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Our Nation's New Departure

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



New Year's Day, 1898, it would have been difficult to imagine that this country in so short a time could have exercised such an immense influence on the financial and political concerns of the world at large as it does today. One great manifestation of this universal influence is the recent Peace Congress at The Hague which met in May, 1899, at the request of the Czar of Russia. It is evident that the war of the United States with Spain forced this movement to manifest itself much sooner than it would have done if international affairs had gone forward in the old channels. The idea of the United States becoming an empire, in power if not in name, has given the nations fresh impetus for thought, and has very probably affected some of them with feelings of alarm. The formation of an empire, anywhere, has always been a disturbing element to the rest of the world. It was so with that of ancient Rome, also with that of Charles V. of Germany, with that of Napoleon I.; and, though the empire of Great Britain has been of gradual formation, its extension has been a prolific cause of serious unrest to the nations, and especially to Russia. In the latter instance the feeling of uneasiness has been mutual, and a constant source of irritation to both nations, despite the soothing influences of family relations and intermarriages between the two royal houses; and this feeling and those strained relations have been particularly emphasized since her Majesty, Queen Victoria, assumed the title of Empress of India. Now that an alliance between the United States, Russia's best friend, and Great Britain, Russia's greatest possible enemy, has been suggested, and considering the evidence that the United States has recently given to the world of its great possibilities in the way of martial development and power on both sea and land, it is not to be wondered at that Russia, whose statesmen and diplomatists are the most subtle and farseeing in the world, should advise the wisest course in diplomacy to avert unhappy collisions between any of the civilized nations in the future. Europe may laugh at the Utopian idea of young Nicholas; but he is, in all likelihood, only the mouthpiece for the expression of the concentrated wisdom of his advisers. The idea of the happy and prosperous state of things that would ensue were the Czar's suggestion put into practice, is so overwhelming in the vastness of its conception and the multitude of its blessings to humanity, that minds accustomed to think of nations in arms can hardly grasp the nature of the proposed change. Let us try to conceive of a burden of $1,000,000,000 taxation being at once lifted from the shoulders of 350,000,000 of people, and at the same time 5,000,000 of the flower of these people turned to the arts of peace and profitable production, instead of living on the production of those less eligible for toil, and that simply for the purpose of being in constant training to kill their fellow-men with the greatest possible rapidity. The theory that the statesmen of Russia are opposed to the views of the Czar does not appear to me to be tenable. The late Count Maravieff and some of his colleagues may have only acted that part for the sake of effect, pursuant to some secret purpose. The formerly avowed policy of France on the question of Alsace-Lorraine was of a very narrow character, although natural; but the outcome of this conference has already given breadth to her national views, as well as to those of other nations. It must be remembered that the provinces about which France felt so patriotically sore were wrested by her from Germany less than two centuries ago. The conference would have been foredoomed to failure, if the settlement of boundary lines had been a preliminary part of the programme,- a principle that was well illustrated at the Congress of Vienna in 1885. At that time the representatives of the nations of Europe had just succeeded in getting into a complete muddle on the boundary question, when they were suddenly relieved by the escape of Napoleon from Elba, which upset all their plans and calculations and postponed this question indefinitely. If there is any hope for the Czar's plan for a paradise on earth, present boundaries must be held sacred. Any boundary line settlement that could possibly be proposed would leave international affairs in as bad a condition as that in which they now stand, and would entail a series of settlements running back to the days of Julius Caesar, and then even there would arise a new starting-point, calling for the redress of older grievances back to the Creation, perhaps, or at least as far as the Deluge. It may be of national interest in contemplating this magnificent reform, or rather peaceful revolution of the nations, to take a retrospect of the contribution of our own country to the proposed change; but before discussing this matter it is proper to place before the mind of the reader the exact utterance of the Czar. The press at first jumped to the conclusion that he actually proposed disarmament, though his words were only suggestive of it. He simply suggested that the powers of the world should have a conference on the subject of reducing armaments and lessening their expenses. The full text of the note was as follows: "ST. PETERSBURG, AUGUST 24, I898. BY COUNT MARAVIEFF, AS FOREIGN MINISTER: " The maintenance of general peace and the possible reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh upon all nations present themselves in existing conditions to the whole world as an ideal toward which the endeavors of all governments should be directed. The humanitarian and magnanimous ideas of His Majesty the Emperor, my august master, have been won over to this view in the conviction that this lofty aim is in conformity with the most essential interests and legitimate views of all the powers; and the imperial government thinks the present moment would be very favorable to seeking the means. " International discussion is the most effectual means of insuring all peoples benefit - a real, durable peace, above all, putting an end to the progressive development of the present armaments. " In the course of the last twenty years the longing for general appeasement has grown especially pronounced in the consciences of civilized nations; and the preservation of peace has been put forward as an object of international policy. It is in its name that great States have concluded between themselves powerful alliances. " It is the better to guarantee peace that they have developed in proportions hitherto unprecedented their military forces, and still continue to increase them, without shrinking from any sacrifices. "Nevertheless, all these efforts have not yet been able to bring about the beneficent result desired - pacification. "The financial charges following the upward march strike at the very root of public prosperity. The intellectual and physical strength of the nation's labor and capital are mostly diverted from their natural application and are unproductively consumed. Hundreds of millions are devoted to acquiring terrible engines of destruction, which, though to-day regarded as the last work of science, are destined to-morrow to lose all their value in consequence of some fresh discovery in the same field. National culture, economic progress, and the production of wealth are either paralyzed or checked in development. Moreover, in proportion as the armaments of each power increase, they less and less fulfill the object the government has set before themselves. " The economic crisis, due in great part to the system of armaments 'a l'outrance,' and the continual danger which lies in this massing of war material, are transforming the armed peace of our days into a crushing burden which the people have more and more difficulty in bearing. " It appears evident that if this state of things were to be prolonged it would inevitably lead to the very cataclysm it is desired to avert, and the horrors whereof make every thinking being shudder in advance. " To put an end to these incessant armaments and to seek the means of warding off the calamities which are threatening the whole world -such is the supreme duty to-day imposed upon all States. " Filled with this idea, His Majesty has been pleased to command me to propose to all the governments whose representatives are accredited to the imperial court the assembling of a conference which shall occupy itself with this grave problem. "This conference will be, by the help of God, a happy presage for the century which is about to open. It would converge into one powerful focus the efforts of all States sincerely seeking to make the great conception of universal peace triumph over the elements of trouble and discord, and it would at the same time cement their agreement by a corporate consecration of the principles of equity and right whereon rest the security of States and the welfare of peoples. Let us return now to the part which our own country has played in prompting the note of the Czar, suggesting permanent relief from this overwhelmingly oppressive condition. In the first place, we have set a noble example to the world since our own Civil War by the reduction of our armaments to a point that demonstrated our temerity more than our prudence, a fact which the late Spanish War clearly showed. Though we came out of that struggle victorious, yet, a few years prior to the sudden reorganization of our navy, Spain's superior fleet might have made it entirely practical for General Weyler to have carried out his proud boast of invading this country with two hundred thousand men. We had a providential escape, coming out triumphant beyond precedent in the history of wars, despite the fact that our army was overtaken by disease in Cuba, which, on account of our hasty and inadequate preparations for war, we were not prepared to meet until its fatal effects had been severely felt. That incompetency should have been displayed in some parts of the commissariat and the medical department of an army so hastily organized for foreign service as was ours, is not to be wondered at. Such accidents are likely to occur in the best regulated armies, as with the British, for instance, in the Crimea in I854, when the greater part of Lord Raglan's command were starving and half naked for days, while plenty of food and clothing was within a few miles of them. A similar mishap, only on a much larger scale, occurred to the French army in the campaign which ended disastrously at Sedan in 1870. Errors, either of oversight or by lack of full preparation, are seemingly bound to occur in connection with nearly all military operations, most especially those which are unduly hastened by a rapid march of events. Complaints have been numerous during the South African campaign. Some persons are inclined to lay the blame for the mistakes in our service on President McKinley; but it was impossible for any man to exercise the superhuman individual foresight necessary to detect the incompetency of untried subordinates in every department of a rapidly mobilized military service; while his calmness, courage, and promptitude, so far as the conduct of the war itself was concerned, were well-nigh faultless. The President counseled peace at any price not inconsistent with national honor, and left every possible loophole in his power for Spain to escape from the trouble which she had brought upon herself, without entailing further disgrace to Spanish arms and humiliation to Spanish chivalry; but Spain in her irrational pride ignored all such opportunities, and interpreted what was meant for her best interests into an insult to her historic greatness and invincible valor. Her answer to all amicable and soothing propositions was, " No! we will fight to the bitter end." When she did yield for a brief period to the appearance of reason and a possible settlement on rational principles through the scheme of autonomy, she was not sincere, but only playing at diplomacy to deceive our people and gain time with the hope of European intervention. This was fully revealed in the private correspondence of Minister de Lome to the editor of the Madrid Herald, which was accidentally discovered by a Cuban and handed over to our government. In that correspondence Sefior de Lome ridiculed our Congress and statesmen, and used very disrespectful and abusive language concerning President McKinley. He was therefore regarded as persona non grata, and before notification to this effect could reach his government he prudently resigned. On his way home, however, he stopped in Canada with the object of concocting mischief against this country, until he was informed by the government of that country that his presence in the Dominion was undesirable. About this time, February I5, I898, was perpetrated that horrible crime, the blowing up of the battleship Maine in the harbor of Havana, where she was anchored on a friendly visit. That tragic event, in which 266 out of a crew of 404 of our brave sailors and marines, including two officers, perished, caused a shock of consternation and horror throughout the civilized world. It was then demonstrated to every right thinking mind that patience with Spanish treachery and cruelty had ceased to be a virtue, and our eighty millions of united people joined with one voice in a cry for retribution. Public opinion everywhere pointed to Spanish officials of Cuba as the perpetrators of the dastardly deed. A court of inquiry consisting of Captain W. T. Sampson, Captain F. E. Chadwick, Lieutenant Commander Potter, and Lieutenant Commander Marix investigated the matter for six weeks. They found that the explosions happened externally, and that there had been no carelessness on the part of the crew of the Maine; but the court was unable to fix the responsibility. This had no effect, however, in removing suspicion from the Spanish officials, and the whole country became impatient with the President because he did not declare war against Spain at once. The destruction of the Maine was undoubtedly the crowning crime which precipitated the war, though the cause was diplomatically and officially attributed to the cruel domination of Spain in Cuba and her refusal to relinquish the island. That the war was justifiable on account of Spain's misrule in Cuba, most of the nations of Europe admit. It is not difficult, however, to produce positive evidence in order that the justice of Uncle Sam's intervention may be made clear to all men. I shall pass over the details of the case of the Virginius, in 1871, in which Spain's officials in Cuba defiantly shot down more than thirty American citizens. No punishment was inflicted by Spain on these colonial assassins, and we had no modem navy then. Every attempt at autonomy in Cuba during the succeeding years, up to I896, was a failure and generally a farce. In the last of the several wars waged for Cuban independence, Captain General Campos, one of the most humane officials ever sent out by Spain, acknowledged that all efforts to reduce the Cubans to subjection had failed, and he returned home at the beginning of I896. The chief complaint against him was that he was too humane. He wished to adhere as closely as possible to the rules of civilized warfare, and that policy was insufficient to subjugate Cuba. So Campos was succeeded by a man who had gained a bad preeminence for human butchery and nameless cruelties among the semi-civilized and savage population of the Philippine Islands, from whom he had also replenished his own coffers to the extent of several million dollars, filched from the natives and politicians of those wealthy islands. The name of this man is Valeriano Weyler, called by way of distinction "Butcher Weyler," a cognomen which his actions in Cuba, to say nothing of his notorious career in the Philippines, fully justify. Weyler conceived one of the most fiendish schemes that has probably ever entered into the heart of man, for the purpose of putting Cuba fully in the power of Spain. It was nothing less than extermination by starvation of half a million of people, most of whom were peaceable and uncomplaining, and who were tilling the soil industriously for that portion of its product barely sufficient to maintain them, the residue being undoubtedly divided among Weyler and his political colleagues, except a small surplus that was sent to Spain. This scheme of wholesale assassination excited universal horror and indignation when the nature of it became known; but prior to that more than 100,000 had died in the agonies of hunger and the diseases caused by starvation. These people were driven into the cities and walled in by cordons of soldiers until they found relief in death. The total number in the six provinces that perished in this way probably exceeded 300,000. The idea was to starve the paczifcos, in order that the Cuban insurgents might no longer be able to obtain food to enable them to continue the war. Spain herself became so disgusted at this villainous mode of warfare, and ashamed at the universal outcry against it, that she ordered Weyler home, and then an effort was made through General Blanco, who succeeded him, to save the remnant of these miserable people, called reconcentrados; but many more perished before relief could reach them, though several expeditions were sent from the United States with food, money, and medicine. In this last dire- extremity it is worthy of note that those truculent volunteers, the Cuban soldiers of Spain, exhibited their fiendish spirit in a diabolical manner toward the poor pacificos. When these starving people were seeking some wood to cook the food which we had sent them, the volunteers would not permit them to have the fuel, but told them sneeringly to let the " Yankee pigs " who sent them the food supply them with wood, and shoved the miserable creatures aside with their bayonets. These cruelties and numerous others were laid before the world in their naked deformity by newspaper correspondents, chiefly of the United States and Great Britain, and corroborated by consuls from each of the six provinces, as well as by Consul-general Fitzhugh Lee, and by several of our own congressmen and senators who visited the island. So the cup of Spain's iniquity was full to the brim prior to the Maine horror; and when that occurred both Houses of Congress were so moved that they were unanimous in their resolution empowering the President to declare war. It was not a case of emotional action on the part of either Congress or the President, but the united expression of a humane indignation and an intelligent purpose resulting from a careful consideration of the facts, that purpose having the approval of nearly the whole people of the United States and subsequently of the world at large. The people urged Congress and Congress urged the President, who, in the interest of peace, struggled against the inevitable almost to the very point of inciting popular displeasure and distrust. The mind of the President was made up on the subject shortly after he received the report of the Court of Inquiry, and this, together with the consular reports from Cuba, convinced him that there was but one way of settling the trouble between Spain and the people of the island. He sent a message to Congress April ii, I898, in which he stated that armed intervention in Cuba by the United States was the only means that could be devised, in view of the barbarities practiced on the people of the island by Spanish authority. Congress immediately drew up a set of joint resolutions stating that Cuba was, and should be, free, demanding that the government of Spain relinquish its authority in the island, and withdraw its land and naval forces from Cuba and Cuban waters, and directing the President of the United States to use the land and naval forces of the United States to carry these resolutions into effect. The President signed these resolutions, April 20, I898, and immediately sent an ultimatum to Spain, quoting the resolutions and requesting her to withdraw her army and navy by noon on April 23. The Spanish government did not await the ceremony of receiving the ultimatum at the hands of Minister Woodford, but immediately sent that gentleman his passports without the usual Castilian politeness and its dilatory ceremony, thus taking the initiative in the declaration of war prior to the time set by President McKinley's ultimatum. Minister Woodford notified all our consuls in Spain, and immediately set out himself for Paris, after handing over his official business to the British minister at Madrid. President McKinley then issued a proclamation dated April 22, 1898, in pursuance of the joint resolution of Congress, to the effect that a blockade be established and maintained on the entire northern coast of Cuba in accordance with the laws of the United States and the law of nations applicable to such cases. This action was approved by Congress, and a call for 125,000 volunteers was issued, and immediately responded to with enthusiasm from all parts of the country, showing that the response for a million men would have been made with as great alacrity. On the very morning of the day of this last proclamation the first gun was fired by our navy, from the Nashville which captured the first Spanish prize, the steamship Buena Ventura. On April 25, Congress, at the instance of the President, passed a bill declaring that "war exists between the United States of America and the kingdom of Spain," and moreover that war had existed since April 21, the date on which Minister Woodford received his passports. The bill further provided "That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is, directed and empowered to use the entire land and naval forces of the United States, and to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several states to such an extent as may be necessary to carry this act into effect." From these considerations it would seem that if ever there was a justifiable cause for war, our recent troubles with Spain most assuredly come under that head. The war had virtually begun as above described, but thus far it was slow until that memorable May morning in Manila Bay when the greatest surprise and the most wonderful victory in the history of naval warfare took place: the quick and complete destruction of the Spanish squadron of eleven ships under the command of Admiral Montojos, by Commodore Dewey's squadron, without the loss of a single American life or ship. This sketch of events leading to the recent war is intended simply as a retrospect of the great work accomplished in so short a time, with the view of obtaining a more correct appreciation of the destiny of the United States consequent upon its new departure. Never were 114 days filled with events more momentous in their consequence; not even the famous "one hundred days " beginning with the flight of Napoleon from Elba and ending with Waterloo. The destruction of Cervera's fleet off Santiago was Spain's Waterloo. Some persons are anxious to know how we are to manage the new possessions and discharge the new obligations forced upon us. Those who can conquer territories usually know how to govern them, though Spain has proved a glaring exception to this rule. The best opinion that I have seen on the subject emanated from a Spanish source before the treaty of peace was signed, and is contained in the following article: "Those who say that colonies are nothing but encumbrances, and that the loss of Cuba and Puerto Rico will prove beneficial to our trade and to our merchant navy; those who believe that distant territories merely serve for having our banner there, and as an outlet for the refuse of our political parties, are now deeply concerned over which it would be best for us to retain, if possible, Puerto Rico or the Philippines. "Neither the one nor the others. "It is true that Puerto Rico, in due honor to the lamb on her shield, has always remained loyal to Spain, but Puerto Rican fealty is not much to be relied upon since the day when Senior Moret took there the spirit of discord. As to the Philippines, the magnitude of the affair is evident to all. An army of from 50,000 to 60,ooo men and ample political reforms would be indispensable to conquer the island of Luzon. Have we got the means to go into this colossal undertaking? Do we feel inclined to face it? One of the morning newspapers says that friends of the government have expressed the opinion that the sending of these reinforcements would be very difficult, not to say impossible. "It would certainly be difficult; by no means impossible. But before throwing upon Spain the weight of such an enormous undertaking, we must seriously consider whether we are ready to reform our methods as regards colonization. If so, let us keep the Philippines, for there are in those islands enough riches to compensate for all our losses. If not, let us not insist upon retaining them, because they would be an evil rather than a boon to the nation. "It would be a great thing for us if somebody were willing to take the islands and assume our colonial and war debts. This would, perhaps, be the only way to save interests that are now imperiled. "There is considerable talk concerning these debts. It is said that the United States will compel us to pay them, and that an international conflict will thus be provoked. In the first place, the United States will not compel us to pay anything, because this is none of their business. They will merely declare that they will not pay or recognize them, and that will be all. In the second place, we ought to consider that the payment of those debts would have devolved upon us even in case autonomy had been a success, and that war with the United States had been averted. "The Cubans, and also the Spanish residents of Cuba, never agreed to pay more than one fifth of the debt. The remaining four fifths was to be saddled upon the nation. "The Cubans reasoned with perfect logic. 'This debt,' they said, 'was contracted not in order to build bridges or highways, or railroads, but forcibly to oppose our claims. If the justice of these claims was fully recognized by the autonomy decree, how are we to be compelled to pay the debt?' "Thus peace will not cost us more than that fifth part of the debt which the Cuban autonomists had consented to pay, and which the United States are now said to reject. "We refuse to consider the possibility that the debt question may give rise to an international conflict in our favor. The Cuban and Philippine debts are guaranteed by Spain's Treasury, and all that the foreign holders of said debts have to do is to come to us in order to be paid, when the Cubans refuse to pay them. " Let us accustom ourselves to see things as they really are, for our habit of fancying about them has cost us too dear." Although there is a great variety of opinion regarding our duty and obligations in the matter of the Philippines, the concensus of the best opinions seems to be that we have virtually assumed obligations of which we cannot honorably divest ourselves, and that we are responsible for giving the islanders a settled form of government. To have handed the government of these islands back to Spain was, from either a humanitarian or political point of view, not to be thought of; while according to the opinions of eminent European statesmen, to have turned them over to a European power for cash considerations would much resemble selling them into slavery, and at the same time furnish the possible cause of a European war over the direction of what we had been frightened out of accepting by the bugaboo of imperialism, so-called. We are not, and will not become, an imperialistic nation. The idea of democracy is too firmly in trenched in the minds of the people ever to allow a departure from the Constitution. But we are expansionists, in the very best sense of that word. The name of the Great Republic is synonymous with the expansion of learning, commerce, wealth, and all else that make for the betterment of the human race. Under the new responsibilities that have devolved upon us, through the acquisition of the Philippines, public opinion is steadied, with a tendency toward the relegation of partisan prejudices to the rear. The aims and intentions of the government in regard to these islands, so wisely set forth by President McKinley, leave no just cause for civil war. Through the unforeseen results of war, the task of conferring the benefits of civilization upon several millions of human beings is laid, perhaps most fittingly, upon the most progressive nation. We shall not shrink from it, but, as a preliminary, order must prevail. Beyond this aspect, the strategic value of our new possessions is very great. They form the natural outer bulwarks of defense, and are powerful for the maintenance of the dignity of our position among the nations of the earth. From a commercial point of view, these islands are vastly important. As New York is the gateway to our continent, so the Philippines form the natural gateway to Asia, with its 800,000,000 of people. They are commercially strategic for warehousing purposes. Recent events have clearly demonstrated the insecurity of the warehousing of materials upon the mainland of China, where they are at the mercy of irresponsible mobs. But our merchants are enabled to store their surplus upon these islands, free from the dangers of revolution or pillaging, and ready at a moment's notice to be sent forward to supply the enormous demands of these myriads of Asiatics. The immense advantages of our position in this most important regard, together with our freedom from territorial entanglement upon the continent itself, place in our hands a commercial power hard to overestimate.



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