The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hay-Pauncefote Treaty

The Encyclopedia Americana
Hay-Pauncefote Treaty

Edition of 1920. See also Hay–Pauncefote Treaty on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HAY-PAUNCEFOTE TREATY, signed 18 Nov. 1901, which replaced the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (q.v.) as an Anglo-American agreement of policy regarding an isthmian canal, then supposed to be fixed as across Nicaragua. It was drawn up by John Hay, Secretary of State, and Sir Julian Pauncefote, ambassador from Great Britain. Public feeling for some years had been growing so sore over the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty's restriction on the independent action of the United States, that there was grave fear lest Congress might abrogate it by open violence, a great blow to future amicable action. President McKinley voiced the feeling by the declaration, in his annual message for 1898, that the canal had become a national necessity. Fresh negotiations were opened with Great Britain; that country had no wish beyond that of neutralizing the canal, and sent one of her best diplomats with very liberal instructions, to concede whatever did not nullify that essential principle. The draft treaty was sent to the Senate by the President 5 Feb. 1900. It provided that a canal might be constructed by the United States, or under its direction; should be permanently neutralized on the basis of the Suez Canal agreement — to be kept open at all times, either of war or peace, to all vessels, without discrimination, and no fortifications to be constructed commanding the canal or the waters adjacent, and that other powers should be invited to join in this guaranty of neutrality. The provisions excited intense hostility, and Senator Davis offered an amendment adopted by the committee on foreign affairs, canceling the very features for which it was drawn up, and which made the spirit of the previous one. It provided that the neutralization clause should not prevent the United States from any measures it thought needful for its own defense or the preservation of order, declared the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty specifically abrogated, and struck out the third clause inviting the concurrence of other powers. In this form it was ratified by the Senate 20 Dec. 1900, but Great Britain refused to accept the transformed treaty, and it expired by limitation on 5 March 1901. Undiscouraged, the two diplomats set to work on a compromise, which was signed by them 18 Nov. 1901, sent to the Senate by President Roosevelt, and ratified by them 16 December. The chief differences were in dropping as far as possible all specific guaranties, requirements or prohibitions, leaving its interpretation and application to the chapter of fate and the certainty that the strong hand would decide in any event. The neutrality of the canal is not guaranteed at all except by the terms of the agreement, the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty is abrogated by name, and the United States is not forbidden to construct fortifications, nor required to keep the canal open in time of war.

Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal to traffic on 15 Aug. 1914, a controversy with Great Britain respecting the interpretation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty had arisen. Under the Panama Canal Act of 1912, passed by Congress; American vessels engaged in the coastwise trade were to be exempted from canal tolls. Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, lodged a protest against the passing of the measure, and claimed that the act was a discrimination against British and other foreign vessels in contravention of the treaty, and requested that the bill be held in abeyance in the Senate in order that a detailed statement might be sent; but President Taft signed the act on 24 Aug. In the formal protest subsequently lodged (9 Dec), Sir Edward Grey declared that “while the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty left the United States free to build and protect the canal, it expressly maintained the principle of Article VIII of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, guaranteeing to England the use of the canal on a complete equality with the United States of America”; and he later (27 Feb. 1913) pressed for arbitration. In the United States the British contention was generally regarded as an attempt to interfere with that country's sovereign rights to deal with its own commerce, and to use the canal in whatsoever manner it saw fit — though a minority, led by Senator Root, stoutly held that the British objection was based on solid grounds. All the correspondence on the subject had passed before President Wilson came into office. On 5 March 1914 he sent a message to Congress strongly urging the repeal of the exemption. He regarded the exemption as a plain breach of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, and declared that it was only in the United States that there was any doubt as to its language. He proposed a “voluntary withdrawal from a position everywhere questioned and misunderstood.” In spite of strong opposition, repeal of the exemption was finally accepted, but not before a proviso had been inserted in the bill expressly reserving to the United States the right to exempt ships in the future.