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THE LATER AMERICAN POLICY OF GEORGE

CANNING

The figure of Canning has hardly yet emerged from the mists of contemporary eulogy or depreciation. The policy of the man, of whom Lord Acton said " that no English Foreign Secretary equalled Canning ”, has not yet been fully understood even in its broad outlines. In America the greatness of the man is recognized, but the actual details of his policy are still somewhat obscure. His exact relations and concern with the Monroe doctrine are still not absolutely clear; and if this is the case with regard to that important phase of policy, it is still more the case with regard to his later diplomatic work. The old idea about Canning, expressed and championed by Stapleton, was that he was practically the author and suggester of the Monroe doctrine. The brilliant deductions of Mr. Reddaway, combined with the later research of Mr. W. C. Ford, have done much to define the limits and extent of his contribution to that memorable stroke of policy. It is at least clear that the Monroe doctrine had, in many important respects, been already formulated by American statesmen. Canning admitted the United States to be the leading power in America. Further, he rendered her an essential service in forcing Polignac, by a threat of war on October 9, 1823, to disclaim any idea of French aggression or influence to restore the revolted colonies to Spain. The publication of the presi

. dential message on December 2, 1823, aided Canning materially in his European policy, because the European powers took that message in the sense of an unqualified support of British policy by the United States. But it is now known that Canning disapproved of that part of the presidential message which contained the first statement of the Monroe doctrine, when it announced that the continent of America would in future be closed to colonization by European powers. What is not known is how strong were his feelings on this point, and the means and policy by which he designed to render inoperative this part of the Monroe doctrine.

The object of the present article is to show that the later American policy of George Canning was intended to defeat certain claims and pretensions of the Monroe doctrine. These were the principle which forbade future colonization in America to European powers, and the principle which tended to make America a separate world from Europe. The motives which led Canning to recognize the Spanish-American republics, to send an envoy to the congress of Panama, and to take up a firm attitude on the Oregon question were all influenced and indeed conditioned by this idea. Adams, in formulating the presidential message, had denied the right of any European power to intervene in Spanish America, expressly on the ground of the withdrawal of Americans from European interests. Canning himself asserted the doctrine of non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, and was the great foe of the Holy Alliance, which desired so to intervene. His great fear was that the world would be divided into a league of worn-out governments in Europe and new and vigorous republics in America. He was resolved therefore that England should maintain active political relations between one continent and the other, and thereby be enabled to enact England's favorite political role of arbiter between conflicting claims or pretensions. Hence he was prepared to introduce America into Europe and Europe into America, to deny the exclusive pretensions of the Holy Alliance to intervene in Spanish America, and check the exclusive pretensions of Adams to place his continent in a water-tight compartment and reserve America for the Americans.

Canning's famous boast that he had " called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old” has often been misunderstood. A recent writer, Colonel E. M. Lloyd, even professes to doubt whether this was really the cause of recognition. There can however be no question of this, for several memoranda on the subject exist. In them are detailed the inconvenience of the French continuing to occupy Spain :

* Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, N. S., XVIII. 93 et seqq.

? Some historians, for example Colonel Lloyd and E. J. Stapleton (Some Official Correspondence of George Canning, 2 vols., 1887, I. 213-214), have been misled by the fact that there were three memoranda : (1) A memorandum, apparently written by Canning, but perhaps corrected by Liverpool, indorsed with his approval, and circulated to the Cabinet (about November 30); see Wellington's Despatches. N. S., II. 354-358, and Charles D. Yonge, Life and Administration of Liverpool (3 vols., 1868), III. 297–304. (2) A memorandum-supplementary and qualifying-circulated in consequence of information received from Granville. It is undated, but must be about December 1-6. (3) A minute, embodying the collective opinion of the Cabinet, laid before the King by Canning on December 14, 1824, together with No. I. This is in A. G. Stapleton, George Canning and his Times (1859), 407-411.

No. 2 is the most interesting, characteristic, and important. It is the memorandum which enabled us to carry Columbia too [as well as Mexico) at the Cabinet". Canning to Granville, December 17, 1824. It is to be found in Vansittart's papers at the British Museum, Ad. MSS. 31, 237, f. 258. So far as I know, its existence, as well as its substance, have hitherto been unknown and 1 Italics my own. Compare with this passage the more unofficial and even more emphatic declaration in the letter of Canning to Frere, January 8, 1825, printed in Gabrielle Festing, John Hookham Frere and his Friends (1899), 267268, and quoted in my Life of Canning (1905). 188: “ The thing is done. ... The Yankees will shout in triumph ; but it is they who lose most by our decision. The great danger of the time—a danger which thc policy of the European System would have fostered, was a division of the World into European and American, Republican and Monarchical ; a league of worn-out Gov[ernmen]ts, on the one hand, and of youthful and st[i]rring Nations, with the U[nited) States at their head, on the other. We slip in between ; and plant ourselves in Mexico. The Un[ited) States have gotten the start of us in vain; and we link once more America to Europe. Six months more—and the mischief would have been done.” Almost every word of this is of immense importance.

The great practical question however* for us seems to be how, in the event of an actual incorporation of the resources of Spain with those of France such an accession to the power of France can best be counteracted. I have no hesitation in saying this must be by a separation of the resources of Spanish America from those of Spain: and it is (at least in this point of view) a fortunate circumstance that this state of things [i. e., the virtual independence of Spanish America] has already taken place; and that we are in a situation to avail ourselves of it.

This is merely a prosaic version of the famous rhetorical phrase. Canning is looking to America to redress the inequalities of Europe. Though this is of some interest as indicating the real cause of Canning's recognition, our purpose is with the American, not the European aspect of that recognition. Canning goes on to advocate the recognition not only of Buenos Ayres, but of Colombia and Mexico, from two motives. One motive is that Colombia and Mexico have English capital sunk in mining and territorial concerns of a more permanent interest than “mere commercial speculations ”. Then comes a passage of immense interest and importance:

The other and perhaps still more powerful motive is my apprehension of the ambition and ascendancy of the U[nited] S[tates] of America] : It is obviously the policy of that Gov[ernmen]t to connect itself with all the powers of America in a general Transatlantic League, of which it would have the sole direction. I need only say how inconvenient such an ascendancy may be in time of peace, and how formidable in case of war.

I believe we now have the opportunity (but it may not last long) of opposing a powerful barrier to the influence of the U[nited] S[tates] by an amicable connection with Mexico,' which from its position must be either subservient to or jealous of the U[nited] S[tates). In point of population and resources it is at least equal to all the rest of the Spanish unsuspected. The memorandum is unsigned; the handwriting appears to be Vansittart's, possibly with two corrections by Canning. The general character of the opinions, agreeing precisely with Canning's letters of the time to Granville, leave no doubt that the real author or inspirer is Canning. Mr. F. L. Paxson, in his able work on The Independence of the South-American Republics (1903), is quite unaware of the existence of this document, and his knowledge of English records is large.

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colonies; and may naturally expect to take the lead in its connections with the powers of Europe. I by no means think it at present necessary to go beyond the mere relations of amity and commercial intercourse; but if we hesitate much longer, and especially if our commercial treaty [July 23, 1824] with Buenos Ayres should not take effect, all the new states will be led to conclude that we regret their friendship upon principle, as of a dangerous and revolutionary character, and will be driven to throw themselves under the protection of the U[nited] S[tates], as the only means of security.

The importance of these words is equal to their emphasis, for they form the key to Canning's future American policy. He resumes that line of secret policy, which the younger Pitt had held in reserve, in order to checkmate any pretensions on the part of the United States. In 1790 Pitt had declared the right of England to Nootka Sound, as against Spain. In 1798, before the Spanish colonies revolted, he had coquetted with Miranda, the first of SpanishAmerican liberators. There can be no doubt that in the latter instance Pitt saw the advantage of keeping up an understanding with South America, in order to check any claims or aggressions of the United States. Canning now, and under different circumstances, resumed this policy. He meant to indicate to the South-American states that their true friend was distant England, not the adjacent English-speaking land.

During his later years commercial disputes and disputes about the slave-trade (in the second of which, at least, Canning did his best to conciliate the United States) served to increase irritation, but would not alone have sufficed to change his attitude. Canning had shown toward the United States diplomatists a large-minded tolerance and a frankness very unusual in diplomacy. He had paid the United States the exquisite compliment of saying that England would model her neutrality during the war between France and Spain on the neutrality toward England shown“ in the presidency of Washington and secretaryship of Jefferson ". Yet American statesmen certainly viewed Canning with undeserved suspicion. The

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Paxson, The Independence of the South-American Republics, 47.

? This policy is indicated, but only indicated, in my Life of Canning, 188. At that time I had not sufficient proofs to state it more emphatically.

The recognition was certainly opportune, it bound closer the new States to England, it restrained the pretensions of the Yankees, and preserved Cuba to Spain. The Panama Congress . . . was overshadowed by Canning, and partly through his influence the alliance between the United States and the South American Republics was never formed."

3 See W. C. Ford, “ John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine ", AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW, VIII. 38, on Adams's suspicions, and see Rush to Adams, November 26, 1823, in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, second series, XV. 430-433.

Both thought Canning did not really desire to separate

failure of his negotiations with Rush in the September of 1823, and the proclamation of the Monroe doctrine, in its original and limited form, in the presidential message of December 2, 1823, alarmed him and revealed to him these suspicions. Henceforward he took up an attitude of opposition, or rather of armed neutrality, prepared to uphold what he conceived to be the claims of England against those of the United States. He was firm and yet cautious and reasonable, and his plan seems to have been to detach the South-American states from alliance with or dependence on the United States.

It will be best to discuss this later aspect of his policy under three heads: first to describe the exact amount of intercourse and diplomatic relation Canning felt England should observe with a SouthAmerican state; secondly to indicate, by a description of his influence on the congress of Panama, his policy toward Spanish America as a whole and its relations to the United States; thirdly to show in what light he regarded the question of Oregon, as affecting other parts of his American policy.

In his instructions given on February 28, 1826,1 to Lord Ponsonby, appointed minister plenipotentiary to Buenos Ayres, Canning defines his view of the normal relations and attitude of England toward Spanish-American states. Ponsonby is to communicate the “anxiety of H[is] M[ajesty's] Governmen]t to restore and preserve peace among the new states of America; or the deep interest, which in the opinion of this Government, those states have, in avoiding to give room, by their differences with each other, for the interference of foreigners in their political concerns ". An embittered quarrel was in progress between Brazil and Buenos Ayres over the possession of Montevideo. In a supplementary despatch of March 18, 1826, Canning discusses the claims of the two governments. Ponsonby is to divert “ the Brazilian Minister from any attempt to change the practical question at issue (the possession of Montevideo] into one of abstract legitimate right”. The Emperor of Brazil had apparently thought of recognizing the "unextinguished rights of Spain " to Montevideo, and thus depriving Buenos Ayres of any claim. Canning therefore instructs Ponsonby as follows: "important as the question of Monte Video may be to the Brazilian Gov[ernmen]t, it is scarcely less important that the discussion of that question should

from the Holy Alliance, whereas that was the main object of all his European policy. I cannot understand Mr. Paxson's contention in his Independence of the South-American Republics, 250, that England's policy was “ legitimist in its real sympathies to the end". In view of the facts now known about Canning's attack upon the Holy Alliance, this seems to me untenable.

* Public Record Office, Foreign Office, Buenos Ayres 12.

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