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At Christmas time in 1895 the English-speaking Powers stood for three days poised on the ragged edge of hostilities, nearer to war than at any moment since Andrew Jackson had saved New Orleans from Sir Edward Pakenham and his redcoats. Cleveland, aiming over Venezuela's shoulder, had dealt a stout blow to British encirclement, and in all the eighty years since New Orleans no international issue had so aroused the truculence of Washington — and the country. Defiantly unanimous, Congress promptly authorized the President to run his own Venezuela-British Guiana boundary without regard to the English, voting $100,000 to speed the job. Not in the memory of the oldest Senator, reported the London Times with moderation, had there been such "spontaneous demonstrations." At the Navy Department lights burned late as the North Atlantic squadron, under orders for the West Indies, was detained in Hampton Roads. Two days after the presidential message of December 17 the Washington Post, reflecting the capital's overwrought condition, promised the British: "Let but a drum tap be heard from the White House grounds and in every city of the land a host will rise, and in every rural neighborhood and countryside battalions will start up."
In London also the Government bristled over what the Times termed a "monstrous and insulting" procedure. A flying squadron of twelve vessels was ordered by the Admiralty to stand by for possible duty in the Caribbean, the press calling it a "naval mobilization." The War Office inquired about Sikhs and for the South American jungles. Soon, however, pacific voices rose above the incipient p32 clash of arms. "Only common sense is needed," rumbled Gladstone from his retirement, calling the thought of war "astounding folly." Lord Rosebery stigmatized an Anglo-American war as the "greatest crime on record," and the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York bespoke in a message to the New York World a return to the "same warm friendship" that had existed.
Although Lord Salisbury predicted on December 19 that the war spirit would soon "fizzle away," American blood was up. A Wall Street panic on "Dismal Friday," December 20, 1895, dropped $350,000,000 out of security values, ruined eight firms, moved the London Times to a not ungratified comment on the "commercial and financial disaster" wrought by the President, and helped to sober the country. But jingoes were yet to mob a peace meeting addressed by Henry George and Dr. Lyman Abbott in New York, and an Irish-American group, assuming the cloak of extraterritoriality, offered Cleveland 100,000 volunteers. Sir Julian Pauncefote, the British Ambassador in Washington, truthfully reported, however, a week after the message that a "strong undercurrent" had begun to flow "in opposition to the warlike attitude of the President."
The fever ran its course in about two weeks — a counterirritant unwittingly applied by the Kaiser helped to abate it in England — whereupon responsible Britons and Americans alike gave thanks. "A family quarrel," in the words of one of the principals, it lacked none of the virulence of domestic strife. Fortunately its termination was more harmonious and lasting than that of many such quarrels. Arising nominally over the boundary question, the difference went, of course, far deeper. The dispute stood squarely in the path to that accord on which alone an Atlantic concert might be based. In effect, Cleveland was asking the British, none too politely, to call off their sea‑power cordon, leaving to us these shores of the Atlantic. This the British were to do, and in view of the result the diplomatic passage at arms over Venezuela may have been the most fruitful in the whole history of Anglo-American relations.
p33 Being ahead of the story, we must now retrace our steps to see how the long-standing dispute reached crisis proportions. Upon recrossing the White House threshold in 1893, Cleveland found the Venezuela matter no nearer solution than in 1889. Gladstone, soon to retire after more than sixty years in the House of Commons, was briefly in power, a circumstance heartening to the President, that "four-square, firm, solid, magnificent Titan" (as Gamaliel Bradford saw him), when he patiently resumed diplomatic entreaty. But this was not the Gladstone of the 1880's, and his Foreign Secretary, Rosebery, who, Ambassador Bayard was convinced, "would rather win the Derby than carry through an important public matter," proved less amenable than Lord Granville had in 1885.
The President now determined to haul the issue out of the diplomatic pouches and into the light. In his annual message of December 3, 1894, Cleveland accordingly begged the British to arbitrate, a "resort," he threw in placatingly, "which Great Britain so conspicuously favors in principle and respects in practice." Although his patience scraped bottom, the President, thoroughly aware of our naval ineffectiveness, also sang low. (He had once warned the country that "inability to resist aggression" enfeebled a foreign policy.) An arbitration proposal introduced by a member struck fire in Congress, which on Washington's Birthday, 1895, passed a joint resolution calling on England and Venezuela to compose their long-standing differences.
Whereupon the glorified "line fence quarrel," as Cleveland would describe it in a memoir published eight years later, entered a new magnitude. The United States had officially declared itself in, it had become (again quoting the President's memoir) this Government's plain "duty and obligation to protect our own national rights." Taken in conjunction with the state of anti-English feeling, the congressional action was an unmistakable warning — a signal which Rosebery, who had meantime succeeded Gladstone, and Lord Kimberley, his Foreign Secretary, ignored. Worse than that, Kimberley, progressing from polite evasiveness to p34 firm assertion, responded by initiating a strong policy in the Caribbean.
In April, 1895, Cleveland had before him a blunt refusal by Kimberley to heed the request of the United States Government. With his refusal was a note from Bayard, describing a "pink line" the Foreign Secretary had traced on a map, a line extending British Guiana's claims to a mouth of the Orinoco River. The President, seeing in the "pink line" a new encroachment, was not soothed when Bayard, often more British than the Queen, advised him in the face of Kimberley's obduracy to call it a day.
At this juncture 's policy produced a sequel to the Nicaraguan incident of 1894. On April 22 three British warships entered the Nicaraguan west-coast port of Corinto, demanding immediate payment of the $75,000 reparations assessed by London over the Bluefields trouble. All other conditions, including a salute to the flag, had been met. When the improvident Nicaraguan Government confessed itself unable to raise the money, the naval commander declared a blockade, and five days later — after the Nicaraguan authorities refused him access to their cable — he landed Marines, seized the customhouse, occupied the town, quelled rioting by force, and remained in occupation until the money was on the barrel head.
As if by reflex action, a wave of antagonism swept America. The Senate rang with charges of British aggressiveness at Corinto. In Albany the Assembly of Cleveland's own state adopted a resolution decrying the lack of patriotic spirit "which has characterized the Administration at Washington in its dealing with the complications at Corinto." The Connecticut Senate engrossed similar reflections. Theodore Roosevelt informed the Washington correspondent of the London Times as "plainly as a mortal can, that the general sentiment of this country is . . . hostile to England and . . . very strong in support of the Monroe Doctrine."
Up and down the Atlantic seaboard the press bayed England with one voice. The Baltimore American called Britain's conduct "brutal," her "claim unjustified." In Philadelphia p35 the Press inquired, in comment on our weakness at sea: "If England chooses to hold on, how is she to be dispossessed?" The New York Tribune termed the "bullying" of Nicaragua one of the "wanton crimes against civilization," and called for a new "marginal reading of the Monroe Doctrine." But it was the New York World that exposed the gravamen of the American objections to Corinto: "England cannot have another rood of ground on the American hemisphere, and in the neighborhood of the trans-Isthmian routes, she cannot have an inch."
John B. McMaster, the historian, attempted to explain in the New York Herald that the Monroe Doctrine did not apply at Corinto. Few informed Americans believed that it did. Most of them, including the State Department experts, knew that it did not. The Monroe Doctrine, however, could be and was loosely referred to as a means of covering American chagrin.
In England the Corinto incident was mildly deplored as an excessive demonstration of force. Sir William Harcourt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, government leader in the House of Commons and a notable Liberal, raged privately at the Prime Minister and Kimberley for their ineptitude in "using . . . arms to settle a paltry amount" at the risk of incurring ill will in America. Carnegie cautioned his friend John Morley (the biographer of Burke, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Emerson), then Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the Ministry was "playing with fire" in the Caribbean. It is almost certain, however, that if the Ministry thought of the explosive opposition here, it minimized it. Even Harcourt was unprepared for the storm when it burst.
Cleveland could not, if he would, ignore the public temper. In the spring of 1895 a considerable part of his nation was marching as to war. The jingoes, reproducing the hasty conduct of Henry Clay's "war hawks" in 1812, were nudging the President to action. "Inflammable materials," as Henry White would describe them to Salisbury and others in London, lay about everywhere. Cleveland himself supplied a spark by unburdening his perplexities to Don M. Dickinson, p36 who had been Postmaster General in the first Cleveland Cabinet. On May 10 Dickinson, in a speech at Detroit, after hinting that Britain was strengthening her West Indies strongholds, gave utterance to a circumlocutory warning to England against further interference in this hemisphere.
In London, Bayard disparaged Dickinson's speech as a "flow of contentious bosh," but the "war hawks" approved. Senator John T. Morgan, the expansionist from Alabama, led the attack on the "British occupation of Nicaragua," and when the fight petered out upon British withdrawal, Bayard rejoiced that "Morgan's swords of lath and shields of pasteboard" had been made "ridiculous." Bayard was not alone in reprehending the jingoes. John Bassett Moore, who was to become the foremost American authority on international law and was then teaching at Columbia University, applauded Bayard's course, writing him toº London that the war party that had "grown up since the panic of two years ago" seemed determined to bring on a war "to crown their wicked insanity" — some because they thought it a "good thing for the country," others in the hope of speculative profits.
Deprived of Nicaragua as an issue, the warmongers recurred to Venezuela, beating the drums for the Monroe Doctrine. Senator Lodge, warning the country that if Britain succeeded in crowding Venezuela, there would be no barrier to European colonization to the south of us, cried: "South America must not become a second Africa!" The Monroe Doctrine, he declared, must be upheld, "peaceably" if possible, "forcibly" if need be. The war party was, in truth, bipartisan. Theodore Roosevelt might wring cheers from the National Republican Club in New York by emphatic appeals to the Monroe Doctrine; downtown, a former Governor of Ohio, Campbell, aroused Tammany to a like enthusiasm by demanding that the Government invoke the "spirit of 1866" — when Napoleon III was required to withdraw his support from Maximilian in Mexico. And Joseph B. Foraker, a former Republican Governor of Ohio soon to go to the Senate, p37 called for application of the Monroe Doctrine "boldly" throughout the Western Hemisphere.
The old demands that Britain strike her flag on this continent ran through the press that spring. The Army and Navy Journal remarked meaningfully that England may one day stand in need of friends, and she may as well know now that the "appearance of any European flag on this Continent is a constant offense to American sentiment." Senator William E. Chandler spoke the authentic accents of the war party when in a signed editorial in his Concord (New Hampshire) Monitor he called war with England "inevitable"; encirclement had created an irrepressible issue, hostilities would develop over the mouth of the Orinoco.
The President, hands to ears, groaned that it was "very provoking to have such matters . . . prematurely and blunderingly discussed in the newspapers," but by now his own mood was not meek, and Dickinson's speech presumably had mirrored his state of mind with accuracy. The uproar disturbed Lawrence Godkin, who deplored in the New York Post the "number of men and officials in this country who are now mad to fight . . . navy officers dream of war and talk and lecture about it . . . Senate debates are filled with predictions of the impending war and with talk of preparing for it at once." His father, the Irish-born, irascible E. L. Godkin, writing in the Nation, characterized the warlike American democracy as "mostly ignorant and completely secluded from foreign influence." In such a martial atmosphere did Cleveland prepare his next sortie on behalf of the Monroe Doctrine.
Rosebery's Ministry fell in June (not, however, on account of its American policy), and the Olympian Salisbury returned to power in time to sustain the brunt of Cleveland's gathering wrath. In that month the President gained an ally when upon the death of Secretary Walter Q. Gresham he promoted Richard Olney, Attorney General, to the State Department. A Massachusetts lawyer with a marching mind, piercing black eyes, and a gift for the forcible phrase, Olney it was who by suggesting the injunction in the Chicago p38 railroad strike had assisted Eugene V. Debs on his self-sought road of martyrdom. Bold to the point of rashness, Olney could put a point to the President's sprawling determination.
The President in all but this crisis was a "Little American," unsympathetic with the expansionists, averse to jingoism. Olney, on the contrary, favored expansionism, was a bit of a jingo himself, and likewise a friend of England. Believing with all the influential men who were to shape the coming pro‑English orientation in the encirclement thesis, Olney held, however, that this quarrel had to be resolved first.
Escaping the heat of the capital, the President and the Secretary of State fled to the Massachusetts coast, Cleveland to Buzzards Bay, Olney to near‑by Falmouth, where he prepared a note and delivered the draft by his own hand to Buzzards Bay. Cleveland approved, calling the note the "best thing of its kind I ever read." Olney, he thought, had put the case for our right to intervene under the Monroe Doctrine "on better and more defensible grounds than any of your predecessors — or mine." After minor revisions the note, withheld for the present from publication, went into a pouch for Bayard. As the pouch closed Olney realized that it would be "difficult to retrace" that step.
The note was a bugle call set to legal terms. Few diplomatic communications passing from one friendly Power to another have ever had its ringing quality. Since Olney was not a trained diplomat but a lawyer, the note read like a brief, the argument being marshaled in two parts. First the Secretary urged England to have done with this border dispute that did her no credit. He stressed Venezuela's weakness, her inability to match force with the British Empire, and then appealed to the "love of justice and fair play so eminently characteristic of the English race." That was familiar ground. Then, dismissing Venezuela, he came to the heart of the matter — the stake of his own country. The United States was pledged not to permit a European country p39 to enlarge its territories in this hemisphere by no matter what means. Encroachment on a self-governing Latin American neighbor stood in our view precisely on the same footing as conquest or pre‑emption of empty land by colonization. By what warrant did we interpose? By virtue of the Monroe Doctrine, a part of our "public law."
The United States, Olney next generalized, was "practically sovereign on this Continent . . . its fiat law upon subjects to which it confines its interposition." Three thousand miles of ocean "make any permanent political union between a European and an American State unnatural and inexpedient." That, of course, meant Canada. Then came a threat. With the "powers of Europe permanently encamped on American soil," we would have to alter our military policies.
Olney's vehemence violated the diplomatic canon. He asked for a reply within a specific time (so the President might comment in his December message), and that made the note ultimative in character. It was "shirt-sleeve" diplomacy at its most spirited. Years later Olney acknowledged the "bumptiousness" of the note, explaining that he had chosen words "the equivalent of blows" as the only means of penetrating Foreign Office opacity. The British, Olney felt, reflecting a widespread American opinion, held us much too negligibly.
The President called the note "Olney's 20‑inch gun," and critics of the Venezuelan policy have maintained that the caliber was excessive. As a rule, Americans who felt moved to apologize for the Secretary's rugged boastfulness were those who restricted the issue to the boundary question, ignoring, or perhaps minimizing, the incendiary background out of which it came. In estimating the collateral circumstances, it should not be overlooked that in 1895 the Monroe Doctrine enjoyed little prestige abroad. At best, Europe tolerated without acknowledging it, largely because of a tradition that Britain, mistress of all the sea lanes leading to the Americas, wished it upheld. As his ambitions waxed the Kaiser was to find it more and more irksome. Soon a p40 generation of German militarists, nourished on Pan‑German assertiveness, would agree with Dr. W. Wintzer, a colonial authority, that Germany "cannot allow herself to be simply dispossessed of her inheritance in one of the most thinly peopled and richest quarters of the globe, South America."
In 1895 a great many Americans believed, rightly or wrongly, that England was undermining the Monroe Doctrine and that prompt and strong action was needed to shore it up. Nor was it difficult to arouse public anxiety over the Monroe Doctrine. A symbol of national prestige, its name was a rallying cry. Mahan doubted that its "precise value" was understood by most Americans, but "the effect of the familiar phrase has been to develop a national sensitiveness which is a more frequent cause of war than material interests."
Since the Monroe Doctrine was the broadest of generalizations, covering this country's relations to Europe and the republics to the south like an umbrella, few Americans could hope to understand its "precise value." It had, moreover, an organic nature, having been enlarged, interpreted, and invoked several times. Reinterpreted by Cleveland and Olney, it was now being invoked in reality to enlarge the gains of the American Revolution. In 1783 the colonists had won sovereignty over the thirteen colonies. Their descendants were now seeking acknowledged hegemony over a continent and the continental waters.
Olney's note went forward on July 20. In London Bayard read it to Salisbury, preserving the amenities by suggesting to the Prime Minister the "importance of keeping such questions in an atmosphere of serene and elevated effort." In reply, Salisbury expressed "surprise and regret" that it covered so much ground. A member of a distinguished Delaware family, Bayard had served his party as Senate leader during part of Reconstruction and as Secretary of State in Cleveland's first Administration. He believed his forte to be conciliation. In May, when the Venezuelan crisis was gathering day by day, he had written from London that "no questions now open between the United States and Great Britain . . . p41 need any but frank, amicable and just treatment." The former Secretary of State deprecated Olney's statesmanship; Olney, in turn, held Bayard in scorn. "The constant stream of taffy played by Mr. Bayard on the English people tickled them," Olney put in a letter, "where it did not sicken them."
Cleveland and Salisbury, both large, reserved, slow-speaking, stubborn men careless of their appearance, now confronted each other. The Prime Minister also had gained a coadjutor in June, Joseph Chamberlain, a match for Olney in audacity, the "republican ex‑mayor of Birmingham," a Radical Home-Ruler who had turned Liberal Unionist. As Colonial Secretary, a hitherto second-grade rank in the Ministry that he had chosen, Chamberlain would virtually share the Premiership with Salisbury for seven years, contribute more than his part toward letting England in for the Boer War, muddy England's relations with Germany, and create as glittering a dash in his way as the Kaiser and Theodore Roosevelt did in theirs.
A middle-class ironmaster from Birmingham, Chamberlain entered Parliament as a vociferating reformer, hell-bent against the Established Church and the House of Lords, agitating for an income tax and "three acres and a cow" for the agricultural laborers. By 1895 he had been transformed into the leader of British imperialism. He was the greatest toff in the West End, identifiable anywhere by his silver-rimmed eyeglasses and the orchid in his buttonhole. He had married (the second time) an Endicott from Massachusetts and hence qualified for what Harcourt, who had married a daughter of John Lothrop Motley, called the company of "semi-Americans." The first businessman to rise into the top flight of British power circles, Chamberlain would be the most puzzling and uncertain figure in the Venezuelan crisis. Effusively pro‑American in public, behind the scenes he would be threatening, dilatory, and obstructive. Salisbury, "that old bulldog," as Olney dubbed him, although a master of the arts of procrastination was a miracle of translucence beside the Colonial Secretary.
The Prime Minister received the note on August 7, then p42 went to the Continent for a holiday. Olney, returning to Washington in September, grew impatient when by mid‑October he had received no acknowledgment. He cabled Bayard without result. In that month divergent expressions in the two countries illustrated the difference in their attitudes toward the chasm widening between them. The British press, still under the moderating influence of Mahan's visit, revived talk of Anglo-American collaboration. Mindful of the profound changes in the Far East flowing out of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894‑95, the Westminster Gazette suggested that the English-speaking peoples had better stop wasting their energies "squabbling over such petty matters as the boundaries of Venezuela and Nicaragua." The Spectator urged an Anglo-American treaty recognizing the Monroe Doctrine, and the London Morning Post, organ of the squirearchy, conceded that the United States would regard an enlargement of Britain's territories at the expense of Venezuela as "an infringement of the Monroe Doctrine."
In the United States a report that Olney had sent Britain a stiff note leaked out and produced a fresh anti-English barrage in the press. The New York Times saw Britain robbing Venezuela of a sixth of her lands "on no better title than the highwayman establishes to the traveler's purse." Anticipating the President, the Washington Post would have the United States draw a boundary and then "plant ourselves upon that line sword in hand." The Chicago Tribune foresaw a defense of the Monroe Doctrine "not only with rifles, but with cannon." But it was the Atlanta Constitution that went to the essence of the quarrel, predicting that "if we do not wake up very soon, England will have all of Central and South America under her control, and the United States will be forced back into the ranks of the third and fourth class commercial powers."
At this point Britain served Venezuela with an ultimatum based on a border attack on Guiana police. A spatter of reproof in the London press and new attacks here caused the Foreign Office to notify Bayard promptly that the incident p43 in no way affected the boundary. Nerves on both sides of the Atlantic were drawing tight. When the New York World published a report that Salisbury had received Olney's note "curtly," advising the American Ambassador that he rejected the Monroe Doctrine as a basis for our intervention, Bayard rushed into print with a circumstantial denial. An article by Roosevelt, now a New York City police commissioner, in the Century Magazine prompted Moorfield Storey, the Boston Liberal, to exchange letters with Carl Schurz, the German who became an American statesman. Storey thought it "hardly safe to let the demagogues go too far in arousing the jingo feeling," and Schurz complained that Roosevelt "gives too much rein to his restless and combative temperament."
On November 20 Olney again cabled Bayard, saying that it would not be regarded as "courteous if the British Government did not answer [soon] or give any reason" for the delay, but Bayard was unable to mail Salisbury's reply until November 27, too late for the annual message. Cleveland, deeply irritated, wrote his message, making only passing reference to the Venezuela matter, and went to North Carolina duck-shooting. He instructed Olney to receive the note from Sir Julian Pauncefote in his absence and draft a reply against his return.
In time Olney would learn that Salisbury's slight was in part intentional. Relying on representations from high American quarters in London, official and unofficial, Salisbury believed that he could ignore the President's time limit with impunity. He had been told that Olney was a clever lawyer who with a presidential campaign in the offing wished merely to "twist the lion's tail" for political purposes. The hope that a change in administration would weaken the American position was to linger in the Ministry. In addition to all this Salisbury resented in Olney's note the suggestion of an ultimatum. Later it would be explained that the Prime Minister had delayed because the Turkish persecution of Armenians, then in full stride under Abdul Hamid (Gladstone's "Great Assassin"), engrossed his attention. Likewise, p44 that subordinates had misled him about the date for the opening of Congress. Neither explanation soothed American asperities.
Salisbury's reply, in two separate notes, reached Washington on December 6. If the Olney note had the force of a blow, Salisbury's rejoinder was no less crushing. In prose sterner than Olney's the Prime Minister rejected each argument in detail. Great Britain would not arbitrate with Venezuela; Salisbury regarded the American assumption of a voice in a border dispute between a European Power and an American republic as the assertion of a "novel prerogative"; he coldly rebuked Olney's annoyance at the presence in the Western Hemisphere of the British flag; he declared the Monroe Doctrine unknown to international law, and in any case inapplicable here. The Prime Minister "offered no solution and invited no further discussion."
After five months Lord Salisbury had replied in kind, in what Andrew D. White, the president of Cornell University and a former Minister and future Ambassador to Germany, described as Salisbury's "cynical, 'Saturday Review,' high Tory way." The President, returning on Sunday the fifteenth, read the note and announced that he would have a special message for Congress on Tuesday. Olney's proposed reply was ready and Cleveland's dander was up. After conferring with Olney and Secretary Lamont, Cleveland sat up all night, alone in the White House, redrafting his message, following substantially Olney's line. On Monday he read it to the Cabinet. The Cabinet, although realizing the gravity of the message, gave their unreserved approval.
On Tuesday a Congress at first startled, then swept by warlike enthusiasm, heard the President's blunt declaration that he proposed taking the Anglo-Venezuelan quarrel into his own hands. Come what may, "fully alive to the responsibility incurred," Cleveland, that "staunch old boy" (as his successor, McKinley, called him) was going to run the boundary — and stand behind it when run! He declared it p45 the duty of the Government to "resist by every means in its power, as a wilful aggression upon its rights and interests, the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands, or the exercise of any governmental jurisdiction over any territory which, after investigation, we have determined of right belongs to Venezuela." And in justification of his course he stated that "there is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals that which follows supine submission to wrong and injustice."
This was war talk, so interpreted at once and in both countries. The cheers of Congress found a loud echo in the press. A sort of hysteria swept the people, the jingoes denouncing England extravagantly, the Anglophiles of the exclusive city clubs going to equal lengths in condemnation of the "war spirit." Thus Theodore Roosevelt, polishing his sword in the New York Evening Sun, prophesied the early seizure of Canada, and declared it "infinitely better" that American cities should be "laid level" than that tribute be paid for the sake of safety. He put the affair on lofty grounds by charging the British with never permitting "considerations of abstract right or morality to interfere with the chance for national aggrandizement or mercenary gain." In a letter to Lodge, Roosevelt hoped the "fight will come soon."
Lodge charged that eminent friends of England, "ordinarily sane," had cabled London that the Senate was controlled by "a jingo mob in the galleries; 'gentlemen of the pavement' reminiscent of the French Revolution." Cleveland thanked Commissioner Roosevelt for his support. Among the host of obscure Americans writing their approval to the White House were Woodrow Wilson, a Princeton professor, and William McKinley, Governor of Ohio, who vouchsafed the "approval of the people of Ohio" for the "President's firm and dignified stand."
Carnegie, yielding to a surge of hostility, wrote the Duke of Devonshire, now Lord President of the Council, that English recalcitrance would force the United States to build a great navy and to take Canada. "The giant son," he crowed, p46 "is his mother's child, down to the roots, and like her will boss things within what he feels to be his sphere of operations . . . which is rapidly expanding." Dining with a "lot of financiers, including Morgan," the night of the message, Chauncey Depew found them terrified, predicting that Europe would rush to sell the next morning and create a "financial cataclysm, the like of which had never before been witnessed."
The stock-market reaction was deferred three days. In the Senate, Lodge attributed the panic to an attempt by London to "frighten Congress." Writing to Henry White in Europe, he reported that "outside the moneyed interests . . . the American people, like Congress and the press, are solidly behind the President in defense of the Monroe Doctrine. We shall carry our point, and there will be no war."
In other quarters there was no such firm assurance that we would not be called on to fight. Sober men were shocked at evidence that so large and vocal a proportion of the people seemed to welcome another go at the British. In the Midwest and farther toward the Pacific the press confidently held that Britain would have to back down; she needed our foodstuffs, she had heavy investments in this country, she would not wish to lose Canada, and — the most clinching argument — she "couldn't get to us." But Americans such as Mahan, who understood our strategic problem in terms of sea power, reckoned the respective naval strength of the two countries in ships and available bases and prayed for deliverance.
The British, ringing us with bases, had forty-four battleships to our four, with other types in even greater disparity, and an overwhelming capacity to build ships. We were potentially the great Land Power of the West, but our armies could only reach Canada. With Britain in command of the seas, responsible military experts foresaw that if the British chose to fight, they might punish the coastal cities thoroughly and subject the country to a long and vitiating blockade. If war came, these men feared that it might be protracted, costly, and likely to end in a stalemate, with Canada back in the empire and British sea power aggrandized. The experts p47 comforted themselves with reports that Europe's power relationships were highly unstable and the British might very well fear that an American war could grow into a general war, with Russia and even Germany taking a hand at her rear. As we shall see, Britain was pretty well isolated by the Continental Powers.
On the third day, as Congress authorized the President to run the border, the senate heard a word of caution from the chaplain, who asked God to "forbid that the two foremost nations . . . which bear the name of Christ . . . should be embroiled in war with all its horror and barbarities." Thereafter, although talk of war would not stop entirely for some days, other voices echoing the chaplain's pious hopes would be heard increasingly. Dr. Lyman Abbott mounted an anti‑war demonstration at Plymouth Church; Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst thundered against the war party; and a Newark, New Jersey, clergyman doubted that "all of South America" was "worth a drop of American blood."
Carl Schurz deprecated Cleveland's rigor, holding that it "grievously broke [with] his otherwise dignified and statesmanlike foreign policy." Joseph Pulitzer, who soon would be blowing the bellows for another war, this time exercised his journalistic ingenuity for peace. His New York World, branding the President's policy a "terrible blunder," cabled dozens of English leaders for peace messages in harmony with the season. The cables were burdened with their replies, which forthwith appeared on the first page of the World. Also beating against the current, the Springfield Republican condemned quarreling over a "beggarly plot of land."
The plain-spoken Charles W. Eliot poured a withering fire on Roosevelt and Lodge as "degenerated sons of Harvard" for exploiting "this jingoism, this chip‑on‑the‑shoulder attitude of a ruffian and a bully." Roosevelt retorted by categorizing Eliot and Schurz as "futile sentimentalists" whose endeavors would contribute toward a "flabby, timid type of character, which eats away the great fighting qualities of the race."
In London the expatriate novelist Henry James struck a p48 note of dark dismay. The "American outbreak, the explosion of jingoism," he misread, ascribing warlike fervor exclusively to the rawboned West, discovering a "vast new cleavage . . . split almost, roughly speaking, between the West and the East . . . really two civilizations side by side in one yoke; one civilization and a barbarism." He was correct to the extent that eastern financial and business interests threw their weight overwhelmingly into the scale of appeasement. (Eight years later Cleveland was to level his contempt at the commercial classes that in the winter of 1895‑96 preferred profits to the country's "honor.") The Journal of Commerce spoke for Wall Street when it charged that "Mr. Cleveland has outjingoed the jingoes."
Into the heat of the controversy the venerable Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York threw a resolution urging the President to conciliate Britain. A group of Boston financiers telegraphed asking Cleveland to put no Americans on his border commission. From many quarters came petitions that Gladstone be asked to preside over that body, but Cleveland's commission, headed by Supreme Court Justice, was all‑American. The deportment of entrenched capitalism disposed fairly well of John Bassett Moore's analysis of the economic basis of the war party, as well as of the Marxist explanation that in the Venezuelan crisis the American capitalists were seeking to divert public attention from hard times, the outcries of the bimetallists (among the most warlike of Anglophobes), and the Populist uprising in the Midwest.
A good many American intellectuals narrowed the issues to the single matter of Venezuela's boundary. Among those who ignored the provocative question of encirclement was John Bassett Moore, who doubted that the claims to Latin American republic were "scrupulous," and feared that Cleveland had launched us on "numberless quarrels." (The United States Government, of course, had not prejudged the virtue of either side's claims, only requesting that they be adjudicated by an impartial body.) The historian James Ford Rhodes opposed application of the Monroe Doctrine p49 to a "mere boundary dispute." Andrew White here and Bayard from London reproached the Venezuelans for their incapacity to govern themselves with Anglo-Saxon wisdom and orderliness. Robert Todd Lincoln also sought to calm the waters by a reflection on the Venezuelans. He asserted in a newspaper interview that once they had declined arbitration. This was denied by Lodge.
As the convulsive year neared its end these narrow constructionists were answered exhaustively. On December 30 Lodge, in the Senate only two years, summoned his historical and literary talents for a major effort, a full-dress arraignment of Great Britain's intransigence. The preceding summer Lodge had passed in England, where under Henry White's chaperonage he had seen Chamberlain, Balfour, and others. First reviewing the boundary dispute from its earliest times, the Massachusetts Senator proceeded to America's case for ascendancy in the Western Hemisphere. Should Europe break the force of the Monroe Doctrine, "we shall have formidable rivals all about us; we shall be in constant danger of war. . . . The Monroe Doctrine rests primarily on the great law of self-preservation." At the last session he had called the Senate's attention to England's absorption of islands in the Pacific and stressed the necessity of annexing Hawaii before that archipelago fell to the great Sea Power. Said Lodge now:
I ask you . . . to look at the Caribbean sea . . . look at the strong naval station . . . at St. Lucia . . . thence . . . westward . . . you find Trinidad . . . then Jamaica, then British Honduras. . . . That line faces the South American coast. This territory claimed from Venezuela is being pushed steadily to the westward along that coast, and the point at which it aims is the control of the mouths of the Orinoco. . . . The purpose of all these moves is written plainly on the map. If successful, they will give Great Britain control of the Orinoco and the Spanish Main and make the Caribbean Sea little better than a British lake.
The United States, Lodge continued, had become a great nation. "We must be leaders in the Western Hemisphere." For thirty years we had been absorbed in "healing the ravages p50 of the Civil War and in completing the conquest of the great continent which was our inheritance. That work is done." Now Americans were turning their eyes outward, "toward interests that lie beyond our borders and yet so near our doors." What do they see?
They see those interests have been neglected. They see another nation hemming them in with fortifications and encroaching upon regions which must remain what they have always been — American. They are resolved that there shall be an end to those encroachments . . . that the United States shall not sink in the scale of nations, that it shall not be menaced even by that nation to which we are united by bonds of blood and speech.
Lodge could not believe that "any English ministry seriously intends" hostilities, and yet
their recent policy is . . . unfortunate. We have seen British forces at Corinto. We know the attitude the British Government assumes in Venezuela. They are attempting to take land on the Alaskan boundary. They have just denounced the modus vivendi, and reopened in that way, the perilous dispute of the northeastern fisheries.
The Senator ended on an ominous note: "It is not by accident that these events have all occurred, or all come to an acute stage, within the last year." (In testimony to man's chronic inability to penetrate the future, all the grievances enumerated by Lodge were to be satisfied, peaceably, within six years.) His speech, widely published in the press, hardened American determination to see the Venezuelan crisis through.
The impact of Cleveland's message fell more heavily on the British. They were unprepared either for trouble over a distant and unconsidered South American republic or for the American President's severity. James Bryce, indignantly protesting Cleveland's shotgun language, reported to Henry Villard, the American journalist and railway magnate, that "not one man in ten . . . in the House of Commons" had p51 any idea that the boundary dispute was in crisis stage. The British public, even less aware of the long, tedious diplomatic prologue to the message, was undoubtedly taken by surprise.
All England, therefore, bristled as the Government prepared for hostile eventualities in the Caribbean. Chamberlain sprang to action in an interview in the London Times, saying: "Americans are not people to run away from; in fact, I do not know any people from whom we can afford to accept a kicking." The Times itself set a belligerent key: "When kinsmen fall out, they can quarrel very bitterly. As we cannot yield to the demands . . . without surrendering title to almost the whole of our empire, we must hold ourselves prepared to defend our rights in any quarter where they may be threatened." London music-hall crowds booed "Yankee Doodle."
Generally the British press took a lordly rather than a martial tone. The service journals, which after Mahan's visit had been advocating a naval alliance, now lectured their transatlantic cousins. American "brag," the Army and Navy Gazette admonished, might arouse the British lion. In like strain the Admiralty and Horse Guards Gazette counseled the United States to climb down ere the British lion gets "his back up at this recurring tail-twisting . . . and determines to lay about him with his paws." A London daily, the Graphic, asked if Cleveland seriously believed that the "frontiers of the European colonies in America are to be held at the good pleasure of a committee of Washington gentlemen." Exceptions were the Times and the Telegraph, which carefully considered dispatches from the United States such as those of George W. Smalley, who cabled the Times from Washington after Cleveland's message: "Senator Lodge bubbling over with delight . . . there could not be a more sinister indication of the sense in which this message is understood." In the political weeklies a less exigent note quickly appeared; the Tory Saturday Review, for example, on January 4, 1896, granting that the Ministry could "submit p52 the dispute in Venezuela to arbitration, and American arbitration at that, without loss of self-respect."
On the whole British bellicosity failed to reach the height or the duration of its American counterpart. After all, it was the Americans who considered themselves the aggrieved (and encircled) party. Abram S. Hewitt, a former Mayor of New York, might seek to cheer Salisbury by suggesting that "Cleveland must have been drunk"; Bayard might wring his hands publicly over the inelegance of "that man" Olney; but as for the British themselves, Henry White observed that they looked with "profound horror on the thought of war with America."
White, a skilled diplomatist who had been legation secretary at London under Harrison and would return under McKinley, disapproved of Cleveland's bluster, but strongly upheld his objectives. It was, White wrote home at this time, "to the interest of both branches of the Anglo-Saxon race that we shall be supreme in both American continents; otherwise, there will always be questions between the two countries." John Hay, also in London during part of the crisis, held the same views. Thus it was that the "scholars and gentlemen" who would have much to do with orienting American policy toward association with England in the next few years — Hay, Roosevelt, Lodge, and White — were united in confronting England in 1895‑96, and for the same reason. All wished the British to give over in the Caribbean, believing the removal of friction in that area a prerequisite to genuine friendship.
Salisbury and Chamberlain at first resisted appeasement. The Colonial Office was inundated with messages from Canada and other British outposts in North America and the West Indies angrily denouncing Cleveland and demanding a strong policy against American "insolence." But the friends of America, numerous in the City as well as in political quarters, rallied for peace as quickly as their opposite numbers on this side. Bryce, although annoyed over the outburst of Anglophobia in a country where he felt at home and had been honored, Harcourt, Balfour, and others sought to mollify p53 the Prime Minister. There were some curious omissions. John Morley, regarded as a friend of the United States, repeated a story current in London that an American gold-mining syndicate, having obtained concessions from Venezuela in the disputed region, was "bullying the United States Government." (J. L. Garvin resurrected this story in his life of Chamberlain.) The theory was founded on an inadequate knowledge of Cleveland's character.1
In letters to Roosevelt and Villard, Bryce betrayed a lack of comprehension of public feeling in America. "What in the world is the reason" for the ill will? he inquired. "There is nothing but friendliness on this side. . . . The idea of making the Caribbean Sea an English lake [according to Lodge] is quite a novelty to us. Why should we be hated in the United States . . . we don't come into hostile contact . . . we are not rivals anywhere . . . we have the warmest feeling toward the people of the United States." At about this time Roosevelt wrote White of their mutual friend Lodge: "The Anglomaniac press and, of course, Smalley have utterly misrepresented him . . . it is to the interest of civilization that the United States . . . the greatest branch of the English-speaking race should be dominant in the Western Hemisphere."
Meanwhile the London Stock Exchange, which had been caught in the reflex of the New York panic as had those of Paris and Berlin, applied the balm of humor, cabling solicitously to the New York Stock Exchange: "When our warships enter New York Harbor, we hope your excursion boats will not interfere with them." The New York brokers replied: "For your sakes, it is to be hoped that your warships are better than your yachts." The reference was to an America Cup sailed the preceding summer in New York Harbor, in which the challenger, Lord Dunraven, protested the crowding of the course by spectators' boats, claimed a foul, p54 and then defaulted, giving rise to derogations in each country on the sportsmanship of the other's yachtsmen.
On Christmas Eve Chamberlain's roving imagination conceived a diversion in the spirit of the season. He wrote Salisbury to suggest that both Americans and Britons might find an outlet for their martial desires in a joint naval demonstration against the Sultan of Turkey. He reminded the Prime Minister that after all "blood is thicker than water," but Salisbury doubted that the time was propitious for sounding the American cousins on the subject.
The next day diversion appeared from another quarter. Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, a hotheaded administrator for Cecil Rhodes's South Africa Company, appeared on the border of the Transvaal at the head of from 400 to 500 armed members of the company's constabulary and militiamen. In the Boer South African Republic a revolt had been timed for the end of the year, a rising by Uitlanders, predominantly British, against the rule of President Paul Kruger. When the trouble began at Johannesburg, Jameson was to march in. Rhodes and Chamberlain were thoroughly familiar with the project. The Johannesburgers, however, did not rise. Jameson was ordered not to advance across the border, but on December 29 he disobeyed, and on New Year's Day was surrounded by Kruger's bearded farmers and taken prisoner at Krugersdorp. Jameson's headlong conduct embarrassed Chamberlain, and he at once repudiated Jameson and set about extricating him and his men, several of them officers in the British forces, from Kruger's positive clutch. This took place on January 2, 1896.
The philosopher William James chose this moment to excoriate Cleveland for arousing the "old fighting instincts that lie so near the surface." Governments, he wrote, should avoid "direct appeals" to man's pugnacity. "This your European governments know; but we, in our bottomless innocence and ignorance . . . know nothing, and Cleveland, in my opinion . . . has committed the biggest political crime I have ever seen."
On January 3, 1896, British sensibilities were stirred to their deeps by the Kaiser's historic telegram to Kruger:
I express to you my sincere congratulations that without appealing to the help of friendly powers, you and your people have succeeded in repelling with your forces armed bands which had broken into your country and in maintaining the independence of your country against aggression.
Since 1881, the South African Republic had been under Great Britain's tutelage and hence the Transvaal had no foreign relations except as they passed through London. The telegram, therefore, was a flagrant intrusion between a European Power and its ward. A self-righteous document, it likewise passed judgment on an event concerning which the British were touchy, being uncertain over their moral ground. Further and more personally, the message was taken as an insult by a supposedly friendly monarch to his grandmother, the Queen.
The effect was felt instantly. From Queen to coster, England profoundly resented William's interference. Noting in her journal the German Emperor's "most unwarranted . . . outrageous and very unfriendly" act, Victoria penned him a grandmotherly note, suggesting that his agents had been misbehaving in South Africa and that his telegram had "made a very painful impression." The Prince of Wales, who had been busy stroking the American eagle, complained spiritedly of his nephew's "most gratuitous act."
The London populace, forgetting Cleveland's brusque war cry (although the Ministry did not), gave a physical point to its disapproval of the Kaiser. German sailors and dock workers were beaten. In shops, offices, hotels, and restaurants German workers suffered insults and sometimes dismissal. German clubs put up shutters and German residents kept to their homes. In some alarm, the Queen besought the Prime Minister to "hint to our respectable papers not to write violent articles," as "these newspaper wars often tend p56 to provoke war — which would be too awful." She also "entreated" Salisbury to "prevent ill-usage of the innocent and good German residents." Led by the Morning Post calling for a fleet demonstration in the North Sea, the press indeed waged war on William II. "England," stormed the Post, will not forget it, and her foreign policy will in the future be strongly influenced by the remembrance."
Lord Salisbury piecing the evidence together, concluded that the telegram really represented the climax of a six months' attempt by the Kaiser to "frighten England into joining the Triple Alliance." Placing this suspicion before the Queen, the Prime Minister added that such a pact would of course be "impossible . . . because the English people would never consent to go to war for a cause in which England was not manifestly interested." Her Majesty was not wholly convinced. She shared a view being widely advanced that "our isolation is dangerous."
The external pressures on the British Empire were concentrated at Number 10 Downing Street on January 11, 1896. Count von Hatzfeldt, the German Ambassador to the Court of St. James, called on the Prime Minister, as he had done before, to urge adherence to the Triple Alliance. He rather "forced" the matter, uttering "many warnings of the dangers of isolation," but leaving Salisbury unshaken, as he reported to the Queen. That day also Salisbury held a full Cabinet meeting, a device of government to which he resorted so seldom that two of his Ministers were certain the Prime Minister did not know them by sight. The Cabinet, summoned to discuss the American crisis, almost reached a crisis itself when Salisbury found a substantial majority so eager for accommodation with the Americans that they cared little or nothing about the terms.
Neither Salisbury nor Chamberlain had come prepared for so precipitate a backdown. Indeed, at eleven o'clock the night before, when Sir William Harcourt called on the Colonial p57 Secretary at his house in Prince's Gardens, he had encountered resistance. Chamberlain was anything but "friendly" to arbitration. To that stanch friend of America, Sir William, Chamberlain would remain the "Spanish fly in the pot of ointment."
In the Cabinet meeting Salisbury, compelled to give some ground, held out for a negotiated peace, so to speak; and when the majority pressed him too closely, he won his point and time to work out a settlement on his own lines only by threatening to resign. He would not, he declared, tender Cleveland and Olney an "unconditional surrender." It was apparent, however, to both the strong men of the Ministry that surrender of some sort was inevitable.
In the Cabinet and outside, sentiment by now overwhelmingly supported a speedy composition of the differences. Two days before the Cabinet meeting, in fact, Bayard had heard from a Foreign Office source that Salisbury was preparing to "trim his views." With the public, William's telegram had eclipsed Cleveland's challenge to the British Empire. By a transposition perhaps unparalleled in the affairs of nations, overnight Germany had replaced the United States as the enemy, and as a sequel this country suddenly became popular with the English people. In the "halls" there were now cheers for "Yankee Doodle," jeers for "Die Wacht am Rhein." Press and pulpit alike confessed themselves revolted at the thought of war with the English-speaking republic.
Four days after the Cabinet meeting Balfour, then the First Treasury Lord, sounded the call to retreat. At Manchester, voicing his abhorrence of an Anglo-American war as suggestive of the "unnatural horror of civil strife," Balfour looked forward to that happy time "when some one, some statesman of authority more fortunate even than President Monroe, will lay down the doctrine that, between the English-speaking peoples, war is impossible." On that day Bayard cabled Olney about the "welcome and unmistakable difference" in English reactions toward a possible "conflict with the United States — and with Germany." The Ambassador had a letter from an English friend describing the contrast: p58 "In the first [contingency], incredulity, doubt, horror that England and America should go to war; in the second, the whole nation to a man . . . aroused at once to fever heat and ready for anything."
Forthwith Chamberlain also quieted public apprehensions in a speech at Birmingham:
We do not covet one single inch of American territory and war between the two nations would be an absurdity as well as a crime. . . . The two nations are allied, and more closely allied, in sentiment and in interest, than any other nations on the face of the earth. While I should look with horror on anything in the nature of fratricidal strife, I should look with pleasure to the possibility of the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack floating together in the defense of a common cause, sanctioned by humanity and justice.
Salisbury made his "surrender" public in February. The speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament noted, with approval and a degree of understatement nothing short of remarkable, that the United States had "expressed a wish to co‑operate in terminating the differences" over Venezuela's borders. In reply Lord Rosebery, Opposition leader in the Lords, declared it everyone's duty to help the chiefs of the two governments out of their "impasse." Sir William offered Liberal support in the Commons. Balfour, the tall, remote skeptic and amateur of spiritualism whose lot it would be to ruffle Anglo-American feelings more than any other British statesman of his generation, denied in the House any slightest intention on the part of the Ministry to violate the "substance, or the essence" of the Monroe Doctrine. But it fell to Salisbury to make the amende magnificent:
From some points of view, the mixture of the United States in this matter may conduce to results satisfactory to us more rapidly than if the United States had not interfered. I do think the bringing in of the Monroe Doctrine was, controversially, quite unnecessary. . . . Considering the position of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea, it was no more unnatural that the United p59 States should take an interest in it, than that we should take an interest in Holland or Belgium.
Thus Salisbury conceded to the United States a primary position in the Caribbean. Carefully separating the American objective (recognition of the Caribbean as our sphere) from the instrument we had chosen to obtain it (the Monroe Doctrine), in his faintly querulous utterance, the disillusioned Prime Minister signified Britain's retirement from that sea.
In an exploratory conference with Henry White a few weeks later Salisbury gave evidence that the concession in his Venezuelan "surrender" speech represented a permanent policy. Asked by White for an indication of Britain's attitude in case we felt called upon to annex Cuba, Lord Salisbury replied that American relations with Cuba — then deep in the insurrection that led within two years to American intervention — were "no affair of ours." Friendly to Spain and reluctant to see her "humiliated," said Salisbury, the British Government did not "consider that we have anything to say in the matter, whatever . . . course the United States may decide to pursue."
In November (after the American election) Olney and Pauncefote signed the heads of a treaty between Great Britain and Venezuela. Cleveland observed that as the United States was not a party, the treaty would be saved the "customary disfigurement at the hands of the Senate." The American boundary commission stopped work at that time. Its fourteen volumes of maps and other documents went to the arbitration commission, and it was a source of satisfaction to Andrew White, a member of the American body, that the final disposition closely followed the findings of that commission. Venezuela and Britain each gained and lost lands they had claimed, the British being restrained back of the Orinoco delta.
The real gainers, of course, were the United States and Great Britain. The British began their retreat from the Caribbean and American waters, a retirement that would p60 not halt until the naval bases encircling the United States of the 1890's were turned over to America in 1940. The Monroe Doctrine was acknowledged by the British Government, and the British Foreign Office initiated a policy, ascribed to an edict of Salisbury's, of never allowing any dispute with the United States to come to a head. Soon German diplomatists, as will be seen later, were to complain of an Anglo-American tie and to seek, under the Kaiser's definitive instructions, to break it.
Growing out of the last quarrel between the Anglo-Saxon Powers, a reliable friendship was obtained by the British, one standing them in good stead in their next three wars, one with the Boers, two against the Germans. Henceforward, as Olney was to assert in a speech at Harvard on March 1, 1898, the two countries in general would make common cause against any third party. At Harvard the stout protagonist of aggressive American action in 1895 said:
There is a patriotism of race as well as of country — and the Anglo-American is as little likely to be indifferent to one as to the other. Family quarrels there have been . . . and doubtless will be again, and the two peoples, at the safe distance which the broad Atlantic interposes, take with each other that liberty of speech which only the fondest and dearest relatives indulge in. Nevertheless, that they would be found standing together against any alien foe by whom either was menaced . . . it is not permissible to doubt.
The ancient animosities with Canada would slowly subside. The recurrent threats against the Dominion's British attachment would give way to a fixed acceptance of that status on this side of the border; and United States-Canadian relations would grow in warmth until in 1938 an American President underwriting Canada's defense against any hostile power aroused general approval in his country. By 1940 only Americans infected with Nazi megalomania would assert a claim to the great Dominion.
No Power, Mahan suspected in 1896, would stand aside for American ambitions. The strategic and sentimental p61 factors were not likely to be so conjoined again. The first hindrance to Anglo-American association in an axis extending across their common ocean had been removed. Others would fall soon. Balfour's "more fortunate Monroe" had not arisen, but a common consent, more potent than a written formula, would outlaw war between the greatest Atlantic Powers.
The rapprochement of 1896 was studied closely on the European continent. A conviction spread in German and French diplomatic circles that the two countries were bound by a secret understanding. Again and again until 1914 that suspicion was to cross the minds of European diplomatists. Prophetically, the Cologne Gazette, typifying Continental comment, supposed that the effects of the new accord would be "felt long after the British Guiana boundary question has been forgotten." All movements toward Anglo-American fellowship, here and in England, gained impetus. A characteristic utterance was the proposal by Professor George Burton Adams in the North American Review for a new "empire of the race." The unrealistic and somewhat lyrical emphasis on race, mildly reflecting the hysterics of the Pan‑Germans and the Pan‑Slavic mystique of Moscow, was a froth on the surface that would be skimmed off in the clearer light of the twentieth century. Underneath were unifying elements appealing to the hard, pragmatic sense of both peoples.
While Anglo-American relations pursued an ascending curve until 1914 — and thereafter — Anglo-German relations were generally to trend downward, following a course marked by frequent jolts, and by occasional periods of concord, but moving steadily toward mortal conflict. German-American relations also were to deteriorate.
The rancors produced in England by the Kaiser's telegram to Kruger were prolonged and aggravated by economic stresses. In late January, 1896, the newly founded Daily Mail branded Germany a "semi-civilized nation" like Turkey — the p62 ultimate in epithet at the period of the Armenian massacres. By late spring German goods were boycotted in the Midlands. Not only was the Kaiser thought inimical, but Germany stood disclosed as the commercial enemy. A book brought about that realization, a journalistic tract, Made-in‑Germany, written by a Socialistic thinker named Ernest Williams, who hoped to prod England into adopting the state-subsidized neomercantilism of Germany.
"A gigantic commercial state," said Williams, "is arising to menace our prosperity and contend with us for the trade of the world," by freight rebates given by German shipping lines and the state railways, together with government encouragement of cartels, and consular help in the field. The British, suffering from the practices, called them questionable, if not actually "unsportsmanlike." The report also disclosed lower wage scales and better technical training across the North Sea.
British pre‑World War resentment of Germany's commercial strides reached its peak in midsummer, 1896. By August a Board of Trade Blue Book soothed sensibilities. Pointing out that the Germans had only made gains here and there, the Blue Book attempted to prove that British world-wide trade had not only held its own but was steadily gaining. "The German trade bogey disappeared with the light," remarked the Daily News, chief free-trade organ. A year later the Contemporary Review was pleased to report that British trade had reached a new high-water mark in the fiscal year 1896‑97, and that empire trade had increased faster during the last twenty years than that of the rest of the world. This made gratifying news for the Diamond Jubilee visitors.
Victoria had reigned sixty years in 1897. The "Captains and the Kings" reviewed with her the home fleet of one hundred and sixty-five vessels stretching beyond the horizon at Spithead. William II, believing against the evidence of his eyes that British might had seen its best days, would soon be penciling on the margin of Hatzfeldt's reports: "The Jubilee swindle is . . . over," and "the dead ride fast."
Germany, like the United States, was on the march. In p63 1894 Erich von Tirpitz, then attached to the Oberkommando of the navy in Berlin, had furnished William with his first high-seas naval policy. Based on Mahan, it called for an aggressive battle fleet embodying "national power on the seas." Tirpitz argued that a "state which has . . . world interests must be able to uphold them and make its power felt beyond its own territorial waters. . . . World commerce . . . world industry . . . world intercourse and colonies are impossible without a fleet capable of taking the offensive."
Until then Germany had never acknowledged naval interests wider than the North and Baltic seas. In 1895 the Kiel Canal was opened. By 1897 Tirpitz, after a tour of duty in the Far East, had a seat of power in the Reichsmarineamt, and his presence there was accepted as evidence that the German Empire was embarked on an aggressive naval policy. In that year Great Britain first took alarm at German naval ambitions.
In 1897 the Kaiser seized a naval base in the Pacific from the Chinese and attempted to obtain another from the United States. In November the Germans descended on Kiaochow, on the Shantung Peninsula, using as excuse the death at the hands of Chinese bandits of two Roman Catholic missionaries attached to a German mission. While in Asiatic waters Tirpitz had recommended Kiaochow as the best Chinese port available and even drawn terms for a lease. "I am thoroughly resolved, with full severity and at need with the most brutal regardlessness," William instructed his naval commander, Rear Admiral von Diederichs, "to show the Chinese at last that the German Emperor does not allow himself to be played with; and that it is bad to have him for an enemy." The Chinese needed no "severity." (It was during a Reichstag debate on Kiaochow that Bülow first demanded for Germany a "place in the sun.") The Russians, who had a secret fifteen-year lease on the port, gave way, and Germany had a foothold across the Yellow Sea from Japan and around the corner from the Russians at Port Arthur.
Also arousing the Kaiser's — and Tirpitz's — desires was Pago p64 Pago, one of the choicest harbors in the Pacific. German cupidity, it turned out, was stimulated by a new American move to annex Hawaii, a collection of islands that had been attached to the United States sentimentally since 1820, economically since 1875, and as a naval outpost since 1887.
In the closing weeks of his Administration Harrison had sought to incorporate the islands in the American political system, but Cleveland set the effort aside. Negotiated with King Kalakaua, but in the interest of the American sugar planters, a reciprocal trade treaty of 1875 brought Hawaii within what James G. Blaine called the "American Zollverein (customs union)" and made them "an outlying district of the State of California." Then in 1887 Cleveland obtained from the King exclusive rights to Pearl Harbor as a naval base. At the same time he vetoed a British proposal to lend the Hawaiian Government $2,000,000 on the pledge of certain revenues.
No serious challenge to American ascendancy had ever arisen, although British Ministers in Honolulu and Washington had from time to time sought various leverages. There can be no doubt that Hawaii, a great sea bastion lying athwart an imperial life line from Canada to the antipodes and commanding the approach from the Orient to both North America and the Isthmus of Panama, represented a temptation to British naval strategists. It may even be doubted that Great Britain would have allowed any nation other than the United States to hold Hawaii without a struggle. The fact that the British offered so little obstruction (and that largely in the way of diplomatic intrigue on the spot) may be taken as an indication that the encirclement so disturbing to Americans in the early 1890's was less a matter of conscious, resolute policy in London than of habit and drift.
King Kalakaua died in 1891 while on a visit to the mainland. A close collaborator of the New England Congregational missionaries and their offspring, the sugar planters who dominated the islands economically, the King had sought the protection of the American flag. He wished to be p65 annexed. His sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani, attempted to break the grip of the Americans on the realm. Fearing the submergence of her people under the weight of American economic control and Asiatic immigration, she re‑established native customs and announced a policy of "Hawaii for the Hawaiians." Her hostility to the Americans coincided with legislation on the mainland discriminating against Hawaiian sugar. Under the McKinley tariff all offshore sugar was admitted free; a bounty was established on the domestic crop. Heretofore Hawaiian sugar had been duty-free, West Indies and other sugar had paid a duty. The Hawaiian planters, facing heavy loss, saw their only hope for survival in annexation, which would include them in the domestic bounty.
The upshot was a coup promoted by the planters, assisted by the American Minister, John L. Stevens, and supported by United States Marines. Stevens at once recognized the provisional government, the American flag was raised over Government House, and a delegation departed for Washington to offer Hawaii to the Union. Within eleven days a treaty was drafted, and Harrison sent it to the Senate only a little more than two weeks before he left office on March 4, 1893.
Cleveland withdrew the treaty, sent an antiexpansionist former Congressman from Georgia, James H. Blount, to investigate the "revolution," and upon hearing the facts — that the natives had no voice and the Queen's government had been overawed by the Marines — he decided to undo the uprising and turn the islands back to the queen. His envoy, however, encountered an obstacle in the Queen, who gravely informed him that if returned to power she would be obliged to behead the American conspirators and seize their property.
Cleveland was confronted, as Mahan saw it, with a "choice no less momentous than that of the Roman Senate when the Mamertines invited the Romans to occupy part of Sicily and thus abandon the policy of isolation that had confined them to the Peninsula." He elected the isolationist alternative, p66 declining, as he told Congress in his annual message of December 3, 1893, to depart from the "unbroken American tradition" in order to "provide for the addition to our territories of islands of the sea •more than two thousand miles removed from our nearest coast." The means by which the "sugar barons" had obtained power he characterized with a "familiar and unpleasant name when found in private transactions."
His repudiation of Manifest Destiny brought condemnation from the jingoes, the expansionists, and large numbers of plain Americans who objected to hauling down the flag in the Pacific. The press, notably that of his own party, dealt mercilessly with the abandonment of Hawaii. Pulitzer's New York World thought Cleveland "under no obligation to replace a highly aggressive throne." The Atlanta Constitution sniffed that the "Democratic party has not been in the habit of restoring monarchs anywhere." "In ordering Old Glory pulled down at Honolulu," the New York Commercial Advertiser averred, Cleveland had "turned back the hands on the dials of civilization" and "shattered" the "dream of an American Republic at the crossroads of the Pacific — a dream which Seward and Marcy and Blaine indulged." To this editor, Cleveland "was the Buffalo Lilliputian." There seems little doubt that the public favored annexation in the light-hearted mood of a current jingle:
. . . Liliuokalani
Give us your little brown hannie!
The big‑navy party, led by Mahan, strongly opposed the President's "policy of scuttle." To Mahan, Hawaii was the "Gibraltar of America." In a letter to New York Times on January 31, 1893, he called the islands a vitally strategic "outpost" that must be held for Western civilization against a "wave of barbaric invasion" that might some day be forthcoming out of the Far East. Holding Hawaii would, of course, call for enlargement of our naval power, he added. Japan made no objection in 1893, but in 1897, when McKinley introduced a new Hawaiian treaty, the Tokyo Government p67 filed a pro forma protest. All sections of British sentiment in 1893 seemed favorable to American annexation, the London Times, the Spectator, and the Saturday Review bestowing their blessings.
Meanwhile, wheels had been whirling at the Foreign Office in the Wilhelmstrasse. Tirpitz and the Kaiser viewed the disposition of the Hawaiian stronghold disapprovingly, but doubted their ability to alter it. Pago Pago was next best. Friedrich von Holstein of the Foreign Office provided a modus vivendi, and Hatzfeldt called on Salisbury with a devious proposal. Germany and Great Britain, the Ambassador suggested, should declare a joint interest in the fate of Hawaii, making inquiries in Washington. Then, having aroused American apprehensions, they should offer to withdraw their scruples over annexation if the United States would surrender Pago Pago. "You ask me to put my hand into a wasps's nest," Salisbury grumbled, declining the proposal.
1 All through the controversy rumors cropped up of the activities of American and English gold syndicates. None disclosed any real relationship between gold and the actions of either Government. Bayard was a prolific source of these reports.
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