National Geographic : 1900 Apr
144 THE ANGLO-VENEZUELAN BOUNDARY DISPUTE Courts, other than criminal, are constituted to settle disputes justly if possible, but to settle them; and so this august tribunal has settled this old and irritating dispute peacefully, lawfully, and I wish I could add, justly. Contrasted, however, with any other device for settlement, arbitration is the best practical mode yet devised, and is cheap. Last week a statement of the expense in the case of the Venezuelan Boundary Arbitration was presented to the House of Commons. The cost to Great Britain from 1895 up to last week was £65,625, or about $320,000. The cost to Vene zuela is not published, so far as I know, but is probably not less. The appropriation by Congress for the United States Commission was $100,000. So that the total cost to the nations involved in a fierce and hot dispute, lasting four years, conducted by peaceful means, was about three-quarters of a million of dollars, equal to war-expenses for about one day. In the way of cost, then, arbitration is most econom ical; and as to justice, Venezuela gets not all she desired, but she does get control of the mouth of her great river, the Orinoco. Former British ministries had recognized the justice of her claim to this, and had proposed to cede to Venezuela this Orinoco mouth; but since the British moved forward into this tract some fifteen years ago and took possession by establishing police stations, issuing mining and timber licenses, etc., Venezuela's efforts to induce her to withdraw from the Orinoco mouth have been unavailing. Nor could she drive her out. By the arbitration, therefore, Venezuela, the weaker power, gets some thing which is of much value to her, which she has always prized, which Great Britain possessed herself of and the title to which she refused to arbitrate until after intervention. The very pith of the award lies in the possession and control of the Orinoco mouth. That Venezuela gets this is to my mind an act of justice and a triumph for arbitration, which does much to reconcile to a decision which I wish were in all respects as just as this. But the European and American view of American questions is far apart. As to prior rights resulting from discovery, occupation, etc.; as to rights based on relations with the aborigines; as to the nature, extent, and effect of political control-respecting all these, America and Europe are far apart. Jurists of the highest ability and integrity are certain to find themselves holding irreconcilable views. All this is most significant and should never be lost sight of when arbitration is proposed as a mode of settlement.