Classic History Books


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

principle for which the United States had contended, though not following the actual line which it had
sketched. It gave the Americans, however, full control of the coast and its harbors, and the settlement

provided a mutually accepted boundary on every frontier.

With the discovery of gold in the far North, Alaska began a period of development which is rapidly
making that territory an important economic factor in American life. Today the time when this vast

northern coast was valuable only as the breeding ground for the fur seal seems long past. Nevertheless

the fur seal continued to be sought, and for years the international difficulty of protecting the fisheries

remained. Finally, in 1911, the United States entered into a joint agreement with Great Britain, Japan,

and Russia, which is actually serving as a sort of international game law. The problems of Alaska that

remain are therefore those of internal development.

Diplomacy, however, is not concerned solely with sensational episodes. American ministers and the State
Department are engaged for the most part in the humdrum adjustment of minor differences which never

find their way into the newspapers. Probably more such cases arise with Great Britain, in behalf of

Canada, than with any other section of the globe. On the American continent rivers flow from one

country into the other; railroads carry goods across the border and back again; citizens labor now in one

country, now in the other; corporations do business in both. All these ties not only bind but chafe and

give rise to constant negotiation. More and more Great Britain has left the handling of such matters to the

Canadian authorities, and, while there can be no interchange of ministers, there is an enormous

transaction of business between Ottawa and Washington.

While there has of late years been little talk of annexation, there have been many in both countries who
have desired to reduce the significance of the boundary to a minimum. This feeling led in 1911 to the

formulation of a reciprocity agreement, which Canada, however, was unwilling to accept. Yet, if tariff

restrictions were not removed, other international barriers were as far as possible done away with. In

1898 a commission was appointed to agree upon all points of difference. Working slowly but steadily,

the commissioners settled one question after another, until practically all problems were put upon a

permanent working basis. Perhaps the most interesting of the results of this activity was the appointment

in 1908 of a permanent International Fisheries Commission, which still regulates that vexing question.

Another source of international complication arose out of the Atlantic fisheries off Newfoundland, which
is not part of Canada. It is off these shores that the most important deep-sea fishing takes place. This

fishery was one of the earliest American sources of wealth, and for nearly two centuries formed a sort of

keystone of the whole commercial life of the United States. When in 1783 Great Britain recognized

American independence, she recognized also that American fishermen had certain rights off these coasts.

These rights, however, were not sufficient for the conduct of the fisheries, and so in addition certain

"liberties" were granted, which allowed American fishers to land for the purpose of drying fish and of

doing other things not generally permitted to foreigners. These concessions in fact amounted to a joint

participation with the British. The rights were permanent, but the privileges were regarded as having

lapsed after the War of 1812. In 1818 they were partially renewed, certain limited privileges being

conceded. Ever since that date the problem of securing the additional privileges desired has been a

subject for discussion between Great Britain and the United States. Between 1854 and 1866 the

American Government secured them by reciprocity; between 1872 and 1884 it bought them; after 1888 it

enjoyed them by a temporary modus vivendi arranged under President Cleveland.

In 1902 Hay arranged with Sir Robert Bond, Prime Minister of Newfoundland, a new reciprocity

 

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