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Owing in part to the inexperience of those who guided its destiny in the methods of federated representative government, in part to the dissatisfaction of some and the ambition of others, the first Central American Union ran its course within a few years. From 1838 to 1847 the various states withdrew from the Union, set up independent governments, and thereafter reaffirmed their complete separation by the promulgation of their respective national constitutions.
Nicaragua adopted its first constitution as an independent state in 1839. Since then there have been six other constitutions, the one in force being that of 1905.
Salvador became an independent commonwealth in 1839, and in 1856 assumed the title of a republic. Since the dissolution of the federal compact it has had six different constitutions, the first promulgated February 18, 1841, while the present constitution dates from August 13, 1886.
The constitution of Costa Rica, adopted on January 21, 1847, declared that Costa Rica, as one of the political entities of the Central American nation, was ready to reenter the federation whenever the other Central American states should negotiate another compact and agreement. Since 1847 Costa Rica has had the constitution of December 26, 1859, and that of December 7, 1871, which is now in force as amended in 1882, and subsequent dates.
Since the first constitution of Honduras, which was promulgated in 1848, there have been four other constitutions, the one now in effect being that of 1904.
Guatemala reaffirmed its separation from the Central American Union in 1851 in the “ Constitutional act of the Republic of Guatemala,” which was in force until January 29, 1855, when it was amended. On October 23, 1876, the so-called “Pro-Constitution of Guatemala was framed by a constitutional convention held in the City of Guatemala. The constitution now in force was promulgated December 11, 1879, and put in operation March 1, 1880.
Notwithstanding the failure of the first federated Central American Republic, repeated efforts have been made to reestablish the Central American Union, so far without success. Scarcely had the first federation been dissolved, when in 1842 a convention composed
of the Republics of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Salvador met at Chinandega, Nicaragua, and invited Guatemala and Costa Rica to join in establishing a national government, but neither of these Republics accepted the invitation. Two years later this tripartite government succeeded in bringing about the peace between Guatemala and Salvador, which were at war, and in the treaty of friendship and alliance signed April 4, 1845, by the Salvadorean and Guatemalan representatives both countries agreed to appoint two delegates each, to meet at Sonsonate, Honduras, for the purpose of agreeing upon the establishment of a national Central American authority, clothed with the duty of maintaining internal peace and directing the foreign relations of the Union. These delegates were also directed to invite Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua to join in this movement. For various reasons, however, this plan failed of success.
The Diet which met at Nacaomé, Honduras, in 1847, marks another step looking towards Central American union. The purpose of the meeting was to unite Honduras, Salvador, and Nicaragua in a bond of mutual benefit for the purpose of insuring their peace and independence. The Diet recommended to Honduras, Salvador, and Nicaragua, to be represented in the Constituent National Convention to be held at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, August 1, 1848, or at any other city selected by the delegates, and the representatives of the three countries signed an agreement for the establishment of a pro visional national government. This pact, to which Guatemala and Costa Rica were invited to become parties, looked toward a permanent alliance between the three signatory states, but this attempt at federation was also unsuccessful.
The same countries, however, met again at Leon, Nicaragua, on November 8, 1849, and through their delegates concluded a treaty by which it was stipulated that the “National Representation of Central America,” consisting of two plenipotentiaries for each State, was to meet at the city of Chinandega, Honduras, to elect a president and vice-president for the united countries. Costa Rica and Guatemala were also invited to join in this movement. The differences between Nicaragua and Great Britain on the Mosquito Coast question moved the three Central American countries to unite for mutual defense.
A similar sentiment inspired the Government of Honduras to invite Nicaragua and Salvador in 1852 to send delegates to Tegucigalpa for the purpose of meeting again as a National Diet, because of an alleged occupation of territory belonging to Honduras by Great Britain. The Diet met October 9, 1852, and provided for the union of the three Republics under the title “Republic of Central America."
These repeated failures to reestablish the Central American Union did not discourage renewed attempts. In 1862 Nicaragua endeavored to bring about a merger of all the states into one single body politic. Honduras and Salvador readily accepted, but Guatemala held aloof, notwithstanding the fact that the City of Guatemala had been selected as the capital of the Union. Again, in 1876 a congress of representatives of the five Central American States met in Guatemala for the purpose of perfecting a union. This new effort was also a failure on account of war breaking out at that time between Guatemala and Salvador.
In 1886 General Barillas, President of Guatemala, still believing in the possibility of forming a Central American union, invited the Presidents of Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica to send their plenipotentiaries to the City of Guatemala, where jointly with a Guatemalan plenipotentiary they were to meet in congress, for the purpose of insuring peace, establishing confidence, and unifying the interests, aspirations, and tendencies of their respective countries. This congress met on January 20, 1887. Its principal work was the conclusion of a treaty of peace and amity among the five republics, a consular convention, and another for the extradition of criminals. It was also stipulated that a similar congress was to meet every two years, to carry on the work for union by peaceable means. This congress was to meet in the different capitals, in turn. The second congress met in San José, Costa Rica, in 1888, and a year after, as previously agreed upon, in the City of San Salvador, where a pact was concluded October 15, 1889, by which a provisional union was arranged looking toward the final merging of all the states into the “ Republic of Central America.”
This new effort also fell through because of a war between Guatemala and Salvador.
A further attempt was made by the States of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador, by the treaty of union signed at Amapala, June 20, 1895, to form a confederation under the name of the “Greater Republic of Central America,” which name was to be changed to
Republic of Central America ” should Guatemala and Costa Rica voluntarily join the agreement then made. This treaty also provided for the meeting of a diet, charged principally with the maintenance of the friendly relations with other nations, arbitration of all questions pending among the signatory states, empowered to appoint and receive diplomatic and consular representatives, and finally to propose a scheme of definite union of the signatory powers, and submit such plan to a general assembly within three years after the date of the treaty. The Diet was convened, officials were appointed for the direction of affairs, and on August 27, 1898, the “Political Constitution of the United States of Central America was approved by the General Assembly of the representatives of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador.
The new régime was about to commence when a revolution overthrew the Government of Salvador and the Union was once more defeated.
Another treaty of peace and compulsory arbitration was signed by the Governments of Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador, at Corinto, Nicaragua, on January 20, 1902, creating an arbitration court, composed of a commissioner and a substitute for each contracting power, to hold office for one year. Art. XVIII of this treaty provided that in the desire that the convention might unite all the states of the Central American family, the signatory states should invite, either jointly or otherwise, the Government of the Republic of Guatemala to adhere to the stipulations of the treaty.
In 1906, the Treaty of the Marblehead (See Editorial Comment in this Journal, 1:141) was signed by the representatives of Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras, in the presence of the representatives of the United States and Mexico. This treaty provided, among other things, that within two months from date of ratification a general treaty of peace, friendship, commerce, etc., was to be concluded between the three contracting parties, designating the Republic of Costa Rica as the place of meeting.
Acting on this provision, the Government of Costa Rica invited the three contracting parties and the Government of Nicaragua to send their respective delegates to meet in the City of San José. The contracting powers accepted the invitation and sent their plenipotentiaries, but Nicaragua did not accept, basing her refusal upon the ground that the arrangements of the treaty of peace and arbitration signed at Corinto January 20, 1902, above referred to, were sufficient and still in force.
The Treaty of San José was signed on September 25, 1906, by the representatives of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Salvador. Among the principal stipulations contained in this treaty is an agreement by the Governments of Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to appoint, for the settlement of all difficulties arising among them, the Presidents of the United States and Mexico as umpires to whom all such questions are to be submitted for arbitration. Other stipulations of this treaty seem to suggest the reestablishment of the Central American Union, such, for instance, as the provision binding the signatory powers always to unite " to foster their moral, intellectual, and industrial progress, thus making their interests one and the same, as becomes sister countries." Furthermore, the signatory states mutually agree to grant "native treatment another's citizens residing within their borders. Merchant vessels of the various contracting countries are likewise favored and provision is made for the extradition of criminals. Finally, in order to “ maintain peace and to forestall one of the most frequent causes of disturbance in the interior of the republics and of restlessness and distress among Central American people” the four contracting states agree not to allow “prominent political refugees to reside near the frontiers of the countries whose peace they seek to disturb.”
On the same day, September 25, 1906, other conventions were signed by the same plenipotentiaries, providing for the creation of a bureau to be located in the City of Guatemala, and established not later than September 15, 1907, for the purpose of fostering intercourse among the signatory countries, and for the creation of a Central American pedagogical institute, in Costa Rica, as a means of securing “a common educational system, essentially homogeneous,