CHAPTER XIII. THE TREND OF DIPLOMACY

After the international issues arising from the Civil War were settled, and before foreign relations began to become more important late in the nineties, our diplomatic history showed the same lack of definiteness and continuity that stamped the history of politics during the same years. Eleven different men held the post of Secretary of State during the thirty-four years from 1865 to 1898, one of them, Blaine, serving at two separate times. The political situation in Washington changed frequently, few men of outstanding capacity as diplomatists were in the cabinets, and most of the problems which arose were not such as would excite the interest of great international minds. That any degree of unity in our foreign relations was attained is due in part to the continuous service of such men as A.A. Adee, who was connected with the state department from 1878, and Professor John Bassett Moore, long in the department and frequently available as a counselor.[1]

Even before the Civil War, Americans had been interested in the affairs of the nations whose shores were touched by the Pacific Ocean. Missionaries and traders had long visited China and Japan. During the years when the transcontinental railroads were built, as has been seen, the construction companies looked to China for a labor supply, and there followed a stream of Chinese immigrants who were the cause of a difficult international problem. Our relations with Japan were extremely friendly. Until the middle of the nineteenth century the Japanese had been almost completely cut off from the remainder of the world, desiring neither to give to the rest of humanity nor to take from them. In 1854 Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States Navy had succeeded in obtaining permission for American ships to take coal and provisions at two Japanese ports. Townsend Harris shortly afterwards had been appointed consul-general to Japan and his knowledge of the East and his tactful diplomacy had procured increased trade rights and other privileges. In 1863 a Japanese prince had sought to close the strait of Shimonoseki which connects the inland sea of Japan with the outside ocean. American, French and Dutch vessels had been fired upon, and eventually an international expedition had been sent to open the strait by force. Seventeen ships of war had quickly brought the prince to terms. An indemnity had been demanded, of which the United States had received a share. The fund remained in the treasury untouched until 1883 when it was returned to Japan. The latter received the refund as "a strong manifestation of that spirit of justice and equity which has always animated the United States in its relations with Japan."

The purchase of Alaska in 1867, stretched a long, curved finger out towards the Asiatic coast, but there was little interest in the new acquisition and no knowledge of its size or resources.[2]

The first tangible and permanent indication that the United States might extend its interests into the sphere of the Pacific Ocean appeared as early as 1872, when an arrangement with a Samoan chief gave us the right to use the harbor of Pagopago on the island of Tutuila. Tutuila is far from American shores, being below the equator on the under side of the world, but the harbor of Pagopago is an unusually good one and its relation to the extension of American commerce in the South Pacific was readily seen. Not long afterward, similar trading privileges were granted to Germany and Great Britain. Conditions in the islands had by no means been peaceful even before the advent of the foreigners with their intrigues and jealousies, and in 1885 the Germans, taking advantage of a native rebellion, hauled down the Samoan flag on the government building in Apia and seemed about to take control. In the following year, at the request of the Samoan king, the American consul Greenebaum proclaimed a protectorate and hoisted the United States flag. The act was unauthorized and was disavowed at once by the government at Washington. In the hope of establishing order in the islands, Bayard, Secretary of State in President Cleveland's first administration, suggested a triple conference of Germany, Great Britain and the United States in Washington. During a recess in the conference a native rebellion overturned the Samoan government and Germany assumed virtual control. While civil war raged among native factions, the Germans landed armed forces for the protection of their interests. The American and British governments, fearful of danger to their rights, already had war vessels in the harbor of Apia and armed conflict seemed almost inevitable when a sudden hurricane on March 16, 1889, destroyed all the vessels except one. The Calliope, (English), steamed out to sea in the teeth of the great storm and escaped in safety. In the face of such a catastrophe all smaller ills were forgotten and peace reigned for the moment in Samoa.