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Pan-American Conferences

PAN-AMERICAN CONFERENCES. At intervals delegates from the independent countries of North, Central and South America have met in the interests of peace and for the improvement of commercial relations and for the discussion of various other matters of common interest. A movement for some form of union among the Spanish colonies of Central and South America was inaugurated by Simon Bolivar while those colonies were stiU fighting for independence from Spain, and in 1S25 the United States, which in May 1822 had recognized their independence and in December 1823 had promulgated the Monroe Doctrine, was invited by the governments of Mexico and Colombia to send commissioners to a congress to be held at Panama in the following year. Henry Clay, the secretary of state, hoped the congress might be the means of estabhshing a league of American republics under the hegemony of the United States, and under his influence President J. Q. Adams accepted the invitation, giving notice however that the commissioners from the United States would not be authorized to act in any way inconsistent with the neutral attitude of their country toward Spain and her revolting colonies. The principal objects of the Spanish-Americans in calling the congress were, in fact, to form a league of states to resist Spain or any other European power that might attempt to interfere in America and to consider the expediency of freeing Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spanish rule; but in his message to the Senate asking that body to approve his appointment of commissioners Adams declared that his object in appointing them was to manifest a friendly interest in the young rcpubUcs, give them some advice, promote commercial reciprocity, obtain from the congress satisfactory definitions of the terms " blockade " and " neutral rights " and encourage religious hberty. In the Senate the proposed mission provoked a spirited attack on the administration. Some senators feared that it might be the means of dragging the United States into entangling alliances; others charged that the President had constnied the Monroe Doctrine as a pledge to the southern repuljUcs that if the powers of Europe joined Spain against them the United States would come to their assistance with arms and men; and a few from the slaveholding states wished to have nothing to do with the republics because they proposed to make Cuba and Puerto Rico independent and Uberate the slaves on those islands. The Senate finally, after a delay of more than ten weeks, confirmed the appointments. There was further delay in the House of Representatives, which was asked to make an appropriation for the mission; one of the commissioners, Richard C. Anderson (1788-1826), died on the way (at Cartagena, July 24), and when the other, John Sergeant (1779-1852), reached Panama the congress, consisting of representatives from Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, had met (June 22), concluded and signed a " treaty of union, league and perpetual confederation " and adjourned to meet again at Tacubaya, near the City of Mexico. The governments of Guatemala, Mexico and Peru refused to ratify the treaty and the Panama congress or conference was a failure. The meeting at Tacubaya was never held.

Mexico proposed another conference in 1831, and repeated the proposal in 1838, 1839 and 1840, but each time without result. In December 1847, while Mexico and the United States were at war, a conference of representatives from Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, New Granada and Peru met at Lima, gave the other American republics the privilege of joining in its deliberations or becoming parties to its agreements, continued to deliberate until the 1st of March 1848, and concluded a treaty of confederation, a treaty of commerce and navigation, a postal treaty and a consular convention; but with the exception of the ratification of the consular convention by New Granada its work was rejected. Representatives from Peru, Chile and Ecuador met at Santiago in September 1856 and signed the " Continental Treaty " designed to promote the union of the Latin- American republics, but expressing hostility toward the United States as a consequence of the filibustering expeditions of William Walker (1824-1860); it never became effective. In response to an invitation from the government of Peru to each of the Latin-American countries, representatives from Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina met in a conference at Lima in November 1864 to form a " Union." Colombia was opposed to extending the invitation to the United States lest that country should " embarrass the action of the Congress "; the conference itself accompUshed little. In 1877-1878 jurists from Peru, Bolivia, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Argentina, Venezuela and Costa Rica met at Lima and concluded a treaty of extradition and a treaty on private international law, and Uruguay and Guatemala agreed to adhere to them. War among the South American states prevented the holding of a conference which had been called by the government of Colombia to meet at Panama in September 1881 and of another which had been called by the government of the United States to meet at Washington in November 1882. In 1888-1889 jurists from Argentina, Bolivia, BrazO, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay met at Montevideo and concluded treaties on international civil law, international commercial law, international penal law, international law of procedure, literary and artistic property, trade-marks and patents, several of which were subsequently ratified by the South American countries.

In May 1888 the Congress of the United States had passed an Act authorizing the President to invite the several LatinAmerican governments to a conference in Washington to consider measures for preserving the peace, the formation of a customs union, the estabhshment of better communication between ports, the adoption of a common silver coin, a uniform system of weights, measures, patent-rights, copyrights and trade-marks, the subject of sanitation of ships and quarantine, etc. All the governments except Santo Domingo accepted the invitation and this conference is commonly known as the first PanAmerican Conference. It met on the 2nd of October 1889, was presided over by James G. Blaine, the American secretary of state, who had been instrumental in having the conference called, and continued its sessions until the 19th of April 1890. A majority of its members voted for compulsory arbitration, and recommendations were made relating to reciprocity treaties, customs regulations, port duties, the free navigation of American rivers, sanitary regulations, a monetary union, weights and measures, patents and trade-marks, an international American bank, an intercontinental railway, the extradition of criminals, and several other matters. Nothing came of its recommendations, however, except the establishment in Washington of an International Bureau of American Repubhcs for the collection and publication of information relating to the commerce, products, laws and customs of the countries represented. At the suggestion of President McKinley the government of Mexico called the second Pan-American Conference to meet at the City of Mexico on the 22nd of October 1901. There was a full representation and the sessions were continued until the 31st of January 1902. The chief subject of discussion was arbitration, and after much wrangling between those who insisted upon compulsory arbitration and those opposed to it a majority of the delegations signed a project whereby their countries should become parties to the Hague conventions of 1899, which provide for voluntary arbitration. At the same time ten delegations signed a project for a treaty providing for compulsory arbitration. The conference also approved a project for a treaty whereby controversies arising from pecuniary claims of individuals of one country against the government of another should be submitted to the arbitration court established by the Hague convention. The conference ratified a resolution of the first conference recommending the construction of complementary lines of the proposed Pan-American railway.

At this conference, too, the International Bureau of American Republics was organized under a governing board of diplomatists with the secretary of state of the United States as chairman; it was directed to publish a monthly buUetin, and in several other respects was made a more important institution. Its governing board was directed to arrange for the third PanAmerican Conference, and this body was in session at Rio de Janeiro from the 21st of July to the 26th of August 1906. Delegates attended from the United States, Argentina, Bohvia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, San Domingo, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Me.xico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Salvador and Uruguay; Haiti and Venezuela were not represented. The secretary of state of the United States, Elihu Root, though not a delegate, addressed the conference. The subjects considered were much the same as those at the two preceding conferences. With respect to arbitration this conference passed a resolution that the delegates from the American republics to the second conference at the Hague be instructed to endeavour to secure there " the celebration of a general arbitration convention so effective and definite that, meriting the approval of the civilized world, it shall be accepted and put in force by every nation." With respect to copyrights, patents and trademarks this conference re-affirmed the conventions of the second conference, with some modifications; with respect to naturalization it recommended that whenever a native of one country who has been naturalized in another again takes up his residence in his native country without intending to return to his adopted country he should be considered as having reassumed his original citizenship; and with respect to the forcible collection of pubhc debts to which the " Drago Doctrine " ' is opposed, the conference recommended that " the Governments represented therein consider the point of inviting the Second Peace Conference at the Hague to consider the question of the compulsory collection of public debts, and, in general, means tending to diminish between nations conflicts having an exclusively pecuniary origin." The fourth Conference met in Buenos Aires in July-August 1910, agreed to submit to arbitration such money claims as cannot be amicably settled by diplomacy, and renamed the Bureau the Bureau of Pan-American Union.^ The first Pan-American scientific congress met at Santiago, Chile, on the 25th of December 1908 for the consideration of distinctly American problems. It continued in session until the 5th of January 1909, and resolved that a second congress for the same purpose should meet at Washington in 1912.

See International American Conference, Reports and Recommendations (Washington, 1890), and especially the Historical Appendix.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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