Classic History Books


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

agreement. This, however, the Senate rejected, and the Cleveland agreement continued. Newfoundland,
angry at the rejection of the proposed treaty, put every obstacle possible in the way of American

fishermen and used methods which the Americans claimed to be contrary to the treaty terms. After long

continued and rather acrimonious discussions, the matter was finally referred in 1909 to the Hague Court.

As in the Bering Sea case, the court was asked not only to judge the facts but also to draw up an

agreement for the future. Its decision, on the whole, favored Newfoundland, but this fact is of little

moment compared with the likelihood that a dispute almost a century and a half old has at last been

permanently settled.

None of these international disputes and settlements to the north, however, excited anything like the
popular interest aroused by one which occurred in the south. The Spanish War made it abundantly

evident that an isthmian canal between the Atlantic and the Pacific must be built. The arguments of naval

strategy which Captain Mahan had long been urging had received striking demonstration in the long and

roundabout voyage which the Oregon was obliged to take. The pressure of railroad rates on the trade of

the country caused wide commercial support for a project expected to establish a water competition that

would pull them down. The American people determined to dig a canal.

The first obstacle to such a project lay in the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty with Great Britain. That obstacle
Blaine had attempted in vain to remove; in fact his bungling diplomacy had riveted it yet more closely by

making Great Britain maintain it as a point of honor. To this subject Hay now devoted himself, and as he

encountered no serious difficulties, a treaty was drawn up in 1900 practically as he wished it. It was not,

however, popular in the United States. Hay preferred and arranged for a canal neutralized by

international guarantee, on the same basis as the Suez Canal; but American public sentiment had come to

insist on a canal controlled absolutely by the United States. The treaty was therefore rejected by the

Senate, or rather was so amended as to prove unacceptable to Great Britain.

Hay believed that he had obtained what was most desirable as well as all that was possible, that the
majority of the American people approved, and that he was beaten only because a treaty must be

approved by two-thirds of the Senate. He therefore resigned. President McKinley, however, refused to

accept his resignation, and he and Lord Pauncefote were soon at work again on the subject. In 1901 a

new treaty was presented to the Senate. This began by abrogating the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty entirely and

with it brushing away all restrictions upon the activity of the United States in Central America. It

specifically permitted the United States to "maintain such military police along the canal as may be

necessary to protect it against lawlessness and disorder." By interpreting this clause as allowing complete

fortification, the United States has made itself the guardian of the canal. In return for the release from

former obligations which Great Britain thus allowed, the United States agreed that any canal constructed

should be regulated by certain rules which were stated in the treaty and which made it "free and open to

the vessels of commerce and of war of all nations observing these Rules, on terms of entire equality," in

time of war as well as of peace. This time the treaty proved satisfactory and was accepted by the Senate.

Thus one more source of trouble was done away with, and the first obstacle in the way of the canal was

removed.

The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was, however, only a bit of the tangled jungle which must be cleared before
the first American shovel could begin its work. For over twenty years a contest had been waged between

experts in the United States as to the relative merits of the Panama and the Nicaragua routes. The latter

was the more popular, perhaps because it seemed at one time that Panama was preempted by De Lesseps'

French company. This contest as to the better route led to the passage of a law, in 1902, which authorized

 

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