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Chapter 5

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
The Atlantic System

Forrest Davis

Reynal & Hitchcock
New York

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Chapter 7
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p158  VI. Fortifying the Atlantic System


Theodore Roosevelt's Far Eastern labors by no means exhausted his capacity for the strenuous life in the crowded years 1902‑06. Events on the Atlantic side of the earth likewise challenged Henry Adams's "Tsar Rooseveltoffsky" to "play a great part"; events which were to confirm and re‑enforce the Atlantic System.

In November, 1902, the Kaiser crossed to Sandringham for some pheasant-shooting with his Uncle Edward, amid a healthy British suspicion that he was after larger game than the birds of Norfolk. While in England William involved the Balfour Ministry — and Roosevelt — in a tempest over Venezuela that in the end bolstered Anglo-American relations, repairing such breaches as were made by the 1900 presidential campaign and the canal and Alaskan-boundary disputes. Soon the Rough Rider President was taking a hand in the European balance of power over some obscure matters concerning Morocco. Although not altogether aware of it, he acted in the interest of the Atlantic Powers. Conforming as usual to a major line of British diplomatic strategy while thinking of himself as a wholly independent force, the world-traipsing President bewildered the British Foreign Office by contradictions between word and deed typically Rooseveltian. Downing Street (the ogre of American isolationists) was not at its most acute during this period, a time in which the Concert of Europe was tuning up for the World War with a President of the United States pitching the tune.

English skepticism over William's sporting junket was fed by hints in the official German press that the Wilhelmstrasse  p159 counted on this visit to restore Anglo-German relations to their "unprejudiced Bismarckian basis." It was justified within a month when an allied English and German squadron shelled La Guaira, the port of Caracas, Venezuela, as the opening gun in a debt-collecting expedition. The bombardment loosed on the British Ministry a wave of recrimination, during which it was assumed, most pointedly by Strachey's Spectator and the Liberal Daily News, that Balfour and his Foreign Minister, Lord Lansdowne, had foolishly fallen into a trap of the Kaiser's baiting.

In the anger of the Opposition at the German "alliance," described by the Spectator as "one of the most amazingly indiscreet ever made," even the throne did not escape. It was charged that King Edward, being the host at Sandringham, must have been a party to the obnoxious negotiations and hence had overstepped the bounds set upon the constitutional monarchy. Edward's subsequent irritation over the Venezuelan adventure and the mistrust that gave rise to his celebrated mot that his nephew was the "most brilliant failure in history" shake credence in the charge of royal complicity. The Caribbean concert was, however, consummated at Sandringham at a two‑hour conference between William and Lansdowne, and it seemed unlikely to the Liberal statesmen that the King was wholly in the dark concerning it, although the agreement had been in the making since July.

The aging Lord Salisbury (Hay's "great Cecil") had finally passed the Premiership to his nephew Arthur Balfour. Salisbury would be dead within the year, and the equivocal Balfour already missed the unhurried, rocklike judgment of the pessimistic squire of Hatfield. Although always dubious of America's political steadfastness, Salisbury was a better friend of the United States than more demonstrative Ministers such as Balfour. The new Prime Minister and Lansdowne had taken a short view of the Kaiser's proposals. They had a grievance against the Venezuelan dictator, Don Cipriano Castro — Roosevelt's "unspeakably villainous little monkey" — growing out of the seizure of some British vessels suspected of running guns to forces in revolt against Castro.  p160 During his eight years as President, Castro's rule was frequently under fire. He was, moreover, notoriously casual about meeting foreign obligations. Both London and Berlin had counts against him on that score. On top of the Ministry's annoyance with the Castro regime, Balfour and Lansdowne were apprehensively scouting for more diplomatic anchors to windward, although the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was fresh in the locker. Later Lansdowne would explain that he did not wish to offend the Kaiser by repulsing his suggestion of a joint expedition to discipline Castro.

Whatever the motivation in each country, the pecuniary stake scarcely justified forcible action against Venezuela in consideration of the risk involved. When the British and German claims were finally submitted to The Hague for arbitration, England's claim was found to involve only $20,000,000, Germany's only $2,000,000. For those sums the two Powers invaded a sea which the United States had marked for its own, setting in train military operations that might have got out of hand to the extent of calling for American intervention. Both governments sounded the State Department in advance, it is true. In his first annual message of December, 1901, Roosevelt had gratuitously opened the way for such action by European states, disavowing any right on the part of the United States under the Monroe Doctrine to stand between a delinquent Latin American government and its creditors. Bound by Roosevelt's renunciatory doctrine, Hay stiffly informed the British and German Ambassadors that while the United States regretted a show of force to such ends, he could not advise them against proceeding.


The way being open at Washington, the allied naval command bombarded La Guaira on December 10, 1902, captured Venezuelan gunboats, imposed a disproportionately imposing "pacific blockade," and subsequently shelled other ports. Castro yielded two days later, begging the United States Government for mediation, the Allied Powers for  p161 arbitration. Hay transmitted the note to London and Berlin without comment, although Holleben, the German Ambassador, reported him "bitterly displeased."

So far the American reaction generally had been one of puzzled alarm. Roosevelt and Hay, poring over the dispatches, refrained from public comment. Admiral Dewey was at Culebra, Puerto Rico, with more than fifty men-of‑war, ready to sail "at a moment's notice," as he later told Henry A. Wise Wood. His orders were then secret, the presence of the fleet in those waters being supposedly only for winter maneuvers.​a American wrath was not yet aroused by the intrusive appearance of a European squadron in "mare nostrum," although here and there newspapers, notably the Baltimore American and the Chicago Inter-Ocean, demanded that Dewey be sent to the scene, and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot called the attack on La Guaira an "insolent and defiant challenge of the Monroe Doctrine — a cut across the face with a whip." At the other pole, Colonel Henry Watterson's Courier-Journal cynically suggested jettisoning the Monroe Doctrine at this point, taking the Caribbean region for ourselves, and standing aside from whatever ambitions Germany and England might have elsewhere in Latin America.

But Ambassador von Holleben, who would be recalled in disgrace during the Venezuela episode, early detected symptoms of annoyance with Germany. On the day Castro's note reached Berlin he advised the German Foreign Office against further military demonstrations in view of a "renewed attempt to revive anti-German agitation in the United States." His advice was discounted, Wolff Metternich, now the German Ambassador at London, being ordered to remind Lansdowne that Washington had not sponsored the note, but merely passed it on — a sign to the Wilhelmstrasse that America was holding aloof. On December 15, therefore, Metternich urged Lansdowne to reject arbitration and proceed to the blockade. But that day Henry White, after seeing Balfour in his private room at the House of Commons, cabled Hay that British sentiment was rapidly coalescing against the Ministry on the Venezuelan issue, adding:  p162 "The whole . . . matter, especially Britain acting with Germany, unpopular . . . the sinking of ships certainly is."

The truth was that the reports of Allied naval guns in the Caribbean echoed more loudly in Balfour's ears than in Don Castro's. A storm of Teutophobia swept England, shaking the Ministry, which lost a seat in a bye‑election on the question. A terrific barrage was being laid down in the Liberal press, going unanswered for the most part by the journalistic supporters of the Government. Balfour apprised White that the Cabinet would oppose landing any troops in Venezuela, a step which might lead to an indefinite occupation, and hastened to assure the House of Commons on that point. Responding to questions in both houses, Lord Lansdowne and Lord Cranborne — Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary and a Cecil — affirmed British recognition of the Monroe Doctrine, which had not been called into question by Washington. The Duke of Devonshire and Sir Charles Dilke likewise made speeches denying any British desire to override that doctrine.

Carnegie cabled John Morley that in linking herself with the "most dangerous Power" Britain was "playing with fire." Morley, passing the cablegram to the Cabinet and also to the powerful Opposition leaders — Bryce, Harcourt, and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman — replied that "people here loathe the German alliance. The main thing is to get rid of the wretched mess. Balfour has a thousand gifts, but he is not really a sound man to be the chief ruler of this country." White reported the Ministry "taken aback by the great unpopularity of their agreement with Germany," and the Prime Minister hurriedly wrote Carnegie of his heartfelt desire to "preserve the warmest and most friendly feelings" between their two countries. He hoped the Americans would see that nothing done in Venezuela "can in the smallest degree touch their susceptibilities," and as for the Monroe Doctrine, the Ministry had "not the smallest objection (rather the reverse!)." Carnegie promptly placed his English correspondence in the hands of the President and the Secretary of State.

 p163  Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, commanding the Mediterranean fleet, announced his suspicion that the Germans were "testing" the Monroe Doctrine, with unintentional British help. Playing upon England's deep resentment of Germany's abusive attitude during the Boer War, Kipling published mordantly anti-German verses, "The Rowers," replete with such epithets as "cheated crew," "Goth," and "shameless Hun." Only a little while before the Kaiser had telegraphed his sympathy to the poet during an illness.


On December 16, Lansdowne told Metternich that the British would arbitrate. Metternich counseled Bülow to agree. From Holleben came similar word. Wall Street, the Ambassador had learned, favored a ready settlement, and he raised doubts of the effect on trade if Germany stood out. On the Metternich dispatch William made this minute: "His Royal Majesty has lost his nerve. Grandmamma would never have said that!" — an allusion which, taken alone, would assign more responsibility to the King than otherwise appears. At this time the Germans also had before them a report by Sternberg, not yet the Ambassador, of a recent visit to Washington, where he had enjoyed a confidential talk with the President. "That," Sternberg wrote Roosevelt, "gave me a chance to tell them the truth. I've told them every bit of it, and have used rather plain talk."

While the Kaiser and the Chancellor pondered their decision, a note of urgency entered the deliberations, arising, it appears, from some occurrence in the United States. Concurrently, Lansdowne telegraphed Ambassador Lascelles in Berlin that "action should be taken . . . at once, without waiting until Washington exchanges the role of postmaster for one of a more active character." London, it seemed, was also in receipt of disturbing news from overseas. The next day, December 17, Chancellor von Bülow telegraphed Metternich to close at once with the British in order to forestall  p164 the possible arrival of a "ready-made solution" from Washington.

What had happened to persuade both Powers that the United States was likely to take a hand? The question leads into a famous historical enigma. Had Roosevelt, as he circumstantially maintained thirteen years afterward, sent for the German Ambassador, informed him that Dewey had steam up, and suggested that he caution his Government to accept arbitration at once? Historians have taken sides in the dispute, and recently an authority on the Monroe Doctrine, Dexter Perkins,​1 concluded in print that the President had falsified his memory. As Roosevelt told it, when the Ambassador failed to grasp the gravity of his remarks, he served him with an oral thirty‑six-hour ultimatum to arbitrate or risk an encounter. The Ambassador, retiring in agitation, returned within twenty-four hours bearing word that his Government would accept arbitration.

This melodramatic version, appearing in William Roscoe Thayer's Life and Letters of John Hay in 1915, was at once sifted by historians, some of whom, notably John Bassett Moore, pronouncing it implausible. Whereupon Roosevelt confirmed the passage in a letter to Thayer, ascribing the reason for his blunt action to a conviction that "Germany intended to seize some Venezuelan harbor and turn it into a strongly fortified place of arms on the model of Kiao‑Chow."

When the German archives were opened after Versailles, a search was made for dispatches bearing on the incident. None of that tenor was found from Holleben. The records show Holleben to have been absent from Washington December 14‑16 and the White House visiting-lists put him down for only one call in December, on the sixth. Yet the late William Loeb, Roosevelt's secretary, recalled for Henry Pringle, biographer of the President, two visits by Holleben in December within a few days of each other. He remembered remarking to the President after the first call: "You gave that Dutchman something to think about. The trouble  p165 is . . . [he] is so afraid of the Kaiser that I don't think he will give a correct picture of your attitude."

If Holleben made one of these visits on December 16, it is not impossible that he received a forcible expression of the President's desire for arbitration. There is also a possibility of his sending a highly confidential dispatch direct to Holstein, the message being withheld from the files, as sometimes happened. That is wholly speculative. Of clearer value were letters written in 1906 to Whitelaw Reid, Ambassador at London, and to Henry White. To the former Roosevelt said: "I finally told the German Ambassador that . . . the Kaiser ought to know that unless an agreement for arbitration was reached . . . I would . . . move Dewey's ships south." In the White letter he said he "saw the German Ambassador privately myself," asking him to tell the Kaiser he had put Dewey in charge of fleet maneuvers in the West Indies. These letters, of course, antedated the First World War, in which Roosevelt emphatically backed the Allies. It has long been suggested that wartime aversion might have heightened his recollections to Thayer.

During that war Roosevelt told the story to Stéphane Lauzanne, who published it both in France and in the English-speaking countries. The Lauzanne version adds a new complication. Therein Roosevelt portrayed the incredulous German Ambassador obtaining confirmation from Dewey. But Holleben hastily departed this country in January, 1903, and presumably the Admiral remained constantly with the fleet in the West Indies until the Powers lifted the Venezuelan blockade in mid‑February. The simplest construction to place on this evidence, beginning with the sudden belief in London and Berlin that intervention was imminent from the United States, is to suppose that Roosevelt did indicate to one or more diplomats on December 16 that his patience was wearing thin and that further delay would provoke action by him. Such a hypothesis, based on the objective probabilities, gives due weight to the President's often repeated, if perhaps romanticized, story.

The Powers agreed to arbitration in principle on December 18,  p166 requesting Roosevelt to serve as arbitrator. Through John Hay's instrumentality and without the President's knowledge, that thankless chore was shifted to theº The Hague Tribunal, where the Germans had offered to refer it as early as July, 1901, Castro declining. The agreement to arbitrate failed, however, to end the "wretched . . . business." Mistrusting Castro's bona fides, the Powers imposed their "pacific blockade" on Christmas Day — seven years to the day after a Caracas multitude almost wrecked the American Legation in exuberance over Cleveland's message.

As the blockade lengthened week by week, the American temper shortened. England's part, never greatly resented, passed from view, and it was Germany which attracted the country's rising ire. At the end of December the British Ambassador reported that the "outburst in this country against Germany is truly remarkable and suspicion of the German Emperor's designs in the Caribbean are shared by Administration, press and public alike." Six weeks later he was less disinterested, observing that England's good relations with this country would be "seriously impaired" by further co‑operation with Germany. The British Ambassador professed to see as a factor in the growing truculence the fine hand of the big‑navy men and the shipbuilders.

On January 17, 1903, fuel was sprayed on the flames by a German shelling of San Carlos, a fort at Maracaibo. The British had bombarded Puerto Bello in December with little comment. Both measures had the stamp of legality. Yet the German action (perhaps because the controversy was believed near its end) aroused the United States. Similar repercussions were felt in London. The Germans had scuttled gunboats, arousing the Admiralty to condemnation of such "absurdity and wilfulness." Germany now became to the Spectator the "mischief-maker of the world" and to the Daily Mail Germany's naval strength was a "grave peril to the world."

Count Metternich, dining in the royal presence, found King Edward "grumpy," irritated because the blockade was dragging out, and more eager for an abatement of the nuisance  p167 than for the collection of money due. White, arriving late at a court, was told the King wished to see him. "He talked," White wrote Mrs. White, "about Venezuela and was generally rather hostile to the 'ally,' but most friendly to us. . . . His Majesty was really very outspoken." In a report to Hay, the legation secretary described "strong representations to the Prime Minister from influential quarters inside the Cabinet as to the necessity for immediate termination of the situation by raising the blockade, even if severance from Germany is necessary. Popular discontent and pressure are increasing."

Balfour, writing Carnegie again, assured him that Anglo-American accord had been his "most fondly cherished hope . . . through all my political life," adding that while "the parties are divided upon most subjects . . . one thing" on which they were agreed was "the desirability of good Anglo-American relations." In public also, Balfour extended the olive branch, declaring in a speech at Liverpool that the Monroe Doctrine had "no enemies in this country that I know of," continuing:

We welcome any increase of influence of the United States . . . upon the great Western Hemisphere. We desire no colonization. We desire no alteration in the balance of power. We desire no acquisition of territory. We have not the slightest intention of interfering with the government of any portion of that Continent.

From a German source came likewise in January a genial reference to the Monroe Doctrine. Sternberg had just been appointed Ambassador to the United States. A little soldier with many afflictions who hated writing reports and was cherished by Roosevelt, he met interviewers in New York on his way to his new post. Cheerily he said: "The Emperor understands the Monroe Doctrine thoroughly. . . . He appreciates the feeling for the Monroe Doctrine and would not think of occupying a coaling station or territory. He would no more think of violating that Doctrine than he would of colonizing the moon." The statement drew down on the new Ambassador a reprimand from Berlin; he was told to take  p168 more account of German sentiments, which, from Bismarck to Bülow, regarded the American assertion of the Monroe Doctrine with undeviating aversion.

Throughout January, 1903, the American press predominantly echoed a privately expressed judgment of Roosevelt's on the San Carlos incident: "Are the people in Berlin crazy? Don't they know they are inflaming public opinion more and more? Don't they know they'll be left alone without England?" Except for the German-language press, which generally upheld Germany's conduct, shared the opinion of the German journals that England was a "bad ally," and exhibited lack of sympathy for American alarm and concern, the American newspapers condemned the bombardment as "brutal" and "unwarranted." The New York Times summed up a prevailing view when it doubted if "worse international manners" had ever "come under the observation of civilized men."


Confronted by American disapproval and Britain's obvious dislike for the punitive yoke in Venezuela, as 1903 opened the German Government knew itself again to be isolated from the English-speaking community. The German official press, reacting characteristically, reversed itself and returned to the attack on America. During 1902 the German press had sought to woo this country in line with the Wilhelmstrasse's placatory policy. This was the year of Prince Henry's state visit, an inspiration to his brother the Kaiser, who gave other evidences of his gracious interest in the United States as well. As a gift to the nation William inappropriately sent a statue of the militaristic despot Frederick the Great. He gave manuscripts to Harvard University, and he contracted for the building of his yacht Meteor in an American shipyard. Prince Henry's visit suffered from its sectarian nature. In reality it was a mission to the German-Americans, and the United States Government only half-heartedly acknowledged its official character. (Misled by crowds, German banners, and sycophants, Henry informed the Kaiser that a third of the  p169 American population was German and loyal to the Hohenzollern dynasty.) Frederick's statue embarrassed the Government for several years, being finally installed at the Army War College in Washington.​b The Kaiser insisted that Miss Alice Roosevelt, as the "Princess Royal," should christen his yacht. When the President heard that a brief speech would be required of her, he confessed to Hay that the only "motto sufficiently epigrammatic that came to my mind was 'Damn the Dutch.' "

All that goodwill policy was forgotten by the Pan‑German organs in January, 1903. A journal named Gegenwart rated the Government severely for having "humbly" asked permission from the "big‑mouthed Yankees" before striking at Venezuela. The Monroe Doctrine came under renewed fire from the right and the center. It was, of course, a "nonbinding monologue" (Berliner Post), merely the "personal opinion of the Chief Magistrate of the United States in 1823" (Hamburger Nachrichten), and the Berliner Vossische Zeitung was certain no European state would ever recognize it.

The exasperated tone of these strictures arose, no doubt, from a realization that the United States and Great Britain had again been drawn together in an Atlantic matter. Germany was again forced to observe that the Monroe Doctrine lay behind the guns of the British fleet. Together, the English-speaking Powers presumably would bar Germany, as in the past, from Latin America. The Kaiser, Bülow, and Tirpitz, practitioners of Realpolitik, had, it is apparent, a material motive for attempting to breach the Atlantic System. They failed to reckon with one formidable factor: Apart from its sincerity in wishing to safeguard Latin America from European conquest, the United States preferred not to have Germany as a neighbor. England agreed. Being pragmatists, the English-speaking peoples were uneasy in the presence of the neo‑Prussian mystique. The aims of the Pan‑Germans were disturbingly nebulous; there was a harsh frenzy in their talk of race and war. On the part of America, there was no desire to conquer the rest of the hemisphere; equally was she certain  p170 that she wished no avid European Power attempting that task.

In exonerating England and ascribing to Germany imperialistic ambitions in the second Venezuelan crisis, the American public reasoned from known facts. Since 1898 Germany had been exerting pressure to the south. As England retired from the Caribbean, the Germans had been giving every indication of a will to move in. During the Spanish War, when it was briefly assumed that the United States might be too heavily engaged to resist encroachments, there was strong agitation in Germany for the acquisition of a foothold in the West Indies. The Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) and Santo Domingo were first choice. Then and thereafter Tirpitz and the navalists also coveted the Galápagos Islands (600 miles southwest of the Isthmus of Panama), a harbor in Venezuela, and the Dutch possessions Curaçao, St. Eustatius, and Dutch Guiana. There was also a steady drumbeat in the Pan‑German press on behalf of German destiny in Brazil, the professors writing provocatively about secession of the southern Brazilian states, with their large German population. Early in 1900 Tirpitz recommended to the Reichstag budget commission an appropriation for a naval base in South Brazil.

Taking cognizance of this and other developments, the United States Government thought the time ripe to remind Germany of its unremitting interest in South America. Secretary Root accordingly observed amidst cheers at a public dinner in New York City: "No man who carefully watches the signs of the times can fail to see that the American people will within a few years have either to abandon the Monroe Doctrine or fight for it." The Secretary concluded that "we are not going to abandon it." A bit later, Lodge uttered a grave warning in the Senate regarding German interest in the Virgin Islands, saying: "A nation of Europe which dares to take possession of those islands . . . there on the road to the canal . . . would be, by that very act, an enemy of the United States. Such an act . . . would mean war." Omitting  p171 to name Germany, Lodge suggested that a certain European power with a rapidly growing navy might "want to test the Monroe Doctrine." The United States, he added, was ready for the test.

Holleben, reporting these utterances, ascribed them to a "truly hysterical irritation" against Germany. At this time also Roosevelt wrote Spring-Rice that the United States Navy should be kept "at a pitch that will enable us to interfere promptly if Germany ventures to touch a foot of American soil."

The surface of German-American relations was periodically ruffled by "incidents" during the years at the turn of the century. An American naval commander found a German warship sounding the waters off Margarita, a Venezuelan island suitable for a naval station. Inasmuch as the "Germans are not much given to unselfish work for the benefit of mariners," the commander reported his finding. Hay had the Berlin Embassy state "discreetly and informally, but decisively," that such curiosity might lead to diplomatic measures. There was also the circumstantial report that the Kaiser was negotiating personally for purchase from Mexico of a strip of Lower California containing two good harbors. Ambassador Choate, in private life a leader of the American bar, thought sufficiently well of his information to order a thorough report. "Discreet" inquiries in Berlin brought denials. Queen Wilhelmina's marriage to Duke Henry of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was followed by reports of new German designs on Holland and her colonies. Henry White was instructed to sound the British Government on its attitude toward German infiltration into the Netherlands. Dining with Balfour, White was told that England would resist any step toward the absorption of Holland.

In 1902 the United States tried to buy the Danish West Indies, bidding $5,000,000. The Landsthing (upper house) rejected the offer in October by one vote. White, who had been active in the matter, had "little doubt the result is due largely to German intrigue." This view was generally credited in Washington and London. Lunching with the  p172 King and Queen of England soon after the Danish vote, White found Alexandra pleased that her native land had not alienated a colony. "I hope," she added, "that you will never let Germany have the islands; that is what we Danes would dread above all." Edward, expressing his regret, predicted "you will have them yet." Not until 1916 was the purchase consummated. The price then was $25,000,000.

Anglo-American relations, scarcely disturbed during the Venezuelan crisis, emerged from it stronger than before. Carnegie reflected the general view in this country when in writing Balfour in July, 1903, he asserted that "in the Venezuelan invasion Britain was all right, Germany the real enemy. . . . Britain is today our only real friend, even with the masses, something unknown before," adding that "were Britain in serious trouble today — I mean in extremis — America could not be held."

Anglo-German relations, on the other hand, were worsened. The Venezuelan fleet actions were the last use of force by overseas Powers in the Americas. They likewise represented the last joint action by Germany and England until the First World War found them enemies. "The German connection," White reported, "has been a tremendous lesson for them [the British]. The public had given a positive sign that they wished no more undertakings with the North Sea cousins. About 1902 England began to turn toward France. In the spring of 1903 Edward visited Paris in state, a call promptly returned by President Loubet. From that exchange, it has been popularly thought, dates the beginning of Franco-British rapprochement.


Once the Venezuelan matter had been lodged at The Hague, the German Government resumed its efforts to gain American goodwill. Ambassador von Sternberg's appointment had been favorably received, the press treating it as a good augury. Henry Adams magnified the importance of the gesture, writing in The Education of Henry Adams that he  p173 had "seen Hay, in 1898, bring England into his combine; he had seen the steady movement which was to bring France into an Atlantic System; and now he saw the sudden dramatic swing of Germany toward the West." If Germany might only be "held there," Adams calculated, "a century of friction would be saved."

That was not to be. A system supposes collaboration, not Machtpolitik. The Kaiser, Chancellor von Bülow, and Admiral von Tirpitz proposed on the seas mastery, not co‑operation, and in Europe, continental hegemony. Momentarily, however, Bülow showed an accommodating spirit toward America. Twice he denied in the Reichstag the reports of German ambitions in the Americas, calling them a "mare's nest" and the "most unfortunate and conscienceless rumors." The United States Government was not unduly impressed. The Chancellor followed the main line of German strategy from Bismarck to Hitler regarding the Monroe Doctrine, that line being either to denounce or to ignore it. Bülow ignored it. He did, however, curb aggravating outreaches of Pan‑German policy toward the Western Hemisphere, refusing support to the Berliner Tageblatt for a special bureau in Rio de Janeiro and censuring the Grenzboten for advocating political migration to Brazil. In July, 1903, he again denied secret designs against Latin American states in an interview published in the Berliner Lokal Anzeiger, simultaneously directing Tirpitz to moderate the arrogant behavior of German naval commanders in Caribbean ports.

The United States Government and people were by no means vengefully inclined toward Germany. As the New York Sun accurately put it, "the future of German-American friendship . . . rests with Germany." Delighted by Sternberg's presence, Roosevelt exuded racial flattery to Professor Hugo Münsterberg, a distinguished bearer of Kultur to Harvard University. "Germany, England and the United States," Roosevelt prophesied to the Pan‑German Münsterberg, "are the three great nations of the future. The Slavs need a hundred years and the Latin races are played out. And the  p174 coöperation of these three peoples need have no limit — the Monroe Doctrine is no rigid article of faith."

Irresponsibly, the President toyed with the idea of German acquisition of territory in Latin America while on a famous horseback ride with Sternberg in February, 1902, just after the Venezuelan blockade had been lifted. Although the United States Navy, as Roosevelt said, saw Germany as their next enemy, he himself was not at all certain that a German state carved out of Brazil might not be the best hope for South America. In a generous mood, the President yet withheld his full trust. Sternberg wrote Bülow of his feeling that "the President does not treat with absolute confidence Germany's assurance regarding the respecting of the Monroe Doctrine. I took the opportunity to assure him emphatically that Germany does not think of territorial acquisition in South and Central America."

The Ambassador realistically informed Chancellor von Bülow that the Venezuelan matter had reacted favorably on American prestige below the Rio Grande, at the same time diminishing Germany's standing in this country. And Dewey — he gave Roosevelt as his authority — really had been under "secret orders" at Puerto Rico.

Reflecting the Government's pro‑American bias, in the spring of 1903 the German press took a less exigent line. Answering suggestions that the aim of Wilhelmstrasse diplomacy was the severing of the Anglo-American tie, the Vossische Zeitung declared that the Kaiser's "desire for closer relations with both Great Britain and the United States" was greater than his desire "for any discord between the two great Anglo-Saxon Powers." Agreeing, the German Nation felt, however, that "in the United States as well as in Great Britain powerful interests are at work to cast suspicion upon German diplomacy." From this hypothesis the Social-Democratic Berliner Vorwärts dissented, declaring that the "Kaiser's great aim" had been to sunder the English-speaking Powers, an effort enjoying in Washington the "adroit" support of Count Cassini, the Russian diplomat. (Cassini's pro‑German machinations were well known to  p175 Hay.) This newspaper concluded that the Kaiser would fail because of American self-interest, since the United States regarded itself as "the heir of the British Empire." It "will not," the editor add, "let this asset go to waste."

Out of the Venezuelan crisis came a new American naval orientation. Five battle­ships were authorized by the Naval Act of March, 1903, and in the arguments for the huge appropriation Germany was declared to be the enemy. William H. Moody, the Secretary of the Navy, admitted to Sternberg that Germany had "definitely become the measure for us." This country had joined the Anglo-German naval race. Roosevelt confirmed Moody's assertion when in talking with Hay six weeks later he asserted that "both the Dutch and Danish West Indies will be a constant temptation to Germany unless or until we take them. The way to deliver Germany from temptation is to keep on with the upbuilding of our Navy." From the Venezuelan incident to the First World War, Germany did not again yield to temptation in the Americas.

A casualty of the Venezuelan matter was Canada, in the disgruntled opinion of the Dominion. The Alaskan-boundary dispute finally came to a head in January, 1903. Unwilling to accept arbitration, Roosevelt offered instead a joint commission to consist of three Britons and three Americans, all to be "impartial jurists." At this solution the Canadian press railed, but Balfour and Chamberlain agreed with Roosevelt. Thereupon it was said in the Dominion that the British Ministry was expiating the Venezuelan blunder at Canada's expense. The President's methods in the controversy could not be commended by objective Americans. He blustered and bullied, he secretly and a bit ridiculously reinforced the garrison in southern Alaska, and his choice of "impartial jurists" moved responsible Americans to uneasy laughter, England to "dismay and surprise," and Canada to fresh animosity. Roosevelt's nominees (after the Supreme Court bench had declined to furnish the commissioners) were Root, Lodge, and Senator George Turner of Washington State. Although a great jurist, as Secretary of War Root was a  p176 member of the Administration, one of the litigants; Lodge was publicly committed to the Government's cause; and Turner came from a state where feeling against Canada's contentions ran high.

The matter had been reopened in June, 1902, when Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Dominion Prime Minister, appealed to Henry White while in London for assistance in disposing of it with honor. Sir Wilfrid, having no hope of satisfaction for Canada's claims to a port and a corridor in the Alaskan Panhandle, suggested territorial compensation elsewhere or a money award. His proposal stirred Roosevelt to strong language: "to pay them anything," he told Hay, "would come dangerously close to blackmail." The President regarded Canada's case as "false," its presentation as "an outrage, pure and simple." Lord Minto, the Canadian Governor-General, was in London at that time. He indicated to White his lack of confidence in the claim and his desire to see it out of the way. From those talks arose the commission.

The British, appointing Lord Alverstone, the Chief Justice of England, to head their commissioners, allowed the proceedings to lag. Whereupon Roosevelt declared to Lodge that England "must be kept right up on the mark," threatening to emulate Cleveland, send a message to Congress, and "run the boundary as we deem it should be run." To Hay he talked lightly of acting "in a way that would wound British pride." In London White patiently set the wheels in motion once more.

Under the award, Canada obtained the Portland Canal, an inlet at the southern extremity of the Panhandle where the Alaskan coast joins that of British Columbia, and two of four small islands offshore. This "compensation" was far from the Klondike and nearly 500 miles from the port sought by the Canadians. The two Canadian commissioners declined to sign the award. Lord Alverstone, heatedly condemned in the Dominion for having "truckled to the Yankees," observed good-humoredly at a public dinner in London that "if . . . they don't want a decision based on the law and the evidence, they must not put a British judge on  p177 the commission." Roosevelt rather shamelessly cited the award as "signal proof of the fairness and good-will with which two friendly nations can approach and determine issues."

The Venezuelan episode produced new attitudes toward the use of outside force in the Americas. Roosevelt enunciated one, which came to be known as the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Dr. Luis Drago, an eminent international lawyer of the Argentine, contributed the second, the Drago Corollary. Chagrined over the passive role the United States had been required, through his own statement of policy, to play in Venezuela, the President announced that hereafter this country would, in effect, police Latin America, standing between those republics and European claimants but collecting bills and preserving order with its own means. For years English publicists had been proposing that this country accept responsibilities of that character. The Roosevelt Corollary, which let this country in for more than two decades of friction with our neighbors, was proclaimed by Root in a speech on May 20, 1904, in New York City. After professing friendship to Latin America, Root continued:

If a nation shows that it knows how to act with decision in industrial and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, then it need fear no interference from the United States. Brutal wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may finally require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the Western Hemisphere, the United States cannot ignore this duty.

A span of oxen could have been driven through the Roosevelt Corollary by a truly imperialistic government. In effect, it declared a protectorate over the entire hemisphere. When criticism arose from all three Americas, the President expressed new satisfaction with his work. He told Hay it was "only the simplest common sense, and only a fool or a coward can treat it as aught else." Authority was added to the Roosevelt Corollary when rephrased in the annual message for 1904. A few months later Henry Adams, who never rated the  p178 first Roosevelt's diplomatic capabilities too extravagantly, remarked that "Root has to carry the Monroe Doctrine. . . . Roosevelt is already wabbling over the whole hemisphere to find a foothold for any doctrine at all." The Roosevelt Corollary remained, of course, a unilateral assertion.

Dr. Drago's formula became international law in 1907 when adopted by the Second Hague Conference, binding signatory powers not to use force in collecting defaulted obligations unless the debtor states refused to arbitrate, blocked a settlement, or failed to honor an award.


The eyes of Washington and the European capitals, focused, as we have seen, on the Russo-Japanese War, were diverted in the early months of 1904 to Morocco by minor events that foreshadowed the world's concentration on that hot, decayed land of mountain and desert in Northwest Africa. The kidnapping of an American, Perdicaris, by a bandit chieftain and the signing of an Anglo-French treaty covering the status of Morocco and Egypt held the shifting rays of the international spotlight only briefly. Yet the second put in sequence the so‑called Moroccan crisis, a struggle for dominance amongst the European Powers setting the stage for 1914 and bringing the New World in the person of Roosevelt into the scale to "redress the balance of the Old" — as in 1823. The President, influencing power relation­ships in Asia, found time also to cast the decisive voice in the diplomatic cockpit at Algeciras, whither the Powers repaired ostensibly to settle the fate of Morocco but actually to confirm their adherence to the rival forces being aligned in Europe.

France and England signed the Mediterranean Pact on April 8, 1904. Its broad effect was to guarantee England a free hand in Egypt, France a free hand in her Moroccan protectorate. France and England had shared a nominal protectorate over Egypt from 1879 to 1882, when a change of Ministry in Paris caused France's withdrawal. England thereupon strengthened her grip on Egypt. In 1904 the French  p179 were still unreconciled to their loss. The French claim to a special interest in the remnants of the old Sheriffian Empire in Morocco reached back at least to 1778, in which year a treaty between Louis XVI and the infant American republic had pledged French good offices with the "King or Emperor of Morocco or Fez and neighboring regencies" on behalf of the citizens, trade, and shipping of the United States. France had held Algiers, to the eastward of Morocco, since 1830. In 1844 the French conquered parts of Morocco, a corner north of the Riff Mountains, on the Mediterranean. By 1904 French trade and influence held first place in Morocco, Britain's was second, and Germany's interest negligible. The German activities were confined largely to the Atlantic seaport of Casablanca.

News of the treaty created no ripple in the greater affairs of the Powers. Delcassé, the French Foreign Minister, informed Prince Radolin, an able Pole who was German Ambassador to Paris, of the terms of the treaty seventeen days before it was signed. Five days after its announcement Bülow said in the Reichstag that he saw "no reason to suppose that the Anglo-French agreement [was] aimed at any other Power." The Chancellor had "no cause to think that our interests in Morocco will be disregarded or injured." Although the Kaiser later was to hint that the treaty contained secret clauses dealing with France's aspirations on the Rhine, he showed no concern at the moment. As a matter of fact, the covenant contained no reference to any matters outside the Mediterranean basin.

Throughout 1904, in truth, the German Government, accepting the treaty as a mere mutual validation of the French and English spheres, signified no displeasure with it. However, the Pan‑German League convention of 1904 denounced it as a "humiliation for Germany," urging the Government to demand an Atlantic seaport (preferably Casablanca) in "compensation." But in October Baron von Richthofen, who had succeeded Bülow as Foreign Minister,  p180 asserted in the Reichstag that Germany's interest in Morocco was "exclusively economic." Bülow too had taken a mollifying line in answer to questions from Pan‑German Deputies, disavowing any desire to "overthrow rivals" — a moderation that failed to lull the London Times; the Thunderer accused the Chancellor of uttering "timely 'anti-Machiavels' " calculated to quiet suspicion abroad.

The abduction of Ion Perdicaris on May 18, 1904, served alike to acquaint the European world with unsettled conditions in Morocco and to remind the Americans of the existence of that country. Roosevelt found it politically useful as well. Perdicaris, who lived with his wife, his foster-daughter, and her husband Mr. Varney, a British subject, was kidnapped with Varney as they were taking their after-dinner coffee in the garden of the Perdicaris villa, Place of the Nightingales, on a hill above Tangier. The kidnapper was one Raisuli, a revolted sheik, who wished only, it appeared, to use Perdicaris and Varney as hostages to compel certain tribute and concessions from the Sultan. Roosevelt and Hay acted with vigor, ordering the European squadron to Tangier.

The exotic names and picturesque circumstances of the abduction entranced American newspaper-readers. Roosevelt's swift action and bold words stimulated patriotic emotion. Perdicaris had not been returned when the Republican National Convention, slated to renominate Roosevelt, met at Chicago. In that juncture Hay couched a new demand for Perdicaris' release in a phrase that swept the Republican gathering to riotous applause: "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." The phrase, attributed to Roosevelt, was taken as graphic evidence of the solicitude of the Administration for American interests in any quarter of the globe, and Hay sardonically reflected on the value of a "concise impropriety" in whipping up political fervor. In due time the Sultan yielded to Raisuli, and Perdicaris and Varney were restored to their home. A gentle dilettante and amateur painter, Perdicaris returned with lavish praise for the kindness of his captor.

 p181  Between October, 1904 and March, 1905, Germany's attitude toward the Mediterranean Pact underwent a profound change. The Pan‑German organs and Deputies kept up their attack, construing the treaty as a slight to German prestige. Holstein persuaded Bülow to see in the treaty a step toward an Anglo-French entente, which in fact it was. The Wilhelmstrasse was already exhibiting signs of that morbid fear of "encirclement" which was steadily to grow more fixed up to 1914, and continues today. Post-Bismarckian diplomacy pursued in the main a destructive course, aimed rather at preventing combinations of power than linking other Powers to Germany. Whereas the Iron Chancellor had woven a system of alliances across Europe, buttressing the German Empire's security and enhancing its authority, William II, guided by Bülow and Holstein, seemed unable to make effective covenants with anyone. The duality of the German aim — a desire for both command of the seas and Continental hegemony — negatived a strong, coherent policy at Berlin. Hence the Kaiser frittered away his energies and Germany's good repute by striving against accords existing elsewhere, as in the case of Anglo-American understanding, now with the Mediterranean Pact, and presently in the effort to divide France and Russia through the Czar at Björkö.

By March, 1905, the Wilhelmstrasse was ready to strike at the Anglo-French treaty by way of France. Mukden fell on the tenth. Russia was evidently "mired" in Manchuria. France, torn by her recurrent clerical strife and an outburst of anti-Semitism, had just been shown to be deficient in military equipment. The French were unprepared for war and their rapprochement with England was still in an incipient stage, Holstein assuring Bülow that Britain's attachment to France was merely "platonic" in any case.

On the day of Mukden's fall, the Kaiser undertook to recruit Roosevelt for his campaign. Through Sternberg (a medium regularly used by the two chiefs of state to carry on chatty, informal intercourse) the Emperor asked the President to join him in a declaration to the Sultan of Morocco. The United States, as William pointed out, had an  p182 interest in the status of Morocco, being a signatory to a convention covering extraterritorial privileges in that country drawn by the Powers in 1880. His argument was directed to the principle of the Open Door. France, he said, was asserting ascendancy prejudicial to the commercial opportunities of the other Powers. What he proposed specifically was a joint declaration binding the United States and Germany to uphold the Sultan's independence. Nothing was said of the Mediterranean Pact. It is by no means certain that Roosevelt understood the Kaiser's real bent. He replied that American interest in Morocco was "too slight" to warrant such an intervention, adding didactically that he never took a step in foreign affairs "unless I am assured that I shall be able eventually to carry out my will by force." He had in mind the dispatch of warships in the Perdicaris case.

Three weeks later, on March 31, the All Highest paid his spectacular visit to the Sultan. Mounted on a "strange horse," trembling alike at his political audacity and the news that the lawless Moors had "shot an Englishman yesterday," William greeted the Sultan at Tangier as an independent sovereign beholden to no European Power. The gesture, engineered by Bülow and Holstein over the Kaiser's own judgment, was calculated to strike the Anglo-French agreement between wind and water. Instead of a solid shot the Wilhelmstrasse bolt was to turn into a boomerang.

The immediate impact on Europe was, however, great. War talk flared in the press, and the chancelleries, awaiting the arrival of the Baltic fleet in the Sea of Japan, interpreted the visit as a storm signal. King Edward fumed at the "theatrical fiasco," but his Ministry took counsel with the French. Delcassé poured irony on the occasion, but the timid French Prime Minister, Maurice Rouvier, feared the worst. In the United States Roosevelt, who chronically underestimated the depth and rigor of the European power conflict, remarked lightly to Hay that "this was as funny a case as I have ever seen of mutual distrust and fear bringing two peoples to the verge of war." It would be several weeks before Roosevelt  p183 saw in the Kaiser's maneuvers a real threat to the peace of Europe.

Five days after the Kaiser's Tangier exploit he renewed his solicitation of Roosevelt. This time he dropped pretexts and made a frontal attack on the Anglo-French treaty. On the day before, William, encouraged by reports from Sternberg, had assured Bülow that they could count on America's help. This would, he exulted, weaken England's position, since the British, he said, were "afraid to oppose America too openly." The second attempt to ensnare the President only convinced him that delusions were rampant in the European chancelleries. On his way to Colorado for a bear hunt he dropped off a letter in Texas to his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, who had been left "sitting on the lid" in Washington. "I wish to Heaven," he wrote, "that our excellent friend the Kaiser was not so jumpy and did not have so many pipe dreams."

This was on April 8. Six days later Sternberg appeared with a new proposal. Prince Radolin had encountered a stone wall in Delcassé, who resisted pressure for either revision or denunciation of the Mediterranean Pact. The Wilhelmstrasse turned now to an international conference as a means of undermining the Moroccan arrangement. Sternberg asked Taft to drop a "confidential hint" in behalf of the conference proposal to the British, who had displayed no interest. Taft gave Sternberg his offhand opinion that the President would be disinclined to encourage a conference unless France agreed, repeating the conversation to the French Ambassador, Jules Jusserand. The German plan as related by Sternberg was for a conference of the 1880 treaty Powers to conduct a thorough examination of the Open Door in Morocco.

Taft shrewdly gathered, as he explained to Jusserand, that Germany's meddling arose from "sentiments of their dignity." At about this time Chancellor von Bülow dropped the mask in the Reichstag, attributing Germany's concern with Morocco to "our dignity and our authority as World Power." The note of prestige was being openly avowed in the  p184 German press. For a month longer the situation hung fire. When the conference finally came, it was the American President who brought it to pass.


The destruction of the Russian fleet at Tsushima on May 27, 1905, threw the cogs at the Wilhelmstrasse into high gear. Pressure on Washington, Paris, and London was intensified. The Kaiser and Bülow privately began the draft of a mutual defense treaty designed to wean the defeated Czar away from France as a complement to the attempt to disrupt the Anglo-French accord. An ultimatum was served on Rouvier: Franco-German relations could not hope for betterment as long as Delcassé remained in the Foreign Office. Delcassé resigned after a torrid session of the Ministry, warning his colleagues: "Germany is not a country that can be appeased by concessions. Stretch out your little finger to her and she grabs your hand, then your arm, then your shoulder, and soon your whole body passes into her grip."

The day before Delcassé's retirement (Germany's only victory during the whole Moroccan episode) William placed in Roosevelt's hands an instrument that would return to plague Germany at the forthcoming conference. He promised that in exchange for the President's assistance with the French and the British he would "in every case be ready to back up the decision which you consider to be most fair and most practicable." The pledge gave Roosevelt a leverage which he was by no means backward in applying.

Roosevelt still held back. Reporting the rise in German exigency to Jusserand on June 14, he declared himself unwilling to be the Kaiser's "decoy duck." The President and the French Ambassador had gradually moved into the relation­ship of collaborators — not to say conspirators. The extent of their collaboration was only disclosed with the publication of Jusserand's memoirs and the opening in 1937 of the French archives for the period. In later justification for the robust part he played in this European quarrel, Roosevelt always  p185 ascribed it to his belief that France was right, Germany wrong, never troubling to relate his acts to American (or Atlantic) interest. In talking things over with Jusserand he had assumed that France would resist yielding territorial compensation to Germany in Morocco, since she was, he supposed, reluctant to have the Germans as neighbors there. Jusserand agreed that Germany's proximity in North Africa was the last thing France wished.

Roosevelt wondered if a conference would not be the easiest way out. The Ambassador objected that the Germans insisted on a wide-open program, a conference admitting all questions concerning Morocco, past, present, and future. This meant that all international commitments would have to go into the hopper. Apart from the English pact, the French had treaties with Spain and Italy, the first recognizing Spain's claim to Spanish Morocco, the second sanctioning an Italian protectorate in Tripoli in exchange for a like commitment regarding the French in Morocco. France could not agree to such a conference without destroying her whole Mediterranean position.

The Kaiser's gorge was steadily rising. On June 15 he threatened war on France, blaming England for French recalcitrance. Taking the War Lord at his word, Roosevelt weakened on June 16. A war between France and Germany, he told Jusserand, would widen until it became "literally a world conflagration." He therefore advised that "some satisfaction must be granted to the limitless vanity of Wilhelm, and it would be wise to help him save his face if war can thereby be avoided." Roosevelt even had a solution for the agenda obstacle, dictating to the Ambassador an agreement under which the two Powers were to "consent to go to the conference with no program and to discuss there questions in regard to Morocco save, of course, where either is in honor bound by a previous agreement to another power."

An ingenuous by‑pass, the Roosevelt formula was acceptable in Paris. The Germans, beginning to grasp at straws in the face of British impassivity, likewise agreed. Throughout the controversy London had been profoundly reserved, insisting  p186 that the problem concerned France alone, an attitude that provoked Roosevelt into a number of picturesque flings at the British Government — barbs which, joyously reported to Berlin by Sternberg, helped assure the Emperor of Roosevelt's malleability. Roosevelt found no difficulty in maintaining his intimate relations with the German Ambassador during the running intrigue with Jusserand. It was the Frenchman, however, to whom the President showed his correspondence with the Kaiser, giving him leave to "modify" the replies and adopting "without hesitation divers suggestions." Sternberg had no such private access to the White House negotiations with the French.

Jusserand's reports to the Quai d'Orsay revealed in daily detail the developments in the game of outwitting the Kaiser. The concealment was perfect, the German Foreign Office no more suspecting double play than had Roosevelt penetrated the Kaiser's duplicity in the exchanges over Chinese neutrality at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War. The President believed that he was engaged in extricating France from an awkward situation and improving, in some rather indistinct way, Anglo-German relations. He repeatedly informed Sternberg that he disapproved of the mistrust and hauteur existing between London and Berlin, he scolded Spring-Rice, still in St. Petersburg, also in that vein. Summing up the President's conduct toward France, Jusserand confided to his Foreign Office that "the President has certainly sought as best he could and with sincerest friendship, the most practicable means in his judgment for avoiding the calamity of war. He has in any case, despite the solicitations and advances of Wilhelm II, refused to do or say anything that might range him on the side of Germany. . . . On the contrary it is our cause that he has wished to defend."

The French accepted the Roosevelt formula on June 25, whereupon the President allowed Sternberg to learn that Paris was in an acquiescent mood. When the Kaiser promptly assented, Roosevelt congratulated him on a "genuine triumph for the Emperor's diplomacy." He grinned as he recited the message to Jusserand, hoping that the French people  p187 would not "take it amiss if I am found particularly flattering toward the Emperor." On July 8 the conference was set for Algeciras, Spain, a seaport opposite Gibraltar, in January, 1906. Henry White, by now Ambassador to Italy, was selected as the chief American delegate.


Roosevelt's Algeciras diplomacy may or may not have forestalled a general war. In common with many authorities on the period, the President thought that it had. On April 25, 1906, Theodore the Peacemaker, having in the year of 1905 "ended" the Russo-Japanese War and brought the European Powers to the council table, preened himself in a remarkable letter to Jusserand on their joint labors in conciliating Berlin and Paris. This letter, curiously neglected by historians of the Algeciras episode, began by bestowing rather stilted and un‑Rooseveltian praise on the French Ambassador, a modest and gifted critic, historian, and man of letters who represented his country in Washington for so many years that he became a gracious institution. The President asserted it as "the simple and literal truth . . . [that] in my judgment we owe it to you more than any other one man that the year which has closed has not seen war between France and Germany, which, had it begun, would probably have extended to take in a considerable portion of the world." The President "came into the matter most unwillingly" and only then because of his confidence in Jusserand's "high integrity."

So far Roosevelt pays tribute to the ambassador's reliability as a fellow conspirator. Then the tenor of the letter changes. The magnificently untrammeled Rooseveltian ego delivers a thrust; Jusserand is relegated to a secondary role as the letter continues: 'If in the delicate Morocco negotiations [I had not] been able to treat you with absolute frankness and confidence . . . no good result could possibly have been obtained." It was, then, Roosevelt who obtained the good result, Jusserand who contributed. The facts, examined  p188 impartially, bear out the second construction. Undoubtedly it was Roosevelt's intercession that rescued the Franco-German negotiations, inducing France to yield to Germany's threatening importunities and evolving the formula that resolved the agenda impasse.

The evidence on the question of war and peace in 1905 is less clear. There was a strong war party in Germany, in which were active Friedrich von Holstein (whose brain-child the attack on the Mediterranean alliance seems to have been) and elements in the General Staff. Count von Schlieffen, chief of the General Staff and author of the "Schlieffen plan" for war in the west, believed the "present moment favorable." But while the German Army was ready to try conclusions with France, the Kaiser, Admiral von Tirpitz, and the naval party approached the matter with less confidence.

It could not have escaped the notice of the German navalists that Sir John Fisher, First Sea Lord, had recently concentrated new battle strength in the North Sea. The Anglo-American understanding, confirmed anew after the second Venezuelan crisis, had enabled him to withdraw his forces from the American seas. The British North American squadron was now based in England, visiting the Dominion of Canada, the Caribbean, and the American offshore possessions only once a year "to show the flag." Furthermore, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance had freed Britain's hands in the Far East to some extent. Under the Mediterranean Pact also the home fleet had benefited, the decline of Anglo-French rivalry in that sea making it possible to reduce the fleet based there. Thanks to the Balfour-Lansdowne "diplomatic revolution," which was rapidly obliterating "splendid isolation," and to Fisher's bold strategic dispositions, the British fleet ready for action in the North Sea was overwhelmingly superior to anything trip could bring to bear.

During the interminable negotiations leading up to the Algeciras Conference the Kaiser and Tirpitz gave Roosevelt to understand that they had supreme faith in a naval victory. It was during this period that the German theoreticians  p189 worked out an optimistic doctrine of German tactical ascendancy. Although the British fleet outmatched the German in tonnage and other elements of size, it was held that the British command personnel had declined from the great days of Drake, Hood, and Nelson. German navalists maintained that German naval wits were sharper, and hence would prevail in sea warfare with the decadent British. These suppositions scarcely reached the dignity of discussion in British naval circles. Roosevelt, always acute in matters of sea power, gave little weight to the German assertions, writing the Kaiser in June, 1905, in a warning vein: "Without meaning the certain loss of your colonies and your fleet, which England will bring about, suppose that you triumph over France . . . the addition to your State of a new French province would only increase the number of your enemies within your frontiers: it would be like a poison to you."

In England there were signs that war at the existing naval ratios might not be unwelcome. Writers in the Army and Navy Gazette and Vanity Fair spoke approvingly of a "preventive war." Privately, naval officers wondered if the German Navy should not be "Copenhagened," that is, destroyed as was that of the Danes by Nelson in 1801 as a preventive measure. But when Admiral C. C. F. Fitzgerald published such sentiments in a service journal, Fisher called it a "mischievous and unpatriotic act." Fitzgerald nevertheless escaped official rebuke. Of a lay writer who gave vent to like opinions, Balfour said he "should be hanged."

Arthur Lee (Roosevelt's "trump") was a Civil Lord of the Admiralty. In a routine speech delivered to his parliamentary constituency at Eastleigh, Colonel Lee spoke with satisfaction of the readiness of the fleet, saying that "if war should unhappily be declared, the British navy will get its blow in first, before the other side had time even to read in the papers that war had been declared." Lee's words struck instant fire in Berlin. The Kaiser and the Berliner Tageblatt construed them identically as a "threat of war." The Emperor vainly demanded of Sir Frank Lascelles, the British Ambassador, that the Government discipline the "corsair" Lee on penalty  p190 of a "storm" in the German press and a new and "colossal program" of naval construction.

Chancellor von Bülow, to whom the British were "over-mighty Spartans" whose downfall must be accomplished by patience and guile, sought to persuade Roosevelt, via Sternberg, that the British plotted destruction of the German fleet "for reasons affecting [their] Far Eastern policy." As Bülow presented the matter, "if the German fleet was out of the way, America could do nothing to oppose the partition of China." The President doubted that the German fleet could be regarded as a disinterested champion of the Open Door in China. This appeal to American solicitude for China came on June 10, 1905, an aspect of the "shock diplomacy" then being employed on Roosevelt that was obviously based on a belief that the United States Government feared and suspected the British. Such was not the case.

On balance, in 1905, the British seem to have been better prepared to fight at sea than were the Germans. Psychologically, the British were readier than they would be in 1914. Germany's fleet ranked second in 1905, but it was a far second, and the Anglo-French naval strength combined would have rendered a sea conflict hopeless for Germany from the start. On land the Germans had, no doubt, a corresponding advantage over the Anglo-French coalition, with the French forces enfeebled, French morale at one of its periodically low ebbs, and the British Army, as usual, scattered over the empire and weak. The French, moreover, would have been deprived in 1905 of Russia's full assistance, and in 1914 the diversion created by the Czar's vast if poorly equipped armies in the East saved Paris. To the extent that the intervening years allowed for some military recovery in Russia the English and French were better off in 1914 than they had been in 1905.

Whether Roosevelt's intercessions actually averted war in the earlier year, the central fact — for our purposes — remains that an American President was willing to accept a certain international responsibility. Roosevelt was a vigorous nationalist, suspicious of rigid commitments abroad. His  p191 policies were improvised and often based on superficial information, his zest for diplomacy seemed boyish and irresponsible — yet he correctly reasoned that the United States could not escape altogether the obligations of its power and wealth. The thought is, of course, purely conjectural, but one cannot avoid speculating on what the probable course of events might have been in 1914 had there been in the White House a daring nationalist instead of an indecisive internationalist.

A little more than two weeks after the Powers had agreed to meet at Algeciras, the Kaiser attacked France diplomatically through her other ally. Hopeful of separating England and France at the conference, he attempted a prior severance of France and Russia at Björkö, an island in the Gulf of Finland where the yachts of the Emperors met by prearrangement. William and Nicholas met as "simple tourists." On the first evening the German handed his cousin the proposed treaty, which had been drawn so secretly that only William and Bülow knew of its existence.

The Emperors, sitting in a salon on the Czar's Polar Star, discussed the treaty alone, first putting down their kinsman Edward VII as the "greatest mischief-maker and most dangerous and deceptive intriguer in the world." Slow-witted and dazed though he was by the unaccountable blows of fate in the Far East, Nicholas nevertheless was saved from his dazzling companion. The treaty as drafted bound each Power to go to the aid of the other if attacked, but somehow the clause "in Europe" had been inserted into the pledge. William failed to see the materiality of the reservation, which he himself accepted responsibility for, to Bülow's amazement. "This," he remarked as he picketed his signed copy, "should cool down British self-assertiveness and impertinence. It is God who has willed it!"

The treaty as amended, however, fell short of Germany's objectives respecting the British. The Germans and the Russians were linked in Europe but not in the Middle and Far East. Back in Berlin, Bülow informed the Kaiser that the reservation made the treaty "valueless," threatening to resign.  p192 William begged the Chancellor to stand by, pleading that his departure would throw his sovereign into a breakdown, during which anything, including self-destruction, might occur. Bülow remained. In October Count Lamsdorff, the Russian Foreign Minister, persuaded the Czar that he had been disloyal to his ally France. The Czar thereupon asked William to amend the covenant, excluding France from its provisions. The Kaiser stiffly declined, replying that "what was signed was signed, and God was our witness." The treaty, unratified, perished of inanition.


At Algeciras, Germany's diplomatic luck was no better. It was early apparent that the Reich was all but isolated, being able to count only on Austria among the Powers. In the sole test vote of the conference France mustered ten votes, Germany only three. Russia, represented by Cassini, generally supported her ally. The British, bound by a generalized loyalty as well as Article IX of the Mediterranean Pact, backed the French. That article pledged mutual diplomatic support in maintaining the North African position of each Power. Edward VII, indicating British solidarity, bade the French Ambassador "tell us what you wish on each point and we shall support you to the letter." A Liberal Ministry under Herbert Henry Asquith had won a heavy majority on the House of Commons in January, 1906, and the Prime Minister and Sir Edward Grey, the new Foreign Secretary, were no less Francophile than Balfour and Lansdowne. Sir Arthur Nicolson, veteran diplomatist and the British delegate to Algeciras, had explicit instructions to accept the French representations. For his own guidance Sir Edward Grey prepared a private memorandum on England's position vis‑à‑vis war if it should come over Morocco, pointing out the penalties that would fall upon his country should it leave France in the lurch. He wrote that in such an event: "The United States would despise us, Russia [Downing Street was at the moment contemplating an Anglo-Russian entente] would not think it worth while to make  p193 friendly arrangements with us about Asia; Japan would prepare to re‑insure herself elsewhere, and we should be left without a friend, or the power of making a friend."

As for the other English-speaking Power, White had instructions to stand with France. In July, 1905, the experienced, witty, and conscientious Hay had laid down his earthly cares. Elihu Root succeeded him. Root, calling White's attention to a State Department suspicion that Samuel Gummere, the Minister to Morocco and White's associate at Algeciras, was pro‑German, cautioned the senior delegate: "This, if true, must not be allowed to throw us over into even apparent antagonism to the Anglo-French alliance, or to make us a means of breaking that up. It is useful to us, as well as agreeable."

The Secretary of State related these instructions to Jusserand, adding that the American delegate had been told to stand with the "liberal nations," and "you can imagine whether he will conform with pleasure to such instructions." Root, usually sharper in his definitions than Roosevelt, understood that at Algeciras the United States was supporting a complex of which it was a part.

The chief issue at the conference arose over the question of who should police Morocco. The French regarded this job as falling logically to them. Germany sought to weaken French control by providing for a neutral force, with inspectors and officers chosen from Switzerland, the Netherlands, or another small, disinterested state. France conceded only that the Spanish should police Spanish Morocco, the commanding officers of the French and Spanish forces reporting nominally to the Sultan. The conference hung for weeks on that point, deadlocked, with the delegates irritated, with no categorical threat of war but with its possibility always latent. In mid‑February Roosevelt asked White to submit a "fair" solution, White responding with a three-part formula: (1) the police to be under the nominal authority of the Sultan, (2) officers and noncommissioned personnel to be French in French Morocco, Spanish in Spanish Morocco, (3) the Inspector General to make his yearly report to the  p194 Italian Government as well as the Sultan. Italy's presence in the latter capacity gave an international flavor to the arrangements and brought the third Mediterranean Power into the picture. This was, of course, substantially the French position.

Roosevelt accepted White's program with unimportant modifications, transmitting it to the Kaiser. There ensued another spirited exchange of dispatches between the Kaiser and the President through Sternberg. In effect, the decision was being transferred from Algeciras to Berlin and Washington. Roosevelt clung to the White proposal immovably. Meanwhile his attitude and his utterances were cabled to White, who relayed them to the chief French delegate, Amédée Revoil, who, in receipt of similar word from Jusserand via Paris, rejected any compromise, giving ground here and there only in detail.

On March 7, 1906, the President informed his "excellent friend" William II that he would ask "no more concessions from France." Soon thereafter the Austrians introduced an alternative, under which France should police four ports, Spain three, and Casablanca be placed under a neutral officer also serving as Inspector General. German interests, it will be recalled, were centered at Casablanca. The British, fatigued and willing to give and take, advised France to yield, as did Cassini. Whereupon the Germans allowed the press to know of their Anglo-Russian treaty, predicting early acceptance of the Austrian plan. Sir Arthur Nicolson thought the matter settled, telegraphing Grey that the "Germans have been wonderfully conciliatory." Grey replied that "Germany has conceded the substance and it would be too bad if France sacrificed the substance to the shadow."

However, the friendly Powers were reckoning without Roosevelt. In remote Washington there would be no yielding to expediency. By now the President had come to regard the White formula as the "American plan." The Austrian proposal he deemed "absurd"; to him it smacked of the very spheres of influence which the Kaiser had seemed at the outset so bent on avoiding. It is possible that Roosevelt  p195 had taken the German appeals to the Open Door seriously. "The proposition I suggest is better and safer and the only one I can support," Roosevelt told the Kaiser. Jusserand saw a copy of this note and hurried off a tip to Revoil, who stood pat. As a clincher, the President reminded William of his promise to accept the President's judgment on any issue. Jocosely, he hinted to Sternberg that he might publish the Algeciras correspondence, wherein the Kaiser had been quite candid. In his search for a quid pro quo the Kaiser, heartily sick of what he soon was to dub "that idiotic conference," asked the President to receive at the White House a delegation of Old German warriors, making the reception the occasion of a tribute to William's statesman­ship. Roosevelt agreed.

The German delegates were instructed on March 21 to withdraw their opposition to the "American plan." "The immediate removal of all misunderstanding is of far more importance to Germany than the whole Moroccan affair," said the Emperor. Upon receipt of word that agreement had been reached on all points, he telegraphed "Bravo" to his representatives. White advised the German Ambassador at Rome of his belief that "the victor at Algeciras was England." On the margin of this dispatch William scribbled: "Correct!" Bülow was made a prince, Holstein was forced to resign. His going was taken as a sign that he bore the blame for the failure of Morocco. In Europe generally it was said that "Germany had her conference but France had Morocco."

Anglo-French understanding, having withstood its first external assault, emerged from the Moroccan crisis immeasurably strengthened. Grey had sanctioned conversations between the French military attachés and the English General Staff. Naval consultations followed. The military plans for 1914 were in the making. Soon Russia was to be added to the Anglo-French Entente, opposing to Bismarck's Triple Alliance the new Triple Entente. Another by‑product of Algeciras was the realization that where Britain was involved  p196 Italy could not be considered a reliable member of the Triple Alliance.

Roosevelt, eulogizing the Kaiser before the Old German Warriors, could reflect on no direct gains for his country. He had demonstrated for the world to read the solidarity of the great Atlantic Powers vis‑à‑vis Central Europe, but it seems unlikely that he saw his activities in such terms. The President narrowed his interest to support of the French — as did the English also, for that matter. Grey apprehended Roosevelt's part only dimly, writing him on December 2, 1906, that it "was felt all through the Algeciras conference that American influence was not being used against France and us."

In 1910, when Grey entertained Roosevelt in England on his way home from the African big‑game hunt, the Foreign Secretary heard for the first time of the President's collaboration with Jusserand in circumventing the Germans. Such a state of ignorance testified both to the unwisdom of keeping Ambassador Durand in Washington and to the fallibility of the English intelligence service. Nor was Sir Arthur Nicolson better advised. In Harold Nicolson's biography of his father, Portrait of a Diplomatist, there is no indication that the British delegate was aware of the powerful influence placed at the disposal of the English interest. The Nicolson version was, it is fair to say, incidental to biography, and the more recent French sources were not open to the author.

In reality, the British half suspected Roosevelt of being under the Kaiser's sway as to the Moroccan matter. Whitelaw Reid wrote the President from London in this vein on June 19, ten weeks after the conference adjourned, that "the Emperor's assiduous efforts to cultivate the most intimate relations with you have attracted the attention of all the chancelleries in Europe,' adding that "a common comment on it is that the Emperor overdoes his lovemaking as he does his diplomacy, with a certain German confidence in the value of brute vigor in either pursuit."

Roosevelt replied in high spirits, pointing out that while  p197 he had handled the Kaiser suavely and pleasantly in the Algeciras matter, "at the end I stood him on his head with great decision." He continued: "As for Germany, I really treat them much more cavalierly than I do England, and I am immensely amused at the European theory (which cannot, however, be the theory of the French Government) that I am taken in by the Kaiser. I am very polite to him, but I am ready at an instant's notice to hold my own."

It remained for Root to identify a tangible gain obtained at Algeciras. The Germans had been denied control over an Atlantic seaport, Casablanca. It had been understood at the conference that the Austrian proposal for the neutralization of that port included a German aspiration that it be assigned to a state within the German sphere in Europe. The American Secretary of State, in a casual chat with Durand, remarked that Great Britain had not "seemed to mind" having Germany for an Atlantic neighbor established near Gibraltar, and that the situation really had been "saved" by the President.

It was, however, the incisive, worldly, and far‑reaching understanding of Henry Adams that best apprehended America's underlying stake in the Moroccan crisis. Writing a friend in late January, 1906, at a time when it appeared the conference might adjourn in disagreement, Adams held: "We have got to support France against Germany and fortify the Atlantic System beyond attack; for if Germany breaks down England or France, she becomes the center of a military world, and we are lost." The historian saw the conflict as irrepressible. "The course of concentration," he went on, "must be decided by force — whether military or industrial matters not much to the end." By 1906 Adams had lost faith that Germany could be attached to the Atlantic world.


The year 1906 had its own significance in terms of American sea power. Mahan obtained a belated and routine recognition from his Government, being promoted Rear  p198 Admiral as the time came for his retirement. By a pertinent coincidence, in that same year Jane's Fighting Ships, the naval record, first ranked the United States Navy second to the British. The German Navy was third by a close margin. Only sixteen years had passed since the Secretary of the Navy and the Naval Policy Board had sensationally transferred Mahan's "fighting-force" concept from the lecture room and the printed page to the field of national policy. That year likewise saw a controversy between Mahan and Roosevelt over the freedom of the seas, a historic phrase infrequently defined and of changing content.

In 1906 freedom of the seas meant the immunity of private property, ship and cargo, both belligerent and neutral, from seizure in time of war. A rallying cry for pacifists, the phrase was being used as a lever toward restricting war. It provided, as then understood, a revolutionary alteration in the rules of war at sea. The hope of the pacifists was to minimize the scope of navies and extinguish the blockade. Roosevelt, whose inconsistencies shone as magnificently as his self-assurance, had been attracted by the noble implications of the phrase, finding it easy to embrace the new doctrine while at the same time advocating a larger navy.

The Czar had called the Second Hague Conference to meet in 1907, and Grey and Lord Haldane, then Secretary for War, had asked Roosevelt to use his good offices with the Kaiser toward naval limitation, a request which the President felt might tax his influence with his friend at Potsdam. "That I can work with France and England I have no doubt," he wrote White. Of Germany he had doubts. He felt it would be a mistake for the "free peoples" to do anything that might weaken their force against "military despotism and military barbarism."

Mahan, venturing his advice on the sea‑power problems likely to be raised at the Hague, exemplified that view. Opposing freedom of the seas, the Admiral cited German hostility toward the "English-speaking communities," pointed out what a boon an unmolested seaborne trade would be to Germany in wartime, and declared that exemption from  p199 blockade would "remove the strongest hook in the jaw of Germany that the English-speaking people have — a principal gage for peace." Referring to American experience, Mahan thought it possible that "our Government, a century ago, would have signed away the right of commercial blockade, which so helped us in the Civil War." In Napoleonic times the infant American states were demanding the right to send their merchant vessels wherever they chose. In the Civil War the shoe was on the other foot, the Federal forces using the blockade for slow strangulation of the economy of the Confederacy. Again in 1898 the United States applied the law of blockade. On both occasions neutral rights were what the blockading authorities said them to be.

The Admiral closed on a dark note. The "political future" to him was "without form and void" in both the Atlantic and the Pacific worlds. "We will have to walk very warily," said Mahan, "in matters affecting our future ability to employ our national force." Impressed by Mahan's hostage argument and his appeal to historic naval policies, Root asked the Navy Department for an opinion from the General Board of the Navy, at the same time begging Roosevelt to back a most thoughtful study of the whole situation before instructing our delegates to The Hague. The General Board summed up its comprehensive report with the assertion: "Should private property at sea be immune in time of war, this great advantage would be lost to Great Britain, as well as to the United States, and the immense assistance we might expect to receive from Great Britain would be tremendously decreased."

The President replied coolly to Mahan, noting a contemporary "tendency to protect private property on sea and on land," and observing with what seemed a hint of reproof that "earlier races killed or enslaved every private citizen of a hostile nation whom they could get at or destroy and took his property as a matter of course." At The Hague the American delegation, making common cause with the gratified Germans, spoke, argued, and lobbied for freedom of the seas. They failed, however, to seek its land‑war equivalent,  p200 which would forbid armies to attack unfortified places, seize or destroy factories, railroads, power plants, or homes, or otherwise disturb civilians and private property. America and England, insular Powers, were dependent on the seas for defense, Germany was not. For once Roosevelt was veering from the line of British interest. In so doing he harmed American interest as well, the effect of his stand being to weaken the "free peoples" as against the Powers he described as despotic and barbarous. Fortunately for the Sea Powers, the conference did not follow the lead of Roosevelt and the Germans.

Unlike Roosevelt, the United States Navy in 1906 supported the solidarity of the English-speaking Powers. In the report of the General Board, England was identified as the friend, Germany as the enemy — a supposition reminiscent of Dewey's oracular statement when interviewed at Trieste in 1899 on his return journey from Manila that "our next war would be with Germany." The board held that the "welfare of the United States, and its immunity from entanglements with other powers, is greatly strengthened by strong ties of friendship and by unanimity of action with Great Britain." As for Germany, the board had no doubt that when her fleet was considered "ready" she would "test the Monroe Doctrine by annexation or a protectorate" on this side of the water, "many things" having indicated that "she has her eye on localities in the West Indies, on the shores of the Caribbean, and in parts of South America."

The General Board of the United States Navy anticipated war with Germany. It expected, in that event, at least the "passive friendship of England."

The Author's Note:

1 In Hands Off: A History of the Monroe Doctrine, Little, Brown, 1941.

Thayer's Notes:

a See Gerald E. Wheeler, Admiral William Veazie Pratt, p46.

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b An appropriate place for the statue: Frederick may have been a Prussian king, but he was also a great military genius. At any rate, when the Army War College moved to Carlisle, PA the statue was moved as well. A photo of it illustrates a detailed — and very interesting — retelling of its history in the years since, at PennLive (The Patriot News).

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