- Clayton-Bulwer Treaty
- (1850)Negotiated and signed in Washington, D.C. by American Secretary of State John Clayton and the British Minister to the United States, Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer, the treaty was a compromise between competing Anglo-American imperial ambitions in Central America. Both powers refused exclusive control over any transisthmian interoceanic canal project, but agreed to cooperate in its development and ensure its neutrality, guaranteeing to neither fortify nor exercise dominion over the route.The project was a popular idea in both countries for years. The conclusion of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848) and the emerging Anglo-American rivalry for Oriental markets sharpened interest in a mid-hemispheric isthmus canal. Reacting to American territorial expansion in the Southwest and a treaty with New Granada (Colombia) that reserved canal rights through Panama for the United States, in 1848, the Russell Ministry augmented Britain’s presence on the Mosquito Coast (parts of Honduras and Belize) to a protectorate. Domestic and foreign appeals prompted U.S. diplomats to negotiate commercial treaties with Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, the latter granting the United States perpetual rights to build, operate, and fortify a canal. Although none of the Central American treaties were submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification, they were enough to spur the British to compromise with the United States.The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was not without controversy, but it proved enduring. The Zachary Taylor Administration (1849–1850), which faced significant domestic opposition to the treaty, interpreted the noncolonization clauses to apply retroactively to Britain’s existing colonies, but Westminster refused to relinquish Belize or the Bay Islands. From 1856 to 1860, amid heightened American filibustering expeditions, the United States and Britain quietly settled on the status quo, guaranteeing Britain’s Central American possessions while allowing Americans to reaffirm their commitment to the Monroe Doctrine. The treaty remained in effect for a half century, but as the United States became increasingly involved in Latin American affairs and the British more attentive to Continental Europe, mutual cooperation required modification. The Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 abrogated the terms of Clayton-Bulwer, granting the United States rights to unilaterally construct, control, and fortify an isthmus canal. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was an early expression of American Open Door imperialism, which later became the stated policy of the United States, but also helped pave the way for eventual direct U.S. intervention in Latin America affairs. Anglo-American intrusion significantly disrupted local political alignments, altered traditional social relations, and permanently rearranged Central American international relations.See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Merk, Frederick. The Monroe Doctrine and American Expansion, 1943-1849. New York: Knopf, 1966;Perkins, Dexter. The Monroe Doctrine, 1826-1867. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1933.JONATHAN GANTT
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.