Protectorates and Spheres of Influence - U.s. protectorates prior to world war ii

When the white sugar barons in Hawaii over-threw the native dynasty in 1893, the United States minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, proclaimed a protectorate. Stevens acted without instructions from Washington, and the incoming administration of Grover Cleveland soon repudiated the arrangement. In addition to this short-lived protectorate over Hawaii, the relationship between the United States and Samoa in 1889–1899 has sometimes been characterized as a protectorate, specifically a tripartite protectorate of the United States, Great Britain, and Germany over Samoa. It is doubtful, however, that the United States possessed sufficient rights or obligations in Samoa to justify the use of the word "protectorate" in this case.

The first United States protectorate in the Caribbean was established when the Platt Amendment was incorporated in a treaty with Cuba in 1903. Having helped Cuba win its freedom from Spain, the United States endeavored to assure the political and financial stability of the island republic by limiting its freedom. The Platt Amendment, initially written by Secretary of War Elihu Root, had been attached to the Army Appropriations Bill in 1901 by Senator Orville H. Platt. By one of its many provisions, the United States could intervene in Cuba for the preservation of Cuban independence and for the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. This right of intervention was exercised in 1906–1909, and in subsequent years various American missions were sent to the island to untangle electoral difficulties and financial problems. This protectorate lasted until the administrations of Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt fashioned the Good Neighbor Policy in the early 1930s. In a new treaty signed in 1934, the United States relinquished all its Platt Amendment rights except the right to retain a naval base at Guantánamo Bay.

The acquisition of the Cuban protectorate in 1903 was followed in the same year by the establishment of a protectorate over Panama. Having aided a Panamanian rebellion against Colombia, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt proceeded to secure valuable Canal Zone rights from the newly created nation. Simultaneously, the United States sought to protect these rights by making Panama a protectorate. In the canal treaty signed by Secretary of State John Hay and the Panamanian minister to the United States, Philippe Bunau-Varilla, the United States agreed to guarantee and maintain the independence of Panama. Outside the Canal Zone, which it administered, the United States could use lands necessary and convenient for the operation and protection of the canal. It also could intervene to maintain public order in the cities of Panama and Colón. These extensive powers were reduced in 1936, when a new treaty was negotiated. The United States gave up most of its rights outside the Canal Zone. Also, the obligation to guarantee and maintain the independence of Panama was replaced by a provision stating that in the event of an international "conflagration" or the existence of a threat of aggression that endangered Panama or the security of the canal, the two governments would take such measures as they deemed necessary for the protection of their common interests. Measures taken by one government that might affect the territory of the other would be the subject of consultation. When the United States Senate approved the treaty in 1939, Panama agreed by an exchange of notes that in an emergency, consultation might follow rather than precede action. The United States thus retained at least a limited right of intervention to protect both Panama and the Canal Zone.

In 1977 the United States concluded two treaties with Panama that completely changed their relationship. The Canal Zone was abolished, and the canal was to be administered until 2000 by a joint commission. At the end of the interim period, the canal would be turned over to Panama. United States armed forces would be withdrawn by the end of 1999. The United States retained only the right to defend the neutrality of the canal.

Despite the restricted wording of the new treaty provision limiting the United States to defending the canal's neutrality, a U.S. intervention occurred in 1989 that could have been more easily justified under the old protectorate treaty rights. In the 1980s, politics in Panama became unstable, with demonstrations and attempted coups. There emerged from the chaos a military dictator, Manuel Noriega. From his position as commander of the National Defense Forces, he intimidated civilian political leaders and undermined the democratic processes. A pivotal turning point came in 1988 when two U.S. grand juries indicted Noriega on drug smuggling charges. When in December 1989 a rump political body named Noriega head of state, President George H. W. Bush sent in 24,000 U.S. troops to capture Noriega and restore civilian rule. Bush's administration based its legal position on the right to defend the neutrality of the canal. Noriega was captured and taken to the United States for trial. He was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute cocaine and sentenced to forty years in prison. Meanwhile, civilian government was reestablished and U.S. forces withdrew to the Canal Zone. In the years following the American intervention, Panama's politics remained somewhat chaotic, but the treaties of 1977 were nevertheless effectively carried out. In December 1999, the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Canal Zone was completed.

In addition to the protectorates of Cuba and Panama, the administration of Theodore Roosevelt sought to establish a protectorate over the Dominican Republic. Roosevelt feared that European creditor nations might intervene there to collect debts, and he feared particularly that Germany might thereby gain some lodgment in the Caribbean. This was one of the considerations that led to the enunciation in 1904 of the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, affirming that when debt default or other wrongdoing or impotence made intervention necessary in the Western Hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine required U.S. intervention.

Having announced this policy, Roosevelt proceeded to conclude a treaty with the Dominican government (1905) placing the collection of customs revenues under U.S. control and making the country a protectorate. The treaty provided that the United States would, at the request of the Dominican government, render assistance to preserve order. When the U.S. Senate delayed approval of the treaty, Roosevelt set up the customs receivership and applied the protectorate principle. With a characteristic flourish, the president told his secretary of the navy: "As to the Santo Domingo matter, tell Admiral [Royal B.] Bradford to stop any revolution…. That this is ethically right, I am dead sure, even though there may be some technical or red tape difficulty." When Elihu Root became secretary of state later in 1905, he limited the protectorate role to protection of the customs administration. It was this policy that prevailed. When it became evident that the Senate would not approve the general protectorate provision, a new treaty, obligating the United States to protect only the customs administration, was concluded and approved (1907).

The administration of William Howard Taft made Nicaragua a protectorate in practice, though the relationship was never regularized by treaty. In 1911 a customs receivership was set up, even though the Senate failed to act on the treaty, concluded in that year, that provided for it. In 1912 marines were landed to aid the regime of President Adolfo Díaz against rebel forces. When the rebels were defeated, most of the troops were withdrawn, but a legation guard remained behind to police elections, train a Nicaraguan constabulary, and serve as a reminder that more troops could be landed. In 1913 the outgoing Taft administration signed a canal treaty with the Díaz government; it provided for the purchase by the United States, for $3 million, of an option on a canal route and leases on naval base sites.

The Senate did not take action on the treaty before Woodrow Wilson entered the White House, but the new administration did not repudiate the protectorate policy. On the contrary, at the request of the Nicaraguan government, it agreed to include in the treaty a new article giving the United States the right to intervene for the preservation of Nicaraguan independence and for the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee refused to approve this article, and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan finally signed a new treaty in 1914 that omitted the protectorate provision and essentially reiterated the terms of the 1913 canal treaty. Even this treaty was held up in the Senate for two years before being approved. Meanwhile, U.S. troops remained in Nicaragua. They were withdrawn in 1925 but landed again in 1926 as a result of renewed revolutionary unrest. The protectorate-in-practice was not ended until January 1933, when the troops were withdrawn again. The control over the customs was not ended until 1944.

The failure of the Wilson administration to gain Senate approval for the Nicaraguan protectorate in 1913–1914 did not dissuade it from pursuing the protectorate policy in the Caribbean. Indeed, Wilson pushed the policy with far more vigor than his predecessors had. Theodore Roosevelt's policy toward the Dominican Republic had been motivated primarily by strategic considerations, especially the desire to protect the approaches to the Panama Canal. Taft had been motivated by this consideration, but he had also pursued a complementary interest, that of having U.S. capital force European bondholders out of the Caribbean area. The Wilson administration added to the strategic and financial motivations a missionary zeal to spread U.S. political institutions and practices to the nations of the Caribbean. As Wilson remarked on one occasion, he wished to teach the South Americans how to elect good men.

The protectorate policy was carried out most vigorously in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In 1915, when Haiti's chronic revolutionary disturbances reached a high point, Wilson wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing: "I fear we have not the legal authority to do what we apparently ought to do…. I suppose there is nothing for it but to take the bull by the horns and restore order." Wilson proceeded to land troops and force a protectorate treaty upon the Haitian government. Restating the Platt Amendment formula, the treaty provided that the United States would "lend an efficient aid" for the preservation of Haitian independence and the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty. Along with this went a U.S. customs administration and a constabulary with officers from the United States. In 1916 the U.S. Senate approved the treaty without public debate. The outbreak of World War I and the developing submarine controversy with Germany had brought the Senate to share at least Wilson's strategic concerns, if not his politico-missionary zeal. The protectorate was to last until 1934, at which time the troops were withdrawn and the constabulary was "Haitianized." The treaty of 1916 actually expired in 1936, and until then the United States still had the right to intervene. The customs control lasted until 1941.

The intervention in the Dominican Republic came in 1916, the year after the neighboring Haitian protectorate was set up. The outbreak of a revolution in the Dominican Republic in that year brought the landing of U.S. troops. When Dominican authorities refused to cooperate in setting up a Haitian-style protectorate, U.S. military rule was imposed. Six years later this military regime allowed a provisional Dominican government to take office, and two years after that the military overlord ship was ended and the troops were withdrawn. The protectorate thus came to an end without having been regularized by treaty. The agreement concluded in 1924, at the time of the withdrawal, did provide, like the 1907 treaty, that the United States could protect the customs administration, which was to continue under its administration. This financial control, as in the case of Haiti, ended in 1941.

In the era preceding World War II, the policy of the United States toward the protectorates of other powers was generally to accept the establishment of protectorates and attempt to preserve as many of its rights in the protected state as was consistent with its overall interests. An example of this is the case of Morocco. By treaty between France and Morocco in 1912, France was given the right to occupy Morocco militarily, control Moroccan foreign relations, and station a French resident commissioner general in Morocco. Later in the same year, by agreement between France and Spain, the latter was allowed to assume a protectorate over small segments of Morocco. In recognizing the French protectorate in 1917, Secretary of State Lansing informed the French government that the question of U.S. extraterritorial rights, as well as other rights, would remain for later negotiation. In subsequent talks the United States refused to relinquish its extraterritorial rights. American recognition of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco was blocked by Spain's demand that the United States give up its extraterritorial rights with the act of recognition.

The United States has not always attempted to preserve its existing rights in recognizing another power's protectorate. When, as a consequence of victory in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan established a protectorate over Korea in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically approved the development because he believed it would help secure a balance of power in East Asia. Subsequent U.S. policy continued to be shaped by this consideration as well as by the expectation that Japan would in time annex the area outright. The Roosevelt administration was not even greatly concerned about preserving commercial rights in Korea. When in 1907 some Japanese leaders considered the advisability of establishing a Japan-Korea customs union—a step that would enable Japan to dominate the Korean market—Roosevelt was willing to approve such a scheme if in return he could get some concession on the Japanese immigration question. In this case and in many other instances, U.S. policy toward the protectorates of other powers has varied and has been determined primarily by the overall national interests as interpreted by succeeding administrations.

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