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Captaincies-General of Venezuela and Guayana would have been constantly menaced and difficult of successful defence. Nor have these conditions changed since the independence of the country. If some great naval and commercial power, like England, should ever become the permanent occupant of the northwest coast region, with full control of the eastern estuary of the Orinoco, radical changes would soon be wrought in the commercial relations of at least three of the LatinAmerican Republics. Their sovereignty and territorial integrity would be constantly menaced, and it would not be a great while before the United States would be forced to a choice between an armed defence of the Monroe Doctrine and its total and final abandonment.
As before stated, England's claim to this Barima region had never been heard of prior to Schomburgk's time in 1839-40; for it was Schomburgk who first pointed out “the political importance of the Orinoco
" mouth in any settlement of the boundary question that might be made."1 And in his official report, speaking specifically of the rivers Waini and Barima as integral parts of this delta region, he used this language:
“ They are so closely connected by branches and tributaries that they afford an inland navigation from the Moroco to the Orinoco, and their importance in a political and commercial respect is therefore evident."
And again, speaking of Barima Point, he said:
“A strong battery established there . . . would prevent any vessel from entering the Orinoco drawing more than eight feet of water ;” and “would command entirely the entrance to the
1 Schomb. Br. Guiana, p. 17; Schomb.'s Raleigh, p. 115; Br. Parliamentary Papers, 1840, vol. 34, p. 327.
the Dardenelles of the
Orinoco by the Boco de Navios . .
The Dutch, as I have said, never extended their settlements west of the Moroco. They never maintained an outpost or trade station west of that river. They never made a grant of lands west of that river. There could not be, therefore, any valid claim to the Orinoco mouth based on prior occupation by the Dutch. And equally invalid, as I have said, was the British claim to title in virtue of alleged treaties with Indian tribes, first put forth officially by Lord Salisbury in 1880; for if such treaties ever existed, they would have been worthless. On the discovery of the American continent, the principle adopted by European nations, in order to prevent conflicting claims and consequent wars, was that discovery, supplemented by possession within a reasonable time, gave title to the discovering nation. Whatever may have been the rights of the savage occupants, they had no eminent domain; that pertained alone to the discovering nation or to its legal successor, which uniformly claimed and exercised the sole right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy. a right which each European nation asserted for itself, and to the assertion of which all assented.
Equally untenable was the British claim to title in virtue of alleged “ Protectorates” of those Indians; for a protectorate implies statehood or sovereignty in the protected, no less that in the protecting nation, and is established when the protection is procured by engag. ing to perform certain service, or to pay certain tribute for service performed. In either case, there is an act of sovereignty by both the contracting parties. The
1 Schomb. Br. Guiana, p. 17; Schomb.'s Raleigh, p. 115; Br. Parlia. mentary Papers, 1840, vol. 34, p. 327.
compact differs from ordinary treaties only in so far as it creates a difference in the dignity of the contracting parties. Protectorates, therefore, can exist only between organized bodies politic; and tribes of nomadic savages, such as inhabited or roamed over the region of the Orinoco delta, were not organized bodies politic. Never at any time since the discovery of America had they been so regarded. As bodies politic or states, international law knows nothing of them; and their presence in a territory in no way affects acquisition of domain by a civilized nation. The territories in which they live, or over which they roam, are as between civilized nations res nullius or "vacant" lands.
The British claim to the Orinoco mouth was even more untenable from yet another point of view. It is a principle too well established to be a matter of controversy, and almost too familiar to need citation, that the nation which incontestably owns the firm banks of a river is, ipse facto, the legal owner of the delta islands, estuaries, and shores below. No matter whether these be materially occupied by the owner of the river above, or whether they be inhabited only by savage tribes, they are not terras nullius which another nation may seize and appropriate to its own use, and thus be enabled to establish a hostile control of the river's mouth. This rule is as old as the Roman law itself, and has been cited with approval by every authority, from Grotius and Vattel to Wheaton and Phillimore. Not only has it been affirmatively declared, but it has been specifically applied, by British jurists. Thus the British High Court of Admiralty, nearly a century ago, applied it in a.decision which has stood unshaken ever since. I allude, of course, to Lord Stowell's decision in the celebrated case of The Anna, rendered in 1808; 1
1 Robinson's Admiralty Reps. v. pp. 373-385.
and that decision applies as aptly to the mouth of the Orinoco, as it did to the mud islands and estuaries of the Mississippi delta.
It is manifest then that England's claim to the Orinoco mouth had really nothing to sustain it, and that her claim to the interior basin of Cuyuni-Mazaruni was very little better supported. The only support to either was the fact of material occupation, and as that was violent and recent in origin, it lacked both the essential elements of title by prescription, namely, lapse of time and peaceable possession.
THE ANGLO-VENEZUELAN BOUNDARY DISPUTE
E have already seen, in the preceding chapter, how and under what circumstances the
Guayana boundary dispute originated between Holland and Spain, near the middle of the seventeenth century; how, a century and a half later, it became the heritage of England and Venezuela; and how, after an intermittent existence of seventy-three years more, it culminated in a serious diplomatic rupture between those two countries, and brought them to the brink of war. I now propose to give some account of the conditions and circumstances under which the government of the United States became a party to that controversy; how that intervention led to the Tri-partate Agreement of January, 1897; how the Treaty of Arbitration, which followed in February of that year, constituted a new departure in at least one very important branch of international jurisprudence; and how the question was finally disposed of by award of the Arbitration Tribunal of October 3, 1899.
I enter upon this task with some degree of reluctance, not because the facts are either doubtful or obscure, for they are neither; but because, having been, from the first, one of the principal actors in the drama, I shall be obliged to make more frequent allusion to myself than good taste would otherwise allow, and because, despite every care to avoid it, I may