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across the isthmus of Panama, and began operations at once.1 Another company obtained a contract from the Nicaraguan government to open an interoceanic waterway through that state. President Polk sent a special envoy-Elijah Hise—to Nicaragua to inquire into British aggressions there; and Mr. Hise concluded an unauthorized treaty by which the United States government, or a company of its citizens, was given the exclusive right to construct and operate a transit-way across the state, on condition that the United States should guarantee the neutrality of the way and protect the sovereign rights of Nicaragua over territory which she justly claimed. This treaty, however, was not submitted
to the Senate.
The Whig administration which began in 1849 seemed to be more desirous of obtaining the facilities for isthmian transit than of the enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine. In that year Mr. E. G. Squier, who was sent out in place of Mr. Hise, obtained for a new company of United States capitalists a concession for an interoceanic canal, and negotiated a treaty by which the company was given the right of way for the purpose, on condition that the United States should guarantee the neutrality of the canal and the sovereignty of Nica
1 Niles' Register, LXXIV., 385; cf. Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. vi.
2 Senate Exec. Docs., 47 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 194, pp. 4149, 55; Travis, Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, 59.
ragua over the territory along the line of it. By this treaty like privileges on the same terms were offered to other nations that might care for them. Then, in order to facilitate the canal project and to neutralize the efforts of the British government, which already controlled the eastern terminus of the Nicaragua route, and was aiming to get control of the Pacific terminus also, Squier obtained from Honduras the cession to the United States of the island of Tigre, in the Gulf of Fonseca. The island was immediately seized by British troops to satisfy a debt of Honduras to British subjects. Squier gave notice that the island belonged to the United States, and ordered its evacuation, but was refused. The matter was now taken up by the two governments concerned, and their isthmian relations were readjusted on a new basis.1
The readjustment consisted in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, which was signed April 19, 1850, and mutually ratified on July 5 of the same year. By this treaty Great Britain and the United States agreed to join in promoting the construction of a shipcanal across the isthmus by the Nicaragua route, promising that neither would "ever obtain or maintain for itself any exclusive control over the said ship-canal," or assume or exercise any dominion
over any part of Central America," or use its connections with any state to acquire rights in relation to the canal not offered on the same terms 1 Travis, Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, chap. vi.
to citizens or subjects of the other party to the convention. The two governments guaranteed the neutrality and security" of the canal so long as there should be no "unfair discriminations" or "oppressive exactions" in its management, and engaged to invite every state with which either contracting party had friendly intercourse to join in the agreement and "share in the honor and advantage" of contributing to such an important work. Both pledged their "support and encouragement" to the first person or company beginning its construction under satisfactory conditions. In addition, article v. distinctly applied the principle of neutrality to any means of transit over the isthmus route.1
The significance of the treaty was somewhat confused by a correspondence between the negotiators that took place just previous to the exchange of ratifications. June 29, Sir Henry Bulwer, the British envoy, wrote Secretary of State Clayton that he did not understand the obligations of the treaty to apply to British Honduras or its dependencies— that is, in promising not to assume or exercise dominion over any part of Central America, the British government did not have British Honduras or its dependencies in mind. The "dependencies" must have been Mosquitia and one or two islands to which Great Britain had some claim in the Bay of Honduras. Clayton acknowledged in reply that 1 U. S. Treaties and Conventions, 440-444.
Bulwer's reservation was correct. Thus was left open the troublesome and at times threatening question of the British protectorate over the Mosquito Coast, which long remained to vex American diplomacy.1
1 Senate Exec. Docs., 47 Cong., 1 Sess., VI., No. 194, pp. 1416, 87; Travis, Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, chap. iv. ; cf. Smith, Parties and Slavery (Am. Nation, XVIII.), chap. xviii.
THE COMPLEX SLAVERY ISSUE
the most pressing question of the time the election of 1848 gave no answer; that was, what should be done with the new territorial acquisitions? North and South now began to realize the hopeless incompatibility of their respective industrial and social systems, and any agreement between them became ever more difficult. Since slavery constituted the most essential difference, it was, of course, the point of greatest friction. As the national boundaries expanded westward, the North showed itself increasingly anxious to prevent slavery from extending also. Up to 1850 each addition of territory was made the occasion of an effort to limit the spread of that institution: the Northwest Ordinance excluded it from that part of the old West which lay north of the Ohio River; and that exclusion was repeated in several acts for the organization of territories within the area. After a severe clash between the opposing sections, the Missouri Compromise excluded it also from that part of the Louisiana purchase north of 36° 30' except in the