Bryan–Chamorro Treaty (1914)

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Bryan–Chamorro Treaty (1914)

Bryan-Chamorro Treaty (1914), a treaty between the United States and Nicaragua providing for the construction of a canal across Nicaragua. The proposed route followed the nineteenth-century proposal for a waterway using the San Juan River (which forms a part of the Costa Rican-Nicaraguan boundary), Lake Nicaragua, and Lake Managua, and with a possible outlet at the Gulf of Fonseca, which borders on El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua on the Pacific coast of Central America.

The treaty came about because of the breakdown in President William Howard Taft's plan to create a financial protectorate in Nicaragua. In 1907, the Theodore Roosevelt administration had lent its support to Central American treaties providing for the peaceful settlement of isthmian disputes. But two years later, despite its professions that U.S. policy would be conducted with "dollars and not bullets," Taft began an intervention in Nicaragua that overthrew President José Santos Zelaya and culminated in a large-scale military intervention in 1912. General Emiliano Chamorro aided the U.S. military in this intervention; and when the country was pacified, President Adolfo Díaz seemed secure.

In the aftermath, however, Nicaragua's efforts to secure a badly needed loan to create a national bank and reform the currency were frustrated when the U.S. Senate rejected the loan convention. Nicaragua proposed the canal concession, which ceded (for $3 million) construction rights for a canal across Nicaraguan territory and naval bases on Great and Little Corn islands (on the Caribbean side) and in the Gulf of Fonseca (on the Pacific side). Incoming President Woodrow Wilson and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan tried to use the proposal to create a protectorate over Nicaragua, but the Senate again balked, and the treaty was not ratified until 1916. Nonetheless, Costa Rica and El Salvador protested that the concession violated existing treaties, and took their case to the Central American Court of Justice. The Court declared in their favor but said that it was unable to enforce the decision against Nicaragua. The Court dissolved shortly afterward.

See alsoCentral American Court of Justice; United States-Latin American Relations.


Dana G. Munro. Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean, 1900–1921. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964.

Walter La Feber. Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America. 2d ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.

Ralph Lee Woodward. Central America: A Nation Divided. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Lester D. Langley. The United States and the Caribbean in the Twentieth Century, 4th ed. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989.

Additional Bibliography

Michel Gobat. Confronting the American Dream: Nicaragua Under U.S. Imperial Rule. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

                               Lester D. Langley