Condemned in April

May 1st, 2011

[private] v9-5-alfonso-Condemed in AprilThe 19 of April 161 years ago was a day like any other in Washington DC, life and work went on as usual. Not many knew that that day would be the culmination of the conference between the United States represented by Secretary of State John M. Clayton, and Great Britain, represented by British plenipotentiary Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer. The results of this conference would be called the Clayton & Bulwer Treaty and its main intent was to reach a mutually agreeable solution as to the control of any future canal across the isthmus of Central America that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The British were interested in such canal because of their dominions in Asia. The United States showed little interest in the idea until gold was discovered in California in 1849. The actual wording of the treaty came down to three basic agreements: neither country would seek control of the canal and of territories on either side of said canal; neither country would fortify any position in the canal area, nor would either country establish any colonies in Central America.

The text of the agreement was vague enough that between signing the pact and the exchange of the ratification the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lord Palmerstone on the 8 of June, 1850 directed Sir Henry Bulwer to issue a declaration that the British Government did not consider that the treaty as written, applied to Great Britain possessions of British Honduras (Belize) and certain dependencies (The Bay Islands and the Mosquito Coast).

The British believed they had lost nothing and had simply agreed not to use their possessions to control or dominate any canal build in the future. According to interpretation of the American side, the treaty placed both countries on an exact equality by the assumption that neither would occupy, colonize or dominate any part of Central America and this included the present possessions of Great Britain.

It wasn’t until the 17 of October of 1856 that an agreement was reached and a pact was signed in London agreeing to change the clause referencing to Bay Islands. The changes made on 27 August of 1856 stated: That the Bay Islands was constituted and declared a free territory under the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras. The document also stipulated the two contracting parties (Great Britain and Honduras) do hereby mutually engage to recognize and respect in all future time the independence and rights of said territory as a part of the Republic of Honduras.

The Americans interpreted this to mean that the Bay Islands would be a free territory but not under the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras because the islanders would have their own government, with Legislative, Executive and Judicial officials elected by the islanders. It also prohibited the Honduran government from drafting any islander into the country’s army, the islanders would not have been obligated to pay tax to the republic and it also forbade the ownership of slaves from this time on.

The American advised the Republic of Honduras not to ratify the contract with Great Britain and instead they were talked into making a new contract with the British: this was done in a convention held in Guatemala on the 30 of April, 1859. There Great Britain under pressure from the United States of America ceded these islands to the republic of Honduras. Because the government of Honduras feared the American filibuster William Walker who supposedly had plans to invade the islands and use them for operations against the mainland, the actual turn over did not take place until June the 1, 1861.

We always blamed England for giving us away, but it was the government of the United States of America during the presidency of James Buchanan that rejected the treaty that favored the Bay Islands and instead insisted on the complete turnover of our islands to the Republic of Honduras. The inhabitants of the islands were not consulted while these countries negotiated our future. After just a short time of being a colony of Great Britain, the Bay Islands became part of Honduras and eventually a Departamento (State) to the detriment of us all. [/private]

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