) spoke, these two forming the majority of the section:

Portrait of José Ildefonso de Sousa Ramos, Viscount of Jaguari, artist unknown

“After thorough consideration of the material submitted to its examination, seeing summarized, in the points indicated by the summons and toward which H.I.M. directs the attention of his Councilors of State, all the issues that have arisen and which may arise in this most serious dispute being discussed, the Foreign Affairs Section of the Council of State dispenses with abstractions that could complicate an otherwise simple issue, and moves to respond to each of the aforementioned points in the following manner:


Can it be understood that the Argentine government’s note touches on Article 5 of the November 19th agreement, which says: ‘If the Republic of Paraguay does not acquiesce to an amicable agreement, Brazil and the other allies will examine the issue and arrange among themselves adequate measures to guarantee peace, defeating the difficulties presented.’

“This article clearly indicates when the allies should come to an understanding among themselves to guarantee the peace; said agreement should be established in the event that the Republic of Paraguay does not come forward with an agreeable solution.

“Because of this, the allies’ action begins at the moment Paraguay’s refusal manifests, or negotiations are broken between the sovereign signatory powers—namely the Argentine Republic and Paraguay.

“But in the Argentine note from 16 October 1873 there is a desire to continue the suspended negotiations and, consequently, the time for the allies’ intervention cannot yet be considered to have arrived.

“This note, referring to the latest two foundations proposed by the Argentine Republic, says:

The Argentine government believes that with either of the solutions offered on its part it has given an unequivocal demonstration of its moderation, reconciling, with arbitration especially, reciprocal rights and honor; and it wants to hope still that the imperial government, informed of everything, will dispatch to Y.E. the instructions necessary to continue negotiation regarding one foundation or the other.

“These words, regarding Brazil, doubtless do not refer to the 5th article of the agreement, but to the 4th article, that is, to the Brazil’s cooperation, since no other meaning can be attributed to the Brazilian minister attending discussions in which only the Argentine Republic and Paraguay are parties.

“They do not refer to the 5th article, dealing with the action of the allies, because Brazil is not the only ally.

“It is quite clear, however, that the instructions of which the note speaks have been motivated by the Brazilian minister’s declaration—denying having instructions to advise Paraguay to any friendly agreement which sets the border further than the Pilcomayo—and they do not refer to arbitration nor to the Argentine desires for a Villa Occidental broken off from the territory north of Pilcomayo (confidential note from the Argentine minister, 31 August 1873, and note from the Brazilian minister, 28 June and 5 September 1873.)

“Additionally, the Council of State Foreign Affairs Section considers it evident that the actions of the allies, permitted by Article 5, do not impede them from resorting to such a recourse earlier, or that, in place of this, the high signatory parties can make use of the ordinary measures of international law, such as mediation or arbitration, to resolve the existing difficulties between them.

“It is the opinion, as such, of the Foreign Affairs Section of the Council of State, that the Argentine note refers to Article 5 of the agreement, or better said, that that article cannot be referred to, because the moment for intervention by the allies has still not arrived.

“But this section considers that that moment could have arrived already, and that the action of the allies could even prevail, given the case foreseen in the 5th article of the agreement, if Brazil strictly refuses to give the instructions requested by the Argentine note to continue negotiations with our minister’s aid, in this way terminating said negotiations. However, then the responsibility assumed by Brazil would be most serious, because it would be the immediate cause of the lack of negotiations, ceasing to be its ally’s collaborator, coming to identify itself with the defeated party. It is doubtless that it would become morally incapacitated from exercising the action which Article 5 describes, since it would become, at the same time, judge and party.


Does the imperial government find itself obliged to comply with what was agreed in Article 6 of the November 19th agreement, before the arrangements of Article 5 are executed, and regardless of the talks the allies hold in compliance with Article 5?

“In view of Article 6 of the agreement, it seems evident to the Council of State Foreign Affairs section that the consequences of Paraguay not coming forward with an agreeable solution will not be the pact that the quoted article describes, but rather it will be mandatory to resort to the procedures Article 5 describes, that is, the action of the allies.

“The pact of Article 6 supposes the postponement of treaties, but not their definitive renunciation—the November 19th agreement did not foresee that possibility, nor could it, because, with Paraguay not offering a friendly agreement, and the allies having to discuss measures for insuring peace, the withdrawal of troops depended on the results of that deliberation, since the presence of troops could be enough to impose the allies’ will on Paraguay, or in other words, it could be one of the appropriate measures to guarantee peace.

“The withdrawal of troops could produce effects contrary to the proposed goal.

“Furthermore, the allies’ different manners of evaluating Article 5 engender a situation that is not foreseen in the agreement, and whose solution will depend on specific circumstances, which in this case coincide, as well as on the policy that the allies collectively adopt. As the solution is resolved, so will the withdrawal, or continuation, of the allied troops be resolved.

“In any event, with definitive treaties not existing, the allies have the right to decide if their forces will continue there or not, a right recognized in Article 6 of the November 19th agreement.

“Besides, the withdrawal of the troops cannot be demanded without having definitive treaties. This issue depends on assent between the allies and is equally obligatory for all.


Will it be best that the imperial government consent to an immediate evacuation of Paraguayan territory by H.M.’s forces, before the outstanding dispute between Argentina and Paraguay is resolved, and without even Brazil’s borders having been arranged, and the joint commission, which understands our particular claims regarding damages caused by the war, still not finished with its work?

Should it do so in such circumstances, without, at the same time, the Argentine government evacuating Villa Occidental and promising not to occupy Isla del Cerrito, while the question of the borders of the Chaco remains undecided?

“The continuation of Brazilian forces in Paraguay is related to two important points:

“Brazil’s interests.

“Brazil’s duty.

“The Foreign Affairs Section of the Council of State does not find sufficient motive to maintain troops in Paraguay, neither in the argument regarding borders nor the continuation of the joint commission’s work, for the following reasons:

“(A) Neither Paraguay nor any of the other nations raises the slightest obstacle to the delineation of borders, nor to what is claimed.

“(B) There have been claims and there are ones pending, without the support of military forces.

“(C) If such motive were bound to win out, Brazil would have to maintain troops in Paraguay forever with a great sacrifice of the public treasury, even after the definitive treaties are completed.

“But Brazil must, in the interest of the 1865 alliance’s goals and of the legal relations contracted by that alliance with the allies and Paraguay, maintain its troops in Paraguayan territory as long as the provisional state lasts in that republic, and until a definitive situation arrives.

“The continuation of Brazilian troops in Paraguay turns out to be still better justified when taking into account the goal of maintaining occupation of Villa Occidental, declared by the Argentine Republic to the minister from Brazil (communication on June 28th), with the addendum that that occupation will continue even after the allied troops are withdrawn.

“Now, the Argentine Republic has as much right to the occupation of Villa Occidental as Brazil has to the occupation of the territories that its army garrisons.

“What kind of right is this?

“It is not derived from ante bellum possession, because the possessor of Villa Occidental was Paraguay.

“Neither is it derived from the May 1st treaty, because, according to that treaty, the borders agreed upon among the allies should be definitively established by agreements with Paraguay.

“No other right exists, then, than that of war, still not sanctioned by definitive treaties of peace.

“Only on such treaties can Paraguay’s right to reoccupy its territory be founded, and the right of the Argentine Republic to acquire that which it occupies by force.

“No other aspiration is legitimate, nor would it have the slightest basis in the law of nations.

“Germany, after its war with France, did not assume sovereignty and ownership of Alsace-Lorraine upon occupying it, except by virtue of the Versailles peace treaty of 26 February 1871, and starting with the date of its ratification on March 2nd.

“International law supplies a great number of examples confirming the section’s judgment, that is, that occupation in time of war does not imply ownership, and that ownership can only be founded on peace treaties. (See Conde de Garden, vol. II, pg 291)

“As has been said, the same right that Argentina has to maintain its troops in Paraguay Brazil has as well, and there is not, then, a reason for them to retain theirs and us withdraw ours.

“On the contrary, Brazil could invoke the peace treaty with Paraguay (27 March 1872, Article 19); but it should renounce this special position, when besides it has by itself its status as ally, a position shared among the alliance, the interests of the alliance, and the agreement of 19 November 1872.


Will it be best that the imperial government, desiring that the dispute be resolved in an amicable fashion, but without damage of dignity, propose arbitration? To achieve this should it work its influence on both parties and request, with the same goal, the cooperation of the Eastern State, the third ally?

With the Paraguayan government requesting general arbitration and the Argentine requesting partial, which of the two should Brazil choose?

How should the imperial government proceed in the event that all conciliatory measures fail?

Should Brazil abandon Paraguay or should it support it even at risk of provoking a war?

Illustration of Francisco de Paula Negreiros de Saião Lobato, Viscount of Niterói, artist unknown

“To facilitate the study of solutions to this issue, the most important of all, the Foreign Affairs section of the Council of State believes it best to examine the various questions directly included in it, and others that are directly tied into them, separately:

“FIRST QUESTION. — The proposed arbitration.

“(A) Must it be general or partial?

“(B) Who will be the arbiter?

“SECOND QUESTION. — Failure of all conciliatory measures.

“(A) Indefinite status quo.

“(B) War between the Argentine Republic and Paraguay:

“I. Should Brazil support the Argentine Republic?

“II. Should it intervene in favor of Paraguay?

“FIRST QUESTION. — Arbitration.

“The section responds unwaveringly in the affirmative.

“In effect, H.I.M.’s desire that the conflict be resolved in an amicable way and without the slightest damage to dignity demands that the government recommend arbitration, employing all its influence on the parties to arrive at this method of conciliation.

“If Brazil brings about this event, by virtue of Article 4 of the agreement, the time for requesting the collaboration of the Eastern State, the third ally, will still not have arrived. This collaboration must be deferred until the collective action described in Article 5 of said agreement.

“In the aforementioned 4th article, Brazil committed itself to effectively collaborate with its moral influence on a friendly agreement.

“Arbitration is the best of the friendly measures to which, in order to resolve international conflicts, it is suitable to resort.

“To reject arbitration is to declare oneself in favor of reprisals and war.

“As such, Brazil has the duty to recommend arbitration.

“This duty Brazil has is based in a glorious precedent found in the history of our international relations.

“Arbitration, says Vattel (4), often used in the Middle Ages, has been almost disregarded in modern times.

“The author, however, references, as an exception, an event quite recent at the time of the latest edition’s publication (5), the arbitration in the Anglo-Brazilian conflict of 1863.

“That arbitration, to whose fulfillment Brazil contributed, was the first in a series, the procedure tending to become widespread from then on, with great benefit to civilization.

“So it is that both Article 4 of the 1872 agreement and the glorious precedent of 1863 oblige Brazil to work its influence in favor of the arbitration proposed by the Argentine Republic.

“If Paraguay does not count on Brazil’s blood and money to oppose the Argentine Republic, surely it will accept the only recourse that is left to it to obtain some advantage regarding the border treaty of the triple alliance.

“It is not possible, for another thing, to deny the Argentine Republic—which always maintained its right, basing it on the treaty of 1 May 1865, as a thing judged and sanctioned by victory—from making a concession to Brazilian diplomacy, submitting itself to arbitration and including in this the site of Villa Occidental which it occupies.

“(A) General vs. partial arbitration.

“General arbitration, as the Republic of Paraguay desires, deals with all of the Chaco, from the regions possessed by the Argentine Republic before the war up to Bahía Negra.

“Partial arbitration, as the Argentine Republic requests, only refers to the territory north of Pilcomayo, including in that Villa Occidental, but considering the line of Pilcomayo as an issue completely resolved.

“The section, understanding that arbitration is the best method to resolve this most serious conflict, thinks that any obstacles that may oppose this method’s realization should be cast aside.

“Because of this it stands in favor of partial arbitration, not including the line of Pilcomayo, but rather north of it up to Bahía Negra.

“Paraguay, counseled by Brazil, already accepted the line of Pilcomayo without reserve, and cannot retract this without revealing an intent to aggravate the difficulties of the situation. (Communication from the Brazilian minister in 1873)

“It is best to have it recorded that continuing the status quo during arbitration, that is, the occupation of Villa Occidental, cannot be questioned, because as the section already explained, that status quo can only be modified by definitive peace treaties. Only then will Paraguay be able to invoke its right.

“(B) Who will be the arbiter?

“This is the question on which all serious and effective arbitration is predicated.

“Because of this the idea of arbitration brings with it the selection of the United States of North America as the natural arbiter, above the issues of borders and superiority of South America.

“Any South American Republic is suspect to Paraguay or the Argentine Republic.

“Arbitration of a European power would not be received well in America, where the Monroe doctrine dominates.

“All conciliatory measures failing, the consequence will be indefinite status quo or war between the Argentine Republic and Paraguay.

“(A) Indefinite status quo.

“This is the most intricate and difficult of all situations because, given the state of passions, any day events provoking a war between the Argentine Republic and Brazil can occur.

“And even when this evil may come about by dint of prudence, it is too great a task for Brazil, needing to attend to its provinces and prosperity, to maintain a numerous army in Paraguay, and perhaps to sustain its bureaucracy, employing all its forces in giving the appearance of life to a nationality that can only live by the protection and resources of the empire.

“Now, out of all the possibilities, the most probable is an indefinite status quo.

“So says the note from Minister Tejedor (3 November 1873):

Prepared, as the Argentine government is, to limit itself to the execution of the rest of the November 19th agreement, and to await, through the passage of time and events, the sanctioning of its right …

“Whoever does not see that this “time” and these “events,” through which the Argentine Republic awaits the sanctioning of its right, can only be the political changes which may occur in the Paraguayan government, sees very little.

“The presence of Brazilian troops in Paraguay impedes these changes.

“To this end, General Mitre’s words are noteworthy, recorded in our minister’s memorandum on 28 November 1873:

Brazil will support all the problems and all the burdens of that occupation, while Argentina will become owner of that territory which belongs to it.

“What measures must put an end to the indefinite status quo which burdens our treasury, keeps Brazil panicked, and engenders reciprocal mistrust of the two nations?

“To end the Argentine occupation—a legitimate occupation, because it is based on the state of war, still unchanged with definitive treaties—will it be necessary to resort to force?

“Will it be necessary to impose on the Argentine Republic, by arms, a modification of the treaty of the triple alliance, which Brazil signed and guaranteed? Pronouncing the idea is enough to reject it.

“The only means of putting an end to the status quo is the definitive peace treaties required by Article 16 of the triple alliance.

“Brazil must promote such treaties, committing all its influence to the realization of arbitration.

“(B) War or reprisals by the Argentine Republic against Paraguay.

“Paraguay refusing to accept the borders proposed by Argentina, or arbitration requested by it, there is no doubt that Argentina has the right to continue the war begun by the alliance, or to undertake a new campaign. The right of war is inherent to the sovereignty of nations.

“The Argentine Republic not having a higher power, or a judge on Earth, no other recourse is left to it to defend its neglected and damaged claims than that of its own forces, that is, that of administrating justice by itself.

“Brazil would not have anything to say against the justice of a war, waged in defense of borders permitted as foundations in the treaty of alliance.

“I. Brazilian guarantee in favor of the Argentine Republic.

“That guarantee is stipulated in the triple alliance treaty.

“The reciprocal guarantee of the particular treaties that each of the allies may complete with the common enemy is a clause found in all treaties of alliance.

“And it was not lacking in the treaty of 1865. It is not desirable, however, to see this clause in Article 17, claiming that the guarantee which that article describes is ex post facto, meaning, only imposed on treaties after they have been executed, and not obligated to the process of execution.

“So then; supposing, but in no way conceding that this may be so, said guarantee is virtually implicit, contained in these words of Article 16: The allies will demand of the government of Paraguay.

“See here collective action and with it the measures to make it effective. (See Article 5 of the treaty.) What is demanding, if not requesting with authority and by force?

Ce qui découle des termes précis de l’engagement comme une conséquence nécessaire, peut être exigé comme y étant compris tacitement. (6)

“This is the interpretation given by Heffter and by all authors.

Should Brazil, however, aid the Argentine Republic in the event of a war with Paraguay?

“The section believes not.

“Comparing the forces of the Argentine Republic with those of Paraguay, one does not see the need for such aid; it would be a true luxury. The guarantor ally is not obliged, according to the principals of international law, to give its aid when the guaranteed can achieve justice by itself. (C. de Garden, 1st vol., pag. 634; — Dalloz, no. 175; Vattel, § 237.)

“II. Brazilian Intervention in favor of Paraguay.

“That intervention would implicate the break-up of the alliance and would be, besides, unjust and dishonorable.

“It would be unjust and dishonorable because as tenaciously as the Argentine Republic may insist on demanding its borders be extended up to Bahía Negra, it is certain that Brazil recognized the legitimacy of those interests in the treaty of the triple alliance, and committed itself to demand their satisfaction; and it could not, as such, join itself to the enemy today to antagonize its ally of yesterday, precisely because that ally desires what was conceded to it by the alliance.

“The force of law, the letter of the treaty, are in favor of the Argentine Republic.

“Those borders in the triple alliance treaty were not definitive for Paraguay, which must be heard regarding them, but they are an agreement which the allies acquired between themselves: the allies will demand that the government or Paraguay fulfill, with the respective governments, definitive border treaties on the following foundations …

“Said foundations are, for the allies, so many other agreements.

“Brazil can and should impose its influence to obtain from the Argentine Republic concessions in favor of Paraguay, but reserving the intent, in extreme cases, of guaranteeing the borders established in the treaty it signed.

“To reject, however, those borders it recognized, to undertake a war against them, is not just, it is not honest.

“Neither can it be said that this border dispute affects the independence of Paraguay and the dignity of Brazil, when such borders are enshrined in a treaty signed by Brazil.

“The only solution to this complicated problem is arbitration.

“The section believes that the true path, the path conforming to the present reality, is that which leads to arbitration, and which must make Paraguay understand that, in the event of war with the Argentine Republic, it should not count on Brazilian intervention. In this way Paraguay will not be led into error, including imperial support in its calculations of resistance.

“The section also insists that Brazilian intervention has, by the force of circumstances, the appearance of an odious protectorate over America.”


“In the event of war between the Argentine Republic and Paraguay, Brazil should remain neutral, without straying an inch from this norm of conduct, as long as the event of an attack on the independence, sovereignty, and integrity of Paraguay does not arrive. (Articles 8 and 9 of the alliance, agreement of 19 November 1872.)”

Ever since the issue of treaties signed by Cotegipe was planted, the principal proponent of peace was Nabuco. If, instead, he had inflamed the bellicose tendencies of the other influential Councilors of State, dragging the Liberal Party with him toward the reckless policy of the government, of the Council of State, and of the ministerial press, only a little more would’ve sufficed to start a war with the Argentine Republic.

“War is a great evil,” the Viscount of Jaguari’s speech says, concluding. “But as Brazil should attend, whatever the cost, to its dignity and the rights of the victor, no worse-founded than those of Argentina, it is necessary to resign itself to the circumstances.”

“The result of such heroic efforts and such immense sacrifices of blood and money as Brazil has made,” said another member of the section, the Viscount of Niterói, “cannot be, it must not be this. And never can apathetic resignation before Argentina’s reckless and insolent arrogance avoid the war the confederation desires, animated by ambitious plans.”

When there were discussions of such passion in the tranquil bosom of the Council of State session, one can calculate the effect that, in the popular masses, the union of the Liberal Party with the Conservative Party would’ve produced, joining in order to proceed with the policy, on the question of the Chaco, of protecting Paraguay against war.

The full fight in the Council of State was even more fiery, a fight in which Nabuco said, maintaining his ruling: “I fear, senhor, a war that is unpopular and unjustified in the eyes of the people, a war in which we do not go to fight for the honor of the country, but rather for a dispute over foreign borders. I fear, senhor, war, because our victory can be unfaithful, and a defeat would jeopardize our political institutions. I fear the difficulties which mobilization in Brazil presents, and that we may not gather enough people for the needs of the war, since it is well known that the theater and circumstances of this war will be different than those of the Paraguayan campaign, which gave us time to gather soldiers. I fear, finally, that even after victory is obtained, we may be powerless to stop events which naturally occur, as is the way of the world, such as the unification of races or languages. We will shed all our blood and all our money, and not ensure that Paraguay is a nation capable of balancing against the Argentine Republic’s dominance, which is to say that we alone would have to serve as counterweight to the political influence in the Río de la Plata. I conclude responding to the Latin quote introduced by senhor Viscount of Niterói (i)  with this sacred Maxim of the Romans: Etiam hosti fides servando.” (7)


i. Summum crede nefas animam præferre pudori, / Et propter vitam vivendi perdere causas.

Translator’s Notes

1. Domingos José Gonçalves de Magalhães, Viscount of Araguaya, was a Brazilian diplomat and writer, among other things.
2. Adolfo Alsina was the leader of the Autonomist Party, which supported the rights of local governments, in opposition to the powerful central government.
3. Article 6 stated that the allies would withdraw their troops from Paraguay three months after definitive peace treaties were signed, or earlier if both allies agreed to do so. If, six months after 19 November 1872, such treaties were deferred, still not signed, the allies would set a “reasonable deadline” for a withdrawal.
4. Emer de Vattel, an 18th-century European international lawyer, author of The Law of Nations [Le droit des gens].
5. Likely the 1863 French edition, translated by Sir J. Mackintosh, with contemporary commentary by Paul Pradier-Fodéré, the “author” referred to.
6. “What follows, as a necessary consequence, from the exact terms of the covenant may be demanded, being tacitly understood.”
7. “Faith must be kept even to the enemy.”

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