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whether any fault should be attached to the executive branch of the government, thus far? I submit to senators, that if there be a prospect, however dim and distant, of a war with Great Britain, it is an important and serious question, and one of the best modes for losing the advantages in a negotiation, or for securing our rights or for preventing that war, is to show the British nation at the outset that we are not agreed among ourselves ; that we are
; taking to task the executive department of our government, for want of sufficient promptness in securing our interests. But let
What evidence is there that the executive has failed, or that the Secretary of State has failed, or is about to falter in securing the national rights? Why, our first knowledge of this question comes from a publication of his own, announcing it to the country, and declaring that, in his opinion, the right of the question was on our own side ; and that communication was made before he had time to examine the facts, without the evidence since disclosed, showing that the position assumed by the British government is wrong, and that the position assumed by the fishermen is right. The Secretary of State is already committed. What, then, is wrong? Gentlemen say that he is proceeding to negotiate while there is an armed force collected by the opposite party, to compel us, if we will negotiate, to negotiate under threats or menaces. Sir, it is the business of the Secretary of State, and of the government, always to be ready, in my humble judgment, to negotiate under all circumstances, whether there be threats or no threats-whether there be force or no force; but the manner, and the spirit, and the terms of the negotiation will be varied by the position that the opposing party may occupy.
And there is nothing new in this. We have a treaty that is called the treaty of Washington, which settled conflicting boundary claims between the United States, embracing a portion of the state of Maine, and the province of New Brunswick, and it was consummated, as the negotiation was held, while both parties were standing on the line, ready, if the negotiation failed, to establish their respective pretensions by force.
Sir, we sent a minister to Mexico to negotiate the payment for indemnity for commercial obligations and other claims; but at the same time we marched a force to the Rio Grande, and we afterward dictated the terms of peace to Mexico, with a victori
ous army in her capital. I agree that our position should be made equal, equal in every advantage for negotiation; and if it be true —and there seems to be ground to believe it is——that the British government has resorted to the extremely improper measure of collecting a force in those waters, preliminary to the negotiation, then I subscribe to every word which has been uttered by the Senator from Virginia, and implied in his resolution, that we should be represented there by an equal force. One object of this resolution is to ascertain from the President whether he has sent such a force. Either we believe that he has sent such force or we believe that he has not. If we assume, with the Senator from Connecticut, [Mr. TOUCEY] that he has not, and that he is indisposed to do so, and will not, then it is an insult to the President to ask him if he has sent the force, which we have concluded in our own minds that he has not sent. We should at once proceed to a vote of censure, and not to a resolution of inquiry.
JOHN M. CLAYTON AND THE NICARAGUA TREATY.
JANUARY 10, 1863.
MR. PRESIDENT,—On the 19th of April, 1850, what is called the Nicaragua Canal Convention was signed at Washington by John M. Clayton, then Secretary of State for the United States, and Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer, then a minister here for Great Britain. As approved by the Senate and signed by the negotiators, and transmitted to Great Britain, it contained, among others, the following provisions, viz:
“ Art. I. The Governments of the United States and Great Britain hereby declare that neither the one nor the other will ever obtain or maintain for itself any exclusive control over the said ship canal, agreeing that neither will ever erect or maintain any fortifications commanding the same, or in the vicinity thereof, or occupy, or fortify, or clonize, or assume, or exercise, any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America; nor will either make use of any protection which either affords, or may afford, or any alliance which either bas, or may have, to or with any state or people, for the purpose of erecting or maintaining any such fortifications, or of occupying, fortifying, or colonizing, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America, or of assuming or exercising dominion over the same; nor will the United States or Great Britain take advantage of any intimacy, or use any alliance, co mection, or influence, that either may possess with any state or government through whose territory the said canal may pass, for the purpose of acquiring or holding, directly or indirectly, for the citizens or subjects of the one, any rights or advantages iu regard to
commerce or navigation through the said canal, which shall not be offered on the same terms to the citizens or subjects of the other.
“ Art. VI. The contracting parties in this convention engage to invite every state with which either or both have friendly intercourse, to enter into stipulations with them, similar to those which they have entered into with each other, to the end that all other states may share in the honor and advantage of having contributed to a work of such general interest and importance as the canal herein contemplated. And the contracting parties likewise agree that each shall enter into treaty stipulations with such of the Central American States as they may deem advisable, for the purpose of more effectually carrying out the great design of this convention, namely, that of constructing and main. taining the said canal as a ship communication between the two oceans for the benefit of mankind, on equal terms to all, and of protecting the same.
“ Art. VII. 'The Governments of the United States and Great Britain, having not only desired, in entering into this convention, to accomplish a particular object, but also to establish a general principle, they hereby agree to extend their protection, by treaty stipulations, to any other practicable communications, whether by canal or railway, across the isthmus which connects North and South America, and especially to the inter-oceanic communications, should the same prove to be practicable, whether by canal or railway, which are now proposed to be established, by the way of Tehuantepec or Panama." 9 Stat. (U. S.) at Large, 995.
On the 29th of June, 1850, Sir Henry L. Bulwer gave notice to Mr. Clayton that he was instructed to insist, in ratifying the convention, on an explanatory declaration, that the engagements as to neutral territory did not apply to her Majesty's settlement at Honduras and its dependencies. On the 4th of July, 1850, John M. Clayton replied, that the United States also understood that those engagements did not apply to British Honduras and its dependencies; and with these mutual explanations, the convention was ratified, and the ratifications were exchanged.
The British settlement at Honduras and its dependencies consist of the town of Belize, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, with a tract of almost barren and uninhabited country stretching inward, containing about fifty thousand square miles, and, as is alleged, of certain islands lying near by in that sea, named Ruatan, Bonacca, Utilla, Barbarat, Helena, and Morat, which territory and islands are marked, on all British maps, as colonies of Great Britain.
On the 17th of July, 1852, the British authorities at the Belize issued a proclamation announcing that the Queen had constituted those islands a distinct colony, by the name of the Bay of Islands.
On the 6th of January, 1853, the President of the United States sent to the Senate an answer to a previous call for information, and that answer contained the notes between the late Secretary of State and the late British minister, declaring the construction of the convention which I have mentioned.
The honorable Senator from Michigan thereupon said that paper disclosed a very extraordinary fact, to wit: that while on its face,
and as was understood by the Senate, the convention included British Honduras and its dependencies, it was without the knowledge or consent of the Senate explained by the negotiators at the ratification to exclude them; and that thus, in derogation of the rights of the Senate, the construction of the treaty was changed in a vital point; that in this transaction, the executive department of General Taylor's administration had committed a great error, unprecedented in diplomacy. And he protested that neither the Senate nor himself, in approving, understood the convention as it was thus shown to have been understood by the negotiators in ratifying it, and that if it had been so understood by the Senate, it would not have received a single vote; and in this protest he included the honorable Senator from Alabama, (Mr. KING] who at the time was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations ; and he alleged that that gentleman had told him that he had supposed until that day, that the project of accepting the Queen of England's qualification of the construction of the treaty had been abandoned, and that the convention stood without such qualification on its original provisions.
The honorable Senator from Louisiana (Mr. Downs] said that he thought the whole object of the convention was to get the British out of Central America, and that it was only on assurances given by Mr. Clayton himself that this was the effect of the con vention, that he and others, so far as he knew, had voted for it.
The honorable Senator from Ohio [Mr. CHASE] quoted from a geographical work the following description of Central America, and affirmed that he and the Senate understood that all the region thus described was included in the convention, viz:
“ Central America is the long and comparatively narrow region between latitude 7 deg. and 22 deg. north, and longitude 78 deg. and 94 deg. west, connecting the continents of North and South America, and comprising, besides the Central American Confederation, Yucatan, parts of Mexico and New Granada, Poyais, the Mosquito coast, and British Honduras."
The honorable Senator from California [Mr. WELLER] declared that he was astonished to hear the Senator from Louisiana say that he was surprised at anything, however stupid, that might be done by the late Secretary of State, Mr. Clayton, and that he [Mr. WELLER) had never known Mr. Clayton to have any connection with any public affair in which he did not show himself excessively stupid, to say the least.
Mr. President, I shall endeavor to show that these censures are groundless, and unintentionally unjust.
First. Granting, but only for the sake of argument, that the facts stated are true, I shall show that the transaction is not unprecedented in diplomacy. The ninth article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, as signed by the negotiators, was struck out by the Senate, and another was substituted in its stead. The Congress of Mexico refused to ratify it, because it had thus been changed, as they said, in a vital part. The Secretary of State, Mr. Buchanan, by direction of the President, Mr. Polk, without the consent or knowledge of the Senate, signed and delivered a protocol, declaring that the suppression and substitution were not understood by the United States to diminish what had been stipulated before, and thereupon the treaty was ratified, and the ratifications were exchanged. I do not say here that that transaction was wrong, or that, whether wrong or right, it justified Mr. Clayton. All I do say is, that even if Mr. Clayton's misconduct has been such as is alleged, it is, nevertheless, not unprecedented in diplomacy.
Secondly. I shall attempt to show that the memories of the conplaining senators are at fault, and that neither the whole nor the chief object of the convention was as they now suppose they then understood, to get the British out of Central America. The preamble declares its object to be to “set forth and fix the views and intentions of the two nations with reference to any means of communication by ship canal which may be constructed between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, by way of the river San Juan de Nicaragua, and either or both the lakes of Nicaragua or Managua. This preamble, and the quotations from the convention before made, show that the United States had a very different object from that described by the senators, unless we are to suppose that the United States had really in view a partial, narrow, and selfish object; while they held out to the other contracting party, and to the world, that they had in view a different, broad, comprehensive, and beneficent one; which of course is not to be admitted.
Thirdly. I think the memories of the honorable senators are at fault again, and that they did not, when approving the convention, understand it to include all Central America as they have now described Central America. The region about the isthmus which divides North and South America is but thinly settled by Europeans and their descendants, and therefore, as yet, very imper