The International Conferences of American States, 1889-1928: A Collection of the Conventions, Recommendations, Resolutions, Reports, and Motions Adopted by the First Six International Conferences of the American States, and Documents Relating to the Organization of the Conferences

By James Brown Scott; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

In Bolívar's proposal, written in Lima, December 7th, 1824, for a Congress of the Spanish American States in Panama, he ventured the prediction that "the day our plenipotentiaries make the exchanges of their powers will stamp in the diplomatic history of the world an immortal epoch."

The enthusiasm of lovers of liberty in the North was stated four years before on the floor of the House of Representatives by Henry Clay, then its Speaker, in behalf of "a human-freedom league in America," in which "all the nations, from Hudson's Bay to Cape Horn," should be united--an idea chiefly, if not exclusively, Clay's. To quote the paraphrase of Hermann von Holst, a distinguished foreign historian of the United States: "through the power of example, through its moral influence, the American system would ever extend farther and farther, so that a point of union, a haven for freedom and lovers of freedom, would be formed upon the soil that was wet with the blood of the revolutionary forefathers."

The enthusiasm of the North was further expressed in terms apparently common to lovers of liberty everywhere: "The assembling of a Congress of Panama composed of diplomatic representatives from independent American nations will form a new epoch in human affairs." So said Henry Clay, then Secretary of State, in his instructions to the delegates of the United States. And "the fact" of the meeting, he added, irrespective of "the issue of the conferences "could not" fail to challenge the attention of the present generation of the civilized world, and to command that of posterity." The enthusiasm even permeated John Quincy Adams, then President of the United States, in an official reply to a resolution of inquiry from the House of Representatives, to such a degree that the Puritan of the North outdid the Cavalier of the South. He even informed the Congress that there might not be, "In the lapse of many centuries," an "opportunity so favorable. ... to the Government of the United States to subserve the benevolent purposes of Divine Providence to dispense the promised blessings of the Redeemer of mankind... as," he concluded, "will now be placed in their power by participating in the deliberations of this congress," to promote, he was bold enough to say, "the prevalence in future ages of peace on earth and good will to men."

There must have been much to say in behalf of such a congress, when the Liberator par excellence of the Spanish American republics, the Secretary of State of the United States, in instructions to the delegates to the conference, and the President of the United States, in an official report to the Congress

-vii-

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