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“I believe Great Britain has never defined the character of her claim to possess what is called the colony of the Bay Islands.' It does not appear to be one of her organized colonies. She has not, in explicit language, claimed sovereignty over it, though her acts have indicated such a purpose.
Whatever may have been her rights or pretension to rights over this colony, they were all given up, according to the view here taken of the subject, by the Clayton and Bulwer treaty.
“It is presumed that the only part of that colony to which England will be disposed to attach much value, or have any inducement to retain, is the island of Ruatan. From an intimation made to me it may be that she will take the position that this island does not belong to any of the Central American States, but is to be regarded in the same condition as one of the West India Islands. By reference to the treaties between Great Britain and Spain, you will find this island clearly recognized as a Spanish possession, and a part of the old viceroyalty of Guatemala. Mr. Marcy, Sec. of State, to Mr. Buchanan, min. to England, Sept. 12, 1853,
H. Ex. Doc. 1, 34 Cong. 1 sess. 49, 50. “The island of Ruatan, belonging to the State of Honduras, and within sight of its shores, was captured, in 1841, by Colonel McDonald, then Her Britannic Majesty's Superintendent at Belize, and the flag of Honduras was hauled down, and that of Great Britain was hoisted in its place. This small State, incapable of making any effectual resistance, was compelled to submit, and the island has ever since been under British control. What makes this event more remarkable is, that it is believed a similar act of violence had been committed on Ruatan by the Superintendent of Belize in 1835; but on complaint by the Federal Government of the Central American States then still in existence, the act was formally disavowed by the British Government, and the island was restored to the authorities of the Republic.
“No question can exist but that Ruatan was one of the “islands adjacent' to the American continent which had been restored by Great Britain to Spain under the treaties of 1783 and 1786. Indeed, the most approved British gazetteers and geographers, up till the present date, have borne testimony to this fact, apparently without information from that hitherto but little known portion of the world, that the island had again been seized by Her Majesty's Superintendent at Belize, and was now a possession claimed by Great Britain."
Statement of Mr. Buchanan, min. to England, to the Earl of Clarendon,
Jan. 6, 1854, 46 Br. & For. State Papers, 244, 251; H. Ex. Doc. 1, 34 Cong.
1 sess. 55, 57, 61. In a statement, dated May 2, 1854, in reply to Mr. Buchanan's statement,
Lord Clarendon said that the only question that could be debatable with regard to the Bay Islands was, whether they were dependencies of Belize or of some Central American state. It was true, he said, that the Republic of Central America declared that it had had a flag flying
on the Island of Ruatan from 1821 to 1839, but all that was positively
Pap. 268; H. Ex. Doc. 1, 34 Cong. 1 sess. 90.)
Clarendon, see 46 Brit. & For. State Pap. 272; H. Ex. Doc. 1, 34 Cong.
1 sess. 93. For an additional article signed at London, Aug. 27, 1856, to the treaty of
amity and commerce between Great Britain and Honduras, see Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington,
1885), 252. “Whilst it is greatly to the interest, as I am convinced it is the sincere desire, of the Governments and people of the two countries to be on terms of intimate friendship with each other, it has been our misfortune almost always to have had some irritating, if not dangerous, outstanding question with Great Britain.
“Since the origin of the Government we have been employed in negotiating treaties with that power, and afterwards in discussing their true intent and meaning. In this respect the convention of April 19, 1850, commonly called the Clayton and Bulwer treaty, has been the most unfortunate of all, because the two Governments place directly opposite and contradictory constructions upon its first and most important article. Whilst in the United States we believed that this treaty would place both powers upon an exact equality by the stipulation that neither will ever 'occupy, or fortify, or colonize, or assume, or exercise any dominion' over any part of Central America, it is contended by the British Government that the true construction of this language has left them in the rightful possession of all that portion of Central America which was in their occupancy at the date of the treaty; in fact, that the treaty is a virtual recognition on the part of the United States of the right of Great Britain, either as owner or protector, to the whole extensive coast of Central America, sweeping round from the Rio Ilondo to the port and harbor of San Juan de Nicaragua, together with the adjacent Bay Islands, except the comparatively small portion of this between the Sarstoon and Cape Honduras. According to their construction, the treaty does no more than simply prohibit them from extending their possessions in Central America beyond the present limits. It is not too much to assert that if in the United States the treaty had been considered susceptible of such a construction it never would have been negotiated under the authority of the President, nor would it have received the approbation of the Senate. The universal convictiun in the United States was that when our Government consented to violate its traditional and time-honored policy and to stipulate with a foreign government never to occupy or acquire territory in the Central American portion of our own continent, the consideration for this sacrifice was that Great Britain should, in this respect at least, be placed in the same position with ourselves. Whilst we have no right to doubt the sincerity of the British Government in their construction of the treaty, it is at the same time my deliberate conviction that this construction is in opposition both to its letter and its spirit.
“Under the late Administration negotiations were instituted between the two Governments for the purpose, if possible, of removing these difficulties, and a treaty having this laudable object in view was signed at London on the 17th October, 1856, and was submitted by the President to the Senate on the following 10th of December. Whether this treaty, eitherin its original or amended form, would have accomplished the object intended without giving birth to new and embarrassing complications between the two Governments, may perhaps be well questioned. Certain it is, however, it was rendered much less objectionable by the different amendments made to it by the Senate.
The treaty as amended was ratified by me on the 12th March, 1857, and was transmitted to London for ratification by the British Government. That Government expressed its willingness to concur in all the amendments made by the Senate with the single exception of the clause relating to Ruatan and the other islands in the Bay of Honduras. The article in the original treaty as submitted to the Senate, after reciting that these islands and their inhabitants having been, by a convention bearing date the 27th day of August, 1856, between Her Britannic Majesty and the Republic of Honduras, constituted and declared a free territory under the sovereignty of the said Republic of Honduras,' stipulated that 'the two contracting parties do hereby mutually engage to recognize and respect in all future time the independence and rights of the said free territory as a part of the Republic of Honduras.'
“Upon an examination of this convention between Great Britain and Honduras of the 27th August, 1856, it was found that whilst declaring the Bay Islands to be a free territory under the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras' it deprived that Republic of rights without which its sovereignty over them could scarcely be said to exist. It divided them from the remainder of Honduras and gave to their inhabitants a separate government of their own, with legislative, executive, and judicial officers, elected by themselves. It deprived the Government of Honduras of the taxing power in every form and exempted the people of the islands from the performance of military duty except for their own exclusive defense. It also prohibited that Republic from erecting fortifications upon them for their protection, thus leaving them open to invasion from any quarter; and, finally, it provided that slavery shall not at any time hereafter be permitted to exist therein.'
“Had Honduras ratified this convention, she would have ratified the establishment of a state substantially independent within her own limits, and a state at all times subject to British influence and control. Moreover, had the United States ratified the treaty with Great Britain in its original form, we should have been bound 'to recognize and respect in all future time' these stipulations to the prejudice of Honduras. Being in direct opposition to the spirit and meaning of the Clayton and Bulwer treaty as understood in the United States, the Senate rejected the entire clause, and substituted in its stead a simple recognition of the sovereign right of Honduras to these islands in the following language: The two contracting parties do hereby mutually engage to recognize and respect the islands of Ruatan, Bonaco, Utila, Barbaretta, Helena, and Morat, situate in the Bay of Honduras and off the coast of the Republic of Honduras, as under the sovereignty and as part of the said Republic of Honduras.'
“Great Britain rejected this amendment, assigning as the only reason that the ratifications of the convention of the 27th August, 1856, between her and Honduras had not been 'exchanged, owing to the hesitation of that Government. Had this been done, it is stated that 'Her Majesty's Government would have had little difficulty in agreeing to the modification proposed by the Senate, which then would have had in effect the same signification as the original wording.' Whether this would have been the effect, whether the mere circumstance of the exchange of the ratifications of the British convention with Honduras prior in point of time to the ratification of our treaty with Great Britain would ‘in effect' have had the same signification as the original wording,' and thus have nullified the amendment of the Senate, may well be doubted. It is, perhaps, fortunate that the question has never arisen.
“The British Government, immediately after rejecting the treaty as amended, proposed to enter into a new treaty with the United States, similar in all respects to the treaty which they had just refused to ratify, if the United States would consent to add to the Senate's clear and unqualified recognition of the sovereignty of Honduras over the Bay Islands the following conditional stipulation: Whenever and so soon as the Republic of Honduras shall have concluded and ratified a treaty with Great Britain by which Great Britain shall have ceded and the Republic of Honduras shall have accepted the said islands, subject to the provisions and conditions contained in such treaty.
“This proposition was, of course, rejected. After the Senate had refused to recognize the British convention with Honduras of the 27th August, 1856, with full knowledge of its contents, it was impossible for me, necessarily ignorant of the provisions and conditions' which might be contained in a future convention between the same parties, to sanction them in advance,
“The fact is that when two nations like Great Britain and the United States, mutually desirous, as they are, and I trust ever may be, of maintaining the most friendly relations with each other, have unfortunately concluded a treaty which they understand in senses directly opposite, the wisest course is to abrogate such a treaty by mutual consent and to commence anew. Had this been done promptly, all difficulties in Central America would most probably ere this have been adjusted to the satisfaction of both parties. The time spent in discussing the meaning of the Clayton and Bulwer treaty would have been devoted to this praiseworthy purpose, and the task would have been the more easily accomplished because the interest of the two countries in Central America is identical, being confined to securing safe transits over all the routes across the Isthmus.”
President Buchanan, annual message, Dec. 8, 1857. (Richardson's Mes
sages and Papers, V. 441.) For the text of the convention between Great Britain and Honduras, signed
Aug. 27, 1856, as above stated, see Blue Book, Cor. respecting Cent.
Am. 1856–1860 (presented to Parliament, 1860), 6.
same Blue Book, p. 24.
in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 109.
(3) MOSQUITO PROTECTORATE.
“Under the assumed title of protector of the kingdom of the
Mosquitos—a miserable, degraded, and insignificant Mr. Buchanan's in- tribe of Indians—she doubtless intends to acquire an structions to Mr.
absolute dominion over this vast extent of sea-coast. Hise.
With what little reason she advances this pretension appears from the convention between Great Britain and Spain, signed at London on the 14th day of July, 1786. By its first article, ‘His Britannic Majesty's subjects, and the other colonists who have hitherto enjoyed the protection of England, shall evacuate the country of the Mosquitos, as well as the continent in general and the islands adjacent, without exception, situated beyond the line hereafter described as what ought to be the frontier of the extent of the territory granted by His Catholic Majesty to the English for the uses specified in the third article of the present convention, and in addition to the country already granted to them in virtue of the stipulations agreed upon by the commissioners of the two crowns in 1783.' ”
Mr. Buchanan, Sec. of State, to Mr. Hise, June 3, 1848, 1 Curtis' Buchanan,
622. For the text of the London convention of July 14, 1786, see Correspondence
in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 171,
Great Britain and Spain, signed Sept. 3, 1783.