Classic History Books


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

It was but natural that such striking events and important decisions should loom large as factors in the
following presidential campaign. The Republicans endorsed the Administration, emphatically stated that

the independence and self-government of Cuba must be secured, and, with reference to the other islands,

declared that "the largest measure of self-government consistent with their welfare and our duties shall be

secured to them by law." The Democrats asserted that "no nation can long endure half republic and half

empire," and favored "an immediate declaration of the Nation's purpose to give the Filipinos, first, a

stable form of government; second, independence; and third, protection from outside interference such as

has been given for nearly a century to the republics of Central and South America." The Democrats were

at a disadvantage owing to the fact that, since so much had been irrevocably accomplished, they could

not raise the whole issue of colonial expansion but only advocate a different policy for the handling of

what seemed to most people to be details. The distrust which their financial program of 1896 had excited,

moreover, still hung over them and repelled many voters who might have supported them on questions of

foreign and colonial policies. Nevertheless the reflection of President McKinley by a greatly increased

majority must be taken as indicating that the American people generally approved of his policies and

accepted the momentous changes which had been brought about by the successful conclusion of the war

with Spain.

 

CHAPTER XIII. A Peace Which Meant War

 

In a large way, ever since the Spanish War, the United States has been adjusting its policy to the world
conditions of which that struggle first made the people aware. The period between 1898 and 1917 will

doubtless be regarded by the historian a hundred years from now as a time of transition similar to that

between 1815 and 1829. In that earlier period John Marshall and John Quincy Adams did much by their

wisdom and judgment to preserve what was of value in the old regime for use in the new. In the later

period John Hay performed, though far less completely, a somewhat similar function.

John Hay had an acquaintance with the best traditions of American statesmanship which falls to the lot of
few men. He was private secretary to Lincoln during the Civil War, he had as his most intimate friend in

later life Henry Adams, the historian, who lived immersed in the memories and traditions of a family

which has taken a distinguished part in the Government of the United States from its beginning.

Possessed of an ample fortune, Hay had lived much abroad and in the society of the men who governed

Europe. He was experienced in newspaper work and in diplomacy, and he came to be Secretary of State

fresh from a residence in England where as Ambassador he had enjoyed wide popularity. With a lively

wit and an engaging charm of manner, he combined a knowledge of international law and of history

which few of our Secretaries have possessed. Moreover he knew men and how to handle them. Until the

death of McKinley in 1901 he was left almost free in the administration of his office. He once said that

the President spoke to him of his office scarcely once a month. In the years from 1901 to 1905 he worked

under very different conditions, for President Roosevelt discussed affairs of state with him daily and took

some matters entirely into his own hands.

Hay found somewhat better instruments to work with than most Americans were inclined to believe
probable. It is true that the American diplomatic service abroad has not always reflected credit upon the

country. It has contained extremely able and distinguished men but also many who have been stupid,

ignorant, and ill-mannered. The State Department in Washington, however, has almost escaped the

vicissitudes of politics and has been graced by the long and disinterested service of competent officials.

 

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