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But, if the cost should, for any cause, reach to the highest conjectural estimates that have been made by any responsible engineers, namely, $150,000,000, such a cost would still afford a profitable investment of money, considered alone with reference to the earning capacity of the canal.
When the expenditure of $150,000,000, or of $200,000,000, is compared with the national duty of connecting our Atlantic and Pacific coast lines for the benefit of our coastwise commerce, and the necessity of providing for our national defense, even if no other benefit shall ever be derived from the canal, the demand for its immediate construction is imperative. It admits of neither denial nor delay.
We now see clearly, beyond all question or denial, that the barrier we are seeking to remove by constructing this canal weakens our naval power by one-half its efficiency, and shuts out from the ocean in time of war almost the entire commerce of the Pacific States with the Atlantic States, and with foreign countries, by loading it with war risks of insurance and war rates of freight that must virtually destroy the profits of all the great staple productions of the Pacific slope.
The voyage of the battle ship Oregon of more than 13,000 miles around Cape Horn to assist in the defense of the Atlantic coast is only our first lesson to teach us that a water route through Nicaragua to connect our coasts is a requirement of duty that we can not safely defer. Others, more convincing, may await us.
The apprehensions of the American people have been painfully and justly excited by the dangers of such a voyage through the stormy seas about the Straits of Magellan and the exposure of the Oregon to the power of the Spanish fleet at Cape Verde Islands, or among the passes through the Windward and Leeward Islands of the West Indies, where, in many places, they could have united their strength to waylay and surprise this important battle ship.
If Spain then had a single active ally among the leading SpanishAmerican States on the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean, the voyage of the Oregon could have been obstructed, even by refusing her the privilege of coaling in their ports. This mode of pacific warfare by Peru, Chile, Argentina, or Brazil would have made the voyage of the Oregon next to impossible.
Unless we can for the future "take a bond of fate" for our national security, we shall realize some day how impossible it is to defend the coasts of the United States and our commerce while we permit a gap to exist between our eastern and western coast lines that is 13,000 miles in length.
This general view of the present situation has been fully anticipated and presented in detail by previous reports of committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, and has been carefully discussed in both Houses, in the magazines and newspapers of the country, and in books of great research and ability, written by the ablest navigators and strategists in the world.
After such thorough examination and such practical verification of these forecasts so repeatedly made, it seems to be unnecessary to present even a summary of this great and elaborate discussion to support a further report on the necessity of the Nicaraguan Canal to the Government and people of the United States, or to show its usefulness to the commerce of the world, or the blessings of its noble mission of "good will to men."
These propositions may well be considered as having passed out of the domain of discussion. They now present a demand upon the Government of the United States for the construction of the canal, which is made exclusively our national duty by the consensus of the opinions of the whole world, to which our people respond with an imperative demand upon Congress for immediate action.
The first distinctive shape in which a Nicaraguan canal became a matter of international consideration was given to this enterprise in 1850 in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. Before that time explorations for a canal route through Nicaragua had been made by other governments, and some concessions had been granted by Nicaragua for transit routes through her territory to the people of other countries.
Looking at the situation in the light of these facts, and in view of the explorations that had attracted the attention of Great Britain, France, and other maritime nations, the interest felt by these powers, and especially by Great Britain, in the subject of a ship canal through the Isthmus of Darien, accounts for her assuming jurisdiction of the month of San Juan River, through the assertion of the alleged sovereignty of the Mosquito King over an area of territory bordering on the coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which the United States disputed. The attitude of Great Britain was that of suzerain, or protector, of the Mosquito King, and the attitude of the United States was that of a State claiming the free right of communication with her possessions on the Pacific, through Central America. These disputes were attempted to be adjusted in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty.
As to her alleged territorial rights, thus acquired, there has been much diplomatic controversy, which is not yet settled, but it seems to have gone into abeyance.
Allowing to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty full vitality, for the sake of the argument, as to all matters connected with a maritime canal, and as to railroad lines across that isthmus, there is nothing in any of its provisions that is in conflict with the present relations of the United States and its citizens toward the Nicaraguan Canal, as the same are created by the existing concessions and are proposed to be regulated and executed by the bill herewith reported.
On the contrary, the express sanction of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty may be justly claimed, if that were necessary to justify this measure, for the entire programme comprehended in this bill, and for every detail of this proposed legislation.
It is significant, however, and of much importance, that Great Britain,
with a full knowledge of the attitude of the United States toward the Nicaraguan Canal and the present concessionaires through acts of legislation and expensive surveys of the line of the canal, and by a series of diplomatic acts that admit of no doubt as to our claims of right, or as to our open and distinctive policy of building this canal, has not, in any manner, indicated any dissatisfaction with the course openly taken and avowed by the United States.
Through treaties, decrees, and acts of legislation, and through diplomatic assurances and committals, the governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica have fully recognized the rightful authority of the United States to enact and enforce the law that is proposed in the bill herewith reported.
It is based upon the concession of Nicaragua to the Nicaragua Canal Association, dated March 23, 1887, approved by the Congress of Nicaragua April 25, 1887, and the concession of Costa Rica, dated July 31, 1888, and approved by the Congress and the President of Costa Rica on the 9th day of August, 1888, to the same association. Copies of said concessions are appended to this report.
This bill carefully and fully preserves all the rights of said States, respectively, under said concessions, both in letter and spirit.
At the present time the Governments of Nicaragua and Costa Rica could not interfere with the rights of the concessionaires, secured to them under these concessions and laws, without great injustice to citizens of the United States, and the Government of the United States could not permit such a dereliction of duty by them.
For a better reason the Government of the United States could not, in honor or duty, become a consenting party to the destruction of the conceded rights of its own citizens, having first aided and encouraged them in obtaining the concessions, for which they paid a large sum of money to Nicaragua, and, having chartered the Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua, in pursuance of the concessions, under which a great amount of valuable work has been done on the canal, at an expense to that company of more than $4,500,000.
This situation repels the possibility of the construction of the canal while the concessions are in force, otherwise than under the authority granted in those concessions.
When that authorization is at an end no other right exists in favor of the United States or its citizens to construct a canal in Nicaragua or Costa Rica, and there will be no conventional impediment to the Governments of Great Britain or France (whose treaties with Nicaragua confer upon them the same rights and privileges accorded to the United States) in obtaining for their citizens or subjects whatever concessions Nicaragua may choose to make to them, under their treaties, for building the waterway through that State.
On the lapse of the concessions to our people, for any cause of forfeiture, Nicaragua will doubtless claim the right to dispose of the work done by them, of every kind, to other concessionaires without
compensation. If that claim is disputed, as it will be, doubtless, the sequel will be a serious international controversy.
This claim would, also, probably include the alleged right to occupy and appropriate the line of the canal and the railroad, without compensation, which have cost the United States a large sum of money for explorations and surveys.
Such questions, while they would involve, necessarily, very irritating controversies between the United States and Nicaragua and Costa Rica, would also endanger the relations of the United States with the country to whose people new concessions will be granted under the treaties above referred to.
It is not now admissible that Nicaragua, or Costa Rica, can invalidate these concessions, at will, without the consent of the United States, and without making adequate compensation for the expenditures that have been made by the Government and its citizens under their provisions, and it will, most likely, never be admitted.
Before these concessions were made, the policy of the United States had been distinctly announced, in various state papers, that the Nicaraguan Canal must be an American canal under the control of Americans. This firm declaration was distinctly recognized by Nicaragua and Costa Rica when they provided in the concessions that the canal should be built by a company of construction that would derive its charter powers from the United States, and that its office would be located in the city of New York.
This declaration of national policy, which is vital to the Government of the United States in the preservation of its sovereign rights, in the defense of its coasts, in the protection of its coastwise and foreign commerce, in the transportation of its mails and troops and munitions of war, in the liberty of secure travel for its people, and in the conduct of its governmental operations, all of which are secured by treaty, will not be surrendered to any power, nor will it be obstructed by any without resistance on the part of the United States.
The full scope of this declaration of national policy is included in our treaties with Great Britain and Nicaragua, and is also included in the concessions that the bill herewith reported is intended to execute, none of which are in conflict with its provisions or with our treaties.
It was not contemplated in our treaty relating to the Nicaraguan Canal that either of the Governments should construct it in the exercise of its powers of sovereignty.
Nicaragua was known to be inadequate to its construction with her own resources or credit, and could not protect its innocent use against the aggressions of stronger powers.
In their treaties with Nicaragua the United States and Great Britain stipulated that they would not infringe the sovereignty of Nicaragua in the power they should exercise in controlling or protecting the canal. It was this attitude toward that subject which caused the Senate of the United States to reject the Frelinghuysen-Zavala treaty, which, it
was contended by the opposition, gave to the United States quasi powers of sovereignty in Nicaragua.
If another such joint treaty could be negotiated with Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which is improbable in the strained and jealous relations between those States, it would meet the opposition of those who do not believe that it is necessary or wise to engender a controversy with Great Britain, or to renew the question of the right of the United States to declare that the Clayton-Bulwer treaty is abrogated.
In every view of this subject it is manifestly the better course to proceed to execute the valuable concessions our citizens have secured, and have partially executed at much expense, without the intimation of any objection from Great Britain, or from Nicaragua, or Costa Rica.
In the nature of things it is impossible, as it would be inadmissible, in view of our national welfare, that Nicaragua, or Costa Rica, or both, can ever construct this canal, or that they can control it exclusively in the unsupported exercise of their sovereign powers.
It is equally certain that no foreign State can construct and control the canal in virtue of its sovereign powers without usurping or displacing the sovereignty of the States through whose territory the canal must be located. In the wise and just policy couched in these concessions is found the only proper method or plan of constructing and controlling the Nicaraguan Canal. So far as our Government is concerned, it can not attempt to treat for direct authority to construct and control this canal, while our citizens have the rights they hold under these concessions, without their voluntary surrender of their rights.
In a stock company, with charter powers granted and maintained by the United States, and assented to by Nicaragua and Costa Rica, in which each Government has a voice through its proper directors, apportioned to its interests, there can be no friction or rivalry as to the powers of sovereignty of the respective States.
They meet in council, by their chosen representatives, in a board of directors whose powers are defined and limited by express laws, which have the sanction of all three of the Republics. They there dispose of every question within their jurisdiction, in accordance with the law as it is expressed in the charter.
If questions arise that relate to sovereign or international rights, these are aside from the questions of corporate powers or of administration, and are relegated to diplomatic negotiations, and are thus settled.
The Governments become joint stockholders in a great corporation, which serves to regulate their rights in and about the joint property, and leaves the sovereign jurisdiction of Costa Rica and Nicaragua supreme in their respective territories.
It is almost impossible to conceive that international controversy could arise out of such circumstances, or that if it did occur that it would not be readily adjusted in the most friendly spirit. The mutual