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isthmian canal be compared to the Kiel canal, which is within the territory of Germany, and which, although open to commerce, was specially designed to meet the needs of the German navy. Such canals as this are built by the capital of the country through which they pass, and are protected and controlled by its government.
No one of the republics to the south of us, through whose territory it was proposed to build a canal, could raise the capital for its construction or insure its protection when completed. No company chartered by one of these governments could have raised the necessary capital without some further guarantee. Hence it was that all companies organized for this purpose had to secure their charters from some more powerful nation, such as the United States or France, and their concessions from one of the Central American states. This rendered necessary a treaty between the state granting the concession or right to construct a canal through its territory and the state chartering the company. The claims of other states to equality of treatment in the use of such a canal constituted another element that had to be considered.
With the establishment of the independence of the Spanish-American republics the question of the construction of a ship canal across the isthmus became a matter of general interest, and it was one of the proposed subjects of discussion at the Congress of American Republics summoned by Bolivar to meet at Panama in 1826. In the instructions to the United States commissioners to that congress, Mr. Clay authorized them to enter into the consideration of that subject, suggesting that the best routes would likely
be found in the territory of Mexico or of the Central Republic. As to the diplomatic status of the canal, he said:
If the work should ever be executed so as to admit of the passage of sea vessels from ocean to ocean, the benefits of it ought not to be exclusively appropriated to any one nation, but should be extended to all parts of the globe upon the payment of a just compensation or reasonable tolls.'
In 1835, and again in 1839, the United States Senate passed resolutions authorizing the President to enter into negotiations with other nations, particularly Central America and New Granada, for the purpose of protecting by treaty either individuals or companies who might undertake to open communication between the two oceans, and of insuring "the free and equal navigation of the canal by all nations." Presidents Jackson and Van Buren both commissioned agents with a view to carrying out these resolutions, but without success.
While a prisoner at Ham in 1845, Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte secured from the government of Nicaragua a concession granting him power to organize a company for the construction of a waterway to be known as "Le Canale Napoléon de Nicaragua." After his escape from Ham, he published in London a pamphlet entitled "The Canal of Nicaragua, or a Project for the Junction of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by means of a Canal." 2
Although the United States government was a party to endless negotiations in regard to an inter-oceanic canal, there were only three treaties of any practical
1 Report of International American Conference, Vol. IV (Hist. App.), P. 143. Snow: "Treaties and Topics in American Diplomacy." p. 328.
importance prior to the close of the nineteenth century, by which it acquired rights and assumed obligations on that account. These were (1) the treaty with New Granada (Colombia) of 1846; (2) the Clayton-Bulwer treaty with England of 1850; and (3) the treaty with Nicaragua of 1867. We shall proceed to examine these in detail.
The treaty with New Granada was signed at Bogota, December 12, 1846, and ratified by both governments in 1848. It did not differ materially from the general draft of treaties, except in the thirty-fifth article, which was of a special character and related to the Isthmus of Panama. By this article "the government of New Granada guarantees to the government of the United States that the right-of-way or transit across the Isthmus of Panama, upon any modes of communication that now exist or that may be hereafter constructed, shall be open and free to the government and citizens of the United States," for the transportation of all articles of lawful commerce upon the same terms enjoyed by the citizens of New Granada.
And in order to secure to themselves the tranquil and constant enjoyment of these advantages, and for the favors they have acquired by the 4th, 5th, and 6th articles of this treaty, the United States guarantee positively and efficaciously to New Granada, by the present stipulation, the perfect neutrality of the before-mentioned isthmus, with the view that the free transit from the one to the other sea may not be interrupted or embarrassed in any future time while this treaty exists; and, in consequence, the United States also guarantee, in the same manner, the rights of sovereignty and
• Our treaties with Mexico and Honduras, although covering the case of canal constructions, were of no practical importance, as the routes through these countries were not feasible.
property which New Granada has and possesses over the said territory.
This treaty was to remain in force for twenty years, and then, if neither party gave notice of intended termination, it was to continue in force, terminable by either party at twelve months' notice. This treaty was in full force when the Panama revolution of 1903 took place. Under the protection of this treaty the Panama Railroad Company, composed mainly of citizens of the United States, secured a charter from New Granada, and between 1850 and 1855 constructed a railroad across the isthmus along the line of the proposed Panama canal. In consequence of the riot at Panama in 1856, efforts were made by the United States to modify this treaty so as to give the United States greater control and power to protect the means of transit, but without success. Other attempts to modify it in 1868 and 1870 likewise failed."
In 1862 the Granadian government, through its representative at Washington, notified the United States that a revolutionary chief, who was then trying to subvert the Granadian confederation, had sent an armed force to occupy the Isthmus of Panama, and the government of Granada called upon the United States to enforce its guarantee. Simultaneously the same information was received from the United States consul at Panama, and the President instructed the United States naval commander at that port to protect at all hazards and at whatever cost the safety of the railroad transit across the isthmus.
Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal, the Clayton Bulwer Treaty, and the Monroe Doctrine. Government Printing Office, 1885, p. 5. Referred to hereafter as "Collected Correspondence.” Ibid., pp. 23-27.
Ibid, pp. 27 and 40.
The Granadian government, however, was not satisfied with this action, and urged the United States to land a body of troops at Panama, suggesting that it consist of 300 cavalry. Under the circumstances, President Lincoln hesitated to take such action without consulting Great Britain and France, and Mr. Seward instructed our representatives at London and Paris to seek an understanding with those governments in regard to the matter. He declared:
This government has no interest in the matter different from that of other maritime powers. It is willing to interpose its aid in execution of its treaty and for the benefit of all nations. But if it should do so it would incur some hazard of becoming involved in the revolutionary strife which is going on in that country. It would also incur danger of misapprehension of its object by other maritime powers if it should act without previous consultation with them.'
In a conference between Mr. Adams and Lord John Russell, the latter declared that he did not consider that the contingency had arisen which called for intervention; that so far as he could learn, no attempt had been made to obstruct the free transit across the isthmus. The French government took substantially the same view. In questions of a similar nature that arose later, the attorney-general of the United States expressed the opinion that the guarantee by the United States of Granadian sovereignty and property in the territory of the isthmus was only against foreign governments, and did not authorize the United States to take sides with one or the other party in the intestine troubles of that nation.
↑ Seward to Adams, July 11, 1862.
"Collected Correspondence," pp. 7 and 8