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Venezuela question.

On Dec. 17, 1895. President Cleveland sent to Congress a special message on this question, which for a time caused great excitement and seemed to threaten to involve the United States in a war with Great Britain. This condition of affairs was caused by the sudden renewal by Great Britain of an old claim to territory adjoining British Guiana, but held by Venezuela. This territory contains about 500 square miles and is inhabited by over 100,000 people. It also contains rich gold-mines. The territory had been a subject of dispute ever since 1814, when Holland ceded her South American possessions to Great Britain. In 1841, Robert Schomburgk, acting for Great Britain, erected a boundary-line, claiming for Great Britain the entire Atlantic coast as far as the Orinoco. Venezuela protested and forcibly removed this line. For fifty years after Great Britain made various claims. In 1887 diplomatic relations between Great Britain and Venezuela were broken off because of the dispute.

In the United States the action of Great Britain was closely watched, it being believed that her attempt to extend her boundary-line was in violation of the Monroe doctrine. On Feb. 20, 1895, the United States offered to arbitrate the dispute, but Great Britain refused. Late in 1895 information reached the United States that Great Britain intended to land troops on the disputed territory. Then President Cleveland issued the message already referred to, for the text of which see Cleveland, Grover. In his message the President asked Congress for leave to appoint a commission to visit Venezuela and sift the claims of both parties. This Congress at once granted, voting $100,000 for the purpose.

Under this authority President Cleveland appointed the following commission: Judge David J. Brewer, chairman; Richard H. Alvey; Andrew D. White; Frederick R. Coudert, and Daniel C. Gilman. Upon their report both Great Britain and Venezuela agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration, and under this agreement the following arbitrators were selected: Chief-Justice Fuller, Associate Justice Brewer, Lord Chief-Justice Russell, of Killowen, Sir Richard Henn Collins, and Professor Martens. Ex-President Harrison, Gen. B. F. Tracy, M. Mallet-Prevost, and the Marquis of Rojas were counsel for Venezuela, and Attorney-General Sir Richard Webster and Sir Robert Reed for Great Britain. [39]

The arbitration tribunal met in Paris on June 15, 1899, and on Oct. 3 following rendered the following award unanimously:

The undersigned, by these presents, give and publish our decision, determining and judging, touching and concerning the questions that have been submitted to us by said arbitration; and, in conformity with said arbitration, we decide, declare, and pronounce definitely that the line of frontier of the colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela is as follows:

Starting on the coast at Point Playa, the frontier shall follow a straight line to the confluence of the Barima and the Maruima, thence following the thalweg of the latter to the source of the Corentin, otherwise called the Cutari, River.

Thence it shall proceed to the confluence of the Haiowa and the Amakuru; thence following the thalweg of the Amakuru to its source in the Plain of Imataka; thence in a southwesterly direction along the highest ridge of the Imataka Mountains to the highest point of the Imataka Chain, opposite the source of the Barima and the principal chain of the Imataka Mountains; thence in a southeast direction to the source of the Acarabisi.

Following the thalweg of the Acarabisi to the Cuyuni, the northern bank of which it shall follow in a westerly direction to the confluence of the Cuyuni and the Vanamu; thence along the thalweg of the Vanamu to its westernmost source; thence in a straight line to the summit of Mount Roraima; thence to the source of the Cotinga.

From this point the frontier shall follow the thalweg of the Cotinga to its confluence with the Takutu; thence along the thalweg of the Takutu to its source; thence in a straight line to the most western point of the Akarai Mountains, the highest ridge of which it shall follow to the source of the Corentin, whence it will follow the course of the river.

It is stipulated that the frontier hereby delimited reserves and in no way prejudices questions actually existing or that may hereafter arise between Great Britain and the republic of Brazil, or between the republic of Brazil and Venezuela. In fixing the above delimitation, the arbitrators consider and decide that, in time of peace, the rivers Amakuru and Barima shall be open to navigation by the merchant shipping of all nations, due reserve being made with regard to equitable regulations and the payment of like dues and other like imposts, on condition that the dues levied by Venezuela and British Guiana, on ships traversing the parts of those rivers owned by them respectively, shall be imposed in accordance with the same tariff on Venezuelan and British vessels. These tariffs are not to exceed those of all other countries. The award proceeds also upon the condition that neither Venezuela nor British Guiana shall impose any customs duty on goods carried in vessels. ships, or boats passing through these rivers, such customs being levied only on goods landed upon Venezuelan territory or on the territory of Great Britain respectively.


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