Classic History Books


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

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,

 

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