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The United States firms control all the railway-construction contracts and “at present all contracts for public works, all concessions for railways, building of customs houses, quays, etc., have been given to United States contractors." 2
In Panama, of course, the greatest American investment is the Panama Canal. The Government also controls the railroad. In the Bocas del Toro district, American investments are dominant in the coconut, banana and cacao plantations. The same thing is true further south in the banana plantations at Santa Marta, Colombia, and in the British island of Jamaica. In Colombia, the information available to our State Department shows an investment of American capital of about $3,000,000 in 1914.4 In Venezuela, the asphalt deposits are controlled by American capital and important concessions for oil development, rubber exploitation, and transportation services are in the hands of citizens of the United States.
These investments, even when totaled, do not measure the extent of the American financial interest in the Caribbean region for they take no account of the private wealth of American residents and, of necessity, they point out only some of the more striking investments.
In political, commercial and financial interests in the
* Diplomatic and Consular Reports (British), 1912-13 [Cd 6005-133).
• Diplomatic and Consular Reports (British), 1912-18 [Cd 6005-151].
* Letter from Department of State, March 24, 1914.
Caribbean, there is no nation which approaches the position of the United States. The present importance of our connections, the character of the developments, national and international, to be expected in the future among the nations of the New World, and our geographical situation as the only great power near to this region, give assurance that we will continue to occupy here a position of primacy unlikely to be questioned.
RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES WITH THE
BRITISH WEST INDIES
THE LARGER ISLANDS
THE most numerous and widely scattered of all the European colonies in the Caribbean are the possessions of Great Britain. Two outposts on the mainland, one in South and one in Central America, constitute 88.7 per cent. of the superficial area of these holdings, but in historical importance and in present economic and political significance these are outdistanced by the islands which stretch in a great bow over 1,900 miles of sea from Trinidad at the mouth of the Orinoco to the Bahamas off the coast of Florida. In the days of sailing ships these islands were a valuable line of outposts from which British commerce could be protected. They were also before the days of beet sugar a great source of supply for the sugar of Europe. Their present importance is relatively less. The abolition of slavery has, in some, made the problem of the labor supply acute, and capital, with the rise of substitutes for cane sugar, has found them less profitable fields for investment. Until recently, indeed, their future seemed anything but bright.
The total area of the British Caribbean colonies is
111,425 square miles; 1 90,277 square miles in British Guiana, 8,598 in British Honduras, 4,450 in Jamaica and 8,200 in the smaller islands. The largest island, Jamaica, is about four-tenths the size of Haiti.
Comparisons of their trade development with that of their neighbors are deceptive for many reasons, chiefly because of the varying degrees of order in the different communities. Counting in only the islands, though their area is only 12,650 square miles compared to 18,045 square miles in the Dominican Republic, their foreign trade is still five times that of the Republic. On the other hand, they make a less favorable contrast when compared to the better developed regions, especially Porto Rico. The latter, with 1,118,012 people compared to 1,733,900 in the British West Indies, has an area of only 3,436 square miles compared to their total of 12,650. Yet the total foreign trade of Porto Rico is four-fifths that of all the British West Indian islands.
In population, the British West Indies are typical of all the islands, with the exception of Cuba and Porto Rico. They are distinctly not a white man's country. Trinidad, and to a lesser degree, Jamaica, like British Guiana on the mainland, have resorted to the importation of East Indians to supplement the inefficient or insufficient supply of labor furnished by the native blacks. No important influx of other races has occurred. White men do not take residence except as they are employed in supervisory capacities on the plantations or in business. From all present indications these islands are predominantly negro lands and are likely to remain so.
1 Not including Bermuda.
The industrial developments which affect the Caribbean in general have touched the British possessions. Some old industries, like sugar-cane raising, are again increasing in importance, but the chief changes are in the introduction or rapid development of comparatively new industries such as fruit raising in Jamaica and cocoa production in Trinidad. Less change has been brought by the introduction of new capital. There has been no rapid rise of foreign investments such as has made possible the development of the commercial resources of Cuba and Porto Rico in the last fifteen years.
Jamaica is the largest, and was once the richest and most highly prized, of British West Indian possessions. For years the wealthiest of British subjects was a Jamaican. It was formerly not only self-supporting, but, in return for a grant of freedom from imperial interference in law making, agreed to pay annually “an irrevocable revenue” to the Crown amounting to £8,000 Jamaica currency, an arrangement which continued from 1728 to 1839.1
But the days of great prosperity are now history, and the social, economic and political conditions of the island are far from uniformly encouraging. The planter aristocracy has disappeared, the former wide degree of self-government has been cut down, the abolition of
Aspinall, A. E. The British West Indies, Boston, 1912, p. 301.