Classic History Books


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

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

 

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