However, peace will still not be altered this time, despite the fact that the year 1874 begins full of peril. Caballero (1) again invades Paraguay, to whose capital our troops and ships lend protection. In Brazil they attribute this revolution to Argentine machinations.
El Nacional, of Buenos Aires, uses the same language as always: “On the day following the declaration of war there will not be a single Mitrist, Alsinist, nor Avellanedist (2). There will be only Argentines.”
In turn, the Jornal do Commercio, almost always pacifist and prudent, seems inclined to war. “The United States of the South,” it says in an annual review, “are, in their schemes, more audacious and ambitious than the United States of the North, without respect to any foreign right nor care for self-responsibility. Yesterday they robbed the weak and defenseless Eastern State of Martín García Island, key to the navigation of the rivers Paraná, Uruguay, and Paraguay; today they take control of another position no less important on these rivers, the island of Cerrito; and not satisfied with that, they wish to conquer all of Paraguay with our indirect support. Tomorrow they will not be content with these major annexations, and the victim chosen will be the Republic of Uruguay. Refusing, intentionally up to now, to set its borders with the empire, and considering themselves to be much stronger the more we are acquiescent and tolerant, they will aspire later to have claim to Mato Grosso, Rio Grande do Sul, and perhaps Santa Catarina, because at one point Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca disembarked on this island … We have been the most ardent apostles of peace, but we are beginning to feel the conviction that in the end it will be incompatible with dignity, having a neighbor who stirs up alliances against the empire, and who, despite its disorganization, does not cease to provoke conflicts over border disputes of American powers, which it calls dear brothers, such as Chile, Bolivia, and poor Paraguay. It seems to us that in South America one sees the Franco-Prussian drama reproduced. Brazil, which demolished Humaitá close to three hundred leagues from the mouth of the Río de la Plata to ensure the free navigation of its rivers, and to have free access to its province of Mato Grosso, sacrificing a hundred thousand of its sons in the inhospitable fields of Paraguay and jeopardizing the public fortune, should it see with indifference that, as rearguard, only 50 leagues from that delta, other threatening fortifications are raised on Martín García?”
But the presidential election must take place in this year. It will not end, as such, with a Brazilian war, but rather a civil war. Alsinists and Avellanedists join together against Mitre. Mitre rises up, armed against them, and is defeated at La Verde and Santa Rosa by the new federal Remingtons. In Junín, Mitre, the commander-in-chief of the allied armies, surrenders to an official still obscure, beginning his career, Commander Arias.
Mitre’s defeat left Brazil’s enemies in Argentina as owners of the field; but a revolution made at the cost of sacrificing the country’s greatest man always suffers a great weakening of force internally, and a weakening of prestige externally. Avellaneda’s election meant the vanquishing of the old Porteño party, that is, the conquest of Buenos Aires by the province. The resistance by the aristocracy, by the great capital’s culture, against the invasion of provincial elements began. In such conditions, it did not matter that Alsina was Minister of War and that Tejedor continued in his post. The new government could give a great boost to the national life, undertake and realize the “Conquest of the Desert”, complete, through emigration, the foundations of the new United States, which Sarmiento began to outline in the schools; but the very first condition of this work was to withdraw itself from foreign affairs, in the way of the United States of America. In times of activity, expansion, and internal reconstruction, the policy of foreign relations comes to be secondary. As well, the political crisis of Buenos Aires’s dominance brought with it an economic and financial crisis.
Following the first impression produced by Mitre’s fall and the national government’s transformation, Tejedor and Rio Branco returned to their negotiations on the Chaco. When Tejedor believed the terrain sufficiently prepared, he came to Rio de Janeiro in person.
This mission (1875) of the Argentine Republic Minister of Foreign Relations in Brazil seems to be Argentina’s answer to Cotegipe’s coup d’éclat. Tejedor also brought in his pocket his veni, vidi, vici, ready to be sent to Buenos Aires in the first mail, after some talks with the Brazilian negotiators. His idée fixe was the withdrawal of Brazilian troops from occupation, and the return of Cerrito; but, not managing to dissuade our representatives of the prior condition that they established, he proposed two foundations for the negotiation of borders, namely: the line of Pilcomayo with Cerrito, with Paraguay ceding Villa Occidental (as well as territory two leagues South of Villa Occidental and four leagues to the north and west), in exchange for the compensation of war that Argentina had denounced; the basis of arbitration would be the Pilcomayo boundary, the issue of Villa Occidental also being submitted to the arbiter’s decision.
The talks between Rio Branco (accompanied by the Viscount of Caravelas), Tejedor, and Sosa (3), had begun in April, and still continued when it was known that the Argentine and Paraguayan representatives had arrived at an agreement among themselves, in spite of the Brazilian representatives. Señor Tejedor left Rio de Janeiro immediately without even making farewells to the emperor. There was something in this blow reminiscent of Cotegipe’s; but, on the other hand, while something definitive had resulted from Cotegipe’s actions, Tejedor contented himself with little, executing a pact with the Paraguayan agent that had no likelihood of being ratified by the government in Asunción. In this way he obtained, if not a positive triumph, the shadow of a triumph, although his conduct with respect to the Brazilian head of state stripped this act of the chivalrous aspect that Cotegipe’s had. The triviality of the ephemeral result that Tejedor obtained increased the roughness and impropriety of its form.
Barely was the Tejedor-Sosa pact received in Asunción when it was rejected, the Paraguayan representative being dismissed. At the same time, Tejedor’s inattention towards the emperor, his hasty departure, and the doubts inspired by the Argentine government’s attitude after the treaty with Paraguay was rejected—a treaty whose failure was rightly attributed to Brazil in Buenos Aires—fueled our government’s fear, more or less ongoing since 1872, of serious complications. This issue was submitted to the Council of State in full on 11 June 1875, that is, before Tejedor published his manifesto in Buenos Aires, which arrives on the 18th, and in which he makes justifications for his note of discourtesy with the emperor of Brazil.
Here is the summoning circular, signed by the Viscount of Caravelas:
“H.M. the emperor mandates that the Council of State meet on Friday the 12th of this month, at six thirty in the evening, in the Paço de São Cristóvão.
“It will discuss the border negotiations between the Argentine Republic and Paraguay, represented by señor Don Carlos Tejedor and señor Don Jaime Sosa, respectively, Brazil’s plenipotentiaries being the Minister of Foreign Affairs and senhor Viscount of Rio Branco.
“The advancement of these negotiations and the abrupt nature of their termination are referred to in the attached memorandum, which was written to be sent to the Argentine government with a note conceived on the terms which seem best.
“The Councilors of State are invited to give their opinion on the following questions:
“1st. Should the imperial government protest the financial arrangement through which the Paraguayan plenipotentiary has ceded Villa Occidental to the Argentine Republic, in the event the government of Paraguay accepts this transaction?
“2nd. Does rejecting compensation for war, in an act separate to the border dispute, modify the nature of this transaction, legitimizing it before the treaty of alliance?
“3rd. Is the way in which Tejedor brought his mission to an end and absented the court offensive to national dignity?
“4th. If so, what satisfaction should be required?
“The gravity and urgency of these issues compels me to request of Y.E. that under no circumstances you fail to attend this meeting, even if there must be some sacrifice on your part.”
As always, with this possibility of war as well, Nabuco declares himself resolutely in favor of peace. He rejects the idea that we must protest the financial arrangement:
“Villa Occidental is a territory under dispute; Paraguay’s rights over it are in doubt, with the determination of those rights depending on arbitration and war, and it cedes this dubious right in exchange for money, not territory. If that right can be the object of arbitration, as you wish, why must it not also be object of transaction? If it can be broken off and yielded without compensation, why must this not happen with compensation? It is unjust to desire that Paraguay be left without this territory and mandated as well to make compensation for war, when through that treaty it manages to be liberated from that vexing compensation, which can be the cause of a new war and new ambitions. Inequality, regarding the solution, is born from the nature of reality, from the variety of historic, geographic, and specific circumstances. Inequality originates when other parties do not have disputed terrain on their borders; and just because they don’t have disputed terrain, must they be considered to have the right to stop others from taking advantage of theirs?”
As far as the offense Tejedor inflicted on national sentiment, Nabuco makes a distinction between the termination of negotiations and the plenipotentiary’s withdrawal. Regarding the termination of negotiations, he says: “In my mind, once the signatory parties arrived at an agreement negotiations between them and Brazil were ipso facto ended, because Brazil’s intervention, according to the November 19th agreement, was to bring them a friendly arrangement, a goal which was now obtained. When the objective of a mission is accomplished, the mission is finished.
“On this point, as such, I do not see any offense to our national dignity. Quite the contrary, Brazil would cease to respect the sovereignty of Paraguay and the Argentine Republic if it continued intervening on this issue which only concerns them. Given that Brazil made its treaties separately, it cannot be shocked that others do so, especially with border treaties.” With regards to Tejedor’s withdrawal without having requested an audience to bid the head of state farewell—and no illness or other strong reason to justify this—he believes that señor Tejedor’s offense is serious, and could be considered as sufficient cause for a break-up of relations, if indeed that assumption is not counteracted by communications from Tejedor to the ministry upon his withdrawal. And he adds: “But it does not seem to me that this act can be considered offensive to national dignity, nor do I believe that two nations should make the sacrifice of war because of a diplomat’s momentary bad mood. The ceremonies of farewell are not a matter of the law of nations, but rather are the business of courtesy and etiquette. In honor of modern governments, says Fiore (4), matters of etiquette have lost the importance that they had in another time, which on occasions came to endanger the peace of the states. Tejedor’s abrupt departure is not, as such, a case for satisfaction; however, it demands diplomatic satisfactions and should not pass unnoticed.”
As we have seen in his manifesto, Tejedor publicly explained his withdrawal, denying having the intention of offending the Brazilian court. The incident could not be carried furthered, mainly for the fact that the Tejedor-Sosa agreement was destined to not have the Paraguayan government’s approval. At the same time, the direction of Brazilian politics passed to other hands.
1. Bernardino Caballero, a Paraguayan veteran of the war, and a revolutionary in 1873 and 1874.
2. Nicolás Avellaneda was an Argentine politician and journalist. He founded the National Party in 1874, and in the same year merged this with Adolfo Alsina’s Autonomist Party to form the National Autonomist Party.
3. Jaime Sosa Escalada, Paraguayan politician and writer, and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
4. Pasquale Fiore was an Italian jurist and writer, specializing in international law.