« PreviousContinue »
Referring to the islands of Porto Rico and Cuba, Secretary Adams said:
These Islands from their local position are natural appendages to the North American continent: and one of them, Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the political and commercial interests of our Union.
Such indeed are, between the interests of that Island and of this Country, the geographical, commercial, moral, and political relations formed by nature, gathering in the process of time, and even now verging to maturity that in looking forward to the probable course of events for the short period of half a century, it is scarcely possible to resist the conviction, that the annexation of Cuba to our federal Republic will be indispensable to the continuance and integrity of the Union itself.
Secretary Adams continued, saying:
It is obvious however that for this event we are not yet prepared. Numerous and formidable objections to the extension of our territorial dominions beyond sea, present themselves to the first contemplation of the subject. Obstacles to the system of policy by which alone that result can be compassed, and maintained, are to be foreseen and surmounted both from at home and abroad. But there are Laws of political as well as of physical gravitation; and if an apple severed by the tempest from its native tree can not chuse but fall to the ground, Cuba forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union, which by the same law of nature, can not cast her off from its bosom."
Later in his instruction Secretary Adams said:
The transfer of Cuba to Great Britain would be an event unpropitious to the interests of this Union.88
On the following day, April 29, 1823, Secretary Adams instructed Mr. Randall, our Special Agent to Cuba, to observe the course of events in that island. Among other instructions Mr. Adams said:
You will be mindful of any apparent popular agitation; particularly of such as may have reference either to a transfer of the Island from Spain to any other Power; or to the assumption by the Inhabitants of an Independent Government. If in your intercourse with Society, inquiries should be made of you, with regard to the views of the Government of the United States, concerning the political state of Cuba, you will say, that so far as they were known to you, from having resided at the Seat of Government, the first wish of the Government was for the continuance of Cuba in its political connection with Spain; and that it would be altogether averse to the transfer of the Island to any other Power. 89
86 MS., Instructions to United States Ministers, vol. ix, pp. 186-187.
THE CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND
GREAT BRITAIN, 1823
Commencing in August 1823, Mr. Canning began approaches to Mr. Rush concerning the possible future disposition of the revolted Spanish American colonies. Mr. Rush reporting on August 19, 1823, an interview with Mr. Canning stated that Canning had said:
that as His Britannic Majesty disclaimed all intention of appropriating to himself the smallest portion of the late Spanish possessions in America, he was also satisfied that no attempt would be made by France to bring any of them under her dominion, either by conquest or by cession from Spain.90
Replying to Mr. Rush's inquiry regarding the position of His Majesty's Government on the point of the independence of these colonies, Mr. Rush reported Mr. Canning as follows:
He replied that Great Britain certainly never again intended to lend her instrumentality or aid, whether by mediation or otherwise, towards making up the dispute between Spain and her colonies, but that if this result could still be brought about she would not interfere to prevent it."
Mr. Rush, having intimated that Spain could not recover her colonies, quotes Mr. Canning as saying that "he, too, believed that the day had arrived when all America might be considered as lost to Europe so far as the tie of political dependence was concerned." Later Rush states that:
Reverting to his [Canning's] first idea, he again said that he hoped that France would not, should even events in the Peninsula be favorable to her, extend her views to South America for the purpose of reducing the colonies, nominally, perhaps, for Spain, but in effect to subserve ends of her own; but that, in case she should meditate such a policy, he was satisfied that the knowledge of the United States being opposed to it, as well as Great Britain, could not fail to have its influence in checking her steps.9
This communication from Mr. Rush is of such importance that it should be quoted in full, as likewise the subsequent communications from Mr. Canning upon this subject. This first communication reads:
When my interview with Mr. Canning, on Saturday, was about to close, I transiently asked him whether, notwithstanding the late news from Spain, we might not still hope that the Spaniards would get the better of all their difficulties. I had allusion to the defection of Ballasteros in Andalusia, an event seeming to threaten with new dangers the constitutional cause. His reply was general. importing nothing more than his opinion of the increased difficulties and dangers with which, undoubtedly, this event was calculated to surround the Spanish cause.
Pursuing the topic of Spanish affairs, I remarked that should France ultimately effect her purposes in Spain, there was at least the consolation left that Great Britain would not allow her to go further and lay her hands upon the Spanish colonies, bringing them, too, under her grasp. I here had in my mind the sentiments promulgated upon this subject in Mr. Canning's note to the British ambassador at Paris of the 31st of March, during the negotiations that preceded the invasion of Spain. It will be recollected that the British Government say in this note that time and the course of events appeared to have substantially decided the question of the separation of these colonies from the mother country, although their formal recognization as independent states by Great Britain might be hastened or retarded by external circumstances, as well as by the internal condition of those new states themselves; and that as His Britannic Majesty disclaimed all intention of appropriating to himself the smallest portion of the late Spanish possessions in America, he was also satisfied that no attempt would be made by France to bring any of them under her dominion, either by conquest or by cession from Spain.
By this we are to understand, in terms sufficiently distinct, that Great Britain would not be passive under such an attempt by France, and Mr. Canning, on my having referred to this note, asked me what I thought my Government would say to going hand in hand with this, in the same sentiment; not, as he added, that any concert in action under it could become necessary between the two countries, but that the simple fact of our being known to hold the same sentiment would, he had no doubt, by its moral effect, put down the intention on the part of France, admitting that she should ever entertain it. This belief was founded, he said, upon the large share of the maritime power of the world which Great Britain and the United States shared between them, and the consequent influence which the knowledge that they held a common opinion upon a question on which such large maritime interests, present and future, hung, could not fail to produce upon the rest of the world.
I replied that in what manner my Government would look upon such a suggestion I was unable to say, but that I would communicate it in the same informal manner in which he threw it out. I said, however, that I did not think I should do so with full advantage, unless he would at the same time enlighten me as to the precise situation in which His Majesty's Government stood at this moment in relation to those new states, and especially on the material point of their own independence.
He replied that Great Britain certainly never again intended to lend her instrumentality or aid, whether by mediation or otherwise, towards making up the dispute between Spain and her colonies, but that if this result could still be brought about she would not interfere to prevent it. Upon my intimating that I had supposed that all idea of Spain ever recovering her authority over the colonies had long since gone by, he explained by saying that he did not mean to controvert that opinion, for he, too, believed that the day had arrived when all America might be considered as lost to Europe so far as the tie of political dependence was concerned. All that he meant was, that if Spain and the colonies should still be able to bring the dispute, not yet totally extinct between them, to a close upon terms satisfactory to both sides, and which should at the same time secure to Spain commercial or other advantages not extended to other nations, that Great Britain would not object to a compromise in this spirit of preference to Spain. All that she would ask would be to stand upon as favored a footing as any other nation after Spain. Upon my again alluding to the improbability of the dispute ever settling down now even upon this basis, he said that it was not his intention to maintain such
a position, and that he had expressed himself as above rather for the purpose of indicating the feeling which this cabinet still had towards Spain in relation to the controversy than of predicting results.
Wishing, however, to be still more specifically informed, I asked whether Great Britain was at this moment taking any step, or contemplating any, which had reference to the recognition of these States, this being the point in which we felt the chief interest.
He replied that she had taken none whatever, as yet, but was upon the eve of taking one, not final, but preparatory, and which would still leave her at large to recognize or not, according to the position of events at a future period. The measure in question was to send out one or more individuals under authority from this Government to South America, not strictly diplomatic, but clothed with powers in the nature of a commission of inquiry, and which in short he described as analogous to those exercised by our own commissioners in 1817, and that upon the result of this commission much might depend as to the ulterior conduct of Great Britain. I asked whether I was to understand that it would comprehend all the new States, or which of them. To which he replied that for the present it would be limited to Mexico.
Reverting to his first idea, he again said that he hoped that France would not, should even events in the Peninsula be favorable to her, extend her views to South America for the purpose of reducing the colonies, nominally, perhaps, for Spain, but in effect to subserve ends of her own; but that, in case she should meditate such a policy, he was satisfied that the knowledge of the United States being opposed to it, as well as Great Britain, could not fail to have its influence in checking her steps. In this way he thought good might be done by prevention, and peaceful prospects all around increased. As to the form in which such knowledge might be made to reach France, and even the other powers of Europe, he said, in conclusion, that that might probably be arranged in a manner that would be free from objection.
I again told him that I would convey his suggestions to you for the information of the President, and impart to him whatever reply I might receive. My own inference rather is that his proposition was a fortuitous one; yet he entered into it, I thought, with some interest, and appeared to receive with a corresponding satisfaction the assurance I gave him that it should be made known to the President. I did not feel myself at liberty to express any opinion unfavorable to it, and was as careful to give none in its favor.
Mr. Canning mentioned to me, at this same interview, that a late confidential dispatch which he had seen from Count Nesselrode to Count Lieven, dated, I think, in June, contained declarations respecting the Russian ukase, relative to the northwest coast, that were satisfactory; that they went to show that it. would probably not be executed in a manner to give cause of complaint to other nations, and that, in particular, it had not yet been executed in any instance under orders issued by Russia subsequently to its first promulgation."
On August 20, 1823, Mr. Canning sent to Mr. Rush a "private and confidential" communication which reads as follows:
Before leaving town I am desirous of bringing before you in a more distinct, but still in an unofficial and confidential shape, the question which we shortly discussed the last time that I had the pleasure of seeing you.
Is not the moment come when our Governments might understand each other as to the Spanish-American colonies? And if we can arrive at such an
Moore, International Law Digest, vol. ví, pp. 386–388.
understanding, would it not be expedient for ourselves, and beneficial for all the world, that the principles of it should be clearly settled and plainly avowed? For ourselves we have no disguise.
1. We conceive the recovery of the colonies by Spain to be hopeless.
2. We conceive the question of the recognition of them, as independent states, to be one of time and circumstances.
3. We are, however, by no means disposed to throw any impediment in the way of an arrangement between them and the mother country by amicable negotiation.
4. We aim not at the possession of any portion of them ourselves.
5. We could not see any portion of them transferred to any other power with indifference.
If these opinions and feelings are, as I firmly believe them to be, common to your Government with ours, why should we hesitate mutually to confide them to each other, and to declare them in the face of the world?
If there be any European power which cherishes other projects, which looks to a forcible enterprise for reducing the colonies to sujugation, on the behalf or in the name of Spain, or which meditates the acquisition of any part of them to itself, by cession or by conquest, such a declaration on the part of your Government and ours would be at once the most effectual and the least offensive mode of intimating our joint disapprobation of such projects.
It would at the same time put an end to all the jealousies of Spain with respect to her remaining colonies, and to the agitation which prevails in those colonies, an agitation which it would be but humane to allay, being determined (as we are) not to profit by encouraging it.
Do you conceive that, under the power which you have recently received, you are authorized to enter into negotiation, and to sign any convention upon this subject? Do you conceive, if that be not within your competence, you could exchange with me ministerial notes upon it?
Nothing could be more gratifying to me than to join with you in such a work, and I am persuaded there has seldom, in the history of the world, occurred an opportunity when so small an effort of two friendly Governments might produce so unequivocal a good, and prevent such extensive calamities.
I shall be absent from London but three weeks at the utmost, but never so far distant but that I can receive and reply to any communication within three or four days."
Three days later Mr. Rush replied to Mr. Canning's note of August 20 as follows:
Your unofficial and confidential note of the 20th instant reached me yesterday, and has commanded from me all the reflection due to the interests of its subject and to the friendly spirit of confidence upon which it is so emphatically founded.
The Government of the United States having, in the most formal manner, acknowledged the independence of the late Spanish provinces in America, desires nothing more anxiously than to see this independence maintained with stability, and under auspices that may promise prosperity and happiness to these new states themselves, as well as advantage to the rest of the world. As conducing to these great ends, my Government has always desired, and still desires, to see them received into the family of nations by the powers of Europe, and especially, I may add, by Great Britain.
Moore, International Law Digest, vol. vi, pp. 389–390.