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THE CANAL TOLLS AND AMERICAN SHIPPING
EVEN Columbus hoped to discover a strait between the North and South American Continents. The question of cutting through the Isthmus we find referred to many times from 15021 to recent years.
In 1826 Secretary of State, Henry Clay, wrote to Messrs. Anderson and Sergeant; United States delegates to the Panama Congréss; advising the consideration by that Congress of the matter of a canal.
In 1835 the Senate adopted a resolution requesting the President to consider the expediency of opening negotiations with the governments of other nations, especially with those of Central America and New Grenada, with a view to safeguarding individuals or companies that might undertake to build a canal across the Isthmus. In 1839 the House of Representatives took action along similar lines in response to a memorial from New York merchants.
On February 10, 1847, President Polk transmitted with message to the Senate for ratification “A general treaty of peace, amity, navigation and commerce between the United States and the Republic of New Grenada,” concluded at Bogotá, December 12, 1846. Under this treaty of 1846, the citizens, vessels and merchandise of the United States were to have reciprocal treatment with those of New Grenada in passage across any part of Panama, besides being relieved from any import duties on goods in transit. This in return for the positive and efficacious guarantee of the neutrality of the Isthmus—as well as the rights of sovereignty and property over it.
The Panama Railway completed in 1855 was an outcome of this treaty.
The American and Atlantic Ship Canal Company executed a contract with the Government of
Nicaragua August 27, 1849. .: Mr, Squier, United States Chargé d'affaires,
concluded a treaty ceding Tigre Island in the Gulf of Fonseca to the United States. On October 16, 1849, the British Diplomatic representative to Guatemala, Mr. Chatfield, with an armed force took possession of Tigre Island. Possession at that time would have meant war with Great Britain. We were in the midst of the bitter discussions leading up to our Civil War and had we gone to war with Great Britain very probably the Civil War would have been precipitated with the Southern States as possible allies of Great
Britain. The conversion of English lumber camps on the eastern coast of Nicaragua and Honduras into what was practically British territory, through virtue of occupation in anticipation of the building of a canal, was considered by American statesmen of the period as equivalent to a virtual abandonment of the Monroe Doctrine.
In 1848, England seized and occupied Greytown till 1860 under the mask of aiding the Mosquito Indians, even crowning an Indian King as a “cousin" and “great and good friend” of European sovereigns. The salary of the king was £1000 a year till he died in 1864. Just so long as England considered it necessary she maintained the protectorate over the Mosquito Reservation, getting the Austrian Emperor to bolster up her claims in 1880, and it was not till 1894 that the Mosquito Coast was turned over to Nicaragua and until work under Menocal on the Nicaragua Canal, which was carried on in 1891 and 1892, was abandoned.
So our Government was driven to execute a treaty which violated the intent of the Monroe Doctrine. Just as one of the results of the RussoTurkish War was to give England control of Cyprus, with the right to occupy territory near the Canal in British interests, and in Central America, though agreeing not to fortify or settle, (in Article I of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty) we find her holding fast to the Mosquito Coast until 1894 and to Belize to the present day. While
Great Britain engaged by treaty to vacate the coast she violated this treaty in letter and spirit. President Pierce, in a message in 1856, said:
It is with surprise and regret that the United States learned that a military expedition under the authority of the British Government had landed at San Juan del Norte, in the State of Nicaragua, and taken forcible possession of that port, the necessary terminus of any canal across the Isthmus within the territories of Nicaragua. It did not diminish to us the unwelcomeness of this act on the part of Great Britain to find that she assumed to justify it on the ground of an alleged protectorship of a small and obscure band of uncivilized Indians whose proper name had even been lost to history, who did not constitute a State capable of territorial sovereignty either in fact or in right, and all political interests in whom and in the territory they occupied Great Britain had previously renounced by successive treaties with Spain when Spain was sovereign to the country and subsequently with independent Spanish America.
The following proclamation is another violation of treaty rights. Office of the Colonial Secretary.
BELIRE, July 17, 1852. This is to give notice that Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen has been pleased to constitute and make the Island of Roatan, Bonacca, Utilla, Barbarat, Helene and Morat to be a Colony to be known and designated as the Colony of the Bay Islands.
AUGUSTUS FREDERICK GARE,
Acting Colonial Secretary.
Roatan was one of the “islands adjacent” to the American Continent that had been restored by Great Britain to Spain under treaties of 1783 and 1786.
Mr. Marcy, Secretary of State, informed the United States Minister to Great Britain, July 26, 1856, as to the view taken by the United States saying:
Great Britain had not at the time of the Convention of April 19, 1850, any rightful possessions in Central America, save only the usufructuary settlement at Belire, if that really be in Central America, and at the same time if she had any she was bound by the express tenor and true construction of the convention, to evacuate the same and thus to stand on precisely the same footing in that respect as the United States.
The Dallas Clarendon Treaty of 1854, stating explicitly that the protectorate over the Mosquito Indians and continued possession of the Bay Islands would be terminated, was refused by Great Britain.
At any rate it is known that there was much misunderstanding preceding 1850 and alarm over acts of British aggression. Mr. Lawrence, our Minister in London, making but little progress owing to the evasive policy of Great Britain, Mr. Clayton, Secretary of State, signed a convention in Washington directly with Sir Henry Bulwer. This treaty was ratified July 5, 1850, and is known as the Clayton-Bulwer Convention. While Great