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nizes the rights of man and the rights of nations, holding that society can exist only through local organization, and that nations acting independently, but in concert, are the most appropriate means of securing the individual in his fundamental rights and in aiding him to extend his powers over nature.
The philosophy of the United States makes for peace. The wars which the United States has fought have all been for the purpose of protecting the fundamental rights of the individual and maintaining the nation as the guardian of these rights. There can be no true peace except where the individual has his fundamental rights, and where these rights are secured to him by the power of a nation. It is unlikely that the United States will ever apply physical force externally in the future except for the same purposes for which it has waged wars in the past. Such protective and defensive action its philosophy permits and in some cases demands.
ALPHEUS HENRY SNOW.
THE CENTRAL AMERICAN QUESTION FROM A EUROPEAN
POINT OF VIEW
“Then felt I like
Oceans have ever been the chief theater of universal history. The terrestrial sphere known to antiquity lay around the Mediterranean which, as its name indicates, was destined to remain the center of events, until the famous sea-beroes, impelled by a desire to explore, undertook bold voyages to distant, unknown regions, and Christopher Columbus finally discovered the Western Hemisphere, bringing it in contact with the considerations, hopes, needs of expansion and, last but not least, also, fears of Europe.
From that moment, in what is termed by the historian as “the modern era,” the chain of historical events was gradually carried across the Atlantic Ocean which, as a connecting bond, exerted influence over two parts of the earth and, more than four centuries ago, took the place of the smaller Mediterranean, which had hitherto been the exclusive scene of universal history. “Westward the star of Empire takes its way."
Just as in the Mediterranean the center of gravity was changed in the course of time, even so was the supremacy over the Atlantic hotly contested, until England built up its from pine to palm extending Imperium Britannicum and thus assumed a rôle like unto that of ancient Rome, a comparison which applies even to that Catonian pertinacity with which the Anglo-Saxons went ahead whenever a “Carthago" happened to obstruct their advance.
The proud dictum “Britannia rules the waves" retained all of its force, until the United States of America and Germany entered the list of sea Powers; and it is a remarkable coincidence that these three kindred nations are commanding the most powerful fleets on earth at the moment when the world is preparing for the opening of the Panama Canal.
By this event our planet's largest body of waters—heretofore so to speak a "mare clausum"—is at last opened up to the competition of all seafaring nations, and vistas are disclosed whose possibilities in the long run may not remain in harmony with the peaceful name of this “Pacific" or “Quiet" Ocean. As the “Great Ocean" however, if we are not misinterpreting the signs of the times, it will reflect the significance of the approaching new era.
This new era is with us even now. We are on the threshold of it. The completed transformation of the isthmus from a land-bridge into a gateway, is to be considered as its beginning, the unlocked Great Ocean as its scene of action. How then can we help wondering, when those palmshaded lands of the tropics—the Central American countries—which forty years ago were hardly more than the pleasure ground of philatelists, are gradually but surely moving into the foreground of universal interest? Is it not because the dawn of the new era is breaking over them?
The reader may possibly deem such assertions to be the bold conjectures or merely the vaporings of an officious prophet; but events that are actually taking place in the countries around the Isthmus of Panama, combined with the world-stirring importance of the Canal, seem to the writer to justify his conclusions.
The “Central American Question"-conceived in 1880 on the Isthmus, it may be said, by an urgent need for power and intercourse-was so slow of birth that its appearance was scarcely noticed by the world at large. Not many there are who are conscious of its existence; and even under the Star-Spangled Banner, the far-seeing thinkers who give this serious question their attention number but few.
But this is characteristic of the United States. The average American is self-centered; he knows only his own land; he lives exclusively for his personal interests and understands foreign affairs but little; however, his national pride is easily roused, and all reflection cast upon it is deeply resented. And there is this other fact: the American press does not represent a very high grade of literature; its columns have quantity of material; the material itself lacks quality; yet the average reader's information is gotten from it, and his political views are shaped by it. The better kind of monthly reviews have only a comparatively small circulation by reason of their higher cost.
And so it happens that in the United States, which is most deeply affected by it, the “Central American Question” has not as yet made its impression upon public opinion; the word even has not as yet been coined nor its meaning been taken to heart. Consequently this country and also Europe look upon the situation in Mexico, upon the Panama Canal, upon the Caribbean Sea with its islands and its littorals, as well as upon all matters that have taken place within those domains and with regard to them, from separated viewpoints, when in fact these matters should be studied from the same angle all over the world.
Any other attitude would be a grievous mistake, for we must stop and think that the Panama Canal, especially in these times, is nothing to the Union except a mighty defensive and offensive weapon, the effective handling of which demands a strong arm with an iron hand. But the mere possession of the weapon does not suffice. It must, in accordance with the requirements of the times, be kept in proper usable form and always be within immediate reach of its owner.
It is for these reasons that almost all the incidents that for a long time have taken place in the northern hot zone of the western hemisphere, or incidents that affect those regions only slightly, are directly connected with the Panama Canal, which thus becomes the pivot of the whole Central American question. Not to repeat what has often been stated before, we must take it for granted that the reader looks upon the Panama Canal as mainly a factor of military power.
But we think also of this Panama Canal, with its two harbors, its dock-yards, depots and coaling stations, as an important rallying place for fleets, where not only men-of-war, but also merchant ships, may undergo repairs and take fuel on board. With particular reference to the latter, the American Government has come to realize that it might just as well wring from the costly waterway a profitable revenue derived from the sale of fuel to the passing vessels. With an estimated annual traffic of between ten and twelve million tons to begin with, the sale of coal would in the long run rise to profitable proportions.
But owing to the genius of Diesel, a change was wrought in the construction of machinery which will dethrone King Coal, and lead to the advent of petroleum, which has already taken the place of coal on a large number of vessels of the American, British and other navies. In due course of time, freight and passenger steamers will adopt the same system. And as soon as a petroleum engine, adaptable to the largest vessels, shall have been perfected, then the coal-burning ship will be relegated to the past, just as were the superb sailing-vessels which Fulton, a hundred years ago, succeeded in driving off the oceans.
This innovation in the construction of machinery will certainly before long revolutionize ship-building completely: it will also affect crew, cargo, radius of action, speed, naval-stations; it will reduce the time for taking fuel on board; it will, in short, affect the whole realm of naval strategy and deep sea trade. And petroleum, which hitherto has been nothing but an ordinary commercial article, jumps at one bound within the sphere of military and political interests.
It is evident, therefore, that every seafaring nation, and consequently the American nation, will and must give consideration to the world's oil production, but particularly oil-production near the sea coasts, and this for the same reasons that in part compelled them heretofore to look out for coal. The British Government, months ago, announced through Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty, that it will be the policy of that country to control the world's petroleum sources around important strategic points; and we have in the meantime learned what Great Britain has already done in that direction.
While the world's attention was attracted first by Tripoli, then by the Balkan troubles, and while Europe wrangled about the frontiers of Albania, England went ahead and secured for herself all the oilconcessions she wanted, and when Mr. Churchill spoke the main part of that work was already completed. Great Britain once more lived up to her farsighted policy because petroleum near the coasts and whenever