According to Joseph B. Lockey, the closest student of Pan-Americanism's early days, the adjective "Pan-American" was first employed by the New York Evening Post in 1882, and the noun "Pan-Americanism" was coined by that same journal in 1888. The convening of the first inter-American conference in Washington the next year led to wider usage of the first term about 1890 and popularization of Pan-Americanism in the early years of the twentieth century. While the terms have since become familiar expressions to most of the reading public in the Western Hemisphere, their connotations remain vague. Broadly defined, Pan-Americanism is cooperation between the Western Hemisphere nations in a variety of activities including economic, social, and cultural programs; declarations; alliances; and treaties — though some authorities narrow the definition to include political action only. However, the specific definition must always be partly in error, and the broad one borders on the meaningless.
THE ROOTS OF PAN-AMERICANISM
Pan-Americanism is more easily traced than defined. In the middle of the nineteenth century, various "Pan" movements achieved popularity as adjuncts or exaggerations of the powerful nationalisms of the times, throwbacks to ancient Pan-Hellenism. Pan-Slavism was perhaps the first to acquire some measure of fame; Pan-Hellenism revived about 1860 and was followed by Pan-Germanism, Pan-Islamism, Pan-Celtism, Pan-Hispanism, and others. Probably all these "Pan" movements share certain predicates: their believers feel some unity, some uniqueness — perhaps superiority — and they share mutual interests, fears, history, and culture. In short, their similarities make them different from the rest of the world, and they combine for strength. Pan-Americanism, however, fails to meet most of those criteria and must fall back upon the weaker elements of a common geographical separation from the rest of the world and something of a common history.
From early colonial times, Western Hemisphere peoples believed that they were unique. Statesmen of the Americas, both North and South, were united in affirming that some force — nature, or perhaps God — had separated the Old World and the New World for a purpose; and this isolation in an unknown land had brought a common colonial experience that deserved the name of "system." Among leaders who saw and described this division was Thomas Jefferson ; Henry Clay often argued before Congress for its preservation; Sim ó n Bol í var acted upon it; and President James Monroe's doctrine most fundamentally assumes it.
What were the elements of this American system? First was independence, defined by Clay as freedom from despotism, either domestic or European. Peoples of the Americas believed in a common destiny, a body of political ideals, the rule of law, and cooperation among themselves (at least when threatened from the outside). In later years Secretary of State James G. Blaine saw these factors strengthened by commerce; the Brazilian statesmen Joaquim Nabuco and Jos é Maria da Silva Paranhos, Baron Rio Branco, talked of a common past; Woodrow Wilson thought he saw a unique American spirit of justice.
Americans could not ignore geography. They had moved to, or been born in, an under-populated continent, where the strife of Europe was put aside and mobility, vertical or horizontal, was easily achieved. Nature isolated the American, and that isolation would produce a different people. But the most apparent difference between Americans and their European cousins was in the form of government. The vastness of America enhanced the individual's worth, and the right of each person to have a share in government found fertile soil there. Thus, when the Spanish and Portuguese colonies struggled to gain their freedom in the half-century after 1789, most deliberately chose the unfamiliar republican form of government that would safeguard the rights of citizens to choose those who would govern them. Inevitably some constitutions were copied, but that was the plagiarizing of words; the ideas were pandemic. (That a few nonrepublican administrations arose was a matter singularly ignored and always easily explained away to anyone who pursued the puzzle.) From Philadelphia to Tucum á n in the Argentine, new constitutions proclaimed that Americans had a new way of life and a new form of government to ensure its continuance.
Nowhere were these American ideas better expressed than in paragraphs of the presidential address that became known as the Monroe Doctrine. Monroe asserted a belief in the existence of two worlds, one monarchical and one republican; the New World was closed to further colonization by the Old, and neither should interfere with the other. Third parties were not to tamper even with regions in the Americas that were still colonies. Whether the U.S. will to protect this separation was based upon geography or, ironically, the British fleet, the doctrine expressed what Americans believed and would fight to preserve.
At times Americans have been carried away with the enthusiasm of their rhetoric and have found unifying interests where they did not exist. Proponents of Pan-Americanism have often spoken of the existence of a common heritage, a statement with limited application, for in the hemisphere there is no common language, culture, or religion. Contrary to most "Pan" movements, Pan-Americanism has little basis in race or ethnicity, and it scarcely seems necessary to belabor the cultural diversity of the persons who bear the name American. If heritage were the chief basis of community, Spanish Americans would have their strongest ties with Spain. Brazilians with Portugal. Anglo-Americans with Great Britain. and so on. Nor can Pan-Americanism ignore those millions of African heritage or those who are indigenous to the Americas. Language and religion are even more varied than race in the Americas and can offer no more means of unification.
Finally, consideration must be given to the geographical basis for Pan-Americanism. It is a fact that the Americas occupy their own hemisphere and that they had been comfortably separated from the disturbances of Europe by great seas until the mid-twentieth century. Clearly this isolation resulted in some community of interest. The danger lies in exaggeration, for the modern traveler soon learns that in terms of dollars, hours, or miles, much of the United States is far closer to Europe than it is to most of Latin America. and Buenos Aires is far closer to Africa than it is to New York or Washington, D.C. In short, it is a fallacy to contend that the Americas are united by their proximity. The Americas, North and South, occupy the same hemisphere, and that does present an important mythology and symbolism to the world. More than that cannot be demonstrated.
Who are the Pan-Americans? No one has ever established requirements for membership nor set forth the procedures by which a people can become part of the elect. Form of government played a more or less clear part; the American nations all seemed to understand that colonies could not participate in Pan-American movements, but that local empires (the only one bearing that title for any duration was Brazil ) were welcome. Nations sent delegates to the various conferences called during the nineteenth century primarily because they were invited by the host, not because of any established rules. Thus, some meetings that are classified as Pan-American might have had delegates from only four or five states. After 1889 nearly all of the republics of the hemisphere took part. The proliferation of new states in the years following World War II is reflected in Pan-Americanism, and former British colonies, no matter how small (and perhaps unviable), seem to have been welcomed into the American family, as has Canada. though generally the Canadians have often pursued their own policies. A nation can also be excommunicated, as Cuba was in 1961. And despite sanctions imposed upon Cuba by the Organization of American States (OAS), it continued to have diplomatic and economic relations with several American states, particularly following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
PAN-AMERICANISM TO 1850
Pan-Americanism most often expresses itself through international conferences, very loosely joined in the early years, highly structured in more recent decades. In the nineteenth century, conferences were often called to seek combined action against some specific problem. In the twentieth century, sessions have been scheduled long in advance and have had wide-ranging agendas. Attendance at the latter meetings has neared unanimity; in the early days it was irregular, made the worse by slow communications. The record is filled with accounts of delegations not formed in time or sent too late to take part in the proceedings. A final distinction is clear: while in recent times the impetus usually has come from the United States, during the nineteenth century almost all of the leadership came from Spanish America, often to the exclusion of the Anglo-Americans and Portuguese Americans. Some writers, in fact, seeking to divide Pan-Americanism chronologically, have classified the years 1826 – 1889 as the "old," or Spanish-American, period of the movement.
While many Latin Americans, including Jos é de San Mart í n, Mart í nez de Rozas, Bernardo O'Higgins, and Bernardo Monteagudo, understood the necessity for Spanish-American cooperation, the "liberator" of Spanish-American independence, Sim ó n Bol í var, is considered the father of the "old" Pan-Americanism. Long before any other leader, he dreamed of a strong league of American states leading to permanent military and political cooperation. Initially, at least, Bol í var thought of a confederation of only the Spanish-American states, if for no other reason than their common heritage and struggle for freedom from Spain. In 1815 he predicted the creation of three Spanish-American federations: Mexico and Central America, northern Spanish South America, and southern South America. But his ultimate goal, what became known as the "Bolivarian dream," was the unification of all Spanish America. In defeat and in victory his plan never disappeared, and in 1818 he (somewhat inaccurately) wrote to an Argentine friend, "We Americans should have but a single country since in every other way we are perfectly united."
By the 1820s the freedom of most of the Latin American colonies seemed assured, and the United States and some European nations began extending diplomatic recognition to the new governments. Bol í var saw this as an opportunity to implement his plan, and in 1822 he persuaded the government of Gran Colombia to send emissaries to the other South American nations, which resulted in general treaties with Chile, Peru, Buenos Aires, Mexico, and Central America. The signatories agreed to cooperate in sustaining their independence from foreign domination. Still, Bol í var sought much more.
The fear that Spain might attempt to reclaim its empire with the assistance of Europe's Holy Alliance provided Bol í var with the opportunity for his grand alliance. In December 1824 he called for an " assembly of plenipotentiaries" to meet at Panama to address the security issue. Bol í var's notice was addressed to "the American republics, formerly Spanish colonies," and therefore omitted several American states. The invitation included Great Britain, signaling Bol í var's understanding that British support was essential for the success of his confederation. He also permitted the Netherlands to send an observer, apparently without an invitation. Bol í var had ignored both the United States and Brazil, which of course, were not "formerly Spanish colonies"; but when their attendance was sought by other Latin Americans, he posed no objection.
Bol í var's classical training caused him to see Panama as the modern counterpart of the Isthmus of Corinth, and parallel to the Greek experience, he selected Panama as the site of the conference. That unsavory location had many defects as a host of an international conference. In fact, every delegate took ill during the sessions, but it did have the advantage of a central location. In June 1826 the representatives of Peru, Gran Colombia, Mexico, and the Central American Federation met and planned the first steps toward Pan-Americanism.
Technically speaking, attendance was much greater, for in time Gran Colombia was to be divested of Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama, and in 1838 the Central American Federation was split into its original five parts, which became the republics of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In that sense, the four nations accounted for eleven future Latin American republics. But what of the others? The United Provinces of La Plata already evidenced the isolationism and antipathy to alliances that were to mark the policy of its successor state, Argentina. Even more self-contained was Paraguay, which simply declined to be represented. Brazil, Chile, and Bolivia exhibited some interest but for various reasons failed to send delegates to Panama.
Bol í var not only mistrusted U.S. intentions in the hemisphere but thought its presence would preclude an honest discussion about the African slave trade. For its part, when the invitation did come, the United States, officially neutral in Latin America's wars for independence, could quite properly have declined the invitation. However, members of President John Quincy Adams's administration, led by Secretary of State Henry Clay, were eager to join in any movement toward inter-American cooperation, if for no other reason than economic opportunity. Strong congressional opposition arose. Some of it could be attributed to the Democrats seeking to embarrass the Adams administration, but there were more serious concerns. The isolationists objected to participating in any conclave that might produce a permanent and entangling alliance. Many southerners feared a discussion of the slavery issue. In contrast, representatives from the Northeast saw the need to protect commercial interests against British competition. After four months of debate, Congress approved sending two delegates, but to no avail. One died en route to Panama; the other made no effort to reach Panama, but journeyed instead to Tacubaya, Mexico, where the Spanish-American statesmen planned further meetings.
Rivalries, both petty and large, soon appeared at Panama. Some states professed to fear Bol í var's ambitions; others wanted only a temporary league to complete the independence of Latin America from Europe. Even the role of the British at the sessions was debated. Owing to the local climate and unsanitary conditions, the Panama Congress lasted less than one month, but not before concluding a treaty of perpetual union, league, and confederation; a convention providing for future meetings; and a second convention outlining each participating state's financial support for maintenance of an armed force and the confederation's bureaucracy. The treaty contained thirty-one detailed articles designed to implement the treaty's objective: "to support in common defense … the sovereignty and independence" of each state against foreign domination.
After signing the agreements,
some of the representatives departed for home; others traveled to Tacubaya, a small village near Mexico City, where they planned to reconvene if their governments deemed the effort worthwhile. Some informal talks were held at Tacubaya, but no formal sessions ever took place, and the Panama Congress had to stand upon its completed work. A dismal fate awaited the Panama Congress treaties across Latin America. Only Gran Colombia ratified them all, despite the surprising opposition of Bol í var.
In only one regard can the Panama Congress be looked upon as a success: the fact of its existence perhaps made the holding of future such conferences a bit easier. Little else was accomplished. Why did it fail so badly? The end of the threat from Spain and the beginnings of civil strife all over Latin America had coincided to make the congress a forum for expressing the new republics' distrust of each other. For the time being, the newly independent nations of Latin America set about the task of nation building. Panama was a noble experiment. Though its aims were obviously far ahead of its time, they were appropriate to any time.
The failure of the Panama Congress also demonstrated that its prime mover, Bol í var, had changed his mind about the vast confederation of states, and would concentrate instead upon establishing a tight federation of the Andes with himself as permanent dictator. This change left a leadership vacuum in Pan-Americanism that was briefly filled by Mexico. Despite rapid shifts from conservative to liberal administrations, the Mexican government for a decade followed a policy of urging the Latin American states to consummate some of the plans drafted at Panama and help protect the region against the possibility of European intervention. Armed with a proposal for a treaty of union, and calling for renewal of the Panama discussions, Mexican ministers were dispatched to several capitals. Mexico was willing that the meetings be convened in almost any convenient spot, but the suggestion received little support. This first bid of 1832 was repeated in 1838, 1839, and 1840, by which time Mexico faced an increasing North American presence in Texas. However, the other nations lacked Mexico's concern, and the proposals did not result in even one conference. Only when the South Americans feared for their own security did they decide to band together again.
The United States also distanced itself from Latin America. President James Monroe's 1823 announcement that the Western Hemisphere was off-limits to European encroachments because the hemispheric nations shared common democratic and republican ideals lost its luster as U.S. diplomats reported back from the region that the Latin American nations were anything but democratic or republican. Nor did the visions of commercial success ever materialize. These same diplomats found the British, who helped to finance Latin America's independence, well entrenched.
The second Latin American conference took place in Lima, Peru, from December 1847 to March 1848. The conference was in response to two threats: the fear of Spanish designs upon South America's west coast and the U.S. incursion into Mexico. General Juan Jos é Flores, a Venezuelan-born conservative, became Ecuador's first president but was subsequently exiled. Flores went to Europe for help and appeared to be successful in raising private troops and a fleet to restore himself to the presidency. Anticipating an invasion by Spain or Great Britain, the government of Peru invited the American republics to meetings at Lima in December 1847. The sessions lasted until March 1848, even though it was known by that time that the British government would prohibit the sailing of the Spanish fleet.
The United States was invited to send a representative, ostensibly to demonstrate to Europe that all the hemispheric nations would unite against a foreign threat. The Latin Americans also intended to remind the North Americans, then engaged in a war with Mexico, that the conference's fundamental purpose was to demonstrate mutual respect for the territorial integrity of all nations. President James K. Polk refused the invitation to send a delegate and instead dispatched J. Randolph Clay as a nonparticipating observer. Only ministers from Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru participated in the Lima conference, where they concluded four treaties, most of them concerning mutual assistance. Only Colombia ratified one of the agreements. Ironically, Clay, the U.S. observer, expressed great satisfaction with the conference resolutions regarding noncolonization and denying Europe the right to intervene in hemispheric affairs. The conference concluded just as the U.S. Congress was ratifying the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which stripped Mexico of its vast northern territories for annexation to the United States.
PAN-AMERICANISM, 1850 – 1900
What appeared to be the insatiable U.S. appetite for territory prompted two Latin American meetings in 1856. Santiago, Chile, was the site of the third Pan-American conference under Spanish-American auspices. The conference was called because Ecuador proposed granting the United States the right to mine guano on the Gal á pagos Islands, an action that disturbed Ecuador's Pacific Coast neighbors. The republics of Peru, Ecuador, and Chile sent delegations to Santiago, where they drafted plans for another confederation and agreed upon joint measures for handling "piratical" expeditions. In September 1856 the delegates signed the Continental Treaty, dealing with many aspects of international law, filibustering, and acts of exiles, as well as the usual nod in the direction of a confederation. Significantly, while all of the nations of Latin America were urged to join, including Portuguese-speaking Brazil, the United States was not invited to attend the conference or to join the confederation. But once more failure ensued. The Continental Treaty was not ratified.
Meanwhile the United States, not a European nation, appeared as the chief threat to Latin America's territorial integrity. Its acquisition of more than one-third of Mexico was followed by the presence of filibusters in the circum-Caribbean region. William Walker's filibustering expedition into Nicaragua caused the ministers of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, New Granada, Peru, El Salvador, and Venezuela assigned to Washington, D.C. to sign a treaty of alliance and confederation on 9 November 1856. The signatories pledged themselves to prevent the organizing of expeditions by political exiles against an allied government and, if an attack occurred, to provide military assistance to the aggrieved nation. Hoping to convert this arrangement into a Hispanic-American Confederation, the delegates called for a conference to convene in Lima in December 1857. As in the past, nothing materialized. The Washington agreement was not ratified, and the conference was not convened.
The fourth and last of the "old" Spanish-American conferences took place at Lima, Peru, in 1864. The weakness of many of the Latin American states and the U.S. preoccupation with its Civil War had allowed a series of European flirtations in the American hemisphere. Spain claimed the reannexation of the Dominican Republic in 1861; Spain, Great Britain, and especially France threatened, and then invaded, Mexico; and Spain occupied Peru's Chincha Islands to collect debts, under the pretext that Peru was still a Spanish colony. In response, in 1864, the Colombian government encouraged the Peruvians to invite all former Spanish colonies to a conference at Lima to take up the matter of intervention by foreign powers. In addition to Peru, states attending included Argentina, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Venezuela. The United States and Brazil were not invited, ostensibly because they were not former Spanish colonies. The Lima Congress failed to negotiate with Spain for the withdrawal of its troops from the Chincha Islands, and when the delegates turned their full attention to the usual grand treaty of confederation, the failure was just as complete. Once again no nation ratified any of the agreements. The end of the American Civil War and the renewed preoccupation of Spain and France with domestic and foreign problems elsewhere account for the departure of those two nations from their Latin American adventures.
The War of the Triple Alliance (1865 – 1870), which pitted Paraguay against a loose league of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, and the War of the Pacific (1879 – 1884), in which Chile easily mastered Bolivia and Peru, left bitter residues that in the short run meant the end of any program of Pan-Americanism led by Spanish-American republics. Although a few technical and nonpolitical conferences were held in the next few years, Pan-Americanism was discarded until the United States assumed the responsibility.
U.S. leadership marks the beginning of the "new" Pan-Americanism, dating from the 1880s until its demise in the 1930s. The "new" Pan-Americanism differed significantly from the "old." The four early conferences were dominated by the Spanish-American states and concerned themselves with problems that, while not exclusively Spanish American, seemed to threaten those states particularly. The meetings were usually provoked by the threat of outside aggression, and the solutions sought were political and military in nature. The "new" Pan-Americanism was more inclusive yet less ambitious in scope. It focused on low-profile issues, which contributed to increased conference participation and the building of Pan-Americanism into an institution of imposing size and machinery. Concomitantly, Latin Americans became increasingly vocal regarding U.S. dominance of hemispheric relations, culminating at the 1928 Havana conference.
Credit for inaugurating the series of "new" Pan-American conferences rests with James G. Blaine, who served as secretary of state in the brief (March to September 1881) administration of James A. Garfield. Blaine owed much of his genuine interest in Latin America to his admiration for Henry Clay. Both men envisioned a free-trade relationship among the countries of the Western Hemisphere. While U.S. – Latin American trade was nearly immeasurable during Monroe's presidency in the 1820s, by the 1880s the United States faced a healthy unfavorable trade balance caused by its large purchases of Latin America's raw materials and the small sales of manufactured goods to the area in return.
In addition to trade issues, Blaine confronted several ongoing disputes. The worst of these was the War of the Pacific, in which Bolivia had been decisively defeated by Chile, whose troops were occupying Lima, Peru. The Chileans gave every indication of making vast territorial acquisitions at Bolivia's and Peru's expense. In addition, several boundary disputes threatened the stability of Latin America and provoked Blaine into assuming the unpopular role of peacemaker. Blaine's intentions were better than either his methods or his agents, and he incurred significant displeasure from Latin Americans during his brief first term in office. Following Garfield's death, Blaine resigned the secretaryship. Before leaving the State Department, however, he promoted a call for the first International Conference of American States, to be held in Washington, D.C. Blaine's successors, Frederick T. Freylinghuysen and Thomas F. Bayard, had little interest in Latin American affairs. Freylinghuysen withdrew Blaine's invitation for an Inter-American conference in Washington.
The movement was renewed a few years later by the U.S. Congress, when it sponsored a survey of Latin America's economic conditions. With a more friendly atmosphere, the First International Conference convened in 1889, when the secretary of state was again James G. Blaine. All of the American states except the Dominican Republic (its absence was due to U.S. failure to ratify a trade treaty with its Caribbean neighbor) sent delegations of high caliber. With some opposition Blaine was chosen chairman of the sessions, a post in which he demonstrated considerable tact and skill.
In the midst of its industrial revolution, the United States anticipated that the conference would bring economic benefits through a customs union. Toward that end, the Latin American delegates were entertained lavishly and given an impressive and fatiguing six thousand mile railroad tour through the industrial heart of the nation. Understanding the U.S. intention, the Latin American delegates, led by the Argentines, failed to accept Blaine's proposed customs union. As producers of raw materials, the Latin Americans preferred open markets. Opposition also came from some U.S. congressmen, particularly those from the nation's agricultural sectors. Instead, a program of separate reciprocal trade treaties was recommended; a few were instituted, decades ahead of the Good Neighbor program of the 1930s. On the political front, an ambitious arbitration treaty was watered down in conference, nullified by a minority of delegations, and ratified by no one.
The most notable achievement of the Washington conference was the establishment of the International Union of American Republics for the collection and distribution of commercial information. The agency to execute this command was the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics, supervised by the U.S. secretary of state in Washington, D.C. This bureau met regularly and, expanding in both size and functions, became a useful agency to the American states, though a far cry from the Pan-Americanism of Bol í var's day. The date of the union's establishment, 14 April 1890, became known as Pan-American Day.
Although the delegates to the First International Conference had not scheduled any future meetings, they left Washington with the clear intention of so doing. Nothing happened until 1899, when President William McKinley suggested another conclave. Only then did the Commercial Bureau act. It selected Mexico City as the site for the second conference and handled the drafting of agenda and invitations.
PAN-AMERICANISM, 1900 – 1945
In this fashion the institutionalization of the International Conferences of American States developed. To reduce the appearance of U.S. domination, the conferences were held in the various Latin American capital cities, with the presumed hope of meeting in all of them. The record of attendance was very high, frequently unanimous, and only once were as many as three states absent (from Santiago, Chile, in 1923). The frequency of the sessions varied because of world wars, but four-or five-year intervals were the norm.
The second through sixth conferences (Mexico City, 1901 – 1902; Rio de Janeiro, 1906; Buenos Aires, 1910; Santiago, Chile, 1923; Havana, Cuba, 1928) experienced minimal success. The issues recurring most prominently at these meetings were arbitration, hemispheric peace, trade, the forcible collection of debts, U.S. dominance of the organization, and intervention by one state in the affairs of another (and, in the 1920s, arms control). Specific accomplishments of these many conferences were more modest. Resolutions, conventions, and treaties were often debated, but compromise was endless, and major solutions were rarely reached or ratified. One exception was the 1923 Gondra Treaty, designed to create machinery for the peaceful settlement of American disputes. This treaty served as the basis for similar machinery in the later Organization of American States. Major alterations included the substitution in 1910 of the name Pan-American