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Chatfield, Frederick (1801–1872)

Chatfield, Frederick (1801–1872)

Frederick Chatfield (b. 6 February 1801; d. 30 September 1872), key British agent in Central America (1833–1840, 1842–1852).

A native of London, Chatfield had already outlined British policy in Central America before his arrival as minister plenipotentiary. But the territorial question of Belize (British Honduras) stirred up nationalistic reactions that frustrated England's political and economic objectives. The 1839 takeover of Roatán (one of the Bay Islands) and the promotion of protectorate status for the Miskito Shore further complicated relationships.

Although Chatfield had pursued a constructive line with the Unionist Party, assisting the Central American Federation in making financial and customs reforms, the Roatán takeover forced him into a negative stance. Having become the leader of the States' Righters, he devised favorable "doctrines" and employed financial claims to bring on blockades for political objectives. Aiming at establishing a British protectorate in Central America before North Americans took control of a transisthmian interoceanic route, he seized Tigre Island (Honduras) on 16 October 1849. War with "Brother Jonathan" (North Americans) seemed inevitable. Lord Palmerston's parliamentary enemies defeated the aggression by signing the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty (1850). Palmerston's dismissal in 1851 and Chatfield's recall in 1852 underscored the reversal in British policy.

See alsoBritish-Latin American Relations .


Mary Wilhelmine Williams, Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy, 1815–1915 (1916).

Richard W. Van Alstyne, "The Central American Policy of Lord Palmerston, 1846–1848," in Hispanic American Historical Review 16, no. 3 (1936): 339, 359, and "British Diplomacy and the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, 1850–60," in Journal of Modern History 11, no. 2 (1939): 149-183.

Thomas Karnes, Failure of Union: Central America, 1824–1860 (1961).

Mario Rodríguez, A Palmerstonian Diplomat in Central America: Frederick Chatfield, Esq. (1964).

Additional Bibliography

Quesada Monge, Rodrigo. Recuerdos del imperio: Los ingleses en América Central, 1821–1915. Heredia: EUNA, 1998.

                                 Mario RodrÍguez

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