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2. Where the vessels were destroyed at sea.
3. Where condemnations which purported to be made by virtue of the Berlin and Milan decrees, in being definitely repealed, were, according to the French Government, to be thenceforth considered as not having existed.
4. For all supplies derived from citizens of the United States for debts otherwise due.
5. Where the sentences of condemnation gave a retrospective effect to the decrees under which they purported to be made.42
The payment by France to the United States of the sum of $5,000,000 in settlement of all the claims as above given settled beyond dispute the illegality of at least certain applications of the French decrees; but, in addition to this, they established their own illegality by outlining as a preface and justification of their being the generally accepted principles of blockade as at that time understood by nations.
ARCHIBALD H. STOCKDER.
42 Ex. Doc. 147, Vol. 3, p. 51. 22d Cong., 2nd sess., 1832–33.
THE NEUTRALITY OF HONDURAS AND THE QUESTION
OF THE GULF OF FONSECA 1
The members of the Central American Peace Conference, held at Washington in 1907, primarily intent upon devising all possible ways and means of maintaining permanent peace in the Isthmus, sought to introduce into the treaties which resulted from the Conference not only those means and recourses which experience had shown would preserve good understanding and harmony among the five states, but, more particularly, they endeavored to find new methods which would strengthen the desideratum of the Conference by eliminating the causes of civil or interstate wars which might in the future occur in the Central American countries.
Naturally, the arsenal to which the Conference had to turn for the new arms to combat the causes of and prevent all war and revolution, could be none other than historical experience and the principles of international law.
The negotiators of the Central American treaties well knew the facilities which the large and sparsely populated Honduranean territory had many times afforded to Central American military leaders to promote revolutions and wars which have laid waste more than one country of Central America. The geographical circumstance that the territory of Honduras occupies a central position between Guatemala, Salvador and Nicaragua, which have been the most warlike in our history, has in no small degree facilitated the development of revolutionary and warlike enterprises, which have used the extensive and uninhabited regions of Honduras as a basis of operations, so to speak. It is on this account that the three most warlike countries have naturally exerted themselves to obtain the alliance, or at least the benevolent neutrality, of Honduras.
Since very early in our independent life, it has been understood that Honduranean territory was something like the political center of gravitation for the forces which have sought to reach an equilibrium in the 1 Translated from the original Spanish by Pedro Capó-Rodríguez.
different historical combinations of the Central American balance of power, and hence those forces have always attempted to obtain such support as that center of gravitation offered to them, whether by means of an alliance with the Government of Honduras, or by actually seizing a central strategical and political point within its territory.
This happened in the first and most disastrous Central American war, which extended from the fateful decree of October 10, 1826 to the occupation of Guatemala in 1829, when the servile party which defied Central America, undertook, as its first and principal measure, to organize the Milla expedition against Comayagua, with the historical and false pretext of the tobacco of the Llanos.
It is to be noticed that in the principal campaign developed against Salvador, which openly opposed the Guatemalan policy of 1826, the party which won at Arrazola and besieged San Salvador always considered that the auxiliary and joint campaign which it undertook against Honduras would exert a very powerful influence upon the final result of the war against Salvador. An evident proof of that political and military view of the servile party, is that the expedition of Colonel Domínguez was detached from the Mexican general headquarters and sent against the eastern departments bordering on Honduras. Upon his triumph at Trinidad and Gualcho, the great Morazan, who was born in Honduras, very clearly demonstrated as a maxim of Central American military history, that in order to insure the result of a campaign of Guatemala against Salvador, and vice versa, it is necessary to count upon the alliance or the strict neutrality of Honduras.
Subsequent wars but confirmed this political and military axiom, which constitutes one of the laws of our history. In 1876, the victory of Apaneca and its logical consequence, the lifting of the siege of Ahuachapán, would have decided the triumph of the Salvadorian arms, if the battle of Pasaquina, the work of the complicity of Honduras, which was made the base of operations of the Guatemalan army of Solares, had not compelled the Government of Salvador to capitulate.
It has also been seen that since 1894 the alliance between Honduras and Nicaragua constitutes a constant peril to the security of Salvador and Guatemala, when the question is viewed from an opposite military standpoint.
Consequently, the historical and military law which we have just mentioned, was impressed with all the force of established tradition upon the minds of the negotiators of the treaties of Washington, and they naturally had to solve the problem of Central American peace, for the consolidation of which they had been delegated, by maintaining unimpaired the military and political balance in Central America through a diplomatic and juridical combination that should always keep free the common center of gravitation upon which the politics and tranquility of Central America turns. Such a combination, from a diplomatic and juridical point of view, could not be other than the permanent and effective neutralization of Honduranean territory in Central American conflicts.
This solution of the problem appeared so natural and so feasible to the Central American negotiators that the doctrine of the permanent neutrality of Honduras was welcomed by all with marked good faith and sympathy. And the North American statesmen who were interested in the success of the Central American conferences quickly realized the transcendent efficacy of such a combination of Central American politics and welcomed it with eagerness as an excellent and happy solution of the pacific idea which the Central American Conference was called upon to realize.
. From this community of ideas and from these historical facts which are traditional with the Central American people, sprang the civilized and peaceful idea of creating a buffer, physical, moral and political, by declaring Honduranean territory inviolable for war purposes and by preventing its government from intervening in or favoring the Central American contentions which have so much flourished on its soil.
In order to realize this great thought of the permanent neutrality of Honduras there remained only to find a formula that should not offend the dignity of Honduras and that should conform to the principles of American public law.
This formula was easily found by the Conference. It was said that, if, by virtue of the sovereign right which every people has to dispose of its own destiny, Honduras should herself voluntarily declare her perpetual neutrality, the honor and integrity of the Honduranean state would be perfectly preserved; and it was also suggested that if all the other Central American states should in response to such a declaration, pledge themselves to respect the permanent neutrality of Honduras and not to violate her territory in any case, there would be found, through such a diplomatic circumlocution, a happy formula that would without detriment to anyone consecrate the fundamental and categorical principle of the perpetual neutralization of the Republic of Honduras.
Such was the origin and such must be and is the spirit and scope of the principle of the permanent neutrality of Honduras, expressly established in Article III of the General Treaty of Peace and Friendship, concluded at Washington, on December 20, 1907, by the plenipotentiary delegates of the five Republics of Central America.
The terms of this stipulation are as follows:
ARTICLE III Taking into account the central geographical position of Honduras and the facilities which owing to this circumstance have made its territory most often the theater of Central American conflicts, Honduras declares from now on its absolute neutrality in event of any conflict between the other Republics; and the latter, in their turn, provided such neutrality be observed, bind themselves to respect it and in no case to violate the Honduranean territory.
The meeting of the minds and the assent of the state which declared its permanent neutrality and of the four states which accepted it and engaged to respect it and not to violate its territory, give rise to a legal, perfect and clear contract, having all the juridical effects which are derived from a state of conventional and permanent neutrality, in accordance with the principles of international law which govern and regulate the permanent neutrality of states. It cannot be understood nor even conceived, that, in a bilateral, mutually obligatory and solemn contract, such as a public treaty or a diplomatic agreement must be, two or more states should engage in the unusual task of making abstract declarations, without juridical consequences of a binding and practical value. Although the form of such declarations may not be, as it is in this case, so peremptory and indubitable, it would always be necessary to give and to attribute to them the proper effects which their juridical nature imports and which their character of a solemn international