Classic History Books


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

concerned with it, and her statesmen, always lucid exponents of international law, were active in devising
remedies. Carlos Calvo of Argentina advanced the doctrine that "the collection of pecuniary claims made

by the citizens of one country against the government of another country should never be made by

force." Senior Drago, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the same country in 1902, urged upon the United

States a modification of the same view by asserting that "the public debt cannot occasion armed

intervention."

President Roosevelt handled the matter in his messages of 1903 and 1904. "That our rights and interests
are deeply concerned in the maintenance of the [Monroe] Doctrine is so clear as hardly to need argument.

This is especially true in view of the construction of the Panama Canal. As a mere matter of self defense

we must exercise a close watch over the approaches to this canal, and this means we must be thoroughly

alive to our interests in the Caribbean Sea." "When we announce a policy... we thereby commit ourselves

to the consequences of the policy." "Chronic wrongdoing or an impotence which results in a general

loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention

by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere the adherence of the United States to the

Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing

or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power."

To prevent European intervention for the purpose of securing just claims in America, then, the United
States would undertake to handle the case, and would wield the "Big Stick" against any American state

which should refuse to meet its obligations. This was a repetition, in a different tone, of Blaine's "Elder

Sister" program. As developed, it had elements also of Cleveland's Venezuela policy. In 1907 the United

States submitted to the Hague Conference a modified form of the Drago doctrine, which stated that the

use of force to collect contract debts claimed from one government by another as being due to its citizens

should be regarded as illegal, unless the creditor nation first offered to submit its claims to arbitration and

this offer were refused by the nation against which the claim was directed. The interference of the United

States, therefore, would be practically to hale the debtor into court.

Around the Caribbean, however, were several nations not only unwilling but unable to pay their debts.
This inability was not due to the fact that national resources were lacking, but that constant revolution

scared away conservative capital from seeking constructive investment or from developing their natural

riches, while speculators loaned money at ruinous rates of discount to tottering presidents, gambling on

the possibility of some turn in fortune that would return them tenfold. The worst example of an insolvent

and recalcitrant state was the Dominican Republic, whose superb harbors were a constant temptation to

ambitious powers willing to assume its debts in return for naval stations, and whose unscrupulous rulers

could nearly always be bribed to sell their country as readily as anything else. In the case of this country

President Roosevelt made a still further extension of the Monroe Doctrine when, in 1905, he concluded a

treaty whereby the United States agreed to undertake the adjustment of the republic's obligations and the

administration of its custom houses, and at the same time guarantee the territorial integrity of the

republic. This arrangement was hotly attacked in the United States as an indication of growing

imperialism, and, though it was defended as necessary to prevent the entrance of new foreign influences

into the Caribbean, the opposition was so strong that the treaty was not accepted by the Senate until

1907, and then only in a modified form with the omission of the territorial guarantee.

For the United States thus to step into a foreign country as an administrator was indeed a startling
innovation. On the other hand, the development of such a policy was a logical sequence of the Monroe

Doctrine. That it was a step in the general development of policy on the part of the United States and not

 

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