The United States was always very interested in the events related to the emancipation of the Hispanic American nations. The diplomatic correspondence between American agents and special envoys with the Department of State offers invaluable historical material, which can enrich even more the knowledge and understanding of the events that brought the Hispanic nations to their independence. This correspondence can, therefore, provide us specific information about Chile and Bolivia when they established themselves as independent States.

When referring to the problem of the boundaries between Chile and Bolivia, the documentation and historical writings of Chilean authors generally begin with the foundation of Bolivia in 1825, or in 1842 when Chile created the province of Atacama, to which it planned to attach the territories of the Bolivian Littoral. These authors affirm in a large measure that Bolivia, upon its foundation on, August 6. 1825, had neither port nor seacoast, and that the Heroes Simón Bolívar and Jose Antonio de Sucre had intended to correct this anomaly by creating ports on Chilean territory; and that Chilean authorities , due to different circumstances, did not complain, and passively permitted the creation of the Bolivian "Littoral" on its own territory. (1)

The Chilean authors sought out references and mention , some colonial documents prior to 1810 to confirm that the "Upper Peru" or the "Audiencia de Charcas" always had a land-locked character, while the coast of Atacama would be under the "Kingdom of Chile." These authors generally skip from 1810 to 1825 - the year of the foundation of Bolivia.

Many Bolivian historians have written in this regard, making exhaustive reference to the Spanish crown documentation and the respective viceroyalties, as well as to the religious documentation of the Vatican. Studies have also been made on the sovereign administration of the Bolivian province of Atacama, after the declaration of Bolivia's independence in 1825. (2)

From the analysis of these studies undertaken by Chileans and Bolivians it may he noted that the phenomena coincide during the two periods: colonial domination prior to 1810, and the republican administration after 1825. Therefore, the period between 1810 and 1825 is still pending. Furthermore, there are no precise references to the documentation related to Chile's foundation in 1818. Consequently, this chapter attempts to help fill in this historical gap, with the help of the United States diplomatic correspondence. (3)


Reports from Commissioner Joel R. Pointsett

The emancipation of the American nations began with patriotic movements that started openly in 1809 and were extended throughout the entire hemisphere during the year 1810. On June 28th, the Department of State commissioner Mr. Joel R. Pointsett, resident of the state of South Carolina, to travel as plenipotentiary agent to Mexico and South America for the purpose of obtaining pertinent information on the characteristics and conditions of the Spanish colonies, as well as on the political events related to the independence. Mr. Pointsett accomplished his duties over many years, and during that period he also became Consul in Buenos Aires.

Years later, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams addressed a note to Pointsett dated October 23, 1818, instructing him to present a detailed report to the President of the United States, including also a description of the newly founded American republics.

Commissioner Pointsett forwarded his report, prepared in South Carolina on November 4, 1818, largely comprising the details and events of the emancipation. In this report, Pointsett describes Chile in the following manner:

"The kingdom of Chili is comprised within the narrow strip of land which extends east and west from the summit of the Cordilleras de los Andes to the Pacific Ocean, and stretches along the coast north and south, from the river Salado and the desert of Atacama to the Straits of Magellan."

And referring to Chilean territory in more detail, Commissioner Pointsett writes:

"The distance from the Cordilleras to the Pacific Ocean is thirty leagues, between the latitudes of 25 degrees and 36 degrees south; and 40 leagues, between 36 degrees and 43 degrees south. The country comprised between the 25th and 43rd degrees of south latitude may be considered the length of the kingdom of Chili, it being unsettled, and even unexplored, farther south.

From the Cordilleras de los Andes to the Pacific, the inclination is so great, that all the rivers flow with the rapidity of torrents, and are therefore not navigable. They serve to irrigate the valleys, and render them the most fertile in the world. The climate makes this method of cultivation absolutely necessary; for from the Salado to the Itata, that is, from 25 degrees to 36 degrees of south latitude, not a cloud is to be seen above the horizon from the month of November to the month of May."

Mr. Pointsett further describes the organization of the Catholic Church, which had a structure similar to that of the colonial administration system, and mentions:

"There were two Bishops in Chili: that of Santiago comprehended the territory from the river Salado to the Maule; and the bishopric of Conception included the country from the Maule to the island of Chiloe. The presidency was divided subdelegate. Copiapo, the most northern was the first conquered by the Peruvians, under the Incas, who extended themselves subsequently to the bank of the Maule."

In another section of this report, Commissioner Pointsett describes the "Viceroyalty of La Plata." of which the provinces of the Alto Peru were components. And upon explaining the formation and extension of this viceroyalty, the American envoy says:

"Buenos Aires was at first annexed to the Government of Paraguay, and afterwards made dependent upon the Viceroyalty of Lima and the Audiencia of Charcas. In the year 1776 the provinces of Buenos Aires, Paraguay, and Cuyo were united under the government of a viceroy. In 1778 the provinces of Upper Peru were added to the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires. It extended on the north to the frontiers of the Brazils, and to the Viceroyalty of Lima, where it bounded on the provinces of Carabaya, Cuzco and Chucuito, and westward on the river Desaguadero and the province of Arica. It included the district of Atacama, which extends along the Pacific ocean from Arica to the desert of Atacama. On the west it was separated from Chili by the Cordilleras de los Andes, and extended south to the Straits of Magellan. By decree of 1778 this Viceroyalty was divided into eight intendancies each intendancy was subdivides into partidos or districts."

Mr. Pointsett shows very clearly that the Viceroyalty of La Plata did have access to the Pacific Ocean, and that this access went precisely through the district of Atacama, located in one of the Upper Peru intendancies. When referring to the characteristics of these intendancies, Pointsett states:

"The intendancy of Potosí extends on the north to the districts of Yamparaes and Tomina in Charcas; south to the district of Jujuy, en Salta; it reaches west to the Pacific Ocean, and is bounded on the east by Cochabamba. The districts of this intendancy are Porco, Chayanta, Chicas, Tarija, Lipes and Atacama, which last separated from the province of Arica by the river Loa, and from Chili by the desert of Atacama. The precious metals constitute the principal export from this intendancy."

For Mr. Pointsett, the boundaries between Chile and Upper Peru were clearly established, and the coast of Atacama was a possession of the intendancy of Potosí and not of the kingdom of Chile.

Reports of Commissioner Theodorick Bland

On July 1, 1817, the interim Secretary of State, Mr. Richard Rush, instructed Commissioners Cesar A. Rodney and John Graham to report on the conditions of the colonies and to verify whether they would or would not be able to constitute themselves as republics. According to a note dated November 21, 1817, Mr. Theodorick Bland was appointed to this task.

The letter of instruction addressed to the three Commissioners read as follows:

"Several of the colonies having declared their independence and enjoyed it for some years, and the authority of Spain being shaken in others, it seems probable that, if the parties be left to themselves, the most permanent political change will be effected. It therefore seems incumbent on the United States to watch the movement in these subsequent steps with particular attention, with a view pursue such course as a just regard for all those considerations which they are bound to respect may dictate.

Under these impressions, the President deems it a duty to obtain, in a manner more comprehensive that has heretofore been done, correct information of the actual state of affairs in those colonies. For this purpose he has appointed you commissioners, with authority to proceed, In a public ship, along the coast of South America, touching at the points where it is probable that the most precise and ample knowledge may be gained."

In another section, the instructions specified the type of information and documents required, in the following manner:

"In the different provinces or towns which you visit, your attention will be usefully, if not primarily, drawn to the following objects.

l. The form of government established, with the amount of population and pecuniary resources and the state and proportion as to numbers, intelligence and wealth of the contending parties, wherever a contest exists.

2. The extent and organization of the military force on each side, with the means open to each of keeping it up.

3. The names and characters of leading men, whether in civil life or as military chiefs, whose conduct and opinions shed an influence upon events.

4. The dispositions that prevail among the public authorities and people towards the United States and towards the great nations of Europe, with the probability of commercial or other connections being on foot, or desired, with either.

5. The principal articles of commerce, regarding the export and import trade. What articles from the United States find the best market? What prices do their productions, most useful in the United States, usually bear? The duties on exports and imports; are all nations charged the same?

6. The principal ports and harbors, with the works of defense.

7. The real prospect, so far as seems justly inferable from existing events and the operation of causes as well moral as physical in all the provinces where a struggle is going on, of the final and permanent issue.

8. The probable durability of the governments that have already been established with their credit, and the extent of their authority, in relation to adjoining provinces. This remark will be especially applicable to Buenos Aires. If there be any reason to think that the government established there is not likely to be permanent as to which no option is here expressed, it will become desirable to ascertain the probable character and policy of that which is expected to succeed it."

Late in 1817 and early in 1818, Commissioner Bland presented a questionnaire based on these points to the Governments of Chile and Buenos Aires, and at the same time, carried out complementary interviews with the respective authorities. Commissioner Bland forwarded an extensive and very comprehensive report dated November 2, 1818, in Baltimore, with the results of his appointment, to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams; i.e., two days before Mr. Pointsett's report. The coincidence of the information contained in these two reports is remarkable, since both Commissioners were in Latin America at different periods, interviewed different authorities and finally, wrote their reports in different states: South Carolina and Maryland."

Furthermore, Commissioner Bland describes Chile in the following manner:

"The long mountainous territory of Chili commences on the Pacific at the mouth of the Rio Salado; thence, ascending that river, and extending away from it toward Paquil by a line in the northeasterly direction, over a portion of the frightful desert of Atacama beyond the 24th degree of south latitude, until it intersects the great chain of the Andes covered with perpetual snows; thence, turning directly south, and taking for its boundary the summit of the most elevated Cordillera, and continuing along it south, embracing what is sometimes called New Chili, or the land of Magellan, until it reaches the strait of the same name; thence, returning by a coast of more than two thousand miles in extent, indented by numerous bays and harbors, along which are found the mouths of about thirty-five rivers, which, after irrigating some of the most productive valleys on earth, pour the melted snows of the Andes into the Pacific."

In his letter, Commissioner Bland refers specifically to the northem extreme of Chile as follows:

"The northern seaport of Chili is Copiapo. It is situated immediately at the mouth of the river of the same name. The harbor affords good anchorage, is easy of access for vessels of any size, and is safe from the northerly and southerly winds' The country round Copiapo is the least productive of any in Chili; indeed, it may, in some respects, be considered as barren . .. . .

The entire length of the state, from the straits of Chacao to the river Salado, may be estimated at about nine hundred miles; and from the brow of the Andes to the shore of the Pacific, it cannot be fairly estimated at more than one hundred and forty miles in width, on an average."

In his report to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Commissioner Bland refers to Atacama, reconfirming the northern boundary of Chile, saying:

"The desert of Atacama may be said to commence in Chili, almost immediately after crossing the river Salado, the northern boundary of the state, is a distance of fifty miles; thence to the town of Atacama, in the Viceroyalty of Peru, is a distance of nearly three hundred miles, by the way of the coast, and the road passes wholly over a dry, sandy plain, where the traveler meets no living thing either of the vegetable or animal kingdom; and losing sight of every other guide, his way is often only to be directed by the bleached bones of mules which have perished in attempting to force a passage over that terrible waste."


In another section of his report, Mr. Bland refers to the boundaries between Chile and Upper Peru and to the fact that Cobija and the port of Atacama were a part of Upper Peru, as follows:

"The port of Cobija, situated about three hundred miles south of Arica, on the Rio Salado, and two hundred and sixty miles beyond the river of the same name, which is the northern boundary of Chili, was also remarkable as another of the ports whence some of the precious metals of the mines to the eastward of it got abroad. Commerce naturally and inevitably seeks and adopts its best interests and greatest conveniences, unless dragged away from them by a master as inconsiderate and arbitrary as a Spanish viceroy. It is, therefore, reasonable to presume that the commerce of Potosí, and the provinces around it, will, under any future peaceful condition of them, be suffered to follow as much or rather more of their own interests than they have done heretofore; if so, a view of their geographical situation will clearly show in what direction those interests will lead."


With regard to the importance of Arica and the Pacific Coast to Upper Peru, Bland said:

"The distance from the port of Arica to the city of Potosí is one hundred and twenty miles; thence to La Plata or Chuquisaca it is fifty miles farther; but from Potosí to Jujuy, on the direct road to Buenos Aires, the distance is four hundred and forty-seven miles; and thence, by a cart road, to the city of Buenos Aires, it is twelve hundred miles farther. From the port of Arica to the city of Cotagayta, one of the principal cities of Chichas, a rich mining province, still farther south that Potosí, it is one hundred and ninety-two miles; and thence to Jujuy it is two hundred and fifty-five miles. And again, from the port of Cobija to Potosí it is only two hundred and fifty miles, and from the same port to Cotagayta it is two hundred and twenty miles farther. It must he recollected, however, that all the roads of the country of which I am speaking, from the seacoast as far east as the city of Jujuy, are only practicable for mules; but they are, by every one, allowed to be as good from the coast to Potosí, and the other middle valleys or the Andes, as they are thence to Jujuy at the eastern foot of them. Hence, it will appear that the natural and most convenient port, for almost all the rich and rugged provinces lying among the mountains, are those on the coast of the Pacific."

Commissioner Bland prepared his report on the basis of the reply he obtained to his questionnaire presented to the authorities of Chile and Buenos Aires. The Chilean Minister, Antonio Jose Irisarri, was the one charged with presenting, in written form, Chile's replies to the questionnaire, which were forwarded to the Department of State as an annex to Mr. Bland's report dated November 2, 1818. (6)

For Commissioner Bland, the northernmost boundaries of Chile did not go further than Copiapo, and as in the case of Pointsett's report, it was indicated that Upper Peru's provinces had access to the Pacific through Cobija and Arica; Cobija being the port of Atacama, in the intendancy of Potosí. For Chilean authorities, there was then no doubt about the territories located north of the river Salado, since for them, these remained outside the jurisdiction of Chile, whose northernmost boundary did no reach further than Copiapo.


Report of Special Agent W.C.D. Worthington

Mr. W.C.D. Worthington was appointed in Chile during the same period as Commissioner Bland, with instruction to represent the United States as a special agent and to assist commissioner Bland in obtaining the necessary information.

At the request of the American agent to gain knowledge regarding the boundaries of Chile, Mr. Miguel Zañartu, Minister of State of the newly founded Republic of Chile, sent Mr. Worthington the following note dated April 20 1818, which describes the position of the Chilean Government with regard to their boundaries. Minister Zañartu stated:

"This delicious region of the New World according to Guthrie, contains 206,000 square miles -- according to Molina between the latitudes of 24 degree and 45 degree there are 120,000 leagues -- but taking it from 27 degree to the 4lst degree which is the Population subject to this Government of this Kingdom and which comprehends, Chiloe, contains but 12,400 square leagues."

The reference that the American envoy makes to Frazier is in regard to the report that was sent by the "ordinary engineer of the king to His Majesty King Louis IUV of France, after his voyage to the coasts of the south seas in Chile and Peru. (7)

In another section of his report of July 4, 1818, Mr. Worthington refers to the characteristics of the new political groupings that emerged from the struggle for independence. Upon mentioning the existence of the political parties, he says that "one is probably directed by Mr. Bernardo O'Higgins, Supreme Director of Chile, who dominates from Copiapo to the positions of the Patriots of Talca, and from the peaks of the Andes, oriental boundary of Chile, to the waters of the Pacific Ocean, which is its occidental boundary." The other party, referring to the group that followed the Carreras brothers, he said "was invisible and that, besides extraordinary or very special periods, he was intangible." (8) In this reference to the action of the political parties, it can be notably appreciated that the American envoy implicitly points out that the political Chilean hegemony practiced by Director O'Higgins, was instituted from Copiapo to the south. in other words, the northernmost boundary of Chile was Copiapo.


O'Higgins was Familiar with the Boundaries of Chile

It was pointed out previously that the Chilean Ministers of Foreign Affairs had explicitly referred to the boundaries of Chile in 1818, locating this country to the south of the river Salado. Two years later, the great hero and then Supreme Director of Chile, Bernardo O'Higgins, in a letter addressed to American President James Monroe, makes indirect, reference to those limits:

"I flatter myself that I may show to your Excellency the forthcoming epoch in Chile of liberty, quiet, public contentment and Constitution. From Viovio to Copiapo not a single foreign enemy treads our soil."

For O'Higgins, Chile was in 1820 free from the Spanish domination and reached as far as Copiapo, while at that time Upper Peru continued to be under Spanish domination, which lasted until 1825. The Supreme Director of Chile and his ministers did know well the boundaries of Chile and did not dispute from the Upper Peru the possession of the "Littoral" of Atacama. In other words, neither Bolívar nor Sucre created any port for Bolivia on territories that supposedly belonged to Chile.

It is useful to recall that upon arrival to Upper Peruvian territory, General Jose Antonio de Sucre enacted, the famous decree of February 9, 1825, calling upon the Upper Peruvian towns to send their representatives to a convention, where they will meet and discuss their own future. Sucre's decree stipulated: three deputies for representing Potosí, Chayanta, Porco, Chichas and one each for Atacama and Lipez."

The population of Atacama sent their representative to the Assembly convened by Marshall Sucre, which began to session in Chuquisaca in July 1825. Since then, the Atacama's representative participated in the Bolivian Congress as member of Potosí's delegation, until Atacama's district was upgrade to department level few years later.

Atacama never sent a representative to the Chilean Congress when that country tried to achieve its independence or was constituted as a Republic in 1818. This contrasts, however, with the fact that two deputies from Copiapo, located at the northernmost extreme of Chile, did indeed attend the Chilean legislature in 1819.


Correspondence at the Inception of Republican Life

Since the beginnings of Republican life in Chile, the United States kept a Legation in Santiago, which on a permanent basis sent political and economic information on Chile's relationships with other countries, particularly their neighbors. In the case of Bolivia, the United States recognition came only in 1848, when the government designated Mr. John Appelton as the first Charge D'Affairs for Bolivia. However, the United States had previously recognized in 1838 the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, twelve years after having recognized the Peruvian Republic. It was through the American Legation in Lima that the Department of State in Washington received the information of the independence of Bolivia.

The correspondence of American ministers in Lima also shows the Bolivian sovereignty over the Pacific Ocean and the use of Cobija as the principal port of Bolivia. During the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, the American Minister in Lima established a Consulate in Cobija.

In 1844, the American Minister in Santiago reported on the launching of a Peace Treaty between Spain and Chile, in which it was established that the Spanish Monarchy recognized the independence of the Republic of Chile on the territory that extended "from the Desert of Atacama until the Cabo de Hornos.(9)

In 1836, the ministers and consuls in Santiago and Lima reported on the establishment of a navigation company under the administration of an American citizen, Mr. William Wheelwright, to operate between the coasts of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Panama. The company, Pacific Steam Navigation, was authorized to operate on the coasts of Bolivia by decree signed by Marshall Andrés Santa Cruz.

It is worthwhile to mention that during this period, the explorer and scientist Charles Darwin visited the coast of the South American Pacific, and he informs us in The Voyage of the Beagle that he explored the north of Chile, in the zone of Copiapo, accompanied by Chilean guide Mariano González, whom he left behind when departing on the evening of July 4, 1833. The Beagle weighed anchor at dawn on July 5, destined for Peru.

Mr. Wheelwright, upon establishing the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, and the Beagle in exploring the Pacific Coast, used navigation sea charts drawn by Captain FritzRoy of the British Navy, which showed Bolivian sovereignty over Cobija and the "Littoral" of Atacama. (10)

The United States and Bolivia signed on May 13, 1858, a Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Treaty in the city of La Paz. This treaty was signed on behalf of the United States by John W, Dana, and by the Bolivian Minister of Foreign Relations, Lucas M. de la Tapia. This treaty comprises 36 articles, of which 22 refer to navigation and trade. It is worthwhile to point out that Articles 4 and 8 of this treaty clearly demonstrate international recognition of Bolivian sovereignty over its coasts on the Littoral of Atacama.

To complement the information of American envoys which demonstrates the sovereignty of Bolivia over its littoral, we can also mention a dispatch dated November 1868, in which the American Minister in La Paz, Mr. Caldwell, describes the concession of the Government of Melgarejo to a group of American citizens headed by Mr. R. Brown, to construct a railroad from Cobija to Potosí. Years later, in 1870, the American vice-consul in La Paz, Mr. Rant, wrote in a dispatch that the American citizen Henry Meiggs had obtained a contract for the purchase and commercialization of all the Bolivian guano located between the 23rd and 25th degrees south latitude. This commercial arrangement was made through a credit granted to the Bolivian government. Prior to this operation, Mr. Meiggs had established a Bolivian bank, which was sold years later to the Banco Nacional de Bolivia established in Cobija. Finally, it is also noteworthy that a dispatch sent in 1872 showed that H. Meiggs had received authorization to build a railroad from the port of Mejillones to the Caracoles mines, located in the Department of "Litoral."


US Navy visit Bolivian Seacoast

The government of the United States observed with great interest political and diplomatic events that occurred in the Hispanic colonies which tried to gain their independence from Spain, and the United States assigned its Navy to study and report periodically with regard to this situation, as well as to protect the interests of US citizens and to guarantee free trade in the region. In order to comply with this assignment, the American Navy organized the "Pacific Squadron" which was responsible for navigating and guarding the coasts from Guayaquil to Valparaiso from 1817 until 1825. (11)

The United States Navy, further to the declaration of independence of these countries, continued to send her ships to the South American coasts for a variety of reasons. While some of the officers completed research programs on the characteristics of the coasts, bays and ports of the new nations that rose in the south of the hemisphere, other officers explored and studied navigation conditions in the enormous net of rivers belonging to the River Plate, Amazonas and Orinoco basins. Results of those activities were presented by the Navy to the American Congress through the President, since they were financed with federal funds.

The diaries of the United States Naval officers and their subordinates testified to the sovereign and indisputable access that Bolivia had to the Pacific Ocean. For example, officer Stephan C. Rowan mentions in his diary that in 1825 he visited Bolivia, saying: 'This country is so remote to the United States as Tibet, except for the occasional visits of the Navy to the small port of Cobija, in the deserted coast of said country." (12)

From the collection of reports written by the American Sailors, three are particularly outstanding, since they have direct reference to the maritime sovereignty exercised by Bolivia: these are the reports of Lieutenant Ruschemberger (l834), Lieutenants Herndon and Gibbon (1853). and Lieutenant J. M. Gillis (1855).


Report from Lieutenant Ruschemberger

Lt. Ruschemberger undertook an extensive voyage between 1831 and 1834 throughout the continent, notably to Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. In his report in the section entitled "News on Bolivia" Ruschemberger organizes the material in two chapters. The first one describes in detail his impressions of the Bolivian littoral and provides the characteristics of Cobija and the neighboring zones; in the second chapter he presents a brief resume of the historic and political background of Bolivia during the period 1825 when Independence was declared to 1831.

But let us allow Lt. Ruschemberger to tell us his impression on the Bolivian littoral once he weighed anchors in arrival from Coquimbo, Chile, on September 5, 1832, on board the ship, U.S. Falmouth:

"The bay (Mejillones) has been frequently examined, with a view of making it the port of Bolivia, but the idea has been as frequently abandoned, from the want of water there is a small stream about twenty leagues from it, which it is said, might be brought here."

On Cobija, the American marine says:

"The latitude of Cobija is 22 degrees 30 minutes south. It is the only port of the Republic of Bolivia; whose limited coast, extending from 21 degrees 30' minutes south to 25 degrees south, does not afford any site so convenient as this. It is placed in the desert of Atacama, one hundred and fifty leagues from Chuquisaca, the present capital; three hundred from La Paz, the former capital, and a hundred and fifty from the far famed Potosí, and not less than seventy leagues from any well cultivated lands. It was declared to be the Port of Bolivia in 1827, but from the scarcity of water and provisions, and from the interruption which we trade received from the war with Peru, very few vessels entered it before 1829, since which time the place has increased to a population of between six and seven hundred persons, including the miners in the immediate vicinity -- and from the number of new buildings going up, we should draw very favorable conclusions relative to its prosperity."

In another section of his report, Lt. Ruschemberger states:

"The roadster of Cobija is formed by a short low point of rough jagged rocks, on which stand the flag-staff, and a fortress mounting six long guns. The anchorage, though secure. and at a short distance from the shore, is not good. Vessels, in "heaving up," frequently part their cables, or break their anchors. About six miles to the northward is another rocky point, behind which vessels that load with copper ore from the neighboring mine lie, though not very comfortably. This spot is called Gatica (Gatico)."

Regarding Peru, Lt. Ruschemberger describes his arrival at the port of Arica on September 19,1832, and describes his visits to the region, including the valleys of Tacna and Azapa. After relating his impressions on the quality of the anchorage of the port and the characteristics of the village of Arica, the American marine refers to the relation of this port to Bolivia in the following manner:

"Prior to the birth of the Republic of Bolivia, all the trade with that country known then as the Alto-Peru passed through Arica; but since the opening of Cobija, the commerce has diminished in proportion as it advances in the latter place. The prosperity of Arica depended very much on that trade, which the policy pursued by the government of Peru has lost. All goods intended for the Bolivian market are charged according to their class, with a transit duty of five, ten, and fifteen percent; but as they can now be introduced directly through Cobija, at the same or less rates, Arica is ruined. The population of the valley is too small to create a demand sufficiently great to maintain wholesale dealers: consequently, very few vessels touch in the port. "(13)



Herndon and Gibbon Explorations

Lieutenant Herndon arrived in Valparaiso in August 1850 on board the frigate Vandalia, in search of the ex-President of Bolivia, General Jose Ballivian, living then in that Chilean city, to consult with him regarding a naval exploration mission to the rivers of the Amazon basin. The Bolivian ex-president was extremely cooperative, and encouraged him to go ahead with the exploration of the rivers of the Amazon basin. Lt. Lewis Herndon proceeded then to explore the upper end of the rivers located in the Peruvian Amazon, and gave Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon instructions to explore the area of the Mamoré and Madera rivers, located in Bolivian territory. (14), Upon completing his assignment, Lt. Gibbon made a map of Bolivia which shows the navigable system of the Bolivian rivers of the Amazon basin and also of the Bolivian maritime littoral. This map was presents to the Congress of the United States in 1845 as an annex to the report on these explorations, and it shows very clearly the coast of Atacama as under the indisputable sovereignty of Bolivia.


The Astronomic Expedition of the Navy to the Southern


Lieutenant Gillis, with a group of officers and technicians of the United States Navy, visited the coast of the Pacific from Panama to Chile, between 1849 and 1852, and dedicated the greater portion of his investigation to the latter. It is important to point out that the American officers, in their studies and descriptions of Chile, also make reference to Bolivia and the area of its Littoral. Specifically, Lt. Gillis says:

"Elsewhere it has been said that Chile claims to the 24th parallel of latitude. In the instructions from Cap. Fritzroy, RN, to one of his officers about to leave on ' detached service, he says: "Remember that Paposo is the northernmost inhabited place over which the government of Chile has authority;" and by the observations of that officer, Paposo was found to be in latitude 25°02'30". Native writers on geography, speaking of the boundaries, say: "on the north by the desert of Atacama - a broad tract several degrees in width; so that where Bolivia begins and Chile terminates, is yet to be decided."

Lieutenant Gillis made a map indicating the boundary between Bolivia and Chile, and as a basis for this work, the American marine says that he largely used the works and maps that were facilitated to him by the Chilean explorer don Bartolomé Navarrete. The brothers Bartolomé and Constantin Navarrete explored extensively the Bolivian province of Atacama under instructions of President Bulnes, and the results of their works on the Bolivian territory, as well as those in the regions of Copiapo and Coquimbo, were used as the basis for cartographic works of other groups, amongst them those of Gay and Pissis.

In the diary of his voyage, the director of the expedition refers to this arrival in Bolivian territory on board the steamship Nueva Granada in the following manner:

October 21, 1849. Shortly before 10 o'clock anchor was cast in the Bay of Cobija, the only port possessed by Bolivia. its latitude is 22°34'S. Scattered for about a half a mile along a beach at the base of a lofty range of hills, past of its houses of stone and others of planes, the town presents the most neat and tidy appearance of any place yet visited on the coast. Because of its bold and almost overhanging cliff, and the contrast of white walls with the verdure of the valley, Arica is more picturesque from the sea; but once landed the superiority in cleanliness must he awarded to the Bolivian town. As there is neither breakwater nor wharf, everything is necessarily carried through the surf on the backs of cargadores. Some of these exhibit great strength and skill in transshipments.

Cobija has but one street, a customs house, a church, and 1500 inhabitants, for whose protection there is a fortification mounting five guns. The last is on a rocky point forming the southern shore of the open bay, and there is a company of soldiers quartered in rude barracks at the opposite extremity of the town."

Further, with regard to the special situation of Cobija and the Bolivian necessity of maintaining it as a port in view of the traditional influence of Arica, he states:

"It is essential for the government to have a port of entry, through which its silver, tin, copper and cotton may be exported when the ports of Iquique and Arica are closed to it; and every effort has been made to attract trade by declaring Cobija a free port. But the country, between it and the populous portions of the Republic, affords to few resources, and the distances are too great for competition with the routes through Tacna and Tarapaca." (15)

The interesting description provided by Ruschemberger as well as the detailed -maps and reports of Herndon, Gibbons and Gillis provide us with valid testimony, not only to the activities of the American Navy, but they also indicate the indisputable sovereignty that Bolivia exercised on its Littoral between 1831 and 1854, in so far as to be intentional consensus as well as by law.



The special relationship existing between Arica and the Republic of Bolivia has been previously mentioned.(16) Arica was related to the Aymara civilization; the principal population centers were located in what is today Bolivian territory. During the period of the colony, Arica was established in 1546 as a port of exit for minerals from Upper Peru, and in 1547, Virrey Francisco de Toledo declared it the official and mandatory port for exportation of silver from Potosí. Similarly, he ordered that the image of the "Richest Mountain of Potosí" be engraved in the design of the coat of arms of Arica. (17)

After the establishment of the Viceroyalty of La Plata in 1776, the Audiencia de Charcas, including the Port of Arica, was established as part of the new colonial unity whose capital was located in Buenos Aires. In consideration of administrative matters and effective defense of the coast of the Pacific, the crown established in 1784 that the Port of Arica should depend from the Intendancy of Arequipa In the Viceroyalty of Peru. The dramatic political separation was initiated at that moment, even though economically Arica was still bound together with the provinces of Upper Peru, which later constituted the Republic of Bolivia.

During the War of Independence, Arica recuperated its role as the most important port of Upper Peru and, jointly with the Upper Peruvian provinces, claimed its intention of becoming part of the new "Republic Bolívar," instead of remaining under the dependence of the government of Lima. The Upper Peruvian deputies, convoked in Chuquisaca in 1825, discussed the port problem for the new state in formation. In their eighth session which took place on July 28, 1825, the assembly considered that Cobija could, with an adequate investment, very well serve as the major port of the Republic. They pointed out that Cobija, located in the province of Atacama was subject to deal with the emissaries of the Republic of Argentina. For this reason the Secretary of the Libertador Bolívar requested the Argentinean envoys by written note, dated October 6, 1825 that:

"Finding the province of Atacama in a similar situation as that of Tarija, the Legation, in name of their Government, must completely and formally resign in favored Upper Peru." (18)

The Argentinean representatives, General Carlos Maria Alvear and Dr. Jose Miguel Diaz Velez, responded with a note dated November 10, 1825, in the following manner:

"The resignation requested is not necessary, since Atacama belongs to the Department of Potosí, it is included in the Law of the 9th of May." (19)

With this law, the Constitutional Congress of the Provinces of the Rio de La Plata had authorized the executive power to negotiate with Bolívar the destiny of the four provinces of Upper Peru, including the right of free determination.

The Upper Peruvian deputies, once the utilization of Cobija as a major port of the Republic had been decided, considered also of great importance that the Port of Arica be incorporated also to the Republic, even though they recognized that this would be subject to a very difficult negotiation with the "Peruvian Republic."

The Congress, in a secret session on 15, August 1825, appointed a "Legation " composed by the Commissioners Jose Maria Mendizabal and Casimiro Olañeta, to present a petition to Libertador Bolívar, on the occasion of his entry to the territory of the newly born republic. This petition of instructions said in its fifth article:

"Make the greatest and most powerful effort with H.E. In order to obtain from his generous and paternal character, a promise and the security that he will employ his efforts, good graces and powerful influence with the Lower Peru, so that the divisory line between one and the other state will be delineated in a manner that it stretches from the Desaguadero to the coast, so that Arica comes to form part of the territory of this Republic, that will effect the necessary indemnities in their turn." (20)

The regions of Tacna and Arica also expressed their desire to be incorporated into the new Republic, and for this reason, on the occasion of Libertador Bolívar's stop-over in Arica, the local population handed him in January 1826 the following memorial:

"The municipality of this village, using its right of representation, presents to H.E. the sentiment of its inhabitants, addressed only to promote the happiness of this country.

The relations of subsistence and commerce that exist between the individuals of the Republic Bolívar, and those of this province; its local situation and other circumstances that interest us reciprocally with superior advantages than those that we have already obtained, imperiously claim the separation of this province from the capital of Lima, and its annexing with that of Sucre: union which in being more perfect is indissoluble; from it raises our happiness which we can aspire to through just means, with confidence in the protection of Y.E.

Full this village of such sentiments, and even all the province, we raise to Y.E. this representation, so that in view of it, consideration may be taken of the votes of a patriotic township. which decidedly wants to belong to the Republic Bolívar." (2l)

The negotiations to achieve the incorporation of Arica into the Republic of Bolivia were reported opportunely to the Department of State. The United States Consul in Lima, William Tudor, in a letter dated February 23.1826, stated:

"As it is generally believed that an arrangement will be made between Peru and Bolivia to cede the port of Arica to the latter; and in this case it will no longer form part of the Peruvian Consulate, I take the liberty should this event be realized to recommend that my Vice Consul Mr. Alfred Cobb should receive the commission of Consul for that port." (22)

As a result of the conversations that took place in Lima and Chuquisaca, a treaty of boundaries between Peru and Bolivia was signed in La Paz on November 15, 1826. The treaty also disposed the establishment of a federation between both republics and in its first article describes the boundaries between the two republics:

"To Bolivia the port of Arica and would leave the rest

comprehended between the eighteenth degree until the twenty

one and all the territory belonging to the province of Tacna and all the other towns located to the south of this line."

Marshall Andrés de Santa Cruz, President of Peru, opposed the signing of this treaty, despite the fact that he was a Bolivian national, justifying his opposition in a letter dated December 18, 1826, addressed to General La Fuente, Prefect of Arequipa, in the following manner:

"The Bolivians want Arica and I do not wish to ratify in order not to over ride the solemn oath I took to support in any event the integrity of the Republic."

Finally, Marshall Santa Cruz instructed the Prefect of Arequipa as follows:

"In the case of Arica, I may tell you that I know of a Mr. Basadre, D. Lorenzo Infantes and an American Consul that are the chiefs that sustain the separation of Peru and the incorporation of those townships to Bolivia. Try to get them out of there because otherwise they will give us a sorrow." (23)

The American envoy in Lima, Mr. Samuel Lamed, informed the Department of State upon the situation in "Upper Peru." In his report the American made an evaluation of Marshall Sucre as President of Bolivia and, with reference to the port problem, said:

"But Sucre himself is extremely popular; he has no guards about him, and receives everybody at all hours frankly. His administration is wise, active and liberal and is the person most able to make an advantageous treaty with Peru, on the points that are most important to the people he governs: the acquisition of the port of Arica." (24)

The American diplomatic correspondence informs extensively upon the constant difficulties In relations between Peru and Bolivia during the first years of republican life. Amongst these conflicts, most noticeable are the imposition of traffic and customs duties to the cargo from and to Bolivia via Arica, and the Bolivian and Arican pressures for incorporation of the port of Arica to Bolivia.

The American Charge D’Affairs informed the Department of State from Lima that President Santa Cruz, Protector of the Confederation, declared the Port of Arica as the principal free port of the South Peruvian State, in order to increase the traffic to and from Bolivia. He said that this fact would undoubtedly affect the port of Cobija, since the proximity of Arica to the principal cities of Bolivia, in addition to the disadvantages of Cobija -- amongst which he mentions the lack of potable water -- would affect the Bolivian port. For this reason, he added that the American Consul in Cobija, Mr. Polhemus, was preparing the closure of the Consulate. (25)

The decision of Marshall Santa Cruz to declare Arica as a free port was due to the fact that he was trying to obtain the integrity of the Confederation, which was threatened by the desire of the population of the south of Peru to incorporate themselves into Bolivia. In this regard, the residents of Moquegua, Tacna, Arica and other populations subscribed various acts in which they expressed their determination. It is interesting to transcribe part of the act of the neighborhood of Arica:

"First: The city of Arica in exercise of her Sovereignty reassumed by the dissolution of the pact, wants to form a Department from the Provinces of Moquegua, Tarapaca and that one of the same name, with absolute independancy of Arequipa and the rest of the north.

Second: The city of Arica is erected in the head of the province, composed by the districts of Codpa, Belen and Socoroma.

Third: The city of Arica in the part that corresponds to it will unite to the Nation of Bolivia and form a portion of its family." (26)

The Peru-Bolivian Confederation was dissolved with the defeat of Marshall Santa Cruz in Yungay, and the difficulties for Arica arose anew.


Invasion of Gamarra and the Battle of Ingavi

On November 29, 1841, the American envoy reported to Washington that the Peruvian Government had declared war on Bolivia and that President Agustin Gamarra had invaded Bolivia with his army. One month later, on December 23, 1841, he reported:

"A battle was fought on the l8th of this past month, at Ingavi, close to La Paz, Bolivia, between the armies of Peru and Bolivia, and the Peruvians were defeated."

In his report of July 8th, Mr. Pickett mentioned that in Lima it was believed that the government of Chile secretly instigated Bolivia's president so that he would continue the war against Peru in order to weaken it and consolidate Valparaiso (Chile) as the "principal emporium of this Pacific coast." (27)

Years later, the American consul In Lima, Stanhope Prevost, informed the Secretary of State, James Buchanan, that Peru feared another military expedition from Bolivia directed by President Ballivian, as well as an expedition directed by General Flores, President of Ecuador, in order to divide Peru amongst these two countries. The American consul indicated that the Bolivian army was concentrated at the border and that Ballivian wanted to take possession of the port of Arica, a "port that had been incessantly coveted by Bolivia, since the very first moment that it was founded as a nation." In the same note, the American officer said that if Ballivian could not annex a territorial portion of Arica to Bolivia, at least he seemed to be determined to intimidate the Peruvian Government in order to obtain the concession of the most irrestricted and free transit between the port of Arica and the Republic of Bolivia. (28)

The Governments of Bolivia and Peru signed in Arequipa, on November 3, 1847, a Peace and Commerce Treaty, in which it was established that the most extensive freedom of transit between Bolivia and Arica would prevail. This treaty was the eighth one signed between Bolivia and Peru to regulate commerce and the use of the port of Arica by Bolivia, but constituted the first by which Peru recognized the most complete freedom of transit. This right would be maintained until the War of the Pacific, when Chile occupied Arica and did not recognize the legal rights that Bolivia had for the use of this port. Further, Chile would again concede to Bolivia in the 1904 Peace Treaty the right of free transit over Arica in exchange of recognition of Chile's annexation of all Antofagasta’s littoral.


American Diplomatic Recognition of the Arica-Bolivia Relation

Even though Bolivia declared its independence in 1825, it was not recognized as a sovereign state by the United States until 1848. The previous recognition of the United States of Bolivia was indirect, by recognition of the Peru-Bolivian Confederation. Secretary of State James Buchanan was in charge of recognizing the Republic of Bolivia, where he appointed Mr. John Appleton as Charge D'Affairs. He was sent to Sucre with instructions from Washington dated June 1, 1848, which stated:

"The Republic of Bolivia to which you are accredited as Charge d'affaires is the only one of the independent states of the American continent which has never been visited either by a diplomatic or consular agent of the United States. The important duty is, therefore, confided to you of opening diplomatic relations with that Republic. You may assure the Bolivian government that this delay (in accrediting a minister to them) has not been occasioned by any want of the most friendly feeling ....

This delay has on the contrary arisen solely from the fact that the territories of the Bolivian Republic lie chiefly In the interior of South America and that for want of good ports on the Pacific our commercial intercourse with them has been of a very limited character. It is believed that Cobeja (Cobija) is the only Bolivian port and this is but little frequented. It is understood that the governments of Peru and Bolivia have been in treaty for the cession of the Port of Arica from the former to the latter: and whilst this could not materially injure Peru it would be of essential advantage to Bolivia as well as to the commerce of our country. Without attempting to interfere with the domestic concerns of either of these republics, you might, should an opportunity offer, by your counsel and advice, promote this cession. Arica would seem naturally to belong to Bolivia; and of this that Republic cannot fail to be rendered more deeply sensible by the onerous transit duties which are now levied at Arica upon merchandise destined for consumption in Bolivia. The truth is that so long as Arica shall continue to be a Peruvian port it will be a perpetual cause of irritation between these republics and will always endanger their friendly relations with each other."

These instructions could not be executed by Minister Appleton, since he did not have enough time in Bolivia to implement them. Furthermore, the necessity to incorporate Arica was accepted by the Bolivians and the difficulty was not with that government but with Peru, where the American envoys did not receive similar instructions to work towards the same objective. The instructions received by Appleton were repeated to the two ministers who were later sent to Bolivia, without any of them having taken any actions in this regard. (29)

In this same period, the Department of State sent a special commissioner to visit the different Latin American countries on the West Coast in order to present a special report to the President of the United States. Commissioner Baxley included in his statements the Port of Arica, and said as follows:

"It is the port of the district of Moquegua and also of the neighboring republic of Bolivia, when the commercial exchange is not affected adversely by disagreements between these two countries." (30)

The American envoy in La Paz, in his letter to the Secretary of State, made an evaluation of the relations of Bolivia with its neighboring countries and the problems rising from the boundary delineation. With regard to the subject of this chapter, Minister Markbreit says:

"... When, In the year 1825, the separation "Alto" and "Bajo" Peru took place, and Bolivia became an independent nation, she was left without but one miserable port on the Pacific (Cobija), the very important port of Arica and the inland town of Tacna, both so very essential to Bolivia, remaining in possession of Peru. "(31)

On the Eve of the Pacific War

As can be appreciated, the close relations that existed between Arica and the Republic of Bolivia caused conflicts and frictions between Peru and Bolivia on several_ occasions; however, it must also be mentioned that in many instances it was a bounding nexus of friendship and union between these two countries.

It is interesting to point out that a few months before the War of the Pacific (when Chile attacked Peru and Bolivia), the problem of Arica was still creating difficulties between Peru and Bolivia. In this regard, the American Consulate in La Paz informed the Secretary of State of some difficulties that Bolivia and Peru faced in the application of free transit through Arica. (32)

The analysis of reports and information set by American envoys from Chile allows me to conclude that at the time of independence, Chile had its boundaries on the north, with Bolivia, at the Salado River. At the same time, diplomatic correspondence and U.S. Navy reports also show that Bolivia administered the Atacama seacoast and that in exercising its sovereignty, the authorities tasks included defense and internal administration.

The Bolivian government consequently had as one of its primary responsibilities the administration of the Atacama seacoast province not only to consolidate its territoriality, but as a means of developing ties with its seaports, which- would allow Bolivia, a peripheral country, to be better linked to the world system. In this context, the close relationship between Bolivia and the Peruvian Port of Arica, could also be best understood as well as the interest of the U.S. government in formalizing such a relationship.




1. Conrado Rios Gallardo, Chile y Bolivia definen sus fronteras, 1842-1904. Santiago . Editorial Andrés Bello 1963. Jaime Eyzaguirre, Chile y Bolivia, Esquema de un Proceso Diplomático. Santiago, Editorial Zig-Zag 1963. Francisco A. Encina, Las Relaciones entre Chile y Bolivia. 1841-1963. Santiago. Editorial Nascimiento 1963.

2. Juan Siles Guevara, Ensayo Crítico sobre Chile y Bolivia. Esquema de un Proceso Diplomático de Jaime Eyzaguirre. 1967. La Paz, Editorial UMSA, Manuel Frontaura Argandoña, El Litoral de Bolivia. La Paz, Municipalidad de La Paz, 1968. Fernando Cajías, La Provincia Atacama, 1825-1842. La Paz, Instituto Boliviano de Cultura 1975.

3. Department of State, Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States concerning the Independence of the Latin American Nations, Vol. 11, selected by Wiliam R. Manning, New York, Oxford University Press, 1925.

4. Op. cit, pp. 93, pp. 1192.

5. Op. cit, pp. 50-53 and pp. 530-533.

6. Op. cit, pp. 1121-1192.

7. M. Frezier, "Relación del Viaje por Mar del Sur a las Costas de Chile y el Perú durante los Años 1712, 1713 y 1714." Paris, 1716. Charcas was part of Peru's Vice-Royalty until 1776.

8. op. cit, PP. 1101-1108.

9. Diplomatic Correspondence, Op. cit. pp. 1239.

10. The Pacific Steam Navigation 1838. Documents, London, Whiting Beaufort House; and Charles Darwin: The Voyaqe of the Beagle, London, 1845.

11. E.B. Billingsley, The United States Navy and the Independence of Latin America: The Pacific Squadron, 1817-1825, Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina, Ph.D. Dissertation, 1965.

12. Journal of Midshipman Stephen C. Rowan on a cruise to Chile, Peru and Tahiti, 1825-1829, Department of Navy, USA.

          13.William S.W. Ruschemberger, Three Years in the Pacific, Containing Notices of             Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, etc. in 1831, 1832, 1833, 1834. Philadelphia, Carey,             Lea and Blanchard. pp.164-174, 1834.

14. Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon made under Direction of the Navy Department, by W.M. Hemdon and Lardner Gibbon. Executive Document 26, 32nd Congress, 2nd Session, U.S. Senate, Washington DC, Vol. I, 1853. Vol. II, 1854.

15. U.S. Astronomical Expedition to the Southern Hemisphere during 1849-'50-'52, Lt. J.M. Gillis, Superintendent, Executive Document 121, 33rd Congress, 1st Session, House of Representatives, Washington DC, 1855.

16. On Bolivia's close relationship with Arica there are some writings, among them:

- Jose María Dalence, Bosquejo Estadístico de Bolivia, La Paz, 1851.

- Daniel Sanchez Bustamante, Bolivia su Estructura y Derechos en el Pacífico, La Paz. 1919.

- José María Baldivia: Tacna, Arica y Cobija, La Paz, 1919. - Prescott, El Problema Continental, La Paz, Arno Hnos, 192 1. - Roberto Prudencio, Defectuosa Conformación Territorial de Bolivia y la Cuestión de Arica en los Gobiernos de Sucre, Santa Cruz y Ballivian Kollasuyo, N9 71. 1970.

          - Roberto Prudencio: La Cuestión de Arica en Nuestra

Política Internacional. Kollasuyo, N° 75, 197l.

17. Luis Urzua Urzua, Arica, Puerto Nueva. Santiago. Editorial Andrés Bello. P. 14, 1957.

18.. Sabino Pinilla, La Creación de Bolivia. La Paz. UMSA. 1975. pp. 244,

19. Humberto Vásquez Machicado, Los Orígenes de la Nacionalidad Boliviana. La Paz, UMSA. 1975. pp. 139.

20. Prescott, op. cit., pp. 140-14 l; also José Maria Baldivia op. cit., pp. 16-17.

21. Consular Letters, Doc. 984, William Tudor to Henry Clay. Lima, February 231 1826.

22. Andrés de Santa Cruz S, Archivo Histórico del Mariscal Santa Cruz, La Paz, UMSA 1975. Tomo 1, pp. 237.

23. Consular letters, Doc. 999, William Tudor to Henry Clay, March 23, 1827.

24. Despatches, Peru. Samuel Larned to John Forsyth, Lima, May 12, 1836.

25. Prescott: op. cit. p. 146: also Baldivia, Op. Cit. p. 49

26. Dispatches, Peru, James C. Pickett to Daniel Webster, July 9, 1847.

28. Department of State, Instructions, Bolivia, James Buchanan to John Appleton, Washington, June 1, 1848.

29. Report of Mr. Baxley, Special Commissioner of the United States to the West Coast, 1860-1863. Washington, DC, p. 277.

30. Dispatches, Bolivia. L. Markbreit to H. Fish. April 5th, 1872.

31. Dispatches, Peru. Also, Diccionario Geográfico Estadístico del Perú. Imp. del Estado, Lima, 1877.

32. Consular Letters, La Paz, August 29, 1878, addressed to the Secretary of State's Deputy.


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