FOR the sake of fixing the attention of the reader on the compromise measures, certain events have been passed over which, before leaving the year 1850, should receive mention.
The most important diplomatic achievement of the Taylor administration was the negotiation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. A ship-canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific was dreamed of as early as 1826, and is referred to by Clay in one of his diplomatic instructions. Should such a canal be constructed, "the benefits of it," he wrote, "ought not to be exclusively appropriated to any one nation, but should be extended to all parts of the globe." Nine years later the Senate and President Jackson assented to the same principle; and President Polk carried the idea into execution in the treaty with New Granada, by which the United States agreed to guarantee the neutrality of the Isthmus of Panama so that a canal or railroad might be constructed between the two seas, and the Panama route be "open to all nations on the same terms."1 There were three passes from ocean to ocean--the Panama, the Nicaragua, and the Tehuantepec; and it was deemed practicable to build a railroad or canal by any one of them.
When Clayton entered upon the duties of the State Department, he found the Nicaragua route demanding immediate attention. Two companies of capitalists--one British, one American, the latter headed by Commodore Vanderbilt--____________________