THE strategic position of the United States is peculiar and unique, created by the interplay between our geographical location and great natural forces, economic factors, and conditions in Europe. It has been throughout our history the foundation of American(1) independence. The first and most important element in it is the Atlantic Ocean, a barrier between us and Europe three thousand miles broad, the existence of which meant for us, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, practical isolation in space and time. Men forget with readiness the commonest facts about life in the past when only sailing-ships were available, and when, too, the ships were small. Then the voyage across the Atlantic was no mere pleasure trip, but an adventure fraught with some peril and accompanied by a great deal of hardship. Storms were not less frequent than they are now; food was bad at the best; scurvy was prevalent; while the sea and wind effectively prevented anything like promptness or regularity of arrival. Swift vessels under good conditions made the voyage in a month. Six weeks was considered a fast trip, and two months was very common. Under such conditions the Atlantic was in point of time wider than it now is long. The regular mail steamers plying between England and Australia travel a distance approaching one half of the circumference of the globe in about the same time that a fast ship under favorable conditions needed in the eighteenth century to go from London to New York.

This general slowness of communication made literally impossible any active interference in America by European nations. About three months was necessary under the best conditions to get an answer or to learn of some crisis and to send directions as to what should be done about it. A defeat in America was therefore not really known in England, France, or Spain until the victor had had ample time to make the best use of its results. Before an army could be actually gotten together, embarked, and landed, news of its preparation would have preceded it by a sufficient number of weeks to have permitted preparations for defense by no means as inadequate as the disparity in potential strength between the various settlements in America and the European nations would seem to indicate. Military interference in America was made extremely difficult by the Atlantic Ocean, which until about 1840 placed us as far from Europe in point of time and space as Australia is to-day from New York or London. This is the fundamental fact of our location, this, the fundamental barrier upon which our independence rests. Other factors, potent indeed, have greatly assisted at one time and another this primary geographical position, but it was unquestionably for two centuries and a half the great formative fact in American history.

It created a separation in point of time between us and England which made anything approaching the government of the colonies from England a literal impossibility. Actual directions could not be received from England soon or constantly enough to be of the slightest avail, even if the colonists had been anxious to obtain them; while to have waited for actual assistance or even for advice would at many crises have invited destruction. Nor could the English find out what was happening in America with either promptitude or regularity. American democracy grew up in the wilderness, to furnish the government and direction which the mother country, for geographical reasons, was incapable of affording. We never were dependent upon England or any other European country. The Atlantic Ocean made us independent from the first.

Independence was necessarily an accomplished fact that no fiat could create, and which was in 1776 a condition resulting from the operation of forces in the decades just passed. The Revolution by no means created the thirteen States. It declared the already accomplished fact that those thirteen States were independent entities distinct from England in ideals and interests, strong enough to maintain themselves against the rest of the world, experienced in self-government, and imbued with the spirit of liberty.(2)

As a matter of fact, we did not fight for independence; it was thrust upon us. We were separated from the very first so far in point of time from Europe that all their armies and all their fleets were incapable of robbing us of administrative independence. Conceivably, they might have set up a government in America by force, but in no possible way could they have governed us from Europe.

The Declaration of Independence was a statement of the evident fact that the American Colonies were in reality, and long had been, independent of England; that they had governed themselves in the past without assistance, and could do so in the future; that their interests were too different from those of the mother country for them to accept her decisions in regard to policy.(3)

The second factor in our strategic position one might almost call a corollary of our location beyond the Atlantic. For some centuries at least the really vital fact in European politics has been the formation of a series of alliances among the stronger countries for the preservation of what has been called the balance of power. The geographical structure of Europe is peculiar, and has juxtaposited a number of strong countries in a relatively small space without erecting between them effective barriers, although leaving at the same time a sufficient geographical hindrance to their complete union. They are separated without being isolated. With no love for one another, they are not able to free themselves entirely from one another's presence. All the nations in Europe, therefore, are potential allies of one another and potential enemies. Very few of them could regard as incredible war with any other nation on the continent; their independence, therefore, and their economic strength and development, are of significance to all other possible enemies and allies. The control of territory obtained by political domination resulting from military conquest would put several nations in a far more advantageous position and enable them to further their own ambitions and antipathies. For instance, the possession of Belgium has been at times of great military advantage to both France and Germany, and has enabled either to attack the other much more effectively. The possession of Denmark or Sweden would be of vast consequence to Russia, and would enable her to threaten Germany's naval position and perhaps insure her the control of the Baltic. Every nation affected by the strengthening of France, Germany, or Russia would be vitally interested in either of these happenings.

The United States lacks a geographical relation to Europe of importance in European quarrels. No nation or group of nations could find its independence or integrity threatened by our existence. Our economic development, therefore, produced in Europe no alarms, while the economic development of Germany produced many. As we threaten nobody, the control of our territory would be of no advantage to any European nation for defense or for aggression; indeed, from a military point of view our political independence or dependence is almost a matter of indifference to Europe. To overestimate the importance of this lack of relation to the European situation is impossible. The primary motive for conquest as it appears in Europe is lacking; the primary purpose of an assault upon our political independence is absent. Legions numerous enough to shake the land with their tread, navies great enough to burden the sea with their weight, have not erected in the way of the aggressor in Europe barriers one half as formidable. Our political independence is as secure from Germany or Russia as it is from England or France. The sea is absolutely impartial. We are not a part of Europe. We never can be a part of Europe. We are independent and free by the accident of geography, a fact which armies and navies are powerless to change and scarcely able to strengthen.

The third factor in our strategic position is the strategical geography of the United States itself. Continental United States(4) is divided into three districts, the Atlantic coast, the Mississippi valley, and the Pacific coast. From a military point of view the three are unrelated, for, while there are certain roads between them, certain strategic points controlling the communications between them along these roads, the enemy might control one of the three without in any way insuring his military possession of the others. The country is so vast, the area necessarily covered by operations would be so stupendous, that its military control in the European fashion by the capture of two or three points is out of the question. The Civil War demonstrated the impossibility of expecting the conquest of the Mississippi valley to insure the control of the Atlantic slope; the Revolution showed the complete fallacy of supposing that any part of the Atlantic slope insured its possessor military control of any sort over other parts of it. If the campaign were being conducted by two or three millions of men, the very magnitude of the operations might conceivably develop something resembling strategic relationship between various parts of the country, but nothing short of the simultaneous invasion of the Atlantic coast at a variety of points could possibly give the aggressor control or allow him even to knock at the gateways leading into the interior.

Fortunately, too, the Atlantic and Pacific coast districts are both comparatively narrow and are separated from the great bulk of the continent by high mountain chains which can be easily passed by an army only at the extremities. Through New York and through Georgia are broad roads leading into the Mississippi valley. If the invader chose one and neglected the other, the United States army could successfully cut his communications with his fleet and leave him at our mercy somewhere in the interior. He would be compelled to operate in force through both, and to guard in addition approaches like the Cumberland Gap, in order to protect his rear. In fact, the Mississippi valley is a great natural fortress, separated from the sea on both sides by mountains whose passes are neither numerous nor difficult of defense. In this vast territory live the majority of the American people and in it are all the essentials for equipping an army and for its indefinite maintenance. The loss of New York as a seaport and commercial center could be easily remedied by using some other excellent harbor. Effectively to blockade the United States would be a colossal task for the English fleet; to take military possession and hold it would be a colossal task for the German army. The strategic character of the Atlantic coast and of the Mississippi valley is such as to require the full strength of any European power for conquest and perhaps even for invasion.

This makes truly significant the delicate balance of the European situation. Any nation sending enough ships and men to insure success in operations against the United States would so weaken its forces in Europe as to invite annihilation at the hands of its potential enemies who have been waiting for centuries for it to commit some such capital blunder. There are several armies in Europe and three fleets which could undertake hostile operations against the United States with definite prospects of success. There is no doubt about it: the United States can be invaded, it might even be conquered; but success would not be of the slightest conceivable importance to any European state, and would involve operations of such magnitude that the aggressor would risk his national independence in Europe. The delicate balance between the various European nations, their rivalries and hatreds, their determination to prevent any one state from becoming too strong, have been therefore a cardinal factor in our strategic position. So long as this balance endures, it will so aid the Atlantic Ocean and the strategic character of the United States itself as to make us virtually invulnerable.

Assuming, however, that no European nation had anything to gain by the political control of the United States or by its military conquest, were there not economic reasons rendering such operations desirable? That there have never been such economic motives in the past has also been an important factor in our strategic position. For upwards of two centuries the Western Hemisphere was easy prey for several of the European nations, and had there been a strong economic motive counseling possession, the present territory of the United States might well have been the scene of a battle royal or have experienced at least the vicissitudes of Central America and the West Indies. But while the United States has had the greatest attraction for individuals, it has never furnished nations with an adequate incentive for political conquest. Here men and women have sought homes on a fertile soil, blest by climate and nature, but where the products which interested European nations were lacking. The Spaniard conquered Mexico and Peru for their gold and silver; the English fought and bled to monopolize the importation of negroes to the West Indies and to Central America; kings and princes risked the investment of money in the Hudson Bay Company for the exploitation of the fur trade in northern Canada; and such was the value of the sugar trade of the West Indies in the eighteenth century that European nations fairly jostled against one another in their haste to acquire islands. But tobacco, codfish, grain, lumber, lacked speculative attraction.

Indeed, we had nothing which the Europeans would accept after importunity, and were obliged to sell our own produce in the West India Islands, the Azores, or Africa, where products could be had which possessed exchange value in Europe. Clearly continental America possessed nothing which any European nation thought a fair reward for the expense and difficulty of conquest. The English never had to fight to retain possession of their continental colonies; the French and Indian wars were nothing more than raids. The real object of the Seven Years' War was the conquest of the French colonies. In fact, the English themselves did not regard their continental colonies as of any particular consequence until 1763, for the attention of the Government and of individuals was riveted upon the West India Islands. Thus, during the decades when the continental colonies were in the making, the economic interests of Europe lay elsewhere, and the general routes of trade left them to one side. They occupied, indeed, as far as Europe was concerned, for many, many decades the invulnerable, though undesirable position of the poor man who has nothing which the thieves value, and who therefore goes his way in peace.

Our strategic position is really the result of the interaction and interdependence of these factors. None of them alone would be quite so potent. When the width of the Atlantic and the distance in space and time from Europe add themselves to the fact that our location has no strategic relationship, advantageous or disadvantageous, for warring European powers, and then join to themselves the large force needed to undertake operations against the United States plus the extreme danger to which the despatch of such a force from Europe would expose the aggressor, a position somewhat approaching invulnerability is the result. When in addition we literally possess nothing here which would warrant any European nation in conquering us, we may breathe with considerable freedom and calmly regard statements that we are in immediate danger. As long as these strategic factors exist, continental United States will never be in danger of European invasion or conquest. The question whether they are about to change must be reserved for another chapter.

How admirably these forces have protected us in the past centuries appears in our history. In the early sixteenth century the Spanish explored the United States with some pertinacity and saw nothing that they cared for. The victory of the English fleet over the Spanish Armada in 1588 and the revolt of the Dutch effectually occupied the efforts of Spain's greatest ruler. Then during the long years when the weak and struggling English colonies might have been wiped out by assault, the English fleet protected us from other nations. The Atlantic Ocean and the separation in distance and time saved us from English administrative interference and enabled us to develop an indigenous, democratic, independent administration. During the seventeenth century English kings and ministers were much preoccupied with the Civil War, the Restoration, and the Revolution of 1689. Scarcely had these been settled when a series of European wars consumed most of the money and much of the energy of the mother country. Then there were the West India Islands, from which came a great income.

In the time of George III, the mother country first realized the strength and importance of the colonies which had grown up on the mainland, and the attempt of ministers to erect an efficient administration of officials resident in America opened the eyes of the colonists to the reality of their political and administrative independence of the English Government, and proved to them the very simple thesis that, if they had wrought so well in the past unaided, they were abundantly able to govern themselves in the future without assistance. The Atlantic Ocean was the true basis of this independence, and the English army and the English fleet could not in any conceivable manner remove it. There was in reality nothing to defend. We must eventually have won the Revolution, even if we lost every battle. In fact, Washington soon saw that he had merely to fight a defensive war and wear out the English; that the one thing he had to fear was a serious defeat in the open field, an eventuality easily evaded by not accepting battle unless the conditions were unusually favorable or the political situation made some sort of a stand advisable.

The English, too, soon learned the truth. They found that there were no strategic points on the Atlantic Coast. They tried Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and learned, to their great disgust, that marching and countermarching had been of no avail; when in force they had marched pretty much where they wished, but were no better off than if they had stayed where they were in the first place. Conquest would require a very large army, would compel them to hold a great variety of widely severed districts, and would make essential subsequently the garrisoning of the country by an army almost as large as the one needed to conquer it in order to keep it in subjection. The Americans had not the slightest doubt that they could resist any effort the English could bring to bear and could continue the war indefinitely. The English were no less confident that they possessed enough force to win the war, but they had no doubt whatever that conquest involved an operation of greater magnitude than was worth while. They weakened their position in Europe more than was safe, and gained nothing commensurate from a military and naval point of view. The continental colonies were worthless possessions upon which to expend effort and resources when the same amount of exertion could be directed easily enough toward possessions in the Mediterranean and India of indubitable value. The Revolutionary army was not actually called upon to expel the British; the strategic factors were too powerful to require more than assistance. The army, in fact, merely hastened a result which time alone and passive resistance could not have failed in the end to secure.

The formative effect of our strategic position upon our policy has been deep and fundamental. So well was the operation of these factors understood by the Revolutionary leaders that they firmly impressed upon the country the obvious conclusion that our political independence would not require elaborate military dispositions to maintain. For us wars would be abnormal and in violation of the true interests of the aggressor, since no European power would possess a motive for assailing us or for challenging our independence.

It should be laid down, therefore, as a fundamental tenet of American policy that we need not anticipate war or prepare for it as a probable contingency. Our organization should be fundamentally non-military. What had not needed armies to create could not normally require armies to maintain. If wars did come, if they were, so to speak, thrust upon us, we should meet them as best we could, and depend upon the peculiar structure of our country to delay the invader's progress while we were making adequate preparations. Civil war, if such an unfortunate eventuality should arise, would find both parties equally unprepared and therefore equally matched; but civil war was almost entirely abnormal, unexpected, accidental, and obviously not a thing to be prepared for in a healthy political community. The necessity, therefore, of the defense of the country by a large army was not regarded as likely by the men who won our independence, and to whom indeed we owe the fundamentally non-military character of our organization and the established conviction that for the United States armies are abnormal. Whether or not the time has come to reconsider this decision will appear in its proper place for discussion.

Chapter footnotes:

1. The Latin Americans protest against the use of the word "America" to denote the United States of America and of "American" to denote its citizens as contrary to the geographical facts. While an accurate terminology is desirable, the purpose of language is to convey ideas and not to create distinctions, and popular usage in the United States as well as the State Department has so definitely established such a meaning that it has seemed pedantic to object to it. "Central America" and "South America" are used to denote those geographical districts, while "Latin America" and "Latin Americans" denote the twenty republics south of the Rio Grande and their peoples. Back to text.

2. Usher, Rise of the American People, 31. Back to text.

3. Ibid., 118-119. Back to text.

4. Throughout this book, in geographical statements or comparisons, " the United States, " or " America, " mean continental United States, excluding Alaska and our island possessions. Back to text.




THE undisputed supremacy of the continent of North America in our own hands, the undisputed control of the seas by England---these two have been fundamental formative influences in the development of the United States, and have left deep marks upon its foreign policy. Even before the germs of English colonies existed in the present United States, this sea-power was a reality, and to-day it still endures. We have adjusted ourselves to this fact during the long centuries of growth, and have so accustomed ourselves to it that we regard it almost as one of the world's axioms, to be accepted accordingly. Yet we cannot omit from consideration the sea-power in England's hands and explain or understand the history of the United States.

To it we owe the predominantly English character of American civilization. Many races arriving here at different epochs have somehow or other become fused and amalgamated into a different nation from any of them, a nation perhaps of mixed blood, but whose characteristics are predominantly English. The English language has conquered all other tongues, as English literature for the vast majority has conquered all other literary traditions. Few other races preserve either their identity or their language into the third generation, and in, most it disappears in the second generation. Our laws, courts, and institutions are as clearly descendants of the English institutions of the seventeenth century as are the present practices in England. While tolerant of all religions, the United States is reckoned a Protestant nation, drawing its religious inspiration in the main from characteristic forms of English Protestantism. So much was assured on that summer day when the English fleet wrested the supremacy of the sea from the Spanish Armada in the English Channel; the part of the Western Hemisphere not already occupied by the Spanish fell into the hands of the nation whose fleet controlled its approaches; for better or for worse that nation was to play the leading part in colonizing and developing the Northern Continent. The supremacy of the sea made this inevitable. For this same reason the English nation is the only nation which has played a part as a nation in the upbuilding of the United States. From other nations have come persons of ability, sincerity, and intelligence, whose cooperation has been vital to the result; but the only European nation to play a part in shaping the United States is England. This is a legacy of the supremacy of the sea to the United States, and there is in our history hardly another fact to be compared with it in significance.

The exact nature of England's supremacy of the sea is extremely subtle and complex, and from an international point of view is composed as much of the things which the English refrain from doing as of those which they do; indeed, so far as the United States is concerned, what the English fleet could do if it chose has scarcely entered into the problem. The English supremacy of the sea fundamentally was and is a domestic necessity maintained rather as a part of England's defensive position on the channel than for the purpose of exerting influence in different parts of the world. It is this fact which we must firmly grasp if we are to understand the relation of the English seapower to-day to international alliances in general and 'to the United States in particular.

Many centuries ago the English saw that the control by a fleet of the waters surrounding their island would make it invulnerable. Armies had to be conveyed across the channel by fleets, and could be more easily defeated before they started than after they arrived. From the first they developed their fleet, became in time a nation of sailors, and developed a new type of ship and a variety of naval strategy and tactics which in 1588 vanquished by their own inherent excellence the former possessor of the supremacy of the sea.

Originally intended for defense against invasion, the fleet was promptly seen to be an instrument capable of a variety of uses. When England realized decades later that she could no longer maintain her population from produce raised in the British Isles, she began to import the necessary food, and soon the raw materials required to keep her factories at work, secure in the conviction that the fleet would keep open the highways over which her own merchant marine brought her these necessities of life from distant lands. To-day the industrial fabric of England is built upon the seapower. The very food and clothes of her swelling millions depend upon it. It is still the premise of continued existence, the essential prerequisite of prosperity. Yet although to-day more than ever the prime factor in England's policy, it is still not an international, but primarily a domestic, factor. It was not created to threaten or rule other nations, and exerts an influence in international affairs only as a result of its necessary existence for the maintenance of domestic peace and prosperity. It is to-day so vital for defense that it could not possibly be used for aggression alone; to risk in an offensive war, undertaken purely for aggression, the very bulwark of the national existence would be folly of the worst description, a fact of the utmost consequence in the study of international affairs.

As soon as the English discovered how indispensable the fleet was to their own welfare, they viewed in a different light the existence of other navies. The latter were by no means rivals of an English fleet engaged in aggressive attempts to broaden the English domain and thus to extend her authority and power; they were possible assailants of England, possible protectors of an invading army, and were, first and foremost, capable of taking the bread from the mouths of Englishmen and of stripping their clothes from their backs. Such a possibility could not be coolly contemplated. The very life of England depended upon the control of the sea, not merely upon the prevention of armed invasion. She did not therefore believe it expedient to countenance rival navies or rival merchant fleets, for in the days of wooden sailing-ships a large merchant marine could be readily transformed into a navy quite capable of fighting with deadly effect. To her hostility of navies and merchant marines she joined a disinclination to leave the strategic points controlling the ocean roads in the hands of other nations. They were in fact of no great importance for the defense of England from invasion and of no vital assistance in aggression against other nations; they did insure England's firm control of the ocean highways along which came her food supplies.

Until 1776 the American colonies were a part of the British Empire, and were protected from the aggression of other nations by the English fleet. Our colonial trade and shipping were fostered by the Navigation Acts, and were together the basis of the wealth which made the colonies strong enough in 1776 to claim and to make good their independence. If our independence is primarily due to our own strategic position, it is almost as fundamentally the work of the supremacy of the sea.

The English have understood the limitations of the fleet as well as they have its uses. It could control the approaches to various countries; it could insure access to English ships and restrict the access of other nations; it could always secure for the English commercial privileges. In this sense it could control the land, but never could it insure or even make possible political domination. With the cooperation of an army transported and maintained by the fleet, conquest was possible; without it, impossible. While the fleet controlled the sea, England at home was invulnerable, an army was unnecessary, and the English grew to look upon the creation of an army as an extraordinary measure of so unusual and indeed of so unessential a nature as to require the most extraordinary justification. To send an army away from England could be expedient in few circumstances. Were there any benefits likely to accrue to England from conquest and political domination which the fleet could not secure unaided by the simple fact of its ability to close the seas? The tradition grew firm that any object which could not be attained by the fleet with the aid of a relatively small army was prima facie something certain to cost for its achievement out of all proportion to its value. England's island position, the defensive character of her sea-power, made her a non-military nation whose fundamental position made essential an offensive policy on the sea only when her control was threatened, and made inexpedient attempts at the political domination of distant countries the moment large military forces became necessary to establish or maintain it.

For the United States there could scarcely have been a decision of greater importance. The supremacy of the sea has been for three centuries, throughout the whole of our history, in the hands of a nation whose own position made inexpedient an attempt to expand its political authority outside its own borders. The question of force, naturally, was not raised until the American Revolution. We were until then willing subjects of England, valuing the connection and admiring the mother country. With the issue over which the war broke out we are not here concerned. A dispute did arise; subjects of England declined flatly to obey administrative orders and statutes passed by the mother country; they declared in words and made good in arms their determination to resist. They created promptly a situation to which this fundamental English policy applied. Was the political domination in the colonies worth maintaining by an army?

The nature of the trouble was the all-important factor to establish. The English learned from all their officers and officials as well as from many Americans that there was no revolution, but simply an armed outbreak led by a few gentlemen of excellent character, but misguided notions, whose following consisted of men without property and aiming at their own personal aggrandizement and without sympathy with the lofty ideals held by the leaders. The movement possessed, so the English, were told, neither strength, coherence, nor support. A little show of force,---and it would be quite essential to show it and not to exert it,---a little pressure on exactly the right persons, the hanging of a few and the exiling of a few more, and the whole would be over. Some years were needed to convince George III and his advisers that their informants in America had been badly mistaken as to the size and character of the movement. Force had been shown, and had not terrified the "rebels" in the least; several attempts to apply it had been met with a firmness which proved that the new movement was by no means the work of a low-spirited rabble; the character of the men who had come forward all over the country to lend it countenance and support demonstrated beyond doubt that the wealth and intelligence of the country had by no means rallied unanimously in support of English authority.

The moment the truth became clear in London the whole situation took on a vitally different aspect. There had been little hesitation about dealing promptly with disorderly conduct in the colonies. There was much hesitation about undertaking the conquest of thirteen colonies which believed themselves independent and whose willing and efficient cooperation in the future was a matter of grave doubt. That they could subdue the colonies they were quite sure, but they were not by any means sure it was worth doing. That it could not be done by the English forces then in America five years of campaigning had abundantly demonstrated. Many thousands of men, and elaborate equipment would be needed to conquer the colonies in the first place, and the English generals who had seen service in America insisted that it would afterward be necessary, in order to maintain English authority, to garrison the country with almost as large an army as was needed to conquer it. Was there anything to gain from the conquest of the Americans which the fleet and the supremacy of the sea did not absolutely insure England? The game was not worth while. The support of armies at a distance for the maintenance of political domination was contrary to England's best interests.

Adam Smith had pointed out before the Revolution that American trade did not flow to England because of the political connection, but for economic reasons, and some dim appreciation of this fact had dawned upon English statesmen by 1783. They saw clearly that our trade was the only thing really valuable for England, and that no other nation could get it without England's permission; and they believed that we would trade with England rather than not trade at all. Let us not say that we owe our independence to England's forbearance or to her decision that conquest was inexpedient. We owe our independence to the Atlantic Ocean and to our strategic position, which must in the long run have given us the victory, even if we assume so incredible a notion as the entire worthlessness of the Revolutionary army. But the English decision undoubtedly gave us our independence at a much lower cost than we should otherwise have had to pay for it, and established forever in the relations of the two countries the principle that political domination of the United States was from an English point of view entirely inexpedient. Ever since 1783 this has. been a cornerstone of English foreign policy.

There could scarcely be a more important factor in the history of the United States than the control of the sea and, therefore, of all the approaches to this country by a power whose own interests led her to prevent other nations' access with hostile intent, and whose interests also led her to consider inexpedient the use of her power for conquest or political domination.

The true nature of the sea-power and of its benefits to us were appreciated by a few of the leaders in America, but by none of the rank and file. The Revolution cost us all our privileges on the sea and in British possessions and resulted in a commercial crisis of the first magnitude. For the first time we were in opposition to the sea-power, and the cause of our difficulties was less clear than the practical effects upon shipping and trade. The feeling in America was in the main one of acute indignation that the tyrant's hand should still be able to interfere with our destinies. In general, the people were hostile to England as the oppressor from whom we had just been freed, and extremely friendly to France, whose assistance had materially hastened the end of the war. There was on the whole a disposition to defy England and bid her do her worst. We therefore proceeded to quarrel with the sea-power about things in general and presently about things more specific.

The outbreak of the French Revolution led to the creation of a demand in Europe for the food staples which the colonies raised in large quantities, but the bulk of which had hitherto made the freights too costly to permit export to the Continent or to England. With the outbreak of the war, prices soared to a height which made exportation from America not only possible, but highly profitable. A brisk trade sprang up, the bulk of which tended to drift to France, where the need was greatest and the prices highest, and to a people, moreover, for whom most Americans had the liveliest admiration and whom they were glad to supply with the materials needed to fight our own old enemy. Friction with England was inevitable. We were breaking the English statutes; we were creating a merchant marine; we were supplying England's enemy; English deserters were obtaining protection in our merchant fleet and even in our navy, so they claimed; we were carrying contraband of war in vessels built in America, but manned by cosmopolitan crews. In short, we were doing all the things which the English had deemed from the earliest times peculiarly inimical to their supremacy of the sea in its defensive aspect, and they therefore enforced strictly their rules regarding the right of search, the seizure of English deserters upon American vessels, and the confiscation of contraband in American ships. We protested in vain. We also fought in vain. We could not hope by direct attack to damage the victor of Trafalgar, the possessor of the greatest fleet known to history. Our strategic position, defensively invulnerable, was without offensive strength against a European power.

The statesmen who began the War of 1812 do not seem to have expected to extort anything from England by aggression. They thought indeed that our privateers and frigates might prey upon her commerce and do enough damage to make it worth her while to concede us something; but they knew that our ships were swift rather than large, our sailors gallant rather than numerous, and that pitched battles with English fleets were out of the question. With the destruction of merchantmen and the capture or destruction now and then of some frigate or sloop of war, they were well satisfied. The real pawn in the game upon which they counted was Canada. There was little doubt in Washington that it could be easily conquered, and less doubt that it would give us a decidedly valuable possession to offer the English in exchange for commercial rights of various sorts. They thought they could buy with it what they could not take. As for Canada, they knew the Canadians to be fewer in number than the Americans, and probably no better prepared for war. Troops from England would, at any rate, not appear in considerable numbers while the crisis abroad was so serious. This would enable them, they believed, to conquer Canada in the first place, and, once in our hands, the same forces which had prevented England from conquering America in the Revolution would effectively stand in the way of reconquering Canada without paying an enormously heavier price than the commercial concessions the United States demanded. The endeavor failed, however, and proved the complete futility of attempting to challenge the English supremacy on the sea with obviously inadequate resources. It proved also our inability to extort terms from England by other methods.

The end of the War of 1812 brought once more into prominence the policy earlier espoused by the more moderate leaders, Washington, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, as soon as the Revolution had made clear the importance of the British sea-power. The United States, they had maintained, must have cordial relations and, if possible, an alliance with the power controlling the sea. That England had been the mother country from whom we had just won our independence was regrettable, but it must not stand in the way of our interest in fostering cordial relations with the power controlling all the approaches to our country and all our intercourse and foreign trade. Access to the West Indies and to Europe we must have; only with England's consent and on England's terms could we have it; we must therefore get such terms as we could, and hope in time for better. The Anti-Federalists had always considered hostility toward England as the late mother country more important than our commercial association with England as the sea-power. That the two were irreconcilable they declined to admit till after the War of 1812. There was then something approaching an agreement that our own interests required us to ally with the supremacy of the sea, and to make that alliance a fundamental factor of our foreign policy to the exclusion of all other interests, antipathies, or friendships.(1) Since then such has in fact been our policy, although it has rarely been openly avowed and has often been threatened with rupture by the rise of other interests upon which we clashed with England.

England on her part has seen the wisdom of using her sea-power with moderation, and of performing with scrupulous exactitude the various duties it imposed upon her in the interest of other nations. So long as she insisted that her defense and the protection of the imports of food and raw materials made it necessary for her to hold the absolute, unquestioned supremacy on the sea, so long she must pay due heed to the necessities of the nations dependent upon her for their communication with one another. To hamper their freedom of trade, to charge extortionate rates because of her monopoly, to fail to provide enough ships, would infallibly lead to discontent, to the creation of powerful merchant marines by various nations to render the service which the supremacy of the sea imposed upon her. An excellent merchant marine, affording other nations dependent upon her prompt, adequate, reasonable service, with low freight rates, low insurance, and brokerage, has been and still is essential to the continuance of her authority. She must freely and without compulsion do for them what they would otherwise have to do for themselves, and be satisfied with the normal profits which their own merchants might have expected to pay to a merchant marine of their own. So much was obvious.

Never to abuse her power was equally important. It should never be stained by aggression, and the line between defense and aggression must be strictly drawn and never exceeded. At any time a general alliance of the maritime nations against her might shake or even destroy the supremacy which her own domestic needs made more essential to her than to other nations. As long as she recognized and willingly furthered the just and legitimate interests of other nations on the sea, so long would they in all probability recognize her own paramount interest in holding its supremacy. Forbearance, tact, wisdom, generosity even, in her relations with other countries, would be as vital as the strength of the fleet itself in the maintenance of her supremacy. She must prove that her sea-power was primarily defensive by refraining from using it for purposes of aggression. What was necessary to her must never become intolerable to others. In reality the moderation and wisdom with which England has used her authority is more responsible than the strength of her fleets for the length of time that she has been supreme, and for the relatively few times in the past when her control has been really threatened or indeed advisedly questioned.

To the English control of the sea, to their policy of regarding it primarily as defensive, to the moderation and fairness which they have displayed in their use of it, we owe our lack of a strong merchant marine intended for international oceanic trade and the postulates upon which our navy has been built. Our contact with the rest of the world has been in English hands, and it is really astonishing that we have found so few grounds for serious complaint in the past. Since the War of 1812 harmonious relations have been the rule with England; the mutual interests of both in reaching agreement and in hearty cooperation have been recognized, and such a cordial understanding with England is one of the few settled facts in American diplomacy. To this sea-power and all that goes with it our whole economic fabric has been adjusted. Upon it nearly everything depends. We have never known any other condition, and have had no serious reasons since 1815 to desire to change it.

Our army is based upon our strategic position and the improbability of the need of military strength for the maintenance of our political independence. It has been a police force rather than a military organization in the European sense. It is highly important at this time to realize that our navy has never been based at any time upon the assumption of challenging England's supremacy of the sea. That has become almost an axiom of our policy. We have attempted rather to build a supplementary force, sufficient to police our own waters and to deal adequately with the minor European navies which might conceivably attempt an assault upon us at a time when the situation in Europe might make the English hesitate to send a fleet to American waters on their own account. The recent growth of foreign navies has caused a concentration of English ships in European waters, and has made us feel it desirable to strengthen our navy so as to be able to protect ourselves against any other power than England. There could scarcely be a more striking testimonial to our confidence in the fairness of England, of our belief in the strength of her friendship for us, and in the firmness with which she means to maintain her policy of defense.

Chapter footnotes:

1. "Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one or all on earth; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her then we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship." Jefferson to Monroe, Oct. 24, 1823. Writings of Monroe, Hamilton's ed., vi., 391. Back to text.




SCARCELY less fundamental in its formative influence upon our history than our strategic position and the control of the seas by England has been the existence of the West Indies and of South America. If the first period of our history, a period of growth, was dominated by the Atlantic, the second, a period of commercial expansion, was dominated by the West Indian trade. From its vital importance to our well-being sprang that fundamental concept of American policy that the economic interests of the United States in the West Indies and South America are necessarily paramount to those of any European nation, and are so essential to our welfare and to the welfare of those countries that we should do great violence to the interests of the Western Hemisphere if we should allow any nation to interfere with our freedom of trade. As against European nations, we must be supreme in the Western Hemisphere, for the mutual interests of the United States and Latin America demand it. We must not forget to-day how far back in the past this tradition has its roots, nor fail to understand that it represents conditions which were at one time significant for the national welfare.

Throughout the first two centuries of our existence the trade of the continent was entirely dependent upon the existence of the West Indian islands. In those times there were few or no manufactures in America, and American merchants imported from England nearly every conceivable commodity from pins and hats to laces and broadcloths. For these we had little to exchange which the Europeans valued: of tobacco, Virginia and Maryland produced sufficient for their own needs of exchange, but unquestionably not enough for the needs of the colonies as a whole; the staples of New England, fish and lumber, the staples of the middle colonies, wheat, corn, and live stock, were too bulky to send to England, and commanded too small prices in a market already overstocked with such produce to make their export profitable. The colonies needed a market in which the produce they did raise could be sold at profit and in which they could purchase something for which Europeans would exchange manufactured goods.

Such a market existed in the West Indian islands, where the sugar colonies of the various European nations had grown to considerable size by the middle of the seventeenth century. They found it too expensive to produce food when land and labor brought in much greater returns if devoted to cane, and they therefore raised few of the necessities of life. To bring from Europe adequate supplies of such bulky produce was more expensive, even had not the length of the voyage to Europe and the uncertainty of arrival made supplies from such a source precarious. The food products of the Atlantic coast were as absolutely essential to the West India colonists as the market was to the continental colonists. The round of colonial trade thus assured the needed exchange. The New England merchants carried to Africa a cargo of rum, which was exchanged for slaves, who were carried in turn to the West Indian islands for molasses or sugar, which, when taken back to New England, was converted into more rum with which to continue the process. The food products of the coast, salt fish and the various grains, lumber in all its forms, were also exported to the West Indies, where they found ready sale in exchange for sugar or molasses, products which commanded a great market in England and the Continent, and which were easily turned into manufactured goods, to be brought back to America and sold by the merchants for more of the food products with which to continue the trade. We furnished the West Indies with a merchant marine; they furnished us with a market; they bought from us their food; they sold us the wherewithal to buy manufactured goods in Europe. The relationship was mutual in the best and strictest sense, for it was absolutely essential to the continued economic prosperity of both. From it the colonists drew the conclusion that the interests of the Atlantic Coast in the West Indies were paramount to any interest which any European country could have, and that freedom of access to the West Indies lay at the root of our prosperity as well as of theirs. It was at this time completely true. From that trade we obtained the wealth which made us strong enough to stand alone, and with it we paid the price of independence.

The result of this situation and of the conclusions which the colonists drew from it was a complete and frank disregard of European claims and regulations intended to fetter or limit in any way this intercourse. With equal nonchalance they violated the British Navigation Acts, the French Regulations, and the Spanish Rules. As all the sugar colonies of whatever nationality needed American products and were ready to pay for them, the colonists sold to all without regard to nationality. To this they were urged by the rapid growth of the coast colonies during the eighteenth century, a growth stupendous in percentage of population and in the increase of the volume of produce, and which made markets more essential than ever. If the producers at home were to continue to sell at profit, expanding markets were essential to ward off the commercial ruin which a glut of produce in home markets would inevitably cause. Soon the English colonies on the continent outgrew the market furnished them by the English sugar colonies, produced more than the latter could possibly use, and required more goods for European exchange than the latter produced. They therefore extended the smuggling trade with the foreign possessions in the West Indies, and drew into their own hands something approaching a monopoly of the West Indian trade, with such results that the year 1764 showed them with perfect clearness that nothing less than a monopoly of the whole West Indian market would suffice to absorb the volume of commodities annually produced by the thirteen colonies. Unless they could sell to this expanding market, production at home must be retarded, and the economic progress of America proceed at a less rapid pace.

This monopoly of the West Indian trade was not received in England with favor. So long as the English islands had been fully supplied from the continent they had maintained a certain natural advantage over the foreign sugar colonies, whose supplies perforce had to be raised on the island or brought from a great distance. When the coast colonies sold produce to all, the English colonies lost their important advantage, and their degree of profit was in consequence seriously reduced. The agreements entered into between England and France as to privileges and restrictions in the cod fisheries off Newfoundland the colonists declined to obey. Salt fish was the great staple food for the slaves in the West Indies; absolute freedom of access to the supply of fish was as necessary to them as access to the market in which to sell it; they demanded both, and both with very little ceremony they meant to take, regulations or no regulations. To compel them to obey these regulations and the Navigation Acts was the intention of much of the English legislation which led to the American Revolution. We were no longer to trade with the foreign sugar colonies. That much was clear in London. The moment it became clear in America the merchants saw it would ruin the prosperity of the colonies, since there was no other market in which the surplus products could be sold.

They diagnosed the difficulty as the political bond which bound the colonies to England and made them liable to administrative regulations made in English interests rather than in their own. To admit now that this political bond also compelled them to contribute taxes for the creation and maintenance of a resident administration strong enough to compel the observance of those noxious regulations was to concede the right of the mother country to ruin the colonies. If the political bond was the difficulty, political freedom was the cure. Once obtained, it would insure a freedom of trade with the West Indies and consequently a monopoly of the West Indian trade, for the natives would be forced to trade with the coast colonies as long as the latter alone produced the desired supplies. Interference by European nations could result only in stopping the stream of supplies which their own colonists demanded, and in checking our production of the commodities which they could obtain only from us. The connection between the colonies and the West Indian islands was natural and normal, with which interference was artificial, unnatural, oppressive, and tyrannical. It was not to be expected that freemen would endure such conditions or recognize a political bond which imposed them.

To secure freedom of access to the West Indian and South American trade we fought the Revolution. Administrative independence it was scarcely necessary to struggle for; our strategic position had already taken it from England's hands and fairly thrust it into our own; it was a privilege they could not hope to retain, a burden of which we could not rid ourselves. Our economic position was not thus assured, and a struggle was thought well worth while to remove a captious and arbitrary interference based upon whims and ignorance, and contrary to all normal rights and interests of both the principal parties.

But the results of the Revolution were hardly those expected. Hitherto the English fleet had protected the colonists, assured them access to the West Indies, and looked on more or less indifferently while they broke the regulations of other countries. Under no circumstances were the English accustomed to allow foreign ships to capture or interfere with their own. The importance of this protection was not realized in America, because the aid of the English war-ships was rarely needed, and their presence not invariably known. As soon as the Revolution was over and the political bond broken, the English fleet was promptly put into action against the American vessels, and the new republic found that operations which had been wholly feasible with the connivance of the British navy were entirely impossible when that navy was arrayed against it. As a matter of fact, the Revolution robbed us of the rights we had had in all the West Indian colonies, because the American navy was not strong enough to maintain the smuggling trade in the face of the united opposition of all the European owners. We had no rights at all and were not strong enough to defy even the weakest powers in the West Indies, while the British colonies were wholly closed against us. It was a terrible blow. The leaders saw for the first time the importance of the supremacy of the sea: all our approaches were in England's hands, all our intercourse with the outside world at her mercy. The dilemma was extraordinary. Having defied England as the mother country, roused feeling against her as a tyrant, and won our independence with the aid of her worst enemy, the leaders now found that harmonious relations had to be established with this same country because intercourse with the outside world was absolutely essential for us and was to be had only on her terms. Her double. rôle had not been entirely appreciated before the Revolution, and, in the face of the popular hostility to England after the war, it was a difficult fact to make clear to the people. The majority found it hard to understand the necessity of any relations with England. Had not the war been fought for the purpose of severing relations? Had we not fought to obtain an extension of privileges, and should we now humiliate ourselves by begging England to grant us as favors those same rights which we had just thrust from us with contumely and scorn? Nor were the English inclined to forget the Revolution and restore to us, now that we were independent, what we had so vehemently insisted was entirely insufficient while we had been parts of the British Empire. However, there was nothing for it, so the majority of the leaders thought, but to make the best terms we could. Throughout the critical period and the three Federalist administrations negotiations were prosecuted with vigor, but without success. One treaty was agreed upon which granted some of our requests, but which the Senate refused to approve because it did not grant them all.

By 1800 the scene had shifted in Europe. The French Revolution and general European war had created a market on the Continent for American provisions and furnished us for the time being with a direct medium of exchange. This relief from the intensity of the distress felt at the close of the Revolution caused a distinct drawing away from England, lent support to the natural antipathy that Jefferson and the Anti-Federalists had always cherished, and brought negotiations to an end. Above all, it seemed to justify the claim that amicable relations with England were less essential to our prosperity than the Federalists had believed. From the growth of an American merchant marine and a trade with the Continent which broke many of the English war regulations came disputes; from the bickering came disagreements, and out of the quarrels grew in time the War of 1812. If the war stopped all trade with Europe and rendered the whole situation worse than it had been before, its ending brought little relief, because the European markets were now irrevocably lost with the beginning anew of production in Europe. Moreover, England still stood in the way, and prevented our getting across the Atlantic except on her terms.

The situation after the War of 1812, out of which grew the Monroe Doctrine, reveals a complex tangle of interests in which the past and future jostled each other in the minds of American statesmen. The first and most fundamental interest which they seem to have had in mind was the tradition of our necessary connection with the West Indian trade and the consequent belief that as our interests in it were paramount to those which any European nation could have, so the interests of the colonists in the West Indies and in South America were identical with ours, and were consequently contrary to those of European nations. To establish such a fact the Revolution had been fought, and American statesmen were by no means minded to yield the point in 1823, even had they believed it within their power to renounce so fundamental a principle of our polity. It was our primary interest, to be subserved at all costs. The next great outstanding fact was that borne in upon us by the War of 1812---the supremacy of England on the sea and the impossibility of its dispute by the United States. Its corollary was, they realized with considerable anxiety, the supremacy of England in the Western Hemisphere, since the absence of adequate communication overland between the various countries and colonies made intercourse inevitably by water, and accordingly placed its control in England's hands. Such a supremacy was, however, a physical fact which American statesmen, with the War of 1812 fresh in mind, were not inclined to dispute, though by no means one they stood ready to countenance.

Beside these two facts stood the control by England of the trade with South America and the West Indies. For long years England had been interested in South American trade, and even in the seventeenth century had begun to draw a considerable portion of it into her hands. She had taken pains to secure a certain technical sanction for it in the Treaty of Utrecht at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and under this aegis the trade had grown in importance. When English merchants were compelled during the Napoleonic wars to look for a market in which to dispose of the produce they could no longer sell to Europe because of Napoleon's Continental System, they turned to the West Indies and South America. There a certain artificial and technical obstacle---Spanish ownership---stood in the way of their monopolizing the trade in the guise of regulations which denied them freedom of intercourse. Firm in their traditional policy of not acquiring political domination of distant countries which force might be needed to maintain, England seems to have suggested to the South Americans---or at any rate to have encouraged an idea of their own---independence. This would remove all obstacles, and the English control of the sea would enable them to regulate conditions under which other nations should share the trade, for an exclusive monopoly does not seem to have been contemplated or deemed advisable. Independence, it was seen, would be easy to win. The resident governments were weak and incompetent, and the necessary munitions of war the English stood ready to furnish, and would not be inclined to insist upon payment, although the transaction would outwardly be commercial. The operation was perfectly safe, because the English fleet would hold Spain and the rest of Europe on the other side of the Atlantic, and not permit interference. Whether or not these suppositions are true, the fact remains that the Spanish American colonies did revolt and did claim their independence at various times after 1810; by 1823 the process was complete.

To the European nations it was peculiarly evident that England was about to succeed in the Gulf of Mexico and in South America to the position which Spain had previously held, and it seemed inadvisable to allow her to make so considerable an acquisition of territory under cover of the thin fiction of political independence for the natives. That it meant unusual commercial privileges for England no one doubted. For some years the European powers were too busy arranging the domestic affairs of Europe to be able to turn their attention to the Western Hemisphere, but in due course of time the Holy Alliance of France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, moved ostensibly by the request of Spain, issued a protest against the loss of the Spanish colonies and intimated the desirability of their restoration to Spain. The blow was of course aimed at England who held the actual control, so far as the outside world was concerned, but the fiction of political independence made it necessary to protest technically against the independence of the republics and to direct any coercion against them and not against England. This would give England the alternative of avowing her control and of defending it or of declining battle and so sacrificing her new allies and her new dominion.. France and Russia indeed were moved by no strong desire to hand the colonies back to Spain, but by a great desire to keep them out of England's hands.

The issue was thoroughly well understood in England. Her power on the sea was believed to be the decisive factor, and an assault upon South America was not feared; but she was by no means sure the Holy Alliance would not force the issue. Though not doubting eventual success, England dreaded war, for she wished to control the Western Hemisphere without fighting for it. In any case she was anxious to prevent the United States from joining her enemies, because in the event of a war the location of the United States would be important, and its strength would compel England to increase the force despatched. Canning, the Foreign Minister, made therefore to the United States an offer of the utmost subtlety. He suggested a joint protest of the United States and Great Britain, directed to the Holy Alliance, against the reconquest in favor of Spain of her late colonies, and also suggested that the note should recognize the equality of interests which England and the United States possessed in the Western Hemisphere. Its purpose was apparently to secure from the United States an official recognition of England's new dominion in the Gulf of Mexico and South America.

If the situation was thoroughly well understood in England and on the Continent, it was none the less well understood in the United States. There were two traditions which influenced American statesmen. The first was that of the necessity of cordial relations between the United States and the power controlling the sea, which had been enunciated so often as to be commonplace. Negotiations however had failed so often as to be disappointing in the extreme, and made so fair an offer as this recognition of equality of interests promising and important. Monroe, the President, and several important public men were in favor of the acceptance of the offer upon these grounds.

There was, however, a second precedent of no less consequence and antiquity. It had early been seen that our strategic situation made us clearly independent of European powers acting from Europe, and that neither invasion nor aggression was to be feared from that source. Our real danger would arise from European powers located in America. The existence of the French colonies since the earliest times, the difficulties of the French and Indian Wars, the fear common during the Revolution that the English meant to build up in the Mississippi valley a great state which would in time absorb the coast states, had demonstrated our danger from resident European colonies and shown that European nations were anxious to establish dominion in North America. While the cession of the district between the Alleghenies and the Mississippi to the United States by the Peace of 1783 ended the danger for the time, it appeared again with greater insistence in the fear of the erection by France or England of a state to the west of the Mississippi. This was ended by the purchase of Louisiana, but the location of the threatened European aggression was merely shifted, first to Florida, then successively to the West Indies, Texas, Mexico, and Central America. Any of them obviously could have been used as a basis for a great European state whose existence in such a locality might very well throw the United States upon the defensive and impose a more serious burden upon the young and struggling community than it was capable of bearing. Declaration after declaration had been made with additional earnestness and upon public and increasingly solemn occasions that we could not see such an establishment of European authority in the Western Hemisphere without grave anxiety and fear for our independence.

To this tradition Adams, the Secretary of State, and those who thought with him, appealed. If England's offer was likely to further our traditional policy of cordial relations with the seapower and seemed about to confer upon us some of the commercial privileges in the West Indies we had long sought, was it not also diametrically contrary to our policy of defense? England was suddenly offering the United States valuable privileges which she had long denied us and was asking in return apparently no concessions. To Adams this proved that she was subserving some interests of her own, obtaining from us something which she valued, and it was his duty to find out what that was. Surely it was not our assistance in the protection of the South American republics, for if the English fleet could not save them, we had not enough strength to add to turn the tide. Nor did our moral assistance seem to him sufficiently regarded in Europe to have influenced Canning. The truth was, he pointed out, the protection of the new republics by the English sea-power meant simply their transfer from Spain to England, and before Monroe's message was read, Adams's prescience was demonstrated correct by an agreement between France and England to, prevent the re-conquest of the republics. This settled the question of their independence and it really made the joint protest of the United States and England virtually worthless. The deed was done.

In the suggestion that the United States and England jointly declare their mutual interests in the Western Hemisphere, Adams saw the concession that was desired, and that it was a concession which we ought never to make. It was contrary, in the first place, to the known facts; our natural and normal interest in the West Indian trade was greater than that of England could be, and in all probability our interest in the South American trade was of much the same significance. For those people, the ability to secure food-stuffs was more important than the purchase of European manufactured goods. The interests of the United States were paramount to those of England, and the proposed English relationship intended to erect an artificial barrier in the way of a trade indispensable to the welfare of the United States, of the West Indies, and of South America. It was also vitally contrary to our first principle of defense not to recognize the erection of a strong European state in the Western Hemisphere. If any white nation were to control the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, the United States should; our expansion might become essential, and we ought never to recognize any other principle than that of our supremacy in the Western Hemisphere. If for the time the sea-power held us helpless, the situation might change, and meantime we should make our protest against this new English dominion. Such arguments were cogent, and eventually carried the day. As enunciated in Monroe's famous message, they were interpreted both in America and in Europe to denote a defiance of England and an intention at some future time to contest her supremacy in the Western Hemisphere. In reality, the complexity of ideas was much greater. The doctrine comprised our paramount interests in the West Indies and South America as against England or all Europe; the statement that we should consider the erection of a strong European state in the gulf or in Central America as an aggressive act primarily aimed at the independence of the United States; an assertion that such a connection between Latin America and Europe was abnormal and artificial and contrary to the true interests of the Americas; and, lastly, a declaration of our rightful supremacy in the Western Hemisphere as against England or any other European power.




THE supremacy of the Western Hemisphere remained in England's hands because of her continued possession of the supremacy of the sea. It was a physical fact, a result of physical conditions, not in the least to be shaken by diplomatic or military achievements; the intercourse between the various parts of the Western Hemisphere was unavoidably by water, and the water routes were too incontestably in England's hands. The real issue before the American statesmen, as Adams had shown, was not the denial of the existence of such established facts, but the policy of formally recognizing them or of admitting their justice or consonance with the interests of the United States. The doctrine of Monroe's message declared that the United States recognized no paramountcy and accepted no supremacy vested in a European power, and the formal publicity given the statement, to Canning's thinking, attested an American determination to contest the facts at the earliest opportunity.

The South Americans, though torn at first by apprehensions, soon accepted the situation. British statesmen were at some pains to prove to them that they owed their independence to the protection afforded by the British fleet,---a protection which the United States could not furnish,---that England possessed liberal supplies of capital which she would gladly furnish them, while the United States was not able to finance its own development and was seeking large amounts of capital. Manufactured goods the English also had, which the United States did not produce in sufficient quantities for her own consumption and which she was obviously not able to supply for South American needs. South America's crude products could be utilized by the varied industrial demands of England's economic fabric, but did not find and would not for many years find in the United States anything like an adequate market. The fullness of the English hands, the entire adequacy of the English offer to South America, their statesmen were at some pains to make clear. The diplomatic representations of the United States at the Pan-American Congress of 1826, while received with courtesy, were without avail. The physical facts were against us. We could not buy what they had to sell; we could not sell them what they wished to buy; we did not control the approaches to the Western Hemisphere or the trade routes in American waters. Why should they doubt?.

In addition the English were ready to recognize and maintain the political independence of the new republics in exchange for a tacit recognition of the English control of the South American trade. The English supremacy in the Western Hemisphere was therefore exceedingly subtle and peculiar: no display of force was made or contemplated; no challenge on the sea was expected; conquest on land was undesirable; the only sanction was to be the potential power of the British fleet. The South American republics were technically sovereign and ostensibly were to be themselves supreme. The English control was almost in the nature of a reserved right to interfere, with the distinct understanding that the interference should in no case touch political or domestic affairs. An open recognition of the English supremacy on the sea was expected in the acceptance of English regulations and restrictions upon trade and in the passage of local regulations to facilitate intercourse with England. No militating regulations against England were to be tolerated. These notions the United States would not accept; the old quarrels over rights in the West Indies were transferred to South America, and were aggravated by the attempts of Congress to impose identical restrictions upon English trade with the United States. Still, on the whole, the English supremacy of the Western Hemisphere was sensed rather than seen, and was subtly concealed in the guise of the supremacy of the sea.

This diplomatic tensity, like that which the Monroe Doctrine, with its defiance of England, had threatened, was relieved by the operation of forces which Canning could not have set in motion, nor Monroe have opposed. The prosperity of the sugar islands disappeared. It had been partly damaged at the outbreak of the Revolution by the interference with the full stream of supplies which had hitherto poured in from the continental colonies, and it was further injured by the falling off of the demand for sugar upon the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars; but the final blow was struck in 1833 by the abolition of slavery in the English West Indian islands. The most valuable of the foreign islands had meanwhile passed into English hands, and the ruin which fell upon the trade embraced nearly all the prominent centers of production. Thus, disappeared an extensive market for American products in the West Indies, and our loss of rights in it became no longer of consequence. With it went our paramount interest in the Western Hemisphere and our really vital interest in opposing the English supremacy on the sea. Nor was South America able to take the place of the West India groups. We had little to sell which they were willing to buy, because they themselves produced food-stuffs and lumber and were not engaged in growing staples like sugar and tobacco by gangs of slaves who had to be maintained from imports; nor could they supply us what we needed, an exchange medium adequate for our own purchases of manufactured goods in Europe. There was no longer a mutual economic interest between the Americas to be protected by diplomacy.

An indigenous product, cotton, had appeared in America for which so great a demand developed in Europe that it kept pace with an almost incredible annual increase in production, and began to rouse lively expectations that the eagerly sought medium of direct exchange had at last been found. It would give us, too, a commodity for our European trade of which the sea-power could not rob us and the export of which England would normally facilitate, because she herself demanded the new staple. American statesmen even began to dream of obtaining from her favorable commercial terms in exchange for omnipotent cotton. The potency of cotton was proportionate to the size of the crop, and the development of the industry was a prerequisite of its adequacy as a medium of exchange or as a bribe for other concessions. Immediately great stress was laid upon increasing the rate of its development: we must obtain as soon as possible an amount for export equivalent in value to the sum total of American imports of manufactured goods. For such development land was needed in large amounts and of peculiar quality. The largest crops of the best cotton could be grown at that time only upon the virgin soil of the river bottoms, and even this land afforded the maximum profit only when cultivated by the gangs of slaves, the number of which reduced the expense of oversight and administration to a minimum. Such a degree of return depended as well upon the frequent change of the scene of labor, for the cotton crop soon materially decreased in size on soil lately virgin. The amount of virgin soil in the river bottoms was limited by nature, but the amount of the potential supply available in continental United States was smaller. In the Gulf of Mexico and Central America, however, was a vast area the soil and climate of which were favorable for cotton culture and seemed a legitimate field for its expansion.

New land in large amounts was vehemently demanded and promptly obtained. The expulsion of the Creeks and Cherokees from the Gulf States opened large tracts to settlement and exploitation; large numbers of Americans migrated with their slaves into Texas, a province at that time of the Mexican Republic. The insatiable demand led eventually to the annexation of Texas, to the Mexican War and the annexation of the whole western quarter of the present United States, and to the aggressive assertion of our need for Cuba, the coast provinces of Mexico, and a great many other districts on the gulf. Northern statesmen charged the Southerners with a plan for the establishment of a huge slave empire, embracing all the land bordering on the Gulf of Mexico and all the islands.

In justification of this aggression, certain phases of the Monroe Doctrine were cited. The extension of American authority as a defensive measure was ardently advocated by those who claimed that England purposed to annex Texas or Mexico or Cuba and begin there the erection of a state to contest our position in the Western Hemisphere. Plausibly this compelled us to act in self-defense and forestall so dangerous a neighbor by assuming control ourselves. From it came also plausible claims to interfere in the domestic concerns as well as the foreign relations of the minor countries to assure ourselves that no foreign influence was creeping in or being afforded adequate excuse for aggression. Nor was precedent lacking for such territorial expansion; its inevitability had been predicted by a long line of men eminent in American annals, and its importance to our welfare had been a frequent subject of oratory both in Congress and in the country at large.

To these actual territorial gains and to this presumptive desire for actual possession of the Gulf of Mexico, England raised objections. The intercourse between the various parts of this new empire would necessarily depend upon the sea, which was controlled by England, and she objected to an assumption of sovereignty which ignored the fact of her supremacy and, in particular, to the schemes for the extension of our influence to the exclusion of her own. So insistent were these representations that eventually the United States accepted the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. The fundamental principle of the document seems to have been that of cooperation between England and the United States in the Gulf of Mexico which had been previously suggested by Canning and rejected by Adams and Monroe. Each recognized the other's active interests in the gulf, agreed not to acquire special interests to the other's detriment or without the other's consent, and explicitly bound itself not to build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama or at any other place without the other's express consent. The treaty was extremely unpopular in America and was assailed as the abrogation of the Monroe Doctrine and an admission that the interests of the United States were no longer paramount in the Western Hemisphere. Neither the treaty nor the principle upon which it was based met with entire approval from subsequent administrations, which again and again declared it without relation to the Monroe Doctrine. Thus matters stood at the close of the century.

Meanwhile the English continued to retain the supremacy of the Western Hemisphere, though they rarely chose to assert it and never demanded its formal recognition by European nations or by the United States. A genuine liberality and tolerance, as well as a sense of expediency, marked their use of it. The economic growth of various nations during the nineteenth century had naturally led to development of their trade with South America; but England viewed it with little apprehension, for she realized that she could not possibly buy the whole of South America's raw products, because she could not use them herself, and that her own interests were furthered more by the development of South America by other nations than by an attempt to monopolize such trade as already existed. The actual volume of English trade and the actual English profits would be larger by sharing with other nations an increased and developed trade than by monopolizing a trade which the circumstances of the monopoly would limit and stunt, even were it not contrary to English policy to interfere with freedom of trade in the markets of the world. She must always refrain from raising issues which might lead to the questioning of her sea-power and hence to an assault upon her means of defending herself. Far from involving a loss of her supremacy or its renunciation, this policy demanded merely a wise employment of it, a recognition of its economic and naval limits and of the essential rights of other nations.

The rise of Pan-Germanism, the creation of the German fleet, the nature of Germany's objection to England's position on the sea, promptly altered the actual facts of England's supremacy. The Germans challenged the rightfulness of the control of the sea by any nation, for it placed in its hands a potential power more detrimental to the interests of all others than any one nation should hold. That the foreign trade and intercourse of any nation should depend upon the good-will, forbearance, or domestic interests of another was intolerable. Nothing short of complete independence could be recognized. Past liberality, present generosity, and assurances for the future were no guaranty of an apparent freedom which ill concealed a very real inferiority. Could not the English close all the avenues of approach to Europe, stop German trade with the rest of the world, and hamper the German development on which her safety depended? The English argument that the control of the seas was an absolutely essential defensive measure for the protection of England's imports of food and raw materials they did not find convincing. Should they admit that the continued prosperity of England was a burden which they were under obligation to further or recognize? Why should they permit England's defensive needs to become paramount to their own?

The building of the German fleet gradually compelled England to concentrate her own ships in the channel and in the North Sea, and thus robbed her of her physical control of the waters of the Western Hemisphere. In reality, so long as she owned the greatest fleet in the world and so long as it remained unbeaten, her control would potentially exist and be implicit in the situation. The actual facts, however, were otherwise. The moment she no longer patrolled American waters in sufficient force to compel obedience to her regulations, her supremacy of the Western Hemisphere became a myth, dissipated by the growth of the German fleet. As long as the existence of the German fleet compelled the retention of English ships in European waters and therefore prevented her despatch to American waters of sufficient naval strength to maintain her old supremacy, the actual control of American waters had passed from England's hands, and would remain a potentiality rather than a fact until the German fleet had been defeated.

All this the English thoroughly understood, and they were at some pains to explain it to the United States in an attempt to make certain arrangements to insure the exclusion of Germany from the Western Hemisphere in any eventuality. If the supremacy of the seas passed from English hands and the British Empire fell, neither should strengthen Germany. England was not minded to contest the supremacy of all the oceans, of the Western Hemisphere, of the Mediterranean, of Egypt and India at the same time, nor to hand over to her own conqueror, if disaster should be her lot, the plenitude of her own authority. The empire should be broken up, the supremacy of the seas divided, before Germany should fall heir to either. But both would fall into the hands of her successor in the control of European waters, if they were not previously placed in the hands of resident powers capable of defending them and whose normal interests would urge their preservation. The constant reaffirmation of the Monroe Doctrine, and its interpretation in the United States as fairly obliging us to exclude European interests from the Western Hemisphere, gave reasons for hope that the United States would not supinely surrender to a victorious Germany what the English conceived to be our national ambition.

They therefore proposed to hand over to the United States the actual control of American waters and, in particular, of the Gulf of Mexico before the European situation should compel them to renounce their supremacy forever. In the circumstances they were willing to cede it outright, to make the United States supreme, in exchange for an understanding as to the ways in which the United States should use its control of American waters and for an amicable arrangement which would probably lead to close economic relations with the United States that the English saw would be essential to them upon the outbreak of a general European war. The closing of the Black Sea and the Baltic would promptly deprive the English of important sources of food supplies and would necessitate access to adequate supplies elsewhere. The United States alone possessed them. Manufactured goods of all sorts would be highly important for England and her ally, France; certain types of munitions of war could not be produced by the existing English and French factories in sufficient quantities; the United States was the only manufacturing power with a sufficiently large and varied economic fabric to enable her to meet promptly and adequately such demands. Further, a market for English goods during the war would be essential, for, while the rate of production would naturally be reduced, the output would still be more considerable in all probability than could be marketed unless the English should be ready to sell to the United States the amount of manufactured goods which the latter had previously bought from Germany and Austria. The employment of the English merchant marine would be advisable, if not essential; it would find in its trade with the United States a sufficient occupation during hostilities to ward off actual distress. Indeed, the economic structure of the United States, they saw, was complementary to that of England. If the United States could build a canal at Panama, it could also create a great ocean highway to the far East and to the English colonies in the southern Pacific, which might be of supreme importance in case Pan-Germanism was able to close the Mediterranean. If in addition the United States navy could protect the canal and American waters from fleets other than England's, and be able in case of need to patrol effectively the commercial highways across the Atlantic, it could afford England very substantial aid in time of war and further the mutual economic interests of both countries.

The economic development of the nineteenth century had changed the relations of the United States with South America; a close connection between them had become possible, if indeed a certain mutuality of economic interest did not already exist. Varied industries now provided an enormous bulk of manufactured goods for export; the new agriculture furnished vast supplies of food-stuffs which the railroads and steamships were now able to transport cheaply to the European market; modern science had made available for export nearly everything the country produced; nor was the country any longer dependent upon a single staple as a medium of exchange. Changes both in Europe and in America of an unquestionably fundamental nature had revolutionized the whole situation, while the proportionately great development of the United States had freed us from our dependence upon Europe. We were now able to supply the South Americans with manufactured goods; we were able also to use in our own manufactures the staple products of South America; capital for investment was now plentiful in the United States. The close commercial bond which had been impossible because of our economic deficiencies found in its way only the English control of the sea, for the simultaneous development of South America had made those republics able to trade with the United States.

Such reasoning was cogent, the offer was alluring, and was accepted by the United States. The results are familiar enough, but none the less striking and significant. The United States now controls the Gulf of Mexico in actual fact, owns land at Panama on each side of the canal, and exercises a protectorate over the more important islands, Cuba, San Domingo, and Porto Rico; American capital has poured into Central America and, assisted in one way or another by diplomatic agencies, has left the smaller states at present little more than the shadow of political independence and the control of local government subject to suggestion and dictation from Washington. In Mexico, American interests are predominant, but still insistent upon a diplomatic and political support which they have not as yet received. In the Pacific, the United States possesses Hawaii, the Philippines, and various smaller islands, thus effectively controlling the commercial highway across that great ocean and holding a strong strategic position in Chinese waters. The Philippines control on one side the approach to China from Europe and India which Hong-Kong and Shanghai, in England's possession, hold on the other. Strong representations have been made by the United States Government to the European nations with regard to our equality of opportunity in the trade of the far East, and the policy known as the "Open Door" is more or less closely related to these developments.

So far as the Western Hemisphere is concerned, the supremacy of the United States is physically and morally so great that it is not likely to be disputed, even though she should be in no better position than at present to make it good in arms. As against Europe, she is also now supreme. The only fleets at all able to dispute our position are definitely located in Europe until the issue of the war is settled clearly one way or the other. The English and German fleets are in the North Sea and the English Channel, the French fleet is in the Mediterranean, and the three can desert their posts only at the cost of handing over to the others all that they hold dear. While they certainly will not interfere with the United States on any such terms as these, it is well to remember that the situation in Europe rather than our own geographical location or our own naval strength makes us supreme to-day in the Western Hemisphere. Our control as against American powers, our tenure as against European powers, are conditional upon the continuance of something approaching a naval balance of power in European waters, upon a fact which is not within our own control.




THE vital developments of the nineteenth century in science and in industry have already robbed our strategic position of a part of its former invulnerability, while the European war threatens seriously to alter the more important of its other features, and to make an army no longer a secondary or subsidiary element in our national defense. Our strategic position has been based, as already indicated, upon the existence of the Atlantic Ocean and our separation from Europe in time and space, robbing us of a position influential in military and naval issues in Europe, and giving the rival powers of Europe little or no reason to regard our conquest as desirable. In addition, the strategic character of the country, which requires the continuous use of an enormous army to make conquest practicable or invasion easy, has been of vital importance to us throughout our history, because there has not yet been a time, when one of the great nations of Europe has felt itself able to spare so considerable a force from its own domains in Europe. Economic interests to attract a conqueror here, we have had none. In the action and interaction of these peculiar factors, both positive and negative, has lain our practical invulnerability for more than two centuries.

The invention of the locomotive, the steamboat, the telegraph has entirely changed the character of the first and most important of our strategic defenses, the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, it would be most extraordinary if these changes in communication and transportation had not left an enduring mark upon our position, for they have revolutionized conditions as old as the history of man and have affected greater changes in intercourse than all man's progress since the days of the Pharaohs. Time and space have been annihilated to a degree almost incredible. The land journey even to Philadelphia was during the Revolution an undertaking, almost an adventure, and the arrival of the traveler could not be predicted with any certainty. America is now no farther from London than Newport was from New York by sea in the days of George Washington, while John Adams traveled to New York overland to be inaugurated as Vice-President of the United States in 1789 in more time than it takes today to go from Boston to San Francisco or, indeed, from Boston to Paris. In fact, not only is communication more regular and considerably more a matter of course between Europe and America to-day than contact was between the colonies at the time of the Revolution, but incomparably more people in the United States have traveled widely in Europe to-day than had visited in the old times a point one hundred miles from home. The annihilation of time, so far as intercourse is concerned, is even more complete. The telegraph and the wireless place us in instantaneous connection with all parts of the world and give us every morning the world's happenings, to be skimmed through while we take our coffee.

The result upon international politics has been extraordinary. The separation in time and space to which our independence was primarily due has disappeared forever. It would now be possible for a European nation to govern the United States successfully even though severed by the Atlantic. England governs India to-day far easier and better than she was able to govern the continental colonies in the eighteenth century; for, where her administration of the colonies was too slow, too halting and inefficient to be of real consequence, her administration in India is prompt, efficient, and stable. From this inability of European nations to govern distant lands came much of their disinclination for distant political conquests. We are not now protected from conquest by any such factor.

The military situation has been even more strikingly revolutionized. The present war is being fought in Europe by forces of men who have come together from the four comers of the earth. Contingents from Canada, India, and Australia have been established and maintained in the English ranks in France with a readiness and an ease which would have been impossible half a century ago. In the trenches these men are eating food grown in Dakota and in Texas, wrapping themselves in blankets woven from Australian wool by American factories; American mules, driven by Hindus, are drawing English cannon into action, while the Frenchmen who fight beside them are clad in American clothes and wear American shoes. Indeed, the French and English officials regard as perfectly feasible the supplying and provisioning of their armies from the United States, and philanthropists have undertaken to supply the entire Belgian nation with American food and clothes. We shall be blind to the most obvious of facts if we fail to see that a European army can be maintained in the United States as easily as the present European armies can be maintained from the United States. If hundreds of thousands of men can be fed at that distance in Europe, it is at least conceivable that hundreds of thousands of men could be supplied in the United States from European sources. Invasion of the United States is no longer forbidden by the practical difficulty of maintaining at such a distance a force sufficiently large to make an invasion decisive.

On the other hand, for the first time in its history the United States possesses offensive strength, the present to us of the nineteenth century. We might now send a large and efficient army to Europe, which might quite conceivably play a very important part in the actual operations in the field. True, our lack of strategic relation to the European terrain persists; the American army in America is as powerless as before to influence the European situation: but it is now so easy to move the American army and locate it in the precise strategic spot most advantageous that our offensive strength to-day is distinctly to be reckoned with. If our present army is not large enough to arouse apprehension in Europe, our potential strength is enormous, because the number of men and the natural resources on which we have to draw are greater than those of any European nation except Russia, and in point of availability are beyond all doubt vaster than those of Russia. Indeed, our economic strength now makes us of interest to European nations and a potential ally.

These developments that have so much affected our position have worked great changes also in the character of warfare. The premise of unpreparedness which has been the tradition in America assumes of course that the obstacles strewn by nature in the invader's way will be sufficient to delay his progress until we can complete preparations for a reasonably adequate defense. In the days of the Revolution the conditions of warfare made the preparation of defense at the last moment eminently feasible. Nearly every man in the community had a gun and knew how to use it, and an army was assembled by bringing together various men with guns, all of whom brought their own provisions and supplied their own clothes. They were all trained in methods of Indian warfare, which happened to be vastly efficient against the trained troops brought from England, because the nature of the ground in America was so different from that on which their manoeuvers originated as almost to erase the difference in efficiency between the trained and the untrained. In such circumstances, aided by the difficulty of supplying an army because of the slowness of transportation, we easily fought a defensive war and won it without having been in the least prepared at the time the war began to cope with trained troops. We have not since that time had to face the question of invasion.

Recent developments in warfare have vitally changed the arrangements necessary for adequate defense. The modern invader arrives equipped with a variety of devices of vast potency, which are to be successfully resisted only by devices of equal potency. The backbone of the modern army has proved to be the artillery, because again and again the infantry has proved available only after this artillery has cleared the way. To create such weapons months are needed; to teach a gun crew how, to use one effectively takes longer than it does to make the gun; such cannon fire in a few days an amount of ammunition which as many months may be needed to manufacture. The supply of such materials required to begin a war is vast, the number of men who ought to stand ready trained to step into the shoes of those who fall in the first engagement must be a good deal larger than the uninitiated are inclined to imagine. To produce the supply of ammunition continuously needed requires a plant of enormous size, equipped with highly intricate machinery which can be operated with success only by men who have had long experience in times of peace. It will be obvious to the most ignorant that effective preparation for modern warfare requires foresight and precludes entirely the extemporization of an adequate defense after the arrival of the invader has been signaled.

We have dealt here with only the elements, the tools which the soldiers are to use, and they alone require many months for preparation; but the modern army is really composed of men whose training requires years before they attain a degree of efficiency in manoeuvering and in rapid action sufficient to resist successfully a determined assault by a trained army. Today the men cooperating in an attack ordinarily do not see one another or the enemy, nor do they know his whereabouts or their friends' location. Directions come to them over a wire, information vital to their safety, and the orders upon whose prompt obedience their lives and the very existence of the army as a whole may depend. Under such conditions, a high degree of administrative efficiency and of intelligent cooperation is the prerequisite of the continued existence of the army and demands a sort of training for which ordinary life provides no counterpart or substitute. An efficient modern army can be trained only by actual service in performing the work of defense; to send even a large number of untrained men against modern artillery in the hands of a single army corps is asking them to commit suicide. If preparation is postponed until the invader appears, defeat and conquest will be inevitable.

And the developments of the nineteenth century have thrown down our defensive barriers. Modern inventions in transportation and communication, the new science of warfare based upon them, have definitely and unquestionably rendered us vulnerable from a military point of view. Nor is this all. The war may alter those factors of our defensive position which are still intact. Nothing has yet happened to invest us with a strategic position of itself important for a decision of the issue in Europe; nothing has yet changed our own strategical geography, which makes success depend upon the magnitude of the operations undertaken; nothing has yet made it possible for the European nations to spare so large a number of men from the armies in Europe. Yet we ought not to forget that these factors of our strategic position are those over which we do not exercise control, and that we are in reality defended to-day by the complicated and delicate balance of the European situation. Until that is radically changed, until one side or the other can spare from Europe a sufficiently large army to occupy the United States without imperiling its own safety at home, until the power possessed of the physical strength and the opportunity to use it shall find an adequate motive to cross the Atlantic, we shall still be entirely safe. We need no defense against an invasion which cannot start.

But we can hardly claim that we are without interest as to the outcome of the war in Europe, for it may destroy these remaining features of our defensive position. Our lack of any location which necessarily influences the present tangle of interests in Europe is of consequence merely so long as the tangle of interests persists. The unwillingness of European nations to despatch an army to the Western Hemisphere sufficient in size to endanger us again assumes that the battle in Europe is either not joined or not decided. The decision of the issue in the field in favor of either coalition may finally destroy the delicate balance of power in which lay our security and provide the victor with an adequate force and an adequate motive for aggression. Victory will not necessarily provide him with either, but may provide him with both. To-day we are safe; to-morrow we may be defenseless, except for human agencies.

Book Two : The Victor

Table of Contents