Page images

In 1858 Costa Rica had been granted perpetual rights of free navigation in the lower part of the San Juan river, and Nicaragua had agreed to consult her before granting any concessions for the construction of an interoceanic canal. Salvador and Honduras objected to the establishment of a naval base in the Gulf of Fonseca in close proximity to their coasts.

They also asserted proprietary rights in the Gulf of Fonseca, claiming that Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, as successors of the old Central American Federation, exercised joint ownership over the gulf. Efforts were made by the United States to arrive at a settlement with Costa Rica and Salvador on the basis of a money payment, but without success. Moreover, the Senate of the United States objected to the protectorate feature of the treaty and refused to ratify it, but the negotiations were renewed, and on August 5, 1914, a new treaty, which omits the provisions of the Platt Amendment, was signed at Washington. This treaty, which was finally ratified by the Senate, February 18, 1916, grants to the United States in perpetuity the exclusive right to construct a canal by way of the San Juan river and Lake Nicaragua, and leases to the United States for ninety-nine years a naval base on the Gulf of Fonseca, and also the Great Corn and Little Corn Islands as coaling stations. The consideration for these favors was the sum of $3,000,000 to be expended, with the approval of the Secretary of State of the United States, in paying the public debt of Nicaragua, and for other purposes to be agreed on by the two contracting parties.

In consenting to the ratification of the treaty the Senate, in order to meet the objections raised by Costa

Rica, Salvador, and Honduras, attached to their resolution of ratification the proviso “ that nothing in said convention is intended to affect any existing right of any of the said states.” This reservation did not satisfy Costa Rica and Salvador, who took their cases to the Central American Court of Justice, requesting that Nicaragua be enjoined from carrying out the provisions of the treaty. Nicaragua refused to be a party to the action, but the court nevertheless assumed jurisdiction. Its decision in the case of Costa Rica was announced September 30, 1916. It declared that Nicaragua had violated Costa Rica's rights, but, as the court had no jurisdiction over the United States, it declined to declare the treaty void. A similar decision in the case of Salvador was handed down on March 2, 1917.12

Neither Nicaragua nor the United States has paid any attention to the decision of the Central American Court of Justice, which was set up under such favorable auspices by the Washington conventions. As a matter of fact, the court had not fulfilled the expectations of those who had been interested in its establishment, but it was unfortunate that it should have received its coup de grâce from the United States. Furthermore, it has been charged that the State Department, under the Knox régime, exploited the situation in Central America for the benefit of American capitalists, and that the Wilson administration has for years maintained a minority party in power through the presence of a body of American marines at the capital and a warship at Corinto. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that as a result 13 D. G. Munro, “ The Five Republics of Central America,” p. 257.

of American policy, Central America has been freer from wars and revolutions for a longer period than at any other time in its history. The better element of the population appears to be satisfied with the situation 13

The treaty with the negro republic of Haiti, ratified by the Senate February 28, 1916, carries the new Caribbean policies of the United States to the farthest limits short of actual annexation. Shortly before the outbreak of the European war, Haitian finances were in such bad shape as the result of internal disorders that there was grave danger of European intervention, and the United States was considering the question of acquiring supervision over the finances of the republic. · In June, 1915, a crisis in the internal affairs of Haiti seemed imminent and, at the request of the State Department, Read-Admiral Caperton was ordered to Haitian waters. Towards the latter part of July the government of President Guillaume was overthrown, and he and members of his cabinet took refuge in the French and Dominican legations. These buildings were entered by a mob, President Guillaume was slain at the gate of the French legation, his body cut in pieces, and dragged about the town. Admiral Caperton at once landed a force of marines at Port au Prince in order to protect the lives and property of foreigners. An additional force was brought from Guantanamo and the total number raised to two thousand and placed under the command of Colonel Waller. There was but slight resistance to the landing of the marines, but a few days later

18 For recent and authoritative information on Central American affairs, see the volume by Dana G. Munro, “ The Five Republics of Central America." (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1918.)


a conflict occurred in which two Americans were killed." On August 12 a new president was elected who coöperated with the American forces in their efforts to establish peace and order, and on September 16 a treaty with the United States was signed at Port au Prince. This treaty provides for the establishment of a receivership of Haitian customs under the control of the United States similar in most respects to that established over the Dominican Republic. It also provides for the appointment, on the nomination of the President of the United States, of a financial adviser, who shall assist in the settlement of the foreign debt and direct expenditures of the surplus for the development of the agricultural, mineral, and commercial resources of the republic. It provides further for a native constabulary under American officers appointed by the President of Haiti upon nomination of the President of the United States. And it extends to Haiti the main provisions of the Platt Amendment. By controlling the internal financial administration of the government the United States hopes to remove all incentives for those revolutions which have in the past had for their object a raid on the public treasury, and by controlling the customs and maintaining order the United States hopes to avoid all possibility of foreign intervention.

The treaty is to remain in force for a period of ten years and for another period of ten years if either party presents specific reasons for continuing it on the ground that its purpose has not been fully accomplished.

The latest acquisition of the United States in the Caribbean is that of the Danish West Indies, or Virgin Islands. Reference has already been made to the treaty negotiated by Secretary Seward in 1867 for the purchase of these islands, which was unfortunately rejected by the Senate. Another attempt at purchase was made by President Roosevelt in 1902. A treaty providing for the cession of the group to the United States was signed at Washington on January 24 of that year and approved by the Senate February 17, but this time the Danish Rigsdag refused to give its approval. President Roosevelt was moved by the consideration that the Danish Islands were of great strategic importance in connection with the problem of guarding the approaches to the Panama canal. The commercial value of the islands is also great. Moreover, the United States was confronted by the possibility of their falling under the control of Germany or some other European power, which might use them as a naval base. Had Germany been successful in the recent war, she might have forced Denmark to sell or cede the islands to her. In view of this possibility, negotiations were taken up again with Denmark in 1916, and on August 4 Secretary Lansing concluded a treaty by which the United States acquired the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, together with some adjacent small islands and rocks, for the sum of $25,000,000. This treaty was duly ratified by the Senate and the ratifications were exchanged January 17, 1917.

1. Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report 1915, pp. 15.17.

The rapid advance of the United States in the Caribbean, described in the preceding pages, naturally aroused the fears of the smaller Latin-American states and lent color to the charge that the United States had converted the Monroe Doctrine from a policy of

« PreviousContinue »