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European Power, in order to countenance and encourage these young republics as far as we could with propriety. This, like the other, belonging to the events of the time, and has passed away with them;
Again, suppose England should assert her sovereignty, would that bring the case within the declaration? Not at all; for the declaration is directed against interpositions to change the Government and oppress the country. But, in this case, the tender of sovereignty is voluntarily made on the part of Yucatan. The acceptance of it may be objected to, and it may be contended that we ought not to allow it. I waive that subject for the present. I assert, however, without the possibility of contradiction, that the case even then does not come within the declaration. The President himself gives strong indications that in his opinion it does not; for, although he refers to this declaration in the body of the message, he does not say a word in regard to it when he comes to make his recommendation. In that he calls upon Congress to prevent Yucatan from becoming a colony to some foreign Power. That shows on which of the three declarations he rests his recommendation. It is upon the third and last, which refers to an entirely different subject. That declaration is, that the continents of America, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are not henceforth to be considered as subjects of colonization by any European Power. It is upon this the President bases his recommendation. Is the case of Yucatan, then, comprehended in this declaration? I expect to show that it is not, with just as much certainty as it has been established that it does not come within the two former.
But here it may be proper, in order to understand the force of my argument, to go into a history also of this declaration of Mr. Monroe. It grew out of circumstances altogether different from the other two. At that time there was a question between Great Britain and the United States on one side and Russia on the other. All three claimed settlements on the northwest portion of this continent. Great Britain and ourselves having common interest in keeping Russia as far north as possible, the former Power applied to the United States for cooperation; and it was in reference to that matter that this additional declaration was made. It was said to be a proper opportunity to make it. It had reference specially to the subject of the northwestern settlement, and the other portions of the continent were thrown in, because all the rest of it, with the exception of some settlements in Surinam, Maracaibo, and thereabout, had passed into independent hands.
The history of the transaction, the Senator will perceive, if he examines the documents, shows distinctly that they came through Mr. Rush, originating not with Mr. Adams, but Mr. Canning, and were first presented in the form of a proposition from England. It declares without qualification that these continents have asserted and maintained their freedom and independence, and are no longer subject to colonization by any European Power. This is not strictly accurate. Taken as a whole, these continents had not asserted and maintained their freedom and independence. At that period Great Britain had a larger portion of the continent in her possession than the United States. Russia had a considerable portion of it, and other Powers possessed some portions of the southern part of this continent. The declaration was broader than the fact, and exhibits precipitancy and want of due reflection. Besides, there was an impropriety in it when viewed in conjunction with the foregoing declarations. I speak not in the language of censure. We were as to them acting in concert with England, on a proposition coming from herself—a
proposition of the utmost magnitude, and which we felt at the time to be essentially connected with our peace and safety; and of course it was due to propriety as well as policy that this declaration should be strictly in accordance with British feeling. Our power then was not what it is now, and we had to rely upon her cooperation to sustain the ground we had taken. We had then only about six or seven millions of people, scattered, and without such means of communication as we now possess to bring us together in a short period of time. The declaration accordingly, with respect to colonization, striking at England as well as Russia, gave offence to her, and that to such an extent that she refused to cooperate with us in settling the Russian question. Now, I will venture to say that if that declaration had come before that cautious cabinetfor Mr. Monroe was among the wisest and most cautious men I have ever known-it would have been modified, and been expressed with a far greater degree of precision, and with much more delicacy in reference to the feelings of the British Government.
But it is not only in these respects that these famous declarations are misunderstood by the Chief Magistrate of the country, as well as by others. They were but declarations, nothing more; declarations, announcing in a friendly manner to the Powers of the world that we should regard certain acts of interposition of the Allied Powers as dangerous to our peace and our safety; interposition of European Powers to oppress the Republics which had just arisen upon this continent, as manifesting an unfriendly disposition; and that this continent, having become free and independent, was no longer the subject of colonization by European Powers. Not one word in any one of them in reference to resistance. There is nothing said of it; and with great propriety was it omitted. Resistance belonged to us-to Congress; it is for us to say whether we shall resist or not, and to what extent. But such is not the view taken by the present Chief Magistrate. He seems to hold these declarations as imposing a solemn duty on him as Chief Magistrate to resist on all occasions; and not only to resist, but to judge of the measure of that resistance. . . He tells you in the same message, that these declarations have become the settled policy of this country. What! the declarations? Declarations are not policy, and cannot become settled policy. He must mean that it has become the settled policy of this country to resist what these declarations refer to; and to resist, if need be, by an appeal to arms. Is this the fact? Has there been one instance in which these declarations have been carried into effect by resistance? If there be, let it be pointed out. Have there not been innumerable instances in which they have not been applied? Certainly. Still stronger declarations, under this broad interpretation, were disavowed entirely three years afterwards by the vote of the Republican party, when the Administration of Mr. Adams endeavored to apply them by sending ministers to the Congress at Panama, as will be seen by reading the debates and the proceedings on the subject.
What the President has asserted in this case is not a principle belonging to these declarations; it is a principle which, in his misconception, he attempts to ingraft upon them, but which has an entirely different meaning and tendency. The principle which lies at the bottom of his recommendation is, that when any Power on this continent becomes involved in internal warfare, and the weaker side chooses to make application to us for support, we are bound to give them support for fear the offer of the sovereignty of the country may be made to some other Power and accepted. It goes infinitely and dangerously beyond Mr. Monroe's declaration. It puts it in the power of other countries on this
continent to make us a party to all their wars; and hence I say, if this broad interpretation be given to these declarations, we shall forever be involved in
But, in disavowing a principle which will compel us to resist every case of interposition of European Powers on this continent, I would not wish to be understood as defending the opposite, that we should never resist their interposition. That is a position which would be nearly as dangerous and absurd as the other. But no general rule can be laid down to guide us on such a question. Every case must speak for itself-every case must be decided on its own merits. Whether you will resist or not, and the measure of your resistance-whether it shall be by negotiation, remonstrance, or some intermediate measure, or by a resort to arms; all this must be determined and decided on the merits of the question itself. That is the only wise course. We are not to have quoted to us on every occasion general declarations to which any and every meaning may be attached. There are cases of interposition where I would resort to the hazard of war, with all its calamities. Am I asked for one? I will answer. I designate the case of Cuba. So long as Cuba remains in the hands of Spain-a friendly Power, a Power of which we have no dread-it should continue to be, as it has been, the policy of all Administrations ever since I have been connected with the Government, to let Cuba remain there; but with the fixed determination, which I hope never will be relinquished, that if Cuba pass from her, it shall not be into any other hands but ours: this, not from a feeling of ambition, not from a desire for the extension of dominion, but because that island is indispensable to the safety of the United States; or rather, because it is indispensable to the safety of the United States that this island should not be in certain hands."9
It was in the course of this same general debate, and in connection with the statement that Great Britain had encroached on Spanish Guiana that the question arose whether or not the United States should undertake to prevent such encroachment. Mr. Cass in response to some observations by Mr. Niles warning against such responsibilities, said:
The honorable Senator from Connecticut [Mr. Niles] considers the reiteration of the principle by the present Executive, and perhaps its original annunciation by Mr. Monroe, as the claim of a right to regulate all the affairs of this continent, so far as respects Europeans. But this, sir, is an entire misconception of the whole subject. It has, however, prevailed somewhat extensively, both here and elsewhere, though it seems to me that the slightest consideration of the messages referred to would have corrected, or rather prevented, this flagrant error. Neither of these Presidents, the past nor the present, assumed to interfere with any existing rights of other nations upon this continent. Neither of them called in question their right to hold and improve the colonies they possessed, at their own pleasure. Such an assump
tion would have been equally obstrusive and ineffectual; and how the opinion could have prevailed that has been advanced, no one can tell; for, in the documents themselves, the true doctrine is cautiously guarded, and existing rights considered as unassailable.20
19 Congressional Globe, 30th Cong., 1st sess., app., pp. 630-632.
20 Ibid., p. 614.
Conditions in Cuba remaining unsatisfactory, and rumors persisting of the desire of Great Britain to acquire the island, Secretary Buchanan instructing Mr. Saunders, our Minister to Spain, on June 17, 1848, wrote as follows:
By direction of the President, I now call your attention to the present condition and future prospects of Cuba. The fate of this Island must ever be deeply interesting to the people of the United States. We are content that it shall continue to be a Colony of Spain. Whilst in her possession we have nothing to apprehend. Besides, we are bound to her by the ties of ancient friendship, and we sincerely desire to render these perpetual.
But we can never consent that this Island shall become a Colony of any other European power. In the possession of Great Britain or any strong naval power, it might prove ruinous both to our domestic and foreign commerce, and even endanger the Union of the States. The highest and first duty of every independent nation is to provide for its own safety: and acting upon this principle we should be compelled to resist the acquisition of Cuba by any powerful maritime state with all the means which Providence has placed at our command.
Cuba is almost within sight of the coast of Florida. Situated between that State and the Peninsula of Yucatan and possessing the deep, capacious and impregnably fortified harbor of the Havana, if this Island were under the dominion of Great Britain, she could command both the inlets to the Gulf of Mexico. She would thus be enabled in time of war effectively to blockade the mouth of the Mississippi and to deprive all the western States of this Union, as well as those within the Gulf, teeming as they are with an industrious and enterprising population, of a foreign market for their immense productions. But this is not the worst. She could, also destroy the commerce by sea between our ports on the Gulf and our Atlantic ports:-a commerce of nearly as great a value as the whole of our foreign trade.”
Mr. Moore notes that Mr. Saunders was informed that the United States "would pay $100,000,000 for the island, if it could not be obtained for less." 22
One General Flores, at one time a President of Ecuador, had organized (during the period 1846-48) in Europe a military and naval expedition for the supposed purpose of recovering his authority in Ecuador. It was understood that this expedition had been connived at by some of the monarchical European Governments, a fact which created considerable alarm not only in Ecuador itself but in the neighboring Republics. On November 26, 1846, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ecuador brought the matter to the attention of this Government. General Castilla, President of Peru, also in
"MS., Instructions, Spain, vol. xiv, pp. 256-257.
formally brought information to this Government. In instructing Mr. Livingston, our Minister to Ecuador, under date of May 13, 1848, regarding this situation Secretary Buchanan said:
You will also assure him [General Castilla] that the intervention or dictation, direct or indirect of European governments in the affairs of the Independent States of the American Hemisphere, will never be viewed with indifference by the government of the United States. On the contrary, all the moral means, at least, without their power, shall upon every occasion be employed to discourage and arrest such interference.23
The situation regarding Cuba being still disturbed, Mr. Clayton, instructing Mr. Barringer (our Minister to Spain) on August 2, 1849, used the following language which is perhaps the most explicit statement of our attitude in relation to Cuba that has been made by any Secretary of State. Mr. Clayton said:
Whilst this Government is resolutely determined that the Island of Cuba, shall never be ceded by Spain to any other power than the United States, it does not desire, in future, to utter any threats, or enter into any guaranties, with Spain, on that subject. Without either guaranties or threats, we shall be ready, when the time comes, to act. The news of the cession of Cuba to any foreign power would, in the United States, be the instant signal for war. No foreign power would attempt to take it, that did not expect a hostile collision with us as an inevitable consequence.**
The United States and Great Britain entered into what is known as the Clayton-Bulwer treaty for the construction of a ship canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans by way of the River San Juan de Nicaragua, and either or both of the lakes of Nicaragua or Managua. This treaty contained provisions covering the control of the canal, the occupation of territory and commercial advantages; the neutrality of the canal in case of a war; the protection of construction; mutual influence to facilitate construction; the guaranty of neutrality; the cooperation of other states; mutual encouragement to speedy construction; and protection to other communications.25
'MS., Instructions, Ecuador, vol. 1, pp. 4-5; Moore, ibid., p. 473.
24 MS., Instructions, Spain, vol. xiv, p. 298.
Malloy, Treaties, Conventions, etc., vol. 1, pp. 659 et seq.