Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

states, succeeded within their respective limits to all the territorial rights of Spain. This will surely not be denied by the British Government, which took so noble and prominent a part in securing the independence of all the Spanish-American provinces.

Indeed, Great Britain has recorded her adhesion to this principle of international law in her treaty of the 26th December, 1826, with Mexico, then recently a revolted Spanish colony. By this treaty, so far from claiming any riglıts beyond the usufruct, which had been conceded to her under the convention with Spain of 1786, she recognizes its continued existence and binding effect as between herself and Mexico, by obtaining and accepting from the government of the latter a stipulation that British subjects shall not be “disturbed or molested in the peaceable possession and exercise of whatever rights, privileges, and immunities they have at any time enjoyed within the limits described and laid down” by that convention. Whether the former Spanish sovereignty over Belize, subject to the British usufruct, reverted of right to Mexico or to Guatemala may be seriously questioned; but, in either case, this recognition by Great Britain is equally conclusive.

And here it may be appropriate to observe that Great Britain still continues in possession, not only of the district between the Rio Hondo and the Sibun, within which the King of Spain, under the convention of 1786, had granted her

license to cut mahogany and other woods; but the British settlers have extended this possession south to the river Sarstoon, one degree and a half of latitude beyond “the limits described and laid down” by the convention. It is presumed that the encroachments of these settlers south of the Sibun have been made without the authority or sanction of the British Crown, and that no difficulty will exist in their removal.

Yet, in view of all these antecedents, the island of Ruatan, belonging to the State of Honduras, and within sight of its shores, was captured in 1841 by Colonel M‘Donald, then her Britannic Majesty's superintendent at Belize, and the flag of Honduras was hauled down, and that of Great Britain was hoisted in its place. This small state, incapable of making any effectual resistance, was compelled to submit, and the island has ever since been under British control. What makes this event more remarkable is, that it is believed a similar act of violence had been committed on Ruatan by the superintendent of Belize in 1835, but on complaint by the Federal Government of the Central American States, then still in existence, the act was formally disavowed by the British government, and the island was restored to the authorities of the republic.

No question can exist but that Ruatan was one of the “ islands adjacent" to the American continent, which had been restored by Great Britain to Spain under the treaties of 1783 and 1786. Indeed, the most approved British gazeteers and geographers up till the present date have borne testi

[ocr errors]

mony to this fact, apparently without information from that hitherto but little known portion of the world, that the i.land had again been seized by her Majesty's superintendent at Belize, and wa now a possession claimed by Great Britain.

When Great Britain determined to resume her dominion over the Mosquito shore, in the name of a protectorate, is not known with any degree of certainty in the United States. The first information on the subject in the De. partment of State, at Washington, was contained in a despatch of the 20th January, 1842, from William S. Murphy, Esquire, special agent of the American government to Guatemala, in which he states that, in a conversation with Colonel M.Donald at Belize, the latter had informed him he had discovered and sent documents to England which caused the British government to revive their claim to the Mosquito territory.

According to Bonnycastle, the Mosquito shore “lies along part of the northern and eastern shore of Honduras,” and by the map which accompanies his work extends no further south than the mouth of the river Segovia, in about 12 deg. north latitude. This respectable author certainly never could have imagined that it extended south to San Juan de Nicaragua, because he describes this as the principal seaport of Nicaragua on the Caribbean sea ; says there are “three portages” between the lake and the mouth of the river; and “these carrying places are defended, and at one of them is the fort San Juan-called, also, the Castle of Neustra Senora--on a rock, and very strong; it has thirty-six guns mounted, with a small battery wlose platform is level with the water ; and the whole is enclosed on the land side by a ditch and rampart. Its garrison is generally kept up at a hundred infantry, sixteen artillerymen, with about sixty of the militia, and is provided with batteaux, which row guard every night up and down the stream.”

Thus, it appears that the Spaniards were justly sensible of the importance of defending this outlet from the Lake of Nicaragua to the ocean, because, as Captain Bonnycastle observes, “ this port (San Juan) is looked upon as the key of the Americas; and with the possession of it and Realejo, on the other side of the lake, the Spanish colonies might be paralyzed by the enemy being then master of the ports of both oceans." He might have added that nearly sixty years ago, on the 26th February, 1796, the port of San Juan de Nicaragua was established as a port of entry of the second class by the King of Spain.

Captain Bonnycastle as well as the Spaniards would have been greatly surprised had they been informed that this port was a part of the dominions of his Majesty the King of the Mosquitos, and that the cities and cultivated territories of Nicaragua surrounding the Lakes Nic and Managua had no outlet to the Caribbean sea except by his gracious permission. It was, therefore, with profound surprise and regret the government and people

B

the United States learned that a British force on the 1st of January, 1848, had expelled the State of Nicaragua from San Juan, had hauled down the Nicaraguan flag, and had raised the Mosquito flag in its place. The ancient name of the town, San Juan de Nicaragua, which had identified it in all former time as belonging to Nicaragua, was on this occasion changed, and thereafter it became Greytown.

These proceedings gave birth to serious apprehensions throughout the United States that Great Britain intended to monopolize for herself the control over the different routes between the Atlantic and Pacific, which, since the acquisition of California, had become of vital importance to the United States. Under this impression, it was impossible that the American government could any longer remain silent and acquiescing spectators of what was passing in Central America.

Mr. Munroe, one of our wisest and most discreet Presidents, announced in a public message to Congress in December, 1823, that “the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered subjects for future colonization by any European powers."

This declaration has since been known throughout the world as the " Monroe doctrine,” and has received the public and official sanction of subquent Presidents, as well as of a large majority of the American people.

Whilst this doctrine will be maintained whenever, in the opinion of Congress, the peace and safety of the United States shall render this necessary, yet to have acted upon it in Central America might have brought us into collision with Great Britain, an event always to be deprecated, and, if possible, avoided.

We can do each other the most good and the most harm of any two nations in the world ; and, therefore, it is our strong mutual interest, as it ought ever to be our strong mutual desire, to remain the best friends. To settle these dangerous questions, both parties wisely resorted to friendly negotiations, which resulted in the convention of April, 1850. May this prove to be instrumental in finally adjusting all questions of difficulty between the parties in Central America, and in perpetuating their peace and friendship!

Surely, the Mosquito Indians ought not to prove an obstacle to so happy a consummation. Even if these savages had never been actually subdued by Spain, this wonld give them no title to rank as an independent state without violating the principles and the practice of every European nation, without exception, which has acquired territory on the continent of America. They all mutually recognised the right of discovery, as well as the title of the discoverer, to a large extent of interior territory, though at the moment occupied by fierce and hostile tribes of Indians.

On this principle the wars, the negotiations, the cessions, and the juris

prudence of these nations were founded. The ultimate dominion and absolute title belonged to themselves, although several of them, and especially Great Britain, conceded to the Indians a right of mere occupancy, which, however, could only be extinguished by the authority of the nation within whose dominions these Indians were found. All sales or transfers of territory made by them to third parties were declared to be absolutely void ; and this was a merciful rule, even for the Indians themselves, because it prevented them from being defrauded by dishonest individuals.

No nation has ever acted more steadily upon these principles than Great Britain; and she has solemnly recognised them in her treaties with the King of Spain of 1783 and 1786, by admitting his sovereignty over the Mosquitos.

Shall the Mosquito tribe of Indians constitute an exception from this hitherto universal rule? Is there anything in their character or in their civilization which would enable them to perform the duties and sustain the responsibilities of a sovereign state in the family of nations ?

Bonnycastle says of them that they “ were formerly a very powerful and numerous race of people, but the ravages of rum and the small-pox have diminished their numbers very much.” He represents them, on the authority of British settlers, as seeming “ to have no other religion than the adoration of evil spirits."

The same author also states that “the warriors of this tribe are accounted at fifteen hundred.”

This, possibly, may have been correct in 1818, when the book was published; but, at present, serious doubts are entertained whether they reach much more than half that number. The truth is, they are now a debased race, and are degraded even below the common Indian standard. They have acquired the worst vices of civilization from their intercourse with the basest class of the whites, without any of its redeeming virtues. The Mosquitos have been thus represented by a writer of anthority, who has recently enjoyed the best opportunities for personal observation. That they are totally incapable of maintaining an independent civilized government is beyond all question. Then, in regard to their so-called King: Lord Palmerston, in speaking of him to Mr. Rives, in September, 1851, says, “They had what was called a King, who, by-the-bye,” he added in a tone of pleasantry, was as much a King as I or you.” And Lord Jolin Russell, in his despatch to Mr. Crampton of the 19th of January, 1853, denominates the Mosquito government as a fiction,” and speaks of the King as a person s whose title and power are in truth little better than nominal."

The moment Great Britain shall withdraw from Bluefields, where she now exercises exclusive dominion over the Mosquito shore, the former relations of the Mosquitos to Nicaragua and Honduras, as the successors of Spain, will naturally be restored. When this event shall occur, it is to be

66

hoped that these states, in their conduct towards the Mosquitos and the other Indian tribes within their territories, will follow the example of Great Britain and the United States. Whilst neither of these has ever acknowledged, or permitted any other nation to acknowledge, any Indian tribe within their limits, as an independent people, they have both recognised the qualified right of such tribes to occupy the soil, and, as the advance of the white settlements rendered this necessary, have acquired their title by a fair purchase. Certainly it cannot be desired that this extensive and valuable Central American coast, on the highway of nations between the Atlantic and the Pacific, should be appropriated to the use of three or four thousand wandering Indians, as an independent state, who would use it for no other purpose than that of hunting and fishing and savage warfare. If such an event were possible, the coast would become a retreat for pirates and outlaws of every nation, from whence to infest and disturb the commerce of the world in its transit across the isthmus. And but little better would be its condition should a new independent state be established on the Mosquito shore. Besides, in either event, the present Central American States would deeply feel the injustice which had been done them in depriving them of a portion of their territories. They would never cease in attempts to recover their rights; and thus strife and contention would be perpetuated in that quarter of the world, where it is so much the interest both of Great Britain and the United States that all territorial questions shall be speedily, satisfactorily, and finally adjusted.

JAMES BUCHANAN. LONDON, January 6, 1854.

STATEMENT BY THE EARL OF CLARENDON FOR

MR. BUCHANAN. The substance of the case submitted to her Majesty's government by Mr. Buchanan may be briefly stated as follows :

1. That Great Britain, prior to April, 1850, was “in possession of the whole coast of Central America from the Rio Hondo to the port and harbour of San Juan de Nicaragua, except that portion of it between the Sarstoon and Cape Honduras, together with the adjacent Honduras island of Ruatan."

2. That the government of the United States does not understand under what title Great Britain, having abandoned the greater part of those possessions in 1786, resumed them subsequently; nor does it know precisely at what period the protectorate of Great Britain over Mosquito was re-established, the first intimation which the United States government had received on the subject being from an American agent in 1842; and that, moreover, Captain Bonnycastle and other authorities had never represented the Mosquito shore as extending as far as the river and town of San Juan de Nicaragua, which latter the Spaniards had considered a place of much importance, and the key to the Americas.

« PředchozíPokračovat »