Imágenes de páginas

Meanwhile the canal, begun years ago by the French, has been completed and opened to traffic. It has also been fortified. Its "neutralization" must be admitted to be only nominal. It would indeed

. be more nearly accurate to say that the term, as applied to existing conditions, is merely a reminiscent misnomer. As against the United States, as sole owner and protector, the present stipulations have no substantial effect beyond assuring the commercial use of the canal on terms of substantial equality.

The Congress of the United States, in legislating (1912) upon the levy of tolls in the canal, authorized the exemption of vessels in the United States coastwise trade on the ground, among others, that, as the coastwise trade was, in conformity with acknowledged right, exclusively reserved to American vessels, the question of equality did not enter into it, and that, so far as the rate of tolls was concerned, American vessels not engaged in the coastwise trade enjoyed no advantage. The Hay-Pauncefote treaty stipulates that the canal shall be open “on terms of entire equality,” and that there shall be no “discrimination" in the "conditions or charges of traffic,” which must be "just and equitable.” The British

' government, while conceding that the United States might by way of subsidy remit or refund the tolls on its coastwise vessels, claimed that such vessels must, under the terms of the treaty, be included in the computation of the rate. This was in fact done in the schedule actually adopted; but, as the words of the statute were broad enough to authorize their omission, the British government, being apprehensive lest they might not be included in a future computation, filed its remonstrance. In these circumstances Mr. Knox, as Secretary of State, while maintaining that the claim was not well founded, suggested, in answering it, that further discussion of it might properly be deferred till some actual violation of the right asserted under it was alleged to have taken place, and that, if such a situation should arise, the arbitration of the question might then appropriately be considered. The British ambassador briefly replied, and the diplomatic discussion rested. President Wilson, however, in a brief special address to Congress on March 5, 1914, asked that the provision exempting vessels engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States from the payment of tolls be repealed. No correspondence was submitted with the address; but the President declared that, whatever differences of opinion might exist in the United States, the meaning of the treaty was “not debated outside the United States," that “everywhere else" there was “but one interpretation," and that this interpretation precluded the exemption the repeal of which he requested. Moreover, in concluding the address, he said: “I ask this of you in support of the foreign policy of the administration. I shall not know how to deal with other matters of even greater delicacy and nearer consequence


you do not grant it to me in ungrudging measure.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

After a prolonged debate, in which the merits of the question were fully examined, Congress, while granting the President's request, coupled the repeal (June 15, 1914) with the declaration that its action was not to be construed or held as a waiver or relinquishment of any right which the United States might have under its treaties with Great Britain and Panama “to discriminate in favor of” its own vessels by exempting either them' or its citizens from the payment of tolls,” or as in any way waiving, impairing, or affecting any right of the United States," either under those treaties or otherwise, “with respect to the sovereignty over or the ownership, control, and management of said canal and the regulation of the conditions or charges of traffic."

This reservation, it will be observed, is even broader than the previously authorized exemption, since it embraces American vessels generally, and not merely vessels engaged in the coastwise trade.

In connection with the freedom of the seas we may mention, as a subject somewhat related to it, the free navigation, secured by certain notable treaties, of various rivers which are international in the sense of passing in their navigable course through the territory of more than one independent country. While the question as to the right freely to navigate such streams has formed the subject of much theoretical discussion, yet its adjustment has continued to rest chiefly upon conventional arrangements. It is not doubted that rivers such as the Hudson and the Mississippi, which are navigable only within the territory of one country, are subject to that country's exclusive control. But with regard to rivers which are navigable within two or more countries, the principle of free navigation, consecrated in the acts of the Congress of Vienna, has been consistently advocated by the United States, and has been embodied in various forms in several of its treaties. When the British government sought to deny to the inhabitants of the United States the commercial use of the river St. Lawrence, Henry Clay, as Secretary of State, appealed to the regulations of the Congress of Vienna, which should, he declared, “be regarded only as the spontaneous homage of man to the superior wisdom of the paramount Lawgiver of the Universe, by delivering His great works from the artificial shackles and selfish contrivances to which they have been arbitrarily and unjustly subjected." The free navigation of the St. Lawrence was secured temporarily by the reciprocity treaty of 1854, and in perpetuity by the treaty of Washington of 1871, which also declared the rivers, Yukon, Porcupine, and Stikine to be “forever free and open for purposes of commerce" to the citizens of both countries. For many years the government of the United States actively endeavored to secure the free navigation of the Amazon, which was at length voluntarily conceded by the Emperor of Brazil to all nations in 1866. By a treaty between the United States and Bolivia of 1858, the Amazon and La Plata, with their tributaries, were declared to be, “in accordance with fixed principles of international law, . . channels open by nature for the commerce of all nations." In 1852, General Urquiza, provisional director of the Argentine Confederation, decreed that the navigation of the rivers Parana and Uruguay should be open to the vessels of all nations. In the next year the United States, acting concurrently with France and Great Britain, secured the confirmation of this privilege by treaty. The State of Buenos Ayres, which had sought to control the commercial possibilities which the rivers afforded, protested against the treaties and withdrew from the confederation; but the treaty powers decided to bestow the moral weight and influence of diplomatic relations upon the government which had been prompt to recognize the liberal commercial principles of the age, and the policy of free navigation prevailed.

From Paraguay, which had sought to lead the life of a hermit state, a similar concession was obtained under peculiar circumstances. In 1853 the government of the United States sent out a naval vessel, called the Water Witch, under the command of Lieutenant Thomas J. Page, to survey the tributaries of the river Plate and report on the commercial condition of the countries bordering on their waters. Permission was obtained from the gove

« AnteriorContinuar »