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“The President has read with great concern those parts of your
despatches which speak of your intercourse with Mr. Action of Mr.
Castellon, the representative of Nicaragua at London. Clayton.
The Department has taken into serious consideration the question respecting the Mosquito shore, and intends giving Mr. Squier, the newly appointed chargé d'affaires to Guatemala, full instructions upon the subject. Instructions in regard to it will likewise be sent to you, probably by the next steamer. Meanwhile you are authorized to assure Mr. Castellon that the President has determined to accede to the request of the Government of Nicaragua, by interposing his good offices for the purpose of endeavoring to induce the British Government to desist from its pretensions to that territory. You will also advise him to continue firm in asserting the rights of his Government, and not to do any act which might either weaken or alienate those rights."
Mr. Clayton, Sec. of State, to Mr. Bancroft, min. to England, April 30, 1849,
MS. Inst. Great Britain, XV. 385.
“This application has led to an inquiry by the Department into the claim set up by the British Government, nominally in behalf of His Mosquito Majesty, and the conclusion arrived at is that it has no reasonable foundation. Under this conviction, the President can never allow such pretension to stand in the way of any rights or interests which this Government or citizens of the United States now possess, or may hereafter acquire, having relation to the Mosquito shore, and especially to the port and river of San Juan de Nicaragua. He is decided in the opinion that that part of the American continent having been discovered by Spain and occupied by her so far as she deemed compatible with her interests, of right belonged to her; that the alleged independence of the Mosquito Indians, though tolerated by Spain, did not extinguish her right of dominion over the region claimed in their behalf, any more than similar independence of other Indian tribes did or may now impair the sovereignty of other nations, including Great Britain herself, over many tracts of the same continent; that the rights of Spain to that region have been repeatedly acknowledged by Great Britain in solemn public treaties with that power; that all those territorial rights in her former American possessions descended to the states which were formed out of those possessions, and must be regarded as still appertaining to them in every case where they may not have been voluntarily relinquished or canceled by conquest followed by adverse possession.”
Mr. Clayton, Sec. of State, to Mr. Bancroft, min. to England, May 2, 1849,
MS. Inst. Gr. Brit. XV. 386.
“It is understood that New Granada sets up a claim to the Mosquito shore, based upon the transfer of the military jurisdiction there to the authorities at Carthagena and Bogotá, pursuant to the royal order of His Catholic Majesty of the 30th November, 1803, and upon the 7th article of the treaty between Colombia and Central America, by which those Republics engaged to respect their limits based upon the uti possidetis of 1810. Great Britain also claims that coast in behalf of the pretended king of the Mosquitos, and Nicaragua claims it as heir to the late confederation of Central America. With the conflicting claims of New Granada and Nicaragua we have no concern, and, indeed, there is reason to believe that they will be amicably adjusted. We entertain no doubt, however, that the title of Spain to the Mosquito shore was just, and that her rights have descended to her late colonies adjacent thereto. The Department has not hesitated to express this opinion in the instructions to Mr. Squier, the United States chargé d'affaires to Guatemala, and Mr. Bancroft has been instructed to make it known to the British Government also. You may acquaint the minister for foreign affairs of New Granada with our views on this subject, and may assure him that all the moral means in our power will be exerted to resist the adverse pretensions of Great Britain to that region.”
Mr. Clayton, Sec. of State, to Mr. Foote, min. to New Granada, July 19,
1849, MS. Inst. Colombia, XV. 121. For an elaborate discussion of the subject, see Mr. Clayton, Sec. of State,
to Mr. Squier, May 1, 1849, MS. Inst. Am. States, XV. 64.
“I trust that means will speedily be adopted by Great Britain to extinguish the Indian title with the help of the Nicaraguans or the company, within what we consider to be the limits of Nicaragua. We have never acknowledged and never can acknowledge the existence of any claim of sovereignty in the Mosquito king or any other Indian in America. To do so would be to deny the title of the United States to our own territory. Having always regarded an Indian title as a mere right of occupancy, we can never agree that such a title should be treated otherwise than as a thing to be extinguished at the will of the discoverer of the country. Upon the ratification of the treaty, Great Britain will no longer have any interest to deny this principle, which she has recognized in every other case in common with us. ‘Stat nominis umbra,' for she can neither occupy, fortify, or colonize, nor exercise dominion or control, in any part of the Mosquito coast or Central America. To attempt to do either of these things after the exchange of ratifications, would inevitably produce a rupture with the United States. By the terms of the treaty neither party can occupy to protect, nor protect to occupy."
Mr. Clayton, Sec. of State, to Mr. Squier, chargé d'affaires to Cent. Am.,
May 7, 1850, MS. Inst. Am. States, XV. 104.
Abbott Lawrence, American minister in London, sent to Mr. Clayton
notes to the treaties of the United States, says: “It was supposed that the most practicable route for a ship-canal was through the State of Nicaragua, by way of the San Juan River and the lakes through which it passes. The eastern coast of Nicaragua was occupied by a tribe called the Mosquito Indians, and Lord Palmerston officially informed Abbott Lawrence, the American minister at London, on the 13th of November, 1849, that 'a close political connection had existed between the Crown of Great Britain and the State and Territory of Mosquito for a period of about two centuries.' This connection was asserted to have been founded on an alleged submission by the Mosquito King to the governor of Jamaica. The investigations made under Lawrence's directions enabled the United States not only to deny that, by public law, Indians could transfer sovereignty in the manner alleged, but also to show by contemporary evidence that no such transfer had been made. He quoted Sir Hans Sloane's account of the matter: “One King Jeremy came from the Mosquitoes (an Indian people near the provinces of Nicaragna, Honduras, and ('osta Rica); he pretended to be a king there, and came from the others of his country to beg of the Duke of Albemarle, governor of Jamaica, his protection, and that he would send a governor thither with a power to war on the Spaniards and pirates. This he alleged to be due to his country from the Crown of England, who had in the reign of King Charles I submitted itself to him. The Duke of Albemarle did nothing in this matter.' And from another publication, reprinted in Churchill's Voyages, Lawrence was able to give an account of the original alleged submission in the time of Charles I: 'He, the King, says that his father, Oldman, King of the Mosquito men, was carried over to England soon after the conquest of Jamaica, and there received from his brother King a crown and commission, which the present old Jeremy still keeps safely by him, which is but a cocked hat and a ridiculous piece of writing that he should kindly use and release such straggling Englishmen as should choose to come that way, with
plantains, fish, turtle, etc.'” (Treaty vol. 1776-1887, p. 1332.) A long extract from Mr. Lawrence's dispatch is given in Correspondence in
relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (1885), 214. As to the firing on the American steamer Prometheus by the British brig-of
war Erpress, at Greytown, in November 1851, and Lord Granville's disavowal of the act, see message of President Fillmore to the Senate, Dec. 15, 1851, S. Ex. Doc. 6, 32 Cong. 1 sess.; 41 Br. & For. State Papers, 759.
“The Port of San Juan de Nicaragua, or Greytown, being, as you are
aware, the terminus on the Atlantic, of the line of Webster-Crampton transit which has been for some time past in operation arrangement.
between New York and San Francisco, is frequently thronged with passengers between those places. It has, also, received of late, a considerable increase of settlers, many if not most of whom are citizens of the United States. Offences against property and persons must necessarily be of frequent occurrence in that place, and their frequency and enormity are likely to increase in proportion to the absence of authority competent to prevent and punish them. The power in existence at Greytown is claimed to be derived from the Mosquito Indians who have not been, and will not be, acknowledged as an independent nation by this Government. Negotiations are, however, in progress for the removal of all obstacles to the jurisdiction of the Republic of Nicaragua over that port. Meanwhile a temporary recognition of the existing authority of the place, sufficient to countenance any well intended endeavors on its part to preserve the public peace and punish wrong-doers, would not be inconsistent with the policy and honor of the United States. Under these circumstances, the President has directed me to make known to you his desire that instructions be at once given to the commanding officer of the United States Home Squadron, or to the officer in command of any United States vessel of war now at Greytown, in conjunction with her Britannic Majesty's Admiral, or such other officer commanding Her Britannic Majesty's vessels belonging to the squadron under his command, to see that all reasonable municipal and other regulations in force there are respected by the vessels and citizens of the United States resorting thither, and also, should any of those regulations appear to be manifestly unreasonable in their nature and improperly enforced, to give notice thereof, in concert with Her Britannic Majesty's Admiral, or other officer as above, to the acting authorities and procure them to to be modified accordingly. The President likewise desires that, if any tonnage duties or port charges levied on vessels there should be found to be exorbitant in amount, or discriminating in their nature, or when collected notoriously applied to improper purposes, you will instruct one or the other of those officers to protest in accordance (sic) with Her Britannic Majesty's Admiral or other officer against them, and to do all that may b. proper towards having the abuses corrected. In view of the success of high public objects, it is important that these orders should be executed with moderation, temper and firmness, and the President does not doubt that they will be thus carried out. Instructions similar to the above will be addressed by ller Britannic Majesty's Government to the Admiral commanding on the West India station."
Mr. Webster, Sec. of State, to Mr. Graham, Sec. of Navy, March 17, 1852,
40 MS. Dom. Let. 24.
U.S. N., March 13, 1852, 41 Br. & For. State Papers, 796.
Cong. 2 sess.
“The settlement of the question respecting the port of San Juan de Nicaragua and of the controversy between the Republics of Costa Rica and Nicaragua in regard to their boundaries was considered indispensable to the commencement of the ship-canal between the two oceans, which was the subject of the convention between the United States and Great Britain of the 19th of April, 1850. Accordingly, a proposition for the same purposes, addressed to the two Governments in that quarter and to the Mosquito Indians, was agreed to in April last by the Secretary of State and the minister of Her Britannic Majesty. Besides the wish to aid in reconciling the differences of the two Republics, I engaged in the negotiation from a desire to place the great work of a ship-canal between the two oceans under one jurisdiction and to establish the important port of San Juan de Nicaragua under the government of a civilized power. The proposition in question was assented to by Costa Rica and the Mosquito Indians. It has not proved equally acceptable to Nicaragua, but it is to be hoped that the further negotiations on the subject which are in train will be carried on in that spirit of conciliation and compromise which ought always to prevail on such occasions, and that they will lead to a satisfactory result.”
President Fillmore, annual message, Dec. 6, 1852. (Richardson's Messages
and Papers, V. 166.) The proposed basis for the settlement of Central American affairs, above
referred to, was signed at Washington, by Mr. Webster, Secretary of State, and Sir John Crampton, British minister, April 30, 1852. The Mosquito Indians were to be permitted to reserve for themselves a certain portion of territory. All the rest of the territory claimed by them, including Greytown, they were to relinquish to Nicaragua; and they were to have the right definitively to incorporate themselves into Nicaragua. The public authority in Greytown was to be exercised by Nicaragua, but no duty, except tonnage dues necessary for preserving and lighting the port, was to be charged on goods in transit. A definition was made of the rights of boundary and navigation of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It was agreed, in conformity with Art. II. of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, that the distance within which vessels should be exempt from blockade, detention or capture should be 25 miles from either end of the canal. The American Atlantic and Pacific Ship-Canal Company was to have a year to comply with the stipulations of Art. VII. of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. The two governments were also to extend their protection to the Accessory Transit Company. Finally, the American and British diplomatic representatives in Costa Rica and Nicaragua were to be instructed to endeavor to induce those governments to accept the terms of the arrangement. (Correspondence in relation to the Proposed Inter
oceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 102–104.) See, also, Mr. Webster, Sec. of State, to Mr. Lawrence, min. to England,
May 14, 1852, Cor. in relation to the Proposed Interoceanic Canal (Washington, 1885), 13, 242; Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Webster, June 8, 1852, id. 243; Mr. Everett, Sec. of State, to Mr. Kerr, min. to Cent. Am., Dec. 30,
1852, id. 13. See message of President Fillmore to the Senate, Feb. 18, 1853, accompanied
with correspondence with the British minister concerning the interoceanic canal, S. Ex. Doc. 44, 32 Cong. 2 sess.
“The United States cannot recognize as valid any title set up by
the people at San juan derived from the Mosquito Position of Mr. Indians. It concedes to this tribe of Indians only a Marcy.
possessory right-a right to occupy and use for themselves the country in their possession, but not the right of sovereignty or eminent domain over it.”