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My Government is also under a sincere conviction that the epoch has arrived when the interests of humanity and justice, as well as all other interests, would be essentially subserved by the general recognition of these states.
Making these remarks, I believe I may confidently say, that the sentiments unfolded in your note are fully those which belong also to my Government. It conceives the recovery of the colonies by Spain to be hopeless.
It would throw no impediment in the way of an arrangement between them and the mother country, by amicable negotiation, supposing an arrangement of this nature to be possible.
It does not aim at the possession of any portion of those communities for or on behalf of the United States.
It would regard as highly unjust and fruitful of disastrous consequences any attempt on the part of any European power to take possession of them by conquest, or by cession, or on any ground or pretext whatever.
But in what manner my Government might deem it expedient to avow these principles and feelings, or express its disapprobation of such projects as the last, are points which none of my instructions, or the power which I have recently received, embrace; and they involve, I am forced to add, considerations of too much delicacy for me to act upon them in advance.
It will yield me particular pleasure to be the organ of promptly causing to be brought under the notice of the President the opinions and views of which you have made me the depositary upon this subject, and I am of nothing more sure than that he will fully appreciate their intrinsic interest, and not less the frank and friendly feelings towards the United States in which they have been conceived and communicated to me on your part.
Nor do I take too much upon myself when I anticipate the peculiar satisfac tion the President will also derive from the intimation which you have not scrupled to afford me as to the just and liberal determinations of His Majesty's Government in regard to the colonies which still remain to Spain."5
On the same day that Mr. Rush addressed Mr. Canning (that is, August 23, 1823), Mr. Canning made a further communication to Mr. Rush. This communication reads:
Since I wrote to you on the 20th, an additional motive has occurred for wishing that we might be able to come to some understanding on the part of our respective Governments on the subject of my letter; to come to it soon, and to be at liberty to announce it to the world.
It is this. I have received notice, but not such a notice as imposes upon me the necessity of any immediate answer or proceeding-that so soon as the military objects in Spain are achieved (of which the French expect, how justly I know not, a very speedy achievement) a proposal will be made for a Congress, or some less formal concert and consultation, specially upon the affairs of Spanish America.
I need not point out to you all the complications to which this proposal, however dealt with by us, may lead.
Pray receive this communication in the same confidence with the former; and believe me with great truth, etc."
On the same day (August 23) Mr. Rush transmitted to Secretary Adams, Mr. Canning's "private and confidential" communication of
95 Ibid., p. 390-391.
"Ibid., p. 392.
August 20 and Mr. Rush's reply thereto of August 23, in a despatch which read as follows:
I yesterday received from Mr. Canning a note, headed "private and confidential," setting before me, in a more distinct form, the proposition respecting South American affairs which he communicated to me in conversation on the 16th, as already reported in my number 323. Of his note I lose no time in transmitting a copy for your information, as well as a copy of my answer to it, written and sent this day.
In shaping the answer on my own judgment alone, I feel that I have had a task of some embarrassment to perform, and shall be happy if it receives the President's approbation.
I believe that this Government has the subject of Mr. Canning's proposition much at heart, and certainly his note bears, upon the face of it, a character of cordiality towards the Government of the United States which can not escape notice.
I have therefore thought it proper to impart to my note a like character and to meet the points laid down in his, as far as I could, consistently with other and paramount considerations.
These I conceive to be chiefly twofold: First, the danger of pledging my Government to any measure or course of policy which might in any degree, now or hereafter, implicate it in the federative system of Europe; and, secondly, I have felt myself alike without warrant to take a step which might prove exceptional in the eyes of France, with whom our pacific and friendly relations remain, I presume, undisturbed, whatever may be our speculative abhorrence of her attack upon the liberties of Spain.
In framing my answer, I had also to consider what was due to Spain herself, and I hope that I have not overlooked what was due to the colonies.
The whole subject is open to views on which my mind has deliberated anxiously. If the matter of my answer shall be thought to bear properly upon the motives and considerations which belong most materially to the occasion, it will be a source of great satisfaction to me.
The tone of earnestness in Mr. Canning's note, and the force of some of his expressions, naturally start the inference that the British cabinet can not be without its serious apprehensions that ambitious enterprises are meditated against the independence of the South American states. Whether by France alone I can not now say on any authentic grounds."7
The foregoing, as also the last letter of Mr. Canning to Mr. Rush marked "private and confidential" and written on August 23, 1823, was received at Washington on October 9, 1823.
THE CORRESPONDENCE OF MONROE, JEFFERSON, AND MADISON
On October 17, 1823, President Monroe sent this correspondence to Mr. Jefferson for his comments by a transmitting letter which read:
I transmit to you two despatches, which were receiv'd from Mr. Rush, while I was lately in Washington, which involve interests of the highest importance. They contain two letters from Mr. Canning, suggesting designs of the holy alliance against the Independence of S°. America, & proposing a cooperation, be
Moore, International Law Digest, vol. vi, pp. 391-392.
tween G. Britain & the U. States, in support of it, against the members of that alliance. The project aims in the first instance, at a mere expression of opinion, somewhat in the abstract, but which it is expected by Mr. Canning, will have a great political effect, by defeating the combination. By Mr. Rush's answers, which are also inclosed, you will see the light in which he views the subject, & the extent to which he may have gone. Many important considerations are involved in this proposition. 1st. Shall we entangle ourselves, at all, in European politicks, & wars, on the side of any power, against others, presuming that a concert by agreement, of the kind proposed, may lead to that result? 2a. If a case can exist, in which a sound maxim may, & ought to be departed from, is not the present instance, precisely that case? 3. Has not the epoch arriv'd when G. Britain must take her stand, either on the side of the monarchs of Europe, or of the U. States, & in consequence, either in favor of Despotism or of liberty & may it not be presum'd, that aware of that necessity, her government, has seiz'd on the present occurrence, as that, which it deems, the most suitable, to announce & mark the commenc'ment of that career.
My own impression is that we ought to meet the proposal of the British gov*., & to make it known, that we would view an interference on the part of the European powers, and especially an attack on the Colonies, by them, as an attack on ourselves, presuming that if they succeeded with them, they would extend it to us. I am sensible however of the extent, & difficulty of the question, & shall be happy to have yours, & Mr. Madison's opinions on it. I do not wish to trouble either of you with small objects, but the present one is vital, involying the high interests, for which we have so long & so faithfully, & harmoniously contended together. Be so kind as to enclose to him the despatches, with an intimation of the motive.98
To this letter Mr. Jefferson replied under date of October 24, 1823. Mr. Jefferson's letter reads:
The question presented by the letters you have sent me, is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of independence. That made us a nation, this sets our compass and points the course which we are to steer through the ocean of time opening on us. And never could we embark upon it under circumstances more auspicious. Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe; our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America, North and South, has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and particularly her own. She should therefore have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. While the last is laboring to become the domicile of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom.
One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this pursuit; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the bands, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free government, and emancipate a continent at one stroke, which might otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty. Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on earth; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her, then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship; and nothing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause. Not that I would purchase even her amity at the price of taking part in her wars.
But the war in which the present proposition might engage us, should that be its consequence, is not her war, but ours. Its object is to introduce and establish the American system, of keeping out of our land all foreign powers— of never permitting those of Europe to intermeddle with the affairs of our nations. It is to maintain our own principle, not to depart from it. And if, to facilitate this, we can effect a division in the body of the European powers, and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely we should do it. But I am clearly of Mr. Canning's opinion, that it will prevent instead of provoking war. With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of our two continents, all Europe combined would not undertake such a war, for how would they propose to get at either enemy without superior fleets? Nor is the occasion to be slighted which this proposition offers of declaring our protest against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations by the interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so flagitiously begun by Bonaparte, and now continued by the equally lawless Alliance calling itself Holy.
But we have first to ask ourselves a question. Do we wish to acquire to our own confederacy any one or more of the Spanish provinces? I candidly confess that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States. The control which, with Florida Point, this island would give us over the Gulf of Mexico, and the countries and isthmus bordering on it, as well as all those whose waters flow into it, would fill up the measure of our political well-being. Yet, as I am sensible that this can never be obtained, even with her own consent, but by war, and its independence, which is our second interest (and especially its independence of England), can be secured without it, I have no hesitation in abandoning my first wish to future chances, and accepting its independence, with peace and the friendship of England, rather than its association, at the expense of war and her enmity.
I could honestly, therefore, join in the declaration proposed, that we aim not at the acquisition of any of those possessions, that we will not stand in the way of any amicable arrangement between them and the mother country; but that we will oppose, with all our means, the forcible interposition of any other power, as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other form or pretext, and most especially their transfer to any power by conquest, cession or acquisition in any other way. I should think it, therefore, advisable, that the Executive should encourage the British Government to a continuance in the dispositions expressed in these letters by an assurance of his concurrence with them as far as his authority goes; and that as it may lead to war, the declaration of which requires an act of Congress, the case shall be laid before them for consideration at their first meeting, and under the reasonable aspect in which it is seen by himself.
I have been so long weaned from political subjects, and have so long ceased to take any interest in them, that I am sensible I am not qualified to offer opinions on them worthy of any attention; but the question now proposed involves consequences so lasting, and effects so decisive of our future destinies, as to rekindle all the interest I have heretofore felt on such occasions, and to induce me to the hazard of opinions which will prove only my wish to contribute still my mite toward anything which may be useful to our country. And, praying you to accept it at only what it is worth, I add the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect."
99 Moore, International Law Digest, vol. vĩ, pp. 394–395.
Pursuant to the request made by President Monroe, Mr. Jefferson transmitted to Mr. Madison under date of October 24, 1823, President Monroe's letter to Mr. Jefferson of October 17 with its enclosures. Mr. Madison transmitted to President Monroe his observations under date of October 30, which observations read as follows:
I have just received from Mr. Jefferson your letter to him, with the correspondence between Mr. Canning and Mr. Rush, sent for his and my perusal, and our opinions on the subject of it.
From the disclosures of Mr. Canning it appears, as was otherwise to be inferred, that the success of France against Spain would be followed by an attempt of the holy allies to reduce the revolutionized colonies of the latter to their former dependence.
The professions we have made to these neighbours, our sympathies with their liberties and independence, the deep interest we have in the most friendly relations with them, and the consequences threatened by a command of their resources by the great powers, confederated against the rights and reforms of which we have given so conspicuous and persuasive an example, all unite in calling for our efforts to defeat the meditated crusade. It is particularly fortunate that the policy of Great Britain, though guided by calculations different from ours, has presented a co-operation for an object the same with ours. With that co-operation we have nothing to fear from the rest of Europe, and with it the best assurance of success to our laudable views. There ought not, therefore, to be any backwardness, I think, in meeting her in the way she has proposed, keeping in view, of course, the spirit and forms of the Constitution in every step taken in the road to war, which must be the last step if those short of war should be without avail.
It can not be doubted that Mr. Canning's proposal, though made with the air of consultation, as well as concert, was founded on a predetermination to take the course marked out, whatever might be the reception given here to his invitation. But this consideration ought not to divert us from what is just and proper in itself. Our co-operation is due to ourselves and to the world; and whilst it must ensure success in the event of an appeal to force, it doubles the chance of success without that appeal. It is not improbable that Great Britain would like best to have the merit of being the sole champion of her new friends, notwithstanding the greater difficulty to be encountered, but for the dilemma in which she would be placed. She must, in that case, either leave us, as neutrals, to extend our commerce and navigation at the expense of hers, or make us enemies, by renewing her paper blockades and other arbitrary proceedings on the ocean. It may be hoped that such a dilemma will not be without a permanent tendency to check her proneness to unnecessary
Why the British Cabinet should have scrupled to arrest the calamity it now apprehends, by applying to the threats of France against Spain the small effort which it scruples not to employ in behalf of Spanish America, is best known to itself. It is difficult to find any other explanation than that interest in the one case has more weight in its casuistry than principle had in the other.
Will it not be honorable to our country, and possibly not altogether in vain, to invite the British Government to extend the "avowed disapprobation" of the project against the Spanish colonies to the enterprise of France against Spain herself, and even to join in some declaratory act in behalf of the Greeks? On the supposition that no form could be given to the act clearing it of a pledge to follow it up by war, we ought to compare the good to be done with the little injury to be apprehended to the United States, shielded as their interests would