27 JANUARY 1900, Page 21


SOME eighteen months ago we ventured to draw the attention of the British public to the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and to the absurdity of keeping up that Treaty in face of America's desire to see it abrogated. We pointed out that not only did it do us no good to keep the Treaty alive, but that it positively did us harm, because if the Treaty were maintained the Nicaragua Canal could not be made, and that it was very much to our interests, political and naval as well as commercial, that the canal should be made. Our reason for dealing with a question which, we admit, was at that time in no sense a matter of prac- tical politics, was that if it ever did become a question of practical politics it would be a disagreeable one, and that it was a good thing, especially when one could further considerable national interests thereby, to deal with diplomatic points before they entered the disagree- able stage. We pointed out that it would be said in answer to our plea :—" The Americans have never officially asked us to abrogate the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. It will be time, and the proper time, to consider the matter when they do.' " We went on to challenge this notion, and to insist that, in truth, that would not be the proper time, for the Americans, being our children, and inheriting to the full our offensive and disagreeable ways in diplomacy, would be quite certain, when they did ask for the abro- gation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, to do it in what would seem to us a thoroughly offensive and dis- agreeable way. " Our statesmen," we added, " ought to consider the matter coolly and in isolation, and if they come, as we believe they must, to the conclu- sions we have, they ought themselves to propose to the Americans the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and the substitution for it of another treaty by which England and America shall mutually bind themselves to allow no Power except the United States of America to make or control any canal across the Isthmus, and to declare that if and when the United States shall make such canal, it shall be open on equal terms to the ships of all nations at peace with the United States."

Well, it seems as if what we thought likely eighteen months ago were going to happen, and as if great pressure were going to be put upon the Administration in Washing- ton to raise the problem of the abrogation of the Clayton- Bulwer Treaty in an offensive form. A very considerable agitation is arising in America over the Treaty, and the Senate is moving. It looks, indeed, as if three classes of people—i.e., those who genuinely want to see America get to work on a Nicaragua Canal, those who want to make political capital out of an attack upon the alleged selfish- ness and unfriendliness of England, and those who are anxious for ordinary party reasons to worry and, if possible, put Mr. McKinley's Administration in the wrong—were going to combine and make as much "to do" as possible in the Senate over the Treaty which stops the junction of the two oceans. Now, considering the great constitutional power and influence of the Senate in foreign affairs, and the determination of even the most reasonable Senators to assert themselves in international matters, it is very possible that the Administration will be forced into a sudden and apparently unfriendly demand for the abrogation of the Treaty. That being so, it seems to us even more necessary than it was eighteen months ago to take up the question of the Treaty, and to deal with it on broad and wise lines. There is still time to act before the Senate has committed itself to some " high-falutin'" rhetorical Resolution which will very naturally put up the backs of people here and give an opportunity for those who have never perhaps heard of the Treaty before, and have no notion of its real mean- ing, to declare that we are being squeezed unfairly and that we must not yield to pressure. Now, personally, we have the greatest respect for those who, at whatever the risks, refuse to yield to unfriendly pressure, and who, though they will yield a thing of their own free will, will not yield it to threats. But the • more strongly men feel this, and we believe most Englishmen feel it very strongly, the more essential is it that we should not be put into the ridiculous position of being unwilling to yield to pressure when the pressure is being exerted in regard to something which it is our own interests to do. We do not want, in fact, to quarrel with America over not doing something which is greatly to the advantage of the British Empire.

Before we go any further, let us say why we think it would be to our interests to have the Clayton- Bulwer Treaty abrogated. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty is an instrument by which Great Britain and America agree that neither Power shall, by itself, make or exercise an exclusive controlling influence over any canal to be made across the Isthmus. The Treaty is, in fact, a self- denying ordinance. A private company was expected to make the canal, but neither England nor American was to obtain exclusive control either directly or indirectly. Tbat sounds excellent, and seems to contemplate friendly joint-action. We find, in fact, Lord Palmerston in 1850 talking quite enthusiastically of " the union of two Great Powers for the accomplishment of an object of such general utility," and Mr. Lawrence, the American Minister, declaring the canal would " do more to perpetuate peace between Great Britain and the United States, and in fact the whole world, than any work yet achieved," and rejoicing over " the fitness in our union " for so noble a purpose. In spite, however, of these good intentions, the Treaty has acted as a veto on the making of the canal. No commercial company can or will make the Nicaragua Canal unless it secures.the help of some rich and powerful Government,—unless, in fact, it is made or partly made by the United States or some other Great Power. But America cannot reasonably be expected to let Germany or France make the canal, and England certainly would not make it, jointly or severally, even if she were assured that the United States would not, object. Therefore the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty in effect prohibits the making of the Nicaragua Canal, or the com- pletion of the Panama Canal, by the only possible means, —a money grant on the part of Congress. If, then, we refuse to give up our rights under the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, we prevent the making of an inter-oceanic canal. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty blocks the way. Of course, if it could be shown that the making of the canal and the joining of the oceans would be a grave injury to the British Empire, then we should say by all means let it block the way, and let us do all in our power to maintain that block. But if, as we believe, the canal, while greatly strengthening the position of America, will be a source of actual good, and of good on no incon- siderable scale, to the British Empire, then surely, instead of throwing obstacles in the way of its making, we ought to do all in our power to facilitate its construction. If we had the space to enter into details, we could easily show, British possession by British possession, how the Empire would benefit by the junction of the Pacific and the Atlantic. We will, however, only put one general argument which includes all others. The nerves and sinews that bind the British Empire together are the steamboat routes that are drawn in spider lines across all seas. The more these increase, the more united and the stronger is the Empire. But that which increases them is the facility of ocean transit. Hence it is always to the interests of our Empire to increase the places where a big ship will float and the channels through which she can pass. Therefore the canal must benefit our Empire. But if the canal is to be made, and cannot be in our own hands or under our control, like the Suez Canal, it is of immense importance that it should be in the hands of a strong and friendly neutral Power. But what Power answers that description anything like so well as the United States ? If we were likely to quarrel with America, if she were the enemy, then no doubt the canal might in her hands prove a source of injury while we were at war with her. But, God be thanked, there is less fear of our being at war with America than with any other Power in the world. We want nothing that belongs to America, nor do we claim to interfere with what she. considers within her special "sphere of influence." Our virtual acceptance of the Monroe doctrine when we agreed to the Venezuelan arbitration has removed the risk of serious quarrel in the future. Indeed, this acceptance has done more than take away the only dangerous source of enmity. It, and the acquisition by America of a Far Eastern and Asian Empire in the Philippines, have brought us together, and shown us that we have a community of interests as well as of blood. The tie of blood is far the stronger, the essential tie, but the other exists. But we need not labour the point. It will, we think, be admitted by all who take the trouble to look into the matter that the British Empire will benefit greatly by the making of the canal, and that being so, the sooner we come to a frank and generous and sensible understanding with America the better.

Before we leave the question of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty we desire to deal with one other point. It has been stated that one of the reasons against abrogating the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty are the objections raised by Canada. Canada, it is alleged, objects to our meeting America's demand till America has met hers. It is needless for us to say tbat we desire to see Canada treated with all possible consideration in this matter, and especially at this moment when Canada's sacrifices to the Empire have been so notable and so entirely self-sacrificing. Nor need we say that if it were a question of whether we ought "to consider the interests of Canada or of America, we should say without a moment's hesitation that Canada's interests must prevail. Canada is part of the Empire, and her interests must always have the first place. But it is not a question here merely of the interests of Canada and those of America, but of Canada and the British Empire. If, as we hold, it is to the interest of the British Empire that the canal should be made, then Canada will not, we believe, desire to block the way. We are all for support- ing Canada strongly in regard to a just and equitable settlement of the Alaskan boundary, but she must not, and we believe will not, ask that the interests of New Zealand, Australia, India, and the Cape, and, indeed, of the whole Empire, shall be ignored in the present case.