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fully examined all these reports, and that of the board; which latter reached the conclusion that the Nicaragua route presented the most practicable if not the only feasible means of accomplishing the desired object. .
“The interest of the President and of the people of the United States in the construction of a canal connecting the two oceans is, however, so great that, although it cannot entertain the irregular suggestions reported in your interesting despatch, should a proposition or request be authoritatively made by the Maritime Powers, or by any of the prominent ones, requesting the United States to unite by the appointment of an engineer to cooperate with others officially appointed or recognized, in the survey of the alleged route, the President will not hesitate to respond to the request. It is possible that he might also authorize the Navy to render such aid as may be within its power; the decision on this point, however, is reserved until the question arises. But in the present aspect of the subject, and under the presentation in which it is brought to the attention of this Government, it is simply a private enterprise, not without the suspicion of being brought forward in antagonism and for the purpose of embarrassing and of delaying the execution of a canal, on the plan which the official reports of the surveys, and of the very elaborate and scientific explorations made by this Government, had indicated as practicable.
“A Darien canal should not be regarded as hostile to a Suez Canal; they will be, not so much rivals, as joint contributors to the increase of the commerce of the world, and thus mutually advance each other's interests. The successful construction of the Darien canal will really add to the glory of the originator of the Suez Canal. ...
“We shall . . . be glad of any movement which shall result in the early decision of the question of the most practicable route, and the early commencement and speedy completion of an interoceanic communication, which shall be guaranteed in its perpetual neutralization and dedication to the commerce of all nations, without advantages to one over another of those who guarantee its assured neutrality. In this connection I would call your attention to the fact that the mere guarantee of neutrality of a canal and of a belt of contiguous territory will be of little practical value, unless the waters of the high seas, for a radius of reasonably large extent around the termini on either ocean, be also made neutral waters, so far as relates to vessels navigating or designing to enter the canal are concerned, in order to prevent a blockade at the mouth, by one belligerent of vessels belonging to another belligerent, and to allow a reasonable chance for the vessels of a belligerent to enter, or to escape from the canal, at a distance beyond the mere limits of jurisdictional waters.”
Mr. Fish, Sec. of State, to Mr. Washburne, min. to France, Nov. 13, 1876,
MS. Inst. France, XIX. 413-414, 418-420.
In the closing months of President Grant's Administration a step Circular of 1877.
was taken in the direction of effecting a final adjust
ment of the canal question on the lines of perfect neutralization. As appears by a circular of Mr. Fish, then Secretary of State, to United States ministers, of February 28, 1877, a draft treaty was prepared, “to which it was proposed to obtain the accession of the principal maritime powers." The negotiations failed owing to certain views of Nicaragua, which were neither satisfactory to the United States nor calculated to obtain the cooperation” of those powers. By the draft treaty, every power becoming a party to its “stipulations and guarantees " was "at all times, whether in peace or war,” to have “the right of transit” through the canal when constructed, as well as “the benefit of the neutral waters at the ends thereof for all classes of vessels entitled to fly their respective flags with the cargoes on board, on equal terms in every respect as between each other;” and “the vessels of war and other national vessels” of such powers were to have the right of transit through the canal."
Mr. Fish, Sec. of State, to United States ministers, circular, Feb. 28, 1877,
Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 134–151, where correspondence with the Nicaraguan minister at Washington and drafts and counterdrafts of the proposed treaty
may be found. Mr. Fish's original draft is at p. 146. In certain remarks accompanying a note to the Nicaraguan minister of Feb.
16, 1877, Mr. Fish, commenting on a counter memorandum of Nica
ragua, said: " The obligations of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, including that which pro
vides for an invitation to other powers to join in guaranteeing the neutrality [of the canal], are still subsisting. This Government has hitherto abstained from making a proposition on the subject to other powers, because there has been no prospect of a completion, or even of a commencement of the canal. Having already entered into the stipulation with Great Britain, and that still being in force, its repetition in a treaty with Nicaragua might imply a doubt of the good faith of the
United States on the subject." (Id. 145.) In 1876, Mr. Fish entered into negotiations with Mr. Peralta, the Costa Rican
minister at Washington, with a view to conclude a treaty on the subject of a ship canal, and to that end presented to the minister a memorandum embodying as the basis of an agreement the same general principles as were afterwards laid down in the negotiations with the Nicaraguan minister. June 26, 1876, Mr. Peralta indicated that the continued misunderstanding between his country and Nicaragua in regard to their boundary was likely to delay any arrangement with regard to the work in question. (Mr. Fish, Sec. of State, to Mr. Peralta, March 28, and
July 11, 1876, MS. Notes to Costa Rica, II. 14, 17.) “We have made several attempts at negotiation with both Nicaragua and
Colombia on the subject of an interoceanic canal. They have failed mostly through the indisposition of the governments of those countries to grant terms which would command the confidence of capitalists. This policy on their part tends to confirm the opinion which you express that Nicaragua at least does not desire a canal through her territory." (Mr. F. W. Seward, Act. Sec. of State, to Mr. Williamson, min. to Costa Rica, Nov. 27, 1878, MS. Inst. Costa Rica, XVII. 383.)
7. MESSAGES OF PRESIDENT HAYES.
"The question of an interoceanic canal has recently assumed a new and important aspect and is now under discussion with the Central American countries through whose territory the canal, by the Nicaragua route, would have to pass. It is trusted that enlightened statesmanship on their part will see that the early prosecution of such a work will largely inure to the benefit, not only of their own citizens and those of the United States, but of the commerce of the civilized world. It is not doubted that should the work be undertaken under the protective auspices of the United States, and upon satisfactory concessions for the right of way and its security by the Central American Governments, the capital for its completion would be readily furnished from this country and Europe, which might, failing such guarantees, prove inaccessible."
President Hayes, annual message, Dec. 1, 1879. (Richardson's Messages
and Papers, VII. 569.)
“The policy of this country is a canal under American control. The United States cannot consent to the surrender of this control to any European power, or to any combination of European powers. If existing treaties between the United States and other nations, or if the rights of sovereignty or property of other nations stand in the way of this policy-a contingency which is not apprehended-suitable steps should be taken by just and liberal negotiations to promote and establish the American policy on this subject, consistently with the rights of the nations to be affected by it.
“The capital invested by corporations or citizens of other countries in such an enterprise must, in a great degree, look for protection to one or more of the great powers of the world. No European power can intervene for such protection without adopting measures on this continent which the United States would deem wholly inadmissible. If the protection of the United States is relied upon, the United States must exercise such control as will enable this country to protect its national interests and maintain the rights of those whose private capital is embarked in the work.
“An interoceanic canal across the American Isthmus will essentially change the geographical relations between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, and between the United States and the rest of the world. It will be the great ocean thoroughfare between our Atlantic and our Pacific shores, and virtually a part of the coast line of the United States. Our merely commercial interest in it is greater than that of all other countries, while its relations to our power and prosperity as a nation, to our means of defense, our unity, peace, and safety, are matters of paramount concern to the people of the United States. No other great power would, under similar circumstances, fail to assert a rightful control over a work so closely and vitally affecting its interest and welfare.
“Without urging further the grounds of my opinion, I repeat, in conclusion, that it is the right and the duty of the United States to assert and maintain such supervision and authority over any interoceanic canal across the isthmus that connects North and South America as will protect our national interests. This I am quite sure will be found not only compatible with, but promotive of, the widest and most permanent advantage to commerce and civilization.”
President Hayes, message of March 8, 1880, S. Ex. Doc. 112, 46 Cong. 2 sess.;
H. Ex. Doc. 47, 46 Cong. 2 sess.; Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 3. See, also, the report of Mr. Evarts, Sec. of State, accompanying the President's message, and expressing similar views. Mr. Evarts refers to the Wyse concession, at Panama, as the occasion for considering the relation of the United States to the subject of interoceanic communication across the American Isthmus.
8. DISCUSSIONS OF 1881-1883.
Mr. Blaine, in an instruction to Mr. Lowell, minister to England,
June 24, 1881, referring to a report “that the great Mr. Blaine's in
powers of Europe may possibly be considering the structions to Mr.
subject of jointly guaranteeing the neutrality of the Lowell,
interoceanic canal" then projected across the Isthmus of Panama, declared that, in the opinion of the President, the guarantee given by the United States to New Granada, by Art. XXXV. of the treaty of 1840, did not require "reinforcement, or accession, or assent from any other power," and that any attempt to “supersede” it, by “an agreement between European powers," would “partake of the nature of an alliance against the United States, and would be regarded by this Government as an indication of unfriendly feeling." Mr. Lowell was further instructed to be careful, in any conversations which he might have, not to represent this position as the development of a new policy or as the inauguration of any advanced, aggressive steps to be taken by the United States, since it was "nothing more than the pronounced adherence of the United States to principles long since enunciated by the highest authority of the Government, and now, in the judgment of the President, firmly interwoven as an integral and important part of our national policy."
Mr. Blaine, Sec. of State, to Mr. Lowell, min. to England, June 24, 1881,
Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1887), 322. See the text of the instruction more fully given, trustworthiness come to his knowledge that the Colombian Government had decided to make overtures, through its ministers at London and Paris, to the Governments of Great Britain and France, and also to those of Germany, Spain, and Italy, inviting them to join in the execution of a treaty guaranteeing the neutrality of the Isthmus of Panama, and the sovereignty of Colombia over that territory. (Mr. Blaine, Sec. of State, to Mr. Phelps, min. to Austria-Hungary, June 25,
supra, $ 339. The foregoing instruction was prompted by a report, by the United States
minister at Bogota, that it had privately but with every appearance of
1881, MS, Inst. Aust.-Hungary, III. 172.) The instruction was communicated to the cabinets of London, Paris, Ber
lin, and Vienna, and, by mistake, to that of Brussels. (Mr. Blaine, Sec.
Referring to his instruction of June 24, 1881, Mr. Blaine addressed to Mr. Lowell, Nov. 19, 1881, a further instruction specifically relating to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, a treaty made, said Mr. Blaine, “more than thirty years ago, under exceptional and extraordinary conditions which have long ceased to exist-conditions which at best were temporary in their nature, and which can never be reproduced.” Mr. Blaine objected to the “perpetuity” of the treaty on the ground (1) that it bound the United States “not to use its military force in any precautionary measure,” while it left “the naval power of Great Britain perfectly free and unrestrained; ready at any moment of need to seize both ends of the canal, and render its military occupation on land a matter entirely within the discretion of her Majesty's Government;" (2) that it embodied “a misconception of the relative positions of Great Britain and the United States with respect to the interests of each Government in questions pertaining to this continent," and impeached “our right and long-established claim to priority;" (3) that it gave the same right through the canal to a war ship, bent upon an errand of destruction to the United States coasts, as to a vessel of the American navy sailing for their defense, and that the United States demanded, for its own defense, the right to use only the same prevision as Great Britain so emphatically employed, 'in respect of the Suez route, by the possession of strategic and fortified posts and otherwise, for the defense of the British Empire; (4) that, only by the supervision of the l'nited States, could the Isthmian canal “be definitely and at all times secured against the interference and obstruction incident to war;” (5) that “a mere agreement of neutrality on paper between the great powers of Europe might prove ineffectual to preserve the canal in time of hostilities,” and that if, in the event of a general European war, one of their naval powers should seize it, the United States might be obliged to enter upon a 'defensive and protective war” in order to support her own commerce; (6) that, while the European powers had often engaged with one another in war, "in only a single instance in the past hundred years" had the United States "exchanged a hostile shot” with any of them, and that,