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The publicity of these statements, and the strong feeling which then prevailed in all quarters that the Clayton-Bulwer convention was inadequate to reconcile the opposite views of Great Britain and the United States towards Central America, led to a very decided conviction that the treaty should be abrogated. Lord Napier reflected this growing impression when, on the 22d of June, 1857, he wrote to Lord Clarendon that
It is probable that if the pending discussions regarding Central America be not closed during the present summer, an attempt will be made in the next session of Congress to set aside the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. There can be no doubt of the views of the President and Cabinet on this matter.
Before this tendency could, however, find its expression in any official act, a movement on the part of Her Majesty's Government placed the whole matter in a new aspect. Sir William Gore Ouseley was sent out, October 30, 1857, as a special minister, with the double purpose of concluding with the Central American states, and especially with Guatemala and Honduras, settlements of the questions relative to the Bay Islands, the Mosquito territory, and the boundaries of British Honduras, ⚫ and also of visiting Washington on the way, and conferring with the Secretary of State of the United States for the purpose of ascertaining the views of his government, and establishing a perfect understanding with the United States upon the points respecting which differences have hitherto existed between the two countries."
Among these differences was now superadded to the territorial question of Mosquito and the islands, the very question which to-day most concerns us, the question of interoceanic communication, which had for some time been the occasion of correspondence between General Cass and Lord Napier, and in relation to which General Cass wrote, on the 20th of October, 1857, as follows:
I have thus endeavored to meet the frank suggestions of your lordship by restating with corresponding frankness the general policy of the United States with respect to the governments and the interoceanic transits of Central America. But since your lordship has referred to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 1850, as contemplating a harmonious course of action and counsel between the contracting parties in the settlement of Central American interests, you will pardon me for reminding your lordship that the differences which this treaty was intended to adjust between the United States and Great Britain still remain unsettled, while the treaty itself has become the subject of new and embarrassing complications.
Prior to the arrival of Sir William Ouseley in the United States Lord Napier held an important interview with President Buchanan on the 19th of October, 1857, with the object of obtaining "further elucidation of the opinions of the President with reference to the adjustment of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty." On that occasion Lord Napier declared that he believed it the intention of Her Majesty's Government, in Sir William Ouseley's mission, "to carry the Clayton-Bulwer treaty into execution according to the general tenor of the interpretation put upon it by the United States; but to do so by separate negotiation with the Central American republics, in lieu of a direct engagement with the Federal Government," and asked that, pending the negotiation intrusted to Sir William Ouseley, "no proposal to annul the [Clayton-Bulwer] treaty would be sanctioned or encouraged" by the President or the members of the United States Government. To this the President cheerfully consented, and promised to modify the statements in his annual message to Congress accordingly, and under no circumstances to countenance any attempt against the Clayton-Bulwer treaty in Congress.
Matters being in this state, with Sir William Ouseley's mission announced, and the benevolently expectant attitude of the United States
toward it assured, Lord Napier, on the 27th of October, 1857, in conference with General Cass, brought up contingently, as a discarded alternative of his government, a former proposal to refer the disputed questions to arbitration.
The general remarked in reply [says Lord Napier, writing to the Earl of Clarendon] that he did not repudiate the principle of arbitration on all occasions; he had invoked it, and would do so again where it seemed justly applicable; but that in this matter it was declined by the American Government for the following reasons: The language of the treaty was so clear that in his opinion there ought not to be two opinions about it. Then it was a mere question of the interpretation of the English language, and he held that a foreign government was not so competent to decide in such a question as the United States and England, who possessed that language in common.
The Earl of Clarendon, in reply, approved of Lord Napier's course in broaching anew the suggestion of arbitration, and authorized him to renew formally in writing the offer to refer the disputed questions arising out of the interpretation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty to the decision of any European power (instruction of November 13, 1857), and this was accordingly done by Lord Napier in a note to General Cass dated November 30, 1857.
In his annual message to Congress in December, 1857, President Buchanan, after narrating the negotiation and failure of the ClarendonDallas treaty, said:
The fact is, that when two nations like Great Britain and the United States, mutually desirous as they are, and I trust ever may be, of maintaining the most friendly relations with each other, have unfortunately concluded a treaty which they understand in senses directly opposite, the wisest course is to abrogate such a treaty by mutual consent and to commence anew. * Whilst entertaining these sentiments, I shall nevertheless not refuse to contribute to any reasonable adjustment of the Central American questions which is not practically inconsistent with the American interpretation of the treaty. Overtures for this purpose have been recently made by the British Government in a friendly spirit, which I cordially reciprocate.
Meanwhile the Earl of Clarendon had instructed Sir William Ouseley, under date of November 19, 1857, "not to commit Her Majesty's Government to any course whatever in respect to the Bay Islands till the intentions of the Congress of the United States in regard to the treaty of 1850 are clearly ascertained."
The situation, then, at the close of 1857 presented a triple dead-lock. The United States had agreed not to move toward the abrogation of the treaty until it could be seen what interpretation of its provisions would result from Sir William Ouseley's mission. Sir William had received positive instructions not to move until the United States should decide whether to abrogate the treaty or not, and Lord Napier was forbidden to move until the United States should make formal answer to the proposal for arbitration. The instructions of Lord Clarendon to Lord Napier, January 22, 1858, contained these words:
We are decidedly of opinion that it would neither be consistent with our dignity or our interest to make any proposal to the United States Government until we have received a formal answer to our formal offer of arbitration. In event of the offer being refused, it will be a great and hardly justifiable proof of the spirit of conciliation by which we are animated if we then show ourselves disposed to abrogate the ClaytonBulwer treaty; but we must not be in too great haste..
In order, apparently, to break this dead-lock, Lord Napier wrote to General Cass, February 17, 1858, that
Something in the nature of an alternative was thus offered to the American Cabinet. Should the expedient of arbitration be adopted a great portion of Sir William Ouseley's duty would be transferred to other agencies. Should arbitration be declined, It was hoped that the efforts of Her Majesty's envoy would result in a settlement agreeable to the United States, inasmuch as in essential points it would carry the treaty of 1850 into operation in a manner practically conformable to the American interpretation of that instrument.
On the 10th of March, 1858, the Earl of Malmesbury, who had succeeded Lord Clarendon in the foreign office, instructed Lord Napier that until an answer was returned to the proposal for arbitration "no further steps can be taken by Her Majesty's Government with that of the United States in regard to that matter;" and, further, that—
When this point is cleared up, Her Majesty's Government, supposing that the Government of the United States decline arbitration, will have to determine whether they should originate a proposal for the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty or adopt any other course which the circumstances at the moment may seem to recommend.
It appears, however, that the proposal to abrogate the treaty which Lord Malmesbury reserved the right to originate had already been communicated to the Government of the United States by Lord Napier, under instructions from Lord Clarendon. In a dispatch dated March 22, 1858, Lord Napier wrote:
The Earl of Clarendon authorized me to inform General Cass that Her Majesty's Government would not decline the consideration of a proposal for the abrogation of the treaty by mutual concert. I have, accordingly, on two occasions, informed General Cass that if the Government of the United States be still of the same mind, and continue to desire the abrogation of the treaty of 1850, it would be agreeable to Her Majesty's Government that they should insert a proposal to that effect in their reply to my note respecting arbitration.
Lord Napier further reports in detail the conversations had with Gen eral Cass as to the most proper method of effecting such abrogation, if agreed to.
In reply to this dispatch of Lord Napier, the Earl of Malmesbury instructed him, April 8, 1858, that his action was approved, and that he should confine himself to pressing for an answer to his proposal for arbitration. His lordship added these significant words:
Her Majesty's Government, if the initiative is still left to them by the unwillingness of the United States themselves to propose abrogation, desire to retain full liberty as to the manner and form in which any such proposal shall be laid on their behalf before the Cabinet at Washington. The Clayton-Bulwer treaty has been a source of unceasing embarrassment to this country, and Her Majesty's Government, if they should be so fortunate as to extricate themselves from the difficulties which have resulted from it, will not involve themselves, directly or indirectly, in any similar difficulties for the future.
The answer of General Cass to Lord Napier's several proposals was, briefly, to the effect that pending the results expected from Sir William Ouseley's mission to the Central American States the United States could not adopt the alternative of arbitration, "even if it had not been twice rejected before," and, that if—
The President does not hasten to consider now the alternative of repealing the treaty of 1850, it is because he does not wish prematurely to anticipate the failure of Sir William Ouseley's mission, and is disposed to give a new proof to Her Majesty's Government of his sincere desire to preserve the amicable relations which now happily subsist between the two countries. (General Cass to Lord Napier, April 6, 1858.)
In this posture of affairs the Earl of Malmesbury instructed Sir William Ouseley to open direct negotiations with the Central American States, and on the 18th of August instructed Lord Napier to inform the Government of the United States of the intentions and object of her Majesty's Government in the premises. His lordship added:
Modification, arbitration, and abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty have been flatly rejected [the italics are my own]. Great Britain and Nicaragua are now about to treat as independent States.
I have emphasized the phrase "flatly rejected" in view of a subse
quent instruction of the Earl of Malmesbury to Lord Napier on the 8th of December, 1858, wherein he said:
I think you would have done better if you had not too pointedly brought before the United States Government the notion that the British Government might view with favor a proposal to abrogate the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.
It is not difficult, in following this narrative, to discern that General Cass, though not desiring to express it, had an additional motive for declining at that particular time to propose the abrogation of the Clayton Bulwer treaty. He did not desire by such proposed abrogation to indicate his willingness that Sir William Gore Ouseley should make treaties with the separate states of Central America, unrestrained by the clauses of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty inhibiting the extension of British power in that region. General Cass, with his accustomed caution and wisdom, clearly perceived that for the United States to propose abrogation on the very eve of Sir William Ouseley's mission would lead to injurious inferences, and would imply conclusions which the United States was not prepared to admit.
Objectionable as General Cass thought the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, he thought it was better than giving the implied consent of this government that Great Britain should obtain such treaties as the force of her power might secure in Central America.
The subsequent note of Lord Malmesbury, not strained by an uncharitable construction, throws additional light on the subject, and confirms the wisdom of General Cass in declining to propose abrogation at that time. And, besides, General Cass evidently desired to retain those very clauses of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty to which, in my dispatch of the 19th, I proposed on the part of this government to adhere.
I have dwelt with somewhat of detail on this particular historic episode, partly because it admirably illustrates the spirit with which both governments have regarded the Clayton-Bulwer treaty from the first, and partly because it had more direct bearing on the question of the guarantee of any isthmian transit than any other discussion of the time. In perusing the voluminous correspondence, unprinted as well as that printed and submitted at the time to Congress and to Parliament, I am more than ever struck by the elastic character of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and the admirable purpose it has served as an ultimate recourse on the part. of either government to check apprehended designs in Central America on the part of the other; although all the while it was frankly admitted on both sides that the engagements of the treaty were misunderstandingly entered into, imperfectly comprehended, contradictorily interpreted, and mutually vexatious.
I am, as I must confess, strengthened in this impression by the circumstance that, in his response to my dispatch of the 24th of June last, Earl Granville takes the ground that the position of Great Britain and the United States toward the projected Panama Canal is determined by the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. It does not seem likely to become a subject for discussion how far the engagements of that compact in reality extend to the Isthmus of Panama under the provisions of Article VIII thereof in the same precise sense in which they extend to the projected Nicaraguan transit.
For it will be observed that this article does not stretch the guarantees and restrictions of Article I over either the Tehuantepec route through Mexican territory or the Panama route through Colombian territory. It is in terms an agreement to extend the protection of both countries, by treaty stipulations, to those or any other practicable water
ways or railways, from ocean to ocean, across the Isthmus, outside of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America. So far as this inchoate agreement to hereafter agree is applicable to the Panama transit, I have amply shown, in my No. 270 of the 19th instant, that the obligations embraced on the part of the United States in concluding the prior convention with the Republic of New Granada (now Colombia) in 1846 require that the United States should be freed from unequal and inequitable obligations to Great Britain under the vague and, as yet, unperfected compact of 1850.
My main object in writing this instruction has been to strengthen your hands in any discussion which may now ensue as to the benefits of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty and the mutual interest of the two countries in conserving it as the basis of a settlement of all disputes between them touching Central American and isthmian questions. It will be seen that, from the time of its conclusion in 1850 until the end of 1858, its provisions were thrice made the basis of a proposal to arbitrate as to their meaning, that modification and abrogation have been alike contingently considered, and that its vexatious and imperfect character has been repeatedly recognized on both sides. The present proposal of this government is to free it from those embarrassing features, and leave it, as its framers intended it should be, a full and perfect settlement, for all time, of all possible issues between the United States and Great Britain with regard to Central America.
If in your conferences with Earl Granville it should seem necessary, you will make free use of the precedents I have cited, and should you, within the discretionary limits confided at the end of my No. 270, have given a copy thereof to his lordship, you are equally at liberty to let him have a copy of this also, with the same explanation, that it is for your use, and not written as a formal note for communication to Her Majesty's Government.
I am, &c.,
JAMES G. BLAINE.
72.-Mr. Lowell to Mr. Blaine.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
London, December 15, 1881. (Received December 29.) SIR: I have the honor to acquaint you that on the 13th instant I had an interview with Lord Granville at the foreign office, and communicated to him the substance of your instruction No. 270, of the 19th ultimo. I then, at his request, read it to him, beginning, however, with the concluding paragraph, for obvious reasons. At his desire I left a copy with him.
I thought it wiser, in a matter of so much moment, that he should receive the views of the President as they were conveyed in the dispatch, rather than, perhaps, to weaken their force by communicating them in my own manner, as I was authorized by you to do.
Lord Granville listened with great attention, and merely said that he should reserve his answer.
I have, &c.,
J. R. LOWELL.