Page images








[blocks in formation]

2D SESS.; No. 194, 47тH CONG., 1ST SESS.;
AND No. 26, 48TH CONG., 1st SESS.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]






[Senate Ex. Doc. No. 112, 46th Congress, 2d session.]

Message from the President of the United States, in response to Senate resolution of February 11, 1880, covering report of Secretary of State, with accompanying documents, in relation to the proposed interoceanic canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

MARCH 9, 1880.-Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and ordered to be printed.

To the Senate:

I transmit herewith the report of the Secretary of State, and the accompanying papers, in response to the resolution adopted by the Senate on the 11th of February last, requesting "copies of all correspondence between this Government and any foreign Government since February, 1869, respecting a ship-canal across the Isthmus between North America and South America, together with copies of any projét of treaties respecting the same which the Department of State may have proposed or submitted since that date to any foreign power or its diplomatic representative."

In further compliance with the resolution of the Senate, I deem it proper to state briefly my opinion as to the policy of the United States with respect to the construction of an interoceanic canal, by any route, across the American Isthmus.

The policy of this country is a canal under American control. The United States cannot consent to the surrender of this control to any European power, or to any combination of European powers. If exist ing treaties between the United States and other nations, or if the rights of sovereignty or property of other nations stand in the way of this policy-a contingency which is not apprehended-suitable steps should be taken by just and liberal negotiations to promote and estab lish the American policy on this subject, consistently with the rights of the nations to be affected by it.

The capital invested by corporations or citizens of other countries in such an enterprise must, in a great degree, look for protection to one or more of the great powers of the world. No European power can intervene for such protection without adopting measures on this continent which the United States would deem wholly inadmissible. If the protection of the United States is relied upon, the United States must exercise such control as will enable this country to protect its national interests and maintain the rights of those whose private capital is embarked in the work.

An interoceanic canal across the American Isthmus will essentially change the geographical relations between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, and between the United States and the rest of the

world. It will be the great ocean thoroughfare between our Atlantic and our Pacific shores, and virtually a part of the coast line of the United States. Our merely commercial interest in it is greater than that of all other countries, while its relations to our power and prosperity as a nation, to our means of defense, our unity, peace, and safety are matters of paramount concern to the people of the United States. No other great power would, under similar circumstances, fail to assert a rightful control over a work so closely and vitally affecting its interest and welfare.

Without urging further the grounds of my opinion, I repeat, in conclusion, that it is the right and the duty of the United States to assert and maintain such a supervision and authority over any interoceanic canal across the isthmus that connects North and South America as will protect our national interests. This I am quite sure will be found not only compatible with, but promotive of, the widest and most permanent advantage to commerce and civilization.



To the President:

Washington, March 8, 1880.

The Secretary of State, to whom was referred the resolution of the Senate of the 11th ultimo, requesting the President, if not in his opinion incompatible with the public business, "to transmit to the Senate copies of all correspondence between this Government and any foreign Government since February, 1869, respecting a ship-canal across the Isthmus between North America and South America, together with copies of any projět of treaties respecting the same which the Department of State may have proposed or submitted since that date to any foreign power or its diplomatic representative," and also the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 10th ultimo, on the same subject, has the honor to present to the President a connected view of certain correspondence and information called for by said resolutions for transmission to Congress, in anticipation of any more full and complete collection of the correspondence within the scope of the resolutions that a more careful examination of the files of the Department might enable him to supply.

The natural interest of the United States in any connection through the American Isthmus has not only always been emphatically expressed by the Government, but it has been fully and distinctly recognized by other governments from the earliest period of our national existence.

As far back as 1797, when the condition of public affairs in Europe afforded the first indications of those changes in Spanish colonial possessions on this continent which were afterward so completely realized by the establishment of the independence of Mexico and the South and Central American Provinces, a plan was submitted to, and considered by, the Government of Great Britain by which the possession of Louisiana and Florida was to be given to the United States, and it was further proposed that "The passage of the Isthmus of Panama, as well as that of Lake Nicaragua, will be equally guaranteed for all merchandise belonging to citizens of the United States of America, and the exportation of all products of South America will be equally encouraged on their

commercial vessels-the North Americans becoming, as they ought to be, for us what the Hollanders have for a long time been for the Northern Powers-that is to say, carriers."

From that period, as the independence of these republics became established, and as the commercial resources and territory of the United States became extended, the relations of this Government with the States of Central and South America grew closer, and a more direct interest was taken in the possible completion of an interoceanic canal connection. The subject was one to which the attention of the Government was always directed, and while for very many years there was no practical discussion of the project, there was at several periods diplomatic communication indicating the general views both of the United States and the governments of those States through whose territories the projected canals would pass.

It is unnecessary to do more than refer to this interchange of opinion. The first diplomatic transaction by which the Government of the United States acquired treaty rights and assumed treaty obligations in reference to an Isthmus canal was the treaty between the United States and New Granada, signed at Bogota 12th December, 1846, and ratified by both Governments in 1848.

By the thirty-fifth article of this treaty it was stipulated:


The United States of America and the Republic of New Granada, desiring to make as durable as possible the relations which are to be established between the two parties by virtue of this treaty, have declared solemnly and do agree to the following points: 1st. For the better understanding of the preceding articles, it is and has been stipulated between the high contracting parties that the citizens, vessels, and merchandise of the United States shall enjoy in the ports of New Granada, including those of the part of the Granadian territory generally denominated Isthmus of Panama, from its southernmost extremity until the boundary of Costa Rica, all the exemptions, privileges, and immunities concerning commerce and navigation which are now or may hereafter be enjoyed by Granadian citizens, their vessels and merchandise; and that this equality of favors shall be made to extend to the passengers, correspondence, and merchandise of the United States in their transit across the said territory from one sea to the other. 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 for the transportation of any articles of produce, manufactures, or merchandise, of lawful commerce, belonging to the citizens of the United States; that no other tolls or charges shall be levied or collected upon the citizens of the United States, or their said merchandise thus passing over any road or canal that may be made by the Government of New Granada, or by the authority of the same, than is, under like circumstances, levied upon and collected from the Granadian citizens; that any lawful produce, manufactures, or merchandise belonging to citizens of the United States thus passing from one sea to the other, in either direction, for the purpose of exportation to any other foreign country, shall not be liable to any import duties whatever; or, having paid such duties, they shall be entitled to drawback upon their exportation; nor shall the citizens of the United States be liable to any duties, tolls, or charges of any kind to which native citizens are not subjected for thus passing the said Isthmus. 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 4th, 5th, and 6th 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.

2d. The present treaty shall remain in full force and vigor for the term of twenty years from the day of the exchange of the ratifications; and from the same day the treaty that was concluded between the United States and Colombia on the 3d of Octo

« PreviousContinue »