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No. 368.]


Mr. Frelinghuysen to Mr. Lowell.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, D. C., May 8, 1882.

SIR: Mr. Sackville West has handed me copies of two dispatches from Lord Granville to him respecting the Clayton-Bulwer treaty; the first, dated 7th January last, comments upon Mr. Blaine's 270 of the 19th of November; the second, of the 14th January, comments upon Mr. Blaine's 281 of the 29th November.

They have been read with interest and with attention. After careful consideration, the President is not without hope that the views of the two governments may be harmonized in this matter. He therefore directs me to communicate to you, somewhat at length, the opinions entertained here respecting the traditional continental policy of the United States and the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.

A canal across the isthmus for vessels of all dimensions and every character, under possible conditions hereinafter referred to, would affect this republic in its trade and commerce; would expose our Western coast to attack; destroy our isolation; oblige us to improve our defenses and to increase our Navy, and possibly compel us, contrary to our traditions, to take an active interest in the affairs of European nations. The United States, with their large and increasing population and wealth, cannot be uninterested in a change in the physical conformation of this hemisphere which may injuriously affect either the material or political interests of the republic, and naturally seek that the severance of the isthmus connecting the continents shall be effected in harmony with those interests. This government, while believing that the isthmus should not be severed so as to do unnecessary injury to the United States, at the same time appreciates the desire of Great Britain that she should be able, by a short and easy passage from ocean to ocean, to reach her eastern and American possessions on the Pacific, and that other nations of the world have a similar interest in such a passage.


There is, however, no necessary conflict between the political claims of the United States in this matter and the material interests of other nations.

A canal across the isthmus can be created, and under the protectorate of the United States and the republic whose territory it may cross, can be freely used by all nations; thus in some degree would be continued to the United States the benefit of that conformation of the earth which is now an element of security and defense.

For thirty years the Panama Railroad has been maintained without other protection than that of the United States and the local sovereign, in accordance with the treaty of 1846 with New Grenada.

During that period Great Britain has carried to a successful result the wars of the Crimea and the Indian mutiny; France has three times "convulsed Europe with strife; a conflict between Russia and Turkey has changed the face of the Ottoman Empire; thrones have crumbled; empires have been constructed; republics have arisen, while on this continent the most remarkable civil war in history has occurred, and at the same time the Emperor of the French was lending his active support to an aspirant for imperial honors in the neighboring republic of Mexico. Within that period almost every form of war and strife have taken place that would seem to make especially necessary the neutralization of the isthmus, and yet the trains of the Panama Railroad have run from ocean to ocean peacefully and with no other interruption than what has come from the rare turbulence of the local population.

During the same time another isthmus has been pierced, and while wars have raged within sight of the Mediterranean port the peaceful commerce of the world has moved through the Suez Canal quietly and safely under no international protectorate.

If no guarantee or protectorate has been found necessary during such troubled times, it can scarcely be required in the more peaceful period which both the Government of the United States and that of Great Britain hope and strive for.

The President, therefore, considers it unnecessary and unwise, through an invitation to the nations of the earth, to guarantee the neutrality of the transit of the isthmus, or to give their navies a pretext for assembling in waters contiguous to our shores, and to possibly involve this republic in conflicts from which its natural position entitles it to be relieved.

It will doubtless occur to Lord Granville, as it does to us, that in

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