Classic History Books


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

island was to be occupied by the United States, in whose hands its subsequent disposition was left. All
other Spanish islands in the West Indies, together with Guam in the Ladrones, were ceded to the United

States. The whole archipelago of the Philippines, with water boundaries carefully but not quite accurately

drawn, was ceded to the United States, which by the same article agreed to pay Spain $20,000,000. All

claims for indemnity or damages between the two nations, or either nation and the citizens of the other,

were mutually relinquished, the United States assuming the adjudication and settlement of all claims of

her own citizens against Spain.

This treaty, even more than the act of war, marked a turning point in the relation of the United States to
the outside world. So violent was the opposition of those who disapproved, and so great the reluctance of

even the majority of those who approved, to acknowledge that the United States had emerged from the

isolated path which it had been treading since 1823, that every effort was made to minimize the

significance of the beginning of a new era in American history. It was argued by those delving into the

past that the Philippines actually belonged to the Western Hemisphere because the famous demarcation

line drawn by Pope Alexander VI, in 1493, ran to the west of them; it was, indeed, partly in consequence

of that line that Spain had possessed the islands. Before Spain lost Mexico her Philippine trade had

actually passed across the Pacific, through the Mexican port of Acapulco, and across the Atlantic. Yet

these interesting historical facts were scarcely related in the mind of the public to the more immediate

and tangible fact that the annexation of the Philippines gave the United States a far-flung territory

situated just where all the powerful nations of the world were then centering their interest.

In opposition to those who disapproved of this extension of territory, it was argued more cogently that, in
spite of the prevailing belief of the thirty preceding years, the United States had always been an

expanding power, stretching its authority over new areas with a persistency and rapidity hardly equaled

by any other nation, and that this latest step was but a new stride in the natural expansion of the United

States. But here again the similarity between the former and the most recent steps was more apparent

than real. Louisiana, Florida, Texas, California, and Oregon, had all been parts of an obvious

geographical whole. Alaska, indeed, was detached, but its acquisition had been partly accidental, and it

was at least a part of the American continent and would, in the opinion of many, eventually become

contiguous by the probable annexation of Canada. Moreover, none of the areas so far occupied by the

United States had been really populated. It had been a logical expectation that American people would

soon overflow these acquired lands and assimilate the inhabitants. In the case of the Philippines, on the

other hand, it was fully recognized that Americans could at most be only a small governing class, and

that even Porto Rico, accessible as it was, would prove too thickly settled to give hopes of

Americanization.

The terms of the treaty with Spain, indeed, recognized these differences. In all previous instances, except
Alaska, the added territory had been incorporated into the body of the United States with the expectation,

now realized except in Hawaii, of reaching the position of self-governing and participating States of the

Union. Even in the case of Alaska it had been provided that all inhabitants remaining in residence, except

uncivilized Indians, should become citizens of the United States. In the case of these new annexations

resulting from the war with Spain, provision was made only for the religious freedom of the inhabitants.

"The civil rights and political status of the native inhabitants of the territories hereby ceded to the United

States shall be determined by the Congress." There could therefore be no doubt that for the first time the

United States had acquired colonies and that the question whether they should develop into integral parts

of the country or into dependencies of an imperialistic republic was left to the future to decide.

 

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