U.S.-Nicaraguan Relations

The United States had landed marines in turbulent Nicaragua during the Taft administration in a classic display of Dollar Diplomacy. A more fastidious Wilson administration attempted to justify American occupation through the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, which was negotiated in 1914, but not ratified until two years later. American bankers collected Nicaraguan customs duties, paid creditors and disbursed the remainder to the government.

U.S. interest in Nicaragua included the protection of American investments in the area, the desire to maintain general calm in the larger Panama Canal neighborhood and a commitment to keep other nations from completing a competing transoceanic canal.

A period of relative calm in the early 1920s led to the removal of Marine forces in 1925. However, a violent struggle for power erupted and U.S. occupation troops returned the following year, soon numbering in excess of 5,000. Aldolfo Díaz, long prominent in Nicaraguan politics, was backed by the U.S., which enforced an embargo that denied arms to his opponent. Democrats in Congress voiced opposition to the heavy-handed American actions and charged President Coolidge with conducting a “private war." Without a tinge of remorse, Coolidge responded by asserting that American lives and property needed to be protected and foreign meddlers had to be kept at bay.

Despite his tough stance, Coolidge sought to calm Nicaraguan ferment by dispatching Colonel Henry L. Stimson as his personal representative. The resulting Treaty of Tipitata (May 11, 1927) accomplished the following:

  • The warring factions in Nicaragua agreed to lay down their arms and abide by the results of a U.S.-supervised election scheduled for the following year;

  • the U.S. government also agreed to conduct training for a Nicaraguan national guard.
Stimson’s efforts paid off handsomely. The election was held and both sides basically abided by the results. During the next election cycle, U.S. advisors were invited back to oversee another exercise of the democratic process.

One sour note persisted through this period — the on-going presence of U.S. Marines in Nicaragua. The continuation of the military occupation was blamed primarily on the continuing armed resistance of General Augusto C. Sandino, a self-proclaimed prophet who opposed foreign intervention in general and the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty in particular.

U.S. forces were finally withdrawn from Nicaragua by the Hoover administration in 1933.


See other foreign affairs activities during the Coolidge administration.

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