« ForrigeFortsæt »
while they consider the political union of Central America as the greatest and noblest aspiration of patriotism, they likewise think that the circumstances and conditions in which the Central American people find themselves at the moment are not propitious to decree national reconstruction, which, in order that it may be durable and solid, requires that their economic, moral, political and material elements shall have been harmonized.
They do not think therefore that it is opportune to discuss in the present conference a project for the immediate establishment of a union, but solely those measures which will tend toward preparing in a stable manner for this union, strengthening their means of communications, establishing a coasting ship (ommerce, linking together the economic and social interests of the people of the Republics, unifying their customs and tax laws, and encouraging the frequent meeting of Central American conferences... The steps here taken toward making peace certain in Central America, toward guaranteeing security for capital and labor, toward improving their elements of production, their social interests, and their initiative in self-government, will contribute in no small part towards this end (Foreign Relations, 1907, p. 672).
Before testing the soundness of this point of view it is desirable to recapitulate briefly the main facts regarding the old Central American federation as well as the various fruitless attempts for its restoration. When the Spanish provinces of Central America seceeded peacefully in 1824, they naturally gravitated together in a loose federal union, following the traditions of the "Audiencia Real" of Guatemala under which they had previously been grouped. During the latter years of Spanish rule, especially after the Constitution of 1812 which was signed by deputies from the five provinces, they had enjoyed a large measure of self-government. Each province and town was at liberty to elect its own “ayuntamiento" or council. In fact, it may fairly be asserted that at no subsequent time has Central America had as great privileges of self-government as during the latter years of Spanish domination. Owing, however, to this strongly developed provincial sentiment, to the extremely loose federal form of union and to the intense rivalries of political leaders for predominance both in the federation and in the separate states, this union proved to be a fiction and was dissolved after a nominal existence of fifteen years. The wonder is that it lasted as long. There was no external pressure in the form of a common enemy, nor was there a deep sense of community
of interests to hold the states together. Their separate existence for the past seventy years, with almost incessant wars and revolutions, has only served to retard their development and foster prejudices which have no solid grounds on which to rest. In their division has been their weakness. Since 1839 efforts to restore the union have been made from time to time; and whenever the project is suggested it is natural that sceptics should object that, while the idea is laudable, it is impossible of realization. This pessimistic point of view, however, is open to the charge of superficiality for the reason that, while it is true there have been various attempts to re-establish the union, in actual fact, there never has been any serious, well calculated undertaking, properly supported in such a way as to guarantee success. It is worth while, therefore, to consider briefly certain of these movements for union, which represent the three methods usually employed: namely, that of diplomacy under the initiative of the United States, in 1874, 1881 and 1883, that by force of arms, resorted to by President Barrios in 1885, and that through alliance, attempted by the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua and Salvador in 1896.
In 1874 the American minister to Central America was instructed to use his good offices to bring together the presidents of the five republics in order to settle existing differences and lay the foundations of a permanent union. Minister Williams' efforts in this direction, were, however, without definite result. The diplomatic discussions produced little more than a platonic recognition of the desirability of the union. The matter was taken up again in 1881 and 1883. General Grant in his reception of the diplomatic representative from Guatemala and Salvador in August, 1880, expressed his sincere hope for the federal union of Central America. Secretary Blaine in a comprehensive dispatch to the American minister at Guatemala, under date of May 7, 1881, manifested the keen interest with which the United States viewed all attempts to establish a union. He also indicated that the government at Washington would be gratified to learn of "some directly practicable method by which the United States could aid in the establishment of a
strong and settled union between the independent republics of Central America." The subject was again recurred to in 1883 but the diplomatic negotiations were of a purely tentative character.
In 1885, General Rufino Barrios, president of Guatemala, a man of commanding personality, who clearly understood the needs of Central America, attempted to bring about the union by coercive measures. After vain efforts of a pacific character to persuade the other states to join together, he proclaimed the union; placed himself at the head of his troops and summoned the remaining republics to give their immediate adherence. In the first battle with the Salvadorian army, Barrios was killed, and with him ended all hope of accomplishing the union through the force of arms.
The last attempt to restore the union was in 1896 when the presidents of Honduras, Nicaragua and Salvador united to form the Greater Republic of Central America. Neither Guatemala nor Costa Rica would join: the former apparently from motives of distrust, and the latter because of its traditional policy of isolation. Though recognized by the United States, this greater republic was hardly more than a fiction. It was essentially a personal alliance of the rulers of the respective republics; and was dissolved by mutual consent after a nominal existence of three years. As was sensibly remarked by General Regalado of Salvador, whose opposition wrecked the scheme, "This union is the work of a few men, not the desire of the people."
Of the three methods employed to establish the union; namely, force, alliance and diplomacy, the latter alone has not been thoroughly tested. The United States, though committed in principle to the ideal of the union, has taken no positive steps in this direction. It has contented itself, as already indicated, with expressions of sympathy with the project and tentative negotiations designed merely to sound the sentiments of the different Central American governments. In fact, since the pourparlers of Secretary Blaine begun in 1881 and abandoned in 1883, the idea of restoring the union through diplomatic means has almost entirely remained in abeyance. In the meantime, the United States.
has felt compelled to seek the maintenance of peace and the remedy for the ills of Central America through friendly mediation and constabulary measures, and has now arrived at the point of positive intervention in the internal affairs of these republics. In spite of the inevitable failure of such a temporizing policy, it may be admitted that it was doubtless necessary to exhaust all possible expedients, in dealing patiently and cautiously with so abnormal a situation, in order to demonstrate conclusively their entire inadequacy and the necessity of a thorough, statesmanlike solution of the problem.
It can hardly be denied that intervention in the domestic concerns of these countries is as repugnant to our American ideals as it is ineffective in results. It is objectionable first, because it is not the business of the United States to be occupied with the internal affairs of other states; second, because it would prove extremely embarrassing through financial arrangements, however desirable in themselves, or through any other assumed obligations, to become responsible in any way for the administration of any of these countries; and third, because any intervention in derogation of their sovereign rights under international law, arouses the suspicions and apprehensions of these republics as well as of other Spanish-American states.
This policy has been ineffective because it ignores the root of the whole trouble; namely, the separate existence of states too small to thrive alone, embroiled constantly in petty dissensions originating, usually, in the personal rivalries of their respective rulers. The time would now seem to have arrived for our government to consider seriously whether the union of these five republics into one solid, self-sufficient state would not prove to be the most effective and satisfactory remedy for a condition of affairs which loudly calls for drastic treatment.
The conventional argument against the union is that previously quoted from the report of the majority of the delegates of the Washington conference; namely, that the people of Central America are not yet prepared for union, that it is first necessary to bring them into intimate contact through
the construction of railroads, etc., etc. This is undoubtedly the ideal process from the academic point of view but it is so painfully slow and the results so disheartening, that one is led seriously to question whether such a process will ever really prepare these countries for union. The efforts of the Washington conference in that direction seem to have been barren of results. In regard to the building of railroads, certain of these republics are quite unable to assume the financial burden of constructing the important links required to bring them together, nor does such construction offer sufficient inducements for the employment of private capital. The finances of several of these countries are in a deplorable condition; and their national resources have been recklessly exploited as well as mortgaged for many years to come. No long period of normal peace has prevailed uninterruptedly in any of them, with the sole exception of Costa Rica, whose peculiar conditions differentiate her in some ways from the rest of Central America. Honduras, equal in size to Pennsylvania, with a population of 500,000, a total revenue of $1,000,000, and a national debt of $6,000,000, has had two wars, three revolutions and several uprisings within the past seven years. It seems preposterous that Central America, possessing a total area slightly larger than California and one-fourth that of Mexico, with a population of less than 4,000,000, presenting no greater differentiations than Maine and Arizona--a people, in fact, essentially one in customs, sentiments and common interests should be cursed with the burden of five distinct, sovereign republics.
Had Virginia and Massachusetts refused to unite in 1789 because of the lack of easy means of communication and differences in customs and interests, what mutual prejudices, dissensions and conflicts would undoubtedly have arisen! How increasingly difficult it would have become for them to surrender their sovereign rights to one strong central government! And yet, this is almost precisely what has occurred in Central America. No people ever stood in greater need of each other's support. Their combined resources would have supplied the elements necessary for a strong state able to