Leading American Treaties

Leading American Treaties

Bibliographic Details

Book Review

This volume of fifteen chapters, partly based on a course of lectures given by President Angell at the University of Michigan, presents the “historical setting and chief provisions of fifteen leading American treaties”: Treaties of 1778 (France), 1783 (England), 1794 (England), 1800 (France), 1803 (France), 1814 (England), 1818 (England), 1819 (Spain), 1842 (England), 1848 (Mexico), 1854 and 1858 (Japan), 1867 (Russia), 1871 (England), 1898 (Spain) and the various Panama canal treaties (of 1850 with England, This content downloaded from on Mon, 19 May 2014 15:16:31 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions728 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW 1001 with England, 1903 with Colombia, and 1903 with Panama). Appended to each chapter is a brief selected bibliography


The treaties chosen were well selected, and may be regarded as central landmarks in the study of American diplomatic history. The French treaty of alliance made the United States a party in determining the balance of power in Europe (19). The treaty of independence of 1783 was of incalculable value in giving to America a period of rest during the period of European war which began in 1793. Jay's treaty is justified by its result in saving the United States from British and Indians at a critical period

Thesis Statement

The treaty of 1800 was successful in ending “hostilities which if continued would have made the future annexation of Louisiana improbable”. In the treaty of Ghent, although it failed to settle the causes of the war, “the United States had to yield only one point which she had hoped to secure” (indemnity for captures of American ships and goods under the orders in council). The short convention of 1818 with Great Britian, the negotiations of which were doubtless hastened by the critical situation with Spain in regard to Florida, is regarded by the author as “one of the most important to which the United States has become a party”. The Webster Ashburton treaty was the happy result of friendly negotiations of fair minded and well-chosen diplomats to reach a just conclusion on a series of issues of paramount importance, some of which “had led more than once to open hostilities locally and had threatened to involve the countries in war”

Context of Leading American Treaties

The author states that Webster's declaration on one point-the American principle of protecting crews of American vessels from imprisonment although omitted from the treaty, “became just as binding upon Great Britian as any separate article in the treaty could possibly have made it”.

In the number of issues involved, and in the number of questions of long standing dispute settled, he states that “the treaty of Washington (1871) ranks easily as one of the most important in American history”; and, by its enunciation of the principles of international law relating to obligation of neutrals, he says it took rank as “one of the first in the world's history”.

In connection with the treaty of peace following the Spanish American War, the author states that the international situation as to Cuba in 1823 and American interests therein was the chief factor which inspired the Monroe Doctrine (pp. 316-317)

Analysis of the Text

The last chapter is the longest in the book. It reviews the evolution of the early interest in the canal, the origin and purpose of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, the evolution of the American policy of a canal under exclusively American control and the negotiation of the Hay-Pauncefote treaty with

England, the Hay-Concha draft treaty and the Hay-Herran treaty with Colombia, and the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty with the newly established state of Panama, and the later negotiations with Colombia to remove distrust of the United States and to establish friendly relations between Colombia and Panama. The action of the United States in the case of Panama is justified.

It will be observed that territorial expansion and adjustment of boundaries are among the most prominent facts in relation to these treaty negotiations. Some attention is given to conflicts arising between the executive and the Senate in regard to the treaty-making power

More about Leading American Treaties

Considerable attention is given to historical setting of the treaties and their influence on later national development.

While adequacy of treatment has often been restricted by the limits of space, the author has succeeded in presenting a clear narrative of leading facts which will doubtless prove very useful both to college students and to the general reader.

A few minor errors of statement appear. Jefferson resigned from the office of Secretary of State on December 31, 1793 instead of in 1792 as stated (p. 51). The President proclaimed the Florida treaty on February 22, 1821, instead of in 1822 as stated (p. 174). The international controversy concerning seals in Bering Sea arose in 1886 and not in 1868 (p. 260)

More on this Book Review

It was Article IV, and not Article IX (p. 136) of the convention of 1818 which renewed the commercial convention of July 3, 1815. The American policy to purchase Cuba began with the Polk negotiations of 1848, instead of in 1850 (p. 317). The peace commissioners at the close of the Spanish American War met at Paris on October 1, 1898 instead of 1899 (p. 331). President Hayes' Secretary of State was not James G. Blaine as stated by the author (p. 355). The author probably exaggerates English opposition against the United States Government in the American Civil War (pp. 276-277). Although the narrative is usually clear, the arrangement of materials possibly could have been improved in several instances. Articles II-VII of the Alaska treaty (pp. 274-75) and the paragraph (pp. 259-60) relating to the contents of the treaty might more logically appear following the negotiation of the treaty and before the discussion of it in Congress. The Geneva arbitration (beginning on p. 298) logically belongs after the completion of the brief statement concerning the contents of the Treaty of Washington.

The negotiation and provisions of the Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty (pp. 383-86) should follow the statement of the recognition of Panama (p. 377). An example of a loose sentence is found on page 286 (2nd paragraph).

Another appears on page 329. Examples of paragraphs which lack unity or clearness appear on pages 355 and 359.

There are only a few typographical errors. On page 307 (third line) “among” should begin a new sentence. On page 382 (line 12) “accurred” should be “occurred”. Evidently “surprize” (p. 172) should preferably be ” surprise “

Book Review

This legal book review was published in The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Oct., 1922), pp. 727-729

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