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Mr. Bayard that its action had been wholly unconnected with any political or conventional question touching the Mosquito reservation, but simply to protect British interests.
By a convention signed November 20, 1894, the Mosquito Indians surrendered their rights under the treaty of 1860 and were incorporated with Nicaragua. This voluntary incorporation took away all further occasion for interposition on the part of Great Britain, and Mr. Bayard reported that it was received with "the most open expression of satisfaction at the foreign office." 1
The attempts of Blaine and Frelinghuysen to bring about a modification of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty were, as we have seen, unsuccessful. In fact, their only effect was to strengthen the British government for the time being in the determination to hold us more strictly to the terms of that convention. In 1896 Secretary Olney in a review of the situation declared:
Upon every principle which governs the relations to each other, either of nations or of individuals, the United States is completely estopped from denying that the treaty is in full force and vigor. If changed conditions now make stipulations, which were once deemed advantageous, either inapplicable or injurious, the true remedy is not in ingenious attempts to deny the existence of the treaty or to explain away its provisions, but in a direct and straight forward application to Great Britain for a reconsideration of the whole matter.“
It was precisely in this spirit that Secretary Hay undertook in 1899 to negotiate a new treaty with England. The original draft of the Hay-Pauncefote
See Foreign Relations, 1894, App. 1. "Affairs at Bluefields," pp. 234-363. Senate Doc. No. 160, Fifty-sixth Cong., First Sess.
treaty, signed February 5, 1900, provided for a neutralized canal and drafted for its control rules substantially in accord with the Constantinople convention of 1888, providing for the regulation of the Suez canal. The most important provision of the new treaty was that authorizing the United States to construct and to assume the management of an isthmian canal, either directly or through a company. The United States Senate, however, amended the treaty in three important particulars: (1) by declaring that the Clayton-Bulwer treaty was thereby superseded; (2) by providing that the restrictions in the regulations governing the use of the canal should not apply to measures which the United States might adopt for its own defense and for the maintenance of public order along the canal; and (3) by cutting out entirely the article providing for the adherence of other powers. The British government refused to accept these amendments, and a year elapsed before an agreement was finally reached. The revised treaty which was ratified by the Senate December 16, 1901, was a compromise between the original draft and the Senate amendments. The new treaty abrogated in express terms the Clayton-Bulwer convention, and provided that the United States might construct a canal under its direct auspices, to be under its exclusive management. The principle of neutralization was nominally retained, but under the sole guarantee of the United States, with power to police the canal, and the clause of the first draft forbidding fortifications was omitted."
Moore, "Digest of Int. Law," Vol. III, p. 211.
This convention removed the principal diplomatic obstacles which stood in the way of constructing a canal through the isthmus. For several years the United States had been investigating the cost of constructing a canal through Nicaragua, that route being the one which had always been considered most feasible by the great majority of American engineers. Two commissions, one in 1895 and another in 1897, had reported favorably on the practicability of that route. A third commission, headed by Admiral John G. Walker, was appointed under act of March 3, 1899, which authorized an expenditure of $1,000,000 for the purpose of making a thorough investigation of all available routes. While the Walker commission was carrying on investigations in Nicaragua, at Panama, and along the Atrato river, the various financial interests concerned in the choice of routes were actively at work in Washington, each trying to influence Congress in favor of its particular project. The New Panama Canal Company had secured, at the time of the reorganization, an extension of its concession to October, 1904, and subsequently another concession to October, 1910, but the validity of the latter arrangement was in doubt. The company could not raise the necessary funds to continue the work at Panama and was therefore threatened with the forfeiture of its franchise and property. It concluded, therefore, that its only hope lay in transferring its concession and property to the American government. With this end in view, an active lobby was maintained at Washington for the purpose of influencing public opinion in favor of the Panama route.
But the Panama Company had a powerful rival
in the Maritime Canal Company, which held a charter from Congress and had secured a concession from Nicaragua. This company had started work at Greytown in 1890, but having been forced from lack of funds to stop work in 1893, was now urging Congress to make its enterprise a national one. It found a ready champion in Senator Morgan of Alabama, who had for years taken a lively interest in the canal question and who had strong convictions as to the superiority of the Nicaragua route. In 1900 Nicaragua declared the concession of the Maritime Canal Company null and void, and granted a new concession to a group of New York capitalists known as the Grace-Eyre-Cragin Syndicate. The Maritime Canal Company, however, refused to abandon its claims, and a contest between the two concerns was carried to the lobbies of Congress. The opposition of the transcontinental railroads to a canal at either point brought into play another set of powerful interests, usually arrayed against the plan which appeared for the time being most likely to succeed.*5
On November 16, 1901, the Walker commission after a thorough investigation of the Nicaragua and Panama routes made its report. It estimated the cost of construction of the Nicaragua canal at $189,864,062, and the cost of completing the Panama canal at $144,233,358. To this latter sum had to be added the cost of acquiring the rights and property of the French company, which had stated to the commission that it estimated its interests at $109,141,500, making the total cost of the Panama canal $253,374,858. The commission expressed the opinion that the interests of
** Johnson, "Four Centuries of the Panama Canal," Chap. VIII.
the French company were not worth over $40,000,000. In conclusion the report stated:
After considering all the facts developed by the investigations made by the commission and the actual situation as it now stands, and having in view the terms offered by the New Panama Company, this commission is of the opinion that the most practicable and feasible route for an isthmian canal, to be under the control, management, and ownership of the United States, is that known as the Nicaragua route.“
A bill was promptly introduced into the House of Representatives by Mr. Hepburn providing for the construction of the canal through Nicaragua, and on January 9, 1902, this bill passed the House by the almost unanimous vote of 308 to 2. The report of the commission had meanwhile created great consternation among the stockholders of the New Panama Canal Company, and on January 4, 1902, a definite offer to sell out to the United States at $40,000,000 was made to the commission by cable. On January 18, the commission filed a supplementary report which recommended the adoption of the Panama route instead of that through Nicaragua.
When the Hepburn bill came up for discussion in the Senate, the situation had thus been radically changed, and a long debate ensued as to the relative merits of the two routes. Senator Morgan continued to fight for Nicaragua as the traditional American route, declaring that the Panama Company could not give a valid transfer of its property and interests. But this objection was cleverly met by Senator Spooner, who offered an amendment, which was vir
Report of the Isthmian Canal Commission (Sen. Doc. No. 54, Fiftyseventh Cong., First Sess.).