Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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NICARAGUA. The state of Nicaragua, bounded on the west by the Pacific ocean, is on all other parts surrounded by the states of Honduras, San Salvador and Costa Rica. It touches the Atlantic ocean only by a triangular prolongation, at the point of which is situated the port of San Juan; its area is 122,000 square kilometres. According to Squier, the best authority in such matters, its population is 300,000, of which number not more than 30,000 are whites. The remainder is composed of Indians, mestizoes and negroes, the latter numbering from 18,000 to 20,000.


—By its geographical position, Nicaragua was, more than any of the other states of Central America, interested in the maintenance of the confederation of Guatemala, which united for the time the five republics of Central America after the recognition of their independence by Spain. It nevertheless had a large share in the events which, in 1842, brought about a definitive dissolution of that confederation. The condition of weakness and isolation, which was the result of this, weighed more heavily on Nicaragua than it did on its former confederates. Its territory, which is admirably situated for the construction of a canal opening a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, was for many years coveted both by England and the United States. In 1848, under pretext of obtaining satisfaction for injury done her subjects, England took possession of San Juan, the name of which she changed to Greytown. In 1852 the Clayton-Webster treaty stipulated for the restitution of this port to Nicaragua, but on the condition that there should be no imports or tonnage duties except such as were strictly necessary for the preservation of the port and the maintenance of its lighthouses. By this treaty England and the United States settled, of their own accord, certain questions of boundaries, upon which the states of Costa Rica and Nicaragua were divided. In the same year England, for the purpose of guarding her commercial interests involved in the question of interoceanic communication, declared the islands in the bay British colonies, although they were given up to the state of Honduras in 1860. These acts of foreign interference again started the idea of a confederation with the states of Honduras and Costa Rica. But they could not come to an agreement, and the negotiations, entered upon to establish a federation, ended, March 4, 1854, in a new act of separation. The conservative party was then in power; the democratic party did not allow it to rest, and called Walker to its aid. After two and a half years of strife, Nicaragua, which had escaped not without difficulty from the domination of the hardy filibuster—the soul and arm of a policy whose object it was to constitute in Central America, by colonization on a large scale, a confederation destined to draw into the United States, willingly or by force, the states of Central America—fell into the hands of American diplomates, and was very near entirely losing its independence (which it had preserved with great difficulty upon the field of battle.) In the negotiations which ended in the treaty of commerce, concluded Nov. 16, between Isarrari and the cabinet at Washington. This treaty conceded to the United States the right of transit between the two oceans, by every way of communication existing or which might exist. Two free ports were to be established at each of the extremities of communication, and no customs or tonnage duties were to be levied upon the merchandise and ships of the United States. The federal government extended its protection over its routes of communication, and had the right to transport troops over them, and protect itself there, in case of need, by a military force. These provisions are only an exact repetition of those inserted in the treaty with Mexico, relative to the isthmus of Tehuantepec. They caused none the less a profound sensation. The legislature of Nicaragua hastened to disavow them and to place the interoceanic communication under the protection of the powers, who had guaranteed the integrity of the Ottoman empire. Another resolution of the legislature, in March, 1859, asked the government to admit all nations, without privilege or exclusion, to the advantages of this communication; to establish free ports at the ends of the line; to impose moderate tolls and customs duties, and to forbid the passage of troops. Upon these bases the treaty concluded with England, June 29, 1860, rests. The right of armed intervention, to protect British interests, had nevertheless to be conceded in principle.


—The republic of Nicaragua is governed by the constitution of Aug. 19, 1858. The executive power is exercised by a president elected for four years; the legislative power by a senate of ten members, and by an assembly of eleven deputies. Justice is administered by tribunals whose decisions may be reviewed by the supreme court of Nicaragua. The army numbered, in 1873, about 13,000 men.


—In 1866 the receipts amounted to $841,253; and the expenditures the same year were $829,471. In 1868 the receipts were $632,471, and the expenditures $517,709. The public debt, in 1873, was $4,090,000. The exports, in 1866, were of the value of $771,966, and the imports amounted to $792,085. In 1870, the exports amounted to $924,031, and the imports to $914,648. The revenue of Nicaragua, in the year 1879-80, was $2,436,090, and the expenditures $2,570,135. The total amount of the public debt was $9,500,000, at the end of 1877.


—The products are the same as those of the other states of Central America. Nicaragua is also devoted to the raising of large and small live stock, a market for which is found in neighboring states.


—BIBLIOGRAPHY. Belly, Percement de l'isthme de Panama par le canal de Nicaragua, Paris, 1855; Belt, The Naturalist in Nicaragua, London, 1873; Bülow, Der Freistaat Nicaragua in Mittelamerika, Berlin, 1849; Keller, Le canal de Nicaragua, Paris, 1859; Lévy, Notas geograficas y económicas sobre la republica de Nicaragua, Paris, 1873; Marr, Reise nach Centralamerika, 2 vols., Hamburg, 1863; Scherzer, Wanderungen durch die mittelamerikanischen Freistaaten Nicaragua, Honduras und San Salvador, Brunswick, 1857; Squier, Sketches of Travel in Nicaragua, New York, 1851, and Nicaragua, its People, Scenery, Monuments, and the proposed Interoceanic Canal, 2 vols., London, 1852; Whetham, Across Central America, London, 1877.


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