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   Chapter 17 THE PRIZE OF THE PACIFIC

The Land of Tomorrow By William B. Stephenson Characters: 6542

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


ASIDE from our interests which are now bound up in the great war there is no problem confronting the United States which is so vital as that of Alaska and the Pacific Coast. Separated as she is from the motherland by a foreign country, the shipping to and from Alaska is the most important thing to be considered. True, two of her river systems furnish five thousand miles of navigable water, but in winter they are choked with ice and the country is as yet painfully short on railroads! The Pacific Ocean is the great problem of the American people to-day and Alaska is the prize beyond compute of the Pacific Coast.

It is high time that the American people and the United States Government as well rubbed their eyes and awakened to a fact long known to the few of us who have been on guard. The cards were shuffled some time ago and are just lying, waiting to be dealt in the greatest game that has ever been played! Before the war we used to hear much talk about the "control of the seas." How many of us realized what that expression meant? The war has opened our eyes. Who is it that has the shuffled cards lying ready? Who is it that wants the Pacific? The answer is ready and instant. Japan!

Every school boy knows that the United States owns the Aleutian Islands. He knows also that they stretch all the way across to Asia and separate Bering Sea from the Pacific. In this group of Islands is one which has an ice-free front. It is called Dutch Harbor. It would prove an excellent base, if properly fortified, in the control of the Pacific Ocean. Out of our hands Dutch Harbor would be just as effective a barrier against us as Gibraltar now is against Spain! In time of war a naval enemy would have a good chance of beating us to Dutch Harbor and accomplishing what we, with a lack of foresight have failed to do,-bar the way to Alaska to us forever after.

Why the seriousness of this has not been realized by the government is inexplainable. Alaska is our most valuable possession. It is not mere womanish fear which forces us to recognize that we are in danger of losing her. There can be no question that in the event of a struggle for the possession of the Pacific the fate of Alaska will be exactly that which befell Korea in the Manchurian war of a decade or two ago. Nor is this all. Who can sit still at this very moment and see the Japs pushing eastward through Siberia without apprehension?

A hostile fleet in Dutch Harbor and Alaska will fall of her own weight! The distance to Dutch Harbor is just the same from Yokohama as it is from San Francisco! Dutch Harbor is to us what Gibraltar was to Spain in the days of the Armada. Shall we, like Spain, fail to realize her value until too late? If so, our experience can not be other than that which befell her. The tremendous significance of our failure to make Dutch Harbor impregnable and impassable will one day stun us. But the great war has forced us into doing what long ago we should have done without being forced. We are feverishly building ships. If we get our great fleet in order, and if we do it first, then it may be that the shuffled cards may never be dealt. There may be no game. There are those who never play unless they see the way open to win!

We have another strateg

ic point also. This is Rugged Island, lying in Resurrection Bay. This Bay was so named by the Russians who discovered it on the anniversary of Our Lord's Resurrection. Rugged Island is an easy point of attack and the government has recently appropriated seven hundred thousand dollars to fortify it.

No comedy of ?schylus ever equaled a proposition put forth in Congress not long ago by the Hon. Frank O. Smith of Maryland. Under the astounding and absurd title of Eugenic Peace he proposed that in the interest of world peace the United States should cede to Canada the southern part of Alaska, known as the Panhandle! This section shuts off a large region of Canada from the sea.

Strangely enough, the proposition secured the support of a number of eminent men (not one of whom, however, had ever been to Alaska) but to one who lives here it is the limit and pinnacle of absurdity. First of all, the business affairs of the people living here are conducted almost wholly with Seattle and San Francisco. Would they consent to such a change? Never! Their business would be paralyzed if turned over to Canada, thereby necessitating the payment of a tariff on their exports. Just think what such a proposition would entail. Fully one-third of the salmon fisheries of the world are in the Panhandle! One of the largest gold mines in the world (the Treadwell, on Douglas Island) is located here. Great forests of timber (to cut which has been forbidden by the government) cover a large part of the area in question. Here, also, are Juneau, the capital of Alaska; Sitka, the ancient Russian capital; Ketchikan, Wrangell, and many other fishing and trading towns containing more than half the permanent population of the whole of Alaska! Why not present Canada with the northern peninsula of Michigan, or the tip of the State of Washington?

There is no doubt that Canada would be glad to arrange things so that her traffic with the Yukon might be carried on without the payment of tariff duties. Well, there is a remedy, but it does not lie in the transfer of territory. It lies in reciprocity of trade,-if not reciprocity, then free trade to and from the Yukon and Skagway, its natural seaport. But the idea of ceding the whole country in order to accommodate the residents in the much less important part of the Yukon is a proposition about which it is difficult to be serious! What a joke the United States would be playing upon herself!

For a long time after the historic days of "Fifty-four forty or fight" there was much argument over the boundary of Alaska. It culminated in 1898, however, in the decision of the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Alverstane, that the contention of the American members of the Commission (Elihu Root, Henry Cabot Lodge and Ex-Senator Turner) was correct and should be sustained. This decision gave to the United States complete control of the seacoast and all the bays and channels opening into it. And it is a control it behooves us to keep! But the greatest need of Alaska to-day is a railroad running into the country by means of which troops could be sent from the United States. This road would have to run through Canada, and here again is a problem for the statesmen of our country to ponder over and solve!

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