CHAPTER XIII. THE TREND OF DIPLOMACY
Meanwhile, just as Cleveland was retiring from office for the first time, another conference of the three powers was arranged which provided a somewhat complicated triple protectorate. After a few years of quiet, another native insurrection called attention to the islands. Cleveland was again in the presidential chair, and in a message to Congress he expressed his belief that the United States had made a mistake in departing from its century-old policy of avoiding entangling alliances with foreign powers. A year later he returned to the subject more earnestly than ever. A report from the Secretary of State presented the history of our Samoan relations and ventured a judgment that the only fruits which had fallen to the United States were expense, responsibility and entanglement. The President thereupon invited an expression of opinion from Congress on the advisability of withdrawing from our engagements with the other powers. For the time nothing came of Cleveland's recommendation, but the continuance of native quarrels later necessitated another commission to the islands. The American member reported that the harbor of Apia was full of war vessels and the region about covered with armed men, but that "not the sail or smoke of a single vessel of commerce was to be seen there or about the coasts of these beautiful islands." In 1899, the triple protectorate was abandoned, as it had complicated the task of governing the islands. The United States received Tutuila with the harbor of Pagopago, Germany took the remainder of the group, and England retired altogether. The trend of Samoan relations was significant: our connection with the islands began with the desire to possess a coaling station; the possession first resulted in entanglements with other nations, and later in the question whether we ought not to withdraw; and eventually we withdrew from some of the responsibilities, but not from all. Despite its traditional policy of not contracting entangling alliances, the United States was in the Pacific to stay.
When Cleveland came into power the first time, he found a long-standing disagreement with Canada over the fisheries of the northeastern coast. An arrangement which had resulted from the Treaty of Washington in 1871 came to an end in 1885, and the rights of American fishermen in Canadian waters then rested upon a treaty of 1818. This treaty was inadequate owing to various changes which had taken place during the nearly seventy years that had elapsed since it was drawn up. Several difficulties lay in the way of the arrangement of a new treaty, an important one being the readiness of the Republican Senate to embarrass the President and thus discredit his administration. Matters came to a critical point in 1886 when Canadian officials seized two American vessels engaged in deep-sea fishing. Cleveland then arranged a treaty which provided for reciprocal favors, and when the Senate withheld its assent the administration made a temporary agreement, (modus vivendi), under which American ships were allowed to purchase bait and supplies and to use Canadian bays and harbors by paying a license fee.
The peculiar geographical configuration of Alaska was, meanwhile, bringing the United States into another diplomatic controversy. An arm or peninsula of the possession extends far out into the Pacific and is continued by the Aleutian Islands, which resemble a series of stepping-stones reaching toward Siberia. The Bering Sea is almost enclosed by Alaska and the Islands. Within the Sea and particularly on the islands of St. Paul and St. George in the Pribilof group, large numbers of seals gathered during the spring and summer to rear their young. In the autumn the herds migrated to the south, passing out through the narrow straits between the members of the Aleutian group, and were particularly open to attack at these points. As early as 1870 the United States government leased the privilege of hunting fur seals on St. Paul and St. George to the Alaska Commercial Company, but the business was so attractive that vessels came to the Aleutian straits from many parts of the Pacific, and it looked as if the United States must choose between the annihilation of the herds and the adoption of some means for protecting them. The revenue service thereupon began the seizure in 1886 of British sealing vessels, taking three in that year and six during the next. The British government protested against the seizures on the ground that they had taken place more than three miles from shore - three miles being the limit to the jurisdiction of any nation, according to international law. The Alaskan Court which upheld the seizures justified itself by the claim that the whole Bering Sea was part of the territory of Alaska and thus was comparable to a harbor or closed sea (mare clausum), but Secretary Blaine disavowed this contention. The United States then requested the governments of several European countries, together with Japan, to cooperate for the better protection of the fisheries, but no results were reached.
Continuance of the seizures in 1889 brought renewed protests from Lord Salisbury, who was in charge of foreign affairs. Blaine retorted that the destruction of the herds was contra bonos mores and that it was no more defensible even outside the three mile limit than destructive fishing on the banks of Newfoundland by the explosion of dynamite would be. Lord Salisbury replied that fur seals were wild animals,ferae naturae, and not the property of any individual until captured. An extended diplomatic correspondence ensued, which resulted in a treaty of arbitration in 1892.