Message from the President of the United States: In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, certain correspondence in relation to Central America: 32nd Congress, Second Session: Executive Document No. 27 [Senate] [Digital Version]

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United States. Congress (32nd, 2nd session: 1852-1853). Senate and Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874, Message from the President of the United States (June 24, 1853)

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Title: Message from the President of the United States: In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, certain correspondence in relation to Central America: 32nd Congress, Second Session: Executive Document No. 27 [Senate] [Digital Version]
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  • United States. Congress (32nd, 2nd session: 1852-1853). Senate
  • Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874
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Description: Colonial Claims from ministers of Central American countries, protesting British colonial claims to Nicaragua and Honduras. 106 pp.
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Source(s): United States. Congress (32nd, 2nd session: 1852-1853). Senate and Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874, Message from the President of the United States (June 24, 1853)
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Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Government publications
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • United States. President (1850-1853: Fillmore)
  • Presidents--United States--Messages
  • Central America--Boundaries
  • Belize question
  • Belize--History--19th century
  • Guatemala--History--1821-1945
  • Honduras--History--1838-1933
  • Nicaragua--History--1838-1909
  • Costa Rica--History--1821-1948
  • Mosquita (Nicaragua and Honduras)--History
  • Fugitive slaves--Mosquita (Nicaragua and Honduras)
  • Miskito Indians
  • Guatemala--Foreign relations--Great Britain
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--Guatemala
  • United States--Foreign relations--Great Britain
  • Great Britain--Foreign relations--United States
  • United States. Dept. of State
  • Great Britain. Foreign Office
  • Central America (Federal Republic: 1823-1840)--History
  • Canals--Central America--History
  • Canals, Interoceanic
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Central America (general region)
  • Guatemala (nation)
  • Nicaragua (nation)
  • Honduras (nation)
  • Belize (nation)
  • Costa Rica (nation)



32d CONGRESS, 2d Session. [SENATE.] Ex. Doc. No. 27.



In compliance with a resolution of the Senate, certain correspondence in relation
to Central America

JANUARY 24, 1853.—Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations and ordered to be printed.

To the Senate of the United States:

In compliance with the resolution of the Senate of the 10th instant,
requesting certain correspondence relative to Central America, I transmit
a report from the Secretary of State, and the documents by which
it was accompanied.

WASHINGTON, January 21, 1853.


The Secretary of State, to whom has been referred the resolution of
the Senate of the 10th instant, requesting the President "to communicate
to the Senate, if not incompatible with the public interest, the
correspondence between the Hon. Abbott Lawrence and Lord Palmerston,
or the government of the United States, relative to Central
America, and also any other correspondence which relates to the
claims of Great Britain to the Mosquito coast, or to any portion of the
territory of Honduras or Yucatan," has the honor to lay before the
President the papers mentioned in the subjoined list.

Respectfully submitted.


Colonel Galindo to the Secretary of State.



I arrived here yesterday, in the American barque Jones, from
the Bay of Honduras, and have the honor of forwarding you the two
enclosed packets from the chargé d'affaires of the United States in
Central America, and a third from my government, relating to the object
of my visit to this country.

A slight indisposition prevents me leaving here immediately for Washington,
as bearer of the enclosed despatches; but I hope to have the
desired opportunity of paying my respects to you personally, in that
city, in the course of a few days.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
of the Supreme Government of the United States of America.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Central American Confederation
to the Secretary of State of the United States



A short time since, the authorities of the State of Guatemala
granted, for purposes of settlement, sundry lands situated in the neighborhood
of the Bay of Honduras, to a company, whose object was
to form a national establishment upon them. As soon, however, as the
authorities of Belize were informed of this grant, they declared that
the lands in question were within their jurisdiction; were their property;
and they positively refused to give the contractors possession of
a right which now justly belongs to them.

This extravagant pretension is plainly contrary to the convention of
1786, based upon that of 1783, between their Britannic and Catholic
Majesties, which definitively fixed the confines of Belize within which
the inhabitants were to keep themselves; which convention, having
been ratified by the respective courts in 1814, and subsequently in 1826,
by the treaty between Great Britain and the republic of Mexico, it
seems clear, without entering into questions of another description, that
the boundaries should be according to the letter of that convention.

The inhabitants of Belize, who have exceeded the established limits
by more than forty-five leagues, found their pretensions upon the circumstance
of their having occupied the lands in controversy prior to
the independence of Central America. But such a violation of existing
treaties, persisted in despite the earnest and repeated remonstrances
of the Spanish authorities, cannot give those of Belize a lawful right to
consider that as their own which they have, in fact, usurped.


An affair of such magnitude has constrained the government of Central
America to accredit Colonel John Galindo to the British cabinet;
and the Vice President of this republic does not doubt, that through
your honorable conduct, the President of the United States may make
the most pointed intimations to the court of his Majesty upon the subject,
and that he will take a lively interest, to the end that the rights of
a nation, who is a sister and a friend of that of the North, may not be

The mediation of the President will doubtless give greater weight to
the representations which our commissioner may make to the British
government; and this republic would deem such a measure a most
decided proof of friendship, and of a concern for her rights. Suffer
me, upon this occasion, to remind you that it has always been an object
of the policy of the United States that there should be no European
settlements upon the American continent, and that the aggressions and
encroachments at Belize upon the territory of Central America are a
dangerous and an alarming violation of this principle. It belongs to
your great and happy republic to place herself in the vanguard of a
policy so interesting to the new American States, and to uphold with
her name our rights in the presence of England.

Meanwhile, I have the honor to tender to your excellency the most
distinguished sentiments of the consideration with which I am, your
excellency's very devoted and obedient servant,

of the Government of the Republic of North America.

Colonel Galindo to the Secretary of State.


I have just been informed by advices from Central America,
per schooner Ambassador, that Mr. Miller, the delegate despatched in
November last from Belize to London, to solicit that the English settlement
in the bay of Honduras may be declared a colony of that nation,
within the limits arrogated to themselves by the settlers, has been
directed by the British government to, proceed to Madrid in pursuance
of his suit.

This proceeding appears the more extraordinary, as, in the treaty
between Great Britain and Mexico, the former power entirely sets aside
all Spanish interference with respect to its settlement in the bay of
Honduras, and we have now to learn from this new policy that Queen
Isabel II can dispose of the Americas as her patrimonio real, in the
like manner as her ancestors.

I take the liberty of enclosing you a publication on this subject,
written by Mr. Annitia, a member of the national congress for the State
of Guatemala, which develops the general feeling in Central America
on the subject of Belize.


I hope the despatches I had the honor of addressing you on the 22d
ultimo and 1st instant have been duly received.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


Being deficient in a claim and in a capacity to rouse the attention of
my fellow-citizens, I would be silent if I could repress the impulses of
a national sentiment which constrains me to disclose matters which,
in my opinion, are worthy of being known to the people. Let them be
known, and exert such influence as they may upon the honor of the
republic, the integrity of her territory, and the happiness of her inhabitants.
The importance of the object will perhaps excuse me.

In a government of opinion like that of our republic, its cabinet is
seldom conversant with affairs upon which the public has not pronounced
judgment. Let it be found, then, in a manner corresponding
to the integrity of our territory; and the government, as the faithful
agent of the just popular will, will know how to act conformably to
the national interests. I therefore call upon patriots to unfold to the
public what ought to be known, concerning the history of the usurpations
practised to our disadvantage. I will confine myself to one of
them, and will say something relative to our rights to the territory of
Belize, and in regard to the evils which that establishment occasions to
us in various ways.

In the year 1783, the Spanish government, which, until then, exercised
in this country the power which they had acquired by conquest,
agreed that the subjects of his Britannic Majesty might cut dye or
Campeachy wood within the district prescribed for them, between the
rivers Honda and Belize, or Belese, which are in our territory. But
they were informed that "it must be well understood that these stipulations
are not to be considered in any way derogatory to my sovereign
rights, and that, if fortifications should have been previously erected in
the quarter specified, they shall be destroyed, and no new ones shall
be made." The same grant was obtained three years afterwards, but
upon the same conditions, and with this difference only—that the privilege
was extended to the cutting of other woods, and within a wider
district, for the river Jubor was made the boundary on the south side
of the Belize. These limits were fixed by commissioners appointed
for that purpose—a labor that might have been dispensed with, for the
English have now transgressed the boundaries to an almost unlimited
extent, twice as great as both grants together.

Their object (i. e. the grants) shows the time they were to last: if it
was to cut wood only, that was not inexhaustible. From the period
they were obliged to go over the line to get it, they should have
restored the territory or have asked for new grants, if they wished to
avoid the epithet bestowed upon him who appropriates to himself
another's goods without reckoning with the owner.


But the transaction of which they ought to be ashamed, is, by a
strange process, made the ground of a title; for those gentlemen affirm
that they have a right to retain all they occupied up to the year 1821.
If it were true that they could thus establish a legal claim, to what,
with their activity and our apathy, would they not soon pretend? Besides,
by giving the provisional settlement in question the importance
of a colony, and making it, with the provinces that composed the
ancient kingdom of Guatemala, some of its inhabitants advance other
arguments, which, although easy to refute, it is not the object which I
have in view. Upon this head it will be sufficient to remark that the
settlement at Belize is, in relation to the new republics of America,
precisely that of a guest upon an estate divided among its owners,
who having attained their majority, their shares are assigned them, or
they take them of their own accord, in spite the obstinate resistance
of their pseudo guardian. Is it not clear that in this apportionment of
the brothers, the pretended rights of the guest to whom a habitation
had been granted are absolutely null?

Notwithstanding such are the rights by which Belize is held, an
ignorance of their invalidity is affected, and it is desired that they
should continue dependent upon the benevolence of the Spanish government,
as if it were not known that among the titles of that crown,
King of the Indies meant as much as King of Jerusalem.

This disregard of the limits which gives to our republic the established
international right, would have warranted the opening of a negotiation
with the British government before now, for the purpose of
putting an end to so scandalous a usurpation. But it is not yet too late,
and the relations of harmony which fortunately exist between the two
governments; the high intelligence and acknowledged justice of the
Court of St. James, of which we have an unequivocal proof in the
result, favorable to humanity, of the slave question raised by those very
wood-cutters of Belize, and the residence here of a minister of his
Britannic Majesty, inspire the belief that this is an occasion for concluding
a negotiation which may secure us, and obviate such differences
as may offer themselves; for things cannot continue as they have hitherto
been, without disgrace to the honor of Central America.

On the other hand, the damage which has resulted to us from the
settlement aforesaid, is of such a magnitude that it is wonderful that its
cause should have been suffered to exist so long, especially if the
speeches of the patriots upon the subject in the general Congress be
taken into consideration; (see the treasury reports of the years 1830
and 1831.) The result of all this was an additional duty of 5 per cent.
on goods imported by way of Belize. We must undeceive ourselves.
Five, nor even fifty per cent., would indemnify the republic for the
evils originating from that settlement; as well because many of the settlers,
habituated to smuggling, elude the duty, as because among the
evils there are some for which that remedy would be insufficient. How
will the duty prevent the enemies of the republic from being harbored
and succored? which has happened, and may happen again; for when
interests are contrarient, opinions seldom agree. There it was that Domingues
armed himself and planned the rebellion of the north coast,
which ended at Omoa with the infamous proclamation, Long live Spain.


There it is that a considerable number of vessels have sought refuge;
thence the depopulation of Omoa and Truxillo has been protected;
thence issued the force to destroy the colony of Roatan, executed by
the settlers with scandalous audacity.

Such proofs of hostility can no longer be borne. We have seen Belize
the cause of the discredit of our productions and of the increase of the
price of the foreign goods we consume, because of the monopoly which
they have of our commerce. That settlement has been the instrument of
propagating reports in disparagement of us as a nation; sometimes exagerating
and distorting events; at others, inventing such as might suit
their views, in driving the commerce of other countries from our ports;
and, in fine, Belize is the deep drain for our coin and bullion, by means
of clandestine exportations; the abyss that absorbs the substance of the
nation, never to restore it; the real insupportable parasite of the republic.

The government would be unpardonable if it could be ignorant of
these circumstances, and would deserve the most decided public animadversion,
if, knowing them, it had not taken measures to eradicate
the evil. In my opinion, the most efficacious has been the colonization
decreed by the government of the State. A proof of this is the sensation
which intelligence of having determined upon this occasioned at
Belize. On the 16th September last, the authorities there met and declared
the coasts and lands which they had occupied since 1821 to be
within their jurisdiction, and that their metropolitan government should
come to an understanding with Spain relative to their sovereignty.
They also declared that they would obstruct, with their sea and land
force, the disembarkation of the colonists on our coasts, for which purpose
they have organized a greater number. By these avowals, and
by their manner of making them, they have diffused such terror that,
with the exception of Mr. Berret, whose firmness and respectability are
known, nobody any longer dares to speak or write in favor of the rights
of Central America.

It is apparent, then, that pretensions could not be further advanced,
or impudence more plainly shown. The colonists whom the sovereignty
of the republic has recognised upon that territory are English,
and this is the only circumstance that induces the settlers at Belize to
treat them as enemies. What, then, is their object? To continue to
occupy the lands without a title to them, until they overrun the neighboring
people. Their axes are already to be heard in Peten, and they
not only proceed in that direction, but even to the bay of St. Thomas.
They know the freedom of our principles, and if they do not derive from
them all the advantages they have promised themselves, it is because
they have not paid due homage to the republic.

And will such behavior be submitted to? Is there one Central
American who looks with indifference upon this aggression? I doubt
not that, being thus informed, the federal government, whatever may
be its confidence in the means of justification on of his Britannic Majesty,
will publish a comprehensive manifesto of these acts and of the claims
of the republic to the territory in question and will give ample instructions
to the minister that may be sent to England, if Mr. Chatfield
should not have the necessary authority to conclude a negotiation upon
the subject. Want of information only can render our cause doubtful,


and it is important for us to obviate this by imparting all the facilities
for instruction that may be within our reach.

Meanwhile, and in any event, colonies are of prime necessity for us;
they only have the secret of forming nations in a day, and not like the
cities of pasteboard with which Catharine II was surprised in her visit
to her empire. Those that may be established upon the north coast
will shelter us from any fresh incursions against the integrity of the republic.
They will be in accordance with our liberal maxims. The
colonists will say of the Central Americans—"We know them: they
are willing to grant a sacred asylum in their territory to strangers; but
they also wish them to be obedient to the laws, and to labor for the
common good."

I therefore desire that an occupation of our territory should no longer
be permitted, and that this business be arranged like all others of the
same kind between civilized nations. Our right should be established
and respected, that the government may meet in public opinion all
co-operation necessary to carry forward its beneficent plan of colonizing
the north coast, and that those spots, the manner of which now excite
dread, may, within a short time, be confounded with that which
was the site of Eden.

GUATEMALA, November 10, 1834.

Colonel Galindo to the Secretary of State.


My continued indisposition prevents me proceeding so early as
I intended to Washington, and has determined me not to depart hence
for the seat of the national government till I may have the advantage
of a communication from you. Meanwhile I beg leave to make the
following statement of facts, in addition to those laid before you in
Mr. Alvarez's letter of the 30th December, 1834, relative to the position
in which the British, settled at Belize, in the Bay of Honduras,
stand with respect to Central America.

As far back as the seventeenth century, the English frequented the
bays of Campeachy and Honduras as buccaneers and logwood cutters,
but had abandoned the former bay prior to the termination of the North
American war of independence. At that period there were some individuals
of their nation located about the river Mopan, or Belize, on the
west shore of the Bay of Honduras; but their principal establishments
were along the southern coasts of the bay, on the northwest part of the
Mosquito shore. However, they conditioned to abandon the latter, and a
territory for their occupation was laid out, embracing the mouth of the
river Belize, about twenty leagues inland, and the same extent of coast
from between the rivers Hondo and Javon. I refer to the final treaty of
1786. In compliance with it, the limits were surveyed and stones
placed at the prominent points. Spanish commissioners visited the settlement
every year to see these boundaries not exceeded, and the other
conditions of the convention fulfilled. These inspections naturally
ceased on the breaking out of the war of the French Revolution; but in


1796 the Spaniards of Yucatan drove the British from the Rio Honda,
and took possession of the northern part of the ceded territory; while
subsequently, on account of the Spanish government having no forts or
outposts in the other directions, the English gradually extended their
mahogany works to the west and south.

On the cessation of hostilities in 1808, the superintendent of Belize,
who is the chief military and civil authority there, solicited the captain-general
of Yucatan to allow the re-occupation of the country bordering
on the Rio Honda, but was answered by the latter that the encroachments
of the British towards the south and west were more than an
equivalent for the loss, and that in the actual troubled state of affairs
this matter had better remain provisionally in statu quo; however, the
advances of the mahogany cutters on the Territory of Guatemala were
the subject of repeated remonstrances from that quarter. As late as
1817, stones were replaced on points of the boundary, as by treaty
fixed, and even in the early part of 1821 a Spanish commissioner,
from the captain-general of Guatemala, arrived in Belize to insist on
the observance of the treaty; but was referred by the superintendent
to the higher national powers.

The Rio Honda forms the boundary between Guatemala and Yucatan,
and consequently the whole of the grant made by her Catholic
Majesty to the British cutters is within the sovereignty of Central
America: however, the Mexican States, in their treaty with Great
Britain, took upon themselves to sanction the said grant of the Spanish
monarch; in consequence of which the English settlers again possessed
themselves of the southern bank of the Honda, but never took any
measures to disoccupy the country to the west and south, which, in
every view, they had only held as an equivalent.

I say too much in using the word "occupation:" the only point that
is bona fide in the occupation of the British is the town of Belize, situated
at the mouth of the river, and where, in contravention of the
treaty, there is a considerable commercial depot, a detachment of artillery,
and some black companies of infantry. No agriculture is pursued
in the country, and the mahogany cutters rove from one watercourse
to another in search of trees. There are not three hundred white
inhabitants in the whole settlement, and its total population does not
exceed five thousand: it is, however, to be remarked that the Charibs,
natives of our State of Honduras, who co-operated in the royalist insurrection
of 1832, have emigrated to about the number of two thousand,
and have settled a few villages to the southward of the Javon,
within the usurped territory.

In consequence of the grants of land made of that territory by the
State of Guatemala to certain Central American citizens, and a European
colonization company, the authorities of Belize took upon themselves,
in November last, to declare their limits to be the Honda on the
north, the Sarstoon on the south, and on the west a line drawn parallel
to the coast through Garbutt's falls, in the river Belize, thus exceeding
the old grant by at least five-fold. At this period the plenipotentiary
of H. B. M. at San Salvador proposed the concluding of a
commercial treaty with his nation; but as he distinctly refused the insertion
of an article similar to that in the Mexican treaty with Great


Britain, limiting the settlers of Belize to their lawful boundaries, his
proposal was of course declined.

The newly invented limits were sanctioned by a meeting of the inhabitants
of Belize, (called legislative) on the 14th of last March.
What makes the whole proceeding on their part wantonly aggressive
is, that various owners of land in the republic have offered to sell them
the mahogany trees on their estates at infinitely low prices. These offers
are beginning to be taken advantage of, and nearly the whole population
of Belize will shortly transfer itself to the State of Honduras in
search of the favorite staple; so that the territory to which the claim is
laid will be left as a desert to the authorities.

Great exertions have been made by them to support their pretensions:
besides the agent of the settlement in London, a delegate has been
despatched thither to solicit that Belize may be declared a British colony
within their own assigned boundary. To this Mr. Alvarez alludes,
in his letter to you, as being contrary to the American policy, which is
opposed to the increase and extension of European colonies in this
hemisphere. The authorities of Belize also solicit that a number of
the Africans freed from the slave-traders may be remitted to that settlement.
At their solicitation, British men-of-war are constantly kept
cruising off the coast, and engineers have arrived from Jamaica to fortify
the fort.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,

Mr. Dickins to Colonel Galindo.



I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your several
official communications to this department, dated the 22d May, 1st and
3d June, and your private letter of the 1st of June.

The receipt of your first letter, which was accompanied by a communication
from the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Central America
to this department, would have been promptly acknowledged, had
it not been apprehended that you might leave New York before an
answer could reach you from this city. I lament your continued indisposition,
and hope that you will be soon restored to health. Upon your
arrival here, the subject of the letter of Mr. Alvarez, and the object of
your mission, will be brought to the consideration of the President.

In pursuance of a resolution of the United States, adopted at its last
session, the President has appointed an agent to collect information
concerning the projects for uniting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, by
means of a railroad or canal.

This department will be happy to receive the information upon the


subject which, in your private letter, you so obligingly offer to communicate.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Secretary.

Colonel Galindo to Mr. Forsyth.

Juan Galindo has the honor of presenting his respects to his excellency
the Secretary of State, and informing him of his arrival in this
city. Juan Galindo awaits his excellency's commands when he can
have the advantage of waiting at the Department of State relative to
the object of his mission to Washington.

Tuesday evening, June 23, 1835.

Mr. Forsyth to Colonel Galindo.

The undersigned, Secretary of State, has had the honor to receive
Colonel Galindo's note of yesterday's date, informing him of his arrival
in this city, and requesting him to appoint a time for an interview relative
to the object of Colonel Galindo's visit to Washington. In reply,
the undersigned has the honor to state that he will be happy to see
Colonel Galindo at the office of this department to-morrow, at one

Washington, June 24, 1835.

Colonel Galindo to Mr. Forsyth.


I have arrived here on my return from Great Britain to Central
America, having found it impossible to arrange at the former court our
claim to the settlement of the British in the Bay of Honduras.

Your obedient servant, &c.,
Secretary of State.


Mr. Webster to Mr. Murphy.


In 1835 the government of Central America asked for the mediation
of this government with that of Great Britain, with the view to restrain
the British settlers at Belize, in Honduras, from trespassing upon territory
beyond the confines allotted to them by the treaties between Great
Britain and Spain in regard to that settlement; Central America, so
far as its territory was embraced by the limits mentioned in those covenants,
having, of course, succeeded to all the rights of Spain. Notwithstanding,
however, it was apparent, from the compacts referred to,
that Spain, though willing to allow British subjects the privilege which
they had enjoyed, at least ever since 1730, of cutting dye-woods within
certain parts of that country, and was equally evident that it was her
design and determination to prevent a settlement, suffered for that specific
purpose, from being converted into a colony of Great Britain, with
any of the attributes thereof, the President deemed it inexpedient to
comply with the request of that government. Colonel Galindo, a distinguished
officer in the Central American army, was the bearer of the
application of his government to ours. After he had ascertained that
it would not be granted, he repaired to London, having, before he left
home, been accredited to the government of Great Britain, for the purpose
of negotiating with that government upon the subject. It is understood
that he was also unsuccessful in his mission there; but the
department is not informed as to the causes of his failure, or as to the
present state of the controversy. This information you will endeavor
to supply by proper inquiries.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WM. S. MURPHY, Esq.,
Special and confidential agent of the U. S. to Central America.

Mr. Murphy to the Secretary of State.

The officers of the executive government inform me that Colonel
Galindo was not sent out to England by the federal government, but
only by the government of the State of Guatemala. That on his arrival
in England he made known to the government there the object of
his mission, and offered to present his credentials; but the British minister
informed him that he could, or would, hold no correspondence or


communication with him on that or any other subject connected with
his mission. That Colonel Galindo was by birth an Irishman, and
therefore a British subject, and could not be received in the character
of a representative of any foreign country.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
Washington, U. S.

Mr. Clayton to Mr. Rives.
[No. 2.]



Instructions were given to Mr. Bancroft by this department,
on the second day of May last, in reference to the British claim and the
title of the Mosquito King to the Mosquito territory, in the State of
Nicaragua. I have no knowledge that Mr. Bancroft has obeyed these
instructions. Acquainted as you are with the whole subject, you will
at once perceive how highly important it is that the views of this government
should be speedily communicated to the British ministry. We
are deeply anxious to avoid any collision with the British government
in relation to this matter; but that collision will become inevitable, if
great prudence be not exercised on both sides. American citizens have
obtained a contract for a right of passage from the Atlantic to the
Pacific ocean by the river San Juan. We view the title of the State
of Nicaragua, which entered into this contract, as irrefragable, and are
about to make a treaty with her on the subject. When Great Britain
shall ascertain the real objects that we have in view, she cannot, I
think, fail to see the propriety of aiding instead of obstructing us in
securing for all commercial nations, on the same terms, the right of
passage by the Nicaragua route from ocean to ocean, if that route should
prove to be practicable. As you pass through London, on your way
to Paris, it is desirable that you should call upon Lord Palmerston,
and perform the duty enjoined upon Mr. Bancroft, if that still remains
unexecuted, by conversing freely with his lordship on this subject.
Should you find his lordship resolved to maintain the Mosquito title,
you need not present the protest or remonstrance directed in that event
by the instructions to Mr. Bancroft, but may leave that duty to be discharged
by Mr. Lawrence, who, it is to be hoped, will be in London
early in October. The secretary of legation at London will, on your
showing him this letter, give you free access to the archives of the
mission whenever you desire it; and you are at liberty to peruse any
papers contained in them in order to make yourself more fully acquainted
with the objects which the President has in view.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM C. RIVES, Esq., &c., &c., &c.


Mr. Rives to Mr. Clayton.

I felt that it was incumbent upon me, under your instructions, to
take the necessary steps for obtaining an interview with Lord Palmerston,
with as little delay as possible. I requested Mr. Davis to call at
the Foreign Office and ascertain if his lordship was in town; and if not,
when he would return. The answer was that he had been absent
about a week, and was expected daily to return. I shall endeavor to
see him at the earliest possible moment after his return, and shall not
fail to present to him fully and frankly the views and feelings of the
government of the United States on the whole subject.

I enclose herewith the extracts from the * * * referred to in
the private letter I wrote you on my way to London. Though that
journal is in no relation of confidence or political connexion with the
ministry, it probably speaks the general feeling here, and, by consequence,
the temper of the government in regard to the importance of
securing the communication by the river San Juan with the Pacific.
There is one disclosure made by it which—if the fact mentioned by
Mr. Castellon, in his letter to Mr. Bancroft of the 12th of July last, of
the cession to England of the Costa Rican territory, on the south side
of the San Juan, be true—cannot fail to fix attention still more earnestly
on the views and objects of the British government. The circumstance
I allude to, is the indication of a practicable and convenient
communication with the Pacific by the Sarapiqui river, one of the tributaries
of the San Juan, included wholly in the Costa Rican territory,
and thence by a land route passing by San José (the capital of the republic
of Costa Rica) to Punta Arenas on the Pacific, also within the
limits of Costa Rica.

It is to be remarked that the Sarapiqui river unites with the San
Juan on the south side, just below the point where the alleged Mosquito
boundary comes to it on the north; so that if the suggested communication
be both practicable and convenient, as is stated, it would be
in the power of the British government, by means of the so-called Mosquito
on the north bank of the San Juan, as high up as the mouth
of the Sarapiqui river, and of the Costa Rican cession on the south, to
obtain the exclusive control of the whole line of the proposed communication
from the port of the San Juan, on the Atlantic, to the Punta
Arenas, on the Pacific, without touching anywhere the territory which
they admit to belong to Nicaragua.

Whether the British government really entertain views of this character,
which could not fail to arouse the jealousy and united opposition
of all the other commercial powers of the world, or whether it aims
simply, by measures of precaution, to prevent the monopoly and exclusive
control of the Nicaragua lake route by others, remains to be
seen. If the latter be its sole object, they will see, when the enlarged
and catholic views of the United States, contemplating a common
highway for the free and equal enjoyment of all nations, come to be


understood, that they have no cause of distrust towards us. In the
mean time, the alleged acquisition by England of the Costa Rican territory,
on the south side of the San Juan, cannot fail to suggest new motives
for vigilance and precaution on our part.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Secretary of State.

Mr. Rives to Mr. Clayton.


Lord Palmerston not having returned to town, and seeing it
stated in some of the city newspapers that his visit to the country
would be yet further prolonged, I called the day before yesterday at
the Foreign Office to see Mr. Addington, the Under Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs, whom I had formerly known both in Europe and
the United States. I was received by him with very great cordiality.
I did not deem it expedient or proper to open to him the particular
subject with which you had charged me for communication with Lord
Palmerston; but I stated to him, in general terms, that you had
instructed me, while passing through England to my destination in
Paris, to see Lord Palmerston and converse with him on some matters
of deep interest to both countries, and that I should be glad to have an
interview with his lordship, if he proposed to return to London in any
short time. I received yesterday evening a note from Mr. Addington,
of which a copy is herewith enclosed, from which you will perceive
that Lord Palmerston has appointed Monday next, the 24th instant, for
seeing me. I shall, of course, remain here till the time for the appointed

Since my arrival in London I have examined with great care all the
correspondence and other documents in the office of the legation relating
to the claim asserted by this government, in the name of the Mosquito
King (so called,) to the territory at the mouth and along the
course of the lower part of the river San Juan de Nicaragua. I think
it is apparent that the British government has now fully committed
itself to the assertion of the Mosquito title, in the abstract at least, and
will continue, no doubt, to adhere to that ground. How far it will
proceed to build upon that title ulterior schemes for its own advantage
and the extension of its commercial or territorial power, will depend
mainly, I think, upon the degree of acquiescence or opposition with
which such pretensions, as they shall be from time to time unfolded,
may be met by the other commercial nations of the world.

Its policy for some time past, in connexion with this subject, appears
to have been a series of experiments upon the feelings and opinions of
the rest of the world, advancing steadily and step by step in the development
and progressive enlargement of its claims. This is strikingly
exhibited in a document entitled "Correspondence respecting the Mosquito
territory, presented to the House of Commons July 3, 1848, in


pursuance of their address of April 3, 1848," of which I shall suggest
to Mr. Davis the expediency of sending you a copy, if none has been
heretofore forwarded to the department. It appears from that document
(p. 1) that on the 30th June, 1847, Lord Palmerston instructed
Mr. Chatfield, the British consular agent at Guatemala, (and similar
instructions were despatched to other foreign agents of the British government
at the same time,) to notify to the authorities of the several
States of Central America that "the right of the King of Mosquito
should be maintained as extending from Cape Honduras down to the
mouth of the river San Juan
." The terms of this notification plainly
implied a claim for the King of the Mosquitos to the left or northern
bank only of the river San Juan at its mouth, and was so understood by
the agent of the British government who was instructed to give it, as
will be seen from his letter to Lord Palmerston of the 3d December,
1847, at page 73 of the document above referred to. On the 29th of
February, 1849, [1848] however, Lord Palmerston, in a letter to the same
functionary, (doc., p. 94,) informs him that "her Majesty's government
considers that the claim of the Mosquito nation extends as far as the
southern branch of the St. John, which bears the name of the Colorado,
but which is just as much a portion of the St. John as either of the other
two outlets of that river;" thus, instead of stopping on the left or northern
bank of the river, extending the Mosquito claim so as to embrace its
mouth and all its outlets, and virtually to assert the exclusive command
of its navigation.

This paved the way naturally enough for the yet bolder and more
undisguised assertion of claim in the letter of the British consul at New
York, of the 30th July last, where it is authoritatively announced, in so
many words, that "from the Machuca rapids, about 30 miles below
Lake Nicaragua, to the mouth of the St. John, the navigation of that river
belongs to Mosquito
." I am now satisfied that that letter was fully
sanctioned by the highest official authority here, and that it was most
probably prepared, word for word, in the Foreign Office. I am also
persuaded that it was promulgated through the unusual medium of the
British consul, expressly for the purpose of avoiding any diplomatic
discussion with the government of the United States upon the subject,
(a design which has been all along plainly enough manifested,) and
that it was intended quite as much for the government at Washington
as for the private individuals at New York personally interested in the
enterprise of opening the communication between the two oceans by
the river San Juan and Lake Nicaragua.

It appears to me, however, alike inevitable and indispensable, considering
the great national interests which the United States have in
the free and unobstructed use of every practicable communication
across our western continent, as well as the rights which may have been
lawfully acquired by our citizens, and which it is the duty of the government
to protect and defend by all reasonable and proper means,
that the extraordinary claim now put forward, in the name of the Mosquito
Indians, to the exclusive ownership of the river San Juan, should
be subjected, in some form or other, to a thorough and searching examination.
The positions taken in defence of the Mosquito title in the


elaborate letter of Lord Palmerston to Mr. Castellon of the 16th of
July last are, every one of them, clearly untenable; and, although there
is but little hope now of inducing the British government to abandon
the maintenance of that title, in the abstract, the advantage of demonstrating
its invalidity will be to prevent, perhaps, the wise and enlightened
government of this country from building upon so weak a
foundation claims and projects of a practical nature which could hardly
fail to involve the two nations in unfriendly collision. This high duty
will devolve upon other and abler hands than mine.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Addington to Mr. Rives.


I duly conveyed to Lord Palmerston the message
with which you intrusted me yesterday, and I have now the pleasure
to apprize you that I have received a reply from his lordship, in which
he charges me to inform you that he will have much pleasure in receiving
you on Monday next, 24th September, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon,
at his house in Carlton Gardens.

I am, dear sir, yours, very faithfully,
W. C. RIVES, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Clayton to Mr. Lawrence.



I transmit to you herewith a copy of the English version of a
special convention recently negotiated between the government of the
United States and the State of Nicaragua, with the view of opening and
establishing through the territories of the latter a passage and communication
between the Caribbean sea and the Pacific ocean. This paper
you will find to be one of great interest and importance. It was signed,
on the part of this government, by Mr. Elijah Hise, our late chargé
d'affaires at Guatemala, although unprovided with a full power to
effect this object. The President has not yet determined what course
he will pursue in regard to this convention. So soon as he has done
so, I will again address you on the subject; and in the mean time you
need not bring the matter to the attention of her Majesty's government.

I had hoped, as you are already aware from my private letters, to
have seen you here ere you proceeded on your mission, so that the
merits of this instrument might have been examined and explained, and,


in a frank and free conversation on the general subject with which it is
connected, you might have been more fully possessed of the President's
views respecting it. As this hope has been defeated by the arrangements
you have made for your immediate departure, I confine myself,
for the present, to recommending it to your careful and attentive consideration.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
ABBOTT LAWRENCE, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Rives to Mr. Clayton.


Yesterday I called upon Lord Palmerston, at his house in Carlton
Gardens, for the purpose of holding the interview with him which
had been previously arranged. He gave me a very cordial reception,
and took occasion to say that he had come up to London from the
residence of Viscount Melbourne, in the country, where he had been
passing some days, solely for the sake of seeing and conversing with
me. After some conversation of a general nature, I stated to him that,
there being a sort of interregnum at present in the usual diplomatic
relations of the two countries, owing to the departure of Mr. Bancroft
and the postponement for a few weeks of Mr. Lawrence's arrival, you
had instructed me, while on my way to Paris, to call upon his lordship
and converse with him on a matter which was more than ordinarily
urgent and critical; that it was quite unnecessary, I persuaded
myself, to assure his lordship that the President was anxious to preserve
the most cordial good understanding with her Britannic Majesty's
government; that, in proportion as that desire was sincerely felt, it was
seen with no little concern that there was one question which, unless
great prudence and caution were observed on both sides, might involve
the two governments unwittingly in collision; that, shortly before I
left the United States, a letter from the British consul at New York had
been published, asserting, in very positive and unqualified terms, an exclusive
claim for the Mosquito Indians to the ownership and sovereign
jurisdiction of the mouth and lower part of the river San Juan de Nicaragua;
that the United States had no disposition to intermeddle in any
pragmatical spirit, or with views in the slightest degree unfriendly to
Great Britain, with that question, but they were necessarily parties to
it in their own right; that citizens of the United States had entered
into a contract with the State of Nicaragua to open, on certain conditions,
a communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by the
river San Juan and the Nicaragua lake; that the government of the
United States, after the most careful investigation of the subject, had
come undoubtingly to the conclusion that, upon both legal and historical
grounds, the State of Nicaragua was the true territorial sovereign
of the river San Juan, as well as of the Nicaragua lake, and that it was
therefore bound to give its countenance and support, by all proper
and reasonable means, to rights lawfully derived by their citizens under


a grant from that sovereign; that the United States, moreover, as one
of the principal commercial powers of the world, and the one nearest
to the scene of the proposed communication, and holding besides a large
domain on the western coast of America, had a special and deep national
interest in the free and obstructed use, in common with other
powers, of any channel of intercourse which might be opened from the
one sea to the other; and that, moved by a proper regard for that interest,
it had probably already concluded, or would soon do so, a treaty
with Nicaragua for securing a transit for its commerce and public stores
by the route in question, on terms open alike to all other nations.

I then proceeded to observe to Lord Palmerston that the government
of the United States were particularly desirous that there should be no
misconception of their objects and motives in this matter by her Britannic
Majesty's government, and that it was of the highest importance that
both governments should be made acquainted, frankly, with the views
and intentions of each other; that it had sometimes happened in military
operations that detachments of the same army had gotten engaged
with each other, in the dark, in bloody strife—and so, in civil and political
affairs, nations, as well as individuals, in ignorance of each other's
real views, and under the influence of a natural but unfounded distrust,
were often committed in serious opposition to each other, when a frank
and unreserved communication, in the first instance, of their respective
objects, would have brought them to co-operate heartily in the pursuit
of a common end; that the United States sought no exclusive privilege
or preferential right of any kind in regard to the proposed communication,
and their sincere wish, if it should be found practicable, was to see
it dedicated to the common use of all nations, on the most liberal terms,
and a footing of perfect equality for all, securing it beforehand, by
proper stipulations, against unreasonable and oppressive exactions for
the use of it either from the States through whose territories it should
pass or the individuals or companies who might be authorized to construct
it; that the United States would not, if they could, obtain any
exclusive right or privilege in a great highway which naturally belonged
to all mankind, for they well knew that the possession of any such
privilege would expose them to inevitable jealousies and probable controversies,
which would make it infinitely more costly than advantageous;
that, while they aimed at no exclusive privilege for themselves,
they could never consent to see so important a communication fall under
the exclusive control of any other great commercial power; that we
were far from imputing to her Britannic Majesty's government any
views of that kind, but Mosquito possession at the mouth of the San
Juan could be considered in no other light than British possession, and
his lordship would readily comprehend that such a state of things, so
long as it continued, must necessarily give rise to dissatisfaction and
distrust on the part of other commercial powers. Would it not, then,
be wise, I said to Lord Palmerston, that Great Britain and the United
States should come to a frank and manly understanding with each
other, and unite their influence for the accomplishment of an object of
the highest importance to both of them, as well as the rest of the world,
instead of hazarding the final loss of so great an object by jarring and
divided councils?


Lord Palmerston listened to these observations throughout with
marked and earnest attention, showing the just sense he entertained of
the importance and delicacy of the question. He was very glad, he
said, to have a full and free conversation with me about it. He had had
some conversation with Mr. Bancroft in relation to it, but, as he was
going away, he had not thought it necessary to enter into much detail
with him upon the subject. He then gave a review of the origin and
progress of the controversy with Nicaragua. He said that, from a very
early period, the Mosquito Indians had been treated by the British government
as a separate and independent State; that they had what was
called a king—who, by-the-by, he added in a tone of pleasantry, was
as much a king as I or you; but, nevertheless, the British government
had, from time to time, and for more than a century, given them tokens
of recognition and protection as an independent State. In this condition
of things, Nicaragua, which had never before been in possession
of any part of the territory claimed by the Mosquitoes, took forcible
possession of the town and port at the mouth of the San Juan river;
that the British government, as the ancient, and in some sort hereditary,
protector of the Mosquitoes, had given the Nicaraguans notice to
quit, which as they did not heed, a British naval force was sent there
and drove them away; that, after being thus put out of possession, the
government of Nicaragua had undertaken to grant to citizens of the
United States a right to make a public highway through a territory
from which they had just been expelled; that the transaction was on
their part fraudulent and mala fide, and was like the case of a man
undertaking to sell a horse which was in the possession of and claimed
by another; that the authorities of Nicaragua, being thwarted in their
object by the interposition of the British government, got into a bad
humor, and wished to draw the United States into their quarrel by
assuming to grant to citizens of the latter the privilege of opening the
communication in question by the river San Juan; that, under these
circumstances, the British government had thought it just and proper
to give notice to the parties interested in the United States that the government
of Nicaragua had entered into a contract with them in regard
to places where it had no competence; that the suspicion seemed to be
entertained by some in the United States that the British government
wished to plant a new colony in America on the San Juan, for which
there was not the slightest foundation, as they had already more colonies
than they could manage; that, as to any idea of their holding exclusive
possession of the mouth of the San Juan as the key of the contemplated
communication between the Atlantic and Pacific, nothing could be further
from their minds
; that it was highly desirable, in the interest of humanity
and of the general commerce of the world, to promote the civilization
and improvement of those countries in Central America, to which
nature had been very lavish in some of her gifts; there were feuds,
too, and dissensions among some of them, particularly Nicaragua and
Costa Rica, which it would be a good office in other governments to
use their influence to compose; that Costa Rica had made them offers
respecting a communication to the Pacific, which, if I understood correctly
the very brief allusion made to the subject by Lord Palmerston,
had not been carried into any formal agreement or convention; and


finally his lordship said that, if any plan could be suggested by which
Great Britain and the United States could unite in promoting by their
joint influence and mutual co-operation the opening of the great channel
of communication by Lake Nicaragua, and declaring it a common
highway for the use and benefit of all nations, it would receive the
most favorable consideration of her Britannic Majesty's government.
I have endeavoured to give you in full, and in his own words as far as
possible, the observations made by Lord Palmerston in response to
those I addressed to him, and in explanation of the course and position
of the British government in relation to the Mosquito territory.
His conversation was marked throughout by a tone of perfect frankness
and the most conciliatory and friendly spirit towards the United States.
You will see that I was not mistaken in supposing that the letter of the
British consul at New York had been authorized by him. But the explicit
and unequivocal disavowal made by him of any purpose of exclusively
occupying the mouth of the San Juan as the key of this great
channel of communication between the Atlantic and Pacific, which I
have been careful to record in the very words used by him, furnishes
satisfactory evidence, I think, that the policy of the British government
has been, as I suggested in my despatch No. 1 it might be, to prevent,
by measures of precaution, the possible monopoly of that communication
by others, rather than to monopolize it for its own benefit. There can
be no doubt that jealousies have been industriously instilled into the
government and the public mind here respecting the alleged design of
the United States to obtain a control over all the proposed lines of
communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the
central parts of America. To guard against the consummation of
such a monopoly, if circumstances should give color to the imputation of
such a design to the government of the United States, the British government
has been, with its usual forecast, gradually extending and fortifying
the Mosquito claim at the mouth of the San Juan in the manner
pointed out in my last despatch, but with no view, we are bound
to believe by the frank and manly declarations of Lord Palmerston
recited above, to use it as an instrument of monopoly for their own
advantage, when they should be satisfied that no such monopoly was
sought by the United States for theirs. The mutual explanations,
therefore, given in the interview of yesterday, in that spirit of frankness
which ought ever to characterize the intercourse and proceedings of
two such nations as the United States and Great Britain, cannot but
pave the way for a better understanding and final co-operation, I
trust, between the two governments, in reference to an object worthy,
by its grandeur, and the vastness of its consequences, to engage the
united efforts of all the commercial powers of the world.

Having observed that Lord Palmerston, in asserting the right of the
Mosquito Indians to be considered as an independent nation, laid particular
stress on the circumstance that Nicaragua, which claimed the sovereign
jurisdiction over their territory, had never, but for a very brief
period, had actual possession of any portion of it, I said to him that,
without any formal discussion of the question, I would state to him, in
a few words, what was the doctrine held by the government of the
United States upon the subject; that upon our continent, where so


many Indian tribes were included within the general jurisdictional limits
of the different civilized nations of European origin which had colonized
and settled the country, the relations subsisting between the aborigines
and the European settlers was a most important branch of
public law; that it had been thoroughly studied and investigated, and
solemnly settled by the enlightened decisions of our highest national
tribunals, upon the authority of European, and especially English, law
and practice, that the Spaniards, the English, the Dutch, and the
French, who had established colonies in different parts of America,
were all governed by the same principle in their intercourse and relations
with the Indian tribes; by none of them had it ever been held
necessary, in order to vest in them the general territorial sovereignty
over the Indian tribes within the limits respectively appropriated by
them, that they should actually have occupied the territory over which
these tribes of aborigines were scattered; that the ultimate property or
high domain of the Indian territory was always considered as vested
in the nations colonizing the country by the mere fact of discovery or
settlement anywhere within the limits declared to be assumed by them;
that, upon this principle, the colonial charters executed by the crown
in the time of James the First, and afterwards, conveyed immense territories,
by widely separated parallels of latitude, and from sea to sea,
though at the time they were known to be occupied almost entirely by
wandering tribes of Indians, and there was hardly a white inhabitant
them; the same principle had been acted upon by Great Britain in
various international compacts; by the treaty of Utrecht, she obtained
from France a cession of Acadie or Nova Scotia, by the treaty of Paris
she obtained from the same power the further cession of Canada and its
dependencies, and from Spain the Floridas, while on her part she yielded
to France the vast regions lying west of the Mississippi—thus passing
from one to another, in full dominion and sovereignty, immense
territories which at the time were in the actual occupation of numerous
Indian tribes; that it resulted from this long course of universal usage
and conventional practice that actual possession was in no wise necessary
to the exercise of a rightful sovereignty over Indian territory; and
that, though Indian tribes were possessed of some of the attributes of a
separate political existence, such as that of governing their communities
by their own internal laws, and also of sustaining the relations of
peace and war, yet it was impossible to recognise in them a complete
national independence, such as that which was claimed for the Mosquitoes,
without subverting the whole fabric of public law belonging to
our peculiar position, which had grown up with the general concurrence
and assent of all the civilized nations of Europe. To these remarks
Lord Palmerston replied by saying that he fully admitted the general
doctrine for which we contended; that it was the principle on which
they conducted their relations with the Indian tribes in Canada; but
that the case of the Mosquitoes was sui generis, and stood upon its own
peculiar circumstances. I then said that the further discussion of the
Mosquito title would be a matter rather for curious and abstract speculation
than of any great practical importance, if the two governments,
understanding each other's real views and objects, and recognising their
legitimacy, could agree upon some plan of carrying them out in harmony


and concert; that, though I was not authorized to make any suggestion
upon the subject, it seemed to me that, if Great Britain would
do what she had the unquestionable power to effect with the Mosquitoes,
and exert her influence with Costa Rica, while the United States employed
their good offices with Nicaragua, every political impediment to
the execution of the great work they both desired to see accomplished
would be speedily removed; and that, placing it then under a solemn
international guaranty to protect its freedom and to secure its benefits
alike to all, every condition would be fulfilled that the most jealous
caution might suggest on the one hand, or the most liberal and enlarged
policy demand on the other. Lord Palmerston received this suggestion
in the most favorable manner, and, as well by his way of responding
to it as by the tone and spirit of his whole conversation, left me under
the impression that he was sincerely desirous of acting in friendly concert
with the government of the United States in promoting the accomplishment
of an object of equal and common interest to both nations.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Hon. J. M. CLAYTON, Secretary of State.

Mr. Rives to Mr. Clayton.


I addressed to you from London several communications on the subject
of the Nicaragua and Mosquito question, on which you instructed
me to hold a conference with Lord Palmerston on my passage through
England. In my last despatch I gave you a full detail of that conference,
which indicated a far better spirit in the British government than
had been previously manifested; and I cannot but think, from the conciliatory
temper then shown by Lord Palmerston, and the objects avowed
and disavowed by him, that Mr. Lawrence will be able to come
to a friendly arrangement with him of the whole subject. Certainly,
all that passed in the conference led me to believe that such a result
was practicable, as it would undoubtedly be auspicious to the interests
of both countries. I trust that, on my part, there was no misapprehension
of the spirit of your instruction or the policy of our government,
and that what was said and done by me will meet the approbation of
the President and yourself.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



I have also your despatch, No. 3, with its enclosures. I have not had
time to examine the proposed treaty with Nicaragua, as I intend to


do; but, from a cursory reading, it appears to me to be a question of
the highest interest to our country, and to deserve very grave consideration.
In my interview with Lord Palmerston yesterday, he alluded
to this treaty, without, however, making it the topic of conversation,
and repeated in substance his remarks to Mr. Rives, already communicated
to you.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 4.]



Lord John [Russell] alluded to the Mosquito affair, and repeated substantially
the views of Lord Palmerston expressed to Mr. Rives. From
all I can gather, I am inclined to believe that England will be ready
to unite with us and any other government that will join in a guaranty
of the neutrality of a world's canal connecting the Atlantic with the
Pacific ocean. The advantages to the United States from this improvement
would be almost beyond human calculation. We are so much
nearer to it than Europe, that its effect upon our commerce would be
seen and felt at once. I confess the plan grows upon me the more I
contemplate its practical operation upon the interests of my country.
We can permit all the world to pass through the canal on equal terms
with ourselves without fear.

Mr. Clayton to Mr. Lawrence.



The department has received three letters from him, [Mr.
Rives,] under date the 14th, 24th, and 25th ultimo—the first referring
to Mr. Bancroft's No. 143, and stating that he had sought an interview
with Lord Palmerston, who was absent from London, but was expected
to return in about a week; the second stating that he expected an interview
with Lord Palmerston on the 25th ultimo; and the last stating the
result of that interview on the 25th, which Mr. Rives considered highly

It being apparent, however, from the intimations of Lord Palmerston
to Mr. Bancroft, from the papers accompanying the despatch of the
latter already referred to, and especially from the note to Mr. Castellon
of the 16th of July last, that the views of the British ministry
conflicted with those of the President to such a degree as might, if persisted
in, lead to a serious misunderstanding between the two governments,


this despatch is addressed to you that no time may be lost in
endeavoring to avert so undesirable a result.

It is not conceived that the occasion calls for a formal or detailed
reply to Lord Palmerston's note to Mr. Castellon in support of the
British pretensions. Though confident in its tone, it is obviously fallacious
in its conclusions, but seeks to make amends for this by significant
allusions to the Central American States as delinquent debtors
to British subjects. It will be proper, however, to notice some of its
more prominent topics, with a view to assist you in meeting objections
which may orally or in writing be addressed to yourself.

Lord Palmerston declares that Mosquito did not belong to Spain.
This certainly is a bold declaration, but it is negatived by the whole
history of that country. If Mosquito did not belong to Spain, why did
Great Britain so often, at the behest of the former, relinquish her
attempts at colonization there? She has never been wont to submit to
such requirements from nations having no right of property in the countries
to which they related. It is impossible to believe that, at the
periods of her treaties with Spain, she doubted the territorial rights of
the latter in the Mosquito shore. By the treaty of 1763, Great Britain
acquired Florida from Spain. Spain held it by the same title by which
she held Central America. Did Great Britain suppose, at the period
of this acquisition, that any part of Florida did not belong to Spain?
Most of Florida was in the actual possession of the Indians, but Great
Britain did not imagine that her proprietary rights were thereby impaired.
She restored that country to Spain by the treaty of 1783, and
it remained in the possession of the latter until it was ceded to the
United States by the treaty of 1819. Is it to be for a moment supposed
that we accepted those parts of Florida only which had been in
the actual possession and occupation of the authorities or subjects of
Great Britain and Spain? Could Great Britain have set up a title as
the ally and protector of the Seminole Indians to that part of Florida
in the actual occupation of that savage tribe?

The claim of Nicaragua to Mosquito is not impaired by the fact
with which Lord Palmerston taunts her, that Spain has not conveyed
it to her by treaty. He cannot suppose that Spain either desires or
intends to recover her lost authority in Central America. But, whatever
may be his opinion, the British government is precluded, by its
acknowledgment of the independence of that republic, from questioning
the fact that it succeeded to all the territorial rights of Spain
within its confines. Lord Palmerston acknowledges that the successful
revolt of the people of Nicaragua gave them the right of self-government
with reference to Spain. This right, however, was to be
exercised within certain territorial limits, which are to be ascertained
by the inquiry whether or not Spain herself exercised sovereign authority
within the same limits. Now, it is notorious that the Mosquitoes
were a tribe of savages, dwelling on the verge of a country
discovered by Spain, and claimed by her in virtue of the right thus
acquired, which right has repeatedly been acknowledged by Great
Britain in her treaties with that power. Consequently, the right of
Spain, or of her representative, Nicaragua, cannot be questioned on
the ground that the latter conquered from Spain merely the right of


self-government, and is not weakened because neither may have
chosen to subjugate those Indians, or to deprive them of their lands by
occupation. Spain justly deemed herself entitled to consult her own
views of policy in regard to them, as she did in regard to numerous
other bands of savages within the bounds of her American possessions—
a right which has always been and still is cherished by Great Britain
herself with reference to the aborigines included within the limits of
her own possessions in this hemisphere. No European nation which
made discoveries or planted colonies in America regarded the inhabitants
whom they found there, even when collected into bodies politic
respectable in point of numbers and for the progress which they had
made in the arts, like those of Mexico and Peru, as possessing rights
in the soil which were not liable to defeasance if deemed necessary to
those objects for which discovery and colonization were undertaken.
Still less, then, could they acknowledge such a right in wandering
tribes insignificant in point of numbers, and with no title to respect for
any efforts, attempted or accomplished, to emerge from barbarism.
The delay or the neglect to exercise rights of sovereignty over the
most contemptible tribes did not impair the right itself, much less
serve to extinguish it in favor of the tribe, or to impart to the latter
any just claim to be regarded as an independent community. The
discoverer uniformly asserted and exercised the right of biding his
own time to extinguish the Indian title, and never acquiesced in any
interference in this right from abroad. The right of Spain to an actual
occupation of the Mosquito territory was not weakened by her non user.
That territory was enclosed within the limits of the kingdom of Guatemala;
and, when the provinces into which that kingdom was divided
shook off the yoke of the mother country, they acquired all the territorial
rights which that country enjoyed or possessed within their respective
confines. The right to extinguish the Indian title was one of
those which the United States can no more allow to be called in question
with reference to Nicaragua than with reference to themselves.

The right of the provinces of Guatemala to sovereignty over the
Mosquito territory has not been impaired by the policy of Great Britain
with reference to that tribe of Indians. If, during peace, the object
of that policy was to make those savages the instruments of an illicit
traffic with the Spanish settlements, and, during war, to take advantage
of their hostile disposition towards Spain, which was at all times sedulously
cultivated, the sovereign rights of Spain were not disturbed.
They remained entire, for her to employ them whenever she might
choose so to do. She herself invariably snowed a consciousness of the
objects and motives of British policy, and took care to preserve her
rights from harm by them. Lord Palmerston asserts that the treaty of
1783 was not intended to apply to the Mosquito territory. This assertion
is based upon the pretext that that treaty mentioned only the
Spanish possessions in America, and, as Spain was not the possessor of
that territory, she did not acquire any right by the stipulation of Great
Britain to withdraw her subjects from the Spanish possessions. Is it
not, however, notorious that, during the war which was terminated by
the peace of 1783, Great Britain made her principal effort to extinguish
Spanish dominion in that quarter, and that that effort was fruitless?


Is it credible, then, that the Spanish negotiators should have been unmindful
of this event, and should not have intended that British subjects
should be prevented from forming plantations within any part of
the territory which they claimed, and restricted to definite limits even
for cutting woods? To seek such an advantage from the use of the
word "possessions," is a distortion or arbitrary limitation of its obvious
meaning not warranted by either facts or probabilities. It is impossible
that Spain could have doubted that her possessions included the
Mosquito country, or that Great Britain could have otherwise believed.
In point of fact, that territory was, and continued to be, as much a
possession of Spain as the greater part of the northern region of this
continent (commonly described as the British North American possessions)
is now a possession of Great Britain.

Admitting the truth of the historical facts, which are mentioned to
show the tampering of British subjects and British authorities with the
Mosquitoes, they by no means prove that such transactions tended in
the slightest degree to render questionable the sovereign rights of
Spain, or that, in conniving at them, the British government meant to
recognise the Mosquitoes as a nation independent of the Spanish crown.
The acts referred to must have taken place contrary to the known
wishes of Spain, in violation of her laws, and even of the treaties of
Great Britain herself with that power.

Some of the facts mentioned, however, seem to be far from strengthening
the argument in support of which they are adduced. If the
King of the Mosquitoes was the independent sovereign contended for,
why was the convention with him upon the subject of absconding
slaves concluded with the governor of Jamaica? Sovereign States are
equal in the eye of public law, and no treaty with a governor of a colony
can be legal unless it be ratified by the sovereign. It is at least doubtful
whether the convention referred to ever received such a sanction on
the part of the British government. If it did not, the omission must have
been occasioned by a conviction either that the pretensions of the Mosquito
monarch to equality and respect, or that good faith towards Spain,
would not warrant the act.

The reservation by Great Britain, in her treaty of 1786 with Spain,
is appealed to with an air of triumph, as if to show she then regarded
the Mosquitoes as an independent nation, and interceded in their behalf
pursuant to this view. The meaning of that article may best be understood
by quoting it entire:


His Catholic Majesty, prompted solely by motives of
, promises to the King of England that he will not exercise
any act of severity against the Mosquitoes inhabiting, in part, the countries
which are to be evacuated by virtue of the present convention, on
account of the connexions which may have subsisted between the said
Indians and the English; and his Britannic Majesty, on his part, will
strictly prohibit all his subjects from furnishing arms or warlike stores
to the Indians in general situated on the frontiers of the Spanish possessions."

Does this contain any assertion on the part of Great Britain that the
Mosquitoes were a nation independent of Spain, or any acknowledgment
by Spain to that effect? On the contrary, the stipulation required in behalf


of that tribe unequivocally implies a confession of a right of dominion in
Spain over them, as well as a fear that this right might be exerted for
their extermination or unconditional subjugation, for which it is quite
probable Spain may have thought she had just and ample cause. Great
Britain may have been actuated by motives of policy and gratitude
in her intercession; but those motives were not allowed by Spain to
derogate from her rights of sovereignty. British interference in this
instance, to screen the Mosquitoes from that chastisement which Spain
may have deemed they deserved for what she probably considered
their treachery towards her, affords no argument to uphold the soverignty
of the Mosquitoes, or to weaken the title of Spain, or of her
representative, to jurisdiction over their territory. But it is said that if,
upon its emancipation from Spain, the republic of Central America
succeeded to all the territorial rights of Spain within the limits of that
republic, they received them coupled with the obligations with which
they were encumbered, and that, in acknowledging the independence of
Central America, other nations did not intend to forfeit any rights which
those obligations may have given them. The truth of this abstract
proposition may be acknowledged without impairing the claim of that
republic to dominion throughout the ancient vice-royalty of Guatemala.
This claim was asserted in the constitution of the confederacy of Central
America; and, if any nation which acknowledged that confederacy
possessed any right or had any interest, as a principal or as an ally, in
questioning the extent of territorial jurisdiction which it claimed, a
reservation in its favor should have been made at the time of that acknowledgment.
We are not aware that Great Britain made any other
reservation, or clogged with any other condition her acknowledgment,
than that the privileges stipulated in favor of her subjects by her
treaties with Spain should be continued. The lines within which these
privileges were to be enjoyed do not embrace the port and river of
San Juan, or infringe upon any part of the territory of Nicaragua. It
is believed that nothing has ever been done or attempted by the Central
American States in violation of this pledge. An effort, however,
is made to silence the complaints of Nicaragua by alleging that, even
if Spain or the Central American confederacy had rights in the Mosquito
territory, those rights have not devolved upon Nicaragua any more than
upon Costa Rica or Honduras. It is to be deplored that the dismemberment
of that confederacy, by giving rise to disputes about limits
among the States of which it was composed, affords some plausibility
to this allegation. It is not, however, essential for the purposes of this
inquiry that the respective territorial limits of those States should be
ascertained. Whatever they may have been whilst they were provinces
of Spain, or as States under the confederation, or whatever they may
ultimately become by arrangements among themselves, the rights of the
Mosquitoes cannot be affected or augmented by their indeterminate condition.
Those rights are the same as they were under Spain and the
confederacy, and will so remain until they shall receive the increment
claimed for them by the voluntary surrender, jointly or severally, of
the States by which it is now lawfully held.

Is Great Britain, however, eager or willing that the question of her
alleged protectorship should be tried at the bar of public opinion?


Does she believe that she can obtain credit for having undertaken it
from a conviction that the Mosquitoes were competent to discharge the
duties of sovereignty; or is she disposed to hazard the notoriety of the
fact that the visor of royalty which she would fain place upon the
pseudo-monarch of that region is too transparent to conceal the features
of the real sovereign? Is she free from apprehension that, by persevering
in her course, she will make monarchy, as a form of government,
ridiculous, and, indeed, cast a reproach upon the very name of
independent government, which certainly implies that its agents are
adequate to the purposes for which governments are instituted, unaided
by the counsels or the power of a third party?

Can Great Britain imagine that the commercial nations of the world
will tacitly allow her, by means so insidious, to obtain substantial and
exclusive control over the right of way to the Pacific by the port of
San Juan and the river of that name, or to wrest the sovereignty over
that region from the rightful proprietor? In such pretensions, we trust
that the United States, at least, will never acquiesce. Their objections,
however, will not spring from any claims of sovereignty or desire of
exclusiveness on their part, though they have paramount interests, present
and prospective, in that channel of intercourse between the two
oceans. They desire that it should be perfectly untrammelled, or subject
to such limitations only as the rightful owners of the land may impose
for the completion and security of the enterprise. We ardently
hope that Great Britain will take no step which will render it difficult
for her to concur with us in the justice and expediency of this policy,
and that she will recede from so much of her past course as may conflict
with it. The President believes that she may do this without the
slightest sacrifice of dignity or honor, and even without the least infringement
of any obligations which she may conceive herself to have
incurred towards the Mosquito Indians. The United States would
view with no less concern than herself the practice of any harshness or
inhumanity towards that people. They believe, however, that the
great highway for the commerce of the maritime States of the world,
if destined to pass through the region claimed for the Mosquitoes, may,
with the strictest regard to the dictates of philanthropy towards them,
be kept free from obstruction by their pretensions, direct or indirect. If
the British ministry shall concur in these opinions, they may expect from
us some pledge that we will act up to them. The President is willing
that this should be given in any form which the constitution of this
government will sanction. You may suggest, for instance, that the
United States and Great Britain should enter into a treaty guarantying
the independence of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, which
treaty may also guaranty to British subjects the privileges acquired in
those States by the treaties between Great Britain and Spain, provided
that the limits of those States on the east be acknowledged to be the
Caribbean sea. The treaty might also guaranty to the Mosquito Indians
the right to pursue their usual occupations within definite limits,
ample for such a purpose, with a condition that, if any nation, corporation,
or company shall have acquired, or shall acquire, the privilege
of constructing a communication between the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans by means of a canal, and if such communication shall necessarily
pass through the lands assigned to the Mosquitoes, a reasonable


compensation shall be secured to them, which should be paid by Nicaragua,
for the extinction of their title to as much of that territory as may
be necessary for the object in view.

We have, within a few days past, received from Nicaragua a treaty
negotiated by Mr. Squier with the Nicaraguan government. A copy
of so much of this treaty as relates to the proposed canal accompanies
this despatch. Herewith you will also receive a copy of the canal
contract or charter referred to in that treaty. You will perceive that
the right to make the canal is conferred upon American citizens. We
invite Great Britain to all the benefits of the canal they are to construct;
and to join us in protecting them, we invoke Great Britain, herself
no less deeply concerned in procuring the benefits of the proposed
canal than ourselves. For this purpose, in conversation, exhibit to Lord
Palmerston a copy of the paper marked A, which, you will see, is a
projet of a treaty similar to ours with Nicaragua on the subject of the
canal. It would secure to Great Britain every benefit derivable from
the canal and from Nicaragua which we have attempted to secure by
our treaty with her. Say to him that we are willing and anxious that
Great Britain should enter into such a treaty with Nicaragua; that we
have no doubt Nicaragua will gladly avail herself of the offer of Great
Britain to make such a treaty with her; and that our good offices, if
desired, will not be wanting to induce Nicaragua to adopt it. Place
the whole negotiation on the broad basis of a great highway for the
benefit of mankind, to be dedicated, especially by Great Britain and
the United States, to the equal benefit and advantage of all the nations
of the world that will join us in entering into these proposed treaty
stipulations with the State of Nicaragua. From the accompanying
copy of a despatch from Mr. Rives of the 25th ultimo, you will see
that Lord Palmerston is inclined to favor some such proposition. Tell
him that, since Mr. Rives conversed with him, we have received from
E. George Squier, our charge d'affaires at Guatemala, a treaty, negotiated
by him in pursuance of instructions from this government, of the
same import with the one we now desire Great Britain to form with
that State; that we understand, from the conversation of Lord Palmerston
with Mr. Rives, that Great Britain disavows any intention to colonize
any part of Nicaragua or Costa Rica; and that a written assurance to
that effect from Lord Palmerston to you would be highly gratifying to
the government and people of this country, and eminently tend to
strengthen and perpetuate the bonds of friendship now so happily
subsisting between the two greatest commercial nations of the world.
Say to him that our view of the chief mission of these two great
nations is to cultivate the arts and peaceful pursuits of commerce, and
to increase the happiness of each other and of all mankind. Should
he object that American citizens are to construct the canal, then represent
to him that this was a circumstance beyond the control of either his
or our government, as Nicaragua had the unquestionable right to contract
with whom she pleased; that our desire to protect these citizens does
not spring from any petty jealousy of other nations, though we are free
to confess that, if the work should be constructed by American enterprise,
under the protection of all nations, we shall be proud of the
achievement. The ready reflection will occur to your own mind, that,


if any nation on earth should keep the key of this communication for
the benefit of mankind, ours, as being most deeply interested in it, is
entitled to that custody. But we freely abandon, by inviting them to
make the same treaty, all desire to obtain advantage over others who
may be interested in that passage. If Great Britain desires any further
guaranties of our good faith than these assurances, say to his lordship
that we will gladly enter into a treaty stipulation with her Majesty's
government binding both nations never to colonize, annex, settle, or
fortify any part of the ancient territory of Guatemala, embracing Nicaragua,
Costa Rica, Honduras, and, indeed, the whole Mosquito coast;
that such a treaty would be highly gratifying to other nations of the
world, inclined to look with jealousy upon anything, however slight,
which may indicate an intention on the part of either of us to maintain
an exclusive position at any point on the isthmus, and especially any
one within striking distance of the proposed canal.

If, however, the British government shall reject these overtures on
our part, and shall refuse to co-operate with us in the generous and
philanthropic scheme of rendering the inter-oceanic communication by
the way of the port and river San Juan free to all nations upon the
same terms, we shall deem ourselves justified in protecting our interests
independently of her aid, and despite her opposition or hostility. With
a view to this alternative, we have a treaty with the State of Nicaragua,
a copy of which has been sent to you, and the stipulations of which
you should unreservedly impart to Lord Palmerston. You will inform
him, however, that this treaty was concluded without a power or instruction
from this government; that the President had no knowledge
of its existence, or of the intention to form it, until it was presented to
him by Mr. Hise, our late chargé d'affaires to Guatemala, about the
first of September last; and that, consequently, we are not bound to
ratify it, and will take no step for that purpose, if we can, by arrangements
with the British government, place our interests upon a just and
satisfactory foundation. But, if our effort for this end should be abortive,
the President will not hesitate to submit this or some other treaty
which may be concluded by the present chargé d'affaires to Guatemala
to the Senate of the United States for their advice and consent,
with a view to its ratification; and, if that enlightened body should approve
it, he also will give it his hearty sanction, and will exert all his
constitutional power to execute its provisions in good faith—a determination
in which he may confidently count upon the good will of the
people of the United States.

Should Lord Palmerston accept our proposition, the canal opening
the communication between the Pacific and the Caribbean sea will be
accomplished, if it be practicable. Of its practicability, he can doubtless
give you much information; and you will endeavor to procure and
transmit to this department all the intelligence connected with that subject
which you can obtain in England. No scientific exploration of the
route has yet been made under the direction of this government; but
all the information which we possess leads us to believe that, by the
aid of the San Juan river and the Lakes Nicaragua and Managua, (or
Leon,) an inter-oceanic ship-communication may be obtained, which
will admit us to our possessions on the Pacific, with the trade and


treasures of that mighty ocean, saving a dangerous navigation around
the cape of more than twelve thousand miles. Without some such
ship-navigation, it may be difficult, at some future period, to maintain
our government over California and Oregon.

If there be any other practicable ship-canal route across the isthmus
which connects North and South America, we are not aware of it. The
British government seems for a long time to have entertained the opinion
that this will furnish the most eligible, if not the only practicable,
canal route between the two oceans. It would be difficult, on any other
supposition, to account for the pertinacity with which Great Britain has
again and again renewed her pretensions to this territory, as the ally
and protector of the Mosquito King. Early in the year 1848, and
about the time we acquired the title to California by the treaty of
Guadalupe Hidalgo, she renewed her ancient pretensions to the San
Juan river, fitted out a military expedition against the Nicaraguans,
drove them from the town of San Juan de Nicaragua, at the mouth
of the river, and concluded an agreement with them in the island of
Cuba, in the Lake of Nicaragua, by which she compelled them to abandon
the ancient town of San Juan, the name of which was Anglicized
Greytown. It is to be observed, however, that, by those articles of
agreement, the Nicaraguans did not cede to her any portion of their
territory, or acknowledge her title, or that of the Mosquito King, to any
part of it. A copy of those articles of agreement accompanies this despatch.
You will find it in a document published by the British Parliament,
which I exhibited to you at our last interview before you departed
for England. You will observe, that while the third article of this
agreement declares that, if Nicaragua shall interrupt or disturb the British
possession, as the ally of Mosquito, at the mouth of the river San
Juan, it shall be a declaration of hostilities against Great Britain, the
last article expressly reserves to Nicaragua the right of remonstrance
against this usurpation, and of negotiation to defeat it. We consider
Nicaragua at perfect liberty to enter into a treaty with us for her protection,
and that, while England shall continue to represent herself as
the ally and protector of the Mosquito King—a savage who had never any
shadow of title against Spain, Central America, or Nicaragua, except
that which every Indian tribe possesses in the country of a discoverer,
liable to extinguishment or pre-emption by the discoverer—we are at
liberty to countervail this attempt on the part of Great Britain to gain
an exclusive right or monopoly of the navigation of the San Juan river
by accepting the Nicaraguan title. But we do not desire to be driven to
this extremity. We do not covet a collision with Great Britain. We
are sensible that the canal ought to be open to the navigation of the
world, or at least to that of all nations who will enter into treaty stipulations
to guaranty the neutrality of this part of Nicaragua, and protection
to the capitalists who engage in and perfect the canal. Say, therefore,
with perfect frankness, to Lord Palmerston, that, while we are
willing and anxious that the canal communication should be open between
the two oceans, we desire no exclusive right to that navigation,
and will not seek to obtain it, unless we are driven to do so in self-defence;
that, while we invite Great Britain to join with us in these guaranties,
we hold the neutrality of Costa Rica and the whole country on


both sides of the projected canal to be highly important; that, while
we are willing to forbear the exclusive occupation of the canal, and invite
all other nations to participate with us on equal terms in the enjoyment
of it, no other great maritime power should occupy the territory
on either side of the canal. If we were to occupy it, Great Britain would
complain that, in the event of a war, we by virtue of our exclusive possession,
might overawe or obstruct the commerce of a hostile power.
For the same reason, no other authority except that of the small States
bordering on the canal should be permitted to be exercised over the adjoining
territory. It is said that Costa Rica has lately set up a claim to
the south bank of the San Juan river, if not to a part of the river itself,
and that Great Britain may abet her pretensions, if she has not already
engaged to protect them, or obtained a cession of apart of the Costa
Rican territory, or of some exclusive privileges in a projected communication
between the two oceans by the way of the San Juan and Sarapiqui
rivers, the latter being a tributary of the San Juan. On this subject
you will interrogate Lord Palmerston, and ascertain the purposes of the
British government in regard to Costa Rica, as well as Nicaragua. Say
to Lord Palmerston that the President considers that the interests of
England ought to be identical with ours.

In our instructions to our present chargé d'affaires to Guatemala,
and to your predecessor, on this subject, copies of which will be found
in the archives of the legation, the views of the President are so fully
set forth, that I forbear to dwell longer upon them at this time. The
President still entertains the same views; and, should England oppose
them, he will learn with deep regret of her refusal to co-operate with
us for the protection of an enterprise which we think would be equally
honorable and productive of incalculable benefits to both nations.

The delay of your predecessor has made it absolutely necessary
that you should speedily bring this negotiation to a close. Lose no
time, therefore, in ascertaining the views of the British ministry. It
is most desirable that the two governments should understand each
other before the approaching session of Congress, and that the President
should be able to state the views of Great Britain on the whole
subject to Congress at an early period of the next session. Should
Lord Palmerston refuse all our propositions, enter the protest which
Mr. Bancroft was instructed to present, and immediately advise me of
the fact. But, should the British government agree with us—as, judging
from the interview of Mr. Rives with Lord Palmerston, I hope it
will—then invite the advice and concurrence of that government in such
a plan as may seem best adapted to attain the ends we have in view.
If you find his lordship willing to co-operate with us, but still tenacious
about the protection of the Mosquito Indians, say to him that we cannot
doubt that Nicaragua could, in perfect accordance with her claim
under the Spanish title, and would willingly, secure to those Indians
a proper annuity for the purpose of extinguishing their title; that, according
to our information in regard to the number of those Indians in
Nicaragua, it does not exceed one thousand, and we learn that they are
annually decreasing. If this information be correct, we cannot suppose
there will be much difficulty in making an arrangement with
Nicaragua which will be perfectly satisfactory, not only to Great Britain,


but to her ally. Converse with Lord Palmerston on the subject of the
boundaries of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. General Herran could not
give me the information which I expected on this subject, but I have not
been able to find any authentic map of Guatemala or Central America or
Nicaragua which does not extend the Nicaraguan territory at least as far
north as Bluefields river. It is highly important that we should understand
Lord Palmerston on this subject of boundaries. Also endeavor to
induce him to withdraw all pretensions to the whole Mosquito coast.
The British should occupy no position within striking distance of the
canal in time of war; and you will see by the map that they should
not retain any settlement on the isthmus, though we may not object to
their right to cut woods in that part of the coast north of Nicaragua to
which the Spanish treaties have given them this privilege.

I shall await the result of your negotiation with no little anxiety.
Bring it to a speedy close, one way or the other. We are ready for
either alternative. If we must have a collision with Great Britain
about this matter, the sooner we understand it the better for us. The
President is firm in his purpose, and will never consent that Great Britain
shall, under any pretext, enjoy any exclusive possession within the
territory of Nicaragua. If we adopt the treaty negotiated by Mr. Hise,
and Great Britain should persevere in her assertion of the Mosquito
title, I know not how we can avoid a collision consistently with our
national honor. If, on the other hand, Great Britain should, as the
President sincerely hopes she will, meet our proposition in the spirit in
which it is made, the two greatest commercial nations of the world,
instead of contending in hostility with each other, will engage in the
accomplishment of an object which may redound more to the true glory
of each of them than the most successful war in which either could

I am, respectfully and sincerely, yours,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 6.]



As I know you to be much interested in all that takes place with regard
to the Mosquito question, I enclose two articles from the "News,"
apparently the first of a series. If they are continued, I will send the
subsequent numbers.



The independent States into which the ephemeral republic of Central
America has resolved itself occupy the territory of what, under
the Spanish monarchy, was called the kingdom of Guatemala, with
the exception of the province of Chiapas, which has been incorporated
into the Mexican Union.

As the States of Central America rest their territorial claims on the
grants, charters, and divisions of the kingdom of Guatemala, a few
facts respecting the constitution of that vice-royalty require to be premised.
Less is known of its internal economy than of any other part
of the Spanish dominions in America. Its various provinces were
settled independently, at different times, by different parties of Spanish
adventurers. Chiapas fell under the dominion of Spain, before 1524,
by the voluntary submission of the natives. Vera Paz was "brought
under the dominion of the church about 1552." Honduras was made
a province in 1524. The conquest of Nicaragua commenced in 1522.
If Juarros's statement, that the archives of Cartago contained public
records of the year 1522, be correct, Costa Rica must have been the
first Spanish settlement in Central America; which is not improbable,
though we have no record of its commencement. The city of Guatemala
was founded by Alverado in 1524. Some of the settlements we
have named originated in the building of a Spanish city, and the attribution
of a jurisdiction to it, within which the municipality governed;
others were simple organizations, under Spanish authorities, of the Indian
communities inhabiting certain districts; others (and of this number
Costa Rica appears to have been one) were chartered provinces.
Central America, under the Spaniards, was originally an aggregate of
settlements, recognising the suzerainty of the king of Spain, but independent
of each other—differing in their privileges, local organization,
and even in the races occupying them. Their boundaries were, in all
instances, vaguely indicated; in some, they can scarcely be said to
have had definite limits.

In 1542 a chancery and royal audiencia were established in the city
of Guatemala, with authority over all the settlements and provinces
from the northern boundary of Chiapas to the southern boundary of
Costa Rica. This was the first bond of union among the settlements
and provinces of Central America. The seat of the central register
and of the central supreme court naturally became the residence of
the governor and captain-general. Alverado had exercised authority
over these settlements from 1524 till his death, in 1541—for four years
as lieutenant-governor under Cortez, and subsequently as governor by
direct delegation from the crown. But the incorporation of the kingdom
must be held to date from the establishment of a central jurisdiction
and register. The bishopric of Guatemala, established in 1534,
was not made metropolitan and invested with authority over the
suffragan bishoprics of Nicaragua, Chiapas, and Comayagua (Honduras)
till 1742. Supreme authority and jurisdiction were vested in
the governor, the audiencia, and chancery; but each province was administered


according to its local organization, customs, and laws. The
kingdom of Guatemala was the aggregate of the settlements and districts;
its boundaries were the boundaries of the outside provinces.
The ephemeral republic of Central America, and the States which
have succeeded it, can only claim the territories of the townships, districts,
and provinces of which they are composed; for the kingdom
had no other defined limits than theirs.

On the 15th of September, 1821, the city of Guatemala proclaimed
its independence of Spain, and invited the other provinces of the kingdom,
or captain-generalship, to follow its example. The provinces of
San Salvador and Honduras immediately followed its example. Nicaragua
hesitated, but on the 11th of October declared, after the example
of Mexico, for the plan of lquala, which was to offer the government
to a Spanish prince, who was to reign independently of Spain. A number
of desultory local movements ensued. On the 5th of January,
1822, the Mexican government was proclaimed in Guatemala; and on
the 4th of November, in that year, an imperial decree partitioned the
old captain-generalship into three districts: Chiapas, with Ciudad Real
for its capital; Sacataquez, with Guatemala for its capital; Costa
Rica, with Nicaragua for its capital. On the fall of Iturbide, the Mexican
authorities were successively expelled from all the provinces. Ah
assembly of national representatives were called by General Fisiola.
With the exception of Chiapas, which adhered to Mexico, all the provinces
agreed to form a federal republic, of which the constituent
States were Guatemala, San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and
Costa Rica. Guatemala was made up of several "alcaldias" of the
old kingdom; Honduras and San Salvador were the "intendencias"
of Comayagua and San Salvador; Nicaragua consisted of the "intendencia"
of Leon, with several districts added; Costa Rica was the old
"government" of that name.

On the 15th of May, 1824, the national convention agreed that a
State congress should be held in each of the five States, and that
deputies should be sent from each to a central congress in Guatemala.
The government of Central America was acknowledged by Mexico on
the 20th of August, 1824. The conclusion of that year was spent
by the State assemblies in defining their respective boundaries and
dividing their territories into provinces. The first federal congress met
on the 6th of February, 1825; and eleven sessions were held previously
to 1838, in which year the federal union was virtually dissolved.

In 1846 an attempt was made to reunite the States under a federal
government. The 15th of May was appointed for the meeting of two
representatives from each in Sonsonate. On that day, only the representatives
from San Salvador and Costa Rica appeared. Those from
Honduras and Nicaragua joined them a few days later. The deputies
of Guatemala did not appear till the middle of July. By that time,
one of the Costa Rican representatives had died, and the other refused
to act alone. After a short time spent in desultory and inconclusive
negotiations, the deputies separated without effecting anything; and
the attempt to reunite the States and establish a general government
has been allowed to drop.


At present the State of Guatemala is despotically governed by the
Indian adventurer Carrera; Costa Rica by a more intelligent and
humane self-elected chief, who acts equally independently of constitutional
forms and trammels. San Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua
possess republican forms of government; but the faction which has the
ascendancy in arms for the time being nominates to all the offices of

From this brief recapitulation of events, it is clear that there exists
in Central America no government or community entitled to claim
territory as the representative either of the old captain-generalship of
Guatemala or the more recent republic of Central America. Guatemala,
San Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica are each
entitled to claim the territories contained within the ascertained limits
of the province or provinces which constitute each respectively, and no

Guatemala and San Salvador are thus put out of the field, in so far
as any claim to what has been called the Mosquito coast, or any part
of it, is concerned. Guatemala does not represent the captain-general-ship
of that name, but only the "alcaldias" of Sonsonate, Altos, &c.
Neither Guatemala nor San Salvador is even conterminous with the
Mosquito territory; Honduras and Nicaragua intervene between them.
If the Mosquito territory can be shown to form part of any of the
States in Central America, it must be Honduras, Nicaragua, or Costa
Rica, which are conterminous with it.

We propose to examine the claims of these States in succession.
In order to do this satisfactorily, it will be necessary to go back and
trace the history of the Mosquito territory to the renunciation of their
dependence on the Spanish crown by the inhabitants of Central America.
And in this retrospect it will be further necessary to entertain the
question whether the Mosquito territory can be said to have formed, at
the era of independence, part of the captain-generalship of Guatemala.
A claim to it has been advanced by New Granada, on the ground that
it had been incorporated into the territory dependent on the audiencia
of Santa Fé de Bogota. If this statement be correct, it follows that
no province of Central America can have any claim to a territory
which had been expressly separated from all of them. It does not,
however, follow that the republic of New Granada is entitled to claim
any territory merely on the ground that it belonged to the audiencia
of Santa Fé; for the republic does not embrace all the districts united
in that audiencia. Nor does it follow, even though the Spanish government
claimed dominion over the Mosquito coast, that it regarded that
coast as part of any of the districts now comprehended in Honduras,
Nicaragua, or Costa Rica.

The relations of the Mosquito territory, or coast, as it has been more
frequently denominated, and its king, to England, are sufficiently clear
and unambiguous.

Juarros, in his History of Guatemala, states that "between the
provinces of Nicaragua and Comayagua (i. e., between the present
States of Nicaragua and Honduras) lie those of Taguzgalpa and
Tolagalpa, inhabited by unconverted Indians of various nations, differing
in language, manners, and customs, and in a state of warfare with each


other." He adds that "these nations are but obscurely known by the
name of Xicaques, Moscoes, and Samboes." He describes their territory
as bounded on the north by the river Aguan, and on the south by the
river San Juan. It is clear that he speaks of the territory called the
Mosquito coast, and that the Moscoes are the tribe from which the name
is derived.

All English authors and traders concur in attributing to the chief of
the Moscoes a de facto suzeraineté over the other tribes on the coast; and
they extend the sphere of its exercise considerably to the south of the
San Juan. Roberts, in his narrative, (published in "Constable's Miscellany,")
says, at p. 124:

"In pursuance of my determination to proceed to the northward, I
quitted Pearl Key Lagoon; and, returning by Rio Grande to Trintzapulec,
I there met Admiral Earnee, one of the principal chiefs of the
Mosquito shore, who had been as far to the southward as Boca del
Toro, collecting the king's tribute."

Among the papers presented to Parliament last session relating to the
Mosquito territory is an affidavit by Mr. Peter Shepherd, to the effect
that the Valiente Indians occupy the banks of the river Crickamavula;
that he has been in the habit of trading with them; and that their chiefs
were in the habit of carrying with them commissions under the Mosquito
King. But Spaniards, as well as English, concur in representing
the King of Mosquito as exercising these rights of sovereignty. Among
the papers referred to is the following deposition, emitted in 1811, by
Don Manual Quijado, "colonel of the army of the State of Nicaragua,
and collector of the customs of San Juan de Nicaragua:"

"I certify, in due form, that it consists with my knowledge that, in the
State of Costa Rica, an annual tribute has always been paid to the King
of the Mosquitoes, and this has been the case since my infancy, [about
1770,] by order of the Spanish government; and that, at the plantations
of the mother of the subscriber, in Matina, the governor of the
province exacted annually a seroon of cocoa to pay the tribute to the
King of the Mosquitoes; and that it also consists with my knowledge that,
since the year 1823, the payment has been discontinued, in consequence
of having proclaimed their independence of Spain. From which it is
inferred that there is not a doubt that Matina and Salt Creek belong to
the King of the Mosquitoes."

Matina and Salt Creek lie to the north of Boca del Toro and the
Crickamavula, and to the south of San Juan. We have, therefore, the
concurring testimony of English and Spanish witnesses that the King of
the Mosquitoes did, from 1770 to 1823, de facto exercise rights of sovereign
authority over Spaniards and Indians as far south as Boca del
Toro, he and his tribe residing at the northern extremity of the Mosquito

With a succession of these powerful chiefs we find the English, from
an early period, treating as independent sovereigns. In the journals of
the Jamaica House of Assembly we find recorded, in the year 1720, a
treaty between the then governor, on behalf of the British crown, and
Jeremy, King of the Mosquito Indians. By this treaty, the copper-colored
potentate bound himself, in virtue of having received a promise
of certain sums of money, to send fifty of his subjects to Jamaica to


assist in the capture of rebellious negroes lurking in the mountains of
Jamaica. The treaty is one of which neither party had much reason
to be proud; but it is an exact counterpart of the treaty concluded at a
later period between Great Britain and the Elector of Hesse, in virtue
of which that prince received a subsidy, and sent some of his subjects
to assist in the attempt to reconquer the United States. England treated
on the same footing with the King of the Mosquitoes and the Elector of
Hesse; it regarded them as equally territorial sovereigns.

Many other treaties between the crown of England and the kings of
the Mosquitoes are on record—some of an earlier, some of a later date.
Their tenor is different: sometimes the king submits to be the liegeman
of the King of England—sometimes he only puts himself under
the protection of the English crown. But all the treaties concur in
showing that neither the Mosquito chief nor the British government
recognised any other prince or potentate as possessing such rights of
sovereignty over the former as would entitle him to interfere with or
forbid the contracting of such alliances.

Let us now inquire what were the claims of Spain, during that period,
as concerning the Mosquito coast and its chief. Spain, it is well known,
claimed exclusive sovereignty over the whole of the Americas from
Florida and Louisiana southwards, with the exception of the Brazils.
But de facto many European powers had settlements within this territory
independent of Spain. The French had Cayenne; the Dutch,
Surinam and Guiana; the English, Belize and the adjoining territory
on the Gulf of Honduras. The vague general claim of Spain to the
whole of this vast territory can no more, without further evidence, be
held to compromise the claim of the Mosquito chief to independence
than the claims of France, Holland, and England to sovereignty over
their mainland colonies and settlements.

We have seen that Juarros describes the Mosquito coast as consisting
of two provinces, distinct and separate from and independent of
the provinces of Nicaragua and Comayagua, (Honduras.) In a subsequent
chapter of his work, he states, more in detail, that the province
of Tolagalpa lies between Cape Gracias a Dios and the river San
Juan; Taguzgalpa, between the river Aguan and Cape Gracias a Dios.
He proceeds to state that, the attention of the Spanish government
having been drawn to the condition and character of the tribes inhabiting
Tolagalpa, Philip II commanded, in 1594, that information should
be collected as to the "best means that could be adopted for reconciling
them to the Spanish government." It was not, however, till
1606 that active measures were adopted for forming settlements on the
territory; and converting the natives to Christianity. From that time
till about the middle of the eighteenth century, various expeditions into
Tolagalpa were undertaken by the Spaniards. All these attempted
to penetrate into the province by descending the river Segoria; in other
words, they were attempts to extend the boundary of the Spanish settlements
on the Pacific eastward to the shores of the Caribbean sea.
All of them were defeated and driven back by the Indians to the Spanish
settlements. About 1679, the Franciscans succeeded in establishlishing
a mission among the Indians of Tolagalpa; but even this was,
after some time, withdrawn in despair. In 1811, Juarros writes: "It


is more thin half a century since the Franciscans have abandoned the
province of Tolagalpa to its idolatry." The history of the Spanish attempts
to reduce Taguzgalpa, as related by Juarros, is a pretty close
counterpart of that we have just been noticing. They emanated from
Truxillo, the capital of Comayagua, or Honduras, in 1622, and proceeded
southward along or parallel to the coast. They ended, after
various defeats, in the establishment of one mission, which in 1805 had
two villages of Indians under its care, and in 1810 was in a state of
suspended animation. It is clear from the narrative of Juarros (a Spaniard
by race and a native of GautemalaRegularized:Guatemala by birth) that the Indians of
the Mosquito coast successively repelled every attempt of the Spanish
government to incorporate their territory into its dominions.

This view is confirmed by the two reports of the committee on fortifications,
which led to the promulgation of the royal order of 30th
November, 1803, declaring that the island of St. Andrew and the Mosquito
shore from Cape Gracias a Dios towards the river of Chagres
were to be separated from the captaincy general of Guatemala, and
annexed to the vice-royalty of Santa Fé. Throughout these reports
we find mention made of the island of St. Andrew as a garrisoned
settlement of Spain, while with regard to the Mosquito coast it is invariably
"the proposed establishments." or "the proposed settlements,"
on that coast that are spoken of.

It is stated that the island of St. Andrew is distinct, and with difficulty
accessible, from Guatemala; that intercourse with it from Carthagena
is easy and frequent. It is, therefore, proposed to incorporate
it into the vice-royalty of Santa Fé as a point d'appui whence settlements
may be made and supported on the Mosquito coast.

The manner in which these settlements were meant to be made and
carried on will be sufficiently apparent from the following citations
from the reports referred to. It is stated in the second report, that "at
the present day [1803] this part of the coast is uninhabited and deserted."
The true meaning of this description is rendered clear from
another passage: "The English invaded the kingdom of Guatemala
by the river San Juan, which discharges itself on that coast, in the war
declared in 1779 and ended in 1783, assisted by the Mosco and Sambo
Indians." The territory was not inhabited by Spaniards, but there
were Indians in it. The territory is, moreover, admitted, in the sentence
just quoted, not to form part of the kingdom of Guatemala. That
kingdom is said to have been invaded from it. The report recommends
that the actual command of "the proposed settlements" should be given
to the governor of the island of St. Andrew, "the viceroy of Santa
Fé giving him a commission to grant to the inhabitants who may voluntarily
leave the island or elsewhere to establish themselves on the
coast; and so soon as they amount to twenty inhabitants, the bishop of
Carthagena may appoint them a clergyman, who, erecting a provisional
chapel, may attend to their spiritual welfare, and aim, with discretion
and zeal and great gentleness, at gaining the hearts of the wandering
savages, without which previous disposition their conversion to our true
religion ought not to be attempted consistently with human and Christian
prudence. And in order that these first settlers may not encounter
opposition on the part of the Indians in the settlements as they are


formed, it is proper that no garrison of troops should be sent that might
alarm or offend them, or betray to them that such settlements are
making under the sanction of the government, which none knows better
how to conceal from them than the governor of St. Andrew, Don
Thomas O'Neill."

The avowed object of the Spanish government was insidiously to
infuse a Spanish population among the Indians who denied the authority
of Spain over them, that might in time grow strong enough to subdue
these Indians. The treatment to which the conquered Indians were to
be subjected is indicated in another passage of the report:

"It is undoubted, sire, that the multiplication of these volunteer settlements
is the most efficacious and powerful means of subduing, domesticating,
and exterminating the savage Indians, who, once separated
from the coast, would be annihilated by each other, or at least could
never join themselves to the Indians."

A passage in the first report recognises the existence of a population
of English race, and the progress of English civilization, among the
Mosquito Indians:

"It is expedient to apprize him (O'Neill) that, for the present, his
continuance in office is essential, in order that, by his stay, he may consolidate
and arrange the municipal laws of the island, and aid the endeavors
of those loyal vassals to cultivate, not only cotton, but the
grains and fruit necessary for their sustenance, contributing at the same
time to the conversion to Catholicism of those neighbors who are so
well inclined to embrace it—immediately appointing the rector, with
an assistant curate, as O'Neill urgently requests, but that one of the
two should be an Irishman, or conversant with the English language,
to be able to communicate with those people."

The end and aim of these reports, and the royal order based upon
them, is to transfer the task of subduing and colonizing the Mosquito
coast from the governor of Guatemala, who had failed in accomplishing
it, to the governor of Santa Fé, who was said to be more favorably
situated for effecting it. The order was issued in 1803, when the
troubles which paralyzed Spain, and effectually precluded it ever after
from exercising any authority in America, had begun, and nothing appears
to have been done in consequence of it. Indeed, the whole transaction
bears palpable marks of having originated in a personal quarrel
between O'Neill, governor of St. Andrew, and the captain-general of
Guatemala, and to have been carried on by means of court intrigue.
O'Neill, by his professions of anxiety to promote missionary exertions,
gained the court priests and chaplains. The captain-general of Guatemala,
in a grumbling letter declaring his acquiescence in the arrangement,
broadly states that O'Neill's object in withdrawing himself from
the authority of Guatemala was to obtain opportunities of carrying on,
unchecked, a system of smuggling with the English colonies and settlements.
O'Neill's conduct during the war imparts probability to the
charge. This, however, is of little consequence. Enough that it is
clear that the professed aim of the parties concerned was to conquer
and colonize an independent territory, composed of a mixed population
of Indians and English, and that no step was taken to carry out the
plan before the overthrow of Spanish authority throughout America.


When the inhabitants of Central America threw off the Spanish yoke,
every province and every community was alike free to choose its own
government. The inhabitants of Guatemala, of Nicaragua, of Honduras,
of San Salvador, of Costa Rica, have seen fit to avail themselves
of this liberty to form so many independent States. The inhabitants
of Tolagalpa and Taguzgalpa—in other words, of the Mosquito coast—
have exercised the same free right of choice. They have declared
themselves subjects of the Mosquito chief, and under the protection of
England. Their right to do so is as incontestable as the right of the
inhabitants of Honduras and Nicaragua to declare themselves independent
republics. Their title to the territories included within the limits
assigned by Juarros to Tolagalpa and Taguzgalpa is as valid as the
claims of the Hondurans to the province of Comayagua, of the Nicaraguans
to the territory of the aggregate of districts which have combined
to form that State.

There is a passage in the second report from which we have been
quoting which overthrows the claim of the Nicaraguan government to
any part of the coast north of the San Juan. The annexation of the
Mosquito territory to Santa Fé, it is declared, may be effected "without
being any obstacle to the dependence on Guatemala of the guard of
a corporal and four men at the mouth of the river San Juan, because it
is an outpost of the castle of San Carlos, situated on the river, before
the entrance to the Lake of Nicaragua." The Spanish government attributes
the territorial government to the vice-royalty of Santa Fé, but
allows the garrison of San Carlos to maintain an outpost of four men
and a corporal on the territory. The grant to Santa Fé of a territory
not belonging to Spain is obviously invalid; but the admission that the
territory was outside the boundaries of Nicaragua is conclusive against
any claims that State may advance to it. It is clear, from the concurring
testimony of Juarros and the report, that in no point does the Nicaraguan
territory extend to the Caribbean sea. To the north of the
mouth of the San Juan, according to Spanish authorities, is the Mosquito
territory; to the south is the province or State of Costa Rica. A
letter addressed by the secretary of the government of Costa Rica to
the secretary of the government of Mosquito, on the 29th of September,
1840, will be found among the Mosquito papers presented to Parliament.
It recognises the independence and territorial rights of the Mosquitoes.
It claims Main [Marina] and Salt Creek, and adds: "The subjects of
Costa Rica never interfere with the Mosquitoes in their territory: why
should the Mosquitoes interfere with them?" Some doubt may exist as
to which branch of the San Juan—the river so called, or the Colorado—
forms the boundary between Costa Rica and Mosquito; but with this
question Nicaragua has nothing to do.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 8.]



I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch
of the 20th ultimo, not numbered, but which I have marked No. 4, and


yesterday morning addressed a note to Lord Palmerston, requesting an
early interview on the subject of Nicaragua. I believe he is now in the
country. In case I do not hear from him to-morrow, I shall call at the
Foreign Office to make arrangements for a speedy interview. You
may rest assured there shall be no delay on my part in bringing this
question to the consideration of the British government, and obtaining
a decision. You shall hear from me again when I have seen Lord

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



After closing my despatch No. 8, I unexpectedly received a
note, at a quarter past three, from Lord Palmerston, appointing an interview
immediately, and repaired at once to his house, where I had a
free conversation respecting Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mosquito, and
particularly upon the points of occupation and colonization, and the
guaranty of the neutrality of a ship-canal or other communication across
the isthmus. If these two questions are settled by Great Britain
in accordance with our views, it seems to me they will form the basis
of successful action hereafter. I informed Lord Palmerston of the
treaties made by Mr. Hise and Mr. Squier, and also of Mr. White's
contract with Nicaragua, and promised that he might read all of them
at a future time. I stated that my present object was to obtain from
him a declaration in writing of the views of his government upon the
two questions above referred to, that I might communicate it to you by
to-morrow's steamer, and, for reasons that I stated, placed it upon the
ground of personal favor. He expressed himself willing to answer a
note embodying these interrogatories, after first seeing the Premier.

I also took occasion to put some of the other questions you instructed
me to ask. To the question whether this government is informed of
any route for a canal more favorable than that proposed, he replied
that he had no knowledge of any other. To the question, What are
the purposes of the British government towards Costa Rica? he answered,
They have no political relations whatever with that country;
that the government of Great Britain had been often applied to by the
agents of Costa Rica to assist them, but had declined meddling with the
political affairs of the Central American States. To the inquiry as to a
late map of Central America, he replied that he did not know whether
any had been published; but he exhibited to me a map of Costa Rica,
lately sent to him by an agent of that State. I will make further inquiries
for such a map, and, if it is to be had, will send you a copy as
soon as possible. I then told Lord Palmerston that I should not now
enter upon a discussion of the rights of the Mosquitoes, and hoped it


would not become necessary, but, if it should, that I was prepared to
show, by reference to principles of public law recognised and practised
upon by Great Britain herself, that neither the Mosquitoes nor
Great Britain had the slightest claim to the sovereignty of that territory.
I thank you for the suggestions and full instructions upon this
subject. If it is to be argued, I shall find your despatch of great

After this interview, I returned at once, and addressed a note to Lord
Palmerston, requesting to know, in time to send by this packet, if possible,
first, "whether Great Britain intends to occupy or colonize Nicaragua,
Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, (so called,) or any part of Central
America;" and, second, "whether her Majesty's government would join
with the United States in guarantying the neutrality of a ship-canal,
railway, or other communication, to be open to the world and common
to all nations." At the same time I took occasion to say that I had no
doubt the difficulties between Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Indians,
could be arranged satisfactorily to all parties, but declined entering
upon the discussion of those questions at present. I also repeated that
we had no ulterior purposes in view, and expressed my belief that the
United States would be willing to mutually agree with Great Britain
neither to settle, annex, colonize, nor fortify Central America. You will
perceive that I narrowed the ground on which we shall, of course, act
hereafter, in order to obtain a prompt reply—well knowing your anxiety
on this subject, and the importance of relieving the popular mind. I
cannot but think, however, that the whole thing hinges on the point
raised by these questions. If the reply of Lord Palmerston is of the
character I anticipate, I firmly believe that this question of Mosquito,
with the disputes between Nicaragua and Costa Rica about their
boundaries, can be amicably settled. Costa Rica comes here and finds
fault with the United States. Nicaragua goes to the United States and
finds fault with Great Britain. Now, if the whole question is approached
with a desire to preserve harmony, not only between the
United States and Great Britain, but between the several States of
Central America, and your suggestion be carried out respecting the
Mosquito Indians, the whole affair must be settled, and without compromising
the honor of any party.

I have been forced to write this note before receiving a reply from
Lord Palmerstor, as, if I get One, it will not come till just before the
closing of the mail. I have also been obliged to write in great haste,
as twenty-four hours have not yet elapsed since I left the legation to
go to Lord Palmerston's house; and it is very possible I may have
omitted some parts of the conversation. I have endeavored to give
you the more essential parts, and hope at an early day this question
will be amicably settled, and a new era opened in the history of the
world by the creation of a new highway for its traffic.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.


Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.


AS I told you in our conversation this morning, I have
been instructed by the President to inquire whether the British government
intends to occupy or colonize Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito
coast, (so called,) or any part of Central America. I have also
been instructed to inquire whether the British government will unite
with the United States in guarantying the neutrality of a ship-canal,
railway, or other communication, to be open to the world and common
to all nations. May I beg the favor of an answer to these inquiries,
and express the wish that I may receive it before two o'clock tomorrow,
so as to send it by this week's packet?

I am aware that Nicaragua is in dispute with Costa Rica, on the one
hand, about her boundary, and with Mosquito, on the other, about their
sovereignty. I do not propose to enter on these questions. I only
desire to know the views of her Majesty's government on the questions
I have proposed. At the same time, I cannot but think that Great
Britain and the United States can heal these breaches by kind offices,
and that the Indians can be provided for in a manner satisfactory to
Nicaragua and Great Britain, and far better for them than the equivocal
position they now occupy.

I need not assure your lordship that the United States have no ulterior
purposes in view. They frankly disclaim all intention of obtaining
territory in Central America, and, I have no doubt, would be willing to
mutually agree with Great Britain neither to settle, annex, colonize, nor
fortify that country.

I am, my lord, sincerely yours,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



I have just received from Lord Palmerston an answer to my
note of the 8th, communicated to you in my last despatch, and enclose
a copy of it. I have not yet had an opportunity to show him the treaties
made by Mr. Hise and Mr. Squier, with the charter granted by
Nicaragua for a canal, as he left town the 10th, and has not yet returned.
I shall do so at the earliest possible day, and proceed with the
negotiations in accordance with your instructions. Sir Henry Lytton
Bulwer sails to-day, and is doubtless fully instructed upon this question.
There appears to be a disposition to settle the matter amicably. So
far as I am able to judge, the difficulty will be in obtaining the consent
and guaranty of Great Britain to invest Nicaragua with the sovereignty
of St. John or Greytown. There is no good feeling existing on the
part of this government toward that State. I will obtain from Lord
Palmerston the course England intends to pursue, and communicate it
to you at once.


With the hope of having your views upon the present position of the
question, I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient

Lord Palmerston to Mr. Lawrence.


I have received your letter of the 8th instant, written
in accordance with what passed in our conversation in the morning of
that day, and I hasten to reply to your inquiries.

With regard to the first part of your inquiry, I beg to say that her
Majesty's government do not intend to occupy or colonize Nicaragua,
Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast, or any part of Central America.

With regard to Mosquito, however, a close political connexion has
existed between the crown of Great Britain and the State and territory
of Mosquito for a period of about two centuries; but the British government
does not claim dominion in Mosquito.

With regard to the second part of your inquiry, I beg to say that
her Majesty's government will feel great pleasure in combining and cooperating
with the government of the United States for the purpose of
assisting the operations of any company which may be formed with a
view to establish a commercial communication, by canal or railway,
between the Atlantic and Pacific, across the isthmus which divides the
northern from the southern portion of the American continent, both by
obtaining local security for the works while in progress, and when
completed, and in use, and by placing such a communication, through
the means of political arrangements, beyond the reach of molestation,
disturbance, or obstruction, by reason of international disputes which
may at any time unfortunately arise—upon the condition, moreover,
that such communication should at all times be open and accessible for
the commerce of all nations upon equal terms for all. Her Majesty's
government would feel that the union of two great powers for the accomplishment
of an object of such general utility, and tending so much
to assist the diffusion of civilization and to strengthen the foundations
of international peace, would be as honorable to the powers concerned
in such an arrangement as the result would be advantageous to the
commercial interests of the world at large. With regard to the port of
Greytown, at the mouth of the river St. John, her Majesty's government
would fully undertake to obtain the consent of Mosquito to such
arrangements as would render that port entirely applicable, and on the
principles above mentioned, to the purposes of such a sea-to-sea communication.

You advert in your letter to the differences which have arisen between
the republics of Nicaragua and Costa Rica in regard to boundaries
and to some other matters; and you suggest that the joint influence
of Great Britain and of the United States should be employed to heal,
by their good offices, the breaches which have interrupted the friendly
relations of those two contiguous States. Her Majesty's government


would, upon every account, be glad to join with the United States in
effecting such a reconciliation; and the more so, because the cordial
co-operation of both those republics would be essential for the satisfactory
completion of the contemplated undertaking.

I have only further to say, that her Majesty's government have received
with great satisfaction your assurance that the United States
have no ulterior purposes in view in regard to these matters; that they
frankly disclaim all intention of obtaining territory in Central America;
and that you have no doubt that they would be willing to enter into a
mutual agreement with Great Britain neither to settle, annex, colonize,
nor fortify that country. And I can with equal frankness assure you that
into such a mutual agreement her Majesty's government would be
equally ready to enter.

I am, my dear sir, yours, very sincerely,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 13.]



I had the honor to receive, on the 19th instant, your note of the
31st ultimo, together with a copy of an agreement between Great
Britain and Nicaragua, which should have accompanied your note
No. 3. I now enclose a communication received from Lord Palmerston
since I last addressed you, proposing a joint survey by Great Britain
and the United States of the Isthmus of Darien, together with my reply
to the same. If a canal is to be constructed across the isthmus, it will,
I have no doubt, be best accomplished by the joint capital of the inhabitants
of the United States and Great Britain, the route and expenditure
being left to the intelligence and energy of those who may embark their
money in its construction.

Lord Palmerston not having returned to town, I have had no interview
with him since my last despatch. That he may have a clear
understanding of the position now occupied by the United States, I
have, in obedience to your instructions, furnished him with copies of
the treaties made by Mr. Hise and Mr. Squier, respectively—the latter,
I understand, under the authority and instruction of the President. I
also transmitted with the treaties a copy of the charter granted by the
republic of Nicaragua to David L. White and others for the construction
of a ship-canal. The proposal for a treaty between her Majesty's
government and Nicaragua I shall present in person. What may be
their effect upon the mind of the British cabinet, I will not undertake
to foretell. I can hardly believe, however, that Great Britain will not
yield the untenable ground she has taken, after the assurances I have
already given that a treaty will be presented and ratified by the Senate
embracing the guaranty for a ship-canal through the territory of Nicaragua,
including the St. Juan river and harbor, with Greytown, &c., &c.
I will not speculate upon this question, but close by remarking that, after
a careful examination of the Mosquito claim, with the protectorate of


England, I can see no ground for it to rest upon, either in history, public
law, or justice. I am collecting maps which may enable you to ascertain
the original boundaries of Guatemala, as well as the boundaries of
different States of Central America. I have sent to Paris for the
ancient Spanish maps. I hope to be able to send them by the steamer
of the first of December.

In the hope of receiving your further promised instructions next week,
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Lord Palmerston to Mr. Lawrence.


With reference to our recent correspondence about a passage,
by railway or canal, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I have
the honor to observe to you that the geographical features and the surface-conformation
of the country which forms the isthmus between
North and South America seem as yet to be very imperfectly known;
and the consequence is, that there are various and conflicting opinions
as to which is the part of that long tract of country which affords the
greatest natural facilities for the establishment of such a communication.
But, wherever such a communication may be established, and what-ever
its kind may be—whether a canal on a railway—there can be no
doubt that it will cost a considerable sum of money; and, if the capitalists
of Great Britain and of the United States are to be invited by the joint
action of the two governments to embark their money in such an undertaking,
it would seem desirable that the best spot should be chosen for
the execution of that undertaking.

Her Majesty's government would therefore wish to know whether
the government of the United States would agree with them in thinking
that, before any private companies are encouraged to fix upon any
particular point for their operations, it would be useful that the two
governments should combine for the purpose of effecting a joint examination
of the isthmus from end to end, with a view to ascertain which
are the several points where a sea-to-sea communication could be made,
and which of those points seem best adapted for a canal, and which for
a railway.

Such an examination would probably not occupy any great length of
time, because inland investigation could be required only at places
where the map and the configuration of the coast would lead to the supposition,
first, that a tolerably level passage might be found from sea
to sea, and, secondly, that sufficient harbor accommodations might be
constructed on each side of the isthmus.

The examination might be carried on by surveying ships and parties
working on each side of the isthmus at the same time; and their instructions
might be so framed that they might, to a certain extent, co-operate
or communicate with each other.


The surveying party on such sea would, in such case, be a mixed
one, consisting of British and United States surveyors; so that each
government would have two parties at work—the one on the Atlantic,
the other on the Pacific side of the isthmus.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, sir, your most obedient,
humble servant,
ABBOTT LAWRENCE, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.


With reference to your note of the 19th instant, inquiring
"whether the government of the United States would agree with them
[her Majesty's government] in thinking that, before any private companies
are encouraged to fix upon any particular point for their operations, it
would be useful that the two governments should combine for the purpose
of effecting a joint examination of the isthmus from end to end, with
a view to ascertain which are the several points where a sea-to-sea
communication could be made, and which of those points seem best
adapted for a canal, and which for a railway," I would state, in reply,
that I have no instructions on that point.

At the same time, I would repeat what I have verbally brought to
your lordship's notice—that the United States desire to see completed,
at an early day, great commercial highways from ocean to ocean, protected
by ample guaranties of neutrality from the selfishness of great
and the factiousness of small nations, and open alike to all. And, as
a nation of practical men, they are sensible that such highways can
only be constructed at great coast, and they cannot but wish that the
capital should be expended in the places best calculated for the ends
sought to be accomplished.

Your lordship is doubtless aware that, from the general information
possessed on this subject, the sentiment of the world has pointed more
particularly to two routes in the long tract of country connecting Mexico
with South America as the best suited for such highways—the one
at the very neck of the isthmus, substantially following the course of
the Chagres, and touching the Pacific at or near Panama; the other
by the St. Juan river and Nicaragua lake, and reaching the western
coast either by way of Lake Leon or at some more southern point.
It may not be known to you that the right to construct such highway
across the first of these routes has been granted to a company formed
originally in the United States, but since completed by the subscription
of a large amount of British capital; that they have surveyed and
located a railway from ocean to ocean; that they have actually closed
many contracts for its construction, and, (I have heard,) among others
that for the iron; and that the United States have guarantied the neutrality
of their road, and desire England and the other great nations of the
globe to join in the guaranty. This company is composed of men,
many of them known to me, whose integrity, mind, experience, and


wealth guaranty the successful completion of the work. Setting aside
the consideration that the location of the road is already substantially
decided, it must, I think, strike your lordship, as it does me, that intelligent
men, investing their own capital, will make a better, quicker,
and cheaper survey than government agents.

As to the other route, which would seem to be the better of the two
for a canal, and to possess, for the commerce of the east, greater
advantages, from its more northern position and more western outlet
on the Pacific, you will perceive by the enclosures that the right to
construct this has been granted to a private company by the government
of Nicaragua. The disputes between the small republics of the
isthmus, on the one hand, and the conflicting claims of Nicaragua and
Mosquito, on the other, interpose obstacles in the way of completing
this great work. In a former interview, I endeavored to acquaint your
lordship with the firmly-entertained views of the United States on
these points; and I refrain from presenting them in this connexion, both
because I do not wish to embarrass the question by discussion, if it
can be avoided, and because I am led to believe, from the desire manifested
by her Majesty's government to aid in the construction of free
mediums of communication, with no exclusive privileges, and from the
frankness with which they have disclaimed any intention of establishing
either military or commercial posts on that coast, that some amicable
means may be found for removing the obstacles in the way of what
both nations profess to desire. In that event, it seems to me that a
private company of responsible men, formed under the protection of
England, the United States, and such other nations as choose to join in
the guaranty of neutrality, on the same basis as the railway company,
(which I am assured would be the case,) would be the best agent as
well for the preliminary survey as the construction of the work. There
can be no doubt, I think, that the best interests of mankind will be
subserved if the combined enterprise and wealth of the world at large
build this, as well as the other work, unassisted by government aid
further than in the guaranty of its safety and neutrality.

I hope, at a very early day after your lordship's return to town, to
have a full and free conversation on this subject. Meanwhile, I enclose
for your consideration various copies which I have been instructed to
furnish you with; and have the honor to remain your obedient, humble

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



Since my last despatch, I have heard nothing from Lord Palmerston.
Indeed, he did not return to town till day before yesterday.
I do not know how my notes of last week struck his mind. In order,
however, that we might understand each other, I addressed him a note,


yesterday morning, requesting an interview at his earliest convenience,
to which I have not yet received a reply.

There is a paragraph in the newspapers stating that Great Britain
has sent a fleet to Central America. I do not believe it. I have heard
that some vessels were ordered to the island of Cuba to volunteer their
services to the Spaniards, if requested.

I can say nothing more on the Mosquito question until I have seen
Lord Palmerston, and ascertained what course he intends to pursue
in regard to the removal of the Indians. The maps I have not yet
procured, but hope in a few days to obtain something bearing on the

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Clayton to Mr. Lawrence.



Your despatch No. 11 has been received. The note of Lord
Palmerston to yourself of the 13th ultimo, upon the subject of the Mosquito
question, is in many respects satisfactory. The President has
been gratified that the British ministry should so readily appreciate his
views, and express a disposition to co-operate with us in such measures
as may be necessary to secure the completion of a communication
by the way of Nicaragua between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Lord Palmerston's offer, however, to obtain the consent of Mosquito to
such arrangements as would render the port of Greytown applicable
to the purposes of such a communication, is pregnant with a meaning,
which materially qualifies the other parts of his note. This offer implies
that the British ministry persist in regarding the Mosquitoes as a
sovereign State, and that their consent alone is necessary for any arrangements
involving the use of the port of Greytown. This government,
however, can never acknowledge the independence of the Mosquitoes,
or admit that they have any rights of sovereignty over the port
of Greytown or the country adjacent thereto. The events which led
to the existing suspension of the claims of Nicaragua to Greytown may
render it difficult for Great Britain to withdraw her protection from the
pretensions of the Mosquitoes to that port. If, however, she is sincere
in her professions of friendship for the United States, and in her wish
to co-operate with us in measures for the completion and security of
the proposed inter-oceanic communication, it may be expected that she
will use her influence towards the withdrawal of the Mosquito pretensions,
at least to such an extent as would be satisfactory to the capitalists
who would undertake the work, and upon terms which would be
substantially just towards the Mosquitoes themselves. They are not, nor
can they ever be, a maritime people. Consequently, they can have no
more use for the shores of the harbor of Greytown than for any other.


parts of the Mosquito coast. If, in persisting in the policy of claiming
Greytown for them, the British government should in any degree be
actuated by an apprehension that, in the absence of Mosquito jurisdiction
there, discriminating duties would be levied on British merchandise
destined to pass up the St. John's river for consumption in Costa
Rica, you may assure Lord Palmerston that this government would
exert any influence which it might possess with the government of
Nicaragua to prevent such a result.

It is to be hoped, therefore, that, in view of the advantages which it
is acknowledged commercial nations must derive from the proposed
work, of the importance of its being soon commenced and completed
with all practicable expedition, and of its being free from
molestation from any quarter during its progress and after it shall
have gone into operation, the British government will relinquish any
control, direct or indirect, which it may have over the port of Greytown.
We believe that this may be done without derogating from the
dignity or conflicting with the true interests of Great Britain. We are
certain that it is essential to the success of the enterprise. In your conversations
with Lord Palmerston, you will accordingly press this matter
in a way which will leave no doubt on his mind as to our convictions,
and which, in your judgment, may best be calculated to bring
about a satisfactory result.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
ABBOTT LAWRENCE, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Clayton to Mr. Lawrence.



Your despatches to No. 13, inclusive, have been received. The
reply which you made to the proposition of Lord Palmerston, contained
in his note to you of the 19th ultimo, for a joint examination and
survey of the routes across the isthmus on the part of the two governments,
was judicious, and is entirely approved. Neither the aid nor
the interference of either government is conceived to be necessary or
desirable for those purposes. They can best be attained by means of
the sagacity and enterprise of the individuals or companies who have
embarked, or may be disposed to engage, in the construction of the
works. All that they will need and probably desire is, that the persons
in their employment and the properly in which they may invest
their funds should be protected from the violence or the caprices of the
authorities of any government. An arrangement for this purpose might
easily be effected, and would certainly secure a speedy completion of
the works.

I transmit a copy of a letter addressed to this department, under date
the 1st ultimo, by Thomas W. Ludlow, president of the Panama Railroad
Company, requesting that you might be instructed to co-operate
with the minister of New Granada at London in obtaining from the


British government a guaranty of the neutrality of the Isthmus of
Panama similar to that contained in the treaty between the United
States and that republic of the 12th December, 1846. This was the
subject of the despatch addressed to you on the 13th instant. The
department is not aware whether or not the minister of New Granada
at London has any power or instructions from his government in regard
to the matter. We will, however, at once direct Mr. Foote to make
inquiry upon this point; and, if he should find that the New Granadian
government has not adopted the necessary measures, he will be further
instructed to urge prompt and adequate proceedings on their part.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ABBOTT LAWRENCE, Esq., &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



Since I last had the honor of addressing you on the subject of
Central America, I have, by appointment, held two interviews with
Lord Palmerston, and, as the result, am now preparing a note which
I think will bring from him a definite reply upon all the points at issue.
I have little doubt the British government will soon be ready to conclude
a treaty with New Granada similar to that made by the United
States, guarantying the neutrality of the railway. I am inclined to
believe, also, that they will unite with us in a guaranty of the canal,
giving up Greytown. Of this I cannot speak with full confidence.
The obstacle, it appears to me, in the way of a complete settlement of
the whole question, will be the abandonment of the protectorate of the
Indians. I have pressed this point, and shall insist upon it, even if
Lord Palmerston gives up everything else. The note I have in preparation
will give him the opportunity of meeting the question without
further delay, and without compromising his own consistency or dignity,
or that of his country. I shall send a copy of it by the next steamer,
and perhaps of his reply. If we can obtain the consent of this government
to conclude with Nicaragua a treaty similar to that concluded
between that republic and the United States, the initiatory steps to the
commencement of the work will have been taken, and its completion
insured. I hope to satisfy the British cabinet that it is unwise for them
to maintain their present relations with the Indians.

The chargé d'affaires of Nicaragua and the chargé d'affaires of Costa
Rica are both absent on the Continent at present, but will be here in
four or five weeks, when I shall open the subject of the boundary line
of these two States.

I have caused a collection to be made of books and maps on Central
America for the use of the State Department, which I think, if not useful
now, may be of value hereafter. I doubt not you will agree with
me, and will give the proper order to enable me to draw for the amount
on our bankers here. I enclose a schedule of them, with a note from


Mr. Stevens, who collected them for me. I have concluded to retain
the collection for a few days, or until I ascertain whether I shall be
obliged to argue the question.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.


Your despatch No. 8 was received on the 25th instant. It
found me too ill to attend to business, in which condition I yet remain.
I enclose a copy of a note sent to Lord Palmerston the 15th instant,
which I hope will meet with your approval. Mr. Stevens promises
his catalogue by the next steamer. He finds it more voluminous than
he expected.

No answer, as yet, has been received from Lord Palmerston. The
Times has taken up the subject again in an article friendly to our views.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.


The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
of the United States of America, has the honor to call the attention of
Viscount Palmerston, her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, to the political condition of Central America, and the
plans for the construction of a railway and ship-canal through that
country, from ocean to ocean, which have recently been the subject of
conversations and correspondence between the undersigned and his
lordship, and about which it seems desirable that the respective views
of the United States and her Majesty's government should be mutually
and definitely understood.

The undersigned desires first to recapitulate the facts illustrating
the present position of this question. Great Britain and the United
States both profess to desire to see constructed highways from the Atlantic
to the Pacific; both wish to see those highways properly guarded
during construction and after completion; both desire to see them,
when finished, placed upon such a basis as will entitle them to the
confidence of the world. Each has an interest in them approached
only by that of the other. For Great Britain, they will open new and
shorter routes to her eastern empire; for the United States, they will


be the bridge connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific States, and consolidating
their vast territory; above all, for the world, by opening new
avenues for its commerce, and greater facilities for friendly intercourse,
they will offer strong guaranties for the continuance of peace and the
increase of good will.

The United States have already taken the initiatory steps for such
results. Permission to construct a railway across the Isthmus of
Darien, near Panama, has been granted to a private company of
American citizens, who have been joined by British capitalists; and
the work is now under construction—its neutrality guarantied by a
treaty of the United States with New Granada. The State of Nicaragua
has also granted to certain citizens of the United States the right
to construct a ship-canal from sea to sea through her territory; and
the neutrality of this route also is guarantied by a treaty concluded,
but not yet ratified, between the United States and Nicaragua. This
treaty will probably be submitted for ratification to the Senate at its
present session; and the undersigned has been informed it is proposed
to offer the subscriptions for the canal stock to English and American
capitalists. Copies of these several treaties and charters the undersigned
has already had the honor to submit to Lord Palmerston. The
United States have disclaimed all intention to settle, annex, colonize,
or fortify the territory of Central America, which declaration has been
met by a similar disclaimer on the part of Great Britain. Her Majesty's
government have intimated their willingness to join with the United
States in their guaranties of neutrality. To this brief statement may
be added, that the undersigned has learned, unofficially, through the
public press, that the chargé d'affaires of the United States at Guatemala
has obtained from the government of Honduras the cession of
an island in the Pacific ocean with reference to the wants of the proposed
canal—from which, if correct, it would appear that arrangements
have been made by the United States for its western outlet.

From the foregoing statement it appears that Great Britain and the
United States agree on all the main points. Lord Palmerston will
also undoubtedly coincide with the undersigned in the belief that, without
such agreement, this work may be delayed. No other nations in
the world have so important interests to be affected by it; no others
have the requisite capital at command; no others have shown a willingness
to guaranty the neutrality essential to its safety; and capital,
always timid, would shrink from it without such guaranty, much
more were it the cause of disagreement between these two nations.
Though Great Britain or the United States may each be in a position
to do this work single-handed, yet neither would, probably, desire to
do so. It may, therefore, be assumed that the two countries desire to
go on with the work, through their respective capitalists, together and
harmoniously, and that, in the absence of any obstacles, it would be
soon completed and in operation.

The only apparent obstacles are, the boundary disputes between the
different States of Central America, the claims made in favor of the
Mosquito Indians to a portion of the territory of the eastern coast of
the isthmus, and the British occupation of Greytown. Desiring to
remove, if possible, these impediments, the undersigned offers for the


consideration of Viscount Palmerston certain suggestions, in the hope
that his lordship will either coincide with the views of the undersigned
or will offer some others more feasible. In regard to the boundaries of
the States of Central America, the undersigned is persuaded that, if
these States fail to settle them amicably, they can be induced to submit
their disputes to the arbitration of certain citizens of the United
States and Great Britain, appointed by those two governments, whose
decision shall be final. The kind offices of these two nations might be
further extended to a recommendation to the several States of the
isthmus to reunite under a federative government, both for the better
social development of that people and the peace of a country becoming
so important to the world. With respect to the Indians, the United
States are convinced that their claim is against well-settled principles
of public law, and its admission would virtually surrender to barbarism
much of the American soil now in the possession of the aborigines.
The undersigned is sensible that, unless the views of the two governments
on this subject can be harmonized, the co-operation so much
desired will be prevented; and, feeling confident that Viscount Palmerston,
as well as himself, would deprecate such a result, he begs leave
to present certain considerations which he believes may bring the two
nations together.

In a former communication, Viscount Palmerston has said that "a
close political connexion has existed between the crown of Great Britain
and the State and territory of Mosquito for a period of about two
centuries." It is no purpose of the undersigned at present to consider
the nature, object, or history of that connexion. He alludes to it simply
to call Lord Palmerston's attention to the great changes which in that
time have come over the world. Its commerce has increased in an
almost untold ratio. Facilities of intercourse exist then undreamed of.
New nations have become powerful on lands then scarcely discovered
and entirely unknown. Old kingdoms, then great, have faded away.
Older powers still have been reanimated by an infusion of Christian
vigor. And now, by a combination of these circumstances with a
future in prospect surpassing them all, the eastern coast of Central
America has received an importance it never before possessed. It
appears to the undersigned that the just interests of humanity demand
that this territory should be open to the great object under consideration,
without let or hindrance, even though the claim of these savages were
valid. They can be properly provided for otherwise. But the face of
nature cannot be entirely changed. And in order to give full confidence
to the capitalists of Europe and America, neither the United
States nor Great Britain should exercise any political power over the
Indians or any of the States of Central America. The occupation of
Grey town and the attempt to establish a protected independence of
Mosquito throw at once obstacles in the way, excite jealousies, and
destroy confidence, without which capital can never flow in this channel.
Nicaragua, too, stands in a position to demand the goodwill of all
entering into this work. She holds the undoubted western key; and,
should she refuse the right to traverse her territory, except on the
recognition of its integrity, neither Great Britain nor the United States
could take that right by force. She has, too, already granted the only


available charter ever given, and the grantees stand ready to go on
when they can once be assured of protection. The undersigned can
discover no course that will insure the accomplishment of this great
work except the extension of Nicaragua from shore to shore, including,
of course, the dedication of Greytown to the purposes of the canal,
which her Majesty's government have already expressed a willingness
to do. The Indians must be properly cared for. The United States
would view with no less concern than Great Britain the practice of
any harshness towards that people. The right might be guarantied to
them to pursue their usual occupations within definite limits, ample for
such a purpose, with a condition that, if any nation, corporation, or
company have acquired, or may acquire, the privilege of constructing
a communication between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by means
of a canal, and if such communication shall necessarily pass through
the lands assigned to the Mosquitoes, a reasonable compensation shall
be secured to them, which shall be paid by Nicaragua, for the extinction
of their title to as much of that territory as may be necessary for the
objects in view. In that event, of course, the sovereignty of the whole
territory would rest in the Spanish States—the whole arrangements and
stipulations on their part, however, with regard to the Indians, to be
made satisfactory to the United States and Great Britain, and proper
stipulations made for enforcing the same. The execution of these suggestions
would require the conclusion of treaties between Great Britain
and some of the States of Central America, as well as the United States
and the same States; and the undersigned is obliged to say that the
United States have no power over any of them, and he no authority to
speak for them. He can assure Viscount Palmerston, however, that,
in the event of these suggestions meeting the views of her Majesty's
government, the United States will spare no proper exertion to induce
those powers to become parties to such an arrangement.

The undersigned has, therefore, the honor to inquire of Viscount
Palmerston whether her Majesty's government are willing to enter into
a treaty with Nicaragua similar to that negotiated by Mr. Squier on
behalf of the United States; whether they are willing to enter into a
treaty with New Granada guarantying the neutrality of the railway
now under construction; and whether they are willing to let the protectorate
of the Indians pass to other hands, under proper checks and
guards for their humane treatment, and let such parts of the territory
said to be occupied by them as may be necessary be dedicated to this
great work.

A ship-canal connecting the two oceans will do more to perpetuate
peace between Great Britain and the United States, and in fact the
whole world, than any other work yet achieved. After the lapse of
centuries, during which various companies have been formed for its
construction and have failed, we have the opportunity to exhibit anew
the power and energy which have made us the two greatest commercial
nations on earth. It is our mission to extend commerce, the pioneer
of civilization and child of peace, to all parts of the world; to cultivate
friendly relations with all; to bring the distant near; and to illustrate
by our example the elevating effects of Christianity. There is a
fitness in our union for the purpose of opening a great channel of communication


saving a distance of more than ten thousand miles, given
up to the use of the world, dedicated to peace, and working out incalculable
benefits to mankind. Let us construct the work on the only
practicable basis, and invite all nations to join in the guaranty of its
neutrality, that neither now nor hereafter jealousies may arise on the
part of those who may be the recipients of its benefits.

The undersigned begs leave to add, further, that he has reason to
think that the people of Great Britain and the United States entertain
the same feelings in regard to the importance of this work, and stand
ready to enter on its construction, as they have already on that of the
railway, when they can see their investments guarded by suitable
guaranties. He ventures to express the hope that Viscount Palmerston
will give this subject an early consideration. The Congress of the
United States is now in session; and he is anxious to transmit the decision
of her Majesty's government to the President.

The undersigned begs Lord Palmerston to accept the assurance of
his distinguished consideration.
Viscount PALMERSTON, &c., &c., &fc.

Mr. Davis to Mr. Clayton.



I am instructed by Mr. Lawrence to say, that since his last
despatch he has not received from Lord Palmerston any reply to his
note of the 14th ultimo. He is yet at East Sheen, confined to his room,
but has much improved within the fortnight, and expects to return to
town very soon. He desires me to add, that the absence of the ministers
from town during the holidays has prevented his illness from interfering
with the negotiations intrusted to him. He further directs me
to say, that the steamer which arrived day before yesterday brought
no further instructions from you on these subjects.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C..

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.



I have not yet received a reply from Lord Palmerston to my
note of the 14th ultimo. On the 5th instant, however, while at East
Sheen, I received a note enclosing a Spanish translation of a note from
Mr. Chatfield to the Nicaraguan government, which I look upon as indicating
his views upon the Mosquito question. Having read this flimsy
document, I returned it with a note, a copy of which I enclose. On


the 23d instant, I received your note No 13, with enclosures, (No. 12
not having yet come to hand,) and have deemed it advisable to have a
personal interview with Lord Palmerston before Opening a correspondence
on the subject to which it relates. As my health, yet bad, though
improving, will not allow me to go to the Foreign Office, I have addressed
a note to him asking him to call at my house, to which I have
not received a reply.

Some five or six weeks ago I had an interview, by appointment, with
M. Marcoleta, representing the State of Nicaragua at this court, and
acting in harmony with Honduras and San Salvador, though not yet
accredited by those States. The conversation was conducted through
an interpreter, as M. Marcoleta does not speak English and I do not
speak Spanish. I began by stating that negotiations were in progress
on the subject of Central America between the governments of Great
Britain and the United States; that the United States were anxious to
see a canal constructed from ocean to ocean, on a liberal basis; that
the present position of the Mosquito Indians presented obstacles to this;
that the United States desired to know the views of Nicaragua in various
contingencies. At the same time, I desired him to understand that
the cases I should put were hypothetical entirely; that I had no intimation
of the views of the British cabinet upon them. I wished to ask,
in the event that Great Britain and the United States could agree upon
a plan for the construction of this canal, would Nicaragua be willing to
surrender up Greytown to its purposes, and permit that port to become
a free town? 2d. In the event that Great Britain would not
abandon Mosquito, but would consent to give up all below Bluefields,
would Nicaragua and Honduras consent to recognise the independence
of the Indians? 3d. In the event of the abandonment entirely of Mosquito
by Great Britain, would Nicaragua and Honduras consent to take
them under their protection, and enter into treaty stipulations with
Great Britain and the United States to that effect? 4th. In the event
of Great Britain being willing, would Nicaragua consent to submit her
boundary disputes to the arbitration of citizens of the United States and
Great Britain, to be selected by their respective governments? 5th.
Did M. Marcoleta know the views of Costa Rica?

To these questions M. Marcoleta replied, through his interpreter, that
Nicaragua undoubtedly would be willing to surrender Greytown to
the uses of the canal, as its construction was of such vast importance
to her interests; that neither Honduras nor Nicaragua cherished animosity
against the Indians; that Honduras, indeed, had already recognized
their independence by treaty; that he could not say what would
be the views of these States as to taking them under their protection, but
doubted not they would be willing to make them citizens; that how Nicaragua
would view an independent existence, he could not say; that
he had not yet full instructions and powers from Honduras, but was
expecting such daily; that he doubted not Nicaragua would submit her
boundary disputes to such an arbitration, but he had no instructions to
that effect; and that Costa Rica had a representative here, M. Molina,
who was at that time on the Continent. He said that he had intended
to have asked me many questions, but the course of the conversation
had made them unnecessary; that he was to leave the next day for


Paris and Rome, to return in six weeks, and if, meanwhile, I should desire
to communicate with him, I could do so through his secretary. I
then requested him not to communicate this conversation to his government,
as I preferred it should reach there through the United States, to
which he assented. The interview then terminated, having lasted
about an hour. M. Marcoleta left soon after for the Continent, and has
not yet returned.

On Tuesday last I learned that M. Molina, the Costa Rica agent, bad
arrived in London, and desired to see me. Although far from strong,
I lost no time in arranging for an interview, and accordingly met him
yesterday. I repeated to him the views and purposes of the United
States, substantially as I had expressed them to M. Marcoleta, referring,
from time to time, for the identity of my statements, to M. Gavarrete,
secretary of the Nicaraguan legation, who was present at both interviews.
I urged upon him the importance of this work to Costa Rica,
as well as Nicaragua; the necessity of harmony between those States
for its completion; the good feelings of the United States towards all;
the absence of ambition or desire of territorial aggrandizement on their
part, and in this connexion set forth their views in obtaining the cession
of Tigre island. And I repeated to him the same question that I had
put to M. Marcoleta about arbitration, and received the same reply. I
also asked him whether Costa Rica had any political relations with
Great Britain; to which he answered that she had not—that her relations
were purely commercial. In the course of the conversation, he
said that he had been informed that Lord Palmerston would relinquish
the possession of Tigre island, and declare himself satisfied with the
general security of the State of Honduras for the debt. This interview
lasted nearly an hour, and terminated very satisfactorily to me.

I need not say, in conclusion, that I feel anxious to urge on these negotiations
as rapidly as possible, and shall spare no pains in carrying
out your views in regard to them.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

P. S. I have just received a note from Lord Palmerston appointing
to-morrow for an interview. Your No. 12 is also just received.

Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Lord Palmerston to Mr. Lawrence.

Viscount Palmerston presents his compliments to Mr. Lawrence, and
begs to communicate to him, for his perusal, a translation, in Spanish,
of a letter which Mr. Chatfield, her Majesty's chargé d'affaires in Guatemala,
addressed to the government of Nicaragua on the 5th of September
last, containing a statement of facts showing the nature of the
connexion which has existed since the middle of the seventeenth century
between Great Britain and the Mosquito nation.


[Translation from a Spanish version of a note from Mr. Chatfield, chargé d'affaires of Great
Britain in Central America.]



I had the honor to receive the note, dated on the 7th of August
last, in which you were pleased, according to instruction from the
government of your State, to reply to mine of the 15th of July previous;
and I shall immediately communicate it to the government of
her Britannic Majesty.

It is not my intention, at present, to reply to the various unfounded
assertions or the declamations contained in the communication above
mentioned—being convinced, as I am, that it is very common, when
good reasons are wanting, to have recourse to specious arguments and
high-sounding words. My feelings in favor of Nicaragua, and my
desire to render a service, if possible, to its government, induce me to
address you these observations, with the hope of dispelling the errors
on which you support your conduct with regard to Great. Britain on
the Mosquito question.

I must, in the first place, show that the imputation cast upon me of
having endeavored, in my protests, to restrain the liberty of the press
in Nicaragua, is totally unfounded, as it is well known how little I
regard the false statements and other remarks which are constantly
appearing in the papers of certain States respecting Great Britain.
Of a very different character, however, is what occurred especially
in the last commotion among certain towns of your State, in which
attempts have been made, in decrees, proclamations, and other official
documents, maliciously to attribute [?] to British influence and the
views of my nation.

I protest, and with reason, against the language and the very manifest
spirit of these publications, which, besides their being serious
insults, exhibit most clearly the intention to excite the unenlightened
people against the persons and interests of the subjects of her Majesty
the Queen residing in Nicaragua. And if this had, unfortunately, been
effected, it would have certainly brought on a conflict, the consequences
of which might not have been foreseen by the persons charged with
the direction of the affairs of the republic; so that these remonstrances
of mine should rather be considered as acts of kindness and friendship
than in the sense in which your government has received them.

Coming to the principal object of the present note, I observe that
you persist in repeating, what has been so often said, that "Great
Britain has attacked the independence of Nicaragua by violating her
territory and appropriating to itself her most important possessions on
the Atlantic coast"—en which points you make new protests against
every act tending to prevent you from defending a territory "confided
to you by the law

The repetition of such ideas shows that the object and intention of
the Nicaraguan government in this affair is to attract the attention of
all parties by making it believed that Great Britain, by force alone,
and without any justice or reason, despoils your State of what belongs


to it by refusing to recognise the rights of sovereignty which Nicaragua
advances over the Mosquito territory.

In order, therefore, that the acts of Great Britain relative to the
Mosquito coast may not give rise to disagreeable questions, I have
determined to present again to the consideration of your government
some observations which I could wish to see examined with calmness
and without prejudice.

It must, in the first place, be stated, that the principal acts upon
which have been founded the accounts published from time to time
by the Nicaraguan government, in its discussions with that of Great
Britain on this subject, are not exact, or they want the necessary degree
of accuracy; and thence arises the principal obstacle which your government
has itself created to arriving at a proper understanding.

An attempt is made to deny the natural and effective independence
which the Mosquitoes have ever enjoyed in their territory, the existence
of their hereditary kings, or princes, according to their mode of succession,
and their constant connexion with Great Britain during more
than two centuries; and the denial of these notorious facts has closed
the door, from the commencement, against all rational discussion and
all amicable settlement, as solicited by myself on repeated occasions.

I should regret that this new effort on my part should also prove
vain. I, however, propose, in support of it, to present a concise sketch
of the most important of those circumstances, keeping in view, as my
guide, the objections made by Mr. Secretary Buitrago in his memoir
presented to the assembly in December, 1847; and I refer to that document
as being the one in which it was endeavored to compress all the
reasons in behalf of Nicaragua on the Mosquito question.

According to the memoir to which I refer, it is difficult to fix the
period at which Great Britain began to have influence on the Mosquito
coast. On the second page it is stated that a King of Spain, at some time
in the last century, had acknowledged that the English began to establish
themselves there almost two hundred years before—that is to say,
shortly after the conquest; yet this fact, the most important in the case,
is not admitted.

Be this as it may, it is unquestionable that, long before 1670, there
was an English establishment on the Mosquito coast; and about the
same time, also, the rights of Great Britain were confirmed, so far as
regarded Spain, by the treaty of Madrid of July 16, 1670.

Bridge, in his Annals of Jamaica, says that, in 1687, when the Duke
of Albemarle came to that island as governor, the Mosquitoes solicited
the protection of the British crown, alleging that the Earl of Warwick
had, in the reign of Charles II, taken possession of various islands in
the West Indies, and especially that of Providence, near their own
territory; and that this Earl, with the view of establishing amicable
relations with them, had carried to England one of the king's sons,
leaving his friend, Colonel Morris, as a hostage; that the Indian prince
remained there three years, and, on the death of his father, in that interval,
he thought it would be better for his subjects to be governed by
the King of England, in favor of whom he abdicated alibis authority,
swearing, with his whole tribe, allegiance to him. The Mosquitoes
having then formally renewed their cession to the English King, he gave


a commission to the Mosquito King, which was conferred on him by
the Duke of Albemarle, under the seal of Jamaica.

From that period it has been the custom for the Mosquito Kings, or
Caciques, on succeeding to authority, to go to Jamaica and make
homage before the governor of that colony, as proved by official documents.

In 1720 the assembly of that island, as appears from its acts, ratified
a treaty, concluded on the 25th of June of that year, between the
governor of the colony, Sir Nicholas Lawes, and Jeremy, the King of
the Mosquitoes, who engaged to assist the English against the Maroon
negroes, then in rebellion. They, moreover, assisted the English faithfully,
on many occasions, when the Spanish forces attacked the establishment
at Belize; and, in 1780, a considerable body of them joined
the British expedition to the San Juan.

From time to time British authorities were commissioned to govern
the establishment in the Mosquito territory; and these appointments
were regularly recorded from the year 1741.

Although Great Britain did evacuate the Mosquito coast in virtue
of the convention of 1786, the Spanish government was unable to
occupy it; and the Indians continued to maintain their independence,
and to boast of their never having been subjugated—keeping up their
relations constantly with Jamaica, the principal place with which they

On the disappearance of the Spanish power from the American continent,
and the cancelment of the obligations of the treaties contracted
with regard to it, the Indians renewed their former relations of amity
and commerce with the British, keeping up the old custom of crowning
their kings in the dominions of Great Britain. Thus King Frederic
was crowned at Balize in 1815; Robert Charles Frederick in 1825;
and the reigning king in 1845. These facts are all established by
proofs which no one can refuse to admit.

Don Domingo Juarros, a native of Guatemala, and its best historian,
who wrote between 1808 and 1818, speaking of the Mosquito coast
under the names of the provinces of Taguzgalpa and Tolagalpa, declares
that they had never been conquered or reduced to subjection by the
Spanish government; that they were inhabited by uncivilized and
savage Indians, who kept up relations of commerce with the British.
This historian does not mention a single establishment, ecclesiastical,
civil, or military, as having been formed by the Spaniards on that
whole coast; and it clearly appears from his accounts that even the
missionary fathers, who have been so successful with the Indians in
other places, had produced no effect in the Mosquito country.

It moreover appears from the accounts of Don Diego de la Haya,
governor of Costa Rica in 1720; from the official gazette of April,
1730; from the memoir of Don Jose A. Lacayo de Briones, who was
governor of Nicaragua in 1744; and from the letters of Bishops Tristan
and Villegas, besides other authorities which might be cited,—that the
Spanish government, finding it impossible to subdue the Mosquitoes by
force, had to acknowledge their nationality in order to prevail upon
their good will, and thus to free the frontier provinces and people from
the depredations of those Indians.


The communications and correspondence which passed between
the Spanish authorities and those of the Mosquitoes were conducted as
usual between independent nations, as proved by numerous examples,
which I forbear to cite, in order not to swell this note too much.

Equally explicit are the acknowledgments of three of the States
which have arisen upon the separation from Spain.

On the 17th of July, 1841, Don Antonia Escalante, governor of St.
Andrew's island, a dependency of the republic of New Granada, addressed
a letter to "Frederick Charles Robert, King of the Mosquito nation"
soliciting the restoration of certain negroes who had run away
and taken refuge in "your territory," (the words of the letter,) offering
to pay all the expenses of their return. This was in the name of the
republic of New Granada, and by one of its officers.

On the 16th of December, 1843, the government of the State of
Honduras made a treaty with the Mosquito general, Lowrie Robinson;
and, although it appeared in the end that Robinson was not empowered
to that effect, yet this act shows clearly the recognition of the independence
of the Mosquito nation. Now, with respect to Nicaragua, a
similar act took place in another treaty made in 1847, on which I say
no more, as it is mentioned in the official memoir to which I refer from
Secretary Buitrago.

I may here remind you that, in my official note of November, 1842,
I stated to your supreme government, as I conceive with sufficient
reason, that, if a declaration from Spain, (supposing such to have been
made,) without any real occupation, could have given the right of
sovereignty over the Mosquito country, as is now alleged by Nicaragua,
and if the circumstance that the independence of the Mosquitoes has
never been recognised, either directly or indirectly, by the Spanish
government, as also affirmed by Nicaragua, could have given force and
validity to that right, it would follow, as a natural consequence, that
Central America, the conquest and dominion of which by the crown of
Spain cannot be questioned, and the independence of which has not
yet been admitted by the mother country, should at this moment belong
of right to the Spanish monarchy. So that, far from being able to
claim the submission of territories which she does not possess, nor ever
has possessed, the argument advanced by Nicaragua in support of
her pretensions is, in reality, against her own national existence.

Of all these and other reasons set forth by me in my communications,
Mr. Secretary Buitrago has not thought proper to take any notice
in his memoir, as I conceive he should have done, in order to give information
on a subject which, if placed in a clear light, would have
presented fewer difficulties. I, therefore, now present them to the consideration
of the government of Nicaragua, in order to show that justice
and reason do not guide it in its pretensions, and to correct its opinion
with regard to the proceedings of Great Britain.

I now proceed to recapitulate the reasons alleged by Señor Buitrago
in favor of the cause supported by Nicaragua; and I propose to make
some observations by way of refuting them.

The principal of these reasons are the following:

First, as repeatedly alleged by your government on the Mosquito
question, that, by the treaties of 1783 and 1786, Great Britain agreed


to evacuate the said territory in favor of Spain; that this coast was
always a Spanish possession, as it was included by the laws of the Indies
in the district of the captaincy-general of Guatemala, and, not
being excluded by the constitution of that monarchy published in the
year 1812, it thus continued until 1821, when the independence was
effected, and then remained de facto included in the new republic of
Central America, which took the place of Spain in all her rights.

These arguments have all been more or less completely answered.
It has already been shown, that, as neither the State of Nicaragua nor
before it the republic of Central America was a party to the treaties
above mentioned, nor had anything to do with them, those treaties
are jus tertii with respect to those governments, even supposing them
to have continued unimpaired to the present day, so far as they concerned
the Spanish government.

But the supposition that the rights of Spain were transmitted to the
governments created in America by the mere fact of their independence
is utterly destitute of foundation, and has been as yet recognised
by no one.

To admit that all which fell into the power of the new authorities,
really and by force, became subject to them, is very different from
admitting that voluntary rights were thus transferred, without the assent
or authority of the power to which they properly belonged.

It seems very strange that, while Spain has not yet acknowledged
the national existence of Nicaragua, that State should pretend to exercise
the rights of that monarchy against Great Britain, united as she is
by the bonds of amity, relations, and treaties with the Spanish nation,
which has alone the right to claim the execution of treaties made by

There is, moreover, another consideration—which is, that, if there
have been disputes between Great Britain and Spain respecting the Mosquito
territory, the latter power could not now cede a questionable right
to another country, and still less make it the possessor of what had
been abandoned to itself for special causes or views by the other contracting
party. If the renunciation alleged to have been made had
been made to Spain, how can Nicaragua avail herself of it?

The allegation that the laws of the Indies and the constitutions given
did not exclude the Mosquito country from Guatemala is so futile and
invalid that it deserves no reply. Every nation may adopt what laws
it pleases for itself; but no one has as yet ever pretended that such
laws or decrees extended to other nations, or that they can in any way
affect the rules of international right.

Central America succeeded Spain de facto as regards its subjects
and the places occupied by them; but it can claim no right to places
which have not been under its actual dominion and possession, so as to
be recognised by other powers.

It is repeated that there never has existed among the Mosquitoes a
hereditary monarchy. But I have already said enough upon that point
in the first part of this note; and I will merely add, that the attempt to
deny things which are real and effective can serve no other purpose
than to weaken the cause which such a course is intended to maintain.

Did not one of these Mosquito kings come to Guatemala, in the time


of the Spanish government, and was he not received there by all as a
prince? In the islands in India, in Africa, and in other countries, sovereigns
have existed resembling, more or less, in all respects, the one
who is treated with derision by the Nicaraguan government.

There is, however, another thing which deserves to be noticed. Mr.
Secretary Buitrago cites the treaty ratified in December, 1847, by the
government of Nicaragua, as concluded, says he, with the Pincess Inés
Ana Frederica, by which certain rights were secured to Nicaragua. I
leave aside the ephemeral and fragile nature of this badly-forged document,
in order to make these observations: that this argument of
Señor Buitrago has placed upon record an irrefragable proof that there
is a Mosquito kingdom; that this monarchy is not a fiction on the part
of the British; and that this territory exists, with the government of
which Nicaragua treats—thus recognising the Mosquito nation, and the
principle by which Great Britain protects it.

It is now said, that, in the constitution or constitutions of Nicaragua
of 1826 and 1838, the Mosquito territory is embraced, and especially
the San Juan; and that, by the act of independence, the Nicaraguans
recovered their primitive liberty and original rights of property in this
territory, as lords of the soil, as far as the Atlantic coast, including
therein the Mosquito tribes. Whatever may have been the pretensions
set forth in the laws and constitutions adopted in Nicaragua, they could,
as I have already said, extend no further than to its subjects and the
places under its dominion de facto. That the aborigines of Nicaragua
might allege this pretended dominion over the country on the extinction
of that of Spain, may be admitted; but the doctrine is utterly inapplicable
to the sons and descendants of Spaniards, who have, in reality,
taken upon themselves the government, with their own language, laws,
and customs.

But this argument of the right of postliminium can only be applicable
to the Mosquito nation, which, on the disappearance of the dominion
ad honorem of the peninsula, has from that fact alone entered into the
entire exercise of its sovereignty, and become entitled to act as may
seem most advantageous to itself in its relations with other powers.

In the memoir in question it is pretended that Btitish agents have
alleged that, the contracting parties of 1783 and 1786 having disappeared,
the obligation on the part of Great Britain had ceased; to
which the answer is, that, if Great Britain had thought so, she would not
have limited herself to remaining within the territories conceded to her
by those treaties, from which is derived the right of the governments
of Central America to require the fulfilment of those stipulations. On
this point it is said that in the treaty it was agreed that Spain should
not ill-treat the Mosquitoes on account of their anterior relations with the
British, and that no mention is made therein of the existence of any
dynasty at that period—whence is drawn the conclusion that the young
Indian, George Federic, could have no hereditary right to the throne.
All these arguments are, like those preceding, destitute of logic and
foundation. The British agents have never repudiated the treaties with
Spain; on the contrary, they have constantly recognised them, denying
all right to interfere with them to Nicaragua, to which they cannot
concede the rights unjustly assumed by her.


Another error of argument in the memoir of Señor Buitrago remains
to be noticed—which is the pretension that in the treaties above mentioned
concessions were made to Great Britain; while the fact is that
in those compacts Spain obtained a limitation of the progress made on
that coast by the British establishments which were being formed there.

Thus I do not understand how it could be supposed that, in the absence
of the Spanish power from those countries, Great Britain should
have been required to abandon her rights to certain places thus obtained
by her, when it must be evident to all that the natural consequence was
her recovery of the full enjoyment of what she had, from considerations,
ceded to Spain.

I have endeavored to place in a clear light the true circumstances of
the Mosquito question, as concerns the territorial pretensions of the
government of the State of Nicaragua; and I doubt not that, when these
particulars are considered impartially, together with the other documents
presented to the British Parliament, by order of the Queen, in
the last year—which have, I presume, been sent to you by the agent of
your State at London—your government will be convinced that the
protest made by it against the sovereignty of the Mosquito King over
that coast, under the protection of her Britannic Majesty, is founded on
erroneous ideas, and that the government of Nicaragua can no longer
question the right of sovereignty which the Mosquito Kings have for
centuries exercised over the territory now claimed by Nicaragua.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
of the government of the State of Nicaragua.

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.

Mr. Lawrence presents his compliments to Viscount Palmerston,
and has the honor to return herewith, with his thanks, the Spanish
translation of Mr. Chatfield's note to the Nicaraguan government,
enclosed in Lord Palmerston's note of the 5th instant. He has been
prevented by illness from returning it at an earlier day. He has read
the note with the care it merits, and has found little in it with which
he was not previously acquainted, and nothing to change his views on
this subject.

Mr. Lawrence asks leave to call Lord Palmerston's attention to his
note of the 14th ultimo, and to beg the favor of an early reply.

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.


I am very desirous of seeing you with reference
to some communications I have just received from America, and am


yet unable, in consequence of illness, to wait on you at the Foreign
Office. Under these circumstances, may I ask the favor of you to
appoint an hour when you will do me the honor to call at my residence?
I regret that I am obliged to ask this favor; and remain, faithfully,


Lord Palmerston to Mr. Lawrence.


I am very glad to hear you are better, though still
unable to go out. I am afraid I shall not be able to call upon you
to-morrow, but I will on Saturday afternoon.

My dear sir, yours, faithfully,
&c., &c., &c., Piccadilly.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No, 29.]



Lord Palmerston did not call upon me on the 26th ultimo, as he
had appointed in his note, of which a copy was enclosed in my No. 25.
He sent an apology, stating his detention at a cabinet council, and
appointing the next day for the interview, when he came, and we had
a long conversation relative to the seizure of Tigre island and the views
of her Majesty's government with reference to Central America. He
promised to answer in time for this steamer any communication I might
address him on the subject. Accordingly, on the 30th of January I
addressed him a note, of which I enclose a copy, and on the 7th of
February another, marked "private," of which I enclose a copy, to
which I have as yet received no replies. You will see that I have
spared no pains in pressing this matter to a speedy conclusion; and if
here is delay, it is not imputable to me.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.

The undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
of the United States of America, has the honor again to call the attention


of Viscount Palmerston, her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs, to the condition of Central America, and the proposed
ship-canal from ocean to ocean. In a note to Lord Palmerston
dated the 14th of December last, the undersigned, among other things,
said that he had "learned, unofficially, through the public press, that
the chargé d'affaires of the United States at Guatemala had obtained
from the government of Honduras the cession of an island in the Pacific
ocean with reference to the wants of the proposed canal—from which,
if correct, it would appear that arrangements had been made by the
United States for its western outlet." By the last mail from the United
States, the undersigned received official information of this statement,
and with it other intelligence, which he regrets to be obliged to lay
before Lord Palmerston, as it tends to interrupt the harmonious feeling
which has hitherto marked the progress of the negotiations on this subject.

On the 28th day of September last, the government of Honduras
made a formal cession of the Tigre island, in the Gulf of Fonseca, to
the United States, for the purposes above mentioned, to hold absolutely
for eighteen months, or until the ratification of a treaty that day signed
by the plenipotentiaries of the United States and of Honduras, should
the ratifications be exchanged at an earlier day; and, on the 9th of
October following, a decree was issued by the President of Honduras
confirming and announcing said cession.

Notice of this cession was duly given by Mr. Squier, diplomatic
representative of the United States to the several foreign legations, and,
among others, to Mr. Chatfield, her Majesty's diplomatic representative.
On the 16th of October, Mr. Chatfield, with an armed force of
her Majesty's service, seized and took possession of the Tigre island,
and occupied the same in her Majesty's name, and, on being subsequently
notified by Mr. Squier of the cession, and requested to surrender
it to the United States, refused so to do, claiming it as within
British jurisdiction, and under British sovereignty. The undersigned
has also learned that other islands in the same gulf have been in like
manner taken possession of and occupied by Mr. Chatfield, and that
several of the ports of San Salvador and Honduras have been blockaded
by British forces.

Proceedings of this violent character, during the known pendency of
negotiations on this subject between the United States and Great
Britain, have naturally excited distrust of the purposes which prompted
them. While the people of the United States and of Central America
desire nothing but the construction and protection of the canal on the basis
already referred to in the correspondence between the undersigned and
Lord Palmerston, they very reasonably have doubted whether these
liberal views are shared by her Majesty's government, seeing, as they
have, a claim made by Great Britain to an exclusive interest in the keys
of the route on both oceans, under different pretexts. The government of
the United States, relying on the declarations of her Majesty's government
contained in Lord Palmerston's note of the 13th of November
last, have not shared this distrust. But, in order to protect its just rights
in Tigre island, and to carry out its generous purposes in regard to the
construction of the canal, as well as to allay the distrust and the hard


feeling engendered thereby, they have instructed the undersigned "to ask
for a disavowal of all acts of Mr. Chatfield or others which have for
their object to extend British jurisdiction over any part of the Central
American States." He has, therefore, the honor to inquire of Viscount
Palmerston whether the seizure and occupation of Tigre island was
authorized and is approved by her Majesty's government; and whether
any other acts done by Mr. Chatfield or others in her Majesty's name,
having for their object to extend the British jurisdiction as aforesaid,
were in like manner authorized or are approved.

The undersigned has the honor to enclose copies of the treaty of cession,
of the decree made thereon, and of such parts of the voluminous
correspondence growing out of the seizure as are necessary to exhibit
the facts.

The undersigned has been instructed to ask for an early answer to
this note; and, in complying with his instructions, he would again express
his own strong desire to see the question speedily settled.

The undersigned renews to Lord Palmerston the assurance of his
distinguished consideration.
Viscount PALMERSTON, &c., &c..

Mr. Lawrence to Lord Palmerston.


Knowing as I do how much care the opening of Parliament
brings, I should not intrude on your time, did I not fear that from
that very cause you would overlook my note about Tigre island till
after the sailing of the steamer. I think it of the utmost importance
to send your views home this week, and ask again to press it on your
attention. I earnestly hope you will be able to answer me in time to
send to Liverpool Friday evening.

Believe me, my lord, very truly yours,
Viscount PALMERSTON, &c., &c., &c.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 35.]



I had the honor to receive, on the evening of the 18th instant,
through the British Foreign Office, your despatch of February 2, without
number, enclosing a copy of a proposed convention between Great
Britain and the United States relative to inter-oceanic communications,
and rejoice to learn that this important negotiation is about being brought
to a harmonious conclusion. I have examined these papers with deep
interest, as the subject to which they relate has, as you well know, for
some time past occupied my best thoughts and constant attention; and,
although I had hoped, after the success that had attended my labors


thus far, to have had the satisfaction of concluding a treaty embodying
the results of the propositions and suggestions I had laid before Lord
Palmerston, yet, having entertained the impression for some weeks past,
from my knowledge of the circumstances under which he was placed,
that Sir Henry Bulwer had received full instructions to settle the question
with yourself at Washington, I am not surprised at the intelligence
you communicate, and I rejoice that this controversy is in a fair way
of being adjusted to the satisfaction of our government, and in accordance
with the permanent interests of the nation. I congratulate you
that you have been the instrument in consummating a treaty, the results
of which, if the canal be constructed, will testify through all time
to the honor of all concerned in originating so great a blessing to mankind.

The conditions of this convention appear to be substantially the same
that Lord Palmerston intimated to me his willingness to accede to,
in an interview I had with him about the first of December last; and,
in consequence of this interview, which was very free and full, I addressed
to him my note of the 14th of December, which, I am happy
to learn, has met the approbation of the President. Under your instructions,
both in the interview and the note I pressed strongly the
necessity of the abandonment of the British protectorate of Mosquito—
believing that, ultimately, if it should be continued, differences might
arise between her Majesty's subjects and citizens of the United States,
both of whom are certain to be drawn there whenever the construction
of the canal is commenced. And, to enable myself to discuss this question
in a satisfactory manner, and to completely show the futility of the
English claim, should it become necessary, I had, at a considerable
personal expense and labor, collected the materials for a history of the
connexion of Europeans (both English and Spanish) with the Mosquito
Indians from the discovery of the country by Columbus to the present
time. As this question may hereafter arise for discussion, I have
thought it not unlikely that you would wish to have the result of these
labors in the archives of the department. I shall, therefore, proceed
at once to draw up a brief memoir upon this subject, which, when
completed, will exhibit her Majesty's government in anything but an
enviable light; and I hope to send it to you by the next steamer.

I am happy to have received the President's and your own approbation
of my course as minister of the United States, and hope that
my future conduct may be such as to command a similar approval. I
desire also to express my acknowledgments and thanks for the sympathy
with the illness under which I have suffered expressed in your
note. It gives me great satisfaction to state that I am now convalescent,
and hope to be able in a few days to resume my social duties. I
shall take an early opportunity to see Lord Palmerston, and press upon
him, under your instructions, the necessity of the ratification of such a
treaty as may be concluded between yourself and Sir Henry Bulwer.
There can be no doubt, I think, that, if it conform substantially with
the draught accompanying your note, it will be ratified by her Majesty's
government without delay.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


P. S.—I have just received a note from M. Molina—the minister from
Costa Rica, with whom I have had interviews—and enclose a copy,
with a copy also of my reply.

Secretary of State, Washington.

Mr. Molina to Mr. Lawrence.


I have the honor to assure your excellency, by writing, that my
government will accept any arrangement which the United States may
enter into with Great Britain for the purpose of settling, through a
combined arbitration of both powers, the question of boundaries now
existing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

I beg likewise to state that I am authorized for the adjustment of a
treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between our respective
countries; and, if your excellency has no objection, we could do it here
in London.

I take this opportunity to assure you of the high consideration with
which I am your excellency's most obedient, humble servant,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Molina.


I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of
yesterday, accepting, in the name of Costa Rica, the arbitration of the
United States and Great Britain in the settlement of the question of
boundaries now existing between that State and Nicaragua, and offering
to negotiate a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between
Costa Rica and the United States.

Having no authority to conclude such a treaty, I have this day transmitted
a copy of your note to Washington, that the subject may be
brought to the notice of my government.

The negotiations between the United States and Great Britain relative
to Central America, I think, will soon be brought to a close; and
I can see no reason, at present, why the United States should not conclude
with Costa Rica such a treaty as you propose.

I have the honor to be, sir, with great consideration, your obedient

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 39.]



I have nothing new to communicate
on the affairs of Central America. I find myself unable to proceed


with the negotiation in any form until I receive instructions from you.
My note to Lord Palmerston of the 14th of December remains unanswered;
and perhaps you are not aware that there is not a word upon
the files of this legation upon the subject of the negotiation from your
department since I transmitted a copy of that communication to Washington.
I am unable to comply with the request (intimated in your
private notes) to argue the question of the protection of the Mosquitoes:
first, because I am not informed of the present state of the negotiation
at Washington; and, secondly, because that question is inseparably
connected with every other point under discussion—in fact, it is the question
at issue
. I think this government is ready to yield everything else
but the protection of the Mosquitoes. Of one point I am quite certain—
that, whenever the history of the conduct of Great Britain shall be published
to the world, it will not stand one hour before the bar of public
opinion without universal condemnation. I hope the word "occupy"
used in the convention may receive such a construction here as to
enable Sir Henry Bulwer to settle the question in Washington. I am,
however, entirely prepared to re-enter upon the negotiation whenever
you may instruct me to do so.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 44.]



Not long after my arrival in this country, I became satisfied
that there was a very serious difference of opinion between Great Britain
and the United States relative to the protectorate claimed by the
former over the Mosquito Indians; and, thinking it most probable that
I should be called upon officially to defend this difference upon our
part, I early commenced, and have steadily pursued, the investigation
of that question, using the great means which my locality has
placed in my power. I have, from time to time, kept you informed of
my labors, but have never deemed it necessary to acquaint you with
their results, as I have supposed, from the tenor of your public as well
as private notes, that the discussion of this question would take place
here, if at all. I now learn, from your private note of the 31st ultimo,
that these negotiations are entirely transferred to Washington, and that
I am to cease altogether pressing them here. In this event, I have
thought you would most probably wish to be possessed of the materials
I had provided for myself. If, in submitting them, I travel over ground
familiar to you, or omit much your sagacity had detected, you will
pardon me, in view of the haste with which this is finally reduced to
form, and in view also of the earnest desire which actuates me to do
all in my power to advance the public interests.

You are aware that the British argument for the independence of
Mosquito rests on the following grounds: first, a denial that Spain ever
acquired a title in the territory in question; second, the assertion that
whatever show of title she had was abandoned by the treaty of 1670,
in view of a long-previous and then-existing "possession" of that


country by England, which possession, it is said, was subsequently
maintained and further fortified by the submission of several Mosquito
kings in succession, and was in existence at the time of concluding
the treaties of 1783 and 1786; and, third, the claim that, whatever
might have been the former legal condition of these Indians, or whatever
might have been the just construction of the treaties of 1783 and
1786, yet, when the States of Central America threw off allegiance to
Spain and worked out their independence, those treaties became, by
that very act, nullities as to those States, at least until their political
recognition by Spain, which Lord Palmerston asserts has never been
diplomatically done, and that, in consequence of the want of such recognition,
those States are incapable of inheriting any Spanish rights
in Mosquito, whether acquired by discovery, conquest, occupation,
treaty, or in any other way, but must show, to avail, a title acquired by
themselves, independently of the mother country.

I can obtain more directness in this note by making a denial of these
propositions its basis.

Before entering upon their discussion, however, I desire to say a
word as to the geopraphical limits of Mosquito, which are by no means
accurately defined even in the claim made by her Majesty's government.

There is, on the eastern coast of Central America, between Cape
Honduras on the north and the San Juan river on the south, (possibly
extending as far even as Boca del Toro,) a tract of low, swampy,
unhealthy land, of a various width, and rising in its western border
into highlands and mountians. The lower part of this country has
never been much occupied by Europeans, in consequence of its insalubrity.
The mountainous parts are said to contain but little valuable
mineral stores. At the time of the discovery by Columbus, and until
within a comparatively recent period, it was inhabited by some fifteen
or sixteen tribes of Indians, speaking different languages, and often at
war with each other; and, among others, there was a tribe known as
the Mosquitoes, (so called by the early voyagers from the abundance
of Moscas found on the coast,) living between Cape Honduras and Cape
Gracias a Dios. They gradually overcame and almost exterminated
the more southern tribes, aided perhaps by the Bueaniers, and by degrees
the name of Mosquito came to be applied to all living north of the Bluefields;
and I think, in all the discussions of the last century relating to
this subject, the Mosquito country was never understood to extend far,
if at all, below that river. It is now defined by Lord Palmerston as
reaching to the San Juan river, embracing the northern bank, so as to
take in San Juan de Nicaragua, (Anglicized into Greytown,) and command
the mouth of the river. In my opinion, it is quite immaterial
where the royal geographers are directed to draw the line, as I am
satisfied the whole claim is without just foundation. All the good
maps of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, French,
Spanish, Dutch, and English, carry Honduras from coast to coast,
Nicaragua the same, and fix the southern terminus of the Mosquito shore
at or near where I have indicated.

The character of the Indians at present occupying this country deserves


notice, since Great Britain seeks to invest them with the attributes
of an independent nation.

In the year 1836, one James Woods, a native of Ipswich, in the
county of Suffolk, allured by the promises of an emigration company,
set sail for Vera Paz. On his return, in 1840, he published a sketch
of his adventures in Central America, to serve as a warning against
similar companies. Among other places, he resided awhile at Cape
Gracias a Dios, in charge of a store of provisions, rum, &c., &c. He
says: "The rum was a dangerous thing in the store, for the Indians
will kill a man for the sake of a glass of rum; and there were only five
Europeans on the cape. I had a demijohn of brandy for the Indian
king, but he was gone up the river. He and his brother were taken
from the Mosquito shore when young, and carried to the island of Jamaica,
where they were taught to read and write the English language.
After staying there for several years, they were brought back to the Mosquito
shore. One was made king—the other a general; and, although
brought up in a civilized state, yet they returned to the wild and savage
state in which their people live—getting drunk, and giving themselves
up to the most disgusting habits. No sooner had the king heard I had a
demijohn of brandy for him than he set out to return home. He went
to the house of a Frenchman named Bouchet, who came down to the
store and told me his Majesty wished to see me. I went up to the
house, where the king was lying on a bed, rather unwell. I made my
compliments to him, and asked him how he did. He told me he
was very poorly, and that he wanted me to draw him a gallon of
brandy. Accordingly, I went down to the store and drew him a gallon,
which I carried to him. He asked me to drink, and stay and dine with
him, which I did. He told me that he loved me. I replied, you love
the brandy better; but I turned it off with a laugh, or he would have
been offended with me. He staid for two or three days, and then left
for Bluefields. These Indians far exceed all the Indians I have ever
met with in lying, thieving, and everything that is disgusting. They
are given up to idolatry, and lead an indolent life." After giving details
of their ignorance and barbarism, he adds: "They are also great
drunkards, and are never easy but when they are drunk." And of the
English settlers on the shores he says: "They are almost as bad as
the natives, and live in almost as disgusting a manner." This strong
picture, painted by an Englishman, is borne out by the personal relations
of many other travellers.

The historical portion of this paper will relate, not to Mosquito alone,
but to Central America from Tehauntepec to Panama. The naval
and military operations of the Spaniards were so extensive, their conquests
were so complete, and their settlements were so rapid and
numerous, that it is impossible to separate the conquest and colonization
of that part of Nicaragua and Honduras called the Mosquito coast
from the subjugation and settlement of that portion of them to the west
of the indefinite line swaying across their interior at the will of the
Foreign Office.

With these preliminary statements, I now arrive at an examination
of the positions taken by her Majesty's government.

The first is a denial that Spain ever acquired any right in Mosquito.


The complete discussion of this proposition necessarily requires a
two-fold argument—the one purely legal, the other purely historical;
the one a general inquiry into the means of acquiring exclusive sovereignity
or domain in such a country as Central America, as settled
by the practice of nations and the opinions of jurists and statesmen,
the other a particular examination into the question whether Spain or
her representatives had taken the necessary steps to acquire such. As
it would be worse than useless, with you, to enter at length upon the
first, I will content myself with a statement of such general principles
as are necessary to the understanding of what I have to say as to the

The discovery of a new continent, rich and fertile, peopled by tribes
of hunters, gave to the more civilized Europeans (in their own judgment)
the right to take possession of it, to people it, and to open its
resources. Public and private enterprise carried to its shores in the
course of a few years adventurers from many nations, who made almost
contemporaneous discoveries; and it became necessary to define
the nature of the rights acquired by the discoverer, both as between
himself and the nation and himself and other discoverers. As emigration
or military expeditions receded from the coast into the country,
and the extent of coast rights came under discussion, these conflicting
claims became more complicated; but, fortunately, the complete
exploration and settlement of Central America at a very early day
entirely do away with the necessity of entering upon this difficult

The Christian world have agreed in recognising the Indians as occupants,
only, of the land, with a right to possession, without domain.
Absolute sovereignty was in each case acquired by discovery to the
government by whose subjects or under whose authority the discovery
was made, subject only to the Indian right of occupation, which the
discovering power possessed the exclusive right of acquiring, at such
time and in such manner as it might think best—provided the discovery
was consummated by a subsequent possession, not of the whole, but of
some point in the country claimed. As a necessary result, the occupying
Indians became the quasi subjects of the discoverers, who alone
had the right of regulating their relations with them, and might justly
consider "an attempt to form a political connexion with them as an
invasion of territory and an act of hostility." The possession requisite
was not that of an active settlement; neither was it ever held necessary
that the aborigines should be conquered.

I might fortify these views by a long display of authority: I could
cite Vattel, Kent, Grotius, and other legal writers; I could call to my
aid Chief Justice Marshall, whose luminious opinions have never been
surpassed; I could quote from the official arguments and correspondence
of English, French, Spanish, and American statesmen and diplomatists.
I could point to the universal polity of the Christian world:
I could show with confidence what has been the conduct of Portugal
in Brazil, and of France in the Canadas and in Louisiana; I could examine
the history of Spanish discovery and conquest from Oregon to
Patagonia—from 1492 to 1820—exhibiting the admitted acquisition of
vast empires by the former process, and their transfer, (as in the case


of the Floridas,) without a reduction to possession by the latter. Above
all, I could rely on the precedents furnished by the English efforts at
colonization; on the claim to extend the thirteen Atlantic colonies to
the Mississippi; on the conflict with France on the Ohio, in the middle
of the eighteenth century; on the treaty of peace with the United States
in 1782; and, still later, on the difficulties with the French in Australasia,
since the peace of 1815. But it would be needless to quote these
authorities at length, since they are, doubtless, more familiar to you
than to me. I am left, therefore, in this connexion, only to show that
Spain discovered Central America, and occupied it. I believe that she
did much more: that she discovered, circumvallated, explored, conquered,
settled, retained possession of, and governed it, with only such
interference as the rudeness of the times permitted or could not prevent.

The principal authorities for the early history of Central America
are, Oviedo, Peter Martyr, Gomara, Enciso, Cortez, Las Casas, Herrera,
Torquimada, Remesal, Cogolludo, Wytfleit, De Laet, Ogilby, Villagutierre,
Sauson, Moll, Jefferys, Navaretto, Juarros, Linschot, Botterro,
Hakluyt, Purchas, Alcedo, &c., &c. I have caused all these to be carefully
examined, and compared with many other writers, Spanish, English,
Dutch, and French. The following facts are derived chiefly from
the above sources:

Columbus, in his fourth voyage, first made land on the North American
continent at Cape Honduras, near the present town of Truxillo, on
the 17th of August, 1502; and thence, proceeding easterly, shortly afterwards
entered the mouth of Black river, and, in accordance with his
instructions, landed and took formal possession of the country, in the
presence of the unresisting natives, in the name of the crown of Castile.
In the early Spanish maps this river is called the Rio del Possession,
a name given it by Columbus himself, in commemoration of this
event. He next touched and took possession at Cape Gracias a Dios,
where he remained a short time, holding friendly intercourse with the
natives, whom he described more favorably than he did their country.
Thence he coasted leisurely southward toward Veragua, communicating
often with the inhabitants, and touching particularly at the Blue-fields
river, and at the mouth of the San Juan.

The result of this voyage being known in Spain, expeditions were fitted
out, at different times, under various commanders, which reconnoitred
thoroughly the entire coast from Darien to the Bay of Honduras, penetrating
even to the extremity of Golf Dolce, and thence along the coast
of Yucatan. Much intercourse was held with the natives, and every
river and bay was penetrated to find the supposed strait to the land
beyond the Ganges—for this country was then believed to be an island,
or part of India; and the Spaniards were not fully disabused of the
idea until the discovery of the Pacific by Balboa in 1512. After this
event, expeditions sailed from year to year along both the Atlantic and
Pacific coasts, with the double purpose of discovering the supposed
passage connecting the two oceans, and of exploring, conquering, and
settling the country. And so rapidly were the latter objects accomplished,
that, by the year 1530, not only the Pacific coast, from Panama
to the Gulf of Fonseca, had been reconnoitred, but the interior, from
Tehuantepec to Veragua, had been crossed and recrossed, many tribes


of Indians had been subjected, and towns had been built, under the
commands of the two D'Avilas, Olid, Francis de las Casas, Cortez,
Alverado, Gringalsa, Cordova, Roxas, Montejo, &c., &c. From the
nature of the country, as I have already described it, the principal settlements
were made near the Pacific coast; but the Spaniards did not
neglect to consummate their title on the eastern shore. Truxillo, Omoa,
and other towns on the Bay of Honduras were founded in 1524.
Roxas attempted a settlement at Cape Gracias a Dios in 1530, which
he found impracticable from the nature of the country. Merida was
founded in 1542; Valladolid, in 1526, and rebuilt in 1543; Campeche,
in 1540. And in the interior many towns were built—as Olaucho,
Comayagua, Segovia, &c. Before 1530 the greater proportion of the
very numerous tribes of Indians were subjected to the Spanish authorities,
either by the military or the ecclesiastical power; for, after the coming
of Las Casas, the missionaries did nearly as much as the soldiers in
controlling the aborigines. Nicaragua and Honduras are reported to have
been most densely populated at the time of the discovery; but scarcely
half a century had elapsed before nearly nine-tenths of the natives
had faded away before their bloody conquerors. As early as 1524,
Cortez wrote to the Emperor Charles V that only two of the many
tribes of Honduras remained unconquered. Shortly after, these yielded
to the power of Alverado. Some fled to the mountains and the country
now known as Mosquito, where they remained unmolested, protected
by their own weakness and by the want of mineral wealth in the soil
on which they had taken refuge. They were shielded, too, by a still
stronger arm. Spain, ever jealous of the interference of other European
powers in her traffic, left this region unsettled, to be a barrier
between the Atlantic and the golden regions of the west. But, though
she neglected to cultivate, she never neglected to protect and defend.
Guardas costa were early established to protect the coast, and watch
over the argosies as they set sail for the old world.

The natives of Mosquito were thenceforward constantly under the
influence both of the Franciscan and Dominican orders of missionaries.
From 1575 to a very late period, Spanish missionaries have almost
always resided, by order of government, among the numerous tribes
of Mosquito. Sometimes as many as twenty at a time were there,
exerting a great influence in softening the barbarity of those savage
tribes. It is true that many of them were subjected to the most revolting
cruelties, and suffered death itself; yet, in almost every instance,
these were caused by the hostilities and treacheries of those warlike
tribes among themselves, and not, as the English writers assert, by
their hatred of the Spanish yoke. The missionary was destroyed, not
by the tribe with which he lived, but by its enemies. Fortunately, the
histories of the Franciscan and Dominican orders give ample details of
these extraordinary missions.

I think I have now established all I promised with reference to the
discovery, conquest, and settlement of this country by Spain. It is not
to be concealed, however, that the exaggerated accounts of her wealth
and the value of her commerce soon attracted hostile parties to these
shores, who, in process of time, increased in power, and became the
foundation for claims adverse to her territorial rights on the Mosquito


coast. This brings me to a notice of the Bucaniers, or pirates of the
West Indies.

The early bucaniers were composed of English, French, Dutch,
and Portuguese adventurers. The private enterprises of Drake and
his contemporaries are well known. Like all other bucanier adventures
for half a century later, they were directed against the Spaniards
only because Spain was the wealthiest and most commercial nation,
and therefore the best object of plunder. During time of war, (and it
should be borne in mind that Spain was almost constantly at war with
some European power,) these pirates managed to get from unscrupulous
governments letters of reprisal, and sometimes sailed under English,
sometimes under French, sometimes under Dutch, and sometimes
under Portuguese commissions, as the case might be. Spain treated
them all alike as pirates. England, in those days, so far from availing
herself of their acts, disclaimed them. The Spanish ambassador at
London repeatedly remonstrated against their depredations, and was
always met with a disavowal. By the time of Cromwell they had become
very numerous. Spain increased her guarda costa, and sought
to protect herself by destroying them; but this only served to unite all
shades and nations together under a kind of piratical republic of the
sea. Meanwhile, England, France, and Holland had each gained a
footing in the West Indies. The pirates had grown so numerous that
no power was exempted from their depredations. England felt their influence,
and was about negotiating with Spain for their overthrow,
when the difficulties between Charles and his Parliament interfered to
prevent. When the negotiations were renewed with Cromwell, he put
off the conclusion of a treaty till he could secure some conquest in the
West Indies, and despatched secretly an expedition against Cuba,
which, failing in its object, won Jamaica in 1655 to English dominion.
Then England offered to negotiate and define the respective rights of
England and Spain; but the latter refused. Immediately after the conquest
of Jamaica, the governors of that island turned their attention to
the pirates, and, finding their reduction too difficult a work, sought to
take advantage by regulation of what they could not destroy by force.
The stringent measures they took induced many to abandon their dangerous
avocation and retire to the Indians of Yucatan, Honduras, and
Nicaragua, with whom they had been in intercourse for many years;
and hence the great increase of the English trade in logwood, and subsequently
in mahogany. The Mosquito Indians about Cape Gracias a
Dios had been repeatedly stimulated by the Dutch, French, and English
adventurers, during the several wars against Spain, to join in the expeditions
against the Spanish settlements, and, indeed, were on such
friendly terms with all that each claims the priority of intimacy with
them. The earliest known attempt of the English to tamper with them
was under Sir Thomas Modyford, governor of Jamaica, about 1677.
His proceedings were not approved, and in 1670 he was arrested and
sent to England. The illicit trade in logwood and other things from
Campeche to the Bay of Honduras and the Mosquito country had become
so offensive to Spain—who feared that it might cover a permanent
occupation—that she was induced to enter into the treaty of 1670,
which yields to England the islands she had conquered in the West


Indies, defines for the first time the respective rights of the parties, and
has been made the basis of all subsequent treaties. This brings me to
the second position of the British government.

By the 7th article of the treaty of Madrid, "it is agreed that the
most serene King of Great Britain, his heirs and successors, shall
have, hold, keep, and enjoy forever, with plenary right of sovereignty,
dominion, possession, and propriety; all those lands, regions, islands,
colonies, and places, whatsoever, being or situated in the West Indies,
or any part of America, which the said King of Great Britain or his
subjects do at present hold and possess." It is plainly of great importance
to the present inquiry to determine what lands, regions, islands, colonies,
or places, King Charles or his subjects held or possessed in America
on the conclusion of that treaty.

Now, it is evident that this article was inserted in the treaty to determine
a previous conflict of claims to sovereignty by the fact of existing
possession, and that, where the claims of the parties had not come in
conflict, it had no validity. Leaving out of view all the American continent
to the north or south of Central America and the Indies, it is well
known that the title to Jamaica was in dispute, and that this article was
expressly inserted to settle it by confirming England's occupation. Had
it any reference beyond that to Mosquito? After the preceding review,
I think I am warranted in saying it had not: because, in the first place,
I am unable to find that the sovereignty had ever been in dispute, and
because, in the second place, the only possession approaching a
hostility to Spanish right was that of the Bucaniers—composed of
all nations—which was not continuous; which was piratical, and
therefore clearly illegal; which was disavowed by England, and therefore
cannot inure to her; and which was made in admission of Spain's
title, since it was a war upon Spain.

And further: Great Britain does not now claim ever to have "held"
or "possessed" Mosquito. To adopt a little of Lord Palmerston's
severity of criticism on the language of treaties, I say, that the terms
"hold" and "possess" have definite meanings in international law;
that they imply title, either temporary—as in the case of violent occupation
in time of war—or permanent, to which occupation is not a necessary
incident. The claim under which Great Britain shelters the
illegal occupation of Mosquito by the English is not set up in itself, but
in a monarch of its creation, who is alleged to reign under its protection.

The political relation of protector and protected is not a new one.
It grows out of contract. It implies sovereignty in each party; for,
when the sovereignty of the lesser merges in that of the greater, the peculiar
relation ceases. Any occupation, therefore, by the English, at
any time, must have been (by their own showing) as under Mosquito.
Any possession must have been the possession of Mosquito. And when
that possession is demonstrated to be, not adverse to but under Spain,
their title, being that of a privy in estate, must take the same course.

Any light in which we view this claim presents a tissue of inconsistencies.
To defeat the Spanish title, it is alleged that the Indians
are an independent nation, whom Spain could never conquer; while,
on the other hand, to let in Great Britain to the benefit of such a defeat,
it is said that her protection is necessary to enable them to protect


themselves against the Spaniard. Either they are an independent nation
of themselves, capable of existing without this protection, and
therefore not entitled to it, or the aid has been rendered in bad faith,
to maintain a tribe of savages in revolt against their sovereign.

The contemporaneous construction of the treaty of Madrid shows
that the right of Spain to the whole of Central America was not
questioned. Sir William Godolphin, the ambassador to Spain who
negotiated and signed the treaty on the part of Great Britain on the
10—20th May, 1672, wrote to Lord Arlington from Madrid as follows:
"Your lordship hath required my opinion touching the cutting of logwood
in the West Indies by some English on pretence that the parts
where they take the same are not inhabited or possessed by the Spaniards.
* * * * In answer, * * * the said wood is brought
from Jucatan, a large province of New Spain extending into the North
sea like to a peninsula, about a hundred leagues in length, sufficiently
peopled in respect of other places of those Indies, having several good
towns, as Merida, Valladolid, San Francisco de Campeche, &c., the
government thereof being likewise esteemed one of the most considerable
there—next to the two vice-royalties of Peru and Mexico." * *
* * "Now, this wood, growing on the northern coast of Jucatan, *
* * * is commonly called here Campeche wood." * * * "This
premised, we may reasonably conclude the crown of Spain to have as
well too much right as advantage in these woods not to assert the propriety
of them; for though, perhaps, they are not all inhabited (which
is not to be admired) or distinguished into particular tenements, but
remain in common, yet they are in general possessed by these people,
who may as justly pretend to make use of our rivers, mountains, and
other commons, for not being inhabited or owned by individual proprietors,
as we can to enjoy any benefit of those woods."

"And this is the sense of all the Spaniards, who esteem themselves
in full possession of every part of that province, notwithstanding that
it containeth much territory unpeopled, since (as I have said) to inhabit
and possess are distinct; neither is the former essential to the latter."

"Lastly, what will render the pretension to a freedom of cutting this
wood more odious to the Spaniards is, that in consequence thereof, and
for the same reason, we may infer a liberty to inhabit there, opening a
door to any further attempt we may design against their continent."

"Thus much to the merits of the cause and the point of strict

"But now, after all this, I will adventure to give my opinion, that if
the English, in cutting wood at Campeche, would restrain themselves
to that alone, observing to do it in parts nearest to the sea, more remote
from their towns, * * * and without making inroads or other
depredations on the country, it may be advisable for his Majesty,
though not to authorize, yet to connive; * * * * sure, for when
they [the Spaniards] see the American treaty in other points complied
with, and no other spoil committed than the bare cutting of that wood,
* * * they may be induced to connive likewise."


When it is remembered that, up to this time, all geographers conceded,
or rather never doubted, the right of Spain to the whole of
this part of the continent; that that right had been intruded on only by
the Bucaniers; and that these intrusions had been confined to Yucatan
and its neighborhood, and had not yet extended as far south as Mosquito,
which was a part of New Spain, of which "the Spaniards then
esteemed themselves in full possession of every part,"—the completeness
of the testimony will be understood, and its almost prophetic
nature appreciated. And I am prepared to show, in addition, that the
connivance of the governors of Jamaica in such cutting and encroachment
was encouraged and approved in London.

I shall now assume it to be clearly proved that, in 1670, while the
English had no right, either directly or indirectly, in Mosquito, Spain
held undoubted sovereignty over it; and shall travel forward to the
year 1739, when hostilities commenced between Great Britain and
Spain, during which a permanent occupation of this country by the
former power was for the first time attempted. Most of the acts of
occupation or protection, (for they sometimes take the one form and
sometimes the other,) on the part of England, took place between this
date and the peace of Paris in 1763, and were either done during a
time of hostilities or were themselves causes of a subsequent war. It
is plain, therefore, that, being aggressive, they cannot now be used by
Great Britain to set up the alleged title in the Indians.

On the 19th of October, 1739, war was declared against Spain,
ostensibly because she had neglected to pay the paltry balance of
£95,000, according to treaty; but the real object of the British colonists
appears to have been to gain a stronger footing in the West Indies
before concluding a peace. On the 17th of August, 1740, Sir William
Pultney, of the admiralty, wrote to Admiral Vernon, then in the West
Indies, a long letter detailing the plans of the government. He says:
"To ravage the coast of Spain (supposing we could do it) seems to be
with a desire only of forcing the Spaniards into a peace before we
have secured such advantages as we may reasonably hope for in
another place. Every man of sense agrees that the only place to push
them in is the West Indies; and there we can be too hard for them,
and may defy the whole world besides." * * * "We,
[England,] one and all, cry out there is no dependence on the faith of
treaties; something must be done to keep the Spaniards from insulting
us again; and we must no longer rely on bare promises only for the
security of our navigation and commerce. Take and hold, is the cry.
This plainly points to Cuba. * * * It [the taking of Carthagena]
might be a very sensible mischief to Spain; but what we now immediately
want is advantage to ourselves. * * * * *
When we are once possessed of it, [Cuba,] the whole world will not be
able to dispossess us again. We may then make peace with Spain
without the intervention of France, giving them almost anything in
Europe they may desire, but showing them, at the same time, they
shall, in great measure, depend upon us, the chief maritime power,
and convincing them of the truth of their own old proverb—Peace
with England and war with the whole world

During the years 1739 and 1740, many projects were framed for the


purpose of gaining the desired footing in the West Indies—for the accounts
of the wonderful details of which we are indebted to the principal
actors in them, many of whose most confidential letters, owing to
private quarrels, have been published. In addition to these, I have
been permitted to examine the original Vernon and Wager manuscripts,
a collection embodying, in the original, official as well as private letters
of the Duke of Newcastle, of Sir Charles Wager, of Admiral Vernon,
of Sir William Pultney, of Governor Trelawney, of Mr. Robert Hodgson,
and of many others—a mass of authentic information never published,
and not existing anywhere else, unless in her Majesty's State
Paper Office. I am happy to say that this collection will probably go
to America, as it is now owned by an American gentleman.

As soon as hostilities were determined upon, the Duke of Newcastle
(on the 15th June, 1739) directed Governor Trelawney to be on his
guard against any attempt of the Spaniards against Jamaica, and gave
him full power and liberty to annoy the enemy. He directed him also
to encourage the taking out of letters of marque and reprisal against
the Spaniards, and to authorize descents upon the Spanish settlements.

On the receipt of these orders, Governor Trelawney at once revived
the old scheme of the Mosquito Indians, and, on the 20th of January,
1739—'40, wrote to the Duke of Newcastle advising a settlement upon
the Mosquito shore. About one hundred Englishmen, he said, were
there, "mostly such as could live nowhere else." He proposed to
bring all the English in that quarter together in one settlement, so that,
by the help of the Mosquito Indians, whom he calls his "friends," they
might induce the neighboring Indians to revolt, and thus, by supporting
the Indians "a little, spread the revolt from one part to another,
till it should be general over the Indies, and drive the Spaniards entirely
out, or cut them off." Accordingly, early in 1740, he commenced his
Quixotic scheme by sending over Robert Hodgson to the Mosquito
shore, fully equipped with everything necessary to enable him to tamper
with the Indians and excite them against the Spaniards. I am fortunately
enabled to give, from the Vernon manuscripts, Mr. Hodgson's
own account of what he did under this extraordinary commission:

"May it please your excellency,
King Edward, being informed of my
arrival, sent me word that he would see me the next day—which he did,
attended by several of his captains. I read to him your excellency's
letter and my own commission, and, when I had explained them by an
interpreter, told my errand, and recommended to them to seek all opportunities
of cultivating friendship and union with the neighboring
Indian nations, and especially such as were under subjection to the
Spaniards, and of helping them to recover their freedom. They approved
everything I said, and appointed the 16th to meet the governor, John
Briton, and his captains, at the same place, to hear what I had further
to say.

"On the 16th they all came, except Admiral Dilly and Colonel Morgan,
who were sick. General Hobby and his captains were at too
great a distance to be sent for; but, their presence not being material,


I proceeded to acquaint them that, as they had long acknowledged
themselves subjects of Great Britain, the governor of Jamaica had sent
me to take possession of their country in his Majesty's name; then
asked if they had anything to object. They answered, they had nothing
to say against it, but were very glad I was come for that purpose.
So I immediately set up the standard, and, reducing the sum of what
I had said into articles, I asked them, both jointly and separately, if they
approved and would abide by them. They unanimously declared they
would. So I had them read over again, in a solemn manner, under
the colors; at the end of every article, fired a gun; and concluded
with cutting up a turf, and promising to defend their country, and to
procure them all the assistance and instruction from England in my

"The formality all this was done with seemed to have a good influence
upon them; for they often repeated their desire of learning to
read, and said they must now mind their kings more than they had
done, and do all they could to help themselves and hurt the Spaniards,
to whom I recommended all the mercy that was consistent with their
own safety; but they seemed not to understand me rightly, saying, if
they fight, they must kill. The articles I enclose, and hope your excellency
will excuse so much ceremony; for, as I had no certain information
whether the country was ever taken possession of before or
ever claimed otherwise than by sending them down commissions, I
thought the more voluntary and clear the cession of it was, the better.
The governor came, attended with a numerous guard, who behaved to
him with much respect and silence. (?) He is a sensible old man, and
carries a good command. The king, being very young—I believe not
twenty—is not much observed; but was he to be a while in Jamaica or
England, 'tis thought he would make a hopeful monarch enough.

"The same day, Admiral Dilly and Colonel Morgan sent me word
they were coming to wait on me. I immediately crossed the lagune
to meet them, hearing they were sensible, clever fellows; and such I
found them. They had despatched a messenger to the governor to
meet them the next day to hold a general and decisive council.

"They all met on Sunday, the 23d, at Senock Dawkra, (Mr. Whitehead's
house.) The governor, being sick, tried our patience by making
us wait till the afternoon, but, when he came, made ample amends
by the justness of his sentiments.

"He told the king and his captains it was plain they had got a
name and the good opinion of the governor of Jamaica, (whose success
against the rebellious negroes they had all heard of;) and, if they did
not keep it up, what would the world say of them? There was an
officer now sent down by your excellency to observe their manner
of fighting, and, if they did not do their best, they should lose the
favor of the English. It was true they were but a small number of people,
compared to us, who had men to spare for sickness and the sword; but,
if they showed themselves worthy, no doubt the King of Britain would
send a force sufficient to get them all they wanted, besides teachers to
instruct them in what is right and good. He said General Hobby had
often talked about taking towns in time of peace, and called the English


cowards. Now it was war, they must show they were not such
themselves; that the English were the best judges when war or peace
was proper; and none of them had any business to act otherwise than
they were directed by the governor of Jamaica.

"I find my counsel about sobriety has had some weight with the old
men; but the young ones are got together there since, with the women,
into drinking bouts. They intoxicate themselves with a liquor made
of honey, pineapples, and cassada, and, if they avoid quarrels, which
often happen, they are sure to have fine promiscuous doings among the
girls. The old women, I am told, have the liberty of chewing the
cassada before it is put in, that they may have a chance in the general
rape, as well as the young ones.

"I fell into one of them by mere accident last Monday, where I
found Admiral Dilly and Colonel Morgan retailing my advice among
them to little effect; for most of them were too drunk to mind it, and
so hideously painted that I quickly left them to avoid being daubed all
over—which is the compliment they usually pay their visiters on those

"Those two captains complain much of their drinking, but say it
has been taught them by the English; others say not, for how should
the English invent the pine and cassada drink. Their resentment of
adultery has lost its edge, too, more than among other Indians. That,
I make no doubt, they are obliged to us for. Their breach of promises
in their bargains I take to be a good deal owing to a sense of being
defrauded by traders; but, through their ignorance of numbers and
value, not being able to tell how, they are apt to make improper reprisals.
As for their laziness, the grand promoter of the rest, I really
think it must have been owing to the discontent at the usage they have
received from privateers and others, because I do not find it has been
epidemical amongst them till lately."

"I have disposed of several presents; but, their returns being chiefly
in visits to get more, or to drink punch, I have stopped my hand.
The Lubec duck, osnaburgs, powder, ball, flints, and shot, I shall divide
among them at setting out, with a promise that they shall pay me according
to their behaviour or their plunder.


"P. S. Had I been better informed, I might have made a little fortune
out of your excellency's money, and done more justice to the cause; for
the Mosquito men have not got half guns enough, so must be supplied
by Stewart and the other white men that go with us, who, no doubt,
will make them pay sound."

The origin, character, history, and results of the British intrigues
in this quarter are all disclosed in this letter. They originated in public
and private cupidity—in the desire of territorial aggrandizement
and of personal gain to the governor of Jamaica. They were pursued
in the same spirit, by the distribution of intoxicating liquors and missiles
of destruction among the savages, and by exciting them to an


unnatural war against the Spaniards. They resulted in the complete
degradation of the Indians themselves—a degradation which they
have never been able to shake off. Yet this is the "protection" Great
Britain sets up and seeks to perpetuate.

Mr. Hodgson skilfully aroused the old resentment of the Indians
against the Spaniards, and induced them to join him in an expedition,
which proved a failure. He, however, remained among them, and
was instructed by Governor Trelawney "to endeavor to persuade the
Indians to form themselves into some sort of a government."

Meanwhile the home government had the scheme under consideration,
and approved of it. But Sir Charles Wager had fallen in with
another adventurer, named Lee, and wrote to Admiral Vernon from
the admiralty office as follows, under date May 23, 1741: "I sent
Governor Trelawney, by the last ships, some accounts I had from one
Captain Lee, who was some time a factor to the South Sea Company
at Guatemala, of the particular situation, riches, and trade of that part
of the continent, which is much more than I imagined. The governor's
Don Quixotte, Mr. Hodgson, seemed to want this Captain Lee with
him, and I could have seen him had it not been for some difficulties;
but I had his scheme in writing, and sent it to Plymouth, but the ships
were gone before it came there."

Again, on the 18th of August following, he wrote to the admiral
thus: "I sent you by the last ships a scheme of Captain Lee for a
proper number of soldiers, when they can be spared, or can do nothing
more considerable, to go down to the Mosquitoes, and, with or without
them, to make attempt on the Spaniards up the river Dulce, where Captain
Lee seems perfectly acquainted. But, as we have made him captain
of the Bonetta sloop, purely for the sake of this scheme only, I refer
you to him for a clear explication of the whole scheme, which, in its
consequences, may be much more considerable than it appears at first
sight; for, if we can procure a sufficient number of arms for the Indians,
who are able and willing, as he says, to pay for them—though
that is not material—they would soon make themselves their own masters,
and drive all the Spaniards out of the country, or change conditions
with them, and make them the hewers of wood and drawers of water.
And this, I think, they may do, if supplied with arms and all things
necessary, more easily than the Spaniards conquered them," [the italics
are mine, except the word "Spaniards;"] "for if once there was a
considerable insurrection of the Indians about Guatemala and that country,
in which the Mosquito men may perhaps be persuaded to join with
them, there would soon be an insurrection both in Mexico and Peru
of which the Spanish court has been very much afraid, especially in
Peru and Chili, where it is not improbable but the Creole Spaniards
would soon join with them, and set up a king of their own."

Again, on the 20th of the same month, and still again on the 7th of
October following, he wrote to Admiral Vernon, reiterating these views
in almost the same language. These letters, as well as that of Mr.
Hodgson, expose the manner and the object of the British tampering
with the Indians.

In 1743 these "schemes" had so far progressed that Governor Trelawney
recommended that a company of troops should be kept at the


Mosquito shore, and that some sort of government should be established
there. And the governor encouraged emigration there, and tried
to get permission from the government to grant lands, and thus induce
settlement; but the Board of Trade did not approve of this.

On the 19th of July, 1744, notwithstanding the discouraging report
of the Board of Trade as to the rights of Spain, an order passed the
council detaching a certain number of troops from Jamaica for the
Mosquito shore, and providing for the erection of forts and the establishment
of a government. In February, 1748, there was another
order in council for sending a supply of ordnance to the "new settlement
on the Mosquito shore" to the amount of £1,528 13s. 7d.

The fort at Black river was completed in 1747, so that Governor
Trelawney was confident that, should the Spaniards make a descent
upon the Mosquito shore, as was expected, in the summer of 1748, it
"would be able not only to defend itself, but to annoy the enemy."

During all this time (i. e., from 1739 to the peace of Aix la Chapelle)
I do not learn that the Spaniards made any direct attempt to dislodge
the English from the Mosquito shore, except by an expedition from
Nicaragua in 1747, which was a failure. The reason was, they were
busily engaged in more important places.

Matters were not changed by this peace. The English gained no
new rights. They nevertheless determined to maintain their settlement;
and in October, 1749, the king appointed Captain Hodgson "to
regulate and superintend the settlement on the Mosquito shore, which
has been subsisting several years under the protection of our friends
and allies the Mosquito Indians." Captain Hodgson was to put himself
under the direction of the governor of Jamaica, and to correspond
with him. One cannot but admire the facility with which the relation
of the Indians shifts from protectors to protected, to suit the exigencies
of the case.

In 1750 and 1751 the Spanish authorities remonstrated against these
proceedings, asserted their rights, and threatened an expulsion of the
English. Governor Trelawney, alarmed at the aspect of affairs, sent
Hodgson an artful set of instructions for his conduct towards the
Indians, which were to be shown to the President of Guatemala, to
cause him to believe that the object of the English in keeping a superintendent
among the Indians was to restrain them in their hostilities
against the Spaniards; but, upon this being presented to him, he protested
against the English interference, and proposed sending a Spanish
agent or governor among the Indians. In reply, Hodgson wrote to
him, on the 3d of December, 1750, that he was already there as a
superintendent, appointed by the governor of Jamaica to protect the
Spaniards, as they could not protect themselves, and asserted that the
Indians were free, never having been conquered by Spain.

In 1751 an attack by the Spaniards was apprehended at the shore;
but only a missionary was sent among the Indians, named Juan Joseph
Solis de Meranda, who reported that hostilities would not be commenced
if he were allowed to remain among the Indians.

This was at first granted; but the English, soon perceiving the influence
he was gaining over the natives, to their great prejudice, arrested
him, under pretence of his being an impostor, and sent him to Jamaica.


It now came to the knowledge of the governor of Jamaica that the
Spaniards were making preparations for invading the Mosquito shore
and driving the English from it. The settlers became alarmed, and
demanded that the detachment of soldiers should be withdrawn. The
governor, on his part, proposed that the fort should be demolished,
rather than give umbrage to the Spaniards.

In 1752, Governor Knowles succeeded Governor Trelawney. He
took a different view of the rights of the Mosquito Indians, restored
Father Solis, and seemed determined to expose these transactions. He
entered into a correspondence with the governor of Guatemala, and
proposed a cessation of hostilities till he could hear from England.
On the 26th of March, 1753, he wrote to the Secretary of State that
the settlement on the Mosquito shore was "a job;" that, if Captain
Hodgson was not checked or recalled, he "would involve the nation in
difficulties;" that the Indians were so perplexed they "did not know
which part to take;" and that he should advise withdrawing the troops,
unless the ministry intended to maintain the right to the territories,
which he thought was not worth contending about.

During Governor Knowles's administration, the condition of things
improved; but he was not allowed to remain long. On his departure,
they fell back into the old channel, the English covertly acting the part
of aggressors, the Spaniards resisting by protest and by force, until the
treaty of Paris, in 1763—except that in 1759 the Indians took up arms
against the English, being discontented with their treatment of them
and disgusted with the course of Captain Hodgson; and except, also,
that this latter year was signalized by a communication from the Board
of Trade ignoring the existence of any British settlement on the Mosquito
shore, and declining, therefore, to entertain complaints against
officers of the crown for acts done there.

The treaty of Paris assumes to define the respective rights of the
parties in Central America. By article 17, it is provided that "his
Britannic Majesty shall cause to be demolished all fortifications which
his subjects shall have erected in the Bay of Honduras and other places
of the territory of Spain in that part of the world,"
&c; and then the
right is given to the English to cut logwood on the "Spanish coasts and
territories." In accordance with this provision, all the British fortifications
in Mosquito were demolished, and the troops removed. But the
settlers remained both there and in Honduras, for the purpose of cutting
and carrying away logwood, and marking their residence by repeated
aggressions similar to those already described—which I can give you
in detail, if you desire it. In 1783, at the close of the contests which
accompanied the American Revolution, it was found necessary to define
more particularly the rights of the English cutters, which is accordingly
done by the 6th article of the treaty of Versailles, where it is provided
that, "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 dying, 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," &c., (defining
the limits about the Belize within which the right might be exercised;)


"and his Catholic Majesty assures to them the enjoyment of all
that is expressed within the present article, provided that these stipulations
shall not be considered as derogating in any wise from his right of sovereignty.
And then it was provided that, within eighteen months from
the ratification, the English should wholly retire from the Spanish continent
and islands to the space allotted to them. This the English were
understood, at the time, to have received as a compensation for abandoning

It is now claimed by Great Britain that, before the conclusion of this
treaty, Mosquito had become an independent nation, and therefore was
not embraced within its provisions. The argument upon which this is
founded involves the consideration of the English title.

Starting from the position that the Indians had never been conquered,
and therefore were not within Spanish jurisdiction, (the fallacy of which
I have already shown,) all English writers rely on these, and only these,
circumstances to establish the Mosquito protectorate—all of which are
stated by Lord Palmerston in his note to Mr. Castellon of July 16,
1849: 1st. A submission by the Mosquito King to the governor of
Jamaica, on behalf of the King of England, in 1687, founded on an
alleged prior submission between 1645 and 1660; 2d. A convention
between the governor of Jamaica and the King of the Mosquitoes, concluded
June 25, 1720; 3d. Certain reports and resolutions made in
1774 in the House of Assembly of Jamaica.

To all this I might reply, that the Mosquitoes could not of themselves
change their political connexion; that, not being an independent nation,
all acts done by them as such are void; that the demolition of fortifications
shows England's construction of the treaty of Paris; and that
the treaty of Versailles uses the broad language of the "Spanish continent,"
and affirms Spanish sovereignty. Without dwelling upon these
apparent considerations, I turn to the authorities relied upon for these

And as to the first, I find that all writers refer for proof to an account
of the matter given by Sir Hans Sloane, who was in Jamaica at the
time of the alleged submission to the Duke of Albemarle, the governor,
and was his family physician, and of course in a position to know all
about it. The authority most often cited is a memoir by Bryan Edwards,
entitled "Some account of the British settlements on the Mosquito
shore, drawn up for the use of government in 1773." The history
of this memoir is a little curious. It purports to have been drawn up
for the use of government in 1773. It was printed anonymously, and
was, in 1776, laid before Parliament with the case of the "Morning
Star," to which I shall soon allude. The treaties of 1783 and 1786
having been concluded, the subject dropped. Twenty years afterwards,
Mr. Edwards published his "History of the West Indies," in one
of the foot-notes to which he stated that, the settlement in Mosquito having
been surrendered to Spain by the treaty
of 1786, it did not come within
the plan of his work to treat of them, but referred all curious on the
subject to this memorial. In 1819, in the fifth edition of his history,
(the first published after his death,) this memorial was for the first time
printed with the history, and under his name. It is now reproduced
by the Foreign Office in the "correspondence," &c., on this subject, submitted


to Parliament in 1848. That you may see how history has been
perverted, I give you, in parallel columns, what Sir Hans Sloane really
did say, (copied from his printed history,) and what Mr. Edwards represents
him as saying:


"One King Jeremy came from
the Mosquitoes, (an Indian people
near the provinces of Nicaragua,
, and Costa Rica;) he
pretended to be a king there, and
came from the others of his country
to beg of the Duke of Albemarle,
governor of Jamaica, his
protection, and that he would send
a governor thither with a power to
war on the Spaniards and pirates.
This he alleged to be due to his
country from the crown of England,
who had, in the reign of King
Charles I, submitted itself to him.
The Duke of Albemarle did nothing
in this matter, being afraid it
might be a trick of some people
to set up a government for bucaniers
or pirates. This King Jeremy,
in coming to town, asking many
questions about the island, and not
receiving, as he thought, a satisfactory
account, he pulled off his
European clothes his friends had
put on, and climbed to the top of a
tree to take a view of the country.

The memorial and substance of
what he and the people with him
represented to the Duke of Albemarle
was, that in the reign of King
Charles I, of ever-blessed memory,
the Earl of Warwick (by virtue of
letters of reprisal granted by his
said Majesty for damages received
from the subjects of his Catholic
Majesty) did possess himself of
several islands in the West Indies,
particularly that of Providence,
(since called by the Spaniards St.
which is situate in 13°
10′ north latitude, lying east from
Cape Gracias de Dios (vulgarly
known by the name of the Mosquitoes)


"The memorial and substance,"
says Sir Hans, "of what he (the
Mosquito King) and the people
with him represented to the Duke
of Albemarle was, that in the
reign of Charles I, the Earl of
Warwick, by virtue of letters of
reprisal, possessed himself of several
islands in the West Indies, particularly
that of Providence, (since
called by the Spaniards St. Catalina,)
which is situated 13° 10′
north latitude, lying east from Cape
Gracias a Dios (vulgarly known
by the name of the Mosquitoes)
between thirty and forty leagues,
which put the said earl upon all


between thirty and forty
leagues, which put the said earl
upon trying all ways and means
of further correspondence with the
natives of the said cape and neighboring
country, and, in some little
time, was so successful as to gain
that point, and further prevailed
with them so far as to persuade
them to send home the king's son,
leaving one of his people as hostage
for him, which was Colonel
Morris, now living at New York.
The Indian prince going home with
the said earl staid in England three
years, in which time the Indian king
died; and the said natives, having in
that time had intercourse of friendship
and commerce with those of Majesty
Providence, were soon made sensible
of the grandeur of his Majesty
of Great Britain, and how necessary
his protection was to them.
Upon the return of the said Indian
prince, they persuaded him to resign
up his authority and power
over them, and (with them) unanimously
declare themselves the
subjects of his said Majesty of
Great Britain—in which opinion
they have ever since persisted, and
do own no other supreme command
over them."

ways and means of future correspondence
with the natives of the
said cape and neighboring country;
and, in some little time, he was so
successful as to gain that point,
and prevailed with them so far as
to persuade them to send home the
king's son, leaving one of his people
as hostage for him, which was
Colonel Morris, now living at New
York. The Indian prince going
home with the said earl staid in
England three years, in which time
the. Indian king died; and the
natives, having in that time intercourse
and commerce with
those of Providence, were soon
made sensible of the grandeur of his
of Great Britain, and how
necessary his protecton was to
them. Upon the return of the said
Indian prince, they persuaded him
to resign up his authority and power
over them, and with them unanimously
declare themselves the
subjects of his said Majesty of
Great Britain—in which opinion,"
continues Sir Hans, "they have
ever since persisted, and do own
no other supreme command over

I am sure you will agree with me that a worse perversion of history
than this can scarcely be found elsewhere. The original authority,
when produced, states expressly that the Duke of Albemarle did nothing
in the matter. Mr. Edwards suppresses the fact that Lord Warwick's
expedition was hostile to Spain; and the opinion attributed to
Sir Hans, at the close of the extract, is found to be not his, but the language
of the memorial.

But I am able to go a step further in the history of this curious title,
and show the equivalent which the Indian Esau received for his birthright.
In a pamphlet first published in 1699, (eight years before the
publication of Sir Hans Sloane,) and afterwards republished in the 6th
volume of Churchill's Voyages, containing an account of the Mosquito
shore from a very intelligent person, evidently well acquainted from
observation, is the following passage: "He [the king] says that his
father, Oldman, King of the Mosquito men, was carried over to England
soon after the conquest of Jamaica, and there received from his
brother king a crown and commission, which the present Old Jeremy
still keeps safely by him, which is but a cocked hat and a ridiculous piece of


writing that he should kindly use and relieve such straggling Englishmen as
should choose to come that way with plantains, fish, and turtle
, &c." The
words which I have italicized in the latter part of this extract need no

As to the second fact now alleged, I have only to say that the "convention"
is published in the Mosquito correspondence submitted to Parliament
in 1848, and, so far from proving any sovereignty in the Indians,
shows the contrary. It is neither treaty nor convention; it is a contract
between King Jeremy, on the one side, signed with "his mark," and
Governor Lawes on the other, sealed with the PRIVATE seals of both parties,
by which the king contracts to furnish fifty men to hunt negroes, and
the governor to pay for them and give them "rum" enough for their
voyage home—very similar to the contract made subsequently with the
Spanish hunters of Cuba for the employment of bloodhounds for the same
purpose. This is not the mode in which high contracting parties usually
deal with each other. Any argument deduced from it is founded in an
ignorance of the distinction between a sovereignty in the soil and a dominion
over the persons of the savages composing the tribe.

As to the third fact, without stopping to dwell on its ex parte character,
I have reason to think that the move was made in Jamaica, at the
instance, among others, of this Mr. Edwards, who drew up, to further
it, the memorial above alluded to. To show how little the government
at home entered into it, in 1776, a vessel called the "Morning Star,"
with certain Indians on board, who had been to England to aid in putting
down the practice of selling the Indians into slavery, was seized
by two Spanish guardas costa on its return to Mosquito. The owners
brought the subject before Parliament, presenting, with their petition,
Mr. Edwards's memorial. After a long debate, in which it was asserted
that the seizure was justifiable, as the treaty had been violated, Parliament
refused to entertain the subject.

I have now examined the only evidence adduced in support of the
English claim to a protectorate, and, unless I deceive myself, it
dwindles into insignificance. I now resume the historical thread.

The English settlers were lax in conforming to the provisions of the
treaty of 1783, the territory allotted to them being found to be too
small; and the eighteen months passed away without their removal.
Spain began to complain of this infraction, and the result was the
treaty of 1786, which, besides enlarging the territory to be occupied by
the English, and making various regulations about it, contains the following

"I. His Britannic Majesty's subjects and the other colonists who
have hitherto enjoyed the protection of England shall evacuate the
country of the Mosquitoes, &c."

"XI. * * * * In this view, his Britannic Majesty
engages to give the most positive orders for the evacuation of the
countries above mentioned by all his subjects, of whatever denomination;
but if, contrary to such declaration, there should still remain any
persons so daring as to presume, by retiring into the interior country,
to endeavor to obstruct the entire evacuation already agreed upon, his
Britannic Majesty, so far from affording them the least succor, or even
protection, will disavow them in the most solemn manner, as he will


equally do those who may hereafter attempt to settle upon the territory
belonging to the Spanish dominion.

"XIV. His Catholic Majesty, prompted solely by motives of humanity,
promises to the King of England that he will not exercise any act of
severity against the Mosquitoes inhabiting in part the countries which
are to be evacuated by virtue of the present convention on account
of the connexions which may have subsisted between the said Indians
and the English."

This was looked upon as an abandonment by England. It was so
avowed in Parliament in a debate on a motion to impeach the ministry.
Bryan Edwards admits it in the foot-note cited above. The Mosquito
settlers themselves considered it so, and put in a claim to Parliament
for damages, which was allowed. Extracts from their statement of
the grounds of their claim have found their way into the appendix to
the Mosquito correspondence of 1848, under the title of "Extracts
from McGregor's Commercial Tariffs, part 17." Still later, in the
Quarterly Review for October, 1822, article 8, in a review of a
work on the Mosquito shore by one Captain Strangeways, is the following
strong language. After saying that "the whole of the Mosquito
shore and Honduras and the 'town' of Poyais have for many centuries
belonged to Spain, and been considered as constituent portions of
the kingdom of Mexico, not one foot of which was ever held by the
English, except occasionally during a war by the Bucaniers, or more
recently by the logwood cutters," and reviewing the treaties of 1783
and 1786, the writer says: "Nothing can more clearly establish the
sole right of Spain to these territories than the treaty and convention
above mentioned. We never had any business there. The simple
fact is, that the Mosquito Indians have always borne an inveterate-dislike
to the Spaniards. The Duke of Albemarle, when governor of
Jamaica, fostered that dislike, and invested one of the Indians with a
commission as chief of the Mosquitoes, under the protection of England—
a foolish ceremony which was exercised long after by his successors,
just as we now make King Toms and King Jacks among the negroes of
Western Africa; but, if treaties are to be considered as at all binding,
it is quite clear that we have not the right, nor even the permission, of
residence on the Mosquito shore, and that we cut logwood and mahogany
on the shores of Honduras bay only by sufferance." It is
worthy of remark, that, in a reply to the review published in 1823, is
the admission that "this territory belongs to Spain."

I cannot better close the discussion under the second general head
than in the emphatic language of this writer. I turn, therefore, to the
position that the Central American States are not the heirs to Spain,
on which I propose to add only a few suggestions to the conclusive
argument contained in your No. 4, of October 20, 1849.

When the question is asked whether a person can inherit a certain
estate, two inquiries must be satisfied before an answer can be given:
first, whether the estate is transmissible by inheritance; and, second,
whether the party claiming has the qualities of heir. A like analysis is
requisite here. After what has been said, I shall confidently assume,
as to the estate, that the right of Spain was not dependent on treaties,
that it went behind them and rested on discovery, that it was incident


to the soil, and was only defined by the several treaties. This view
would entirely preclude the necessity of considering whether the new
State could avail itself of the treaty stipulations in favor of the old.

But I do not wish to be understood as desiring to waive any rights in
Nicaragua or Honduras on that score. I think that would be very unwise.
If Great Britain has, as you intimate, in recognising the independence
of Central America, (though I am unable to find that she ever
did formally recognise it,) expressly reiterated her own rights, acquired
by treaty, it is a fair ground for argument that the counter rights are
also established. I leave this, however, for the present, to confine myself
to the single line of argument I have marked out, and shall then return
for a moment to the more narrow question of what has become of
the rights, if any, growing out of the treaties between England and

It is said that the Central American States, not having been formally
and diplomatically recognised by Spain, cannot be the heirs to her

I beg you to observe the use of the word "diplomatically" in this
statement. It is indeed true that these States have not been "diplomatically"
recognised as independent nations by Spain. For some time
past there has been no diplomatic intercourse between England and
that power; and yet neither doubts the existence of the other. From
the hour the independence of the vice-royalty of Guatemala was proclaimed
to this, there has not been a Spanish soldier, a Spanish civilian,
or a sign of Spanish authority, on the isthmus. The revolution was bloodless,
instantaneous, and complete. The new federation was welcomed
into the family of nations by the United States. Within four years
Mr. Canning wrote to the Spanish minister in London, and to the British
minister in Madrid, and reiterated his views in a conference with
Prince Polignac, that separation and the maintenance of a de facto government
were sufficient grounds for recognition of independence; that
it would be idle to call that Spain's possession where Spain had no
possession; and that Great Britain had the right to form such relations
as she pleased with the Spanish-American States. In 1825 the union
they had formed was severed, but the several States continued to maintain
diplomatic agents at the European courts. And in 1836 the cortes
of Spain authorized the government to conclude a treaty with the new
American States, because "they considered the political situation of
those States as an accomplished fact," and Don Angel de Castriciones
was sent by Guatemala as an envoy to Madrid; but the government refused
to receive him, only because he was empowered by an individual
State, instead of the federation, and, at the same time, expressed their
willingness to treat with Central America. Costa Rica, Nicaragua,
and Honduras are now represented at this court; while the recent
acts of Mr. Chatfield have let the world know that the missions are
returned. It is idle to play on the word "diplomatically," when
such great interests are at stake. The English doctrine, carried to
its legitimate result, is this: that, admitting the right to revolt for
just cause, (which all must,) the act of revolution, while the independent
revolters continue unrecognised by the old ruling power, destroys
all old landmarks, and throws society into chaos; and that


pending a recognition, any given number of men may associate together,
form a de facto government, and hold the land they stand
upon, and no more. Such a view is neither comprehensive, just, nor
in accordance with precedents. The people who revolted were the
people forming the political fabric of the vice-royalty of Guatemala;
the nation whose independence was recognised was the republic of
Central America, proclaiming in its constitution its geographical identity
with the ancient vice-royalty; the States now represented here
were the members of that federation. That was no chaotic nation—
these no chaotic States, but a nation and States having a political
existence, geographical limits, and a known population. The viceroyalty
of Guatemala did not throw off government, but changed governors.
Its people assumed the right of governing inherently, instead
of derivatively; of governing themselves, instead of being governed—
retaining their political geography entire.

This is no new doctrine. In 1581, the Low Countries, unable to endure
longer the tyranny of Philip II, threw off the Spanish yoke, and, after
a long and bloody war, obtained a truce for many years; but their independence
was not "diplomatically" recognised by Spain till the
treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Yet, though Europe during this time
was often convulsed with wars of aggrandizement, no statesman ever
thought of claiming Holland as a waif

In 1640, Portugal rejected the dominion of Spain, but its independence
remained unacknowledged until 1688; yet no such results were
claimed to flow from Spanish tardiness as we now see asserted.

When Texas separated itself from Mexico, a tribe of fierce Indians
wandered over its northern frontier, who then and since have manifested
hostility towards its settlers; but no one ever fancied that Texas
was, therefore, circumscribed of the part they range over.

A yet stronger case may be found in our own history. Before the
war which preceded the treaty of Paris, Great Britain had claimed to
extend her Atlantic colonies to the Mississippi, which France denied.
The treaty yielded the right to England, and then the British government
manifested a desire to limit its "ancient establishments" to the
mountains. When the negotiations were opened for terminating the
war of the Revolution, Congress instructed Dr. Franklin and his associates
to insist upon the Mississippi as our western boundary—which
they did successfully, though opposed by both the French and Spanish
courts. It is worthy of remark, that each party insisted upon the principle
that the boundaries of the new States were to be determined by the
colonial limits.
During the negotiations, it was asserted, and maintained
by the successful result, that the Indians between the river and the
mountains were not independent nations, but existed under the protecting
sovereignty of the United States.

I think nothing can be clearer than that these examples establish two
general principles, which, combined, determine this whole question:
first, that the successful revolt of a colony does not change its political
geography; and, second, that the Indian gains no right of domain by
such revolt.

We hear of the rights and of the obligations of Spain in Central
America, as if those rights were acquired in the same manner as those


obligations were imposed. Those who talk so forget or overlook that
it is England, not Spain, whose rights on that coast are grounded on
treaty stipulations. The Spanish claim rested on the romantic exploits
of early adventurers and settlers, who established and maintained it
under well-defined principles of public law. The King of Spain had
no rights there as King of Spain. His title grew out of his sovereignty
over Guatemala; and when that sovereignty ceased, the rights incident
to it passed into the new dominant power as absolutely as did the
dominion of Holland pass into the States-General, or the sovereignty of
Portugal into the house of Braganza. It was the discoverer who won,
and the settler who retained, the title; and when they severed this title
from the Spanish crown, and became sovereigns in the place of subjects,
of right, necessity, and by precedent, they became possessed of
that which had vested in the crown only through them. I had marked
for quotation several extracts from Mr. Livingston's instructions to Dr.
Franklin with reference to the negotiation of the treaty of peace with
Great Britain which fully establish this doctrine; but the unexpected
length of this communication precludes me from doing more than allude
to them.

To ascertain the combined rights of these States, (for I have purposely
avoided their dissensions,) we have only to ask what were the
limits of Spanish rights under the empire. Having ascertained that,
we know the rights of those who have inhabited its soil and who now
represent it in Central America.

If I have demonstrated that the sovereignty in Mosquito was clearly
and unequivocally in Spain, independently of treaties; that it was,
therefore, unaffected by treaties, (except so far as acknowledged by
them, or so far as the promise not to oppress the Indians;) that it grew
out of the relation between the European and the Indian, and followed
the jurisdiction of the former; that it vested in the sovereign only
through his connexion with the colonist; and, therefore, when the
European in the new world threw off his allegiance in the old, it
passed into him as perfect as it had existed before in his ancient
monarch, resting in the respective States as they had before been
bounded under the crown,—if I have demonstrated this, I have no
need to go further and touch upon any rights existing by virtue of the
treaties of 1783 and 1786. And, indeed, I have used language to very
little purpose if I have failed to convey my belief that no new rights
were created by those instruments. They only exhibit a solemn abandonment
by England of a fictitious claim. But I should fail in completeness
should I neglect to notice the British construction of them.

I dismiss entirely Lord Palmerston's criticism upon language. Had
he studied definitions yet more severely than he seems to have, he
would have learned that a "frontier," in the limited sense he seeks to
give it, is a mathematical line, astride which he would find it difficult
to maintain a tribe of savages; and that when the term is extended to
embrace the country in the vicinity of the line, it is equally just to
go on either side. I pass by, too, his extraordinary argument that
Mosquito did not belong to Spain because Spain promised to treat
the Indians well, simply remarking that this promise is expressly stated


to be "prompted solely by motives of humanity," which is an implied negative
of the disclaimer of sovereignty.

The present English construction of those treaties and of the public
law as to them is, that before them the sovereignty of Mosquito was
disputed with Spain in favor of the Indians; that by them it was ceded
to Spain; that, Central America having revolted, but its independence
not yet having been recognised by Spain, the ceded rights are lost to
the latter power, without coming to the former; and that, therefore,
England may revive the old Indian claim without giving just ground
of offence to the people of Central America.

Now, the most obvious, pertinent, and conclusive reply to all this
would be the repetition of the argument of fact, which destroys its basis.
But it seems to me, in addition, that it is as untenable in theory as in
fact. Admitting (for the sake of argument) that England did cede these
rights to Spain, it is clear that she ceded them to be enjoyed by the colonists.
The government, in that case, became, as it were, the trustee: the
colony was the real beneficiary. Is it right to say that the grantor
may rescind the gift, while the beneficiary is in actual enjoyment of it,
because the trustee neglects his trust; more especially, that he may
rescind, and yet retain the consideration? The general train of
argument hitherto is also equally applicable to this case, and may be
referred to without repeating it in detail. And after the course of Mr.
Canning towards the republic of Central America, with a constitution
embracing this very shore within its limits, it is a badge (to say the
least) of injustice on the part of England now to claim that she had the
right, while a new power, for which she professed friendship, was struggling
with an ancient ally, to step in and help herself, or a band of savages
for her, to the territory in dispute.

In any aspect in which we view the question, we are forced to the
same conclusion: that it is the European settler through whom and for
whom such right is retained in the crown, and in whom it vests on the
establishment of the independence of the colony. The relation of the
Indian towards the white man is not graduated by the rise and fall of
European dominion. Passing with the soil from monarch to monarch,
from kingdom to colony, through all the gradations of change, the law
of the stronger has decreed that he shall gain dominion by none. Nor
do we do violence to any of the principles by which the republics of
the isthmus have established their independence. So far from "practising
oppression," or "imposing a yoke on the people of Mosquito;"
so far from "imposing their [Spanish] rule on a people who had always
been free," by an assertion of the principles I have endeavored to advocate
in this note,—the people of Central America, in my judgment,
could do these miserable savages no greater good than by exercising
an active vigilance over them, guarding them against the rapacity of
the English traders, setting them an example of the blessings of peace,
temperance, and morality, and so leading them to become in fact that
free people they are already in the fancies of many.

I have said nothing about the boundary disputes of Nicaragua and
her neighbors. I have, however, made this also a subject of inquiry,
and, without going into detail, send you herewith a rough map, on which


I have located the boundaries about where I conceive the weight of
authority fixes them.

I have now finished what I have to say on this subject. I have
endeavored to consider it as concisely as possible, but have been forced
by its very magnitude into an unexpected length. I have necessarily
written hastily, and consequently imperfectly, as it was only on the
arrival of the steamer, on the 16th instant, that I determined to reduce
these materials to form, and send them to you; and I was anxious
they should go at once, that you might receive them in the earliest possible
stage of the negotiation.

I have endeavored to examine this question historically and theoretically.
I have tried to measure it by the standard of fact and of law.
And in whatever aspect I view it, I am more and more convinced of
the justice of my conclusions.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 45.]



I have the honor to transmit a copy of a note from Lord Palmerston
to M. Marcoleta, chargé d'affaires of Nicaragua and Honduras.
The communication of Lord Palmerston to M. Castellon of last July,
to which reference is made in the paper enclosed, will be found upon
the files of your department.

I do not see in it anything to vary what I have already written in my
preceding number.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

Lord Palmerston to M. Marcoleta.


I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 3d of November
last, referring to the two letters which I addressed on the 16th
and 17th July last to M. Castellon, respecting the claim of the State of
Nicaragua to Greytown.

Your letter states that Spain always considered the shores of Mosquito
as forming an integral portion of her dominions in Central America;
and you quote in support of that statement several laws and
regulations which were issued from time to time by the Spanish government
affecting that portion of the territory so claimed.

I beg leave to observe that her Majesty's government have never
denied, and do not now deny, that Spain, whether by law, regulation,


or other acts of internal government, asserted a claim of sovereignty
over the Mosquito territory, as part of her possessions in Central
America; but in that claim Great Britain has never acquiesced. On
the contrary, Great Britain has always denied it in argument, and opposed
it in practice. And, moreover, Spain herself never held actual
possession of Mosquito. She claimed it theoretically, but she never
subdued or governed it. So far, indeed, was she from either subduing
or governing it, that it is notorious, and matter of history, that the
country and its chief constantly resisted and remained independent of
Spain; and for the better part of two centuries, dating from the reign
of Charles the Second of England, Mosquito was in alliance with and
under the protection of the British crown.

With regard to the argument which you adduce, that the fact of
Great Britain having signed the treaties of 1763, 1783, and 1786
proves that she thereby acknowledged the sovereignty of Spain over the
territory of Mosquito, I must observe that the engagements taken in
those treaties were merely of a fiscal and temporary character, and in
no way affected the permanent rights of the King of Mosquito, or those
of Great Britain with respect to that chief and his territory; and it
appears that the parts of those treaties to which you refer relate not
to the Mosquito territory, but to the British settlements in the Bay of

Whatever, therefore, may be the light in which the case of Mosquito
and its rights may be considered in connexion with the position of
Great Britain towards that country, it is clear that Mosquito is entirely
independent of any nation pretending to derive its claim from Spain,
and that Great Britain is fully justified in upholding that independence.

And with regard to the specific claim of Nicaragua to possess the
Mosquito territory, the opinions of her Majesty's government on this
point have been so clearly stated in my letter to M. de Castellon of the
16th of July, 1849, that I deem it unnecessary to make any further observations
on that head.

I cannot, however, pass over in silence the assertion which you
make, that it is only within a recent period, and since the date of the
independence of Nicaragua, that Great Britain has thought of maintaining
the rights of Mosquito. Such is not the fact. Great Britain has
never ceased to maintain the rights of the King of Mosquito, and to
extend her protection to him; and, moreover, Great Britain has never
admitted any right on the part of Central America generally, and still
less on the part of Nicaragua in particular, to any portion of the Mosquito

In conclusion, I can only say that I cannot perceive any argument in
your letter of the 3d of November last which in any way establishes
the claim of Nicaragua to the Mosquito country, or which can invalidate
the arguments contained in my letter of the 16th of July.

To that letter I have to refer you as containing the views of her
Majesty's government as to the rights of the King of Mosquito. Those
rights her Majesty's government consider as incontrovertible; and they
must therefore decline the offer contained in your letter that the questions
at issue between Great Britain and Nicaragua should be referred
to the arbitration of some other power.


I beg, further, to call your attention to the 3d and 4th articles of the
convention conluded between Captain Loch and the government of
Nicaragua on the 7th of March, 1848.

In those articles the government of Nicaragua solemnly promises not
to disturb the peaceable inhabitants of the port of St. John, (now Greytown,)
and that no custom-house should be established in the neighborhood
of that port; and yet, while the government of Nicaragua has been
professing to carrying on a negotiation in conformity with the abovementioned
convention, that government has entered into engagements
with two different companies of citizens of the United States, not only
binding those parties to build a custom-house in Greytown, but also
promising that that town shall be made a free port, and that certain sections
of land in its neighborhood shall be allotted to citizens of the United
States for the formation of colonial settlements. These proceedings
with regard to Greytown and the Mosquito territory are entirely inconsistent
with the engagements contracted towards her Majesty's government
by the government of Nicaragua.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, sir, your most obedient,
humble servant,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 56.]



I have this moment returned from an interview with Lord Palmerston.
He says he has examined the treaty, and approves of it, and
that this government will ratify it; that he had instructed Sir Henry
Bulwer further on some points, such as giving to Costa Rica the port
of Greytown, and making provision for certain territory for the uses
of the Mosquito Indians, &c., &c. Not having seen the treaty, I could
not discuss its provisions. Besides, Lord Palmerston is now too busy
to talk much about it. I have arranged for a further interview, when I
shall take the liberty of communicating some of the views expressed in
your private letters, and shall write you again. I do not apprehend
that there is any difficulty in making a complete settlement of the whole
question touching our interests in Central America. If questions should
arise respecting British rights under the protectorate, I think good might
come from showing, in a friendly way, my despatch No. 44 to the
cabinet or Lord Palmerston.

It seems to me that some plan should be devised for settling the boundaries
of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. They are both ready to submit
their differences to arbitrators, to be appointed by Great Britain and
the United States.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington.


Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Clayton.
[No. 58.]



I had not the honor of receiving any communication from you
by last mail.

Since my despatch of last week, I have had an interview with Lord
Palmerston upon the subject of establishing some form of government
over the Mosquito territory. He informed me that Sir Henry Bulwer
had instructions to propose (as I have already acquainted you) a plan
giving to the Indians a specific territory over which they may exercise
sovereignty, placing San Juan in the hands of Costa Rica, &c., &c.
You have doubtless learned all this from Sir Henry Bulwer.

The boundaries between Costa Rica and Nicaragua ought to be settled
at once; and I can now see no way in which this can be done except
through the good offices, mediation, or arbitration of Great Britain
and the United States. Lord Palmerston appears to be much pleased
with the treaty, and says it will be satisfactory to this government. I
touched upon the distance from the shore where captures should be
valid on the ocean. He asked me whether I had come to any conclusion
on that point. I answered that I had not, but it had occurred to
me (without, however, consulting any one) that about one hundred and
fifty miles should be the distance. To this he rejoined that it seemed
reasonable, but he would consult naval men—the lords of the admiralty
—on that point. I am inclined to believe that every nation in
Europe will join in this treaty of guaranty. To the United States will
belong the honor of having taken the first step in this great international
work, and of having brought together the different nations of the earth
for its accomplishment. Great Britain now desires to finish everything
relating to Central America, so far as the United States is concerned.
All its agents will be withdrawn from the Mosquitoes. Yet I cannot but
fear that British subjects will undertake to protect the Mosquito King, if
the sovereignty over any portion of Central America is left vested in him,
and that hereafter we may have trouble through American traders who
will visit Bluefields and other parts of that territory. You have better
means of information than I on this point. If you have not already
provided against this, I hope that, by a supplemental treaty, you will
define exactly the respective rights of the several parties claiming upon
the isthmus, so that the possibility of future difficulty may be avoided.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Webster.
[No. 71.]


In this connexion it may not be improper to ask your attention to
the various matters pending in this legation.


The first in importance are the unfinished negotiations with reference
to Central America. The treaty concluded at Washington by your
predecessor and Sir Henry Bulwer, and now ratified, has, I trust, laid
at rest forever the Mosquito question. You will find on the archives of
the department, in my No. 44, a historical review of the question,
should it become involved in future negotiations. This, however, is
but one of the difficulties to be surmounted. The States of Costa Rica
and Nicaragua are in dispute as to their boundaries, each claiming a
portion of the territory over which the proposed canal will undoubtedly
pass. On the 14th of December last, in a note to Lord Palmerston, of
which a copy accompanied my despatch No. 20, I invited the British
government to offer its good offices, jointly with the United States, for
the settlement of the question—which invitation afterwards received
the hearty approval of the late President Taylor. Lord Palmerston
has never replied to this note, but I have reason to think he is willing
to join with us for such a purpose. I have also spoken on the subject
to the chargés d'affaires of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, respectively, in
interviews described in my No. 25. The Nicaraguan agent is now, and
has for some time been, on the Continent, where he represents his government
at various courts. I have not heard from him officially on the
subject. The Costa Rican chargé—acting, I doubt not, with the full
knowledge of Lord Palmerston—addressed me last week an official
note, of which I enclose a copy, as also a copy of my reply. I respectfully,
but earnestly, ask your attention to this communication, as
I believe this to be almost the only obstacle in the way of the construction
of the canal.

M. Molina to Mr. Lawrence.


I have the honor to state, that, having duly reported to my government
the offer that your excellency had the kindness to make verbally
to me, that the government of the United States were disposed to
use their good offices, conjointly with the cabinet of Saint James's, in
order to bring about the settlement of the boundary differences actually
existing between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, I have received special
instructions enjoining me to express to your excellency the deep gratitude
of my country for the interest the American government have
taken in its behalf; and to declare, likewise, in the manner which may
be considered most binding, that the republic of Costa Rica does, unreservedly,
accept the high mediation of the United States and Great
Britain for the purpose aforesaid, with a perfect confidence in the justice
and wisdom of their councils.

It is, therefore, my pleasing duty to assure your excellency that Costa
Rica, fully concurring in the magnanimous and philanthropic views of
both powers set forth in their convention signed in Washington on the
19th April, of the present year, is willing to submit the question of her
rights over all the territories in dispute between Nicaragua and herself


to the combined mediation or arbitration of Great Britain and the United
States, and to hold their joint decision as final and irrevocable, provided
Nicaragua should have previously placed herself under a similar
obligation. I beg at the same time to state that, even in a contrary
supposition, Costa Rica will nevertheless be prepared to listen to, and
disposed to adopt, any plans of arrangements which the cabinets of
Washington and Saint James's, by common consent, may suggest, in
the way of mutual renunciations, exchanges, or indemnities, if necessary;
or to concur in any opinion they may express with a view to a
final determination and settlement of the boundary differences in question,
and to the facilitating the construction of a ship-canal.

I have, likewise, to acquaint your excellency that I am authorized,
if it is deemed desirable, to sign any treaty or engagement in reference
to the declarations above stated.

As to the mode of carrying out the proposed mediation or arbitration,
perhaps your excellency will allow me to suggest that, as I have
full powers from my government for the purpose, the government of
Nicaragua should be invited to send to their minister here equal powers,
when the affair could be settled with your excellency's co-operation
and that of her Britannic Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, to whom I address, under the same date, a letter
identical with the present communication to your excellency. On behalf
of Costa Rica, however, I shall be prepared to adhere to any other
plan that may be preferred for the above purpose by the mediating

In the mean time, intelligence having been received of the formation
of a confederacy between Nicaragua, Salvador, and Honduras, with
objects hostile to the peace and independence of Guatemala and Costa
Rica, I have to express the confident trust entertained by Costa Rica
that the influence of the American and British governments will be
used to dissuade Nicaragua, or any other of the Central American
States, from any violent attempts or acts of aggression against her.

It is most satisfactory for me to state that the packet which has just
arrived with the mails from Costa Rica up to the end of last June
brings intelligence of the continued internal tranquillity which Costa
Rica has for so many years enjoyed; and that the government of the
republic has become still more consolidated in the affections and prosperity
of the people, whose material progress would be injuriously interrupted
should they be called upon to abandon industrious pursuits
in order to prepare a resistance to any attacks with which an external
and misguided hostility might menace them.

This opportunity enables me to renew to your excellency the assurance
of my profound respect and high consideration—remaining,
sir, your excellency's most humble and obedient servant,


Mr. Lawrence to M. Molina.



Your letter of the 5th instant was forwarded to me at this place,
and I hasten to reply.

It gives me great pleasure to know officially the views of Costa Rica
on the subject to which your letter refers. I shall communicate them
at once to my government, and ask for such instructions as it may see
fit to give me in the matter. Without such instructions, I am not prepared
to indicate any way of accomplishing the object you have in

The peaceful spirit which animates the republic of Costa Rica is
most praiseworthy. I hope the fears you express that the other republics
of the isthmus are not actuated by the same spirit may prove
groundless, but that, by the preservation of entire harmony among
themselves, all will contribute to the speedy construction of a work destined
incalculably to benefit Central America.

I pray you, sir, to accept anew the assurances of the profound respect
and high consideration with which I have the honor to be your
most obedient, humble servant,

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Webster.
[No. 80.]



I have the honor to enclose an original note received yesterday
from M. Marcoleta, the minister of the republic of Nicaragua, and a
copy of my reply.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

M. Marcoleta to Mr. Lawrence.
[Very private.]



The legation of Nicaragua has just been
positively informed that her Britannic Majesty's government has proposed
to that of the United States of North America, as a means of
settling the question of San Juan de Nicaragua, the cession of that port
to the State of Costa Rica.


As the tendency of this proposition is to deprive the government of
Nicaragua of its lawful rights over that portion of its territory—rights
which the mere fact of British occupation could not have destroyed—
and as this arrangement, moreover, would, of itself, be contrary, not only
to the interests of Nicaragua, but to those even of the canal company,
and as it would amount to an occupation, or a continuance of
the occupation under a different aspect, the undersigned begs now to
declare, in the most positive and solemn manner, that his government,
so far from being able or desiring to accept this proposition as the basis
of a settlement, sees nothing in it, on the contrary, but a denial of justice
in regard to its rights, and the foundation of fresh difficulties and
farther complications.

The government of Nicaragua could not, therefore, give its consent
to any measure based upon this principle, nor willingly surrender, as
the consequence of yielding such consent, rights which it has never
ceased to maintain since the 1st of October, 1848—the date of the
occupation of San Juan by the British forces, in the name of the pretended
chief of Mosquitoes. Consequently, the undersigned begs that
his excellency the minister of the United States of North America will
be pleased to forward the above declaration to his government. And he
avails himself, at the same time, of the opportunity to tender to his
excellency the assurance of his most distinguished consideration.

His Excellency Mr. ABBOTT LAWRENCE,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary
of the United States of North America.

Mr. Lawrence to M. Marcoleta.

The undersigned, minister of the United States of North America,
presents his compliments to M. Marcoleta, minister of Nicaragua, and
has the honor to inform him that his official letter of the 13th instant
has been received.

The undersigned will have the honor of transmitting a copy of the
aforesaid letter to his government; and begs that M. Marcoleta will
accept the assurances of his high consideration.

Mr. Lawrence to Mr. Webster.
[No. 98.]



M. Molina, the minister at this court of the republic of Costa
Rica, and M. Marcoleta, the minister of the republic of Nicaragua, are


about to proceed to Washington, each having been accredited also to
our government, and will doubtless lay before you their disputes and
grievances, for the settlement of which it is to be hoped that some plan
may be devised.

M. Molina called upon me, not long since, to tell me that his government
had granted to British subjects residing in this country a charter
for a canal across the isthmus, which charter he had in his possession,
and would retain, if I would give him a written guaranty that my government
would see that Costa Rica had her rights—otherwise, it would
be given to the grantees. I declined, saying that I had no instructions to
commit the government of the United States, and that I certainly would
not commit myself, in the matter. I further told him that I had last year
suggested to Lord Palmerston, in a note, the expediency (other difficulties
being arranged) of determining the boundary disputes of these republics
through the joint arbitration of Great Britain and the United States.
(For this suggestion, I refer you to my note to Lord Palmerston of December
14, 1849, enclosed in my No. 20.) M. Molina informed me that
Lord Palmerston had said he would instruct Sir Henry Bulwer on the
subject; whereupon I called on Lord Palmerston, who told me he had
already instructed Sir Henry to call upon you and say that her Majesty's
government desire to see all questions in dispute in Central America
settled, that commerce may be extended, and peace maintained
among the people of these republics.

It is of great importance to us that the inter-oceanic canal should be
constructed; and, to that end, it is essential that peace should exist between
the Central American republics—especially between Nicaragua
and Costa Rica. I have no doubt the advice of yourself and Sir Henry
Bulwer will have great weight with both these republics, and perhaps
induce them to settle without further interference. It will afford me
the greatest satisfaction to know that every obstacle tending to prevent
the construction of the canal has been overcome.

My views as to the rights of these various parties, and of the Mosquito
Indians, are contained in my No. 44.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of Stale, Washington, D. C.

Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
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