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Rare map showing a portion of Northwestern Venezuela and Guyana, prepared to illustrate the boundary dispute between British Guyana and Venezuela.

The map illustrates the disputed region between the two countries, which would result in the Venezuelan Crisis of 1895 and was prepared as part of the US efforts to resolve the boundary dispute.

By 1895 Venezuela had had a dispute with the United Kingdom about the territory of Guayana Esequiba, which Britain claimed as part of British Guiana and Venezuela saw as Venezuelan territory, for over half a century. The territorial claims were originally those of the Spanish Empire (inherited by Venezuela after its independence in 1830) and of the Dutch Empire (inherited by the United Kingdom with the acquisition of the Dutch territories of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice in 1814), having remained unsettled over previous centuries

Britain advocacated a particular division of the territory deriving from a mid-nineteenth-century survey it commissioned. This survey originated with German naturalist Robert Schomburgk's four-year expedition for the Royal Geographical Society in 1835 to 1839, which resulted in a sketch of the territory with a line marking what he believed to be the western boundary claimed by the Dutch. As a result of this he was commissioned by the British government to carry out a survey of Guiana's boundaries. The result was the "Schomburgk Line", which he established partly following natural divisions and partly to distinguish territory of Spanish or Venezuelan occupation from that which had been occupied by the Dutch.

Schomburgk's ine went well beyond the area of British occupation, and gave British Guiana control of the mouth of the Orinoco River.[ In 1844 Venezuela declared the Essequibo River the dividing line, with a British offer the same year, to make major alterations to the Line and cede the mouth of the Orinoco and much associated territory, was ignored. No treaty between Britain and Venezuela was reached, and after an 1850 agreement not to encroach on disputed territory, the matter largely rested until 1876, when diplomatic exchanges resumed. Schomburgk's initial sketch, which had been published in 1840, was the only version of the "Schomburgk Line" published until 1886. This led to accusations by US President Grover Cleveland that the line had been extended "in some mysterious way".

In October 1886, Britain declared the Line to be the provisional frontier of British Guiana, and in February 1887 Venezuela severed diplomatic relations. Proposals for a renewal of relations and settlement of the dispute failed repeatedly, and by summer 1894, diplomatic relations had been severed for seven years, the dispute having dragged on for half a century. In addition, both sides had established police or military stations at key points in the area, partly to defend claims to the Caratal goldfield of the region's Yuruari basin, which was within Venezuelan territory but claimed by the British. The mine at El Callao, started in 1871, was for a time one of the richest in the world, and the goldfields as a whole saw over a million ounces exported between 1860 and 1883. The gold mining was dominated by immigrants from the British Isles and the British West Indies, giving an appearance of almost creating an English colony on Venezuelan territory.

Venezuela had in the course of the dispute repeatedly appealed to the US and to the Monroe Doctrine, but the US had declined to involve itself. This changed after Venezuela obtained the services of William L. Scruggs. Scruggs, a former US Ambassador to Colombia and Venezuela, was recruited in 1893 by the Venezuelan Government to operate on its behalf in Washington D.C. as a lobbyist and legal attache. Scruggs had apparently resigned his ambassadorship to Venezuela in December 1892, but in fact had been dismissed by the US for bribing the President of Venezuela.

As a lobbyist, Scruggs published an October 1894 pamphlet entitled British Aggressions in Venezuela:, or the Monroe Doctrine on Trial. In the pamphlet, he attacked "British aggression", claiming that Venezuela was anxious to arbitrate over the Venezuela/British Guiana border dispute. Scruggs also claimed that British policies in the disputed territory violated the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. While for much of the nineteenth century the Doctrine had only rarely been invoked by the United States, a "paradigm shift in U.S. foreign relations in the late nineteenth century" saw the U.S. more actively support its increasingly significant economic interests in Central and South America. This "'new diplomacy' thrust the United States more emphatically into the imperial struggle". It was in this context that Scruggs sought to draw on the Doctrine in Venezuela's interests.

Scruggs collaborated with Georgian compatriot Congressman Leonidas Livingston to propose United States House of Representatives Resolution 252. The bill recommended Venezuela and the United Kingdom settle the dispute by arbitration. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law on February 22, 1895.

In May 1895, the Royal Navy occupied the Nicaraguan port of Corinto, after a number of British subjects, including the Vice-consul, had been seized during disturbances, shortly after the former protectorate of the Mosquito Coast had been incorporated into Nicaragua.

In July 1895 new Secretary of State Richard Olney sent a document to London which became known as "Olney's twenty-inch gun" (the draft was 12,000 words long). The note reviewed the history of the Anglo-Venezuelan dispute and of the Monroe Doctrine, and it firmly insisted on the application of the Doctrine to the case. The note had little impact on the British Government, partly because Joseph Chamberlain, at the Colonial Office, thought it possible that the colony had a major gold-bearing region around the Schomburgk line, and partly because the Government rejected the idea that the Monroe Doctrine had any relevance for the boundary dispute.

By December 17, 1895, President Cleveland delivered an address to the United States Congress reaffirming the Monroe Doctrine and its relevance to the dispute.[ The address asked Congress to fund a commission to study the boundaries between Venezuela and British Guiana, and declared it the duty of the United States "to resist by every means in its power as a willful aggression upon its rights and interests" any British attempt to exercise jurisdiction over territory the United States judged Venezuelan. The address was perceived as direct threat of war with the United Kingdom if the British did not comply, although in fact Cleveland had not committed himself to accepting the commission's report, nor specified any details on how the commission would act.[8] Despite the public belligerence, neither the British nor the American governments had any interest in war.

On December 18, 1895, Congress approved $100,000 for the United States Commission on the Boundary Between Venezuela and British Guiana. It was formally established on 1 January 1896. Historian George Lincoln Burr, who contributed to the Commission's historical research, argued shortly after the Commission concluded its work that it made a major contribution to clarifying issues of historical fact in the dispute. The Commission's work, he wrote, helped the disputing parties to focus on issues of fact supportable by evidence (as opposed to mere assertions), and in addition, by the time the Arbitration process was under way, the Commission's own view of historical facts was largely accepted by the parties, "so that their main issue [was] now in the main one of law, not of fact."