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Copyright, 1904, by The Century Co. 

Copyright, 1900, 1901, by 
Gbover Cleveland 

Copyright, 1904, by 
The S. S. McCiiUKE Co. 

Copyright, 1904, by 
The CrBTis Publishing Compant 

Published October, 1904 

The pevinne Press 


Of the four essays comprised in this 
volume, two were originally delivered 
as addresses at Princeton University. 
The other two appeared first in the 

All have now been revised thor- 
oughly by Mr. Cleveland, in prepa- 
ration for their appearance in book 



I The Independence of the Executive ... 3 

n The Governjvient in the Chicago Strike 

OF 1894 79 

m The Bond Issues 121 

IV The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy . 173 


IN considering tlie propriety of publishing 
this book, the fact has not been overlooked 

that the push and activity of our people's life 
lead them more often to the anticipation of new 
happenings than to a review of events which 
have already become a part of the nation's his- 
tory. This condition is so naturally the result of 
an immense development of American enter- 
prise that it should not occasion astonishment, 
and perhaps should not be greatly deprecated, 
so long as a mad rush for wealth and individ- 
ual advantage does not stifle our good citi- 
zenship nor weaken the patriotic sentiment 
which values the integrity of our Government 
and the success of its mission immeasurably 
above all other worldly possessions. 

The belief that, notwithstanding the over- 
weening desire among our people for personal 



and selfish rewards of effort, there still exists, 
underneath it all, a sedate and unimpaired in- 
terest in the things that illustrate the design, 
the traditions, and the power of our Govern- 
ment, has induced me to present in this volmne 
the details of certain incidents of national ad- 
ministration concerning which I have the know- 
ledge of a iDrominent participant. 

These incidents brought as separate to^Dics to 
the foreground of agitation and discussion the 
relations between the Chief Executive and the 
Senate in making appointments to office, the 
vindication and enforcement of the Monroe 
Doctrine, the protection of the soundness and 
integrity of our finances and currency, and the 
right of the general Govermnent to overcome 
all obstructions to the exercise of its functions 
in every part of our national domain. 

Those of our peojole whose interest in the 
general features of the incidents referred to 
was actively aroused at the time of their oc- 
currence will perhaps find the following pages 
of some value for reference or as a means of 
more complete information. 


I shall do no more in advocacy of the merits 
of this book than to say that as a narrative of 
facts it has been prepared with great care, and 
that I believe it to be complete and accurate in 
every essential detail. 

Grover Cleveland. 





IN dealing with ^'Tlie Independence of the 
Executive/' I shall refer first of all to 
the conditions in which the Presidency of the 
United States had its origin, and shall after- 
ward relate an incident within my own experi- 
ence involving the preservation and vindication 
of an independent function of this high office. 

When our original thirteen States, actuated 
by ^'a decent respect for the opinions of man- 
kind, ' ' |)resented to the world the causes which 
impelled them to separate from the mother 
country and to cast otf all allegiance to the 
Crown of England, they gave iDrominence to 
the declaration that ''the history of the present 
King of Great Britain is a history of repeated 
injuries and usurpations, all having in direct 
object the establishment of an absolute tyranny 


The Independence of the Executive 

over these States." This was followed by an 
indictment containing not less than eighteen 
counts or accusations, all leveled at the King 
and the King alone. These were closed or 
clenched by this asseveration : '' A Prince whose 
character is thus marked by every act which 
may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a 
free people.'^ In this arraignment the Eng- 
lish Parliament was barely mentioned, and then 
only as ^'others," with whom the King had 
conspired by '^giving his assent to their act of 
pretended legislation," and thus giving opera- 
tive force to some of the outrages which had 
been put upon the colonies. 

It is thus apparent that in the indictment pre- 
sented by the thirteen colonies they charged 
the King, who in this connection may properly 
be considered as the Chief Executive of Great 
Britain, with the crimes and offenses which 
were their justification for the following solenm 
and impressive decree : 

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United 
States of America, in General Congress assembled, 
appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for 
the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and 
by the authority of the good People of these Colonies, 
solemnly publish and declare that these United Colo- 
nies are, and of right ought to be, free and indepen- 


The independence of the Executive 

dent States; that they are absolved from all alle- 
giance to the British Crown, and that all political 
connection between them and the State of Great 
Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and 
that as free and independent States they have full 
power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alli- 
ances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and 
things which independent States may of right do. 
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm 
reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we 
mutually pledge to each other our lives, our for- 
tunes, and our sacred honor. 

To this irrevocable predicament had the thir- 
teen States or colonies been brought by their 
resistance to the oppressive exercise of execu- 
tive power. 

In these circumstances it should not surprise 
us to find that when, on the footing of the Dec- 
laration of Independence, the first scheme of 
government was adopted for the revolted 
States, it contained no provision for an execu- 
tive officer to whom should be intrusted ad- 
ministrative power and duty. Those who had 
suffered and rebelled on account of the tyranny 
of an English King were evidently chary of 
subjecting themselves to the chance of a repeti- 
tion of their woes through an abuse of the power 
that might necessarily devolve upon an Ameri- 
can President. 


The Independence of the Executive 

Thus, under the Articles of Confederation, 
''The United States of America,'' without an 
executive head as we understand the term, came 
to the light; and in its charter of existence 
it was declared that ''the articles of this Con- 
federation shall be inviolably observed by 
every State, and the Union shall be perpetual. ' ' 

Let us not harbor too low an opinion of the 
Confederation. Under its guidance and direc- 
tion the war of the Revolution was fought to 
a successful result, and the people of the States 
which were parties to it became in fact free 
and independent. But the Articles of Confed- 
eration lacked the jDOwer to enforce the decree 
they contained of inviolable observance by 
every State; and the union, which under their 
sanction was to be permanent and lasting, early 
developed sjTuptoms of inevitable decay. 

It thus happened that within ten years after 
the date of the Articles of Confederation their 
deficiencies had become so manifest that repre- 
sentatives of the people were again assembled 
in convention to consider the situation and to 
devise a plan of government that would form 
"a more perfect union'' in place of the crum- 
bling structure which had so lately been pro- 
claimed as perpetual. 

The pressing necessity for such action cannot 


The Independence of the Exectitive 

be more forcibly portrayed than was done by 
Mr. Madison when, in a letter written a short 
time before the convention, he declared: 

Our situation is becoming every day more and 
more critical. No money comes into the Federal 
treasury ; no respect is paid to the Federal authority ; 
and people of reflection unanimously agree that the 
existing Confederacy is tottering to its foundation. 
Many individuals of weight, particularly in the East- 
ern district, are suspected of leaning towards mon- 
archy. Other individuals predict a partition of the 
States into two or more confederacies. 

It was at this time universally conceded that 
if success was to follow the experiment of popu- 
lar government among the new States, the crea- 
tion of an Executive branch invested with 
power and responsibility would be an abso- 
lutely essential factor. Madison, in referring 
to the prospective work of the convention, said : 

A national executive will also be necessary. I 
have scarcely ventured to form my own opinion yet, 
either of the manner in which it ought to be consti- 
tuted, or of the authorities with which it ought to be 

AVe know that every plan of government 
proposed or presented to the convention em- 
bodied in some form as a prominent feature 


The Independence of the Executive 

the establishmeut of an effective Executive; 
and I think it can be safely said that no sub- 
ject was submitted which proved more per- 
plexing and troublesome. We ought not to 
consider this as unnatural. Many members of 
the convention, while obliged to confess that the 
fears and prejudices that refused executive 
power to the Confederacy had led to the most 
unfortunate results, were still confronted with 
a remnant of those fears and prejudices, and 
were not yet altogether free from the suspicion 
that the specter of monarchy might be con- 
cealed behind every suggestion of executive 
force. Others less timid were nevertheless tre- 
mendously embarrassed by a lack of definite 
and clear conviction as to the manner of creat- 
ing the new office and fixing its limitations. 
Still another difficulty, which seems to have been 
all-pervading and chronic in the convention, 
and which obstinately fastened itself to the 
discussion of the subject, was the jealousy and 
suspicion existing between the large and small 
States. I am afraid, also, that an unwillingness 
to trust too much to the people had its influence 
in preventing an easy solution of the executive 
problem. The first proposal made in the con- 
vention that the President should be elected by 
the people was accompanied by an aj^ologetic 


The Independence of the Executive 

statement by the member making the suggestion 
that he was almost unwilling to declare the 
mode of selection he preferred, ''being appre- 
hensive that it might appear chimerical. ' ' An- 
other favored the idea of popular election, but 
thought it ' ' impracticable ' ' ; another was not 
clear that the people ought to act directly even 
in the choice of electors, being, as alleged, "too 
little informed of jDersonal characters in large 
districts, and liable to deception" ; and again, it 
was declared that ' ' it would be as unnatural to 
refer the choice of a proper character for Chief 
Magistrate to the people as it would to refer a 
trial of colors to a blind man.'' 

A plan was first adopted by the convention 
which provided for the selection of the Presi- 
dent by the Congress, or, as it was then called, 
by the National Legislature. Various other 
plans were projDOsed, but only to be summarily 
rejected in favor of that which the convention 
had apparently irrevocably decided upon. 
There were, however, among the members, 
some who, notwithstanding the action taken, 
lost no opportunity to advocate, with energy 
and sound reasons, the substitution of a mode 
of electing the President more in keeping with 
the character of the office and the genius of a 
popular government. This fortunate persis- 


The Independence of the Executive 

tence resulted in the reopening of the subject 
and its reference, very late in the sessions of the 
convention, to a committee who reported in 
favor of a procedure for the choice of the Ex- 
ecutive substantially identical with that now in 
force ; and this was adopted by the convention 
almost unanimously. 

This imperfect review of the incidents that 
led up to the establishment of the office of Pres- 
ident, and its rescue from dangers which sur- 
rounded its beginning, if not otherwise useful, 
ought certainly to suggest congratulatory and 
grateful reflections. The proposition that the 
selection of a President should rest entirely 
with the Congress, which came so near adop- 
tion, must, I think, appear to us as something 
absolutely startling; and we may well be sur- 
prised that it was ever favorably considered by 
the convention. 

In the scheme of our national Government 
the Presidency is preeminently the people's 
office. Of course, all offices created by the Con- 
stitution, and all governmental agencies exist- 
ing under its sanction, must be recognized, in a 
sense, as the offices and agencies of the people 
—considered either as an aggregation consti- 
tuting the national body politic, or some of its 
divisions. When, however, I now speak of the 


The Independence of the Executive 

Presidency as being preeminently the people's 
office, I mean that it is especially the office re- 
lated to the people as individuals, in no general, 
local, or other combination, but standing on the 
firm footing of manhood and American citizen- 
ship. The Congress may enact laws; but they 
are inert and vain without executive impulse. 
The Federal courts adjudicate upon the rights 
of the citizen when their aid is invoked. But 
under the constitutional mandate that the Presi- 
dent ^ ' shall take care that the laws be f aithf ullv 
executed,'' every citizen, in the day or in the 
night, at home or abroad, is constantly within 
the protection and restraint of the Executive 
power— none so lowly as to be beneath its scru- 
pulous care, and none so great and powerful 
as to be beyond its restraining force. 

In view of this constant touch and the rela- 
tionship thus existing between the citizen and 
the Executive, it would seem that these consid- 
erations alone supplied sufficient reason why 
his selection should rest upon the direct and 
independent expression of the people's choice. 
This reason is reinforced by the fact that inas- 
much as Senators are elected by the State legis- 
latures, Representatives in Congress by the 
votes of districts or States, and judges are ap- 
pointed by the President, it is only in the se- 


The Independence of the Executive 

lectiou of the President that the body of the 
American people can by any possibility act to- 
gether and directly in the equipment of their 
national Government. Without at least this 
much of particij^ation in that equipment, we 
could hardly expect that a ruinous discontent 
and revolt could be long suppressed among a 
people who had been promised a poj^ular and 
representative government. 

I do not mean to be understood as conceding 
that the selection of a President through elec- 
tors chosen by the people of the several States, 
according to our present plan, perfectly meets 
the case as I have stated it. On the contrary, 
it has always seemed to me that this plan is 
weakened by an unfortunate infirmity. Though 
the peoi^le in each State are permitted to vote 
directly for electors, who shall give voice to the 
popular preference of the State in the choice of 
President, the voters throughout the nation 
may be so distributed, and the majorities given 
for electors in the different States mav be such, 
that a minority of all the voters in the land can 
determine, and in some cases actually have de- 
termined, who the President should be. I be- 
lieve a way should be devised to prevent such 
a result. 

It seems almost ungracious, however, to find 


' The Independence of the Executive 

fault with our present method of electing a 
President when we recall the alternative from 
which we escaped, through the final action of 
the convention which framed the Constitution. 
It is nevertheless a curious fact that the plan 
at first adopted, vesting in Congress the presi- 
dential election, was utterly inconsistent with 
the opinion of those most prominent in the con- 
vention, as well as of all thoughtful and patri- 
otic Americans who watched for a happy result 
from its deliberations, that the corner-stone of 
the new Government should be a distinct divi- 
sion of powers and functions among the Legis- 
lative, Executive, and Judicial branches, with 
the independence of each amply secured. 
Whatever may have been the real reasons for 
giving the choice of the President to Congress, 
I am sure those which were announced in the 
convention do not satisfy us in this day and gen- 
eration that such an arrangement would have 
secured either the separateness or independence 
of the Executive department. I am glad to be- 
lieve this to be so palpable as to make it unnec- 
essary for me to suggest other objections, which 
might subject me to the suspicion of question- 
ing the wisdom or invariably safe motives of 
Congress in this relation. It is much more 
agreeable to acknowledge gratefully that a 


The Independence of the Executive 

danger was avoided, and a method finally 
adopted for the selection of the Executive head 
of the Government which was undoubtedly the 
best within the reach of the convention. 

The Constitution formed by this convention 
has been justly extolled by informed and lib- 
erty-loving men throughout the world. The 
statesman who, above all his contemporaries 
of the past century, was best able to pass judg- 
ment on its merits formulated an unchallenged 
verdict when he declared that "the Ameri- 
can Constitution is the most wonderful work 
ever struck off at a given time by the brain and 
purpose of man.'^ 

We dwell with becoming pride upon the in- 
tellectual greatness of the men who composed 
the convention which created this Constitution. 
They were indeed great; but the happy result 
of their labor would not have been saved to 
us and to humanity if to intellectual great- 
ness there had not been added patriotism, pa- 
tience, and, last but by no means least, for- 
bearing tact. To these traits are we especially 
indebted for the creation of an Executive de- 
partment, limited against every possible danger 
of usurpation or tyranny, but, at the same time, 
strong and independent within its limitations. 

The Constitution declares: *^The executive 


The Independence of the Executive 

power shall be vested in a President of the 
United States of America, ' ' and this is followed 
by a recital of the specific and distinctly de- 
clared duties with which he is charged, and the 
powers with which he is invested. The mem- 
bers of the convention were not willing, how- 
ever, that the executive power which they had 
vested in the President should be cramped and 
embarrassed by any implication that a specific 
statement of certain granted powers and duties 
excluded all other executive functions; nor 
were they apparently willing that the claim of 
such exclusion should have countenance in the 
strict meaning which might be given to the 
words ^^ executive power." Therefore we find 
that the Constitution supplements a recital of 
the specific powers and duties of the President 
with this impressive and conclusive additional 
requirement : ^ ' He shall take care that the laws 
be faithfully executed. ' ' This I conceive to be 
equivalent to a grant of all the power necessary 
to the performance of his duty in the faithful 
execution of the laws. 

The form of Constitution first proposed to the 
convention provided that the President elect, 
before entering upon the duties of his office, 
should take an oath, simply declaring: ''I will 
faithfullv execute the office of President of the 


The Independence of the Executive 

United States." To this brief and very gen- 
eral obligation there were added by the conven- 
tion the following words : ' ' and will to the best 
of my judgment and power preserve, protect, 
and defend the Constitution of the United 
States." Finally, the '^Committee on Style," 
appointed by the convention, apparently to ar- 
range the order of the provisions agreed upon, 
and to suggest the language in which they 
would be best expressed, reported in favor of 
an oath in these terms: '^I will faithfully exe- 
cute the office of President of the United States, 
and will to the best of my ability preserve, pro- 
tect, and defend the Constitution of the United 
States"; and this form was adopted by the 
convention without discussion, and continues to 
this day as the form of obligation which binds 
the conscience of every incumbent of our Chief 

It is therefore apparent that as the Consti- 
tution, in addition to its specification of especial 
duties and powers devolving upon the Presi- 
dent, provides that ' ' he shall take care that the 
laws be faithfully executed," and as this was 
evidently intended as a general devolution of 
power and imposition of obligation in respect 
to any condition that might arise relating to 
the execution of the laws, so it is likewise ap- 


The Independence of the Executive 

parent that the convention was not content to 
rest the sworn obligation of the President solely 
upon his covenant to ^^ faithfully execute the 
office of President of the United States,'' but 
added thereto the mandate that he should pre- 
serve, protect, and defend the Constitution, to 
the best of his judgment and power, or, as it 
was afterward expressed, to the best of his abil- 
ity. Thus is our President solemnly required 
not only to exercise every power attached to 
his office, to the end that the laws may be faith- 
fully executed, and not only to render obedi- 
ence to the demands of the fundamental law 
and executive duty, but to exert all his official 
strength and authority for the preservation, 
protection, and defense of the Constitution. 

I have thus far presented considerations 
which while they have to do with my topic are 
only preliminary to its more especial and dis- 
tinct discussion. In furtherance of this discus- 
sion it now becomes necessary to quote from 
the Constitution the following clause found 
among its specification of presidential duty and 
authority : 

Ai d he shall nominate, and by and with the advice 
of the Senate shall appoint ambassadors, other pub- 
lic ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme 

2 I-y 

The Independence of the Executive 

Court, and all other officers of the United States 
whose appointments are not herein otherwise pro- 
vided for, and which shall be established by law. 

This clause was the subject of a prolonged 
and thorough debate in Congress which oc- 
curred in the year 1789 and during the first 
session of that body assembled under the new 



The question discussed involved distinctly 
and solely the independent power of the Presi- 
dent under the Constitution to remove an officer 
appointed hy him by and with the advice of the 
Senate. The discussion arose upon a bill then 
before the Congress, providing for the organi- 
zation of the State Department, which contained 
a provision that the head of the department 
to be created should be removable from of- 
fice by the President. This was opposed by 
a considerable number on the ground that 
as the Senate cooperated in the appointment, 
it should also be consulted in the matter of 
removal; it was urged by others that the 
power of removal in such cases was already 
vested in the President by the Constitution, and 
that the provision was therefore unnecessary; 
and it was also contended that the question 
whether the Constitution permitted such re- 
moval or not should be left untouched by legis- 
lative action, and be determined by the courts. 
Those insisting upon retaining in the bill the 


The Independence of the Executive 

clause penidtting removal by the President 
alone, claimed that such legislation would re- 
move all doubt on the subject, though they as- 
serted that the absolute investiture of all execu- 
tive power in the President, reinforced by the 
constitutional command that he should take 
care that the laws be faithfully executed, justi- 
fied their position that the power already ex- 
isted, especially in the absence of any adverse 
expression in the Constitution. They also in- 
sisted that the removal of subordinate officers 
was an act so executive in its character, and 
so intimately related to the faithful execu- 
tion of the laws, that it was clearl}^ among 
the President's constitutional prerogatives, and 
that if it was not sufficiently declared in the 
Constitution, the omission should be supplied 
by the legislation proposed. 

In support of these positions it was said that 
the participation of the Senate in the removal 
of executive officers would be a dangerous step 
toward breaking down the partitions between 
the different departments of the Government 
which had been carefully erected, and were re- 
garded by every statesman of that time as ab- 
solutely essential to our national existence ; and 
stress was laid upon the unhappy condition that 
would arise in case a removal desired by the 


The Independence of the Executive 

President should be refused by the Senate, and 
he thus should be left, still charged with the re- 
sponsibility of the faithful execution of the 
laws, while deprived of the loyalty and con- 
stancy of his subordinates and assistants, who, 
if resentful of his efforts for their removal, 
would lack devotion to his work, and who, hav- 
ing learned to rely upon another branch of the 
Government for their retention, would be in- 
vited to defiant insubordination. 

At the time of this discussion the proceedings 
of the Senate took place behind closed doors, 
and its debates were not published, but its de- 
terminations upon such questions as came be- 
fore it were made public. 

The proceedings of the other branch of the 
Congress, however, were open, and we are per- 
mitted through their publication to follow the 
very interesting discussion of the question re- 
ferred to in the House of Representatives. 

The membership of that body included a 
number of those who had been members of the 
Constitutional Convention, and who, fresh from 
its deliberations, were necessarily somewhat fa- 
miliar with its purposes and intent. Mr. Madi- 
son was there, who had as much to do as any 
other man with the inauguration of the conven- 
tion and its successful conclusion. He was not 


The Independence of the Executive 

only especially prominent in its deliberations, 
but increased his familiarity with its pervading 
spirit and disposition by keeping a careful 
record of its proceedings. In speaking of his 
reasons for keeping this record he says: 

The curiosity I had felt during my researches into 
the history of the most distinguished confederacies, 
particularly those of antiquity, and the deficiency I 
found in the means of satisfying it, more especially 
in what related to the process, the principles, the rea- 
sons and the anticipations which prevailed in the 
formation of them, determined me to preserve as far 
as I could an exact account of what might pass in the 
convention while executing its trust, with the mag- 
nitude of which I was duly impressed, as I was by 
the gratification promised to future curiosity, by an 
authentic exhibition of the objects, the opinions and 
the reasonings from which a new system of govern- 
ment was to receive its peculiar structure and organi- 
zation. Nor was I unaware of the value of such a 
contribution to the fund of materials for the history 
of a Constitution on which would be staked the hap- 
piness of a people great in its infancy and possibly 
the cause of liberty throughout the world. 

This important debate also gains great sig- 
nificance from the fact that it occurred within 
two years after the completion of the Constitu- 
tion, and before political rancor or the tempta- 
tions of partizan zeal had intervened to vex our 
congressional counsels. 
It must be conceded, I think, that all the 


Tbe Independence of the ExeaUive 

accompanying circumstances gave tremendous 
weight and authority to this first legislative 
construction of the Constitution in the first ses- 
sion of the first House of Representatives, and 
that these circumstances fully warranted Mr. 
Madison's declaration during the debate: 

I feel the importance of the question, and know 
that our decision will involve the decision of all sim- 
ilar cases. The decision that is at this time made will 
become the permanent exposition of the Constitu- 
tion, and on a permanent exposition of the Constitu- 
tion will depend the genius and character of the 
whole Government. 

The discussion developed the fact that from 
the first a decided majority were of the opinion 
that the Executive should have power of inde- 
pendent removal, whether already derived from 
the Constitution or to be conferred by supple- 
mentary legislation. It will be recalled that 
the debate arose upon the clause in a pending 
bill providing that the officer therein named 
should "be removable by the President," and 
that some of the members of the House, holding 
that such power of removal was plainly granted 
to the Constitution, insisted that it would be 
useless and improper to assume to confer it by 
legislative enactment. Though a motion to 
strike from the bill the clause objected to had 


The Independence of the Executive 

been negatived by a large majority, it was 
afterward proposed, in deference to the opin- 
ions of those who suggested that the House 
should go no further than to give a legislative 
construction to the Constitution in favor of ex- 
ecutive removal, that in lieu of the words con- 
tained in the bill, indicating a grant of the 
power, there should be inserted a provision for 
a new appointment in case of a vacancy occur- 
ring in the following manner: 

Whenever the said principal officer shall be re- 
moved from office by the President of the United 
States, or in any other case of vacancy. 

This was universally acknowledged to be a 
distinct and unequivocal declaration that, un- 
der the Constitution, the right of removal was 
conferred upon the President; and those sup- 
porting that proposition voted in favor of the 
change, which was adopted by a decisive major- 
ity. The bill thus completed was sent to the 
Senate, where, if there was opposition to it on 
the ground that it contained a provision in dero- 
gation of senatorial right, it did not avail ; for 
the bill was passed by that body, though grudg- 
ingly, and, as has been disclosed, only by the 
vote of the Vice-President, upon an equal di- 
vision of the Senate. It may not be amiss to 


The Independence of the Executive 

mention, as adding significance to the concur- 
rence of the House and the Senate in the mean- 
ing and effect of the clause pertaining to re- 
moval as embodied in this bill, that during that 
same session two other bills creating the Treas- 
ury Department and the War Department, con- 
taining precisely the same provision, were 
passed by both Houses. 

I hope I shall be deemed fully justified in de- 
tailing at some length the circumstances that 
led up to a legislative construction of the Con- 
stitution, as authoritative as any surroundings 
could possibly make it, in favor of the constitu- 
tional right of the President to remove Federal 
officials without the participation or interfer- 
ence of the Senate. 

This was in 1789. In 1886, ninety-seven 
years afterward, this question was again raised 
in a sharp contention between the Senate and 
the President. In the meantime, as was quite 
natural perhaps, partizanship had grown more 
pronounced and bitter, and it was at that par- 
ticular time by no means softened by the fact 
that the party that had become habituated to 
power by twenty-four years of substantial con- 
trol of the Government, was obliged, on the 
4th of March, 1885, to make way in the execu- 
tive office for a President elected by the oppo- 


The Independence of the Executive 

site party. He came into office fully pledged to 
the letter of Civil Service reform ; and passing 
beyond the letter of the law on that subject, he 
had said: 

There is a class of government positions which are 
not within the letter of the Civil Service statute, but 
which are so disconnected with the policy of an ad- 
ministration, that the removal therefrom of present 
incumbents, in my opinion, should not be made dur- 
ing the terms for which they were appointed, solely 
on partizan grounds, and for the purpose of putting 
in their places those who are in political accord with 
the appointing power. 

The meaning of this statement is, that while, 
among the officers not affected by the Civil Ser- 
vice law, there are those whose duties are so 
related to the enforcement of the political pol- 
icy of an administration that they should be in 
full accord with it, there are others whose du- 
ties are not so related, and who simply perform 
executive work; and these, though beyond the 
protection of Civil Service legislation, should 
not be removed merely for the purpose of re- 
warding the party friends of the President, by 
putting them in the positions thus made vacant. 
An adherence to this rule, based upon the spirit 
instead of the letter of Civil Service reform, 
I believe established a precedent, which has 


The Independence of the Executive 

since operated to check wholesale removals 
solely for political reasons. 

The declaration which I have quoted was, 
however, immediately followed by an important 
qualification, in these terms : 

But many men holding such positions have for- 
feited all just claim to retention, because they have 
used their places for party purposes, in disregard of 
their duty to the people; and because, instead of 
being decent public servants, they have proved them- 
selves offensive partizans and unscrupulous manipu- 
lators of local party management. 

These pledges were not made without a full 
appreciation of the difficulties and perplexities 
that would follow in their train. It was antici- 
pated that party associates would expect, not- 
withstanding Executive pledges made in ad- 
vance, that there would be a speedy and liberal 
distribution among them of the offices from 
which they had been inexorably excluded for 
nearly a quarter of a century. It was plainly 
seen that many party friends would be disap- 
pointed, that personal friends would be alien- 
ated, and that the charge of ingratitude, the 
most distressing and painful of all accusations, 
would find abundant voice. Nor were the diffi- 
culties overlooked that would sometimes accom- 
pany a consistent and just attem^Dt to determine 


The Independence of the Executive 

the cases in which incumbents in office had for- 
feited their claim to retention. That such cases 
were numerous, no one with the slightest claim 
to sincerity could for a moment deny. 

With all these things in full view, and with 
an alternative of escape in sight through an 
evasion of pledges, it was stubbornly deter- 
mined by the new Executive that the practical 
enforcement of the principle involved was 
worth all the sacrifices which were anticipated. 
And while it was not expected that the Senate, 
which was the only stronghold left to the party 
politically opposed to the President, would con- 
tribute an ugly dispute to a situation already 
sufficiently troublesome, I am in a position to 
say that even such a contingency, if early made 
manifest, would have been contemplated with 
all possible fortitude. 

The Tenure of Office act, it will be remem- 
bered, was passed in 1867 for the express pur- 
pose of preventing removals from office by 
President Johnson, between whom and the Con- 
gress a quarrel at that time raged, so bitter that 
it was regarded by sober and thoughtful men as 
a national affliction, if not a scandal. 

An amusing story is told of a legislator who, 
endeavoring to persuade a friend and colleague 
to aid him in the j^assage of a certain measure 


The Independence of the Executive 

in which he was personally interested, met the 
remark that his bill was unconstitutional with 
the exclamation, '^What does the Constitution 
amount to between friends f It would be un- 
seemly to suggest that in the heat of strife the 
majority in Congress had deliberately deter- 
mined to pass an unconstitutional law, but they 
evidently had reached the point where they 
considered that what seemed to them the public 
interest and safety justified them, whatever the 
risk might be, in setting aside the congressional 
construction given to the Constitution seventy- 
eight years before. 

The law passed in 1867 was exceedingly radi- 
cal, and in effect distinctly purported to confer 
upon the Senate the power of preventing the 
removal of officers without the consent of that 
body. It was provided that during a recess of 
the Senate an officer might be suspended only 
in case it was shown by evidence satisfactory to 
the President, that the incumbent was guilty of 
misconduct in office or crime, or when for anv 
reason he should become incapable or legally 
disqualified to perform his duties ; and that 
within twenty days after the beginning of the 
next session of the Senate, the President should 
report to that body such suspension, with the 
evidence and reasons for his action in the case, 


The Independence of the Executive 

and the name of the person designated by the 
President to perform temporarily the duties 
of the office. Then follows this provision : 

And if the Senate shall concur in such suspen- 
sion and advise and consent to the removal of such 
officer, they shall so certify to the President, who 
may thereupon remove said officer, and by and with 
the advice and consent of the Senate appoint another 
person to such office. But if the Senate shall refuse 
to concur in such suspension, such officer so sus- 
pended shall forthwith resume the functions of his 

On the 5th of AjDril, 1869, a month and a day 
after President Johnson was succeeded in the 
Presidency by General Grant, that part of the 
act of 1867 above referred to, having answered 
the purpose for which it was passed, was re- 
pealed, and other legislation was enacted in its 
place. It was provided in the new statute that 
the President might ''in his discretion,'' dur- 
ing the recess of that body, sus^Dend officials un- 
til the end of the next session of the Senate, and 
designate suitable persons to perform the du- 
ties of such suspended officer in the meantime ; 
and that such designated persons should be 
subject to removal in the discretion of the Pres- 
ident by the designation of others. The fol- 
lowing, in regard to the effect of such suspen- 


The Independence of the Executive 

sion, was inserted in lieu of the provision on 
that subject in the law of 1867 which I have 
quoted : 

And it shall be the duty of the President within 
thirty days after the commencement of each session 
of the Senate, except for any office which in his opin- 
ion ought not to be filled, to nominate persons to fill 
all vacancies in office which existed at the meeting of 
the Senate, whether temporarily filled or not, and 
also in the place of all officers suspended ; and if the 
Senate, during such session, shall refuse to advise 
and consent to an appointment in the place of any 
suspended officer, then, and not otherwise, the Presi- 
dent shall nominate another person as soon as practi- 
cable to said session of the Senate for said office. 

This was the condition of the so-called tenure 
of office legislation when a Democratic Presi- 
dent was inaugurated and placed in expected 
cooperation with a Eepublican majority in the 
Senate— well drilled, well organized, with parti- 
zanship enough at least to insure against in- 
difference to party advantage, and perhaps 
with here and there a trace of post-election irri- 

Whatever may be said as to the constitution- 
ality of the Tenure of Office laws of 1867 and 
1869, certainly the latter statute did not seem, 
in outside appearance, to be charged with explo- 
sive material that endangered Executive pre- 


The Independence of the Executive 

rogative. It grew out of a bill for the absolute 
and unconditional repeal of the law of 1867 re- 
lating to removals and suspensions. This bill 
originated in the House of Kepresentatives, and 
passed that body so nearly unanimously that 
only sixteen votes were recorded against it. In 
the Senate, however, amendments were pro- 
posed, which being rejected by the House, a 
committee of conference was appointed to ad- 
just, by compromise if possible, the controversy 
between the two bodies. This resulted in an 
agreement by the committee upon the i^rovi- 
sions of the law of 1869, as a settlement of the 
difficulty. In the debate in the House of Repre- 
sentatives on the report of the committee, great 
uncertainty and differences of opinion were de- 
veloped as to its meaning and effect. Even the 
House conferees differed in their explanation 
of it. Members were assured that the proposed 
modifications of the law of 1867, if adopted, 
would amount to its complete repeal ; and it was 
also asserted with equal confidence that some of 
its objectionable limitations upon executive au- 
thority would still remain in force. In this 
state of confusion and doubt the House of 
Eepresentatives, which a few days before had 
passed a measure for unconditional repeal, with 
only sixteen votes against it, adopted the report 


The Independence of the Executive 

of the conference committee with sixty-seven 
votes in the negative. 

So far as removals following suspensions are 
concerned, the language of the law of 1869 cer- 
tainly seems to justify the understanding that 
in this particular it virtually repealed the exist- 
ing statute. 

The provision permitting the President to 
suspend only on certain specified grounds was 
so changed as to allow him to make such suspen- 
sions ''in his discretion. ' ' The requirements 
that the President should report to the Senate 
' ' the evidence and reasons for his action in the 
case/' and making the advice and consent of 
the Senate necessary to the removal of a sus- 
pended officer, were entirely eliminated; and 
in lieu of the provision in the law of 1867 that 
"if the Senate shall refuse to concur in such 
suspension, such officer so suspended shall 
forthwith resume the functions of his office,'' 
the law of 1869, after requiring the President to 
send to the Senate nominations to fill the place 
of officers who had been ' ' in his discretion ' ' sus- 
pended, declared "that if the Senate, during 
such session, shall refuse to advise and consent 
to an appointment in the place of any sus- 
pended officer,"— that is, shall refuse to confirm 
the person appointed by the President in place 
^ 33 

The Independence of the Executive 

of the officer suspended,— not that "such officer 
so suspended shall resume the functions of his 
office,'^ but that "then, and not otherwise, the 
President shall nominate another person as 
soon as practicable to said session of the Senate 
for said office/' 

It seems to me that the gist of the whole mat- 
ter is contained in a comparison of these two 
provisions. Under the law of 1867 the incum- 
bent is only conditionally suspended, still hav- 
ing the right to resume his office in case the 
Senate refuses to concur in the suspension ; but 
under the law of 1869 the Senate had no con- 
cern with the suspension of the incumbent, nor 
with the discretion vested in the President in 
reference thereto by the express language of 
the statute; and the suspended incumbent was 
beyond official resuscitation. Instead of the 
least intimation that in any event he might 
"resume the functions of his office, '^ as pro- 
vided in the law of 1867, it is especially de- 
clared that in case the Senate shall refuse to 
advise and consent to the appointment of the 
particular person nominated by the President 
in place of the suspended official, he shall nomi- 
nate another person to the Senate for such 
office. Thus the party suspended seems to be 
eliminated from consideration, the Senate is 

The Independence of the Executive 

relegated to its constitutional rights of confirm- 
ing or rejecting nominations as it sees fit, and 
the President is reinstated in his undoubted 
constitutional power of removal through the 
form of suspension. 

In addition to what is apparent from a com- 
parison of these two statutes, it may not be 
improper to glance at certain phases of execu- 
tive and senatorial action since the passage of 
the law of 1869 as bearing ujDon the theory that, 
so far as it dealt with suspensions and their ef- 
fect, if it did not amount to a repeal of the law 
of 1867, it at least extinguished all its harmful 
vitality as a limitation of executive prerogative. 
It has been stated, apparently by authority, 
that President Grant within seven weeks after 
his inauguration on the 4th of March, 1869, sent 
to the Senate six hundred and eighty cases of 
removals or suspensions, all of which I assume 
were entirely proper and justifiable. I cannot 
tell how many of the cases thus submitted to the 
Senate were suspensions, nor how many of them 
purported to be removals ; nor do I know how 
many nominations of new officers accompany- 
ing them were confirmed. It appears that 
ninety-seven of them were withdrawn before 
they were acted upon by the Senate ; and inas- 
much as the law of 1867 was in force during 


The IncUpendence of the Executive 

four of the seven weeks within which these re- 
movals and suspensions were submitted, it is 
barely possible that these withdrawals were 
made during the four weeks when the law 
of 1867 was operative, to await a more con- 
venient season under the law of 1869. At- 
tention should be here called, however, to the 
dissatisfaction of President Grant, early in his 
incumbency, with the complexion of the situa- 
tion, even under the repealing and amendatory 
law of 1869. In his first annual message to the 
Congress in December, 1869, he complained of 
that statute as ' ' being inconsistent with a faith- 
ful and efficient administration of the Govern- 
ment, '' and recommended its repeal. Perhaps 
he was led to apprehend that the Senate would 
claim under its provisions the power to prevent 
the President from putting out of office an un- 
desirable official by suspension. This is indi- 
cated by the following sentence in his message : 
^^Wliat faith can an Executive put in officials 
forced upon him, and those, too, whom he has 
suspended for reason ? " Or it may be possible 
that he did not then appreciate how accommo- 
datingly the law might be construed or enforced 
when the President and Senate were in political 
accord. However these things may be, it is im- 


The Independence of the Executive 

portant to observe, in considering the light in 
which the law of 1869 came to be regarded by 
both the Executive and the Senate, that Presi- 
dent Grant did not deem it necessary afterward 
to renew his recommendation for its repeal, 
and that at no time since its enactment has its 
existence been permitted to embarrass execu- 
tive action prior to the inauguration of a Presi- 
dent politically opposed to the majority in the 

The review which I have thus made of the 
creation of our national Executive office, and 
of certain events and incidents which inter- 
preted its powers and functions, leads me now 
to a detailed account of the incident mentioned 
by me at the beginning as related to the general 
subject under discussion and in which I was 
personally concerned. But before proceeding 
further, I desire to say that any allusion I may 
have made, or may hereafter make, recognizing 
the existence of partizanship in certain quarters 
does not arise from a spirit of complaint or con- 
demnation. I intend no more by such allusions 
than to explain and illustrate the matters with 
which I have to deal by surrounding conditions 
and circumstances. I fully appreciate the fact 
that partizanship follows party organization, 


The Independence of the Executive 

that it is apt to be unduly developed in all par- 
ties, and that it often hampers the best aspira- 
tions and purposes of public life ; but I hope I 
have reached a condition when I can recall such 
adverse partizanship as may have entered into 
past conflicts and perplexities, without mislead- 
ing irritation or prejudice. 



Immediately after the change of administra- 
tion in 1885, the pressure began for the oust- 
ing of Republican office-holders and the sub- 
stitution of Democrats in their places. While 
I claim to have earned a position which en- 
titles me to resent the accusation that I either 
openly or covertly favor swift official decapi- 
tation for partizan purposes, I have no sym- 
pathy with the intolerant people who, without 
the least appreciation of the meaning of party 
work and service, superciliously affect to de- 
spise all those who apply for office as they 
would those guilty of a flagrant misdemeanor. 
It will indeed be a happy day when the ascen- 
dancy of party principles, and the attainment 
of wholesome administration, will be univer- 
sally regarded as sufficient rewards of individ- 
ual and legitimate party service. Much has 
already been accomplished in the direction of 
closing the door of partizanship as an entrance 
to public employment ; and though this branch 
of effort in the public interest may well be still 


The Independence of the Executive 

further extended, sucli extension certainly 
should be supplemented by earnest and persua- 
sive attempts to correct among our people long- 
cherished notions concerning the ends that 
should be sought through political activity, and 
by efforts to ujDroot i3ernicious and office-re- 
warding political methods. I am not sure that 
any satisfactory progress can be made toward 
these results, until our good men with unani- 
mity cease regarding politics as necessarily 
debasing, and by active jDarticipation shall dis- 
place the selfish and unworthy who, when unin- 
terrupted, control party operations. In the 
meantime, why should we indiscriminately hate 
those who seek office! They may not have en- 
tirely emancipated themselves from the belief 
that the offices should pass with party victory; 
but even if this is charged against them, it can 
surely be said that in all other respects they are 
in many instances as honest, as capable, and as 
intelligent as any of us. There may be reasons 
and considerations which properly defeat their 
aspirations, but their applications are not al- 
ways disgraceful. I have an idea that some- 
times the greatest difference between them and 
those who needlessly abuse them and gloat over 
their discomfiture, consists in the fact that the 
office-seekers desire office, and their critics, be- 


The Independence of the Executive 

ing more profitably employed, do not. I feel 
constrained to say this much by way of de- 
fending, or at least excusing, many belonging 
to a numerous contingent of citizens, who, after 
the 4th of March, 1885, made large drafts upon 
my time, vitality, and patience ; and I feel bound 
to say that in view of their frequent disap- 
pointments, and the difficulty they found in 
appreciating the validity of the reasons given 
for refusing their applications, they accepted 
the situation with as much good nature and con- 
tentment as could possibly have been antici- 
pated. It must be remembered that they and 
their party associates had been banished from 
Federal office-holding for twenty-four years. 

I have no disposition to evade the fact that 
suspensions of officials holding presidential 
commissions began promptly and were quite 
vigorously continued; but I confidently claim 
that every suspension made was with honest 
intent and, I believe, in accordance with the 
requirements of good administration and con- 
sistent with prior executive pledges. Some of 
these officials held by tenures unlimited as to 
their duration. Among these were certain in- 
ternal-revenue officers who, it seemed to me, 
in analogy with others doing similar work but 
having a limited tenure, ought to consider a like 


The Independence of the Executive 

limited period of incumbency their proper term 
of office; and there were also consular officials 
and others attached to the foreign service who, 
I believe it was then generally understood, 
should be politically in accord with the admin- 

By far the greater number of suspensions, 
however, were made on account of gross and 
indecent partizan conduct on the part of the 
incumbents. The preceding presidential cam- 
paign, it will be recalled, was exceedingly 
bitter, and governmental officials then in place 
were apparently so confident of the continued 
supremacy of their party that some of them 
made no pretense of decent behavior. In nu- 
merous instances the post-offices were made 
headquarters for local party committees and or- 
ganizations and the centers of partizan schem- 
ing. Party literature favorable to the postmas- 
ters ' party, that never passed regularly through 
the mails, was distributed through the post-of- 
fices as an item of party service, and matter of a 
political character, passing through the mails 
in the usual course and addressed to patrons be- 
longing to the opposite party, was withheld; 
disgusting and irritating placards were promi- 
nently displayed in many post-offices, and the 
attention of Democratic inquirers for mail mat- 


The Independence of the Executive 

ter was tauntingly directed to them by the post- 
master ; and in various other ways postmasters 
and similar officials annoyed and vexed those 
holding" opposite political opinions, who, in 
common with all having business at public of- 
fices, were entitled to considerate and obliging 
treatment. In some quarters official incumbents 
neglected public duty to do political work, and 
especially in Southern States they frequently 
were not only inordinately active in question- 
able political work, but sought to do party ser- 
vice by secret and sinister manipulation of col- 
ored voters, and by other practices inviting 
avoidable and dangerous collisions between the 
white and colored population. 

I mention these things in order that what I 
shall say later may be better understood. I by 
no means attempt to describe all the wrong- 
doing which formed the basis of many of the 
suspensions of officials that followed the inau- 
guration of the new administration. I merely 
mention some of the accusations which I recall 
as having been frequently made, by way of il- 
lustrating in a general way certain phases of 
pernicious partizanship that seemed to me to 
deserve prompt and decisive treatment. Some 
suspensions, however, were made on proof of 
downright official malfeasance. Complaints 


The Independence of the Executive 

against office-holders based on personal trans- 
gression or iDartizan misconduct were usually 
made to the Executive and to the heads of de- 
partments by means of letters, ordinarily per- 
sonal and confidential, and also often by means 
of verbal communications. Whatever i3apers, 
letters, or documents were received on the sub- 
ject, either by the President or by any head of 
department, were, for convenience of reference, 
placed together on department files. These 
complaints were carefully examined; many 
were cast aside as frivolous or lacking support, 
while others, deemed of sufficient gravity and 
adequately established, resulted in the suspen- 
sion of the accused officials. 

Suspensions instead of immediate removals 
were resorted to, because under the law then 
existing it appeared to be the only way that 
during a recess of the Senate an offending of- 
ficial could be ousted from his office, and his 
successor installed pending his nomination to 
the Senate at its next session. Though, as we 
have already seen, the law permitted suspen- 
sions by the President ''in his discretion," I 
considered myself restrained by the pledges I 
had made from availing myself of the discretion 
thus granted without reasons, and felt bound to 


The Independence of the Executive 

make suspensions of officials having a definite 
term to serve, only for adequate cause. 

It will be observed further on that no resis- 
tance was then made to the laws pertaining to 
executive removals and suspensions, on the 
ground of their unconstitutionality ; but I have 
never believed that either the law of 1867 or the 
law of 1869, when construed as permitting in- 
terference with the freedom of the President in 
making removals, would survive a judicial test 
of its constitutionality. 

Within thirty days after the Senate met in 
December, 1885, the nominations of the persons 
who had been designated to succeed officials 
suspended during the vacation were sent to that 
body for confirmation, pursuant to existing 

It was charged against me by the leader of 
the majority in the Senate that these nomina- 
tions of every kind and description, represent- 
ing the suspensions made within ten months 
succeeding the 4th of March, 1885, numbered 
six hundred and forty-three. I have not veri- 
fied this statement, but I shall assume that it is 
correct. Among the officials suspended there 
were two hundred and seventy-eight postmas- 
ters, twenty-eight district attorneys, and 


The Independence of the Executive 

twenty-four marshals, and among those who 
held offices with no specified term there were 
sixty-one internal-revenue officers and sixty-five 
consuls and other persons attached to the for- 
eign service. 

It was stated on the floor of the Senate, after 
it had been in session for three months, that 
of the nominations submitted to that body to 
fill the places of suspended officials fifteen had 
been confirmed and two rejected. 

Quite early in the session frequent requests 
in writing began to issue from the different 
committees of the Senate to which these nomi- 
nations were referred, directed to the heads of 
the several departments having supervision of 
the offices to which the nominations related, ask- 
ing the reasons for the suspension of officers 
whose places it was proposed to fill by means 
of the nominations submitted, and for all 
papers on file in their departments which 
showed the reasons for such suspensions. 
These requests foreshadowed what the sena- 
torial construction of the law of 1869 might 
be, and indicated that the Senate, notwithstand- 
ing constitutional limitations, and even in the 
face of the repeal of the statutory provision 
giving it the right to pass upon suspensions 
by the President, was still inclined to insist, di- 


The independence of the Executive 

rectly or indirectly, upon that right. These re- 
quests, as I have said, emanated from commit- 
tees of the Senate, and were addressed to the 
heads of departments. As long as such requests 
were made by committees I had no oppor- 
tunity to discuss the questions growing out of 
such requests with the Senate itself, or to make 
known directly to that body the position on this 
subject which I felt bound to assert. Therefore 
the replies made to committees by the different 
heads of departments stated that by direction 
of the President they declined furnisliing the 
reasons and papers so requested, on the ground 
that the public interest would not be thereby 
promoted, or on the ground that such reasons 
and papers related to a purely executive act. 
Whatever language was used in these replies, 
they conveyed the information that the Presi- 
dent had directed a denial of the requests made, 
because in his opinion the Senate could have no 
proper concern with the information sought to 
be obtained. 

It may not be amiss to mention here that 
while this was the position assumed by the Ex- 
ecutive in relation to suspensions, all the in- 
formation of any description in the possession 
of the Executive or in any of the departments, 
which would aid in determining the character 


The Independence of the Executive 

and fitness of those nominated in place of sus- 
pended officials, was cheerfully and promptly 
furnished to the Senate or its committees when 

In considering the requests made for the 
transmission of the reasons for suspensions, 
and the papers relating thereto, I could not 
avoid the conviction that a compliance with such 
requests would be to that extent a failure to 
protect and defend the Constitution, as well as 
a wrong to the great office I held in trust for 
the people, and which I was bound to transmit 
unimpaired to my successors; nor could I be 
unmindful of a tendency in some quarters to 
encroach upon executive functions, or of the 
eagerness with which executive concession 
would be seized upon as establishing precedent. 

The nominations sent to the Senate remained 
neglected in the committees to which they had 
been referred; the requests of the committees 
for reasons and papers touching suspensions 
were still refused, and it became daily more 
apparent that a sharp contest was impending. 
In this condition of affairs it was plainly in- 
timated by members of the majority in the Sen- 
ate that if all charges against suspended officials 
were abandoned and their suspensions based 
entirely upon the ground that the spoils be- 


The Independence of the Executive 

longed to the victors, confirmations would fol- 
low. This, of course, from my standpoint, 
would have been untruthful and dishonest; but 
the suggestion indicated that in the minds of 
some Senators, at least, there was a determina- 
tion to gain a partizan advantage by discredit- 
ing the professions of the President, who, for the 
time, represented the party they opposed. This 
manifestly could be thoroughly done by induc- 
ing him to turn his back upon the pledges he had 
made, and to admit, for the sake of peace, that 
his action arose solely from a desire to put his 
party friends in place. 

Up to this stage of the controversy, not one 
of the many requests made for the reasons of 
suspensions or for the papers relating to them 
had been sent from the Senate itself; nor 
had any of them been addressed to the Presi- 
dent. It may seem not only strange that, in 
the existing circumstances, the Senate should 
have so long kept in the background, but more 
strange that the Executive, constituting a coor- 
dinate branch of the Government, and having 
such exclusive concern in the pending differ- 
ences, should have been so comjDletely ignored. 
I cannot think it uncharitable to suggest in ex- 
planation that as long as these requests and 
refusals were confined to Senate committees 


The Independence of the Executive 

and heads of departments, a public communica- 
tion stating the iDOsition of the President in the 
controversy would probably be avoided; and 
that, as was subsequently made more apparent, 
there was an intent, in addressing requests to 
the heads of departments, to lay a foundation 
for the contention that not only the Senate but 
its committees had a right to control these heads 
of departments as against the President in mat- 
ters relating to executive duty. 

On the 17th of July, 1885, during the recess 
of the Senate, one George M. Duskin was sus- 
pended from the office of District Attorney for 
the Southern District of Alabama, and John 
D. Burnett was designated as his successor. 
The latter at once took possession of the office, 
and entered upon the discharge of its duties; 
and on the 14th of December, 1885, the Senate 
having in the meantime convened in regular 
session, the nomination of Burnett was sent to 
that bodv for confirmation. This nomination, 
pursuant to the rules and customs of the Senate, 
was referred to its Committee on the Judiciary. 
On the 26th of December, that committee then 
having the nomination under consideration, one 
of its members addressed a communication to 
the Attornev-General of the United States, re- 
questing him, "on behalf of the Committee on 


The Independence of the Executive 

the Judiciary of the Senate and by its direc- 
tion, ' ' to send to such member of the committee 
all papers and information in the possession of 
the Department of Justice touching the nomi- 
nation of Burnett, ' ' also all papers and informa- 
tion touching the suspension and proposed re- 
moval from office of George M. Duskin.'^ On 
the 11th of January, 1886, the Attorney-Gen- 
eral responded to this request in these terms : 

The Attorney-General states that he sends here- 
with all papers, etc., touching the nomination re- 
ferred to; and in reference to the papers touching 
the suspension of Duskin from office, he has as yet 
received no direction from the President in relation 
to their transmission. 

At this point it seems to have been decided 
for the first time that the Senate itself should 
enter upon the scene as interrogator. It was 
not determined, however, to invite the Presi- 
dent to answer this new interrogator, either for 
the protection and defense of his high office 
or in self-vindication. It appears to have been 
also decided at this time to give another form 
to the effort the Senate itself was to undertake 
to secure the ^'papers and information^* which 
its Committee had been unable to secure. In 
pursuance of this plan the following resolution 


Tbe Independence of the Executive 

was adoi^ted by the Senate in executive session 
on the 25th of January, 1886 : 

Resolved, That the Attorney-General of the United 
States be, and he hereby is, directed to transmit to 
the Senate copies of all documents and papers that 
have been filed in the Department of Justice since 
the 1st day of January, a.d. 1885, in relation to the 
conduct of the office of District Attorney of the 
United States for the Southern District of Alabama. 

The language of this resolution is more adroit 
than ingenuous. ^Vhile appearing reasonable 
and fair upon its face, and presenting no indi- 
cation that it in any way related to a case of 
suspension, it quickly assumes its real com- 
plexion when examined in the light of its sur- 
roundings. The requests previously made on 
behalf of Senate committees had ripened into a 
^ ^ demand ' ' by the Senate itself. Herein is found 
support for the suggestion I have made, that 
from the beginning there might have been an 
intent on the part of the Senate to claim that 
the heads of departments, who are members of 
the President's Cabinet and his trusted asso- 
ciates and advisers, owed greater obedience to 
the Senate than to their executive chief in af- 
fairs which he and they regarded as exclusively 
within executive functions. As to the real 
meaning and purpose of the resolution, a glance 


The Independence of the Executive 

at its accompanying conditions and the inci- 
dents preceding it makes manifest the insuf- 
ficiency of its disguise. This resolution was 
adopted by the Senate in executive session, 
where the entire senatorial business done is the 
consideration of treaties and the confirmation 
of nominations for office. At the time of its 
adoption Duskin had been suspended for more 
than six months, his successor had for that 
length of time been in actual possession of the 
office, and this successor 's nomination was then 
before the Senate in executive session for 
confirmation. The demand was for copies of 
documents and papers in relation to the con- 
duct of the office filed since January 1, 1885, 
thus covering a period of incumbency almost 
equally divided between the suspended officer 
and the person nominated to succeed him. The 
documents and papers demanded could not have 
been of any possible use to the Senate in ex- 
ecutive session, except as they had a bearing 
either upon the suspension of the one or the 
nomination of the other. But as we have al- 
ready seen, the Attorney-General had previ- 
ously sent to a committee of the Senate all the 
papers he had in his custody in any way re- 
lating to the nomination and the fitness of the 
nominee, whether such papers had reference 


The Independence of the Executive 

to the conduct of the office or otherwise. Ex- 
cluding, therefore, such documents and papers 
embraced in the demand as related to the pend- 
ing nomination, and which had already been 
transmitted, it was plain that there was nothing 
left with the Attorney-General that could be in- 
cluded in the demand of the Senate in its execu- 
tive session except what had reference to the 
conduct of the previous incumbent and his sus- 
pension. It is important to recall in this con- 
nection the fact that this subtle demand of the 
Senate for papers relating '^to the conduct of 
the office '* followed closely upon a failure to 
obtain ^^all papers and information'' touching 
said suspension, in response to a plain and 
blunt request specifying precisely what was de- 



I have referred to these matters because it 
seems to me they indicate the animus and intent 
which characterized the first stages of a dis- 
cussion that involved the rights and functions 
of the Executive branch of the Government. 
It was perfectly apparent that the issue was 
between the President and the Senate, and that 
the question constituting that issue was whether 
or not the Executive was invested with the right 
and power to suspend officials without the in- 
terference of the Senate or any accountability 
to that body for the reasons of his action. It 
was also manifest if it was desired to deal with 
this issue directly and fairly, disembarrassed 
by any finesse for position, it could at any time 
have been easily done, if only one of the many 
requests for reasons for suspensions, which 
were sent by committees of the Senate to heads 
of departments, had been sent by the Senate it- 
self to the President. 

Within three days after the passage by the 
Senate, in executive session, of the resolution 


The Independence of the Executive 

directing the Attorney-General to transmit to 
that body the documents and papers on file re- 
lating to the management and conduct of the 
office from which Mr. Duskin had been re- 
moved, and to which Mr. Burnett had been 
nominated, the Attorney-General replied th^e- 
to as follows : 

In response to the said resolution, the President of 
the United States directs me to say that the papers 
that were in this department relating to the fitness of 
John D. Burnett, recently nominated to said office, 
having already been sent to the Senate Committee on 
the Judiciary, and the papers and documents which 
are mentioned in the said resolution, and still remain- 
ing in the custody of this department, having exclu- 
sive reference to the suspension by the President of 
George M. Duskin, the late incumbent of the office of 
District Attorney for the Southern District of Ala- 
bama, it is not considered that the public interests 
will be promoted by a compliance with said resolu- 
tion and the transmission of the papers and docu- 
ments therein mentioned to the Senate in executive 

This response of the Attorney-General was 
referred to the Senate Committee on the Ju- 
diciary. Early in February, 1886, a majority 
of the committee made a report to the Senate, 
in which it seems to have been claimed that all 
papers— whatever may be their personal, pri- 
vate, or confidential character— if placed on 
file, or, in other words, if deposited in the office 


The Iiidependetice of the Executive 

of the head of a department, became thereupon 
official papers, and that the Senate had there- 
fore a right to their transmittal when they had 
reference to the conduct of a suspended official, 
and when that body had under advisement the 
confirmation of his proposed successor. Much 
stress was laid upon the professions made by 
the President of his adherence to Civil Service 
reform methods, and it was broadly hinted that, 
in the face of six hundred and forty-three sus- 
pensions from office, these professions could 
hardly be sincere. Instances were cited in 
which papers and information had been de- 
manded and furnished in previous administra- 
tions, and these were claimed to be precedents 
in favor of the position assumed by the ma- 
jority of the committee. Almost at the outset 
of the report it was declared : 

The important question, then, is whether it is 
within the constitutional competence of either House 
of Congress to have access to the official papers and 
documents in the various public offices of the United 
States, created by laws enacted by themselves. 

In conclusion, the majority recommended the 
adoption by the Senate of the following resolu- 
tions : 

Kesolved, That the Senate hereby expresses its 
condemnation of the refusal of the Attorney-General, 
under whatever influence, to send to the Senate 


The Independence of the Executive 

copies of papers called for by its resolution of the 
25th of January and set forth in the report of the 
Committee on the Judiciary, as in violation of his 
official duty and subversive of the fundamental prin- 
ciples of the Government, and of a good administra- 
tion thereof. 

Resolved, That it is under these circumstances the 
duty of the Senate to refuse its advice and consent 
to proposed removals of officers, the documents and 
papers in reference to the supposed official or per- 
sonal misconduct of whom are withheld by the Ex- 
ecutive or any head of a department when deemed 
necessary by the Senate and called for in considering 
the matter. 

Resolved, That the provision of Section 1754 of 
the Revised Statutes, declaring that persons honor- 
ably discharged from the military or naval service 
by reason of disability resulting from wounds or 
sickness incurred in the line of duty shall be pre- 
ferred for appointment to civil offices provided they 
are found to possess the business capacity necessary 
for the proper discharge of the duties of such offices, 
ought to be faithfully and fully put in execution, 
and that to remove or to propose to remove any such 
soldier whose faithfulness, competency, and char- 
acter are above reproach, and to give place to another 
who has not rendered such service, is a violation of 
the spirit of the law and of the practical gratitude 
the people and the Government of the United States 
owe to the defenders of constitutional liberty and the 
integrity of the Government. 

The first of these resolutions contains charges 
which, if true, should clearly furnish grounds 


The Independence of the Executive 

for the impeachment of the Attorney-General 
—if not the President under whose ''influence" 
he concededly refused to submit the papers de- 
manded by the Senate. A public officer whose 
acts are ''in violation of his official duty and 
subversive of the fundamental principles of the 
Government, and of a good administration 
thereof, ' ' can scarcely add anything to his pre- 
dicament of guilt. 

The second resolution has the merit of hon- 
esty in confessing that the intent and object of 
the demand upon the Attorney-General was to 
secure the demanded papers and documents for 
the purpose of passing upon the President's 
reasons for suspension. Beyond this, the dec- 
laration it contains, that it was the "duty of 
the Senate to refuse its advice and consent to 
proposed removals of officers ' ' when the papers 
and documents relating to their "supposed of- 
ficial or personal misconduct" were withheld, 
certainly obliged the Senate, if the resolution 
should be adopted, and if the good faith of that 
body in the controversy should be assumed, 
to reject or ignore all nominations made to 
succeed suspended officers unless the documents 
and papers upon which the suspension was 
based were furnished and the Senate was 
thus given an opportunity to review and re- 


The Independence of the Executive 

verse or confirm the President's executive act, 
resting, by the very terms of existing law, ^^in 
his discretion." 

The third resolution is grandly phrased, 
and its sentiment is patriotic, noble, and in- 
spiriting. Inasmuch, however, as the removal 
of veteran soldiers from office did not seem to 
assume any considerable prominence in the 
arraignment of the administration, the object 
of the resolution is slightly obscure, unless, 
as was not unusual in those days, the cause of 
the old soldier was impressed into the service 
of the controversy for purposes of general 

A minority report was subsequently submit- 
ted, signed by all the Democratic members of 
the committee, in which the allegations of the 
majority report were sharply controverted. It 
was therein positively asserted that no instance 
could be found in the practice of the Govern- 
ment whose similarity in its essential features 
entitled it to citation as an authoritative prece- 
dent ; and that neither the Constitution nor the 
existing law afforded any justification for the 
action of the Senate in the promises. 

These two reports, of course, furnished 
abundant points of controversy. About the 
time of their submission, moreover, another 


The Independence of the Executive 

document was addressed to the Senate, which, 
whatever else may be said of it, seems to have 
contributed considerably to the spirit and ani- 
mation of the discussion that ensued. This was 
a message from the President, in which his posi- 
tion concerning the matter in dispute was 
defined. In this communication the complete 
and absolute responsibility of the President for 
all suspensions and the fact that the Executive 
had been afforded no opportunity to speak for 
himself was stated in the following terms: 

Though these suspensions are my executive acts 
based upon considerations addressed to me alone, 
and for which I am wholly responsible, I have had 
no invitation from the Senate to state the position 
which I have felt constrained to assume in relation 
to the same, or to interpret for myself my acts and 
motives in the premises. In this condition of affairs 
I have forborne addressing the Senate upon the sub- 
ject, lest I might be accused of thrusting myself un- 
bidden upon the attention of that body. 

This statement was accompanied by the ex- 
pression of a hope that the misapprehension 
of the Executive position, indicated in the ma- 
jority report just presented and published, 
might excuse his then submitting a communica- 
tion. He commented upon the statement in the 
report that ^'the important question, then, is 


The Independence of the Executive 

whether it is within the constitutional compe- 
tence of either House of Congress to have ac- 
cess to the official papers and documents in the 
various public offices of the United States, 
created by laws enacted by themselves, ^ ' by sug- 
gesting that though public officials of the United 
States might be created by laws enacted by the 
two Houses of Congress, this fact did not neces- 
sarily subject their offices to congressional con- 
trol, but, on the contrary, that ''these instru- 
mentalities were created for the benefit of the 
people, and to answer the general purposes of 
government under the Constitution and the 
laws; and that they are unencumbered by any 
lien in favor of either branch of Congress grow- 
ing out of their construction, and unembar- 
rassed by any obligation to the Senate as the 
price of their creation. ' ' While not conceding 
that the Senate had in any case the right to re- 
view Executive action in suspending officials, 
the President disclaimed any intention to with- 
hold official loapers and documents when re- 
quested ; and as to such papers and documents, 
he expressed his willingness, because they were 
official, to continue, as he had theretofore done 
in all cases, to lay them before the Senate with- 
out inquiry as to the use to be made of them, 
and relying upon the Senate for their legi- 


The Independence of the Executive 

timate utilization. The proposition was 
expressly denied, however, that papers and doc- 
uments inherently private or confidential, ad- 
dressed to the President or a head of depart- 
ment, having reference to an act so entirely 
executive in its nature as the suspension of an 
official, and which was by the Constitution as 
well as by existing law placed within the discre- 
tion of the President, were changed in their 
nature and instantly became official when placed 
for convenience or for other reasons in the 
custody of a public department. The conten- 
tion of the President was thus stated: 

There is no mysterious power of transmutation in 
departmental custody, nor is there magic in the un- 
defined and sacred solemnity of departmental files. 
If the presence of these papers in the public ofiice 
is a stumbling-block in the way of the performance 
of senatorial duty, it can be easily removed. 

The Senate's purposes were characterized in 
the message as follows : 

The requests and demands which by the score 
have for nearly three months been presented to the 
different departments of the Government, whatever 
may be their form, have but one complexion. They 
assume the right of the Senate to sit in judgment 
upon the exercise of my exclusive discretion and Ex- 
ecutive function, for which I am solely responsible to 


The Independence of the Executive 

the people from whom I have so lately received the 
sacred trust of office. My oath to support and de- 
fend the Constitution, my duty to the people who 
have chosen me to execute the powers of their great 
office and not relinquish them, and my duty to the 
chief magistracy which I must preserve unimpaired 
in all its dignity and vigor, compel me to refuse com- 
pliance with these demands. 

This was immediately supplemented by the 
following concession of the independent and 
unlimited power of the Senate in the matter of 
confirmation : 

To the end that the service may be improved, the 
Senate is invited to the fullest scrutiny of the per- 
sons submitted to them for public office, in recog- 
nition of the constitutional power of that body to 
advise and consent to their appointment. I shall 
continue, as I have thus far done, to furnish, at the 
request of the confirming body, all the information 
I possess touching the fitness of the nominees placed 
before them for their action, both when they are 
proposed to fill vacancies and to take the place of sus- 
pended officials. Upon a refusal to confirm, I shall 
not assume the right to ask the reasons for the action 
of the Senate nor question its determination. I can- 
not think that anything more is required to secure 
worthy incumbents in public office than a careful 
and independent discharge of our respective duties 
within their well-defined limits. 

As it was hardly concealed that by no means 
the least important senatorial purpose in the 


The Independence of the Executive 

pending controversy was to discredit the Civil 
Service reform pledges and professions of tlie 
Executive, this issue was thus distinctly in- 
vited at the close of the message : 

Every pledge I have made by which I have 
placed a limitation upon my exercise of executive 
power has been faithfully redeemed. Of course the 
pretense is not put forth that no mistakes have been 
committed ; but not a suspension has been made ex- 
cept it appeared to my satisfaction that the public 
welfare would be promoted thereby. Many applica- 
tions for suspension have been denied, and an ad- 
herence to the rule laid down to govern my action as 
to such suspensions has caused much irritation and 
impatience on the part of those who have insisted 
upon more changes in the offices. 

The pledges I have made were made to the peo- 
ple, and to them I am responsible for the manner in 
which they have been redeemed. I am not respon- 
sible to the Senate, and I am unwilling to submit 
my actions and official conduct to them for judgment. 

There are no grounds for an allegation that the 
fear of being found false to my professions influ- 
ences me in declining to submit to the demands of the 
Senate. I have not constantly refused to suspend 
officials and thus incurred the displeasure of political 
friends, and yet wilfully broken faith with the peo- 
ple, for the sake of being false to them. 

Neither the discontent of party friends nor the 
allurements, constantly offered, of confirmation of 
appointees conditioned upon the avowal that suspen- 
sions have been made on party grounds alone, nor 
the threat proposed in the resolutions now before the 

5 65 

The Independence of the Executive 

Senate that no confirmation will be made unless the 
demands of that body be complied with, are suffi- 
cient to discourag:e or deter me from following in the 
way which I am convinced leads to better govern- 
ment for the people. 

The temper and disposition of the Senate 
may be correctly judged, I think, from the re- 
marks made upon the jDresentation of this mes- 
sage by the chairman of the Committee on the 
Judiciary and the acknowledged leader of the 
majority. On a formal motion that the mes- 
sage be printed and lie upon the table, he 
moved as an amendment that it be referred to 
the committee of which he was chairman, and 

I merely wish to remark, in moving to refer this 
document to the Committee on the Judiciary, that 
it very vividly brought to my mind the communica- 
tions of King Charles I to the Parliament, telling 
them what, in conducting their affairs, they ought to 
do and ought not to do ; and I think I am safe in say- 
ing that it is the first time in the history of the re- 
publican United States that any President of the 
United States has undertaken to interfere with the 
deliberations of either House of Congress on ques- 
tions pending before them, otherwise than by mes- 
sages on the state of the Union which the Constitu- 
tion commands him to make from time to time. This 
message is devoted simply to a question for the Sen- 
ate itself, in regard to itself, that it has under con- 
sideration. That is its singularity. I think it will 


The Independence of the Executive 

strike reflecting people in this country as somewhat 
extraordinary— if in this day of reform anything at 
all can be thought extraordinary. 

King Charles I fared badly at the hands of 
the Parliament; but it was most reassuring to 
know that, after all said and done, the Senate of 
the United States was not a bloodthirsty body, 
and that the chairman of its Committee on the 
Judiciary was one of the most courteous and 
amiable of men— at least when outside of the 

The debate upon the questions presented by 
the report and resolutions recommended by the 
majority of the committee, and by the minority 
report and the presidential message, occupied 
almost exclusively the sessions of the Senate for 
over two weeks. More than twenty-five Sena- 
tors participated, and the discussion covered 
such a wide range of argument that all consid- 
erations relevant to the subject, and some not 
clearly related to it, seem to have been pre- 
sented. At the close of the debate, the resolu- 
tion condemning the Attorney-General for with- 
holding the papers and documents which the 
Senate had demanded was passed by thirty-two 
votes in the affirmative and twenty-five in the 
negative; the next resolution, declaring it to 
be the dutv of the Senate to refuse its advice 


The Independence of the Executive 

and consent to proposed removals of officers 
when papers and documents in reference to 
their alleged misconduct were withheld, was 
adopted by a majority of only a single vote; 
and the proclamation contained in the third 
resolution, setting forth the obligations of the 
Government and its people to the veterans of 
the civil war, was unanimously approved, ex- 
cept for one dissenting voice. 

The controversy thus closed arose from the 
professed anxiety of the majority in the Senate 
to guard the interests of an official who was sus- 
pended from office in July, 1885, and who was 
still claimed to be in a condition of suspension. 
In point of fact, however, that official's term of 
office expired by limitation on the 20th of De- 
cember, 1885— before the demand for papers 
and documents relating to his conduct in office 
was made, before the resolutions and reports 
of the Committee on the Judiciary were pre- 
sented, and before the commencement of the 
long discussion in defense of the right of a sus- 
pended incumbent. This situation escajDed no- 
tice in Executive quarters, because the ap- 
pointee to succeed the suspended officer having 
been actually installed and in the discharge of 
the duties of the position for more than six 
months, and his nomination having been sent 


The Independence of the Executive 

to the Senate very soon after the beginning of 
its session, the situation or duration of the 
former incumbent 's term was not kept in mind. 
The expiration of his term was, however, dis- 
tinctly alleged in the Senate on the second day 
of the discussion, and by the first speaker in 
opposition to the majority report. The ques- 
tion of suspension or removal was therefore 
eliminated from the case and the discussion as 
related to the person suspended continued as a 
sort of post-mortem proceeding. Shortly after 
the resolutions of the committee were loassed, 
the same person who superseded the suspended 
and defunct officer was again nominated to suc- 
ceed him by reason of the expiration of his 
term; and this nomination was confirmed. 

At last, after stormy weather, Duskin, the 
suspended, and Burnett, his successor, were at 
rest. The earnest contention that beat about 
their names ceased, and no shout of triumph 
disturbed the supervening quiet. 


I have thus attempted, after fourteen years of 
absolute calm, to recount the prominent details 
of the strife; and I hope that interest in the 
subject is still sufficient to justify me in a fur- 
ther brief reference to some features of the 
dispute and certain incidents that followed it, 
which may aid to a better appreciation of its 
true character and motive. 

Of the elaborate speeches made in support 
of the resolutions and the committee's majority 
report, seven dealt more or less prominently 
with the President's Civil Service reform pro- 
fessions and his pledges against the removal of 
officials on i3urely partizan grounds. It seems 
to have been assumed that these pledges had 
been violated. At any rate, without any evi- 
dence worthy of the name, charges of such vio- 
lation ranged all the way from genteel insinua- 
tion to savage accusation. Senators who would 
have stoutly refused to vote for the spoils sys- 
tem broadly intimated or openly declared that 
if suspensions had been made confessedly on 


The Independence of the Executive 

partizan grounds they would have interposed 
no opposition. The majority seem to have es- 
pecially admired and applauded the antics of 
one of their number, who, in intervals of lurid 
and indiscriminate vituperation, gleefully min- 
gled ridicule for Civil Service reform with 
praise of the forbidding genius of partizan 
spoils. In view of these deliverances and as 
bearing upon their relevancy, as well as indi- 
cating their purpose, let me again suggest that 
the issue involved in the discussion as selected 
by the majority of the Committee on the Ju- 
diciary, and distinctly declared in their report, 
was whether, as a matter of right, or, as the 
report expresses it, as within ''constitutional 
competence, ' ^ either House of Congress should 
''have access to the official papers and docu- 
ments in the various public offices of the United 
States, created by laws enacted by themselves. ' ' 
It will be readily seen that if the question was 
one of senatorial right, the President's Civil 
Service reform pledges had no honest or legiti- 
mate place in the discussion. 

The debate and the adoption of the resolu- 
tions reported by the committee caused no sur- 
render of the Executive position. Neverthe- 
less, confirmations of those nominated in place 
of suspended officers soon began, and I cannot 


Tbe Independence of the Executive 

recall any further embarrassment or difficulty 
on that score. I ought to add, however, that in 
many cases, at least, these confirmations were 
accompanied by reports from the committee to 
which they had been referred, stating that the 
late incumbent had been suspended for ''po- 
litical reasons," or on account of "offensive 
partizanship, " or for a like reason, differently 
expressed, and that nothing was alleged against 
them affecting their jDcrsonal character. If the 
terms thus used by the committee in designating 
causes for suspension mean that the persons 
suspended were guilty of offensive partizan- 
ship or political offenses, as distinguished from 
personal offenses and moral or official delin- 
quencies, I am satisfied with the statement. 
And here it occurs to me to suggest that if of- 
fenses and moral or official delinquencies, not 
XJartizan in their nature, had existed, they 
would have been subjects for official ins^Dection 
and report, and such reports, being official doc- 
uments, would have been submitted to the com- 
mittee or to the Senate, according to custom, 
and would have told their own story and ex- 
cluded committee comment. 

It is worth recalling, when referring to com- 
mittee reports on nomination, that they belong 
to the executive business of the Senate, and are, 


Tbe Independence of the Executive 

therefore, among the secrets of that body. 
Those I have mentioned, nevertheless, were by 
special order made public, and published in the 
proceedings of the Senate in open session. 
This extraordinary, if not unprecedented, ac- 
tion, following long after the conclusion of the 
dispute, easily interprets its own intent, and re- 
moves all covering from a design to accomplish 
partizan advantage. The declaration of the 
resolutions that it was the duty of the Senate 
^^to refuse its advice and consent to the pro- 
posed removal of officers ' ' when the papers and 
documents relating to their supposed miscon- 
duct were withheld, was abandoned, and the ir- 
revocable removal of such officers by confirma- 
tion of their successors was entered upon, with 
or without the much-desired papers and docu- 
ments, and was supplemented by the publi- 
cation of committee reports, from which the 
secrecy of the executive session had been re- 
moved, to the end that, pursuant to a fixed 
determination, an unfavorable senatorial inter- 
pretation might be publicly given to the Presi- 
dent 's action in making suspensions. 

I desire to call attention to one other inci- 
dent connected with the occurrences already 
narrated. On the 14th of December, 1885,— 
prior to the first request or demand upon any 


The Independence of the Executive 

executive department relating to suspensions, 
and of course before any controversy upon the 
subject arose,— a bill was introduced in the 
Senate by one of the most distinguished and 
able members of the majority in that body, and 
also a member of its Committee on the Ju- 
diciary, for the total and complete repeal of the 
law of 1869, which, it will be remembered, fur- 
nished the basis for the contention we have con- 
sidered. This repealing bill was referred to the 
Senate Committee on the Judiciary, where it 
slumbered until the 21st of June, 1886,— nearly 
three months after the close of the contention, 
—when it was returned to the Senate with a 
favorable report, the chairman of the commit- 
tee alone dissenting. When the bill was pre- 
sented for discussion, the Senator who intro- 
duced it explained its object as follows : 

This bill repeals what is left of what is called the 
Tenure of Office act, passed under the administra- 
tion of Andrew Johnson, and as a part of the contest 
with that President. It leaves the law as it was from 
the beginning: of the Government until that time, 
and it repeals the provision which authorizes the 
suspension of civil officers and requires the submis- 
sion of that suspension to the Senate. 

On a later day, in discussing the bill, he said, 
after referring to the early date of its introduc- 


The Independence of the Executive 

It did not seem to me to be quite becoming to ask 
the Senate to deal with this general question while 
the question which arose between the President and 
the Senate as to the interpretation and administra- 
tion of the existing law was pending. I thought as a 
party man that I had hardly the right to interfere 
with the matter which was under the special charge 
of my honorable friend from Vermont, by challeng- 
ing a debate upon the general subject from a differ- 
ent point of view. This question has subsided and is 
past, and it seems to me now proper to ask the Senate 
to vote upon the question whether it will return to 
the ancient policy of the Government, to the rule of 
public conduct which existed from 1789 until 1867, 
and which has practically existed, notwithstanding 
the condition of the statute-book, since the accession 
to power of General Grant on the 4th of March, 1869. 

The personnel of the committee which re- 
ported favorably ujoon this repealing bill had 
not been changed since all the members of it 
politically affiliating with the majority in the 
Senate joined in recommending the accusatory 
report and resolutions, which, when adopted, 
after sharp and irritating discussion, caused 
the question between the President and the 
Senate, in the language of the introducer of 
the repealing bill, to ^^ subside.'^ 

This repealing act passed the Senate on the 
17th of December, 1886, by thirty affirmative 
votes against twenty-two in the negative. A 
short time afterward it passed in the House of 


The Independence of the Executive 

Representatives by a majority of one hundred 
and five. 

Thus was an unpleasant controversy happily 
followed by an expurgation of the last pretense 
of statutory sanction to an encroachment upon 
constitutional Executive prerogatives, and thus 
was a time-honored interpretation of the Con- 
stitution restored to us. The President, freed 
from the Senate's claim of tutelage, became 
again the independent agent of the people, rep- 
resenting a coordinate branch of their Govern- 
ment, charged with responsibilities which, un- 
der his oath, he ought not to avoid or divide 
with others, and invested with powers, not to 
be surrendered, but to be used, under the guid- 
ance of patriotic intention and an unclouded 




THE President inaugurated on tlie fourth 
day of March, 1893, and those associated 
with him as Cabinet officials, encountered, dur- 
ing their term of executive duty, unusual and 
esiDccially perplexing difficulties. The members 
of that administration who still survive, in 
recalling the events of this laborious service, 
cannot fail to fix ujDon the years 1894 and 1895 
as the most troublous and anxious of their in- 
cumbency. During those years unhappy cur- 
rency complications compelled executive resort 
to heroic treatment for the preservation of our 
nation's financial integrity, and forced upon 
the administration a constant, unrelenting 
struggle for sound money; a long and persis- 
tent executive effort to accomplish beneficent 
and satisfactory tariff reform so nearly mis- 
carried as to bring depression and disappoint- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

ment to the verge of discouragement ; and it was 
at the close of the year 1895 that executive in- 
sistence upon the Monroe Doctrine culminated 
in a situation that gave birth to solemn thoughts 
of war. Without attempting to complete the 
list of troubles and embarrassments that beset 
the administration during these luckless years, 
I have reserved for separate and more detailed 
treatment one of its incidents not yet mentioned, 
which immensely increased executive anxiety 
and foreboded the most calamitous and far- 
reaching consequences. 

In the last days of June, 1894, a very deter- 
mined and ugly labor disturbance broke out in 
the city of Chicago. Almost in a night it grew 
to full proportions of malevolence and danger. 
Rioting and violence were its early accompani- 
ments; and it spread so swiftly that within a 
few days it had reached nearly the entire West- 
ern and Southwestern sections of our country. 
Railroad transportation was especially in- 
volved in its attacks. The carriage of United 
States mails was interrupted, interstate com- 
merce was obstructed, and railroad property 
was riotously destroyed. 

This disturbance is often called ^^The Chi- 
cago Strike. " It is true that its beginning was 
in that city ; and the headquarters of those who 


The Government in Chicago Strike of i8<)4 

inaugurated it and directed its operations were 
located there ; but the name thus given to it is 
an entire misnomer so far as it applies to 
the scope and reach of the trouble. Railroad 
operations were more or less affected in 
twenty-seven States and Territories; and in 
all these the interposition of the general 
Government was to a greater or less extent 
invoked. • ^ 

This wide-spread trouble had its inception in 
a strike by the employees of the Pullman Pal- 
ace Car Company, a corporation located and 
doing business at the town of Pullman, which 
is within the limits of the city of Chicago. 
This company was a manufacturing corpora- 
tion—or at least it was not a railroad corpora- 
tion. Its main object was the operation and 
running of sleeping- and parlor-cars upon rail- 
roads under written contracts; but its charter 
contemplated the manufacture of cars as 
well; and soon after its incorporation it be- 
gan the manufacture of its own cars and, sub- 
sequently, the manufacture of cars for the gen- 
eral market. 

The strike on the part of the employees of 
this company began on the eleventh day of May, 
1894, and was provoked by a reduction of 

« 8i 

The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

The American Eailway Union was organized 
in the summer of 1893. It was professedly an 
association of all the different classes of rail- 
way employees. In its scope and intent it was 
the most compact and effective organization of 
the kind ever attempted. Its purpose was a 
thorough unification of defensive and offensive 
effort among railway employees under one cen- 
tral direction, and the creation of a combina- 
tion embracing all such employees, which 
should make the grievances of any section of its 
membership a common cause. Those prominent 
in this project estimated that various other or- 
ganizations of railroad employees then existing 
had a membership of 102,000 in the United 
States and neighboring countries; and they 
claimed that these brotherhoods, because of di- 
vided councils and for other reasons, were in- 
effective, and that nearly 1,000,000 railroad em- 
23loyees still remained unorganized. 

The wonderful growth of this new combina- 
tion is made apparent by the fact that between 
the month of August, 1893, and the time it 
became involved in the Pullman strike, in 
June, 1894, it had enrolled nearly 150,000 

The employees of the Pullman Palace Car 
Company could not on any reasonable and 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

consistent theory be regarded as eligible to 
membershi^J in an organization devoted to the 
interests of railway employees; and yet, dur- 
ing the months of March, April, and May, 
1894, it appears that nearly 4000 of these em- 
ployees were enrolled in the American Railway 

This, to say the least of it, was an exceedingly 
unfortunate proceeding, since it created a sit- 
uation which implicated in a comparatively in- 
significant quarrel between the managers of an 
industrial establishment and their workmen the 
large army of the Railway Union. It was the 
membership of these workmen in the Railway 
Union, anjd the union's consequent assumption 
of their quarrel, that gave it the proportions of 
a tremendous disturbance, jDaralyzing the most 
important business interests, obstructing the 
functions of the Government, and disturbing 
social peace and order. . 

No injury to the property of the Pullman 
Palace Car Company was done or attempted 
while the strike was confined to its employees ; 
and during that time very little disorder of any 
kind occurred. 

It so happened, however, that in June, 1894, 
after the strike at Pullman had continued for 
about one month, a regular stated convention 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

of the American Railway Union was held in the 
city of Chicago, which was attended by dele- 
gates from local branches of the organization 
in different States, as well as by representatives 
of its members among the employees of the 
Pullman Palace Car Company. At this con- 
vention the trouble at Pullman was considered, 
and after earnest efforts on the part of the 
Eailway Union to bring about a settlement, a 
resolution was, on the twenty-second day of 
June, passed by the convention, declaring that 
unless the Pullman Palace Car Company should 
adjust the grievances of its employees before 
noon of the twenty-sixth day of June, the mem- 
bers of the American Railway Union would, 
after that date, refuse to handle Pullman cars 
and equipment. 

The twenty-sixth day of June arrived with- 
out any change in the attitude of the parties 
to the Pullman controversy ; and thereupon the 
order made by the American Railway Union 
forbidding the handling of Pullman cars, be- 
came operative throughout its entire member- 

At this* time the Pullman Palace Car Com- 
pany was furnishing drawing-room and sleep- 
ing-car accommodations to the traveling public 
under contracts with numerous railway com- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

panies, and was covering by this service about 
one hundred and twenty-five thousand miles of 
railway, or approximately three fourths of all 
the railroad mileage of the country. The same 
railroad companies which had contracted to use 
these Pullman cars upon their lines had con- 
tracts with the United States Government for 
the carriage of mails, and were, of course, also 
largely engaged in interstate commerce. It 
need hardly be said that, of necessity, the 
trains on which the mails were carried and 
which served the purpose of interstate com- 
merce were, very generally, those to which the 
Pullman cars were also attached. 

The president of the Railway Union was one 
Eugene V. Debs. In a sworn statement after- 
ward made he gave the following description 
of the results of the interference of the union 
in the Pullman dispute: 

The employees, obedient to the order of the con- 
vention, at once, on the 26th, refused to haul Pull- 
man cars. The switchmen, in the first place, refused 
to attach a Pullman car to a train, and that is where 
the trouble began; and then, when a switchman 
would be discharged for that, they would all simul- 
taneously quit, as they had agreed to do. One de- 
partment after another was involved until the Illi- 
nois Central was practically paralyzed, and the Rock 
Island and other roads in their turn. Up to the first 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

day of July, or after the strike had been in progress 
five days, the railway managers, as we believe, were 
completely defeated. Their immediate resources 
were exhausted, their properties were paralyzed, and 
they were unable to operate their trains. Our men 
were intact at every point, firm, quiet, and yet de- 
termined, and no sign of violence or disorder any- 
where. That was the condition on the thirtieth day 
of June and the first day of July. 

The officers of the Railway Union from their 
headquarters in the city of Chicago gave direc- 
tions for the maintenance and management of 
the strike, which were quickly transmitted to 
distant railroad points and were there promptly 
executed. As early as the 28th of June, two 
days after the beginning of the strike ordered 
by the Railway Union at Chicago, information 
was received at AVashington from the Post-Of- 
fice Department that on the Southern Pacific 
System, between Portland and San Francisco, 
Ogden and San Francisco, and Los Angeles 
and San Francisco, the mails were completely 
obstructed, and that the strikers refused to 
permit trains to which Pullman cars were at- 
tached to run over the lines mentioned. There- 
upon Attorney-General Olney immediately sent 
the following telegraphic despatch to the United 
States district attorneys in the State of Cali- 
fornia : 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

Washington, D. C, June 28, 1894. 
See that the passage of regular trains, carrying 
United States mails in the usual and ordinary way, 
as contemplated by the act of Congress and directed 
by the Postmaster-General, is not obstructed. Pro- 
cure warrants or any other available process from 
United States courts against any and all persons en- 
gaged in such obstructions, and direct the marshal 
to execute the same by such number of deputies or 
such posse as may be necessary. 

On the same day, and during a number of 
days immediately following, complaints of a 
similar character, sometimes accompanied by 
charges of forcible seizure of trains and other 
violent disorders, poured in upon the Attor- 
ney-General from all parts of the West and 
Southwest. These complaints came from x:)Ost- 
office officials, from United States marshals and 
district attorneys, from railroad managers, and 
from other officials and private citizens. In 
all cases of substantial representation of inter- 
ference with the carriage of mails, a despatch 
identical with that alread}^ quoted was sent 
by the Attorney-General to the United States 
district attorneys in the disturbed localities; 
and this was supplemented, whenever neces- 
sary, by such other prompt action as the dif- 
ferent emergencies required. 

I shall not enter upon an enumeration of all 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

the disorders and violence, the defiance of law 
and authority, and the obstructions of national 
functions and duties, which occurred in many 
localities as a consequence of this labor con- 
tention, thus tremendously reinforced and com- 
pletely under way. It is my especial purjDose to 
review the action taken by the Government for 
the maintenance of its own authority and the 
protection of the interests intrusted to its keep- 
ing, so far as they were endangered by this dis- 
turbance; and I do not intend to specifically 
deal with the incidents of the strike except in so 
far as a reference to them may be necessary to 
show conditions which not only justified but 
actually obliged the Government to resort to 
stern and unusual measures in the assertion of 
its prerogatives. 

Inasmuch, therefore, as the city of Chicago 
was the birthplace of the disturbance and the 
home of its activities, and because it was the 
field of its most pronounced and malign mani- 
festations, as well as the place of its final ex- 
tinction, I shall meet the needs of my subject 
if I supplement what has been already said by 
a recital of events occurring at this central 
point. In doing this, I shall liberally embody 
documents, orders, instructions, and reports 
which I hope will not prove tiresome, since they 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

supply the facts I desire to present, at first 
hand and more impressively than they could 
be presented by any words of mine. 

Owing to the enforced relationship of Chi- 
cago to the strike which started within its bor- 
ders, and because of its importance as a center 
of railway traffic. Government officials at Wash- 
ington were not surprised by the early and per- 
sistent complaints of mail and interstate com- 
merce obstructions which reached them from 
that city. It was from the first anticipated that 
this would be the seat of the most serious com- 
plications, and the place where the strong arm 
of the law would be most needed. In these cir- 
cumstances it would have been a criminal 
neglect of duty if those charged with the protec- 
tion of governmental agencies and the enforce- 
ment of orderly obedience and submission to 
Federal authority, had been remiss in prepara- 
tions for any emergency in that quarter. 

On the thirtieth day of June the district at- 
torney at Chicago reported by telegraph that 
mail trains in the suburbs of Chicago were, on 
the previous night, stopped by strikers, that an 
engine had been cut off and disabled, and that 
conditions were growing more and more likely 
to culminate in the stoppage of all trains ; and 
he recommended that the marshal be authorized 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

to employ a force of special deputies who should 
be placed on trains to protect mails and detect 
the parties guilty of such interference. In re- 
ply to this despatch Attorney-General Olney on 
the same day authorized the marshal to em})loy 
additional dejiuties as suggested, and desig- 
nated Edwin Walker, an able and prominent 
attorney in Chicago, as special counsel for the 
Government, to assist the district attorney in 
any legal proceedings that might be instituted. 
He also notified the district attorney of the steps 
thus taken, and enjoined upon him that '^action 
ought to be prompt and vigorous, ' ' and also di- 
rected him to confer with the special counsel 
who had been employed. In a letter of the same 
date addressed to this special counsel, the At- 
torney-General, in making suggestions concern- 
ing legal proceedings, wrote : ^ ' It has seemed to 
me that if the rights of the United States were 
vigorously asserted in Chicago, the origin and 
center of the demonstration, the result would 
be to make it a failure everywhere else, and to 
prevent its spread over the entire country"; 
and in that connection he indicated that it might 
be advisable, instead of relying entirely upon 
warrants issued under criminal statutes against 
persons actually guilty of the offense of ob- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

structing United States mails, to apply to the 
courts for injunctions which would restrain 
and prevent any attempt to commit such of- 
fense. This suggestion contemplated the in- 
auguration of legal proceedings in a regular 
and usual way to restrain those prominently 
concerned in the interference with the mails 
and the obstruction of interstate commerce, 
basing such proceedings on the proposition 
that, under the Constitution and laws, these 
subjects were in the exclusive care of the Gov- 
ernment of the United States, and that for their 
protection the Federal courts were competent 
under general principles of law to intervene 
by injunction; and on the further ground that 
under an act of Congress, passed July 2, 1890, 
conspiracies in restraint of trade or commerce 
among the several States were declared to be il- 
legal, and the circuit courts of the United 
States were therein expressly given jurisdiction 
to prevent and restrain such conspiracies. 

On the first day of July the district attorney 
reported to the Attorney-General that he was 
preparing a bill of complaint to be presented to 
the court the next day, on an application for an 
injunction. He further reported that very little 
mail and no freight was moving, that the mar- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

shal was using all his force to prevent riots 
and the obstruction of tracks, and that this force 
was clearly inadequate. On the same day the 
marshal reported that the situation was des- 
perate, that he had sworn in over four hundred 
deputies, that many more would be required to 
protect mail trains, and that he expected great 
trouble the next day. He further expressed 
the opinion that one hundred riot guns were 

Upon the receipt of these reports, and antici- 
pating an attempt to serve injunctions on the 
following day, the Attorney- General immedi- 
ately sent a despatch to the district attorney 
directing him to report at once if the process 
of the court should be resisted by such force as 
the marshal could not overcome, and suggest- 
ing that the United States judge should join 
in such report. He at the same time sent a 
despatch to the special counsel requesting him 
to report his view of the situation as early as 
the forenoon of the next day. 

In explanation of these two despatches it 
should here be said that the desperate character 
of this disturbance was not in the least under- 
estimated by executive officials at Washington ; 
and it must be borne in mind that while menac- 
ing conditions were moving swiftly and accu- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

mulating at Chicago, like conditions, inspired 
and supported from that central point, existed 
in many other places within the area of the 
strike's contagion. 

Of course it was hoped by those charged with 
the responsibility of dealing with the situation, 
that a direct assertion of authority by the mar- 
shal and a resort to the restraining power of 
the courts would prove sufficient for the emer- 
gency. Notwithstanding, however, an anxious 
desire to avoid measures more radical, the fact 
had not been overlooked that a contingency 
might occur which would compel a resort to 
military force. The key to these despatches of 
the Attorney-General is found in the determina- 
tion of the Federal authorities to overcome by 
any lawful and constitutional means all resist- 
ance to governmental functions as related to the 
transportation of mails, the operation of inter- 
state commerce, and the preservation of the 
property of the United States. 

The Constitution requires that the United 
States shall protect each of the States against 
invasion, ^ ' and on application of the legislature, 
or of the executive (when the legislature can- 
not be convened), against domestic violence. '' 
There was plenty of domestic violence in the 
city of Chicago and in the State of Illinois dur- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

ing the early days of July, 1894 ; but no appli- 
cation was made to the Federal Government for 
assistance. It was probably a very fortunate 
circumstance that the presence of United States 
soldiers in Chicago at that time did not depend 
upon the request or desire of Governor Altgeld. 
Section 5298 of the Revised Statutes of the 
United States provides: ^ ' A^Hienever, by rea- 
son of unlawful obstructions, combinations or 
assemblages of persons, or rebellion against 
the authority of the United States, it shall be- 
come impracticable in the judgment of the 
President to enforce, by the ordinary course of 
judicial proceedings, the laws of the United 
States within any State or Territory, it shall be 
lawful for the President to call forth the militia 
of any or all of the States, and to employ such 
parts of the land or -naval forces of the United 
States as he may deem necessary to enforce the 
faithful execution of the laws of the United 
States, or to suppress such rebellion, in what- 
ever State or Territory thereof the laws of 
the United States may be forcibly opposed, or 
the execution thereof be forcibly obstructed ' ' ; 
and Section 5299 provides: "AAlienever any in- 
surrection, domestic violence, unlawful com- 
binations or conspiracies in any State . . . 
opposes or obstructs the laws of the United 


The Government in Chicago Strike of i8<)4 

States, or the due execution thereof, or impedes 
or obstructs the due course of justice under the 
same, it shall be lawful for the President, and it 
shall be his duty, to take such measures, by the 
employment of the militia, or the land and naval 
forces of the United States, or of either, or by 
other means as he may deem necessary, for the 
suppression of such insurrection, domestic vio- 
lence or combinations. ^ ' 



It was the intention of the Attorney-General 
to suggest in these despatches that immediate 
and authoritative information should be given 
to the Washington authorities if a time should 
arrive when, under the sanction of general ex- 
ecutive authority, or the constitutional and stat- 
utory provisions above quoted, a military force 
would be necessary at the scene of disturbance. 

On the 2d of July, the day after these de- 
spatches were sent, information was received 
from the district attorney and special counsel 
that a sweeping injunction had been granted 
against Eugene V. Debs, president of the Amer- 
ican Eailway Union, and other officials of that 
organization, together with parties whose 
names were unknown, and that the writs would 
be served that afternoon. The special counsel 
also expressed the opinion that it would require 
Government troops to enforce the orders of the 
court and protect the transportation of mails. 

Major-General Schofield was then in com- 
mand of the army; and, after a consultation 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

with him, in which the Attorney-General and 
the Secretary of War took part, I directed the 
issuance of the following order by telegraph to 
General Nelson A. Miles, in command of the 
Military Department of Missouri, with head- 
quarters at Chicago: 

Headquarters of the Army. 

Washington, July 2, 1894. 

To the Commanding -General, 
Departmerit of Missouri, 
Chicago, III. 

You will please make all necessary arrangements 
confidentially for the transportation of the entire 
garrison at Fort Sheridan— infantry, cavalry, and 
artillery— to the lake front in the city of Chicago. 
To avoid possible interruption of the movement by 
rail and by marching through a part of the city, it 
may be advisable to bring them by steam-boat. 
Please consider this matter and have the arrange- 
ments perfected without delay. You may expect 
orders at any time for the movement. Acknowledge 
receipt and report in what manner movement is to 
be made. J. M. Schofield, 

Major-General Commanding. 

It should by no means be inferred from this 
despatch that it had been definitely determined 
that the use of a military force was inevitable. 
It was still hoped that the effect of the injunc- 
tion would be such that this alternative might 
be avoided. A painful emergency is created 
7 97 

The Government in Chicago Strike of 18^4 

when public duty forces the necessity of plac- 
ing trained soldiers face to face with riotous 
opposition to the general Government, and an 
acute and determined defiance to law and order. 
This course, once entered upon, admits of no* 
backward step ; and an ai3preciation of the con- 
sequences that may ensue cannot fail to oppress 
those responsible for its adojotion with sadly 
disturbing reflections. Nevertheless, it was 
perfectly plain that, whatever the outcome 
might be, the situation positively demanded 
such precaution and preparation as would in- 
sure readiness and promptness in case the pres- 
ence of a military force should finally be found 

On the morning of the next day, July 3, 
the Attorney-General received a letter from Mr. 
Walker, the special counsel, in which, after re- 
ferring to the issuance of the injunctions and 
setting forth that the marshal was engaged in 
serving them, he wrote : 

I do not believe that the marshal and his deputies 
can protect the railroad companies in moving their 
trains, either freight or passenger, including, of 
course, the trains carrying United States mails. 
Possibly, however, the service of the writ of injunc- 
tion will have a restraining influence upon Debs and 
other officers of the association. If it does not, from 


The Government in Chicago Strike of 18^4 

present appearances, I think it is the opinion of all 
that the orders of the court cannot be enforced except 
by the aid of the regular army. 

Thereupon the Attorney-General immediately 
sent this despatch to the district attorney: 

I trust use of United States troops will not be 
necessary. If it becomes necessary, they will be used 
promptly and decisively upon the justifying facts 
being certified to me. In such case, if practicable, let 
Walker and the marshal and United States judge 
join in statement as to the exigency. 

A few hours afterward the following urgent 
and decisive despatch from the marshal, en- 
dorsed by a judge of the United States court 
and the district attorney and special counsel, 
was received by the Attorney-General. 

Chicago, 111, July 3, 1894. 
Hon. Richard Olney, Attorney -General, 
Washington, D. C. : 
When the injunction was granted yesterday, a 
mob of from two to three thousand held possession 
of a point in the city near the crossing of the Rock 
Island by other roads, w^here they had already 
ditched a mail-train, and prevented the passing of 
any trains, whether mail or otherwise. I read the 
injunction writ to this mob and commanded them to 
disperse. The reading of the writ met with no re- 
sponse except jeers and hoots. Shortly after, the 
mob threw a number of baggage-cars across the 
track, since when no mail-train has been able to move. 


The Govenuiicfit in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

I am unable to disperse the mob, clear the tracks, or 
arrest the men who were engaged in the acts named, 
and believe that no force less than the regular troops 
of the United States can procure the passage of the 
mail-trains, or enforce the orders of the courts. I 
believe people engaged in trades are quitting em- 
ployment to-day, and in my opinion will be joining 
the mob to-night and especially to-morrow ; and it is 
my judgment that the troops should be here at the 
earliest moment. An emergency has arisen for their 
presence in this city. J. W. Arnold, 

United States Mai^shal. 

We have read the foregoing, and from that infor- 
mation, and other information that has come to us, 
believe that an eihergency exists for the immediate 
presence of United States troops. 

P. S. Grosscup, Judge. 
Edwin Walker, "^ 

Thomas E. Milchist, 5 "^^^y^- 

In the afternoon of the same day the follow- 
ing order was telegraphed from army head- 
quarters in the city of AVashington: 

War Department, 
Headquarters of the Army. 

Washington, D. C, July 3, 1894, 
4 o'clock P.M. 
To Martin, Adjutant-General, 

Headquarters Department of Missouri, 

Chicago, 111. 
It having become impracticable in the judgment 
of the President to enforce by the ordinary course of 


Tbe Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

judicial proceedings the laws of the United States, 
you will direct Colonel Crofton to move his entire 
command at once to the city of Chicago (leaving the 
necessary guard at Fort Sheridan) , there to execute 
the orders and processes of the United States court, 
to prevent the obstruction of the United States mails, 
and generally to enforce the faithful execution of 
the laws of the United States. He will confer with 
the United States marshal, the United States dis- 
trict attorney, and Edwin Walker, special counsel. 
Acknowledge receipt and report action promptly. 
By order of the President. 

J. M. ScHOFiELD, Major-General. 

Immediately after this order was issued, the 
following despatch was sent to the district at- 
torney by the Attorney-General : 

Colonel Crofton 's command ordered to Chicago by 
the President. As to disposition and movement of 
troops, yourself. Walker, and marshal should confer 
with Colonel Crofton and with Colonel Martin, ad- 
jutant-general at Chicago. While action should be 
prompt and decisive, it should of course be kept 
within the limits provided by the Constitution and 
laws. Rely upon yourself and Walker to see that 
this is done. 

Colonel Martin, adjutant-general at Chi- 
cago, reported, the same night at half-past nine 
o'clock, that the order for the movement of 
troops was, immediately on its receipt by him, 
transmitted to Fort Sheridan, and that Colonel 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

Crof ton 's command started for Chicago at nine 

During the forenoon of the next day, July 
4, Colonel Martin advised the War Depart- 
ment that Colonel Crofton reported his com- 
mand in the city of Chicago at 10 :15 that morn- 
ing. After referring to the manner in which 
the troops had been distributed, this officer 
added : ''People seem to feel easier since arrival 
of troops.'' 

General Miles, commanding the department, 
arrived in Chicago the same morning, and at 
once assumed direction of militarv movements. 
In the afternoon of that day he sent a report to 
the War Department at Washington, giving an 
account of the disposition of troops, recounting 
an unfavorable condition of affairs, and rec- 
ommending an increase of the garrison at Fort 
Sheridan sufficient to meet any emergency. 

In response to this despatch General Miles 
was immediately authorized to order six com- 
panies of infantry from Fort Leavenworth, in 
Kansas, and tw^o companies from Fort Brady, 
in Michigan, to Fort Sheridan. 

On the fifth day of July he reported that a 
mob of over two thousand had gathered that 
morning at the stock-yards, crowded among the 
troojDS, obstructed the movement of trains, 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

knocked down a railroad official, and overturned 
about twenty freight-cars, which obstructed all 
freight and passenger traffic in the vicinity of 
the stock-yards, and that the mob had also de- 
railed a passenger-train on the Pittsburg, Fort 
Wayne and Chicago Railroad, and burned 
switches. To this recital of violent demonstra- 
tions he added the following statement : 

The injunction of the United States court is openly 
defied, and unless the mobs are dispersed by the ac- 
tion of the police or they are fired upon by United 
States troops, more serious trouble may be expected, 
as the mob is increasing and becoming more defiant. 

In view of the situation as reported by Gen- 
eral Miles, a despatch was sent to him by Gen- 
eral Schofield directing him to concentrate his 
troops in order that they might act more effec- 
tively in the execution of orders theretofore 
given, and in the protection of United States 
property. This despatch concluded as follows : 

The mere preservation of peace and good order in 
the city is, of course, the province of the city and 
state authorities. 

The situation on the sixth day of July was 
thus described in a despatch sent in the after- 


Tbe Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

noon of that day by General Miles to the Sec- 
retary of War: 

In answer to your telegram, I report the follow- 
ing : Mayor Hopkins last night issued a proclamation 
prohibiting riotous assemblies and directing the 
police to stop people from molesting railway com- 
munication. Governor Altgeld has ordered General 
Wheeler's brigade on duty in Chicago to support 
the Mayor's authority. So far, there have been no 
large mobs like the one of yesterday, w^hich moved 
from 51st Street to 18th Street before it dispersed. 
The lawlessness has been along the line of the rail- 
ways, destroying and burning more than one hun- 
dred cars and railway buildings, and obstructing 
transportation in various ways, even to the extent 
of cutting telegraph lines. United States troops 
have dispersed mobs at 51st Street, Kensington, and 
a company of infantry is moving along the Rock 
Island to support a body of United States marshals 
in making arrests for violating the injunction of the 
United States court. Of the twenty-three roads 
centering in Chicago, only six are unobstructed in 
freight, passenger, and mail transportation. Thirteen 
are at present entirely obstructed, and ten are run- 
ning only mail- and passenger-trains. Large num- 
bers of trains moving in and out of the city have 
been stoned and fired upon by mobs, and one en- 
gineer killed. There was a secret meeting to-day of 
Debs and the representatives of labor unions consid- 
ering the advisability of a. general strike of all labor 
unions. About one hundred men were present at 
that meeting. The result is not yet knowm. United 
States troops are at the stock-yards, Kensington, 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

Blue Island, crossing of 51st Street, and have been 
moving along some of the lines : the balance, eight 
companies of infantry, battery of artillery, and one 
troop of cavalry, are camped on Lake Front Park, 
ready for any emergency and to protect Government 
buildings and property. It is learned from the Fire 
Department, City Hall, that a party of strikers has 
been going through the vicinity from 14th to 41st 
streets and Stewart Avenue freight-yards, throwing 
gasoline on freight-cars all through that section. 
Captain Ford, of the Fire Department, was badly 
stoned this morning. Troops have just dispersed a 
mob of incendiaries on Fort Wayne tracks, near 
51st Street, and fires that were started have been 
suppressed. Mob just captured mail-train at 47th 
Street, and troops sent to disperse them. 

On the eighth day of July, in view of the ap- 
parently near approach of a crisis which the 
Government had attempted to avoid, the follow- 
ing Executive Proclamation was issued and at 
once extensively published in the city of Chi- 

Whereas, by reason of unlawful obstruction, com- 
binations and assemblages of persons, it has become 
impracticable, in the judgment of the President, to 
enforce, by the ordinary course of judicial proceed- 
ings, the laws of the United States within the State 
of Illinois, and especially in the city of Chicago 
within said State ; and 

Whereas, for the purpose of enforcing the faith- 
ful execution of the laws of the United States and 


Tbe Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

protecting its property and removing obstructions 
to the United States mails in the State and city afore- 
said, the President has employed a part of the mili- 
tary forces of the United States: — 

Now, therefore, I, Grover Cleveland, President of 
the United States, do hereby admonish all good citi- 
zens, and all persons who may be or may come within 
the City and State aforesaid, against aiding, counte- 
nancing, encouraging, or taking any part in such un- 
lawful obstructions, combinations, and assemblages; 
and I hereby warn all persons engaged in or in any 
way connected with such unlawful obstructions, com- 
binations, and assemblages to disperse and retire 
peaceably to their respective abodes on or before 
twelve o'clock noon of the 9th day of July instant. 

Those who disregard this warning and persist in 
taking part with a riotous mob in forcibly resisting 
and obstructing the execution of the laws of the 
United States, or interfering with the functions of 
the Government, or destroying or attempting to de- 
stroy the property belonging to the United States or 
under its protection, cannot be regarded otherwise 
than as public enemies. 

Troops employed against such a riotous mob will 
act with all the moderation and forbearance consis- 
tent with the accomplishment of the desired end ; but 
the stern necessities that confront them will not with 
certainty permit discrimination between guilty par- 
ticipants and those who are mingling with them from 
curiosity and without criminal intent. The only safe 
course, therefore, for those not actually participat- 
ing, is to abide at their homes, or at least not to be 
found in the neighborhood of riotous assemblages. 

While there will be no vacillation in the decisive 

1 06 

The Government in Chicago Strilie 0/1894 

treatment of the guilty, this warning is especially 
intended to protect and save the innocent. 

On the 10th of July, Eugene V. Debs, the 
president of the American Railway Union, to- 
gether with its vice-president, general secre- 
tary, and one other who was an active director, 
were arrested upon indictments found against 
them for complicity in the obstruction of mails 
and interstate commerce. Three days after- 
ward our special counsel expressed the opin- 
ion that the strike was practically broken. This 
must not be taken to mean, however, that peace 
and quiet had been completely restored or that 
the transportation of mails and the activities 
of interstate commerce were entirely free from 
interruption. It was only the expression of 
a well-sustained and deliberate expectation that 
the combination of measures already inaugu- 
rated, and others contemplated in the near 
future, would speedily bring about a termina- 
tion of the difficulty. 

On the seventeenth day of July an informa- 
tion was filed in the United States Circuit Court 
at Chicago against Debs and the three other of- 
ficials of the Railway Union who had been ar- 
rested on indictment a few days before, but were 
then at large on bail. This information alleged 


The Govenimcjit in Chicago Strike of 18^4 

that these parties had been guilty of open, con- 
tinued, and defiant disobedience of the injunc- 
tion which was served on them July 3, forbid- 
ding them to do certain specified acts tending 
to incite and aid the obstruction of the carriage 
of mails and the operation of interstate com- 
merce. On the footing of this information these 
parties w^ere brought before the court to show 
cause why they should not be punished for con- 
temjDt in disobeying the injunction. Instead of 
giving bail for their freedom pending the inves- 
tigation of this charge against them, as they 
were invited to do, they preferred to be com- 
mitted to custody— perhaps intending by such 
an act of martyrdom either to revive a waning 
cause, or to gain a plausible and justifying 
excuse for the collapse of their already fore- 
doomed movement. Debs himself, in speaking 
of this event afterward, said: ^^As soon as the 
employees found that we were arrested and 
taken from the scene of action thev became de- 
moralized, and that ended the strike." 

That the strike ended about the time of this 
second arrest is undoubtedly true; for, during 
the few days immediately preceding and follow- 
ing the seventeenth day of July, reports came 
from nearly all the localities to which the strike 
had spread, indicating its defeat and the ac- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

complishment of all the purposes of the Govern- 
ment 's interference. The successful assertion 
of national authority was conclusively indi- 
cated when on the twentieth day of July the 
' last of the soldiers of the United States who had 
been ordered for duty at the very center of op- 
position and disturbance, were withdrawn from 
Chicago and returned to the military posts to 
which they were attached. 

I hope I have been successful thus far in my 
effort satisfactorily to exhibit the extensive 
reach and perilous tendency of the convulsion 
under consideration, the careful promptness 
which characterized the interference of the Gov- 
ernment, the constant desire of the national ad- 
ministration to avoid extreme measures, the 
scrupulous limitation of its interference to pur- 
poses which were clearly within its constitu- 
tional competency and duty, and the gratifying 
and important results of its conservative but 
stern activity. 

I must not fail to mention here as part of the 
history of this perplexing affair, a contribu- 
tion made by the governor of Illinois to its an- 
noyances. This official not only refused to re- 
gard the riotous disturbances within the borders 
of his State as a sufficient cause for an applica- 
tion to the Federal Government for its protec- 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

tion ^'against domestic violence'^ under the 
mandate of the Constitution, but he actually 
protested against the presence of Federal 
troops sent into the State ujDon the general 
Government's own initiative and for the pur- 
pose of defending itself in the exercise of its 
well-defined legitimate functions. 

On the fifth day of July, twenty-four hours 
after our soldiers had been brought to the city 
of Chicago, pursuant to the order of July 3d, 
I received a long despatch from Governor Alt- 
geld, beginning as follows: 

I am advised that you have ordered Federal troops 
to go into service in the State of Illinois. Surely the 
facts have not been correctly presented to you in 
this case or you would not have taken the step ; for 
it is entirely unnecessary and, as it seems to me, un- 
justifiable. Waiving all question of courtesy, I 
will say that the State of Illinois is not only able to 
take care of itself, but it stands ready to-day to 
furnish the Federal Government any assistance it 
may need elsewhere. 

This opening sentence was followed by a 
lengthy statement which so far missed actual 
conditions as to appear irrelevant and, in some 
parts, absolutely frivolous. 

This remarkable despatch closed with the fol- 
lowing words : 

1 10 

The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

As Governor of the State of Illinois, I protest 
against this and ask the immediate withdrawal of 
Federal troops from active duty in this State. 
Should the situation at any time get so serious that 
we cannot control it with the State forces, we will 
promptly and freely ask for Federal assistance ; but 
until such time I protest with all due deference 
against this uncalled-for reflection upon our people, 
and again ask for the immediate withdrawal of these 

Immediately upon the receipt of this commu- 
nication, I sent to Governor Altgeld the follow- 
ing reply: 

Federal troops were sent to Chicago in strict ac- 
cordance with the Constitution and the laws of the 
United States, upon the demand of the Post-Office 
Department that obstructions of the mails should be 
removed, and upon the representation of the judi- 
cial officers of the United States that process of the 
Federal courts could not be executed through the 
ordinary means, and upon abundant proof that con- 
spiracies existed against commerce between the 
States. To meet these conditions, which are clearly 
within the province of Federal authority, the pres- 
ence of Federal troops in the city of Chicago was 
deemed not only proper but necessary; and there 
has been no intention of thereby interfering with the 
plain duty of the local authorities to preserve the 
peace of the city. 



In response to this the governor, evidently un- 
willing to allow the matter at issue between 
us to rest without a renewal of argument and 
protest, at once addressed to me another long 
telegraphic communication, evidently intended 
to be more severely accusatory and insistent 
than its i3redecessor. Its general tenor may be 
inferred from the opening words : 

Your answer to my protest involves some startling 
conclusions, and ignores and evades the question at 
issue— that is, that the principle of local self-gov- 
ernment is just as fundamental in our institutions 
as is that of Federal supremacy. You calmly as- 
sume that the Executive has the legal right to order 
Federal troops into any community of the United 
States in the first instance, whenever there is the 
slightest disturbance, and that he can do this with- 
out any regard to the question as to whether the 
community is able to and ready to enforce the law 

After a rather dreary discussion of the im- 
portance of preserving the rights of the States 
and a presentation of the dangers to constitu- 

I 12 

The Government in Chicago Strike of 18^4 

ional government that lurked in the course that 
had been pursued by the general Government, 
this communication closed as follows : 

Inasmuch as the Federal troops can do nothing 
but what the State troops can do there, and believing 
that the State is amply able to take care of the situa- 
tion and to enforce the law, and believing that the 
ordering out of the Federal troops was unwarranted, 
I again ask their withdrawal. 

I confess that my patience was somewhat 
strained when I quickly sent the following de- 
spatch in reply to this communication : 

Executive Mansion. 
Washington, D. C, July 6, 1894. 
While I am still persuaded that I have neither 
transcended my authority nor duty in the emergency 
that confronts us, it seems to me that in this hour of 
danger and public distress, discussion may well give 
way to active efforts on the part of all in authority 
to restore obedience to law and to protect life and 
property. Grover Cleveland. 

Hon. John P. Altgeld, 
Governor of Illinois. 

This closed a discussion which in its net re- 
sults demonstrated how far one's disposition 
and inclination will lead him astray in the field 
of argument. 

I shall conclude the treatment of my subject 
* 1 13 

The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

by a brief reference to the legal proceedings 
which grew out of this disturbance, and finally 
led to an adjudication by the highest court in 
our land, establishing in an absolutely authori- 
tative manner and for all time the power of the 
national Government to protect itself in the 
exercise of its functions. 

It will be recalled that in the course of our 
narrative we left Mr. Debs, the president of the 
Eailway Union, and his three associates in cus- 
tody of the law, on the seventeenth day of July, 
awaiting an investigation of the charge of con- 
tempt of court made against them, based upon 
their disobedience of the writs of injunction 
forbidding them to do certain things in aid or 
encouragement of interference with mail trans- 
portation or interstate commerce. 

This investigation was so long delayed that 
the decision of the Circuit Court before which 
the proceedings were pending was not rendered 
until the fourteenth day of December, 1894. 
On that date the court delivered an able and 
carefully considered decision finding Debs and 
his associates guilty of contempt of court, bas- 
ing its decision upon the provisions of the law 
of Congress, passed in 1890, entitled: ^^An act 
to protect trade and commerce against unlawful 
restraint and monopolies"; sometimes called 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. Thereupon the 
parties were sentenced on said conviction to 
confinement in the county jail for terms varying 
from three to six months. 

Afterward, and on the 14th day of January, 
1895, the prisoners applied to the SujDreme 
Court of the United States for a writ of habeas 
corjjus to relieve them from imprisonment, on 
the ground that the facts found against them 
by the Circuit Court did not constitute diso- 
bedience of the writs of injunction and that 
their commitment in the manner and for the 
reasons alleged was without justification and 
not within the constitutional power and juris- 
diction of that tribunal. 

On this application, the case was elaborately 
argued before the Supreme Court in March, 
1895; and on the twenty-seventh day of May, 
1895, the court rendered its decision, upholding 
on the broadest grounds the proceedings of the 
Circuit Court and confirming its adjudication 
and the commitment to jail of the petitioners 

Justice Brewer, in delivering the unanimous 
opinion of the Supreme Court, stated the case 
as follows : 

The United States, finding that the interstate 
transportation of persons and property, as well as 


The Government in Chicago Strike 0/1894 

the carria^re of mails, is forcibly obstructed, and that 
a combination and conspiracy exists to subject the 
control of such transportation to the will of the 
conspirators, applied to one of their courts sitting 
as a court of equity, for an injunction to restrain 
such obstructions and prevent carrying into effect 
such conspiracy. Two questions of importance are 
presented : First, are the relations of the general 
Government to interstate commerce and the trans- 
portation of the mails such as to authorize a direct 
interference to prevent a forcible obstruction 
thereof? Second, if authority exists, — as authority 
in governmental affairs implies both power and duty, 
— has a court of equity jurisdiction to issue an in- 
junction in aid of the performance of such duty? 

Both of these questions were answered by 
the court in the affirmative ; and in the opinion 
read by the learned justice, the inherent power 
of the Government to execute the jDOwers and 
functions belonging to it by means of physical 
force through its official agents, and on every 
foot of American soil, was amply vindicated by 
a process of reasoning simple, logical, unham- 
pered by fanciful distinctions, and absolutely 
conclusive; and the Government's peaceful re- 
sort to the court, the injunction issued in its aid, 
and all the proceedings thereon, including the 
imprisonment of Debs and his associates, were 
fully approved. 

Thus the Supreme Court of the United States 


The Government in Chicago Strike of 1894 

has written the closing words of this history, 
tragical in many of its details, and in every line 
provoking sober reflection. As we gratefully 
turn its concluding page, those who were most 
nearly related by executive responsibility to the 
troublous days whose story is told may well 
especially congratulate themselves on the part 
which fell to them in marking out the way and 
clearing the path, now unchangeably estab- 
lished, which shall hereafter guide our nation 
safely and surely in the exercise of the im- 
portant functions which represent the people's 




THE sales of United States bonds in the 
years 1894, 1895, and 1896 for the purpose 
of replenishing the stock of gold in the public 
Treasury have been greatly misunderstood by 
many honest people, and often deliberately mis- 

My conviction that a love of fairness still 

abides with the masses of our people has en- 
couraged me to give a history of these transac- 
tions for the benefit of those who are unin- 
formed or have been misled concerning them. 
In undertaking this task I shall attempt to avoid 
unprofitable and tiresome explanation; but I 
shall, nevertheless, indulge in the recital of 
details to such an extent as may appear neces- 
sary to an easy understanding of the matter 
in hand. I desire, above all things, to treat the 
subject in such a way that none who read my 


The Bond Issues 

narrative will be confused by the use of obscure 
or technical language. 

The Government's gold reserve, as it is usu- 
ally known, originated under the provision of 
an act of Congress iDassed January 14, 1875, en- 
titled, ' ' An Act to provide for the resumption of 
specie payments. '^ This law contemplated the 
redemption in gold and the retirement of the 
currency obligations legally known as United 
States notes, but commonly called greenbacks; 
and it provided that such notes in excess of 
$300,000,000 should be redeemed and retired 
prior to January 1, 1879, and that after that 
date all the remainder of such notes should be 
likewise redeemed and canceled. This law fur- 
ther provided that 'Ho enable the Secretary of 

the Treasury to prepare and provide for such 
redemption" he should have the authority ^'to 
issue, sell and dispose of" bonds of the United 
States which were therein particularly specified. 
Of course this authority was given to the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury in order that, by the sale 
of Government bonds, he could accumulate a 
sufficient gold fund or reserve to meet the de- 
mands of the gold redemption jorovided for, 
and accomplish the ultimate retirement of all 
the United States notes in circulation. 

In comj^liance with this act, the sum of about 


The Bond Issues 

$92,000,000 in gold was realized by the sale of 
bonds, and about $41,000,000, in addition, was 
obtained from surplus revenue; and thereupon 
the contemplated redemption was entered upon. 
But after the retirement and cancelation of 
only about $30,000,000 of these notes, and on the 
thirty-first day of May, 1878, this process was 
interrupted by the passage of an act forbid- 
ding their further retirement or cancelation, 
and providing that any such notes thereafter 
redeemed should not be canceled or destroyed, 
but should be ' ^ reissued and paid out again and 
kept in circulation." At the time this act was 
passed the United States notes uncanceled and 
still outstanding amounted to $346,681,016. It 
will be observed that though the actual retire- 
ment of these notes was prohibited, their re- 
demption in gold was still continued, coupled 
with the condition that, though thus redeemed, 
they should be still kept on foot and again put 
in circulation as a continuing and never-ending 
obligation of the Government, calling for pay- 
ment in gold— not once alone, but as often as 
their reissue permitted, and without the least 
regard to prior so-called redemptions. It will 
be also observed that this prohibition of can- 
celation intervened seven months prior to Jan- 
uary 1, 1879, the date when the general and un- 


The Bond Issues 

restricted redemption and retirement of all 
these outstanding notes was, under the terms of 
the act of 1875, to commence. At the time when 
their further cancelation was thus terminated 
there remained of the gold which had been pro- 
vided as a reserve for their redemption about 
$103,000,000. This is the fund which has since 
then been called the ''gold reserve.'' 

In point of fact, this reserve was thereafter 
made up of all the net gold held by the Govern- 
ment; and its amount at any particular date 
was ascertained by deducting from the entire 
stock of gold in the Treasury the amounts cov- 
ered by outstanding gold certificates, which in- 
struments resemble a bank's certificate of de- 
posit, and are issued by the Secretary of the 
Treasury to those making with the Govern- 
ment specific deposits of gold, to be returned 
to the holders of the certificates on demand. 
Of course the gold thus held for certificate- 
holders is not available for the redemption of 
United States notes. 

In the year 1882 a law was passed by Con- 
gress which provided that the Secretary of the 
Treasury should suspend the issue of these gold 
certificates ' ' whenever the amount of gold coin 
and gold bullion in the Treasury, reser\^ed for 
the redemption of United States notes, falls be- 


The Bond Issues 

low $100,000,000/' Whatever may have been 
the actual relationship between gold certificates 
representing gold deposited for their redemp- 
tion, and the gold kept on hand for the redemp- 
tion of United States notes, the provision of 
law just quoted seems to have been accepted as 
a statutory recognition of the fact that our gold 
reserve for note redemption should have for its 
lowest limit this sum of $100,000,000. It is a 
singular circumstance that until very lately, 
when this reserve was increased and fixed at 
$150,000,000, no Act of Congress actually pro- 
vided, or in any way expressly stated, what 
the limits of this gold reserve for redemption 
purposes should be; and it is no less singular 
that this provision in the law of 1882 fixed its 
lowest safe limit as perfectly and authorita- 
tively in the understanding of our people as 
it could have been done by a distinct legis- 
lative requirement. At the time this reserve 
was created, as well as when the actual can- 
celation of United States notes after redemp- 
tion was prohibited, it evidently was thought 
by those directing our nation's financial af- 
fairs that the sum of $100,000,000 in net gold 
actually in hand, especially with such addi- 
tions as might naturally be expected to reach 
the fund by way of surplus revenue receipts, 


The Bond Issues 

or otherwise, would constitute a sufficient gold 
reserve to redeem sucli of these notes still 
left outstanding as might be presented, and that 
the assurance of their gold redemption when 
presented would keep them largely in circula- 
tion. This scheme seemed for a time to be 
abundantly vindicated by the people's content- 
ment with the sufficiency of the redemption 
reserve, and by their willingness to keep in 
circulating use these United States notes as 
currency more convenient than gold itself. 

Another most imjDortant condition of mind 
among the people, however, grew out of, or at 
least accompanied, their acceptance of the re- 
demptive sufficiency of the gold reserve as con- 
stituted. The popular belief became deep-seated 
and apparently immovable that the reduction 
of this gold reserve to an amount less than 
$100,000,000 would, in some way, cause a dis- 
astrous situation, and perhaps justify an ap- 
prehension concerning our nation's financial 
soundness. Thus a gold reserve containing at 
all times at least $100,000,000 came to be re- 
garded by the people with a sort of sentimental 
solicitude, which, whatever else may be said of 
it, was certainly something to be reckoned with 
in making our national financial calculations. 

That the plans thus set on foot for the so- 


The Bond Issues 

called redemption of the United States notes 
outstanding promised to be adequate and 
effective is seen in the fact that the gold re- 
serve, starting at the end of June, 1878, with 
about $103,500,000, never afterward fell as 
low as $100,000,000 until April, 1893, and 
that sometimes in its fluctuations during this 
interval of twenty-five years it amounted to 
upward of $200,000,000. Under conditions 
then existing popular confidence was well es- 
tablished, the reserve satisfactorily endured 
the strain of all redemption demands, and 
United States notes were kept well in circula- 
tion as money. 

In an evil hour, however, a legislative con- 
cession was made to a mischievous and persis- 
tent demand for the free and unlimited coinage 
of silver. This concession was first exhibited 
in an act of Congress passed in 1878, directing 
the expenditure of not less than $2,000,000 nor 
more than $4,000,000 each month by the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury in the purchase of silver 
buUion, and the coinage of such bullion into sil- 
ver dollars. Though this act is not in itself 
so intimately related to my subject as to require 
detailed explanation, it was the forerunner of 
another law of Congress which had much to do 
with creating the financial conditions that ne- 


The Bond Issues 

cessitated the issuance of Government bonds 
for the reinforcement of the gold reserve. 

This law was passed in 1890, and superseded 
the provision of the law of 1878 directing the 
purchase and coinage of silver. In lieu of these 
j)rovisions the Secretary of the Treasury was 
thereby directed to purchase silver bullion from 
time to time in each month to the aggregate 
amount of 4,500,000 ounces, or as much as might 
be offered, at the market price, not to exceed, 
however, a limit therein fixed. It was further 
provided that there should be issued, in pay- 
ment of such purchases of silver bullion. Treas- 
ury notes of the United States in denominations 
not less than one dollar nor more than $1000; 
that such notes should be redeemable in coin, 
and should ^'be a legal tender in pa^TQent of all 
debts, public and private, except where other- 
wise expressly stipulated in the contract, and 
should be receivable for customs, taxes and all 
public dues''; and that when they were re- 
deemed or paid into the Treasur^^ they might be 
reissued. The Secretarv of the Treasurv was 
directed to coin into silver dollars in each month 
until the first day of July, 1891, 2,000,000 
ounces of the silver so purchased, and there- 
after so much as might be necessary to provide 
for the redemption of the notes issued in pay- 


The Bond Issues 

ment for the silver from time to time purchased 
under the act. 

I have recited these provisions by way of 
leading up to the proposition that, under the 
law of 1890, the burden upon the gold reserve 
was tremendously enlarged. It will be readily 
seen that it forced larger monthly purchases of 
silver than were required under the prior act, 
and that, instead of providing for silver dol- 
lars, which as coins, or certificates of deposit 
representing such coins, should circulate as 
silver currency, unredeemable in gold as was 
done under the act of 1878, it directed that in 
payment of such purchases a new obligation 
of the Government, redeemable in coin, should 
be issued and added to our circulating medium. 
It is, however, only when we examine the spe- 
cific provision for the redemption of these notes 
that we discover in its full extent the harm- 
ful relationship of this new device to the in- 
tegrity of the gold reserve. At its outset the 
redemption clause of the act courageously and 
manfully gave to the Secretary of the Treasury 
the authority to redeem such notes in gold or 
silver at his discretion; but in its ending it fell 
down a pitiful victim of the silver craze. The 
entire clause is in these words: ^'That upon 
demand of the holder of any of the Treasury 

^ 129 

The Bond Issues 

notes herein provided for, the Secretary of the 
Treasury shall, under such regulations as he 
may provide, redeem such notes in gold or sil- 
ver coin at his discretion, it being the estab- 
lished policy of the United States to maintain 
the two metals at a parity with each other upon 
the present legal ratio, or such ratio as may be 
provided by law.'* 

According to the legal ratio then existing, 
which has never been changed, the average in- 
trinsic gold value of a silver dollar as compared 
with a gold dollar was, during the year 1891, 
about seventy-six cents, during 1892 a trifle 
more than sixty-seven cents, and during 1893 
about sixty cents. 

It is hardly necessary to say that the asser- 
tion in the act of "the established policy of the 
United States to maintain the two metals at a 
parity" had the effect of transferring the dis- 
cretion of determining whether these Treasury 
notes should be redeemed in gold or silver, from 
the Secretary of the Treasury to the holder of 
the notes. Manifestly, in the face of this as- 
sertion of the Government's intention, a de- 
mand for gold redemption on the part of the 
holders of such notes could not be refused, and 
the acceptance of silver dollars insisted upon, 
without either subjecting to doubt the good 

The Bond Issues 

faith and honest intention of the Government's 
professions, or creating a suspicion of onr 
country's solvency. The parity between the 
two metals could not be maintained, but, on the 
contrary, would be distinctly denied, if the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury persisted in redeeming 
these notes, against the will of the holders, in 
dollars of silver instead of gold. 

Therefore it came to pass that the Treasury 
notes issued for the purchase of silver under 
the law of 1890 took their place by the side of 
the United States notes, commonly called green- 
backs, as demands against our very moderate 
and shifting gold reserve. 

It should have been plainly apparent to all 
who had eyes to see that the monetary scheme, 
thus additionally burdened, was adequate and 
safe only in smooth financial weather, and was 
miserably calculated to resist any disturbances 
in public confidence, or the rough waves of busi- 
ness emergencies. The proof of this was 
quickly forthcoming. 

The new Treasury notes made their first ap- 
pearance as part of our money circulation in 
August, 1890 ; and at the close of that month the 
gold reserve amounted to $185,837,581. Dur- 
ing the next month it fell off about $38,000,000, 
reducing the amount on the last day of Septem- 


The Bond Issues 

ber to nearly $148,000,000; and with a few 
slight spasmodic rallies it continued to decrease 
until the sale of bonds for its rex)lenishment. 

In the latter part of 1892 and the first months 
of 1893, these Treasury notes having, in the 
meantime, very greatly multiplied, the with- 
drawals of gold from the Treasury through the 
redemption of these as well as the United States 
notes strikingly increased; and the fact that 
by far the larger part of the gold so withdrawn 
was shipped abroad plainly showed that foreign 
investors in American securities had grave ap- 
prehensions as to our ability to continue to re- 
deem all these notes in gold and thus maintain 
the integrity and soundness of our financial con- 

I succeeded Mr. Harrison in the Presidency 
on the fourth day of March, 1893; and on the 
seventh of that month Mr. Carlisle became Sec- 
retary of the Treasury. The gold reserve on 
that day amounted to $100,982,410— only $982,- 
410 in excess of the sum that had come to be 
generally regarded as indicating the danger 
line. The retiring Secretary of the Treasury, 
appreciating the importance of preventing the 
fall of the reserve below this limit, had just 
before his retirement directed the preparation 
of i^lates for the engraving of bonds so that 


The Bond Issues 

he might by their sale obtain gold to reinforce 
the fund. I have heard him say within the last 
few years that he expected before the close of 
his term to resort to bond sales for the purpose 
of such reinforcement, unless prevented at the 
last moment by the President's disapproval. 
Of course it is but natural that any one direct- 
ing the affairs of the Treasury Department 
should be anxious to avoid such an expedient; 
and Secretary Foster avoided it, and barely 
saved the reserve from falling below the $100,- 
000,000 mark during his term, by effecting ar- 
rangements, in January and February, 1893, 
with certain bankers in New York, by which he 
obtained from them in exchange for United 
States notes, or on other considerations, some- 
thing over $8,000,000 in gold, which enabled 
him to escape the sale of bonds in aid of the 

With the gold reserve lower than it had ever 
been since its creation in 1878, and showing an 
excess of less than $1,000,000 above the sup- 
posed limit of disaster, and with the demand for 
gold redemption of Government currency ob- 
ligations giving no sigTi of abatement, the pros- 
pect that greeted the new administration was 
certainly not reassuring. In our effort to meet 
the emergency without an issue of bonds Sec- 


The Bond Issues 

retary Carlisle immediately applied to banks 
in different localities for an exchange with the 
Government of a portion of their holdings of 
gold coin for other fonns of currency. This 
effort was so far successful that on the 25th 
of March the gold reserve amounted to 
over $107,000,000, notwithstanding the fact that 
considerable withdrawals had been made in the 
interval. The slight betterment thus secured 
proved, however, to be only temporary ; for un- 
der the stress of continued and augmented with- 
drawals, the gold reserve, on the twenty-second 
day of April, 1893, for the first time since its 
establishment, was reduced below the $100,000,- 
000 limit— amounting on that day to about 

Though this fall below the minimum thereto- 
fore always maintained was not followed by 
any sudden and distinctly new disaster, it had 
the effect of accelerating withdrawals of gold. 
It became apparent that there had intervened 
a growing apprehension among the masses of 
our own people concerning the Government's 
competency to continue gold redemption, with 
the result that a greatly increased proportion of 
the amount withdrawn from the gold reserve, 
instead of going abroad to satisfy the claims of 
foreigners or as a basis of commercial exchange, 


The Bond Issues 

was hoarded by our citizens at home as a pre- 
caution against possible financial distress. In 
the meantime, nearly the entire gold receipts in 
payment of customs and other revenue charges 
had ceased. To meet this situation strenuous 
efforts were made by the Secretary of the 
Treasury to improve the condition by resorting 
again to the plan of exchanging for gold other 
forms of currency, with some success, while in 
the month of August, 1893, gold revenue re- 
ceipts were temporarily considerably stimu- 
lated. Thus a fleeting gleam of hope was given 
to the dark surroundings. 

In these troublous times those charged with 
the administration of the Government's finan- 
cial affairs could not fail to recognize in the 
law of 1890, directing the monthly purchase 
of silver and the issuance in payment therefor 
of Treasury notes in effect redeemable in gold, 
a prolific cause of our financial trouble. Ac- 
cordingly, a special session of Congress was 
called to meet on the seventh day of August, 
1893, to repeal this law, and thus terminate the 
creation of further demands upon our already 
overburdened and feeble gold reserve. The re- 
I^ealing act was quite promptly passed in the 
House of Representatives on the twenty-eighth 
day of August; but, on account of vexatious 


The Bond Issues 

opposition in the Senate, the repeal was not 
jBnally effected until the first day of November, 
1893, and then only after there had been added 
to the act an inopportune repetition of the 
statement concerning the Government's inten- 
tion to maintain the parity of both gold and 
silver coins. 



The effect of this repeal in its immediate re- 
sults failed to quiet the fear of impending evil 
now thoroughly aroused; nor were all the ef- 
forts thus far made to augment the gold re- 
serve effective as against the constant process 
of its depletion. 

On the seventeenth day of January, 1894, the 
Government was confronted by a disquieting * 
emergency. The gold reserve had fallen to less 
than $70,000,000, notwithstanding the most dil- 
igent efforts to maintain it in sounder condi- 
tion. Against this slender fund gold demands 
amounting to not less than $450,000,000 in 
United States notes and Treasury notes were 
in actual circulation, and others amounting to 
about $50,000,000, in addition, were tempora- 
rily held in the Treasury subject to reissue— the 
entire volume, by peremptor^^ requirement of 
law, remaining uncanceled even after repeated 
redemption; nor was there any promise of a 
cessation of the abnormal and exhausting drain 
of gold then fully under way. Another factor 


The Bond Issues 

in the situation, most perplexing and danger- 
ous, was the distiiist, which was growing enor- 
mously, regarding the wisdom and stability of 
our scheme of finance. As a result of these con- 
ditions there loomed in sight the menace of the 
destniction of our gold reserve, the repudiation 
of our gold obligations, the humiliating fall of 
our nation's finances to a silver basis, and the 
degradation of our Government's high standing 
in the respect of the civilized world. 

There was absolutely but one way to avert 
national calamity and our country's disgrace; 
and this way was adopted when, on the seven- 
teenth day of January, 1894, the Secretary of 
the Treasury issued a notice that bids in gold 
would be received until the first day of Febru- 
ary following for $50,000,000 in bonds of the 
United States, redeemable in coin at the pleas- 
ure of the Government after ten years from the 
date of their issue, and bearing interest at the 
rate of five per cent, per annum. It was further 
stated in the notice that no bid would be con- 
sidered that did not offer a premium on said 
bonds of a fraction more than seventeen j^er 
cent., which would secure to the purchaser an 
investment yielding three per cent, per annum. 

Tt should liero be mentioned that the onlv 
Government bonds which could bo sold in the 


Tbe Bond Issues 

manner and for the purpose contemplated were 
such as were authorized and described in a law 
passed in 1870, and which were designated in 
the law of 1875 providing for the redemption 
of United States notes as the kind of bonds 
which the Secretary of the Treasury was per- 
mitted to sell to enable him ^'to prei^are and 
pro\dde for" such redemption. The issues of 
bonds thus authorized were of three descrip- 
tions: one payable at the pleasure of the Gov- 
ernment after ten years from their date, and 
bearing interest at the rate of five per cent.; 
one so made payable after fifteen years from 
their date, bearing four and a half per cent, 
interest; and one in like manner made payable 
after thirty years from their date, bearing in- 
terest at the rate of four j^er cent. The five 
per cent, bonds were specified in the Secre- 
tary's offer of sale because on account of their 
high rate of interest they would command a 
greater premium, and therefore a larger return 
of gold, and for the further reason that the op- 
tion of the Government regarding their j)ay- 
ment could be earlier exercised. 

The withdrawals of gold did not cease with 
the offer to sell bonds for the replenishment of 
the reserve, and on the dav before the date lim- 
ited for the opening of bids the fund had de- 


The Bond Issues 

creased to less than $66,000,000. In the mean- 
time, the perplexity of the situation, already 
intense, was made more so by the fact that the 
bids for bonds under the offer of the Secretary 
came in so slowly that a few days before the 
1st of February, when the bids were to be 
opened, there were plain indications that the 
contemplated sale would fail unless prompt and 
energetic measures were taken to avoid such 
a perilous result. 

Thereupon the Secretary of the Treasury in- 
vited to a conference, in the city of New York, 
a number of bankers and presidents of moneyed 
institutions, which resulted in so arousing their 
patriotism, as well as their solicitude for the 
protection of the interests they represented, 
that they effectively exerted themselves, barely 
in time to prevent a disastrous failure of the 
sale. The proceeds of this sale, received from 
numerous bidders large and small, aggregated 
$58,660,917.63 in gold, which so increased the 
reserve that on the sixth day of March, 1894, 
it amounted to $107,440,802. 

It was hoped that this measure of restoration 
and this exhibition of the nation's ability to 
protect its financial integrity would allay ap- 
prehension and restore confidence to such an ex- 
tent as to render further bond sales unneces- 


The Bond Issues 

sary. It was soon discovered, however, that the 
complications of our ill condition were so deep- 
seated and stubborn that the treatment resorted 
to was only a palliative instead of a cure. 

On the last day of May, 1894, less than three 
months after its reinforcement, as mentioned, 
the gold reserve had been again so depleted by 
withdrawals that it amounted to only $78,693,- 
267. An almost uninterrupted downward ten- 
dency followed, notwithstanding constant ef- 
forts on the part of the Government to check 
the fall, until, on the fourteenth day of Novem- 
ber, 1894, the fund had fallen to $61,878,374. 
In the meantime, the inclination of our timid 
citizens to take gold from the reserve for hoard- 
ing ^ ' had grown by what it fed on, ' ' while large 
shipments abroad to meet foreign indebted- 
ness or for profit still continued and increased 
in amount. 

In these circumstances the inexorable alter- 
native presented itself of again selling Govern- 
ment bonds for the replenishment of its re- 
demption gold, or assuming the tremendous 
risk of neglecting the safety and permanence 
of every interest dependent upon the soundness 
of our national finances. An obedient regard 
for official duty made the right path exceedingly 


Tbe Bond Issues 

On the day last mentioned a public proposal 
was issued inviting bids in gold for the pur- 
chase of additional fvwQ per cent, bonds to the 
amount of $50,000,000. Numerous bids were 
received under this proposal, one of which, for 
^'all or none'^ of the bonds, tendered on behalf 
of thirty-three banking institutions and finan- 
ciers in the city of New York, being consider- 
ably more advantageous to the Government 
than all other bids, was accepted, and the entire 
amount was awarded to these parties. This re- 
sulted in adding to the reserve the sum of $58,- 

The president at that time of the United 
States Trust Company, one of the strongest and 
largest financial institutions in the country, 
rendered most useful and patriotic service in 
making both this and the previous offer of 
bonds successful ; and his company was a prom- 
inent purchaser on both occasions. He after- 
ward testified under oath that the accepted bid 
for "all or none,'' in which his company was 
a large participant, proved unprofitable to the 

The pa^Tnent of gold into the Treasury on ac- 
count of this sale of bonds was not entirely com- 
pleted until after the 1st of December, 1894. 
Then followed a time of bitter disappointment 


The Bond Issues 

and miserable depression, greater than any that 
had before darkened the struggles of the Execu- 
tive branch of the Government to save our na- 
tion's financial integrity. 

The addition made to the gold reserve by this 
completed transaction seemed to be of no sub- 
stantial benefit, if, on the contrary, it did not 
actually stimulate the disquieting factors of the 
situation. In December, 1894, during which 
month $58,538,500 in gold, realized from this 
second sale of bonds, was fully paid in and 
added to the reserve, the withdrawals from the 
fund amounted to nearly $32,000,000; and this 
was followed in the next month, or during Jan- 
uary, 1895, by a further depletion in the sum 
of more than $45,000,000. 

In view of the crisis which these suddenly in- 
creased withdrawals seemed to portend, the aid 
of Congress was earnestly invoked in a special 
presidential message to that body, dated on the 
28th of January, 1895, in which the gravity and 
embarrassment of the situation were set forth 
in the following terms : 

The real trouble which confronts us consists in a 
lack of confidence, widespread and constantly in- 
creasing", in the continuing ability or disposition of 
the Government to pay its obligations in gold. This 
lack of confidence grows to some extent out of the 


The Bond Issues 

palpable and apparent embarrassment attending the 
efforts of the Government under existing laws to 
procure gold, and to a greater extent out of the im- 
possibility of either keeping it in the Treasury or 
canceling obligations by its expenditure after it is 
obtained. . . . 

The most dangerous and irritating feature of the 
situation, however, remains to be mentioned. It is 
found in the means by which the Treasury is de- 
spoiled of the gold thus obtained (by the sale of 
bonds) without canceling a single Government ob- 
ligation, and solely for the benefit of those who find 
profit in shipping it abroad, or w^hose fears induce 
them to hoard it at home. We have outstanding 
about $500,000,000 of currency notes of the Govern- 
ment for which gold may be demanded, and, curi- 
ously enough, the law^ requires that when presented, 
and, in fact, redeemed and paid in gold, they shall 
be reissued. Thus the same notes may do duty many 
times in drawing gold from the Treasury; nor can 
the process be averted so long as private parties, for 
profit or otherwise, see an advantage in repeating 
the operation. More than $300,000,000 of these 
notes have been redeemed in gold, and, notwith- 
standing such redemption, they are still outstanding. 

After giving a history of the bond issues al- 
ready made to replenish the reserve, and of 
their results, it was further stated : 

The financial events of the past year suggest facts 
and conditions which should certainly arrest atten- 
tion. More than $172,000,000 in gold have been 


The Bond Issues 

drawn out of the Treasury during the year for the 
purpose of shipment abroad or hoarding at home. 

While nearly $103,000,000 was drawn out during 
the first ten months of the year, a sum aggregating 
more than two-thirds of that amount, being about 
$69,000,000, was drawn out during the following two 
months, thus indicating a marked acceleration of 
the depleting process with the lapse of time. 

Following a reference to existing differences 
of opinion in regard to the extent to which 
silver should be coined or used in our currency, 
and the irrelevancy of such differences to the 
matter in hand, the message continued: 

"While I am not unfriendly to silver, and while I 
desire to see it recognized to such an extent as is 
consistent with financial safety and the preservation 
of national honor and credit, I am not willing to 
see gold entirely banished from our currency and 
finances. To avert such a consequence I believe thor- 
ough and radical remedial legislation should be 
promptly passed. I therefore beg the Congress to 
give the subject immediate attention. 

After recommending the passage of a law 
authorizing the issue of long-term bonds, bear- 
ing a low rate of interest, to be used for the 
maintenance of an adequate gold reserve and 
in exchange for outstanding United States notes 
and Treasury notes for the purpose of their 
cancelation, and after giving details of the pro- 


The Bond Issues 

posed scheme, the message concluded as fol- 

In conclusion, I desire to frankly confess my re- 
luctance to issue more bonds in present circum- 
stances and with no better results than have lately 
followed that course. I cannot, however, refrain 
from adding to an assurance of my anxiety to co- 
operate with the present Congress in any reasonable 
measure of relief, an expression of my determination 
to leave nothing undone which furnishes a hope for 
improving the situation, or checking a suspicion of 
our disinclination or disability to meet, wdth the 
strictest honor, every national obligation. 

This appeal to Congress for legislative aid 
was absolutely fruitless. 

On the eighth day of February, 1895, those 
who, under the mandate of Executive duty, were 
striving, thus unaided, to avert the perils of 
the situation, could count in the gold reserve 
only the frightfully low sum of $41,340,181; 
and it must be remembered that this was only 
two months after the proceeds of the second 
sale of bonds had been added to the fund. In 
point of fact, the withdrawals of gold during the 
short period mentioned had exceeded by more 
than $18,000,000 the amount of such proceeds ; 
and several million dollars more had been de- 
manded, some of which, though actually taken 


The Bond Issues 

out, was unexpectedly, and on account of the 
transaction now to be detailed, returned to the 

This sudden fall in the reserve, and the ap- 
parent certainty of the continuance of its rapid 
depletion, seemed to justify the fear that before 
another bond sale by means of public notice 
and popular subscription could be perfected 
the gold reserve might be entirely exhausted; 
nor could we keep out of mind the apprehension 
that in consequence of repeated dispositions of 
bonds, with worse instead of better financial 
conditions impending, further sales by popular 
subscription might fail of success, except upon 
terms that would give the appearance of im- 
paired national credit. 

Notwithstanding all this, no other way 
seemed to be open to us than another public 
offer of bonds ; and it was determined to move 
in that direction immediately. 

In anticipation of this action it was important 
to obtain certain information and suggestions 
touching the feeling and disposition of those 
actively prominent in financial and business cir- 

I think it may here be frankly confessed that 
it never occurred to any of us to consult, in this 
emergency, farmers, doctors, lawyers, shoe- 


The Bond Issues 

makers, or even statesmen. We could not escape 
the belief that the prospect of obtaining what 
we needed might be somewhat imjDroved by 
making application to those whose business and 
surroundings qualified them to intelligently re- 

Therefore, on the evening of the seventh day 
of February, 1895, an interview was held at the 
Wliite House with Mr. J. P. Morgan of New 
York ; and I propose to give the details of that 
interview as gathered from a recollection which 
I do not believe can be at fault. Secretary Car- 
lisle was present nearly or quite all the time, 
Attorney-General Olney was there a portion of 
the time, and Mr. Morgan and a young man 
from his office and myself all the time. At the 
outset Mr. Morgan was inclined to complain of 
the treatment he had received from Treasury 
officials in the repudiation of an arrangement 
which he thought he had been encouraged to 
perfect in connection with the disposal of an- 
other issue of bonds. I said to Mr. Morgan, 
whatever there might be in all this, an- 
other offer of bonds for popular subscription 
open to all bidders had been determined upon, 
and that there were two questions I wanted to 
ask him which he ought to be able to answer : one 
was whether the bonds to be so offered would 


The Bond Issues 

probably be taken at a good price on short 
notice ; and the other was whether, in case there 
should be imminent danger of the disappear- 
ance of what remained of the gold reserve, dur- 
ing the time that must elapse between published 
notice and the opening of bids, a sufficient 
amount of gold could be temporarily obtained 
from financial institutions in the city of New 
York to bridge over the difficulty and save the 
reserve until the Government could realize upon 
the sale of its bonds. Mr. Morgan replied 
that he had no doubt bonds could be again sold 
on popular subscription at some price, but he 
could not say what the price would be ; and to 
the second inquiry his answer was that, in his 
opinion, such an advance of gold as might be 
required could be accomplished if the gold 
could be kept in this country, but that there 
might be reluctance to making such an advance 
if it was to be immediately withdrawn for ship- 
ment abroad, leaving our financial condition 
substantially unimproved. After a little fur- 
ther discussion of the situation he suddenly 
asked me why we did not buy $100,000,000 in 
gold at a fixed price and pay for it in bonds, un- 
der Section 3700 of the Revised Statutes. This 
was a proposition entirely new to me. I turned 
to the Statutes and read the section he had men- 


The Bond Issues 

tioned. Secretary Carlisle confirmed me in the 
opinion that this law abundantly authorized 
such a transaction, and agreed that it might be 
expedient if favorable terms could be made. 
The section of the Statutes referred to reads 
as follows : 

Section 3700. The Secretary of the Treasury 
may purchase coin with any of the bonds or notes of 
the United States authorized by law, at such rates 
and upon such terms as he may deem most advan- 
tageous to the public interest. 

Mr. Morgan strongly urged that, if we pro- 
ceeded under this law, the amount of gold pur- 
chased should not be less than $100,000,000; 
but he was at once informed that in no event 
would more bonds be then issued than would 
be sufficient to provide for adding to the reserve, 
about $60,000,000, the amount necessary to raise 
the fund to $100,000,000. 

Not many months afterward I became con- 
vinced that on this point Mr. Morgan made a 
wise suggestion; and I have always since re- 
gretted that it was not adopted. 



It can hardly be necessary to state that any 
plan which would protect from immediate with- 
drawal the gold we might add to our reserve 
could not fail to be of extreme value. Such 
of these withdrawals as were made for hoard- 
ing gold could be prevented only by a restora- 
tion of confidence among those of our people 
who had grown suspicious of the Government 's 
financial ability; but the considerable drain 
from the reserve for the purchase of the very 
bonds to be sold for its reinforcement, and the 
much larger drain made by those who profited 
by the shipment of gold abroad, could be, meas- 
urably at least, directly arrested. Thus to the 
extent that foreign gold might be brought here 
and used for the purchase of bonds, the use for 
that purpose of such as was held by our own 
people or as was already in the reserve subject 
to their withdrawal would not onlv be de- 
creased, but the current of the passage of gold 
would be changed and would flow toward us in- 
stead of away from us, making the prospect of 


The Bond Issues 

profit in gold exportation less alluring. An in- 
flux of gold from abroad would also have a ten- 
dency to decrease the sentimental estimate of its 
desirability which its unrelieved scarcity was 
apt to create in timid minds. It was especially 
jDlain that so far as withdrawals from our re- 
serve for speculative shipment abroad were con- 
cerned, they could be discouraged by the efforts 
of those whose financial connections in other 
countries enabled them to sell gold exchange on 
foreign money centers at a i^rice which would 
make the actual transportation of the coin itself 

The position of Mr. Morgan and the other 
parties in interest whom he represented was 
such in the business world that they were abun- 
dantly able, not only to furnish the gold we 
needed, but to protect us in the manner indi- 
cated against its immediate loss. Their will- 
ingness to undertake both these services was 
developed during the discussion of the plan pro- 
posed ; and after careful consideration of every 
detail until a late hour of the night, an agree- 
ment was made by which J. P. Morgan & Co. 
of New York, for themselves and for el.' S. Mor- 
gan & Co. of London ; and August Belmont & 
Co. of New York, for themselves and for N. M. 
Rothschild & Son of London, were to sell and 


The Bond Issues 

deliver to the Government 3,500,000 ounces of 
standard gold coin of the United States, to be 
paid for in bonds bearing annual interest at the 
rate of four per cent, per annum, and payable 
at the pleasure of the Government after thirty 
years from their date, such bonds to be issued 
and delivered from time to time as the gold 
coin to be furnished was deposited by said par- 
ties in the subtreasuries or other legal deposi- 
tories of the United States. At least one half 
of the coin so delivered was to be obtained in 
Europe, and shipped from there in amounts not 
less than 300,000 ounces per month, at the ex- 
pense and risk of the parties furnishing the 
same ; and so far as it was in their power they 
were to ^^ exert all financial influence and make 
all legitimate efforts to protect the Treasury of 
the United States against the withdrawals of 
gold pending the complete performance of the 
contract. ' ' 

Four per cent, bonds were selected for use in 
this transaction instead of ten-year bonds bear- 
ing ^Ye per cent, interest, because their matu- 
rity was extended to thirty years, thus offering 
a more permanent and inviting investment, and 
for the further reason that $100,000,000 of 
shorter ^yq per cent, bonds had already been 
issued, and it was, therefore, deemed desirable 


The Bond Issues 

to postpone these further bond obligations of 
the Government to a later date. The price 
agreed upon for the gold coin to be delivered 
was such that the bonds given in payment there- 
for would yield to the investor an annual in- 
come of three and three fourths per cent. 

It has already been stated that the only bonds 
which could be utilized in our efforts to main- 
tain our gold reserve were those described in a 
law passed as early as 1870, and made available 
for our uses by an act passed in 1875. The 
terms of these bonds were ill suited to later 
ideas of investment, and they were made payable 
in coin and not specifically in gold. Nothing at 
any time induced the exchange of gold for these 
coin bonds, except a reliance upon such a meas- 
ure of good faith on the part of the Govern- 
ment, and honesty on the part of the people, 
as would assure their payment in gold coin and 
not in depreciated silver. 

It was exceedingly fortunate that, at the time 
this agreement was under consideration, certain 
political movements calculated to undermine 
this reliance upon the Government's continued 
financial integrity were not in sight ; but it was, 
nevertheless, very apparent that the difficulties 
of the situation would be greatly lessened if, in 
safeguarding our reserve, bonds could be used 


The Bond Issues 

payable by their terms in gold, and bearing a 
rate of interest not exceeding three per cent. 
Accordingly, at the instance of Secretary Car- 
lisle, a bill had been introduced in the House of 
Representatives, some time before the Morgan- 
Belmont agreement was entered upon, which 
authorized the issue of bonds of that descrip- 
tion. A few hours before the agreement was 
consummated this sane and sensible legisla- 
tion was brought to a vote in the House and 

When, in our interview with Mr. Morgan, the 
price for the gold to be furnished was con- 
sidered, he gave reasons which we could not well 
answer in support of the terms finally agreed 
upon; but he said that the parties offering to 
furnish the gold would be glad to accept at par 
three per cent, bonds, payable by their terms in 
gold instead of in coin, in case their issue could 
be authorized. He expressed not only a will- 
ingness but a strong desire that a substitution 
might be made of such bonds in lieu of those 
already selected, and readily agreed to allow 
us time to procure the necessary legislation for 
that purpose. He explained, however, that only 
a short time could be stipulated for such a sub- 
stitution, because in order to carrv out sue- 
cessfully the agreement contemplated, the bonds 


The Bond Issues 

must be offered in advance to investors both 
here and abroad, and that after numerous sub- 
scriptions had been received from outside par- 
ties the form and condition of the securities 
could not be changed; and he added that, but 
for this, there would be no objection to the 
concession of all the time desired. It was finally 
agreed that ten days should be allowed us to 
secure from Congress the legislation necessary 
to permit the desired substitution of bonds. A 
simple calculation demonstrated that by such 
a substitution the Government would save on 
account of interest more than $16,000,000 be- 
fore the maturity of the bonds. It was further 
stipulated on the part of the Government that 
if the Secretary of the Treasury should desire 
to sell any further bonds on or before October 
1, 1895, they should first be offered to the par- 
ties then represented by Mr. Morgan. This 
stipulation did not become operative. 

When our conference terminated it was un- 
derstood that Secretary Carlisle and Attorney- 
General Olney should act for the Government 
at a meeting between the parties early the fol- 
lowing day, at which the agreement we had made 
was to be reduced to writing; and thereupon I 
prepared a message which was submitted to the 
Congress at the opening of its session on the 


The Bond Issues 

following day, in which the details of our agree- 
ment were set forth and the amount which 
would be saved to the Government by the sub- 
stitution of three per cent, gold bonds was 
plainly stated ; but having no memorandum of 
the agreement before me, in my haste I care- 
lessly omitted to mention the efforts agreed on 
by Mr. Morgan and his associates to prevent 
gold shipments. The next morning a contract 
embodying our agreement was drawn and 
signed, and a copy at once given to the chair- 
man of the Ways and Means Committee of the 
House, so that the delay of a demand for its in- 
spection might be avoided. A bill was also im- 
mediately introduced again giving authority to 
issue three per cent, bonds, payable by their 
terms in gold, to be substituted in place of the 
four per cent, bonds as provided in the con- 
tract-to the end that $16,000,000 might be 
saved to the Government, and the public wel- 
fare in every way subserved. 

The object of this message was twofold. It 
was deemed important, considering the critical 
condition of our gold reserve, that the public 
should be speedily informed of the steps taken 
for its protection ; and in addition, though pre- 
vious efforts to obtain helpful legislation had 
resulted in discouragement, it was hoped that 


The Bond Issues 

when the saving by the Government of $16,- 
000,000 was seen to depend on the action of 
Congress there might be a response that would 
accord with patriotic public duty. 

Quite in keeping with the congressional habit 
prevailing at that time, the needed legislation 
was refused, and this money was not saved. 

The contract was thereupon carried out as 
originally made. In its execution four per 
cent, bonds were delivered amounting to $62,- 
315,400, and the sum of $65,116,244.62 in gold 
received as their price. The last deposit in com- 
pletion of the contract was made in June, 1895, 
but additional gold was obtained from the con- 
tracting ])arties in exchange for United States 
notes and Treasury notes until in September, 
1895, when the entire amount of gold received 
from them under the contract and through such 
exchanges had amounted to more than $81,000,- 
000. The terms of the agreement were so well 
carried out, not only in the matter of furnish- 
ing gold, but in procuring it from abroad and 
protecting the reserve from withdrawals, that 
during its continuance the operation of the 
^^ endless chain ^' which had theretofore drained 
our gold was interrupted. No gold was, dur- 
ing that period, taken from the Treasury to be 
used in the j^urchase of bonds, as had pre- 


The Bond Issues 

viously been the case, nor was any withdrawn 
for shipment abroad. 

It became manifest, however, soon after this 
contract was fully performed, that our financial 
ailments had reached a stage so nearly chronic 
that their cure by any treatment within Execu- 
tive reach might well be considered a matter of 
anxious doubt. In the latter months of the year 
1895 a scarcity of foreign exchange and its high 
rate, the termination of the safeguards of the 
Morgan-Belmont contract, and, as a result, the 
renewal of opportunity profitably to withdraw 
gold for export with a newly stimulated popu- 
lar apprehension, and perhaps other disturb- 
ing incidents, brought about a recurrence of 
serious depletions of gold from the reserve. 

In the annual Executive message sent to Con- 
gress on the second day of December, 1895, the 
situation of our finances and currency was set 
forth in detail, and another earnest plea was 
made for remedial legislative action. After 
mentioning the immediately satisfactory results 
of the contract for the purchase of gold, the 
message continued : 

Though the contract mentioned stayed for a time 
the tide of gold withdrawals, its good results could 
not be permanent. Recent withdrawals have re- 
duced the reserve from $107,571,230 on the eighth 


The Bond Issues 

day of July, 1895, to $79,333,966. How long it will 
remain large enough to render its increase unneces- 
sary is only a matter of conjecture, though quite 
large withdrawals for shipment in the immediate 
future are predicted in well-informed quarters. 
About $16,000,000 has been withdrawn during the 
month of November. 

The prediction of further withdrawals men- 
tioned in this message was so fully verified that 
eighteen days after its transmission, and on the 
twentieth day of December, 1895, another Ex- 
ecutive communication was sent to Congress, 
in contemplation of its holiday recess, in which, 
after referring to the details contained in the 
former message, it was stated : 

The contingency then feared has reached us, and 
the withdrawals of gold since the communication re- 
ferred to, and others that appear inevitable, threaten 
such a depletion in our Government's gold reserve as 
brings us face to face with the necessity of further 
action for its protection. This condition is intensi- 
fied by the prevalence in certain quarters of sudden 
and unusual apprehension and timidity in business 

The real and sensible cure for our recurring trou- 
bles can only be effected by a complete change in 
our financial scheme. Pending that, the Executive 
branch of the Government will not relax its efforts 
nor abandon its determination to use every means 
within its reach to maintain before the world Ameri- 


The Bond Issues 

can credit, nor will there be any hesitation in ex- 
hibiting its confidence in the resources of our coun- 
try and the constant patriotism of our people. 

In view, however, of the peculiar situation now 
confronting us, I have ventured to herein express the 
earnest hope that the Congress, in default of the 
inauguration of a better system of finance, will not 
take a recess from its labors before it has, by legis- 
lative enactment or declaration, done something, not 
only to remind those apprehensive among our own 
people that the resources of this Government and a 
scrupulous regard for honest dealing afford a sure 
guarantee of unquestioned safety and soundness, but 
to reassure the world that with these factors, and the 
patriotism of our citizens, the ability and determina- 
tion of our nation to meet in any circumstances every 
obligation it incurs do not admit of question. 

Perhaps it should not have been expected 
that members of Congress would permit trou- 
blesome thoughts of the Government's financial 
difficulties to disturb the pleasant anticipations 
of their holiday recess; at any rate, these dif- 
ficulties and the appeal of the President for at 
least some manifestation of a disposition to aid 
in their remedy were completely ignored. 

On the sixth day of January, 1896, the gold 
reserve having fallen to $61,251,710, its im- 
mediate repair became imperative. Though 
our resort to the expedient of purchasing gold 
with bonds under contract had been productive 
11 i6i 

The Bond Issues 

of very satisfactory results, it by no means in- 
dicated our abandonment of the policy of in- 
viting offerings of gold by public advertise- 
ment. It was rather an exceptional departure 
from that policy, made necessary by the dan- 
gerously low state of the reserve on account of 
extensive and sudden depletions, and the peril 
attending any delay in replenishing it. We 
had not lost faith in the loyalty and jDatriotism 
of the people, nor did we doubt their willingness 
to respond to an appeal from their Government 
in any emergency. We also confidently believed 
that if the bonds issued for the puri30se of in- 
creasing our stock of gold were widely distrib- 
uted among our people, self-interest as well as 
patriotism would stimulate the solicitude of the 
masses of our citizens for the welfare of the 
nation. No reason for discouragement had 
been found in public offerings for bonds, so far 
as obtaining a needed supply of gold and a fair 
price for our bonds were concerned. The fail- 
ure of their wide distribution among the people 
when so disposed of seemed to be largely ow- 
ing to the fact that the bonds themselves were 
so antiquated in form, and bore so high a rate 
of interest, that it was difficult for an ordinary 
person to make the rather confusing computa- 
tion of premium and other factors necessary to 


The Bond Issues 

a safe and intelligent bid. In a transaction of 
this sort, where the smallest fraction of a cent 
may determine the success of an otfer, those ac- 
customed to the niceties of financial calculations 
are apt to hold the field to the exclusion of many 
who, unaided, dare not trust themselves in the 
haze of such intricacies. If Congress had pro- 
vided for the issuance of bonds bearing a low 
rate of interest, which could have been offered 
to the public at par, I am convinced that the 
plain people of the land would more generally 
have become purchasers. Another difficulty that 
had to some extent prevented a more common 
participation by the peoj^le in prior public sales 
arose, it was thought, from their lack of notice 
of the pendency of such sales, and want of in- 
formation as to the advantages of the invest- 
ment offered, and the procedure necessary to 
present their bids in proper form. 

In view of the fact that the gold then in the 
reserve amounted to $20,000,000 more than it 
contained eleven months earlier, when the Mor- 
gan-Belmont contract was made, and because, 
for that reason, more time could be allowed 
for its replenishment, there was no hesitation 
in deciding upon a return to our original plan 
of offering bonds in exchange for gold by public 


The Bond Issues 

Having determined upon a return to this 
method, it was deemed wise, upon consideration 
of all the circumstances, to make some modifica- 
tion of prior action in such cases. Instead of 
short-term fiYQ per cent, bonds, the longer-term 
bonds bearing four per cent, interest were sub- 
stituted, as, on the whole, the best we could 
offer for popular subscription. Since two of- 
ferings of $50,000,000 each had proved to be of 
only very temporary benefit, it was determined 
to double the amount and offer $100,000,000 for 
subscription. Nearly a month was to be given 
instead of a shorter time, as theretofore, between 
the date of notice of the offer and the opening 
of the bids ; and extraordinary efforts were to 
be made to give the most thorough publicity 
to the offerings— to the end that we might stim- 
ulate in every possible way the desire of the 
masses of our people to invest in the bonds. 
Especial information and aid were to be fur- 
nished for the guidance of those inclined to 
subscribe; and successful bidders were to be 
allowed to pay for the bonds awarded to them 
in instalments. The lowest denomination of 
the bonds was to be fifty dollars, and the larger 
ones were to be in multiples of that sum. In 
point of fact, it was resolved that nothing 
should be left undone which would in any way 


The Bond Issues 

promote the success of this additional and in- 
creased offer of bond subscription to the pub- 

Accordingly, on the sixth day of January, 
1896, a circular bearing that date was issued, 
giving notice that proposals would be received 
until the fifth day of February following for 
gold coin purchases of $100,000,000 of the four 
per cent, bonds of the United States, upon the 
terms above mentioned. These circulars were 
extensively iDublished in the newspapers 
throughout the country. Copies, together with 
a letter of instruction to bidders, containing, 
among other things, a computation showing 
the income the bonds would yield to the in- 
vestor upon their purchase at prices therein 
specified, and accompanied by blanks for sub- 
scription, were sent to the postmasters in every 
State and Territory with directions that they 
should be conspicuously displayed in their of- 
fices. The Comptroller of the Currency pre- 
pared and sent to all national banks a circular 
letter, urging them to call the attention of their 
patrons to the desirability of obtaining the 
bonds as an investment, and to aid in stimu- 
lating subscriptions; and with this was for- 
warded a complete set of papers similar to 
those sent to the postmasters. These papers 


The Bond Issues 

were also sent to other banks and financial 
institutions and to bankers in all parts of the 
country, and, in addition, notice was given that 
they could be obtained upon application to the 
Treasury Department or any of the subtreas- 
uries of the United States. Soon afterward, 
in view of the large amount of the bonds of- 
fered, and as a precaution against an undue 
strain upon the general money market, as well 
as to permit the greatest possible opportunity 
for subscription, the terms of the original offer 
of the Secretary of the Treasury were modi- 
fied by reducing in amount the instalments of 
the purchase price and extending the time for 
their payment. 

On an examination of the bids at the expira- 
tion of the time limited for their presentation, 
it was found that 4635 bids had been received, 
after rejecting six which were paljDably not 
genuine or not made in good faith. The bid- 
ders were scattered through forty-seven of our 
States and Territories, and the aggregate 
amount represented by their bids was $526,- 
970,000. The number of accepted bids upon 
which bonds were awarded was only 828, and 
of these ten were forfeited after acceptance, on 
account of non-payment of the first instalment 
of the purchase price. Several of the bids ac- 


The Bond Issues 

cepted were for a single fifty-dollar bond, and 
they varied in amount from that to one bid 
made by J. P. Morgan & Co. and several as- 
sociates for the entire issue of $100,000,000, 
for which they offered 110.6877 on the dollar. 
To all the other 827 accepted bidders who of- 
fered even the smallest fraction of a farthing 
more than this the full number of bonds for 
which they bid were awarded. 

The aggregate of the bonds awarded to these 
bidders, excluding the Morgan bid, amounted 
to $62,321,150. The remainder of the entire 
offering, including more than $4,700,000 of the 
awards which became forfeited for non-pay- 
ment as above mentioned, were awarded to 
Mr. Morgan and his associates, their bid being 
the highest next to those on which bonds had 
been awarded in full, as already stated. 

The aggregate of the prices received for 
these bonds represented, by reason of the pre- 
miums paid, an income to the investor of a 
trifle less than three and four tenths per cent. 

As a result of this large sale of bonds, the 
gold reserve, which, on the last day of Jan- 
uary, 1896, amounted to less than $50,000,000, 
was so increased that at the end of February, 
in spite of withdrawals in the meantime, it 
stood at nearly $124,000,000. 


The Bond Issues 

It will be observed that, notwithstanding all 
the efforts made to distribute this issue of 
bonds among the people, but 827 bids out of 
4641 were entitled to awards as being above 
the Morgan bid ; and that more than one third 
of all the bonds sold were awarded on the 
single bid of Mr. Morgan and his associates. 

The price received on this public sale was 
apparently somewhat better for the Govern- 
ment than that secured by the Morgan-Bel- 
mont contract; but their agreement required 
of them such labor, risk, and expense as per- 
haps entitled them to a favorable bargain. In 
any event, the advantages the Government 
derived from this contract were certainly very 
valuable and should not be overlooked. On 
every sale of bonds by public offering, not 
excluding that just mentioned, large amounts 
of gold were withdrawn from the Treasury 
and used in paying for the bonds offered. In 
the execution of the contract of February, 1895, 
no gold was withdrawn for the purchase of the 
bonds, and the reserve received the full benefit 
of the transaction. Each sale by public adver- 
tisement made prior to the time of the con- 
tract had been so quickly followed by extensive 
and wasting withdrawals of gold from the re- 
serve, that scarcely a breathing-time was al- 


The Bond Issues 

lowed before we were again overtaken by the 
necessity for its reinforcement. Even after 
the notice given for the last sale on the eighth 
day of January, 1896, and between that date 
and the 1st of June following, these with- 
drawals amounted to more than $73,000,000, 
while during the six months or more of the ex- 
istence of the Morgan-Belmont contract the 
withdrawals of gold for export were entirely 
prevented and a season of financial quiet and 
peace was secured. 

Whatever may be the comparative merits of 
the two plans for maintaining our gold reserve, 
both of them when utilized were abundantly 
and clearly justified. 

Whether from fatigue of malign conditions 
or other causes, ever since the last large sale 
of bonds was made the gold reserve has been 
so free from depletion that its condition has 
caused no alarm. 

Two hundred and sixty-two millions of dol- 
lars in bonds were issued on its account during 
the critical time covered by this narrative ; but 
the credit and fair fame of our nation were 

I have attempted to give a detailed history 
of the crime charged against an administration 
which 'issued bonds of the Government in 


The Bond Issues 

time of peace.'' Without sliame and without 
repentance, I confess my share of the guilt ; and 
I refuse to shield my accomplices in this crime 
who, with me, held high places in that admin- 
istration. And though Mr. Morgan and Mr. 
Belmont and scores of other bankers and finan- 
ciers who were accessories in these transac- 
tions may be steeped in destructive propensi- 
ties, and may be constantly busy in sinful 
schemes, I shall always recall with satisfaction 
and self-congratulation my association with 
them at a time when our country sorely needed 
their aid. 




THERE is no better illustration of the truth 
that nations and individuals are affected 
in the same manner by like causes than is often 
furnished by the beginning, progress, and re- 
sults of a national boundary dispute. We all 
know that among individuals, when neighbors 
have entered upon a quarrel concerning their 
division-line or the location of a line fence, they 
will litigate until all account of cost and all 
regard for the merits of the contention give 
place to a ruthless and all-dominating deter- 
mination, by fair means or foul, to win ; and if 
fisticuffs and forcible possession are resorted 
to, the big, strong neighbor rejoices in his 
strength as he mauls and disfigures his small 
and weak antagonist. 

It will be found that nations behave in like 
fashion. One or the other of two national 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

neighbors claims that their dividing-line should 
be defined or rectified in a certain manner. If 
this is questioned, a season of diplomatic un- 
truthfulness and finesse sometimes intervenes 
for the sake of appearances. Developments 
soon follow, however, that expose a grim deter- 
mination behind fine phrases of diplomacy ; and 
in the end the weaker nation frequently awakens 
to the fact that it must either accede to an ul- 
timatum dictated by its stronger adversary, 
or look in the face of war and a spoliation of 
its territory; and if such a stage is reached, 
superior strength and fighting ability, instead 
of suggesting magnanimity, are graspingly 
used to enforce extreme demands if not to con- 
summate extensive conquest or complete subju- 

I propose to call attention to one of these 
unhappy national boundary disputes, between 
the kingdom of Great Britain and the South 
American rei^ublic of Venezuela, involving the 
boundary-line separating Venezuela from the 
English colony of British Guiana, which ad- 
joins Venezuela on the east. 

Venezuela, once a Spanish possession, de- 
clared her indei3endence in 1810, and a few 
years afterward united with two other of 
Spain's revolted colonies in forming the old 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

Colombian federal union, which was recognized 
by the United States in 1822. In 1836 this 
union was dissolved and Venezuela became 
again a separate and independent republic, be- 
ing promj)tly recognized as such by our Gov- 
ernment and by other powers. Spain, however, 
halted in her recognition until 1845, when she 
quite sujDerfluously ceded to Venezuela by 
treaty the territory which as an independent 
republic she had actually owned and possessed 
since 1810. But neither in this treaty nor in 
any other mention of the area of the republic 
were its boundaries described with more defi- 
niteness than as being ^ ' the same as those which 
marked the ancient viceroyalty and captaincy- 
general of New Granada and Venezuela in the 
year 1810. ' ' 

England derived title to the colony of Guiana 
from Holland in 1814, by a treaty in which the 
territory was described as ^'the Cape of Good 
Hope and the establishments of Demerara, Es- 
sequibo, and Berbice. ' ' No boundaries of those 
settlements or '^ establishments " were given in 
the treaty, nor does it appear that any such 
boundaries had ever been particularly defined. 

It is quite apparent that the limits of these 
adjoining countries thus lacking any mention 
of definite metes and bounds, were in need of 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

extraneous assistance before they could be ex- 
actly fixed, and that their proper location was 
quite likely to lead to serious disagreement. 
In such circumstances threatening complica- 
tions can frequently be avoided if the adjoin- 
ing neighbors agree upon a divisional line 
promptly, and before their demands are stimu- 
lated and their tenacity increased by a real or 
fancied advance in the value of the posses- 
sions to be divided, or other incidents have in- 
tervened to render it more difficult to make con- 

I shall not attempt to sketch the facts and 
arguments that bear upon the exact merits 
of this boundary controversy between Great 
Britain and Venezuela. They have been thor- 
oughly examined by an arbitral tribunal to 
which the entire difficulty was referred, and by 
whose determination the boundary between the 
two countries has been fixed— perhaps in strict 
accord with justice, but at all events finally and 
irrevocably. Inasmuch, however, as our own 
countr}^ became in a sense involved in the con- 
troversy, or at least deeply concerned in its set- 
tlement, I have thought there might be interest 
in an explanation of the manner and the pro- 
cesses by which the interposition of the United 
States Government was brought about. I must 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

not be expected to exclude from mention every 
circumstance that may relate to the merits of 
the dispute as between the parties primarily 
concerned; but so far as I make use of such 
circumstances I intend to do so only in aid and 
simplification of the exj)lanation I have under- 

This dispute began in 1841. On October 5 
of that year the Venezuelan minister to Great 
Britain, in a note to Lord Aberdeen, Prin- 
cipal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 
after reminding the secretary that a proposal 
made by Venezuela on the 28th of January, 
1841, for joint action in the matter of fixing a 
divisional boundary, still awaited the accept- 
ance of Great Britain, wrote as follows : 

The Honorable Earl of Aberdeen may now judge 
of the surprise of the Government of Venezuela upon 
learning that in the territory of the Republic a sen- 
try-box has been erected upon which the British flag 
has been raised. The Venezuelan Government is in 
ignorance of the origin and purport of these proceed- 
ings, and hopes that they may receive some satisfac- 
torj'- explanation of this action. In the meantime the 
undersigned, in compHance with the instructions 
communicated to him, urges upon the Honorable Earl 
of Aberdeen the necessity of entering into a treaty 
of boundaries as a previous step to the fixation of 
limits, and begs to ask for an answer to the above- 
mentioned communication of January 28. 


The Vene:{^uelan Boundary Controversy 

Lord Aberdeen, in his reply, dated October 
21, 1841, makes the following statement: 

Her Majesty's Government has received from the 
Governor of British Guiana, Mr. Schomburgk's re- 
port of his proceedings in execution of the commis- 
sion with which he has been charged. That report 
states that Mr. Schomburgk set out from Demerara 
in April last and was on his return to the Essequibo 
River at the end of June. It appears that Mr. 
Schomburgk planted boundary posts at certain 
points of the country which he has surveyed, and 
that he was fully aware that the demarcation so 
made was merely a preliminary measure, open to 
further discussion between the Governments of Great 
Britain and Venezuela. But it does not appear that 
Mr. Schomburgk left behind him any guard-house, 
sentry-box, or other building having the British flag. 

With respect to the proposal of the Venezuelan 
Government that the Governments of Great Britain 
and Venezuela should conclude a treaty as a prelimi- 
nary step to the demarcation of the boundaries be- 
tween British Guiana and Venezuela, the under- 
signed begs leave to observe that it appears to him 
that if it should be necessary to make a treaty upon 
the subject of the boundaries in question, such a 
measure should follow rather than precede the opera- 
tion of the survey. 

In a communication dated the 18th of No- 
vember, 1841, the Venezuelan minister, after 
again complaining of the acts of Schomburgk 
and alleging that he ^ ' has planted at a point on 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

the mouth of the Orinoco several posts bearing 
Her Majesty's initials, and raised at the same 
place, with a show of armed forces, the British 
flag, and also performed several other acts of 
dominion and government, ' ' refers to the great 
dissatisfaction aroused in Venezuela by what 
he calls ''this undeserved offense," and adds: 
^ ' The undersigned therefore has no doubts but 
that he will obtain from Her Majesty's Gov- 
ernment a reparation for the wrong done to 
the dignity of the Republic, and that those signs 
which have so unpleasantly shaken public con- 
fidence will be ordered removed. ' ' 

No early response having been made to this 
communication, another was addressed to Lord 
Aberdeen, dated December 8, 1841, in which 
the representative of Venezuela refers to his 
previous unanswered note and to a recent order 
received from his government, which he says 
directs him "to insist not only uj^on the con- 
clusion of a treaty fixing the boundaries be- 
tween Venezuela and British Guiana, but also, 
and this very particularly, to insist upon the 
removal of the signs set up, contrary to all 
rights, by the surveyor R. H. Schomburgk in 
Barima and in other points of the Venezuelan 
territory"; and he continues: "In his afore- 
mentioned communication of the 18th of last 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

month, the undersigned has already informed 
the Honorable Earl of Aberdeen of the dissatis- 
faction prevailing among the Venezuelans on 
this account, and now adds that this dissatisfac- 
tion, far from diminishing, grows stronger— as 
is but natural— as time goes on and no repara- 
tion of the wrongs is made. ' ' 

These two notes of the Venezuelan minister 
were answered on the eleventh day of Decem- 
ber, 1841. In his reply Lord Aberdeen says: 

The undersigned begs leave to refer to his note of 
the 21st of October last, in which he explained that 
the proceeding of Mr. Schomburgk in planting boun- 
dary posts at certain points of the country which 
he has surveyed was merely a preliminary measure 
open to future discussion between the two Govern- 
ments, and that it would be premature to make a 
boundary treaty before the survey will be com- 
pleted. The undersigned has only further to state 
that much unnecessary inconvenience would result 
from the removal of the posts fixed by Mr. Schom- 
burgk, as they will afford the only tangible means by 
which Her Majesty's Government can be prepared 
to discuss the question of the boundaries with the 
Government of Venezuela. These posts were erected 
for that express purpose, and not, as the Venezuelan 
Government appears to apprehend, as indications of 
dominion and empire on the part of Great Britain. 

In a reply to this note, after referring to the 
explanation of the purpose of these posts or 

1 80 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

signs which Lord Aberdeen had given, it was 
said, in further urging their removal: "The 
undersigned regrets to be obliged to again in- 
sist upon this point ; but the damages sustained 
by Venezuela on account of the permanence of 
said signs are so serious that he hopes in view 
of those facts that the trouble resulting from 
their removal may not appear useless." The 
minister followed this insistence with such ear- 
nest argument that on the thirty-first day of 
January, 1842, nearly four months after the 
matter was first agitated, Lord Aberdeen in- 
formed the Venezuelan minister that instruc- 
tions would be sent to the governor of British 
Guiana directing him to remove the posts which 
had been placed by Mr. Schomburgk near the 
Orinoco. He, however, accompanied this as- 
surance with the distinct declaration "that al- 
though, in order to put an end to the misappre- 
hension which appears to prevail in Venezuela 
with regard to the object of Mr. Schomburgk 's 
surv^ey, the undersigned has consented to com- 
ply with the renewed representation of the Min- 
ister upon this affair. Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment must not be understood to abandon any 
portion of the rights of Great Britain over the 
territory which was formerly held by the Dutch 
in Guiana.'' 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

It should be here stated that the work which 
Schomburgk performed at the instance of the 
British Government consisted not only in plac- 
ing monmiients of some sort at the mouth of the 
Orinoco Eiver, upon territory claimed by Ven- 
ezuela, but also in locating from such monu- 
ments a complete dividing-line running far in- 
land and annexing to British Guiana on the 
west a large region which Venezuela also 
claimed. This line, as originally located or as 
afterward still further extended to the west, 
came to be called ^ ^ the Schomburgk line. ^ ' 

The Orinoco River, flowing eastward to the 
sea, is a very broad and deep waterway, which, 
with its affluents, would in any event, and how- 
ever the bounds of Venezuela might be limited, 
traverse a very extensive portion of that coun- 
try's area; and its control and free navigation 
are immensely important factors in the prog- 
ress and prosperity of the republic. Substan- 
tially at the mouth of the Orinoco, and on its 
south side, two quite large rivers, the Barima 
and the Amacuro, flow into the sea. The region 
adjacent to the mouth of those rivers has, some- 
times at least, been called Barima; and it was 
here that the posts or signs complained of by 
Venezuela were placed. 

The coast from the mouth of the Orinoco 


The Vene^iuelan Boundary Controversy 

River slopes or drops to the east and south; 
and some distance from that river's mouth, 
in the directions mentioned, the Essequibo, a 
large river flowing for a long distance from the 
south, empties into the sea. 

After the correspondence I have mentioned, 
which resulted in the removal of the so-called 
initial monuments of the Schomburgk line from 
the Barima region, there seems to have been 
less activity in the boundary discussion until 
January 31, 1844, when the Venezuelan min- 
ister to England again addressed Lord Aber- 
deen on the subject. He referred to the erec- 
tion of the Schomburgk monuments and the 
complaints of Venezuela on that account, and 
stated that since the removal of those monu- 
ments he had not ceased to urge Lord Aber- 
deen ^^to commence without delay negotiations 
for a treaty fixing definitely the boundary-line 
that shall divide the two countries." He adds 
the following very sensible statement: ^^ Al- 
though it was undoubtedly the duty of the one 
who promoted this question to take the first step 
toward the negotiation of the treaty, the un- 
dersigned being well aware that other impor- 
tant matters claim the attention of Her Maj- 
esty's Government, and as he ought not to wait 
indefinitely, hastens to propose an agreement 


Tbe Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

which, if left for a later date, may be difficult 
to conclude." It is disappointing to observe 
that the good sense exhibited in this state- 
ment did not hold out to the end of the min- 
ister's communication. After a labored presen- 
tation of historical incidents, beginning with 
the discovery of the American continent, he con- 
cludes by putting forward the Essequibo River 
as the proper boundary-line between the two 
countries. This was a proposition of such ex- 
treme pretensions that the Venezuelan repre- 
sentative knew, or ought to have known, it 
would not be considered for a moment bv the 
Government of Great Britain; and it seems to 
me that a diplomatic error was made when, 
failing to apprehend the fact that the exigencies 
of the situation called for a show of concession, 
the Venezuelan minister, instead of intimating 
a disposition to negotiate, gave Great Britain 
an opportunity to be first in making proposals 
apparently calculated to meet the needs of con- 
ciliation and compromise. 

Thus two months after the receipt of this 
communication,— on the thirtieth day of March, 
1844,— Lord Aberdeen sent his reply. After 
combating the allegations contained in the let- 
ter of the Venezuelan representative, he re- 
marked that if he were inclined to act upon the 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

spirit of that letter, it was evident that he ought 
to claim on behalf of Great Britain, as the 
rightful successor to Holland, all the coast from 
the Orinoco to the Essequibo. Then follows 
this significant declaration: 

But the undersigned believes that the negotiations 
would not be free from difficulties if claims that 
cannot be sustained are presented, and shall not 
therefore follow Senor Fortique's example, but state 
here the concessions that Great Britain is disposed 
to make of her rights, prompted by a friendly con- 
sideration for Venezuela and by her desire to avoid 
all cause of serious controversies between the two 
countries. Being convinced that the most important 
object for the interests of Venezuela is the exclusive 
possession of the Orinoco, Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment is ready to yield to the Republic of Venezuela 
a portion of the coast sufficient to insure her the free 
control of the mouth of this her principal river, and 
to prevent its being under the control of any foreign 

Lord Aberdeen further declared that, '^with 
this end in view, and being persuaded that a 
concession of the greatest importance has been 
made to Venezuela,'' he would consent on be- 
half of Great Britain to a boundary which he 
particularly defined, and in general terms may 
be described as beginning in the mouth of the 
Moroco River, which is on the coast southeast 
of the mouth of the Orinoco River and about 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

two thirds of the distance between that point 
and the Essequibo River, said boundary run- 
ning inland from that point until it included in 
its course considerably more territory than was 
embraced within the original Schomburgk line, 
though it excluded the region embraced within 
that line adjacent to the Barima and Amacuro 
rivers and the mouth of the Orinoco. 

This boundary, as proposed by Lord Aber- 
deen, was not satisfactory to Venezuela; and 
soon after its submission her diplomatic repre- 
sentative died. This interruption was quickly 
followed by a long period of distressing inter- 
nal strifes and revolutions, which so distracted 
and disturbed her government that for more 
than thirty years she was not in condition to 
renew negotiations for an adjustment of her 
territorial limits. 

During all this time Great Britain seemed 
not especially unwilling to allow these negotia- 
tions to remain in abeyance. 

This interval was not, however, entirely de- 
void of boundary incidents. In 1850 great ex- 
citement and indignation were aroused among 
the Venezuelans by a rumor that Great Britain 
intended to take possession of Venezuelan Gui- 
ana, a province adjoining British Guiana on the 
west, and a part of the territory claimed by 

1 86 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Venezuela ; and the feeling thus engendered be- 
came so extreme, both among the people and on 
the part of the government of the republic, that 
all remaining friendliness between the two 
countries was seriously menaced. Demonstra- 
tions indicating that Venezuela was determined 
to repel the rumored movement as an invasion 
of her rights, were met by instructions given by 
Great Britain to the commander of her Maj- 
esty's naval forces in the West Indies as to 
the course he was to jDursue if the Venezuelan 
forces should construct fortifications within the 
territory in dispute. At the same time, Mr. 
Balford Hinton "Wilson, England's representa- 
tive at Caracas, in a note addressed to the Min- 
ister of Foreign Affairs for Venezuela, indig- 
nantly characterized these disquieting rumors 
of Great Britain's intention to occupy the lands 
mentioned, as mischievous, and maliciously 
false; but he also declared that, on the other 
hand, her Majesty's Government would not see 
with indifference the aggressions of Venezuela 
upon the disputed territory. 

This note contained, in addition, a rather im- 
pressive pronouncement in these words : 

The Venezuelan Government, in justice to Great 
Britain, cannot mistrust for a moment the sincerity 
of the formal declaration, which is now made in the 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

name and by the express order of Her Majesty ^s 
Government, that Great Britain has no intention to 
occupy or encroach upon the territory in dispute ; 
therefore the Venezuelan Government, in an equal 
spirit of good faith and friendship, cannot refuse to 
make a similar declaration to Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment, namely, that Venezuela herself has no inten- 
tion to occupy or encroach upon the territory in 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs for Vene- 
zuela responded to this communication in the 
following terms: 

The undersigned has been instructed by His Ex- 
cellency the President of the Republic to give the 
following answer: The Government never could be 
persuaded that Great Britain, in contempt of the 
negotiation opened on the subject and the alleged 
rights in the question of limits pending between the 
two countries, would want to use force in order to 
occupy the land that each side claims — much less 
after Mr. Wilson's repeated assurance, which the Ex- 
ecutive Power believes to have been most sincere, 
that those imputations had no foundation whatever, 
being, on the contrary, quite the reverse of the truth. 
Fully confident of this, and fortified by the protest 
embodied in the note referred to, the Government 
has no difficulty in declaring, as they do declare, that 
Venezuela has no intention of occupying or en- 
croaching upon any portion of the territory the pos- 
session of which is in controversy; neither will she 
look with indifference on a contrary proceeding on 
the part of Great Britain. 

1 88 

The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

In furtherance of these declarations the Eng- 
lish Government stipulated that it would not 
*' order or sanction such occupations or en- 
croachments on the part of the British authori- 
ties'^; and Venezuela agreed on her part to 
*' instruct the authorities of Venezuelan Guiana 
to refrain from taking any step which might 
clash with the engagement hereby made by the 
Government. ' ' 

I suspect there was some justification on each 
side for the accusations afterward interchanged 
between the parties that this understanding or 
agreement, in its strict letter and spirit, had not 
been scrupulously observed. 

As we now pass from this incident to a date 
more than twenty-five years afterward, when 
attempts to negotiate for a settlement of the 
boundary controversy were resumed, it may be 
profitable, before going further, to glance at 
some of the conditions existing at the time of 
such resumption. 



In 1876— thirty-two years after the discon- 
tinuance of efforts on the part of Great Britain 
and Venezuela to fix by agreement a line which 
should divide their possessions— Venezuela was 
confronted, upon the renewal of negotiations 
for that purpose, by the following conditions : 

The claim by her, of a divisional line, founded 
upon her conception of strict right, which her 
powerful opponent had insisted could not in 
any way be plausibly supported, and which 
therefore she would in no event accept. 

An indefiniteness in the limits claimed by 
Great Britain— so great that, of two boundary- 
lines indicated or suggested by her, one had 
been plainly declared to be ^^ merely a prelim- 
inary^ measure open to future discussion be- 
tween the Governments of Great Britain and 
Venezuela,'' while the other was distinctly 
claimed to be based not on any acknowledgment 
of the republic's rights, but simply upon gen- 
erous concessions and a ''desire to avoid all 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

cause of serious controversies between the two 
countries. ' ' 

A controversy growing out of this situation 
impossible of friendly settlement except by such 
arrangement and accommodation as would sat- 
isfy Great Britain, or by a submission of the 
dispute to arbitration. 

A constant danger of such an extension of 
British settlements in the disputed territory as 
would necessarily complicate the situation and 
furnish a convenient pretext for the refusal of 
any concession respecting the lands containing 
such settlements. 

A continual profession on the part of Great 
Britain of her present readiness to make benev- 
olent concessions and of her willingness to co- 
operate in a speedy adjustment, while at the 
same time neither reducing her pretensions, nor 
attempting in a conspicuous manner to hasten 
negotiations to a conclusion. 

A tremendous disparity in power and 
strength between Venezuela and her adversary, 
which gave her no hope of defending her terri- 
tory or preventing its annexation to the pos- 
sessions of Great Britain in case the extremity 
of force or war was reached. 

The renewed negotiations began with a com- 
munication dated November 14, 1876, ad- 


The' yene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

dressed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for 
Venezuela to Lord Derby, then Great Britain's 
principal Secretary of State. In this communi- 
cation the efforts made between the years 1841 
and 1844 to establish by agreement a divisional 
line between the two countries, and their inter- 
ruption, were referred to, and the earnest desire 
was expressed that negotiations for that pur- 
pose might at once be resumed. The minister 
suggested no other line than the Essequibo 
River, but in conclusion declared that the Pres- 
ident of Venezuela was led to ^'hope that the 
solution of this question, already for so many 
years delayed, will be a work of very speedy 
and cordial agreement. '^ 

On the same day that this note was written to 
Lord Derby, one was also written by the same 
Venezuelan official to Mr. Fish, then our Secre- 
tary of State. After siDcaking of the United 
States as ''the most powerful and the oldest of 
the Republics of the new continent, and called 
on to lend to others its powerful moral support 
in disputes with European nations, '^ the min- 
ister directs attention to the boundary contro- 
versy between Venezuela and Great Britain and 
the great necessity of bringing it to a speedy 
termination. He concludes as follows: ''But 
whatever may be the result of the new steps of 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

the Government, it has desired that the Ameri- 
can Government might at once take cognizance 
of them, convinced, as it is, that it will give the 
subject its kind consideration and take an in- 
terest in having due justice done to Venezuela. ' ' 
A memorandum was inclosed with the note, 
setting forth the claims of Venezuela touching 
the boundary location. 

This appears to be the first communication 
addressed to our Government on the subject of 
a controversy in which we afterward became 
very seriously concerned. 

A short time after the date of these commu- 
nications, a Venezuelan envoy to Great Britain 
was appointed; and, on the thirteenth day of 
February, 1877, he addressed to Lord Derby a 
note in which, after asserting the right of Ven- 
ezuela to insist upon the boundary previously 
claimed by her, he declared the willingness of 
his government ^Ho settle this long-pending 
question in the most amicable manner," and 
suggested either the acceptance of a boundary- 
line such as would result from a presentation 
by both parties of Spanish and Dutch titles, 
maps, documents, and proofs existing before 
the advent in South America of either Vene- 
zuela or British Guiana, or the adoption of 

^^a conventional line fixed by mutual accord 
13 193 

The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

between the Governments of Venezuela and 
Great Britain after a careful and friendly con- 
sideration of the case, keeping in view the 
documents presented by both sides, solely with 
the object of reconciling their mutual interests, 
and to ^^ a boundary as equitable as possible. ' ^ 
The suggestion is made that the adoption of a 
divisional line is important ''to prevent the 
occurrence of serious differences in the future, 
particularly as Guiana is attracting the general 
attention of the world on account of the im- 
mense riches which are daily being discovered 
there. ' ' 

Let us here note that this renewal by Vene- 
zuela of her efforts to settle her boundary-line 
was accompanied by two new features. These, 
though in themselves entirely independent, be- 
came so related to each other, and in their 
subsequent combination and development they 
so imperiously affected our Government, that 
their coincident appearance at this particular 
stage of the controversy may well strike us as 
significant. One of these features was the aban- 
donment by Venezuela of her insistence upon 
a line representing her extreme claims, and 
which England would not in any contingency 
accept, thus clearing the field for possible 
arbitration ; and the other was her earnest ap- 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

peal to us for our friendly aid. Neither should 
we fail to notice the new and important refer- 
ence of the Venezuelan envoy to the immense 
riches being discovered in the disputed terri- 
tory. Gold beneath soil in controversy does 
not always hasten the adjustment of uncertain 
or disputed boundary-lines. 

On the twenty-fourth day of March, 1877, 
Lord Derby informed the Venezuelan envoy 
that the governor of British Guiana was shortly 
expected in London, and that he was anxious 
to await his arrival before taking any steps in 
the boundary discussion. 

After waiting for more than two years for a 
further answer from the English Government, 
the Venezuelan representative in London, on 
the 19th of May, 1879, addressed a note on the 
subject to Lord Salisbury, who, in the mean- 
time, had succeeded Lord Derby. In this note 
reference was made to the communication sent 
to Lord Derby in 1877, to the desire expressed 
by him to await the arrival of the governor of 
British Guiana before making reply, and to the 
fact that the communication mentioned still 
remained unanswered; and on behalf of Vene- 
zuela her representative repeated the alterna- 
tive proposition made by him in February, 
1877, in these words: ^^The boundary treaty 


The Vene/^uelan Boundary Controversy 

may be based either on the acceptance of the 
line of strict right as shown by the records, doc- 
uments, and other authoritative proofs which 
each party may exhibit, or on the acceptance at 
once by both Governments of a frontier of ac- 
commodation which shall satisfy the respective 
interests of the two countries"; and he con- 
cluded his note as follows: 

If Her Britannic Majesty's Government should 
prefer the frontier of accommodation or convenience, 
then it would be desirable that it should vouchsafe 
to make a proposition of an arrangement, on the 
understanding that, in order to obviate future diffi- 
culties and to give Great Britain the fullest proof 
of the consideration and friendship which Venezuela 
professes for her, my Government would not hesi- 
tate to accept a demarcation that should satisfy as 
far as possible the interests of the Republic. 

At all events, my Lord, something will have to be 
done to prevent this question from pending any 

Thirty-eight years ago my Government wrote urg- 
ing Her Majesty's Government to have the Boundary 
Treaty concluded, and now this affair is in the same 
position as in 1841, without any settlement; mean- 
while Guiana has become of more importance than 
it was then, by reason of the large deposits of gold 
which have been and still are met with in that region. 

Now, at the date of this communication Eng- 
land 's most extreme claims were indicated 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

either by the Schomburgk line or by the line 
which Lord Aberdeen suggested in 1844 as a 
concession. These were indeed the only lines 
which Great Britain had thus far presented. 
When in such circumstances, and with these 
lines distinctly in mind, the envoy of Venezuela 
offered to abandon for his country her most 
extreme claims, and asked that Great Britain 
should '^vouchsafe to make a proposition of an 
arrangement^' upon the basis of a ^'frontier of 
accommodation or convenience," what answer 
had he a right to expect I Most assuredly he 
had a right to expect that if Great Britain 
should prefer to proceed upon the theory of 
^^accommodation or convenience," she would 
respond by offering such a reduction of the 
claims she had already made as would indicate 
a degree of concession or ^ ^ accommodation ' ' on 
her part that should entitle her to expect simi- 
lar concession from Venezuela. 

What was the answer actually made? After 
a delay of nearly eight months, on the tenth day 
of January, 1880, Lord Salisbury replied that 
her Majesty's Government were of the oiDinion 
that to argue the matter on the ground of strict 
right would involve so many intricate questions 
that it would be very unlikely to lead to a satis- 
factory solution of the question, and they would 


The Vene:(;uelan Boundary Controversy 

therefore prefer the alternative *^of endeavor- 
ing to come to an agreement as to the acceptance 
by the two Governments of a frontier of ac- 
commodation which shall satisfy the respective 
interests of the two countries." 

He then gives a most startling statement of 
the English Government's claim, by specifying 
boundaries which overlap the Schomburgk line 
and every other line that had been thought of 
or dreamed of before, declaring that such claim 
is justified *^by virtue of ancient treaties with 
the aboriginal tribes and of subsequent cessions 
from Holland/' He sets against this claim, 
or ^ * on the other hand, " as he says, the fact that 
the President of Venezuela, in a message dated 
February 20, 1877, ^ ' put forward a claim on the 
part of Venezuela to the river Essequibo as the 
boundary to which the Eepublic was entitled'' 
—thereby giving prejudicial importance to 
a claim of boundary made by the President 
of Venezuela three years before, notwithstand- 
ing his Lordship was answering a commu- 
nication in which Venezuela's present diplo- 
matic representative distinctly proposed *^a 
frontier of accommodation." His declaration, 
therefore, that the boundary which w^as thus put 
forward by the President of Venezuela would 
involve *Hhe surrender of a province now in- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

habited by forty thousand British subjects," 
seems quite irrelevant, because such a boundary 
was not then under consideration ; and in pass- 
ing it may occur to us that the great delay in 
settling the boundaries between the two coun- 
tries had given abundant opportunity for such 
inhabitation as Lord Salisbury suggests. His 
Lordship having thus built up a contention in 
which he puts on one side a line which for the 
sake of pacific accommodation Venezuela no 
longer proposes to insist upon, and on the 
other a line for Great Britain so grotesquely 
extreme as to appear fanciful, soberly observes : 

The difference, therefore, between these two 
claims is so great that it is clear that, in order to 
arrive at a satisfactory arrangement, each party 
must be prepared to make considerable concessions 
to the other; and although the claim of Venezuela 
to the Essequibo River boundary could not under 
any circumstances be entertained, I beg leave to 
assure you that Her Majesty's Government are anx- 
ious to meet the Venezuelan Government in a spirit 
of conciliation, and would be willing, in the event of 
a renewal of negotiations for a general settlement of 
boundaries, to waive a portion of what they con- 
sider to be their strict right, if Venezuela is really 
disposed to make corresponding concessions on her 

And ignoring entirely the humbly respectful 
request of the Venezuelan minister that Great 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Britain would ^ Vouchsafe to make a proposi- 
tion of an arrangement," his Lordship thus 
concludes his communication: ''Her Majesty's 
Government will therefore be glad to receive, 
and will undertake to consider in the most 
friendly spirit, any proposal that the Venezue- 
lan Government may think fit to make for the 
establishment of a boundary satisfactory to 
both nations." 

This is diplomacy— of a certain sort. It is a 
deep and mysterious science ; and we probably 
cannot do better than to confess our inability 
to understand its intricacies and sinuosities; 
but at this point we can hardly keep out of 
mind the methods of the shrewd, sharp trader 
who demands exorbitant terms, and at the same 
time invites negotiation, looking for a result 
abundantly iDrofitable in the large range for 
dicker which he has created. 

An answer was made to Lord Salisbury's 
note on the twelfth day of April, 1880, in which 
the Venezuelan envoy stated in direct terms that 
he had received specific instructions from his 
government for the arrangement of the dif- 
ficulty, by abandoning the ground of strict right 
and ' ' concurring in the adoption for both coun- 
tries of a frontier mutually convenient, and 
reconciling in the best possible manner their 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

respective interests— each party having to make 
concessions to the other for the purpose of at- 
taining such an important result." 

It will be remembered that in 1844, when this 
boundary question was under discussion, Lord 
Aberdeen proposed a line beginning in the 
mouth of the Moroco River, being a point on 
the coast south and east of the mouth of the 
Orinoco, thus giving to Venezuela the control of 
that river, but running inland in such a manner 
as to include, in the whole, little if any less 
area than that included in the Schomburgk line ; 
and it will also be recalled that this line was 
not then acceptable to Venezuela. It appears, 
however, that the delays and incidents of thirty- 
six years had impressed upon the government 
of the republic the serious disadvantages of her 
situation in contention with Great Britain ; for 
we find in this reply of the Venezuelan envoy 
the inquiry ^'whether Her Britannic Majesty's 
Government is disposed now, as it was in 1844, 
to accept the mouth of the river Moroco as the 
frontier at the coast. ' ' To this Lord Salisbmy 
promptly responded that the attorney-general 
for the colony of British Guiana was shortly 
expected in England, and that her Majesty's 
Government would prefer to postpone the 
boundary discussion until his arrival. 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

This was followed by a silence of five months, 
with no word or sign from England's Foreign 
Office; and in the meantime Earl Granville 
had succeeded Lord Salisbury as Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs. After waiting thus 
long, the representative of Venezuela, on the 
23d of September, 1880, reminded Lord Gran- 
ville that in the preceding April his imme- 
diate j)redecessor had informed him that the 
arrival of the attorney-general of British Gui- 
ana was awaited before deciding the question 
of boundaries between the two Guianas; and 
as he had not, after the lapse of ^y^ months, 
been honored with a communication on the 
subject, he was bound to suppose that the at- 
torney-general had not accomplished his voy- 
age, in which case it was useless longer to wait 
for him. He further reminded his Lordship 
that on the 24th of March, 1877, Lord Derby, 
then in charge of British foreign affairs, also 
desired to postpone the consideration of the 
question until the arrival in London of the 
governor of British Guiana, who was then ex- 
pected, but who apparently never came. He 
then proceeds as follows : 

Consequently it is best not to go on waiting either 
for the Governor or for the Attorney-General of the 
Colony, but to decide these questions ourselves, con- 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

sidering that my Government is now engaged in pre- 
paring the official map of the Republic and wishes 
of course to mark out the boundaries on the East. 

In my despatch of the 12th of April last, I in- 
formed your Excellency [Excellency's predecessor?] 
that as a basis of a friendly demarcation my Govern- 
ment was disposed to accept the mouth of the River 
Moroco as the frontier on the coast. If Her Britannic 
Majesty's Government should accept this point of 
departure, it would be very easy to determine the 
general course of the frontier, either by means of 
notes or in verbal conferences, as your Excellency 
might prefer. 

On the twelfth day of February, 1881, Lord 
Granville, replying to Venezuela's two notes 
dated April 12 and September 23, 1880, in- 
formed her representative, without explanation, 
that her Majesty's Government would not ac- 
cept the mouth of the Moroco as the divisional 
boundary on the coast. 

A few days afterward, in an answer to this 
refusal, Venezuela's representative mentioned 
the extreme claims of the two countries and the 
fact that it had been agreed between the parties 
that steps should be taken to settle upon a 
frontier of accommodation; that in pursuance 
thereof he had proposed as the point of depar- 
ture for such a frontier the mouth of the Moroco 
River, which was in agreement thus far with 
the proposition made by Lord Aberdeen on 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

behalf of Great Britain in 1844; and perti- 
nently added: ^'Thus tliirty-seven years ago 
Her Britannic Majesty's Government sponta- 
neously proposed the mouth of the Moroco 
Eiver as the limit on the coast, a limit which 
your Excellency does not accept now, for you 
are pleased to tell me so in the note which I 
have the honor of answering.'' He thereupon 
suggests another boundary, beginning on the 
coast at a point one mile north of the mouth 
of the Moroco Eiver and thence extending in- 
land in such manner as to constitute a large 
concession on the part of Venezuela, but fall- 
ing very far short of meeting the claims of 
Great Britain. He declares, however, that this 
demarcation ^'is the maximum of all conces- 
sions which in this matter the Government of 
Venezuela can grant by way of friendly ar- 
rangement. ' ' 

Apparently anticipating, as he well might, 
that the boundary he proposed would fail of 
acceptance, he suggests that in such case the 
two governments would have no alternative but 
to determine the frontier by strict right, and 
that on this basis they would find it impossible 
to arrive at an agreement. Therefore he de- 
clares that he has received instructions from 
his government to urge upon Great Britain the 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

submission of the question to an arbitrator, to 
be chosen by both parties, to whose award both 
governments should submit. 

In this proposal of arbitration by Venezuela 
we find an approach to a new phase of the con- 
troversy. At first, the two countries had stood 
at arm's-length, each asserting strict right of 
boundary, only to be met by obstinate and un- 
yielding resistance. Next, the field of mutual 
concession and accommodation had been trav- 
ersed, with no result except damaging and dan- 
gerous delay. And now, after forty years of 
delusive hope, the time seemed at hand when 
the feebler contestant must contemplate igno- 
minious submission to dictatorial exaction, or 
forcible resistance, futile and distressing, un- 
less honorable rest and justice could be found 
in arbitration— the refuge which civilization 
has builded among the nations of the earth for 
the protection of the weak against the strong, 
and the citadel from which the ministries of 
peace issue their decrees against the- havoc 
and barbarism of war. 

The reply of Lord Granville to the communi- 
cation of the envoy of Venezuela proposing an 
alternative of arbitration was delayed for seven 
months; and when, in September, 1881, it was 
received, it contained a rejection of the boun- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

dary offered by Venezuela and a proposal of a 
new line apparently lacking almost every fea- 
ture of concession; and, singularly enough, 
there was not in this reply the slightest allu- 
sion to Venezuela's request for arbitration. 

I do not find that this communication of 
Great Britain was ever specifically answered, 
though an answer was often requested. No 
further steps appear to have been taken until 
September 7, 1883, when Lord Granville in- 
structed the British minister to Venezuela to 
invite the serious attention of the Venezuelan 
Government to the questions pending between 
the two countries, with a view to their early 
settlement. These questions are specified as 
relating to the boundary, to certain differential 
duties imjDOsed on imports from British colo- 
nies, and to tlie claims of British creditors of 
the republic. His Lordship declared in those 
instructions that as a preliminary to entering 
upon negotiations it was indispensable that an 
answer should be given to the pending jDro- 
posal which had been made by her Majesty's 
Government in regard to the boundary. 

The representations made to the Government 
of Venezuela by the British minister, in obedi- 
ence to those instructions, elicited a reply, in 
which a provision of the Venezuelan constitu- 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

tion was cited prohibiting the alienation or ces- 
sion of any part of the territory of the repub- 
lic ; and it was suggested that, inasmuch as the 
Essequibo line seemed abundantly supported 
as the true boundary of Venezuela, a conces- 
sion beyond that line by treaty would be ob- 
noxious to this constitutional prohibition, 
whereas any reduction of territory brought 
about by a decree of an arbitral tribunal 
would obviate the difficulty. Therefore the 
urgent necessity was submitted for the selec- 
tion of an arbitrator, ^^who, freely and unani- 
mously chosen by the two Governments, would 
judge and pronounce a sentence of a definitive 
character. ' ' 

The representative of her Majesty ^s Govern- 
ment, in a response dated February 29, 1884, 
commented upon the new difficulty introduced 
by the statement concerning the iDrohibition 
contained in the constitution of the republic, 
and exjDressed a fear that if arbitration was 
agreed to, the same prohibition might be in- 
voked as an excuse for not abiding by an 
award unfavorable to Venezuela; and it was 
declared that if, on the other hand, the arbi- 
trator should decide in favor of the Venezuelan 
Government to the full extent of their claim, 
*'a large and important territory which has 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

for a long period been inhabited and occupied 
by Her Majesty's subjects and treated as a 
part of the Colony of British Guiana would be 
severed from the Queen's dominions." This 
declaration is immediately followed by a con- 
clusion in these words: 

For the above-mentioned reasons, therefore, the 
circumstances of the case do not appear to Her 
Majesty's Government to be such as to render arbi- 
tration applicable for a solution of the difficulty; 
and I have accordingly to request you, in making this 
known to the Venezuelan Government, to express to 
them the hope of Her Majesty's Government that 
some other means may be devised for bringing this 
long-standing matter to an issue satisfactory to both 

Let us pause here for a moment's examina- 
tion of the surprising refusal of Great Britain 
to submit this difficulty to arbitration, and the 
more surprising reasons presented for its justi- 
fication. The refusal was surprising because 
the controversy had reached such a stage that 
arbitration was evidently the only means by 
which it could be settled consistently with har- 
monious relations between the two countries. 

It was on this ground that Venezuela pro- 
posed arbitration; and she strongly urged it 
on the further ground that inasmuch as the pro- 
hibition of her constitution prevented the re- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

linquishment, by treaty or voluntary act, of any 
part of the territory which her people and their 
government claimed to be indubitably Venezue- 
lan, such a relinquishment would present no 
difficulties if it was in obedience to a decree of 
a tribunal to which the question of ownership 
had been mutually submitted. 

In giving her reasons for rejecting arbitra- 
tion Great Britain says in effect: The plan 
you urge for the utter and complete elimina- 
tion of this constitutional prohibition— for its 
expurgation and destruction so far as it is re- 
lated to the pending dispute— is objectionable, 
because we fear the prohibition thus eliminated, 
expunged, and destroyed will still be used as a 
pretext for disobedience to an award which, for 
the express purpose of avoiding this constitu- 
tional restraint, you have invited. 

The remaining objection interposed by Great 
Britain to the arbitration requested by Vene- 
zuela is based upon the fear that an award 
might be made in favor of the Venezuelan 
claim, in which case ^^a large and important 
territory which has for a long period been in- 
habited and occupied by Her Majesty's sub- 
jects and treated as a part of the Colony of 
British Guiana would be severed from the 
Queen's dominions.'' 

^^ 209 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

It first occurs to us that a contention may well 
be suspected of weakness when its supporters 
are unwilling to subject it to the test of im- 
partial arbitration. Certain inquiries are also 
pertinent in this connection. Who were the 
British subjects who had long occupied the 
territory that might through arbitration be sev- 
ered from the Queen's dominions? How many 
of them began this occupancy during the more 
than forty years that the territory had been 
steadily and notoriously disputed? Did they 
enter upon this territory with knowledge of the 
dispute and against the warning of the gov- 
ernment to which they owed allegiance, or were 
they encouraged and invited to such entry by 
agencies of that government who had full no- 
tice of the uncertainty of the British title? In 
one case, being themselves in the wrong, they 
were entitled to no consideration ; in the other, 
the question of loss and indemnification should 
rest between them and their government, which 
had impliedly guaranteed them against dis- 
turbance. In any event, neither case presented 
a reason why Great Britain should take or pos- 
sess the lands of Venezuela ; nor did either case 
furnish an excuse for denying to Venezuela a 
fair and impartial adjudication of her disputed 
rights. By whom had this territory ^^been 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

treated as a part of the Colony of British Gui- 
ana ' ' I Surely not by Venezuela. On the con- 
trary, she had jDersistently claimed it as her 
own, and had ^ treated'' it as her own as far 
as she could and dared. England alone had 
treated it as a part of British Guiana ; her im- 
mense power had enabled her to do this; and 
her decrees in her own favor as against her 
weak adversary undoubtedly promised greater 
advantages than arbitration could possibly 

21 1 


The Secretary of State of Venezuela, soon 
after this refusal of Great Britain to submit 
the boundary dispute to arbitration, in a de- 
spatch dated the second day of April, 1884, 
still urged that method of settlement, citing 
precedents and presenting arguments in its 
favor; and in conclusion he asked the minister 
of the English Government at Caracas *Ho have 
the goodness to think out and suggest any ac- 
ceptable course for attaining a solution of the 
difficulty/' This was followed, a few days 
afterward, by another communication from the 
Venezuelan Secretary of State, repeating his 
urgent request for arbitration. From this com- 
munication it may not be amiss to make the fol- 
lowing quotation: 

Venezuela and Great Britain possess the same 
rights in the question under discussion. If the Re- 
public should yield up any part of her pretensions, 
she would recognize the superior right of Great 
Britain, would violate the above-quoted article of 
the Constitution, and draw down the censure of her 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

fellow-citizens. But when both nations, putting 
aside their independence of action in deference to 
peace and good friendship, create by mutual consent 
a Tribunal which may decide in the controversy, the 
same is able to pass sentence that one of the two par- 
ties or both of them have been mistaken in their 
opinions concerning the extent of their territory. 
Thus the case would not be in opposition to the Con- 
stitution of the Republic, there being no alienation 
of that which shall have been determined not to be 
her property. 

On the tenth day of June, 1884, arbitration 
was again refused in a curt note from Lord 
Granville, declaring that *^Her Majesty's Gov- 
ernment adhere to their objection to arbitration 
as a mode of dealing with this question.'' 

About this time complaints and protests of 
the most vigorous character, based upon alleged 
breaches of the agreement of 1850 concerning 
the non-occupation of the disputed territory 
broke out on both sides of the controversy, and 
accusations of aggression and occupation were 
constantly made. I shall not attempt to follow 
them, as in detail they are not among the in- 
cidents which I consider especially relevant 
to the presentation of my theme. 

On the thirteenth day of December, 1884, 
Venezuela, in reply to a proposition of the Brit- 
ish Government that the boundary question and 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

certain other differences should be settled si- 
multaneously, suggested, in view of the unwill- 
ingness of Great Britain to submit the boun- 
dary dispute to arbitration, that it should be 
presented for decision to a court of law, the 
members of which should be chosen by the par- 
ties respectively. 

The British Government promptly declined 
this proposition, and stated that they were 
not prepared to depart from the arrange- 
ment made in 1877 to decide the question by 
adopting a conventional boundary fixed by 
mutual accord between the two governments. 
This was in the face of the efforts which had 
been made along that line and found utterly 

Immediately following the last-mentioned 
proposition by Venezuela for the presentation 
of the difficulty to a court of law mutually 
chosen, negotiations were entered upon for the 
conclusion of a treaty between Great Britain 
and Venezuela, which should quiet a difference 
pending between the two countries relating to 
differential duties and which should also dis- 
pose of other unsettled questions. In a draft 
of such a treaty submitted by Venezuela there 
was inserted an article jDroviding for arbitra- 
tion in case of all differences which could not 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

be adjusted by friendly negotiation. To this 
article Great Britain suggested an amendmentj 
making such arbitration applicable only to mat- 
ters arising out of the interpretation or exe- 
cution of the treaty itself, and especially ex- 
cluding those emanating from any other source ; 
but on further representation by Venezuela, 
Lord Granville, in behalf of the Government of 
Great Britain, expressly agreed with Venezuela 
that the treaty article relating to arbitration 
should be unrestricted in its operation. This 
diplomatic agreement was in explicit terms, her 
Majesty's Government agreeing ^'that the un- 
dertaking to refer differences to arbitration 
shall include all differences which may arise 
between the High Contracting Parties, and not 
those only which arise on the interpretation of 
the Treaty." 

This occurred on the fifteenth day of May, 
1885. Wliatever Lord Granville may have in- 
tended by the language used, the Government of 
Venezuela certainly understood his agreement 
to include the pending boundary dispute as 
among the questions that should be submitted to 
arbitration; and all other matters which the 
treaty should embrace seemed so easy of ad- 
justment that its early completion, embodying 
a stipulation for the final arbitration of the 


The J/e}ie:(uelan Boundary Controversy 

boundary controversy, was confidently and 
gladly anticipated by the republic. 

The high hopes and joyful anticipations of 
Venezuela born of this apparently favorable 
situation were, however, but short-lived. 

On the twenty-seventh day of July, 1885, 
Lord Salisbury, who in the meantime had suc- 
ceeded the Earl of Granville in Great Britain's 
Foreign Office, in a note to Venezuela's envoy, 
declared: ^^Her Majesty's Government are un- 
able to concur in the assent given by their prede- 
cessors in office to the general arbitration article 
proposed by Venezuela, and they are unable to 
agree to the inclusion in it of matters other than 
those arising out of the interpretation or al- 
leged violation of this loarticular treaty." 

No assertion of the irrevocabilitv of the 
agreement which Venezuela had made with his 
predecessor, and no plea or argument of any 
kind, availed to save the enlarged terms of this 
arbitration clause from Lord Salisbury's de- 
structive insistence. 

On the twentieth day of June, 1886, Lord 
Eosebery suggested for Great Britain, and as a 
solution of the difficultv, that the territory 
within two certain lines which had been already 
proposed as boundaries should be equally di- 
vided between the contestants, either by arbitra- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

tion or the determination of a mixed commis- 

This was declined by Venezuela on the 
twenty-ninth day of July, 1886, upon the same 
grounds that led to the declination of prior pro- 
posals that apparently involved an absolute ces- 
sion of a part of her territory; and she still 
insisted upon an arbitration embracing the en- 
tire disputed territory as the only feasible 
method of adjustment. 

This declination on the part of Venezuela of 
Lord Rosebery's proposition terminated the 
second attempt in point of time, to settle this 
vexed question. In the meantime the aggres- 
sive conduct which for some time the officials 
of both countries had exhibited in and near the 
contested region had grown in distinctness and 
significance, until Great Britain had openly 
and with notorious assertion of ownership 
taken possession of a valuable part of the ter- 
ritory in dispute. On the 26th of October, 
1886, an official document was published in the 
London ^ ^ Gazette ' ' giving notice that no grants 
of land made by the Government of Venezuela 
in the territory claimed by Great Britain would 
be admitted or recognized by her Majesty; and 
this more significant statement was added: 
*^A map showing the boundary between Brit- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

isli Guiana and Venezuela claimed by Her Maj- 
esty's Government can be seen in the library 
of the Colonial Office, Downing Street, or at 
the Office of the Government Secretary, 
Georgetown, British Guiana.'' The boun- 
dary here spoken of, as shown on the map 
to which attention is directed, follows the 
Schomburgk line. Protests and demands in 
abundance on the part of Venezuela followed, 
which were utterly disregarded, until, on the 
thirty-first day of January, 1887, the Vene- 
zuelan Secretary of State distinctly demanded 
of Great Britain the evacuation of the dis- 
puted territory which she was occupying in 
violation of prior agreement and the rights of 
the republic, and gave formal notice that unless 
such evacuation should be comi^leted, and ac- 
companied by acceptance of arbitration as a 
means of deciding the pending frontier dispute, 
by the twentieth day of February, 1887, dip- 
lomatic relations between the two countries 
would on that day cease. 

These demands were absolutely unheeded; 
and thereupon, when the twentieth day of Feb- 
ruary arrived, Venezuela exhibited a long list 
of specific charges of aggression and wrong- 
doing against Great Britain, and made the fol- 
lowing statement and final protest: 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

In consequence, Venezuela, not deeming it fitting 
to continue friendly relations with a state which thus 
injures her, suspends them from to-day. 

And she protests before the Government of Her 
Britannic Majesty, before all civilized nations, be- 
fore the whole world, against the acts of spoliation 
which the Government of Great Britain has com- 
mitted to her detriment, and which she will never on 
any consideration recognize as capable of altering in 
the slightest degree the rights which she has acquired 
from Spain, and respecting which she will be always 
ready to submit to a third power, as the only way to 
a solution compatible with her constitutional prin- 

Notwithstanding all this, three years after- 
ward, and on the tenth day of January, 1890, 
an agent of Venezuela, appointed for that pur- 
pose, addressed a note to Lord Salisbury, still 
in charge of Great Britain's foreign relations, 
expressing the desire of Venezuela to renew dip- 
lomatic relations with Great Britain, and re- 
questing an interview to that end. 

A short time thereafter the Government of 
Great Britain expressed its satisfaction that a 
renewal of diplomatic relations was in pros- 
pect, and presented to the representative of 
Venezuela ' ' a statement of the conditions which 
Her Majesty's Government considered neces- 
sary for a satisfactory settlement of the ques- 
tions pending between the two countries." 


The yene^uelan Boundary Controversy 

As the first of these conditions it was de- 
clared that ^^Her Majesty's Government could 
not accept as satisfactory any arrangement 
which did not admit the British title to the 
territory comprised within the line laid down 
by Sir E. Schomburgk in 1841 ; but they would 
be willing to refer to arbitration the claims of 
Great Britain to certain territory to the west 
of that line. ' ' 

Naturally enough, this statement was re- 
ceived by Venezuela with great disappointment 
and surprise. Her representative promptly re- 
plied that his government could not accept any 
single point of the arbitrary and capricious line 
laid down by Sir R. Schomburgk in 1841, which 
had been declared null and void even by the 
Government of her Majesty ; and that it was not 
possible for Venezuela to accept arbitration in 
respect to territory west of that line. He fur- 
ther expressed his regret that the conditions 
then demanded by Lord Salisbury were more 
unfavorable to Venezuela than the proposals 
made to the former agent of the republic prior 
to the suspension of diplomatic relations. 

On the 19th of March, 1890, the British Gov- 
ernment reiterated its position more in detail. 
Its refusal to admit any question as to Great 
Britain's title to any of the territory within the 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Schomburgk line was emphatically repeated, 
and the British claim was defined to extend 
beyond any pretension which I believe had ever 
been previously made except by Lord Salisbury 
himself in 1880. A map was presented indicat- 
ing this extreme claim, the Schomburgk line, 
and a certain part of the territory between the 
boundary of this extreme claim on the west and 
the Schomburgk line, which Great Britain pro- 
posed to submit to arbitration, abandoning all 
claim to the remainder of the territory between 
these last-named two lines. This scheme, if 
adopted, would give to England absolutely and 
without question the large territory between 
British Guiana's conceded western boundary 
and the Schomburgk line, with an opportunity 
to lay claim before a board of arbitration for 
extensive additional territory beyond the 
Schomburgk line. 

This is pitiful. The Schomburgk line, which 
was declared by the British Government, at the 
time it was made, to be ^^ merely a preliminary 
measure, open to further discussion between the 
Governments of Great Britain and Venezuela," 
and which had been since largely extended in 
some mysterious way, is now declared to be a 
line so well established, so infallible, and so 
sacred that only the territory that England ex- 


The yene:(uelan Boundary Controversy 

orbitantly claims beyond that line is enough in 
disi^ute to be submitted to impartial arbitration. 
The trader is again in evidence. On this basis 
England could abundantly afford to lose en- 
tirely in the arbitration she at length conceded. 
And yet Venezuela was not absolutely dis- 
couraged. Soon after the receipt of Great 
Britain's last depressing communication, she 
appointed still another agent who was to try 
his hand with England in the field of diplomacy. 
On the twenty-fourth day of June, 1890, this 
new representative replied to the above pro- 
posal made to his predecessor by her Majesty's 
Government, and expressed the great regret of 
Venezuela that its recent proposals for a set- 
tlement of the boundary difficulty by arbitration 
affecting all the disputed territory had been 
peremptorily declined. He also declared that 
the emphatic statement contained in Great 
Britain's last communication in reference to 
this question created for his government '^ dif- 
ficulties not formerly contemplated, ' ' and there- 
upon formally declined on behalf of Venezuela 
the consideration of the proposals contained in 
said communication. This statement of dis- 
couraging conditions was, however, supple- 
mented by a somewhat new suggestion to the 
effect that a preliminary agreement should be 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

made containing a declaration on the part of 
the Government of Venezuela that the river Es- 
seqnibo, its banks, and the lands covering it 
belong exclusively to British Guiana, and a dec- 
laration on the part of her Majesty ^s Govern- 
ment that the Orinoco River, its banks, and the 
lands covering it belong exclusively to Vene- 
zuela, and providing that a mixed commission 
of two chief engineers and their staffs should 
be appointed to make, within one year, careful 
maps and charts of the region to the west and 
northwest of the Essequibo River, toward the 
Orinoco, in order to determine officially the ex- 
act course of its rivers and streams, and the 
precise position of its mountains and hills, and 
all other details that would permit both coun- 
tries to have reliable official knowledge of the 
territory which was actually in dispute, en- 
abling them to determine with a mutual feeling 
of friendship and good will a boundary with 
perfect knowledge of the case ; but in the event 
that a determination should not be thus reached, 
the final decision of the boundary question 
should be submitted to two arbitrators, one se- 
lected by each government, and a third chosen 
by the other two, to act as umpire in case of 
disagreement, who, in view of the original titles 
and documents presented, should fix a boun- 


The yene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

dary-line which, being in accordance with the 
respective rights and titles, should have the ad- 
vantage as far as possible of constituting a 
natural boundary; and that, pending such de- 
termination, both governments should remove 
or withdraw all posts and other indications and 
signs of possession or dominion on said terri- 
tory, and refrain from exercising any jurisdic- 
tion within the disputed region. 

On the 24th of July, 1890, Lord Salisbury 
declined to accept these suggestions of the Ven- 
ezuelan representative, and declared: *^Her 
Majesty's Government have more than once 
explained that they cannot consent to submit 
to arbitration what they regard as their in- 
disputable title to districts in the possession of 
the British Colony." 

Is it uncharitable to see in this reference to 
^'possession'' a hint of the industrious man- 
ner in which Great Britain had attempted to 
improve her position by permitting coloniza- 
tion, and by other acts of possession, during the 
half-century since the boundary dispute began ? 

Efforts to settle this controversy seem to 
have languished after this rebuff until March, 
1893, when still another agent was appointed 
by Venezuela for the purpose of reestablishing 
diplomatic relations with Great Britain, and 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

settling, if possible, the boundary trouble and 
such other differences as might be pending be- 
tween the two countries. As a means to that 
end, this agent, on the twenty-sixth day of May, 
1893, presented a memorandum to the British 
Government containing suggestions for such 
settlement. The suggestion relating to the ad- 
justment of the boundary question rested upon 
the idea of arbitration and did not materially 
differ from that made by this agent's immedi- 
ate predecessor in 1890, except as to the status 
quo, pending final adjustment, which it was 
proposed should be the same as that existing 
after the agreement of non-interference in the 
disputed territory made by the two govern- 
ments in 1850. 

The plan thus suggested was declined by the 
Government of Great Britain, because, in the 
first place, it involved an arbitration, ''which 
had been repeatedly declined by Her Majesty's 
Government," and, further, because it was, in 
the language of the British reply, ''quite im- 
possible that they should consent to revert to 
the status quo of 1850 and evacuate what has 
for some years constituted an integral portion 
of British Guiana." 

A further communication from the agent of 
Venezuela, offering additional arguments in 
15 225 

The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

support of bis suggestions, brought f ortb a re- 
ply informing bim tbat tbe contents of bis note 
did not ^* appear to Her Majesty's Government 
to afford any opening for arriving at an under- 
standing on tbis question wbieb tbey could ac- 
cept. ' ' 

Six montbs afterward, on tbe twenty-nintb 
day of September, 1893, a final communication 
was addressed by tbe representative of Vene- 
zuela to tbe Britisb Government, reviewing tbe 
situation and tbe course of past efforts to ar- 
rive at a settlement, and concluding witb tbe 
words : 

I must now declare in tbe most solemn manner, and 
in the name of the Government of Venezuela, that 
it is with the greatest regret that that Govern- 
ment sees itself forced to leave the situation pro- 
duced in the disputed territory by the acts of recent 
years unsettled, and subject to the serious disturb- 
ances which acts of force cannot but produce; and 
to declare that Venezuela will never consent to pro- 
ceedings of that nature being accepted as title-deeds 
to justify the arbitrary occupation of territory which 
is within its jurisdiction. 

Here closed a period in tbis dispute, fifty- 
two years in duration, vexed witb agitation, 
and perturbed by irritating and repeated fail- 
ures to reach a peaceful adjustment. Instead 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

of progress in the direction of a settlement of 
their boundaries, the results of their action 
were increased obstacles to fair discussion, in- 
tensified feelings of injury, extended assertion 
of title, ruthless appropriation of the territory 
in controversy, and an unhealed breach in dip- 
lomatic relations. 



I have tlius far dealt with this dispute as 
one in which Great Britain and Venezuela, 
the parties primarily concerned, were sole par- 
ticipants. We have now, however, reached a 
stage in the affair which requires a recital of 
other facts which led up to the active and posi- 
tive interference of our own Government in the 
controversy. In discussing this branch of our 
topic it will be necessary not only to deal with 
circumstances following those already narrated, 
but to retrace our steps sufficiently to exhibit 
among other things the appeals and representa- 
tions made to the Government of the United 
States by Venezuela, while she was still at- 
tempting to arrive at an adjustment with Great 

I have already referred to the first communi- 
cation made to us by Venezuela on the subject. 
This, it will be remembered, was in 1876, when 
she sought to resume negotiations with Great 
Britain, after an interruption of thirty-two 
years. I have also called attention to the fact 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

that coincident with this communication Vene- 
zuela presented to Great Britain a willingness 
to relax her insistence upon her extreme boun- 
dary claim, based upon alleged right, and sug- 
gested that a conventional line might be fixed 
by mutual concession. 

Venezuela's first appeal to us for support 
and aid amounted to little more than a vague 
and indefinite request for countenance and 
sympathy in her efforts to settle her differ- 
ences with her contestant, with an expression 
of a desire that we would take cognizance of 
her new steps in that direction. I do not find 
that any reply was made to this communi- 

Five years afterward, in 1881, the Vene- 
zuelan minister in Washington presented to 
Mr. Evarts, then our Secretary of State, in- 
formation he had received that British vessels 
had made their appearance in the mouth of the 
Orinoco Eiver with materials to build a tele- 
graph-line, and had begun to erect j)oles for 
that purpose at Barima : and he referred to the 
immense importance to his country of the Ori- 
noco ; to the efforts of his government to adjust 
her difficulty with Great Britain, and to the de- 
lays interposed ; and finally expressed his confi- 
dent belief that the United States would not 


Tbe Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

view with indifference what was being done in 
a matter of such capital importance. 

Mr. Evarts promptly replied, and informed 
the Venezuelan representative that *^in view 
of the deep interest which the Government of 
the United States takes in all transactions tend- 
ing to attempted encroachments of foreign pow- 
ers upon the territory of any of the republics 
of this continent, this Government could not 
look with indifference to the forcible acquisi- 
tion of such territory by England, if the mis- 
sion of the vessels now at the mouth of the 
Orinoco should be found to be for that end. ' ' 

Again, on the thirtieth day of November, 
1881, our minister to Venezuela reported to 
Mr. Blaine, who had succeeded Mr. Evarts as 
Secretary of State, an interview with the Presi- 
dent of Venezuela at his request, in which the 
subject of the boundary dispute was discussed. 
Our minister represented that the question was 
spoken of by the President as being of essen- 
tial importance and a source of great anxiety 
to him, involving a large and fertile territory 
between the Essequibo and Orinoco, and prob- 
ably the control of the mouth and a consider- 
able portion of the latter river ; and he alleged 
that the policy of Great Britain, in the treat- 
ment of this question, had been delay— the in- 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

terval being utilized by gradually but steadily 
extending her interest and authority into the 
disputed territory; and ^Hhat, though the 
rights of Venezuela were clear and indispu- 
table, he questioned her ability, unaided by 
some friendly nation, to maintain them.'' 

In July, 1882, Mr. Frelinghuysen, successor 
to Mr. Blaine, sent to our representative at 
Venezuela a despatch to be communicated to 
the government of the republic, in which he 
stated that, if Venezuela desired it, the United 
States would propose to the Government of 
Great Britain that the boundary question be 
submitted to the arbitrament of a third power. 

It will be remembered that a proposition for 
arbitration had been made by Venezuela to 
Great Britain in February, 1881, and that Great 
Britain had refused to accede to it. 

In July, 1884, Mr. Frelinghuysen sent a con- 
fidential despatch to Mr. Lowell, our minister to 
Great Britain, informing him that Guzman 
Blanco, ex-President of Venezuela, who had 
recently been accredited as a special envoy 
from his country to Great Britain, had called 
on him relative to the objects of his mission, 
in respect of which he desired to obtain the 
good offices of this Government, and that 
doubtless he would seek to confer with Mr. 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Lowell in London. He further informed Mr. 
Lowell that he had told the Venezuelan envoy 
that, ^ ^ in view of our interest in all that touches 
the independent life of the Republics of the 
American Continent, the United States could 
not be indifferent to anything that might im- 
pair their normal self-control''; that ^Hhe 
moral position of the United States in these 
matters was well known through the enun- 
ciation of the Monroe Doctrine," though for- 
mal action in the direction of applying that 
doctrine to a speculative case affecting Vene- 
zuela seemed to him to be inopportune, and 
therefore he could not advise Venezuela to 
arouse a discussion of that point. He instructed 
our minister to show proper consideration to 
the Venezuelan envoy, and to 'Hake jDroper 
occasion to let Lord Granville know that we 
are not without concern as to whatever may 
affect the interest of a sister Republic of the 
American Continent and its jDOsition in the 
family of nations." 

In July, 1885, the Venezuelan minister to 
the United States addressed a communication 
to Secretary of State Bayard, setting forth the 
correspondence which had already taken place 
between our G-overnment and that of Venezuela 
touching the boundary dispute, and referring 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

to the serious condition existing on account of 
the renewed aggressions of Great Britain. 

Mr. Bayard thereupon sent a despatch on the 
subject to Mr. Phelps, our diplomatic repre- 
sentative to England, in which, after stating 
that the Venezuelan Government had never 
definitely declared what course she desired us 
to pursue, but, on the contrary, had expressed 
a desire to be guided by our counsel, he said: 
^ ^ The good offices of this Government have been 
tendered to Venezuela to suggest to Great 
Britain the submission of the boundary dispute 
to arbitration ; but when shown that such action 
on our part would exclude us from acting as 
arbitrator, Venezuela ceased to press the mat- 
ter in that direction''; and the next day after 
writing this despatch Mr. Bayard informed the 
Venezuelan minister that the President of the 
United States could not entertain a request to 
act as umpire in any dispute unless it should 
come concurrently from both contestants. 

In December, 1886, our minister to Vene- 
zuela addressed a despatch to Mr. Bayard, 
in which he reported that matters looked very 
angry and threatening in Venezuela on ac- 
count of fresh aggressions on the part of Great 
Britain in the disputed territory; and he ex- 
pressed the fear that an open rupture might 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

occur between the two countries. He inclosed 
a statement made by the Venezuelan Minister 
of Foreign Affairs, containing a list of griev- 
ances, followed by this declaration: ^'Vene- 
zuela, listening to the advice of the United 
States, has endeavored several times to obtain 
that the difference should be submitted to 
the award of a third power. . . . But such 
efforts have proven fruitless, and the possibil- 
ity of that result, the only one prescribed by 
our constitution, being arrived at, becomes 
more and more remote from day to day. Great 
Britain has been constant in her clandestine ad- 
vances upon the Venezuelan territory, not tak- 
ing into consideration either the rights or the 
complaints of this Republic. '^ And he adds 
the following declaration : ' ' Under such circum- 
stances the Government has but two courses 
left open: either to employ force in order to 
recover places from which force has ejected 
the Republic, since its amicable representations 
on the subject have failed to secure redress, 
or to present a solemn protest to the Govern- 
ment of the United States against so great an 
abuse, which is an evident declaration of war 
—a provocative aggression.'' 

Thereupon, and on the twentieth day of De- 
cember, 1886, a despatch was sent by Mr. Bay- 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

ard to Mr. Phelps, in which the secretary com- 
ments on the fact that at no time theretofore 
had the good offices of our Government been 
actually tendered to avert a rupture between 
Great Britain and Venezuela, and that our in- 
action in this regard seemed to be due to the 
reluctance of Venezuela to have the Government 
of the United States take any steps having rela- 
tion to the action of the British Government 
which might, in appearance even, prejudice the 
resort to our arbitration or mediation which 
Venezuela desired; but that the intelligence 
now received warranted him in tendering the 
good offices of the United States to promote an 
amicable settlement of the difficulty between 
the two countries, and offering our arbitration 
if acceptable to both countries— as he supposed 
the dispute turned upon simple and readily 
ascertainable historical facts. 

Additional complaints against Great Britain 
on account of further trespasses on Venezue- 
lan territory were contained in a note from 
the Venezuelan minister to Mr. Bayard, dated 
January 4, 1887. I shall quote only the follow- 
ing passage : 

My Government has tried all possible means to 
induce that of London to accept arbitration, as ad- 
vised by the United States; this, however, has re- 


The yene^uelan Boundary Controversy 

suited in nothing but fresh attempts against the in- 
tegrity of the territory by the colonial authorities of 
Demerara. It remains to be seen how long my Gov- 
ernment will find it possible to exercise forbearance 
transcending the limits of its positive official duty. 

Pursuant to his instructions from Mr. Bay- 
ard, our minister to Great Britain formally 
tendered to the English Government, on the 
eighth day of February, 1887, the good offices of 
the United States to promote an amicable settle- 
ment of the pending controversy, and offered 
our arbitration, if acceptable to both parties. 

A few days afterward Lord Salisbury, on 
behalf of Great Britain, replied that the atti- 
tude which had been taken by the President of 
the Venezuelan republic precluded her Maj- 
esty's Government from submitting the ques- 
tion at that time to the arbitration of any third 

The fact that Lord Salisbury had declined 
our offer of mediation and arbitration, was 
promptly conveyed to the government of Vene- 
zuela; and thereupon, on the fourth day of 
May, 1887, her minister at Washington ad- 
dressed another note to our Secretary of State 
indicating much depression on account of the 
failure of all efforts up to that time made to 
induce Great Britain to agree to a settlement 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

of the controversy by arbitration, and express- 
ing the utmost gratitude for the steps taken by 
our Government in aid of those efforts. He also 
referred to the desire his government once en- 
tertained that, in case arbitration could be at- 
tained, the United States might be selected as 
arbitrator, and to the fact that this desire had 
been relinquished because the maintenance of 
impartiality essential in an arbitrator would 
^ ^ seriously impair the efficiency of action which 
for the furtherance of the common interests of 
America, and in obedience to the doctrine of the 
immortal Monroe, should possess all the vital- 
ity that the alarming circumstances demand ' ' ; 
and he begged the secretary to instruct our 
representative in London ^'to insist, in the 
name of the United States Government, upon 
the necessity of submitting the boundary ques- 
tion between Venezuela and British Guiana to 
arbitration. ' ' 

I have heretofore refrained from stating in 
detail the quite numerous instances of quarrel 
and collision that occurred in and near the dis- 
puted territory, with increasing frequency, dur- 
ing this controversy. One of these, however, 
I think should be here mentioned. It seems 
that in 1883 two vessels belonging to English 
subjects were seized and their crews taken into 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

custody by Yenezuelan officials in the disputed 
region, for alleged violations of the laws of 
Venezuela within her jurisdiction, and that Eng- 
lish officials had assumed, without any judicial 
determination and without any notice to Vene- 
zuela, to assess damages against her on account 
of such seizure and arrests, in an amount which, 
with interest, amounted in 1887 to about forty 
thousand dollars. On the seventh day of Oc- 
tober in that year, the governor of Trinidad, 
an English island near the mouth of the Ori- 
noco, in a letter to the Minister of Foreign 
Affairs for Venezuela, declared that her Maj- 
esty ^s Government could not permit such in- 
juries to remain unredressed, or their represen- 
tations to be disregarded any longer, and 
thereupon it was demanded that the money 
claimed, with interest, be paid within seven days 
from the delivery of said letter. The letter 
concluded as follows: 

Failing compliance with the above demands Her 
Majesty's Government will be reluctantly compelled 
to instruct the Commander of Her Majesty's naval 
forces in the West Indies to take such measures as 
he may deem necessary to obtain that reparation 
which has been vainly sought for by friendly means ; 
and in case of so doing they will hold the Venezuelan 
Government responsible for any consequences that 
may arise. 


The Vemiuelan Boundary Controversy 

Venezuela did not fail to appreciate and 
frankly acknowledge that, in her defenseless 
condition, there was no escape from the pay- 
ment of the sum which England, as a judge 
in its own cause, had decreed against her. The 
President of the republic, however, in a prompt 
reply to the governor's note, characterized its 
terms as ^^ offensive to the dignity of the na- 
tion and to the equality which, according 
to the principles of the rights of nations, 
all countries enjoy without any regard to 
their strength or weakness. '' Thereupon he 
sought the good offices of our minister to Vene- 
zuela in an effort to procure a withdrawal of 
the objectionable communication. This was 
attempted in a note sent by the American min- 
ister to the governor of Trinidad, in which he 

I hope your Excellency will permit me to suggest, 
as a mutual friend of both parties, the suspension or 
withdrawal of your note of the 7th instant, so that 
negotiations may at once be opened for the immedi- 
ate and final settlement of the afore-mentioned 
claims without further resort to unpleasant mea- 
sures. From representations made to me, I am sat- 
isfied that if the note of the 7th instant is withdrawn 
temporarily even, Venezuela will do in the premises 
that which will prove satisfactory to your Govern- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

A few days after this note was sent, a reply 
was received in which the governor of Trinidad 
courteously expressed his thanks to our min- 
ister for his good offices, and informed him 
that, as the Government of Venezuela regarded 
his note of October 7 '^as offensive, and ap- 
peared desirous of at last settling this long- 
pending question in a friendly spirit," he 
promptly telegraphed to her Majesty's Govern- 
ment asking jDermission to withdraw that note 
and substitute a less forcible one for it; and 
that he had just been informed by his home 
government in reply that this arrangement 
could not be sanctioned. 

Our minister reported this transaction to his 
home government at Washington on the fourth 
day of November, 1887, and stated that the 
money demanded by Great Britain had been 
paid by Venezuela under protest. 

Venezuela may have been altogether at fault 
in the transaction out of which this demand 
arose ; the amount which England exacted may 
not have been unreasonable; and the method 
of its assessment, though not the most consid- 
erate possible, has support in precedent; and 
even the threat of a naval force may sometimes 
be justified in enforcing unheeded demands. 
I have not adverted to this incident for the pur- 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

pose of inviting judgment on any of its phases, 
but only to call attention to the fact that it was 
allowed to culminate with seemingly studied 
accompaniments of ruthlessness and irritation, 
at a time when a boundary question was pend- 
ing between the two nations, when the weaker 
contestant was importuning the stronger for 
arbitration, and when a desire for reconcilia- 
tion and peace in presence of strained relations 
should have counseled considerateness and 
magnanimity— all this in haughty disregard of 
the solicitous and expressed desire of the Gov- 
ernment of the United States to induce a peace- 
ful adjustment of the boundary dispute, and in 
curt denial of our request that this especially 
disturbing incident should be relieved of its 
most exasperating features. 

In the trial of causes before our courts, evi- 
dence is frequently introduced to show the ani- 
mus or intent of litigating parties. 

Perhaps strict decorum hardly permits us to 
adopt the following language, used by the 
Venezuelan minister when reporting to our 
Secretary of State the anticipated arrival of a 
British war-steamer to enforce the demand of 
Great Britain: 

Such alarming news shows evidently that the 
Government of Her Britannic Majesty, encouraged 

^^ 241 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

by the impunity on which it has counted until now 
for the realization of its unjust designs with regard 
to Venezuela, far from procuring a pacific and satis- 
factory agreement on the different questions pend- 
ing with the latter, is especially eager to complicate 
in order to render less possible every day that equi- 
table solution which has been so fully the endeavor 
of my people. 

On the fifteenth day of February, 1888, the 
Venezuelan minister, in communicating to our 
Government information he had received touch- 
ing a decree of the governor of Demerara deny- 
ing the validity of a contract entered into by the 
Government of Venezuela for the construction 
of a railway between certain points in the 
territory claimed by Venezuela, commented on 
the affair as follows: 

England has at last declared emphatically that 
her rights are without limit, and embrace whatever 
regions may be suggested to her by her insatiate 
thirst for conquest. She even goes so far as to deny 
the validity of railway grants comprised within ter- 
ritory where not even the wildest dream of fancy 
had ever conceived that the day would come when 
Venezuela's right thereto could be disputed. The 
fact is that until now England has relied upon im- 
punity. She beholds in us a weak and unfriended 
nation, and seeks to make the Venezuelan coast and 
territories the base of a conquest which, if circum- 
stances are not altered, will have no other bounds 
than the dictates of her own will. 



Mr. Bayard, in a despatch transmitting this 
to our minister to England, says that our Gov- 
ernment has heretofore acted upon the assump- 
tion that the boundary controversy between 
Great Britain and Venezuela was one based on 
historical facts, which without difficulty could 
be determined according to evidence, but that 
the British pretension now stated gives rise to 
grave disquietude, and creates the apprehen- 
sion that their territorial claim does not follow 
historical traditions or evidence, but is appar- 
ently indefinite. He refers to the British Colo- 
nial Office list of previous years, and calls at- 
tention to the wide detour to the westward in 
the boundaries of British Guiana between the 
years 1877 and 1887, as shown in that record. 
He suggests that our minister ^^ express anew 
to Lord Salisbury the great gratification it 
would afford our Government to see the Vene- 
zuelan dispute amicably and honorably settled 
by arbitration or otherwise, '^ and adds: ^'If 
indeed it should appear that there is no fixed 


Tbe Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

limit to the British boundary claim, our good 
disposition to aid in a settlement might not only 
be defeated, but be obliged to give place to a 
feeling of grave concern.'' 

It was about this time that the Venezuelan 
minister, in a note expressing his appreciation 
of our efforts to bring about a settlement of the 
disiDute, made the following statement : 

Disastrous and fatal consequences would ensue 
for the independence of South America if, under 
the pretext of a question of boundaries, Great Brit- 
ain should succeed in consummating the usurpation 
of a third part of our territory, and therewith a 
river so important as the Orinoco. Under the pretext 
of a mere question of boundaries which began on the 
banks of the Essequibo, we now find ourselves on the 
verge of losing regions lying more than five degrees 
away from that river. 

On May 1, 1890, Mr. Blaine, Mr. Bayard's 
successor as Secretarv of State, instructed Mr. 
Eobert T. Lincoln, our minister to England, 
^Ho use his good offices with Lord Salisbury to 
bring about the resumption of diplomatic inter- 
course between Great Britain and Venezuela 
as a preliminary step toward the settlement of 
the boundary dispute by arbitration. ' ' He also 
requested him ^^to propose to Lord Salisbury, 
with a view to an accommodation, that an in- 
formal conference be had in Washington or in 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

London of representatives of the three pow- 
ers." The secretary added: ^^In such confer- 
ence the position of the United States is one 
solely of impartial friendship toward both liti- 
gants. ' ' 

In resjDonse to this instruction Mr. Lincoln 
had an interview with Lord Salisbury. On this 
occasion his Lordship said that her Majesty's 
Government had not for some time been keen 
in attempts to settle the dispute, in view of 
their feeling of uncertainty as to the stability 
of the present Venezuelan Government and the 
frequency of revolutions in that quarter; but 
that he would take pleasure in considering our 
suggestion after consulting the Colonial Office, 
to which it would first have to be referred. 
Mr. Lincoln, in giving his impressions derived 
from the interview, says that ' ^ while Lord Salis- 
bury did not intimate what would probably be 
the nature of his reply, there was certainly no- 
thing unfavorable in his manner of receiving 
the suggestion"; and he follows this with these 
significant words : ^ ^ If the matter had been en- 
tirely new and dissociated with its previous 
history, I should have felt from his tone that 
the idea of arbitration in some form, to put an 
end to the boundary dispute, was quite agree- 
able to him." 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

On the 26th of May, 1890, Lord Salisbury 
addressed a note to Mr. Lincoln, in which his 
Lordship stated that her Majesty's Government 
was at that moment in communication with the 
Venezuelan minister in Paris, who had been 
authorized to express the desire of his Govern- 
ment for the renewal of diplomatic relations, 
and to discuss the conditions on which it might 
be effected; that the terms on which her Maj- 
esty's Government considered that a settlement 
of the question in issue between the two coun- 
tries might be made, had been communicated to 
Venezuela's representative; that his reply was 
still awaited, and that the British Government 
^^ would wish to have the opportunity of exam- 
ining that reply, and ascertaining what pros- 
pect it would afford of an adjustment of 
existing differences, before considering the ex- 
pediency of having recourse to the good offices 
of a third party." 

No mention was made, in this communication, 
nor at any time thereafter, so far as I can dis- 
cover, of Mr. Blaine 's proposal of a conference 
among representatives of the three nations in- 
terested in an adjustment. 

Lord Salisbury, in a despatch to the Eng- 
lish representative at Washington, dated No- 
vember 11, 1891, stated that our minister to 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

England had, in conversation with him, re- 
newed, on the part of our Government, the ex- 
pression of a hope that the Government of 
Great Britain would refer the boundary dis- 
pute to arbitration; that his Lordship had ex- 
pressed his willingness to submit to arbitration 
all the questions which seemed to his govern- 
ment to be fairly capable of being treated 
as questions of controversy; that the princi- 
pal obstacle was the rupture of diplomatic 
relations caused by Venezuela's act; and that 
before the Government of Great Britain could 
renew negotiations they must be satisfied that 
those relations were about to be resumed with 
a prospect of their continuance. 

While our Government was endeavoring to 
influence Great Britain in the direction of fair 
and just arbitration, and receiving for our 
pains only barren assurances and procrastinat- 
ing excuses, the appeals of Venezuela for help, 
stimulated by allegations of constantly increas- 
ing English pretensions, were incessantly ring- 
ing in our ears. 

Without mentioning a number of these ap- 
peals, and passing over a period of more than 
two years, I shall next refer to a representation 
made by the Venezuelan minister at Washing- 
ton on March 31, 1894, to Mr. Gresham, who 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

was then our Secretary of State. In this 
communication the course of the controversy 
and the alleged unauthorized acts of England 
from the beginning to that date were rehearsed 
with circumstantial particularity. The conduct 
of Great Britain in refusing arbitration was 
again reprobated, and pointed reference was 
made to a principle which had been asserted by 
the United States, ^^that the nations of the 
American continent, after having acquired the 
liberty and independence which they enjoy and 
maintain, were not subject to colonization by 
any European power.'' The minister further 
declared that ' ' Venezuela has been ready to ad- 
here to the conciliatory counsel of the United 
States that a conference, consisting of its own 
Ee]3resentative and those of the two parties, 
should meet at Washington or London for the 
purpose of preparing an honorable reestab- 
lishment of harmony between the litigants,'' 
and that ''Great Britain has disregarded the 
equitable proposition of the United States. ' ' 

On July 13, 1894, Mr. Gresham sent a despatch 
to Mr. Bayard, formerly Secretary of State, but 
then ambassador to England, inclosing the com- 
munication of the Venezuelan minister, calling 
particular attention to its contents, and at the 
same time briefly discussing the boundary dis- 
pute. In this despatch Mr. Gresham said : 


The Vene:{iielan Boundary Controversy 

The recourse to arbitration first proposed in 1881, 
having been supported by your predecessors, was 
in turn advocated by you, in a spirit of friendly re- 
gard for the two nations involved. In the meantime 
successive advances of British settlers in the region 
admittedly in dispute were followed by similar ad- 
vances of British Colonial administration, contesting 
and supplanting Venezuelan claims to exercise au- 
thority therein. 

He adds : ' ' Toward the end of 1887, the British 
territorial claim, which had, as it would seem, 
"been silently increased by some twenty-three 
thousand square miles between 1885 and 1886, 
took another comprehensive sweep westward 
to embrace'' a certain rich mining district. 
* ' Since then, ' ' the secretary further states, ^ ^ re- 
peated efforts have been made by Venezuela as 
a directly interested party, and by the United 
States as the impartial friend of both countries, 
to bring about a resumption of diplomatic 
relations, which had been suspended in conse- 
quence of the dispute now under considera- 

This despatch concludes as follows : 

The President is inspired by a desire for a peace- 
able and honorable adjustment of the existing dif- 
ficulties between an American state and a powerful 
transatlantic nation, and would be glad to see the 
reestablishment of such diplomatic relations between 
them as would promote that end. I can discover but 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

two equitable solutions to the present controversy. 
One is the arbitral determination of the rights of the 
disputants as the respective successors to the his- 
torical rights of Holland and Spain over the region 
in question. The other is to create a new boundary- 
line in accordance with the dictates of mutual ex- 
pediency and consideration. The two Governments 
having so far been unable to agree on a conventional 
line, the consistent and conspicuous advocacy by the 
United States and England of the principle of arbi- 
tration, and their recourse thereto in settlement of 
important questions arising between them, makes 
such a mode of adjustment especially appropriate 
in the present instance; and this Government will 
gladly do what it can to further a determination in 
that sense. 

In another despatch to Mr. Bayard, dated 
December 1, 1894, Mr. Gresham says: 

I cannot believe Her Majesty's Government will 
maintain that the validity of their claim to territory 
long in dispute between the two countries shall be 
conceded as a condition precedent to the arbitration 
of the question whether Venezuela is entitled to other 
territory, which until a recent period w^as never in 
doubt. Our interest in the question has repeatedly 
been shown by our friendly efforts to further a set- 
tlement alike honorable to both countries, and the 
President is pleased to know that Venezuela will 
soon renew her efforts to bring about such an adjust- 

Two days afterward, on December 3, 1894, 
the President ^s annual message was sent to the 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Congress, containing the following reference 
to the controversy: 

The boundary of British Guiana still remains in 
dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. Be- 
lieving that its early settlement on some just basis 
alike honorable to both parties is in the line of our 
established policy to remove from this hemisphere 
all causes of difference with powers beyond the sea, 
I shall renew the efforts heretofore made to bring 
about a restoration of diplomatic relations between 
the disputants and to induce a reference to arbitra- 
tion — a resort which Great Britain so conspicuously 
favors in principle and respects in practice, and 
which is earnestly sought by her weaker adversary. 

On the twenty-second day of February, 1895, 
a joint resolution was passed by the Congress, 
earnestly recommending to both parties in in- 
terest the President's suggestion "that Great 
Britain and Venezuela refer their dispute as 
to boundaries to friendly arbitration." 

A despatch dated February 23, 1895, from 
Great Britain's Foreign Office to the English 
ambassador at V^ashington, stated that on the 
twenty-fifth day of January, 1895, our ambas- 
sador, Mr. Bayard, had, in an official interview, 
referred to the boundary controversy, and said 
'Hhat his Government would gladly lend their 
good offices to bring about a settlement by 
means of an arbitration." The despatch fur- 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

ther stated that Mr. Bayard had thereupon 
been informed that her Majesty's Government 
had expressed their willingness to submit the 
question, within certain limits, to arbitration, 
but could not agree to the more extensive ref- 
erence on which the Venezuelan Government 
insisted; that Mr. Bayard called again on the 
twentieth day of February, when a memoran- 
dum was read to him concerning the situation 
and a map shown him of the territory in dis- 
pute; that at the same time he was informed 
that the Venezuelans had recently made an ag- 
gression upon the territory of English occu- 
pation, and, according to report, ill-treated 
some of the colonial police stationed there, and 
that it was the boundary defined by the Schom- 
burgk line which had thus been violated in a 
marked manner by the Venezuelans. 
This despatch concludes as follows: 

On Mr. Bayard 's observing that the United States 
Government was anxious to do anything in their 
power to facilitate a settlement of the difficulty by 
arbitration, I reminded his Excellency that although 
Her Majesty's Government were ready to go to ar- 
bitration as to a certain portion of the territory 
which I had pointed out to him, they could not con- 
sent to any departure from the Schomburgk line. 

It now became plainly apparent that a new 
stage had been reached in the progress of our 

The Vene:{iielan Boundary Controversy 

intervention, and tliat the ominous happenings 
embraced within a few months had hastened 
the day when we were challenged to take our 
exact bearings, lest we should miss the course 
of honor and national duty. The more direct 
tone that had been given to our despatches con- 
cerning the dispute, our more insistent and 
emphatic suggestion of arbitration, the serious 
reference to the subject in the President's mes- 
sage, the significant resolution passed by Con- 
gress earnestly recommending arbitration, all 
portended a growth of conviction on the jDart 
of our Government concerning this controversy, 
which gave birth to pronounced disappoint- 
ment and anxiety when Great Britain, concur- 
rently with these apprising incidents, repeated 
in direct and positive terms her refusal to sub- 
mit to arbitration except on condition that a 
portion of the disputed territory which Vene- 
zuela had always claimed to be hers should 
at the outset be irrevocably conceded to 

During a period of more than fourteen years 
our Government, assuming the character of a 
mutual and disinterested friend of both coun- 
tries, had, with varying assiduity, tendered its 
good offices to bring about a pacific and amica- 
ble settlement of this boundary controversy, 
only to be repelled with more or less civility by 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Great Britain. We had seen her pretensions 
in the disputed regions widen and extend in 
such manner and upon such pretexts as seemed 
to constitute an actual or threatened violation 
of a doctrine which our nation long ago estab- 
lished, declaring that the American continents 
are not to be considered subjects for future 
colonization by any European power; and de- 
spite all this we had, nevertheless, hoped, during 
all these years, that arrangement and accom- 
modation between the principal parties would 
justify us in keeping an invocation of that doc- 
trine in the background of the discussion. Not- 
withstanding, however, all our efforts to avoid 
it, we could not be unmindful of the conditions 
which the progress of events had created, and 
whose meaning and whose exigencies inex- 
orably confronted us. England had jBnally and 
unmistakably declared that all the territory 
embraced within the Schomburgk line was in- 
disputably hers. Venezuela presented a claim 
to territory within the same limits, which could 
not be said to lack strong support. England 
had absolutely refused to permit Venezuela's 
claim to be tested by arbitration ; and Venezuela 
was utterly powerless to resist by force Eng- 
land's self -pronounced decree of ownership. If 
this decree was not justified by the facts, and it 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

should be enforced against the protest and in- 
sistence of Venezuela and should result in the 
possession and colonization of Venezuelan ter- 
ritory by Great Britain, it seemed quite plain 
that the American doctrine which denies to Eu- 
ropean powers the colonization of any part of 
the American continent would be violated. 

If the ultimatum of Great Britain as to her 
claim of territory had appeared to us so thor- 
oughly supported upon the facts as to admit of 
small doubt, we might have escaped the resj)on- 
sibility of insisting on an observance of the 
Monroe Doctrine in the premises, on our own 
account, and have still remained the disinter- 
ested friend of both countries, merely content- 
ing ourselves with benevolent attempts to recon- 
cile the disputants. We were, however, far 
from discovering such satisfactory support in 
the evidence within our reach. On the contrary, 
we believed that the effects of our acquiescence 
in Great Britain's pretensions would amount to 
a failure to uphold and maintain a principle 
universally accepted by our Government and 
our people as vitally essential to our national 
integrity and welfare. The arbitration, for 
which Venezuela pleaded, would have adjudged 
the exact condition of the rival claims, would 
have forever silenced Venezuela's complaints, 


The Venezuelan Boundary Conk over sy 

and would have displaced by conclusive sen- 
tence our unwelcome doubts and suspicions; 
but this Great Britain had refused to Venezuela, 
and thus far had also denied to us. 

Recreancy to a principle so fundamentally 
American as the Monroe Doctrine, on the part 
of those charged with the administration of our 
Government, was of course out of the question. 
Inasmuch, therefore, as all our efforts to avoid 
its assertion had miscarried, there was nothing 
left for us to do consistently with national 
honor but to take the place of Venezuela in the 
controversy, so far as that was necessary, in 
vindication of our American doctrine. Our 
mild and amiable proffers of good offices, and 
the hopes we indulged that at last they might 
be the means of securing to a weak sister re- 
public peace and justice, and to ourselves im- 
munity from sterner interposition, were not 
suited to the new emergency. In the advanced 
condition of the dispute, s^nnpathy with Ven- 
ezuela and solicitude for her distressed condi- 
tion could no longer constitute the motive 
power of our conduct, but these were to give 
way to the duty and obligation of protecting 
our own national rights. 

Mr. Gresham, who since the fourth day of 
March, 1893, had been our Secretary of State, 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

died in the latter days of May, 1895. His love 
of justice, his sympathy with every cause that 
deserved syrupathy, his fearless and disinter- 
ested patriotism, and his rare mental endow- 
ments, combined to make him a noble American 
and an able advocate of his country's honor. 
To such a man every phase of the Venezuelan 
boundary dispute strongly appealed; and he 
had been conscientiously diligent in acquainting 
himself with its history and in considering the 
contingencies that might arise in its future de- 
velopment. Though his death was most la- 
mentable, I have always considered it a provi- 
dential circumstance that the Government then 
had among its Cabinet officers an exceptionally 
strong and able man, in every way especially 
qualified to fill the vacant place, and thoroughly 
familiar with the pending controversy— which 
seemed every day to bring us closer to momen- 
tous duty and resj)onsibility. 

Mr. Olney was appointed Secretary of State 
early in June, 1895; and promptly thereafter, 
at the suggestion of the President, he began, 
with characteristic energy and vigor, to make 
preparation for the decisive step which it 
seemed should no longer be delayed. 

The seriousness of the business we had in 
hand was fully understood, and the difficulty or 

17 2 57 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

impossibility of retracing the step we contem- 
plated was thoroughly appreciated. The ab- 
solute necessity of certainty concerning the 
facts which should underlie our action was, of 
course, perfectly apparent. AVliatever our be- 
liefs or convictions might be, as derived from 
the examination we had thus far given the 
case, and however strongly we might be per- 
suaded that Great Britain's pretensions could 
not be conceded consistently with our mainte- 
nance of the Monroe Doctrine, it would, never- 
theless, have been manifestly improper and 
heedless on our part to find conclusively 
against Great Britain, before soliciting her 
again and in new circumstances to give us an 
oi^portunity to judge of the merits of her 
claims through the submission of them to arbi- 

It was determined, therefore, that a commu- 
nication should be prepared for presentation 
to the British Government through our ambas- 
sador to England, detailing the progress and 
incidents of the controversy as we appre- 
hended them, giving a thorough exposition of 
the origin of the Monroe Doctrine, and the rea- 
sons on which it was based, demonstrating our 
interest in the controversy because of its rela- 
tion to that doctrine, and from our new stand- 


The Vene:{iielan Boundary Controversy 

point and on our own account requesting Great 
Britain to join Venezuela in submitting to ar- 
bitration their contested claims to the entire 
territory in dispute. 

This was accordingly done; and a despatch 
to this effect, dated July 20, 1895, was sent 
by Mr. Olney to her Majesty's Government 
through Mr. Bayard, our ambassador. 

The Monroe Doctrine may be abandoned ; we 
may forfeit it by taking our lot with nations 
that expand by following un-American ways; 
we may outgrow it, as we seem to be outgrow- 
ing other things we once valued ; or it may for- 
ever stand as a guaranty of protection and 
safety in our enjoyment of free institutions; 
but in no event will this American principle 
ever be better defined, better defended, or more 
bravely asserted than was done by Mr. Olney 
in this despatch. 

After referring to the various incidents of 
the controversy, and stating the conditions then 
existing, it was declared: 

The accuracy of the foregoing analysis of the ex- 
isting status cannot, it is believed, be challenged. It 
shows that status to be such, that those charged with 
the interests of the United States are now forced to 
determine exactly what those interests are and what 
course of action they require. It compels them to de- 


The Veneiuelan Boundary Controversy 

cide to what extent, if any, the United States may 
and should intervene in a controversy between, and 
primarily concerning, only Great Britain and Vene- 
zuela, and to decide how far it is bound to see that 
the integrity of Venezuelan territory is not impaired 
by the pretensions of its powerful antagonist. 

After an exhaustive explanation and vindi- 
cation of the Monroe Doctrine, and after assert- 
ing that aggressions by Great Britain on Vene- 
zuelan soil would fall within its purview, the 
despatch proceeded as follows: 

While Venezuela charges such usurpation. Great 
Britain denies it; and the United States, until the 
merits are authoritatively ascertained, can take sides 
with neither. But while this is so,— while the United 
States may not, under existing circumstances at 
least, take upon itself to say which of the two parties 
is right and which is wrong, — it is certainly within 
its right to demand that the truth be ascertained. 
Being entitled to resent and resist any sequestration 
of Venezuelan soil by Great Britain, it is necessarily 
entitled to know whether such sequestration has oc- 
curred or is now going on. ... It being clear, there- 
fore, that the United States may legitimately insist 
upon the merits of the boundary question being de- 
termined, it is equally clear that there is but one 
feasible mode of determining them, viz., peaceful ar- 

The demand of Great Britain that her right 
to a portion of the disputed territory should be 


The yene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

acknowledged as a condition of lier consent to 
arbitration as to the remainder, was thus char- 
acterized : 

It is not perceived how such an attitude can be 
defended, nor how it is reconcilable with that love 
of justice and fair play so eminently characteristic 
of the English race. It in effect deprives Venezuela 
of her free agency and puts her under virtual du- 
ress. Territory acquired by reason of it will be as 
much wrested from her by the strong hand as if oc- 
cupied by British troops or covered by British fleets. 

The despatch, after directing the presenta- 
tion to Lord Salisbury of the views it contained, 
concluded as follows: 

They call for a definite decision upon the point 
whether Great Britain will consent or decline to 
submit the Venezuelan boundary question in its 
entirety to impartial arbitration. It is the earnest 
hope of the President that the conclusion will be 
on the side of arbitration, and that Great Britain 
will add one more to the conspicuous precedents she 
has already furnished in favor of that wise and just 
mode of settling international disputes. If he is to 
be disappointed in that hope, however,— a result not 
to be anticipated, and in his judgment calculated to 
greatly embarrass the future relations between this 
country and Great Britain, — it is his wish to be made 
acquainted with the fact at such early date as will 
enable him to lay the whole subject before Congress 
in his next annual message. 



Tlie reply of Great Britain to this commu- 
nication consisted of two despatches addressed 
by Lord Salisbury to the British ambassador 
at Washington for submission to our Govern- 
ment. Though dated the twenty-sixth day of 
November, 1895, these despatches were not pre- 
sented to our State Department until a number 
of days after the assemblage of the Congress 
in the following month. In one of these com- 
munications Lord Salisbury, in dealing with 
the Monroe Doctrine and the right or propri- 
ety of our appeal to it in the pending contro- 
versy, declared: ^'The dangers which were 
apprehended by President Monroe have no rela- 
tion to the state of things in which we live at 
the present day.'' He further declared: 

But the circumstances with which President Mon- 
roe was dealing and those to which the present 
American Government is addressing itself have very 
few features in common. Great Britain is imposing 
no "system" upon Venezuela and is not concerning 
herself in any way with the nature of the political 
institutions under which the Venezuelans may pre- 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

f er to live. But the British Empire and the Repub- 
lic of Venezuela are neighbors, and they have dif- 
fered for some time past, and continue to differ, as 
to the line by which their dominions are separated. 
It is a controversy with which the United States have 
no apparent practical concern. . . . The disputed 
frontier of Venezuela has nothing to do with any 
of the questions dealt with by President Monroe. 

His Lordship, in commenting upon our posi- 
tion as develojoed in Mr. Olney's despatch, de- 
fined it in these terms: '^If any independent 
American state advances a demand for terri- 
tory of which its neighbor claims to be the 
owner, and that neighbor is a colony of an Eu- 
ropean state, the United States have a right to 
insist that the European state shall submit the 
demand and its own impugned rights to arbi- 
tration. ' ' 

I confess I should be greatly disappointed if 
I believed that the history I have attempted to 
give of this controversy did not easily and 
promptly suggest that this definition of our 
contention fails to take into account some of 
its most important and controlling features. 

Speaking of arbitration as a method of ter- 
minating international differences. Lord Salis- 
bury said : 

It has proved itself valuable in many cases, but 
it is not free from defects which often operate as 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

a serious drawback on its value. It is not always easy 
to find an arbitrator who is competent and who, at 
the same time, is wholly free from bias ; and the 
task of insuring compliance with the award when it 
is made is not exempt from difficulty. It is a mode 
of settlement of which the value varies much accord- 
ing to the nature of the controversy to which it is 
applied and the character of the litigants who ap- 
peal to it. Whether in any particular case it is a 
suitable method of procedure is generally a delicate 
and difficult question. The only parties who are 
competent to decide that question are the two parties 
whose rival contentions are in issue. The claim of a 
third nation which is unaffected by the controversy 
to impose this particular procedure on either of the 
two others cannot be reasonably justified and has 
no foundation in the law of nations. 

Immediately following this statement his 
Lordship again touched upon the Monroe Doc- 
trine for the purpose of specifically disclaiming 
its acceptance by lier Majesty's Government as 
a sound and valid principle. He says: 

It must always be mentioned with respect, on 
account of the distinguished statesman to whom it 
is due and the great nation who have generally 
adopted it. But international law is founded on 
the general consent of nations ; and no statesman, 
however eminent, and no nation, however powerful, 
are competent to insert into the code of international 
law a novel principle which was never recognized 
before, and which has not since been accepted by the 
Government of any other country. The United 


The yene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

States have a right, like any other nation, to inter- 
pose in any controversy by which their own interests 
are affected; and they are the judge whether those 
interests are touched and in what measure they 
should be sustained. But their rights are in no way 
strengthened or extended by the fact that the con- 
troversy affects some territory which is called 

In concluding this despatch Lord Salisbury 
declared that her Majesty's Government "fully 
concur with the view which President Monroe 
apparently entertained, that any disturbance 
of the existing territorial distribution in that 
hemisphere by any fresh acquisitions on the 
part of any European state would be a highly 
inexpedient change. But they are not prepared 
to admit that the recognition of that expedi- 
ency is clothed with the sanction which belongs 
to a doctrine of international law. They are 
not prepared to admit that the interests of the 
United States are necessarily concerned in any 
frontier dispute which may arise between any 
two of the states who possess dominions in the 
Western Hemisphere; and still less can they 
accept the doctrine that the United States are 
entitled to claim that the process of arbitration 
shall be applied to any demand for the sur- 
render of territory which one of those states 
may make against another. '^ 


The Veneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

The other despatch of Lord Salisbury, which 
accompanied the one upon which I have com- 
mented, was mainly devoted to a statement of 
facts and evidence on Great Britain's side in 
the boundary controversy ; and in making such 
statement his Lordship in general terms desig- 
nated the territory to which her Majesty's Gov- 
ernment was entitled as being embraced within 
the lines of the most extreme claim which she 
had at any time presented. He added : 

A portion of that claim, however, they have al- 
ways been willing to waive altogether ; in regard to 
another portion they have been and continue to be 
perfectly ready to submit the question of their title 
to arbitration. As regards the rest, that which lies 
within the so-called Schomburgk line, they do not 
consider that the rights of Great Britain are open 
to question. Even within that line they have on va- 
rious occasions offered to Venezuela considerable 
concessions as a matter of friendship and concilia- 
tion and for the purpose of securing an amicable 
settlement of the dispute. If, as time has gone on, 
the concessions thus offered have been withdrawn, 
this has been the necessary consequence of the grad- 
ual spread over the country of British settlements, 
which Her Majesty's Government cannot in justice 
to the inhabitants offer to surrender to foreign rule. 

In conclusion his Lordshij^ asserts that his 
Government has 

repeatedly expressed their readiness to submit to 
arbitration the conflicting claims of Great Britain 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

and Venezuela to large tracts of territory which 
from their auriferous nature are known to be of 
almost untold value. But they cannot consent to 
entertain, or to submit to the arbitration of another 
power or of foreign jurists however eminent, claims 
based on the extravagant pretensions of Spanish offi- 
cials in the last century and involving the transfer 
of large numbers of British subjects, who have for 
many years enjoyed the settled rule of a British 
colony, to a nation of differejit race and language, 
whose political system is subject to frequent dis- 
turbance, and whose institutions as yet too often 
afford very inadequate protection to life and prop- 

These despatches exhibit a refusal to admit 
such an interest in the controversy on our part 
as entitled ns to insist upon an arbitration for 
the purpose of having the line between Great 
Britain and Venezuela established ; a denial of 
such force or meaning to the Monroe Doctrine 
as made it worthy of the regard of Great Brit- 
ain in the premises ; and a fixed and continued 
determination on the part of her Majesty's 
Government to reject arbitration as to any ter- 
ritory included within the extended Schom- 
burgk line. They further indicate that the exis- 
tence of gold within the disimtod territory had 
not been overlooked; and they distinctly put 
forward the colonization and settlement by 
English subjects in such territory, during more 
than half a century of dispute, as creating a 


Tbe Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

claim to dominion and sovereignty, if not 
strong enough to override all question of right 
and title, at least so clear and indisputable as to 
be properly considered as above and beyond the 
contingencies of arbitration. 

If we had been obliged to accept Lord 
Salisbury's estimate of the Monroe Doctrine, 
and his ideas of our interest, or rather want 
of interest, in the settlement of the boundary 
between Great Britain and Venezuela, his de- 
spatches would have certainly been very de- 
13ressing. It would have been unpleasant for 
us to know that a doctrine which we had sup- 
posed for seventy years to be of great value 
and importance to us and our national safety 
was, after all, a mere plaything with which we 
might amuse ourselves; and that our efforts 
to enforce it were to be regarded by Great 
Britain and other European nations as meddle- 
some interferences with affairs in which we 
could have no legitimate concern. 

The reply of the English Government to Mr. 
Olney's despatch, whatever else it accom- 
plished, seemed absolutely to destroy any hope 
we might have entertained that, in our changed 
position in the controversy and upon our inde- 
pendent solicitation, arbitration might be con- 
ceded to us. Since, therefore, Great Britain 


The J/ene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

was unwilling, on any consideration, to coop- 
erate with Venezuela in setting on foot an in- 
vestigation of their contested claim, and since 
prudence and care dictated that any further 
steps we might take should be proved to be as 
fully justified as was practicable in the circum- 
stances, there seemed to be no better way open 
to us than to inaugurate a careful independent 
investigation of the merits of the controversy, 
on our own motion, with a view of determining 
as accurately as possible, for our own guidance, 

where the divisional line between the two coun- 
tries should be located. 

Mr. Olney's despatch and Lord Salisbury's 
reply were submitted to the Congress on the 
seventeenth day of December, 1895, accompa- 
nied by a message from the President. 

In this message the President, after stating 
Lord Salisbury's positions touching the Mon- 
roe Doctrine, declared: 

Without attempting extended argument in reply 
to these positions, it may not be amiss to suggest that 
the doctrine upon which we stand is strong and 
sound, because its enforcement is important to our 
peace and safety as a nation, and is essential to the 
integrity of our free institutions and the tranquil 
maintenance of our distinctive form of government. 
It was intended to apply to every stage of our na- 
tional life, and cannot become obsolete while our 


The Vene:{nelan Boundary Controversy 

Republic endures. If the balance of power is justly 
a cause for jealous anxiety among the governments 
of the Old AVorld and a subject for our absolute 
non-interference, none the less is the observance of 
the Monroe Doctrine of vital concern to our people 
and their Government. 

Speaking of the claim made by Lord Salis- 
bury that this doctrine had no place in interna- 
tional law, it was said in the message: "The 
Monroe Doctrine finds its recognition in those 
principles of international law which are based 
upon the theory tliat every nation shall have its 
rights protected and its just claims enforced.'' 

Eeferring to the request contained in Mr. 
Olney's despatch that the entire boundary con- 
troversv be submitted to arbitration, the fol- 
lowing language was used: 

It will be seen from the correspondence herewith 
submitted that this proposition has been declined by 
the British Government upon grounds which in the 
circumstances seem to me to be far from satisfactory. 
It is deeply disappointing that such an appeal, actu- 
ated by the most friendly feelings toward both na- 
tions directly concerned, addressed to the sense of 
justice and to the magnanimity of one of the great 
powers of the world, and touching its relations to 
one comparatively weak and small, should have pro- 
duced no better results. 

The course to be pursued by this Government in 
view^ of the present condition does not appear to 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

admit of serious doubt. Having labored faithfully 
for many years to induce Great Britain to submit 
their dispute to impartial arbitration, and having 
been finally apprised of her refusal to do so, nothing 
remains but to accept the situation, to recognize its 
plain requirements, and deal with it accordingly. 
Great Britain's present proposition has never thus 
far been regarded as admissible by Venezuela, 
though any adjustment of the boundary which that 
country may deem for her advantage and may enter 
into of her own free will cannot, of course, be ob- 
jected to by the United States. Assuming, however, 
that the attitude of Venezuela will remain un- 
changed, the dispute has reached such a stage as to 
make it now incumbent upon the United States to 
take measures to determine with sufficient certainty 
for its justification what is the true divisional line 
between the Republic of Venezuela and British 
Guiana. The inquiry to that end should, of course, 
be conducted carefully and judicially; and due 
weight should be given to all available evidence, 
records, and facts in support of the claims of both 

After recommending to the Congress an ade- 
quate appropriation to meet the exjoense of a 
commission which should make the suggested 
investigation and report thereon with the least 
possible delay, the President concluded his 
message as follows : 

When such report is made and accepted, it will, 
in my opinion, be the duty of the United States to 
resist by every means in its power, as a wilful ag- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

gression upon its rights and interests, the appropria- 
tion by Great Britain of any lands or the exercise of 
governmental jurisdiction over any territory which 
after investigation we have determined of right be- 
longs to Venezuela. 

In making these recommendations I am fully alive 
to the responsibility incurred, and keenly realize all 
the consequences that may follow. 

I am, nevertheless, firm in my conviction that 
while it is a grievous thing to contemplate the two 
great English-speaking peoples of the world as being 
otherwise than friendly competitors in the onward 
march of civilization, and strenuous and worthy ri- 
vals in all the arts of peace, there is no calamity 
which a great nation can invite which equals that 
which follows a supine submission to wrong and in- 
justice, and the consequent loss of national self-re- 
spect and honor, beneath which are shielded and 
defended a people 's safety and greatness. 

The recommendations contained in this mes- 
sage were acted upon with such promptness 
and unanimity that on the twenty-first day of 
December, 1895, four days after they were sub- 
mitted, a law was passed by the Congress au- 
thorizing the President to appoint a commis- 
sion 'Ho investigate and report upon the true 
divisional line between the Republic of Vene- 
zuela and British Guiana, ' ' and making an am- 
ple appropriation to meet the expenses of its 

On the first day of January, 1896, five of our 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

most able and distinguished citizens were se- 
lected to constitute the commission; and they 
immediately entered ujDon their investigation. 
At the outset of their labors, and on the fif- 
teenth day of January, 1896, the president of 
the commission suggested to Mr. Olney the ex- 
pediency of calling the attention of the Govern- 
ments of Great Britain and Venezuela to the 
appointment of the commission, adding: ''It 
may be that they would see a way entirely con- 
sistent with their own sense of international 
propriety to give the Commission the aid that 
it is no doubt in their power to furnish in the 
way of documentary proof, historical narra- 
tive, unpublished archives, or the like." This 
suggestion, on its presentation to the Govern- 
ment of Great Britain, was met by a most cour- 
teous and willing offer to supply to our com- 
mission every means of information touching 
the subject of their investigation which was 
within the reach of the English authorities; 
and at all times during the labors of the com- 
mission this offer was cheerfully fulfilled. 

In the meantime, and as early as February, 
1896, the question of submitting the Venezue- 
lan boundary dispute to mutual arbitration 
was again agitated between the United States 
and Great Britain. 

^^ 273 

The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

Our ambassador to England, in a note to 
Lord Salisbury, dated February 27, 1896, after 
speaking of such arbitration as seeming to be 
^'almost unanimoush" dssired by both the 
United States and Great Britain," proposed, 
in pursuance of instructions from his Govern- 
ment, ''an entrance forthwith upon negotia- 
tions at Washington to effect this jDurpose, and 
that Her Majesty's Ambassador at Washington 
should be empowered to discuss the question at 
that capital with the Secretary of State." He 
also requested that a definition should be given 
of ''settlements" in the disputed territory 
which it was understood her Majesty's Govern- 
ment desired should be excluded from the pro- 
posed submission to arbitration. 

Lord Salisbury, in his reply to this note, 
dated March 3, 1896, said: 

The communications which have already passed 
between Her Majesty's Government and that of the 
United States have made you acquainted with the 
desire of Her IMajesty's Government to bring: the 
difference between themselves and the Republic of 
Venezuela to an equitable settlement. They there- 
fore readily concur in the suggestion that negotia- 
tions for this purpose should be opened at Washing- 
ton without unnecessary delay. I have accordingly 
empowered Sir Julian Pauncefote to discuss the 
question either with the representative of Venezuela 


The Feneiiielan Boundary Controversy 

or with the Government of the United States acting 
as the friend of Venezuela. 

With this transfer of treaty negotiations to 
Washington, Mr. Olney and Sir Julian Paunce- 
fote, the ambassador of Great Britain to 
this country, industriously addressed them- 
selves to the subject. The insistence of Great 
Britain that her title to the territory within the 
Schomburgk line should not be questioned, was 
no longer placed by her in the way of submit- 
ting the rights of the parties in the entire dis- 
puted territory to arbitration. She still in- 
sisted, however, that English settlers long in 
the occupancy of any of the territory in con- 
troversy, supposing it to be under British do- 
minion, should have their rights scrupulously 
considered. Any difference of view that arose 
from this proposition was adjusted without se- 
rious difficulty, by agreeing that adverse hold- 
ing or prescription during a period of fifty 
years should make a good title, and that the ar- 
bitrators might deem exclusive political control 
of a district, as well as actual settlement, suf- 
ficient to constitute adverse holding or to make 
title by prescription. 

On the 10th of November, 1896, Mr. Olney 
addressed a note to the president of the com- 
mission which had been appointed to investi- 


The yene:{uelaii Boundary Controversy 

gate the boundary question on behalf of our 
Government, in which he said: ^^The United 
States and Great Britain are in entire accord 
as to the provisions of a proposed treaty be- 
tween Great Britain and Venezuela. The treaty 
is so eminently just and fair as respects both 
parties— so thoroughly i^rotects the rights and 
claims of Venezuela— that I cannot conceive of 
its not being approved by the Venezuelan Pres- 
ident and Congress. It is thoroughly approved 
by the counsel of Venezuela here and by the 
Venezuelan Minister at this Capital. ' ' In view 
of these conditions he suggested a suspension 
of the work of the commission. 

The treaty was signed at Washington by the 
representatives of Great Britain and Venezuela 
on the second day of February, 1897. No part 
of the territory in dispute was reserved from 
the arbitration it created. It was distinctly 
made the duty of those appointed to carry out 
its provisions, ^ ' to determine the boundary-line 
between the Colony of British Guiana and the 
United States of Venezuela." 

The fact must not be overlooked that, not- 
withstanding this treaty was promoted and ne- 
gotiated by the officers of our Government, the 
parties to it were Great Britain and Venezuela. 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

This was a fortunate circumstance, inasmuch 
as the work accomplished was thus saved from 
the risk of customary disfigurement at the 
hands of the United States Senate. 

The arbitrators began their labors in the city 
of Paris in January, 1899, and made their 
award on the third day of October in the same 

The line they determined upon as the boun- 
dary-line between the two countries begins in 
the coast at a point considerably south and east 
of the mouth of the Orinoco Elver, thus giving 
to Venezuela the absolute control of that im- 
portant waterway, and awarding to her valua- 
ble territory near it. Kunning inland, the line 
is so located as to give to Venezuela quite a 
considerable section of territory within the 
Schomburgk line. This results not only in the 
utter denial of Great Britain's claim to any 
territory lying beyond the Schomburgk line, 
but also in the award to Venezuela of a part of 
.the territory which for a long time England 
had claimed to be so clearly hers that she would 
not consent to submit it to arbitration. 

Thus, we have made a laborious and patient 
journey through the incidents of a long dis- 
pute, to find at last a peaceful rest. As we 


The Vene:{iielan Boundary Controversy 

look back over the road we have traversed, and 
view again the incidents we have passed on our 
way, some may be surprised that this contro- 
versy was so long chronic, and yet, in the end, 
yielded so easily to pronounced treatment. 1 
know that occasionally some Americans of a 
certain sort, who were quite un-American when 
the difficulty was pending, have been very fond 
of lauding the extreme forbearance and kind- 
ness of England toward us in our so-called 
belligerent and ill-advised assertion of Ameri- 
can principle. Those to whom this is a satisfac- 
tion are quite welcome to it. 

My own surprise and disappointment have 
arisen more from the honest misunderstanding 
and the dishonest and insincere misrepresenta- 
tion, on the part of many of our people, re- 
garding the motives and purposes of the in- 
terference of the Government of the United 
States in this affair. Some conceited and dog- 
gedly mistaken critics have said that it was 
dreadful for us to invite war for the sake of a 
people unworthy of our consideration, and for 
the purpose of protecting their possession of 
land not worth possessing. It is certainly 
strange that any intelligent citizen, professing 
information on public affairs, could fail to see 
that when we aggressively interposed in this 


The Vene:{iielan Boundary Controversy 

controversy it was because it was necessary in 
order to assert and vindicate a principle dis- 
tinctively American, and in tlie maintenance of 
which the people and Government of the United 
States were i^rofoundly concerned. It was 
because this princij^le was endangered, and be- 
cause those charged with administrative re- 
sponsibility would not abandon or neglect it, 
that our Government interposed to prevent any 
further colonization of American soil by a Eu- 
ropean nation. In these circumstances neither 
the character of the people claiming the soil 
as against Great Britain, nor the value of the 
lands in dispute, was of the least consequence 
to us ; nor did it in the least concern us which of 
the two contestants had the best title to any 
part of the disputed territory, so long as Eng- 
land did not possess and colonize more than 
belonged to her— however much or however 
little that might be. But we needed proof 
of the limits of her rights in order to determine 
our duty in defense of our Monroe Doctrine; 
and we sought to obtain such proof, and to 
secure peace, through arbitration. 

But those among us who most loudly repre- 
hended and bewailed our vigorous assertion 
of the Monroe Doctrine were the timid ones 
who feared personal financial loss, or those en- 


The Vene:{uelan Boundary Controversy 

gaged in speculation and stock-gambling, in 
buying much, beyond their ability to pay, and 

generally in living by their wits. The patriot- 
ism of such people traverses exclusively the 
pocket nerve. They are willing to tolerate the 
Monroe Doctrine, or any other patriotic princi- 
ple, so long as it does not interfere with their 
plans, and are just as willing to cast it off when 
it becomes troublesome. 

But these things are as nothing when weighed 
against the sublime patriotism and devotion to 
their nation 's honor exhibited by the great mass 
of our countr^Tnen— the plain people of the 
land. Though, in case of the last extremity, 
the chances and suffering of conflict would have 
fallen to their lot, nothing blinded them to the 
manner in which the integrity of their country 
was involved. Not for a single moment did 
their Government know the lack of their strong 
and stalwart support. 

I hoi3e there are but few of our fellow-citi- 
zens who, in retrospect, do not now acknow- 
ledge the good that has come to our nation 
through this episode in our history. It has es- 
tablished the Monroe Doctrine on lasting foun- 
dations before the eyes of the world; it has 
given us a better place in the respect and consid- 
eration of the people of all nations, and espec- 


The Venezuelan Boundary Controversy 

ially of Great Britain; it has again confirmed 
our confidence in the overwhelming prevalence 
among our citizens of disinterested devotion to 
American honor; and last, but by no means 
least, it has taught us where to look in the ranks 
of our countrymen for the best patriotism.