Hay-Pauncefote Treaties

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HAY-PAUNCEFOTE TREATIES. The first Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, signed 5February 1900 by Secretary of State John Hay and Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British ambassador, modified the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, which provided for a joint protectorate by England and the United States of any trans-isthmian canal. It permitted the construction and maintenance of a canal under the sole auspices of the United States. The U.S. Senate amended the treaty to have it supersede the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty and to give the United States the right to fortify the canal. Great Britain declined to accept the Senate amendments, and the second Hay-Pauncefote Treaty was negotiated, signed on 18 November 1901. Article I declared that it should supersede the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. Article II provided that a canal might be constructed under the auspices of the United Sates and that it would have all the rights incident to such construction as well as the right to regulate and manage the canal. Article III stipulated that the canal should be free and open to the vessels of all nations "on terms of entire equality" and that the charges of traffic should be "just and equitable." The United States was virtually accorded the sole power to assure the neutrality of trans-isthmian transit. Fortification of the canal was not mentioned, but during the negotiations the British foreign secretary admitted that the United States would have the right to fortify. This treaty made feasible the construction of a canal through Central America by the United States and enabled it to consider the Nicaragua route as an alternative to the Panama route. On 16 December the Senate overwhelmingly ratified the second treaty. Acquiescence of the British reflected their preoccupation with growing German power in Europe, acknowledgment of Washington's predominance in Central America, and the rise of the United States to great power status.


LaFeber, Walter. The Panama Canal: The Crisis in Historical Perspective. Updated ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Major, John. Prize Possession: The United States and the Panama Canal, 1903–1979. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Schoonover, Thomas D. The United States in Central America, 1860–1911: Episodes of Social Imperialism and Imperial Rivalry in the World System. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991.

Max PaulFriedman

William SpenceRobertson

See alsoPanama Canal .

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Hay-Pauncefote Treaties (hā-pôns´fŏŏt), negotiated in 1899 and 1901 by Secretary of State John Hay, for the United States, and Lord Pauncefote of Preston, British ambassador to the United States, for Great Britain, with the object of modifying the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, concerning the construction of an Isthmian canal in Central America. The draft of the first treaty was submitted to London in Jan., 1889. The proposed agreement granted to the United States the exclusive right to build and maintain a canal. It further provided for a neutralization scheme (to be governed by rules similar to the Suez Canal regulations adopted at Constantinople in 1888) calling for the nonfortification of the canal and equal transit rights to ships of all nations, even in time of war. After a delay of almost a year the treaty was signed and submitted to the U.S. Senate in Feb., 1900. Resistance to ratification grew steadily, particularly among those concerned over the neutralization rules. On Dec. 20, 1900, the Senate finally ratified the agreement, but with three amendments: abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, provision for the fortification of the canal, and deletion of the article providing that other powers join the treaty. Since Great Britain refused to ratify the treaty as amended, negotiations were immediately reinstated. A new treaty was signed by Hay and Pauncefote on Nov. 18, 1901, and was ratified by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 16, 1901. The new compromise treaty, superseding the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, provided that the United States might construct a canal and have full control in its management and regulation. It nominally retained the principle of neutrality under the sole guarantee of the United States, stipulated that the canal be open to ships of all nations on equal terms, but omitted the clause contained in the first draft forbidding fortifications. The Panama Canal Act, passed in 1912, which exempted from tolls American ships engaged in coastwise trade, was protested by Great Britain as a violation of the treaty and was repealed in 1914 through the efforts of President Wilson.

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Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (1901) Agreement promising equal rates through the Panama Canal to all nations and all vessels. It also granted the USA the full right to build and manage the canal. John Hay and Lord Pauncefote, British ambassador to the USA, negotiated the treaty.