Classic History Books


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

In the case of Japan there has grown up a great power which is neither European nor American.
American policy in the Far East has made it abundantly evident that the United States does not regard the

self-imposed limitations upon its activity as extending to Asia. In her case there is lacking the quid pro

quo by which the United States has justified its demand that European powers refrain from interfering in

America. By no means, however, has the Government admitted the right of Asia to impinge on the

American continents.

In 1912 Washington heard that Japan was negotiating with Mexico for a concession on Magdalena Bay.
Senator Lodge promptly introduced a resolution in the Senate, declaring that "when any harbor or other

place in the American continents is so situated that the occupation thereof for naval or military purposes

might threaten the communication or the safety of the United States, the Government of the United States

could not see, without grave concern, the possession of such harbor or other place by any corporation or

association which has such relation to another government, not American, as to give that government

practical power of control for naval or military purposes - " This resolution, which passed the Senate by a

vote of 51 to 4, undoubtedly represented American sentiment, at least with regard to the foreign

occupation of any territory bordering on the Caribbean or on the Pacific between Panama and California.

A more subtle danger lay in the financial claims of European powers against the various states in Central
America, and the possibility of these claims being used as levers to establish permanent control. Most of

these foreign demands had a basis in justice but had been exaggerated in amount. They were of two

kinds: first, for damage to persons or property resulting from the numerous revolutions and perpetual

brigandage which have scourged these semitropic territories; second, for debts contracted in the name of

the several countries for the most part to conduct revolutions or to gild the after-career of defeated rulers

in Paris, - debts with a face value far in excess of the amount received by the debtor and with

accumulated interest in many cases far beyond the capacity of the several countries to pay. The disputes

as to the validity of such claims have been without end, and they have furnished a constant temptation to

the cupidity of individuals and the ambition of the powers.

In 1902 Germany induced Great Britain and Italy to join her in an attempt to collect the amount of some
of these claims from Venezuela. A joint squadron undertook a "pacific blockade" of the coast. Secretary

Hay denied that a "pacific blockade" existed in international law and urged that the matter be submitted

to arbitration. Great Britain and Italy were willing to come to an understanding and withdrew; but

Germany, probably intent on ulterior objects, was unwilling and preferred to take temporary possession

of certain ports. President Roosevelt then summoned the German Ambassador, Dr. Holleben, and told

him that, unless Germany consented to arbitrate, Admiral Dewey would be ordered at noon ten days later

to proceed to Venezuela and protect its coast. A week passed with no message. Holleben called on the

President but rose to go without mentioning Venezuela. President Roosevelt thereupon informed the

Ambassador that he had changed his mind and had decided to send Admiral Dewey one day earlier than

originally planned; he further explained that in the event the Kaiser should decide to arbitrate, as not a

word had been put on paper, there would be nothing to indicate coercion. Within thirty-six hours

Holleben reported that Germany would arbitrate. Only once before, when Seward was dealing with

Napoleon III concerning Mexico, had forcible persuasion been used to maintain the Monroe Doctrine.

It was perfectly clear that if the United States sat idly by and allowed European powers to do what they
would to collect their Latin American debts, the Monroe Doctrine would soon become a dead letter. It

was not, however, so plain how American interference could be justified. The problem was obviously a

difficult one and did not concern the United States alone. Latin America was even more vitally

 

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