THE PATH OF EMPIRE,
A CHRONICLE OF THE UNITED STATES AS A WORLD POWER
By Carl Russell Fish
I. THE MONROE DOCTRINE II. CONTROVERSIES WITH GREAT BRITAIN III. ALASKA AND ITS PROBLEMS IV. BLAINE AND PAN-AMERICANISM V. THE UNITED STATES AND THE PACIFIC VI. VENEZUELA VII. THE OUTBREAK OF THE WAR WITH SPAIN VIII. DEWEY AND MANILA BAY IX. THE BLOCKADE OF CUBA X. THE PREPARATION OF THE ARMY XI. THE CAMPAIGN OF SANTIAGO DE CUBA XII. THE CLOSE OF THE WAR XIII. A PEACE WHICH MEANT WAR XIV. THE OPEN DOOR XV. THE PANAMA CANAL XVI. PROBLEMS OF THE CARIBBEAN XVII. WORLD RELATIONSHIPS
THE PATH OF EMPIRE
CHAPTER I. The Monroe Doctrine
In 1815 the world found peace after twenty-two years of continual war. In the forests of Canada and the pampas of South America, throughout all the countries of Europe, over the plains of Russia and the hills of Palestine, men and women had known what war was and had prayed that its horrors might never return. In even the most autocratic states subjects and rulers were for once of one mind: in the future war must be prevented. To secure peace forever was the earnest desire of two statesmen so strongly contrasted as the impressionable Czar Alexander I of Russia, acclaimed as the "White Angel" and the "Universal Savior," and Prince Metternich, the real ruler of Austria, the spider who was for the next thirty years to spin the web of European secret diplomacy. While the Czar invited all governments to unite in a "Holy Alliance" to prevent war, Metternich for the same purpose formed the less holy but more powerful "Quadruple Alliance" of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England.
The designs of Metternich, however, went far beyond the mere prevention of war. To his mind the cause of all the upheavals which had convulsed Europe was the spirit of liberty bred in France in the days of the Revolution; if order was to be restored, there must be a return to the former autocratic principle of government, to the doctrine of "Divine Right"; it was for kings and emperors to command; it was the duty of subjects to obey. These principles had not, it was true, preserved peace in the past, but Metternich now proposed that, in the future, sovereigns or their representatives should meet "at fixed periods" to adjust their own differences and to assist one another in enforcing the obedience of subjects everywhere. The rulers were reasonably well satisfied with the world as it was arranged by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and determined to set their faces against any change in the relations of governments to one another or to their subjects. They regretted, indeed, that the Government of the United States was built upon the sands of a popular vote, but they recognized that it was apparently well established and decently respectable, and therefore worthy of recognition by the mutual protection society of the Holy Alliance.
The subjects of these sovereigns, however, did not all share the satisfaction of their masters, and some of them soon showed that much as they desired peace they desired other things even more. The inhabitants of Spanish America, while their imperial mother was in the chaos of Napoleon's wars, had nibbled at the forbidden fruit of freedom. They particularly desired freedom to buy the products of British factories, which cost less and satisfied better than those previously furnished by the Spanish merchants, secure in their absolute monopoly. With peace came renewed monopoly, haughty officials, and oppressive laws dictated by that most stupid of the restored sovereigns, Ferdinand VII of Spain. Buenos Aires, however, never recognized his rule, and her general, the knightly San Martin, in one of the most remarkable campaigns of history, scaled the Andes and carried the flag of revolution into Chili and Peru. Venezuela, that hive of revolution, sent forth Bolivar to found the new republics of Colombia and Bolivia. Mexico freed herself, and Brazil separated herself from Portugal. By 1822 European rule had been practically swept off the American mainland, from Cape Horn to the borders of Canada, and, except for the empire of Dom Pedro in Brazil, the newly born nations had adopted the republican form of government which the European monarchs despised. The spirit of unrest leaped eastward across the Atlantic. Revolutions in Spain, Portugal, and Naples sought impiously and with constitutions to bind the hands of their kings. Even the distant Greeks and Serbians sought their independence from the Turk.
Divine Right, just rescued from the French Revolution, was tottering and had yet to test the strength of its new props, the "Holy" and the "Quadruple" alliances, and the policy of intervention to maintain the status quo. Congresses at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818, at Troppau in 1820, and at Laibach in 1821, decided to refuse recognition to governments resting on such revolutions, to offer mediation to restore the old order, and, if this were refused, to intervene by force. In the United States, on the other hand, founded on the right of revolution and dedicated to government by the people, these popular movements were greeted with enthusiasm. The fiery Clay, speaker and leader of the House of Representatives, made himself champion of the cause of the Spanish Americans; Daniel Webster thundered forth the sympathy of all lovers of antiquity for the Greeks; and Samuel Gridley Howe, an impetuous young American doctor, crossed the seas, carrying to the Greeks his services and the gifts of Boston friends of liberty. A new conflict seemed to be shaping itself—a struggle of absolutism against democracy, of America against Europe.
Between the two camps, both in her ideas and in her geographical situation, stood England. Devoted as she was to law and order, bulwark against the excesses of the French Terror and the world dominion that Napoleon sought, she was nevertheless equally strong in her opposition to Divine Right. Her people and her government alike were troubled at the repressive measured by which the Allies put down the Revolution of Naples in 1821 and that of Spain in 1823. Still more were they disturbed at the hint given at the Congress of Verona in 1822 that, when Europe was once quieted, America would engage the attention of Europe's arbiters. George Canning, the English foreign minister, soon discovered that this hint foreshadowed a new congress to be devoted especially to the American problem. Spain was to be restored to her sovereignty, but was to pay in liberal grants of American territory to whatever powers helped her. Canning is regarded as the ablest English foreign minister of the nineteenth century; at least no one better embodied the fundamental aspirations of the English people. He realized that liberal England would be perpetually a minority in a united Europe, as Europe was then organized. He believed that the best security for peace was not a union but a balance of powers. He opposed intervention in the internal affairs of nations and stood for the right of each to choose its own form of government. Particularly he fixed his eyes on America, where he hoped to find weight to help him balance the autocrats of the Old World. He wished to see the new American republics free, and he believed that in freedom of trade England would obtain from them all that she needed. Alarmed at the impending European intervention to restore the rule of Spain or of her monarchical assignees in America, he sought an understanding with the United States. He proposed to Richard Rush, the United States minister in London, that the two countries declare concurrently that the independence of Spanish America, was a fact, that the recognition of the new governments was a matter of time and circumstance, that neither country desired any portion of Spain's former dominions, but that neither would look with indifference upon the transfer of any portion of them to another power.
On October 9, 1823, this proposal reached Washington. The answer would be framed by able and most experienced statesmen. The President, James Monroe, had been almost continuously in public service since 1782. He had been minister to France, Spain, and England, and had been Secretary of State. In his earlier missions he had often shown an unwise impetuosity and an independent judgment which was not always well balanced. He had, however, grown in wisdom. He inspired respect by his sterling qualities of character, and he was an admirable presiding officer. William H. Crawford, his Secretary of the Treasury, John C. Calhoun, his Secretary of War, William Wirt, his Attorney-General, and even John McLean, his Postmaster-General, not then a member of the Cabinet, were all men who were considered as of presidential caliber.
Foremost in ability and influence, however, was John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State. Brought up from early boyhood in the atmosphere of diplomacy, familiar with nearly every country of Europe, he had nevertheless none of those arts of suavity which are popularly associated with the diplomat. Short, baldheaded, with watery eyes, he on the one hand repelled familiarity, and on the other hand shocked some sensibilities, as for example when he appeared in midsummer Washington without a neckcloth. His early morning swim in the Potomac and his translations of Horace did not conquer a temper which embittered many who had business with him, while the nightly records which he made of his interviews show that he was generally suspicious of his visitors. Yet no American can show so long a roll of diplomatic successes. Preeminently he knew his business. His intense devotion and his native talent had made him a master of the theory and practice of international law and of statecraft. Always he was obviously honest, and his word was relied on. Fundamentally he was kind, and his work was permeated by a generous enthusiasm. Probably no man in America, had so intense a conviction not only of the correctness of American principles and the promise of American greatness but of the immediate strength and greatness of the United States as it stood in 1823.
Fully aware as Adams was of the danger that threatened both America and liberty, he was not in favor of accepting Canning's proposal for the cooperation of England and the United States. He based his opposition upon two fundamental objections. In the first place he was not prepared to say that the United States desired no more Spanish territory. Not that Adams desired or would tolerate conquest. At the time of the Louisiana Purchase he had wished to postpone annexation until the assent of the people of that province could be obtained. But he believed that all the territory necessary for the geographical completeness of the United States had not yet been brought under the flag. He had just obtained Florida from Spain and a claim westward to the Pacific north of the forty-second parallel, but he considered the Southwest—Texas, New Mexico, and California—a natural field of expansion. These areas, then almost barren of white settlers, he expected time to bring into the United States, and he also expected that the people of Cuba would ultimately rejoice to become incorporated in the Union. He wished natural forces to work out their own results, without let or hindrance.
Not only was Adams opposed to Canning's proposed self-denying ordinance, but he was equally averse to becoming a partner with England. Such cooperation might well prove in time to be an "entangling alliance," involving the United States in problems of no immediate concern to its people and certainly in a partnership in which the other member would be dominant. If Canning saw liberal England as a perpetual minority in absolutist Europe, Adams saw republican America as a perpetual inferior to monarchical England. Although England, with Canada, the West Indies, and her commerce, was a great American power, Adams believed that the United States, the oldest independent nation in America, with a government which gave the model to the rest, could not admit her to joint, leadership, for her power was in, not of, America, and her government was monarchical. Already Adams had won a strategic advantage over Canning, for in the previous year, 1822, the United States had recognized the new South American republics.
Great as were the dangers involved in cooperation with England, however, they seemed to many persons of little moment compared with the menace of absolutist armies and navies in the New World or of, perhaps, a French Cuba and a Russian Mexico. The only effective obstacle to such foreign intervention was the British Navy. Both President Monroe and Thomas Jefferson, who in his retirement was still consulted on all matters of high moment, therefore favored the acceptance of Canning's proposal as a means of detaching England from the rest of Europe. Adams argued, however, that England was already detached; that, for England's purposes, the British Navy would still stand between Europe and America, whatever the attitude of the United States; that compromise or concession was unnecessary; and that the country could as safely take its stand toward the whole outside world as toward continental Europe alone. To reject the offer of a country whose assistance was absolutely necessary to the safety of the United States, and to declare the American case against her as well as against the more menacing forces whose attack she alone could prevent, required a nerve and poise which could come only from ignorant foolhardiness or from absolute knowledge of the facts. The self-assurance of Adams was well founded, and no general on the field of battle ever exhibited higher courage.
Adams won over the Cabinet, and the President decided to incorporate in his annual message to Congress a declaration setting forth the attitude of the United States toward all the world, and in particular denying the right of any European power, England included, to intervene in American affairs. In making such a statement, however, it was necessary to offer compensation in some form. The United States was not prepared to offer Canning's self-denying ordinance barring the way to further American expansion, but something it must offer. This compensating offset Adams found in the separation of the New World from the Old and in abstention from interference in Europe. Such a renunciation involved, however, the sacrifice of generous American sympathies with the republicans across the seas. Monroe, Gallatin, and many other statesmen wished as active a policy in support of the Greeks as of the Spanish Americans. Adams insisted, however, that the United States should create a sphere for its interests and should confine itself to that sphere. His plan for peace provided that European and American interests should not only not clash but should not even meet.
The President's message of December 2, 1823, amounted to a rejection of the Holy Alliance as guardian of the world's peace, of Canning's request for an entente, and of the proposal that the United States enter upon a campaign to republicanize the world. It stated the intention of the Government to refrain from interference in Europe, and its belief that it was "impossible that the allied powers should extend their political system to any portion of either continent [of America] without endangering our peace and happiness." The message contained a strong defense of the republican system of government and of the right of nations to control their own internal development. It completed the foreign policy of the United States by declaring, in connection with certain recent encroachments of Russia along the northwest coast, that the era of colonization in the Americas was over. The United States was to maintain in the future that boundaries between nations holding land in America actually existed and could be traced—a position which invited arbitration in place of force.
Both Canning and Adams won victories, but neither realized his full hopes. Canning prevented the interference of Europe in Spanish America, broke up the Quadruple Alliance, rendered the Holy Alliance a shadow, and restored a balance of power that meant safety for England for almost a hundred years; but he failed to dictate American policy. Adams on his part detached the United States from European politics without throwing England into the arms of Europe. He took advantage of the divisions of the Old World to establish the priority of the United States in American affairs; but he failed in his later attempt to unite all the Americas in cordial cooperation. Earnest as was his desire and hard as he strove in 1825 when he had become President with Clay as his Secretary of State, Adams found that the differences in point of view between the United States and the other American powers were too great to permit a Pan-American policy. The Panama Congress on which he built his hopes failed, and for fifty years the project lay dormant.
Under the popular name of the Monroe Doctrine, however, Adams's policy has played a much larger part in world affairs than he expected. Without the force of law either in this country or between nations, this doctrine took a firm hold of the American imagination and became a national ideal, while other nations have at least in form taken cognizance of it. The Monroe Doctrine has survived because Adams did not invent its main tenets but found them the dominating principles of American international politics; his work, like that of his contemporary John Marshall, was one of codification. But not all those who have commented on the work of Adams have possessed his analytical mind, and many have confused what was fundamental in his pronouncement with what was temporary and demanded by the emergency of the time.
Always the American people have stood, from the first days of their migration to America, for the right of the people of a territory to determine their own development. First they have insisted that their own right to work out their political destiny be acknowledged and made safe. For this they fought the Revolution. It has followed that they have in foreign affairs tried to keep their hands free from entanglements with other countries and have refrained from interference with foreign politics. This was the burden of Washington's "Farewell Address," and it was a message which Jefferson reiterated in his inaugural. These are the permanent principles which have controlled enlightened American statesmen in their attitude toward the world, from the days of John Winthrop to those of Woodrow Wilson.
It was early found, however, that the affairs of the immediate neighbors of the United States continually and from day to day affected the whole texture of American life and that actually they limited American independence and therefore could not be left out of the policy of the Government. The United States soon began to recognize that there was a region in the affairs of which it must take a more active interest. As early as 1780 Thomas Pownall, an English colonial official, predicted that the United States must take an active part in Cuban affairs. In 1806 Madison, then Secretary of State, had instructed Monroe, Minister to Great Britain, that the Government began to broach the idea that the whole Gulf Stream was within its maritime jurisdiction. The message of Monroe was an assertion that the fate of both the Americas was of immediate concern to the safety of the United States, because the fate of its sister republics intimately affected its own security. This proved to be an enduring definition of policy, because for many years there was a real institutional difference between the American hemisphere and the rest of the world and because oceanic boundaries were the most substantial that the world affords.
Adams, however, would have been the last to claim that his method of securing the fundamental purposes of the United States was itself fundamental. It is particularly important for Americans to make a distinction between the things which they have always wished to obtain and the methods which they have from time to time used. To build a policy today on the alleged isolation of the American continents would be almost as absurd as to try to build a government on the belief in Divine Right. The American continents are no longer separated from the rest of the world by their national institutions, because the spirit of these institutions has permeated much of Europe, Asia, and even Africa. No boundaries, not even oceans, can today prohibit international interference. But while the particular method followed in 1823 is no longer appropriate, the ends which the United States set out to attain have remained the same. Independence, absolute and complete, including the absence of all entanglements which might draw the country into other peoples' quarrels; the recognition of a similar independence in all other peoples, which involves both keeping its own hands off and also strongly disapproving of interference by one nation with another—these have been the guiding principles of the United States. These principles the Government has maintained by such means as seemed appropriate to the time. In colonial days the people of America fought in courts for their charter rights; at the time of the Revolution, by arms for their independence from England; during the Napoleonic wars, for their independence from the whole system of Europe. The Monroe Doctrine declared that to maintain American independence from the European system it was necessary that the European system be excluded from the Americas. In entering the Great War in the twentieth century the United States has recognized that the system of autocracy against which Monroe fulminated must disappear from the entire world if, under modern industrial conditions, real independence is to exist anywhere.
It is the purpose of the following chapters to trace the expansion of American interests in the light of the Monroe Doctrine and to explain those controversies which accompanied this growth and taxed the diplomatic resources of American Secretaries of State from the times of Adams and Webster and Seward to those of Blaine and Hay and Elihu Root. The diplomacy of the Great War is reserved for another volume in this Series.
CHAPTER II. Controversies With Great Britain
No two nations have ever had more intimate relationships than the United States and Great Britain. Speaking the same language and owning a common racial origin in large part, they have traded with each other and in the same regions, and geographically their territories touch for three thousand miles. During the nineteenth century the coastwise shipping of the United States was often forced to seek the shelter of the British West Indies. The fisherfolk of England and America mingled on the Grand Bank of Newfoundland and on the barren shores of that island and of Labrador, where they dried their fish. Indians, criminals, and game crossed the Canadian boundary at will, streams flowed across it, and the coast cities vied for the trade of the interior, indifferent to the claims of national allegiance. One cannot but believe that this intimacy has in the long run made for friendship and peace; but it has also meant constant controversy, often pressed to the verge of war by the pertinacious insistence of both nations on their full rights as they saw them.
The fifteen years following Adams's encounter with Canning saw the gradual accumulation of a number of such disputes, which made the situation in 1840 exceptionally critical. Great Britain was angered at the failure of the United States to grant her the right to police the seas for the suppression of the slave trade, while the United States, with memories of the vicious English practice of impressment before the War of 1812, distrusted the motives of Great Britain in asking for this right. Nearly every mile of the joint boundary in North America was in dispute, owing to the vagueness of treaty descriptions or to the errors of surveyors. Twelve thousand square miles and a costly American fort were involved; arbitration had failed; rival camps of lumberjacks daily imperiled peace; and both the Maine Legislature and the National Congress had voted money for defense. In a New York jail Alexander McLeod was awaiting trial in a state court for the murder of an American on the steamer Caroline, which a party of Canadian militia had cut out from the American shore near Buffalo and had sent to destruction over Niagara Falls. The British Government, holding that the Caroline was at the time illegally employed to assist Canadian insurgents, and that the Canadian militia were under government orders justifiable by international law, assumed the responsibility for McLeod's act and his safety. Ten thousand Americans along the border, members of "Hunters' Lodges," were anxious for a war which would unleash them for the conquest of Canada. Delay was causing all these disputes to fester, and the public mind of the two countries was infected with hostility.
Fortunately in 1841 new administrations came into power in both England and the United States. Neither the English Tories nor the American Whigs felt bound to maintain all the contentions of their predecessors, and both desired to come to an agreement. The responsibility on the American side fell upon Daniel Webster, the new Secretary of State. With less foreign experience than John Quincy Adams, he was more a man of the world and a man among men. His conversation was decidedly less ponderous than his oratory, and there was no more desirable dinner guest in America. Even in Webster's lightest moments, his majestic head gave the impression of colossal mentality, and his eyes, when he was in earnest, almost hypnotized those upon whom he bent his gaze. A leading figure in public life for twenty-five years, he now attained administrative position for the first time, and his constant practice at the bar had given something of a lawyerlike trend to his mind.
The desire of the British Government for an agreement with the United States was shown by the selection of Washington instead of London as the place of negotiation and of Lord Ashburton as negotiator. The head of the great banking house of Baring Brothers, he had won his title by service and was, moreover, known to be a friend of the United States. While in Philadelphia in his youth, he had married Miss Bingham of that city, and she still had American interests. In the controversies before the War of 1812 Lord Ashburton had supported many of the American contentions. He knew Webster personally, and they both looked forward to the social pleasure of meeting again during the negotiations. The two representatives came together in this pleasant frame of mind and did most of their business at the dinner table, where it is reported that more than diplomatic conversation flowed. They avoided an exchange of notes, which would bind each to a position once taken, but first came to an agreement and then prepared the documents.
It must not be supposed, however, that either Ashburton or Webster sacrificed the claims of his own Government. Webster certainly was a good attorney for the United States in settling the boundary disputes, as is shown by the battle of the maps. The territorial contentions of both countries hung largely upon the interpretation of certain clauses of the first American treaty of peace. Webster therefore ordered a search for material to be made in the archives of Paris and London. In Paris there was brought to light a map with the boundary drawn in red, possibly by Franklin, and supporting the British contention. Webster refrained from showing this to Ashburton and ordered search in London discontinued. Ironically enough, however, a little later there was unearthed in the British Museum the actual map used by one of the British commissioners in 1782, which showed the boundary as the United States claimed it to be. Though they had been found too late to affect the negotiations, these maps disturbed the Senate discussion of the matter. Yet, as they offset each other, they perhaps facilitated the acceptance of the treaty.
Rapidly Webster and Ashburton cleared the field. Webster obtained the release of McLeod and effected the passage of a law to prevent a similar crisis in the future by permitting such cases to be transferred to a federal court. The Caroline affair was settled by an amicable exchange of notes in which each side conceded much to the other. They did not indeed dispose of the slave trade, but they reached an agreement by which a joint squadron was to undertake to police efficiently the African seas in order to prevent American vessels from engaging in that trade.
Upon the more important matter of boundary, both Webster and Ashburton decided to give up the futile task of convincing each other as to the meaning of phrases which rested upon half-known facts reaching back into the misty period of first discovery and settlement. They abandoned interpretation and made compromise and division the basis of their settlement. This method was more difficult for Webster than for Ashburton, as both Maine and Massachusetts were concerned, and each must under the Constitution be separately convinced. Here Webster used the "Red Line" map, and succeeded in securing the consent of these States. They finally settled upon a boundary which was certainly not that intended in 1782 but was a compromise between the two conceptions of that boundary and divided the territory with a regard for actual conditions and geography. From Passamaquoddy Bay to the Lake of the Woods, accepted lines were substituted for controversy, and the basis of peace was thus made more secure. The treaty also contained provision for the mutual extradition of criminals guilty of specified crimes, but these did not include embezzlement, and "gone to Canada" was for years the epitaph of many a dishonest American who had been found out.
The friendly spirit in which Webster and Ashburton had carried on their negotiations inaugurated a period of reasonable amity between their two nations. The United States annexed Texas without serious protest; in spite of the clamor for "fifty-four forty or fight," Oregon was divided peacefully; and England did not take advantage of the war with Mexico. Each of these events, however, added to American territory, and these additions gave prominence to a new and vexing problem. The United States was now planted solidly upon the Pacific, and its borders were practically those to which Adams had looked forward. Natural and unified as this area looks upon the map and actually is today, in 1850 the extent of territorial expansion had overreached the means of transportation. The Great Plains, then regarded as the Great American Desert, and the Rockies presented impossible barriers to all but adventurous individuals. These men, uniting in bands for self-protection and taking their lives in their hands, were able with good luck to take themselves but little else across this central region and the western barrier. All ordinary communication, all mail and all freight, must go by sea. The United States was actually divided into two very unequal parts, and California and Oregon were geographically far distant colonies.
The ocean highroad belonged to the United States in common with all nations, but it took American ships to the opposite ends of the earth. No regular shuttle of traffic sufficient to weave the nation together could be expected to pass Cape Horn at every throw. The natural route lay obviously through the Caribbean, across some one of the isthmuses, and up the Pacific coast. Here however, the United States would have to use territory belonging to other nations, and to obtain the right of transit and security agreement was necessary. All these isthmus routes, moreover, needed improvement. Capital must be induced to do the work, and one necessary inducement was a guarantee of stable conditions of investment.
This isthmus route became for a time the prime object of American diplomacy. The United States made in 1846 satisfactory arrangements with the Republic of New Granada (later Colombia), across which lay the most southern route, and in 1853 with Mexico, of whose northern or Tehuantepec route many had great expectations; but a further difficulty was now discovered. The best lanes were those of Panama and of Nicaragua. When the discovery of gold in California in 1848 made haste a more important element in the problem, "Commodore" Vanderbilt, at that time the shipping king of the United States, devoted his attention to the Nicaragua route and made it the more popular. Here however, the United States encountered not only the local independent authorities but also Great Britain. Just to the north of the proposed route Great Britain possessed Belize, now British Honduras, a meager colony but with elastic boundaries. For many generations, too, she had concerned herself with securing the rights of the Mosquito Indians, who held a territory, also with elastic boundaries, inconveniently near the San Juan River, the Caribbean entrance to the Nicaraguan thoroughfare. From Great Britain, moreover, must come a large portion of the capital to be employed in constructing the canal which was expected soon to cut the isthmus.
The local situation soon became acute. Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and the Mosquitoes all claimed the mouth of the San Juan; Honduras and Nicaragua, the control of the Pacific outlet. British diplomatic and naval officers clashed with those of the United States until, in their search for complete control, both exceeded the instructions which they had received from home. The British occupied Greytown on the San Juan and supported the Mosquitoes and Costa Rica. The Americans won favor in Nicaragua and Honduras, framed treaties allowing transit and canal construction, and proposed the annexation of Tigre Island, which, commanded the proposed Pacific outlet.
To untie these knots, Sir Henry Bulwer was sent to Washington to negotiate with John M. Clayton, President Taylor's Secretary of State. Neither of these negotiators was of the caliber of Webster and Ashburton, and the treaty which they drew up proved rather a Pandora's box of future difficulties than a satisfactory settlement. In the first place it was agreed that any canal to be constructed over any of the isthmuses was to be absolutely neutral, in time of war as well as of peace. Both nations were to guarantee this neutrality, and other nations were invited to join with them. No other nations did join, however, and the project became a dual affair which, owing to the superiority of the British Navy, gave Britain the advantage, or would eventually have done so if a canal had been constructed. Subsequently the majority of Americans decided that such a canal must be under the sole control of the United States, and the treaty then stood as a stumbling block in the way of the realization of this idea.
More immediately important, however, and a great wrench to American policies, was the provision that neither power "will ever erect or maintain any fortifications commanding" the canal "or occupy, or fortify, or colonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over... any part of Central America." This condition violated Adams's principle that the United States was not on the same footing with any European power in American affairs and should not be bound by any self-denying ordinance, and actually it reversed the principle against the United States. An explanatory note accompanying the treaty recognized that this provision did not apply to Belize and her dependencies, and Great Britain promptly denied that it applied to any rights she already possessed in Central America, including the Mosquito protectorate and certain Bay Islands which were claimed by Great Britain as dependencies of Belize and by Honduras as a part of her territory.
In vain did Webster, who succeeded Clayton, seek an agreement. His term of office passed, and the controversy fell into the hands of Lord Palmerston, the jingoistic spirit who began at this time to dominate British foreign policy, and of James Buchanan, who, known to us as a spineless seeker after peace where there was no peace, was at this time riding into national leadership on a wave of expansionist enthusiasm. Buchanan and Palmerston mutually shook the stage thunder of verbal extravagance, but probably neither intended war. Poker was at this time the national American game, and bluff was a highly developed art. The American player won a partial victory. In 1856 Great Britain agreed to withdraw her protectorate over the Mosquitoes, to acknowledge the supremacy of Honduras over the Bay Islands, and to accept a reasonable interpretation of the Belize boundary. Though this convention was never ratified, Great Britain carried out its terms, and in 1860 Buchanan announced himself satisfied.
The dreams of 1850, however, were not satisfied. A railroad was completed across Panama in 1855, but no canal was constructed until years after the great transcontinental railroads had bound California to the East by bonds which required no foreign sanction. Yet the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty remained an entangling alliance, destined to give lovers of peace and amity many more uncomfortable hours.
During the Civil War other causes of irritation arose between the United States and Great Britain. The proclamation of neutrality, by which the British Government recognized the Confederacy as a belligerent, seemed to the North an unfriendly act. Early in the war occurred the Trent affair, which added to the growing resentment. * It was held to be a violation of professed neutrality that Confederate commerce destroyers were permitted to be built and fitted out in British yards. The subsequent transfer of hundreds of thousands of tons of American shipping to British registry, owing to the depredations of these raiders, still further incensed the American people. It was in the midst of these strained relations that the Fenian Brotherhood in the United States attempted the invasion of Canada.
* See Stephenson, "Abraham Lincoln and the Union," in "The Chronicles of America."
America laid claims against Great Britain, based not merely on the actual destruction of merchantmen by the Alabama, the Florida, and other Confederate vessels built in British yards, but also on such indirect losses as insurance, cost of pursuit, and commercial profits. The American Minister, Charles Francis Adams, had proposed the arbitration of these claims, but the British Ministry, declined to arbitrate matters involving the honor of the country. Adams's successor, Reverdy Johnson, succeeded in arranging a convention in 1868 excluding from consideration all claims for indirect damages, but this arrangement was unfavorably reported from the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Senate. It was then that Charles Sumner, Chairman of the Committee, gave utterance to his astounding demands upon Great Britain. The direct claims of the United States, he contended, were no adequate compensation for its losses; the indirect claims must also be made good, particularly those based on the loss of the American merchant marine by transfer to the British flag. The direct or "individual" American losses amounted to $15,000,000. "But this leaves without recognition the vaster damage to commerce driven from the ocean, and that other damage, immense and infinite, caused by the prolongation of the war, all of which may be called NATIONAL in contradistinction to INDIVIDUAL." Losses to commerce he reckoned at $110,000,000, adding that this amount must be considered only an item in the bill, for the prolongation of the war was directly traceable to England. "The rebellion was suppressed at a cost of more than four thousand million dollars...through British intervention the war was doubled in duration;... England is justly responsible for the additional expenditure." Sumner's total bill against Great Britain, then, amounted to over $2,000,000,000; "everyone," said he, "can make the calculation."
Had an irresponsible member of Congress made these demands, they might have been dismissed as another effort to twist the British lion's tail; but Charles Sumner took himself seriously, expected others to take him seriously, and unhappily was taken seriously by a great number of his fellow countrymen. The explanation of his preposterous demand appeared subsequently in a memorandum which he prepared. To avoid all possible future clashes with Great Britain, he would have her withdraw from the American continents and the Western Hemisphere. Great Britain might discharge her financial obligations by transferring to the United States the whole of British America! And Sumner seems actually to have believed that he was promoting the cause of international good will by this tactless proposal.
For a time it was believed that Sumner spoke for the Administration, and public opinion in the United States was disposed to look upon his speech as a fair statement of American grievances and a just demand for compensation. The British Government, too, in view of the action of the Senate and the indiscreet utterances of the new American Minister in London, John Lothrop Motley, believed that President Grant favored an aggressive policy. Further negotiations were dropped. Both Governments, nevertheless, were desirous of coming to an understanding, though neither wished to take the first step.
Fortunately it happened that Caleb Cushing for the United States and John Rose for Canada were then engaged at Washington in the discussion of some matters affecting the two countries. In the course of informal conversations these accomplished diplomats planned for a rapprochement. Rose presented a memorandum suggesting that all questions in dispute be made the subject of a general negotiation and treaty. It was at this moment that Sumner came forward with his plan of compensation and obviously he stood in the way of any settlement. President Grant, however, already incensed by Motley's conduct and by Sumner's opposition to his own favorite project, the annexation of Santo Domingo, now broke definitely with both by removing Motley and securing Sumner's deposition from the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The way was now prepared for an agreement with Great Britain.
On February 27, 1871, a Joint High Commission, composed of five distinguished representatives from each Government, began its memorable session at Washington. The outcome was the Treaty of Washington, signed on May 8, 1871. The most important question—the "Alabama Claims"—was by this agreement to be submitted to a tribunal of five arbitrators, one to be selected by the President of the United States, another by the Queen of Great Britain, a third by the King of Italy, a fourth by the President of the Swiss Republic, and a fifth by the Emperor of Brazil. This tribunal was to meet at Geneva and was to base its award on three rules for the conduct of neutral nations: "First, to use due diligence to prevent the fitting out,... within its jurisdiction, of any vessel which it has reasonable ground to believe is intended to cruise... against a Power with which it is at peace...; secondly, not to permit... either belligerent to make use of its ports or waters as a base of naval operations...; thirdly, to exercise due diligence in its own ports and waters... to prevent any violation of the foregoing obligations and duties."
Another but less elaborate tribunal was to decide all other claims which had arisen out of the Civil War. Still another arbitration commission was to assess the amount which the United States was to pay by way of compensation for certain privileges connected with the fisheries. The vexed question of the possession of the San Juan Islands was to be left to the decision of the Emperor of Germany. A series of articles provided for the amicable settlement of border questions between the United States and Canada. Never before in history had such important controversies been submitted voluntarily to arbitration and judicial settlement.
The tribunal which met at Geneva in December was a body of distinguished men who proved fully equal to the gravity of their task. Charles Francis Adams was appointed to represent the United States; Sir Alexander Cockburn, to represent Great Britain; the commissioners from neutral States were also men of distinction. J. C. Bancroft Davis was agent for the United States, and William M. Evarts, Caleb Cushing, and Morrison R. Waite acted as counsel. The case for the United States was not presented in a manner worthy of the occasion. According to Adams the American contentions "were advanced with an aggressiveness of tone and attorney-like smartness, more appropriate to the wranglings of a quarter-sessions court than to pleadings before a grave international tribunal." The American counsel were instructed to insist not, indeed, on indemnity for the cost of two years of war, but on compensation because of the transfer of our commerce to the British merchant marine, by virtue of the clause of the treaty which read "acts committed by the several vessels which have given rise to the claims generally known as the 'Alabama Claims.'" British public opinion considered this contention an act of bad faith. Excitement in England rose to a high pitch and the Gladstone Ministry proposed to withdraw from the arbitration.
That the tribunal of arbitration did not end in utter failure was due to the wisdom and courage of Adams. At his suggestion the five arbitrators announced on June 19, 1872, that they would not consider claims for indirect damages, because such claims did "not constitute, upon the principles of international law applicable to such cases, good foundation for an award of compensation, or computations of damages between nations." These claims dismissed, the arbitrators entered into an examination of the direct American claims and on September 14, 1872, decided upon an award of fifteen and a half million dollars to the United States. The Treaty of Washington and the Geneva Tribunal constituted the longest step thus far taken by any two nations toward the settlement of their disputes by judicial process.
CHAPTER III. Alaska And Its Problems
The impulse for expansion upon which Buchanan floated his political raft into the presidency was not a party affair. It was felt by men of all party creeds, and it seemed for a moment to be the dominant national ideal. Slaveholders and other men who had special interests sought to make use of it, but the fundamental feeling did not rest on their support. American democracy, now confident of its growing strength, believed that the happiness of the people and the success of the institutions of the United States would prove a loadstone which would bring under the flag all peoples of the New World, while those of the Old World would strike off their shackles and remold their governments on the American pattern. Attraction, not compulsion, was the method to be used, and none of the paeans of American prophets in the editorials or the fervid orations of the fifties proposed an additional battleship or regiment.
No one saw this bright vision more clearly than did William H. Seward, who became Secretary of State under Lincoln. Slight of build, pleasant, and talkative, he gave an impression of intellectual distinction, based upon fertility rather than consistency of mind. He was a disciple of John Quincy Adams, but his tireless energy had in it too much of nervous unrest to allow him to stick to his books as did his master, and there was too wide a gap between his beliefs and his practice. He held as idealistic views as any man of his generation, but he believed so firmly that the right would win that he disliked hastening its victory at the expense of bad feeling. He was shrewd, practical—maliciously practical, many thought. When, in the heat of one of his perorations, a flash of his hidden fires would arouse the distrust of the conservative, he would appear to retract and try to smother the flames in a cloud of conciliatory smoke. Only the restraining hand of Lincoln prevented him from committing fatal blunders at the outset of the Civil War, yet his handling of the threatening episode of the French in Mexico showed a wisdom, a patient tact, and a subtle ingenuity which make his conduct of the affair a classic illustration of diplomacy at almost its best. *
* See "Abraham Lincoln and the Union" and "The Hispanic Nations of the New World" (in "The Chronicles of America").
In 1861 Seward said that he saw Russia and Great Britain building on the Arctic Ocean outposts on territory which should belong to his own country, and that he expected the capital of the great federal republic of the future would be in the valley of Mexico. Yet he nevertheless retained the sentiment he had expressed in 1846: "I would not give one human life for all the continent that remains to be annexed." The Civil War prevented for four years any action regarding expansion, and the same conspiracy which resulted in the assassination of Lincoln brought Seward to the verge of the grave. He recovered rapidly, however, and while on a recuperating trip through the West Indies he worked for the peaceable annexation of the Danish Islands and Santo Domingo. His friend, Charles Sumner, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, was framing his remarkable project for the annexation of Canada. President Johnson and, later, President Grant endorsed parts of these plans. Denmark and Santo Domingo were willing to acquiesce for money, and Sumner believed, although he was preposterously wrong, that the incorporation of Canada in our Union would be welcomed by the best sentiment of England and of Canada.
To willing ears, therefore, came in 1867 the offer of the Russian Minister, Baron Stoeckl, to sell Alaska. The proposal did not raise a question which had been entirely unthought of. Even before the Civil War, numbers of people on the Pacific coast, far from being overawed by the responsibility of developing the immense territories which they already possessed, had petitioned the Government to obtain Alaska, and even the proper purchase price had been discussed. The reasons for Russia's decision to sell, however, have not been sufficiently investigated. It is apparent from the conduct of the negotiation that it was not a casual proposal but one in which Baron Stoeckl, at least, was deeply interested. It is to be remembered that at this time Russia's ambitions were in Asia, and that her chief rival was Great Britain. Russia's power was on land; the seas she could not hope to control. The first moment of war would put Russian rule in, Alaska at the mercy of the British fleet. In those days when a Siberian railroad was an idle dream, this icebound region in America was so remote from the center of Russian power that it could be neither enjoyed nor protected. As Napoleon in 1803 preferred to see Louisiana in the hands of the United States rather than in those of his rival England, so Russia preferred Alaska to fall to the United States rather than to Canada, especially as she could by peaceful cession obtain money into the bargain.
Seward was delighted with the opportunity, but diplomatically concealed his satisfaction and bargained closely. Stoeckl asked ten million dollars; Seward offered five. Stoeckl proposed to split the difference; Seward agreed, if Stoeckl would knock off the odd half million. Stoeckl accepted, on condition that Seward add two hundred thousand as special compensation to the Russian American Company. It was midnight of the 29th of March when $7,200,000 was made the price. Seward roused Sumner from bed, and the three worked upon the form of a treaty until four o'clock in the morning. No captains of industry could show greater decision.
The treaty, however, was not yet a fact. The Senate must approve, and its approval could not be taken for granted. The temper of the majority of Americans toward expansion had changed. The experiences of the later fifties had caused many to look upon expansion as a Southern heresy. Carl Schurz a little later argued that we had already taken in all those regions the climate of which would allow healthy self-government and that we should annex no tropics. Hamilton Fish, then Secretary of State, wrote in 1873 that popular sentiment was, for the time being, against all expansion. In fact, among the people of the United States the idea was developing that expansion was contrary to their national policy, and their indisposition to expand became almost a passion. They rejected Santo Domingo and the Danish Islands and would not press any negotiations for Canada.
What saved the Alaska Treaty from a similar disapproval was not any conviction that Alaska was worth seven million dollars, although Sumner convinced those who took the trouble to read, that the financial bargain was not a bad one. The chief factor in the purchase of Alaska was almost pure sentiment. Throughout American history there has been a powerful tradition of friendliness between Russia and the United States, yet surely no two political systems have been in the past more diametrically opposed. The chief ground for friendship has doubtless been the great intervening distance which has reduced intercourse to a minimum. Some slight basis for congeniality existed in the fact that the interests of both countries favored a similar policy of freedom upon the high seas. What chiefly influenced the public mind, however, was the attitude which Russia had taken during the Civil War. When the Grand Duke Alexis visited the United States in 1871, Oliver Wendell Holmes greeted him with the lines:
Bleak are our coasts with the blasts of December, Thrilling and warm are the hearts that remember Who was our friend when the world was our foe.
This Russian friendship had presented itself dramatically to the public at a time when American relations with Great Britain were strained, for Russian fleets had in 1863 suddenly appeared in the harbors of New York and San Francisco. These visits were actually made with a sole regard for Russian interests and in anticipation of the outbreak of a general European war, which the Czar then feared. The appearance of the fleets, however, was for many years popularly supposed to signify sympathy with the Union and a willingness to defend it from attack by Great Britain and France. Many conceived the ingenuous idea that the purchase price of Alaska was really the American half of a secret bargain of which the fleets were the Russian part. Public opinion, therefore, regarded the purchase of Alaska in the light of a favor to Russia and demanded that the favor be granted.
Thus of all the schemes of expansion in the fifty years between the Mexican and the Spanish wars, for the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 was really only a rectification of boundary, this alone came to fruition. Seward could well congratulate himself on his alertness in seizing an opportunity and on his management of the delicate political aspects of the purchase. Without his promptness the golden opportunity might have passed and never recurred. Yet he could never have saved this fragment of his policy had not the American people cherished for Russia a sentimental friendship which was intensified at the moment by anger at the supposed sympathy of Great Britain for the South.
If Russia hoped by ceding Alaska to involve the United States in difficulties with her rival Great Britain, her desire was on one occasion nearly gratified. The only profit which the United States derived from this new possession was for many years drawn from the seal fishery. The same generation of Americans which allowed the extermination of the buffalo for lap robes found in the sealskin sack the hall mark of wealth and fashion. While, however, the killing of the buffalo was allowed to go on without official check, the Government in 1870 inaugurated a system to preserve the seal herds which was perhaps the earliest step in a national conservation policy. The sole right of killing was given to the Alaska Commercial Company with restrictions under which it was believed that the herds would remain undiminished. The catch was limited to one hundred thousand a year; it was to include only male seals; and it was to be limited to the breeding grounds on the Pribilof Islands.
The seals, however, did not confine themselves to American territory. During the breeding season they ranged far and wide within a hundred miles of their islands; and during a great part of the year they were to be found far out in the Pacific. The value of their skins attracted the adventurous of many lands, but particularly Canadians; and Vancouver became the greatest center for deep-sea sealing. The Americans saw the development of the industry with anger and alarm. Considering the seals as their own, they naturally resented this unlimited exploitation by outsiders when Americans themselves were so strictly limited by law. They also believed that the steady diminution of the herds was due to the reckless methods of their rivals, particularly the use of explosives which destroyed many animals to secure a few perfect skins.
Public opinion on the Pacific coast sought a remedy and soon found one in the terms of the treaty of purchase. That document, in dividing Alaska from Siberia, described a line of division running through Bering Sea, and in 1881 the Acting Secretary of the Treasury propounded the theory that this line divided not merely the islands but the water as well. There was a widespread feeling that all Bering Sea within this line was American territory and that all intruders from other nations were poachers. In accordance with this theory, the revenue cutter Corwin in 1886 seized three British vessels and hauled their skippers before the United States District Court of Sitka. Thomas F. Bayard, then Secretary of State under President Cleveland, did not recognize this theory of interpreting the treaty, but endeavored to right the grievance by a joint agreement with France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and Great Britain, the sealing nations, "for the better protection of the fur seal fisheries in Bering Sea."
A solution had been almost reached, when Canada interposed. Lord Morley has remarked, in his "Recollections," how the voice of Canada fetters Great Britain in her negotiations with the United States. While Bayard was negotiating an agreement concerning Bering Sea which was on the whole to the advantage of the United States, he completed a similar convention on the more complicated question of the northeastern or Atlantic fisheries which was more important to Canada. This latter convention was unfavorably reported by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which foreshadowed rejection. Thereupon, in May, 1888, Lord Salisbury, the British Foreign Minister, withdrew from the Bering Sea negotiation.
At this critical moment Cleveland gave place to Harrison, and Bayard was succeeded by James G. Blaine, the most interesting figure in our diplomatic activities of the eighties. These years marked the lowest point in the whole history of our relations with other countries, both in the character of our agents and in the nature of the public opinion to which they appealed. Blaine was undoubtedly the most ill-informed of our great diplomats; yet a trace of greatness lingers about him. The exact reverse of John Quincy Adams, he knew neither law nor history, and he did not always inspire others with confidence in his integrity. On the other hand, the magnetic charm of his personality won many to a devotion such as none of our great men except Clay has received. Blaine saw, moreover, though through a glass darkly, farther along the path which the United States was to take than did any of his contemporaries. It was his fate to deal chiefly in controversy with those accomplished diplomats, Lord Salisbury and Lord Granville, and it must have been among the relaxations of their office to point out tactfully the defects and errors in his dispatches. Nevertheless when he did not misread history or misquote precedents but wielded the broadsword of equity, he often caught the public conscience, and then he was not an opponent to be despised.
Blaine at once undertook the defense of the contention that Bering Sea was "closed" and the exclusive property of the United States, in spite of the fact that this position was opposed to the whole trend of American opinion, which from the days of the Revolution had always stood for freedom of the high seas and the limitation of the water rights of particular nations to the narrowest limits. The United States and Great Britain had jointly protested against the Czar's ukase of 1821, which had asserted Russia's claim to Bering Sea as territorial waters; and if Russia had not possessed it in 1821, we certainly could not have bought it in 1867. In the face of Canadian opinion, Great Britain could never consent, even for the sake of peace, to a position as unsound as it was disadvantageous to Canadian industry. Nor did Blaine's contention that the seals were domestic animals belonging to us, and therefore subject to our protection while wandering through the ocean, carry conviction to lawyers familiar with the fascinating intricacies of the law, domestic and international, relating to migratory birds and beasts. To the present generation it seems amusing that Blaine defended his basic contention quite as much on the ground of the inhumanity of destroying the seals as of its economic wastefulness. Yet Blaine rallied Congress to his support, as well as a great part of American sentiment.
The situation, which had now become acute, was aggravated by the fact that most American public men of this period did not separate their foreign and domestic politics. Too many sought to secure the important Irish vote by twisting the tail of the British lion. The Republicans, in particular, sought to identify protection with patriotism and were making much of the fact that the recall of Lord Sackville-West, the British Minister, had been forced because he had advised a correspondent to vote for Cleveland. It spoke volumes for the fundamental good sense of the two nations that, when relations were so strained, they could agree to submit their differences to arbitration. For this happy outcome credit must be given to the cooler heads on both sides, but equal credit must be given to their legacy from the cool heads which had preceded them. The United States and Great Britain had acquired the habit of submitting to judicial decision their disputes, even those closely touching honor, and this habit kept them steady.
In accepting arbitration in 1892, the United States practically gave up her case, although Blaine undoubtedly believed it could be defended, and in spite of the fact that it was ably presented by John W. Foster from a brief prepared by the American counsel, Edward J. Phelps, Frederic R. Coudert, and James C. Carter. The tribunal assembled at Paris decided that Bering Sea was open and determined certain facts upon which a subsequent commission assessed damages of nearly half a million against the United States for the seizure of British vessels during the period in which the American claim was being asserted. Blaine, however, did not lose everything. The treaty contained the extraordinary provision that the arbitration tribunal, in case it decided against the United States, was to draw up regulations for the protection of the seal herds. These regulations when drafted did not prove entirely satisfactory, and bound only the United States and Great Britain. It required many years and much tinkering to bring about the reasonably satisfactory arrangement that is now in force. Yet to leave to an international tribunal not merely the decision of a disputed case but the legislation necessary to regulate an international property was in itself a great step in the development of world polity. The charlatan who almost brought on war by maintaining an indefensible case was also the statesman who made perhaps the greatest single advance in the conservation of the world's resources by international regulation.
CHAPTER IV. Blaine And Pan-Americanism
During the half century that intervened between John Quincy Adams and James G. Blaine, the Monroe Doctrine, it was commonly believed, had prevented the expansion of the territories of European powers in the Americas. It had also relieved the United States both of the necessity of continual preparation for war and of that constant tension in which the perpetual shifting of the European balance of power held the nations of that continent. But the Monroe Doctrine was not solely responsible for these results. Had it not been for the British Navy, the United States would in vain have proclaimed its disapproval of encroachment. Nor, had Europe continued united, could the United States have withstood European influence; but Canning's policy had practically destroyed Metternich's dream of unity maintained by intervention, and in 1848 that whole structure went hopelessly tumbling before a new order. Yet British policy, too, failed of full realization, for British statesmen always dreamed of an even balance in continental Europe which Great Britain could incline to her wishes, whereas it usually proved necessary, in order to preserve a balance at all, for her to join one side or the other. Divided Europe therefore stood opposite united America, and our inferior strength was enhanced by an advantageous position.
The insecurity of the American position was revealed during the Civil War. When the United States divided within, the strength of the nation vanished. The hitherto suppressed desires of European nations at once manifested themselves. Spain, never satisfied that her American empire was really lost, at once leaped to take advantage of the change. On a trumped up invitation of some of the inhabitants of Santo Domingo, she invaded the formerly Spanish portion of the island and she began war with Peru in the hope of acquiring at least some of the Pacific islands belonging to that state.
More formidable were the plans of Napoleon III, for the French, too, remembered the glowing promise of their earlier American dominions. They had not forgotten that the inhabitants of the Americas as far north as the southern borders of the United States were of Latin blood, at least so far as they were of European origin. In Montevideo there was a French colony, and during the forties France had been active in proffering her advice in South American disputes. When the second French Republic had been proclaimed in 1848, one of the French ministers in South America saw a golden chance for his country to assume the leadership of all Latin America, which was at that time suspicious of the designs of the United States and alarmed by its rapid expansion at the expense of Mexico. With the power of the American Government neutralized in 1861, and with the British Navy immobilized by the necessity of French friendship, which the "Balance" made just then of paramount interest to Great Britain, Napoleon III determined to establish in Mexico an empire under French influence.
It is instructive to notice that General Bernhardi states, in "Germany and the Next War" which has attracted such wide attention and which has done so much to convince Americans of the bad morals of autocracy, that Great Britain lost her great chance of world dominance by not taking active advantage of this situation, as did France and Spain. It is indeed difficult to see what would have been the outcome had Great Britain also played at that time an aggressive and selfish part. She stayed her hand, but many British statesmen were keenly interested in the struggle, from the point of view of British interests. They did not desire territory, but they foresaw that the permanent separation of the two parts of the United States would leave the country shorn of weight in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere. North and South, if separated, would each inevitably seek European support, and the isolation of the United States and its claim to priority in American affairs would disappear. The balance of power would extend itself to the Western Hemisphere and the assumption of a sphere of influence would vanish with the unity of the United States.
Nor did the close of the Civil War reveal less clearly than its beginning the real international position of the United States. When the country once more acquired unity, these European encroachments were renounced, and dreams of colonial empire in America vanished. There was a moment's questioning as to the reality of the triumph of the North—a doubt that the South might rise if foreign war broke out; but the uncertainty was soon dispelled. It was somewhat embarrassing, if not humiliating, for the Emperor of the French to withdraw from his Mexican undertaking, but the way was smoothed for him by the finesse of Seward. By 1866 the international position of the United States was reestablished and was perhaps the stronger for having been tested.
In all these years, however, the positive side of the Monroe Doctrine, the development of friendly cooperation between the nations of America under the leadership of the United States, had made no progress. In fact, with the virtual disappearance of the American merchant marine after the Civil War, the influence of the United States diminished. Great Britain with her ships, her trade, and her capital, at that time actually counted for much more, while German trade expanded rapidly in the seventies and eighties and German immigration into Brazil gave Prussia a lever hold, the ultimate significance of which is not even yet fully evident.
Under these circumstances, Blaine planned to play a brilliant role as Secretary of State in President Garfield's Cabinet. Though the President was his personal friend, Blaine regarded him as his inferior in practical statecraft and planned to make his own foreign policy the notable feature of the Administration. His hopes were dashed, however, by the assassination of Garfield and by the accession of President Arthur. The new Secretary of State, F T. Frelinghuysen, reversed nearly all of his predecessor's policies. When Blaine returned to the Department of State in 1889, he found a less sympathetic chief in President Harrison and a less brilliant role to play. Whether his final retirement before the close of the Harrison Administration was due directly to the conflict of views which certainly existed or was a play on his part for the presidency and for complete control is a question that has never been completely settled.
Narrow as was Blaine's view of world affairs, impossible as was his conception of an America divided from Europe economically and spiritually as well as politically and of an America united in itself by a provoked and constantly irritated hostility to Europe, he had an American program which, taken by itself, was definite, well conceived, and in a sense prophetic. It is interesting to note that in referring to much the same relationship, Blaine characteristically spoke of the United States as "Elder Sister" of the South American republics, while Theodore Roosevelt, at a later period, conceived the role to be that of a policeman wielding the "Big Stick."
Blaine's first aim was to establish peace in the Western Hemisphere by offering American mediation in the disputes of sister countries. When he first took office in 1881, the prolonged and bitter war existing between Chili, Bolivia, and Peru for the control of the nitrate fields which lay just where the territories of the three abutted, provided a convenient opportunity. If he could restore peace on an equitable basis here, he would do much to establish the prestige of the United States as a wise and disinterested counselor in Spanish American affairs. In this his first diplomatic undertaking, there appeared, however, one of the weaknesses of execution which constantly interfered with the success of his plans. He did not know how to sacrifice politics to statesmanship, and he appointed as his agents men so incompetent that they aggravated rather than settled the difficulty. Later he saw his mistake and made a new and admirable appointment in the case of Mr. William H. Trescot of South Carolina. Blaine himself, however, lost office before new results could be obtained; and Frelinghuysen recalled Trescot and abandoned the attempt to force peace.
A second object of Blaine's policy was to prevent disputes between Latin American and European powers from becoming dangerous by acting as mediator between them. When he took office, France was endeavoring to collect from Venezuela a claim which was probably just. When Venezuela proved obdurate, France proposed to seize her custom houses and to collect the duties until the debt was paid. Blaine protested, urged Venezuela to pay, and suggested that the money be sent through the American agent at Caracas. He further proposed that, should Venezuela not pay within three months, the United States should seize the custom houses, collect the money, and pay it to France. Again his short term prevented him from carrying out his policy, but it is nevertheless of interest as anticipating the plan actually followed by President Roosevelt in the case of Santo Domingo.
Blaine was just as much opposed to the peaceful penetration of European influence in the Western Hemisphere as to its forceful expression. The project of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama, to be built and owned by a French company, had already aroused President Hayes on March 8, 1880, to remark: "The policy of this country is a canal under American control. The United States cannot consent to the surrender of this control to any European power or to any combination of European powers." Blaine added that the passage of hostile troops through such a canal when either the United States or Colombia was at war, as the terms of guarantee of the new canal allowed, was "no more admissible than on the railroad lines joining the Atlantic and Pacific shores of the United States."
It is characteristic of Blaine that, when he wrote this dispatch, he was apparently in complete ignorance of the existence of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, in which the United States accepted the exactly opposite principles—had agreed to a canal under a joint international guarantee and open to the use of all in time of war as well as of peace. Discovering this obstacle, he set to work to demolish it by announcing to Great Britain that the treaty was antiquated, thirty years old, that the development of the American Pacific slope had changed conditions, and that, should the treaty be observed and such a canal remain unfortified, the superiority of the British fleet would give the nation complete control. Great Britain, however, could scarcely be expected to regard a treaty as defunct from old age at thirty years, especially as she also possessed a developing Pacific coast. Moreover, if the treaty was to British advantage, at least the United States had accepted it. Great Britain, therefore, refused to admit that the treaty was not in full force. Blaine then urged the building of an American canal across the Isthmus of Nicaragua, in defiance of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty—a plan which received the support of even President Arthur, under whom a treaty for the purpose was negotiated with the Republic of Nicaragua. Before this treaty was ratified by the Senate, however, Grover Cleveland, who had just become President, withdrew it. He believed in the older policy, and refused his sanction to the new treaty on the ground that such a canal "must be for the world's benefit, a trust for mankind, to be removed from the chance of domination by any single power."
The crowning glory of Blaine's system, as he planned it, was the cooperation of the American republics for common purposes. He did not share Seward's dream that they would become incorporated States of the Union, but he went back to Henry Clay and the Panama Congress of 1826 for his ideal. During his first term of office he invited the republics to send representatives to Washington to discuss arbitration, but his successor in office feared that such a meeting of "a partial group of our friends" might offend Europe, which indeed was not improbably part of Blaine's intention. On resuming office, Blaine finally arranged the meeting of a Pan-American Congress in the United States. Chosen to preside, he presented an elaborate program, including a plan for arbitrating disputes; commercial reciprocity; the establishment of uniform weights and measures, of international copyright, trade-marks and patents, and, of common coinage; improvement of communications; and other subjects. At the same time he exerted himself to secure in the McKinley Tariff Bill, which was just then under consideration, a provision for reciprocity of trade with American countries. This meeting was not a complete success, since Congress gave him only half of what he wanted by providing for reciprocity but making it general instead of purely American. Nevertheless one permanent and solid result was secured in the establishment of the Bureau of American Republics at Washington, which has become a clearing house of ideas and a visible bond of common interests and good feeling.
Throughout the years of Blaine's prominence, the public took more interest in his bellicose encounters with Europe, and particularly with Great Britain, than in his constructive American policy; and he failed to secure for either an assured popular support. His attempt to widen the gulf between Europe and America was indeed absurd at a time when the cable, the railroad, and the steamship were rendering the world daily smaller and more closely knit, and when the spirit of democracy, rapidly permeating western Europe, was breaking down the distinction in political institutions which had given point to the pronouncement of 1823. Nevertheless Blaine did actually feel the changing industrial conditions at home which were destroying American separateness, and he made a genuine attempt to find a place for the United States in the world, without the necessity of sharing the responsibilities of all the world, by making real that interest in its immediate neighbors which his country had announced in 1823. Even while Blaine was working on his plan of "America for the Americans," events were shaping the most important extension of the interests of the United States which had taken place since 1823.
CHAPTER V. The United States And The Pacific
Long before the westward march of Americans had brought their flag to the Pacific, that ocean was familiar to their mariners. From Cape Horn to Canton and the ports of India, there ploughed the stately merchantmen of Salem, Providence, and Newburyport, exchanging furs and ginseng for teas, silks, the "Canton blue" which is today so cherished a link with the past, and for the lacquer cabinets and carved ivory which give distinction to many a New England home. Meanwhile the sturdy whalers of New Bedford scoured the whole ocean for sperm oil and whalebone, and the incidents of their self-reliant three-year cruises acquainted them with nearly every coral and volcanic isle. Early in the century missionaries also began to brave the languor of these oases of leisure and the appetite of their cannibalistic inhabitants.
The interest of the Government was bound to follow its adventurous citizens. In 1820 the United States appointed a consular agent at Honolulu; in the thirties and forties it entered into treaty relations with Siam, Borneo, and China; and owing to circumstances which were by no means accidental it had the honor of persuading Japan to open her ports to the world. As early as 1797 an American vessel chartered by the Dutch had visited Nagasaki. From time to time American sailors had been shipwrecked on the shores of Japan, and the United States had more than once picked up and sought to return Japanese castaways. In 1846 an official expedition under Commodore Biddle was sent to establish relationships with Japan but was unsuccessful. In 1853 Commodore Perry bore a message from the President to the Mikado which demanded—though the demand was couched in courteous language—"friendship, commerce, a supply of coal and provisions, and protection for our shipwrecked people." After a long hesitation the Mikado yielded. Commodore Perry's success was due not solely to the care with which his expedition was equipped for its purpose nor to his diplomatic skill but in part to the fact that other countries were known to be on the very point of forcing an entrance into the seclusion of Japan. Few Americans realize how close, indeed, were the relations established with Japan by the United States. The treaty which Townsend Harris negotiated in 1858 stated that "The President of the United States, at the request of the Japanese Government, will act as a friendly mediator in such matters of difference as may arise between the Government of Japan and any European power." Through his personal efforts Harris may almost be said to have become the chief adviser of the Japanese Government in the perplexities which it encountered on entering international society.
Not only did the United States allow itself a closer intimacy with this new Pacific power than it would have done with a state of Europe, but it exhibited a greater freedom in dealing with the European powers themselves in the Far East than at home or in America. In 1863 the United States joined—in fact, in the absence of a naval force it strained a point by chartering a vessel for the purpose—with a concert of powers to force the opening of the Shimonoseki Straits; subsequently acting with Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, the United States secured an indemnity to pay the cost of the expedition; and in 1866 it united with the same powers to secure a convention by which Japan bound herself to establish certain tariff regulations.
Nor were the relations of the United States with the Pacific Ocean and its shores confined to trade and international obligations. The American flag waved over more than ships and a portion of the Pacific coast. Naval officers more than once raised it over islands which they christened, and Congress authorized the President to exercise temporary authority over islands from which American citizens were removing guano and to prevent foreign encroachment while they were so engaged. In the eighties, fifty such islands of the Pacific were in the possession of the United States.
In 1872 an American naval officer made an agreement with the local chieftain of Tutuila, one of the Samoan Islands, for the use of Pago Pago, which was the best harbor in that part of the ocean. The United States drifted into more intimate relationship with the natives until in 1878 it made a treaty with the Samoan king allowing Americans to use Pago Pago as a coaling station. In return the United States agreed: "If unhappily, any differences should have arisen, or shall hereafter arise, between the Samoan government and any other government in amity with the United States, the government of the latter will employ its good offices for the purpose of adjusting those differences upon a satisfactory and solid foundation." In 1884 the Senate insisted on securing a similar harbor concession from Hawaii, and within the next few years the American Navy began to arise again from its ashes. The obligation incurred in exchange for this concession, however, although it resembled that in the Japanese treaty, was probably an unreflecting act of good nature for, if it meant anything, it was an entangling engagement such as the vast majority of Americans were still determined to avoid.
The natives of Samoa did not indulge in cannibalism but devoted the small energy the climate gave them to the social graces and to pleasant wars. They were governed by local kings and were loosely united under a chief king. At Apia, the capital, were three hundred foreigners, nearly all connected in one way or another with trade. This commerce had long been in the hands of English and Americans, but now the aggressive Germans were rapidly winning it away. Three consuls, representing the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, spent their time in exaggerating their functions and in circumventing the plots of which they suspected each other. The stage was set for comic opera, the treaty with the United States was part of the plot, and several acts had already been played, when Bismarck suddenly injected a tragic element.
In 1884, at the time when the German statesman began to see the vision of a Teutonic world empire and went about seeking places in the sun, the German consul in Samoa, by agreement with King Malietoa, raised the German flag over the royal hut, with a significance which was all too obvious. In 1886 the American consul countered this move by proclaiming a United States protectorate. The German consul then first pressed home a quarrel with the native king at a time opportunely coinciding with the arrival of a German warship, the Adler; he subsequently deposed him and put up Tamasese in his stead. The apparently more legitimate successor, Mataafa, roused most of the population under his leadership. The Adler steamed about the islands shelling Mataafa villages, and the American consul steamed after him, putting his launch between the Adler and the shore. In the course of these events, on December 18, 1888, Mataafa ambushed a German landing party and killed fifty of its members.
German public opinion thereupon vociferously demanded a punishment which would establish the place of Germany as a colonial power in the Pacific. Great Britain, however, was not disposed to give her growing rival a free hand. The United States was appealed to under the Treaty of 1878, and American sentiment determined to protect the Samoans in their heroic fight for self-government. All three nations involved sent warships to Apia, and through the early spring of 1889 their chancelleries and the press were prepared to hear momentarily that some one's temper had given way in the tropic heat and that blood had been shed—with what consequences on the other side of the globe no man could tell.
Very different, however, was the news that finally limped in, for there was no cable. On March 16, 1889, a hurricane had swept the islands, wrecking all but one of the warships. The common distress had brought about cooperation among all parties. Tales of mutual help and mutual praise of natives and the three nations filled the dispatches. The play turned out to be a comedy after all. Yet difficulties remained which could be met only by joint action. A commission of the three nations therefore was arranged to meet in Berlin. The United States insisted on native government; Germany, on foreign control. Finally they agreed to a compromise in the form of a General Act, to which Samoa consented. The native government was retained, but the control was given to a Chief Justice and a President of the Municipal Council of Apia, who were to be foreigners chosen by the three powers. Their relative authority is indicated by the fact that the king was to receive $1800 a year, the Chief Justice, $6000, and the President, $5000.
Small as was the immediate stake, this little episode was remarkably significant of the trend of American development. Begun under Grant and concluded under Blaine and Harrison, the policy of the United States was the creation of no one mind or party nor did it accord with American traditions. Encountering European powers in the Pacific, with no apparent hesitation though without any general intent, the United States entered into cooperative agreements with them relating to the native governments which it would never have thought proper or possible in other parts of the world. The United States seemed to be evolving a new policy for the protection of its interests in the Pacific. This first clash with the rising colonial power of Germany has an added interest because it revealed a fundamental similarity in colonial policy between the United States and Great Britain, even though they were prone to quarrel when adjusting Anglo-American relations.
While the Samoan affair seemed an accidental happening, there was taking shape in the Pacific another episode which had a longer history and was more significant of the expansion of American interests in that ocean. Indeed, with the Pacific coast line of the United States, with the superb harbors of San Francisco, Portland, and Puget Sound, and with Alaska stretching its finger tips almost to Asia, even Blaine could not resist the lure of the East, though he endeavored to reconcile American traditions of isolation with oceanic expansion. Of all the Pacific archipelagoes, the Hawaiian Islands lie nearest to the shores of the United States. Although they had been discovered to the European world by the great English explorer, Captain Cook, their intercourse had, for geographic reasons, always been chiefly with the United States. Whalers continually resorted to them for supplies. Their natives shipped on American vessels and came in numbers to California in early gold-mining days. American missionaries attained their most striking success in the Hawaiian Islands and not only converted the majority of the natives but assisted the successive kings in their government. The descendants of these missionaries continued to live on the islands and became the nucleus of a white population which waxed rich and powerful by the abundant production of sugar cane on that volcanic soil.