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Date Rtc'd: QD oD 0et/
C .-,_ jZ5,q.. OQ-,.
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R. A. HUMPHREYS
Professor of Latin American History
The University of London
Issued under the auspices of the
Royal Institute of International Affairs
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO
Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.C.4
GLASGOW NEW YORK TORONTO MELBOURNE WELLINGTON
BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS KARACHI KUALA LLMPUR
CAPE TOWN IBADAN NAIROBI ACCRA
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN
THE settlement of Belize, or, as it later became, the colony of
British Honduras, was from the seventeenth to the twentieth
century a centre of acute diplomatic controversy, first between
Great Britain and Spain and later between Britain and Mexico
and between Britain and Guatemala. The growth of a British
settlement in Central America aroused also the opposition of
the United States. The Anglo-Spanish dispute ended at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, the Anglo-Mexican dispute
at its close, by which time also the United States had ceased to
take an interest in the affairs of the colony. The Anglo-
Guatemalan dispute, however, which seemed, m 1900, to be
dying of inanition, revived in the 1930's, and, since then, no
longer confining herself to the matters in dispute in the i86o's,
Guatemala has advanced a claim to the possession of the whole
of British Honduras.
The following pages investigate the origin and growth of the
colony and analyse the diplomatic controversies to which that
growth, together with the overthrow of Spanish dominion in
the New World, gave rise. The narrative ends in 1901 because
at that date the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute ceased, for the
next thirty years, to be active, and because its subsequent
history contributes nothing fresh to the issues already raised in
the nineteenth century.
I should like to express my gratitude to Mr. A. H. Anderson,
the Archaeological Commissioner in British Honduras, who
kindly examined on my behalf the Archives of Jamaica in
Spanish Town and the records of the Belize Registry; to
Mrs. H. L. Jenkyns, who prepared the maps; to my wife, who
has made the index; and to Professor W. L. Burn and Dr. David
Waddell, who have given me the benefit of their criticism and
advice. I am most grateful also to Admiral Julio F. Guillkn
and Professor Lewis Hanke, both of whom have gone out of
their way to help me. But my chief debt is to Miss Katharine
Duff, whose assistance at every stage and more particularly in
examining the immense bulk of the Foreign Office and Colonial
Office records, made it possible for me to write this book at all.
I feel, indeed, that it is almost as much her book as mine; and
I am glad to have the opportunity of saying so.
LIST OF MAPS ix
I. Tim SETTLEMENT OF BELIZE, 1638-1798 I
II,. THE GROWTH OF THE SETTLEMENT, 1798-1821 10
III. BRITISH HONDURAS AND ITS NEIGHBOURS, 1821-40 20
IV. ANGLO-AMERICAN DIPLOMACY IN THE 1840'S AND I850's 47
V. PRELIMINARIES TO THE ANGLO-GUATEMALAN CON-
VENTION OF 1859 59
VI. THE ANGLO-GUATEMALAN CONVENTION OF 1859 78
VI. THE ROAD AND BOUNDARY SURVEYS, I86o-I 92
VIII. THE SUPPLEMENTARY CONVENTION OF 1863 1o9
IX. THE LAPSE OF THE 1863 CONVENTION, 1863-9 121
x. THE NORTHERN AND NORTH-WESTERN FRONTIER,
xi. THE ANGLO-GUATEMALAN CONTROVERSY, 1869-1901 151
APPENDIX I. THE PROBLEM OF SPANISH COLONIAL
APPENDIX II. THE Uti Possidetis PRINCIPLE 179
NOTE ON SOURCES 183
INDEX OF AUTHORS, EDITORS, AND SHORT TITLES 185
GENERAL INDEX 187
LIST OF MAPS
1. Mexico and Central America
2. Map to illustrate the Anglo-Guatemalan Dispute
3. Mexican Yucatan
Map D, annexed to the Colonial Office Memorandum of
25 Oct. 1834, and revised by the Superintendent of the
Belize Settlement, 1835
4. Land Titles on the North-west Frontier
By J. H. Faber, Crown Surveyor, Belize, 4 Feb. 1861
5. British Honduras, showing the Mahogany Works, the Crown
Lands, the Indian Villages, near to the Western Frontier Line
By Gordon Allan, Surveyor-General, 1886. The position of
such villages as Icaiche was revised in later surveys
6. Sketch Map showing the Position of the Indian Tribes
From a drawing by Henry Fowler, Administrator of the
ABH Archives of British Honduras
C.O. Colonial Office Records, Public Record Office
F.O. Foreign Office Records, Public Record Office
THE SETTLEMENT OF BELIZE
THE origins of the colony of British Honduras are to be
found in the activities of logwood cutters, formerly
buccaneers, in the seventeenth century. An English
settlement in the neighbourhood of the Belize River is alleged
to have been made as early as 1638, and the name 'Belize' is
itself commonly derived from one, Peter Wallace, called
'Wallis' or 'Balis' by the Spaniards, who is said to have been
the first Englishman, or Scotsman, to settle on the shore. But
this is legend, or half-legend. The first settlements of logwood
cutters for which there is clear evidence took place, not on the
Belize River, but near Cape Catoche, on the deserted coast of
YucatAn, and in the Bay of Campeche, and till late in the
seventeenth century the two occupations of logwood cutting and
buccaneering remained interchangeable.
By the Treaty of Madrid signed in 1667 it was agreed that
there should be perpetual peace between the Crowns of Great
Britain and Spain.' By a further treaty signed at Madrid in
1670 Spain acknowledged Britain's title to Jamaica and other
defacto possessions 'in the West Indies, or in any part of America',
and it was agreed that the subjects of the two Crowns should
abstain from all acts of violence.2 Thereafter Great Britain made
a serious effort to repress buccaneering, and by 1682 the
buccaneers, 'the frontiersmen of the Caribbean', had, for the
most part, been dispersed, had turned pirate, or had settled
down to the business of logwood cutting. On behalf of the
logwood cutters it was urged by their defenders that since they
were working in unoccupied territory, their business was
legitimate and even, indeed, that their rights were confirmed by
the treaty of 67yo. This view, however, was certainly not
1 F. G. Davenport [and C. 0. Paullin], European Treaties bearing on the History
of the l cited States and its Dependencies (4 vols., Washington, D.C., 1917-37), ii. o106.
Ibui. ". 19,f.
2 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
accepted by the Spanish Crown, and the settlers in the Bay of
Campeche were subjected to attack and their ships to seizure.
Possibly for this reason the centre of the industry now began to
shift southwards, and the cutters found a greater degree of
security on the desolate coast of what is now British Honduras,
where they were protected both by distance from the seats of
Spanish authority and by the difficulty of access caused by the
coral reefs which guard the shore. There is evidence from
Spanish sources of the existence of an English settlement in
Belize before 1670,3 though it is not till 1682 that the first
English official record of logwood cutting in the Bay of Honduras
appears.4 In 1705 the Belize River was described as the place
'where the English for the most part now load their logwood';5
and in 1743 the number of white settlers there was given as 400oo.
Captain Nathaniel Uring, who lived among them for four or
five months in 1720, describes them as a 'rude drunken crew';7
and William Dampier's earlier description of the logwood
cutters in the Bay of Campeche was equally unflattering.
Throughout the eighteenth century the status of these log-
wood cutters remained one of the points at issue in the repeated
conflicts and controversies between Spain and England. At the
time of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 it was proposed, on the
British side, to insert an article permitting British subjects to
cut logwood in the Bays of Campeche and Honduras.8 But, in
so far as the logwood cutters were concerned, the treaty of 1713
did no more than reaffirm the treaty of 1670 'without prejudice
to any liberty or power, which the subjects of Great Britain
enjoyed before, either through right, sufferance or indulgence',9
and this the Board of Trade, in 1717, interpreted as establishing
the liberty of British subjects to cut logwood which they had
enjoyed before the treaty of 167o as well as a right in the Crown
to certain parts of the Bay of Campeche.10 Spain, for her part,
continued to complain of logwood cutting in the Bay of
Campeche, on the coast ofYucatAn, and in the Bay of Honduras.
'J. A. Calder6n Quijano, Belice z663(?)-821r (Seville, 1944), pp. 49, 61.
4 J. A. Burdon, ed., Archives of British Honduras [hereinafter cited as ABH] (3 vols.,
London, 1931-5), i. 57. 6 Ibid. i. 60o. I lbid. i. 70.
7 The Voyages and Travels of Captain Nathaniel Uring, ed. Alfred Dewar (London,
1928), p. 241. 8 ABH, i. 61-62. 9 Davenport, op. cit., iii, 237.
10 Calendar of State Papers, Colonial, America and West Indies, 1717-T8 (London,
1930), no. 104.
The Settlement of Belize 3
When, under the Treaty of Seville of 1729, British and Spanish
commissioners were appointed to enquire into depredations
committed by either party in the West Indies, and into various
other disputes between the two nations, the Spanish com-
missioners took the line that the cutting of logwood was 'a
notorious and detestable abuse' and that 'the huts' on the
Belize River should be removed, the British commissioners, that
the logwood cutters had operated long before the treaty of 1670,
'by which their rights were established and confirmed', that
these rights were again confirmed by the Treaty of Utrecht, and
that whether by right, tolerance, or indulgence, a definite
right to occupation had been established.11 But no solution of
the question was reached. The Baymen, who had been repeatedly
subjected to Spanish attack, as, for example, in 1724 and 1733,
were again attacked in 1747, in 1751, and in 1754, and this last
attempt to secure their eviction nearly resulted, indeed, in an
Anglo-Spanish war.12 The Government at Madrid was con-
strained to disavow the attack and to promise that restitution
would be made.13
It was not, however, till the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris,
signed on io February 1763, that Great Britain obtained from
Spain plain and public recognition of the right to cut logwood
in the Bay of Honduras. The treaty affirmed Spanish sovereignty
in the clearest terms. Under it Great Britain undertook (Article
17) to demolish all fortifications which the settlers had erected
in the Bay of Honduras. But at the same time it was agreed that
British subjects should not be disturbed or molested under any
pretext whatsoever in their occupation of cutting, loading, and
carrying away logwood, and that they might build and occupy
without interruption the houses and magazines necessary for
them, their families, and their property.14
At two other points on the coast of Central America Great
1' ABH, i. 67, 68, 69.
"J. McLeish, 'British Activities in Yucatan and on the Moskito Shore in the
Eighteenth Century' [an unpublished thesis in the Library of the University of
London] (1926), PP- 93, 99; Calder6n Quijano, op. cit., pp. 88, 119, 142, 145; Sir
Richard Lodge, ed., The Private Correspondence of Sir Benjamin Keene (Cambridge,
1933), P. 338 n.; ABH, i. 74, 80.
Governor Knowles, ofJamaica, to the President of Guatemala, 12 Oct. 1754,
Public Record Office, State Papers Foreign, Spain, 94/149. See also Calder6n
Quijano, op. cit., p. 146.
14 Davenport, op. (it., iv. 95.
4 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
Britain had established a hold in the seventeenth and early
eighteenth centuries. These were the Mosquito Shore and the
island of Ruatan. There is no evidence to suggest that the
territory frequented by the Baymen was ever occupied by
Spaniards. The nearest Spanish settlements were those of
Bacalar16 to the north, of Omoa and Trujillo to the south-east,
and, far to the west, of Pet6n. The Mosquito Shore, between
Cape Honduras and the San Juan River, on the coasts of what
are now Honduras and Nicaragua, was inhabited by Indians
who had consistently refused to recognize Spanish authority.
With these the English had long cultivated friendly relations."6
English settlers were dispersed among them, and in 1749 one,
Robert Hodgson, was actually appointed as Superintendent of
the Mosquito Shore. He had earlier been required to report on
the condition of the Bay settlements and the islands of Ruatan
and Bonacca.17 Of these the uninhabited island of Ruatan had
on more than one occasion changed hands. It was restored to
Spain in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Aix la
Chapelle in 1748, was again to fall into and out of English
hands, but was overshadowed in importance by the Belize and
Mosquito Shore settlements. To Ruatan and to the Mosquito
Shore, however, the Baymen were accustomed to flee when some
or all were driven out by the Spaniards, as in 1733, in 1747, and in
1754, while ultimately the English settlers on the Mosquito Shore
were to be transferred to the settlement on the Belize River.
That settlement had now, in 1763, been given a recognized
status. But there was no agreement on the precise area in which
the logwood cutters might operate, there were no definite
boundaries. The immediate consequence was that in December
1763 the Governor of Yucatan ordered the logwood cutters to
cease their operations on the River Hondo and to retire to the
16 Bacalar was refounded in 173o0, having been deserted for nearly a century.
Calder6n Quijano, op. cit., p. 54.
z1 'They have no form of Government among them', wrote Dampier in 1681,
'but acknowledge the King of England for their Sovereign. They learn our Language,
and take the Governour of Jamaica to be one of the greatest Princes in the World'.
William Dampier, A New Voyage Round the World, ed. Sir Albert Gray (London,
1937), P. 17-
17 ABI, i. 69; McLeish, op. cit, p. GG; Richard Pares, War and Trade in the.
West Indies, 1739-1763 (Oxford, 1936), pp. 97-1or, 540. See also Vera Lee Brown,
'Anglo-Spanish Relations in America in the Closing Years of the Colonial Era',
Hispanic American Historical Review, v (1922), pp. 352-8, and David Waddell,
'Great Britain and the Bay Islands, 1821-G61, Historical Journal, ii (1959), p. 59.
The Settlement of Belize 5
River Belize, and in February 1764 the Commandant of
Bacalar demanded their retirement from the New River. The
Baymen at once protested. The matter was taken up at home.
Orders were sent from Spain to permit the logwood cutters to
re-establish themselves, and they were duly and formally
Their tribulations, however, were not at an end. When war
broke out between England and Spain in 1779 they were at once
attacked by an expedition led by the Commandant of Bacalar.
Those who were not taken prisoner fled to the Mosquito Shore
or Ruatan, and from then till 1784 the Belize settlement was
It remained for the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 3 September
1783, to reaffirm the rights granted under the treaty of 1763 'of
cutting, loading and carrying away logwood'. But this time
definite boundaries were assigned within which this occupation
might be carried on, the area being defined (Article 6) as that
'between the Rivers Walliz or Bellese, and Rio Hondo, taking
the courses of the said two Rivers for unalterable boundaries, so
that the navigation of them be common to both nations'.19 A
line between the two rivers was described and a map on which
the boundaries were traced accompanied the treaty.20 It was
expressly stipulated that these concessions were in no wise to
derogate from Spanish rights of sovereignty and no fortifications
were to be constructed within the treaty area. Boundary marks
having been erected, formal delivery of the area to British
commissioners appointed for the purpose was made by the
Governor of YucatAn on 27 May 1784,21 though the Baymen
complained that 'the limits of their settlements and the privileges
assigned them therein' were 'most unexpectedly and extremely
The final stage in this long story of diplomatic negotiations
0 ABH, i. 88, go, 96, 97, 99; Brown, op. cit., pp. 364-6.
Davenport, op. cit., iv. 159.
s0 Reproduced in ABH, i, at p. 137, in Calder6n Quijano, op. cit., p. 262, in
Isidro Fabela, Belice. Defense de los Derechos de Aldxico (Mexico City, 1944), in Carlos
Garcia Bauer, La Controversia sobre el Territorio de Belice y el Procedimiento Ex-Aequo et
Bono (Guatemala, 1958), p. 158, and in the White Book. Controversy between Guatemala
and Great Britain relative to the Convention of 1859 on Territorial Matters. Belize Question,
published by the Guatemalan Government [hereinafter cited as White Book]
(Guatemala, 1938). See also Appendix I, p. 171.
21 ABH, %. 1.42 Ibid. i. 138,
6 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
between England and Spain was reached with the Convention
of London, signed on 14 July 1786. This provided for the
evacuation by Great Britain of the Mosquito Shore and the
islands adjacent to the American continent. In return the
concessions granted to British subjects in the Bay of Honduras
were enlarged and amplified. The limits in which the settlers
might operate were extended southwards to include the area
between the Rivers Belize and Siblin, and the Sibdn, to its
source, was now to be the southern boundary.23 They might cut
not only logwood but mahogany, which was rapidly superseding
logwood as an article of export, and all other wood. They might
occupy the island of St. George's Key. But Spanish sovereignty
was carefully preserved. The settlers were not to establish coffee,
sugar, or similar plantations, or to set up industries, nor were
they to 'meditate' the formation of a system of government,
military or civil, 'further than such regulations as their Britannic
and Catholic Majesties may hereafter judge proper to establish
for maintaining peace and good order among their respective
subjects'. No fortifications were to be erected, and twice a year
a Spanish commissioner, accompanied by an English com-
missioner, was to be admitted to examine the state of affairs
within the settlement. In 1787 an attempt was made to trace the
boundaries on the spot, fresh boundary marks were erected,
and the new territory was formally assigned to the settlers by
the then Governor of Yucatan.24
Thus far the legal and constitutional position of the British
settlers in the Bay of Honduras had been highly anomalous. It
is apparent that at an early date the settlers had been accustomed
to elect annually a number of magistrates and to enforce a kind
of customary law.25 It is asserted also that the Governor of
Jamaica from time to time granted commissions to certain
persons to act as Justices of the Peace.20 In 1765, moreover, at
the instigation of Admiral Sir William Burnaby, who was
*2 The lines are marked in A Map of a Part of Tucatan, or of that Part of the Eastern
Shore within the Bay of Honduras Alloted to Great Britain fjr the Cutting of Logwood, in
consequence of the Convention signed with Spain on the 14th July, r786. By a Bay-Man.
London, William Faden, Feb. 1, 1787. This map is reproduced in ABH, i, at p. 154.
The Convention is in Davenport, op. cit., iv. 162. The lines, as nearly as can be
traced on a modern map, are shown in Map 2. Compare Maps 3 and 5-
24 Fabela, op. cit., pp. 132-6; Francisco Asturias, Belice, 2nd ed. (Guatemala
City, 1941), pp. 61-66; ABH, i. 163.
"2 ABH, i. 153. 2- Ibid.. io.
The Settlement of Belize 7
Commander-in-Chief of the British naval squadron on the
Jamaica station and had been ordered to visit the settlement,
the settlers formally subscribed to a rudimentary code of laws.27
It was agreed that the Commanding Officer of any of His
Majesty's Ships of War should have power to enforce this code;
but it remained true that great difficulties arose in the absence
of a formal executive authority, and it was not till 1784 that the
British Government at last appointed one, Colonel Despard, to
'regulate and superintend', under the direction of the Governor
of Jamaica, His Majesty's affairs within the district allotted to
the logwood cutters by the treaty of 1783.28
Colonel Despard took office in 1786, and he then, at the
instigation of one of the Spanish commissioners appointed under
the 1786 Convention, abolished the existing system of govern-
ment by elected magistrates.29 The settlers at once complained,
and in 1789 the British Minister at Madrid was instructed to
ask the Spanish Government to appoint someone to join with
Lt.-Colonel Hunter, who was about to replace Colonel Despard,
to devise some form of government for the district, it being
expressly understood that this system was not to derogate from
Spanish sovereignty.30 The tension between the Courts of Madrid
and St. James's at this time over the Nootka Sound controversy
would appear to have checked this approach, but Lt.-Colonel
Hunter, who arrived in the settlement in 1790, lost no time in
declaring the 'Ancient System of Regulations to be restored'.31
From 1791 (when Hunter left the settlement) to 1796 the settlers
were again governed by their annually elected magistrates,
administering the Burnaby Code. But in the latter year a new
Superintendent was appointed, and thereafter the office was
Meanwhile, the system of inspection by Spanish com-
missioners, accompanied by English commissioners, as arranged
under the 1786 Convention, had broken down, and the pop-
ulation of the settlement had been greatly swelled by the arrival
of settlers and their slaves from the Mosquito Shore, itself
evacuated in 1786-7 under the terms of the 1786 Convention.
7 Ibid. i. oo ff. 11 Ibid. i. 149, 153.
2 Ibid. i. 172. For Despard see Sir Charles Oman, The Unfortunate Colonel
Despard and Other Studies (London, 1922), pp. 1-21.
o ABHI, i. 178.
:: Ibid. i. 1l81. The whole subject ofadministration is treated in McLeish, op. cil.
8 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
More than 2,000 persons arrived in the first half of 1787.32
The existing settlers had already protested that the ex-
tended limits of the settlement under the 1786 Convention
were insufficient, and there is no doubt that they quickly broke
most of the Convention's terms. There was considerable
substance in the complaints of such violations which were made
by the Spanish commissioners who visited the settlement
between 1787 and 1793.33 But the inspection of the limits of the
territory by joint commissioners in I79334 seems to have been the
last formal inspection to have taken place. There is evidence of
the presence of a Spanish commissioner in the settlement in
I794.35 In 1795 the Governor of YucatAn complained of con-
tinued violation of the Bay limits by the settlers; and in April
1796 a Spanish commissioner again arrived from Bacalar.36 But
the outbreak of war between England and Spain later in the
year finally put an end to this inquisitorial system. No Spanish
official ever again visited the settlement to ensure that the
arrangements concluded under the 1786 Convention were
The war which broke out in 1796 had also other consequences.
It was, of course, primarily a European war. But it was bound
to have repercussions in the West Indies, and the settlement of
Belize, now under the guiding hand of Lt.-Colonel Barrow,
acting both as Superintendent and Commander-in-Chief, was
at once put in a state of defence. Forts and barracks were built,
and infantry, artillery, ammunition, and supplies sent from
Jamaica.37 The expected attack came in 1798, when a Spanish
flotilla of some thirty small vessels, with 2,000 troops on board,
under the command of Field-Marshal Arthur O'Neill, the
Governor-General of Yucatan,38 made the last and greatest
Spanish attempt to overthrow the British settlement in the Bay
of Honduras. On 10 September, after several small engagements,
nine of the larger Spanish ships, engaged by a British vessel-of-
war and a few smaller vessels in an action off St. George's Key,
withdrew in confusion, and on the i6th the whole fleet retired."
Thereafter, remarked Crowe, in his Gospel in Central America,
32 ABH, i. 161-2.
33 McLeish, op. cit., p. 143; ABH,i. 159, 162, 171-2, 203,204; Calder6n Quijano,
op. cit., pp. 322, 340-51. ABH, i. 20o2. 5 Ibid. i. 209.
3 Ibid. i. 2T4.; Asturias, op. cit., pp. 68-69. ABH, i. 234, 236.
Ibid. 256-63. l" Ihid. '. '25-63; Calder6n Quijano, op. cit., pp. 352--.
The Settlement of Belize 9
'the settlements in the Bay continued to flourish, and the
periodical visits of the commissioners being entirely discontinued,
a sort of tacit concession on the part of the Spaniards seemed to
sanction the idea partially entertained, and since often pleaded
by the British settlers, that they now held these territories by
right of conquest'.40 This argument, indeed, was already
employed by the settlers in 1799,41 though neither then nor
after was it used with any degree of consistency.
The eighteenth century ended, therefore, with the defeat of
the last attempt of Spain to dispossess the British settlers by
force of arms, with the settlers securely ensconced in the area
between the Hondo and the Sibiin, already, apparently, over-
stepping, or prepared to overstep, those boundaries, and no
longer subject to the supervision of Spanish officials, and with
the establishment of the permanent office of Superintendent,
under the authority of the Governor of Jamaica.
40 Frederick Crowe, The Gospel in Central America (London, 1850), p. 198.
ABH, i. 274.
THE GROWTH OF THE SETTLEMENT
WITH the repulse of the last Spanish attack on the
British settlers in the Bay of Honduras in 1798, a new
epoch in the history of British Honduras opened. But
while the territorial expansion of the settlement was to proceed
apace, the transition from acknowledged subordination to de
facto independence was gradual, almost indeed haphazard.
Already, it is true, in 1799, the settlers were inclined to argue
that they now held the settlement by right of conquest; and this
argument was one which the British Government, at a later
date, itself employed. Thus, in a Note presented to the Spanish
Government, the British Minister at Madrid stated in 1835 that
whereas, up till 1798, the settlers enjoyed territorial occupancy
while the right of sovereignty was reserved to Spain, after that
date the country had been 'held under a different title'; and in
1882 Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, in the course of
correspondence with the United States, directly asserted that
'the sovereignty of British Honduras was acquired by conquest'.2
But however convenient this argument, it was, historically,
quite unjustifiable; it accorded neither with the facts of the
situation between i8oo and 1814 nor with the terms of the
treaties under which peace was restored with Spain.
The first of these peace treaties bearing on the history of the
Bay settlement was the Treaty of Amiens, of 27 March 1802,
under which (Article 3) Great Britain agreed to restore to Spain
all possessions and colonies occupied or conquered by British
forces in the course of the war, with the exception of the island
of Trinidad.3 On the face of it, therefore, whatei'er title to
Belize might have been acquired by conquest in 1798 was lost
1 George Villiers to Francisco Martinez de la Rosa, Madrid, 5 April 1835,
2 British and Foreign State Papers (London, 1841-), lxxiii. 912-13.
3 Davenport, European Treaties bearing on the History of the tUnited States and its
Delendencies, iv. 187.
The Growth of the Settlement I I
in 1802. The Governor of YucatAn, indeed, went further, and
argued that under the treaty Great Britain was bound to
surrender the Belize settlement altogether.4
War between Great Britain and Spain again broke out in
1804, but by the Treaty of London of 14 January 1809 Great
Britain and Spain agreed (Article i) to an 'entire and lasting
oblivion of all acts of hostility done on either side, in the course
of the late wars'; and by the Treaty of Madrid (Additional
Article i), signed in 1814, it was agreed that all treaties of
commerce which existed in 1796 between Great Britain and
Spain were to be considered as ratified and confirmed.5
It was contended by Lord Clarendon in 1854 that the Anglo-
Spanish Treaty of 1786 (which extended the boundaries of the
settlement of Belize while reserving sovereignty over it to Spain)
was 'put an end to' by the subsequent state of war with Spain
'and that when peace was re-established between Great
Britain and Spain no Treaty of a political nature or relating to
territorial limits revived those Treaties between Great Britain
and Spain which had previously existed';6 and it is of course
true that the treaties of 1802, 18o9, and 1814 were not treaties
relating to territorial limits, nor were the treaties of 1783 and
1786 specifically treaties of commerce. But it is reasonable to
contend that they were in part of a commercial nature; it can
hardly be denied that the treaty of 1802 restored the status
quo ante 1796; and if it be argued that the renewed outbreak of
war invalidated this, and that Lord Clarendon's interpretation
of the treaties of 1809 and 1814 was in accordance with their
letter, it was certainly not in accordance with their intention.
On this point the evidence is clear, for Sir Henry Wellesley, in
reporting to Lord Castlereagh the ratification of the treaty of
1814, specifically stated that 'the Convention signed at London,
I4July, 1786' was among those treaties intended to be confirmed.7
The legal status of the Bay settlement thus remained quite
unchanged by the convulsions which affected the relations of
e.g., Governor P6rez to Superintendent Barrow, 15 Feb., i June, I July 1803,
-.O. 123/15. The same demand was made of Barrow's predecessor, Basset, in 1802.
& Davenport, op. cit., iv. 204-
Statement of Lord Clarendon to James Buchanan, United States Minister to
Great Britain, 2 May 1854. W. R. Manning, ed., Diplomatic Correspondence qf the
United States. Inter-American Affairs, z831-6o (12 vols., Washington, 1932-9), vii. 549.
S 'Vellesly Lt Castlercagh, 31 Aug. 1814, F.O. 72/161.
12 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
the European powers between 1796 and T815. It is true that
in I8oo the Law Officers of the Crown gave it as their opinion
that the Bay of Honduras was now a British possession and that
foreign vessels might be precluded from trading there.8 But
this was an isolated opinion, not afterwards sustained. The
instructions drawn up for Lt.-Colonel Barrow on his appoint-
ment as Superintendent of the settlement in 1802 strictly
enjoined him to maintain a good understanding with the
representatives of the Spanish Government.9 His subsequent
correspondence with the Governor of Yucatan abundantly
illustrated that the Governor recognized no change as having
taken place.10 The settlers themselves continued to believe that
the Crown of Spain, as 'Lord Paramount', possessed an
undoubted right to the territory.11 Lord Castlereagh gave it as
his opinion that 'the settlement of Honduras being a settlement
under treaty, within the territory and jurisdiction of a Foreign
Power,' was not to be considered 'in the nature of a colony'.12
In 1815 Lord Bathurst, as Secretary of State for the Colonies,
explicitly told the Superintendent that the Crown had no
territorial rights (a statement which he repeated in 1818) and
had, therefore, no right to establish tribunals,13 and Parliament
itself, in 1817, in the Act of 57 Geo. III, c. 53, 'for the more
effectual punishment of murders . in places not within His
Majesty's Dominions', described Belize as 'a settlement, for
certain purposes, in the possession and under the protection of
His Majesty', but as 'not within the territory and dominion of
Spain, and the Spanish colonial officials in YucatAn, more-
over, continued to proclaim their authority. Thus, in 18o8 and
8 Minutes of the Committee of Trade, 14 Feb. I8oo, Public Record Office,
9 Instructions to Lt.-Col. Barrow, 5 Oct. 1802, C.O. 123/15.
10 Barrow to Benito Pdrez, 27 Jan. 1803; Pdrez to Barrow, 15 Feb., I June,
I July, 31 Aug. 1803, C.O. 123/15. See also Pdrez to Superintendent Hamilton,
15 Feb. 1808, C.O. 123/18.
11 Magistrates to Hamilton, So Jan. 18,o. in Smyth to Liverpool, 16 Sept. 1810o,
C.O. 123/19. 12 Smyth to Liverpool, 16 Sept. 180o, C.O. 123/19.
13 ABH, ii. 18o, 214. See also ibid. ii. 209-13. The Law Officers of the Crown
had reported in 1816 that 'in order to constitute a legal British Itribunal for the
administration of criminal justice, either the sanction of the King of Spain must be
obtained and an Act of the United Parliament must be passed, or such an Act
must be passed without his sanction and agreement, which would be an infraction
of the Treaty'. Law Officers' Report, 22 July 1816, C.O. 123/25.
The Growth of the Settlement 13
1810 the Governor of Bacalar contested the right of the British
settlers to cut on the northern rivers of the settlement, which
they had left, apparently, in 1796, for reasons of safety, and
when disputes over these northern limits continued,14 on 21
September 1813 Spain formally protested against infractions
by the settlers of the limits laid down by the 1786 treaty both
on the Hondo and on the Sibuin.16 Lord Castlereagh replied that
in consequence of this representation precise orders had been
given to the Superintendent to take the most effectual measures
for preventing any violations of the 1783 and 1786 treaties, and
these orders were in fact sent on I October 1813.16
Once again, in 1816, Spain protested, this time against the
crowning of the King of the Mosquito Shore 'in the British
settlement of Wallis' and against the violation by the settlers
of 'the Treaty of Versailles of 1783 by constructing three forts,
contrary to what is stipulated in the sixth Article'.17 This Note,
apparently left unanswered, would appear to represent the last
attempt of Spain to maintain her rights.'8 Thenceforth those
rights were tacitly, though not formally, abandoned. In theory
the British Government continued to regard sovereignty over
the territory as inhering in Spain. In practice it exercised
sovereign rights within it, while, at the same time, the boundaries
of the settlement were being extended both southwards and
westwards in an area certainly not covered by prior treaties.
The exercise of de facto sovereignty by the British authorities
within the Belize territory was, indeed, beyond dispute, despite
the extreme reluctance of the British Government to alter or
even to define the precise legal status of the settlement.
Superintendents subordinate to the Governor of Jamaica were
regularly appointed. Troops were maintained within the settle-
ment. Its fortification was continued. Justice was administered
in accordance with customary law and a revised edition of
14 Hamilton to Eyre Coote, 924 March i8o8, C.O. 123/18; Smyth to Governor
of Bacalar, 22July 18io, C.O. 123/19; Smyth to Liverpool, II March 1812, C.O.
123/i1; Dyer to Hamilton, 28 June 1814, F.O. 72/168; ABH, ii. 139; Fabela,
Bice. Defensa de los Derechos de MAxico, pp. 152-5.
1 Conde de FernAn Nitiez to Castlereagh, 21 Sept. 1813, F.O. 72/149.
1 Draft to Fernmn Nfincz, 6 Oct. 1813, F.O. 72/149; Goulburn to Bunbury,
2 Oct. 1813, F.0- 72/155; ABH, ii. 165. &
fr7 C R. Vaughan to Castlereagh, 12 Nov. 1816, enclosing Note of 7 Nov. 1816,
from Jos0 Pizarro, F.O. 72/188.
S See, however, po.t, pp. 177-8, for a Note of f182o.
14 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
the Burnaby Code,19 and under the Acts of 57 Gco. III,
c. 53, and 59 Geo. III, c. 44, in 1817 and 1819, commissioners
were appointed under the Great Seal to hear criminal causes.
As early as 1807 titles to land appear to have been granted by
the Superintendent,20 and in 1817 Lord Bathurst instructed him
that all lands and mahogany works must be held under proper
and secure title and that no occupancy of land should be
permitted without his sanction. On 28 October 1817 a
proclamation was accordingly issued by the Superintendent
requiring registration of occupancy and its sanction by him, and
thereafter the Superintendent, according to the form of land
grant in use, was specifically empowered by royal authority to
grant title to lands within the area covered by the treaties of
1783 and 1786.21 In the case of the Attorney-General for British
Honduras v. Brislowe in 188o the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council held that this fact afforded ample evidence that
in 1817 at least the Crown had assumed territorial dominion.22
It was, however, only within the area covered by the treaties
of 1783 and 1786 that land grants were made by the Superinten-
dent after 1817, always with the proviso that no claim for
compensation could lie against the Crown in the event of
further arrangements between Great Britain and Spain. Yet the
boundaries laid down by the treaties of 1783 and 1786 were
already in great part obsolete. Even in 1786 the Baymen had
complained that the extended limits of the settlement granted
in that year were insufficient.23 and already before the outbreak
of war in 1796 the authorities of Yucatan had complained of
trespass on these limits.241 t is notable that in 18o0 the Merchants
trading to Honduras petitioned that the settlers should be
allowed more extensive boundaries to the west, to the sources of
the Hondo and Sibiln,25 and according to an account sent home
10 Revised in 1806-8. ABH, ii. 117, 119. 20 Ibid. ii. 104.
x Arthur to Bathurst, 14 June 1819, C.O. 123/28; ABH, ii. 202; Cockburn to
Aberdeen, 17 April 1835, enclosing Form of Land Grant in use since 1817, F.O.
15/17. The Form of Grant, it should be noted, specifically provided that no claim
for compensation could lie in case of any future treaty between Great Britain and
Spain or in case of abandonment or evacuation or any other measures taken for
the general welfare of the settlement.
22 6 Appeal Cases [before the House of Lords and the Judicial Committee of the Privy
Council], 1881, p. 143. 2s ABH, i. 158. 24 Ante, p. 8.
a6 Merchants trading to Honduras to Lord Hawkesbury, 30 Nov. 18o0, C.O.
The Growth of the Settlement 15
by Superintendent Barrow in 1802 they had by then occupied
not only both sides of the Belize River far inland but 'the south
side of Sheboon' and other places 'further to the southward, as
Stand Creek, Deep River, etc.'26
At this time there were some 4,000 persons in the settlement.
Both sides of the Sibuin and Belize Rivers, the Superintendent
remarked, were drained of wood, and not only had the settlers
advanced high up the Belize and Sibhin Rivers,27 it was even
asserted that their southern advance had brought them 'nearly
in sight of the Spanish fortifications of Omoa'.28 A further
report in 18o06 stated that the Belize was occupied for about
75 miles in a direct course from the sea, and the Sibuin, also in
direct course, for about 60o miles, and that the mahogany
cutters had proceeded as far south as Deep River without
meeting any molestation;29 and at a public meeting in this year
the settlers resolved that a memorial should be sent to the
Governor of Jamaica soliciting protection (while the war with
Spain continued) for the mahogany cutters in the southern
rivers, Rio Grande, Golden Stream, and Deep River.30
Some further detail is available to corroborate the evidence
of this movement of territorial expansion. Thus, it is known
that in 18o6 thirty-eight persons were living at Mullins River,
to the south of the Sib6n.31 Still further south, Stann Creek was
the usual watering place for His Majesty's ships,32 and ex-
Superintendent Barrow reported in 1809 that it had been
occupied by cutters and that considerable quantities of wood
were shipped from there.33 He added that Deep River had been
occupied by the British in 1799 or 18oo and that the cutters
worked there 'to this hour where a number of shipping have
received cargoes and continue so to do'. The settlers themselves,
in a Memorial to the Prince Regent in 1814, asserted that
cutting had advanced even beyond the Deep River to the
11 Barrow to Hobart, 31 March 1802, enclosing a 'Short sketch of the present
situation of the Settlement of Honduras . .', C.O. 123/15. "2 Ibid.
2a Honduras Merchants' Committee to Hobart, 25 May 1802, C.O. 123/15.
2s Brig.-Gen. Montresor to Sir Eyre Coote, Belize, 22 Oct. 18o06, C.O. 123/17.
3o ABH, i1. 92.
31 'Rcturi of Inhabitants in Honduras', Sept. i8o6, in Montresor to Coote,
92 Oct. 18o6, C.O. 123/17.
182 MOtresor to Coote, 2a Oct. 18o6, C.O. 123/17; Barrow to Cooke, i May
'8o9, C.O. 123/18.
Barrow to Cnoke, i May 18og9, C.O. 123/18.
16 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
Moho River,34 and prayed that the limits of the settlement
should, in future, be considered as the Hondo on the north and
the Moho on the south. In this request Superintendent Arthur
supported them, adding, in 1816, that the settlers had long
been in quiet possession of the country as far south as the Moho
and that he had felt justified in clearing cargoes of wood cut
anywhere between the Hondo and the Moho.36 As one of the
Honduras merchants expressed it, in a private letter:
In the year 1807 the settlers were then of opinion that the southern
limits should commence at the Sapodilla Lagoon running north to
the River Honda. A lapse of seven years has induced them to extend
their views as far south as the Moho River (which has been possessed
by us during the late war and since the peace with Spain), as it must
be obvious to all, that the intermediate country since that time is
It was, therefore, with much indignation that, in 1815, the
settlers and their Superintendent, who were anxious that the
Moho should be established as the southern limit of the
settlement, learnt that their agent in London had solicited the
Government to negotiate with Spain for an extension of
territory confined merely to the area between the Sibfin and
Mullins Rivers, and extending twelve Spanish leagues above the
old boundary on the Belize.37 As it turned out, however, their
hopes and fears were alike vain, for the Honduras settlement
was ignored in the peace treaties of 1814-15. But the settlers, in
1816, continued to insist that should they be confined to the
boundary limits laid down in 1786, three-fourths of them would
be compelled to seek shelter elsewhere.38
34 Enclosed in Smyth to Bathurst, 24 May 1814, C.O. 123/23. See also ABH,
ii. 167. Private Records, Book XY, in the British Honduras Archives (Registry,
Belize), contains an appraisement of the estate of one, Charles Grey, in 1814,
which itemizes an account of expenses for work done at the Rio Grande in 1812.
36 Arthur to Bathurst, 3 Dec. 1814, C.O. 123/23; Arthur to Bathurst, 28 May
1816, C.O. 123/25. Arthur also pointed out that 'there is not one-eighth of the
wood annually required to be procured within the limits of 1786, and that which
is cut without will not bear the foreign duty'. Arthur to Bathurst, 4 July 1816,
C.O. 123/25. 3a Marshal Bennett to Dyer, I April 1815, C.O. 123/24.
"3 Arthur to Bathurst, 2 April 1815, C.O. 123/24; Dyer to Goulburn, 6 May
1814, F.O. 72/167; Dyer to Hamilton, 28 June 1814, F.O. 72/168. The office of
agent was shortly afterwards temporarily suppressed. There seems (o have been a
belief that the agent himself was subserving the interests of one or two individuals
as well as intriguing against the Superintendent.
1s Arthur to Bathurst, 4July 1816, C.O. 123/25; ABI-, ii. 184-5.
The Growth of the Settlement 17
By I814, then, it is clear that the Belize settlers had advanced
far to the west and far to the south of the old treaty lines. It is
true that in 1813 the British Government ordered that the
practice of wood-cutting outside the treaty limits be stopped,39
and that in 1817 the Superintendent ordered all who were
guilty of so doing north of the New River and south of the
Sibuin to report their locations.40 But these orders were useless.
The Bay settlement was now experiencing a genuine movement
of pioneer advance. It might be compared, though the analogy
cannot be pressed, with the contemporary movement of
American frontiersmen into West and East Florida, a movement
which led eventually to the acquisition of those two Spanish
provinces by the United States. But there was this difference,
among other differences. In the Floridas the American
frontiersmen were penetrating into already occupied territory,
the Spanish authorities were displaced by revolution and war,
and American possession of the Floridas was eventually (in
18 19) confirmed by treaty. The Baymen from British Honduras,
on the other hand, advanced into unoccupied territory or
territory solely occupied by Indians and where the writ of
Spanish rule had never run. No protest was ever received from
Spain after 1814. against this movement of frontier advance. No
attempt was made to assert Spanish authority. In no case,
except on the extreme northern limits of the settlement, did the
frontiersmen come into conflict with Spanish colonial adminis-
trative authorities. Where for mile upon mile there was not, and
never had been, the slightest evidence of Spanish rule, it was
hardly likely that the Baymen would be restrained by legal
It is, of course, true that frontier advance was not followed
by rural settlement. On a conservative estimate the whole
population of the territory in 1823 was not much more than
4,000,41 more than a half of them slaves. The wood-cutters
penetrated to remote and distant areas and there made their
locations. They would return to these year by year or make
fresh locations. This was the nature of the industry. But there
was, of course, no following movement of agricultural settlers.
The frontier was, in the expressive phrase of the geographers, a
3' Ante, p. 13. 40 Proclamation of 5 Aug. 18 7, C.O. 123/33.
4 ABH, ii. 279.
18 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
'hollow' frontier. If, however, the wood-cutters were on the
Deep River in i8oo and on the Moho River in 1814, it would
indeed be surprising if ten years later they had not reached
the Sarstoon. This, indeed, is the boundary line to the south
shown by Superintendent Codd on the map of the territory
which he sent home for the information of the British Govern-
ment in 1825.42 It is the line affirmed in the first edition of the
Honduras Almanack in 1826, which stated that the British
occupied a line of sea-coast 'of about 250 miles from the river
under the ultimate boundary of the Mexican Republic, to the
river Sarstoon', while the second edition, in 1827, even gave
the cost of freight from Belize to the Sarstoon. And the assertion
of Codd and of others, that in 1825 the Sarstoon was the
southern limit, was to be consistently maintained by successive
Meanwhile effective Spanish sovereignty in Mexico and
Central America had been swept away. In Mexico, on 24
February 1821, a young creole officer, Agustin de Iturbide,
pronounced for the independence of his country, took possession
of Mexico City, and was himself proclaimed emperor in May
1822, only to be compelled to abdicate and flee less than twelve
months later. A republic was then established. The Constituent
Act of the Mexican Confederation of 31 January 1824 declared:
(Article i) 'The Mexican Nation is composed of the Provinces
comprehended in the Territory of the Viceroyalty heretofore
called New Spain, including the Captain-generalship of
Yucatan .'; and this declaration was repeated in the first
constitution of the new republic promulgated on 4 October 1824.
Inevitably these events affected the neighboring Captaincy-
General of Guatemala. In September 1821 Chiapas declared
its intention to throw in its lot with Mexico, and on the i5th of
the same month a junta general convoked by the Captain-
General at Guatemala City, and composed of the leading
officials, pronounced in favour of independence from Spain. In
January 1822, however, the Captain-General, now referred to
as the jefe politico, accepted an invitation from Iturbide to
adhere to the cause of Mexico and in June a Mexican army
42 Codd to Horton, 8 July 1825, in Horton to Planta, 23 Sept. 1825, F.O. 15/4.
This map, with an emendation made in the Colonial Office, is reproduced in ABH,
.. 292. Post, pp. 21-22.
The Growth of the Settlement 19
entered Guatemala City. For a brief period Iturbide was able
to extend his authority over the whole of the ancient Kingdom
of Guatemala, but on his fall an assembly meeting in Guatemala
City declared on I July 1823 that the provinces of which the
Kingdom of Guatemala was composed were free and indepen-
dent both of Old Spain and of New Spain and that together
they formed the United Provinces of Central America. Chiapas
alone remained with Mexico. A constitution for the United
Provinces of Central America was adopted on 22 November
1824, and this declared that 'the territory of the Republic is
that which formerly composed the Ancient Kingdom of
Guatemala, with the exception, for the present, of the Province
of Chiapas' It was further declared that the limits of the
territory of the five states composing the confederation,
Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Costa Rica,
would be defined by a constitutional law, when the necessary
information had been obtained.
Formal organization of the State governments had meanwhile
begun. That for Guatemala was set up on 15 September 1824,
and a constitution for the State of Guatemala was adopted on
ii October 1825. This defined the territory of the state as
follows: 'on the north, all the towns and districts of Chiquimula,
with Izabal, and the Castle of San Felipe in the Golfo Dulce,
Verapaz, and Pet6n .. .' But what territory was in fact comprised
within the provinces of Verapaz and Pet6n, and where these
abutted on the British settlement of Belize and the Mexican
province of Yucatan, the constitution did not stay to define.44
Presumably the necessary information had not been obtained,
nor was it obtained.
Aaron Arrowsmith's Mlap ofGuatenmala (London, 1826), stated to be reduced from
survey in the archivesofGuatemala,gives Pet6n a boundary passing to the north of
18o and then curving southwards to the sea, apparently about half-way between the
Belize and Sarstoon rivers. Interestingly enough, John Arrowsmith's Chart of the
East Coast of Tucatan and the Bay of Honduras (London, 1830) marks as the 'southern
boundary of the British Mahagony Cutters' a line to the south of the Sarstoon and
about half-way between that river and the Golfo Dulce. The former of these maps
1s reproduced in the Guatemalan White Book.
AND ITS NEIGHBOURS
WITI the dissolution of Spanish authority on the
mainland of North America the settlement of British
Honduras was left with the Republic of Mexico as its
neighbour on the north, and, as its neighbour on the west and
south, the United Provinces of Central America. The indepen-
dence of Mexico was recognized by the United States in 1822,
by Great Britain in 1825, and by Spain in 1836. That of the
United Provinces of Central America was recognized by the
United States in 1824, but by Great Britain and Spain not at all.
The United Provinces were, indeed, soon engulfed in civil war.
The five states which composed them, Guatemala, Nicaragua,
El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica, were unstable as well
as disputatious, and their nominal union was only to survive for
fifteen years. Nor did the new confederation include the whole
of the old Captaincy-General of Guatemala. Chiapas preferred
to join with Mexico, and the foundations were thus laid of a
long and acrimonious dispute between Mexico and the state of
Guatemala. Not until late in the nineteenth century were the
boundaries between them eventually defined. Chiapas, however,
remained a part of Mexico.
The effect of these events on the settlement of Belize was not
immediately apparent, except perhaps in a quickened zeal on
the part of the settlers to have the boundaries of the settlement
redefined. They had long ceased to recognize the jurisdiction of
Spanish colonial officials; they were scarcely likely to admit that
of the Spanish American succession states; and it may reasonably
be argued that on the overthrow of Spanish dominion in the
New World the inhabitants of British Honduras had at least
as good a right to be masters of their destiny as those of
Chiapas, and that de facto possession was now the sole title to
British Honduras and its Neighbours 21
In the years between 18oo and 1820 the activities of the wood-
cutters had carried the pioneer fringe of the Belize settlement to
the west and to the south of the original boundaries.1 Is it
possible to ascertain with somewhat more precision the actual
extent of British occupation in the 1820's and 183o's? To some
degree, but only to some degree, yes. It is, in the first place,
difficult to distinguish between what the settlers wished to be
considered as the boundaries of the settlement and what the
limits of occupation actually were. Secondly, accurate topo-
graphical description of the interior of the settlement did not
exist.2 Thirdly, the wood-cutters do not appear to have obeyed
the orders issued by Superintendent Arthur in 1817 that they
should report their locations.3
There was, however, a high degree of unanimity in the
opinions expressed by the settlers, the Superintendent, and
other officials; and the claims they put forward were not, on
the whole, implausible or unreasonable. Thus, in June 1825,
Mr. Marshal Bennett, a 'respectable merchant and inhabitant
of Honduras', affirmed that 'the boundaries which for a series
of twenty years or more have been uniformly considered by the
successive superintendents as the limits of the settlement' were
the Hondo on the north, the Gorda on the south, and a point
on the Belize River (possibly Garbutt's Falls) at 89049'.4 In
,July 1825, Superintendent Codd declared that the Hondo and
the Sarstoon were represented to him as the northern and
southern limits of the settlement, adding that the settlers
occupied 'to the extent of 200 miles to the west from the sea
shore'.5 E. W. Schenley, who had been appointed a vice-consul
in Guatemala in July 1825, wrote in May 1826 that the
territory held by the settlers extended from the Hondo to the
Sarstoon and-a palpable absurdity-inland to about 940 west
Ante, pp. 14-18.
e See Map 3. This map was drawn in 1834 and corrected in 1835. It illustrates
the lack of precise geographical information. I Ante, p. 17.
Marshal Bennett to R. W. Horton, 17 June 1825, in Horton to Planta, 9 July
1825, F.O. 15/4. There is no River Gorda on modern maps, but Jefferys' map of
The B). of Honduras 1775, gives the name 'Gordo' to what is obviously the Sarstoon.
o Codd to Horton, 8 July 1825, in Horton to Planta, 23 Sept. 1825, F.O. 15/4.
For the map accompanying this letter see ABH1, ii. 292. The reference to 200 miles
west is to be explained on the assumption that Codd was referring to the courses
of the rivers. Thus, in 18o6, the settlers were said to occupy the Belize River to the
extent of 170 miles by the river course but about 75 miles in a direct line from
the sea. Muitresor to Coote, 22 Oct. i8o6, C.O. 123/15.
22 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
longitude.6 Superintendent Cockburn affirmed in 1833 that the
area between the Sibtin and the Sarstoon had long been in
British occupancy and denied that the Sarstoon had ever been
possessed or occupied by the Central American Republic. He
added, in 1834, that he was prepared to prove that the settlers
had been in possession of the area between the Hondo and the
Sarstoon and as far west as Garbutt's Falls on the Belize long
'previous to any Declaration of Independence on the part of
Guatemala,'7 and on 5 November 1834, at a meeting of judges
and magistrates assembled in Council with the Superintendent,
it was unanimously agreed that the area of which the settlers
were in full and undisturbed possession at the time of Central
American independence was bounded by the Hondo on the
north, the Sarstoon on the south, and, on the west, by an
imaginary line due north from Garbutt's Falls on the Belize
to the Hondo and due south to the Sarstoon.Y
This, then, may be taken as the official claim of the limits of
the settlement, and the line thus claimed in 1834 was approxi-
mately the same as that laid down in the Anglo-Guatemalan
Treaty of 1859. The settlers were warned in 1834 that in laying
their claims they should restrict themselves to those possessions
actually held 'while the adjacent countries belonged to the
crown of Spain, even though individual cutters might have
since penetrated still further into the country'. The Superinten-
dent most emphatically asserted that he was anxious 'to disprove
and set at rest the constant charges made' of encroachment on
Central American territory. The judges and magistrates
entirely concurred with his views, and, in evidence of good
faith, immediately after the meeting of 5 November 1834, a
notice was issued to the effect that all wood cut to the west of
Garbutt's Falls would be considered as foreign wood and would
be liable to pay duty on its importation into the settlement.9
There was, of course, no suggestion that the whole of the
e Schenley to Planta, 31 May 1826, F.O. 15/5.
7 Cockburn to Secretary of State, 29 Oct. 1833, ABH, ii. 349-50; Cockburn to
Goderich, 26 Jan. 1833, in Lefevre to Backhousc, 10 July 1833, F.O. 15/13;
Cockburn to Lefevre, 22 Oct. 1834, in Hay to Backhouse, 6 Feb. 1835, F.O. 15/17.
8*British Honduras Archives (Registry, Belize), no. 20 (Records 2, Miscellaneous
Outwards and Inwards). See also ABH, ii. 358.
o British Honduras Archives, no. 20o (Records 2, Miscellaneous Outwards and
Inwards), and no. 7 (Proclamations, 1830-8). See also Cockburn to Spring Rice,
6 Nov. 1834, in Hay to Backhouse, 6 Feb. 1835, F.O. 15/17.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 23
area thus claimed was occupied. The western line was an
imaginary boundary drawn from the fixed and convenient
point of Garbutt's Falls. The sources of the Hondo, the Belize,
the Sibdn, and the Sarstoon were all, in 1834, unexplored.10
The Belize, it was alleged in 18o6, was occupied for about 75
miles from the sea in a direct line, or about 170 miles according to
the river's course," and this assertion would seem to correspond
with that of Superintendent Codd in 1825 that the settlers
occupied 'to the extent of 200 miles to the west', and of two
Honduras merchants, Messrs Hyde and Young, to the Colonial
Office, in 1834, that the Belize was occupied to the length of
250 miles.12 According to Messrs Young and Hyde the banks
both of the Belize and the Sib6n, and of all their tributary and
derivative waters, 'as far up as the rivers can be at all available
for mahogany cutters', were utterly cut out, and the same, they
asserted, was true of the New River and of all the waters within
the 1786 boundaries. This, undoubtedly, was an exaggeration, but
it is certain that the cutters were advancingin the direction of the
Blue Creek, which Superintendent Macdonald himself explored
in 1837 and declared to be the main stream of the Hondo.13
As for the area between the Sibdn and the Sarstoon, the view
taken by the Colonial Office in 1834 was thatwhere the Sarstoon
was not occupied by the British it was not occupied at all, and
that, in the absence of any other occupants than British to
constitute a limitation, the occupation of the mouth and lower
stream should argue a constructive occupation of the whole
river. In defining the western boundary of the settlement
northwards from the Sarstoon, there was no occupation of the
very soil, since the tracts which were remote from the coast and
from the rivers had no settled inhabitants. But again 'a
constructive possession of the interamnia' should be inferred as
belonging to the possessors, actual or constructive, of the rivers,
'and the unoccupied tract lying between the Sarstoon and the
Belize must be considered as British'.14
"o Colonial Office Memorandum, 25 Oct. 1834, revised 20 Jan. 1835, C.O.
'23147, F.O. 72/452. Much abbreviated in ABH, ii. 367.
Ante, p. 21, note 5.
^ Colonial Office Memorandum, 2oJan. 1835.
A4HMacdonald to Gleneig, 25 Aug. 1837, C.O. 123/50, F.O. 50/111. See also
A'BH, ii 394.
4 Colonial Office Memorandum, 20 Jan. 1835.
24 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
In the following year, 1835, Superintendent Cockburn
reported that, in accordance with the instructions given in 1817,15
no occupation of land was permitted except on grant from the
Superintendent, but that this had applied only to the territory
covered by the treaties of 1783 and 1786, with the result that
outside these areas cutting was quite unregulated and great
waste and devastation had followed."1 It was, therefore, a
significant and important step when in 1837 Superintendent
Macdonald began to make Crown grants of land outside as well
as inside the old treaty areas.
The earliest of these grants recorded in the archives of the
colony include one on the Deep River, two on the Sarstoon, one
on the Moho,17 one on the Belize below Garbutt's Falls,'1 and
others on the Hondo, Golden Stream, and Rio Grande. All
were made in 1837, and others followed.1' But it is clear that in
some instances the holdings of land preceded the grants, and
that the grant was merely the formal recognition of a previous
location. Thus, in 1842, Mr. John Collins appeared before the
Council of the settlement and stated 'that he had been located in
a plantation and mahogany work situated at Commerce Bight
for a period of twenty-five years, that he had been frequently
promised a grant of the place by the present and former
Superintendents . .' The Council ordered that a grant should
be made, but Mr. Collins, it would seem, had beenin occupation
at Commerce Bight (in the neighbourhood of Stann Creek)
since ,I 817,20 whereas his formal grant was only obtained in 1842.
There is no reason to suppose that his case was exceptional.
With whatever scepticism, however, the earlier claims of
the settlers may be regarded, the Crown grants of 1837 are
beyond dispute; and though the rights of the Crown were
1x Ante, p. 14.
18 Cockburn to Aberdeen, 17 April 1835, in Grey to Backhouse, 6 Aug. 1835,
F.O. 15/17. See also ABH, ii. 375-6.
"1 British Honduras Archives, no. to (Diagrams VII), and no. 35 (Land Titles
Registry, Evidence on Applications).
18 Young, Toledo & Co. to Superintendent Price, i4Jan. 1861, citing the grant
in terms, F.O. 15/115.
"1 Thus, a grantwas made to a Mr. Usher from the Blue Creek to the Bravo in 1839.
Superintendent Macdonald to Usher, 28 Aug. 1839, F.O. 15/115. There were
20 Minutes of Executive Council, 24 Jan. 1842, enclosed in Macdonald to
Metcalfe, 12 March 1842. Archives of Jamaica (Spanish Town, Jamaica), C.S.
704/2, no. 42.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 25
safeguarded in these grants against any claims for compensation
in the case of abandonment under any further arrangements
with Spain, the grants were a direct exercise of sovereignty
outside (as well as inside) the old treaty limits.
Yet the British Government still declined to treat the settle-
ment as in law a British colony. While exercising sovereignty
de facto, it still maintained the theory that sovereignty de jure
inhered in Spain, and still upheld the fiction that the Convention
of 1786 was in force, long after, as the Superintendent remarked
in 1833, it had been superseded in almost every parti-
cular except denominating the settlement as a settlement
and not a colony.21 In 1821, for example, the Superintendent
was informed that since the settlement was not a British colony,
the importation of slaves therein from a British colony was
illegal.22 In 1822 he was told that his authority was 'of so
doubtful a nature in point of law that it may be considered
rather as conventional than strictly legal'.23 The King's Advocate
in 1825 gave it as his opinion that the treaties of 1783 and 1786
were still in force,24 and, in the instructions given to Colonel
Cockburn as Superintendent in 1829, the Colonel was then
informed that 'His Majesty will not authorize you to make any
grants of land for the purpose of cultivation,25 neither can he
consent to the assumption of the style of "Colony", or to the
employment, either by you, or towards you, of the title of
"Governor", or "Lieutenant Governor"', and that 'the only
definite rule' which could be laid down for his guidance was
'that until you receive further instructions, you do, by all means
in your power, or at your disposal, maintain His Majesty's
subjects in the occupation of such territories, as they have
hitherto actually occupied, and in the enjoyment of such rights
as they have hitherto actually exercised'.26
Yet in a return made to Parliament by the Colonial Office
in 1831 British Honduras was classed among the West Indian
colonies';27 in the Act of 1833 for the encouragement of British
Superintendent to Secretary of State, 15 Nov. 1833, ABH, ii. 350.
SAB-I, ii. 240. 23 Ibid. ii. 255.
Christopher Rolinson to Bathurst, 8 July 1825, C.O. 123/36.
Srrhe establishment of plantations was forbidden under the 1786 treaty.
^ Sir George Murray to Col. Cockburn, 28 Oct. 1829, C.O. 123/40, F.O. 15/9.
SReturnof the Dute at ulhich lach Colony or Foreign Posse,,'ion of the British Crown was
Captured, Ceded or Settled, etc., Parliamentary Papers, H.C., 1831 (260), xix.
26 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
shipping and navigation it was declared that ships built in
Honduras were entitled to the privileges of British registered
ships in trade with the United Kingdom or British possessions
in America;28 and under the great Abolition of Slavery Act of
1833 slavery in British Honduras was brought to an end.
The confusion which resulted from this highly anomalous
situation was self-evident. It is not surprising that Superintendent
Cockburn complained in 1833 that the powers of the Courts
were 'so questionable as to throw doubt and difficulty in the
way of every legal investigation'.29 Nor were the sole difficulties
administrative. If Great Britain was reluctant to assert
sovereignty de jure, the United Provinces of Central America
showed less hesitation. They had already begun to challenge
British authority. As the Keeper of the Records of Honduras
noted in 1835, by the 1830's the two questions of occupation
and sovereignty were becoming identical,30 and at this point the
British Government decided to approach the Spanish Govern-
ment for a formal surrender to Great Britain of sovereignty over
British Honduras as a matter of courtesy and as a formal
recognition of a de facto right.
It must be emphasized that Great Britain had not admitted,
and did not admit, that discussion of the question of sovereignty
over, or occupancy of, the territory claimed by the Belize
settlers could properly take place with any other power than
Spain. But before these Anglo-Spanish negotiations can be
considered it is necessary first to trace the course of the relations
of the settlement of Belize, and of Great Britain, with the new
states of Mexico and Central America.
The method of recognition of the new republics of Spanish
America adopted by George Canning was that of the negotiation
of commercial treaties; and with Mexico a Treaty of Friend-
ship, Commerce, and Navigation was signed in Mexico City on
6 April 1825. Article 15 of this treaty stated that the conditions
agreed upon between Great Britain and Spain in the treaties of
1783 and 1786 should remain in force 'for that part of the
territory of the United States of Mexico to which they apply'.31
3 and 4 Wm. IV, cap. 54. 29 ABH, ii. 347.
so Memorandum by Thomas Miller, 2 Feb. 1835, in Gladstone to Backhouse,
7 March 1835, F.O. 15/17.
21 Fabela, Belice. Defense tie los Derechos de AMixico, p. 195.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 27
Had this treaty been accepted, it would have gone far to
constitute a recognition of Mexican sovereignty over British
Honduras. But Canning, so soon as he received it, at once
rejected it. 'The i5th Article', he wrote, 'would recognize
Mexico's right to territory which she possesses neither de jure
nor de facto, and cannot be accepted';32 and for this reason, as
well as because of other objections to the treaty, the British
Government refused to ratify it. A fresh treaty was negotiated
and signed on 26 December 1826. Article 14 of this new treaty
read as follows:
Art. 14. The subjects of His Britannic Majesty shall, on no account
or pretext whatsoever, be disturbed or molested in the peaceable
possession and exercise of whatever rights, privileges, and immunities
they have at any time enjoyed within the limits described and laid
down in a Convention, signed between His said Majesty and the
King of Spain, on the 14th of July, 1786; whether such rights,
privileges and immunities shall be derived from the stipulations of
the said Convention, or from any other concession which may, at
any time, have been made by the King of Spain, or his predecessors,
to British Subjects and Settlers residing and following their lawful
occupations within the limits aforesaid: the two Contracting Parties
reserving, however, for some more fitting opportunity, the further
arrangements on this Article.33
This wording, while it did not assert British sovereignty over
British Honduras, certainly did not admit Mexican sovereignty,
and on this ground a committee of the Mexican Senate, in
March 1827, criticized it adversely.34 Later in the year the
British Consul-General in Mexico City reported that the
Mexican Government had appointed two commissioners to
ascertain and report upon the boundaries between Mexico and
Guatemala and to visit and inspect also those of the British
settlement of Honduras. This, he thought, might be the prelude
to an invitation to the British Government to appoint a Com-
mission to carry into effect the 'further arrangements' envisaged
Canning to Ward, 9 Sept. 1825. C. K. Webster, Britain and the Independence
of Latin America, r8re-z830. Select Documents from the Foreign Office Archives (2 vols.,
London, 1938), i. 476. See also the explanation given to Mexico, in Defensa del
Tratado de Limites entire 2-zcaldny Bdice (Mexico, 184+), p. xxxiii.
L BLritish and Foreign State Papers, xiv. 625.
4 Fabela, op. cit., pp. 199-201.
28 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
in Article 14 of the treaty of 1826.36 But the commissioners were
more interested in the boundary between Mexico and Guatemala
than in that between Mexico and British Honduras, and they
got no further than Pet6n, a district over which both Mexico
and Guatemala claimed authority. They made no attempt to
enter British Honduras, and their report, when published,
merely stated, in respect of British Honduras, that they made
no doubt 'but that the limits of the settlement had for many
years been passed, but without the smallest prejudice' to
The boundary between the settlement of British Honduras
and the new republic of Mexico thus remained that which was
roughly defined in the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and marked
out by joint Spanish and English commissioners in 1784, a line
by no means accurately surveyed and on which there had been
considerable dispute with the colonial authorities.37
Nine years later, in 1836, Spain at last recognized the in-
dependence of Mexico and Mexican sovereignty over the
territory of the former Viceroyalty of New Spain and the
Captaincy-General of Yucatan.38 In the negotiations leading up
to this treaty Mexico attempted to insert an article referring to
the treaties of 1783 and 1786 and the northern frontier of the
settlement of British Honduras, but in December 1835 the
Mexican negotiator, Miguel Santa Maria, reported that it was
useless to insist on this.39 In February 1836, moreover, the British
Minister at Madrid secured an oral promise from the Spanish
Foreign Minister that Spain would 'treat the question of the
boundary [as] one with which Spain had no concern' and
would not admit it into any treaty concluded with Mexico.40 In
O'Gorman to Superintendent Codd, 20 June 1827; Codd to Goderich,
24 Nov. 1827, C.O. 123/38, F.O. 15/9.
3a Pakenham to Aberdeen, 9 Jan. 183o, F.O. 50/6o; Pakenham to Aberdeen,
3 Nov. 183o, F.O. 50/61; Iforme de [Domingo Fajardo] . sobre la Comisidn de que
esid encargado . (Campeche, 1828), F.O. 50/61. 7 Ante, pp. 5, 7-8, 13.
3s 'el territorio comprendido en el Virreinato llamado antes Nueva Espafia,
el que se decla Capitania General de YucatAn, cl de las Comandancias Ilamadas
antes Provincias Internas de Orientc y Occidente, el de la Baja y Alta California,
y los Terrenos anexos e Islas adyacentcs de que en ambos Mares estA actualmentc
en posesi6n la expresada Repdiblica.' Fabela, op. cit., p. 203.
30 Miguel Santa Maria to Mexican Minister for Foreign Affairs, Madrid,
5 Dec. 1835. A. de la Pefa y Reycs, El Tratado de Paz con Espanta (Archivo Hist6rico
DiplomAtico Mexicano, no. 22, Mexico, 1927), pp. 212-13.
40 Villiers to Palmerston, 27 Feb. 1836, F.O. 72/457.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 29
the event the Treaty of December 1836 made no reference to
The treaty of 1826 between Great Britain and Mexico to
some extent safeguarded the interests of British Honduras, but
no treaty was concluded with the United Provinces of Central
America, and that Confederation, anxious as it was to secure
British recognition, soon showed itself disposed also to assert a
title to the Honduras settlement. In October 1821, after the
first assertion of Central American independence, the Captain-
General of Guatemala had proposed to conclude a 'definitive
commercial agreement' with the Superintendent of the Belize
settlement.42 But in 1823 the newly appointed authorities of
the new Confederation spoke in somewhat different terms.
Announcing, on 22 July 1823, the 'pleasing intelligence' of the
Declaration of the Independence of the 'United Provinces of
the Centre of America', the Supreme Executive declared, on
the one hand, that an envoy would shortly be dispatched to
England to negotiate a treaty, and, on the other, informed the
Superintendent of the Honduras settlement that he confided in
the 'Governor of the English factory situated in the territory
of this Government to observe order, to preserve the intercourse,
communication and good harmony which our neighbourhood
and friendship require for the mutual interest of both nations'.43
No notice appears to have been taken of this apparent
assertion of sovereignty. It was not conveyed to the authorities
at home till two years later. In 1826, however, occurred a
further assertion of a Guatemalan claim after, on 15 March 1825,
a treaty had been concluded between, Central America and
Colombia.44 Article 9 of this treaty, which pledged both states
to prevent colonization on any part of the Mosquito Shore (to
41 There is a curious footnote to this episode in that, in a Note to the British
Minister of 23 March 1878, the then Mexican Foreign Minister asserted that he
had proof that in 8fl36 the British Minister in Madrid was told that the sovereignty
exercised by Spain in all Mexican territory had passed to Mexico, the implication
being, of course, that Spanish sovereignty over British Honduras had also passed
to Mexico. But no record of this conversation has been discovered in the British
archives, and Fabela, who cites this Note (op. cit., pp. 203-4, 276), has apparently
failed to find it in the Mexican archives.
41 Gavino Gainza to Superintendent Arthur, 24 Oct. 1821, C.O. 123/30.
A4 Jos6 de Velosa [?Velasco], on behalf of the Supreme Executive of the Centre of
8merica, to the Superintendent of Belize, 22 July 1823, in Horton to Planta, 28 May
4" British and Foreign State Papers, xii. 802-11.
30 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
which Colombia had some ancient claims), seemed to Canning
'to arrogate to Guatemala some pretensions to territorial
authority, which might possibly hereafter clash with our
possessory right in Honduras'. John O'Reilly, who had been
appointed consul in Guatemala in April 1825, was instructed,
therefore, to let the Guatemalan authorities know that such a
misconstruction had occurred to the British Government, but
that they indicated it only to express their confidence that 'it will
never take place'.45 Similar instructions were given to the British
representative in Colombia. Colombia replied that the article
did not refer 'to the coast of Honduras, in the Peninsula of
YucatAn'.41 The Central American reply, on 14 February 1826,
stated that the article referred to the Atlantic coast between
Cape Gracias a Dios and the Rio Chagres 'and therefore had no
reference to Belize, the sole British settlement within the
territory of the Republic'.47 As the Colonial Office pointed out,
in 1834, this reply redounded to the advantage of Guatemala,48
and point was lent to it by the remark of the Foreign Minister,
Juan Francisco Sosa, to O'Reilly that 'contrary to the general
acceptation, the British settlement of Belize was not in Honduras
but in the Province of Vera Paz according to the Spanish, and
State of Guatemala according to the new division of this
Meanwhile, on 17 April 1824, the Constituent Assembly of
Central America had abolished slavery throughout the republic.
There had already been trouble, and correspondence, between
the Belize authorities and the Spanish colonial authorities over
fugitive slaves from the settlement, and the settlers now
asserted that the slaves were being deliberately enticed to
Pet6n.50 Superintendent Codd apparently believed that the offer
of freedom to the negroes would result in a general desertion of
the settlement and its ultimate ruin, and the Vice-Consul in
Guatemala, E. W. Schenley, thought that this was indeed the
purpose of the Central American authorities.51 Codd, for his
4" Canning to O'Reilly, 12 Sept. 1825, F.O. 15/4.
"4 Campbell to Canning, Bogota, 16 Dec. 1825, F.O. 18/14.
4? O'Reilly to Canning, 17 Feb. 1826, enclosing Note from Sr. Sosa, 14 Feb.
1826, F.O. 15/5. 40 Colonial Office Memorandum, 20oJan. 1835, F.O. 72/452.
4* O'Reilly to Canning, 17 Feb. 1826, F.O. 15/5. 5o ABH, ii. 284.
61 Cndd to Bathurst, 6 Feb. 1825, in Horton to Planta, 28 May 1825, F.O. 15/4;
Schenley to Planta, 31 May 1826, F.O. 15/5.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 31
part, endeavoured to negotiate on this question directly by
means of agents sent to Guatemala City (thus, incidentally,
embroiling himself with O'Reilly),52 but though a committee
of Congress had declared that it was necessary to respect the
'rights of a neighboring State' and that Central American laws
could not apply 'to the slaves of colonies belonging' to England,53
the Senate declined to agree to the restitution of slaves, and the
President, sending for O'Reilly in February 1826, declared
that he had no objection to treat with England over both the
slavery issue and the territorial issue. So far as the latter was
concerned, he added, his Government was prepared to renew
the treaties of 1783 and 1786 and even to agree to an extension
of the limits therein agreed upon.54
At this time both Codd and O'Reilly emphasized the
jealousy with which the Belize settlement was regarded in
Guatemala.56 Codd thought that the object of the Guatemalans
was 'the expulsion of the English if they can', and Vice-Consul
Schenley affirmed that 'all parties united' in the opinion that
the English 'had no right there' and that 'sooner or later we
should evacuate it'.56
The question of the recognition of the new Spanish American
states had meanwhile been under consideration. Commissioners
had been appointed in October 1823 to investigate the state of
affairs in Mexico, and in January 1825 instructions had been
issued for the negotiation of a commercial treaty with Mexico.
A rapporteur, G. A. Thompson, was also sent to Guatemala in
1825. In April 1825 a consul was appointed to reside at
Guatemala City, and in September Lord Bathurst, as Secretary
for War and the Colonies, emphasized to Canning the 'urgent
importance that in any treaty which may be concluded with
the State of Guatemala the limits of the territory of Honduras
as they exist de facto should be secured to the Crown of Great
"2 Codd to Bathurst, 2 June 1825, Webster, op. cit., i. 331; Horton to Planta,
29 Sept. 1826, F.O. 15/9.
Webster, op. cit., i. 331-2.
O'ReiUy to Canning, 17 Feb. 1826, F.O. 15/5.
F O Ibid.; Codd to Bathurst, 4 March 1826, in Horton to Planta, 26 April 1826,
Schenley to Planta, 31 May 1826, F.O. 15/5.
Horton to Planta, 23 Sept. 1825, F.O. 15/4.
32 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
These de facto limits, according to the information that the
Colonial Office was now receiving, were the Hondo on the
north, the Sarstoon on the south, and, roughly speaking,
Garbutt's Falls on the Belize River to the west.68 The suggestion
was also received from the settlement that Great Britain should
strengthen her position in Central America by taking possession
of Ruatan, 'the key to command not only the British settlement
of Honduras, but the Mosquito Coast, Trujillo, Omoa and the
Gulph of Dulce',69 and in 183o an incident at Ruatan led to an
inconclusive argument between the authorities in British
Honduras and the local Central American authorities over the
ownership of the island.60 There seems to have been less
interest in the Mosquito Coast. This, to be sure, had been
evacuated in 1786,61 but an intercourse was always maintained
with the Mosquito Indians from Belize and Jamaica, and in
1820 a Scottish adventurer, Gregor McGregor, obtained a
grant from the so-called Mosquito King, styled himself Cacique
of the Poyais, and deluded a number of persons into emigrating
there. Most of the victims of this scheme were removed to
Belize in 1823, and a number were temporarily settled at
Stann Creek.62 In 1825, moreover, the new King of the
Mosquitos, like some of his predecessors, was crowned at Belize.63
But at this time the Superintendent of the Belize settlement gave
it as his opinion that it would be highly impolitic to start even
a partial colonization of the Mosquito Shore,64 and no active
measures were in fact taken to increase British influence
On 26 April 1826 Canning declared that the time had come
for 'a specific understanding with those of the new States of
America whose territories lie contiguous to His Majesty's
possessions, for the purpose of defining and fixing the respective
5s Ante, pp. 18, 21.
59 Schenley to Planta, 3T May 1826, F.O. z5/5; Marshal Bennett to Horton,
13 June 1825, in Horton to Planta, 9July 1825, F.O. 15/4.
s0 On the alleged 'seizure' of Ruatan in 183o see David Waddell, 'Great Britain
and the Bay Islands', Historical Journal, ii (1959), p. 61, note 7.
61 Ante, pp. 6, 7-8.
62 Crowe, Gospel in Central America, pp. 207-8; ABH, ii. 274, 275, 276; A.
Hasbrouck, 'Gregor McGregor and the Colonization of Poyais, between 1820 and
1824', Hispanic American Historical Review, vii (1927), 438-59.
63 Crowe, op. cit., p. 209; ABH, ii. 280.
ABH, ii. 270.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 33
boundaries of those States on the one hand, and of His
Majesty's dominions on the other',65 and in May an emissary
from the United Provinces of Central America, Marcial
Zebaduia, arrived in England for the purpose of-concluding
Why, then, when a treaty was signed with Mexico in
December 1826, was no treaty concluded with the United
Provinces of Central America? There were three reasons. In the
first place, British policy over the question of the recognition
of the new Latin American states was clear and definite.
Britain required, inter alia, proof that the new state could
maintain peace at home and good faith abroad.67 There was no
evidence that the United Provinces could fulfil these conditions
and a good deal that they could not. Civil war was in fact
endemic till 1830.6' Secondly, the treaty which Zebadia
proposed was, in certain of its clauses, open to the same
objections as the Mexican treaty of 1825, which Canning had
refused to accept.69 None of these clauses, however, referred to,
or affected British Honduras.70 Thirdly, Zebadila received
contradictory orders from his Government, under which he
was instructed now to proceed with, now to suspend negotiations.
It was on these that Zebadia himself placed responsibility for
the failure of his mission.71
By 1831, however, stability in Central America seemed,
though delusively, to have been obtained, and the British
Government was therefore prepared to enter into a commercial
cl Planta to Horton, 26 April 1826, F.O. 72/323.
66 Zebadfia to Canning, 4 May 1826, Webster, op. cit., i. 337.
See the conditions laid down by Canning, in Webster, op. cit., i. 435, 462, and
by Dudley, in 1828, ibid. i. 339.
"8 Webster, op. cit., i. 335-7, 338; Laudelino Moreno, Historia de las Relaciones
Interstatuales de Centroamdrica (Madrid, 1928), pp. 65-73.
09 F.O. Memorandum, 17 April 1831, F.O. 15/11.
'0 See the Project of a Treaty, 6 June 1826, F.O. 15/6.
n Manifestacidn Piblica del Ciudadano Marcial Zebadda sobre su Misidn Diplomdtica
Cerca de su Majestad Britdnica (Guatemala, 1832). There is a copy of this pamphlet
in F.O. 15/13. There is nothing to sustain the assertion of the White Book,
Contrnuation iii, p. Ioo, that Great Britain had been trying to obtain a territorial
cession in exchange for recognition. There is a somewhat similar implication in
M- W. Williams, Anglo-Amiei kan Isthinian Diplomacy, 1815-1975 (Washington, 19 16),
P. 32, but the memorandum cited by Miss Williams from the Colonial Office records
Is not, as she supposes, a' Memorandum of the British Premier', but a departmental
mtemoranduni of no official value. See Memorandum on Cockburn's Request for
hIstructions, by Henry Taylor, 29 Aug. 1829, C.O. 123/40.
34 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
treaty.72 A draft treaty which Zebadua produced at this time
would have repeated, so far as British Honduras was concerned,
the exact words of the I4th Article of the Treaty with Mexico
of December 1826.73 But Zebadia's powers were not now in
order; he had already received instructions to return home;74
and negotiations expired. When they were renewed in 1834 it
was by British initiative and this time in Guatemala.
Meanwhile, there had been certain fresh indications of
Central American jealousy of the Honduras settlement. In
1827 a schooner was fitted out at Omoa to act as a guard costa
and to prevent contraband, and her commander was reported
to have declared his intention of driving away any British vessel
loading south of the Sibmin.76 No such attempt, however, was
made.76 In 1830 President Barrundia, at the opening of the
congressional sessions, declared that the Government should
protest against daily encroachments by the Belize settlement on
Central American territory,77 though no such protest was
received. In 1832 the Federal Minister of War told Congress
that the settlement at Belize was a 'manifest usurpation of
Guatemalan territory',78 and a map, apparently prepared and
published in that year at the instigation of the Guatemalan
Chief of State, showed territory 'invaded' by the British settlers
west of the old treaty lines and south of the Sibun.79 In the
following year Superintendent Cockburn was asked to report
on charges made in the Federal Congress of illegal en-
croachments on the part of the settlers and of protection
afforded to criminals and enemies of the Republic-charges
which he indignantly repudiated.80 The encroachment of the
settlers, he remarked, had 'long, very long, been the subject of
72 F.O. Memorandum, 17 April 1831, F.O. 15/II.
73 Zebadia to Palmerston, 27 Dec. 1830, F.O. 15/10.
71 Memorandum by Zebadia, 13 Jan. 1831, F.O. 15/11.
50 O'Reilly to Codd, 29 Oct. 1827; Codd to Goderich, I Dec. 1827, C.O.
123/38, F.O. 15/9.
76 ABH, ii. 370. 7 Dashwood to Backhouse, i May i83o, F.O. 15/10.
78 ABH, ii. 339; Hall to Bidwell, i1 June 1832, F.O. 15/12.
79 M. Rivera Macstre, Carta Topografica de la Costa del Norte (1832),
reproduced in the Guatemalan White Book.
*0 Cockburn to Goderich, 26 Jan. 1833, in Lefevre to Backhouse, lo July 1833,
F.O. 15/13. This document is quoted by Miss Williams, op. cit., p. 33, as though
it were evidence, which it is not, of what appears in her text as almost a formal
demand from the Central American Government that the settlers should retreat
north of the Sibtin.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 35
complaint', but he was quite unaware of any additional cause
of such complaint while he had been in charge of the settlement.
The Republic of Central America [he added] claims to restrict us
to the limits laid down in 1786, without, however, referring to the
important fact, that those limits had ceased to be acknowledged by
us during the sovereignty of Spain in this part of the world, and that
the River Sarstoon, which we claim, and to which extent we have
long occupied as our boundary to the southward, has never been
possessed or occupied by the Republic of Central America.
Cockburn now proposed that the only way of resolving the
difficulty was to obtain an acknowledgement from Guatemala
of the extent of the settlement which the British possessed,8" and
at this point the Foreign Office notified the Colonial Office
that Frederick Chatfield had been appointed consul at
Guatemala with instructions to propose a treaty of amity,
commerce, and navigation. Asked whether there were any
specific points on which Chatfield should be instructed, the
Colonial Office replied that it would be convenient that the
boundary between British Honduras and Guatemala should be
determined, that the Sarstoon should be taken as the southern
boundary, and that the Central American Government should
relinquish 'all claim to such rights of sovereignty (if any) over
the territory occupied within the boundary of the settlement, as
might be supposed to have accrued to them derivatively from
Old Spain'.82 The Colonial Office, however, was not prepared
to press these points unless the Foreign Secretary, Lord
Palmerston, thought that they would afford no valid ground of
complaint to the Spanish Government, and Palmerston took the
line that 'however desirable it may be to preclude future
misunderstanding with the Guatemalan Government on the
question of the boundary', it would not be expedient, 'consider-
ing the peculiar circumstances under which Great Britain
occupies the territory in question', to enter into any negotiations
with the Guatemalan Government which might appear to
imply that 'His Majesty's Government consider a recognition
8 Cockburn to Goderich, 30 Jan. 1833, F.O. 15/13.
2 Lefevre to Backhouse, 28 Sept. 1833, F.O. 15/13. In the White Book,
Continuation iii, p. toi, this letter from the Colonial Office, of which a version
appears in ABH, ii. 372, is quite wrongly quoted as the 'instructions' given to
liatfield for negotiating the treaty of amity and commerce.
36 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
by Guatemala of the limits of the British settlement of Belize to
be necessary for the establishment of the right of Great Britain,
within the limits which she actually occupied at the period of
the declaration of Guatemala independence' He concluded
that the question, to what extent events which had occurred
since the treaties of 1783 and 1786 might justly be held to have
changed the tenure by which Great Britain held the territory
of British Honduras, might become in time a subject for
discussion with Spain, but that 'it is only with Spain that Great
Britain can properly or conveniently entertain that question'.*3
Accordingly Chatfield was specifically instructed to 'decline
entering into any discussion with the Government of Central
America as to the rights of Great Britain within the settlement
Chatfield presented to Zebadda, now Minister of Foreign
Affairs, his draft treaty on I July 1834. Zebaduia at once urged
that an article should be inserted similar to the i4th Article of
the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826. Chatfield opposed this,
while declining to discuss the question of sovereignty, and the
two men then agreed that the question of a boundary could not
properly be introduced into a commercial treaty.85 Later, when
ex-President Morazan argued that Britain should be guided,
in respect to the limits of Belize, by the stipulations of the
treaties of 1783 and 1786, Chatfield again combated this
position. Both to Zebaduia and to MorazAn, however, he stated
his belief that Britain, on the invitation of Central America,
would be 'disposed to arrange for the demarcation of the
boundaries of Honduras as they existed previous to the i5th of
September, 1821'.86 Then, in November 1834, the Central
American Government suspended conversations. It now refused
to proceed further with the proposed treaty unless an article
similar to the I4th Article of the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of
1826 were inserted, and when Chatfield declared his inability
to negotiate on such terms, it resolved to send a special emissary
e3 Foreign Office to Colonial Office, 19 Feb. 1834, F.O. 15/15.
84 Palmerston to Chatfield, 19 March 1834, F.O. 15/14.
e8 Chatfield to Palmerston, 5 July 1834, F.O. 15/14.
so Chatfield to Palmerston, 16 Aug. 1834, F.O. 15/14.
87 Chatficld to Palmerston, 13 Nov. 1834, F.O. I5/1'4; Minutes on Galindo to
Palmerston, 24 Aug. 1835, F.O. 15/17.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 37
By a coincidence Great Britain was also at this moment
prepared to suspend discussions, though it was not till some
months later that Chatfield was instructed to do so,88 for, on
4 September 1834, the Spanish Foreign Minister announced
that Spain was ready to enter into 'a frank negotiation' with
commissioners from the Spanish American states with a view
to their recognition.89 It was this news, coupled with the arrival
of Chatfield's despatch of 5 July, describing Zebadda's first
reception of the proposed commercial treaty, that determined
Palmerston to approach the Spanish Government in order to
obtain from Spain 'an acknowledgment of'the rights of the
British Crown to the settlement of Honduras as a British Colony,
so as to preclude the possibility of any future dispute between
England and Guatemala, with respect to the limits of the
British possession, or the tenure by which it is held'.90
In a long memorandum drawn up in October 1834, but
presented to the Foreign Office in January 1835, the Colonial
Office now argued the questions of sovereignty and occupation
and proposed as the northern boundary of the settlement the
Hondo so far as the 89th degree of longitude, on the south the
Sarstoon to its source, assumed to be in longitude 89035', and
on the west a line due north from the source of the Sarstoon till
it struck the Belize and thence connecting with the line of
89 degrees from the Hondo to the Belize. The Colonial Office,
however, was prepared, if necessary, to retreat to the limits of
the 1783 treaty to the north of the Belize if it could be definitely
made out that beyond these limits Mexico had a clear title.91
Shortly afterwards the Foreign Office received from the
Colonial Office a copy of a letter from Superintendent Cockburn
describing a grant of land made on these northern limits by the
state of Guatemala to one, Colonel John Galindo,92 a further
Instruction to Chatfield, 16 March 1835, to await the result of negotiations
between England and Spain before negotiating further with Central America,
.O- i5/16. "o British and Foreign State Papers, xxv. 1041.
Foreign Office to Colonial Office, 22 Sept. 1834, F.O. 15/15.
e Colonial Office Memorandum, 2oJan. 1835, F.O. 72/452. See 'Map D' which
accompanied the memorandum. The version printed below as Map 3 is the
corrected version of Map D originally printed in 1835 and contains emendations
made by the Superintendent. See Cockburn to Aberdeen, 17 April 1835, in Grey
to Backhouse, 6 Aug. 1835, F.O. 15/17.
82 See post, p. 41 ff. On Galindo see W. J. Griffith, 'Juan Galindo, Central
mnerican Chauvinist', Hispanic American Historical Review, xl (r960), 25-52.
38 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
letter from the Superintendent in which he declared that he
was prepared to prove that long previous to Central American
independence the Belize settlers had been in possession of an
area bounded by the Hondo on the north, the Sarstoon on the
south, and a western line drawn due north from Garbutt's
Falls on the Belize to the Hondo and due south to the Sarstoon,
and finally, the resolution of the judges and magistrates of the
settlement on 5 November 1834 in which they declared that
these were in fact the boundaries of the settlement.98
With these materials, and a memorandum drawn up by the
Keeper of the Records of Honduras, it was left for Palmerston's
successor at the Foreign Office, the Duke of Wellington, to pen
the instructions to George Villiers, the British Minister at
Madrid, to approach the Spanish Foreign Office with the
specific request for the concession to Great Britain of sovereignty
over the Honduras settlement, the cession to include
everything that the settlers have occupied, from the Rio Hondo on
the north to the Rio Sarstoon on the south, and as far west as
Garbutt's Falls on the Belize, and a line on the same parallel to
strike on the Rio Hondo on the north and the Rio Sarstoon on the
south; also the waters, islands, and keys lying between the coast so
defined and 8740' west longitude.94
That is to say, Wellington adopted as the western line of the
settlement that laid down by its judges and magistrates in
November 1834. In further instructions Villiers was told that
if the Spanish Government refused the concession, then he was
to ask that the rights of British settlers in Honduras should be
reserved in any diplomatic arrangement which might be made
between Spain and Mexico and between Spain and Central
In a Note of 5 April 1835 Villiers laid this proposal before
Martinez de la Rosa, the Spanish Foreign Minister. He argued
that though, under old treaties, Spanish sovereignty over the
settlement of British Honduras had been reserved, since the
defeat of the last Spanish attack in 1796 , the country
"3 Hay to Backhouse, 6 Feb. 1835, with enclosures, F.O. 15/17. See also ante,
P4 Instructions to Villiers, draft No. ig, x2 March 1835, F.O. 72/439.
' Instructions to Villiers, draft No. 20, 12 March 1835, F.O. 72/439.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 39
had been held 'under a different title'. Since that date 'the
visits of Spanish Commissioners to the settlement and other
formalities, as provided by treaty', had ceased, and the settlers
had no longer confined themselves within their ancient
boundaries. It was true that the limits of the settlement were
'ill-defined and somewhat uncertain'. But the British Govern-
ment had no intention of admitting that any of the neighboring
states could have a right to dispute its tenure. On the contrary,
the Superintendent had strict orders to resist by force of arms
any encroachments from whatever quarter. Since, however, the
Spanish Government had now resolved to treat with the South
American states with a view to recognizing their independence,
it was possible that in such negotiations the territory of the
British settlement might be inaccurately defined or confounded
with one or another of the adjacent states. It was, therefore, 'as
a mark of respect to the ancient rights of the Crown of Spain'
that the British Government now proposed that Spain should
formally cede to Great Britain 'any right of sovereignty which
it may be conceived still rests, as regards the British colony of
Honduras, in the Crown of Spain'. This was a point of courtesy.
The actual sovereignty of Great Britain over the settlement was
an 'improbable matter of dispute'; it could 'answer the purpose
of no country to question its tenure', but Spain was'in a situation
to accord an additional satisfaction in the possession of it'.
In conclusion the Note defined the boundaries which it
would be convenient to fix for the settlement as including
every portion of territory from the Rio Hondo on the north to the
Rio Sarstoon on the south, and as far west as Garbutt's Falls on the
Belize, and a line on the same parallel to strike on the Rio Hondo
on the north and the Rio Sarstoon on the south. Also the waters,
islands and keys lying between the coast so defined and 8704o0' west
longitude together with the Islands of Ruatan and Bonacca some-
what beyond these limits.96
These boundaries were, it was admitted, 'more extensive than
those originally granted by Spain, but not more so than has
long been tacitly acknowledged a British settlement, or than is
now and has been long in the temporary or continual occupancy
of the colony'.
George Villiers to Martincz de la Rosa, 5 April 1835, F.O. 72/441.
40 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
No formal reply was returned to this Note. Orally, Martinez
de la Rosa remarked that he foresaw no difficulty in complying
with the request and that he hoped to return a definite answer
shortly.97 In June, however, he resigned, and the matter so
rested till February 1836. Villiers had already expressed his
opinion that it would be most extraordinary if the Spanish
Government came to any decision in less than two years,98 and
that Great Britain would have done better to legislate for
British Honduras without any reference to Spain;99 and he
apparently forbore to press the proposal because of the evident
hostility in Spain towards the recognition of the independence
of the Latin American states and the unfavourable progress of
the negotiations to that end. In February 1836, however, he
took an opportunity to secure from J. A. Mendizabal, at that
time Foreign Minister, an oral promise that he would not admit
into any treaty signed between Spain and Mexico any reference
to the boundary between Mexico and British Honduras,100 and
in October, after Jos6 Maria Calatrava had assumed the
direction of foreign affairs, and the prospects of Spanish
recognition of Spanish American independence seemed more
favourable, he addressed a further Note to the Spanish Foreign
Office. In this he explained that he had already raised the
question of British Honduras with Martinez de la Rosa, and he
now renewed it at a time when it seemed probable that 'the
question of the formal recognition of the Americas' would be
finally and satisfactorily settled. He added that though the
question of Honduras was 'independent of the negotiation now
being carried on with the representatives of South America',
yet it might be most conveniently treated and settled
Once again no answer was received from Spain, though, it
may be noted, neither was there a denial of the assertion in the
opening part of the Note of 5 April 1835 that since 1798 the
tenure under which Great Britain held British Honduras had
changed. No further application was ever made to Spain, but,
as will be seen, its expediency was on more than one occasion to
97 Villiers to Wellington, 4 May 1835, F.O. 72/442.
o8 ABI, ii. 375.
W6 Villiers to Backhouse, 4 May 1835, F.O. 72/442.
100 Villiers to Palmcrston, 27 Feb. 1836, F.O. 72/457.
o10 Villiers to Calatrava, 15 Oct. 1836, F.O. 72/4.62.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 41
be considered, and the problem of whether it was proper for
the British Government to legislate for British Honduras either
by Order in Council or by Act of Parliament without Spanish
recognition of British sovereignty continued to perplex both the
Foreign Office and the Colonial Office.
For what reason, however, had the United Provinces of
Central America suspended, in November 1834, their negotia-
tions with Frederick Chatfield over a commercial treaty, and
why did they then resolve to send a special emissary to England?
The explanation is to be found in the fact that in 1834 the
State of Guatemala made two grants of land to British subjects
and others in territory adjoining and trespassing on the limits
claimed by the Honduras settlers. On the news of these grants
Superintendent Cockburn at once informed Chatfield that he
was prepared to resist by force any attempt to expel British
settlers.102 Cockburn's insistence on the claims of the settlers
caused, wrote Chatfield, 'the greatest irritation and offence',103
and while, on the one hand, Cockburn, in November, laid one
of these grants before the judges and magistrates of the settle-
ment, and the meeting resolved that the limits of the settlement
were the Hondo and the Sarstoon, and a line between them
passing through Garbutt's Falls, on the other hand, in November
also, a motion was laid before the Central American Congress
that 'as long as the authorities of Belize do not adhere to the
limits as fixed by the Convention of the i4th of July, 1786',
discriminatory duties should be placed on Belize products and
on goods imported by vessels touching there.104 Even when
Chatfield had first proposed the commercial treaty, the Central
American Government had shown itself anxious to discuss the
boundary question. It now suspended conversations with
Chatfield and dispatched Colonel Galindo, an Irishman in the
service of the republic, to lay its claims before the British
One of these land grants was made to an association formed
10' Cockburn to Chatfield, 13 Sept. 1834, F.O. 15/17.
z10 Chatfield to Backhouse, 13 Oct. 1834, F.O. 15/14.
104 Note from Mr. Miller, 18 Feb. 1835, F.O. 15/17. In April 1835, the Vice-
President recommended an increase of duties on goods from Belize, and a motion
to this effect was later introduced, but on Chatfield's insistence was withdrawn.
Chatfield to Wellington, 22 May 1835, F.O. i5/16; Chatfield to Palmerston,
6 May 1836, F.O. 15/18.
42 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
in London in 1833 under the name of the Eastern Coast of
Central America Commercial and Agricultural Company, in
which a Belize merchant, Marshal Bennett, was interested. By
a contract signed in August 1834, the company was granted an
enormous tract of land, embracing some 14 million acres in the
Province of Verapaz, and including the whole of the area of
the Belize settlement between the Sarstoon and the Sibdn. In
return it was to introduce i,ooo families in ten years.105
The other grant was to Colonel Galindo himself. It lay
between the Belize and the Hondo, being bounded on the east
by Cross Creek, New River, and Spanish Creek. That is to say,
the Galindo grant restricted the Belize settlement to the 1783
limits north of the Belize River just as the company grant
restricted it to the 1786 limits south of the Sibin. The contract
was signed in March, but Galindo did not make it known till
August, when he published a proclamation warning the
settlers in this territory that no mahogany cutting might take
place therein without his permission.106
The fate of the Eastern Coast of Central America Commercial
and Agricultural Company was unhappy. It was given the
right to take over Galindo's grant if Galindo failed to fulfil the
stipulations of his contract, and it negotiated supplementary
agreements with Guatemala in 1838. But it faced the disapproval
of the British Government. Palmerston warned it in 1835 that if
British subjects received from a foreign Government a grant of
land 'which is included within the limits of a British settlement,
such persons must take the consequence of their connivance
with the encroaching pretensions of such foreign Government'
This warning was repeated in 1836, and the company was then
officially informed that 'the territory claimed by the British
Crown as belonging to the British settlements in the Bay of
Honduras, extends from the River Hondo on the north to the
River Sarstoon on the south, and as far west as Garbutt's Falls
on the River Belize, and a line on the same parallel to strike
on the River Hondo on the north and the River Sarstoon on the
10s Chatfield to Palmerston, 17 Sept. 1834, F.O. 15/14; Brief Statement, supported
by original documents, of the Important Grants conceded to the Eastern Coast of Central
America Commercial and Agricultural Company by the State of Guatemala (London, 1839).
106 Decree of the Chief of State of Guatemala respecting the Grant to Col.
Galindo, 24 March 1834, in Chatfield to Palmerston, 17 Sept. 1834, F.O. 15/14;
Galindo to Cockburn, 2 Aug. 1834, in Hay to Backhouse, 6 Feb. 1835, F.O. 15/17-
British Honduras and its Neighbours 43
south'.107 The company sent out a few immigrants to New
Liverpool and Livingston, on Guatemalan soil (to the south of
the Sarstoon), but, in the words of Crowe, 'ultimate failure
attended all its objects and after the waste of many lives,
and much labour in vain, with the misappropriation of some
40,000 the charter was forfeited by the non-fulfilment of
the stipulated conditions'.1s0
Colonel Galindo fared little better. The Colonel was armed,
on his mission to England, with two letters from the Acting
Foreign Minister of the Central American Confederation
appointing him as a special commissioner 'to claim the rights
of Central America and take other needful steps', and protesting
that the Belize settlers should be kept within the limits of the
Convention of 1786.109 A similar communication was addressed
to the Secretary of State of the United States,110 for it was to
Washington that Galindo first proceeded in the hope of
enlisting United States aid. In this, however, he met with very
limited success:111 United States interest in Central America was
not yet great. He arrived in England in August 1835, only to
find that the British Government refused to negotiate with him,
on the ground that not only was he a British subject but that
he had a personal interest in the affair.112 The Colonial Office,
in any event, now took the view that the only course open to the
British Government was to refuse to negotiate with Central
America at all on the question of the boundaries of the Belize
settlement, and that even if the negotiations with Spain were
concluded, it was still necessary for Mexico and Central
America to settle their boundaries before Britain could treat
107 Brief Statement. of the Important Grants, &c.
o10 The Gospel in Central America, p. 138.
100 Alvarez to Palmerston, 15 Dec. 1834, F.O. 15/17. 'The claims advanced
by that settlement', so ran the letter, 'are as singular as the encroachments of its
functionaries are unexpected.'
no Alvarez to Secretary of State of the United States, 30 Dec. 1834, Manning,
Diplomatic Correspondence, iii. 85.
nx The Secretary of State, however, did instruct the United States Minister in
Spain to 'use all prudent means' to prevent the conclusion of any arrangement
between Spain and Great Britain over the Belize settlement 'as being incompatible
with the rights of the Republic of Central America'. Forsyth to W. T. Barry,
to June 1835. Ibid. xi. I1-14.
'2 Minutes on Galindo to Palmerston, i Jan. 1836, F.O. 15/r8. Chatfield
argued that Galindo's commission was 'completely irregular'. Chatfield to
Palmerston, to Jan. 1835, F.O. 15/16.
44 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
with one or the other of the republics to settle those of British
Galindo, who appears to have sent misleading reports to his
adopted country, attempted meanwhile to interest a Dutch
company in the colonization of the land granted to him-an
attempt which led the British Government to inform the Dutch
Government 'in the most formal manner' that Great Britain
denied the right of the State of Guatemala to grant, and of
Colonel Galindo to occupy, certain of the lands in question.114
Returning to Central America in 1837, he was unfavourably
received by the Federal Government,115 failed in all his plans,
and in 1840 was killed in battle in Honduras.
Some time after Galindo's return, on 25July 1838 the State of
Guatemala convoked a Constituent Assembly to revise the
State constitution, and by a supplementary decree of 5 August
the inhabitants of the islands of the State, and those who reside
upon the coasts and shores of the rivers situated between the Hondo
and Sibhin, that they should unite with the rest of the inhabitants of
the territory of Guatemala for its political reorganization: and in
case of accepting this invitation they shall send one deputy to the
Chatfield attributed this decree to the machinations of
Galindo himself, who, since the Federal Government refused to
employ him, had been ingratiating himself with the State
Government of Guatemala, and he at once protested to the
Federal Government. The Federal authorities replied that they
entirely disapproved of the Guatemalan action.117 More,
however, was required, and in March 1839 Palmerston
instructed Chatfield to declare that the Act, 'if not rescinded at
the earliest possible opportunity, must be considered by the
British Government as a measure of hostility against the British
Crown, which will justify proceedings of any kind which
H.M. Government may in consequence thereof think fit to put
into execution against the State of Guatemala'. On 31 July
113 Sir George Grey to Fox-Strangways, 10 Sept. 1835, F.O. 15/17.
114 Chatfield to Palmerston, 19 Dec. 1835, F.O. 15/16; Bidwell to Chatfield,
15 May 1836, F.O. 15/18.
115 Chatfield to Palmerston, 26 July 1837, F.O. 15/19.
"18 Chatfield to Palmerston, 21 Nov. 1838, F.O. 15/20.
British Honduras and its Neighbours 45
1839 the Guatemalan Constituent Assembly repealed the
At this point the Central American Federation collapsed. Its
structure had always been precarious. It had failed to secure
recognition either from England or Spain. It had been distracted
by civil wars, and in 1838 and 1839 it dissolved. Nicaragua left
it on 30 April 1838, and Honduras on 18 October 1838. Costa
Rica declared her separate existence in November and
Guatemala announced her independence by a decree of
17 April 1839. Only El Salvador tried to maintain the fiction
of the Federation, and in 1841 El Salvador also gave up hope.
The ex-Federal President, Francisco Morazan, whose seat was
at San Salvador, succeeded in 1840 in capturing Guatemala
City, only to be immediately driven out by Rafael Carrera, and
from then till 1865 the history of Guatemala was very largely
the history of Carrera.
The close of the decade thus marked a period in the history of
Central America. It marked a period also in the history of
British Honduras. Its population had now increased from
10,000 in 1835 to over 13,000. The settlement still lacked, the
Colonial Office complained in 1838, a 'legitimate form of
government'; it was still without 'any legislative body, except
an unauthorised Public Meeting of the Settlers, any Court of
Civil Justice constituted according to Law, or any Court of
Criminal Justice so constituted, except one for the trial of certain
Capital Felonies .'119 No satisfaction had been obtained from
the attempt to persuade Spain to make a formal surrender of
sovereignty, and Palmerston now thought that the best thing
to do was 'to let the Spaniards forget it'.120 The Colonial
Office would have liked to pass Orders in Council to regularize
the institutions of the settlement, but the Law Officers of
the Crown were of opinion that Parliamentary sanction
must be obtained before any such Orders could be issued.
Palmerston, for domestic political reasons, was unwilling to
apply to Parliament,121 and his successor, the Earl of
n8 Palmerston to Chatfield, 23 March 1839, F.O. 15/22; Chatfield to Palmerston,
o10 Aug. 1839, F.O. 15/22.
ln Stephen to Fox-Strangways, 28 Aug. 1838, F.O. 72/521.
20 Palmerston to Glenclg, 15 Sept. 1838, F.O. 15/21.
11 Ibid.; Gleneig to Palmerston, 8 Nov. 1838, F.O. 72/523; Hume to Backhouse,
22 Nov. 1839, F.O. 15/22.
46 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
Aberdeen, preferred to abstain from any declaration of
sovereignty out of respect for Spain.122 The issue thus remained
Nevertheless three important steps had been taken within
the settlement. Superintendent Macdonald had begun, in
1837, to make Crown grants of land outside the old treaty
limits.123 He was specifically instructed in June 1839 that
objection could no longer be made to the cultivation of the soil,
that he might grant titles to land, and that the revenue from
this source should be disposed of as territorial revenue of the
Crown.124 In July 1840 he was authorized to appoint an
Executive Council,125 and on 2 November 1840 he issued a
proclamation declaring that from that date the 'Law of
England is and shall be the Law of this Settlement or Colony of
122 G. W. Hope to Canning, II Nov. 1841, F.O. 72/596; Canning to Hope,
13 Dec. 1841, F.O. 72/596.
"23 See ante, p. 24, and Chatfield to Backhouse, 17 March 1837, F.O. 15/19;
Chatfield to Palmerston, 26 July 1837, F.O. 15/19.
124 Lord Normanby to Superintendent Macdonald, 29 June 1839, C.O. 124/5;
ABH, ii. 408. 12" ABH, ii. 410. 126 Ibid. ii. 411.
IN THE 1840's AND 1850's
WrrITH the collapse of the Central American Federation
in 1838-9, its former members sought recognition as
independent states, and on 2 March 1841 the then
President of Guatemala proposed to the Superintendent of
Belize (in the absence of Chatfield on leave) the conclusion of
a commercial treaty with Great Britain on the basis of reciprocal
commercial advantages and of British recognition of Guatemalan
independence.1 No reference was made to the question of
Palmerston's reaction, when this proposal was forwarded to
him, was the natural one: 'It seems to me that it would be best
to defer treating with any of the States which formed the
Republic of Central America until events shall have shewn what
their political condition shall be'.2 Negotiations were therefore
postponed, and it was not till 1846, at the renewed wish of
Guatemala and on Chatfield's recommendation, that they were
taken up.3 The treaty, signed in June 1847, was almost identical
with the draft proposed by Chatfield in 1834,4 but Chatfield
had not waited to receive full instructions and the British
Government refused to agree to the treaty as it stood on the
ground that certain of the terms, as drawn up in 1834, did not
accord with subsequent commercial legislation.5 An amended
Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation was signed,
without difficulty, on 20 February 1849, and ratifications were
exchanged in June. So great was British prestige in Guatemala
at this time that Chatfield reported that the Government
contemplated asking Great Britain to guarantee Guatemalan
Stephen to Backhouse, 8 June 1841, enclosing correspondence from Super-
intendent Macdonald, P.O. 15/27.
SP.O. Memorandum, 23 June 1841, F.O. 15/27.
Chatfield to Aberdeen, 4 Sept. 1846, F.O. 15/42.
Chatfield to Palmerston, 28 June 1847, F.O. 15/46. See also ante, p. 36.
Palmerston to Chatfield, 3o Oct. 1848, F.O. 15/46.
48 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
national and territorial independence, in return for which the
country would be placed under British protection.6
Neither the unratified treaty of 1847 nor the amended treaty
of 1849 affected British Honduras. But after signing the 1847
treaty the Guatemalan Foreign Minister addressed a Note to
Chatfield stating that it had not been believed that the treaty
could affect in any way or implicate the rights of Guatemala in
the question pending with Great Britain over boundaries, so far
as the concessions in the territory of Belize were concerned.
This, he said, was the more important because of the contents
of Article 14 of the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826 in which 'it
is given to understand or is supposed' that Mexico had rights
'in the territories of the concessions of Belize, which is not
exact'. To this Chatfield replied that without instructions he
could give no opinion on the subject, but that he did not think
that the treaty need affect any arrangement about boundaries
which Guatemala might desire to conclude at a later time.
Privately he told Palmerston that he did not imagine that
Guatemala really wanted to enter on a discussion of this subject,
but that the Minister wished to cover his responsibilities should
it be mooted later.7 No reservation on Guatemala's part was
6 Chatfield to Palmerston, 17 Jan. 1848, F.O. 15/51. Such a request was at this
time made by Costa Rica but was declined. Williams, Anglo-American Isthmian
Diplomacy, pp. 71-72.
1 Chatfield to Palmerston, 20 July 1847, F.O. 15/46; White Book, pp. 66-67.
In the White Book, Continuation viii, pp. 406-7, there is reproduced a note verbale
said to have been addressed to Chatfield before the treaty was signed. In this the
Guatemalan Minister remarked: 'It is only a few days ago that I was able to
obtain a copy of the Mexican treaty with Great Britain, and it is with no little
surprise that I have noticed Article XIV, which necessarily requires an adequate
explanation in our treaty'. The Article, he continued, committed a great error,
since the territory between the Hondo and the Sibin never belonged to Mexico,
and the boundary between Guatemala and Mexico lay to the north of the Hondo.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty, therefore, ought to contain an article covering the
reservations of Guatemala.
What really requires adequate explanation is why, when in 1834 the Govern-
ment of Central America had refused to proceed with the treaty at that time under
discussion unless an article similar to the i4th Article of the Anglo-Mexican
Treaty of 1826 were inserted, Guatemala should note the contents of that Article
'with no little surprise' thirteen years later. The argument of the White Book that
Great Britain had attempted to secure recognition of the boundaries of British
Honduras first from Central America and then from Guatemala, but was obliged
to agree to recognition of Guatemala in 1849 without being able to obtain what
she wanted is, of course, quite untrue. So far Britain had consistently refused to
discuss the question of the boundary.
Anglo-American Diplomacy in the i84o's and i85o's 49
attached to the amended 1849 treaty, and with this treaty
Guatemala at last secured formal recognition from Great
Britain. Shortly afterwards Chatfield was elevated to the rank
of charge6 d'affaires. Guatemala, for her part, appointed consuls
in Great Britain, and, with the permission of the British
Government, appointed also a consul at Belize."
Meanwhile British influence in Central America was being
extended, or at least consolidated. After the institution of an
Executive Council, there was, it is true, no significant change
in British Honduras, beyond the appointment of a Chief
Justice in 1843, holding a commission from the Governor of
Jamaica. The settlers, apparently unsatisfied by the instructions
issued in 1839,9 again in 1841 sent a petition to Parliament
praying for the 'free and bona fide possession' of their lands 'as
directly and inalienably as in any part of Great Britain', and
for the right to 'cultivate the several products of the climate',1"
and the Governor of Jamaica urged that the settlement 'must
be regarded now and henceforward as a British colony, subject
exclusively to the Crown of the United Kingdom'.1 But the
British Government remained reluctant to take the final step.
Lord Palmerston agreed, in 1841, that 'some regular form of
Government' ought to be authorized 'under the direct authority
of the British Crown'; he was prepared 'to declare formally and
by note to the Spanish Government' that the time had come
when the settlement must be declared to be British territory;12
but Lord Aberdeen, who succeeded him in September 1841,
was not prepared to go so far. No good, he believed, would be
obtained from opening a negotiation with Spain, while any
declaration of sovereignty on Britain's part would be a violation
of good faith. 'So long', he wrote, 'as we practically govern the
Settlement, as we best may, without making any such claim of
sovereignty, Spain will probably continue to acquiesce as she
has done hitherto; but the nominal sovereignty, barren as it is
in her hands, she will not, and probably dares not, cede'.13
The matter was again considered in 1850 when the Baymen
Consul-General Wallenstein to Palmerston, 2 Dec. 1850, F.O. 15/68; Lord
Stanley to \Vallenstein, 7 Nov. 1851, F.O. 15/75. 9 Ante, p. 46.
1 2 March 1841, C.O. 123/59: AlBI, iii. 50.
1 Stephen to Levcson. 20 Aug. 1841, F.O. 15/27.
'' Minute by Palmerston, on Stephen to Leveson, so Aug. 1841, F.O. 15/27.
Minute by Aberdeen, on Hope to Canning, ii Nov. 1841, F.O. 72/596.
50 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
sent a petition (signed, incidentally, by the United States
consul) asking that the settlement should be placed upon the
footing of a colony, and Palmerston, now again Foreign
Secretary, recurred to the idea of informing the Spanish
Government that it was intended to erect the settlement into
a colony, stating the grounds and reasons on which the British
Government considered the treaties of 1783 and 1786 to be no
longer applicable to British Honduras. But again it was
decided that such a move would be useless.14
This forbearance over the Honduras settlement was the more
remarkable because of the line of policy now adopted in respect
of Ruatan and the Mosquito Shore. Ruatan had been almost
uninhabited, but in the late 1830's immigrants from the
Cayman Islands began to settle there, and in 1839 Superinten-
dent Macdonald sailed to the island in a British warship and
took possession of it. Despite the protests of the Government of
the State of Honduras, his action was sustained by the Foreign
Office,15 and thereafter de facto possession was maintained.
Magistrates were appointed from Belize in 1841; and in 1852
Ruatan, Bonacca, and four neighboring islands were to be
erected by royal proclamation into the Colony of the Bay Islands.
Similarly, in 1841 the enterprising Macdonald, accompanied
by the so-called King of the Mosquitos, proceeded to the port
of San Juan to the south of the Mosquito Shore, and, in his
name, attempted to dispossess the Nicaraguan commandant
there. Macdonald, apparently, acted upon his own initiative,
and the Nicaraguan authorities remained at San Juan. Never-
theless the policy of supporting the Mosquito Indians was now
encouraged, and in 1844 it was decided to appoint a British
resident on the Shore. The post was given to Macdonald's
secretary, Patrick Walker, who took up residence at Bluefields;
the territory was locally renamed Mosquitia; and the Indians
were presented with a flag which bore a striking resemblance
to the Union Jack.16 Three years later the British Government
announced that in their view the territory of the Mosquito
King, who was under the protection of the British Crown,
14 Chatfield to Palmerston, 20o May 1850, F.O. 15/64; ABH, iii. 136; Merivale
to Addington, 24 Sept. 1850, with enclosures and minutes, F.O. 15/68.
"I David Waddell, 'Great Britain and the Bay Islands', Historical Journal, ii
(1959), pp. 62-63.
"t Williams, op. cit., pp. 41-44.
Anglo-American Diplomacy in the 184o's and i85o's 51
extended from Cape Honduras to the San Juan River, and that
they could not view with indifference any encroachment on his
lands. Shortly afterwards, in January 1848, Walker, accom-
panied by the Mosquito King, proceeded to San Juan, hauled
down the Nicaraguan flag and hoisted that of the Mosquitos.
Nicaraguan resistance was crushed by the arrival of two
British vessels ofwar, and San Juan itself was renamed Greytown,
in honour of the Governor of Jamaica.17
It is not here necessary to investigate what tenuous claim of
right Great Britain had to the Bay Islands and to the Mosquito
Protectorate. Her actions were high-handed. But Patrick
Walker's activities had at least the merit of preventing the
Mosquito Indians from being swindled of their lands.18
Palmerston seems to have entertained a quite genuine interest
in their welfare, and to the last Great Britain was concerned to
safeguard their rights. Nor, it must be admitted, were the rival
claims of Nicaragua and Honduras to exercise dominion over
the Mosquito Shore plain and indisputable.
Palmerston, at this time, appears to have favoured a reunion
of the states of Central America 'in a friendly League and in
connexion with Mosquito and our Honduras'.1' But however
limited British designs in Central America may have been-
and they were more restricted than contemporaries were apt to
suppose20-this extension of British influence was bound to have
repercussions in the United States. Hitherto United States
attention to Central America had been relatively slight,
despite a persistent interest in the possibilities of a trans-
isthmian canal. The United States had not questioned British
rights in Belize. Indeed, a consul was appointed there in 1847.21
It had not protested against British occupation of the Bay
Ibid. pp. 48-50. See also Correspondence respecting the Mosquito Territory, pp. 56,
105, Parliamentary Papers, IH.C. 1847-8 , lxv.
18 R. W. Van Alstyne, 'The Central American Policy of Lord Palmerston,
1846-1848', Hispanic American Historical Review, xvi (1936), pp. 342-3.
Ibid. p. 351.
so See R. W. Van Alstyne, 'British Diplomacy and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty,
185o-6o', Journal of Modern History, xi (1939), p. 150o, and R. A. Naylor, 'The British
Role in Central America prior to the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850', Hispanic
American Historical Review, xl (1960), pp. 361-82.
Recalled on I March 1850 (before the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was signed),
on the ground that his appointment might have been made 'without full con-
sideration of the territorial rights of Great Britain in that quarter'. Williams,
op. cit., p. 95.
52 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
Islands. It had passed unheeded the establishment of the
Mosquito Protectorate. Its primary interest had lain in its own
great movement of western expansion and in the American
south-west. Texas, however, was annexed in 1845, and the
war with Mexico, which followed, led to the acquisition of
New Mexico, Arizona, and California; and here gold was
discovered in 1848. The importance to the United States of
trans-isthmian communications was now greatly enhanced.
American capital was interested. A canal company was formed;
a contract was signed with Nicaragua for the construction of a
canal by way of San Juan and Lake Nicaragua; and at this
moment Chatfield served notice that the San Juan River
belonged to the Mosquito kingdom and could not be disposed
of without the consent of Great Britain.22 The United States
now dispatched a new agent to Central America, E. G. Squier,
with instructions to frustrate, so far as he reasonably could,
British designs on the Mosquito Shore, and also to negotiate a
treaty with Nicaragua which would provide, inter alia, for the
construction of a canal. There followed a diplomatic duel
between Chatfield and Squier (both energetic and ambitious
persons) which might have had disastrous consequences had not
both the British and the American Governments been bent on
the maintenance of peace.23 This is the background to the
celebrated Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 19 April 185o, relative to
a trans-isthmian canal.
The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty has been rightly called 'a
Cretan labyrinth'. It was designed to effect a compromise
between British and American interests and to reconcile
opposing points of view, and it is not surprising that it was
interpreted differently in England and in America. Its famous
first article led Cobden to criticize 'the unfortunate propensity
of diplomatists to involve their sentences in phraseology which
becomes unintelligible not only to others but to themselves'
The Governments of Great Britain and the United States [it read]
hereby declare, that neither the one nor the other will ever obtain or
maintain for itself any exclusive control over the said Ship-Canal;
agreeing, that neither will ever erect or maintain any fortifications
commanding the same, or in the vicinity thereof, or occupy, or
22 Williams, op. cit., p. 59.
25 Dexter Perkins, rThe Monroe Doctrine, 1826-z867 (Baltimore, 1933), p. 197.
Anglo-American Diplomacy in the 184o's and z85o's 53
fortify, or colonize, or assume, or exercise any dominion over
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central
America; nor will either make use of any protection which either
affords or may afford, or any alliance which either has or may have,
to or with any State or People for the purpose of erecting or main-
taining any such fortifications, or of occupying, fortifying, or
colonizing Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Mosquito Coast or any part
of Central America, or of assuming or exercising dominion over the
This language was ambiguous. What meaning, for example,
was to be attached to the term 'Central America'? Did it
include British Honduras? And did the treaty oblige Great
Britain to abandon her occupation of the Bay Islands or the
Mosquito Protectorate? On these points, obviously, there could
be more than one opinion, and this ambiguity was aired when
the treaty went before the United States Senate for ratification.
It should be noted, however, that in the Senate debates the
question of Belize does not appear to have once been raised.25
Nor does it appear that in the latter half of 1850 the question of
Belize occupied the attention of the public mind in the United
In the event the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 4.2 to 12.
On the exchange of ratifications, however, Palmerston, anxious
to guard against any contingency that the treaty might appear
to apply to Belize and the Bay Islands, instructed Bulwer to
declare that 'Her Majesty does not understand the engagements
of that Convention to apply to Her Majesty's settlement at
Honduras or to its Dependencies'. This declaration was made
in form, on 29 June, and Bulwer received in return a counter-
declaration from Clayton to the effect that the treaty was not
understood by the British or American Governments or by the
to include the British settlement in Honduras (commonly called
British Honduras, as distinct from the State of Honduras), nor the
small islands in the neighbourhood of that settlement, which may be
known as its dependencies. To this settlement and these islands, the
treaty we negotiated was not intended by either of us to apply. The
24 Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and other International Acts of the United States of
America (8 vols., Washington, 1931-48), v. 671.
2 Perkins, op. cit., p. 206. 2 Ibid. p. 207.
54 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
title to them it is now and has been my intention, throughout the
whole negotiation, to leave, as the treaty leaves it, without denying,
affirming, or in any way meddling with the same, just as it stood
previously. The Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations
of the Senate, the Hon. William R. King, informs me that 'the
Senate perfectly understood that the treaty did not include British
Bulwer having accepted this counter-declaration, ratifications
were accordingly exchanged.27
The treaty and the declarations attached to it did not, of
course, recognize British sovereignty over British Honduras.
They merely left that question open. So far as the Mosquito
Protectorate was concerned, it seems clear that the view of
Palmerston and the Foreign Office was that Great Britain was
bound to abandon it in due course, though not without safe-
guarding the rights of the Indians. The question of the Bay
Islands, however, it was believed, remained unaffected by the
treaty,29 and in March 1852 these were erected into a Crown
Colony. Controversy soon developed,29 and in 1853 a violent
debate began in the United States Senate on the whole question
of British dominion in Central America.
A Democratic Administration had now replaced a Whig
Administration in the United States, and the Senate debate
was highly partisan. It constituted an attack both on the Whigs
and on Great Britain. Not only was it now affirmed that the
Bay Islands formed a part of Central America and that there-
fore their erection into a colony violated the Clayton-Bulwer
Treaty, but it was further stated by the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee that Belize lay within the territory of Guatemala,
and that there could be no justification whatever for any
27 Manning, Diplomatic Correspondence, vii. 63, 397. It will be noted that this
counter-declaration was not itself free from ambiguity. Did the 'small islands'
refer to the Bay Islands, or did they not?
28 G. F. Hickson, 'Palmerston and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty', Cambridge
Historical Journal, iii (1931), pp. 295-303.
22 Both Bulwer and Clayton have been accused of serious indirection, for a note
written by Bulwer on 4 July 185o, in reply to Clayton's counter-declaration, in
which he attempted to safeguard British title to the Bay Islands, Clayton denied
having received. The note was published in Correspondence with the United States
respecting Central America, Parliamentary Papers, H.C. 1856 , Ix. Almost
certainly it was not delivered at the time of the exchange of ratifications and
the question whether Clayton did or did not know of it is still unsolved. See Hunter
Miller, op. cit., v. 684-703.
Anglo-American Diplomacy in the i84o's and 185o's 55
extension of its boundaries beyond those prescribed by Spain
in 1783 and 1786.30 The Administration shared this point of
view, and when in July 1853 James Buchanan was appointed
Minister to Great Britain he was instructed by Secretary of
State Marcy 'to induce Great Britain to withdraw from all
control over the Territories and Islands of Central America,
and if possible, over the Belize also, and to abstain from inter-
meddling with the political affairs of the Governments and
people in that region of the world'.31 So far as Belize was con-
cerned Marcy admitted that Great Britain had rights there, but
these rights, he argued, were few, and British encroachments
beyond the limits fixed in the treaty of 1786 ought to be
abandoned. In later instructions he added that the United
States would contest any assertion of British sovereignty over
Belize 'as an infringement of the Monroe doctrine'.32
A prolonged correspondence followed between Buchanan
and Lord Clarendon, now Foreign Secretary, in which
Buchanan asserted, and Clarendon denied, that British claims
in Central America had always been unfounded and that, after
the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, they were anyway quite un-
justifiable. That Britain enjoyed limited rights in Belize,
Buchanan was prepared to concede, but these, he affirmed,
were rights of usufruct and were confined to the area between
the Hondo and the Sibin, the sovereignty over which belonged
to Guatemala or Mexico. As for the area between the Sibun and
the Sarstoon, sovereignty over that belongedto Guatemala, and
Britain had no right there at all.33
Events now moved towards something of a crisis. In 1854, as
the result of a quarrel between the municipal authorities and
an American transportation company, the Accessory Transit
Company, which Cornelius Vanderbilt had organized, an
American warship bombarded and destroyed Greytown. In
1855 came the famous filibustering expedition of William Walker
to Nicaragua; and while the actions of the United States and
her citizens in Central America exasperated Great Britain, they
alarmed also the Central American states themselves. It is some
"0 Williams, op. cit., p. 145; Perkins, op. cit., p. 224.
3x Marcy to Buchanan, 2 July 1853, Manning, op. cit., vii. 86-87.
31 Marcy to Buchanan, 12 Sept. 1853, ibid. p. ioo.
2 The correspondence is in Correspondence with the United States respecting Central
America, 1856, and in Manning, op. cit., vii.
56 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
index of their fears that in November 1853 Guatemala expressed
a desire to settle the boundary question with British Honduras
by means of a secret treaty with Great Britain in order to remove
any pretext for United States intervention in the affair;34 and
that in 1855 a tentative suggestion was made that Britain and
France should either openly, or by means of a secret treaty,
take the republic under their protection;35 and Guatemalan
apprehensions were shared by other of the states. 36 In September
1855, moreover, Buchanan again took up with Clarendon the
question of British withdrawal from the Mosquito Coast, the
Bay Islands, and the Belize territory between the Sibdn and the
Sarstoon.37 Clarendon, in reply, reiterated his view that the
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was prospective, not retrospective in
its application;38 the subject was adverted to in President
Pierce's Message to Congress in December; and in 1856 fresh
debates broke out in the United States Senate in which Great
Britain was again denounced. Fortunately, the course of wisdom
prevailed and a further and serious effort was now made to
settle the outstanding Central American questions by means
of the Dallas-Clarendon Treaty of 17 October i856.
The Dallas-Clarendon Treaty provided generally for the
incorporation of the Mosquito territory, with safeguards to
Indian rights and property, within the limits of Nicaragua, and
for the recognition of the Bay Islands as a part of Honduras.
The problem of Belize was dealt with in a supplementary
article by which the two contracting parties agreed
That Her Britannic Majesty's Settlement called the Belize or
British Honduras, on the shores of the Bay of Honduras, bounded on
the north by the Mexican Province of Yucatan, and on the south by
the River Sarstoon, was not and is not embraced in the Treaty
entered into between the Contracting Parties on the igth day of
April, 1850: and that the limits of the said Belize, on the west, as
they existed on the said rgth of April, 1850, shall, if possible, be
settled and fixed by Treaty between Her Britannic Majesty and the
Republic of Guatemala, within two years from the exchange of the
34 Wyke to Clarendon, 27 Nov. 1853, F.O. 15/79; Williams, op. cit., p. 188.
"s Wyke to Clarendon, 28 Nov. 1855, F.O. 15/85.
36 Perkins, op. cit., p. 243.
"7 Buchanan to Clarendon, i i Sept. 1855, Manning, op. cit., vii. 612.
"s Clarendon to Buchanan, 28 Sept. 1855, ibid. vii. 615.
Anglo-American Diplomacy in the z84o's and 185o's 57
ratifications of this instrument; which said boundaries and limits
shall not at any time hereafter be extended.39
No more than the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, of course, did
this article constitute a recognition of British sovereignty over
British Honduras; but it did mark a retreat from the position
assumed by Buchanan that Great Britain had no rights what-
ever south of the Sibun; and there seems to have been no
difficulty in securing this acceptance of the British view that
the Sarstoon was the southern boundary of the settlement.40 Nor
was objection raised when the treaty came before the United
States Senate. The Senate, before ratifying the treaty, made
some trivial amendments and one substantial change, affecting
the conditions under which the Bay Islands should be ceded to
Honduras. But it at no time called in question the provisions
relating to British Honduras. The ratified and amended treaty,
however, proved unacceptable to the British Government.
The Foreign Office would have been glad to accept it, if only
on account of the recognition of the Sarstoon line,41 but the
amendment regarding the Bay Islands raised an insurmountable
difficulty. Clarendon, therefore, revised this amendment and
returned the treaty to the United States; the President refused
to accept the revision, and consequently the treaty failed.
The United States Government now showed a strong desire
to abrogate the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty also (which would
have given it a free hand in Central America), and to avert
this danger the British Government decided to attempt to
settle the Central American question on the general lines of
the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, but by direct negotiation with the
several states concerned. Buchanan, now President of the
United States, was informed of this intention, and in November
9 Hunter Miller, op. cit., v. 797.
o' In July 1856 Secretary Marcy instructed Dallas that the limits of the Belize
settlement on the south 'must be a question either of the rights of Guatemala or of
those of Honduras, while the question of the political tenure of that settlement
would seem to belong to Guatemala, or to the Mexican Republic. In a com-
mercial or political point of view it is not of very much moment to the United
States, whether the British tenure at Belize be enlarged or not... if serious obstacles
occur to obstruct the negotiations on other points . the President might consent
that you should, in the last resort, make concessions on this point ..' Mamnning,
op. cit., vii. 152.
a Cf. Hammond to Merivale, 19 Sept. 1856, with draft and memoranda on the
treaty, F.O. 15/94.
58 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
1857 Sir William Gore Ouseley, to whom the negotiations were
entrusted, arrived in Washington. The objects of his mission,
the American Government was informed, would be the transfer
of the Bay Islands to Honduras, the localization of the Mosquito
Indians under Nicaraguan sovereignty, and a regulation of
the frontier between Guatemala and British Honduras.42 On
this last, it may be noted, Buchanan had again stated that in
his view the Sibfin ought to be the southern boundary, and the
British Minister, Napier, had replied that he had hoped that
the Dallas-Clarendon Treaty might be taken as the basis of the
proposals made to Guatemala.43
It is not necessary to trace in detail the further course of the
general negotiations in Washington and Central America. They
proceeded slowly; it was not till July i858 that Ousclcy was
instructed to proceed to Central America, and it then became
evident that he was unequal to his task. In 1859, therefore, his
mission was handed over to Charles Lennox Wyke, who had
succeeded Chatfield as consul-general and, later, as charge
d'affaires in Guatemala, and it was Wyke who, in 1859 and
1860, negotiated the treaties with Guatemala, Honduras, and
Nicaragua which led President Buchanan, in his annual message
to Congress in i86o, to declare that the final settlement of the
Central American question was entirely satisfactory to the
By Wyke's treaties the Bay Islands were surrendered to
Honduras, under the Anglo-Honduran Treaty of 28 November
1859, which recognized also Honduran claims to part of the
Mosquito Shore; Nicaraguan sovereignty over the rest of the
Mosquito territory was recognized by the Anglo-Nicaraguan
Treaty of 28 January 1860, under terms, however, which safe-
guarded the rights of the Indians; and by the Anglo-Guatemalan
Treaty of 3o April 1859 the frontiers of British Honduras were
at last defined, with the Sarstoon as the southern boundary.
This, then, is the general setting in which the negotiations
conducted between Great Britain and Guatemala in the i850's
must be placed, and to the more precise details of those
negotiations it is now necessary to turn.
*' Napier to Cass, 30 Nov. 1857, Manning, op. cit., 720.
4' Napier to Clarendon, 24 Oct. 1857, ibid. p. 728.
'* Williams, op. cit., p. 266.
PRELIMINARIES TO THE ANGLO-
GUATEMALAN CONVENTION OF 1859
HEN, on 16 February 1859, the negotiation of a
boundary treaty with Guatemala was removed from
the hands of Sir William Ouseley and placed in those
of Charles Lennox Wyke, three facts were incontrovertible.
First, British sovereignty over British Honduras had never been
explicitly proclaimed; secondly, the boundaries of the settlement
had not been re-defined by treaty or agreement since the Anglo-
Spanish Treaties of 1783 and 1786; and thirdly, under the
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 185o Great Britain was precluded
from extending her dominion in Central America.
It could, of course, be argued that the Clayton-Bulwer
Treaty had no bearing whatever on the question of Belize. The
United States had, indeed, contended that the territory between
the Sibun and the Sarstoon belonged to Guatemala. But Great
Britain had refused to accept this view. The settlement of
British Honduras had been explicitly excluded from the
stipulations of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, and the unratified
Dallas-Clarendon Treaty of 1856 had specifically referred to
the Sarstoon as its southern boundary. The United States was
aware, moreover, that Great Britain proposed to take the
Dallas-Clarendon Treaty as a basis of proposals to Guatemala,
and there was reason to expect United States acquiescence in the
Sarstoon boundary.1 Nevertheless, in order to avoid the risk of
fresh controversy with the United States over Central American
affairs, it was essential, in the words of Wyke's instructions,
that the line of boundary to be established by the proposed Con-
vention should be therein described, not as involving any cession
or new acquisition from the Republic of Guatemala (in which case
the United States might contend that Great Britain had violated the
self-denying clause of the Treaty of 1850), but [the instructions
1 Ante, pp. 56-58.
6o The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
continued], as it is in fact, simply as the definition of a boundary
long existing, but not hitherto ascertained.2
So far as the question of sovereignty was concerned, the Law
Officers of the Crown, in 1851, had stated that 'upon the whole'
they were disposed to think that the settlement had become a
part of the dominions of the Crown, and, further, they had
given the opinion that the British Possessions Act (8 & 9 Vict.,
c. 93) and other statutes extended to it.3 In 1853 a local Act 'to
amend the system of Government of British Honduras' had
established a Legislative Assembly, and this act had received
the assent of the Crown.4 But the British Government were still
reluctant to substitute the title 'colony' for that of 'settlement'.
They considered doing so in 1856, but refrained on grounds of ex-
pediency: Clarendon wished to avoid, at that particularmoment,
any further misunderstanding with the United States. 'To
attempt this change now and before the boundaries are settled
with Mexico and Guatemala', he noted, 'would be absurd'.5
As to the boundaries themselves, a quasi-defined, but by no
means certain, boundary existed on the north and north-west,
with Mexico, under the Anglo-Spanish Treaty of 1783 and the
Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826. On the south Great Britain
claimed a de facto, physical boundary, the Sarstoon. This claim
had been put forward to Spain in 1835, and the Dallas-
Clarendon Treaty had attempted to safeguard it. The settlers
and the British Government claimed also a western boundary
from Garbutt's Falls on the Belize to the Hondo on the north
and the Sarstoon on the south. These, again, were the limits
which Great Britain had asked Spain to recognize in I835.6
These western boundaries, however, had never been surveyed
2 Malmesbury to Wyke, 16 Feb. I859,F.O. 15/114. In part printed in Correspondence
respecting Central America, l856-6o, p. 171, Parliamentary Papers, H.C. I86o ,
a Dodson, Romilly, and Cockburn to Grey, 14 March 1851; Cockburn and Wood
to Grey, 17 Nov. 1851, in Hammond to Merivale, io May 1856, C.O. 123/94.
ABH, iii. 163, 171. It may be mentioned, incidentally, that in January 1853
arrangements were made between Guatemala and the 'authorities of the British
Settlement of Belize', by means of reciprocal legislation, for the surrender of
fugitive criminals. British and Foreign State Papers, lix. 292f.
6 Minute on Elliot to Hammond, 18 Oct. 1856; Hammond to Elliot, 30 Oct.
1856, F.O. 15/94. There was a further doubt, namely whether under the I4th
Article of the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826 Mexico might not have a right to
complain. Elliot to Hammond, 18 Oct. 1856; Bergne to Harmmnond, 24 Oct. 1856,
F.O. 15/94. 0 Ante, pp. 21-24, 27-28, 38-40.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 61
or physically defined. For this reason, Palmerston, in 1851,
suggested that landmarks should be erected on some of the main
points of the inland boundaries claimed.7 The Colonial Office
replied that the western boundary lay 'in an almost unexplored
and uninhabited wilderness, where landmarks, if placed, could
not easily be kept and maintained; whilst the attempt to
establish them might lead to disputes'.6 The Governor of
Jamaica was asked to report on the question,9 and the
Superintendent of the settlement, consulted by the Governor,
explained that the point theoretically determining the western
boundary, namely the source of the Sarstoon, was not actually
known, and that therefore the point to be taken was the most
western point occupied on the Belize River, Garbutt's Falls. In
his opinion beacons should be erected both there and at the
points where the meridian of longitude through Garbutt's Falls
cut the Hondo and the Sarstoon.10 But the suggestion was not
proceeded with because the British Government at this time
preferred not to raise the question of the boundaries in any
If, however, between the Sarstoon and the Belize, this
western line still lay 'in an almost unexplored and uninhabited
wilderness', north of the Belize wood-cutting had advanced up
to and possibly even beyond it. It is worth note that in i861 two
important firms, Messrs Young, Toledo & Co., who held
cutting licences on the Blue Creek dating back to 1839,12
together with a grant of lands in the neighbourhood of Garbutt's
Falls dating back to i837,13 and the British Honduras Company,
with adjoining claims,14 both protested that the running of the
line would deprive them of a part of their property. The injury
was certainly not great.16 The important point, however, is that
Addington to Merivale, 26 July 1851, F.O. 15/75.
8 Merivale to Addington, 7 Aug. 1851, F.O. 15/75-
a Elliot to Addington, 21 Sept. 1851, F.O. 15/75.
o Superintendent to Governor of Jamaica, 5 Dec. 1851, ABH, iii, 151.
Colonial Office to Foreign Office, 23 March 1852, C.O. 123/85.
2 Rogers to Hammond, r7 April 1861, with enclosures which attest the licences,
13 Young, Toledo & Co. to Superintendent Price, 14 Jan. 1861, which cites
the grant in terms, in Rogers to Hammond, 16 March 1861, P.O. 15/115. See also
ante, p. 24. 14 Win. Heriot to llammond, 5 March 186r, F.O. 15/11 5.
\ W\ray to Wodehouse, 16 July 1861, F.O. 15/143. The claims are shown in
the map sketched by the Crown Surveyor, J. H. Faber, in Rogers to Hammond,
'6 March 1861, F.O. 15/115. See Map 4, and post, pp. r01-3.
62 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
in this region claims had been staked and cutting had taken
place. As to the Sarstoon, if its source was still unknown in
1851, land had been granted on its banks since 1837,16 and
Superintendent Stevenson, in 1856, described Gracias a Dios
Falls as the extreme point reached by the settlers.17 It is, more-
over, apparent that grants of land had been made on the
intervening rivers between the Sarstoon and the Sibuin between
1837 and 1859, and the census of x861 revealed that, while the
Stann Creek district now had a population of more than r,ooo,
even at so southerly a point as Punta Gorda there was a
population of more than 300.18
But while, in 1852, the British Government had preferred to
let the boundary question sleep, both Mexico and Guatemala
thought differently. Thus, in 1853, 'the Prime Minister' of
Guatemala, Manuel Pav6n,19 told Wyke that until the frontier
with Belize was settled, the United States would always be
given an excuse for intervention,20 that there was no doubt
that British wood-cutters had pushed their settlements much
further than they had any right to do, but that Guatemala
would be ready to make great concessions to England 'for the
sake of getting rid of American interference for ever', and
wished, therefore, to conclude a secret treaty definitively settling
the boundary line.21
To this suggestion Lord Clarendon prudently replied that
such a treaty would be more likely to produce than to avert the
anticipated dangers.22 Guatemalan apprehensions, however,
stimulated by the filibustering activities of William Walker in
Nicaragua, continued. In 1855 came the tentative proposal that
Britain and France should secretly or openly take Guatemala
t6 Ante, p. 24.
17 Stevenson to Bell, 15 Nov. i856, C.O. 123/93.
La ABH, iii. 238. The full return is in Price to Darling, 23 Aug. 1861, Archives
of Jamaica, C.S. 704/23, no. 99. A policeman was stationed at Stann Creek as
early as 1835. Cockburn to Aberdeen, 20o March 1835, C.O. 123/46. There was
another at Pumla Gorda in 1841, and there was a magistrate resident at Rio
Grande in 1850. See Minutes of Public Meeting, 16 Nov. 1841, enclosed in
Macdonald to Metcalfe, 13 Jan. 1842, Archives of Jamaica, C.S. 704/2, no. 31,
andJ. E. Henderson (Rio Grande) to G. Berkeley, 16 Sept. t85o, British Honduras
Archives (Registry, Belize), no. 46 (Records 36, Letters Inward, 185o-51).
10 Actually Minister of the Interior and of Foreign Affairs. 20 Ante, p. 56.
21 Wyke to Clarendon, 27 Nov. 1853, F.O. 15/79.
22 Clarendon to Wyke, 19 Jan. 1854, F.O. 15/82. See also Williams, Anglo-
American Isthmian Diplomacy, p. 188.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 63
under their protection,23 and in 1856 the Guatemalan Govern-
ment instructed its Minister in Paris to proceed to London,24
his object being to negotiate a boundary treaty and to obtain
what he described as a 'just compensation for the territory
unduly invaded by the English in Belize'25 in the shape of a
guarantee of British protection against possible filibustering
Mexico, in 1854, also suggested a settlement of the boundary
question, and in explanation of this request it is necessary to
recur briefly to the events which followed the negotiation of the
Anglo-Mexican Treaty in 1826.
The i4th Article of that treaty stated that British subjects
should not be molested in the rights, privileges, and immunities
they enjoyed within the limits described in the Anglo-Spanish
Treaty of 1786. It stated also that the two contracting parties
reserved 'for some more fitting opportunity' the further
'arrangements' between them on this Article.
This language was obscure. But whatever it may have meant,
no further arrangements of any kind were made.27 In 1837,
however, the Mexican Foreign Minister complained that
several Mexicans had been compelled, by the action of the
Belize authorities, to abandon their labours at the Creek River
or Rio Bravo.28 The Superintendent of the Honduras settlement,
when asked for an explanation, pointed out that he had recently
explored the Hondo in person and had discovered that the Blue
Creek, instead of being a tributary of the Hondo, was, in fact,
its main stream. Since, under the 1783 and 1786 treaties, the
Hondo was the northern boundary of the settlement, this
discovery, he said, had had the effect of bringing within the
British limits certain wood-cutting operations carried on by
Mexicans, and he had warned these Mexicans that they were
2" Ante, p. 56.
White Book, p. 72. The instructions are not printed, but they were clearly
drawn up in 1856.
J. de Francisco Martin to P. dc Aycinena, 14 Feb. 1857, ibid. p. 72.
2e 'I shall try to obtain all possible advantages, one of them being, if it were
attainable, that of obtaining the aid of Her Britannic Majesty's Government to
prevent with her battleships in both seas the invasion of filibusters.' Martin to
Aycinena, 16June 1857, ibid. p. 76. See also the terms of the draft treaty proposed
by Martin (post, pp. 72-73), but omitted from the White Book.
2 Ante, pp. 27-28.
29 Ashburnhamn to Palmerston, 29g June 1837, F.O. 50/107.
64 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
trespassing on British territory.so He added that the Hondo had
become an 'eager resort' for British wood-cutters, and that this
was the first year in which the Mexicans had begun to cut upon
the territory in question.
The British Government now proposed that a joint survey of
the boundary should be undertaken by the Superintendent and
a Mexican Commissioner;30 the Mexican Government declared
that it would consider the matter,31 and, in November 1839,
announced that it would appoint a representative.32 One,
Colonel Santiago Blanco, was actually appointed in December
1839,33 and the British Government expressed their willingness
for a joint survey to take place.34 But there the matter ended.
The question was again raised in the late I 840's as a result of
the great Indian rising in YucatAn known as the 'war of the
castes'. YucatAn had already endured factional strife of great
barbarity between those who wished to withdraw from the
Mexican Confederation and those who favoured closer relations
with it. Both sides had appealed to the Indians, and in 1847 the
Indians rose. The horrors of racial war were now to be unfolded.
The Indians, particularly the Santa Cruz Indians, refused to
recognize Mexican and Yucatecan authority, and in the struggle
which now began and was to endure for half a century, effective
control of much of southern YucatAn was lost to Mexico.
The Belize settlement was, in these circumstances, exposed to
the dangers of Indian attack. Its authorities were anxious to
avoid embroilment with either side. But there is no doubt that
an extensive contraband traffic in arms and supplies existed
between the settlers and the Indians,35 and on 12 March 1849
the Mexican Government asked that steps should be taken to
put a stop to this irregular conduct on the part of the settlers,
2g Macdonald to Glenelg, 25 Aug. 1837, C.O. 123/50, F.O. 50/111. See also
ABH, ii. 394.
30 Palmerston to Ashburnham, 15 Dec. 1837, F.O. 50/104.
11 Ashburnham to Palmerston, 4 April 1838, F.O. 50/113.
32 Pakenham to Palmhnerston, 24 Nov. 1839, F.O. 50/127.
3 Pakenham to Palmerston, 3 Jan. 1840, F.O. 50/134.
3 Stephen to Fox-Strangways, 7 Feb. 1840, F.O. 50/141; Palmerston to
Pakenham, 16 March 1840, F.O. 50/133; ABIH, ii. 409. See also the documents
edited by Manuel Azpir6z in Bolethn de la Sociedad Mexicana de Gecografia y
Estadistica, 2d dpoca, t. iv (1872), pp. 698-7Is.
3 lEligio Ancona, Hlistoria de Yucatdn, 2nd ed. (4 vols., Barcelona, 1889), iv. 225,
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 65
to ensure that the recognized principles of international law be
observed and to observe also the terms agreed upon between the
British and Spanish Governments 'in the i4th Article of the
Convention celebrated on the I4th July, 1786, in force between
Mexico and England.'36 Under this Article Great Britain had
undertaken to prevent the settlers from furnishing arms and
supplies to the Indians.
The Belize Superintendent had already been instructed to
take all possible steps to prevent conflict with the Indians.37 But
the Mexican Note was, in effect, or implied, a claim to
sovereignty. Accordingly, on 28 August 1849, the British
Government replied that though the 1786 treaty was indeed
referred to in Article 14 of the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826,
that Article only provided that British subjects should not be
disturbed in the exercise of rights secured to them by agreement
with Spain, but no treaty stipulation existed by which Mexico
could require Great Britain to fulfil obligations formerly
contracted by her towards Spain in regard to the settlement of
Honduras.38 The Spanish Minister in Mexico City confirmed
this reading of the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826,39 but the
Mexican Government was not satisfied and decided to take up
the matter through its distinguished Minister in London,
Dr. Jos6 Maria Luis Mora. In the meanwhile it accepted the
good offices of the Superintendent of the Belize settlement in the
war between the Mayas and the whites in Yucatan.
Mora acknowledged these good offices in a rather curiously
worded Note of 21 November 1849. But he then insisted that
Mexico had a right to ask for the suppression of the arms
traffic under the terms of the treaty of 1826. Mexico, he
declared, was 'the successor of Spain not only in the rights'
which it exercised over its own territory 'as an independent
nation', but also 'in the obligations and external agreements
arising from the necessities of the territory itself'.40 To this
Lord Palmerston rejoined that instructions had already been
Doyle to Palmerston, 16 March 1849, F.O. 50/227. See also Correspondencia
Diplomdtica cambiada entire el Gobierno de la Reptblica y el de su Majestad Britdnica con
relacidn al territorio llamado Belice, 1872-78 (Mexico, 1878), p. 25. ABH, iii. 107.
8 Doyle to Palmerston, 15 Sept. 1849, F.O. 50/230. 8o Ibid.
40 Mora to Palmerston, 21 Nov. 1849, F.O. 50/233. See also La Gestidn Diplordtica
dlI Doctor Mora (Archivo IIist6rico Diplomnitico Mexicano, no. 35, Mexico, 1931),
66 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
given, as the Mexican Government was aware, to prevent by all
possible means the traffic in arms and to preserve a strict
neutrality in the conflict, but that these orders had been given
in accordance with the general principles of international law,
and Great Britain 'distinctly' denied the right of Mexico 'to
require by virtue of any treaty whatever' that the Superintendent
of British Honduras enforce such prohibitions. The assumption
that Mexico was the successor of Spain not only in the rights
which it exercised over Mexican territory but also in the claims
arising from any treaty concluded by Spain with other powers
was totally untenable.41 Mora, however, was unconvinced. He
expressed gratitude for the instructions to prevent the traffic in
arms, but he repeated that his Government considered the 1783
and 1786 treaties between Britain and Spain to be in force under
the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826, and he now declared that if
the British Government thought otherwise, Mexico would
insist that the treaties be re-established by a new arrangement.
On this point, he proposed to seek fresh instructions,42 but
before these could be received, even if they were ever sent, Mora
Troubles, however, continued on the Yucatan frontier; a
fresh source of dispute arose with Mexico over the ownership of
the island of Ambergris Cay;43 and on 16 May 1854 the then
Mexican Minister in London again reverted to the boundary
question, stated that 'the establishments at Belize' had been
illegally extending themselves, and proposed that the British
Government should appoint a plenipotentiary ad hoc in order
that the question might be settled.44 In a second Note of the
same date he claimed compensation for damages sustained
through the usurpation of lands in the Department of Yucatan
by the 'colonists' of Belize.45
As the Colonial Office pointed out, the Mexican Government
did not, in this proposal, appear to contemplate actual survey
and the establishment of landmarks (and, in any event, the
41 Palmerston to Mora, 15 Dec. 1849, F.O. 50/233. See also Fabela, Belice.
Defense de los Derechos de MAxico, p. 209.
42 Mora to Palmerston, 3r Dec. 1849, F.O. 50/233; La Gestidn Diplomdtica del
Doctor Mora, p. 168.
43 ABH, iii. 150, 151, 152, 155.
4 J. M. Castillo y Lanzas to Clarendon, 16 May 1854, F.O. 50/272.
45 J. M. Castillo y Lanzas to Clarendon, 16 May 1854, F.O. 50/272.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 67
Colonial Office doubted whether this would be found practi-
cable); and the object of the Notes, it remarked, seemed to be
merely to complain ofthe encroachments of British settlers. Since,
moreover, the boundaries between Mexico and Guatemala
were not defined, no arrangement between Mexico and Great
Britain over the western boundary could be made without the
concurrence of Guatemala.46 At the suggestion of the Colonial
Office, therefore, Lord Clarendon replied to the Mexican
Notes, first, that as the i4th article of the Anglo-Mexican
Treaty of 1826 adopted the boundary laid down in the Anglo-
Spanish Convention of 1786, it was unnecessary to define it
again by a fresh diplomatic transaction, and, secondly, that any
attempt to lay down the boundary by actual survey would be
found impracticable. He added that while the British Govern-
ment would not encourage trespass on Mexican property, they
were certainly not prepared to entertain any claims for com-
pensation on account of acts done by British subjects on
territory alleged to belong to Mexico.47
The Mexican Notes, however, were referred to the Governor
of Jamaica and to the Superintendent of British Honduras,
William Stevenson. Stevenson reported that extensive but long-
standing 'encroachments', some in the form of 'locations' prior
to the 1826 treaty, and others by grants after it, had been made
by the Belize settlers on the north-west, west, and south of the
Honduras settlement, and that it remained to be determined
whether these settlers held their land by any independent right,
or whether they were accountable to Spain, Mexico, or
Guatemala. What he termed the 'western encroachments' were
among the most valuable of the mahogany cuttings; but he
believed that a line drawn from Garbutt's Falls north to the
Hondo and south to the Sarstoon would bring most of them into
British territory; and he recommended that Guatemala and
Mexico should be induced to disclaim all territorial ownership
and sovereignty over British possessions both within and without
the limits of the Spanish treaties.46 The Governor of Jamaica
emphasized the difficulties of marking the line on the spot
(which would probably lead to trouble with the Indians), but
46 Colonial Office to Foreign Office, 30 June 1854, F.O. 50/273.
Clarendon to Castillo y Lanzas, 4 July 1854, F.O. 50/272. See also Fabela,
op. cit., p. 212.
46 Stevenson to Barkly, 16 Sept. 1854, C.O. 123/89. See also ABI1, iii. t8n.
68 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
thought that if the Mexican proposal (which would not have
involved actual demarcation) had been couched in more
diplomatic language there would have been strong reasons for
embracing it.49 The Colonial Office, however, held to its belief
that it would be better to do nothing, and found additional
support for this belief in the unsettled state of affairs in YucatAn
and in 'questions which might arise with the United States under
their interpretation' of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.60
Such was the situation on the eve of the Dallas-Clarendon
Treaty of October 1856. Since, by that treaty, however, Great
Britain undertook to settle with the Republic of Guatemala,
within two years of the date of ratification, the limits of the
Belize settlement on the west 'as they existed' on 19 April 1850,
it followed that in 1856 the British Government was compelled
at long last to take the boundary question into earnest
consideration; and Superintendent Stevenson's further views
were now sought on what preparations ought to be made for
determining the limits of British jurisdiction on the side of
Guatemala and Mexico respectively. The basis of the claim, it
was thought, should be compounded of actual occupation and
the treaties of 1783 and 1786, that is, a country which had
territorial occupation should have territorial rights, and where
the tract was unoccupied, or occupied only by Indians, the
boundary should be drawn according to what should be
considered to have been the line intended by the treaties
with Spain.61 Some difficulty was anticipated on the Mexican
side because of the uncertainty over the true course of
the Hondo and over the boundary between Mexico and
Stevenson's replies, written after consultation with the
principal surveyors and mahogany cutters of the settlement,
were comprehensive. He now stated that Gracias a Dios Falls
on the Sarstoon was the extreme point so far reached by the
settlers and was used for timber transport. A line drawn from
this point to Garbutt's Falls on the Belize would, he repeated,
take in all the lands ever possessed by the wood-cutters. The
Sir H. Barkly to Sir G. Grey, 4 Oct. 1854, C.O. 123/89.
60 Mcrivale to Hammond, 14 Nov. 1854, F.O. 50/273; Minute by Taylor on
Barkly to Grey, 4 Oct. 1854, C.0. 123/89.
a" Minute by Labouchere, on Bell to Labouchere, a5 Sept. 1856, C.O. 123/93.
I2 Labouchere to Bell, 30 Sept. 1856, Secret and Separate, C.O. 124/9.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 69
intervening country between these two points was so dense and
unpopulated that there would be no chance of trespass from
either side.53 Greater difficulties, however, were to be
apprehended over the western line to the north of the Belize.
There was, in the first place, no map of this western area on
which reliance could be placed; the course of the Hondo was
itself uncertain; and it was impossible to determine where the
limits of YucatAn and Guatemala divided from one another.
On this last point Stevenson declared that the settlers had
always regarded the Yucatecan State as extending as far on the
British limits as Garbutt's Falls on the Belize, and this would be
the most probable as well as most convenient point at which to
mark the division in the adjustment of boundaries, dealing
with Mexico for all to the north and with Guatemala for all to
the south. On the other hand it was possible that the line ran
along the i8th degree of north latitude, which was considerably
to the north of the Belize, but which was the line shown on a
map of YucatAn published in i848.54
As to the Hondo, Great Britain was bound under the descrip-
tion of the boundary in the treaty of 1783 and the Anglo-
Mexican Treaty of 1826 to take this as the frontier on the north,
adjoining YucatAn. But it was not clear which of the upper
forks of that river was the true Hondo. Stevenson thought it
was the Blue Creek, but there were other opinions. The timber
works in this doubtful area were, of course, far beyond the
limits attempted to be laid down in the treaty of 1783. But those
limits were in any event loosely described and exceedingly
difficult to trace, while the mahogany works in question were,
Stevenson repeated, by far the most valuable in the settlement,
and extensive grants had been made by former superintendents,
subsequent, however, to the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826.
The grants, like the grants south of the Sibtn, were made with
the stipulation that there should be no compensation in case of
abandonment under the treaties with Spain.55
Stevenson to Bell, 15 Nov. 1856, C.O. 123/93.
Ibid. For this map see post, p. 71, note 6o.
SStevenson to Bell, 15 Nov. 1856; Stevenson to Labouchere, 16 Dec. 1856,
C.O. 123/93. In theBlue Creek there were no grants, but only licences to cut, though
such licences had always been considered as bonafide grants. Crown Surveyor to
Acting Superintendent Price, 26 Jan. 1861, in Rogers to Hammond, 17 April 1861,
F.O. 15/115. See ante, p. 61. The first grants to be traced date from 1837. See ante,
70 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
For these reasons Stevenson believed that a new line should
be made the subject of a convention between Great Britain and
Mexico. The line should run north from Garbutt's Falls
enclosing all the mahogany works on Booth's River and the
Bravo until it reached the Blue Creek, or, if that river were not
long enough to be intersected, the line would direct its course
to the source of the Blue Creek or to the highest point at which
any mahogany works were to be found. This line, Stevenson
believed, should 'be opened and kept open' because of 'the
Indians and other Yucatans' in its neighbourhood who had
shown a disposition to acts of violence.56
Early in 1857 Stevenson, who had now been appointed
Governor of Mauritius, himself arrived in England, and in
April the Guatemalan Minister, Francisco Martin, announced
from Paris that he had been instructed to proceed to London
to negotiate a boundary treaty. The Foreign Office saw no good
reason why an endeavour should not be made to settle the
boundary question with Guatemala at once, and Clarendon
therefore proposed that a draft of suitable articles should be
prepared at the Colonial Office with Stevenson's help.57
At this stage Stevenson drew up two sets of articles, in con-
formity with the views which he had already expressed, one for
a treaty with Guatemala, another for a treaty with Mexico, the
arrangements being founded 'on the combined basis of treaty
and actual occupation'.58 In both sets of articles the boundaries
of British Honduras were described as, on the cast, the Bay of
Honduras, from the Hondo to the Sarstoon, including the cays
and islets off the coast, on the south, the Sarstoon to Gracias a
Dios Falls, and on the west, from Gracias a Dios Falls to Garbutt's
Falls on the River Belize. Stevenson, however, now abandoned
the theory that YucatAn descended on the British limits as far
as the Belize, and found it more convenient to assume that the
line of division between Yucatan and Guatemala was at 180
p. 24. But Stevenson had earlier pointed out that 'locations' as distinct from Crown
grants had been made in the area between the Hondo and the Belize and west of
the old treaty lines prior to the Anglo-Mexican Treaty of 1826. Stevenson to
Barkly, 16 Sept. 1854, C.O. 123/89.
f" Stevenson to Bell, 15 Nov. 1856, C.O. 123/93. The Chichanha Indians, in
I856, invaded the mahogany works of Messrs. Young & Toledo on the Blue Creek.
The Santa Cruz Indians followed suit in 1857.
s6 Hammond to Merivale, 30 April 1857, C.O. 123/95.
68 Stevenson to Merivale, 25 May 1857, C.O. 123/95.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 71
north. He proposed that British, Mexican, and Guatemalan
commissioners should attempt to determine the conterminous
point between British, Mexican, and Guatemalan territory, and
the western boundary was to be a line running due north from
Garbutt's Falls until it reached the line of 180 or as near thereto
as could be kept under the authority of the commissioners, and
then bending in a north-easterly direction till it reached the
Blue Creek (believed to be the main stream of the Hondo) and
so to the sea.59 In a subsequent note Stevenson explained that if
the line of 180 was indeed the line of division between Yucatan
and Guatemala, there would be no real question arising with
Mexico, since the Blue Creek and all other parts of the Hondo
on which debatable problems had arisen would be thrown into
Guatemalan rather than Mexican claims.60
Meanwhile Martin had arrived in England at the end of
May. He saw Lord Clarendon early in June, and was invited
to put himself into communication with Stevenson. In two
interviews which followed, Stevenson, according to his own
account, explained to Martin
the extent of the British occupations, beyond the original limits of
the Spanish Treaties, as they existed on and for many years prior
to the ist of January, 1850 [i.e. before the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty
was signed], and also the nature and foundation of the British claim
to a line of boundary that would cover all such actual occupations
and effectually prevent all future trespasses by either party.
He pointed out that many of these occupations had existed for
long periods, and that it would be impossible, from the nature
of the country and the scattered possessions of the wood-cutters,
to circumscribe each individual occupation, or otherwise to deal
with the boundary than by including the whole of these
5' Stevenson to Merivale, 25 May 1857, C.O. 123/95.
o Memorandum of zo June 1857, C.O. "23/95. The line of 18 is the line given
in a map of Yucatan published in 1848. This map is the Plano de Tucaldn, Litograffa
de H. Bourrelier y D. Theuret (New Orleans, 1848). Stevenson considered it
unreliable, but had decided to accept the 180 line because it would simplify matters
to take the intersection of the Hondo and 180 north as the conterminous point of
the frontiers. Cf. Stevenson to Bell, 15 Jan. 1857, C.O. 123/95. He now argued
that though the settlers had generally recognized the frontiers of YucatAn as
extending to Garbutt's Falls, this was because the Falls were 'a convenient central
spot'. As a base map Stevenson used 'Map D' produced by the Colonial Office
in 1834. See Map 3.
72 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
possessions within the limits of certain clearly defined lines,
drawn within well-known or easily determined points.61
To this Martin agreed, though doubting the length of
possession of many of the occupations south of the Sib'n,62 and
a memorandum of the boundaries of British Honduras, 'being
as nearly as can be geographically described, the actual
British occupations on and prior to the ist of January, 1850',
was drawn up, with which Martin also agreed.63 In this the
boundary was defined as on the cast the Bay of Honduras from
the Rio Hondo to the Rio Sarstoon, including all the cays and
islets lying off the mainland within these latitudes; on the south
the Rio Sarstoon from its mouth to Gracias a Dios Falls; on the
west a line drawn from Gracias a Dios Falls to Garbutt's Falls
on the River Belize, and then a line due north until it either
intersected the Blue Creek branch of the Hondo or reached a
point in the same parallel as the source or head of the Blue
Creek;64 and on the north from such intersection or point down
the Blue Creek to its confluence with the Hondo and thence
to the mouth of the Hondo.
This proposed boundary would have circumscribed the whole
limit of the British possessions without reference to Mexico: but
the memorandum provided for the appointment of com-
missioners to determine the point of conjunction between
Guatemala and YucatAn on the British frontier, so soon as the
concurrence of Mexico could be obtained, and if it were found
that the intersection or parallel of the Blue Creek lay within the
territory of Guatemala and not of YucatAn, at the discretion
of the commissioners the western line between Guatemala and
British Honduras might be extended northwards until it
reached the Guatemalan-Yucatecan line, in order to avoid
future difficulties over boundaries.
Martin took this memorandum and embodied the substance
of it, with some minor amendments, in a draft treaty which he
presented to the Foreign Office on io July, accompanying the
61 Stevenson to Clarendon, 24 June 1857, F.O. 15/96. In part printed in
Correspondence respecting Central America, z856-60o, p. 173.
62 Cf. Aycinena to Martin, 2 Sept. 1857, White Book, p. 83.
63 Memorandum of Boundaries of the British possessions in the Bay of Honduras
acquiesced in by Don Francisco Martin . July, 1857, F.O. 15/96; Stevenson to
Clarendon, 24June 1857, F.O. 15/96.
84 Believed by Stevenson to be the main stream of the Hondo.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 73
draft with a long memorandum of his own.65 The preamble to
this draft treaty recited the treaties of 1783, 1786, 1814, and
1826 by which (it was alleged) Great Britain recognized 'the
limitation of her rights to what is provided by the treaties of
1783 and 1786'. Under Article i, Guatemala renounced 'from
now on and forever in favour of Great Britain its rights of
possession and sovereignty over the part of territory included in
the natural and recognized limits of its dominion which is at
present occupied by the subjects of H.B.M.' Article 2 defined
the boundaries of British Honduras according to the terms of the
Stevenson-Martfn memorandum, except that from Garbutt's
Falls the western boundary was drawn due north to the Hondo.
Article 5 stated that, 'in compensation for the renunciation
which the Guatemalan Government makes in Article i', Great
Britain promised to give 'efficacious and secure guarantee' to
Guatemala against the undertakings which might be launched
against her 'by adventurers without any legally recognized
national character', and Article 6 limited this obligation to the
use of British naval forces on the east and west coasts of Central
America to prevent the landing of filibusters, their arms and
In the accompanying memorandum Martin argued that
Great Britain did not have the right of perfect possession over
the settlement of Belize and that sovereignty in effect belonged
to Guatemala; Guatemala, however, was convinced of the
expediency of recognizing accomplished facts and believed she
might obtain advantages worth more to her"6 than the
'restitution' of possession and sovereignty over the territory
which was the subject of the present negotiation. She was,
therefore, prepared 'to recognize the present boundaries of the
settlement of Belize as definitive'. In return the British Govern-
ment should 'indemnify the republic for its renunciation of the
sovereignty which legally belongs to it over all the territory
which formerly formed the concessions made by the King of
Spain in 1783 and 1786', as well as for later 'encroachments'.
65 Memorandum on the Question of Boundaries between Guatemala and
British Honduras communicated by Mr. Martin, o July 1857, F.O. 15/96.
Printed, not quite accurately and there dated 17 July, in White Book, p. 79. The
draft treaty accompanying the memorandum is not printed in the White Book, but
is inJos. Luis Mendoza, Inglaterray sus Pactossobre Belice (Guatemala, I942), p. 127.
e Not, as stated in the White Book, 'worth as much'.
74 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
Such indemnity might be monetary, but Guatemala would
prefer it in the form of 'a guarantee against the external
dangers' threatening the republic from bandits and filibusters.
The Guatemalan Government subsequently approved this
memorandum and draft treaty. 67
Meanwhile the Foreign Office had also prepared a draft
treaty on the lines of the Stevenson-Martin conversations. This,
of course, made not the slightest reference to 'compensation',
and its preamble merely stated that the boundaries between the
British settlement and possessions in the Bay of Honduras and
the territories of the Republic of Guatemala had not been
marked out. The draft articles"8 defined these boundaries 'as
they existed on the Ist January, 1850, and have continued to
exist up to the present time' in precisely the terms of the
Stevenson memorandum acquiesced in by Martin, with the
exception thatifthe intersection or parallel of theBlue Creekwere
found to lie within the territory of Guatemala it was stated that
the western line between Guatemala and British Honduras
should (not might) be extended to the Guatemalan-Yucatecan
This draft, like Stevenson's earlier draft, proposed a line
which would circumscribe the whole of the British territory,
not merely such as bordered on Guatemala. But Stevenson had
urged that a treaty with Guatemala would be 'quite imperfect'
unless the boundaries were accepted also by Mexico in a
separate but similar treaty, and that conversations should be
held therefore with the Mexican representative in London.69
This was General Almonte, who had arrived in London in
December 1856, as Minister Plenipotentiary after, in September
1856, the British charge d'affairesin Mexico City had temporarily
suspended political relations with the Mexican Government as
the result of the treatment accorded to a British consular official.
Now convinced that the Guatemalan negotiation should be
accompanied or followed by one with Mexico, Clarendon, on
27 June 1857, wrote to Almonte, reminding him of the desire
expressed by his own Government in 1854 to enter into a
boundary negotiation and stating that the subject had lately
67 Aycinena to Martin, 2 Sept. 1857, White Book, p. 83.
68 Draft of Convention, July 1857, F.O. 15/96. Also in F.O. 15/114, dated
1' Stevenson to Clarendon, 24June 1857, F.O. 15/96.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 75
freshly attracted the attention of the British Government. The
British Government, he declared, would now be happy to enter
into negotiations and for this purpose he asked Almonte to see
The two men met on 29 June, and Stevenson then explained
the proposals which had been made to Martin and illustrated
the circle of boundary in which Martin had acquiesced. He
proposed that Mexico should also adopt and acquiesce in these
lines, and further that Mexico and Guatemala should unite in
adjusting their precise point of conjunction on the frontier of
the British possessions. All three parties should appoint com-
missioners to carry the treaty into effect, to mark the lines, and
to open them where necessary.71 Almonte, for his part, stated
that he knew that Mexico would be glad to assist in an amicable
adjustment, but that he had no specific instructions and would
have to ask for them,72 and on i July the British representative
in Mexico was instructed to inform the Mexican Government
that it was hoped Almonte would be given full powers.73 No
such full powers, however, were forthcoming, and in August
1858 Almonte presented his letters of recall.74 Negotiations
with Mexico thereupon lapsed.
Meanwhile, in July 1857, the decision had been taken to do
no more in any treaty either with Guatemala or with Mexico
than to describe the frontier so far as it might march with each
republic.75 Stevenson sketched out, therefore, the outlines of
separate boundaries for a Guatemalan and a Mexican treaty. In
both all reference to a sea frontier was omitted. For Guatemala
the line again followed the line described by Stevenson to
Martin and acquiesced in by him, but defined the western
boundary north of Garbutt's Falls simply as a continuing line
drawn due north.7 With Mexico the line to be stipulated for
was the course of the Hondo and Blue Creek until intersected
"0 Clarendon to Almonte, 27 June 1857, F.O. 50/327; Hammond to Stevenson,
27 June 1857, F.O. 50/328.
71 Stevenson to Clarendon, 29 June 1857, F.O. 50/317.
72 Ibid.; Almonte to Clarendon, 29 June 1857, F.O. 50/316.
73 Clarendon to Lettsom, I July 1857, F.O. 50/305.
"7 Almonte to Malmesbury, 7 Aug. 1858, F.O. 50/327. Mexico, of course, was
at this time in the grip of civil war.
75 Stevenson to Clarendon, 14 July 1857, F.O. 15/96.
7' Bergne, in the Foreign Office, added the note: 'Yes, until it strikes Blue Creek
or a line drawn due west from the head or source of Blue Creek.'
76 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
by the northern line from Garbutt's Falls. If the Blue Creek were
not intersected by such a line, then the Mexican boundary was
to continue up the Blue Creek to its source and thence along
a connecting line to the Guatemalan line due north from
When, in the following October, Sir William Gore Ouseley
was sent to Washington with instructions to settle all the out-
standing Central American questions, including the boundary
line with Guatemala, it was this new outline by Stevenson that
was given him.78 Subsequently, however, a modified draft of
treaty articles was prepared, in accordance with Stevenson's
recommendation, the line being made to run from the mouth
of the River Sarstoon 'and proceeding up the mid-channel
thereof to Gracias a Dios Falls; then turning to the right, and
continuing by a line drawn direct from Gracias a Dios Falls to
Garbutt's Falls on the River Belize, and from Garbutt's Falls
due north until it strikes the Mexican frontier'.79
This was the draft sent to Wyke in February 1859, and Lord
Malmesbury then explained that the boundary line was not
exactly the same in terms as the line described by Stevenson to
Martin in that it had been deemed unnecessary to describe the
sea frontier or any more of the land frontier than that which
related to Guatemala, and, secondly, in that the continuation of
the boundary northwards from Garbutt's Falls was now merely
described as a due-north line to the Mexican frontier, without
any mention of the Blue Creek.80 This last alteration, Malmes-
bury added, had been introduced to make the line as simple
and clear as possible.81
The Ouseley mission, in October 1857, had meanwhile led to
the suspension of negotiations in London. Martin, who had
formed the very clear impression that the British Government
was certainly not prepared to admit his 'compensatory' ideas,
whether pecuniary or otherwise, into any boundary negotiations,
had returned to Paris in August 1857, there to await fresh
Stevenson to Clarendon, 4 July 1857, F.O. 15/96.
78 Clarendon to Ouseley, 30 Oct. 1857, enclosure. Printed in Correspondence
respecting Central America, z856-6o, p. 51.
70 Draft articles, dated Dec. 1858, in F.O. 15/114, with corrections.
80 Malmesbury to Wyke, 16 Feb. 1859, F.O. 15/io6. See also Correspondence
respecting Central America, I856-6o, p. 175.
81 It was also thought that it would have the effect of throwing the line rather
further to the west. Hamnmond to Merivale, 16June 1859, F.O. 15/1r 4.
Preliminaries to the Anglo-Guatemalan Convention 77
instructions,82 and in January 1858 the Guatemalan Govern-
ment informed him of the purposes of Ouseley's mission and in
effect suspended his own.83 In July 1858, after great delay in
Washington, Ouseley was at last instructed to proceed to
Central America, and in February 1859 the Guatemalan
negotiations were taken from his hands and entrusted to Wyke."8
There is one further point to be added. In these preliminary
conversations with Martin and these preparations for the draft
treaty with Guatemala, Great Britain stoutly refused to recognize
that the question of compensation to Guatemala could arise.
To induce her the more easily to agree to the proposed
boundaries, however, it was suggested that Wyke should
negotiate also a new treaty of commerce and navigation, into
which articles would be inserted guaranteeing the neutrality of,
and promising to protect, any line of inter-oceanic communica-
tion through the territory of Guatemala. Such an article was
inserted into the commercial treaty signed with Nicaragua in
186o. The draft of a treaty was prepared in July 1858,85 but
when the matter was considered in February 1859, Lord
Malmesbury thought it inexpedient to enter into any such
engagements; the draft articles, it was felt, would apply to a
state of things which no longer existed; and, in the circumstances,
it appeared better to propose no new treaty of commerce at all.86
a Martin to Aycinena, 15 Sept., 14 Nov. 1857, White Book, pp. 85, 89, 91.
es Aycinena to Martin, 2 Jan. 1858, ibid. p. 94.
84 See ante, p. 58.
Draft of Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, between Her
Majesty and the Republic of Guatemala, July 1858, F.O. 15/107.
"s Memorandum by Bergne, i4 Jan. 1859, F.O. 15/r 14; Minute by Bergne on
Malmesbury to Wyke (not sent), Feb. 1859, F.O. 15/101.
CONVENTION OF 1859
THE 'Convention between Her Majesty and the Republic
of Guatemala, relative to the Boundary of British
Honduras', was signed at Guatemala City by Charles
Lennox Wyke and Pedro de Aycinena, the Guatemalan Foreign
Minister, on 30 April 1859. It contained eight articles, of which
the first six were identical with the draft articles given to Wyke
and presented by him to Aycinena. Article i declared that
the boundary between the Republic and the British Settlement and
Possessions in the Bay of Honduras, as they existed previous to and
on the Ist day of January, 1850, and have continued to exist up to
the present time, was, and is, as follows:
Beginning at the mouth of the River Sarstoon in the Bay of
Honduras, and proceeding up the mid-channel thereof to Gracias
a Dios Falls; then turning to the right and continuing by a line
drawn direct from Gracias a Dios Falls to Garbutt's Falls on the
River Belize, and from Garbutt's Falls due north until it strikes the
The territory to the north and east of this line was declared to
belong to Great Britain, that to the south and west to Guatemala.
This Article, therefore, constituted a clear recognition of a pre-
existing frontier and a pre-existing sovereignty. Article 2
provided for the appointment of commissioners for the purpose
of designating and marking out the boundary. They were to
ascertain the latitude and longitude of Gracias a Dios Falls and
of Garbutt's Falls and to 'cause the line of boundary between
Garbutt's Falls and the Mexican territory to be opened and
marked where necessary, as protection against future trespass'
Articles 3, 4, and 5 regulated the procedure of the commissioners.
Article 6 provided that the channels in the water-line of
boundary should be free and open to the ships of both parties,
and Article 8 stated that ratifications should be exchanged as
soon as possible within the space of six months.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of i859 79
Article 7, however, was completely new and was admitted by
Wyke into the Convention on his own responsibility. It read
Article VII. With the object of practically carrying out the views
set forth in the preamble of the present Convention, for improving
and perpetuating the friendly relations which at present so happily
exist between the two High Contracting Parties, they mutually
agree conjointly to use their best efforts, by taking adequate means
for: establishing the easiest communication (either by means of a
cart-road, or employing the rivers, or both united, according to the
opinion of the surveying engineers), between the fittest place on the
Atlantic Coast, near the Settlement of Belize, and the capital of
Guatemala; whereby the commerce of England on the one hand,
and the material prosperity of the Republic on the other, cannot
fail to be sensibly increased, at the same time that the limits of the
two countries being now clearly defined, all further encroachments
by either party on the territory of the other will be effectually
checked and prevented for the future.
This Article was to be the source of prolonged and bitter
dispute. The Guatemalan Government has contended that the
Convention of 1859 was not what it purported to be, a boundary
treaty, but a disguised treaty of cession, and that Article 7 was
inserted to compensate Guatemala for her recognition of
British sovereignty over the territory occupied by virtue of the
Anglo-Spanish treaties of 1783 and 1786 and for her cession to
Britain of the territory which lay to the west of these treaty lines
and of that which lay to the south, between the Sib6n and the
Sarstoon. This oblique procedure, the argument runs, was
adopted in order to conceal the fact that Great Britain was
gaining an extension of territory in Central America in violation
of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850.
The British Government has never admitted these contentions.
It denies, in the first place, that Guatemala had any title to
sovereignty over the territory covered by the Anglo-Spanish
treaties of 1783 and 1786. Secondly, it denies that Guatemala
had any title to sovereignty over any part of the territory out-
side the old treaty lines but included in the present territory of
the colony of British Honduras. In no part of this territory
had Guatemala ever established possession, or, as an independent
state, exercised sovereignty in any other respect. Thirdly, it
80 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
denies that there was any violation, open or concealed, of the
Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. The Belize settlement had been
excluded from the stipulations of that instrument, and, in any
event, de facto possession of the present area of British Honduras
had been established before the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was
signed. The Convention of 1859, therefore, was not a treaty of
cession, but, as it was properly termed, a boundary treaty, and
the lines of boundary had been acquiesced in by the Guatemalan
Minister in London two years before. If any cession took place
in 1859, it was not a cession of territory or a cession ofsovereignty,
but simply the surrender of an extremely dubious claim to
territory on the part of Guatemala which had never been
admitted by Great Britain, or, indeed, recognized by Spain.
It cannot, however, be denied that Article 7 was the induce-
ment to Guatemala to sign the Convention. Wyke's instructions
were explicit. He was, he was told, to be 'exceedingly careful
not to accept any part of the proposed boundary as a cession
from the Republic of Guatemala, or to accept, as it were, a title
to any part of the British occupation from the Republic' The
United States, it was explained, had contended that the tract
of territory between the Sibin and the Sarstoon formed a part
of Central America, as having been included in the ancient
kingdom of Guatemala, and that under the Clayton-Bulwer
Treaty Great Britain was bound to withdraw from that district,
without reference to her title to it, good or bad. The British
Government, the instructions continued, did not accept this
view of the case. It had been explicitly stated that the engage-
ments of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty did not apply to the
settlement at Honduras, or to its dependencies.
But in order to show that in the adjustment of the boundary now
contemplated, Her Majesty's Government seek for nothing whatever
beyond what was in their occupation at the time of the signature of
the Bulwer-Clayton Treaty, and is therefore covered by the
Declaration made on the exchange of the ratifications of that Treaty,
it is placed on record in the first paragraph of the Draft Convention
that the boundary thereinafter defined is such as existed previously
to and on the ist of January, 1850; that is, previously to the
conclusion of the Bulwer-Clayton Treaty. It is, in short, absolutely
necessary that the line of boundary to be established by the proposed
Convention should be therein described, not as involving any
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of 859 81
cession or new acquisition from the Republic of Guatemala (in
which case the United States might contend that Great Britain had
violated the self-denying clause of the Treaty of 1850), but, as it is in
fact, simply as the definition of a boundary long existing, but not
Wyke acknowledged these instructions on 31 March, pointing
out that here would consist the great difficulty of his negotiations.
The Guatemalans he wrote, were 'well aware of the encroach-
ments which have been gradually made on their territory by
the wood-cutters and settlers of Belize, and this Government
will, I know, claim compensation, if required to cede territory
so encroached upon, before they acknowledge our right to the
limits of the Settlement as now existing .' If this difficulty
were to be overcome, then, it would be in great measure
because of friendly feelings towards Great Britain 'as well also
as from the hope that such concessions, if made,' would be duly
appreciated by the British Government.2
Thus partially admitting in his own mind what the British
Government did not admit, namely, the validity of the
Guatemalan claim, Wyke confidentially showed his instructions
to Aycinena, who, according to his own account, set forth 'the
justice' of Guatemalan 'rights' and asked 'some compensation
for their abandonment'. After several conferences the two men
agreed on the addition of Article 7 which, in Aycinena's view,
contained 'a compensation for the abandonment of our rights
to the territories unlawfully occupied by the settlers of Belize'.3
Wyke himself, in reporting his work, explained that his
'difficulty' had proved even greater than he had anticipated
because of the 'constant opposition' of President Carrera, 'who
would not hear of unconditionally surrendering what he called
his country's rights to the greater portion of the territory now
actually occupied by our wood-cutters in the Settlement'. 'As,
in point of fact', he continued, 'we have no legal right beyond
that of actual possession to the tract of country between the
Rivers Sibiin and Sarstoon, which formerly belonged to the
ancient kingdom of Guatemala, this opposition was the more
difficult to be overcome' without agreeing to some form of
1 Malmesbury to Wyke, 16 Feb. 1859, F.O. 15/114. In part printed in Correspon-
dence respecting Central America, r856-6o, p. 171.
2 Wyke to Malinesbury, 31 March 1859, F.O. 15/106.
a Aycinena to Martin, 3 May 1859, White Book, p. 102.
82 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
compensation, which would have been contrary to his
Under these circumstances it became evident to him that his
negotiations would fail unless he could find some 'inducement'
for the Guatemalans to agree to the Convention, which would
not, at the same time, be open to the objection 'of receiving, as
it were, a title to any part of the British occupation' from
Guatemala. It struck him, therefore, that as Guatemalan
commerce with 'Belize and the Atlantic coast generally' had
been falling off because of the easier means of communication
between Guatemala City and the Pacific port of San Jos6, 'the
compensation' which the Guatemalans claimed might in some
sort be afforded through British aid 'in the construction of a
practicable cart-road to the port of Izabal on the Atlantic coast,
whereby the old commercial relations with Belize would be
renewed, and both Contracting Parties mutually benefited,
without either appearing to receive a favour from the other'
Britain, he pointed out, was rapidly losing the carrying trade
of Guatemala to American steamers on the Pacific, and it was,
therefore, 'important, if possible, to turn the course of trade
again into its old channels'; and when, at the same time, Great
Britain could succeed 'in acquiring a good and legal title' to
the settlement of Belize, 'the want of which at present forms our
weakest point in the whole Central American question', it
seemed to Wyke that he was justified in somewhat exceeding his
instructions. He therefore did not hesitate to accept this
responsibility, and, by so doing, at length succeeded in getting
the Guatemalan Government 'to accept the Convention word
for word, and without a single alteration, on the condition that
an Additional Article should be added to it'-Article 7.4
4 Wyke to Malmesbury, 30 April 1859, F.O. 15/114. Extracts from this despatch
were printed in Correspondence respecting Central America, M856-60, p. 250, but not the
more confidential parts, and the text of the despatch was itself emended, the words
'could . establish the limits of our Settlement of Belize' being substituted for the
phrase 'could succeed in acquiring a good and legal title to our Settlement
of Belize'. At a later date Wyke described his proceedings thus: 'I was desired .
to negotiate a treaty worded in such a way as to deprive the American Govern-
ment of the argument they were constantly bringing forward as to our illegal
tenure of the lands lying between the Rivers Sibdn and Sarstoon; and in this I
should have utterly failed, had it not been for this very road-making stipulation,
for the Guatemalan Govermnent, sustained by that of the United States, obstinately
asserted their right to all the territory up to the Sibdn'. Wyke to Russell, 7 Feb.
186o, F.O. 15/114.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of 1859 83
It is possible to criticize with severity the extent to which
Wyke seems, tacitly if not formally, to have admitted the
validity of Guatemalan claims. It is possible also to dispute his
doubts as to Britain's 'good and legal' title to the settlement of
Belize. But it is not possible to controvert his reading of
Article 7. It may properly be argued that no cession of territory
took place in 1859, but it cannot be denied that Article 7 was
the inducement under which the Guatemalan Government
signed the treaty, and that, from the Guatemalan point of view,
it was a compensation for the abandonment of a claim to
territory. By it, therefore, the British Government incurred both
a legal and a moral obligation, and in 1862 the Under-Secretary
of State for Foreign Affairs did in fact admit the compensatory
character of the Article when, in explaining the Convention to
the House of Commons, he stated that Wyke had encountered
considerable opposition to its draft terms, that 'in return for
certain concessions' the Guatemalan Government asked for an
'equivalent', and that this equivalent took the shape of
Article 7, however, did not contemplate a gift by one
contracting party to another but an obligation to be jointly
performed. The parties mutually agreed conjointlyy to use their
best efforts, by taking adequate means for establishing the
easiest communication' by means of a cart-road, or employing
the rivers, or both united, 'between the fittest place on the
Atlantic Coast, near the Settlement of Belize, and the capital
of Guatemala .' It is plain that by the 'Settlement of Belize'
was meant not the town but the settlement as a whole. The
cart-road which Wyke had in mind was a road from Guatemala
City to Izabal, all of which would be in Guatemalan territory.
It is less clear that the British Government at first appreciated
this fact. Lord John Russell, who had succeeded Malmesbury
as Foreign Secretary, in giving instructions for the exchange of
ratifications of the Convention, referred to the road as 'a line of
communication between the capital of the Republic and the
coast of the Atlantic, at or near Belize,'0 and in writing to the
Colonial Office in December 1859 the Foreign Office spoke of
the road as though it were to run from Guatemala City to the
A. H. Layard, 16 May 1862, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, clxvi, cols. 1829-32.
Russell to Acting Consul-General Hall, 30 June 1859, F.O. 15/ 14.
84 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
'coast of Belize'.7 The Colonial Office was constrained to remark
that 'it does not appear that the projected road will in any way
connect Guatemala with the town of Belize, or with any part of
British Honduras, or that it will touch British territory at all',
and it professed itself unable to see how it would affect the pros-
perity of the settlement except 'in the most indirect manner'.8
The language employed in Article 7 did not, in point of fact,
suggest that the road was intended to benefit the settlement of
Belize. Both contracting parties were, of course, to derive
advantages; but the words used were 'the commerce of England
on the one hand, and the material prosperity of the Republic
on the other' This was sufficiently wide. But Wyke certainly
believed that the road would conduce to the prosperity of
Belize. It would, he thought, divert Guatemalan commerce
from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and remove the carrying trade
from American to English hands. Izabal was not a deep-water
port and would, he believed, be dependent on the port of
Belize for shipping. At the same time Wyke thought that the
road would not only carry British commerce to the capital of a
large and prosperous republic, but would indirectly increase it
with the neighboring states of El Salvador and Honduras,9 and
would become the best transit route across the isthmus.10 It may
be argued that benefit to British Honduras, other than by the
establishment of the boundaries of the settlement, was only
incidentally envisaged in Article 7, but Wyke undoubtedly
thought of such benefit as accruing to and flowing from 'the
commerce of England'.
What meaning, however, was to be attached to the declaration
that the two contracting parties 'mutually' agreed conjointlyy
to use their best efforts' to establish the proposed means of
communication? And why was the wording of the whole of
Article 7 so imprecise? The explanation was furnished by
Wyke himself in 1861:
7 Wodehouse to Merivale, 7 Dec. 1859, F.O. 15/114. See also the minutes on
Wyke to Bergne, 30 Sept. 1859, F.O. 15/1o6, which abundantly show that in
September the Foreign Office thought that the road would pass through British as
well as Guatemalan territory.
8 Merivale to Wodehouse, 22 Dec. 1859, F.O. 15/114.
Memorandum by Sir C. Wyke, 28 March 1861, F.O. 15/115. See also Wyke
to Malmesbury, 30 April 1859, F.O. 15/114, and Superintendent Seymour to
Elliot, 12 April 186o, in Elliot to Hammond, 3 May 186o, F.O. 15/114.
10 Wyke to Bergne, 30 Sept. 1859, F.O. 15/10o6.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of 1859 85
As the wording of the Article having reference to the road was
purposely left very vague, in order to prevent the United States
Government from asserting that by this clause we had bribed that
of Guatemala to cede their right to the 500 square leagues of territory
to which we gained a legal title by this Convention, it was understood
between Don Pedro and myself that I was verbally to explain to
Her Majesty's Government, that our co-operation in this matter was
to be effective, in the shape of pecuniary and scientific assistance,
given to enable them to execute a work which, without such help,
their want of means would not have enabled them to undertake.1,
This understanding between Wyke and Aycinena was,
therefore, part of the inducement to Guatemala to sign the
Convention of 1859. It constituted an obligation as binding
morally as the Convention itself was binding legally, and the
British Government, when it learnt of it, regarded it in this
light.12 It was, however, to prove a glaring example of the
dangers inherent in unwritten agreements. Wyke briefly
returned to England in the summer of 1859 at a time when
Lord Derby's Administration was being replaced by Lord
Palmerston's. He saw both Palmerston and the new Foreign
Secretary, Lord John Russell,13 but it is plain that he made
neither of them understand the meaning and intention of
Article 7. Nor was it, apparently, till February 186o that he
revealed the terms of his understanding with Aycinena, and he
then stated that 'we thought that a roughly made and practical
cart-road would be established by the two Governments
conjointly, Guatemala furnishing the materials, we the scientific
direction of the works, and both parties equally paying the
labourers .'14 Later he explained, more fully, that
it was agreed on between us, that both Governments should co-
operate in carrying out this work as follows: viz., England was to
furnish all required for its scientific direction and practical operation
n' Memorandum of what passed verbally between Sir C. Wyke and Don Pedro
de Aycinena respecting the Road-making Article of the Convention of 30 April
1859, dated 29 March 1861, F.O. 15/ 115.
See post p. 90o. Russell to Acting Consul-General Hall, 7 April 186o, F.O.
x3 See Wyke's letter to Aycinena ofJuly 1859, quoted in Aycinena's memorandum
of 26 Oct. 1867, White Book, p. 307.
Wyke to Russell, 7 Feb. 186o, F.O. 15/114. See also Wyke to Aycinena,
25 Feb. i86o, F.O. 15/ 114, which expresses the same view, and Wyke to Aycincna,
'6 Aug. I86o, White Book, p. 161.
86 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
in all matters therewith concerned, that is to say, skilled] labour,
defraying the expense of the same: whilst Guatemala was to provide
all the materials which the country produced for the construction
of the road, and as many labourers as were necessary for carrying it
out, the wages of the latter being defrayed equally by both Govern-
ments. These men were to be paid at government contract prices,
that is to say, 3 reals, or is. 6d. a day, for each man . At the time
the treaty was signed, Don Pedro and myself estimated the expense
of thus constructing the road at 80,000oo, or at most i 00,000.15
Aycinena's recollection of the terms of the understanding was
different. It was that the British Government should bear not
half the cost of payment for the labour on the road, but the
whole. He expressed this view to the Guatemalan Chamber of
Representatives in January i86o, at a time when Wyke was
absent in Nicaragua,16 in a confidential letter to the Guatemalan
Minister at Paris and London in May i86o,17 and, later, in
correspondence with Wyke's successor, George Mathew, when
he argued that Britain was bound to pay not a proportion of
the expense of making the road, but an approximate sum of
8o,ooo or oo100,ooo.18 The Wyke-Aycinena understanding,
therefore, turned out to be a misunderstanding. Possibly it was
a genuine misunderstanding. Yet it is curious that when, in
April and May 1859, the Guatemalan Council of State discussed
the Convention, one of the grounds on which it was criticized
was that while Great Britain was to bear half the cost of building
the road, there was no guarantee that she would do so.19 Half
the cost was nearer to Wyke's interpretation of the agreement
than to Aycinena's. The Council could only have been informed
of the Wyke-Aycinena understanding by Aycinena, yet the
terms put before it were apparently not those which Aycinena
later maintained to be the correct terms. However negligent
Wyke may have been, therefore, there would seem to be a
strong probability that Aycinena's 'recollection' of the terms of
the understanding changed between the meeting of the Council
of State in April 1859 and his communication to the Chamber
26 Memorandum by Sir C. Wyke, 29 March 1861, F.O. 15/115.
16 Mathew to Russell, 6July 1862, F.O. 15/143. See also post, p. 88.
17 Aycinena to Martin, I May i86o, White Book, p. r51. See also Aycinena's
memorandum in Aycinena to Martin, 2 Sept. 1861, ibid. p. 176.
18 Aycinena to Mathew, 17 May 1862, White Book, p. 196.
10 Ibid. pp. 113-19. See also Panama Star and Herald, 30 Aug. 1859.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of i859 87
of Representatives in January 86o.20 Not only was it doubtful
whether Guatemala could, in fact, provide her share of the funds,
but the Convention itself had met with strong criticism. Possibly
Aycinena's 'recollection' was somewhat coloured by these facts.
Ratifications of the Convention were exchanged on 12
September 1859, before the British Government had learnt of
these verbal arrangements; and on that occasion the Acting
Consul-General in Guatemala, William Hall, was instructed
to state that the British Government fully approved of the
Article admitted into the Convention by Wyke, at the desire of
the Guatemalan Government, and to convey its wish to be made
acquainted with the views of the Guatemalan Government as to
the best means of carrying it into effect.21 Aycinena, in reply,
suggested that two engineers should be sent out to survey the
proposed line of communication in the following November and
December. When the survey was complete the Guatemalan
Government would state its ideas on the manner in which the
building of the road could be carried out.22
In Guatemala, meanwhile, the Convention had met with
strong opposition. It was criticized in the Council of State on
the ground not only that it ceded to Great Britain 500 square
leagues or more of Guatemalan territory, but also that while
Great Britain was to bear half the cost of making the road, there
was no guarantee that she would do so, and no means of
compelling her to do so.23 Eventually, however, the Council
ratified the Convention by a majority of three. In January
i86o Aycinena laid it, together with a justificatory report
intended to disarm his opponents, before the Chamber of
Representatives; and if Wyke had been inclined to admit the
"o Wyke himself leaned to this explanation. 'The fact is', he wrote in 1861,
'that after my departure from Guatemala, this Government had the greatest
difficulty in passing the Treaty through the Chambers, and thus, in order to
overcome the resistance of the Opposition, Don Pedro put the matter before them
in as favourable a light as he possibly could, and asserting with this end in view that
we were bound to defray all the expense of the construction up to the sum of
100,000 but not beyond it. Now I never agreed anything of the sort, for even out
of this sum, apart from the question of labour, they would have to furnish all the
materials for the construction to be found in the country. . .' Wyke to Hammond,
17 April 186r, F.O. 15/i13.
n' Russell to Hall, 30 June 1859, F.O. 15/114.
2l Hall to Russell, 20o Sept. 1859, F.O. 15/114.
23 Voto de Dr. Don Pedro Valenzuela en el Consejo de Estado de Guatemala,
I May 1859g, F.O. 15/114; lVhite Book, pp. 113-19.
88 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
validity of Guatemala's claim to the territories, outside the old
treaty lines, into which the Belize settlers had advanced,
Aycinena exposed its weakness. Though Guatemala regarded
herself as inheriting the rights of Spain, these territories, he
wrote, had been 'abandoned by Spain herself'. They had never
been in the actual possession of Guatemala, nor had she
'exercised any act of sovereignty' over them. British occupation,
on the other hand, had begun even before Central America
became independent, and it was impossible to determine what
had been occupied before that date and what after. In any
event, the territorial loss to Guatemala was trifling compared,
Aycinena clearly implied, to the importance of defining the
boundaries of the Belize settlement and of putting an end to
Anglo-American dissensions, and to Guatemala's interest also
in possessing as her neighbour in the Gulf of Honduras a great
and responsible nation instead of what would have become,
had Britain withdrawn from Belize, 'a nest of irresponsible
adventurers and pirates' impossible to control. Finally, Guate-
mala had gained British co-operation in the construction of a
road, which the President believed would be of immense benefit
to her agriculture and commerce, it being understood that
Britain would supply the engineers and the 'medios pecuniarios',
Guatemala the materials and the labourers.24
In the event, the Chamber, on 30 January, approved the
Convention, at the same time expressing the hope that the
agreement respecting the road would be carried into effect
with as little delay as possible. Communicating this decision to
Wyke in Nicaragua, Aycinena asked for Wyke's views on the
manner in which Guatemala and Great Britain might 'come
to an agreement for carrying into effect this expressed stipulation,
conformably with what passed between us in conversation on
this matter', and Wyke, in reply, gave his version of the under-
standing, namely, that Great Britain should furnish scientific
direction, Guatemala the materials and the labour, and that
both parties should contribute to the payment of the workmen.25
24 [Aycinena] to Secretaries of Chamber of Representatives, 4 Jan. 1860,
printed in W. M. Clegern, 'A Guatemalan Defense of the British I-Ionduias
Boundary of 1859', Hispanic American Historical Review, xl (1960), 570-81. See also
Mathew to Russell, 6 July 1862, F.O. 15/143, and ante, pp. 86-87.
26 White Book, pp. 121-3, i46; Aycinena to Wyke, 3 Feb. 186o; Wyke to
Aycinena, a5 Feb. i86o, F.O. 15/114. Not printed in the White Book.
The Anglo-Guatemalan Convention of 1859 89
At this point a misunderstanding took place. The Guatemalan
Government, in September, had asked that engineers should
be sent out to survey the road in November or December, and
Wyke had urged this course. Incidentally, he had pointed out
that the expense of road building might be greatly diminished
by using the course of the Motagua River.26 These communica-
tions, together with the news of the exchange of ratifications,
did not reach England till late in November, and it was then
too late to meet the Guatemalan Government's request. On
15 December, however, within three weeks of their arrival,
Lord John Russell informed Hall that Captain Henry Wray, of
the Royal Engineers, had been selected both to mark out the
line of boundary between Guatemala and British Honduras and
to survey the proposed line of communication. But so completely
was the Government ignorant of the Wyke-Aycinena under-
standing, that Hall was also told
not to let the Guatemalan Government entertain any expectation
that Her Majesty's Government will incur any expense whatever in
the actual construction of the road or other communication through
the Guatemalan territory. While Her Majesty's Government are
happy to furnish them with scientific assistance to guide them in
determining the best direction for the projected line of communica-
tion, and the best mode of its execution, the actual carrying out of
the operation through the territory of Guatemala must, of course,
rest with the Government of the Republic.27
In writing to Wyke, a few days later, to reassure him that
arrangements were being made for the survey, Russell explained
that he had thought it prudent to give these instructions to Hall
because the Government could not suppose 'that it was in the
contemplation of the Plenipotentiaries' who signed the Conven-
tion 'that Great Britain should take upon herself to defray the cost
of the actual operation'.28 He added, however, that the Govern-
ment were, of course, prepared to carry out the obligations con-
tracted under Article 7 to the fullest extent that they applied.
These instructions arrived while the Convention was being
debated by the Guatemalan House of Representatives, and so
apprehensive was Hall of the effect which their communication
Wyke to Bergne, 30 Sept. 1859, F.O. i5/106.
27 Russell to Hall, 15 Dec. j859, F.O. 15/114.
Russell to Wyke, 31 Dec. 1859, F.O. 15/114.
90 The Diplomatic History of British Honduras
might produce that he withheld them till the Convention had
been approved.29 Wyke himself at once wrote home from
Nicaragua and revealed the engagement which he had entered
into with Aycinena,30 begged the Foreign Office to put matters
right, and pointed out that, in consequence of Hall's instructions,
Aycinena now feared a renewed attack from the opposition and
dreaded a breach of good faith on the part of Great Britain.31 As
a result, on 7 April, Russell instructed Hall
to inform the Guatemalan Government that, whatever view Her
Majesty's Government may have taken of the meaning and intention
of the 7th Article of the Treaty, and however onerous and unusual
may be the stipulation that Great Britain should contribute to the
expense of constructing a road, no portion of which, it is believed,
will pass through British territory, Her Majesty's Government have
no desire to recede from an engagement which, it appears, was
accepted on their behalf by the British Plenipotentiary. The Treaty
with Guatemala has been ratified by the Queen, and Her Majesty's
Government will honourably fulfil its obligations.32
With this explanation Aycinena, in May, professed himself
The substance of the 1859 Convention had meanwhile been
communicated to General Cass, the Secretary of State of the
United States, and Cass had observed that the account was
'just what he expected' and 'completely satisfactory'.34
Misapprehending the views of his Government, however, the
United States Minister Resident in Guatemala and Honduras,
on i October 1859, protested to the Guatemalan Government
against the conclusion of the treaty as a 'clear and palpable
violation' of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, against the conduct
of the Guatemalan Government in concealing from the United
States all knowledge of the negotiations, and against its
recognition of British title and occupancy to the country
designated in the treaty.35
"2 Hall to Russell, 28 Jan. i86o, F.O. 15/114.
a0 Wyke to Russell, 7 Feb. 186o, F.O. 15/114.
3s Wyke to Russell, 26 Feb. 186o, F.O. 15/114.
32 Russell to Hall, 7 April i86o, F.O. 15/114.
33 Hall to Russell, 25 May i86o, F.O. 15/1 14.
84 Lyons to Russell, 2 Aug. 1859, Correspondence respecting Central America, 1856-6o,
a" Beverly L. Clarke to Aycinena, I Oct. 1859, Manning, Diplomatic Correspon-
dence, iv. 773, f.