Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XVIII

RECIPROCITY, CLAIMS, BOUNDARIES, AND THE

SLAVE TRADE

By 1815 diplomacy had ceased to shape politics; after 1830 politics began to shape diplomacy. With Jackson, “shirtChange of per

sleeve" diplomacy began, but it did not reach sonnel

its zenith till after the Civil War. The most important change in personnel took place in the state department itself: in 1833 only two old officials remained; it was the most nearly complete break ever made in the continuity of that staff. This weakening of the central administration was accompanied by a remanning of the diplomatic corps that was quite as sweeping. Appointments were now eagerly sought, and there were few more satisfactory methods of paying political debts. Many choices were not without merit, but for the most part they reflected the general tendency of politics to rely on mediocrity. Still more apparent was the lack of familiarity with European conditions, which was the product of our realized isolation. Less than the men of 1775, with their colonial interest in "home" affairs, many of them, like the Pinckneys, with an English education, did the new ministers understand world politics.

Of the secretaries of state for the next fifteen years, Van Buren was tactful and suave, but in diplomacy colorless. Van Buren, Louis McLane was without distinction. EdMcLane, Livingston, For ward Livingston was every inch a diplomat, but syth

his service was cut all too short by his death. Forsyth, who served Jackson and Van Buren for seven years, was skilful and had had experience, but he left no impress. 1C. H. Hunt, Life of Edward Livingston, New York, 1864.

1

Legaré and Upshur together were in office only about a year. Webster and Calhoun are the only really great names, and they, properly, are remembered for other things. They serve in fact to illustrate two of the more general weaknesses of the whole service. Webster handled cases; the adaptation of a general policy to the whole

Webster field of diplomacy he did not attempt. He was primarily a lawyer, only incidentally a diplomat. Hardly any one was primarily a diplomat, or primarily Literary apinterested in diplomacy. When a President pointments wished to gain applause, he appointed an author, like James Fenimore Cooper or Washington Irving, who was expected to repay the nation by writing a book. Of all

Calhoun the statesmen of the time, Calhoun was probably the best endowed for diplomatic work, but he sacrificed diplomacy to politics. The only really great American who was greatly interested in diplomacy was Henry

Wheaton Wheaton, who spent this period in various German posts. Performing perfectly the difficult, but not very important, tasks allotted him, he devoted his leisure to the cognate study of international law. He was recalled in 1845, and the fruit of his preparation was never gathered by the nation.

The rank and file of the service possessed characteristics similar to those of the chiefs, except that some of Jackson's appointments, as that of John Randolph to

Diplomatic Russia and of Butler to Mexico, were con and consular spicuously bad, and Tyler's on the whole conspicuously good. During this period both the diplomatic and the consular service grew rapidly in numbers. An attempt to improve the consular system was made in 1833; but it failed, and the staff continued to decline in quality.

In spite of these defects, it remains true that American

service

1 See his History of the Law of Nations, New York, 1845; and his Elements of International Law, Philadelphia, 1836, which has been many times edited and brought up to date.

diplomacy, although its wheels creaked and rumbled, accomplished its main ends. This attainment was, however,

due more to situation than to merit. We had Simplicity of the American only one strong general rival, Great Britain, position

and with her, after years of controversy, Webster finally dealt. The other countries with whom we had intimate relationships were too weak to make our errors painful to us. American commerce was simpler than it had been, consisting more and more of the exchange of our non-competitive agricultural products for manufactures which other nations were anxious to sell us. Such direct commerce needs much less governmental protection than the carrying trade, which had previously been of so much greater relative importance, or than the disposal of competitive goods such as we now produce.

Jackson, like Jefferson, found the diplomatic board for the moment almost swept clean of complications. Yet, as British West

Jefferson had been able to reap some glory Indies

from a new handling of the Barbary question, so Jackson scored an early triumph by restoring trade with the British West Indies. Van Buren, as senator, had opposed Adams on that point, claiming that he was too stiff in maintaining non-essentials, a fault which was certainly Adams's characteristic weakness. He promptly instructed McLane, our new minister to Great Britain, to assure the British government that with the change of administration in the United States had come a change of policy, and to offer to renew trade on the basis of the British acts of 1825. Great Britain was complaisant, and by proclamation this longvexed question was finally settled on terms that gave the United States complete freedom of direct trade, but not of trade between the islands and other countries. Van Buren failed to win the plaudits for which he had hoped, owing to his unusual and improper reference to domestic politics in a dispatch intended to be read to a foreign minister.1

1 E. M. Shepard, Martin Van Buren (Boston, etc., 1900), chs. vi.-vii.

Partly as a result of the same greater flexibility, the formation of commercial treaties with Spanish America now proceeded more rapidly; in 1831 one was made the Mediterwith Mexico, in 1832 one with Chili, compacts ranean with Peru, Bolivia, and Venezuela followed in 1836, and one with Ecuador in 1839. Probably the policy of the administration had less to do with the framing of our first treaties with Mediterranean powers than had the general amelioration of commercial conditions, especially the final quelling of the Barbary pirates after the capture of Algiers by the French in 1830. At all events, treaties were made with the Ottoman empire in 1830, with Greece in 1837, Sardinia in 1838, and the Two Sicilies, or Naples, in 1845. In 1840 a first treaty was made with Portugal. In 1833 a

The East oving commission to Edmund Roberts resulted in our first Asiatic treaties,-one with Muscat and one with Siam. In 1843 we officially expressed an interest in Hawaii, and in 1844 our first treaty with China was concluded. This latter was relatively satisfactory from a commercial point of view, for it opened the five ports of Kwang-Chow, Amoy, Fuchow, Ningpo, and Shanghai to commerce and residence and elaborately regulated trade. It did not open the way to missionary enterprise.

Throughout the period the policy of reciprocity was actively pursued. In so far as the employment of vessels was concerned it was embodied in most of the

Reciprocity treaties already mentioned, and it was in some cases extended to reciprocity of customs dues. By a convention of 1831: "The wines of France, from and after the exchange of the ratifications of the present convention, shall be admitted to consumption in the States of the Union at duties which shall not exceed the following rates," and "the proportion existing between the duties on French wines thus reduced, and the general rates of the tariff which went into operation the first of January, 1829, shall be maintained, in case the Government of the United States should think proper

to diminish those general rates." France in return agreed to establish the same duties on long staple cotton as on the short staple, if carried in French or American vessels, and in consideration of this stipulation, which shall be binding on the United States for ten years, the French government abandons the reclamations which it had formed in relation to the eighth article of the treaty of cession of Louisiana.”

This last clause was in settlement of a dispute regarding the significance of the “most favored nation” provision, “ Most fa

which affected our whole reciprocity campaign. vored nation"

Nearly all our treaties were on this basis. If thereby every nation on such terms with us were to enjoy every favor granted to any nation, our bargaining power would be much reduced. John Quincy Adams had argued with France that it applied only to favors freely granted, not to special concessions given in exchange for other special favors. This interpretation was incorporated into our treaty with Mexico in 1832, which qualified the "most favored nation" clause by providing that the nations mutually, “shall enjoy the same [favors) freely, if the concession was freely made, or upon the same conditions, if the concession was conditional.” 1

The most important commercial negotiations were those conducted in Germany by Henry Wheaton. At the very German trea end of the period he secured the abolition, by ties

numbers of the sovereign German states, of the droit d'aubaine, or tax on estates of foreigners, and of the droit de détraction, or tax on emigration. Meantime he was working for commercial reciprocity on the basis of Adams's interpretation of the “most favored nation,” which he may be said to have incorporated into international law. In 1840 he arranged a treaty with Hanover. Most of the other North German states were united in the Zollverein, or customs union, of which Prussia was the head. This group of states

Max Farrand, “The Commercial Privileges of the Treaty of 1808." Amer. Hist. Review, 1902, vii. 494 499.

« PreviousContinue »