Obrázky stránek

The language of the convention is properly mutual, though in regard to the United States it can only restrain them from making future acquisitions, because it is well known that, in point of fact, they were not in the occupation of a foot of territory in Central America. In reference to Great Britain, the case is different, and the language applies not only to the future, but to the past, because she was then in the actual exercise of doncinion over a very large portion of the eastern coast of Central America. Whilst, therefore, the United States had no occupancy to abandon under the convention, Great Britain had extensive possessions to restore to the States of Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

And yet the British government until the present moment have not deemed it proper to take the first step towards the performance of their obligations under this convention.

They are still in the actual occupancy of nearly the whole coast of Central America, including the island of Ruatan, in the very same manner that they were before its conclusion. This delay on their part surely cannot proceed from any obscurity in the language of the convention.

The first article declares that the governments of the United States and Great Britain agree that neither will “occupy, or fortify, or colonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America.” And from abundant caution, in view of the Mosquito protectorate, the article proceeds as follows:-“ Nor will either make use of any protection which either affords, or may afford, or any alliance which either has, or may have, to or with any state or people for the purpose of * * * occupying, fortifying, or colonizing Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America, or of assuming or exercising dominion over the same."

This, rendered into plain English, is, that the parties shall not exercise dominion over any part of Central America, either directly or indirectly, either by themselves or in the name of others.

It has been said that the first article of the convention acknowledges by implication the right of Great Britain to the Mosquito protectorate a right which the United States have always contested and resisted—a right which would continue to Great Britain that entire control over the Nicaragua shipcanal and the other avenues of communication between the two oceans, which it was the very object of the convention to abolish, and to defeat that equality between the parties in Central America which was its special purpose to secure. Surely the United States could never have been guilty of such a suicidal absurdity.

But admitting, for the sake of argument merely, that the United States have ackowledged the existence of this protectorate, it would be difficult, restricted in its use as it has been by the convention, to conceive for what object of the least importance it could be employed. It assuredly could not

[ocr errors]

be for the purpose of “occupying" "the Mosquito coast,” of “of assuming or exercising dominion over the same,” because this has been expressly prohibited by the convention.

Great Britain has not even retired from the island of Ruatan, in obedience to the convention. Here no question can possibly arise from any alleged Mosquito protectorate. This is clearly a Central American island, belonging to the State of Honduras, and but thirty miles distant from her port of Truxillo. If the convention plainly embraces any object whatever, surely this must be Ruatan,

And yet Great Britain has not only continued to occupy this island, but since the date of the convention she has actually established a colonial government over it; and not over it alone, but adding thereto five other neighbouring islands on the Central American coast, has converted them all into the British colony of the “Bay Islands.” Public sentiment is quite unanimous in the United States, that the establishment of this colony is a palpable violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Clayton and Bulwer convention.

Ruatan is well known to be an island of great value and importance, on account of its excellent harbours, which are rare along that coast. Indeed, it has been described by a Spanish author “as the key of the Bay of Honduras, and the focus of the trade of the neighbouring countries." Such is its commanding geographical position, that Great Britain in possession of it could completely arrest the trade of the United States on its passage to and from the isthmus. In vain may the convention have prohibited Great Britain from erecting or maintaining any fortifications commanding the Nicaragua canal, or in other portions of Central America, if she shall continue to exercise dominion over “the Bay Islands."

The United States now only ask that this convention shall be faithfully executed by both parties. They wish that every avenue of communication across the isthmus shall be opened, not merely for their own benefit, but for that of Great Britain and the whole world. In this respect they would not, if they could, acquire any peculiar advantages, because these might arouse the jealousy and distrust of other nations.

The rights and duties of the respective parties have been ascertained and determined by the convention itself; but as the justice of the previons claim of Great Britain to her possessions in Central America has been since asserted in high quarters, it may not be improper to present the views of the government of the United States upon this subject.

It need scarcely be repeated that the United States have always denied the validity of this claim. They believe that Great Britain has surrendered nothing under the convention which she would not voluntarily have done, from her own magnanimity and sense of justice, as soon as the question was brought home to her serious consideration.

It would be a vain labour to trace the history of the connexion of Great Britain with the Mosquito shore, and other portions of Central America, previous to her treaties with Spain of 1783 and 1786. This connexion, doubtless, originated from her desire to break down the monopoly of trade which Spain so jealously enforced with her American colonies, and to introduce into them British manufactures. The attempts of Great Britain to accomplish this object were pertinaciously resisted by Spain; and became the source of continual difficulties between the two nations. After a long period of strife, these were happily terminated by the treaties of 1783 and 1786, in as clear and explicit language as ever was employed on any similar occasion, and the history of the time renders the meaning of this language, if possible, still more clear and explicit.

The 6th article of the treaty of peace of 3rd September, 1783, was very distasteful to the King and cabinet of Great Britain.

This abundantly appears from Lord John Russell's “ Memorials and Cor. respondence of Charles James Fox.”

The British government, failing in their efforts to have this article de-ferred for six months, finally yielded a most reluctant consent to its insertion in the treaty.

Why this reluctant consent ? Because the 6th article stipulates that, with the exception of the territory between the river Wallis or Belize and the Rio Hondo, within which permission was granted to British subjects to cut logwood, “all the English who may be dispersed in any other parts, whether on the Spanish continent (" continent Espagnol), or in any of the islands whatsoever dependent on the aforesaid Spanish continent, and for whatever reason it might be, without exception, shall retire within the district which has been above described in the space of eighteen months, to be computed from the exchange of ratifications." And the treaty further expressly provides that the permission granted to cut logwood “shall not be considered as derogating, in any wise, from his (Catholic Majesty's) rights of sovereignty” over this logwood district; and it stipulates, moreover, “that, if any fortifications should actually have been heretofore erected within the limits marked out, his Britannic Majesty shall cause them all to be demolished, and he will order his subjects not to build any new ones.”

But, notwithstanding these provisions, in the opinion of Mr. Fox, it was still in the power of the British government “to put our [their] own interpretation upon the words continent Espagnol, and to determine, upon prudential considerations, whether the Mosquito shore comes under that description or not.”

Hence the necessity for new negotiations which should determine, precisely and expressly, the territory embraced by the treaty of 1783. These produced the convention of the 14th July, 1786; and its very first article

[ocr errors]

removed every doubt on the subject. This declares that “ His Britannic Majesty's subjects, and the other colonists who have hitherto enjoyed the protection of England, shall evacuate the country of the Mosquitos, as well as the continent in general, and the islands adjacent, without exception,” situated beyond the new limits prescribed by the convention within which British subjects were to be permitted to cut not only logwood, but mahogany and all other wood ; and even this district is “indisputably acknowledged to belong of right to the Crown of Spain.”

Thus, what was meant by the “continent Espagnol” in the treaty of 1783 is defined beyond all doubt by the convention of 1786; and the sovereignty of the Spanish King over the Mosquito shore, as well as over every other portion of the Spanish continent and the islands adjacent, is expressly recognised.

It was just that Great Britain should interfere to protect the Mosquito Indians against the punishment to which they had exposed themselves as her allies from their legitimate and acknowledged sovereign. The 14th article of the convention, therefore, provides that “ His Catholic Majesty, prompted solely by motives of humanity, promises to the King of England that he will not exercise any act of severity against the Mosquitos inhabiting in part the countries which are to be evacuated by virtue of the present convention, on account of the connexions which may have subsisted between the said Indians and the English; and his Britannic Majesty, on his part, will strictly probibit all his subjects from furnishing arms or warlike stores to the Indians in general situated upon the frontiers of the Spanish possessions.”

British honour required that these treaties with Spain should be faithfully observed ; and from the contemporaneous history no doubt exists but that this was done, that the orders required by the 15th article of the convention were issued by the British government, and that they were strictly carried into execution.

In this connexion a reference to the significant proceedings in the House of Lords on the 26th of March, 1787, ought not to be omitted. On that day a motion was made by Lord Rawdon," that the terms of the convention of July 14, 1786, do not meet the favourable opinion of this House.” The motion was discussed at considerable length, and with great ability. The task of defending the ministry on this occasion was undertaken by Lord Chancellor Thurlow, and was most triumphantly performed. He abundantly justified the ministry for having surrendered the Mosquito shore to Spain, and proved that “the Mosquitos were not our allies; they were not a people we were bound by treaty to protect." “ His lordship repelled the argument that the settlement was a regular and legal settlement with some sort of indignation; and so far from agreeing, as had been contended, that we had

uniformly remained in the quiet and unquestionable possession of our claim to the territory, he called upon the noble Viscount Stormont to declare, as a man of honour, whether he did not know the contrary.”

Lord Rawdon's motion to condemn the convention was rejected by a vete of 53 to 17.

It is worihy of special remark, that all sides of the House, whether approving or disapproving the convention, proceeded upon the express admission that it required Great Britain, employing its own language, to “ evacuate the country of the Mosquitos.” On this question the House of Lords were unanimous.

At what period, then, did Great Britain renew her claims to “ the country of the Mosquitos, as well as the continent in general, and the islands adjacent without exception ?” It certainly was not in 1801, when, under the treaty of Amiens, she acquired the island of Trinidad from Spain, without any

mention whatever of further acquisitions in America. It certainly was not in 1809, when she entered into a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, with Spain, to resist the Emperor Napoleon in his attempt to conquer the Spanish monarchy. It certainly was not in 1814, when the commercial treaties which had previously existed between the two powers, including, it is presumed, those of 1783 and 1786, were revived.

On all these occasions, there was no mention whatever of any claims of Great Britain to the Mosquito protectorate, or to any of the Spanish American territories which she had abandoned.

It was not in 1817 and 1819, when acts of the British Parliament (57 and 59 Geo. III.) distinctly acknowledge that the British settlement, at Belize, was “not within the territory and dominion of his Majesty," but was merely

a settlement.for certain purposes in the possession and under the protection his Majesty'--thus evincing a determined purpose to observe with scrupulous good faith the treaties of 1783 and 1786, with Spain.

In the very sensible book of Captain Bonnycastle, of the corps of British Royal Engineers, on Spanish America, published at London in 1818, he gives no intimation whatever that Great Britain had revived her claim to the Mosquito protectorate. On the contrary, he describes the Mosquito shore as

a tract of country which lies along part of the northern and eastern shore of Honduras,” which had “ been claimed by the British.” He adds—“The English held this country for eighty years, and abandoned it in 1787 and 1788.”

Thus matters continued until a considerable period after 1821, in which year the Spanish provinces composing the captain-generalship of Guatemala asserted and maintained their independence of Spain. It would be a work of supererogation to attempt to prove, at this period of the world's history, that these provinces having, by a successful revolution, become independent

« PředchozíPokračovat »