The Pan-American Conference of 1889 -- also known as the First International Conference of American States -- established the Americas (North, Central and South) as a loose affiliation of nations. U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine developed the idea for the conference, which he hoped would establish new diplomatic ties between the different nations of the Americas. Ultimately, the conference proved to be a success that has continued on and developed for over 100 years.

Establishment of a Tradition

One of the lasting effects of the First International Conference of American States was the establishment of a tradition that has carried on for over 100 years. Though the name has changed (from the First International Conference to the Pan-American Conference to the Summit of the Americas), the purpose of the conference has remained the same: to have delegates from the different nations in the Americas meet and discuss issues relevant to the governance and cooperation of those nations.

Burgeoning American Alliance

A second lasting effect of this conference was the establishment of a loose affiliation between nations within the Americas. Though the individual nations of North, Central and South America remained sovereign, they began to consider themselves geopolitically united, as with some nations in Europe, Africa or Asia. Political theorist Jose Marti noted that “when [the delegates] arrived they were suspicious of each other, and now they return together as if they understood that this way of proceeding will be better for them.” That is, the delegates from different nations understood that cooperating with their neighbors would prove to be mutually beneficial.

Destruction of Conquest

Because the First International Conference occurred less than 10 years after the War of the Pacific between Peru, Bolivia and Chile, one of the hot topics under discussion was whether or not wars between American countries should result in conquest. That is, if one American country fought and won a war against another American country, would the winning country be allowed to seize control over the losing country’s assets? Citing the United States’ conquest of Mexican territories including Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, the conference delegates agreed that there would be no rights associated with winning a war, thus destroying the right of conquest between American nations.

Introduction of Arbitration

Another contested topic was the idea of arbitration as a means for settling disputes between American nations. Initially Blaine, the conference organizer, suggested that arbitration be overseen by the United States in Washington, D.C. Other delegates viewed this as a veiled attempt for the U.S. to maintain de facto power over its American neighbors. Delegates from Argentina and Brazil offered a counter-proposal to allow nations to decide upon their own arbitration terms. This counter-proposal was ultimately upheld over the U.S. proposal.

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