Wall Street And International Affairs, Peace And Prosperity
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
TAKE the title of this chapter, "Peace and Prosperity," to be the union of two words that in their meaning can scarcely be disunited. The apparent prosperity that war sometimes brings must be dearly paid for, either by the parties themselves or their descendants, as in the case of our own Civil War, the debt of which is not yet paid. Napoleon I. brought the continent at large to a condition of bankruptcy in which France herself was overwhelmed, despite the immense plunder secured by the unexampled avarice of the conqueror; and England, though she emerged victorious out of that terrible struggle, did so only at the expense of a permanent debt, which by certain statesmen has been considered a national blessing, as a means of investment. To me it seems rather that a national debt, instead of being a national blessing, is a national curse of inherited taxation incurred to gratify the ambition of a few individuals, - who probably never have to abate one of their luxuries in consequence of their errors, - or of being the instruments of so much entailed misery to millions. Yet we hear people constantly talking about the glorious achievements of war and the prosperity which attends it. War, in the nature of things, can never bring prosperity except to a comparatively small number of individuals at the expense of taxing an exceedingly large number, together with their offspring for generations. These remarks apply more especially to wars of conquest, wars for sustaining imaginary dignity and wars for prolonging the power and prestige of the reigning monarch or executive when the people are tired of him and he wants some excuse or plausible plea to revive his popularity. Such to a large extent was the Franco-Prussian War provoked by the necessity and ambition of Napoleon III. and the Empress Eugenie, and such would have been the war which might have been fomented with Great Britain by President Cleveland, when with overweening zeal he espoused the cause of Venezuela under the questionable plea that the Monroe Doctrine was dangerously menaced. It has now been amply demonstrated how easily that Anglo Venezuela misunderstanding could have been settled by arbitration, without causing the least disturbance to the business interests of either of the nations concerned; yet before this was made manifest our country had to pass through an expensive panic, which also reflected a very unfavorable influence for a time on the business interests of Great Britain. Looking at the subjects of peace and war through the medium of business experience, to say nothing of the far greater questions of human happiness and misery involved in their consideration, it is a healthy sign of the times and a forecast of a higher development in civilization to witness the action in the interests of peace and prosperity taken by the six great powers of Europe in the Turko-Grecian affair. Its success proves the possibility of what has been regarded as an impossibility, - the harmonious cooperation of the leading powers for the settlement of critical international disputes, even concerning matters in which their interests conflict. This is largely a new function in diplomacy, and what was accomplished in the case of this war shows how valuable a concert of this nature may become for the future maintenance of amicable international relations. The concert of the powers has introduced an important element favorable to the creation of permanent political confidence. More than this, it is a great gain for quieting the disturbed state of European politics that the six states directly interested in the long dreaded Eastern question thus were able to discuss freely its involvements and agree upon a common policy to prevent its being made an occasion of common quarrel. The business interests of every civilized country, and of some that are not civilized in our sense of the term, are so related to one another through the expansion and development of trade and commerce that war has become a far more extensively disturbing element than ever before, and every year of progress renders it more and more so. We have thus arrived at an era in the advance of trade when an outbreak in even the smallest of the nations or a hostile collision with its neighbor is felt as a shock charged with forebodings of evil throughout the civilized world. No matter how free we ourselves may be from the immediate interests and bearings of the quarrel, and no matter how we may be able to profit by it temporarily, owing to its stimulating influence in certain departments of our exports, we nevertheless feel it as a premonitory symptom antagonistic to the interests of business in the long run. It is to be regretted that the United States Senate did not entertain a more cosmopolitan opinion of the great question of arbitration between this country and Great Britain. In view of the efforts which have recently been exerted to put the nations on a peace footing, it would have been a great honor to this country to have taken the initiative in such a grand international enterprise. The very effort to promote such a laudable design is a record to which future generations will point with pride, and which will illumine the history of that great nation which has so distinguished itself when most of the passing events, new regarded as of the highest importance, shall have been quite forgotten. The idea of a great union of civilized nations for mutual defense is rapidly developing in the minds of thoughtful people. We may perhaps say that its first impetus was given at the international conference at The Hague, but more recent events have tended to the crystallization of public opinion upon this subject, in unmistakable shape. China's reactionary defiance of the civilized world has set the people to thinking, and as a result we are about to witness the subjugation of barbarianism by the combined forces of civilization. It is of course earnestly to be hoped that this may be accomplished with little bloodshed, but that it must be accomplished, even at high cost of life and treasure, is apparent from a glance at the following summary of the population of the countries now interested in common cause: United States........ 75,000,000 Germany....... 55,000,000 France........ 40,000,000 England......... 40,000,000 Japan......... 40,000,000 Russia......... 80,000,000 Total....... 330,000,000 as against, say, 400,000,000 Chinese. The time has evidently come for the step to be taken. The Yellow Peril is a very real one, when we reflect that year after year since the Chino Japanese War the armies of China have undergone thorough regulation and drill in the use of the most modern arms and appliances of warfare. Although an invasion by these Mongolian hordes, similar to the descent of the Goths and Vandals upon the Roman Empire, is not to be considered probable, still it must be granted that such a vast nation under one strong central government is a menace to the peace and prosperity of the rest of the world. To my mind, the best solution seems to lie in the decentralization of the Chinese government, - the division into principalities, autonomous in the government of internal affairs, but under the tutelage of the great powers now having territorial interests there. But the United States should insist that perfect good faith be kept in the pledges of an "open door" policy agreed upon by all the interested nations. A successful termination of this present serious trouble will, it is to be hoped, form a lasting bond of friendship between all the great powers, and bring appreciably nearer the fruition of the Czar's great humanitarian proposals. The subject of an alliance of the English-speaking people has been very extensively discussed during the past few years by some of the ablest writers and thinkers of the day, and some have gone so far in accordance with the foregoing suggestions as to advocate an alliance of all civilized nations. Among these may be mentioned Captain Alfred T. Mahan, formerly of the United States Navy, who is, perhaps, one of the greatest marine tacticians in the world, and a man capable of taking the widest range of vision of all that relates to the sea, both from a military and a commercial point of view. His ideas, therefore, on the possibilities of an Anglo-American reunion are worthy of the most careful consideration, and will furnish an excellent guide to any one pursuing the study of the influence of that reunion on the financial affairs and prosperity of the proposed reunionists, and especially on those of the United States. Among others who have recently made most valuable contributions to this department of literature may be mentioned Captain Lord Charles Beresford, of the Royal Navy of Great Britain; also Sir George Clarke, Mr. Arthur Silva White, and Mr. Andrew Carnegie. Captain Mahan dwells at length on the necessity of America taking a deeper interest in the sea, which he regards of far greater importance than the land. He thinks that the time is past forever when any single nation can control the domain of the boundless deep, but suggests that an Anglo-American alliance could do so to the great interest of both parties, and to the union and the benefit of humanity at large. His great apprehension of the future seems to be a possible inundation by countless hosts of outside barbarians, while he does not forget the inside ones in the shape of anarchists and socialists. He believes in the firm maintenance of the military system for accomplishing the highest objects of civilization. In the prospect of a possible barbarian invasion, Captain Mahan thinks that the United States will be obliged to play a prominent part in the defense, and, to quote his own words, "to cast aside the policy of isolation which befitted her infancy, and to recognize that, whereas to avoid European entanglement was once essential to the development of her individuality, now to take her share of the travail of Europe is but to assume an inevitable task, an appointed lot in the work of upholding the common interests of civilization." He predicts that against this possible invasion the only barrier will be the warlike spirit of the representatives of civilization, and adds with patriotic fervor, backed by good argument, "Whate'er betide, sea power will play in those days the leading part which it has in all history, and the United States by her geographical position must be one of the frontiers from which, as from a base of operations, the sea power of the civilized world will energize." In urging the just recognition of the superiority of the sea to the land, this able author says, " Control of the sea by maritime commerce and naval supremacy means predominant influence in the world, because, however great the wealth of the land, nothing facilitates the necessary exchanges as does the sea." If Captain Mahan and other great thinkers and tacticians who hold the same or similar opinions are correct, then our navy cannot be enlarged too soon nor too extensively. It may be asked, How will this accord with the peace theory and the holding forth of the olive branch to the nations? It will be perfectly consistent with that, as all preparations for defense, and defense only, are. Savages and barbarians bent on plunder do not understand anything about the significance of the olive branch until they are first made to feel the power behind it. Then they become docile. It may require such a display of strength as Captain Mahan supposes, to reduce these nations outside of civilization to a state of mind in which they will feel disposed to reason, so far as they are capable of reasoning. But in order to accomplish this great purpose, the necessity for which may still be far distant, a pacific alliance among all civilized nations, irrespective of language, will be an indispensable preliminary. Such preparation would certainly be the best guaranty for universal peace and prosperity, thus enabling the human race to apply its best energies to its own development instead of to its degradation and destruction.