Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Lowell.
Washington, D. C., May 8, 1882.
Sir: Mr. Sackville West has handed me copies of two dispatches from Lord Granville to him respecting the Clayton-Bulwer treaty; the first, dated 7th January last, comments upon Mr. Blaine’s 270 of the [Page 272] 19th of November; the second, of the 14th January, comments upon Mr. Blaine’s 281 of the 29th November.
They have been read with interest and with attention. After careful consideration, the President is not without hope that the views of the two governments may be harmonized in this matter. He therefore directs me to communicate to you, somewhat at length, the opinions entertained here respecting the traditional continental policy of the United States and the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.
A canal across the isthmus for vessels of all dimensions and every character, under possible conditions hereinafter referred to, would affect this republic in its trade and commerce; would expose our Western coast to attack; destroy our isolation; oblige us to improve our defenses and to increase our Navy, and possibly compel us, contrary to our traditions, to take an active interest in the affairs of European nations. The United States, with their large and increasing population and wealth, cannot be uninterested in a change in the physical conformation of this hemisphere which may injuriously affect either the material or political interests of the republic, and naturally seek that the severance of the isthmus connecting the continents shall be effected in harmony with those interests. This government, while believing that the isthmus should not be severed so as to do unnecessary injury to the United States, at the same time appreciates the desire of Great Britain that she should be able by a short and easy passage from ocean to ocean to reach her eastern and American possessions on the Pacific, and that other nations of the world have a similar interest in such a passage. There is, however, no necessary conflict between the political claims of the United States in this matter and the material inte rests of other nations.
A canal across the isthmus can be created, and, under the protectorate of the United States and the republic whose territory it may cross, can be freely used by all nations; thus in some degree would be continued to the United States the benefit of that conformation of the earth which is now an element of security and defense.
For thirty years the Panama Railroad has been maintained without other protection than that of the United States and the local sovereign, in accordance with the treaty of 1846 with New Granada.
During that period Great Britain has carried to a successful result the wars of the Crimea and the Indian mutiny; France has three times convulsed Europe with strife; a conflict between Russia and Turkey has changed the face of the Ottoman Empire; thrones have crumbled; empires have been constructed; republics have arisen, while on this continent the most remarkable civil war in history has occurred, and at the same time the Emperor of the French was lending his active support to an aspirant for imperial honors in the neighboring republic of Mexico. Within that period almost every form of war and strife has taken place that would seem to make especially necessary the neutralization of the isthmus, and yet the trains of the Panama Railroad have run from ocean to ocean peacefully and with no other interruption than what has come from the rare turbulence of the local population.
During the same time another isthmus has been pierced, and while wars have raged within sight of the Mediterranean port the peaceful commerce of the world has moved through the Suez Canal quietly and safely under no international protectorate.
If no guarantee or protectorate has been found necessary during such troubled times, it can scarcely be required in the more peaceful period which both the Government of the United States and that of Great Britain hope and strive for.[Page 273]
The President, therefore, considers it unnecessary and unwise, through an invitation to the nations of the earth, to guarantee the neutrality of the transit of the isthmus, to give their natives a pretext for assembling in waters contiguous to our shores, and to possibly involve this republic in conflicts from which its natural position entitles it to be relieved.
It will doubtless occur to Lord Granville, as it does to us, that international agreements of this kind, calling for interference by force, and conferring joint rights upon several independent powers, are calculated to breed dissension and trouble. In times of peace, when there is no call for their exercise, they are harmless though useless. But when wars and trouble come, it too frequently happens that differences arise, and so at the very moment when the agreement should be enforced it is impossible to enforce it; and such agreements would lead to that political intervention in American affairs which the traditional policy of the United States make it impossible that the President should either consent to or look upon with indifference.
The President believes that the formation of a protectorate by European nations over the isthmus transit would be in conflict with a doctrine which has been for many years asserted by the United States. This sentiment is properly termed a doctrine, as it has no prescribed sanction and its assertion is left to the exigency which may invoke it. It has been repeatedly announced by the Executive Department of this government and through the utterances of distinguished citizens; it is cherished by the American people, and has been approved by the Government of Great Britain.
It is not the inhospitable principle which it is sometimes charged with being, and which asserts that European nations shall not retain dominion on this hemisphere, and that none but republican governments shall here be tolerated; for we well know that a large part of the North American continent is under the dominion of Her Majesty’s Government, and that the United States were in the past the first to recognize the imperial authority of Dom Pedro in Brazil and of Iturbide in Mexico. It is not necessary now to define that doctrine, but its history clearly shows that it at least opposes any intervention by European nations in the political affairs of American republics.
In 1823, Mr. Canning, with the concurrence of the cabinet of London, informed Mr. Rush that Great Britain could not see with indifference the intervention of foreign powers in Spanish America, or the transfer to those powers of any of the colonies, and suggested a joint declaration to that effect by the United States and Great Britain. This suggestion grew out of the relations then existing between France and Spain, their attitude towards the South American republics then struggling for independence, and the injuries to the colonies and commerce of Great Britain which would result from a successful prosecution of the policy of those two governments. President Monroe did not adopt the proposal for a joint declaration, but in his message of December 2, 1823, after stating that it was our policy not to interfere with the internal concerns of European powers, speaking of the war which the revolted colonies were carrying on against Spain, and of contemplated interference by the “Holy Alliance” in behalf of the latter, said, in language which has gone into history under his name, thus:
But in regard to these continents circumstances are eminently and conspicuously different. It is impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent without endangering our peace and happiness, nor [Page 274] can any one believe that our southern brethren, if left to themselves, would adopt it of their own accord. It is equally impossible, therefore, that we should behold such interposition in any form with indifference.
This sentiment was received in England with enthusiasm. Mr. Brougham said:
The question in regard to Spanish America is now, I believe, disposed of, or nearly so; for an event has recently happened than which none has ever dispersed greater joy, exultation, and gratitude over all the freedmen of Europe; that event which is decisive on the subject is the language held with respect to Spanish America in the message of the President of the United States.
Sir James Mackintosh said:
This evidence of the two great English commonwealths (for so I delight to call them, and I heartily pray that they may be forever united in the cause of justice and liberty) cannot be contemplated without the greatest pleasure by every enlightened citizen of the earth.
Mr. John Quincy Adams, who well knew what had led to these statements by Mr. Monroe, explained in a message to the House of Representatives on the 17th day of March, 1826, that there was no purpose of interfering with the existing European colonies in America; that the language was only a frank declaration that the United States could not look with indifference either upon an attempt by colonization to close any port of the continent against the commerce of the United States or upon concerted political interference from Europe in American affairs.
Thus the doctrine of non-intervention by European powers in American affairs arose from complications in South America, and was announced by Mr. Monroe on the suggestion of the official representative of Great Britain.
The doctrine so formulated by Monroe and expounded by Adams has since remained a cardinal principle of our continental policy. In several notable instances, especially in the case of the French attempt to set up imperial authority in Mexico, it guided our political action, and it is to day firmly imbedded in the American heart.
It is true that this doctrine refers to the political, and not to the material interest of America; but no one can deny that to place the isthmus under the protection and guarantee of the powers of Europe, rather than under the protection of the leading power of this hemisphere, would seriously threaten and affect the political interest of that power.
It is not to be anticipated that Great Britain will controvert an international doctrine which she suggested to the United States when looking to her own interest, and which, when adopted by this republic, she highly approved; and it is but frank to say that the people of this country would be as unwilling that the pathway of commerce between the Pacific coast and our eastern market should be under the dominion of the allied European powers as would be the people of Great Britain that the transit from one to another part of her possessions should be under such control.
Prior to the war of the Revolution, Great Britain had acquired strong positions from Halifax to Antigua, dominating the coast of the United States. She retained these positions after the peace of 1783, and continues to use them for offensive and defensive purposes. She has strengthened old strongholds and made new ones, while the United States has ever refused to avail itself of proffered commanding external military stations.
No well-informed statesman doubts the ability of this nation to raise [Page 275] a powerful navy. To raise such a navy might bring commercial advantages to the United States, but it is doubtful whether it would promote the peace of the world; and the United States desire that their citizens may, without any armed assertion of right, be conveyed by water transit from their western to their eastern snores without passing under the guns of European powers.
These are our own views, and it is but frank to state them, while Her Majesty’s Government is not called upon either to admit or deny them.
To considerations such as these Lord Granville, in his dispatch of November 10, 1881, answers that the position of Great Britain and the United States, in reference to the canal, is determined by the—
engagements entered into by them respectively in the convention, which was signed at Washington on the 19th of April, 1850, commonly known as the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and that Her Majesty’s Government rely with confidence upon the observance of all the engagements of that treaty.
We are thus fairly brought to the consideration of the Clayton Bulwer treaty.
The treaty relates to communication between the oceans, and divides itself into two parts.
First, and principally, that which the treaty terms a “particular object,” to wit, a then projected interoceanic canal in Central America by the Nicaragua route; and this is the only object stated in the preamble of the treaty; which says that the two governments, “being desirous of consolidating the relations of amity which so happily subsist between them, by setting forth and fixing in a convention their views and intentions with reference to any means of communication by ship-canal which may be constructed between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by the way of the river San Juan de Nicaragua and either or both of the lakes of Nicaragua or Managua to any port or place on the Pacific Ocean,” to that end confer full powers on Mr. Clayton and Sir Henry Bulwer.
This first and principal object of the treaty is considered in the first seven articles.
Second, the subordinate object of the treaty is that treated of in the remaining or eighth article, which states that the two governments “having not only desired, in entering into this convention, to accomplish a particular object, but also to establish a general principle (and this is the principle), hereby agree to extend their protection by treaty stipulation to any other practical communication” across the isthmus, “and especially to the interoceanic communications, should the same prove practicable, whether by canal or railroad, which are now proposed to be established by the way of Tehuantepec or Panama.” This “general principle” or joint protection is to be effected as stated, “by treaty stipulations.”
Although this discussion relates to a canal by the Panama route outside of Central America, to which the eighth article refers, yet your attention is invited as well to the first and principal as to the second and subordinate purpose of the treaty.
First. While the primary object of the treaty, as will be seen, was to aid the immediate construction of a canal by what is known as the Nicaragua route, it is equally plain that another and important object, which the United States had in view, was to dispossess Great Britain of settlements in Central America, whether under cover of Indian sovereignty or otherwise. The United States were tenacious that Great Britain should not extend further her occupation of threatening military [Page 276] or naval strategic points along their maritime frontier. To assure this, the parties to the treaty jointly agreed not to exercise dominion over, or fortify or colonize Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central America. Great Britain, however, exercises dominion over Belize or British Honduras, the area of which is equal to that of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and the impression prevails that since the conclusion of the treaty of 1850 the English inhabitants of that district have spread into the territory of the neighboring republics and now occupy a large area of land which, under the convention, belongs to one or the other of the two republics, but over which the government of Her Majesty assumes to exercise control.
Such dominion seems to be inconsistent with that provision of the treaty which prohibits the exercise of dominion by Great Britain over any part of Central America. This makes it proper for me to say that the English privileges, at the time of the conclusion of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, in what has been known as the Belize, were confined to a right to cut wood and establish saw-mills in a territory defined by metes and bounds. These privileges were conferred by treaties, in which Spanish sovereignty was recognized. On the successful revolution, the rights of Spain vested in the new republics, and had not been materially changed when the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was concluded. That treaty was concluded April 19, and its ratification advised by the Senate May 22, 1850. On the exchange of the ratifications, Sir Henry Bulwer filed in this Department, under date of June 29, 1850, a declaration that the exchange was made with the understanding on the part of Her Majesty’s Government that the treaty did not apply to Her Majesty’s settlement at Honduras, and its dependencies. Mr. Clayton answered, under date of July 4, 1850, that he so understood, but that he must not be understood to either affirm or deny British title therein. It is to be observed that each of these declarations was made after the conclusion of the treaty by the joint action of the President and the Senate, and that the declaration was not made to or accepted by them. In 1859 Great Britain entered into a treaty with Guatemala, in which what had been called the settlement in the declaration made on the exchange of the ratification of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was styled “Her Britannic Majesty’s settlement and possessions.”
In the treaty with Guatemala the boundaries were defined, and it was agreed that all on one side of the defined boundaries “belongs to Her Britannic Majesty.” It is further understood that when the commissioners met to mark the boundary in accordance with the agreement it was found that the subjects of Great Britain had occupied so much more of Guatemala than was supposed that the commissioner on the part of Her Majesty’s Government refused to proceed, and this large area of land has since remained practically in the possession of Great Britain.
The United States have never given their assent to this conversion of the British “settlement” in Central America under Spanish-American sovereignty into a British “possession” with British sovereignty. There is a vast difference between a settlement subject to the sovereignty of the Central American republic and a colony controlled by Great Britain.
Under the treaty of 1850, while it is binding, the United States have not the right to exercise dominion over or to colonize one foot of territory in Central America. Great Britain is under the same rigid restriction. And if Great Britain has violated and continues to violate that provision, the treaty is, of course, voidable at the pleasure of the United States.[Page 277]
Again, it is well known that the parties to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty anticipated that a canal by the Nicaragua route was to be at once commenced. Under the assumption of a protectorate of Mosquito, British authority was at that time in actual and visible occupation of one end of the Nicaragua route, whether with or without title is not now material, and it was intended by this treaty to dispossess Great Britain of this occupation. This object was accomplished in 1859 and 1860 by treaties between Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, referred to in Lord Granville’s dispatch of January 14, 1882. It was to this adjustment, which was one of the prime objects of the treaty, and not to the colonization of British Honduras, that Mr. Buchanan in his message of December 3, 1860, alludes as “an amicable and honorable adjustment of dangerous questions arising from the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.”
When the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was concluded it was contemplated that the Nicaragua Canal, to which the treaty principally had relation, would be at once commenced and finished with all possible speed by American and British capital under the impulse of the joint protectorate. This appears not only from the context of the treaty, but also from the history of the negotiations which led to the treaty and the relations which then existed between this government and the Central American States.
On December 12, 1846, New Grenada, by a treaty of commerce, in consideration of certain guarantees, made the United States valuable grants relating to the Panama route, to which your attention will be directed when we consider the rights of this republic in relation to the Panama route.
The discovery of gold in California soon made it important to find some rapid way of reaching it. Notwithstanding the progress of the Panama Railroad scheme, public feeling was running strongly in favor of a ship-canal large enough to accommodate ocean steam-ships. Influenced by this strong feeling the minister of the United States in Nicaragua, without instrcutions, negotiated a treaty with that republic, which conferred upon certain citizens of the United States the valuable right to construct a ship-canal from San Juan on the Atlantic coast to the Pacific. Nicaragua claimed sovereignty over the whole of the line of the proposed canal, while Great Britain, as I have shown, claimed sovereignty over a porition of it occupied by the Mosquito Indians.
At the time of the concession by Nicaragua it would have been impossible to procure in the United States the capital necessary for the construction of a ship-canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Hence it was that; when Mr. Clayton learned of the concession, he at once informed Mr. Crampton, the British minister, saying that the United States did not propose to avail themselves exclusively of these privileges, but wished a canal constructed, and that the claim of Great Britain on behalf of the Mosquito Indians, which the United States could not admit, stood in the way. The Government of the United States Mr. Clayton said, was persuaded that—
These considerations, if fairly laid before Her Majesty’s Government, would induce Her Majesty’s Government to make such an arrangement with regard to the Mosquito Indians as would prevent its being an obstacle to the design in question.
President Taylor was present at the interview, and “cordially concurred.” Mr. Crampton reported the conversation to Lord Palmerston the 1st October, and on the 15th of the same month transmitted to him a copy of the concession by Nicaragua to the American company. The 22d November Mr. Abbott Lawrence officially informed Lord Palmerston [Page 278] that an American company, aided by the subscription of a large amount of British capital, had begun to construct the Panama Railroad, and had completed the contracts for iron for it. He transmitted to Lord Palmerston a copy of the guaranty in the treaty of 1846 with New Grenada, and invited Great Britain to join in the guaranty. In the same note he acquainted Her Majesty’s Government with the concession from Nicaragua to the American canal company, and said that the conflicting claims as to Mosquito threw an obstacle in the way of the work, and invited a conversation on the subject. It seems that several conversations were had, since on the 14th of the following December Mr. Lawrence addressed a formal note to Lord Palmerston, in which, after referring to them and again setting forth the concessions for the Panama Railroad and the Nicaragua Canal, and stating that the United States had “disclaimed all intention to settle, annex, colonize, or fortify the territory of Central America, which declaration had been met by a similar disclaimer on the part of Great Britain,” and also that Her Majesty’s Government “had intimated their willingness to join with the United States in their guaranty of neutrality,” he asked in substance, 1st. Whether Great Britain would enter into a treaty with Nicaragua similar to that negotiated by the United States? 2d. Whether Great Britain would enter into treaty with New Grenada guaranteeing the neutrality of the railway then under construction? 3d. Whether the obstruction of the Mosquito protectorate would be removed? This note was never answered formally in London, but negotiations were transferred to Washington.
Meantime, and in the autumn of 1849, Sir Henry Bulwer had succeeded Mr. Crampton in Washington, and, soon after his arrival, commenced negotiations with Mr. Clayton for a treaty for the protection of a canal.
On the 6th January, 1850, Sir Henry Bulwer wrote to Lord Palmerston, saying:
Your lordship is aware that the main interest of the United States in this matter has arisen from its newly acquired possession in the Pacific, and the project of an American company to form a water communication between the two oceans, passing through the lake of Nicaragua and the river San Juan; this company having obtained from the state of Nicaragua the use of its lakes and territory for this purpose, and the use also of the river San Juan, to which Nicaragua lays claim. * * * But it so happens that while it is very difficult, not to say impossible, for Her Majesty’s Government to listen to those claims of Nicaragua, our decision with respect to which has been already openly taken, there is no difficulty, I believe, whatsoever in Her Majesty’s Government assisting the United States in its general views with respect to that water communication across Central America, which Great Britain must be almost as desirous as the United States to see established. * * * I am disposed to think that the best way of doing this is by a convention between Great Britain and the United States.
Negotiations conducted on this basis progressed so rapidly that on the 3d February, 1850, Sir Henry Bulwer was able to transmit for Lord Palmerston’s criticism the full project of a treaty. Extracts from the covering dispatch fully explain what the treaty was intended to accomplish:
The State of Nicaragua made to an American company, formed for the construction of such a canal, the grant, accompanied by various favors and privileges, of all such portion of the territory claimed by it as the said company require. * * * It was, however, impossible for the contemplated scheme to be executed under any grant from the state of Nicaragua as long as the mouth of the San Juan River was in the hands of another people protected by Great Britain. * * * Both the American company, to which I have alluded, and the American Government have latterly manifested an earnest desire to have it clearly understood that they will modify all that portion of their original engagement with Nicaragua which secures any advantages to one state which another may not equally enjoy; and if such be the spirit which is to preside [Page 279] over the vast project under consideration, Great Britain has not only no interest in preventing its success, but every interest in forwarding its completion and providing for its security. * * * It is with such views that the inclosed convention has been drawn up, its object being to exclude all question of the disputes between Nicaragua and the Mosquitos, but to settle in fact all that it was essential to settle with regard to these disputes as far as the ship communication between the Atlantic and Pacific and the navigation of the river San Juan were concerned.
The project, which was inclosed in this dispatch, was in the substance of its provisions and in most of its language identical with the treaty subsequently concluded, with one marked exception. In the project, Article VII stopped with the general provision to give encouragement and support to the first parties offering to commence the work with the necessary capital. In the subsequent negotiations the following words were added to that article, and form part of Article VII of the executed treaty:
And if any persons or company should already have, with any state through which the proposed ship-canal may pass, a contract for the construction of such a canal as that specified in this convention, to the stipulations of which contract neither of the contracting parties in this convention have any just cause to object, and the said persons or company shall, moreover, have made preparations and expended time, money, and trouble on the faith of such contract, it is hereby agreed that such persons or company shall have a priority of claim over every other person, persons, or company to the protection of the Governments of the United States and Great Britain, and be allowed a year from the date of the exchange of the ratifications of this convention for concluding their arrangements and presenting evidence of sufficient capital subscribed to accomplish the contemplated undertaking; it being understood that if at the expiration of the aforesaid period such persons or company be not able to commence and carry out the proposed enterprise, then the Governments of the United States and Great Britain shall be free to afford their protection to any other persons or company that shall be prepared to commence and proceed with the construction of the canal in question.
The Clayton-Bulwer treaty was concluded on the 19th of the following April, and I think it will not be denied that the object which President Taylor, Mr. Clayton, Sir Henry Bulwer, and Lord Palmerston had in view in making it was primarily and mainly this: To insure at the earliest possible moment the completion of the particular ship-canal for which a concession had been made by Nicaragua to citizens of the United States on the 29th of August, 1849. All the interviews of which accounts remain and all the correspondence relate to this particular canal and to no other. As if to make assurance doubly sure, the project of a treaty which Sir Henry Bulwer sent to Lord Palmerston the 3d of February being found doubtful or insufficient in this respect, was so amended between that time and the 19th April as to make it practically certain that that grant would be accepted by both governments as the one covered by the treaty.
It was to this particular canal that were to be applied all the provisions of the first article in the treaty relating to the fortification of the canal, the control over it, and exclusive advantage in it; of the second article, relating to blockade, detention, or capture; of the third and fourth articles, relating to protection during construction and to free ports; of the fifth article, in regard to a guaranty of neutrality; of the sixth article, with regard to treaties with other states and the use of the good offices of the high contracting parties; and of the seventh article as already noticed; but if under the provisions of the seventh article the claims of the holders of this particular concession should be set aside, then each government reserved to itself the right to determine whether its interests required it to afford protection to the holders of any other concession.
The two governments did, however, subsequently come to a harmonious [Page 280] agreement with regard to the grant by Nicaragua, the one contemplated by the treaty.
The company was organized, and Colonel Childs, who had been chief engineer of the canals of the State of New York, was sent to Nicaragua to make a survey. He arrived there in August, 1850, and in 1852 his report was received, printed, and laid before the Secretary of War by direction of the President, who detailed Colonel Abert and Lieutenant-Colonel Turnbull, of the United States Army, to examine it and give their opinions upon it. They approved the report on the 20th March, 1852.
On the 16th June, in the same year, Mr. Lawrence informed Lord Malmesbury of these facts, and requested Her Majesty’s Government to appoint engineers of skill and experience to examine it on the part of that government.
Mr. Lawrence was on the 30th July informed that an officer of the royal engineers and an eminent civil engineer had been appointed for that purpose, and on the 13th August their report was transmitted to Mr. Lawrence by Lord Malmesbury. The report was favorable, and a combination of British capitalists was made in contemplation of united action with American shareholders in the construction of the canal. For reasons which need not now be repeated, but principally because of the discussion which immediately began as to the clauses of the treaty relating to settlements in British Honduras, the project failed, and no canal was ever constructed under that grant.
A line of steamers was put on and run for many years, carrying passengers between New York and San Francisco. The expedition of Walker into Nicaragua terminated this line. The grant was revoked, the steamers were seized; the stockholders received no benefit from their property, and although the company nominally exists, it has been, practically superseded by subsequent grants from Nicaragua to other companies.
It was also agreed in the treaty that the parties should invite other states to enter into similar stipulation, to the end that they might share in the “honor and advantage of having contributed to a work of such general interest and importance as the canal herein contemplated,” to wit, that by the Nicaragua route.
It is to be observed that if other nations were to become parties to the enterprise it was only on the joint invitation of both the United States and Great Britain; but the President regards the provision as lapsed by the failure to construct the canal to which it referred, and by the fact before stated that experience has shown that no joint protectorate for any canal across the isthmus is requisite. The canal, however, now in question is on the Panama and not on the Nicaragua route.
The remaining subject of the treaty is contained in the eighth article, which relates to a canal or railway across the isthmus other than by the Nicaragua route, as by way of Tehuantepec or Panama, and it is this provision of the treaty which has occasioned this correspondence. The article provides as follows:
The Governments of the United States and Great Britain having not only desired in entering into this convention to accomplish a particular object [to wit, the Nicaragua, Canal, which, at the date of the treaty, it was thought was about to be constructed], but also to establish a general principle, they hereby agree to extend their protection, by treaty stipulations, to any other communications, whether by canal or railway, across the isthmus which connects North and South America, and especially to the interoceanic communications, should the same prove to be practicable, whether by canal or railway, which are now proposed to be established by the way of Tehuantepec or Panama.
It is to be here observed that the Government of the United States has a treaty with New Grenada, now a part of the United States of Colombia, entered into in 1846, by which free transit is guarantied to the citizens of the United States across the Isthmus of Panama upon any mode of communication that may be constructed, subject to no-duties or burdens but such as may be imposed upon citizens of New Grenada; and by which, in order to secure the tranquil and constant enjoyment of these advantages, the United States guaranteed, positively and efficaciously, the perfect neutrality of the isthmus, with the view that free transit from sea to sea might not be interrupted or embarrassed, and also guaranteed the rights of sovereignty and property which New Grenada (now the United States of Colombia) had and possesses over said territory.
By this treaty with New Grenada the United States claim to occupy a peculiar relation to the means of transit by railroad or canal across the isthmus, within the territories of the United States of Colombia; a relation which cannot justly be superseded by the intervention of other states without the consent of the United States, duly and properly obtained. A protectorate of this kind is, like government, necessarily exclusive in its character, and implies a right and duty to make it effective. There may be a joint protectorate engaged in by mutual convention of different States, but the protectorate itself must be a unit. The treaty with New Grenada of 1846 still remains in full force. If Great Britain should desire to be united with the Government of the United States in that guaranty, of course, it would require the consent of the United States of Colombia and of this government, and a convention to that end, the terms of which should be made agreeable to the parties.
Article VIII of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty relates only to those projects now  proposed to be established; and expressly contemplates some further “treaty stipulation” on the part of Great Britain with the United States of America and New Grenada, now the United States of Colombia, before Great Britain can join the United States in the protectorate of the canal or railway by the Panama route. No such treaty stipulation has been made or has been proposed by Great Britain. Since the ratification of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, for thirty years the United States, under the treaty of 1846 with New Grenada, has extended protection to the transit from sea to sea by the Panama Railway.
Should Her Majesty’s Government, after obtaining the consent thereto of the United States of Colombia, claim, under the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, the right to join the United States in the protection of the existing Panama Railway, or any future Panama canal, the United States would submit that experience has shown that no such joint protectorate is requisite; that the Clayton-Bulwer treaty is subject to the provisions of the treaty of 1846 with New Grenada, while it exists, which treaty obliges the United States to afford, and secures to it the sole protectorate of any transit by the Panama route; and if Great Britain still claimed the right to join in the protectorate the United States would then determine whether the “treaty stipulations” proposed by Great Britain regulating that joint protectorate were just; and, if so, whether the length of time during which Great Britain has concurred in the protection of the Panama route under the treaty with New Grenada has or has not relieved the United States from any obligation to accept a proposal from the government to join in the guarantee.
I may then state the President’s views on the whole subject, which I do with an assurance that they will meet with a candid consideration [Page 282] from Lord Granville, and with the hope that they may be substantially concurred in by Her Majesty’s Government.
The Clayton-Bulwer treaty was concluded to secure a thing which did not exist, and which now never can exist. It was to secure the construction of a canal under the grant of 1849 from Nicaragua that the United States consented to waive the exclusive and valuable rights which had been given to them; that they consented to agree with Great Britain that they would not occupy, fortify, colonize, or assume dominion over any part of Central America; and that they consented to admit Her Majesty’s Government at some future day to a share in the protection which they have exercised over the Isthmus of Panama.
The Government and people of the United States, though rich in land and industry, were poor in money and floating capital in 1850. The scheme for a canal, even without the complications of the Mosquito protectorate, was too vast for the means of the Americans of that day, who numbered then considerbly less than one-half of their numbers to-day. They went to England, which had what they had not, surrendered their exclusive privileges, offered an equal share of all they had in those regions in order, as expressed in the seventh article of the treaty “that no time should be unnecessarilly lost in commencing and constructing the said canal.” Through no fault of theirs time was unnecessarily lost, the work was never begun, and the concession failed.
The President does not think that the United States are called upon by any principle of equity to revive those provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty which were specially applicable to the concession of August, 1849, and apply them to any other concession which has been since or may hereafter be made. The conditions of 1882 are not those of 1852. The people of the United States have now abundance of surplus capital for such enterprises, and have no need to call upon foreign capitalists. The legislative branch of the Government of the United States may also desire to be free to place the credit of the United States at the service of one or more of these enterprises. The President does not feel himself warranted in making any engagement or any admission respecting the extinct provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty which would prevent or interfere with such a purpose. On the contrary, frankness requires him to say that as the persons who held the grant which the United States understood to be accepted by the two governments under the provisions of the treaty have not “carried out the proposed enterprise,” the United States esteem themselves competent to refuse to afford their protection jointly with Great Britain to any other persons or company, and hold themselves free hereafter to protect any interoceanic communication in which they or their citizens may become interested in such way as treaties with the local sovereign powers may warrant and their interests may require.
There are some provisions of the treaty which the President thought might be advantageously retained. With this purpose the present correspondence was opened by the note to you of the 19th November last, in which these points were indicated. The President is still ready on the part of the United States to agree that the reciprocal engagements respecting the acquisition of territory in Central America, and respecting the establishment of a free port at each end of whatever canal may be constructed, shall continue in force, and to define by agreement the distance from either end of the canal where captures may be made by a belligerent in time of war, and with this definition thus made to keep alive the second article of the treaty. He hopes that Lord Granville on [Page 283] future consideration may not be averse to revising his opinion that such agreements would not be beneficial.
To the suggestion made by Lord Granville, at the close of this note of January 7, that the United States should take the initiative in an invitation to other powers to participate in an agreement based upon the convention of 1850, the President is constrained, by the considerations already presented, to say that the United States cannot take part in extending such an invitation, and to state with entire frankness, that the United States would look with disfavor upon an attempt at a concert of political action by other powers in that direction.
It is not necessary to observe that there is no provision of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty which authorizes Great Britain to invite, or obliges the United States to accept, the aid of other nations to protect or to guarantee the neutrality of the Panama route.
Fortunately the want of harmony in the views of the two governments can have at present no injurious influence. No canal yet exists across the isthmus, and in the natural course of events some time must elapse before one can be constructed; meanwhile the points of divergence between Her Majesty’s Government and that of the United States may disappear. The President hopes that long before the subject becomes one of practical importance Her Majesty’s Government may be brought to see that the interests of Great Britain and of the United States in this matter are identical, and are best promoted by the peaceful policy which he has marked out for this country.
In the mean time the diversity of opinion which now exists will not in any wise impair the good understanding happily existing between the people and Governments of the United States and Great Britain.
You will read this dispatch to Lord Granville, and if he desires to have a copy of it you may leave one with him.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,