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The Path of Empire: A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power By Carl Russell Fish Characters: 17748

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


It became increasingly evident that the foreign policy of the United States could not consist solely of a Caribbean policy, a Pan-American policy, and a Far Eastern policy, but that it must necessarily involve a world policy. During the years after the Spanish War the world was actively discussing peace; but all the while war was in the air. The peace devices of 1815, the Holy and the Quadruple Alliances, had vanished. The world had ceased to regard buffer states as preventives of wars between the great nations, although at the time few believed that any nation would ever dare to treat them as Germany since then has treated Belgium. The balance of power still existed, but statesmen were ever uncertain as to whether such a relation of states was really conducive to peace or to war. A concert of the Great Powers resembling the Quadruple Alliance sought to regulate such vexing problems as were presented by the Balkans and China, but their concord was not loud enough to drown the notes of discord.

The outspoken word of governments was still all for peace; their proposals for preserving it were of two kinds. First, there was the time-honored argument that the best preservative of peace was preparation for war. Foremost in the avowed policies of the day, this was urged by some who really believed it, by some who hoped for war and intended to be ready for it, and by the cynical who did not wish for war but thought it inevitable. The other proposal was that war could and should be prevented by agreements to submit all differences between nations to international tribunals for judgment. In the United States, which had always rejected the idea of balance of power, and which only in Asia, and to a limited degree, assented to the concert of powers, one or the other of these two views was urged by all those who saw that the United States had actually become a world power, that isolation no longer existed, and that a policy of nonintervention could not keep us permanently detached from the current of world politics.

The foremost advocates of preparedness were Theodore Roosevelt and Admiral Mahan. It was little enough that they were able to accomplish, but it was more than most Americans realize. The doubling of the regular army which the Spanish War had brought about was maintained but was less important than its improvement in organization. Elihu Root and William H. Taft, as Secretaries of War, profiting by the lessons learned in Cuba, established a general staff, provided for the advanced professional training of officers, and became sufficiently acquainted with the personnel to bring into positions of responsibility those who deserved to hold them. The navy grew with less resistance on the part of the public, which now was interested in observing the advance in the rank of its fleet among the navies of the world. When in 1907 Roosevelt sent the American battleship squadron on a voyage around the world, the expedition not only caused a pleased self-consciousness at home but perhaps impressed foreign nations with the fact that the United States now counted not only as a potential but as an actual factor in world affairs.

Greater popular interest, if one may judge from relative achievement, was aroused by the proposal to substitute legal for military battles. The United States had always been disposed to submit to arbitration questions which seemed deadlocked. The making of general arrangements for the arbitration of cases that might arise in the future was now advocated. The first important proposal of this character was made to the United States by Great Britain at the time of the Venezuela affair. This proposal was rejected, for it was regarded as a device of Great Britain to cover her retreat in that particular case by suggesting a general provision. The next suggestion was that made by the Czar, in 1899, for a peace conference at The Hague. This invitation the United States accepted with hearty good will and she concurred in the establishment of a permanent court of arbitration to meet in that city. Andrew Carnegie built a home for it, and President Roosevelt sent to it as its first case that of the "Pious Fund," concerning which the United States had long been in dispute with Mexico.

The establishment of a world court promoted the formation of treaties between nations by which they agreed to submit their differences to The Hague or to similar courts especially formed. A model, or as it was called a "mondial" treaty was drawn up by the conference for this purpose. Secretary Hay proceeded to draw up treaties on such general lines with a number of nations, and President Roosevelt referred them to the Senate with his warm approval. That body, however, exceedingly jealous of the share in the treaty-making power given it by the Constitution, disliked the treaties, because it feared that under such general agreements cases would be submitted to The Hague Court without its special approval. * Yet, as popular sentiment was strongly behind the movement, the Senate ventured only to amend the procedure in such a way as to make every "agreement" a treaty which would require its concurrence. President Roosevelt, however, was so much incensed at this important change that he refused to continue the negotiations.

* The second article in these treaties read: "In each individual

case the high contracting parties, before appealing to the Permanent

Court of Arbitration, shall conclude a special agreement defining

clearly the matter in dispute."

President Taft was perhaps more interested in this problem than in any other. His Secretary of State, Elihu Root, reopened negotiations and, in 1908 and 1909, drew up a large number of treaties in a form which met the wishes of the Senate. Before the Administration closed, the United States had agreed to submit to arbitration all questions, except those of certain classes especially reserved, that might arise with Great Britain, France, Austro-Hungary, China, Costa Rica, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Hayti, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Spain, Sweden, Peru, San Salvador, and Switzerland.

Such treaties seemed to a few fearsome souls to be violations of the injunctions of Washington and Jefferson to avoid entangling alliances, but to most they seemed, rather, to be disentangling. It was, indeed, becoming increasingly apparent that the world was daily growing smaller and that, as its parts were brought together by rail and steamships, by telegraph and wireless, more and more objects of common interest must become subject to common regulation. General Grant can hardly be regarded as a visionary, and yet in 1873 in his second inaugural address, he had said: "Commerce, education, and rapid transit of thought and matter by telegraph and steam have changed all this.... I believe that our Great Maker is preparing the world in His own good time, to become one nation, speaking one language, and when armies and navies will be no longer required."

Quietly, without general interest, or even particular motive, the United States had accepted its share in handling many such world problems. As early as 1875 it had cooperated in founding and maintaining at Paris an International Bureau of Weights and Measures. In 1886 it joined in an international agreement for the protection of submarine cables; in 1890, in an agreement for the suppression of the African slave trade; in 1899, in an agreement for the regulation of the importation of spirituous liquors into Africa; in 1902, in a convention of American powers for the Arbitration of Pecuniary Claims. In 1903 it united with various American powers in an International Sanitary Convention; in 1905 it joined with most countries of the world in establishing and maintaining an International Institute of Agriculture at Rome. It would surprise most Americans to know that five hundred pages of their collection of "Treaties and Conventions" consist of such international undertakings, which amount in fact to a body of international legislation. It is obvious that the Government, in interpreting the injunction to avoid entangling alliances, has not found therein prohibition against international cooperation.

In 1783 the United States had been a little nation with not sufficient inhabitants to fill up its million square miles of territory. Even in 1814 it still reached only to the Rockies and still found a troublesome neighbor lying between it and the Gulf of Mexico. Now with the dawn of the twentieth century it was a power of imperial dimensions, occupying three million square miles between the Atlantic and the Pacific, controlling the Caribbean, and stretching its possessions across the Pacific and up into the Arctic. Its influence was a potent factor in the development of Asia, and it was bound by the bonds of treaties, which it has

ever regarded sacred, to assist in the regulation of many matters of world interest.

Nor had the only change during the century been that visible in the United States. The world which seemed so vast and mysterious in 1812 had opened up most of its dark places to the valor of adventurous explorers, of whom the United States had contributed its fair share. The facilities of intercourse had conquered space, and along with its conquest had gone a penetration of the countries of the world by the tourist and the immigrant, the missionary and the trader, so that Terence's statement that nothing human was alien to him had become perforce true of the world.

Nor had the development of governmental organization stood still. In 1812 the United States was practically the only democratic republic in the world; in 1912 the belief in a government founded on the consent of the governed, and republican in form, had spread over all the Americas, except such portions as were still colonies, and was practically true of even most of them. Republican institutions had been adopted by France and Portugal, and the spirit of democracy had permeated Great Britain and Norway and was gaining yearly victories elsewhere. In 1912 the giant bulk of China adopted the form of government commended to he; by the experience of the nation which, more than any other, had preserved her integrity. Autocracy and divine right, however, were by no means dead. On the contrary, girt and prepared, they were arming themselves for a final stand. But no longer, as in 1823, was America pitted alone against Europe. It was the world including America which was now divided against itself.

It was chiefly the Spanish War which caused the American people slowly and reluctantly to realize this new state of things-that the ocean was no longer a barrier in a political or military sense, and that the fate of each nation was irrevocably bound up with the fate of all. As the years went by, however, Americans came to see that the isolation proclaimed by President Monroe was no longer real, and that isolation even as a tradition could not, either for good or for ill, long endure. All thoughtful men saw that a new era needed a new policy; the wiser, however, were not willing to give up all that they had acquired in the experience of the past. They remembered that the separation of the continents was not proclaimed as an end in itself but as a means of securing American purposes. Those national purposes had been: first, the securing of the right of self-government on the part of the United States; second, the securing of the right of other nations to govern themselves. Both of these aims rested on the belief that one nation should not interfere with the domestic affairs of another. These fundamental American purposes remained, but it was plain that the situation would force the nation to find some different method of realizing them. The action of the United States indicated that the hopes of the people ran to the reorganization of the world in such a way as would substitute the arbitrament of courts for that of war. Year by year the nation committed itself more strongly to cooperation foreshadowing such an organization. While this feeling was growing among the people, the number of those who doubted whether such a system could ward off war altogether and forever also increased. Looking forward to the probability of war, they could not fail to fear that the next would prove a world war, and that in the even of such a conflict, the noninterference of the United States would not suffice to preserve it immune in any real independence.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE:

Each President's "Annual Message" always gives a brief survey of the international relations of the year and often makes suggestions of future policy. Of these the most famous is Monroe's message in 1823. Since 1860 they have been accompanied by a volume of "Foreign Relations", giving such correspondence as can be made public at the time. The full correspondence in particular cases is sometimes called for by the Congress, in which case it is found in the "Executive Documents" of House or Senate. A fairly adequate selection of all such papers before 1828 is found in "American State Papers, Foreign Affairs." Three volumes contain the American "Treaties, Conventions, International Acts," etc., to 1918. A. B. Hart's "Foundations of American Foreign Policy" (1901) gives a good bibliography of these and other sources.

More intimate material is found in the lives and works of diplomats, American and foreign. Almost all leave some record, but there are unfortunately fewer of value since 1830 than before that date. The "Memoirs" of John Quincy Adams (1874-1877), and his "Writings," (1913-), are full of fire and information, and W. C. Ford, in his "John Quincy Adams and the Monroe Doctrine," in the "American Historical Review," vol. VII, pp. 676-696, and vol. VIII, pp. 28-52, enables us to sit at the council table while that fundamental policy was being evolved. The most interesting work of this kind for the later period is "The Life and Letters of John Hay," by W. R. Thayer, 2 vols. (1915).

Treatments of American diplomacy as a whole are few. J. W. Foster's "Century of American Diplomacy" (1901) ends with 1876. C. R. Fish in "American Diplomacy" (1915) gives a narrative from the beginning to the present time. W. A. Dunning's "The British Empire and the United States" (1914) is illuminating and interesting. Few countries possess so firm a basis for the understanding of their relations with the world as J. B. Moore has laid down in his "Digest of International Law," 8 vols. (1906), and his "History and Digest of International Arbitrations," 6 vols. (1898).

Particular episodes and subjects have attracted much more the attention of students. Of the library of works on the Monroe Doctrine, A. B. Hart's "The Monroe Doctrine, an Interpretation" (1916) can be most safely recommended. On the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, M. W. Williams's "Anglo-American Isthmian Diplomacy," 1815-1915 (1916) combines scholarly accuracy with interest. A. R. Colquhoun's "The Mastery of the Pacific" (1902) has sweep; and no one will regret reading R. L. Stevenson's "A Footnote to History" (1892), though it deals but with the toy kingdom of Samoa.

The most important history of the Spanish War is Admiral F. E. Chadwick's "The Relations of the United States and Spain," one volume of which, "Diplomacy" (1909), deals with the long course of relations which explain the war; and two volumes, "Spanish-American War" (1911), give a narrative and critical account of the war itself. E. J. Benton's "International Law and Diplomacy of the Spanish-American War" (1908) is a good review of the particular aspects indicated in the title. The activity of the navy is discussed from various angles by J.D. Long, "The New American Navy," 2 vols. (1903), and by H. H. Sargent in "The Campaign of Santiago de Cuba," 3 vols. (1907), in which he gives a very valuable documentary and critical history of the chief campaign. General Joseph Wheeler has told the story from the military point of view in "The Santiago Campaign" (1899), and Theodore Roosevelt in "The Rough Riders" (1899). A good military account of the whole campaign is H.W. Wilson's "The Downfall of Spain" (1900). Russell A. Alger in "The Spanish-American War"(1901) attempts to defend his administration of the War Department. General Frederick Funston, in his "Memories of Two Wars" (1911) proves himself as interesting as a writer as he was picturesque as a fighter. J.A. LeRoy, in "The Americans in the Philippines," 2 vols. (1914), gives a very careful study of events in those islands to the outbreak of guerrilla warfare. C.B. Elliott's "The Philippines," 2 vols. (1917), is an excellent study of American policy and its working up to the Wilson Administration. W.F. Willoughby discusses governmental problems in his "Territories and Dependencies of the United States" (1905).

On the period subsequent to the Spanish War, J.H. Latane's "America as a World Power" (in the "American Nation Series," 1907) is excellent. A.C. Coolidge's "The United States as a World Power" (1908) is based on a profound understanding of European as well as American conditions. C.L. Jones's "Caribbean Interests of the United States" (1916) is a comprehensive survey. The "Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt" (1913) is indispensable for an understanding of the spirit of his Administration. W.H. Taft's "The United States and Peace" (1914) is a source, a history, and an argument.

The "International Year Book" and the "American Year Book" contain annual accounts written by men of wide information and with great attention to accuracy. Such periodic treatments, however, are intended to be, and are, valuable for fact rather than for interpretation.

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