Classic History Books


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

American invasion of trade should be resisted by a general European economic organization which
would even overrule the natural tendency of powers to group themselves into hostile camps. In 1898 it

seemed possible that the United States was consciously planning to become a world military power also,

and a feeling, not exactly like Blaine's "America for the Americans" but rather of "the world for

Europeans," gathered force to meet any attempt at American expansion.

Even before war had broken out between Spain and the United States, this sentiment had sufficiently
crystallized to result in a not quite usual diplomatic action. On April 6, 1898, the representatives of Great

Britain, Germany, France, Austro-Hungary, Russia, and Italy, presented a note to the Government of the

United States making "a pressing appeal to the feelings of humanity and moderation of the President and

of the American people in their differences with Spain. They earnestly hope that further negotiations will

lead to an agreement which, while securing the maintenance of peace, will afford all necessary

guarantees for the reestablishment of order in Cuba."

Of all the European powers none was more interested than Germany in the situation in the Western
Hemisphere. There seems to be no doubt that the Kaiser made the remark to an Englishman with

reference to the Spanish American War: "If I had had a larger fleet I would have taken Uncle Sam by the

scruff of his neck." Though the reason for Germany's attitude has never been proven by documents,

circumstantial evidence points convincingly to the explanation. The quest for a colonial empire, upon

which Bismarck had embarked rather reluctantly and late, had been taken up with feverish zeal by

William II, his successor in the direction of German policy. Not content with the commercial conquests

which German trade was making in all countries of the earth, the Kaiser wanted a place in the sun

exclusively his own. The world seemed, however, as firmly closed to the late-comer in search of colonies

as it was open to him as the bearer of cheap and useful goods. Such remnants of territory as lay on the

counter he quickly seized, but they hardly made an empire.

It is not, therefore, a daring conjecture that the Kaiser was as carefully watching the decrepit empire of
Spain as he was the traditional sick man of Europe, the empire of Turkey. In 1898 revolutions were

sapping both the extremities of the Spanish dominions. The Kaiser, while he doubtless realized that Cuba

would not fall to him, in all probability expected that he would be able to get the Philippines. Certain it is

that at the close of the Spanish American War he bought all the remaining Spanish possessions in the

Pacific. If such had been his expectations with regard to the Philippines, the news of Dewey's victory

must have brought him a bitter disappointment, while at the same time the careless and indiscreet remark

of an American official to certain Germans - "We don't want the Philippines; why don't you take them?" -

may well have given him a feeling that perhaps the question was still open.

Under such circumstances, with Europe none too well-disposed and the Kaiser watching events with a
jealous eye, it was very important to the United States not to be without a friend. In England sympathy

for America ran strong and deep. The British Government was somewhat in alarm over the political

solitude in which Great Britain found herself, even though its head, Lord Salisbury, described the

position as one of "splendid isolation." The unexpected reaction of friendliness on the part of Great

Britain which had followed the Venezuela affair continued to augment, and relations between the two

countries were kept smooth by the new American Ambassador, John Hay, whom Queen Victoria

described as "the most interesting of all the ambassadors I have known." More important still, in Great

Britain alone was there a public who appreciated the real sentiment of humanity underlying the entrance

of the United States into the war with Spain; and this public actually had some weight in politics. The

people of both Great Britain and the United States were easily moved to respond with money and

 

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