Classic History Books


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

adjusting Anglo-American relations.

While the Samoan affair seemed an accidental happening, there was taking shape in the Pacific another
episode which had a longer history and was more significant of the expansion of American interests in

that ocean. Indeed, with the Pacific coast line of the United States, with the superb harbors of San

Francisco, Portland, and Puget Sound, and with Alaska stretching its finger tips almost to Asia, even

Blaine could not resist the lure of the East, though he endeavored to reconcile American traditions of

isolation with oceanic expansion. Of all the Pacific archipelagoes, the Hawaiian Islands lie nearest to the

shores of the United States. Although they had been discovered to the European world by the great

English explorer, Captain Cook, their intercourse had, for geographic reasons, always been chiefly with

the United States. Whalers continually resorted to them for supplies. Their natives shipped on American

vessels and came in numbers to California in early gold-mining days. American missionaries attained

their most striking success in the Hawaiian Islands and not only converted the majority of the natives but

assisted the successive kings in their government. The descendants of these missionaries continued to

live on the islands and became the nucleus of a white population which waxed rich and powerful by the

abundant production of sugar cane on that volcanic soil.

In view of this tangible evidence of intimacy on the part of the United States with the Hawaiian Islands,
Webster in 1842 brought them within the scope of the Monroe Doctrine by declaring that European

powers must not interfere with their government. Marcy, Secretary of State, framed a treaty of

annexation in 1853, but the Hawaiian Government withdrew its assent. Twenty years later Secretary Fish

wrote: "There seems to be a strong desire on the part of many persons in the islands, representing large

interests and great wealth, to become annexed to the United States and while there are, as I have already

said, many and influential persons in the country who question the policy of any insular acquisition,

perhaps even any extension of territorial limits, there are also those of influence and wise foresight who

see a future that must extend the jurisdiction and the limits of this nation, and that will require a resting

spot in the mid-ocean, between the Pacific coast and the vast domains of Asia, which are now opening to

commerce, and Christian civilization."

All immediate action, however, was confined to a specially intimate treaty of reciprocity which was
signed in 1875, and which secured a substantial American domination in commerce. When Blaine

became Secretary of State in 1881, he was, or at least he affected to be, seriously alarmed at the

possibility of foreign influence in Hawaiian affairs, particularly on the part of Great Britain. The native

population was declining, and should it continue to diminish, he believed that the United States must

annex the islands. "Throughout the continent, north and south," he wrote, "wherever a foothold is found

for American enterprise, it is quickly occupied, and the spirit of adventure, which seeks its outlet, in the

mines of South America and the railroads of Mexico, would not be slow to avail itself of openings of

assured and profitable enterprise even in mid-ocean." As the feeling grew in the United States that these

islands really belonged to the American continent, Blaine even invited Hawaii to send representatives to

the Pan-American Congress of 1889. When he again became Secretary of State, he was prepared to give

indirect support at least to American interests, for the new queen, Liliuokalani, was supposed to be under

British influence. On the arrival of a British gunboat in Honolulu, J. L. Stevens, the American Minister,

went so far as to write on February 8, 1892: "At this time there seems to be no immediate prospect of its

being safe to have the harbor of Honolulu left without an American vessel of war."

Revolution was, indeed, impending in Hawaii. On January 14, 1893, the Queen abolished the later
constitution under which the Americans had exercised great power, and in its place she proclaimed the

 

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