« PreviousContinue »
Indian trade in the early years of the last century. Our merchants, moreover, have not always been satisfied with handling our own business. They have acted as carriers for others, sometimes in open competition, sometimes by seeking to make a profit from our neutrality.
For no other nation has neutrality assumed such protean shapes as for the United States. For more than half of our
national existence we have been either a neutral Neutrality
or else a belligerent interested in the neutrality of others. After independence had been established the vital question was whether we could remain neutral in the struggle that divided Europe. From our effort to remain so grew our positive policy of isolation, which, designed to guard our weakness, still governs the use of our strength. Coincident with this problem was that of the protection of our rights as a neutral, in behalf of which we were in 1812 stirred to war. As soon as the general peace in Europe in 1815 assured us that our earthen jar had floated safely through the contest of the iron pots, we became concerned in the problem of our duty as a neutral in the strife of weaker neighbors, and from that time to this the question has presented itself in every conceivable form, in the struggle of Spain with her colonies, in which the latter so much engaged our sympathies; in the later struggle between Spain and the Cubans, where desire was added to sympathy; in revolutions and petty wars in which our only interest as a people was in peace but into which many of our citizens entered on one or the other or on both sides. The protection of lives and property during these conflicts, the securing of damages for the loss of the one or the other after peace was reëstablished, has been the unending task of our diplomats and foreign office. Then in the Civil War we were violently confronted with the reverse side of the proposition,-with questions as to the duties which neutral nations owed to us as belligerents. The experiences of the United States in handling neutrality have been uniquely varied, its record on the whole is honorable,
and the experience of the past has been a growing force to guide the future.
More unique still has been our experience in affording protection to our citizens. A nation made up of emigrants, we have not always found other countries as willing
Naturalization to give up their claims to allegiance as we are to welcome the newcomers. Since we achieved independence the whole question of naturalization and change of nationality has been completely reviewed, and, largely by our insistence, the conclusions of international and municipal law have been almost directly reversed. New phases have lately arisen, however, from our wish to discriminate in our welcome between the various races; hence, while the problems of emigration—that is, the relationship of the individual to the country he is leaving-are fairly well settled, those of the immigrant with the country to which he desires to shift, remain uncertain.
Besides establishing our national identity and making elbow room for the activities of our citizens, we have been obliged to assume a social position in the world. International Since the rise of the Spanish-American nations association our policy of individualism has been modified by a feeling of special interest in their welfare. While avoiding entangling alliances with them, as with others, we have always desired a close association from which the nations of other continents should be excluded; and over the states that lie between us and the equator we have increasingly exhibited a tendency to assume a modified guardianship. Moreover, we have never been able to avoid connections with the nations outside the American continents. Deeply concerned in the formulation of international law, we have been forced to recognize the weight of international opinion, and have contributed not a little to give it its present form. At first a matter of separate treaties and of diplomatic and judicial precedents, it has in the last thirty years exhibited a striking tendency to codify results by general agreements reached by
international congresses. From these developments we have not stood aloof, and we have shared fully in the still more recent establishment of an international judiciary. Whether international law as interpreted by the Hague court will ultimately be provided with a police to carry out its decisions, and whether we will coöperate in this extension, are questions that will inevitably concern us in the future.
The diplomatic problems of the United States have always had more than an intrinsic interest for the rest of the world.
The method of their handling has been more Democracy
unique than their quality. To those who, whether with approval or with apprehension, believe that civilization is tending more and more toward democracy, the experience of this country, which has been more democratic than any other in the control of its diplomacy, has the value of an experiment.
To the casual observer, as to the close student, it is obvious that our democracy has not abolished personality. More
than in any other branch of our activity has Personality
the personal element counted in determining our diplomatic controversies. Great figures like Franklin, John Quincy Adams, and Hay stand out by their achievements more conspicuously than do any of our legislators and than all but a few of our administrators; and the encounters of Madison and Napoleon, Adams and Canning, Charles Francis Adams and Russell, Blaine, Olney, and Lord Salisbury have all the fascination of the days of the tournament and the duel.
Personality has perhaps shone all the more conspicuously because our democracy has not chosen permanently to equip Diplomatic
itself with a trained staff. In selecting our staff
champions we have been governed at best by opportunism. When great crises have arisen we have usually sent great men, who have in most cases outclassed their opponents; when the stake has been or has seemed to be of minor importance, we have allowed the exigencies of internal
politics to dictate the choice. The result has been representative perhaps, but representative of the worst as well as of the best that was in us. Quite as disturbing a factor as the motley composition of our foreign corps has been the unfortunate circumstance that our foreign minister, the secretary of state, is expected, under the President, to be the political head of the administration. Insuring, as this fact does, the handling of foreign affairs by a man of ability and power, it does not always involve special fitness for the task. Although some selections have been ideal, others have been seriously bad, seriously, but not impossibly so, for the permanent force of the state department has been able to guide the willing but untutored secretary and to modify the eccentricities of the obdurate.
More fundamental than differences in the choice of the protagonists has been the difference in the location of the power that has determined the policies upon Control by the which they have acted. Has the broadening people of the basis upon which the expression of the national will rests meant loss or increase of power, fluctuation or steadiness of purpose? On this point all sorts of opinions have been held. It has been said that the people, without ability to acquire the information necessary to form intelligent opinions on questions so remote from their daily life, would be at the mercy of every whiff of opinion which a designing or a shifting press might express; that, swept away by sudden passions, they would rush into wars from which the sage reticence of experienced men of affairs had previously saved them; or, on the other hand, that if those who suffered the pains of war could control it, there would come an era of peace on earth from which universal good will might ultimately flow. At all events, the controlling element in our diplomacy has been the people at large; and if our policy has on the whole secured us what we wanted, and done so without unnecessary friction, it is a justification of our democracy and an argument in favor of democracy in general.
The return of Columbus in 1493 at once brought his discoveries before the forum of the world's diplomacy, Rome; The papal
for the first thought of his “Most Catholic” bulls
sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella, was to secure a title to these new lands from the
Alexander VI was a Spaniard by birth and feeling, and at the instance of the royal ambassadors he promptly issued two bulls giving to Spain “all and singular the aforesaid countries and islands thus unknown and hitherto discovered by your envoys and to be discovered hereafter, providing however they at no time have been in the actual temporal possession of
any Christian owner.” These bulls were issued almost as a matter of course, as the confirmation of a miner's claim would be granted by the United States government to-day; but they were unsatisfactory to Spain in that they did not prohibit discoveries and the establishment of claims by others. To meet these wishes a third bull was accordingly issued, May 4, 1493, which fixed a meridian one hundred leagues westward of “any” of the Azores or Cape Verde islands beyond which all other nations were prohibited from voyaging for the purposes of fishing and discovery.
The general bearing of these bulls upon American diplomacy seems to have been greatly exaggerated. They did not prevent that good Catholic, Henry VII of England, from Their general sending out John Cabot to emulate Columsignificance
bus in 1496, nor his “Most Christian” Majesty, Francis I of France, from attempting to found a French colonial empire thirty years later. The most peremptory
1 E. H. Blair and J. A. Robertson, The Philippine Islands (55 vols., Cleve. land, 1903-09), i. 97–129.