George Hooker Colton.

The American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) online

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It has been repeatedly asked, with all the
emphasis of wonder, why so many European
projects for an interoceanic canal, negotiated
and favorably concluded, have failed ©f suc-
cess? These projects failed regularly, one
after another, for want of capital, and for
no other discoverable reason. The skilful
merchants of Belgium, of France, of Holland,
and of England, were not ready to embark
in an enterprise of which others were to
reap the fruit. To have expended many
millions sterling on a ship-canal for the ves-
sels of the United States, might be a nota-
ble project for the people or government of
America, but by no means for those of
Europe or of Great Britain ; especially, when
it came to be considered that these vessels
were to be employed in conveying the pre-
cious metals and manufactures of the United
States to Asia, in rivalry with those of
France, of Belgium, and of England. En-
thusiastic individuals might busy themselves
in such a project, but companies of wary
merchants would not. Profits of toll would
be a small temptation, and those, too, remote
and uncertain.

It may safely be predicted that no Euro-
pean government will in future accord sub-
stantial aid to this American project; we
may henceforth expect from them the great-
est encouragement in words for this pro-
ject, and the most determined opposition in
conduct and in influence.

But if the merchants of Great Britain
were in no danger from the rivalry of the
United States in the markets of Asia, the
interoceanic canal would not engage their
attention or their capital for the furtherance
of Asiatic trade ; nor would the outlay
of its cost be justified by tolls from the
trade of the Western Pacific with Great
Britain. The voyage to Asia would be
considerably lengthened and retarded by
the way of the canal. We are consequently



1852.



Nicaragua and the Inter oceanic Canal.



261



sure that the merchants of England will
not interest themselves in the work. At a
much less cost, they are already contem-
plating the excavation of a canal to connect
the river Nile in Egypt with the Red Sea ;
a work in former days undertaken by the
Pharaohs, and which would save them the
present immense journey about the continent
of Africa, By a ship-canal from the Nile to
the Red Sea, London would be within a few
days' sail of Bombay, and as near to Canton
as New-Orleans would be by the proposed
interoceanic canal. The canal of Egypt is
the work of Europe ; that of Nicaragua is
the work of America.

Moreover, until the canal of Egypt shall
have been completed, not only indifference
to the Nicaragua route, but a powerful op-
position to it, in American hands, must be
maintained by Great Britain.

" The object of Great Britain," writes Mr.
Buchanan, in a letter to Mr. Hise, at that
time our charge to Central America, "is
evident from the policy she has uniformly
pursued throughout her history, of seizing
upon every valuable commercial point in
the world." " Her purpose, probably, is to
control the route between the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans." Our Secretary of State, at
that time, understood the policy to be to
control^ but not to close up and obstruct the
route. That he was in error, what has been
said, and the sequel, will be a proof.

Mr. Hise confined himself to a denial of
the protectorate. He had no very definite
instructions. On the 4th of April, 1849,
Mr. Manning, British Vice-Consul at Nica-
ragua, wrote to Lord Palmerston as follows :
" My opinion is ... . that this country will
be overrun by American adventurers, and
consequently bring on Her Majesty's govern-
ment disagreeable communications with
that of the United States, which possibly
might be avoided by an immediate negoti-
ation with Mr. Castillon for a i:)rotectorate
and transit favorable to British interests."
"The welfare of my country, and the desire
of its obtaining the control of so desirable a
spot in the commercial world, and free it from
the competition of so adventurous a race as
the North Americans, induces me, &c."
Here is the line of policy indicated which
has since been pursued with such great acti-
vity, and we might add with such talent and
audacity, by the government of Great Bri-
tain.



Mr. Hise became immediately aware of
the intentions of Breat Britain, and entered
into negotiations with a commissioner of
Nicaragua, to secure for his own country a
perpetual right of way across the Isthmus
of Nicaragua, with the privilege of erecting
forts for the defense of its extremities, and
of constructing a railroad or a canal, with
other lar^e and liberal rights, to be secured
to our citizens by the state of Nicaragua.

The election of General Taylor to the
Presidency produced a change in the foreign
ministers of the United States, and Mr.
Squier was appointed in the place of Mr.
Hise. No radical change, however, was
attempted in the policy of Mr. Hise, which
was regarded by General Taylor and Mr.
Clayton as, in the main, just and patriotic.
Mr. Squier was directed to pursue the work
so well begun by his predecessor, with cer-
tain modifications. He was directed by
our government to represent the work as
one of common interest to all nations ;
for the conviction had not yet arisen that the
real purpose of Great Britain was not to
secure its advantages to herself, but to crush
it altogether.

The policy of Mr. Hise having undergone
this modification at the hands of Mr.
Clayton, then our Secretary of State, from
motives purely philanthropical, and calcu-
lated, as was then supposed, to give it favor
in the eyes of the Nicaraguans ; the difficulty
of negotiation was greatly increased, Great
Britain being thus allowed to consider her-
self as equally interested in the work, and
upon the same footing in regard to it as
the United States. Had the policy of Mr.
Hise been adhered to, and followed out
upon " strict business principles," setting all
" world-wide" and " philanthropic" consider-
ations aside, the agents of Great Britain
would probably have lost the little influence
they possessed, and the people of Nicaragua
and the United States have been now
drawn closely together by the bonds of
interest and friendship. The letters of the
Nicaraguan government to the authorities
of the United States were indeed taken up
and answered in a most friendly spirit by
General Taylor's administration, but the
necessary exclusiveness, so much desired by
the people of Nicaragua, was not adhered
to. We, the people of the United States,
seeking for our merchants the commerce of
Asia, and wishing to establish a well-pro-



262



Nicaragua and the Inieroceanic Canal.



March,



tected public way for our own citizens
between the Atlantic and Pacific, were to
make a canal or a railroad " for the use of
all nations," in which our great commercial
rival was to have as large an interest and
benefit as ourselves! "Our object," says
Mr. Clayton, in his letter of instructions to
Mr. Squier, " in giving a solemn pledge of
protection" for the work, is " not to acquire
for ourselves any exclusive or partial advan-
tages over other nations," &c. Of course,
neither the people, the capital, nor the go-
vernment of the United States can ever be
moved by motives so very philanthropical,
and of so little practical value. The busi-
ness of our government is clearly not phi-
lanthropical, except so far as the interests,
i. e., the commerce and predominance of
the American people may be incidentally
advantageous to the world at large, and to
our commercial rivals.

On arriving at Nicaragua, Mr. Squier
found an agent of Mr. Cornelius Vanderbilt,
engaged in negotiating a charter for the
construction of an interoceanic canal. Hav-
ing authority from his government to guar-
antee any such charter, he became immedi-
ately interested in its success, and on the
27th of August, 1849, it was signed.

This charter embraced all the necessary
points for the construction and maintenance
of the work. It provided for a ship-canal,
to admit vessels of the largest size.

The preliminary surveys to be commenced
within twelve months ; the work to be com-
pleted in twelve years.

The Company to pay the State $10,000,
upon the ratification of the contract.

They were to have an exclusive right
to navigate the interior waters of the
State.

The canal to be open to all nations, sub-
ject to uniform rates of toll.

The contract to be held inalienably by
the individuals composing the Company, a
provision of which Mr. Squier claims the
merit, and which removed the whole from
the possibility of stock-gambling.

Mr. Squier also procured the insertion of
an article which placed all nations "who
should enter into the same treaty stipula-
tions with Nicaragua" as those offered by
the United States, upon an equal footing
with that power, in regard to the proposed
work. Great Britain was consequently ex-
cluded, her violent occupation of San Juan



de Nicaragua being in violation of the rights
of that state.

The same gentleman concluded a treaty
of commerce and friendship with Nicaragua,
on our part, upon the ratification of which
depended also the validity of the canal con-
tract. This treaty was approved by General
Taylor, and transmitted to the Senate, but
the Slavery agitation prevented immediate
attention to it.

The death of General Taylor produced a
change, unfavorable to the ratification of the
treaty. Sir Henry Bulwer, the active and
intelligent envoy of Great Britain at Wash-
ington, in repeated communications to our
government, cast an air of ridicule upon all
serious negotiations \Aih. so feeble a state aa
that of Nicaragua, while at the same time he
upheld the eminently ridiculous pretensions
of the Mosquito protectorate. Our own
government was led finally to conclude a
treaty with Great Britain, well known as the
Clayton and Bulwer treaty, in which both
nations agreed to abstain from all such acta
as might impede the construction of the
canal. Mr. Clayton, in a dispatch dated
May Vth, 1850, writes, that he has concluded
a treaty, " the object of which is to secure
the protection of the British government to
the Nicaraguan Canal." The leading provi-
sion of this treaty was, that neither nation
should occupy or fortify points upon the
coast of Nicaragua, (or in any other way
aggress,) to the detriment of the great pro-
fectr

Sir Henry Bulwer very justly argued, of
this treaty, that it was concluded in behalf
of the canal, and not for any general pur-
pose of excluding England from the North
American continent; and notwithstanding
all that has been said in regard to supposed
British violations of this treaty, it cannot be
applied to her aggressions, unless they can
be shown at the same time to be an impedi-
ment to the work in question.

It is clear, from the language of Mr. Clay-
ton in the dispatch above quoted, that he
did not suspect the real designs of Great
Britain as an enemy to the work, but un-
derstood only that she was resolved that it
should not be an American monopoly.

In either view, we regard the policy of
Mr. Clayton as exceptionable. For,

1st. We conceive it to be the eminent
duty of a government to procure advan-
tages first for its own people, and for those



1852.



Nicaragua and the Interoceanic Canal.



263



of another country only where they are not
a direct and dangerous rival.

2d. The Bulwer and Clayton treaty was
not needed to secure the '■'•protection^' of
Great Britain, she being the only power
ayainst whom there was need of protection.

3. There was no fear that the govern-
ment of the United States would impede
the construction of a canal, as it was already
deeply interested in its completion. To in-
clude itself in a treaty of mutual refrain-
ment was, therefore, an inadvertency on the
part of our government.

4. If England was understood to have
occupied Central America temporarily, and
as an obstacle to the canal, the treaty should
have provided for her unconditional with-
drawal.

5. If for any other purpose, the occupa-
tion was itself a violation of right, which
rendered all treaty worthless in the premises.

6. If the treaty allowed the occupation
as a hostage to Great Britain, for her equal
right in the canal, it was an infringement
upon the rights of Nicaragua ; that country
being alone qualified to give such a hostage.

Y. The treaty nullified itself by tacitly
admitting the right of occupation, except as
it impeded the completion of the canal.

Consequently, we cannot found a contro-
versy with England upon the merits of the
Bulwer and Clayton treaty, which seems
thus far to have answered excellently the
purpose of the talented Englishman who
procured its ratification.

Great Britain continues to "occupy, for-
tify," &c., the coasts of Central America,
but not in violation of the Bulwer and Clay-
ton treaty, since her occupation cannot be
esteemed an impediment to a work not yet
so much as surveyed or estimated. " We
have agreed," says Sir H. Bulwer, in a letter
to Mr. Webster upon this topic, " not to use
this protectorate for the obstruction of the
canal — nothing more."

Would it not be a highly undignified
proceeding for the government of the Uni-
ted States to waste time in a controversy
about the meaning of a treaty? If they
are simply resolved to carry out the enter-
prise of the canal, let them proceed with it ;
and if the protectorate is found to be an
obstacle, let them move it out of the way.
If it is necessary to appeal to any treaty,
they can then refer to Mr. Clayton's, and
proceed. If we may venture a prediction,



however, the canal will be obstructed in
every imaginable way by Great Britain,
who will use her protectorate in such a way
as to stop all progress, not only by "occu-
pying and fortifying," but by every means
in her power.

The determination of Great Britain to
retain her position on the highway of the
United States, is expressed in a letter of the
British representative to the government
of Nicaragua, August, 1850. "Instead of
insisting on its supposed rights to the Mos-
quito shore" — a space now including an
entire third of Central America — "Nica-
ragua would best consult her interests by
making good terms with England ; for re-
sistance to this matter will be of no avail."
" The letter of Viscount Palmerston, of the
15th of April last, declares, in the most
clear and direct terms, the utter impossi-
bility of acceding to the pretensions of Ni-
caragua." " On the other hand, the treaty
of Messrs. Clayton and Bulwer expressly
recognizes the Mosquito kingdom, and sets
aside the rights which you pretend Nica-
ragua has on that coast." He then advises
that the canal project be opened anew in
London, (!) as it is " only in London the
necessary capital for such an enterprise can
be found." In another letter, 5tli Decem-
ber, 1850, he moves the boundary of Mos-
quito inland, so as to include, as above
stated, an entire third of Central America ;
and this without jiretending to consult with
the powers whose boundary is thus adjusted
for them in the true imperial style.*

It is not our purpose to give a history or
even a sketch of these usurpations of Eng-
land over the soil of Central America.
Every means has been already taken to in-
form our government and the people of the
United States on that point. The position
of the Whigs has been such as to render it



* "The undersigned, Her Britannic Majesty's
Charge d' Affaires in Central America, with this
view, has the honor to delare to the Minister of
Foreign Relations of the Supreme Government of
Nicaragua, that the general boundary line of the
Mosquito territory begins at the northern extrem-
ity of the boundary line between the district of
Tegucigalpa, in Honduras, and the jurisdiction of
New-Segovia; and after following the northern
frontiers of New-Segovia, it runs along the south-
eastern limit of the district of Matagalpa and
Chontales, and thence in an eastern course, until it
reaches the Machua Rapids, on the river San
Juan."



264



Nicaragua and the Inter oceanic Canal.



March,



impossible for them to secure the coopera-
tion of an adequate majority in Congress
for the support of measures necessary to put
a stop to these usurpations.

The interests of Great Britain have conse-
quently triumphed over those of the United
States in Central America, as well as at home.
The faction of free trade \Yill not call Eng-
land to account, even if she were to seize upon
Mexico itself. The restoration of the friends
of Lord Palmerston to power, and perhaps
the elevation of his lordship to the Premier-
ship of the British empire, will insure the
continuance of the policy, and sustain the
opposition to and obstruction of the canal.
The present furious outcry of the so-called
Democratic, but really "English" party of
free trade, will doubtless compel their leaders,
in case they ascend to power during the
present year, to advise his lordship that the
protectorate must be given up ; but the
slavery of free trade will at length silence all
opposition, and England will retain her con-
quests, and continue to exact toll from
Americans passing through Nicaragua, and
effectually crush the project of an inter-
oceanic canal. In case the Whigs ascend
to power, we hope for better things, as to
them a quarrel with England is deprecated
only as they would prefer an amicable to a
forcible settlement of the controversy.

In our January number, we have declared
explicitly the opinion, that the American
policy of free trade is the chief reliance of
Great Britain for the continuance of the ag-
gressive or Palmerstonian system. The corn
and cotton of the United States, converted
by English industry into articles of foreign
exportation, is forced into every market of
the world by the diplomacy and the naval
power of Great Britain. If this same corn
and cotton was converted by American skill,
it would become necessary for the govern-
ment of the United States to meet England
upon equal terms. As things now are, we
may dream of interoceanic canals, but Eng-
land will not suffer us to construct them.

Under the terms of the contract, the char-
ter of the "American, Atlantic, and Pacific
ShipCanal Company" is potentially forfeit and
annihilated. Those capitalists who engaged
in it have not presented evidence of ability
to fulfil its conditions. They cannot, conse-
quently, " lay claim to the protection of the j
two governments, under the terms of the j
treaty ;" nor have they the guaranty of the |
United States, according to Squier's unrati- '



fied treaty of 1849. No mischief has been
done, however, by this failure, in consequence
of the very judicious provision introduced by
Mr. Squier, which made the stock inalienable.
In 1850, a corps of engineers began, and have
since completed, a very slight survey of the
line for this company, with a view, it is sup-
posed, to the opening of a transit road for
Americans passing to and from California.
A small steamer, called the Director, passed
up the San Juan to the lakes ; and others, it
is said, still smaller, have been sent out for
the river. "A road has been cleared from
Lake Nicaragua to San Juan del Sud, on the
Pacific, and a line of ocean steamers now ply
regularly between San Juan and New-York
on the Atlantic side, and San Juan del Sud
and San Francisco on the Pacific side."

Our author is of opinion that the govern-
ment of Nicaragua, knowing the great diffi-
culties and obstructions the company have
to contend with, may possibly consider the
establishment of this transit route by Van-
derbilt and Company as at least a substitute
for their full engagement, and may consent
to a renewal of the contract, supported by
the guaranty of the United States. There
has been no declaration of forfeiture, nor is
it expected. Soon after the difficulties of
the summer of 1851 in Nicaragua, a faction
of the government established itself at
Grenada on the lake. The agent of Van-
derbilt and Company applied to this faction
for a separation in their favor of the exclusive
right to the steam navigation of the interior
from the other provisions of the contract.
The faction of Granada, being in want of
many things, it is said, but especially of
arms, granted an unconditional monopoly
to the Company, against which, the govern-
ment at Leon, the capital, made a formal pro-
test. In this protest, while they withdraw no
favor from the project of the canal, they in-
sist that no modifications shall be introduced
in it by any but the regular government in time
been of internal peace. If peace has already
been restored in Nicaragua, the grant of mo-
nopoly has been in all probabihty withdrawn,
leaving the contract for renewal in its origi-
nal form.

Meanwhile, the service rendered by the
company, in the construction of a mere
transit road, cannot be too highly estimated.
The tide of Californian travel is gradually
transferring itself to the route by Nicaragua.
The finest portion of Central America, the
half-way house between the Eastern and



1852.



The Permanency and Power of Whig Principles.



265



Western United States, is becoming familiar
to our citizens, and a considerable number
have already established themselves in the
cities of its interior. The mineral wealth of
this new California must soon attract thou-
sands of North American adventurers, who
will inevitably make it what it ought to be,
and already is by nature and situation, a
territorial extension of the United States,
to become in time a member of the Union.
We have ventured to predict that the
commercial policy of England will be sus-
tained by no other but the aggressive, com-
pulsory, or Palmerstonian policy, and that
the resignation of his lordship was only a
preliminary step to a second advent of him-
self to power. The humanitarian peace
poHcy of Cobden agrees ill with the neces-
sity he and his friends have imposed upon
Great Britain, of forcing sales of their
manufactures in every market of the world.
The navy and diplomacy of England is at
the service of her merchants.



I In this view, we may rest assured Great
Britain will not resign her protectorate in

! Central America until necessity compels.

I England buys and seizes military posts, but

[she does not resign nor sell them. Her
present calculation is upon the weakness of
our own government, and the influence of
the Democratic or free-trade party. Should
Nicaragua become an American colony, it
cannot even then rely upon the support of
a Democratic administration. The South-
ern free trade party will not move against
England, and the Foreign Office of Great
Britain has their full confidence upon that
point. Nicaragua, already a natural and
necessary dependency of the United States,
is not Hkely to become a slave state, and will
not consequently excite the kind of interest
that was awakened in behalf of Texas.

Are we to have a second " Canadas" at
the South, for the convenience of Birming-
ham and Manchester? The Whigs alone
can decide that point.



THE PERMANENCY AND POWER OF WHIG PRINCIPLES.



It is curious to observe how most of our
pohtical oracles have been at fault in their
prophecies relative to the state of parties for
the great conflict of 1852. There are none
of our readers who will not recollect the
extraordinary amount of vaticination made
by politicians during the past year, and the
almost unvarying tenor of the whole. That
80 much prophecy should have been deli-
vered is not singular. In the midst of that
agitation by which, during the last twelve
months, the most peaceful of our citizens
have been distracted, it would have been
indeed remarkable if the spirit of augury
had not become general, and if the signs of
the times had not prompted most observers
to predict a forthcoming era of unexampled
confusion in our national politics. A long
succession of physical storms causes men to
despair of fair weather. A year of pohtical
disorder has led nine tenths of politicians to
despair of unity. Wave has risen upon
wave, cloud has succeeded cloud, until he
was a bold man who ventured to predict



that the time was near when this tempest-
uous confusion would cease, and a more har-
monious order of things be restored.

Thus, how often, in the year just passed,
have our ears been saluted with the intel-
ligence that party lines have been entirely
broken up, and that in fact the two great
parties of the nation have ceased to exist.
How often have we been told that the
Democrats have been stifled amid their cor-



Online LibraryGeorge Hooker ColtonThe American review : a Whig journal of politics, literature, art, and science (Volume 15) → online text (page 50 of 109)