“Greytown is no more!”

The 1854 Razing of a Central American Port, the U.S. Businesses Behind Its Demise, and the Lasting Foreign Policy Legacy


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About the Book

The Central American port of Greytown was destroyed by the U.S. Navy in 1854­ to “avenge an insult to the American Minister to Nicaragua,” according to official history. Two weeks later, the New York Tribune reported the intrigues that really doomed the port: Greytown had been a hindrance to the supremacy of a U.S.–owned steamboat company and to the colonization plans of American land speculators. Both interests used pretexts to convince the U.S. government to level the town. When an American sued for damages, he lost, resulting in a case law still cited to justify military interventions without the Congressional approval required by the Constitution. This book corrects the record regarding the causes of Greytown’s destruction, and challenges the case law, based as it is on a gross misapprehension of events.

About the Author(s)

Will Soper was a journalist for twenty years before becoming a graphic artist. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Bibliographic Details

Will Soper
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 262
Bibliographic Info: 31 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9057-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4858-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Preface 1
1. “I Must Shoot the Fellow!” 5
2. “Impaired by the Folly of an Individual” 24
3. “Git the English Banks to Help Us” 32
4. “It Will Be an American Town” 36
5. “A Mortal Feud Had Arisen” 49
6. “I Shall … Bombard the Town” 58
7. “Act of … Cruelty … Upon a Helpless … Village” 65
8. “The Great Theatre of Speculation” 72
9. “I Will See the President Again Today” 86
10. “The Greatest Confidence Trick of All Time” 93
11. “Am Grateful … And Entirely Satisfied” 100
12. “They Might Take His Office & Stick It” 110
13. “I Shall Surely Hang Him” 119
14. “No Capacity to Transfer … Title” 122
15. “Make Certain Officials at Washington Wince” 130
16. “The Mormons Had Better Go” 138
17. “As If ‘Usurpers’ Had Taken Possession” 147
18. “Regarding Constituent Will Soper’s Claim” 168
19. “Too Valuable … To Waive or Impair It” 173
20. Whither the Principals? An Epilogue 187
Chapter Notes 197
Bibliography 225
Index 237

Book Reviews & Awards

• “This gem of a book uncovers the truth behind a long-misunderstood episode of American ‘gunboat diplomacy.’ Deeply researched and rich in atmosphere, it is also an object lesson in the ways corporations can mobilize the military power of the United States to promote their interests.”—Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University

• “Overall, “Greytown is no more!” accomplishes its author’s goal of casting new light on the Greytown affair. Soper is a skilled writer and adept amateur historian. He revisits little-known facts, figures, and events and presents them in an accessible manner for the reader. He supports his contentions with a substantial number of reputable sources, and he takes the reader behind the curtain to present a plausible case that there is much more to the Greytown incident than most historians believe. … highly recommend[ed] … thorough historical expositions and accessible style”—Journal of National Security Law and Policy