Treaty of the Triple Alliance

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For other uses of this term, see Triple Alliance (disambiguation).
Treaty of the Triple Alliance
Secret Treaty of the Triple Alliance
Signed 1 May 1865
Location Buenos Aires, Argentina
Effective Immediate
Depositary Argentine Government
Languages Spanish, Portuguese

The Treaty of the Triple Alliance was a treaty which allied the Empire of Brazil and the Republics of Argentina,and Uruguay against the Republic of Paraguay. Signed in 1865 after the outbreak of the Paraguayan War, its articles prescribed the allies' actions both during and after the war.


Although the Empire of Brazil and Argentina had been traditional enemies, nevertheless, they, together with Uruguay, in 1865 united against Paraguay. The causes of the war were various, and have been hotly disputed by modern writers. But for the purposes of this article it may be enough to outline the geopolitical situation and the immediate antecedents of the Treaty.

In 1855 Paraguay, who distrusted its neighbours (not without cause), began to develop the formidable Fortress of Humaitá. It was a massive strategic defensive system commanding the navigation of the River Paraguay, and was the gateway to the country. However, it may have caused the Paraguayan government to feel itself invulnerable – wrongly, as it turned out. And it caused tension with Brazil. As explained by Lt Colonel George Thompson of the Paraguayan army:[1]

These batteries commanded the whole bend of the river, and Paraguay made all vessels anchor and ask permission before they could pass up the river. As this was the only practicable road which Brazil had to her province of Matto-Grosso, she naturally disapproved of her stoppage of the river, and gradually accumulated large military stores in Matto-Grosso, with the view, no doubt, of some day destroying Humaitá.

During 1854-1864 Paraguay, considering itself to be disrespected by the outside world particularly Brazil, Argentina, the United States and the British Empire, built up its military forces. In 1864, the Blanco faction of the Uruguayan War (against Brazil), short of allies, tried to lure Paraguay to its side. In November 1864 Paraguay fired upon and seized the Brazilian government ship Marqués de Olinda as she was proceeding up the Paraguay on her routine monthly voyage to the Matto Grosso. (She proved to be carrying military stores). [2] On 14 January 1865 the Paraguayan government asked Argentina for permission to attack Brazil across the Province of Corrientes,[3] which was refused. On 13 April Paraguayan ships fired upon, and seized, two Argentine naval vessels moored in the Argentine port of Corrientes[4] and the Paraguayans proceeded to invade the province of that name.

Paraguay had now made war on the much more populous Empire of Brazil; on Argentina (also more populous); and on the Colorado faction of Uruguay. The three countries had been accustomed – whether arrogantly, whether justly – to regard Paraguay as a backward upstart, and were outraged. The parties’ foreign ministers met in the city of Buenos Aires and on 1 May signed the Treaty of the Triple Alliance.


The Treaty was secret but a copy was leaked to the British government, who ordered it to be translated and laid before the House of Commons. The following text is that translation.[5]

Text of Treaty (English translation)[edit]

The Government of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, the Government of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, the Government of the Argentine Republic:

The two last being actually at war with the Government of Paraguay, it having been declared against them by acts of hostility by that Government, and the first being in a state of hostility, and its internal safety threatened by the said Government, which calunmniates the Republic, and abuses solemn treaties and the international customs of civilised nations, and which has committed unjustifiable acts after interrupting the relations with its neighbours by the most abusive and aggressive proceedings:

Being persuaded that the peace, stability, and wellbeing of their respective nations is impossible while the present Government of Paraguay lasts, and that it is imperatively necessary for the greatest interests that that Government should disappear, at the same time respecting the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Paraguay:

Have resolved to conclude a Treaty of Alliance, offensive and defensive, with that object; and have named their Plenipotentiaries, as follows:

His Excellency the Provisional Governor of the Oriental Republic has named his Excellency Dr. Carlos de Castro, Minister of Foreign Affairs; His Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, his Excellency Dr J. Octaviano de Almeida Rosa, councillor and deputy to the General National Legislative Assembly and officer of the Imperial Order of the Rose; his Excellency the President of the Argentine Republic has named his Excellency Dr. Rufino de Elizalde, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who, having exchanged their respective credentials, which they find in good and due form, agreed to the following:-

Art. 1. The Oriental Republic of Uruguay, his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, and the Argentine Republic unite themselves in an offensive and defensive Alliance for prosecuting the war provoked by the Republic of Paraguay.

Art. 2. The Allies will contribute with all the means at their disposal, by land and by water, as they many find convenient.

Art. 3. The operations of the war commencing in Argentine territory, or in Paraguayan bordering on Argentine, the chief command and direction of the allied arms will be confided to the President of the Argentine Republic and General-in-Chief of its army, Brigadier-General Bartolomé Mitre.

The maritime forces of the Allies will be under the immediate command of Vice- Admiral Viscount Tamandaré, Commander-in-Chief of the squadron of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil.

The land forces of the Republic of Uruguay, a division of the Argentine forces and one of the Brazilian forces, which will be indicated by their respective commanders, will form an army under the immediate orders of the Provisional Governor of the Oriental Republic, Brigadier-General Venancio Flores.

The land forces of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil will form an army under the immediate orders of its General-in-Chief, Brigadier Manuel Luis Osorio.

Although the high contracting Powers have agreed not to change the field of operations, yet, with the object of protecting the sovereign rights of the three nations, they have determined that the chief command shall be reciprocal should any operations have to be carried on in Oriental or Brazilian territory.

Art. 4. The internal military order and economy of the allied troops will depend solely on their respective chiefs.

The victuals, ammunition, arms, clothing, equipments, and means of transport of the allied troops will be supplied by their respective States.

Art. 5. The high contracting Powers will give each other any assistance or elements which they may require, under the forms to be stipulated on that particular.

Art. 6. The Allies bind themselves solemnly not to lay down their arms, unless by mutual consent, until they have abolished the present Government of Paraguay, nor to treat separately with the enemy, nor sign any treaty of peace, truce or armistice, or any convention whatever to put an end to or to suspend the war, unless by the common consent of all.

Art. 7. The war not being against the people of Paraguay but against the Government, the Allies will admit a Paraguayan Legion, formed of the citizens of that nation who wish to assist in deposing the said Government, and they will furnish it with all necessaries in the form and under the conditions which shall be established.

Art. 8. The Allies moreover bind themselves to respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Paraguay. Consequently, the Paraguayan people may elect their own Government and give it any institutions they think fit; none of the Allies incorporating it, nor pretending to establish any protectorate, as a consequence of this war.

Art. 9. The independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the Republic of Paraguay will be guaranteed by the high contracting Powers collectively in conformity with the foregoing article, for the term of five years.

Art. 10. It is agreed by the high contracting Powers that the exemptions, privileges, or concessions which may be obtained from the Government of Paraguay, shall be gratuitous and common, and if conditional shall have the same compensation.

Art. 11. When the Government of Paraguay has disappeared, the Allies will proceed to make the necessary arrangements with the authorities which may be constituted, to insure the free navigation of the Rivers Paraná and Paraguay, so that the rules or laws of that Republic do not obstruct or prevent the transit and direct navigation of the war or merchant vessels of the allied States, on their voyages to their respective territories and dominions which do not belong to Paraguay; and to establish the necessary guarantees for the effectiveness of the arrangements, under the condition that these laws of River Police, although made for the two rivers, and also for the River Uruguay, shall be established by common accord between the Allies and other States on the boundaries, for the term which shall be stipulated by the said Allies, should those States accept the invitation.

Art. 12. The Allies also reserve to themselves to concert the measures most conducive towards guaranteeing peace with the Republic of Paraguay after the fall of the present Government.

Art. 13. The Allies will name Plenipotentiaries, to make arrangements, conventions or treaties with the Government which may be established.

Art. 14. The Allies will demand from this Government the payment of the expenses of the war which they have been forced to carry on, and also the payment of damages caused to public and private property, and to the persons of their citizens, without an express declaration of war – also of the damages subsequently done in violation of the laws of war. In like manner the Oriental Republic of Uruguay will demand indemnification for the damages caused by the Government of Paraguay in the war she has been forced to take a part in, in defence of her safety, threatened by that Government.

Art. 15. The manner and form of liquidation and payment, proceeding from the above-mentioned causes, will be determined in a special convention.

Art.16. With the view of avoiding discussions and wars regarding the question of boundaries, it is agreed that the Allies will demand from the Government of Paraguay, that in its treaties of limits with their respective Governments, the Following basis shall be adhered to:-

1. The Argentine Republic will be divided from that of Paraguay, by the Rivers Paraná and Paraguay, as far as the boundary of Brazil, which, on the right side of the river Paraguay, is the Bahia Negra.

2. The Empire of Brazil will be divided from the Republic of Paraguay on the side of the Paraná, by the first river below the Seven Falls, which, according to the late map by Manchez, is the Igurá, following its course from its mouth to its rise.

3. On the left side of the Paraguay, by the Rio Apa, from its mouth to its rise.

4. In the interior of the tops of the mountains of Maracayá the streams running eastward will belong to Brazil, and those running westward to Paraguay – a straight line, as far as possible, being drawn from the tops of those mountains to the rises of the Apa and Yguréi.

Art. 17. The Allies guarantee to each other, reciprocally, the faithful execution of any arrangements and treaties which may be concluded in Paraguay, in virtue of which it is agreed that the present Treaty of Alliance shall always remain in full force and vigour, in order that these stipulations be respected and carried out by Paraguay.

1. With the object of obtaining that result, they agree, that in case one of the high contracting parties cannot obtain from the Government of Paraguay the fulfilment of an agreement, or in case that Government should pretend to annul the stipulations agreed upon with the Allies, the other powers will employ means to make them respected.

2. Should these means prove useless, the Allies will concur with all their power, to obtain the execution of the stipulations.

Abt. 18. This Treaty will remain secret until the principal object of the Alliance baa been obtained.

Abt. 19. Those stipulations of this treaty which do not require legislative authorisation for their ratification, will come m force as soon as they are approved by the respective Governments, and the others when thee ratifications are exchanged, which will be within the term of forty days from the date of said treaty, or sooner, if possible, and will take place in the city of Buenos Ayres.

In faith of which, we, the undersigned Plenipotentiaries of his Excellency the Provisional Governor of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, of his Majesty the Emperor of Brazil, and of his Excellency the President of the Argentine Republic, in virtue of our full powers, have signed this treaty, placing thereto our seals, in the city of Buenos Ayres on 1st May, in the year of Our Lord 1865.





Their Excellencies the Plenipotentiaries of the Argentine Republic, of the Oriental Republic, and of his Majesty the Emperor of Brasil, assembled in the Foreign Office, agree:-

1. That in compliance with the Treaty of Alliance of this date, the fortifications of Humaitá shall be demolished, and that no other or others of that kind shall be permitted to be constructed, thereby interfering with the faithful execution of the treaty.

2. That as it is a necessary measure towards guaranteeing peace with the Government which may be established in Paraguay, not to leave it any arms or elements of war, all those found will be equally divided among the Allies.

3. That any trophies or booty which may be taken from the enemy shall be divided between the Allies by the one who makes the capture.

4. That the Generals commanding the allied armies shall concert the means of carrying these stipulations into effect.

And they sign the present Buenos Ayres, on the 1st May,1865.




Some specific articles of the Treaty[edit]

In South America the propriety or wisdom of certain articles of the Treaty is furiously debated to this day. The following articles have been discussed in particular.

Article 3[edit]

By this article the Allies agreed to confer the overall command of the land forces on President Bartolomé Mitre of Argentina initially, even though the Brazilian military resources were much larger, mainly because the initial campaign would have to take place in Argentine territory, and then in Paraguayan territory adjoining Argentina. Because Brazil had incomparably the biggest navy, however, they agreed that command of the naval forces should be conferred initially on the Brazilian Admiral Tamandaré. Whether or not those decisions were wise, or practically inevitable, they certainly produced friction and dissension. In particular, the Uruguayans accused President Mitre of being overcautious. The Argentines accused the naval forces of Admiral Tamandaré of failing to cooperate properly with the army, and some went further and accused him of pusillanimity.

Article 6[edit]

By this article the Allies pledged themselves not to lay down their arms, unless by mutual consent, until they had abolished the government of President López, nor to treat separately with the enemy. This article has been criticised as making it difficult to negotiate peace, and it is certain that after the initial flush of enthusiasm in Argentina a very strong antiwar party grew up in that country, such that if it had not been for Brazil, Argentina might possibly have negotiated peace. However, it was not unusual in treaties of military alliance to provide that no party should treat with the enemy separately, for obvious reasons.

Article 7[edit]

As foreshadowed in Article 6, this declared that the enemy was not so much Paraguay as the Paraguayan government i.e. López. Therefore, an anti-López Paraguayan Legion composed of volunteers would be admitted to join the Allies. It has been objected that the Paraguayan Legion were traitors to their country, but there can be no doubt that the López government was a dictatorship with an emigrée opposition. A different objection is that Paraguayan prisoners of war were obliged to join the Legion which, had it been true, would have been outrageous.

Article 8[edit]

This reiterated that the Allies bound themselves to respect the independence and sovereignty of the Paraguayan Republic, because the real enemy was the López regime. Although at the time some objected to this as a cynical manoeuvre, there is really little ground to doubt the sincerity of the Allies' motives on this point. Brazil and Argentina were traditional rivals, and neither wanted the other to absorb Paraguay. When the war was over the Allies did respect the independence and sovereignty of Paraguay: as they do to this day.

A separate complaint was that the Allies did not really mean to respect the territorial integrity of Paraguay, because they meant to help themselves to large portions of Paraguayan territory. However, this objection presupposes that those territories were, in international law, Paraguayan, when in fact they had long been in dispute. No third party State recognised anyone's claim to those territories; and like considerable parts of South America they were not really effectively occupied by anyone, except the aboriginal inhabitants. Brazil and Paraguay had been in dispute about the borders between Paraguay and the Matto Grosso; and large parts of the territories of the Chaco and the Misiones were in dispute between Paraguay and Argentina. Thus the territories were genuinely in dispute, and in the nineteenth century it was not surprising that, if there was to be a war, the victor should occupy territories in dispute as the spoils of victory. The Allies made no secret of their intentions anyway: see Article 16.

Article 9[edit]

Still on the theme that the war was really against the López regime, this article provided that the Allies would collectively guarantee the independence of Paraguay for 5 years. In nineteenth century international practice a Power that guaranteed the independence of a country was agreeing to protect it by force should it be threatened. Bearing in mind the traditional rivalry and suspicion between Brazil and Argentina, what this signified was that if one threatened Paraguay the other would come to Paraguay's aid.

An objection against Article 9 was that the guarantee was only for 5 years, which was practically meaningless since the war lasted for 5 years anyway. However, the Allies were not to know this in 1865. Besides, another interpretation is that the 5 years would begin to run at the conclusion of the war. This interpretation is supported by the words "in conformity with the foregoing article". The foregoing article (article 8) said that "the Paraguayan people may elect their own government and give it any institutions they make fit", which would not have been possible until López's overthrow i.e. until the end of the war.

Article 14[edit]

This article provided that Paraguay would pay an indemnity for the war. It has been objected to as being excessively harsh. This may be so, but it was standard practice to make the aggressor (for such the Allies considered Paraguay to be) pay for the war. The Prussians made the French pay for the Franco-Prussian War, and the Allies made Germany pay for World War I. In any case at the war's end Paraguay was in no position to pay any indemnity and the demand was dropped.

It was objected that if Paraguay was going to have to pay after the war i.e. after the overthrow of López, then it was not true that the war was against López not Paraguay.

Article 16[edit]

By this article the allies agreed the boundaries that would result from their victory in the war. Subject to the later Hayes arbitration (which awarded the Chaco north of the Pilcomayo river to Paraguay), the boundaries are those which exist now. The lower part of the Matto Grosso belongs to Brazil. The provinces of Formosa, Chaco and Missions belong to Argentina.

On the justice or otherwise of these territorial adjustments, see under article 8.

Article 18[edit]

The treaty was to be secret until its objects had been fulfilled. Secret treaties, though now regarded as unwise, were commonplace in the nineteenth century.

Fulfillment of Treaty[edit]

The Allies[edit]

The Allies did overthrow the government of Francisco Solano López, though it took them longer than they had thought. The Allies did raze the Fortress of Humaitá as required by the Protocol, article 1. For Captain Sir Richard Burton's description of the fortress in the process of demolition see the article Fortress of Humaitá. The expenses of the war were irrecoverable, Paraguay being bankrupt, and the demand was eventually dropped.


The Perpetual Peace and Friendship between the Republic of Paraguay and the Empire of Brazil was signed in Asuncion on January 9, 1872. In it, Paraguay recognized as debt to Brazil all damages caused to Brazilian people and cities at an interest of 6% with an annual amortization of 1%.[6] All waters of the Paraguay, Parana and Uruguay rivers were open for trade and navigation. Brazil also reserved the right to occupy Paraguay with a part of the imperial army in order to maintain peace and ensure that all terms of the treaty were complied with.[6]

The national limits between Paraguay and Brazil were established in three different treaties. On the treaty signed on January 9, 1872, the limits were set to be these: the riverbed of the Paraná River from Yguasu's mouth up to Parana's Seven Falls waterfall or Guaira Falls; from the Guaira Falls, by the summit of the Mbaracayu Range and later by Amambay's up to Apa River's source, from where it follows its riverbed down to its mouth on the eastern shore of the Paraguay River.[6]

On January 16, 1872, another treaty was signed where the release of all deserters, prisoners and criminals of war was established.[7] Two days later on the 18 a new treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation was signed. By the January 7, 1874, protocol, the Estrella stream was considered the Apa River's source.

Finally, a last definite treaty was signed on May 21, 1927, in Rio de Janeiro which was a complement to the January 9, 1872, one. It established that the limit between both countries was the riverbed of the Paraguay river from the mouth of the Apa River with the Paraguay River up to its mouth in Bahia Negra, with the western shore being Paraguayan territory and the eastern, Brazilian.[7]


A treaty of Peace, Commerce and Navigation was signed on December 13, 1873, between Paraguay and Uruguay. As with the Brazilian treaty, Paraguay recognized the expenses, damages and detriments of Uruguayan campaign. Both governments also committed to return all prisoners of war and open to commerce both nation's rivers.[7]


A Treaty of Peace with Argentina was signed on February 3, 1876, between Paraguay and Argentina. In it, Paraguay recognized all war expenses as well as the damages and detriments caused to Argentine public and private property.[8] The Navigation and transit of the Paraguay, Parana and Uruguay River was also opened.

The National Limits between both nations was established like this: The main riverbed of the Parana River, from the Yguasy mouth up to its meeting with the Paraguay River; and from the meeting of Paraguay River with Pilcomayo River, following this river's main riverbed leaving thus the Central Chaco region as Argentine territory.[8] The territory between the main Pilcomayo riverbed up to Bahia Negra was divided in two sections, having the first one (from the Verde River – 23° 10' Latitude South) was granted to Paraguay, and the second one was submitted to an arbiter designed by both governments.[8]

The arbitrator chosen by both nations was U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes,[8] who on November 12, 1878, recognized the just and legal title of Paraguay to the territory between the Pilcomayo River and the Verde River.[8] On May 14, 1879, the Argentine armed forces left the Chaco Boreal region. The Presidente Hayes Department, the largest department in the nation, was named in honor of President Hayes.[9]

See also[edit]


  • Thompson, George (1869). The War In Paraguay: With a Historical Sketch of the Country and Its People and Notes Upon the Military Engineering of the War. London: Longman’s, Green and Co. 
  • Vasconsellos, César A (1931). Los Límites del Paraguay. Asunción: Imprenta Nacional (the Paraguayan State Press). 
  • Whigham, Thomas L. (2002). The Paraguayan War, Volume 1, Causes and Conflict. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0-8032-4786-9. 
  1. ^ Thompson, p. 16.
  2. ^ Whigham, pp. 160-161.
  3. ^ Whigham, p. 240.
  4. ^ Whigham, pp. 260-261.
  5. ^ Source: Treaty of Alliance against Paraguay, signed on May 1, 1865 between the Plenipotentiaries of Uruguay, Brazil, and the Argentine Republic, taken from the Papers laid before the House of Commons by order of Her Britannic Majesty, in compliance with her Message of March 2, 1866. As reprinted at Appendix 1 of George Thompson, The War in Paraguay' (Longmans, Green and Co, 1869, p.340)
  6. ^ a b c Vasconsellos. Page 110
  7. ^ a b c Vasconsellos. Page 111
  8. ^ a b c d e Vasconsellos. Page 112
  9. ^ Vasconsellos. Page 114