Classic History Books


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

President Taft was perhaps more interested in this problem than in any other. His Secretary of State,
Elihu Root, reopened negotiations and, in 1908 and 1909, drew up a large number of treaties in a form

which met the wishes of the Senate. Before the Administration closed, the United States had agreed to

submit to arbitration all questions, except those of certain classes especially reserved, that might arise

with Great Britain, France, Austro-Hungary, China, Costa Rica, Italy, Denmark, Japan, Hayti, Mexico,

the Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Spain, Sweden, Peru, San Salvador, and Switzerland.

Such treaties seemed to a few fearsome souls to be violations of the injunctions of Washington and
Jefferson to avoid entangling alliances, but to most they seemed, rather, to be disentangling. It was,

indeed, becoming increasingly apparent that the world was daily growing smaller and that, as its parts

were brought together by rail and steamships, by telegraph and wireless, more and more objects of

common interest must become subject to common regulation. General Grant can hardly be regarded as a

visionary, and yet in 1873 in his second inaugural address, he had said: "Commerce, education, and rapid

transit of thought and matter by telegraph and steam have changed all this.... I believe that our Great

Maker is preparing the world in His own good time, to become one nation, speaking one language, and

when armies and navies will be no longer required."

Quietly, without general interest, or even particular motive, the United States had accepted its share in
handling many such world problems. As early as 1875 it had cooperated in founding and maintaining at

Paris an International Bureau of Weights and Measures. In 1886 it joined in an international agreement

for the protection of submarine cables; in 1890, in an agreement for the suppression of the African slave

trade; in 1899, in an agreement for the regulation of the importation of spirituous liquors into Africa; in

1902, in a convention of American powers for the Arbitration of Pecuniary Claims. In 1903 it united with

various American powers in an International Sanitary Convention; in 1905 it joined with most countries

of the world in establishing and maintaining an International Institute of Agriculture at Rome. It would

surprise most Americans to know that five hundred pages of their collection of "Treaties and

Conventions" consist of such international undertakings, which amount in fact to a body of international

legislation. It is obvious that the Government, in interpreting the injunction to avoid entangling alliances,

has not found therein prohibition against international cooperation.

In 1783 the United States had been a little nation with not sufficient inhabitants to fill up its million
square miles of territory. Even in 1814 it still reached only to the Rockies and still found a troublesome

neighbor lying between it and the Gulf of Mexico. Now with the dawn of the twentieth century it was a

power of imperial dimensions, occupying three million square miles between the Atlantic and the Pacific,

controlling the Caribbean, and stretching its possessions across the Pacific and up into the Arctic. Its

influence was a potent factor in the development of Asia, and it was bound by the bonds of treaties,

which it has ever regarded sacred, to assist in the regulation of many matters of world interest.

Nor had the only change during the century been that visible in the United States. The world which
seemed so vast and mysterious in 1812 had opened up most of its dark places to the valor of adventurous

explorers, of whom the United States had contributed its fair share. The facilities of intercourse had

conquered space, and along with its conquest had gone a penetration of the countries of the world by the

tourist and the immigrant, the missionary and the trader, so that Terence's statement that nothing human

was alien to him had become perforce true of the world.

Nor had the development of governmental organization stood still. In 1812 the United States was
practically the only democratic republic in the world; in 1912 the belief in a government founded on the

 

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