John Hay's "splendid little war" left the United States with defense commitments exactly matching its strategical gains. Hawaii might be a sea bastion safeguarding the Pacific coast, and the Philippines a potential stronghold. Neither was self-defending. Senator Cushman K. Davis, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and a grave Shakespearean scholar, thanked God publicly that America had "ceased to be the China of the Western Hemisphere" but that desirable new status could be maintained only at the cost of constantly increasing naval appropriations.
The Pacific "frontiers," moreover, posed an immediate dilemma in 1898. •Fifteen thousand miles of salt water and stormy Cape Horn lay between the Caribbean bases and Hawaii, and the Philippines were some thousands of miles beyond. It became suddenly apparent that we were a two‑ocean Power with a navy scarcely sufficient for one. The new commitments required one of these alternatives: either fleets in both the Atlantic and the Pacific capable of coping with any likely enemy, or an isthmian canal contracting the distance between our coasts and magnifying the maneuverability of one strong fleet. The Government chose the second horn of the dilemma, electing to dig a canal.
There was, however, an obstacle. We had treaty rights to the transit of Nicaragua and the Isthmus of Panama; we had the strategical incentive, the means, and the will. Only the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty barred the way. That treaty, binding us since 1850 to an Anglo-American partnership in any Central American ship canal, inhibited an all‑American canal. England still had the power of veto over our freedom of action p103 in that respect, a strategical voice in Caribbean affairs that she had shown no willingness to relinquish. The treaty had been, as we have seen, steadily irksome. Nor were the British unaware of our attitude. In 1889, for example, Michael Herbert, the chargé d'affaires at Washington, reported that the Americans, "hating" the treaty, were "always inclined to pretend that it had lapsed." The half-century‑old covenant stood as the last barrier to American ascendancy in the Caribbean. Now as the Administration reckoned the liabilities as well as the assets accruing from the Spanish war, it was plain that the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty stood also as a barrier to a proper defense of the Pacific possessions.
The situation confronting McKinley was not easy. On the one hand was the valuable Atlantic entente that had served us well during the recent war. As much as any other President, McKinley cherished the English-speaking tie. On the other hand, he faced the strategical necessities of his country — plus an urgent public sentiment in favor of an all‑American canal. The desire for such a canal, growing chronic through the years, had been quickened by the voyage of the battleship Oregon (one of the 1890 class) from San Francisco to Key West to reinforce the North Atlantic squadron against Cervera — •13,000 miles in sixty-eight days. Seldom has the exploit of a single man-of‑war so engrossed the attention of a nation. The progress of the Oregon down the Pacific coast, around the Horn and north past the bulge of Brazil was daily measured in the press. Verse-makers celebrated the Oregon's journey, typical being the excellent Arthur Guiterman who in a Kiplingesque strain depicted her swift passage south to the Horn, then brought her spankingly northward with these lines:
Six thousand miles to the Indian isles!
And the Oregon rushed home,
Her wake a swirl of jade and pearl,
Her bow a bend of foam.
The drama of the Oregon's race against time illuminated for the whole country our new responsibilities. Endlessly was the p104 lesson of the Oregon iterated in the press, on the platform, and in Congress. We now had two coasts and thousands of miles of the Pacific Ocean to defend. A war might easily be lost while future Oregons were rounding the Horn into either ocean. There was, the public understood, no time to be wasted over the canal.
McKinley acted promptly. Without even waiting for the Treaty of Paris to end the war with Spain on December 10, 1898, he struck a glancing blow at the obstructive treaty. In his annual message on December 5 the President recommended that the United States, in the imperative name of "national policy," should dig its own canal. Pointedly ignoring the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, he termed American control of such a waterway "indispensable" in view of the annexation of Hawaii and the developing situation in the Pacific.
The President was, of course, only bringing the policy of Hayes and Garfield up to date, but his declaration raised hackles in Europe, more so on the Continent than in England, who might have considered herself aggrieved. Although the unflaggingly Amerophobic Saturday Review demanded naval bases flanking any canal, and an unidentified Major General, writing in the Outlook, feared that England was about to lose a "key to the commerce of the world" through unwillingness to "irritate the United States," the British press generally did not rise above a mild querulousness. Since the dream of a passage to India via the Isthmus of Panama was older than English settlements in the Western Hemisphere, what, it asked, was McKinley's hurry? It was pointed out that ever since Alvarado de Saavedra noted for the benefit of Charles V early in the sixteenth century the providential proximity of the great oceans in that part of the world, bold minds (Jefferson, Goethe, and Henry Clay among them) had advocated such a waterway. The British, although they had backed our retention of the Philippines, had not followed the dash of the Oregon as closely as we had.
On the Continent, where it was now the fashion to regard the United States as an imperialistic "aggressor nation," McKinley's observations were taken as a blunt notice to p105 England to clear out of Central America. Continental chancelleries and the Foreign Office press were both gratified by what they supposed would be a fissure in the Atlantic link and annoyed by this fresh manifestation of American arrogance. While the Wilhelmstrasse was perversely discovering new evidence of an Anglo-American entente, the Kaiser was receiving the assurances of his cousin the Czar that Europe need have no fear of such an Atlantic concentration, the two countries being demonstrably unable to sink their differences.
A less comforting view was being taken at that moment by the well-informed Novoye Vremya in the Czar's capital. Accepting America's friendship with its "traditional enemy" as durable, that newspaper urged the Russian Government to back France in a new attempt at a Central American canal as a "counterweight" to the growth of "American power." In Germany, on the contrary, the steadfastly anti-American press affected to believe, in the words of the Kölnische Zeitung, that "uncle Sam's rampant jingoism" had estranged the British. The "dear Anglo-Saxon cousins had best take note," that journal went on, lest "Yankee imperialism" gobble the "rest of the world." It was clear to the Vossische Zeitung that a lasting accord between the English-speaking Powers was impossible because the boundless ambition of the Americans "will not give to others even as much as Great Britain is willing to give."
The confusion of Continental observers was understandable. American foreign policy in the period immediately following the Spanish War seemed, to a superficial view, ambiguous. Calling for Britain's retirement from the Isthmus of Panama, the Government at the same time was thwarting Canada's desire for a corridor from the Klondike to the Pacific. By themselves these policies implied a settled hostility toward the British Empire. But there was no such hostility. Outside hemispheric waters, Anglo-American solidarity remained intact.
When England, absorbed by the Boer War, was vaguely menaced by Continental diplomacy, Washington quietly reinforced her. Hay's diplomacy persuaded Bülow, the Boer p106 leaders, and a section of the American press ("England," said the Kansas City Times, "has committed the crime of the century — and this Government has been an accessory") that the United States was hand in glove with Britain. Concurrently also the English-speaking Powers followed similar policies in the Pacific. Hay led Lord Salisbury into a joint diplomatic and naval demonstration against an act of German usurpation in Samoa, British and American blood being "mingled" in a microscopic "war," chiefly interesting as a minute preview of 1917.
The German Foreign Minister, seeing in the Samoan affair an "undoubted rapprochement," in a talk with the Kaiser suspected that the "Anglo-Saxon Powers" would always be united against Germany. This was a disingenuous observation. Both Bülow and William were intimately familiar with the sustained efforts by Joseph Chamberlain and other influential Englishmen, who were in no way opposed by the United States Government, to bring Germany into better relations with England and America and attach her to the Atlantic System. The reluctance was more German than Anglo-Saxon.
Noting the European reactions to McKinley's canal declaration, Hay bade Henry White assure Salisbury that the President did not contemplate repudiating the treaty. As it happened, White was week-ending with the Prime Minister at Hatfield within a few days, and Salisbury, who often unbent with White, assured him in return that England had no desire to build or to share in the canal, a Central American canal being of "comparatively little importance to England now that [we] have the Suez Canal." The Prime Minister agreed that one Power, rather than two or more, should dig and operate the canal, and for his part he preferred that Power to be the United States. As for its military status, Salisbury supposed that it would be unfortified and neutralized in war as in peace, like Suez. White, unaware of the feeling back home concerning the terms of American proprietorship, saw no hindrance there. He found the rest p107 of the Ministry also agreeable, Balfour seeming "quite sound."
To White, mending matters in London, as well as to Hay and Pauncefote the deed was as good as done. A treaty was hastily drafted by the Secretary of State and the British Ambassador, and signed on February 5, 1899. Hay, seeing the first Hay‑Pauncefote Treaty off to London, was optimistic of an early settlement. He was to be disappointed. Few diplomatic undertakings ever set sail under more promising skies; few ever wallowed so pointlessly to a foreordained destination. The simple chore of removing Britain's veto over a canal in which she wished no part took three years, its course delayed by domestic politics in Canada, England, and the United States and complicated by an irrelevant dispute over glacial bays on the Alaskan coast.
After much backing and filling the British Government finally yielded, preferring to exchange the negligible and irritating partnership at the Isthmus of the Panama for a larger association in Atlantic and world affairs. The free and orderly development of the Atlantic System was thereby advanced and Anglo-American friendship fundamentally strengthened. The cornerstone of the Atlantic System was mutual trust between the English-speaking Powers. That trust could be built only on a sense of equality, and not until Uncle Sam felt himself master in his own household and in command of his strategical necessities would the way be open to wholehearted, unprejudiced collaboration.
The Klondike gold rush in 1897 had found Canada — or so Canadians thought — at a geographical disadvantage. While nearly all the gold deposits lay within the Canadian boundaries, all ingress and egress were through the Alaskan ports of 1 Skagway and 2 Dyea, there being no railways or wagon roads into the Yukon. A glance at a map shows the Alaskan Panhandle curtaining Dominion territory from the Pacific for a stretch of •500 miles. After 1897 Canada claimed an p108 outlet to the sea, centering her claim on 3 Pyramid Harbor, near the American ports, with a corridor inland. This claim the United States rejected, resting its legal case on the treaty with Russia transferring Alaska in 1867, this in turn standing on a treaty between Russia and Great Britain in 1825 (a document admittedly hazy as to boundaries) and upon Admiralty maps which for two generations had mutely upheld the American contentions. A brisk, downright young nation, the Canadians pressed their argument on Washington, through London, with all vigor.
NB: 2 Dyea is very close to 1 Skagway: pinpoint them by zooming in.
[and if you need it,
here's help in using the map,
In 1898 a Joint High Commission had been set up to resolve an even dozen points at issue between the Dominion and the American republic. Of these, the boundary case was the most important and early in the life of the commission it became apparent that it would be the sticker. By February, 1899, the boundary question had become a fuse which set off tempers on both sides. Hay was convinced that the British chairman, Lord Herschell, recently Lord Chancellor of England, was seeking to intertwine the canal and boundary questions, hoping for a trade by means of which Canada would gain her port in exchange for abrogation of the treaty. "The slightest suggestion that his [Herschell's] claim is unfounded throws him into a fury," said Hay, who on his part would concede not an inch of Alaskan soil. "Pyramid Harbor," Hay told the London Times, "is as much our territory as Sitka or San Francisco," the Canadians having "never raised a tent or moored a canoe there."
Meanwhile, confirming Hay's suspicions of a trade, Chamberlain suggested that Canada be accorded a share in the canal, replacing Britain. The Canadians also, he argued, had two coasts to defend, and in the present stage of friction between the countries they feared that an all‑American canal would "double" the United States Navy for hostile use against themselves. The Joint High Commission was wrecked on the boundary shoals in February, but not before it furnished Salisbury with an excuse for withholding action on the treaty. Sardonically, the Prime Minister contrasted the "precarious prospects and slowness of the negotiations p109 which were being conducted by Lord Herschell with the rapidity of decision proposed in the matter of the [canal] convention." Whereupon, at the behest of Chamberlain and against the advice of Pauncefote, Salisbury pocketed the new treaty.
Hay stormed helplessly. Lodge, addressing Balfour through White, warned the Ministry that the "American people mean to have the canal and they mean to control it. . . . England does not care enough about it to go to war . . . and it would be ruinous if she did make war on us." Chamberlain conceded that the issues were "trumpery bits of irritation," but referred to a "certain feeling here of late that the United States had got the best of any arrangement" between the two countries. Canada was undergoing a hard-contested Dominion election. The Colonial Secretary reminded White that if the United States Government had to consider "tail-twisters" in Congress, the Ministry had to contend with "croakers in Parliament."
Not a wheel turned in the canal controversy during the remainder of 1899. One reason for British indifference was the onset and declaration of the Boer War. For several weeks before war began on October 11, 1899, when the Boers invaded Natal, efforts by the British Government to compose their differences with the Transvaal republic took precedence over all other matters. The tension between the British and the Boers was of long standing. It came down to the unwillingness of the English, who had a nominal protectorate, the largest economic stake, and the next most numerous group of European settlers in the Transvaal, to accept the rigorous rule of the ascendant Boers.
Determined to keep the republic Dutch in language, politics, and religion, the Pretoria Government, under Paul Kruger, refused to naturalize other Europeans, and the Uitlanders, predominantly British, had no voice in the Government, although they had developed the wealth of the republic in gold and diamonds. The Transvaal (South African Republic) and its sister republic, the Orange Free State, were virtually surrounded by the British at Cape Colony p110 and in the other possessions to the west and north of them. The conflict between the static Boer state, agrarian and primitive, and the colonial dynamics of the British Empire was no doubt irrepressible. When in the summer of 1899 Kruger rejected Chamberlain's offer of a Joint High Commission, proposing instead an international arbitration, the die was cast and England began to ship reinforcements to the surrounding territories.
In the beginning and for eight months the war went against the British, who were bottled up in Ladysmith, Kimberley, and Mafeking. But as the Dominions rallied enthusiastically to the help of the mother country, as the numbers, equipment, and training of the British expeditionary forces began to tell, the Dutch armies were dispersed. In June, 1900, Pretoria fell to the British, and although the Boers maintained a guerrilla struggle for a year and a half, the issue was then as good as settled. The peace treaty, signed May 31, 1902, incorporated both the Boer republics in British South Africa.
In January, 1900, with the British stunned by their early reverses in South Africa, the Senate grew restless over the delay in the canal negotiations. Hay wrote Joseph Choate, the American Ambassador in London, concerning a resolution just introduced which, if passed, would take the question out of the hands of the executive branch and have the effect of denouncing the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. The passage of this resolution, said Hay, would "place us in a most unenviable position before the world," but he added for the guidance of the Ministry: "the canal is going to be built. Nothing . . . in the Clayton-Bulwer prohibition will finally prevent [its] building. . . . As soon as Congress is convinced that the people . . . demand the canal it will be done." Hay felt that it would be "deplorable" for Britain to attempt a veto, especially in view of his conviction that the "veto would not be effective." It may be assumed from what follows that Hay's representation was effective.
Hay's letter was dated January 15. Just before midnight of February 3 he had a cablegram from Choate giving word p111 that the Ministry had approved the treaty. Canada, it appeared, had receded, an exhibition of "magnanimity" that touched off tributes from both Salisbury and Hay. At this point began the final phase of Great Britain's surrender of a voice in the strategic affairs of the American seas. There were, however, other obstacles to overcome. The treaty now approved preserved all the elements of its predecessor except for the presence of Britain as a principal. Under the first Hay‑Pauncefote Treaty the United States was forbidden to fortify the canal site. The waterway must be neutral, on the model of Suez, and its neutrality might be guaranteed by such other Powers, including England, as saw fit to adhere to the convention. This multilateral provision had never been operative under the Clayton-Bulwer agreement, because the envisaged canal had not come into being.
When the treaty reached the Senate in February, a storm broke, astonishing Hay, who had not gathered the full content of the public demand for an all‑American canal. The American people wanted a canal to be built, owned, operated, and controlled in war and peace (especially in war) by their own country. They wished no foreign interference, no shadow of such. Representative of the opposition, the New York Sun, asking Hay to correct a "stupendous blunder, honestly perpetrated," went on to say: "As if not satisfied with the gash made fifty years ago in the Monroe Doctrine, the negotiators of the new treaty actually ask the Senate to vote to go further and call over to this side of the Atlantic all the new powers of Europe to assist Great Britain in coercing us."
Theodore Roosevelt, Governor of New York and soon to be McKinley's running mate in the 1900 presidential campaign, arraigned the treaty forcefully in a letter to Hay (an intervention producing a faint spitefulness in their subsequent close relationship) wherein he asserted that it "strengthened against us every nation whose fleet is larger than ours." Roosevelt agreed with the Sun that the convention breached the Monroe Doctrine. Hay's friend Lodge led the revisionist forces in the Senate. McKinley and the powerful p112 Senator Nelson Aldrich might support the treaty without amendment; Admiral Dewey might throw his influence behind it by testifying that fortifications would merely make the canal a battle zone in case of war; and John Bassett Moore might learnedly argue that a neutralized canal was in harmony with "our great policy, the freedom of the seas" — but the public seemed dead‑set to the contrary. The co‑operative policy embodied in the Hay‑Pauncefote Treaty had collided with another potent policy — supremacy in the Caribbean.
A House bill declaring the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty "obsolete" and calling for a fortified canal seemed certain of passage before the Senate could act. In the Senate it was being pointed out that the neutralization of Suez might suit England, with her naval base at Alexandria and military control of both ends of the canal in Egypt, but the United States had no foothold on the Isthmus of Panama and the treaty interdicted any attempt to gain one. Both parties in their national conventions took issue with the treaty. The Republicans discreetly called for "construction, ownership, control and protection" of the canal, but the Democrats let fly with both boots, branding the treaty a "surrender of American rights and interests."
The thunder from both right and left infuriated Hay. Minimizing the sound nationalistic reasons for wishing the treaty altered, he railed privately at the Irish and German politicians, writing White that they had "joined their several lunacies in one common attack against England, and incidentally against the Administration for being too friendly with England." No matter what sort of treaty had been drawn, he said elsewhere, the Bryan party would have "made us out the slaves of England." In a moment of exasperation Hay wrote White that he spent his whole time wringing "great concessions out of her [England] with no compensation, and yet these idiots say that I am not an American because I don't say 'to hell with the Queen.' " It was Hay's underlying "conviction that the one indispensable feature of our foreign policy should be a friendly understanding p113 with England." His zeal for such understanding carried him in this situation into a rather extreme manifestation of Anglophilia. The first Hay‑Pauncefote Treaty was amended by the Senate to permit fortification and exclude the sanction of other Powers. In transmitting the amended version to Choate, Hay suggested that "the amendments are not so fatally vicious as to justify the wreck of the treaty. Why should not Lord Salisbury say to us: 'Take your treaty, Brother Jonathan, and God send you better manners?' "
Salisbury failed to heed this advice. After the Boer War "khaki election" of 1900 triumphantly returning the Salisbury-Chamberlain Ministry, the Prime Minister surrendered the Foreign Office portfolio to the Marquis of Lansdowne, who helped usher out the policy of "Splendid isolation." In March, 1901, Lansdowne rejected the treaty. Hay promptly drafted another with Pauncefote, embodying the amendments and retaining the provision — which would embarrass subsequent Administrations — against discrimination in tolls in favor of the ships of any national, including, presumably, our own. The British accepted this treaty.
McKinley too had been re‑elected, carrying all the states outside the Solid South and four Rocky Mountain silver states. Before the treaty returned from London he had been assassinated in September, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt succeeding. Two months later the second Hay‑Pauncefote Treaty went to the Senate, being ratified on December 18, 1901, by a vote of 72 to 6. The Alaskan-boundary question would be sidetracked until October, 1903.
The twenty years of bickering among the representatives of Germany, England, and the United States in the Samoan condominium reached a crisis in the winter of 1898 (as it had ten years earlier) when the German officials overrode the treaty and attempted to seat their choice forcibly on the native throne. On January 27, 1899, Hay, safeguarding, as he said, "our Pacific work," addressed a sharp note to Count p114 von Bülow. Sir Julian Pauncefote, a moderate, lawyerlike diplomat, described the message in a note urging Salisbury's adherence as a "scathing indictment of the German officials implicated in the disorders." Salisbury joined the protest, which was made to no purpose.
Diplomacy failing, in March a British and American naval force under command of an American admiral deposed the local German dictator and his king, unhappily shelling recalcitrant native villages, and landing forces into an ambush where two Americans and two Britons lost their lives. The incident at Samoa gained in importance as its repercussions promptly reached Berlin, London, and Washington, its effects proving surprisingly broad in the relationships of the three Powers. The Kaiser, expressing humiliation at Germany's enforced passivity in the presence of the Anglo-American naval concentration, fumed at the "blockheads of the Reichstag" for denying him ships. He was to use Germany's weakness there as an argument for the Naval Law of 1900, which by doubling Germany's naval force sharpened English apprehensions and helped to create the climate out of which came the First World War.
Taking his cue from Admiral von Tirpitz, William charged the Anglo-Saxons with plotting a "preventive" war before the German fleet could be, as the Admiral put it, "hatched out of its shell." Unless they had planned war, Tirpitz told Bülow and William, "one would have to assume that both John Bull and Brother Jonathan had gone mad." The full force of the Wilhelmstrasse was brought to bear against the "Anglo-American entente." In a spirited conversation with Sir Frank Cavendish Lascelles, the British Ambassador, the Kaiser belittled the power, consistency, and good faith of the United States as an ally and accused the British Government of "bribing the American press" to traduce Germany, adding that this "evil influence had not prevailed, as relations between Germany and the United States had now been put on a satisfactory footing. . . . All this being known in Germany increases the ill‑feeling toward England."
p115 Reversing its Spanish-American War policy, the Wilhelmstrasse was undertaking a full-scale courtship of Washington. Bülow, acknowledging in a memorandum that he had no leverage with which to pry this country away from England in the Samoan controversy, widened his American policy. Up to this time the German Government had placed its chief reliance in America on influencing the German-language press and the organized German vote toward bringing pressure on the State Department. In this enterprise the Pan‑German movement played a considerable part. Now Bülow undertook to soothe American sensibilities. As a first step he announced in the Reichstag the withdrawal of a warship that had been guarding German interests in Manila. Hereafter, he said, the Reich would entrust the protection of its nationals in the Philippines to the United States Government. He hoped this would put an end to the "canards" flying about Europe to the effect that the Germans were secretly helping the Aguinaldistas. At about this time Admiral von Diederichs was relieved of the naval command in the Far East, the Navy Office denying, however, that his recall was due to his unpopularity in America. Hay wrote Henry White in London that German diplomatic manners had lost their usual brusquerie, "the Emperor" being "nervously anxious to be on good terms with us, bien entendu."
In the immediate wake of the naval demonstration, the German Government repudiated the conduct of its officials, but demanded an apology for a shell that struck the consulate. Hay replied with a note "blistering" the officials and justifying the shelling, but apologizing for the damage done the consulate. On the ground that no English shell had struck that building, Salisbury ignored the demand for an apology, thereby provoking the Kaiser to an extraordinary complaint to Queen Victoria against her Prime Minister, who, said William, "despises Germany." He added that "Lord Salisbury cares no more for us than for Portugal, Chile, or the Patagonians." (On William's fortieth birthday, January 27, 1899, Victoria had noted in her journal: "I wish he were more prudent and less impulsive at such an age!") In her p116 reply, written a few days after her own eightieth birthday, May 24, the Queen doubted "whether any sovereign ever wrote in such terms to another sovereign, and that sovereign his own grandmother, about her Prime Minister."
Salisbury's procrastinating methods with the Samoan negotiations enraged the Kaiser. By the following September no apparent progress had been made. In that month it became apparent to the Germans that war was inevitable in South Africa; thereupon German representations were revised. Bülow directed Hatzfeldt to warn Salisbury that Anglo-German accord elsewhere would be impossible as long as Samoa stood between the two Powers. The Germans, who had been willing to accept compensation in exchange for surrender of their interest in Samoa, now insisted that England get out. Hatzfeldt and Baron von Eckardstein, legation secretary, hinted to the Prime Minister and Chamberlain that German public opinion might compel their Government to review the Anglo-Boer situation. After lunching with Eckardstein on October 9, two days before war began, the Colonial Secretary burst out in a fit of annoyance, declaring that "German policy since Bismarck has been one of undisguised blackmail." In yielding, Salisbury exacted a pledge of neutrality in the Boer War.
A treaty signed November 14, 1899, allotted all of Samoa to Germany except Tutuila (containing the Pago Pago base) and its neighboring atolls. These remained with the United States. Great Britain obtained compensation in the Tongas, the Solomons, and Togoland in Africa. William added the title King of Samoa to his imperial honors, and Senator Pettigrew of South Dakota gibed: "We blot out . . . a sovereign nation and divide the spoils."
Collaterally, the Samoan settlement plunged Chamberlain into another attempt to gain a German alliance. For two years, hope triumphing over experience, he had periodically initiated negotiations to that end. The pessimistic Salisbury viewed these efforts with "some dismay," expressing to Balfour a fear that the Germans would "blackmail us heavily." This time Chamberlain, responding, as he said, to a suggestion p117 by Bülow, sought to include the United States in what Theodor Mommsen, the German historian, was to call "Chamberlain's three-cousin system."
A visit by the Kaiser and Bülow to London in November, 1899, afforded the Colonial Secretary his opportunity. Although gratified over his conversion of the "shame of Samoa" into a diplomatic victory, William carried to London a personal grievance inclining him against such overtures as Chamberlain's. For months before the Queen's eightieth birthday Bülow, a brazen flatterer, had been anticipating the Kaiser's role at that gathering of Europe's crowned heads and statesmen. William was there to appear as arbiter mundi, moderating the conflicts of Europe. But the invitation to the Queen's birthday had not come. Victoria and Salisbury had been annoyed at the Kaiser's behavior over Samoa and his encouragement of Boer emissaries. The November visit, taken by the British public as a pledge of neutrality, was therefore an anticlimax.
Chamberlain saw the Kaiser twice, Bülow repeatedly. At his first talk with Bülow, Chamberlain outlined conditions of alliance. First, said he, it must be borne in mind that good relations with the United States were "vital" to England and that the British Government would never agree to anything harmful to American interests. Bülow, remarking (as he noted in a memorandum) that the Spanish War had brought the United States into the front rank of World Powers to a degree unpredictable a year earlier, asked Chamberlain's help in "preventing further misunderstandings" with that country. "If you showed more friendliness to us," the Colonial Secretary replied, "it would be easier to intercede with the Americans." Bülow thereupon, according to Chamberlain, suggested that the Briton feel out sentiment in all three countries on a possible three-party accord by means of a "trial-balloon" speech. Whatever was said, on the day after the Germans departed for home Chamberlain exposed his aspiration to public view in an address at Leicester, vowing that "at , the character . . . of the Teutonic race differs very slightly indeed from the character of the Anglo-Saxon. p118 . . . If union between England and America is a powerful factor in the cause of peace, a new triple alliance between the Teutonic and the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race will be a still more potent influence in the future of the world."
The seed fell on barren soil. Salisbury, who had warned Chamberlain that he was risking his personal reputation by the move, accepted the speech as another Chamberlain indiscretion. Sir Edward Grey, for the Opposition, declared Chamberlain must be kept out of foreign affairs, "or he will make impossible even our friendship with the United States." In America the Administration took no notice of the proposal, but Hay wrote White (no doubt for Chamberlain's eye) that "neither the President nor I saw anything but what was right and admirable in the speech — though, of course, I never use the word alliance."
In Berlin Bülow (as Salisbury had predicted) answered conciliation with defiance. His speech in the Reichstag on behalf of the Naval Bill of 1900 came during the "black week" of Boer successes in December. Predicting that "in the coming century the German people will be hammer or anvil," the Foreign Minister added that Germany would "allow no foreign Power to tread upon our feet or push us aside, either in trade or in politics."
His hopes dashed, his hands full with what the French press called "Chamberlain's war," the Colonial Secretary forswore further exertions toward Anglo-German rapprochement. "That was not the first time," he told Eckardstein later, "that Von Bülow has thrown me over in the Reichstag. There can be no more question of an association between Great Britain and Germany." To Lord Rothschild he lamented German shortsightedness in being unable to observe the "rise of a new constellation in the world." The Germans were, he felt, "beyond help."
A perusal of the Kaiser's so‑called secret memorandum, written after similar negotiations undertaken in 1898, would have clarified Chamberlain's understanding of the reasons for his chronic failure. Therein the German Emperor wrote:
p119 This proposal arises from anxiety with respect to the consequences of our navy law. In the beginning of the next century, Germany will dispose of an armored fleet which, in conjunction with similarly enlarged fleets, will bring England into real danger. Hence the intent either to force us into an alliance or to annihilate us like Holland aforetime.
An alliance with England being undesirable, it was nevertheless, the Kaiser believed, "of great importance to keep official sentiment in England favorable to us, and hopeful." In his memoirs Bülow disclosed that the naval program "would scarcely [have been] reconcilable with a really definite Anglo-German alliance based on mutual confidence." The Germans, it was clear to themselves, desired a fleet, not a pact.
During the "black week" the German Ambassador in Washington called on John Hay. The Secretary of State, preoccupied with the South African news, soberly remarked that things looked bad. The German Ambassador felt obliged to remind the Secretary that he was not the English Ambassador. At the outbreak of the war, Hay bade Henry White in London to "say many things for me to our friends at the Foreign Office and to Mr. Balfour — in fact, many more things than I have any business to say." Hay's pro‑British sympathies, President McKinley's also for that matter, were no secret to the diplomatic corps in Washington.
On January 2, 1900, Ambassador von Holleben, instructed by Bülow, explored the prospects with Hay. He posed a hypothetical question: In case England stripped the British Isles of troops for South Africa, would she "always undoubtedly be able to count upon the United States as a friend?" The British, Hay replied, could "count on the good offices of the United States in every difficulty arising from the war," but he pointed out that "taking sides" or armed intervention" would run "contrary to American tradition." Holleben probed further, supposing that this country had a natural interest in the fate of Great Britain. Hay quickly agreed, p120 amplifying his remarks by explaining: "If the existence of the British empire should be called in question there is no knowing what constellation might then make its appearance amongst the powers; the continued existence of the British empire, even though somewhat humbled, was a greater advantage to all the European powers than its downfall."
A majority of the Kaiser's military advisers (as was the case with American prospects in the war with Spain) assured him that England could not win. On a report from Hatzfeldt the Kaiser made a notation citing expert opinion that the end would be "England's complete defeat." On another report conveying word of rising British confidence the Emperor wrote that nobody in Berlin expected them ever to "reach Pretoria."
From St. Petersburg, and later from Paris, talk emanated of mediation, even of intervention on behalf of the Boers. A month after his first visit Holleben was sent back to sound Hay on this country's position in case of intervention. Upon Hay's appointment as Secretary of State, Holleben had cabled Holstein that the new man could not be "reckoned a friend of Germany." The renewed quizzing may have annoyed Hay. Holleben reported that he answered as before but in a "very excited manner." A few days later, Mark Twain had expressed substantially the Secretary's views, although in undiplomatic language, when, in a letter to William Dean Howells, he wrote:
England must not fall; it would mean an inundation of Russian and German political degradations which would envelop the globe and steep it in a sort of Middle‑Age night and slavery which would last till Christ comes again. Even wrong — and she is wrong — England must be upheld. He is an enemy of the human race who shall speak against her now!
The United States Government unfailingly supported Great Britain on the diplomatic front. In March, 1900, the Boers besought intervention from the Great Powers of Europe, and the United States. Hay promptly asked the British Government if they would welcome our mediation, receiving p121 the reply that the "intervention of any other Power" was unacceptable. When a Boer delegation visited this country in May, its members asserted that Hay had hurried to offer his good offices, publishing the negative reply to the world as a means of putting up a "fender" against them. "It was," one of the delegation told the journalist Walter Wellman, "a bit discouraging to see our answer lying on the table [Hay's] as we entered and before we had an opportunity to open our mouths." The Boer visitors, certain that the United States and Great Britain were "in league," declared that everyone in Europe believed that "the United States is ready to jump in and aid Great Britain in case of intervention."
When the Boers called on McKinley, he received them courteously, but when the spokesman began to recite their grievances against England, he walked to the window and called their attention to the beauty of the White House gardens and the Washington Monument beyond. A bit later, when President Kruger, having taken refuge in Holland, was invited by pro‑Boer Americans to bring his cause personally to this country, Hay wrote the American Minister at The Hague, Stanford Newel, directing him to discourage Kruger's visit. Privately, Hay informed Newel that Boer sympathy was confined "almost entirely to opponents of the Administration." Upon thinking it over McKinley, fearful of the effect of a possible disclosure of the letter on his campaign for re‑election, asked Hay to "recall" it. In a private note accompanying the "recall" the Secretary re‑enforced his arguments against the coming of Kruger. The President of the South African Republic, whether for that or other reasons, disappointed the hopes of his would‑be American hosts.
The British found their costly, disagreeable war against the bearded and bigoted Dutch farmers unpopular outside their empire, although within, in the Dominions, it lighted new and unexpected fires of loyalty. Volunteer armies from Canada and the antipodes sprang to the side of the mother country, producing intense gratification in England, foreshadowing empire solidarity in the World War and hastening p122 the already discernible trend toward the Commonwealth. On the European continent, however, chancelleries, press, and public heaped scorn and mendacity on the British. Mommsen, who thought "every German was pro‑Boer," called the war "not only a calamity but an infamy."
Chamberlain ("Joseph Africanus") drew the brunt of this, his heedless utterances making him a shining mark, but in Paris the press spared no one in British official life, the diatribes against Victoria finally growing so coarse that the British Ambassador was withdrawn in protest. The German press, duplicating its thorough and immitigable campaign against the Americans in the Spanish War, pushed the limits of decency, attacking the English as individuals and the valor and honor of British arms, and publishing every conceivable slur against British methods of making war. It was charged that the British used Boer women as shields in battle, and several hundred clergymen of the German Evangelical Church joined in a formal denunciation of the practice, only to be confounded later by evidence of the falsity of the charge. A few years later Dr. Hans Delbrück, the German savant, deploringly wrote: "The insults with which the English army and the English national character were at that time bespattered, not in the German press alone, but in the Reichstag were . . . so excessively gross that one could scarcely take it amiss if the English bore a grudge against us for them."
England had replaced Spanish War America as the butt of Continental censure, yet part of the American press, exhibiting our characteristic sensitiveness to Great Britain's international lapses, self-righteously joined the chorus of commination against the people who recently had stood between the United States and the Continent. The attitude of large sections of American opinion (excluding the Germans, who as usual echoed Berlin, and the Irish, deriving a bitter joy from any evil that befell England) was all the more remarkable because at the precise moment the United States was engaged in an overseas war at least as dubious morally as that of the British. A council of Church Fathers would p123 be required to weigh the relative sinfulness of our Philippine expedition and the Boer War. The Filipinos, who had virtually won their war of independence when Dewey took Manila, were resisting our attempts at "pacification" with courage and hardihood; in South Africa the Boers, narrow, tenacious farmers, were fighting to keep a rich, expanding imperial domain within the bounds of an agrarian economy, a racial politic, and a Calvinistic sect.
In the flagrant anti-imperialist campaign of 1900 (a phenomenon to be examined later) the "chronic, slumbering animosity toward the mother country" deplored by Hay was revived for the benefit of Bryan and the German Foreign Office. There were, naturally, many Americans whose sympathies went out to the Dutch farmers in their fight for political ascendancy in the lands they had settled. Such was Andrew Carnegie, who financed a mass meeting in New York to protest the extinguishment of the Boer republics. But Carnegie also condemned the war on the Filipinos, as did the conscientious pro‑Boers generally. There were likewise sincere voices on the other side. In a letter to Spring-Rice, Theodore Roosevelt labeled the Boers "belated Cromwellians." Proud of his own Dutch ancestry, Roosevelt considered that it was to the "advantage of mankind to have English spoken south of the Zambesi, just as in New York, as I told one of my fellow-Knickerbockers the other day: 'As we let the Uitlanders of old in here, I do not see why the same rule is not good enough in the Transvaal.' "
Few Americans supporting the English cared, as did the Yale professor Washburn Hopkins, to place their case on the grounds of a "higher morality." Writing in the Forum, Hopkins averred that "wherever England has taken her stand, man has been bettered. . . . [This] will be proved again in Africa when Boer authority yields to her higher civilization." For the most part, the adherents of Britain applied only sound American pragmatism: England being our friend and constructively our ally, her downfall in South Africa would weaken the position in a hostile world of the English-speaking community, to our own detriment. Captain Mahan, p124 receiving the first award of the Chesney Gold Medal from the Royal United Service Institution in 1900, expressed that point of view when he replied to the Duke of Cambridge, a grandson of George III, who had conferred the honor: "I value even more highly . . . the assurance that . . . my works have contributed . . . to the welfare of the British empire, the strength of which is so essential to the cause of our English-speaking race."
The survival of the prestige of the "mother country" likewise concerned the editor of Harper's Weekly, who at a low point in British fortunes referred to the "stupendous fact" that the British Empire's preponderance was in "mortal danger." "Whether," he wrote, "we think the war against the Boers . . . unjust or for the welfare of civilization," American "sympathies" should go to England, and "if we have a proper pride of race, or a decent sense of gratitude, [we should] mourn over their disasters." Undemonstratively, this view prevailed with substantial portions of press and public. Chamberlain complained to Hay about the clamorous voices rising in America against the British Empire; he was reminded of the fidelity of the Government to the debt of 1898. At the Treasury there was gratitude to Wall Street, where one shilling out of every five for prosecution of the war was obtained, England electing to finance her major requirements here rather than on the Continent. In all British bonds for $223,000,000 were disposed of through J. P. Morgan & Company. These were our first really large-scale foreign loans and they prompted a speaker at the American Bankers Association meeting in 1900 to raise the enticing question "whether the star of financial supremacy is not to move westward from the precincts of Lombard Street to our own chief city."
In the Continental, especially the German and Dutch, press pro‑Boer manifestations in America were eagerly hailed as evidences of a loosening of the English-speaking link. p125 The English press, suggested the Vossische Zeitung complacently, is "inclined to underrate the power of the non‑English elements in the United States." This was at a moment when McKinley was being threatened with the loss of a million votes if he allowed the British to buy mules for South Africa. Amid the Boer victories the Berliner Tageblatt doubted that the Americans could be "greatly impressed with the military efficiency of the ally who was to join in conquering the world." A report from a Mr. George Wilson of Lexington, Kentucky, assured the Amsterdam Handelsblad that French and German were as much spoken in the United States as English. However, the German Ambassador, writing in 1899 after Bülow had launched the new American course, found little evidence of a compensating pro‑German bias. To the contrary, Holleben wrote that the "United States sees in Germany, next to itself, the only rising Power . . . on account of which a rising antagonism is imminent . . . the smallest mutual misunderstanding can light anew the coals and it is only too apparent that the heat will be stronger then than before and that the Government will then step ever oftener to the side of the war hawks, for to give us a shove brings glory." Nor did such Anglo-American friction as could be discerned work to Germany's advantage in England.
A thoughtful German attaché in London, Count Paul von Wolff Metternich (the Kaiser's "favorite diplomat" according to Spring-Rice) read into the stout American resistance to Britain on the canal and Alaskan-boundary questions an indication of "dislike" for the English, and "although the English will not admit this fact to themselves or anyone else, they knew it perfectly well." The circumstance, however, he reported to Bülow, was of no advantage to Germany because "England will stand far more from America than from any other Power, and even in purely diplomatic issues it is more difficult to make England take sides against America than to make any other Power do so."
At about this time Richard Olney, writing in the Atlantic, called for a new realism in our international thinking. p126 Having embarked on an external course, we must look to our defenses, not only in guns, ships, and bases, but in relationships with other Powers. England was, he felt, our natural friend; with her we virtually had an alliance, unwritten to be sure, but soundly rooted in mutual interest. "A nation is as much a member of society as an individual," said the former Secretary of State, and "we must shake off the spell of the Washington legend and cease to act the role of international recluse." Grover Cleveland mistakenly attributed to this article the chief responsibility for the "doctrine of expansion and consequent imperialism." Henry Adams, moralizing over the progression of Olney from the "20‑inch gun" to his current Anglophilia, wrote: "We drift inevitably back to the British. . . . Economical and social interests are too strong." Olney's terms were strategic, not economic or social, and Adams might well have made reference also to his own Atlantic System as a cohering factor.
In retiring from the isthmus compact, Britain strengthened that system, as Mahan was to elucidate. In evidence of a good faith rare in history, the British gradually dismantled their great bases at Halifax, St. Lucia, and Esquimault, leaving them to decay under the watch of civilian employees. Garrisons were withdrawn from the Canadian army posts and the British West Indies. British evacuation from the American seas was soon complete. Gratifying to the United States, the shift of sea power benefited British naval policy as well, enabling the Admiralty to dispose of more strength in the home waters of the North Sea against the Power which was to stand disclosed as the archenemy of the Atlantic states.
In his book The Problem of Asia, published in 1900, Mahan remarked the "politic disposition to acquiesce in our naval predominance in the Caribbean . . . on the part of the greatest of naval States." The reasons he found to be three: our growing strength, England's desire to "unload herself" of responsibilities wherever possible, and the coincidence of Anglo-American world politics. It was therefore, said the power theorist, to England's "interest that we remain p127 strong, and, since an essential element of our strength is in the Caribbean, we may prudently reckon upon the moral support of Great Britain in any political clash with other nations there, unless we take a stand morally indefensible."
In 1901 Lansdowne, casting about for buttresses of empire, held conversations with the German Ambassador looking to an offensive and defensive alliance. Like Chamberlain's efforts, this one came to naught, but covenants were drafted for mutual examination. Bülow, impressed by irresponsible war talk in Canada, stipulated that Germany be excluded from any war between the United States and Great Britain over the Dominion. In both drafts prepared by the British the special position of the United States was defined. The first agreed that the convention should not apply to "any questions arising in the American Continent or involving war with the United States"; the second comprehended the first, adding that the treaty should not bind "either high contracting party to join in hostilities against the United States."
Lansdowne and Francis Bertie, permanent Foreign Office official, filed memoranda of the negotiations. Lansdowne cited five objections to an alliance, Number 4 being the "risk of entangling ourselves in a policy which might be hostile to America. . . . With our knowledge of the German Emperor's views in regard to the United States, this, to my mind, is a formidable obstacle." Bertie enumerated German aspirations around the globe, some of them potential points of friction, adding: "I do not mention her ambitions in the American seas. They may safely be left to be dealt with by the United States."
The American seas were now American.
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