Chapter XI. That Which Followed After
In 1893 the native queen of the islands was deposed by a revolution conducted in a great measure by Americans living in Hawaii. A provisional government was formed and an application made for annexation to the United States. Through two presidential terms the matter was discussed both in Congress and by the people all over the country. Many were against extending our possessions beyond the mainland in any direction. Others thought it unfair to the natives of the islands to take their lands against their will. It seemed to be pretty well proved, however, that the native government was not for the advancement and best interests of the country, and that in a short time these kindly, gentle people would have to give up their valuable possessions to some stronger power.
Captain Mahan, writing of these conditions, said: "These islands are the key to the Pacific. For a foreign nation to hold them would mean that our Pacific ports and our Pacific commerce would be at the mercy of that nation."
In the early part of the Spanish war (July, 1898) the resolution for the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands was passed by Congress and approved by President McKinley, and the string of pearls was cast about Columbia's fair neck.
It seems strange that the first case to be tried in the peace court of the nations at the Hague should have been in regard to the Pius Fund of the Californias collected by the Jesuit padres two hundred and thirty years before, to build missions for the Indians of California. The way in which this money was obtained is described in Chapter IV of this history. It grew to be a large sum, of which the Mexican government took control, paying the interest to the Roman Catholic Church in Upper and Lower California. After the Mexican war, Mexico refused to pay its share to the Church of Upper California. The United States took up the matter, claiming that according to the treaty which closed the war, the Catholic Church of the state of California had a right to its Mexican property.
In 1868 it was agreed by the two countries to leave the matter to the decision of Sir Edward Thornton, English ambassador at Washington. He decided that Mexico should pay an amount equal to one half the interest since the war. Mexico did this, but had paid nothing during all the years which had passed since that time. To settle the dispute finally, it was decided to leave it to arbitration by the Hague court. The verdict given was that Mexico should pay the Roman Catholic Church of California $1,400,000 for the past, and one half the interest on the fund each year from February, 1903, forever.
The natural result of the nation's need in the Civil War was the overland railroad. The danger to the Oregon on its long journey, the difficulties in getting reinforcements to Admiral Dewey, and the possession of new lands in the Pacific led to decided action in regard to the building of a ship canal through the Isthmus of Panama.
For years the plan had been talked over. In General Grant's first term as President he saw so plainly our need of this water way, that he arranged a canal treaty with Colombia, and it seemed as though the work would soon begin, but the Colombian government refused to allow the matter to go on, hoping to make better terms with the United States. This was not possible then, so the plan was not carried out. Later, a French company undertook to build a canal across Panama, but after several years of work failed.
Many of the Americans favored the route through Nicaragua, but after the government had spent much money and time in considering carefully both propositions, the preference was given to the Panama route. In 1902 an act for the building of the canal was passed by Congress and approved by President Roosevelt. It provided, however, that should the President be unable to obtain a satisfactory title to the French company's work and the necessary territory from the republic of Colombia on reasonable terms and in a reasonable time, he should seek to secure the Nicaragua route. The matter was almost settled, when again Colombia's greed got the better of her judgment and she refused to ratify the compact.
When the people of the province of Panama saw that they were likely to lose their canal through the action of their government, they promptly revolted and declared themselves independent of Colombia. The United States recognized their independence, and a satisfactory treaty was at once concluded with them. In March, 1904, the commission appointed by the President for building the canal sailed for the Isthmus.
Nearly one fourth of the work had already been done by the old company, but there was yet a great deal to do. Besides the actual building of the canal, its dams and locks, the fever district had to be made healthful enough for workmen to live there, marshes had to be drained, pure water brought in from the mountains, and the fever-spreading mosquitoes killed. In addition to all this, the natives of the land and the many bands of workmen of different races had to be brought into an orderly, law-abiding condition. In less than a year it was found necessary to alter the commission, the President choosing this time men particularly noted for their energy and power to make things go. The work progressed with great rapidity, until, in August, 1914, the canal was opened to navigation.
In the latter part of the nineteenth century the eastern portion of Asia began to stir itself, rising up from the sleepy, shut-in life it had led for hundreds of years. The eyes of the world watched in wonder the progress of the war between China and Japan (1894-95). In it was fought the first battle in which modern war vessels were engaged. It was found that the Japanese, of whom so little was then known, could fight, and fight well.