Classic History Books


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

From 1897 to 1913, moreover, the service abroad was built up on the basis of continuity and promotion.

One sign of a new epoch was the changed attitude of the American public toward annexation. While the
war was in progress the United States yielded to the desires of Hawaii, and annexed the islands as a part

of the United States, with the hope of their eventual statehood. In 1899 the United States consented to

change the cumbrous and unsuccessful arrangement by which, in partnership with Great Britain and

Germany, it had supervised the native government of Samoa. No longer unwilling to acquire distant

territories, the United States took in full possession the island of Tutuila, with its harbor of Pago Pago,

and consented to Germany's taking the remainder of the islands, while Great Britain received

compensation elsewhere. In 1900 the Government paid over to Spain $100,000 for Sibutu and Cagayan

Sulu, two islands really belonging to the Philippines but overlooked in the treaty. Proud of the navy and

with a new recognition of its necessities, the United States sought naval stations in those areas where the

fleet might have to operate. In the Pacific the Government obtained Midway and Wake islands in 1900.

In the West Indies, the harbor of Guantanamo was secured from Cuba, and in 1903 a treaty was made

with Denmark for the purchase of her islands - which, however, finally became American possessions

only in 1917.

By her policy toward Cuba, the United States gave the world a striking example of observing the plighted
word even when contrary to the national interest. For a century the United States had expected to acquire

the "Pearl of the Antilles." Spain in the treaty of peace refused to recognize the Cuban Government and

relinquished the island into the hands of the United States. The withdrawal of the Spanish troops left the

Cuban Government utterly unable to govern, and the United States was forced to occupy the island.

Nevertheless the Government had begun the war with a recognition of Cuban independence and to that

declaration it adhered. The country gave the best of its talent to make the islands self-governing as

quickly as possible. Harvard University invited Cuban teachers to be its guests at a summer session.

American medical men labored with a martyr's devotion to stamp out disease. General Wood, as military

governor, established order and justice and presided over the evolution of a convention assembled to

draft a constitution for the people of Cuba and to determine the relations of the United States and Cuba.

These relations, indeed, were already under consideration at Washington and were subsequently

embodied in the Platt Amendment.* This measure directed the President to leave the control of Cuba to

the people of the island as soon as they should agree to its terms. It also required that the Government of

Cuba should never allow a foreign power to impair its independence; that it would contract no debt for

which it could not provide a sinking fund from the ordinary revenue; that it would grant to the United

States "lands necessary for coaling or naval stations"; that it would provide for the sanitation of its cities;

and that the United States should have the right to intervene, "for the preservation of Cuban

independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and

individual liberty, and for discharging" certain obligations with respect to Spanish subjects which the

United States had assumed in the treaty signed at Paris. After some hesitation the convention added these

provisions to the new constitution of Cuba. On May 20, 1902, the American troops withdrew, leaving

Cuba in better condition than she had ever been before. Subsequently the United States was forced to

intervene to preserve order, but, though the temptation was strong to remain, the American troops again

withdrew after they had done their constructive work. The voluntary entrance of Cuba into the Great War

in cooperation with the United States was a tribute to the generosity and honesty of the American people.

* An amendment to the Army Appropriation Bill of March 2, 1901.

Porto Rico presented a problem different from that which the United States had to solve in Cuba. There

 

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