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Squier, Ephraim George (1821–1888)

Squier, Ephraim George (1821–1888)

Ephraim George Squier (b. 17 June 1821; d. 17 April 1888), U.S. diplomat and writer. Squier was one of the most important diplomats to represent the United States in Central America in the nineteenth century. Appointed in 1849, Squier was in Central America only one year. In that short period he energetically assisted agents of Cornelius Vanderbilt in negotiating a contract to build a transisthmian canal, signed a treaty with Nicaragua guaranteeing U.S. protection of the canal route, and persuaded Honduran authorities to cede territory in the Gulf of Fonseca to the United States. These actions, which exceeded his instructions, provoked a dispute with Great Britain that led to the negotiation of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. The treaty declared that neither country would attempt to colonize Central America or control any isthmian transportation facility. Although Squier thought that the treaty signaled a defeat for the United States, in reality it marked the beginning of the replacement of British influence in Central America with that of the United States.

The brief visit to Central America turned Squier into a publicist for Central America and an entrepreneur. He wrote extensively about Central American topics, ranging from archaeology to contemporary foreign relations, and was recognized in mid-century as the leading authority on the region. As an entrepreneur he was unsuccessful in his attempts to build a railway across Honduras.

See alsoHonduras; Nicaragua; Panama Canal.


The following studies by Charles L. Stansifer cover differing aspects of Squier's career: "The Central American Writings of E. George Squier," in Inter-American Review of Bibliography 16, no. 2 (1966): 144-160; "E. George Squier and the Honduras Interoceanic Railroad Project," in Hispanic American Historical Review 46, no. 1 (1966): 1-27; E. George Squier: Diversos aspectos de su carrera en Centro América (1968).

Additional Bibliography

Barnhart, Terry A. Ephraim George Squier and the Development of American Anthropology. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

                                 Charles L. Stansifer

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