CHAPTER XIII. A Peace Which Meant War
In a large way, ever since the Spanish War, the United States has been adjusting its policy to the world conditions of which that struggle first made the people aware. The period between 1898 and 1917 will doubtless be regarded by the historian a hundred years from now as a time of transition similar to that between 1815 and 1829. In that earlier period John Marshall and John Quincy Adams did much by their wisdom and judgment to preserve what was of value in the old regime for use in the new. In the later period John Hay performed, though far less completely, a somewhat similar function.
John Hay had an acquaintance with the best traditions of American statesmanship which falls to the lot of few men. He was private secretary to Lincoln during the Civil War, he had as his most intimate friend in later life Henry Adams, the historian, who lived immersed in the memories and traditions of a family which has taken a distinguished part in the Government of the United States from its beginning. Possessed of an ample fortune, Hay had lived much abroad and in the society of the men who governed Europe. He was experienced in newspaper work and in diplomacy, and he came to be Secretary of State fresh from a residence in England where as Ambassador he had enjoyed wide popularity. With a lively wit and an engaging charm of manner, he combined a knowledge of international law and of history which few of our Secretaries have possessed. Moreover he knew men and how to handle them. Until the death of McKinley in 1901 he was left almost free in the administration of his office. He once said that the President spoke to him of his office scarcely once a month. In the years from 1901 to 1905 he worked under very different conditions, for President Roosevelt discussed affairs of state with him daily and took some matters entirely into his own hands.
Hay found somewhat better instruments to work with than most Americans were inclined to believe probable. It is true that the American diplomatic service abroad has not always reflected credit upon the country. It has contained extremely able and distinguished men but also many who have been stupid, ignorant, and ill-mannered. The State Department in Washington, however, has almost escaped the vicissitudes of politics and has been graced by the long and disinterested service of competent officials. From 1897 to 1913, moreover, the service abroad was built up on the basis of continuity and promotion.
One sign of a new epoch was the changed attitude of the American public toward annexation. While the war was in progress the United States yielded to the desires of Hawaii, and annexed the islands as a part of the United States, with the hope of their eventual statehood. In 1899 the United States consented to change the cumbrous and unsuccessful arrangement by which, in partnership with Great Britain and Germany, it had supervised the native government of Samoa. No longer unwilling to acquire distant territories, the United States took in full possession the island of Tutuila, with its harbor of Pago Pago, and consented to Germany's taking the remainder of the islands, while Great Britain received compensation elsewhere. In 1900 the Government paid over to Spain $100,000 for Sibutu and Cagayan Sulu, two islands really belonging to the Philippines but overlooked in the treaty. Proud of the navy and with a new recognition of its necessities, the United States sought naval stations in those areas where the fleet might have to operate. In the Pacific the Government obtained Midway and Wake islands in 1900. In the West Indies, the harbor of Guantanamo was secured from Cuba, and in 1903 a treaty was made with Denmark for the purchase of her islands - which, however, finally became American possessions only in 1917.