Clayton-Bulwer Treaty

Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, concluded (Apr. 19, 1850) at Washington, D.C., between the United States, represented by Secretary of State John M. Clayton, and Great Britain, represented by the British plenipotentiary Sir Henry Bulwer. American and British rivalries in Central America, particularly over a proposed isthmian canal, led to the treaty. Its most important article provided “that neither … will ever obtain or maintain for itself any exclusive control over the said ship canal … that neither will ever erect or maintain any fortifications commanding the same … or occupy, or fortify, or colonize or assume, or exercise any dominion over Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito coast [in present-day Honduras and Nicaragua], or any part of Central America.”

Although the treaty was soon ratified by the Senate, it was one of the most unpopular in U.S. history, viewed by some as a betrayal of the Monroe Doctrine. Successive secretaries of state tried in vain to secure modifications that would enable the United States to build its own canal and exercise, under restrictions, political control over it, but it was not until 1901, with the Hay-Pauncefote Treaties, that this end was finally achieved.

See M. W. Williams, Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy, 1815–1915 (1916, repr. 1965).

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