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of interest and sympathy, and for holding, in the quiet determination of an honorable self-defense, the absolute control of the great waterway which shall unite the two oceans, and which the United States will always insist upon treating as part of her coast line.
If a hostile movement should at any time be made against the Pacific coast, threatening danger to its people and destruction to its property, the Government of the United States would feel that it had been unfaithful to its duty and neglectful towards its own citizens if it permitted itself to be bound by a treaty which gave the same right through the canal to a war-ship bent on an errand of destruction that is reserved to its own navy, sailing for the defense of our coast and the protection of the lives of our people. And as England insists by the might of her power that her enemies in war shall strike her Indian possessions only by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, so the Government of the United States will equally insist that the interior, more speedy, and safer route of the canal shall be reserved for ourselves, while our enemies, if we shall ever be so unfortunate as to have any, shall be remanded to the Voyage around Cape Horn.
A consideration of controlling influence in this question is the wellsettled conviction on the part of this government that only by the United States exercising supervision can the Isthmus canals be definitely and at all times secured against the interference and obstruction incident to A mere agreement of neutrality on paper between the great powers of Europe might prove ineffectual to preserve the canal in time of hostilities. The first sound of a cannon in a general European war would in all probability annul the treaty of neutrality, and the strategic position of the canal, commanding both oceans, might be held by the first naval power that could seize it. If this should be done the United States would suffer such grave inconvenience and loss in her domestic commerce as would enforce the duty of a defensive and protective war on her part for the mere purpose of gaining that control which in advance she insists is due to her position and demanded by her necessities.
I am not arguing or assuming that a general war, or any war at all, is imminent in Europe. But it must not be forgotten that within the past twenty-five years all the great powers of Europe have been engaged in war; most of them more than once. In only a single instance. in the past hundred years has the United States exchanged a hostile shot with any European power. It is in the highest degree improbable that for a hundred years to come even that experience will be repeated. It consequently becomes evident that the one conclusive mode of preserving any Isthmus canal from the possible distraction and destruction of war is to place it under the control of that government least likely to be engaged in war, and able, in any and every event, to enforce the guardianship which she shall assume.
For self-protection to her own interests, therefore, the United States in the first instance asserts her right to control the Isthmus transit. And, secondly, she offers by such control that absolute neutralization of the canal as respects European powers which can in no other way be certainly attained and lastingly assured.
Another consideration forcibly suggests the necessity of modifying the convention under discussion. At the time it was agreed to, Great Britain and the United States were the only nations prominent in the commerce of Central and South America. Since that time other leading nations have greatly enlarged their commercial connections with that country, and are to-day contending for supremacy in the trade of those shores. Within the past four years, indeed, the number of French
and German vessels landing on the two coasts of Central America far exceeds the number of British vessels.
While, therefore, Great Britain and the United States may agree to do nothing, and, according to the present convention, each remains bound to the other in common helplessness, a third power, or a fourth, or a combination of many, may step in and give direction to the project which the Clayton-Bulwer treaty assumed was under the sole control of the two English-speaking nations. Indeed, so far as the canal scheme now projected at Panama finds a national sponsor or patron, it is in the Republic of France, and the non-intervention enjoined upon this country by the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, if applied to that canal, would paralyze the arm of the United States in any attempt to assert the plain rights and privileges which this government acquired through a solemn treaty with the Republic of Colombia anterior to the Clayton-Bulwer convention, so that the modification of the treaty of 1850, now sought, is not only to free the United States from unequal and inequitable obligations to Great Britain, but also to empower this government to treat with all other nations seeking a foothold on the Isthmus on the same basis of impartial justice and independence.
One of the motives that originally induced this government to assent to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, not distinctly expressed in the instrument, but inferable from every line of it, was the expected aid of British capital in the construction of the Nicaraguan canal. That expectation has not been realized, and the changed condition of this country since 1850 has diminished, if it has not entirely removed from consideration, any advantage to be derived from that source. Whenever, in the judgment of the United States Government, the time shall be auspicious and the conditions favorable for the construction of the Nicaraguan canal, no aid will be needed outside of the resources of our own government and people; and while foreign capital will always be welcomed and never repelled, it cannot henceforth enter as an essential factor in the determination of this problem.
It is earnestly hoped by the President that the considerations now presented will have due weight and influence with Her Majesty's Government, and that the modifications of the treaty desired by the United States will be conceded in the same friendly spirit in which they are asked. The following is a summary of the changes necessary to meet the views of this government:
First. Every part of the treaty which forbids the United States fortifying the canal and holding the political control of it in conjunction with the country in which it is located to be canceled.
Second. Every part of the treaty in which Great Britain and the United States agree to make no acquisition of territory in Central America, to remain in full force. As an original proposition, this government would not admit that Great Britain and the United States should be put on the same basis, even negatively, with respect to territorial acquisitions on the American continent, and would be unwilling to establish such a precedent without full explanation. But the treaty contains that provision with respect to Central America, and if the United States should seek its annulment, it might give rise to erroneous and mischievous apprehensions among a people with whom this government desires to be on the most friendly terms. The United States has taken special occasion to assure the Spanish-American republics to the south of us that we do not intend and do not desire to cross their borders or in any way disturb their territorial integrity, and we shall not willingly incur the risk of a misunderstanding by annulling the
clauses in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty which forbid such a step with Central America. The acquisition of military and naval stations necessary for the protection of the canal and voluntarily ceded to the United States by the Central American States, not to be regarded as a violation of the provisions contained in the foregoing.
Third. The United States will not object to maintaining the clause looking to the establishment of a free port at each end of whatever canal may be constructed, if England desires it to be retained.
Fourth. The clause in which the two governments agreed to make treaty stipulations for a joint protectorate of whatever railway or canal might be constructed at Tehuantepec or Panama has never been perfected. No treaty stipulations for the proposed end have been suggested by either party, although citizens of the United States long since constructed a railway at Panama, and are now engaged in the same work at Tehuantepec. It is a fair presumption, in the judgment of the President, that this provision should be regarded as absolute by the non-action and common consent of the two governments.
Fifth. The clause defining the distance from either end of the canal. where in time of war captures might be made by either belligerent on the high seas was left incomplete, and the distance was never determined. In the judgment of the President, speaking in the interest of peaceful commerce, this distance should be made as liberal as possible, and might, with advantage, as a question relating to the high seas and common to all nations, be a matter of stipulation between the great powers of the world.
In assuming as a necessity the political control of whatever canal or canals may be constructed across the Isthmus, the United States will act in entire harmony with the governments within whose territory the canals shall be located. Between the United States and the other American republics there can be no hostility, no jealousy, no rivalry, no distrust. This government entertains no design in connection with this project for its own advantage which is not also for the equal or greater advantage of the country to be directly and immediately affected. Nor does the United States seek any exclusive or narrow commercial advantage. It frankly agrees and will by public proclamation declare at the proper time, in conjunction with the republic on whose soil the canal may be located, that the same rights and privileges, the same tolls and obligations for the use of the canal, shall apply with absolute impartiality to the merchant marine of every nation on the globe. And equally in time of peace, the harmless use of the canal shall be freely granted to the war vessels of other nations. In time of war, aside from the defensive use to be made of it by the country in which it is constructed and by the United States, the canal shall be impartially closed against the war vessels of all belligerents.
It is the desire and determination of the United States that the canal shall be used only for the development and increase of peaceful commerce among all the nations, and shall not be considered a strategic point in warfare which may tempt the aggression of belligerents or be seized under the compulsions of military necessity by any of the great powers that may have contests in which the United States has no stake and will take no part.
If it be asked why the United States objects to the assent of European governments to the terms of neutrality for the operation of the canal, my answer is that the right to assent implies the right to dissent, and thus the whole question would be thrown open for contention as an international issue. It is the fixed purpose of the United States to con
fine it strictly and solely as an American question, to be dealt with and decided by the American Government.
In presenting the views contained herein to Lord Granville, you will take occasion to say that the Government of the United States seeks this particular time for the discussion as most opportune and auspicious. At no period since the peace of 1783 have relations between the British and American Governments been so cordial and friendly as now. And I am sure Her Majesty's Government will find in the views now suggested and the propositions now submitted additional evidence of the desire of this government to remove all possible grounds of controversy between two nations which have so many interests in common and so many reasons for honorable and lasting peace.
You will, at the earliest opportunity, acquaint Lord Granville with the purpose of the United States touching the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and in your own way you will impress him fully with the views of your government.
I refrain from directing that a copy of this instruction be left with his lordship, because in reviewing the case I have necessarily been compelled, in drawing illustrations from British policy, to indulge somewhat freely in the argumentum ad hominem.
This course of reasoning in an instruction to our own minister is altogether legitimate and pertinent, and yet might seem discourteous if addressed directly to the British Government. You may deem it expedient to make this explanation to Lord Granville, and if, afterwards, he shall desire a copy of this instruction, you will of course furnish it.
I am, &c.,
JAMES G. BLAINE.
71.-Mr. Blaine to Mr. Lowell.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, November 29, 1881.
SIR: One week after mailing my instruction to you, on the 19th instant, touching the presentation to Her Majesty's Government of a proposal for the modification of the convention between the two countries of April 19, 1850, better known as the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, I received Mr. Hoppin's No. 218, of the 11th instant, communicating the response of Lord Granville to my circular note of the 24th of June last, in relation to the neutrality of any canal across the Isthmus of Panama. I regret that Mr. Hoppin should not have advised me by telegraph of the purport of his lordship's reply, as it would have enabled me to present. the arguments of my dispatch of the 19th instant in a more specific form, as meeting a positive issue, rather than as generally dealing with a subject which, for thirty years, has been regarded in but one light by the public opinion of the United States. It seems proper now, however, in reply to his lordship's note of November 10, to give a summary of the historical objections to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and the very decided differences of opinion between the two governments to which its interpretation has given rise.
I need hardly point out to you the well-known circumstance that, even at the time of the conclusion of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, a very considerable opposition was shown thereto on the part of the far-sighted men in public life who correctly estimated the complications which the uncertain terms of that compact might occasion. It was ably contended in Congress that its provisions did not, even then, suffice to meet the
real points at issue with respect to the guarantee of the neutrality of the whole American isthmus on bases comporting with the national interests of the United States, and the differences of interpretation became soon after so marked as to warrant the extreme proposal of Her Majesty's Government to refer them to the arbitration of a friendly power.
The justice of those doubts became still more evident six years later,. when the pretensions put forth by Her Majesty's Government toward territorial protection, if not absolute control, of portions of Nicaragua and of the outlying Bay Islands brought up the precise question of how far the provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer compact operated to restrain the projected movement, and thereupon the interpretations respectively put upon that instrument by the United States and Great Britain were perceived to be in open conflict. The attempt made in the ClarendonDallas treaty, which was negotiated on the 17th of October, 1856, to reconcile these opposing contentions and to place the absolute and independent sovereignty of Nicaragua over its teritory on an unmistakable footing, so far as the United States and Great Britain were concerned, failed to be completed by reason of the rejection by Her Majesty's Government of an amendment introduced by the Senate into the ClarendonDallas project. From that time onward the inability of the two governments to agree upon a common interpretation of the letter and spirit of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty may be accepted as a historical fact.
In the discussions between the two governments which attended the failure of the Clarendon-Dallas treaty the attitude of the United States with respect to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was amply defined. As early as the 12th of March, 1857, I find that General Cass, then Secretary of State, in the course of a conference with Lord Napier, Her Majesty's representative,
Passed some reflections on the Clayton-Bulwer treaty; he had voted for it, and in doing so he believed that it abrogated all intervention on the part of England in the Central American territory. The British Government had put a different construction on the treaty, and he regretted the vote he had given in its favor. (Dispatch of Lord Napier to the Earl of Clarendon, March 12, 1857.)
On the 6th of May, 1857, President Buchanan, in an audience given to Lord Napier, and in response to his lordship's suggestion that if the attempted adjustment of the difference between the governments as to the Clarendon-Dallas treaty should fail, the Clayton-Bulwer treaty remained to fall back upon, characterized that instrument in much stronger terms than General Cass had done. To quote Lord Napier's words:
The President denounced the Clayton-Bulwer treaty as one which has been fraught with misunderstanding and mischief from the beginning. It was concluded under the most opposite constructions by the contracting parties. If the Senate had imagined that it could obtain the interpretation placed upon it by Great Britain it would not have passed. If he had been in the Senate at the time that treaty never would have been sanctioned. (Dispatch of Lord Napier to the Earl of Clarendon, May 6, 1857.)
These views are more explicitly and formally repeated in a note addressed by Secretary Cass to Lord Napier on the 29th of May, 1857. He says:
The Clayton-Bulwer treaty, concluded in the hope that it would put an end to the differences which had arisen between the United States and Great Britain concerning Central American affairs, had been rendered inoperative in some of its most essential provisions by the different constructions which had been reciprocally given to it by the parties. And little is hazarded in saying that, had the interpretation since put upon the treaty by the British Government, and yet maintained, been anticipated, it would not have been negotiated under the instructions of any Executive of the United States nor ratified by the branch of the government intrusted with the power of ratification.