Classic History Books

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

or another with trade. This commerce had long been in the hands of English and Americans, but now the
aggressive Germans were rapidly winning it away. Three consuls, representing the United States, Great

Britain, and Germany, spent their time in exaggerating their functions and in circumventing the plots of

which they suspected each other. The stage was set for comic opera, the treaty with the United States was

part of the plot, and several acts had already been played, when Bismarck suddenly injected a tragic


In 1884, at the time when the German statesman began to see the vision of a Teutonic world empire and
went about seeking places in the sun, the German consul in Samoa, by agreement with King Malietoa,

raised the German flag over the royal hut, with a significance which was all too obvious. In 1886 the

American consul countered this move by proclaiming a United States protectorate. The German consul

then first pressed home a quarrel with the native king at a time opportunely coinciding with the arrival of

a German warship, the Adler; he subsequently deposed him and put up Tamasese in his stead. The

apparently more legitimate successor, Mataafa, roused most of the population under his leadership. The

Adler steamed about the islands shelling Mataafa villages, and the American consul steamed after him,

putting his launch between the Adler and the shore. In the course of these events, on December 18, 1888,

Mataafa ambushed a German landing party and killed fifty of its members.

German public opinion thereupon vociferously demanded a punishment which would establish the place
of Germany as a colonial power in the Pacific. Great Britain, however, was not disposed to give her

growing rival a free hand. The United States was appealed to under the Treaty of 1878, and American

sentiment determined to protect the Samoans in their heroic fight for self-government. All three nations

involved sent warships to Apia, and through the early spring of 1889 their chancelleries and the press

were prepared to hear momentarily that some one's temper had given way in the tropic heat and that

blood had been shed - with what consequences on the other side of the globe no man could tell.

Very different, however, was the news that finally limped in, for there was no cable. On March 16, 1889,
a hurricane had swept the islands, wrecking all but one of the warships. The common distress had

brought about cooperation among all parties. Tales of mutual help and mutual praise of natives and the

three nations filled the dispatches. The play turned out to be a comedy after all. Yet difficulties remained

which could be met only by joint action. A commission of the three nations therefore was arranged to

meet in Berlin. The United States insisted on native government; Germany, on foreign control. Finally

they agreed to a compromise in the form of a General Act, to which Samoa consented. The native

government was retained, but the control was given to a Chief Justice and a President of the Municipal

Council of Apia, who were to be foreigners chosen by the three powers. Their relative authority is

indicated by the fact that the king was to receive $1800 a year, the Chief Justice, $6000, and the

President, $5000.

Small as was the immediate stake, this little episode was remarkably significant of the trend of American
development. Begun under Grant and concluded under Blaine and Harrison, the policy of the United

States was the creation of no one mind or party nor did it accord with American traditions. Encountering

European powers in the Pacific, with no apparent hesitation though without any general intent, the

United States entered into cooperative agreements with them relating to the native governments which it

would never have thought proper or possible in other parts of the world. The United States seemed to be

evolving a new policy for the protection of its interests in the Pacific. This first clash with the rising

colonial power of Germany has an added interest because it revealed a fundamental similarity in colonial

policy between the United States and Great Britain, even though they were prone to quarrel when


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