The Anglo-Portuguese Alliance Today

Courtesy Reuters

THE first formal treaty of alliance between Great Britain and Portugal was signed in 1386. But coöperation between the two countries had begun at an even earlier period. Many of the Crusaders who helped Portugal gain her independence were English, and afterwards the Portuguese maintained their rule only as far inland as they could secure ready assistance from the sea. The treaty of 1386 was directed especially against the danger of Spanish aggression. In later years, defense of the Portuguese colonies became the central and permanent object; and today Portugal regards the ancient alliance as primarily useful in case aggression should threaten her relatively large and vulnerable empire.

From the legal point of view, and to a large extent from the practical point of view as well, the central feature of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance was defined most clearly in the so-called Secret Article of the Treaty of 1661: "The King of Great Britain . . . doth promise and oblige himself to defend and protect all conquests or Colonies belonging to the Crown of Portugal against all his enemies as well future as present."

More than two centuries later this statement still seemed to summarize the British obligation so perfectly that in 1899, when Great Britain wanted to make sure of Portugal's benevolent neutrality in the Boer War, the British negotiators limited themselves to a restatement of the original and historical promise.[i] This was the last occasion, so far as is generally known, when the Anglo-Portuguese alliance was renewed definitely in a diplomatic document.

On the British side, then, the promise to protect and defend the Portuguese colonies remains the constant and vital factor, to which nothing of any importance has been added. In return, whenever the alliance is renewed, as it always has been in every serious international crisis, Portugal enters into special and temporary agreements related to the particular emergency. But in spite of the fact that such engagements are temporary in origin, many of them have crystallized gradually into something fairly concrete and more

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