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CHAPTER VI
The reply of Great Britain to this communication consisted of two despatches addressed by Lord Salisbury to the British ambassador at Washington for submission to our Government. Though dated the twenty-sixth day of November, 1895, these despatches were not presented to our State Department until a number of days after the assemblage of the Congress in the following month. In one of these communications Lord Salisbury, in dealing with the Monroe Doctrine and the right or propriety of our appeal to it in the pending controversy, declared: “The dangers which were apprehended by President Monroe have no relation to the state of things in which we live at the present day.” He further declared:

    But the circumstances with which President Monroe was dealing and those to which the present American Government is addressing itself have very few features in common. Great Britain is imposing no “system” upon Venezuela and is not concerning herself in any way with the nature of the political institutions under which the Venezuelans may prefer 263 to live. But the British Empire and the Republic of Venezuela are neighbors, and they have differed for some time past, and continue to differ, as to the line by which their dominions are separated. It is a controversy with which the United States have no apparent practical concern.... The disputed frontier of Venezuela has nothing to do with any of the questions dealt with by President Monroe.

His Lordship, in commenting upon our position as developed in Mr. Olney’s despatch, defined it in these terms: “If any independent American state advances a demand for territory of which its neighbor claims to be the owner, and that neighbor is a colony of an European state, the United States have a right to insist that the European state shall submit the demand and its own impugned rights to arbitration.”

I confess I should be greatly disappointed if I believed that the history I have attempted to give of this controversy did not easily and promptly suggest that this definition of our contention fails to take into account some of its most important and controlling features.

Speaking of arbitration as a method of terminating international differences, Lord Salisbury said:

    It has proved itself valuable in many cases, but it is not free from defects which often operate as 264 a serious drawback on its value. It is not always easy to find an arbitrator who is competent and who, at the same time, is wholly free from bias; and the task of insuring compliance with the award when it is made is not exempt from difficulty. It is a mode of settlement of which the value varies much according to the nature of the controversy to which it is applied and the character of the litigants who appeal to it. Whether in any particular case it is a suitable method of procedure is generally a delicate and difficult question. The only parties who are competent to decide that question are the two parties whose rival contentions are in issue. The claim of a third nation which is unaffected by the controversy to impose this particular procedure on either of the two others cannot be reasonably justified and has no foundation in the law of nations.

Immediately following this statement his Lordship again touched upon the Monroe Doctrine for the purpose of specifically disclaiming its acceptance by her Majesty’s Government as a sound and valid principle. He says:

    It must always be mentioned with respect, on account of the distinguished statesman to whom it is due and the great nation who have generally adopted it. But international law is founded on the general consent of nations; and no statesman, however eminent, and no nation, however powerful, are competent to insert into the code of international law a novel principle which was never recognized before, and which has not since been accepted by the Government of any other country. The United 265 States have a right, like any other nation, to interpose in any controversy by which their own interests are affected; and they are the judge whether those interests are touched and in what measure they should be sustained. But their rights are in no way strengthened or extended by the fact that the controversy affects some territory which is called American.

In concluding this despatch Lord Salisbury declared that her Majesty’s Government “fully concur with the view which President Monroe apparently entertained, that any disturbance of the existing territorial distribution in that hemisphere by any fresh acquisitions on the part of any European state would be a highly inexpedient change. But they are not prepared to admit that the recognition of that expediency is clothed with the sanction which belongs to a doctrine of international law. They are not prepared to admit that the interests of the United States are necessarily concerned in any frontier dispute which may arise between any two of the states who possess dominions in the Western Hemisphere; and still less can they accept the doctrine that the United States are entitled to claim that the process of arbitration shall be applied to any demand for the surrender of territory which one of those states may make against another.” 266

The other despatch of Lord Salisbury, which accompanied the one upon which I have commented, was mainly devoted to a statement of facts and evidence on Great Britain’s side in the boundary controversy; and in making such statement his Lordship in general terms designated the territory to which her Majesty’s Government was entitled as being embraced within the lines of the most extreme claim which she had at any time presented. He added:

    A portion of that claim, however, they have always been willing to waive altogether; in regard to another portion they have been and continue to be perfectly ready to submit the question of their title to arbitration. As regards the rest, that which lies within the so-called Schomburgk line, they do not consider that the rights of Great Britain are open to question. Even within that line they have on various occasions offered to Venezuela considerable concessions as a matter of friendship and conciliation and for the purpose of securing an amicable settlement of the dispute. If, as time has gone on, the concessions thus offered have been withdrawn, this has been the necessary consequence of the gradual spread over the country of British settlements, which Her Majesty’s Government cannot in justice to the inhabitants offer to surrender to foreign rule.

In conclusion his Lordship asserts that his Government has

    repeatedly expressed their readiness to submit to arbitration the conflicting claims of Great Britain 267 and Venezuela to large tracts of territory which from their auriferous nature are known to be of almost untold value. But they cannot consent to entertain, or to submit to the arbitration of another power or of foreign jurists however eminent, claims based on the extravagant pretensions of Spanish officials in the last century and involving the transfer of large numbers of British subjects, who have for many years enjoyed the settled rule of a British colony, to a nation of different race and language, whose political system is subject to frequent disturbance, and whose institutions as yet too often afford very inadequate protection to life and property.

These despatches exhibit a refusal to admit such an interest in the controversy on our part as entitled us to insist upon an arbitration for the purpose of having the line between Great Britain and Venezuela established; a denial of such force or meaning to the Monroe Doctrine as made it worthy of the regard of Great Britain in the premises; and a fixed and continued determination on the part of her Majesty’s Government to reject arbitration as to any territory included within the extended Schomburgk line. They further indicate that the existence of gold within the disputed territory had not been overlooked; and they distinctly put forward the colonization and settlement by English subjects in such territory, during more than half a century of dispute, as creating a 268 claim to dominion and sovereignty, if not strong enough to override all question of right and title, at least so clear and indisputable as to be properly considered as above and beyond the contingencies of arbitration.

If we had been obliged to accept Lord Salisbury’s estimate of the Monroe Doctrine, and his ideas of our interest, or rather want of interest, in the settlement of the boundary between Great Britain and Venezuela, his despatches would have certainly been very depressing. It would have been unpleasant for us to know that a doctrine which we had supposed for seventy years to be of great value and importance to us and our national safety was, after all, a mere plaything with which we might amuse ourselves; and that our efforts to enforce it were to be regarded by Great Britain and other European nations as meddlesome interferences with affairs in which we could have no legitimate concern.

The reply of the English Government to Mr. Olney’s despatch, whatever else it accomplished, seemed absolutely to destroy any hope we might have entertained that, in our changed position in the controversy and upon our independent solicitation, arbitration might be conceded to us. Since, therefore, Great Britain 269 was unwilling, on any consideration, to co?perate with Venezuela in setting on foot an investigation of their contested claim, and since prudence and care dictated that any further steps we might take should be proved to be as fully justified as was practicable in the circumstances, there seemed to be no better way open to us than to inaugurate a careful independent investigation of the merits of the controversy, on our own motion, with a view of determining as accurately as possible, for our own guidance, where the divisional line between the two countries should be located.

Mr. Olney’s despatch and Lord Salisbury’s reply were submitted to the Congress on the seventeenth day of December, 1895, accompanied by a message from the President.

In this message the President, after stating Lord Salisbury’s positions touching the Monroe Doctrine, declared:

    Without attempting extended argument in reply to these positions, it may not be amiss to suggest that the doctrine upon which we stand is strong and sound, because its enforcement is important to our peace and safety as a nation, and is essential to the integrity of our free institutions and the tranquil maintenance of our distinctive form of government. It was intended to apply to every stage of our national life, and cannot become obsolete while our 270 Republic endures. If the balance of power is justly a cause for jealous anxiety among the governments of the Old World and a subject for our absolute non-interference, none the less is the observance of the Monroe Doctrine of vital concern to our people and their Government.

Speaking of the claim made by Lord Salisbury that this doctrine had no place in international law, it was said in the message: “The Monroe Doctrine finds its recognition in those principles of international law which are based upon the theory that every nation shall have its rights protected and its just claims enforced.”

Referring to the request contained in Mr. Olney’s despatch that the entire boundary controversy be submitted to arbitration, the following language was used:

    It will be seen from the correspondence herewith submitted that this proposition has been declined by the British Government upon grounds which in the circumstances seem to me to be far from satisfactory. It is deeply disappointing that such an appeal, actuated by the most friendly feelings toward both nations directly concerned, addressed to the sense of justice and to the magnanimity of one of the great powers of the world, and touching its relations to one comparatively weak and small, should have produced no better results.

    The course to be pursued by this Government in view of the present condition does not appear to 271 admit of serious doubt. Having labored faithfully for many years to induce Great Britain to submit their dispute to impartial arbitration, and having been finally apprised of her refusal to do so, nothing remains but to accept the situation, to recognize its plain requirements, and deal with it accordingly. Great Britain’s present proposition has never thus far been regarded as admissible by Venezuela, though any adjustment of the boundary which that country may deem for her advantage and may en............
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