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GENERAL GRANT AND THE CANAL.
Ulysses S. Grant was the most successful of American generals, hence the greatest American general; for in war nothing counts but success; the struggle from "start to finish" is always for victory.
What had General Grant to do with Panama? In 1852 he sailed from New York with his regiment for California and marched across Panama almost on the line of the present canal. Some of the troops being attacked by cholera they were left behind in charge of Lieutenant Grant. He thus had the opportunity to fully realize the possibilities of an isthmian canal. He was not brought into prominent official relations with the nation until the Civil War of 1861.
His great generalship brought him to the Presidency in 1868, and again in 1872. While President in 1869 he gave attention to the subject of a canal "by America under American control." He held that no European government should hold such a work; and he appointed an Inter-oceanic Canal Commission, composed of army and navy officials. This commission directed four different surveys to be made: First, at Atrato on the Isthmus of Darian; second, at the Isthmus of Tehauntepec; third, at Nicaragua; fourth, at Panama from the mouth of Chagres river to Panama City. This route was recommended by the surveying party for a lock canal but not for a sea-level canal, on account of the floods in the Chagres river.
The Canal Commission went on gathering data until 1876 when it reported to President Grant in favor of
the Nicaragua route by way of the San Juan river. This was at that time deemed conclusive, but there was the Clayton-Bulwer treaty barring the way. It could not be wholly an American canal while that treaty was binding. Grant's Secretary of State, Fish, at once took up the question with England for a modification of the treaty; this was a difficult and slow task and Grant's administration closed with no definite results.
General Grant was not here able to gain a civil victory whatever he might have done had he undertaken the work by the arbitrament of war. An American canal on American soil under American control was a patriotic and noble sentiment, but two things were indispensable requisites: we must be able to build the canal; and we must secure full ownership (no qualifications) and full sovereignty over the territory. Had we then the territory no doubt General Grant would have undertaken the conquest of the isthmus.
We as a nation never had the full opportunity of building any canal until 1903, when we received grants, franchises, national indorsements and treaties to this effect; and by virtue of them and American engineering skill and courage, and a plethoric national treasury we have reached the goal, gained the victory and commerce now floats from the Pacific to the Atlantic, not on a "fabled strait," but on a real tangible interoceanic canal.
General Grant's views are clearly and forcibly expressed in his able article in the North American Review, February, 1881.
After the close of the late war with Spain our country saw more strongly the necessity of a connection between the two oceans. There was a prevailing feeling in favor of the Nicaragua route but Congress did not seem willing to decide the question. In fact it had not yet definitely secured any right of way.
Again negotiation was taken up with England to modify the Clayton treaty. This finally ended in the Hay-Pauncefote treaty, ratified December 16, 1901. The old treaty was superseded and all our rights were to be regulated by the clear meaning of the words and provisions of the new compact. If a provision of the old treaty, or any principle thereof, was adopted by the new treaty, of course it is binding on the respective parties because it is a part and parcel of the contract. If any vital part of a contract can be disregarded all could be disregarded and there would be no contract.
Only one provision of the old treaty is in any way mentioned as preserved. The Preamble of the new treaty says, that the two nations "being desirous to facilitate the construction of a ship canal by whatever route may be considered expedient, to remove any objection which may arise out of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty to the construction of such canal under the auspices of the United States, without impairing the general principle of neutralization established by Article 8 of that convention" have for this purpose appointed plenipotentiaries, etc.
Article 1, says that the prior treaty is superseded
by the present treaty. Article 2, provides that the canal may be constructed under the auspices of the United States directly at its own cost or by loan or gift to others; and "that subject to the present treaty" our nation shall enjoy "all the rights incident to such construction as well as the exclusive right of providing for the regulation and management of the canal."
This section gave our nation the privilege to buy the right of way and own it, and itself build and own the canal. It also gave full rights to govern, protect and police the great waterway.
Article 3, relates to the "neutralization" of the canal under the rules (so far as applicable) for the operation of the Suez Canal. Section 1 of this article says that "the canal shall be free and open to the vessels of commerce and of war of all nations observing these rules on terms of entire equality, so that there shall be no discrimination against any such nation or its subjects and citizens in respect of the conditions or charges of traffic or otherwise. Such conditions and charges of traffic shall be just and equitable."
Section 2, provides that the canal shall not be blockaded nor shall any act of war or hostility be committed within it.
Section 3, says that war vessels shall not revictual nor take on stores while in transit.
Section 4, prohibits belligerents from embarking troops or taking on warlike material in the canal except from accident in the transit.
Section 5, provides that Article 3 shall apply to waters within 3 marine miles of either end of the canal. And that vessels of belligerents shall not remain in such waters more than twenty-four hours at any one time except in distress.
Section 6, makes all establishments, buildings and
works used in the operation of the canal a part thereof; and they shall enjoy in time of war, immunity from attack by belligerents and from acts calculated to impair the use of the canal.
Article 4 is one of the important features of the compact. It says that "no change of territorial sovereignty or of international relations of the country or countries traversed by the canal shall affect the general principle of 'neutralization' or the obligations under the present treaty."
This article could be held to operate in two ways in favor of England. First, if America bought the territory and secured the canal sovereignty, still this change of circumstance should not deprive England of her right to equal treatment. Second, if we, owning the canal and lands, should conclude to sell to another, still England should have her right of like fair and equal treatment at the hands of the purchaser. This article refers to any "change of territorial sovereignty," in the lands traversed by the canal and does not specify but includes every possible change of title. We did not require the protection of this article and it must have been wholly for the advantage of the other contracting party.
This is a remarkably short treaty and did its work effectively. It gave us freedom from a joint arrangement under which neither England nor America could own a canal across the isthmus. Nor could either colonize or own any Central American state.
The new treaty gave us full liberty as a nation to buy or own any territory for canal purposes singly and alone. It also gave England full license, if she chose, to secure rights and build a canal for herself. There is no prohibition against England, except the Monroe doctrine.
Many are now able to criticise the Hay-Pauncefote