Professor Macvane began with the history of the disputed territory from the time that Spain claimed Guiana. It is not international law, the lecturer said, that discovery gives claim to possession. The claims of Spain in Guiana were not repeated by other European countries since they were not backed up by actual possession. Guiana changed hands many times.
In 1648 in the treaty of Munster, between Spain and Holland, it was agreed that each country should keep the possessions it had already in South America. The Dutch had settled to a considerable extent in Guiana, and, when the independence of Holland was acknowledged in the above treaty Holland was allowed to keep her possessions. Now the people of Venezuela point to this treaty with considerable confidence. But in reality no definite mention of what these possessions were is made in the treaty of Munster.
In the final arrangements after the Napoleonic wars the King of the Netherlands agreed to give over the territory about the Essequibo River to the possession of England. No mention of the boundaries was made until in 1840 there arose a dispute. A few months later the British government sent out to have a boundary surveyed. Lord Aberdeen, who commissioned the survey, was anxious to have natural boundaries. Schomburgk, the explorer, followed the Barina River farther than it had seemed to extend before. By this survey considerable more territory was included as British possessions.
Professor Macvane then spoke of the knowledge of the subject of the boundary which the maps give. He chose sixty-eight maps out of a much larger number and classified them. There is a difference of opinion in almost all of them which were published before 1814, when the Dutch still had a claim on the territory. About sixteen of the most reliable map makers put the boundary at Cape Nassau. One of our secretaries of state has said that this is a simple matter of historical evidence, but it is not a subject on which conclusive evidence is easy to be obtained. The map evidence on the disputed boundary is unsatisfactory, except, of course, that of the men who were on the spot.
All that our President had to base his message upon were the claims of the people of Venezuela. After the negotiations of 1840, the people of Venezuela were inactive until 1881. Then Lord Cranville took up the negotiations with Venezuela, which were finally rejected.
Now England has to look after the welfare of her colonists. It is her rule, which binds the colonies to her. The Venezuelans have never offered fair arbitration. Lord Salisbury said that he would not put under foreign arbitration the territory which has been for so long a time occupied by Englishmen, and previously by Dutch. He does not say "We will not arbitrate anything within the Schomburgk line."