Images de page
PDF
ePub

The message of the President is as follows:

In answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 30th ultimo, requesting information in regard to the establishment of a new British colony in Central America, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents by which it was accompanied.

MILLARD FILLMORE. WASHINGTON, January 4, 1853.

[ocr errors]

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, January 3, 1853. The Secretary of State, to whom was referred the resolution of the Senate of the 30th ultimo, requesting the President “to communicate to the Senate, as far as may be compatible with the public interest, any information in the Department of State respecting the establishment of a new British colony in Central America, together with the copy of a proclamation, if received at the said Department, issued by the British authorities at the Belize, July 17, 1852, announcing that • Her Most Gracious Majesty our Queen has been pleased to constitute and make the islands of Roatan, Bonacca, Utilla. Barbarat, Helene, and Morat to be a colony to be known and designated as the Colony of the Bay of Islands,' and signed By command of Her Majesty's superintendent, Augustus Fred. Gore, colonial secretary;' and also what measures, if any, have been taken by the Executive to prevent the violation of that article of the treaty of Washington of July 4, 1850, between the United States and Great Britain, which provides that neither party shall “occupy, or fortify, or colonize, or assume, or exercise any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America,'” has the honor to report that no information, official or unofficial, of the character requested by the resolution has been received at this Department. A consul of the United States was appointed for Belize, Honduras, on the 3d of March, 1847, and the minister of the United States at London was instructed by the Department to apply to the British Government for his exequatur. It appears, however, from the letter of the Department to him of the 1st of March, 1850, an extract from which is hereunto annexed, that his commission was revoked. As no successor has since been appointed, there has been no officer of this Government in that quarter from whom the information asked for in the resolution could be expected by the Department. The accompanying note from Mr. Clayton to Sir Henry L. Bulwer of the 4th of July, 1850, which has an important bearing upon the inquiries contained in the resolution, is also laid before you. Respectfully submitted.

EDWARD EVERETT. The PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

In the absence, thus, of all information affecting this important subject at the Department of State, the committee, through such unofficial sources as could be opened to them, have proceeded to inquire into the truth of the alleged establishment by Great Britain of a colony at the place indicated in the Bay of Honduras.

It appears that during the past summer a proclamation in the name of the British Government was published and generally circulated through the British settlements at Honduras Bay and in the British West Indies, of which the following is a copy:

PROCLAMATION.

OFFICE OF THE COLONIAL SECRETARY,

Belize, July 17, 1852. This is to give notice that Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen has been pleased to constitute and make the islands of Roatan, Bonacca, Utilla, Barbarat, Helene, and Morat to be a colony, to be known and designated as “ The Colony of the Bay Islands." By command Her Majesty's superintendent:

AUGUSTUS FREDERICK GORE,

Acting Colonial Secretary. God save the Queen!

99

- This

This proclamation would seem to bear all the marks of a genuine paper, was transferred to the public journals of this country, became immediately a subject of strong remark by the press and in periodical publications of merit and character, and, so far as the committee are informed, the fact as proclaimed has never been contradicted.

Without assuming, then, that it is true and that such a colony has been in fact established by authority of the Government of Britain, the committee have, nevertheless, felt called on to proceed with their inquiry as if it were so.

The islands named in this proclamation form a cluster, differing in size and extent, but contiguous to each other, and lie near the coast of the Republic of Honduras, on the bay of that name. The principal one of this group we find thus spoken of by an accredited writer in a late American review:

About 30 miles to the northward of the port of Truxillo, in the republican State of Honduras, Central America, is an island called Roatan--sometimes Ruatan, and Rattan. It is about 30 miles long and 9 broad, has a fine soil, healthful climate, a plentiful supply of good water, and, furthermore, two excellent harbors, each capable of containing a fleet. “It may be considered,” says Alcedo, “as the key of the Bay of Honduras and the focus of the trade of the neighboring countries. beautiful island,” says Macgregor, "has an excellent harbor, easily defended, and is well adapted to the culture of cotton, coffee, and other tropical products.” And Captain Mitchell, of the British navy, adds that "the local position of this island seems one of importance in a commercial and perhaps in a political point of view. It is the only place where good harbors are found on an extensive and dangerous coast;" and also “that its proximity to Central America and Spanish Honduras seems to point it out as a good depot for English goods and manufactures, where they would find a ready market, even in opposition to any duties placed on them.” “Roatan and Bonacca,” says another English author, Wright, in consequence of their fine harbors, good soil, pure air, and great quantities of animals, fish, and fruits, and commanding ground, are proverbially known in that part of the world as the garden of the West Indies,' the key to Spanish America,' and a new Gi. braltar." From their natural strength they might be made impregnable, being tenable with very small force.”

These islands, in common with numerous others adjacent to the coast, constituted, from their earliest discovery by Spanish navigators, parts of the Spanish dominions on the southern continent of America. It is true that during the wars of the buccaneers in the last century, and in course of the irregularities and aggressions incident to that period, various of them, from time to time, came into the possession of England. But in the definitive treaty of peace between Spain and England, concluded at Versailles September 3, 1783, all claim and pretension of the latter power to any of these islands was definitively renounced. By the terms of that treaty a district of country on the mainland, between the rivers Wallis, or Belize, and the Rio Hondo, was set apart, with liberty for British subjects to reside thereon, to cut and export dyewoods, etc., and reserving to Spain the rights of sovereignty” over such district; and, by the sixth article, it is stipulated on the part of England that “all the English who may be dispersed on any other parts, whether on the Spanish continent or on any of the islands whatsoever dependent on the aforesaid Spanish continent, and for whatever reason it might be, without exception, shall retire within the district which has been above described in the space of eighteen months, to be computed from the exchange of the ratifications; and for this purpose orders shall be issued on the part of His Britannic Majesty," etc.

All the provisions of this treaty relating to Spanish America were subsequently reaffirmed by the convention between the same powers,

S. Doc. 231, pt 8 4

signed at London the 14th July, 1786, save that by the fourth article the English were allowed “to occupy the small island known by the names of Casina, St. George's Key, or Cayo Casina in consideration of the circumstance of that part of the coast opposite to the said island being looked upon as subject to dangerous disorders.” “But,” the treaty proceeds, “this permission is only to be made use of for purposes of real utility;” and it is further agreed that “no fortificatio shall be erected and no troops stationed there by the English.”

This island of Casina, or St. George's Key, lies off the mouth of the Belize River, a short distance from the coast.

Thus careful was the Government of Spain in securing its dominion over these islands as dependencies on its continental possessions; and thus explicit was that of England in renouncing all pretensions of claim.

The committee assume, then, as historically true that the islands in question formed a part of the Spanish dominion in America at the time when the provinces adjacent declared and established their independence.

If any additional proof were wanting of this it would be found in the constitution of the Spanish monarchy, adopted in 1812, in which it is declared that

Guatemala, with the internal provinces of the east and west, and the adjacent islands on both seas, form parts of the Spanish dominions.

The next inquiry which the committee deem pertinent to the subjects referred to them is to determine whether the islands named in this proclamation form a part of Central America within the terms of the treaty concluded at Washington, April 19, 1850, between Great Britain and the United States.

In tracing the history of the Spanish possessions in this part of the American continent, they find that previous to the revolution which severed them from Spain, and for a long time anterior, the territory which has but recently assumed the title of “Central America” constituted a separate provincial government under the name of the “Kingdom or Vice-Royalty of Guatemala.” This vice-royalty embraced the provinces of Guatemala, San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

In the year 1821 the province of Guatemala declared its independence and became a separate State, under the title of the “Republic of Guatemala.” The other provinces of the old kingdom or vice-royalty followed the example and became the separate Republics of Salvador, Ilonduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

In 1824 these five Republics adopted a federal constitution and assumed a place in the family of nations as the United States of Central America; thus for the first time introducing that title as a political designation.

By the fifth article of this constitution it is declared that the territory of the Republic of Central America is the same which formerly composed the old Kingdom of Guatemala, with the exception of the province of Chiapas.

In the recopilacion (compilation of the laws of the Indies, the boundaries of the old Kingdom of Guatemala are thus given:

On the east by Audiencia of Tierra Firma, or the Escudo de Veragua (the western province of New Grenada, on the Isthmus of Panama); on the west by Mexico or New Spain; by the Atlantic on the north, and by the Pacific on the south.

Thus, geographically, the boundaries of what subsequently became the Confederation of Central America are clearly ascertained. They

are those of the old vice-royalty of Guatemala and embrace the five Republics named above, with all the insular dependencies which pertained to them while under the dominion of Spain.

The “Bay Islands,” as they are termed in the proclamation of the superintendent at Belize, lie adjacent to the coast of the Republic of Honduras, from which they are distant about 30 miles, and are claimed by that Republic as part of her territory; nor, as far as the committee are informed, is this questioned by any of the adjoining States. But it appears that the authorities of Her Britannic Majesty at Belize, on the Bay of Honduras, have from time to time asserted claims to the island of Roatan, and perhaps those contiguous, but under what pretense, or with what ulterior views, the committee are left only to conjecture. Certain it is that such claim, whenever asserted, has been strenuously resisted by the Republic of Honduras. Yet, as such pretensions seem always to have emanated from these authorities at the Belize (as does the “proclamation"), the committee have deemed it relevant and of no little interest to ascertain the political character of the British settlements in that quarter.

A perusal of the treaties already referred to between Spain and England, of 1783 and 1786, furnishes a full and authentic history of the true character of these settlements; nor are the committee aware that such character has been altered or affected in any manner since their date.

By the terms of those treaties English subjects were allowed to occupy a tract of country within the Spanish dominions for the purposes specifically mentioned in the treaties.

The recitals in the treaties show that Spain reluctantly yielded to English subjects a privilege they had theretofore lawlessly assumed -of cutting dyewoods in the swamps and on the rivers of Spanish America. But the stipulations show that Spain was nevertheless sedulous and guarded to preserve unquestioned her sovereignty and dominion over the territory conceded to such occupancy; nor does it appear to have been contemplated that even this limited territory should be in the exclusive possession of the English, for by the seventh article of the treaty of 1786 it is provided that the inhabitants shall “occupy themselves simply in cutting and transporting the said wood," etc., "without meditating any more extensive settlements or the formation of any system of government further than such regulations as their Britannic and Catholic Majesties may hereafter judge proper to

Among the latest of these aggressions, it is said that in 1830 the island of Roatan was seized by authority of the British superintendent at Belize; but, on complaint by the Federal Government of Central America, the act was formally disavowed by the British Government and the island restored to the authorities of the Republic. In 1841, however, this island was again violently taken possession of by Colonel McDonald, then Her Majesty's superintendent at Belize, in person, accompanied by a small body of men, in a Government schooner. It was found in charge of a sergeant and a few soldiers belonging to the State of Honduras, who were driven off, the flag of Honduras hauled down and the British flag hoisted in its place. The result is given in the words of the author from whom the foregoing account is derived:

"No sooner had they reembarked than they had the mortification of seeing the union jack replaced by the blue and white stripes of Honduras, for which it had just before been substituted: and, returning once more, they completed the inglorious revolution by taking such precautions and making such threats as they thought necessary,

"Since this act of annexation the island has been under British control, and a considerable number of settlers have been located upon it." (The Gospel in Central America, by Frederick Crowe, published at London, 1850.)

1

establish for maintaining peace and good order amongst their respective subjects.”

To exhibit correctly the actual character and condition of these English settlements, the committee annex the following extracts from the treaties referred to:

[Extracts from article 6 of the "definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain and Spain,"

signed at Versailles September 3, 1783.) The intention of the two high contracting parties being to prevent, as much as possible, all the causes of complaint and misunderstanding heretofore occasioned by the cutting of wood for dyeing, or logwood, and several English settlements having been formed and extended under that pretence upon the Spanish continent, it is expressly agreed that His Britannic Majesty's subjects shall have the right of cutting, loading, and carrying away logwood in the district lying between the rivers Wallis, or Belize, and Rio Hondo, taking the course of the said two rivers for unalterable boundaries, so as that the navigation of them be common to both nations, to wit, by the river Wallis, or Belize, from the sea, ascending as far as opposite to a lake or inlet which runs into the land and forms an isthmus, cr neck, with another similar inlet, which comes from the side of Rio Nuevo or New River, so that the line of separation shall pass straight across the said isthmus and meet another lake formed by the water of the Rio Nuevo or New

River at its commencement. The said line shall continue with the course of Rio Nuevo, descending as far as opposite to a river the source of which is marked in the map between Rio Nuevo and Rio Hondo, and which empties itself into Rio Hondo, which river shall serve as a common boundary as far as its junction with Rio Hondo, and from thence descending by Rio Hondo to the sea, as the whole is marked on the map which the plenipotentiaries of the two Crowns have thought proper to make 1180 of for ascertaining the points agreed upon to the end that a good correspondence may reign between the two nations, and that the English workmen, cutters, and laborers may not trespass from an uncertainty of the boundaries.

Provided, That these stipulations shall not be considered as derogating in any wise from his rights of sovereignty.

[Extracts from the convention between Great Britain and Spain relative to America, signed

London, July 14, 1786.]

ARTICLE I. 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 hereinafter described, as what ought to be the frontier of the extent of 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 commissaries of the two Crowns in 1783.

ARTICLE II. The Catholic King, to prove on his side to the King of Great Britain the sincerity of his sentiments of friendship toward his said Majesty and the British Nation, will grant to the English more extensive limits than those specified in the last treaty of peace; and the said limits of the lands added by the present convention shall, for the future, be understood in the manner following: The English line, beginning from the sea, shall take the center of the river Sibun or Jabon, and continue up to the source of the said river; from thence it shall cross in a straight line the intermediate land till it intersects the river Wallis; and by the centre of the same river the said line shall descend to the point where it will meet the live already settled and marked out by the commissaries of the two Crowns in 1783, which limits, following the continuation of the said line, shall be observed as formerly stipulated by the definitive treaty.

ARTICLE III.

But it is expressly agreed that this stipulation is never to be used as a pretext for establishing in that country any plantation of sugar, coffee, cocoa, or other like articles, or any fabric or manufacture by means of mills or other machines whatsoever (this restriction, however, does not regard the use of saw. mills for outting or otherwise preparing the wood); being indisputably acknowl

« PrécédentContinuer »