Spanishamerican War

.. ppropriation of this money for specific purposes. That not a single man was found to make objection showed a very great capacity for united action in a time of emergency. It also showed, of course, how great is the confidence that Congress and the American people repose in the honor, wisdom, and public spirit of their Presidents. At the time of the Venezuela incident, Congress in similar manner, came unanimously to the support of President Cleveland.

In that case, however, there was not the remotest possibility of war; and the episode was merely a diplomatic one in which it was deemed important to show that our government could rely absolutely upon the whole support of the people. The South on all such recent occasions has been foremost in expressions of patriotism. The vote of $50 million, although an extraordinary measure justified only by the imminent danger of war, was clearly an act that no peace-loving man could reasonably criticize; for preparation is often the means by which conflict is avoided. A larger Navy was in any case greatly desirable for our country, with its long seaboard on the Atlantic and the Pacific and its vast commerce; while the better fortification of our principal ports was an urgent necessity. Since the preparations that have been made so hurriedly during the past few weeks have been of a defensive nature, and since they have been carried out upon lines which had been duly considered in advance, they will have permanent value, and there will have been involved a very small percentage of waste. If Congress had been wise enough in the past three or four years to lay down more warships in our own yards, it would not have been necessary to contribute millions to foreign shipbuilders.

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No part of the $50 million will be squandered by the administration; but it is to be regretted that this emergency fund had not been already expended during the five preceding years by more liberal appropriations for coast defense and naval construction. The great shipyards of the United States, both public and private, are now at the point where, with a sufficient amount of regular work to do, they would speedily be able to compete on equal terms with the best shipbuilding plants of Europe. Iron and steel supplies are now much cheaper in the United States than anywhere else, and it is only the relatively small amount of shipbuilding that has been demanded by our government that has made it more expensive to build a war vessel here than else where. In a time of real emergency, however, the resources of the United States would prove themselves great enough to supply our own people and the whole world besides. The quickness and inventiveness of American mechanics, engineers, and manufacturers have no parallel in Europe.

On a year’s notice the United States might undertake to cope evenhanded with either the Dual or the Triple Alliance – although we have now only the nucleus of an army and the beginning of a navy, while the European powers have made war preparation their principal business for a whole generation. It is to be suspected that one reason why the American people have bought the newspapers so eagerly during the past weeks is to be found in the satisfaction they have taken in learning how a strictly peaceful nation like ours could if necessary reverse the process of beating swords into plowshares. It is true, for example, that we have built only a few torpedo boats and only a few vessels of the type known as destroyers; but we have discovered that about a hundred very rich Americans had been amusing themselves within the past few years by building or buying splendid oceangoing, steel-built steam yachts of high speed and stanch qualities, capable of being quickly transformed into naval dispatch boats or armored and fitted with torpedo tubes. Probably not a single private Spanish citizen could turn over to his government such a vessel as the magnificent Goelet yacht, the Mayflower, which was secured by our Navy Department on March 16; not to mention scores of other private steam yachts of great size and strength that wealthy American citizens are ready to offer if needed. It is the prevailing opinion nowadays, it is true, that nothing is to be relied upon in naval war but huge battleships, which take from two to three or four years to build.

But if a great war were forced upon us suddenly, it is altogether probable that American ingenuity would devise something wholly new in the way of a marine engine of war, just as American ingenuity improvised the first modern ironclads. We have already in our Navy a dynamite cruiser, the Vesuvius, which in actual warfare might prove more dangerous than a half dozen of the greatest battleships of the European navies. There has just been completed, moreover, and offered to our government, a submarine boat, the Holland, which seems to be capable of moving rapidly for several miles so completely submerged as to offer no target for an enemy; and it may well be that the torpedoes discharged from an insignificant little vessel capable of swimming below the surface like a fish might prove as fatal to the battleships of an enemy as the alleged mine in the harbor of Havana was fatal to our battleship the Maine. Nowadays, warfare is largely a matter of science and invention; and since a country where the arts of peace flourish and prosper is most favorable to the general advance of science and invention, we stumble upon the paradox that the successful pursuit of peace is after all the best preparation for war. Another way to put it is to say that modern warfare has become a matter of machinery, and that the most highly developed mechanical and industrial nation will by virtue of such development be most formidable in war. This is a situation that the Spaniards in general are evidently quite unable to comprehend.

Their ideas are altogether medieval. They believe themselves to be a highly chivalrous and militant people, and that the people of the United States are really in great terror of Spanish prowess. They think that Spain could make as easy work of invading the United States as Japan made of invading China. Their point of view is altogether theatrical and unrelated to modern facts. A country like ours, capable of supplying the whole world with electrical motors, mining machinery, locomotive engines, steel rails, and the structural material for modern steel bridges and “skyscrapers,” not to mention bicycles and sewing machines, is equally capable of building, arming, and operating an unlimited number of ships of every type, and of employing every conceivable mechanical device for purposes of national defense. In the long run, therefore, even if our preliminary preparations had been of the scantiest character, we should be able to give a good account of ourselves in warfare.

. . . Quite regardless of the responsibilities for the Maine incident, it is apparently true that the great majority of the American people are hoping that President McKinley will promptly utilize the occasion to secure the complete pacification and independence of Cuba. There are a few people in the United States – we should not like to believe that more than 100 could be found out of a population of 75 million – who believe that the United States ought to join hands with Spain in forcing the Cuban insurgents to lay down their arms and to accept Spanish sovereignty as a permanent condition under the promise of practical home rule. It needs no argument, of course, to convince the American people that such a proposal reaches the lowest depths of infamy.

It is much worse than the proposition made by a few people in Europe last year that the victorious Turks should have the countenance and support of the great nations of Europe in making Greece a part of the Turkish empire. For the Turks had fairly conquered the Greeks; and if Europe had kept hands off, Greece would have been reduced very quickly to the position of an Ottoman province. But in Cuba it is otherwise. The insurgents, with no outside help, have held their own for more than three years, and Spain is unable to conquer them. The people of the United States do not intend to help Spain hold Cuba.

On the contrary, they are now ready, in one way or in another, to help the Cubans drive Spain out of the Western Hemisphere. If the occasion goes past and we allow this Cuban struggle to run on indefinitely, the American people will have lost several degrees of self-respect and will certainly not have gained anything in the opinion of mankind.