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“I recommend to Congress the passage of an act authorizing the President, in case of necessity, to employ the land and naval forces of the United States to carry into effect this guaranty of neutrality and protection. I also recommend similar legislation for the security of any other route across the Isthmus in which we may acquire an interest by treaty.”
President Buchanan, annual message, Dec. 8, 1857.
sages and Papers, V. 447.)
In 1864 the minister of foreign affairs of Colombia, in expectation
of a war between Peru and Spain, in which the Opinion of At- latter power might wish to send troops across the Isthtorney-Gener
mus of Panama, addressed a note to the minister of al Bates.
the United States at Bogotá, setting forth the expectation of the Colombian Government that the United States would carry into effect its guarantee of the neutrality of the Isthmus, as stipulated in Article XXXV. of the treaty of 1846. Mr. Seward submitted a copy of this note to the Attorney General of the United States, with a request for his opinion as to whether the article bound the United States forcibly, if need be, if required by Colombia, to interfere to prevent the transportation of troops and munitions of war across the Isthmus for the purpose of carrying on war against Peru. The Attorney General did not directly answer the question, but intimated that it related, at least potentially, to something substantially different in effect from the guarantee of the “perfect neutrality” of the Isthmus.
Mr. Seward, Sec. of State, to Mr. Bates, At.-Gen., Aug. 16, 1864, 6.5 MS.
Dom. Let. 523; Bates, At.-Gen. (Aug. 18, 1864), 11 Op. 67; Mr. Seward,
Colombia, XVI. 108.
guarantee of neutrality would oblige the Governinent of the United
The United States does not think itself bound to give explanations to the Government of Colombia as to the form of proceedings which it might suppose to be proper if occasion should arise for the landing of troops or naval forces in order to guarantee the sovereignty of Colombia. The treaty and the law of nations must regulate the action of both governments should such an emergency unhappily arise.
Mr. Seward, Sec. of State, to Mr. Burton, min. to Colombia, April 30, 1866,
MS. Inst. Colombia, XVI. 168, 189.
“A principal object of New Granada in entering into the treaty is understood to have been to maintain her sovereignty over the Isthmus of Panama against any attack from abroad. That object has been fully accomplished. No such attack has taken place, though this Department has reason to believe that one has upon several occasions been threatened, but has been averted by warning from this Government as to its obligation under the treaty. This Government has every disposition to carry the treaty into full effect.”
Mr. Fish, Sec. of State, to Mr. Perez, Colombian min., May 27, 1871, For.
Rel. 1871, 247, 248.
Our guarantee of neutrality to the Isthmus of Panama furnishes no ground for any action by this Government in restraint of the transportation of munitions of war to belligerents in a war as to which our Government is neutral.
Mr. Evarts, Sec. of State, to Mr. Sherman, Sec. of Treas., Nov. 14, 1879,
130 MS. Dom. Let. 472. A copy of this letter was sent to Mr. Dichman, minister of United States at
Bogota, with the statement that care should be taken to avoid con-
and munitions of war across the Isthmus, during the existence of the conflict between Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, the Government of Colombia laid down certain rules as a guide to Colombia, as a neutral power." By these rules it was declared that the Panama railway should universal commerce as a free way of transit without reference to the origin, species, or destination of goods." The transit of belligerent troops was, however, forbidden. (70 Br. & For. State Papers, 750.)
In 1880 the Colombian minister in the United States brought to the
attention of the Department of State, with a view to Question of
explanations, certain newspaper reports as to the coaling tions.
proceedings of the United States men-of-war Adams
and Kearsarge in examining certain harbors in Colombia, apparently with a view to occupy them as naval stations. The Colombian minister was informed that the subject of the acquisition by the United States of " coaling stations” in the ports of the Isthmus “would be brought to the friendly attention of his Government” whenever the United States “considered such an acquisition useful to its commercial and naval interests.” The minister of the United States at Bogotá was subsequently instructed to intimate to the Colombian Government the desire of the United States to acquire the right to establish coaling stations at certain points; and he was instructed to say that, as “this convenience had been accorded to the United States at various times in the Atlantic and Pacific waters by all friendly powers, upon the mere suggestion by this Government that it was desired,” it was anticipated not only that no obstacle would be interposed, but that the acquiescence of the Colombian Government would be promptly and cordially afforded. “It is not deemed probable that any unwillingness to supply this accommodation will be manifested, but should there be any reluctance or hesitation you will remind the Government of Colombia that the treaty obligation of guarantee which the United States has assumed and the large and valuable traffic of the Panama railroad make the establishment at these points [Shepherd's Harbor on the Atlantic coast, and Golfito on the Pacific coast,] of naval and commercial facilities a matter of more than ordinary importance to both countries."
Mr. Evarts, Sec. of State, to Mr. Dichman, min. to Colombia, April 19,
1880, MS. Inst. Colombia, XVII. 147, enclosing copies of correspondence with the Colombian minister concerning the proceedings of the Adams
and the Kearsarge. See, also, Mr. Evarts, Sec. of State, to Mr. Logan, June 25, 1880, MS. Inst.
Central America, XVIII. 104, referring to the action of the authorities of the State of Panama, ostensibly under orders from Bogotá, in ordering the withdrawal of the Adams from Golfo Dulce, the territory and waters of which were part of the disputed boundary between Costa
Rica and Colombia. See, also, Mr. Evarts, Sec. of State, to Mr. Dichman, min. to Colombia,
July 31, 1880, MS. Inst. Colombia, XVII. 181. For the correspondence between Mr. Evarts and the Colombian minister at
Washington, and especially Mr. Evarts' notes of April 17 and June 5, 1880, in relation to coaling stations, see For. Rel. 1880, 335–341.
The Republics of Colombia and Costa Rica entered into a conven
tion to refer certain differences as to their boundaColombian - Costa
ries to the King of the Belgians, and, in case of his Rican Arbitration.
declination, successively to the King of Spain and the President of the Argentine Republic. When advised of the terms of this convention, which had been concluded without notice to the United States, Mr. Blaine, who was then Secretary of State, referring to the report that the King of the Belgians would decline, and that the matter would then be submitted to the King of Spain, declared that the United States, while it had no dissatisfaction to express at the election of his Catholic Majesty, was of opinion that any question affecting the territorial limits of the State of Panama was of direct practical concern to the United States; that under the guarantee of the treaty of 1846 the United States was entitled to an active interposition in the solution of any such question, should it deem its interests to require such intervention; and that the convention providing for the arbitration should have been the subject of frank communication to and friendly consultation with the United States on the part of the signatory powers. The United States would not, said Mr. Blaine, interfere to prevent the accomplishment of the arbitration, nor would it undertake to express any opinion as to the acceptance by the King of Spain of the invitation which was understood to have been tendered him. The United States, however, deemed it due to itself and respectful to his Catholic Majesty, to inform him in advance that the Government of the United States, where either its rights or interests were concerned, would not hold itself bound by any arbitration, where it had not been consulted on the subject or method and had had no voice in the selection of the arbitrator. This communication was to be made in case the invitation to his Catholic Majesty had actually been presented, but in making it anything in the nature of a protest was to be avoided, and it was to be declared that the communication was induced by the anxiety of the United States to avoid any misunderstanding or seeming disrespect to the decision which his Majesty might reach, should he accept the arbitration.
Mr. Blaine, Sec. of State, to Mr. Fairchild, min. to Spain, June 25, 1881,
For. Rel. 1881, 1057.
31, 1881, For. Rel. 1881, 70, to the same effect. The Belgian foreign office stated that the King would not accept the trust. (For. Rel. 1881,
74, 75.) A copy of the instruction to Mr. Fairchild was given to the Spanish foreign
offce, but the invitation to the King of Spain had not then been
extended. (For. Rel. 1881, 1062, 1063, 1067.) See, further, as to the boundary question, For. Rel. 1880, 310, 325; For. Rel,
1881, 99. 105, 111, 354.
“In the case of the proposed arbitration between Costa Rica and Colombia, the attitude of the United States was determined by two circumstances, the fact that certain American interests lay in the disputed strip of Isthmusian territory, and the existence of our treaty guarantee of the sovereignty of Colombia over the State of Panama. In view of these circumstances, this Government felt bound to intimate its determination not to be bound by any arbitration concerning the territory of Panama, when the rights or interests of the United States are concerned, when we had not been consulted on the subject or method of arbitration or the selection of the arbitrator.
In the present instance the subject-matter of arbitration does not appear to affect these two considerations. This Government is not aware that American citizens have any rights in the disputed territory, nor does it see that the settlement of the question will affect or impair our guarantee of Colombia's sovereignty over the Isthmus. Moreover, the considerations which have led to the selection of the King of Spain as arbitrator seem to have been so far founded in convenience as to entitle them to friendly recognition, particularly as the question to be determined is one of facts as to which the Colonial archives of the Kingdom will furnish conclusive evidence, and is not in any sense one of politics.
“On the other hand, this Government can not but feel that the decision of American questions pertains to America itself, and it would hesitate, even when consulted (sic) by the most friendly motives (such as naturally join it to that of Spain) to set on record an approval of a resort to European arbitration. As presented to Mr. Hamlin by the Colombian Minister, however, the inquiry seems to be not so much whether we will approve and support the proposed arbitration as whether we have any intention of signifying our opposition thereto.
“If the subject should again be brought to the attention of the Legation by the Minister of Colombia, you may say to him that this Government sees no reason to interfere to prevent the arbitration of the Colombian and Venezuelan boundary dispute by the King of Spain, and, in the absence of specific knowledge of the points to be submitted to arbitration, does not undertake to express an opinion thereon or as to whether our interests are or are not involved. We have every confidence in the impartiality of His Majesty in the premises, and as an abstract principle are glad to see any friendly and just settlement of disputes concerning interests so nearly allied to our own."
Mr. Frelinghuysen, Sec. of State, to Mr. Reed, chargé at Madrid, No. 123
(confid.), Jan. 4, 1883, MS. Inst. Spain. XIX. 254.
The question as to the interests of the United States, especially in consequence of the stipulations of Article XXXV. of the treaty of