American doctrine_ British appeasement notes

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					                           American doctrine, British Appeasement
A similar realignment occurred in the Western Hemisphere, but it was simpler. Great Britain’s century-
long supremacy in many New World affairs rapidly was giving way to U.S. superiority. The historic turn
can be pinpointed: a series of confrontations between the two powers during 1894-6 in which London
gave way on every occasion.

The first occurred in the harbor of Rio de Janeiro. In 1891, U.S.-Brazilian ties tightened when the two
nations signed one of the most important reciprocity treaties that emerged from the 1890 tariff bill.
Those ties were further strengthened when the Brazilian republic, which had replaced the monarchy in
1889, looked to United States as a model. In 1893, however, elements of the Brazilian navy rebelled
against the republic. The rebels were helped, carefully and quietly, by British interest who saw this as a
chance to check the growing U.S. influence. The rebels announced their intentions of breaking the
government by sealing off trade, and hence customs collections, in Rio’s harbor. The U.S. naval
commander agreed to honor the blockade. He was promptly removed by Gresham and replaced by a
new commander who, perhaps because of his earlier service in Asian waters, understood gunboat

Gresham’s move was motivated both by particular U.S. economic interests (including Rockefeller’s
Standard Oil exporting office, which wrote Gresham directly), which demanded he protect their growing
markets in Brazil, and by the secretary of state’s own belief that the British were challenging the Monroe
Doctrine and the U.S. right to protect its friends in the hemisphere. Julian Pauncefote, London’s
ambassador, admired Gresham (especially in comparison with Blaine’s blatant anti-British activities),
and Gresham returned the friendship. But mutual admiration did not stop the secretary of state from
ordering U.S. warships to accompany American merchantmen to Rio’s customshouses, and to use force
if necessary. When the rebels challenged the convoy in late January 1894, the U.S. commander fired a
shell across the bow of the rebel ship. The rebels backed away. The revolt ended and Rio again was open
to a free flow of goods. A grateful Brazilian government erected a statue of President Monroe to
celebrate his now famous Doctrine, ordered celebrations held on the Fourth of July, and had a serenade
performed for the U.S. minister.

A second confrontation erupted at the Mosquito Indian Reservation on the Atlantic Coast enclave of
Nicaragua. The English-speaking Indians and blacks were separated from the distant Managua
government by language, history, impenetrable jungle, and-since 1860-a British protectorate. London
had grown fond of the Mosquito because it would be the Atlantic entrance for a Nicaraguan isthmian
canal. British investors, moreover, had profited from the region’s natural wealth, especially its
mahogany forests. Since the mid-1880s, however, hundreds of Americans had built up $2 million in
investments and $4 million in trade with the United States. The U.S. minister estimated in the mid-1890s
that Americans held at least 90 percent of the reservation’s wealth. In 1894, the new Nicaraguan regime
of General Jose Santos Zelaya moved to extend Nicaragua’s control over the Reservation-Bluefields
region. When the British threatened to enforce its protectorate, Gresham summoned Pauncefote, told
him that Nicaragua had the right to control its own country, and suggested a British retreat. London did
so, only to have the foreign investor, led by Americans, demand that the British be allowed to protect
them against Zelaya. Their fear was made real when Zelaya began to arrest British subjects. London
threatened to protect its citizens with force. Gresham, trapped between his view of the Monroe
Doctrine and the demands of American investors, reassured the Americans and the British that he would
guard all their interest. The secretary of state thus replaced the British protectorate with an American in
one of the most strategically important regions in the hemisphere.

The third crisis threatened to become a war. In retrospect, the danger was overblown, but it became
one of those transforming events that changed a fundamental diplomatic relationship of the United
States and marked a recognition of U.S. power that would have been unimaginable in Seward’s time. Its
roots lay a half century before when London laid claim to disputed territory between British Guiana and
Venezuela. The problem largely lay dormant until the 1890s when it appeared that Great Britain was
beginning to assume it controlled the territory, and Venezuela brought the issue before the Cleveland
administration-not least by hiring a lobbyist, William L. Scruggs, who effectively publicized Venezuela’s
view. Among other issues, Scruggs noted that the territory included the Orinoco River, and that the
waterway could control commerce into vast South American markets. By now, Americans were highly
sensitive to British ambitions in the hemisphere and the European imperialists’ carving up of other
southern continents. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R.-Mass.), a close friend of Roosevelt and Mahan,
provided a historical context for the Venezuelan claim: “These powers have already seized the islands of
the Pacific and parceled out Africa. Great Britain cannot extend her possessions in the East…She is now
turning her attention to South America.”

The British seemed undisturbed, perhaps because in a secret letter only recently discovered, Gresham
assured London on April 12, 1895, both of “the thorough friendship of the American people,” and that
U.S. fleet movements in the Caribbean were not meant to be hostile to British interest. This letter
probably was indirectly referring to the clash over the Mosquito Reservation, but Whitehall could have
been excused for reading a broader meaning into the rather obsequious message. Gresham, however,
died shortly after writing the note and was replaced by Olney. In July he delivered a quite different
message. Demanding that the Monroe Doctrine be honored, and that the British refer the dispute to
arbitration, Olney added, for London’s information, that “today the United States is practically sovereign
on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” Olney
explained why this was so in phrases that again would have been unheard a generations earlier: the
“infinite resources” of the United States, “combined with its isolated position render it master of the
situation and practically invulnerable as against any and all powers.”

The puzzled, distracted British prime minister, Lord Salisbury, delayed answering in order to deal with
more pressing diplomatic matters. When he did respond, Salisbury denied Olney’s argument, including
the reference to the sacrosanct Monroe Doctrine. In December, President Cleveland publicly announced
that the United States would carry out its own investigation of the boundary line and enforce the result.
Salisbury realized he had underestimated the seriousness of the issue, the importance of the Monroe
Doctrine, and the significance of the Orinoco River to the Americans. He was, moreover, confronted
with serious crises involving Germany and African questions. The British watched in wonder as the
Americans grew warlike. “I do hope there will not be any back down among our people,” Theodore
Roosevelt wrote Lodge. “I don’t’ care whether our sea coast cities are bombarded or not; we would take
Canada.” Salisbury pushed the question to arbitration. Venezuela’s claims were largely vindicated,
especially its claim to the mouth of the Orinoco-although the United States never bothered to consult
with the Venezuelans.

The results of these episodes were far-reaching. The United States had stood up to the world’s greatest
power not once, but three times and had won three times. American diplomats defined the issues not
narrowly but in large terms that were understandable in the context of the post-1873 economic crisis: In
Brazil the issue was preserving a major turn toward U.S. goods and ideology; in Nicaragua it was who
would control great wealth and a strategic point of global importance; in Venezuela the issues were
two-who would define the Monroe Doctrine and who would control one of the continent’s great
commercial waterways. British official shrewdly understood that they had to come to terms with the
New World’s industrial tyro.

The relative decline in British industrial power, combined with the growing competition with Germany,
led to Joseph Chamberlain (the former British secretary of state for the colonies), referring to this
“weary Titan, staggering under the too vast orb of his own fate.” One historian has concluded that the
British moved to resolve this dilemma by “appeasing” the United States so they could avoid a war with
Anglo-Saxon brothers and sisters. London could then be better prepared to fight elsewhere. A potential
enemy was thus transformed into a needed friend. Only the Latin Americans seemed to have felt they
lost. If Washington won its point with Salisbury, the Chilean minister to Washington observed, “the
United States will have succeeded in establishing a protectorate over all of Latin America.” Latin
American editorials discussed “the suffocation pressure of the Colossus,” whose Anglo-Saxon race
sought to “found a single colonial state extending from the North to the South Pole.” John Bassett
Moore privately expressed a more modest and accurate evaluation in late 1895: “Since the [economic]
panic two years ago, there has grown up quite a war party” in the United States, which “thinks that a
war would be a good thing for the country.”

                                          The Turn of 1896
The 1896 presidential election reflected the post-1873 changes, but not because “a war party”
determined the result. As has nearly always been the case in U.S. presidential politics, those results were
shaped by domestic, not foreign, issues. The importance of the 1896 election is that it was determined
(like so much of the decade’s foreign policy) by the long depression, especially by the 1893-6 crisis. The
coming to power of a Republican party that represented a new consensus politics to deal with that
crisis, and of William McKinley as the voice of that consensus, determine U.S. foreign policy for the next
sixteen years.

The Democratic party’s disaster began directly after the 1893 crash. In the 1894 congressional elections,
Democrats, who controlled the executive and Congress when the crash occurred, lost 113 House seats.
They had comprised 61 percent of Congress before the election, 29 percent after. In New England,
where they had been strong for generations, they were virtually wiped out as their 8 House members
were reduced to 1 (“Honey-Fitz” Fitzgerald, John F. Kennedy’s grandfather). What the economy missed
doing to the Democrats their choice of candidates did. Until the mid-1890s, many ethnic groups
especially favored the Democracy because it believed in limited government and had left them alone.
William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1896, was, however, a midwestern
pietist who believed deeply in social improvement and protestant mission. His opponent, William
McKinley, played down the Republican pietist tradition and ran a more inclusive campaign, the kind of
campaign he had learned to conduct as a House member, then governor, in multiethnic Ohio politics. He
consequently scored heavily amount immigrant and urban groups that before 1894 had voted

Foreign policy played a minor role. The Democratic platform bowed before the Monroe Doctrine and
extended “sympathy” to Cubans for their revolution that had reerupted a year earlier. The Republicans
devoted more attention to overseas affairs. They asked that Hawaii be “controlled” by the United States
(not directly mentioning annexation); that a Nicaraguan canal and a Danish West Indies naval base be
obtained; that the Monroe Doctrine be upheld and “the eventual withdrawal of the European powers
from this hemisphere” take place; and that Spain’s retreat from Cuba-or the use of U.S. “good offices to
restore peace and give independence to the Island”- occur. Populist party leaders endorsed Bryan and
took a strong pro-Cuban stand, in part because such a stand was popular in the West where war fever
was rising, in part because they hoped it would be attractive to those who disliked the Populists’ pro-
silver passion. McKinley emphasized a tariff policy of protectionism plus reciprocity. The British dislike
McKinley until they say that Bryan, with his silverite cry (“Gold monometallism is a British policy,” the
Democratic party plan blared), was infinitely worse. In the end, McKinley not only ran a well-financed,
highly organized campaign that appealed to populous urban areas in the midwestern and northeastern
states, but he also became lucky when the favorable U.S. export balance shot up from $46 million in the
last one-third of 1895 to $96 million in the comparable 1896 months. This surplus, in addition to a
slowing of selling by Europeans of U.S. securities and a sudden rise in world gold production, brought
the precious metal into the country in larger quantities, raised prices, lifted the economic cloud, and
dimmed silver’s appeal.

McKinley won 271 electoral votes to Bryan’s 176, but most notably he handed the 1894 election results
firmly on the American body politic. Republicans became so dominant in the more populous and
wealthy North, and the Democrats more fixed in power in the much poorer south, that not only war
Republican ascendancy in place for all but eight of the next thirty-six years, but the resulting one-party
states discouraged voter participation. The American elite- bankers, industrialists, and large commercial
farmers, led by McKinley-thus became insulated against radicalism. Foreign policy could be conducted
on the bases of this solid, growing consensus, with little danger of the sudden turns marked, say, by
Cleveland’s repudiation of Harrison’s Hawaiian annexation policy in 1893. The results turned out to be
every president’s dream. With obvious relief, Mahan wrote a friend after the election that it had been
the “most important” event of the time, and “I don’t except the {Civil} War.” Bryan’s platform, “wrong
and even revolutionary,” had been repudiated. Mahan and McKinley were prepared to take the leap
from the chaos of the mid-1890s to an overseas empire of the new twentieth century.

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