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at the Cuban birthday dinner, the President wrote the following remarkable paragraph:

If a nation shows that it knows how to act with decency in industrial and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, then-[italics not in the original]-it need fear no interference from the United States. Brutal wrongdoing or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society may finally require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the United States cannot ignore its duty; but it remains true that our interests and those of our Southern neighbors are in reality identical. All that we ask is that they shall govern themselves well and be prosperous and orderly.

A more dangerous doctrine than this, one which, if generally carried out, would be more certain to result in "a general loosening of the ties of civilized society" it would be difficult to conceive. If the President expected to hold his office for a long life, or if he were sure that his successors would have the same infallible judgment as to the circumstances justifying our interference, and the same capacity to rise above the temptation to interfere for selfish purposes which he evidently imputes to himself, his position would not be so amazing. But does he not see that if strong nations, in their dealings with weak ones, get in the habit of setting aside the restraints of international law for what they consider good reasons, they will be sure to set them aside for reasons that are not good?

The only argument put forward in the official despatches of the Government that can claim serious consideration is, therefore, that which is based on our treaty obligations. The treaty referred to was negotiated between this country and New Granada in 1846. The article appealed to in justification of our course in Panama reads as follows:

The Government of New Granada guarantees to the Government of the United States that the right of way or transit across the Isthmus of Panama upon any modes of communication that now exist, or that may be hereafter constructed, shall be open and free to the Government and citizens of the United States. . . . And, in order to secure to themselves the tranquil and constant enjoyment of these advantages, and as an especial compensation for the said advantages and for the favors they have acquired by the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles of this treaty, the United States guarantee positively and efficaciously to New Granada by the present stipulation, the perfect neutrality of the before-mentioned Isthmus with the view that the free transit from the one to the other sea may not be interrupted or embarrassed in any future time while this treaty exists, and in consequence the United States also guarantee in the same manner the rights of sovereignty and property which New Granada has and possesses over the said territory.

A careful reading of this paragraph would at least leave one in doubt whether it does not bind the United States to guarantee the sovereignty of Colombia (as the successor of New Granada) over Panama, not only

as against any outside Power, but as against the people of Panama themselves. The unqualified statement is that the United States guarantees the sovereignty which New Granada (Colombia) has over Panama. Government, however, has always interpreted this clause as binding it to protect Colombia's sovereignty only against invasion from some outside Power. But does it not require an extraordinary license of interpretation to find in a guarantee by Colombia to the United States that the right of way across the Isthmus of Panama shall be open and free to the people of the United States, the concession of a right to this country to prevent Colombia from using a railway across its own territory to put down a rebellion? You shall have a free and unrestricted right of passage across my territory, said Colombia; that prevents you from transporting troops across it, says our Government; when you gave us the right to free transit, you meant to relinquish it, in certain contingencies, for yourselves!

It would be difficult to believe that the American Government had so interpreted the clause, did not its own repeated and emphatic utterances compel us to believe it. The President seeks to show that this. interpretation of the treaty is the one on which the Government has always acted. But a superficial examination of the citations by which he seeks to prove it will make it clear that he has failed. He quotes, for example, the following declaration from W. H. Seward in 1865:

The United States has taken and will take no interest in any question of internal revolution in the State of Panama, but will maintain a perfect neutrality in connection with such domestic altercations. [Does Mr. Roosevelt claim to have maintained neutrality in connection with the recent revolution in Panama?] The United States will nevertheless hold themselves ready to protect the transit trade across the Isthmus against either foreign or domestic disturbance of the peace of the state of Panama.

Strange that the Government finds in the policy of protecting the transit a precedent for refusing it, in cases of fundamental importance, to the Power that conferred it! Still more strange that it finds in such a policy a precedent for preventing the Power that conferred the right from taking steps to put down a rebellion against her authority! It is indeed true that after Mr. Roosevelt became President this article in the treaty began to be interpreted with a looseness unknown to it before. Instead of maintaining neutrality in the Isthmus, it assumed the right to guarantee "the perfect neutrality of the Isthmus, and to forbid any transportation of troops over the Panama railroad" in a time of insurrection even by the Power which owned the territory through which the road ran.

On September 12, 1902, Mr. Moody, Secretary of the Navy, sent the following order by telegram:

The United States guarantee perfect neutrality of Isthmus, and that a free transit from sea to sea be not interrupted or embarrassed. . . . Any transportation of troops which might contravene provisions of treaty should not be sanctioned by you. Nor should use of road be permitted which might convert the line of transit into a theatre of hostility.

Here the grant to the United States of a right of transit is made the basis of an order to prevent the granting Power from doing anything which even made possible a disturbance of that line. But even this claim is moderation itself in comparison with the claim that this right of transit confers upon the United States the right to prevent Colombia from doing anything that might lead to civil war when Panama had risen in revolt.

This argument is so manifestly untenable that the Administration seems to have decided that it was a mistake to put it forward as the chief justification of its action. A comparison of the messages of December 7 and January 4 will show that while they both advance the same arguments, there is a marked change of emphasis. The December message lays special stress on the argument based on the treaty. It begins its discussion by declaring that the treaty of 1846 vested in the United States a "substantial property right." Apparently the President came to realize the incongruity of talking about a substantial property right conveyed by a treaty which could be terminated after twenty years by either party, and the weakness of the whole argument which he had based on the treaty. Accordingly the January message emphasizes an entirely different argument; and what makes this change of front more significant is the fact that the same argument is made to bear the burden of the Administration's policy in an elaborate speech recently delivered by Mr. Elihu Root, who was a prominent member of the Cabinet at the time this policy was decided on.'

Mr. Root says that the relation of Panama to the commerce of the world is such that in regard to it the rules of international law do not obtain in their unqualified form. He says:

The stupendous fact that has dominated the history and must control the future of the Isthmus of Panama is the possibility of communication between the two oceans. It is possible for human hands to pierce the narrow forty miles of solid earth which separate the Caribbean from the Bay of Panama, to realize the dreams of the early navigator, . . . to relieve commerce of the toils and perils of its 9,000 miles of navigation around Cape Horn . . . and to push forward by a mighty im

'The title of this article is borrowed from Mr. Root.

pulse that intercommunication between the distant nations of the earth which is doing away with misunderstanding, with race prejudice and bigotry, with ignorance of human rights and opportunity for oppression, and making all the world kin.

This possibility, he thinks, gives point to a notable statement made by Lewis Cass, Secretary of State in 1858:

The progress of events has rendered the interoceanic route across the narrow portion of Central America vastly important to the commercial world and especially to the United States. . . . While the rights of sovereignty of the States occupying this region should always be respected, we shall expect that these rights be exercised in a spirit befitting the occasion and the wants and circumstances that have arisen. Sovereignty has its duties as well as its rights, and none of these local governments, even if administered with more regard to the just demands of other nations than they have been, would be permitted in a spirit of Eastern isolation to close the gates of intercourse to the great highways of the world and justify the act by the pretension that these avenues of trade and travel belong to them and that they choose to shut them, or, what is almost equivalent, to encumber them with such unjust relations as would prevent their general use.'

The general principle here stated seems to be unquestionably true. Suppose there grew on the Isthmus of Panama some vegetable absolutely necessary to the rest of the world and found nowhere else, would Colombia have had the right to forbid its exportation? Such an attempt in such a case would certainly justify the nations of the world in asserting and acting upon the same principle which is acted upon by all civilized communities in relation to individuals, the principle of eminent domain. As a state or community can appropriate to a necessary public use the property of an individual whether he is willing or not reasonable compensation being made so the nations of the world could justly appropriate to the use of civilization any property imperatively necessary to promote the general interests of humanity.

But however true this principle may be, its application in international affairs is attended with such extraordinary difficulties that a nation anxious above all things to be just, a nation that believes the interests of civilization will be most surely promoted by a scrupulous regard for the rights of weaker states, will resort to it only when nothing else is possible. For (1) who is to decide whether the property of a nation is so urgently required by the interests of "collective civilization" as to justify a stronger Power in appropriating it? And (2) who is to say what constitutes a reasonable compensation? In the analogous case there is a legally constituted tribunal composed of disinterested persons to answer both questions. The laws have so safeguarded the rights of

'Unfortunately for the Administration, Secretary Cass made this argument in reference to Nicaragua, which makes it rather awkward to apply it to Panama.

the individual as to give every reasonable guarantee that he shall not be imposed upon. But where is the international tribunal to which a weak state can appeal for the protection of its rights?

The absence of such a tribunal makes it peculiarly difficult for the United States to justly apply the principle of international eminent domain in its dealings with Colombia. This country, the one country in the world with the greatest interest in an isthmian canal, arrogates to itself the right to decide whether such a canal is so necessary to civilization as to justify setting aside the ordinary principles of international law! And the country with such an interest at stake assumes to decide whether the conditions upon which Colombia will agree to the building of a canal are reasonable!


If the building of the canal were open to all the great commercial nations, the latter consideration would be without force. In that event, if we were willing to offer more advantageous terms than any other nation, our terms might be presumed to be reasonable, and Colombia to be guilty of a "hold-up" in refusing to accept them. But that is not the Ex-Secretary Root finds that one effect of the treaty of 1846 " was that foreign nations were to be excluded from the building of the canal." Neither a study of the treaty nor of the history of the negotiations with reference to an interoceanic canal bears out his contention. In the first place, the treaty says not a word about the exclusion of other nations, even during the period when it was to be in force. In the second place, it could be terminated, as has been said, at the end of twenty years, at the pleasure of either of the contracting nations, and, if terminated, Colombia, of course, would be as free as before to make a canal treaty with any other Power. Besides, Colombia has more than once made overtures to European nations with reference to an isthmian canal. Presidents Hayes and Garfield both objected in very strong language to any such action on the part of European Powers. But they based their objection on its true ground on the very ground, by the way, on which President Roosevelt puts it in his January message on the ground that they could not build it without controlling it, and they could not control it without violating the Monroe Doctrine.


Now the Monroe Doctrine is a doctrine which we have forced upon the world. Because of the principle that underlies it, we have said in effect that we will permit no European nation to build the canal. As nature gives to the owner of the Isthmus a monopoly of the territory through which the canal is to be built, so our Monroe Doctrine has given to us a practical monopoly of the right to build the canal. Only one

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