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Bidlack Treaty (Treaty of New Granada, 1846)

Bidlack Treaty (Treaty of New Granada, 1846)

Bidlack Treaty (Treaty of New Granada, 1846) was an agreement between the United States and New Granada recognizing New Granada's sovereignty over the Isthmus of Panama. U.S. minister Benjamin Alden Bidlack negotiated the pact without specific instructions, except to supply information on isthmian transit and to prevent other powers from obtaining transit rights. New Granada viewed the Moskito Indian king, who had claim to land from Panama up to Nicaragua, and the General Juan José Flores expedition being organized in London as elements in a concerted British plan to dominate all the isthmian routes. The United States was also concerned with a French transit company that had commissioned an excellent study and map of a canal route. Under the agreement the United States assured the "perfect neutrality" of, and New Granada's sovereignty over, the isthmus. In return New Granada, in clause XXXV of the treaty, gave the United States exclusive rights of transit "upon any mode of communication that now exists, or that may be, hereafter, constructed." Simultaneously with the transit treaty, Bidlack and New Granada's commissioner Manuel María Mallarino negotiated a commercial treaty, which was signed on 12 December 1846 and proclaimed 12 June 1848.

The Bidlack Treaty was the only pact in the nineteenth century in which the U.S. government agreed to defend a Latin American state's sovereignty at the request of that state. Clause XXXV served as the basis for protecting the Panama Railroad, completed in 1855. It also was used in the 1880s to justify maintaining U.S. vessels at Panama during the Ferdinand de Lesseps canal venture. International law specialist John Basset Moore used clause XXXV in 1903 to argue that the United States had the "right of way" necessary to build a canal without Colombia's consent.

See alsoPanama Canal; United States-Latin American Relations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

David Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 5 (1937), pp. 115-160.

E. Taylor Parks, Colombia and the United States, 1765–1934 (1935).

Charles I. Bevans, ed., Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, vol. 6 (1971), pp. 865-881.

David Mc Cullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870–1914 (1977).

John E. Findling, Dictionary of American Diplomatic History, 2d ed. (1989).

                                   Thomas Schoonover

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