Abbildungen der Seite

litical history of his country, or of the annals of our foreign relations, knows that the recommendations in that Address (which embodies the essential principles of the Monroe Doctrine) have shaped the foreign policy of the government for more than a century.

It might be amusing, were the fact less deplorable, to point out some of the crude and exaggerated notions of the nature and scope of the Monroe Doctrine that are entertained in certain of the South American states. There seems to be an impression that it may be successfully invoked to prevent a European nation from enforcing an international obligation against a South American Republic, or for preventing the execution of demands for satisfaction in cases of tort, or for the prevention of interferences in general that are otherwise sanctioned by international usage. The absurdity of such a construction is its own sufficient refutation. And yet, strange to say, on more than one occasion the United States government has been mildly censured, even by some of our own citizens, for not interposing in such cases.






\HE seizure of the port of San Juan, and the establishment of a British Protectorate on the

Mosquito coast, as related in the preceding chapter, was something more than a contemptuous disregard of the principles of the Monroe Doctrine, something more than an unprovoked outrage upon the sovereignty of a free American state. It was, besides being both these, a deliberate violation of a solemn treaty obligation. This may seem a rather blunt way of putting it, but it will be found that the facts in the case fully justify the statement.

By the treaty of 1783, between England and Spain, Great Britain agreed to withdraw entirely from Central America, and to "forever abandon " any and all claims she might have had to territory there. British subjects were granted an extension of their former permission to cut and export mahogany and dyewoods from a narrow strip of territory "between the rivers Balíze and Honda," near the Mosquito coast; but this concession conveyed no political rights or privileges, and in no way interfered with Spain's right of eminent domain. It in no way impaired Spain's acknowledged sovereignty and jurisdiction over any part of Central America, or of the adjacent islands.

This was sufficiently manifest from the very terms of the concession itself. But in order to prevent any pos

[ocr errors]

sible misunderstanding on this point, the treaty contained a clause which expressly stipulated that this “permission” or concession to cut and export timber, was never to be construed as “ in anywise derogatory to” Spain's “ absolute sovereignty,” not only over that particular territory, but over all other territory in Central America. And, as if to give this still greater emphasis, there was an additional clause whereby England obligated herself “to demolish any fortifications " which had been erected there by her “subjects,” and “to

, prevent the erection of any new ones.”

It would have been difficult to make language more explicit. The manifest purpose was to at once and forever do away with any claim or semblance of claim which Great Britain then had, or that she might at any time in the future set up, to any territory, not only on the Mosquito coast, but to any portion of Central America, or to any of the adjacent islands. Or, to quote the words of the treaty itself, the inhibition embraced “the whole of the Spanish-American continent."

Very soon, however, despite these express limitations, the British cabinet began a system of quibbling; and by ingenious and strained constructions sought to render them nugatory. It was claimed that the words “SpanishAmerican Continent,” as employed in the English text of the treaty, were of “such general import as warranted the British government in placing its own construction upon them; and that consequently, Great Britain had the right "to determine upon prudential reasons" whether the Mosquito coast and the contiguous outlying islands came within the general inhibition.

This led to the explanatory Agreement or supplemental treaty of 1786, which declared, as the sense of the treaty of 1783, that his Britannic Majesty's subjects should “at once and forever, and without exception, evacuate," not only the entire Mosquito country, but “the whole of Central America, including all adjacent islands." The privilege previously granted to British subjects, to cut and export mahogany and dyewoods, was not to be interfered with ; but this was stated to be on the express condition that the territory was to be “indisputably acknowledged to belong of right to His Catholic Majesty the King of Spain. And this was supplemented by another condition of marked significance, namely, that British subjects were not to furnish“ any arms or warlike stores to the native Indian occupants," but to refrain from inciting them to "sedition and rebellion' " against the Spanish colonial authorities.

Some months afterwards, when the matter came up for discussion in the British House of Lords, a motion to disagree with the terms of the treaty," as thus explained, was defeated by a vote of 53 to 17; and, pending that discussion, all parties were agreed that the treaty of 1783, as interpreted by the Agreement of 1786, “ required Great Britain to at once and forever evacuate the entire Mosquito shores." The Parliament, however, with this clear understanding of the treaty, refused to disagree to its provisions; thus ratifying the obligation to " at once and forever abandon " all British claim or pretended claim to any form of territorial dominion or sovereignty in any part of Central America, or to any of the adjacent islands.

The question, then, naturally arises: When and under what circumstances, and by what authority, was this status of the case changed? We search in vain for some clear and satisfactory answer. It can be found neither in any subsequent treaty, nor in any legislative act of either country. The status was certainly not changed by the treaty of Amiens, in 1802, nor was it changed in 1809, when England entered into an alliance with Spain against the First Napoleon. It was not changed in 1814, when the commercial treaties between England and Spain were revived, and those of 1783 and 1786 were expressly and specifically reaffirmed. Nor was it changed in 1817, when, by a public statute, the English Parliament acknowledged that “the British settlement" in Balíze, Mosquito, and other portions of Nicaragua and Honduras were “not within the territory and domain of the British crown.” It was not changed two years later when the same declaration was reiterated; nor was it changed as late as 1820, when Captain Bonnycastle of the British navy published his very interesting book in which he described the Mosquito shore as “ a tract of country which lies along the northern and eastern coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua, once claimed by Great Britain, but which she abandoned in 1786 in accordance with treaty obligations," etc.

It thus appears that during the period of thirty-four years from 1786 to 1820, the whole Mosquito country, and in fact the whole of Central America, including all the adjacent islands, was acknowledged by Great Britain herself to be the rightful property and domain of the Spanish crown. In other words, from the date of the supplemental treaty of 1786 to the time when the Spanish colonies in Central and South America became free and independent states, Great Britain made no pretension to any form of territorial domain in any part of Central America.

In 1821 the Central American colonies threw off their Spanish allegiance, and asserted and maintained their independence. Nicaragua, till then a Spanish colony, became an autonomous free state. Some years later,

57 and 59 Geo. III.


« ZurückWeiter »