Slike strani
PDF
ePub

equality with those of Mexico or any other nation in the use of a transit through Mexican territory. It was also stipulated that no interest in the transit should be transferred to any foreign power. This treaty, however, did not finally set the matter at rest. For some years after its conclusion foreign powers tried to obtain exclusive privileges in a transit by the Tehauntepec route. This called forth a declaration from Secretary of State Cass to the effect that the United States would never consent that any distinction should be made in favor of foreign citizens over those of the United States in the use of a transit by that route. This was in 1857 and was soon followed by a proposal that a new treaty should be made giving to the United States a perpetual right-of-way across the Isthmus of Tehauntepec, binding the two republics to maintain the neutrality of the transit and authorizing one or both of them to use force for its protection. It also made provision that other nations should be invited to join in the guarantee of neutrality for the transit. In connection with this proposition General Cass declared that the United States did not want the transit for herself, but for all nations. Indeed, the time had passed when restrictions of any kind upon such a thoroughfare for the benefit of any one nation to the prejudice of the rest could be patiently tolerated. He also stated that the practice of modern commercial nations, based upon the soundest policy, repudiated the idea that any restrictions should be made in favor of any particular power on the great avenues of international commerce.

Sometime previous to the proposal of the above mentioned treaty the United States government had been led to make a proposition for the more effectual protection of the Panama railroad. This contemplated the establishment of a neutral zone twenty miles in width along the line of that road. The actual control of this tract was to be given to the municipalities of Aspinwall and Panama at its extremities while Colombia was to retain nominal sovereignty. All nations were to be permitted the use of the road and were also to be invited to join in the guarantee of neutrality for the road and adjoining region. The project, however, was never carried into execution and, under the auspices of the next administration, the government in 1857 emphatically declined to become a party to the joint guarantee of the isthmus. The alleged reasons for this refusal were that the United States had already guaranteed the neutrality of the isthmus and that it was contrary to her policy to enter into alliances with foreign powers. Nevertheless, all opposition to other nations undertaking to guarantee the neutrality of the isthmus was unhesitatingly disclaimed.2

1 Haswell's Treaties and Conventions of the United States, p. 697. • Sen. Ex. Doc. 72, ist sess. 35th Cong., p. 46. 3 Sen. Ex. Doc. 72, ist sess. 35th Cong., pp. 48 and 49. * Ibid., p. 47

Obviously the United States attached much importance to an interoceanic transit that should be a highway for the world's commerce. Yet it is equally clear that such a thoroughfare was not to be purchased at the price of an entangling alliance with an European power or a guarantee of sovereignty for a SpanishAmerican state. Nevertheless, the government had long insisted that the independence of the Cis-Atlantic republics should be respected and full recognition accorded to their rights of sovereignty over all transit routes through their territories.3 On more than one occasion the right of Nicaragua and other States of Central America absolutely to refuse permission for the opening of a transit through their territories had been emphatically asserted by the United States.* Although the government rigidly held to these views for a number of years the course of events gradually wrought a change of attitude. By 1858 it was openly proclaimed that the possession of sovereignty over the territory traversed by a canal route did not convey the right arbitrarily to prevent the opening of a communication or even to limit its usefulness by the imposition of unreasonable or discriminating restrictions. “Sovereignty,” said General Cass, “has its duties as well as its rights and none of these local governments

would be permitted to close the gates of intercourse on the great highways of the world, and justify the act by the pretension that these avenues of trade and travel belong to them and that they choose to shut them, or what is almost equiva

1 Sen. Ex. Doc. 112, 2d sess. 46th Cong., p. 24.

Sen. Ex. Doc. 112, 2d sess. 42d Cong., pp. 151 and 152. 3 Ibid., p. III. * House Rept. 224, 3d sess. 46th Cong., p. 5.

The govern

lent encumber them with such unjust regulations as would prevent their general use."'1

But a change of attitude in this particular was not followed by a radical change of American policy as a whole. ment still disclaimed all desire for a monopoly of the isthmian transits and insisted that the advantages of such works should be equally common to all nations. Yet it was determined that no other power should obtain any exclusive privileges in the use or control of a communication between the two seas. So jealously was the freedom of the transits guarded that a proposition to station a small French naval force in Lake Nicaragua during the construction of a canal met with the emphatic disapproval of the government.?

Such in general was the policy of the United States in 1858, and such, with but slight modifications, it remained till some years after the close of the Civil War. Naturally interoceanic communication attracted little attention during the continuance of that struggle. Nevertheless the events of that period were making for a radical change of policy on the part of the United States. Indeed, it is highly probable the complications growing out of the war and the incidental revelation of European antipathy for the United States were the most potent factors in creating an urgent popular demand for an exclusively American control of any transit that might be opened between the two oceans. At all events the smoke of battle had hardly cleared away before prominent Americans began to urge that steps be taken to promote the opening of an interoceanic ship-canal under American auspices and control. As early as 1865, General Grant began to advocate the careful survey of the isthmus with a view to encouraging the opening of an American waterway, and the following year he wrote that he regarded it of vast political importance to this country that no European power should hold such a work. 3

Influenced by these and similar considerations, Congress in 1866 authorized a thorough survey of the isthmus with a view to

* Sen. Ex. Doc. 194, ist sess. 47th Cong., p. 134. * Sen. Ex. Doc. 194, ist sess. 47th Cong., p. 135. 3 House Ex. Doc. 107, 2d sess. 47th Cong., p. 30.

2

ascertaining the most feasible route for an ocean-to-ocean canal. This work once inaugurated was persisted in for fifteen years and resulted in the careful exploration of almost every conceivable route. 1

The following year a treaty was concluded with Nicaragua which placed the United States on an equality with that republic in the use of any transit across that part of the isthmus. The United States guaranteed the neutrality of such transits and obtained the right to employ her land and naval forces for the protection of the passage.

Meanwhile popular sentiment had undergone a radical change and now demanded that the United States should break with the policy of the past. The government was quick to respond to this change of sentiment. By 1868 negotiations were opened with Colombia for the express purpose of promoting the construction of a ship-canal that should be under the control of the United States. Secretary of State Seward now boldly asserted that the government could not permit a work constructed by it or its citizens to be used for the advantage of an enemy or to its own prejudice.3

The result of these negotiations was a treaty signed in 1869. That instrument provided for the opening of a waterway across the Isthmus of Panama that should be under the control of the United States, and expressly stipulated that the troops and ships of war belonging to other nations at war should be rigorously excluded from the channel. The contracting parties agreed to invite other nations to give adherence to the guarantee of Colombian sovereignty over the isthmus and of neutrality for the transit. Although the treaty was never ratified it is of interest in this connection since it marks the first radical departure of the government from its time-honored policy respecting the status of the interoceanic transits.

But the attempt to secure a monopoly of control for the United States was not to be lightly abandoned. In the negotiations for

1 House Ex. Doc. 81, 2d sess. 42d Cong. · Haswell's Treaties and Conventions of the United States, pp. 784 and 785. 3 Sen. Ex. Doc. 112, 2d sess. 46th Cong., p. 28. 4 Sen. Ex. Doc. 112, 2d sess. 46th Cong., pp. 36 and 37.

4

another treaty with Colombia which were almost immediately begun the United States took a more radical stand in favor of an exclusively American control of the proposed canal. Although the demand for such a monopoly was a serious and perhaps insuperable obstacle to the acquisition of the necessary grant for the work, the government persistently refused to treat on other terms. Indeed, under the circumstances there was nothing else for the government to do. So strong was the popular demand for an American monopoly of the transit that any arrangement admitting foreign nations to a share in the control of the work would have aroused the apprehensions of the country and led to certain defeat in the Senate. In a word, the United States had come to the conclusion that an isthmian canal was an American enterprise to be accomplished and controlled by Americans.

These negotiations finally resulted in the conclusion of another treaty with Colombia signed in 1870. By the terms of that convention the United States was bound to construct a canal across the isthmus and guarantee its protection against the hostile attacks of other nations. In return the United States was to have full possession and control of the channel and also the right to erect and maintain the fortifications necessary to protect her interests.

Nevertheless it was specifically stipulated that the proposed canal should be open to all nations except those that were at war with one or both of the contracting parties. Both governments agreed to secure the adherence of other nations to the guarantee of neutrality.”

Although highly acceptable to the United States, the Colombian government refused to ratify this treaty. Thus the second attempt on the part of our government to secure a suitable grant for a transit under American control ended in failure. But these disappointments neither destroyed popular interest in the matter or induced the government to seek the coöperation of foreign nations in building or controlling such works. About two years after the signing of this treaty it was openly asserted by Hamilton Fish in a communication to Congress that it had not been

1 Ibid., p. 46. * Sen. Ex. Dọc. I12, 2d sess. 46th Cong., pp. 38-45.

« PrejšnjaNaprej »