John A. (John Adams) Dix.

Speeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) online

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ish continent, and retire within the limits of the settlement
at Balize. By the treaty of London, she stipulated to
evacuate the country of the Mosquitoes eo nomine as well as
the continent in general, and the islands adjacent, without
exception, I believe she did evacuate them, and I am not
aware that she has occupied the country of the Mosquitoes
again in her own name. But she has done what is equiva-
lent to occupation : she has taken the king of the Mosquitoes
under her protection ; she has assumed to define the limits
of his dominions; she has given notice to the Central and
South American governments, that they are not to inter-
fere with those limits ; she has sent ships to the coast, and
troops into the interior, maintaining the former there under
the name of the Mosquito navy. She is encroaching on
the Central American states, attacking forts, appropriating
territory, and making war on the people. It is only about
a month ago, that we learned she had attacked and taken
possession of the town of Nicaragua, and killed some seventy
or eighty of the Central Americans. She has recently sent
black troops there, not only from Jamaica, but from New
Providence, on the confines of Florida, to maintain the
authority of the Mosquito king, — the chief of a band of
naked Indians, himself scarcely more elevated in the social
scale than his followers. His throne a sand-hill, his sceptre
a reed, his robe a blanket, he puts armies and fleets in mo-
tion, speaks to the nations through the mouths of British



diplomatists, and invades the territories of neighboring
states by sea and land, with

" royal banner, and all quality,

Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war."
I do not hesitate to say, that so broad a farce as this has
never been enacted with so much gravity by a respectable
state. It would be a farce under all its aspects, were it
not for the encroachments upon the Central American
states, of which it is the source. To them it is a matter of
the most serious import, and it has met their solemn and
repeated protests.

About three months ago I stated, in some remarks on
a military bill before the Senate, that Great Britain has
recently set up a claim to San Juan de Nicaragua, and I
pro})besied at that time, from the indications I saw, that she
would, at no distant period, take forcible possession of that
place. She has done so already. The prophecy has become
history, written, like many other transactions of the same
nature, in letters of blood. I also stated, that one of the
great objects of this extension was, to command a route for
a ship-canal across the continent, narrowed there to an isth-
mus. This route has been critically surveyed and examined
from the Caribbean Sea, up the river San Juan, to Lake
Nicaragua, from Lake Nicaragua to Lake Leon, and from
Lake Leon to Realejo on the Pacific. Surveys, drawings,
maps, plans, diagrams, estimates — everything that per-
tains to and precedes the construction of public works —
have been carefully prepared. I believe these evidences
and achievements of a hig-h intellectual and social civiliza-
tion are not pretended to be the work of the Mosquito
king ; but it would not be surprising if her claim to ex-
ecute this great enterprise of uniting the two oceans
should be asserted in his name, — certainly not more sur-
prising than some other things which have been recently
done under the same auspices.

The river San Juan de Nicaragua is one degree south of


the southern limit of the Mosquito territory. According
to British maps, that territory extends only to the 12th de-
gree of north latitude. The river empties into the Caribbean
Sea at the 11th parallel. But it has recently been claimed
that it extends to the llth, with an intimation, as I under-
stand, that it may possibly extend to the 10th, or even the
9th, which would include a part of Panama.

Before I quit this part of the subject, I will read to the
Senate an extract from the " Despatch," another British
newspaper, published at Kingston, Jamaica, reciting the
grounds on which this claim rests : —

" The cliiFerences between the government of Central America and
the king of Mosquito are now of some years' standing. The former
republic has never acknowledged the sovereignty claimed by King
George over any portion of the territory called Mosquito ; and on nu-
merous occasions the mahogany cutters engaged with the Mosquito
government, for which they paid a toll up the river Roman, have
been disturbed, and driven off by the Central Americans. These ag-
gressions led to communications between the council of Mosquito and
Downing Street, and resulted, if we were rightly informed, in direc-
tions from the Foreign Office, that the boundaries of the Mosquito ter-
ritory sliould be traced according to the best existing authorities, doc-
umentary or otherwise, and, these being defined, England bound her-
self to support the integrity of the king's dominions. The result of
this survey was to attach the whole of the river San Juan to the do-
minions of Mosquito, and the flag of King George was consequently,
shortly afterwards, formally hoisted at the fort of San Juan."

Such, according to this authority, is the claim of Great
Britain to the Mosquito territory, which she expressly stipu-
lated by treaty to evacuate, — a claim resting upon an
arrangement with the Mosquito government which has never
been recognized by the Central Americans as an indepen-
dent state, — a government, in fact, alleged to have been
established, or rather got up in its present form, by Great
Britain herself; and it would seem from this statement,
which is sustained by other evidence corroborating it, that
she examines documents ex parte^ traces boundaries, settles
them without consultation with those whom they vitally



concern, binds herself to support them, and acts accordingly,
A more summary execution of the law of force cannot
readily be found.^

Since the meeting of the Senate this morning, I have
received a copy of a notice from the British consul-gen-
eral in Central America, addressed to the Principal Secre-
tary of the Supreme Government of Nicaragua, in Septem-
ber last. It is translated from the English into Spanish.

1 It is due to fairness, iniismuch as
some of the arguments contained in the
text are drawn from constructions put
upon treaties and other public records
by tlie Central and South American
states, to cxliibit the grounds on which
Great Britain rests her claim to the au-
thority she is exercising in tlie country
of the Mosquitoes. They are as fol-
lows :

Ist. " Some time after the conquest
of Jamaica by the expedition sent forth
by Oliver Cromwell, in 1056, the Mos-
quito king, with the concurrence of his
chiefs and jjcople, placed themselves
under the ])rotection of Charles the
Second ; and the governor of Jamaica,
in tlie name of Iiis sovereign, accepted
this union, and promised them the royal

2d. In 1749, a fort was erected by
a British force from Jamaica, and the
royal flag was hoisted, " thus making
a formal publication to all the world,
and to the Crown of Spain, that the
independent country of the coast was
under the direct sovereignty and pro-
tection of Great Britain."

3d. " From this time until the con-
clusion of the war of 1756, the Mos-
quito shore continued to be a mili-
tary, federal, protected province of
Great Britain."

4th. In 1765, a council of govern-
ment was appointed, a court of com-
mon pleas, &c.

5th. The Mosquito nation was never
subjugated by Spain, but always re-
tained its independent character; and
" the Mosquito territory is still an in-
dependent country, and one over which
Spain never had the least control or oc-

6th. " None of the anarcliical states
of Central America have any right
by occupation, or by recognition, to
the Mosquito country."

7th. " It is clearly shown in the
•works of writers well acquainted with

the Mosquito shore, such as Dampier,
Falconer, Trobisher, Bryan Edwards,
Hodgson, and others, that the tribes
under the INIosquito kings have been
independent ever since tlie downfall
of Montezuma, and have liad a recog-
nized territory appertaining to them-
selves, and governed by laws admin-
istered by their own hereditary kings."

These are, in brief, tlie grounds of
the British claim to the protection she
is exercising over the Mosquito terri-
tory, and more esjiecially " of the pro-
ceedings of the British naval forces at
St. John's on the Mosquito coast," and
they arc stated in her own language.
The quotations above made are chietiy
from ilacgregor's " Progress of Amer-
ica," 739 et seq.

It is unnecessary to add that some
of the material facts are contradicted
by tlie states of Central America.

In respect to the town and river of
San Juan de Nicaragua, Great Britain
contends that the government of Cen-
tral America first sent a force down
to San Juan, and established a custom-
house on the north side of the river,
which the Spaniards had never before
occupied, in 1836 ; that it was done
without the consent of the king of the
Mosquito coast, who had previously
granted the territory, where it was es-
tablished, to a British subject ; that the
Central American dag did not appear
there till 1843 ; and that the " admin-
istrator," or collector of customs, on
the application of a British oftleer, gave
a written acknowledgment that he had
hoisted the flag by courtesy, and not as
of right, and that the port was claimed
by the king of Mosquito.

She also states, that the Mosquito
authorities have remonstrated against
the occupation, and that, these remon-
strances having failed, her naval forces
have been sent to aid them in taking
possession of the place.


I have only had time to look at it so as to see its purport ;
but I will read it now to the Senate, translating it back into


" British Consulate General,

<■<■ Guatemala, lOtk September, 1847.
« To the Principal Secretary of the Supreme

Government of the State of Nicaragua.
" Sir : Questions having arisen at various periods, with the states of
Honduras and Nicaragua, concerning the extension of the maritime
frontier of the kingdom of Mosquito, her Britannic Majesty's goveni-
ment, after carefully examining the various documents and historical
registers which exist relative to the subject, is of the opinion that the
territorial right of the king of the Mosquitoes should be maintained as
extending from Cape Honduras to the mouth of the river Sau Juan ;
and I am charged to notify the supreme governments of the states
of Honduras and Nicaragua, as I have now the honor of doing, that the
government of her Britannic Majesty considers that the king of Mos-
quito has a right to this extent of coast, without prejudice to the right
which the said king may have to any territory south of the river San
Juan; and that her Britannic Majesty's government cannot see with
indifference any attempt to usurp the territorial rights of the king of
Mosquito, who is under the protection of the British crown.

" I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

" Frederick Chatfield.
" Copy : Department of Foreign Relations of the Superior Govern-
ment of the State of Nicaragua. Mangua, October 14, 1847.

" Salinas."

It will be seen by this notice, that Great Britain lays the
foundation for a claim, in behalf of the Mosquito king,
to territory south of the river San Juan, leaving the boun-
dary undefined. This note bears date the 10th of September
last. And it is a curious fact, that in an official note, bear-
ing date the 2^th of the same month, addressed to the gov-
ernment of New Grenada, no intimation is given of such a
claim south of the river San Juan. I read the last-men-
tioned note while addressing the Senate on the California
claims ; and the omission is the more extraordinary, as the
British government can hardly be unadvised that New Gre-
nada claims, jointly with the Central American states, the
coast of the Caribbean Sea, not only to the river San Juan,


but as far nortli as Cape Gracias a Dios. The object of
the omission, if it had an object, must be left to conjecture.
It may have been accidental, or it may be that Great Britain
did not think it advisable to alarm, at that juncture, the
most stable of the governments having an interest in the
question, by putting forth a claim so well calculated to
excite uneasiness.

With these evidences of a fixed purpose of extension and
aggrandizement of Great Britain in this hemisphere ; with
our vivid recollection of the tenacity with which she as-
serted her claim to territory on our northeastern boundary
and in Oregon, — territory remote from her, chiefly valuable
because it encroached on us, and curtailed the limits for our
expansion ; with the still more fresh and vivid recollection
of the transactions in California, with a view to obtain a
large and valuable portion of that territory for British sub-
jects ; ^ with these evidences of a purpose, open and pal-
pable, to extend her own dominion upon this continent, if
not to prevent the extension of ours ; I am really surprised
that any one can doubt she would avail herself of the first
opportunity of gaining an ascendency in Yucatan. It bor-
ders upon her own settlement at Balize, and is separated
from it, according to her own representation, by a boun-
dary " ill defined." Sir, I must say that I know no par-
allel to this incredulity, excepting in the state of things in
Athens, which produced the third philippic of Demosthe-
nes, — in the blindness which would not see an enemy in
Philip, when Phocis, and Pherse, and Elis, and Olynthus,
and the two-and-thirty cities of Thrace had fallen into his
hands. I do not make the comparison because I fancy any
other resemblance between the historical features of that
epoch and this. In other respects, the parallel fails. I do

^ In connection with this subject, I her Majesty's gorernment has been

deem it due to fairness to state, that taking any steps whatever to acquire

Lord Palmerston has instructed her any footing in California " ; and that

Britannic ^Majesty's representative at this instruction came to my knowledge

Washington " to contradict, on all oc- after this speech was delivered,
casious, the unfounded assertion that


not wish any member of this honorable body to see an
enemy in Great Britain. I do not so consider her myself.
I consider her as a friend ; I desire that she may continue so,
at most a rival in commerce, in the generous competition
of industry, and in the extension of civilization and freedom.
I do not envy her, or its legitimate possessors, the domin-
ion over the torrid plains of Central America, — that
crust of earth parched by a raging sun above, and heated
by volcanic fires beneath. Much less do I regard her ex-
tension in our neighborhood with apprehensions for our
safety. We have long since grown beyond the dimen-
sions in which there was any danger to be apprehended
from the extension of other nations upon this continent,
no matter how closely they may be brought into contact
with us. But I make these statements in order that we
may see what is actually in progress, — not because it brings
with it any serious cause of apprehension on our own ac-
count, but that we may not coldly turn away our faces when
weak and defenceless neighbors are invaded and despoiled.
For myself, sir, I cannot help seeing in Great Britain a
spirit of aggrandizement which is perpetual in its progress,
not on this continent alone, but in every other portion of the
globe where there is territory unoccupied, and too often
where there is territory occupied by those who are too weak
to defend it. I believe, also, whether this conflict in Yuca-
tan shall terminate in the expulsion of the Spanish race, or
the discomfiture of the aboriginal, that her boundary will
be likely to be extended further into the interior. That " ill-
defined " boundary may become defined, and with greatly
enlarged dimensions.

Mr. President, I have nothing more to say upon this
point, excepting that I do not support the bill, because I
think the occupation of Yucatan by us is necessary to keep
it out of the hands of European powders. I am not sure
that I could, except under very extraordinary circumstances,
be induced to advocate the military occupation of a country


for such a purpose. But if we see movements of foreign
powers on this continent, and especially in our near neigh-
borhood, which are suspicious, we have a right to call on
them, through the ordinary channels of diplomatic inter-
course, to know what are their objects ; and if we do not
receive frank and satisfactory answers, if we have reason to
believe that those objects are in violation of the great princi-
ples of international right, or dangerous to our tranquilHty,
or even our interests, we may properly take such measures
of precaution or prevention as the exigency of the case
shall require. I do not undertake — indeed it might not be
very easy — to assign the precise measure of provocation
which would justify resistance on our part, or the extent to
which resistance might be rightfully carried. Every emer-
gency must be left to be determined by a wise and consid-
erate regard to its attendinof circumstances. But of the
existence of such a right of resistance on grounds of inter-
national law, I do not entertain the slightest doubt.

And here, Mr. President, I must ask the indulgence of
the Senate, while I look hastily into the nature and origin of
the right. Every sovereign state is to be considered under
two aspects : the first concerns its interior relations, the re-
lations which exist between the governing and the governed,
or, in other words, between the government and the people ;
the second concerns its exterior relations, or its relations
with foreign states.

The first class only is ordinarily the subject of internal or
municipal regulation. The Constitution of the United
States, for instance, regulates the relations of the federal
government to the states and to the people. It scarcely
touches the exterior relations of the country, excepting so
far as it declares in what departments the powers of making
war, peace, and treaties, and appointing ambassadors, shall
vest. Now, it is quite apparent that there is a numerous
class of exterior relations wholly untouched by the Constitu-
tion, not always regulated by treaty-stipulations. They


arise out of the natural rights and obligations of sovereign
states, and are regulated by usage, by the general inter-
national law which has grown up and become sanctioned
by tlie acquiescence of all civilized communities. One of
our vessels, public or private, cannot go ten miles from the
land without becoming subject to an international code,
not founded upon the internal laws of states, whether or-
ganic or administrative, not regulated ordinarily by treaty-
stipulations between them, but as old, nevertheless, as the
Consolato del 3fare, and deriving its force from public

These rights and duties are correlative. What one na-
tion is bound to do, any other may call on it to perform.
We cannot live in the general society of nations without ob-
serving these rules ourselves ; nor can we consent that they
shall be violated by others, where our safety or interest is
concerned. There are obligations of this sort applicable to
the land as well as the sea. One of these is, that no nation
shall interfere with the internal concerns of another. As a
member of the great family of nations, we have a right to
insist that this rule shall be observed. In all cases, where
the rule or the principle is settled beyond dispute, any mem-
ber of the general society of nations is as fully warranted in
calling upon any other member to respect it as any member
of this confederacy is authorized to call upon another to ob-
serve the obligations of the fundamental compact. The
only question that can arise is one of practical prudence:
how far we shall deem it expedient to interpose to prevent
a breach of international obligations. I have always con-
tended that, even for this purpose, we ought not to interfere
with the movements of European powers, when those move-
ments relate to questions strictly European. And I have
insisted, with the same earnestness, that there should be no
interference on their part with the internal concerns of the
independent states in this hemisphere, and especially in our
neighborhood, involved as our interests, political and com-


mercial, are in their tranquillity and exemption from domes-
tic agitations.

If I am asked for the origin of the right on our part to
interpose for the purpose of preventing a breach of inter-
national obligations. I refer again to the general code by
which all civilized states are governed. As to the mode, I
have nothing to say. I repeat, every emergency must be
determined by the surrounding circumstances in which it is
presented. Whether we shall interpose at all, is a question
of prudence, a question undoubtedly to be disposed of with
the greatest deliberation, when it is proposed to make it
the basis of practical conduct.

But I do not put our intervention in this case upon the
ground either of resisting unauthorized interference on the
part of other nations, or of anticipating and preventing it.
I place it upon the peculiar circumstances in which we stand
in relation to Yucatan, circumstances which seem to me to
impose on us an obligation independently of all considera-
tions even of humanity. We have taken possession of the
principal outlet of trade in her chief staple productions, and
the principal inlet for the foreign commodities which she
received in exchange. We have appropriated her revenue
to ourselves. We even went so far as to impose duties on
her own products, carried from one of her ports to another,
though, as soon as this was ascertained to be the case, direc-
tions were very properlv given by the President that they
should be discontinued. We have thus not only taken her
o\vn revenues, but we have imposed on her people new bur-
dens by taxing the transit of articles which were previously
exempt from duty. I do not intend to intimate that we
have done anything not deemed essential to the successful
conduct of the war. In regard to the revenue which we
have collected at Laguna, I have endeavored to learn the
amount ; but I am told that the accounts are kept in connec-
tion with other receipts and disbursements, so that time is
required to separate them. The Navy Department, how-


ever, has been able to ascertain that the amount collected
has been between fifty and sixty thousand dollars for a por-
tion of the last year, — the returns for the year not being-
complete. But this does not show the amount that we
have diverted from the treasury of Yucatan. We all know
that war is the great enemy of commerce ; and it must
readily be seen that the effect of our hostile operations in
Mexico has been to diminish the ability of Yucatan to meet
the exigency in which she is placed. It seems to me, that,
if she had no other claim than this, in addition to the
consideration that she has been neutral throughout the con-
test, she might very properly call upon us for aid. If
we cannot act from motives of humanity, if we feel con-
strained to regard this question as one to be determined
according to the coldest and most rigid maxims of political
prudence, may we not find, nevertlieless, in the circum-
stances I have stated, an appeal to our justice which we
cannot readily set aside 1 I think so ; and it is upon this
ground chiefly that I place my support of this bill.

In performing this act of justice, it is a grateful reflec-
tion that we may also perform an act of humanity ; that we
are enabled to turn, for the moment, from the painful duty
of assaulting towns and overrunning provinces — a duty
imposed on us by the prosecution of hostilities with Mexico
— to the more congenial office of extinguishing the flames
of internal discord, and of reconciling classes which are
waging against each other an exterminating war. Sir, I
cannot fancy a more striking contrast in the social and polit-
ical condition of two nations than that which exists between

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 40)