Classic History Books

The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

European power in American affairs and should not be bound by any self-denying ordinance, and
actually it reversed the principle against the United States. An explanatory note accompanying the treaty

recognized that this provision did not apply to Belize and her dependencies, and Great Britain promptly

denied that it applied to any rights she already possessed in Central America, including the Mosquito

protectorate and certain Bay Islands which were claimed by Great Britain as dependencies of Belize and

by Honduras as a part of her territory.

In vain did Webster, who succeeded Clayton, seek an agreement. His term of office passed, and the
controversy fell into the hands of Lord Palmerston, the jingoistic spirit who began at this time to

dominate British foreign policy, and of James Buchanan, who, known to us as a spineless seeker after

peace where there was no peace, was at this time riding into national leadership on a wave of

expansionist enthusiasm. Buchanan and Palmerston mutually shook the stage thunder of verbal

extravagance, but probably neither intended war. Poker was at this time the national American game, and

bluff was a highly developed art. The American player won a partial victory. In 1856 Great Britain

agreed to withdraw her protectorate over the Mosquitoes, to acknowledge the supremacy of Honduras

over the Bay Islands, and to accept a reasonable interpretation of the Belize boundary. Though this

convention was never ratified, Great Britain carried out its terms, and in 1860 Buchanan announced

himself satisfied.

The dreams of 1850, however, were not satisfied. A railroad was completed across Panama in 1855, but
no canal was constructed until years after the great transcontinental railroads had bound California to the

East by bonds which required no foreign sanction. Yet the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty remained an

entangling alliance, destined to give lovers of peace and amity many more uncomfortable hours.

During the Civil War other causes of irritation arose between the United States and Great Britain. The
proclamation of neutrality, by which the British Government recognized the Confederacy as a

belligerent, seemed to the North an unfriendly act. Early in the war occurred the Trent affair, which

added to the growing resentment.* It was held to be a violation of professed neutrality that Confederate

commerce destroyers were permitted to be built and fitted out in British yards. The subsequent transfer of

hundreds of thousands of tons of American shipping to British registry, owing to the depredations of

these raiders, still further incensed the American people. It was in the midst of these strained relations

that the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States attempted the invasion of Canada.

* See Stephenson, "Abraham Lincoln and the Union," in "The Chronicles of America."

America laid claims against Great Britain, based not merely on the actual destruction of merchantmen by
the Alabama, the Florida, and other Confederate vessels built in British yards, but also on such indirect

losses as insurance, cost of pursuit, and commercial profits. The American Minister, Charles Francis

Adams, had proposed the arbitration of these claims, but the British Ministry, declined to arbitrate

matters involving the honor of the country. Adams's successor, Reverdy Johnson, succeeded in arranging

a convention in 1868 excluding from consideration all claims for indirect damages, but this arrangement

was unfavorably reported from the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Senate. It was then that Charles

Sumner, Chairman of the Committee, gave utterance to his astounding demands upon Great Britain. The

direct claims of the United States, he contended, were no adequate compensation for its losses; the

indirect claims must also be made good, particularly those based on the loss of the American merchant

marine by transfer to the British flag. The direct or "individual" American losses amounted to

$15,000,000. "But this leaves without recognition the vaster damage to commerce driven from the ocean,


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