Classic History Books


The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

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

 

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