Page images

further wishes of the United States,-viz., that some adequate protection should be provided for the Mosquito Indians in lieu of ours. Our offers on this subject are considered entirely satisfactory by the government of President Fillmore. But just as we may fairly flatter ourselves that the views of the two Governments are at last perfectly identical, President Pierce succeeds President Fillmore. He is not satisfied with our declaration that we will not occupy or colonise Mosquitia; he is not satisfied with our desire to substitute some other adequate protection for our own over the Mosquitos; he at once insists upon our leaving these defenceless Indians, without any guarantee whatever, to their natural enemies. He then tells us that he will not instantly insist upon our abandoning a possession which has been undeniably attached to the British Crown upwards of seventy years, providing we will limit it to such dimensions as he thinks proper to mark out; and adopt his views on every other dispute in which he has thought proper to engage with us; and finally, instead of expressing an opinion, lays it down as a positive fact admitting of no doubt, no arbitration, that certain islands of which we hold possession have been wrongfully seized and unjustly placed within our dominions.


Every offer we make for compromise is rejected, until at last, when the question comes either to our resigning our rights (which we contend to be legitimate) in obedience to menace, or contending for them by force of arms, a disposition is shown to treat the affair in a more reasonable manner. We are emphatically peace with the United States, but we as emphatically declare that we do not think that peace is to be purchased, if it were worth purchasing, by constant yielding to demands which we do not feel to be intrinsically just. The United States Government, although perhaps it may not have understood the spirit that has guided other Powers towards itself, has been in our opinion insulted, as well as spoiled, by the manner in which its boasting language has been tolerated, and the superiority it affects to assert over European Powers has been submitted to. It has been treated by these Powers as a man of breeding treats another man whom he considers to be deficient in manners and education,-it is not worth while to notice the fellow, he does not know better. This is the way in which a gentleman treats a man whom he does not deem to be a gentleman. But the United States have risen too high in the scale of nations to be thus treated any longer. There are not throughout the world men more intelligent and more gentlemanlike in their spirit and their bearing, than are to be found in the United States; and the opin

ions and influence of these men upon the masses who are wholly ignorant of the power and condition of other countries, and of the conduct which ought to be observed towards them, and who are also perpetually receiving into their bosom many of the angry and discontented spirits of Europe, — glad under the garb of American citizens to vent their spleen or execute their vengeance on the old societies they have quitted,-would be far greater, and more in proportion to their worth and intellect than it now is if we only lent them our assistance. But whilst we complain that the enlightened few in the United States do not exercise sufficient control over their foreign relations, we do not ourselves give them fair play.

They remonstrate-we know that they remonstrate frequently when their Government assumes a tone of menace and an air of defiance, which circumstances do not call for. But how are they met? They are told that their remonstrances would be well enough if there were any danger to be apprehended from the course which is being pursued, and which they reprobate; but England, it is said, will never go to war with the United States; she always has yielded to the United States, she is sure to yield to the United States again.

Constant concession to any State is a means of perpetuating constant system of political conflict with that State. But this is more particularly applicable to a democratic republic, the leaders of which constantly desire to flatter the national vanity, and will do so at your expense if you will allow them.

We are quite certain that no statesman in the United States really wants war with this country. No statesman will deliberately provoke that war, but he may by degrees lead his Government into a position in which war becomes a matter of honour. We believe, indeed, that the danger of such a calamity is only to be foreseen as the result of a policy calculated to induce the Government and people of the United States to suppose that this country will endure anything rather than resort to arms, until the discovery of the mistake into which they have been led allows of no retreat. In such a way we can conceive war, but in no other; and then with a government that is popular and a people that is brave, prudence having become impossible, desperation is its substitute. We, for our part, desire to avoid such a war as a terrible calamity; but though a terrible calamity to ourselves, it would neither shake our empire nor exhaust or even strain our resources. Would this be the case with the United States? Would the South, already on the verge of disunion from the North, stand firmly linked

together with it in a conflict which might foster the manufactures of the one, but would destroy the market for the natural products of the other? Would the intelligent and wealthy merchants of Boston and New York sacrifice their present gains and pour forth their acquired treasures in support of a contest provoked by the rash proceedings of an ignorant multitude, or the restless character of ambitious political adventurers?

Nor is this all. In times of peace the State expenses of the United States are paid by their Customs' revenue, whilst the internal improvements of the several States to which those States have owed their marvellous increase and prosperity are sustained by direct taxation. What then must occur in the event of a war with such a Power as Great Britain? The indirect revenue would undergo an instant decrease: a system of direct taxation for general purposes would at once absorb the revenue which in each separate State is now devoted to internal improvement. Could this state of things long continue without murmurs? No! A war with Great Britain induced by the idle prospect of an undesirable and perhaps dangerous increase of empire might terminate in disasters fatal to the power and to the greatness of which our noble and adventurous children are now so justly proud. We speak thus merely to show that there is no ground for the apprehension, that if everything is not yielded to violent demands the only alternative is cannon and the sword. A straightforward and steady course on the part of one State, must constrain and regulate the disposition to a crafty and turbulent course in another. Nor are we ready to believe that the Americans themselves are convinced of the justice of the complaints which we so frequently hear from them. How can we feel convinced that Mr. Crampton, the Minister of Great Britain, is dismissed as a necessary sacrifice to the outraged principles of Neutrality, when Padre Vijil, the Minister of General Walker, is received as the personification of a successful violation of those very principles? How is it possible to conceive that a treaty the meaning of which was thoroughly understood by Mr. Webster should be so obscure in the eyes of Mr. Marcy? We know there is no form of words, whether in a law or in a treaty, which may not admit of two interpretations and the greatest philosopher of antiquity gave as one of the instances of human imperfection-the impossibility of putting our ideas into language that would not admit of dispute. We may have disputes as to the interpretation to be given to every law and to every treaty if the object of the parties who discuss their

meaning is not to agree but to disagree. It is time that this dangerous state of things should cease. We earnestly recommend to the people of this country to exact of their Government, in future dealings with the United States, the most courteous and conciliatory language on all occasions; the readiest and amplest atonement for any unintentional affront, and the most cheerful acquiescence in every just demand: coupled with the most firm, decided, and unhesitating resistance to every demand that is unjust.


If the rulers and people of the United States are once firmly convinced that we will treat them as equals whom we desire to love, but not as superiors whom we have any reason to fear, we are pretty confident that ere long the querulous, encroaching, and domineering policy which, if it do not actually drive the two countries to the extremities of war, periodically affects them with the apprehension that war is about to break out, would be laid aside, and we should enter in reality into those friendly relations which are now perpetually invoked and never cordially realised. For the present, our course is clear before we can offer again everything in the way of conciliation which we have already offered. Greytown", we have proposed, should be made a free independent town, the port of which would thus, as Spain had originally intended, become a common advantage to the different contiguous States. We may again also propose to mark out, for the independent enjoyment of the Mosquito Indians a portion of that more extensive tract which is now claimed for them, on the condition that their rights should be respected in the territory thus assigned to them by the adjacent Powers; and offer to consent to any plan for their protection which is adequate for its purpose, and least alarms the suspicions of the United States: we can furthermore agree to submit the claims which any State puts forward to Ruatan and the adjacent islands to the decision of any arbiter or impartial commission: and, finally, we can pledge ourselves, as we have pledged ourselves, not to extend British Honduras beyond the limits which we claimed for it in 1850t, the United States agreeing to disturb us by no further representations upon this matter, which, as it does not concern the treaty of 1850, does not concern them. Were our Government to make a proposition of this kind, we think it might be accepted: if it were not, the treaty of 1850, whatever the conse

* See Lord J. Russell's dispatch to Mr. Crampton, Jan. 19. 1853. † See Lord Clarendon's dispatch to Mr. Crampton, Nov. 10. 1855.

quences, must be scattered to the winds; and we then revert to our original position as protectors of the Mosquito coast, without having renounced the right of occupying, colonising, fortifying, or assuming or exercising dominion over the same.

If a treaty of alliance with Guatemala and Costa Rica, the two most flourishing of the Central American States, which have long desired such a league, were entered into, we might acquire a firmer hold over that isthmus of Central America in which the United States now deny us the shadow of a protectorate. A policy of defence might force us into a policy of prevention. The position of Central America, though not generally understood a short time ago and so far we have to thank the controversy which has arisen upon it—is becoming more known and its importance more recognised. Our trade with it at this time is not extensive, its importance to us in its actual condition is not great, but its approaching destiny is becoming daily more manifest. The strip of territory which lies between the two great oceans of the world-possessing a soil teeming with every mineral and vegetable production; certain to be traversed by railroads, not unlikely to be traversed by a great ship canal; in the high road between Europe and China, which in another fifty years will probably undergo a new fate, and Australia, which in another fifty years will probably be peopled by communities as intelligent, as numerous, and as prosperous as those which now cover the great North American Continent,-is a territory which must fix the attention of any English statesman whose intelligence is on a level with his position, and who comprehends that in presiding over the policy of a nation, he is charged with the interests not merely of the living generation, but of a society whose life is for centuries and as much in the future as in the present.

To establish as the treaty of 1850 meant to establish,that this region should be a neutral territory to the maritime nations of the earth, and that it should be dedicated to the purposes of traffic and transit with means of communication constructed and protected under their auspices, and open on equal terms to the whole world,-was a great idea worthy of us, and worthy of those whom we wished to share with us in the honour and advantage to be derived from such an arrangement. But to allow a maritime rival to take entire possession of this territory, possessing so important a coast both to the Atlantic and the Pacific,-a rival, moreover, whose commercial policy, in direct opposition to our own, is a policy of protection and restriction,would be a fault for which our posterity, who has a

« PreviousContinue »