William Lindsay Scruggs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
William Lindsay Scruggs
United States Ambassador to Colombia
In office
July 24, 1873 – October 26, 1876
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Stephen A. Hurlbut
Succeeded by Ernest Dichman
United States Ambassador to Colombia
In office
19 July 1882 – 15 December 1885
President Chester A. Arthur
Preceded by George Earl Maney
Succeeded by Charles Donald Jacob
United States Ambassador to Venezuela
In office
30 May 1889 – 15 December 1892
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Charles L. Scott
Succeeded by Frank C. Partridge
Personal details
Born (1836-09-14)September 14, 1836
Nashville, Tennessee
Died July 18, 1912(1912-07-18) (aged 75)
Atlanta, Georgia
Resting place unknown
Nationality American
Occupation Diplomat
Profession Journalist, Author, Lawyer
Map of the British aspirations on Venezuela in 1896

William Lindsay Scruggs (September 14, 1836 – July 18, 1912)[1] was an American author, lawyer, and diplomat. He was a scholar of South American foreign policy and U.S. ambassador to Colombia and Venezuela. He played a key role in the Venezuela Crisis of 1895 and helped shape the modern interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine.

Early life and ambassadorships[edit]

William L. Scruggs was born in Nashville in 1836.[2] He was a lawyer and journalist in addition to being a diplomat.

Scruggs was U.S. Minister to Colombia from July 24, 1873 to October 26, 1876 and again from July 19, 1882 to December 15, 1885.[3] In 1884 he became known as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Colombia. Previously his title was simply Minister Resident, Colombia.

Scruggs was U.S. Minister to Venezuela from May 30, 1889 to December 15, 1892.[4] In 1889 he became known as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Venezuela. Scruggs appeared to resign his ambassadorship to Venezuela in December 1892, but in fact had been dismissed by the US for bribing the President of Venezuela.[5]

Venezuela lobbyist[edit]

House Resolution 252

In 1893 Scruggs was recruited by the Venezuelan Government to operate on its behalf in Washington D.C. as a lobbyist and legal attache. As a lobbyist, Scruggs published the pamphlet entitled British Aggressions in Venezuela: The Monroe Doctrine on Trial. In the pamphlet, he attacked "British aggression" claiming that Venezuela was anxious to arbitrate over the Venezuela/British Guiana border dispute of territory at west of Essequibo river limited by Schomburgk Line. Scruggs also claimed that British policies in the disputed territory violated the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.[6] It was this relationship that eventually led to his service as Special Counsel before the Boundary Commission, three years later.

Scruggs collaborated with Georgian compatriot Congressman Leonidas Livingston to propose House Resolution 252 to the third session of the 53rd Congress of the United States of America. The bill — written by Scruggs — recommended Venezuela and Great Britain settle the dispute by arbitration. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law on February 20, 1895, after passing both houses of the United States Congress. The vote had been unanimous.[7] The president Cleveland adopted a broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine that did not just simply forbid new European colonies but declared an American interest in any matter within the hemisphere.[8] British prime minister Lord Salisbury and British ambassador to the US Lord Pauncefote both misjudged the importance the American government placed on the dispute.[9][10] The key issue in the crisis became Britain's refusal to include the territory east of the Schomburgk Line in the proposed international arbitration.

By December 17, 1895, President Cleveland delivered an address to the United States Congress which was perceived as direct threat of war with Great Britain if the British did not comply with Venezuelan demands (now openly championed by the United States). Almost immediately after Cleveland's statement to the United States Congress, the US military was put on combat alert for a potential war with Great Britain. Ultimately Britain backed down and tacitly accepted the US right to intervene under the Monroe Doctrine. This US intervention forced Britain to accept arbitration of the entire disputed territory.

On December 18, 1895, Congress approved $100,000 for the United States Commission on the Boundary Between Venezuela and British Guiana. It was formally established on January 1, 1896. Jose Andrade, the Venezuelan Minister to Washington, on February 26, 1896 announced that Scruggs had been appointed by the Venezuelan President as his "agent charged with submitting information" to the United States Venezuela Boundary Commission, and to present "reports relative to the titles and rights of Venezuela."[11] An Arbitration Tribunal was agreed between the US and Britain in 1896, and this concluded in 1899 in Paris (France). The Schomburgk Line was re-established as the border between British Guiana and Venezuela, which had been set in 1835. The Anglo-Venezuelan boundary dispute asserted for the first time a more outward-looking American foreign policy that marking the United States as a world power. This is the earliest example of modern interventionism under the Monroe Doctrine in which the USA exercised its claimed prerogatives in the Western Hemisphere.[12]

By standing with a Latin American nation against European colonial powers, Cleveland improved relations with the United States' southern neighbors, but the cordial manner in which the negotiations were conducted also made for good relations with Britain.[13] However, by backing down in the face of a strong US declaration of a strong interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, Britain tacitly accepted the Doctrine, and the crisis thus provided a basis for the expansion of US interventionism in the [Americas].[14] Leading British historian Robert Arthur Humphreys later called the boundary crisis "one of the most momentous episodes in the history of Anglo-American relations in general and of Anglo-American rivalries in Latin America in particular."[5]

Later life[edit]

Scruggs retired to Atlanta, Georgia, where he died July 18, 1912.[2]



  1. ^ William Lindsay Scruggs at Find a Grave
  2. ^ a b "W.L. Shruggs is dead; Ex-minister to Venezuela Helped to Settle Border Dispute with England" (PDF). New york Times. July 19, 1912. 
  3. ^ "US Ambassador to Colombia US government office". nndb.com. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  4. ^ "US Ambassador to Venezuela US government office". nndb.com. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  5. ^ a b R. A. Humphreys (1967), "Anglo-American Rivalries and the Venezuela Crisis of 1895", Presidential Address to the Royal Historical Society 10 December 1966, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 17: pp131-164
  6. ^ Ishmael, Odeen (1998). "The Trail Of Diplomacy A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue". 
  7. ^ Schoultz, Lars (1998). Beneath the United States: a history of U.S. policy toward Latin America ([Fourth printing]. ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University: Harvard University Press. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0-674-92276-X. 
  8. ^ Zakaria, Fareed, From Wealth to Power (1999). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01035-8. pp145–146
  9. ^ Gibb, Paul, "Unmasterly Inactivity? Sir Julian Pauncefote, Lord Salisbury, and the Venezuela Boundary Dispute," Diplomacy and Statecraft, Mar 2005, Vol. 16 Issue 1, pp 23-55
  10. ^ Blake, Nelson M. "Background of Cleveland's Venezuelan Policy," American Historical Review, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Jan., 1942), pp. 259-277 in JSTOR
  11. ^ Ishmael, Odeen (1998). "The Trail Of Diplomacy A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue". 
  12. ^ Ferrell, Robert H. "Monroe Doctrine". ap.grolier.com. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  13. ^ Nevins, Allan. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage (1932). ASIN B000PUX6KQ., 550, 633–648
  14. ^ Historian George Herring wrote that by failing to pursue the issue further the British “tacitly conceded the U. S. definition of the Monroe Doctrine and its hegemony in the hemisphere.” – Herring, George C., From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776, (2008) pp. 307–308

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Stephen A. Hurlbut
United States Minister Resident, Colombia
July 24, 1873 – October 26, 1876
Succeeded by
Ernest Dichman
Preceded by
George Earl Maney
United States Minister Resident, Colombia
July 19, 1882 – December 04, 1884
Succeeded by
none (change of title)
Preceded by
none (change of title)
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Colombia
December 04, 1884 – December 15, 1885
Succeeded by
Charles Donald Jacob
Preceded by
Charles L. Scott
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, Venezuela
May 30, 1889 – December 15, 1892
Succeeded by
Frank C. Partridge