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MR. CRAMPTON AND THE AMERICAN QUESTION.
On the 15th of last month it was announced in London by magnetic telegraph, that the mail steamer Canada had arrived in the Mersey from New York, bringing a number of passengers, amongst whom was Mr. John Fiennes Crampton, late Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of Her Majesty with the United States of America.
In the journal which made this announcement appeared two despatches, which explained the cause of Mr. Crampton's absence from the scene of his mission, and his presence on British ground. Both were written by Mr. Marcy, the American secretary of state-one to Mr. Dallas, the American minister in London; the other to Mr. Crampton himself. The latter was as follows:
MR. MARCY TO MR. CRAMPTON.
Department of State, Washington, May 28th, 1856.
SIR, The President of the United States has directed me to announce to you the determination to discontinue further intercourse with you as her Majesty's representative to the government of the United States. The reasons which have compelled him to take this step at this time have been communicated to your government.
I avail myself of this occasion to add that due attention will be cheerfully given to any communications addressed to this department from her Majesty's government affecting the relations between Great Britain and the United States, which may be forwarded to this government through any other channel.
Should it be your pleasure to retire from the United States, the President directs me to furnish you with the usual facilities for VOL. XLVIII.—NO. CCLXXXIII.
that purpose. I consequently enclose herewith the passport given in such cases.
I avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you, sir, the assurance of my respectful consideration.
W. L. MARCY. John F. Crampton, Esq., &c.
We learn, then, from these despatches, and from the arrival of Mr. Crampton in England, that the minister of Her Britannic Majesty with the United States has been dismissed from that country, as "unfit for the position he held," and unworthy of that confidence and consideration which the representative of a friendly power ought to command with the government to which he is accredited.
It may not be thought amiss, on the occurrence of so strange and startling an event, to enter upon a brief summary of the circumstances which have led to this result. The public mind, we are aware, has been for some time much occupied with the question; and the public journals have entered, over and over again, into the details, presenting the matter under every conceivable aspect: still, notwithstanding all this-or rather, because a constant and perplexing iteration of details may possibly have interfered with and prevented a just view of the whole question, we are disposed to hope that we may supply a want at this moment felt by some of our readers, by giving, though at the risk of repetition, from authentic sources, and as plainly as we can, an historical resumé of the double controversy which has of late been engaging the attention and taxing the A 2
diplomatic intelligence of the two governments.
It is scarcely necessary to say that of the twofold difficulty in question, one part relates to our possessions and rights in Central America, and the other to the attempt made during the late war to procure recruits from amongst the inhabitants of the United States. Upon each of these questions શ "Blue Book" has been published. The controversies, which raged for some time simultaneously, are thus kept separate, though their separation in the parliamentary documents does not so completely isolate them from each other, as not to render a comparison valuable for the purpose of illustrating the characters of the parties and the real objects they had in view. We propose to take up the Central American question first, both because it arose considerably earlier than the other, and because the latter will be dealt with more naturally in connection with the concluding portion of the present paper.
Up to the period at which the discovery of gold in California took place, those vast regions of America which lie between Mexico on the north, and New Granada on the south, had been little valued and very imperfectly explored. The antiquarian researches of Mr. Stephens, indeed, had invested portions of theni with a mysterious interest; but the interest which utility alone can produce had not been felt-it was not any one's business to explore them. This whole region had been originally colonized by Spain; and remained under the dominion of that country until the year 1821, when the provinces of which it was composed threw off the Spanish yoke, and constituted themselves into a republic, which they named Central America. In a few years this republic fell to pieces, and was reformed into separate states, which took their divisions in the main from the boundaries of the old provinces. These republics are (beginning from the north) Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. From an early period England had formed settlements on the eastern shores of this region undisputed, whatever had been the original title to them-by the republics they bordered on.
As soon, however, as by the incor
poration of new states into the American Union, a western sea-board was obtained; and when a dependency of Great Britain, almost equal to a continent, and lying beyond the barrier of the western world, had disclosed a sudden store of wealth and invited the enterprize and cupidity of Englishmen to its shores, what had been until then deemed a worthless pass between the northern and southern empires of America rose at once into importance, as forming the line of communication between the civilization of the two great divisions of the British family and the distant treasures of the Pacific. Central America, for the first time, became the centre of American interests. Every eye was turned upon her; she began to be the focus of the world's gaze.
As a highway, use was made of her at once. In default of other means of transit, men scrambled over her mountains, and forded or swam her lakes and rivers, in order to get the shortest way across from sea to sea. This spontaneous selection of a route pointed out its importance. The interests of the world seemed to demand that it should be opened up.
Such was the state of things which originated the CLAYTON-BULWER TREATY.
The history of this treaty is shortly as follows. In the year 1849 a proposal was discussed between the ministers of the two governments, Great Britain and America, for guaranteeing the safety of a company of capitalists, to whom a charter should be granted by the republic of Nicaragua for the execution and maintenance of a ship-canal across a certain portion of Central America, principally if not altogether lying within the territory of that state. This canal was to pass from the Caribbean Sea at San Juan del Norte westward, following the course of the river San Juan until it reached Lake Nicaragua, whence it was to pass into Lake Managua, having its outlet either at the port of Realejo or at the Bay of Fonseca on the Pacific. This vast undertaking had already been taken up by a company of capitalists, and was deemed of sufficient importance to the interests of both nations to call for their formal protection, to guarantee
which was accordingly, as we have said, the object of the proposed convention. Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer was at that time the British Minister at Washington, with Mr. Crampton attached to the Legation; and Mr. Clayton was the Secretary of State of the United States. Numerous communications took place, both between these parties and between Mr. Abbott Lawrence, the American Minister in London, and Lord Palmerston, then Minister for Foreign Affairs. The points under discussion principally related to a claim by the British of a protectorate over the territory of the king—or, as he is sometimes termed, Chief of the Mosquito Indians, and to the occupation by the English, under a title derived from that nation, or tribe, of the town of San Juan del Norte, by them called Greytown, which commanded the eastern mouth of the proposed canal. A glance at a good map (such as that prefixed to the 1st volume of Squiers' "Nicaragua") will shew that the maintenance of either the one or the other claim by England might possibly have been fairly considered by America as giving her undue power over one of the outlets of the contemplated canal; for even the Mosquito protectorate would, according to her most recent pretensions, have embraced the north shore of the San Juan for a considerable part of its course. These points were assumed to be all that were likely to be in dispute at least they were all that concerned the subject-matter of the treaty; and as there was no intention or intimation of including in it any matter not immediately bearing upon its avowed object, nothing else brought under discussion. Incidentally, indeed, Mr. Lawrence informed Lord Palmerston that his government considered "that no great maritime nation ought to desire or be permitted to have an exclusive foothold on the Isthmus;" but this remark produced no comment, and led to no further discussion; and it may fairly be assumed that the intention of all parties was understood to be to deal in the proposed convention with the canal question, and with the canal question only. That this was the meaning of both the negociators before the treaty was ratified, is shewn by the words Sir Henry Bulwer uses
inwriting to Lord Pa Imerston on the 18th of February, 1850:-"Both of us (Mr. Clayton and myself) deemed that at the present time the treaty in question did all that was necessary by settling a basis on which the canal could be constructed and protected."
England having at last intimated her willingness to satisfy America on the points she had raised, namely, as to the Mosquito protectorate and the occupancy of Greytown, the project of a convention was drawn up. This, after much discussion and some modification, was finally embodied in formal Articles, which were signed by Sir Henry Bulwer on the part of England, and by Mr. Clayton on that of America, on the 19th day of April, 1850, both parties being fully empowered by their respective governments for the purpose.
Of this convention it will be necessary to quote one sentence, forming part of Árticle I. It runs thus:-
The Governments of Great Britain and the United States hereby declare that neither the one nor the other will ever obtain or maintain for itself any exclusive control over the said Ship-Canal; agreeing that neither will ever erect or maintain any fortifications commanding the same, or in the vicinity thereof, or occupy, or fortify, or colonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central America.
It seems to have struck Lord Palmerston at the last moment, just as he was sending out the ratification of the Treaty, that some ambiguity might possibly lurk under the words. They might be wrested so as to include the British Honduras, and be interpreted retrospectively, so as to involve a relinquishment by England of that settlement and its dependencies. Accordingly, on the 8th of June, he directed Sir Henry Bulwer to make a formal declaration, on the exchange of ratifications, to the effect that her Majesty's government did not understand the engagements of the convention as applying to her Majesty's settlement at Honduras, or to its dependencies. Sir Henry Bulwer did so; which drew from Mr. Clayton, on the 4th of July, the following letter:
Department of State, Washington,
July 4, 1850.
I have received the declaration you were
instructed by your Government to make to me respecting Honduras and its dependencies, a copy of which is herewith subjoined.
The language of Article I. of the Convention concluded on the 19th day of April last, between the United States and Great Britain, describing the country not to be occupied, &c., by either of the parties, was, as you know, twice approved by your Government, and it was neither understood by them, nor by either of us (the negotiators), to include the British Settlement in Honduras, commonly called British Honduras, as distinct from the State of Honduras, nor the small islands in the neighbourhood of that Settlement, which may be known as its dependencies. To this Settlement and these islauds the Treaty we have negotiated was not intended by either of us to apply. The title to them it is now, and has been my intention throughout the whole negotiation, to leave, as the Treaty leaves it, without denying, affirming, or in any way meddling with the same, just as it stood previously.
The Chairman of the Committee Foreign Relations of the Senate, the Hon. William R. King, informs me that "the Senate perfectly understood that the Treaty did not include British Honduras." It was intended to apply to and does include all the Central American States of Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, with their just limits and proper dependencies.
Upon receiving this letter, Sir Henry Bulwer at once exchanged the ratifications; and the Treaty was concluded.
Now it was scarcely possible to anticipate that out of words thus penned, and thus explained, there should be extracted the grounds of a claim upon England for a cession and abandonment of those valuable possessions on the coast of Central America, for which no advantage contemplated by the treaty could compensate her, and which therefore could not possibly have been voluntarily relinquished by her. Yet the treaty had not been three years in existence, when certain individuals in the American Senate, amongst whom was General Cass, began to suggest an interpretation of their own, regardless of that of the Contracting Parties as signified by the formal statements of their ministers, and grounded on the ambiguous meaning of one term employed therein namely, Central America.
urged in the first place, that the wording was clear--England was "not to occupy," therefore she was to withdraw from her occupation--not to
occupy "any part of Central America," therefore she was to give up the territories in which she was settled. She was not to "colonize," so she was to abandon the islands of Ruatan, Bonacca, and others, which, under the idea that they were dependencies of Honduras, she had recently constituted into a separate colony. She was not to protect the Mosquito coast, for that was to exercise dominion in contravention of the treaty. In other words, for the chance of a canal across the Isthmus, she was to evacuate the whole of what had been hitherto hers in that part of the world. The arguments on the American side professed to be grounded on the wording of the instrument itself, and on the reason of the thing. As to the first, they asserted that "Central America" was a geographical term, including the whole of the tract we have described, between Mexico and New Granada. Let us examine this assertion. In point of fact, the term Central America, which is modern, never having been heard of before 1821, was applied originally as a political designation, and described a republic exclusive of the British possessions in its neighbourhood, to which no claim whatever was set up; and the term was made use of in a geographical sense only by geographers, being found conveniently and appropriately to describe the region we have indicated, lying between those Northern and Southern limits. We challenge the supporters of the American interpretation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty to adduce a single instance in which the term "Central America" has been employed in any political transaction, with the meaning sought to be attached to it in this: and on the other hand, the instances are numerous in which the designation has been formally recognized as applying to the old republic of that name, and subsequently to the cluster of states formed out of its fragments, and of which the boundaries, unsettled though they be, do not assume to include the British settlements. But the American interpretation, however forced, would have been inoperative, had not a further violence been done to the language of the Treaty. It was necessary, according to the views of General Cass and his friends, not only to