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- The Path of Empire, - 6/32 -


States derived from this new possession was for many years drawn from the seal fishery. The same generation of Americans which allowed the extermination of the buffalo for lap robes found in the sealskin sack the hall mark of wealth and fashion. While, however, the killing of the buffalo was allowed to go on without official check, the Government in 1870 inaugurated a system to preserve the seal herds which was perhaps the earliest step in a national conservation policy. The sole right of killing was given to the Alaska Commercial Company with restrictions under which it was believed that the herds would remain undiminished. The catch was limited to one hundred thousand a year; it was to include only male seals; and it was to be limited to the breeding grounds on the Pribilof Islands.

The seals, however, did not confine themselves to American territory. During the breeding season they ranged far and wide within a hundred miles of their islands; and during a great part of the year they were to be found far out in the Pacific. The value of their skins attracted the adventurous of many lands, but particularly Canadians; and Vancouver became the greatest center for deep-sea sealing. The Americans saw the development of the industry with anger and alarm. Considering the seals as their own, they naturally resented this unlimited exploitation by outsiders when Americans themselves were so strictly limited by law. They also believed that the steady diminution of the herds was due to the reckless methods of their rivals, particularly the use of explosives which destroyed many animals to secure a few perfect skins.

Public opinion on the Pacific coast sought a remedy and soon found one in the terms of the treaty of purchase. That document, in dividing Alaska from Siberia, described a line of division running through Bering Sea, and in 1881 the Acting Secretary of the Treasury propounded the theory that this line divided not merely the islands but the water as well. There was a widespread feeling that all Bering Sea within this line was American territory and that all intruders from other nations were poachers. In accordance with this theory, the revenue cutter Corwin in 1886 seized three British vessels and hauled their skippers before the United States District Court of Sitka. Thomas F. Bayard, then Secretary of State under President Cleveland, did not recognize this theory of interpreting the treaty, but endeavored to right the grievance by a joint agreement with France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and Great Britain, the sealing nations, "for the better protection of the fur seal fisheries in Bering Sea."

A solution had been almost reached, when Canada interposed. Lord Morley has remarked, in his "Recollections," how the voice of Canada fetters Great Britain in her negotiations with the United States. While Bayard was negotiating an agreement concerning Bering Sea which was on the whole to the advantage of the United States, he completed a similar convention on the more complicated question of the northeastern or Atlantic fisheries which was more important to Canada. This latter convention was unfavorably reported by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which foreshadowed rejection. Thereupon, in May, 1888, Lord Salisbury, the British Foreign Minister, withdrew from the Bering Sea negotiation.

At this critical moment Cleveland gave place to Harrison, and Bayard was succeeded by James G. Blaine, the most interesting figure in our diplomatic activities of the eighties. These years marked the lowest point in the whole history of our relations with other countries, both in the character of our agents and in the nature of the public opinion to which they appealed. Blaine was undoubtedly the most ill-informed of our great diplomats; yet a trace of greatness lingers about him. The exact reverse of John Quincy Adams, he knew neither law nor history, and he did not always inspire others with confidence in his integrity. On the other hand, the magnetic charm of his personality won many to a devotion such as none of our great men except Clay has received. Blaine saw, moreover, though through a glass darkly, farther along the path which the United States was to take than did any of his contemporaries. It was his fate to deal chiefly in controversy with those accomplished diplomats, Lord Salisbury and Lord Granville, and it must have been among the relaxations of their office to point out tactfully the defects and errors in his dispatches. Nevertheless when he did not misread history or misquote precedents but wielded the broadsword of equity, he often caught the public conscience, and then he was not an opponent to be despised.

Blaine at once undertook the defense of the contention that Bering Sea was "closed" and the exclusive property of the United States, in spite of the fact that this position was opposed to the whole trend of American opinion, which from the days of the Revolution had always stood for freedom of the high seas and the limitation of the water rights of particular nations to the narrowest limits. The United States and Great Britain had jointly protested against the Czar's ukase of 1821, which had asserted Russia's claim to Bering Sea as territorial waters; and if Russia had not possessed it in 1821, we certainly could not have bought it in 1867. In the face of Canadian opinion, Great Britain could never consent, even for the sake of peace, to a position as unsound as it was disadvantageous to Canadian industry. Nor did Blaine's contention that the seals were domestic animals belonging to us, and therefore subject to our protection while wandering through the ocean, carry conviction to lawyers familiar with the fascinating intricacies of the law, domestic and international, relating to migratory birds and beasts. To the present generation it seems amusing that Blaine defended his basic contention quite as much on the ground of the inhumanity of destroying the seals as of its economic wastefulness. Yet Blaine rallied Congress to his support, as well as a great part of American sentiment.

The situation, which had now become acute, was aggravated by the fact that most American public men of this period did not separate their foreign and domestic politics. Too many sought to secure the important Irish vote by twisting the tail of the British lion. The Republicans, in particular, sought to identify protection with patriotism and were making much of the fact that the recall of Lord Sackville-West, the British Minister, had been forced because he had advised a correspondent to vote for Cleveland. It spoke volumes for the fundamental good sense of the two nations that, when relations were so strained, they could agree to submit their differences to arbitration. For this happy outcome credit must be given to the cooler heads on both sides, but equal credit must be given to their legacy from the cool heads which had preceded them. The United States and Great Britain had acquired the habit of submitting to judicial decision their disputes, even those closely touching honor, and this habit kept them steady.

In accepting arbitration in 1892, the United States practically gave up her case, although Blaine undoubtedly believed it could be defended, and in spite of the fact that it was ably presented by John W. Foster from a brief prepared by the American counsel, Edward J. Phelps, Frederic R. Coudert, and James C. Carter. The tribunal assembled at Paris decided that Bering Sea was open and determined certain facts upon which a subsequent commission assessed damages of nearly half a million against the United States for the seizure of British vessels during the period in which the American claim was being asserted. Blaine, however, did not lose everything. The treaty contained the extraordinary provision that the arbitration tribunal, in case it decided against the United States, was to draw up regulations for the protection of the seal herds. These regulations when drafted did not prove entirely satisfactory, and bound only the United States and Great Britain. It required many years and much tinkering to bring about the reasonably satisfactory arrangement that is now in force. Yet to leave to an international tribunal not merely the decision of a disputed case but the legislation necessary to regulate an international property was in itself a great step in the development of world polity. The charlatan who almost brought on war by maintaining an indefensible case was also the statesman who made perhaps the greatest single advance in the conservation of the world's resources by international regulation.

CHAPTER IV. Blaine And Pan-Americanism

During the half century that intervened between John Quincy Adams and James G. Blaine, the Monroe Doctrine, it was commonly believed, had prevented the expansion of the territories of European powers in the Americas. It had also relieved the United States both of the necessity of continual preparation for war and of that constant tension in which the perpetual shifting of the European balance of power held the nations of that continent. But the Monroe Doctrine was not solely responsible for these results. Had it not been for the British Navy, the United States would in vain have proclaimed its disapproval of encroachment. Nor, had Europe continued united, could the United States have withstood European influence; but Canning's policy had practically destroyed Metternich's dream of unity maintained by intervention, and in 1848 that whole structure went hopelessly tumbling before a new order. Yet British policy, too, failed of full realization, for British statesmen always dreamed of an even balance in continental Europe which Great Britain could incline to her wishes, whereas it usually proved necessary, in order to preserve a balance at all, for her to join one side or the other. Divided Europe therefore stood opposite united America, and our inferior strength was enhanced by an advantageous position.

The insecurity of the American position was revealed during the Civil War. When the United States divided within, the strength of the nation vanished. The hitherto suppressed desires of European nations at once manifested themselves. Spain, never satisfied that her American empire was really lost, at once leaped to take advantage of the change. On a trumped up invitation of some of the inhabitants of Santo Domingo, she invaded the formerly Spanish portion of the island and she began war with Peru in the hope of acquiring at least some of the Pacific islands belonging to that state.

More formidable were the plans of Napoleon III, for the French, too, remembered the glowing promise of their earlier American dominions. They had not forgotten that the inhabitants of the Americas as far north as the southern borders of the United States were of Latin blood, at least so far as they were of European origin. In Montevideo there was a French colony, and during the forties France had been active in proffering her advice in South American disputes. When the second French Republic had been proclaimed in 1848, one of the French ministers in South America saw a golden chance for his country to assume the leadership of all Latin America, which was at that time suspicious of the designs of the United States and alarmed by its rapid expansion at the expense of Mexico. With the power of the


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