Classic History Books


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

astute political play for the thunder of patriotic applause. More seriously, Cleveland has been charged by
one set of critics with bluffing, and by another with recklessly running the risk of war on a trivial

provocation. The charge of bluffing comes nearer the fact, for President Cleveland probably had never a

moment's doubt that the forces making for peace between the two nations would be victorious. If he may

be said to have thrown a bomb, he certainly had attached a safety valve to it, for the investigation which

he proposed could not but give time for the passions produced by his message to cool. It is interesting to

note in passing that delay for investigation was a device which that other great Democrat, William

Jennings Bryan, Cleveland's greatest political enemy, sought, during his short term as Secretary of State

under President Wilson, to make universal in a series of arbitration treaties - treaties which now bind the

United States and many other countries, how tightly no man can tell.

While, however, Cleveland's action was based rather on a belief in peace than on an expectation of war,
it cannot be dismissed as merely a bluff. Not only was he convinced that the principle involved was

worth establishing whatever the cost might be, but he was certain that the method he employed was the

only one which could succeed, for in no other way was it possible to wake England to a realization of the

fact that the United States was full-grown and imbued with a new consciousness of its strength. So far

was Cleveland's message from provoking war that it caused the people of Great Britain vitally to realize

for the first time the importance of friendship with the United States. It marks a change in their attitude

toward things American which found expression not only in diplomacy, but in various other ways, and

which strikingly revealed itself in the international politics of the next few years. Not that hostility was

converted into affection, but a former condescension gave way to an appreciative friendliness towards

the people of the United States.

The reaction in America was somewhat different. Cleveland had united the country upon a matter of
foreign policy, not completely, it is true, but to a greater degree than Blaine had ever succeeded in doing.

More important than this unity of feeling throughout the land, however, was the development of a spirit

of inquiry among the people. Suddenly confronted by changes of policy that might bring wealth or

poverty, life or death, the American people began to take the foreign relations of the United States more

seriously than they had since the days of the Napoleonic wars. Yet it is not surprising that when the

Venezuela difficulty had been settled and Secretary Olney and Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British

Ambassador, had concluded a general treaty of arbitration, the Senate should have rejected it, for the

lesson that caution was necessary in international affairs had been driven home. Time was needed for the

new generation to formulate its foreign policy.

 

CHAPTER VII. The Outbreak Of The War With Spain

 

Before the nineteenth century ended, the Samoan, Hawaiian, and Venezuelan episodes had done much to
quicken a national consciousness in the people of the United States and at the same time to break down

their sense of isolation from the rest of the world. Commerce and trade were also important factors in

overcoming this traditional isolation. Not only was American trade growing, but it was changing in

character. Argentina was beginning to compete with the United States in exporting wheat and meat,

while American manufacturers were reaching the point where they were anxious for foreign markets in

which they felt they could compete with the products of Great Britain and Germany.

In a thousand ways and without any loss of vigor the sense of American nationality was expressing itself.

 

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