Eustace Percy Percy of Newcastle.

The responsibilites of the League online

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over by the United States of the customs
administration of San Domingo. The objects
of that step were twofold first, to secure the
payment of just debts to the subjects of
European Powers, and thus to avert European
intervention ; and, secondly, by an honest
administration of the revenues, to take away
the main incentive to revolutionary outbreaks.
The success of this experiment was at least
sufficient to enable Mr. Roosevelt, in 1910, in
his address at Christiania on " The Colonial
Policy of the United States/' to couple San
Domingo with Cuba as the two examples of
that policy.

But the two cases were really dissimilar,
and American opinion has never been quite
reconciled to " financial " protectorates of the


San Domingo type. The Senate disliked Mr.
Roosevelt's San Domingo treaty and refused
to accept similar agreements concluded by Mr.
Taft with Honduras and Nicaragua. Oppo-
sition to this policy has proceeded mainly from
the Democratic party, on the ground that,
" if it be taken as a precedent that the United
States will in every case assume responsibility
for the payment of the debts of American
states, the bankers of Europe will find it profit-
able to buy up all doubtful claims against
American states and urge their governments
to press for payment. Our navy would then
be converted into a debt- collecting agency for
the Powers of Europe, and the only escape
from such a predicament would be the estab-
lishment of a protectorate over the weaker
Latin American States/' Where the collection
of debts alone is concerned, as in the case of
Venezuela in 1902-3 and the minor Guatemalan
incident of 1912, American opinion, on the
whole, prefers to leave European Powers to
act for themselves, on the ground that the
Monroe Doctrine does not " guarantee any
State against punishment if it misconducts
itself, provided that punishment does not take
the form of the acquisition of territory by any
non- American Power." The return of the
Republican party to power might, indeed, lead
to a revival of Mr. Taft's " dollar diplomacy,"
but this is doubtful. In the last few years the
United States has been driven into a policy of
expansion in Nicaragua, in Hayti, and in San
Domingo ; but her motives have been, not


financial, but strategic and humanitarian. From
the strategic point of view she cannot tolerate
chronic misgovernment in any of the states
lying within and on the flank of the " south
coast line " to which she has now pushed
forward her strategic frontier the line through
the Caribbean from Cuba to Colon and Panama.
And even if it had been possible on grounds of
expediency to ignore such misgovernment, the
humanitarian attitude which has been her
boast would have made inaction impossible.

The Nicaraguan policy of the United States
displays the same features as her Cuban record.
She has exerted her influence, has intervened,
has withdrawn has, in short, done everything
but assume direct and permanent responsibili-
ties. She aided and abetted the expulsion
from Nicaragua of the dictator Zelaya ; she
then, in 1910, went very near intervention for
the overthrow of Madriz, whom she regarded
as Zelaya's legatee, and when the expulsion of
that gentleman failed to lead to a restoraton
of stable government, she actually intervened
in 1912, and sent marines to Managua. The
opposition of the Senate defeated President
Taft's first attempt to deal with Nicaragua as
his predecessor had dealt with San Domingo,
and President Wilson found at the outset of
his administration that he was responsible for
a Nicaraguan government placed in power by
American bayonets, but with no means of con-
trolling or maintaining it. This is, indeed, still
the position at the present day. The United
States has recently gone so far as to conclude an


agreement with the Nicaraguan Government by
which she acquires a naval base in the Bay of
Fonseca, an option on the construction of any
inter-oceanic canal across Nicaraguan territory,
and a measure of control over Nicaraguan
finances. There, however, she has stopped.
She has not taken over the foreign relations of
Nicaragua and has done little to regularise the
relations of this small republic either with the
outside world or with its Central American

In Hayti and in San Domingo she has been
driven into far more reaching responsibilities.
The chronic revolutionary outbreaks to which
the island had been long inured ended finally
in hopeless anarchy. Military occupation be-
came necessary, and the United States has
now taken over the government of both coun-
tries. Without formal annexation and practic-
ally unnoticed by the great bulk of her people,
she has acquired, in effect, another colony in
the Caribbean ; but, owing to lack of popular
interest or definite legislative sanction, the
island seems at the present moment to be little
more than an appanage of the War Department
at Washington. It has not yet been realised
by the American people as a new responsibility.

Thus haltingly, with groping hands and
almost averted eyes, America has entered upon
the field of national expansion. The measure
of her reluctance is the history of her Mexican
policy since the early spring of 1913. In her
handling of this problem she has reproduced
on a wider canvas all the characteristics which


we have tried to sketch above. As previously
in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and more recently
in Costa Rica, she has tried the effect of her
moral influence in discountenancing violent
revolution, but she has refrained from serious
intervention. As in Panama, Cuba, and Nicar-
agua, she has shown herself alive to national
interests and strategic considerations, but has
been unwilling to secure these by direct military

Most people would expect an examination of
the roots of American foreign policy to concern
itself with broader issues than these. The
" open door " in China, the problem of Oriental
immigration, the policy of the Pan-American
Conferences, the " freedom of the seas/' the
Hague Conventions and the Root and Bryan
arbitration treaties, the successive extensions of
the theory of the Monroe Doctrine down to
Senator Lodge's Magdalena Bay resolution of
1912 and Mr. Wilson's Mobile speech of 1913,
the long record of wars and controversies with
Great Britain and the slow development of
international relations with Canada these are
the factors which, in common estimation, go
to make up American foreign policy. We have,
however, deliberately left on one side these
broader issues, already sufficiently explored by
many British and American writers, and have
concentrated our attention on the more imme-
diate preoccupations of American statesmen,
past and present, because it is only here that
we can reach the real core of the foreign policy
of the United States. Franklin, the creator of the


Franco- American alliance, Monroe, the author of
the doctrine that bears his name, Commodore
Perry, the political discoverer of the Far East,
were, in a sense, but early theorists or opportun-
ists, experimenting with the future interests of a
people not yet come to the birth. The real char-
acter and tendencies of that people among the
nations have been formed slowly by its pioneering
work in its own West, by the painful process
of union between North and South, and, more
recently, by its immediate preoccupations in
the narrow field of the Caribbean. The Monroe
Doctrine is still a mighty power in the land as
a classic phrase, but even modern Pan-American-
ism lies, to a surprising extent, outside the
sphere of interest of the average American.
Washington's warning against " entangling alli-
ances " is remembered and quoted, not as a
pendant to Pan-Americanism, but because
citizens of the United States share with English-
men the instinct of political isolation, just as
they have inherited from England the social
idea of life in small communities and the family
idea of the home. All these embryonic theories
of past statesmen now serve only to dress up
in political language the stark policy of national
security and freedom from dangerous external
commitments which really sways the mind of
the American people.

Nevertheless the United States plunged into
Armageddon. She entered into an association
with Western Europe which has been an alliance
in all but the name. She has played a leading
part, economically, politically, and on the field


of battle itself, in the final stages of the war ;
she has taken an equal share in the making of
peace at Paris where she has shown herself
capable of contributing to the detailed work of
the allied technical and territorial commissions
a knowledge and a judgment hardly, if at all,
inferior to those possessed by British and
European experts. How far does this surpris-
ing development denote a fundamentally new
departure or a radically modified attitude in
American sentiment and policy ?

Many Americans last year perhaps, indeed,
most Americans were disposed to answer this
question with an enthusiasm and a generosity
which aroused the highest hopes in Europe.
Their answer has been well expressed by a recent
writer, whose American birth and English ties
qualify him in a peculiar degree to express a
considered opinion. ' Before the war/' writes
Mr. Lapsley, " the invisible barrier of the
Monroe Doctrine still stretched across the At-
lantic, effectually hiding from American eyes
the political movement in Western Europe.
School histories dwelt on British tyranny,
children remembered George III and Lord
North after they had forgotten their dates, and
Irish-American opinion helped to give some-
thing contemporary to an ancient evil. A large
Jewish element in the population spread a
horror of Russian autocracy. Americans tended
to confound all kinds of monarchy, to regard
the House of Lords as the instrument of an
ancient and exclusive aristocracy and to inter-
pret the English Establishment in terms of the


Holy Synod. Then in August, 1914, the world
came to an end. The catastrophe found
America bewildered and uninformed, clutching
with desperate resolve at the high purpose to
which it had long ago committed itself, and for
which it had suffered and fought. Only quite
gradually it came to see what the Atlantic
barrier had hidden so long, and understand
that isolation was no longer necessary because
England and France and Italy had long been
working, each according to its own genius, for the
same end as America. Once that was grasped
it became clear that the country had reached
another great turning point. And so the
dominant idea that turned America towards
isolation in 1823 and cast it into civil strife in
1861, led it back in 1917 into the community of
free peoples fighting for a common end."

It would be well for the world if this answer
were the correct one. There is much truth in
it, but it can unfortunately only be accepted
with qualifications. It is true, for instance,
that American thought has now, for the most
part, passed the stage where it regarded British ^
colonial rule as an insult to the principles of ^> ,
liberty. It knows, indeed, that British relations^
with backward races are a model to the world/
But we have already pointed out that the
American's distaste for colonial expansion arises
not so much from any old belief that all men
and all races are equal, as from the bitter
experience that they are not so. This feeling
of distaste has been perhaps intensified rather
than diminished by recent developments in


American life. To the old problems of the
Indian and the negro has succeeded the problem
of the immigrant from Eastern Europe. It is
only comparatively recently that the American
people have awakened to a full consciousness
of the alien character of the half-submerged
masses in their great cities. Many leaders of
opinion who, like Miss Addams, have laboured
personally among these orphans of European
civilisation have indeed sought to teach their
countrymen what important moral contribu-
tions the Slav, the Italian and the Jew are
capable of making to American life, but the in-
stinct of the American people has been towards
an impatient policy of assimilation. Recent
industrial troubles both before and during the
war have contributed to this, from the Law-
rence strike of 1911 to the Arizona strike of
1917. The racial hostilities, propaganda and
disloyalties which disturbed the United States
during the two-and-a-half years of her neutrality
and many sporadic " Bolshevist " disturb-
ances since that time, have served to intensify
this instinct and have led not only to a veritable
crusade for the " Americanisation " of the
immigrant, but to various proposals, most
vehemently advocated by American labour, for
the drastic restriction of immigration in the
future. The United States is to-day perhaps
less rather than more likely to take an active
share with Britain or France in the solution
of the problem of backward races, and this aloof-
ness must remain a serious drag upon her pro-
gress towards a real participation in world



policy at a moment when the main task which
lies before Europe and Asia is a new synthesis
of nationalities.

This judgment will not, indeed, be passed by
many Americans without contradiction. They
will, on the contrary, urge that the extraordinary
range of nationalist aspirations, racial feuds and
social ferments, derived from the old soils of
Europe, which the student can, as it were,
isolate and study in American cities at the
present day, qualifies Americans in a peculiar
degree to take an intelligent and active interest
in the resettlement of Europe. They will,
further, adduce in support of their contention
the remarkable work actually performed by
American teachers and missionaries at Con-
stantinople, Beirut or Van, and the influence
of American culture on many obscure corners of
the Balkan peninsula. All this is true, and it
explains the influence exerted by American
specialists on many details of the Paris settle-
ment and the respect with which American
opinion has on many occasions been regarded
by European experts at the Conference. We
can discern here the germs which justify our
hope in eventual American participation in the
labours of the League of Nations, but it would
nevertheless be folly to expect from them
immediate blossom or fruit. On the whole,
America's tendency is, after all, the other way.
It is difficult for anyone who has not lived
intimately in American political society to
measure the discomfort and friction, deepening
into resentment and open hostility, produced


in it by the intrusion of these alien elements.
American politics are not, like English poli-
tics, a struggle concentrated mainly in one
great arena of discussion and legislation under
the growing pressure of insistent and organised
popular demands. They are, on the contrary,
an affair of a hundred forums, federal, state,
and municipal, where good or bad adminis-
tration, radical experiments or conservative
policies, are determined by few limiting factors
of past experience or expert knowledge, but
mainly by the free and public competition
of party prejudices and party oratory. Into
this easy play of loose generalisations, ranging
at large over the open spaces of American life,
the narrow beliefs and passions of the immi-
grant, hardened by centuries of ruthless history,
thrust themselves like an alien growth. The
Irish element is alone peculiar, because it
has, in a measure, grown up with the country,
and has, indeed, done much to form the
character of the national politics, but the
very success of Irish nationalism has put the
American on his guard for the future. It is
probably not too rash to say that, in calm
moments, the natural feeling of the American
to-day, when confronted with these concrete
evidences of the deep-seated ills with which the
old world struggles, is : " Well, if this is foreign
policy, let us pull out." And it is probably
not untrue to say that the experience of the
Paris Conference has intensified this feeling in
almost every American who has participated
in it or observed it closely.


The intervention of the United States in the
war did, however, undoubtedly indicate a pro-
found modification in the general outlook of
the country, and it has led to further changes,
no less significant. These changes may per-
haps be traced to three main factors : an in-
stinct for idealism, strong nationalist feeling,
and a growing impulse towards commercial

American idealism has been often described
and often misunderstood. Perhaps the popu-
larity of President Wilson's speeches has re-
cently led to special misconceptions about it.
Those speeches have been applauded in America
less because they faithfully represented the
mind of the average citizen than because they
were considerably in advance of it. Their popu-
larity is a testimonial to American taste rather
than a faithful index of American feeling. It
indicates the American's reverence for intel-
lectual attainments and his appreciation of good
literary style in a society where good style is
extraordinarily rare. As a matter of fact,
American idealism is naturally cruder and more
vigorous. It is more at home in a crusade than
at a prayer meeting. It loves oratory, but it
loves action more. Mr. Bryan's history shows
that a man cannot talk himself into the presi-
dency though he may be preaching a winning
cause with all the fervour of sincere eloquence.
What is really remarkable about American
idealism is that it is to-day almost wholly and
exclusively political. No nation has ever come
so near to the comj^gig belief that the voice of


the people at the polls is the voice of God, but
the phrase itself is little known in America be-
cause even its last word would seem to most
Americans an irrelevant excursion into mysti-
cism. American idealism has often been traced
to Puritan sources but it is a Puritanism with-
out the Bible. Democracy has been substituted
for the reign of the saints. Religion has taught
Americans a morality which is the bed-rock
foundation of their individual character, and
a simple humanitarianism which sways their
political feelings, finding expression in the com-
mon phrase of " the man against the dollar,"
but the wider horizons which it still opens to
European thought and hope have faded from
American eyes. Hardly less than the German,
though in quite a different way, the American
regards the State as the only means of progress
and the only way of salvation. His is, indeed, an
intensely moral State, but, like all purely political
conceptions, it is necessarily concerned mainly
with material ends. It is only in this sense
that the common talk about American materia-
lism is true. Americans have no peculiar love
for money or money-getting, but their idealism,
bounded by the limits of political action, tends
naturally to express itself in terms of the two
main instruments of progress in a modern re-
public publicity and wealth. It is> moreover,
for this reason that, from the days of the
" Federalist " to our own times, American
idealism has been closely linked with American
patriotism. The ideals of the modern American
still centre, in the words of Hamilton, round the


" numerous innovations displayed in the Ameri-
can theatre in favour of private rights and public

American nationalism has been so often mis-
judged that it is difficult to write of it coherently.
Born in a struggle with Britain, it still bears the
marks of its origin, but, in spite of Fourth of
July orations, Irish influences, vindications of
the Monroe Doctrine, and all the other common
phenomena of American public life, it cannot
be too emphatically stated that " twisting the
lion's tail " is now as little representative of the
real roots of American nationalism as the recent
cult of " Anglo-Saxonism " which grew up as
a protest against it. Both these sentiments
have been, after all, derived mainly from the
Eastern states, and behind the speeches, the
banquets, the debates and the press editorials
of Boston, New York or Washington, there has
been steadily growing in the Middle West, the
real centre of the country, a stronger and a
simpler nationalism. It is, to begin with, a
nationalism of the home and the soil, a little
more sweeping and less contented than the
intimate affection that lingers round English
country-sides, but still centred in the life of
small communities and in its essence a defensive
nationalism, demanding security and not ex-
pansion. Further, however, there is behind
this nationalism a great military tradition, as
great as that enjoyed by any country in the
world the memory of the most intense and
romantic war since Napoleon. Last, and most
important, this Middle Western sentiment is


characterised by a devouring curiosity, a passion
for knowledge and facts all the more intense
from a dim consciousness of the crudity of tra-
ditional American judgments about foreigners
and foreign things. This nationalism may be,
and of course is, tinged by school-books and
such-like, though probably no more so than is
the case in such European countries as Holland,
where historic antipathies are still fed by
defective education ; but anxious foreign com-
mentators attempt vainly to see through a mill-
stone when they seek to account for its character
or anticipate its tendencies on such grounds as
these. The Middle Westerner, the backbone of
America, lives in the present, is proud of the
America of to-day, is intent on progress, de-
mands security, is determined to uphold the
national honour and desires to do business
chiefly with those whose character, methods
and language are like his own. He has an
instinctively high moral standard and an un-
failing grasp on realities, at least as soon as he
is fairly up against them. His dominant feel-
ing in May, 1917, was probably that, for good or
ill, reluctantly and in spite of Washington's
warning, he had got into an " entangling
alliance " with Great Britain, and that now
he was out to understand what kind of a partner
he had got and to make the best of it. But
and this must always be remembered his con-
sciousness of ignorance and inexpertness in
international affairs renders him intensely sus-
picious of being " got at/' and negotiations with
the United States consequently partake not a


little of the character of negotiations between
capital or government departments and labour
the American, like the labour man, being
always prone to believe that, whatever the
arrangement arrived at, his negotiators have
given their case away through being unversed
in the wiles of the great world.

It would, then, not be far from the truth to
say that America plunged into war with Germany
because German tendencies were intolerably re-
pugnant to the rough conceptions of humanity
and free government round which all American
idealism centres and, more strongly and im-
mediately, because Germany threatened Ameri-
can security, jarred every suspicious nerve by
her diplomatic methods, outraged the national
pride, shocked the national conscience, and
awoke every chord of military memory. There
was in all these motives no hint of any craving
for new responsibilities, still less for territorial
expansion, and the League of Nations has re-
mained to the mind of the average American a
sovereign specific against battle, murder and
sudden death a means, indeed, of restoring and
guaranteeing for all time the national isolation,
now so rudely disturbed, not the germ of a new
method of conducting international relations and
sharing international responsibilities.

Indeed, while Americans started the movement
in favour of a " League to Enforce Peace/' the
idea of such a League is probably less repre-
sentative of popular feeling in the United States
than in any other country. The American
society of that name was to a great extent


formed by the same men who had led the
movement for compulsory arbitration during
the previous two decades. It is important to

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Online LibraryEustace Percy Percy of NewcastleThe responsibilites of the League → online text (page 6 of 20)