Classic History Books

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

The study of American history was introduced into the lower schools, and a new group of historians
began scientifically to investigate whence the American people had come and what they really were. In

England, such popular movements find instant expression in literature; in the United States they take the

form of societies. Innumerable patriotic organizations such as the "Daughters of the American

Revolution" and a host of others, sought to trace out American genealogy and to perpetuate the memory

of American military and naval achievements. Respect for the American flag was taught in schools, and

the question was debated as to whether its use in comic opera indicated respect or insult. This new

nationalism was unlike the expansionist movement of the fifties in that it laid no particular stress upon

the incorporation of the neighboring republics by a process of federation. On the whole, the people had

lost their faith in the assimilating influence of republican institutions and did not desire to annex alien

territory and races. They were now more concerned with the consolidation of their own country and with

its place in the world. Nor were they as neglectful as their fathers had been of the material means by

which to accomplish their somewhat indefinite purposes.

The reconstruction of the American Navy, which had attained such magnitude and played so important a
part in the Civil War but which had been allowed to sink into the merest insignificance, was begun by

William E. Chandler, the Secretary of the Navy under President Arthur. William C. Whitney, his

successor under President Cleveland, continued the work with energy. Captain Alfred T. Mahan began in

1883 to publish that series of studies in naval history which won him world-wide recognition and did so

much to revolutionize prevailing conceptions of naval strategy. A Naval War College was established in

1884, at Newport, Rhode Island, where naval officers could continue the studies which they had begun at


The total neglect of the army was not entirely the result of indifference. The experience with volunteers
in the Civil War had given almost universal confidence that the American people could constitute

themselves an army at will. The presence of several heroes of that war in succession in the position of

commander-in-chief of the army had served to diffuse a sense of security among the people. Here and

there military drill was introduced in school and college, but the regular army attracted none of the

romantic interest that clung about the navy, and the militia was almost totally neglected. Individual

officers, such as young Lieutenant Tasker Bliss, began to study the new technique of warfare which was

to make fighting on land as different from that of the wars of Napoleon as naval warfare was different

from that of the time of Nelson. Yet in spite of obviously changing conditions, no provision was made

for the encouragement of young army officers in advanced and up-to-date Studies. While their

contemporaries in other professions were adding graduate training to the general education which a

college gave, the graduates of West Point were considered to have made themselves in four years

sufficiently proficient for all the purposes of warfare.

By the middle nineties thoughtful students of contemporary movements were aware that a new epoch in
national history was approaching. What form this national development would take was, however, still

uncertain, and some great event was obviously required to fix its character. Blaine's Pan-Americanism

had proved insufficient and, though the baiting of Great Britain was welcome to a vociferous minority,

the forces making for peace were stronger than those in favor of war. Whatever differences there were

did not reach to fundamentals but were rather in the nature of legal disputes between neighbors whom a

real emergency would quickly bring to the assistance of each other. A crisis involving interest,

propinquity, and sentiment, was needed to shake the nation into an activity which would clear its views.

At the very time of the Venezuela difficulty, such a crisis was taking shape in the Caribbean. Cuba had


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