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DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, July 2, 1853. SIR :
Great Britain, for a long period, has had possession of a district of country on the shores of the Bay of Honduras, called “the Belize.”' The right she has to hold it is derived from a grant by Spain; and this right is limited to a single purpose, with an express prohibition against using it for any other. A possession so restricted as to its use could never be considered a British colony. While she confines herself to the boundaries specified in the treaties with Spain, in 1783 and 1786, and uses the district or country described only for the purposes stipulated therein, we have no right to complain that she is infringing our policy ; but when she extends her occupancy by encroachments far beyond the prescribed bounds, and changes its tenure by exercising over it civil authority, a very different character is given to this settlement; it then becomes a new colony on this continent.
Since the acquisition of California, Great Britain has manifested a more matured design to change this Spanish license to cut dye-wood and mahogany at the Belize into a British dominion. The object of such change cannot be misunderstood, nor will it be disregarded by this government. The character of the British settlement at the Belize is explicitly shown by an authority which will not be controverted or questioned by the government of Great Britain. This authority is no other than the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In two acts-one passed in 1817, and the other in 1819-it is admitted that the Belize is not within the British dominions. In these acts provision is made for the punishment of crimes committed at Belize, which otherwise could not be punished by any existing law, because
Belize, as expressly alleged, was not a British dor inion. In 1826, Great Britain renewed, in her treaty with Mexico, the special grant made to her by Spain in the treaties of 1783 and 1786, to enter into and occupy the Belize upon the same terms and with the same restrictions as those imposed upon her by Spain. The United States, while they concede that Great Britain has rights in the Belize, positively deny that the Belize is a British province, or any part of the British dominions; and in maintaining the policy referred to, they are bound to resist any attempt to convert it into a British colony.
The protectorate which Great Britain has assumed over the Mosa quito Indians is a most palpable infringement of her treaties with Spain, to which reference has just been made; and the authority she is there exercising, under pretence of this protectorate, is in derogation of the sovereign rights of several of the Central American States, and contrary to the manifest spirit and intention of the treaty of April 19, 1850, with the United States.
Though, ostensibly, the direct object of the Clayton and Bulwer treaty was to guaranty the free and common use of the contemplated ship-canal across the Isthmus of Darien, and to secure such use to all nations by mutual treaty stipulations to that effect, there were other and highly important objects sought to be accomplished by that convention. The stipulation regarded most of all, by the United States, is that for discontinuing the use of her assumed protectorate of the Mosquito Indians, and with it the removal of all pretext whatever for interfering with the territorial arrangements which the Central American States may wish to make among themselves. It was the intention, as it is obviously the import, of the treaty of April 19, 1850, to place Great Britain under an obligation to cease her interpositions in the affairs of Central America, and to confine herself to the enjoyment of her limited rights in the Belize. She has, by this treaty of 1850, obligated herself not to occupy or colonize any part of Central America, or to exercise any dominion therein. Notwithstanding these stipulations, she still asserts the right to hold possession of, and to exercise control over, large districts of that country and important islands in the Bay of Honduras, the unquestionable appendages of the Central American States. This jurisdiction is not less mischievous in its effects, nor less objectionable to us, because it is covertly exercised (partly, at least) in the name of a miserable tribe of Indians, who have, in reality, no political organization, no actual government, not even the semblance of one, except that which is created by British authority and upheld by British power.
This anomalous state of things is exceedingly annoying to the States of Central America, and but little less so to the United States ; for through the Bay of Honduras and across some of these States lies one of the most desirable routes to our possessions on the Pacific. This interference, it will be recollected, did not assume a marked character until after our acquisition of California.
Great Britain should be frankly assured that the policy to which I have alluded, and to which the United States mean to adhere, is exclusively political. As relates to commerce, this government neither aims at nor desires any advantage, in our intercourse with
the nations on this continent, which it would not willingly sce extended to the whole world.
The object which it is hoped you may be able to accomplish is to induce Great Britain to withdraw from all control over the territories and islands of Central America, and, if possible, over the Belize also, and to abstain from intermeddling with the political affairs of the governments and people in that region of the world. This object is the more earnestly desired by the United States, as it is apparent that the tendency of events in that quarter is to give a foothold to British power there, in contravention of the policy which this government is resolved to sustain.
With your ample knowledge of the facts, it is believed that it will easy for you to satisfy the government of Great Britain that it has ruht to intervene in the political affairs of Central America, ed vpon any dominion she can fairly claim in any part thereof,
at no obligation of duty or interest is imposed upon her to bec e volunteer in the matter.
It is true she has some rights, as I have before stated, in the Belize ; but when restricted to proper limits, no part of it is in Central America. These rights are, however, very few, as will be perceived by the second and third articles of the treaty between her and Spain, dated the 14th of July, 1786. The second article defines the extent of the district upon which British subjects may enter for the purposes specified in the third article, which contains an express admission that the Belize then belonged to the crown of Spain ; and in it Great Britain stipulates in no ambiguous terms that her subjects, who have the right to enter it to cut dye-wood and mahogany, shall not use this limited right as a pretext for establishing “in that country any plantation of sugar, coffee, cacao, or other kind of articles, or any kind of fabric or manufacture, by means of mills or machinery, whatsoever," with the exception of saw-mills for cutting the wood which they have permission to take from that district of country. To enter into the country upon such conditions, for the single purpose granted, the British right cannot be well questioned; but this right is understood to be now of very little value, and, possibly, as a matter of interest and good policy, Great Britain may be willing to renounce it entirely; but her pretensions beyond this right cannot be
regarded in any other light than as encroachments which ought to ! be abandoned. To show that her privilege is thus circumscribed,
nothing more is necessary than to read the first article of the treaty to which I have alluded. Though a labored attempt has been made to pervert it, the language is too precise and explicit to give plausibility to such an effort.
That article stipulates (I quote the language of the treaty) that “his Britannic Majesty's subjects, and the other colonists who have hitherto enjoyed the protection of England, shall evacuate the country of the Mosquitos, as well as the continent in general and the islands adjacent, without exception, situated beyond the line hereinafter described as what ought to be the frontier or the extent of country granted by his Catholic Majesty to the English for the uses specified in the 31 article of the present convention, and in addition to the
country already granted to them (the Belize) in virtue of the stipulations agreed upon by the commissioners of the two crowns in 1783."
After reading the treaties with Spain of 1783 and 1786, in which Great Britain renounces, in terms the most explicit and comprehensive in the English language, all right to any territorial possessions in any part of Central America, all sovereign rights in behalf of the Mosquitos, and all claim to a protectorate over that horde of savages, it would seem to be useless to go beyond those treaties for facts to explode the pretensions she now asserts for herself in regard to this protectorate. * Clear as both of these treaties are against such pretensions,
. it is nevertheless true that one of her Britannic Majesty's late principal secretaries of state for foreign affairs, Lord Palmerston, has endeavored to pervert, and by construction to render them meaningless, in the same manner that her present secretary attempts to render ineffective the treaty with the United States of the 19th of April, 1850. The boldness of the attempt with respect to the treaty of 1736, and its ill success, is shown by a proceeding in relation thereto in th: British Parliament within one year after it was concluded.
The record of this proceeding is not found in the more general repository of parliamentary debates, “ Hansard's Collection,” and it could not have been in the recollection of Lord Palmerston when he wrote his famous letter upon this treaty and that of 1783, addressed to Señor Castillon, in 1819. As this proceeding shows the groundlessness of the claim then, as now, set up to this protectorate, and all other British claims in Central America, I deem it proper to present herein a succinct account of it.
On the 26th of March, 1787, a motion was made in the House of Peers by Lord Rawdon, “that the terms of the convention of July 14th, 1786, do not meet the favorable opinion of this House.” On this motion a long debate ensued between Lords Rawdon, Carlisle, Stormont, Hawke, and Porchester, in support of the motion, and the Duke of Manchester, who negotiated the treaty of 1783, the Marquis of Carmarthen, secretary for foreign affairs, who negotiated the convention of 1786, and the Lord Chancellor, the celebrated Thurlow.
Lord Rawdon, on introducing his motion, stated “ that the Mosquito shore, given up to Spain by the treaty of 1786, had been for more than a century in the possession of Great Britain; that it consisted of a territory of between four and five hundred miles in length, and was nearly of the depth of one hundred miles inland from the sea ; that there were on it various settlements, and that the residents, at the time of its cession, consisted of near one thousand five hundred British subjects, including whites, male and female, persons of mixed color, and their slaves ; that a regular form of government had been estabished on it many years since, consisting of a council, &c.; that it was a settlement of great value and importance to this country,
and that our claim to it was as good as our claim to the island of Jamaica. In support of these assertions, his lordship produced various documents from the governor and assembly of the island of Jamaica and other corroborating papers. In exchange for this valuable settlement, he said, the British ministers had contented themselves with accepting a narrow slip of territory of between eleven and twelve miles in ex