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CHAPTER III
The Secretary of State of Venezuela, soon after this refusal of Great Britain to submit the boundary dispute to arbitration, in a despatch dated the second day of April, 1884, still urged that method of settlement, citing precedents and presenting arguments in its favor; and in conclusion he asked the minister of the English Government at Caracas “to have the goodness to think out and suggest any acceptable course for attaining a solution of the difficulty.” This was followed, a few days afterward, by another communication from the Venezuelan Secretary of State, repeating his urgent request for arbitration. From this communication it may not be amiss to make the following quotation:

    Venezuela and Great Britain possess the same rights in the question under discussion. If the Republic should yield up any part of her pretensions, she would recognize the superior right of Great Britain, would violate the above-quoted article of the Constitution, and draw down the censure of her 213 fellow-citizens. But when both nations, putting aside their independence of action in deference to peace and good friendship, create by mutual consent a Tribunal which may decide in the controversy, the same is able to pass sentence that one of the two parties or both of them have been mistaken in their opinions concerning the extent of their territory. Thus the case would not be in opposition to the Constitution of the Republic, there being no alienation of that which shall have been determined not to be her property.

On the tenth day of June, 1884, arbitration was again refused in a curt note from Lord Granville, declaring that “Her Majesty’s Government adhere to their objection to arbitration as a mode of dealing with this question.”

About this time complaints and protests of the most vigorous character, based upon alleged breaches of the agreement of 1850 concerning the non-occupation of the disputed territory broke out on both sides of the controversy, and accusations of aggression and occupation were constantly made. I shall not attempt to follow them, as in detail they are not among the incidents which I consider especially relevant to the presentation of my theme.

On the thirteenth day of December, 1884, Venezuela, in reply to a proposition of the British Government that the boundary question and 214 certain other differences should be settled simultaneously, suggested, in view of the unwillingness of Great Britain to submit the boundary dispute to arbitration, that it should be presented for decision to a court of law, the members of which should be chosen by the parties respectively.

The British Government promptly declined this proposition, and stated that they were not prepared to depart from the arrangement made in 1877 to decide the question by adopting a conventional boundary fixed by mutual accord between the two governments. This was in the face of the efforts which had been made along that line and found utterly fruitless.

Immediately following the last-mentioned proposition by Venezuela for the presentation of the difficulty to a court of law mutually chosen, negotiations were entered upon for the conclusion of a treaty between Great Britain and Venezuela, which should quiet a difference pending between the two countries relating to differential duties and which should also dispose of other unsettled questions. In a draft of such a treaty submitted by Venezuela there was inserted an article providing for arbitration in case of all differences which could not 215 be adjusted by friendly negotiation. To this article Great Britain suggested an amendment, making such arbitration applicable only to matters arising out of the interpretation or execution of the treaty itself, and especially excluding those emanating from any other source; but on further representation by Venezuela, Lord Granville, in behalf of the Government of Great Britain, expressly agreed with Venezuela that the treaty article relating to arbitration should be unrestricted in its operation. This diplomatic agreement was in explicit terms, her Majesty’s Government agreeing “that the undertaking to refer differences to arbitration shall include all differences which may arise between the High Contracting Parties, and not those only which arise on the interpretation of the Treaty.”

This occurred on the fifteenth day of May, 1885. Whatever Lord Granville may have intended by the language used, the Government of Venezuela certainly understood his agreement to include the pending boundary dispute as among the questions that should be submitted to arbitration; and all other matters which the treaty should embrace seemed so easy of adjustment that its early completion, embodying a stipulation for the final arbitration of the 216 boundary controversy, was confidently and gladly anticipated by the republic.

The high hopes and joyful anticipations of Venezuela born of this apparently favorable situation were, however, but short-lived.

On the twenty-seventh day of July, 1885, Lord Salisbury, who in the meantime had succeeded the Earl of Granville in Great Britain’s Foreign Office, in a note to Venezuela’s envoy, declared: “Her Majesty’s Government are unable to concur in the assent given by their predecessors in office to the general arbitration article proposed by Venezuela, and they are unable to agree to the inclusion in it of matters other than those arising out of the interpretation or alleged violation of this particular treaty.”

No assertion of the irrevocability of the agreement which Venezuela had made with his predecessor, and no plea or argument of any kind, availed to save the enlarged terms of this arbitration clause from Lord Salisbury’s destructive insistence.

On the twentieth day of June, 1886, Lord Rosebery suggested for Great Britain, and as a solution of the difficulty, that the territory within two certain lines which had been already proposed as boundaries should be equally divided between the contestants, either by arbitration 217 or the determination of a mixed commission.

This was declined by Venezuela on the twenty-ninth day of July, 1886, upon the same grounds that led to the declination of prior proposals that apparently involved an absolute cession of a part of her territory; and she still insisted upon an arbitration embracing the entire disputed territory as the only feasible method of adjustment.

This declination on the part of Venezuela of Lord Rosebery’s proposition terminated the second attempt in point of time, to settle this vexed question. In the meantime the aggressive conduct which for some time the officials of both countries had exhibited in and near the contested region had grown in distinctness and significance, until Great Britain had openly and with notorious assertion of ownership taken possession of a valuable part of the territory in dispute. On the 26th of October, 1886, an official document was published in the London “Gazette” giving notice that no grants of land made by the Government of Venezuela in the territory claimed by Great Britain would be admitted or recognized by her Majesty; and this more significant statement was added: “A map showing the boundary between British 218 Guiana and Venezuela claimed by Her Majesty’s Government can be seen in the library of the Colonial Office, Downing Street, or at the Office of the Government Secretary, Georgetown, British Guiana.” The boundary here spoken of, as shown on the map to which attention is directed, follows the Schomburgk line. Protests and demands in abundance on the part of Venezuela followed, which were utterly disregarded, until, on the thirty-first day of January, 1887, the Venezuelan Secretary of State distinctly demanded of Great Britain the evacuation of the disputed territory which she was occupying in violation of prior agreement and the rights of the republic, and gave formal notice that unless such evacuation should be completed, and accompanied by acceptance of arbitration as a means of deciding the pending frontier dispute, by the twentieth day of February, 1887, diplomatic relations between the two countries would on that day cease.

These demands were absolutely unheeded; and thereupon, when the twentieth day of February arrived, Venezuela exhibited a long list of specific charges of aggression and wrongdoing against Great Britain, and made the following statement and final protest: 219

    In consequence, Venezuela, not deeming it fitting to continue friendly relations with a state which thus injures her, suspends them from to-day.

    And she protests before the Government of Her Britannic Majesty, before all civilized nations, before the whole world, against the acts of spoliation which the Government of Great Britain has committed to her detriment, and which she will never on any consideration recognize as capable of altering in the slightest degree the rights which she has acquired from Spain, and respecting which she will be always ready to submit to a third power, as the only way to a solution compatible with her constitutional principles.

Notwithstanding all this, three years afterward, and on the tenth day of January, 1890, an agent of Venezuela, appointed for that purpose, addressed a note to Lord Salisbury, still in charge of Great Britain’s foreign relations, expressing the desire of Venezuela to renew diplomatic relations with Great Britain, and requesting an interview ............
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