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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Influence of the Spanish-American War on Our Foreign Trade
by Bancroft, Hubert H.

[General Joseph Wheeler's striking personality gives distinction to his utterances whether on military or general affairs. From his opportunities as commissioner to investigate and report upon the conditions of our acquisitions in the East, and his long experience as a legislator and man of business, his views here expressed have a special value.

General Wheeler joined the Confederate army on April 22, 1861. He was attached to General L. P. Walker's staff with the rank of Colonel; but after a short service on the staff, he went back to Alabama and raised a regiment. When it was proposed to make him a Brigadier-General in the Confederate army, objection was offered on account of his youth, but the objection was overcome, and the wisdom of the appointment was justified by his results. He became a daring and skilful commander of cavalry, dividing with General Forrest the honors of that arm of the service on his side.

Since his disabilities were removed after the close of the Civil War, General Wheeler has been continuously in Congress from the Eighth Alabama district. He left his seat to accept a commission as Major-General of Cavalry in the war with Spain. In his absence the Governor of Alabama, acting upon the rule prohibiting any member of Congress from holding employment under the government, declared his seat vacant, and ordered an election to be held to fill the vacancy. General Wheeler's constituents met in convention and promptly nominated him to fill the vacancy by unanimous action.

He has been an interesting, active, and respected Congressman. He is but five feet two inches tall and weighs one hundred and ten pounds. His nervous vitality and physical restlessness made him a marked personage. One of the characteristic stories of this peculiarity is told of the Hon. Thomas B. Reed, then Speaker of the House, who cherished high respect for General Wheeler's unswerving integrity of character and firmness of purpose. After the death of an old member of the House, a group was discussing those left alive. General Wheeler was present, an old member, and one of the group observing him, remarked, "Well, we have General Wheeler left." "Yes," remarked the Speaker quickly, "the Almighty has never been able to find the General long enough in one place to lay His finger upon him." Nobody enjoyed the epigrammatic comment more than the subject of it. He was one of the strongest men of the Ways and Means Committee. When asked by Mr. Dingley if he would like to go to Manila as Military Governor, he replied that he wanted to go to Cuba, where he could more readily help to bring things to a close. He had been a student of the operations of the Cuban insurgents. At sixty-two General Wheeler displayed at Santiago the same indomitable spirit that distinguished him in the Civil War. He left his sick bed and went on horseback to the front of the line all day at San Juan, and, though burning with fever after twelve hours of fierce battle and exposure, interposed before discouraged officers who were suggesting retirement from the positions already won and that could only be held by unflinching bravery, and indignantly refused to hear of retreating one foot. He warned General Shafter against the proposal and by his splendid and fearless courage of heart and determination turned the disheartened ones the other way about, by infusing his own tenacity of purpose into them.

At San Juan, during the hottest fighting, it is told that General Wheeler forgot his whereabouts on the calendar of time for a moment, and, as the enemy showed signs of weakening, cried out impulsively to his troops: "Give those Yankees h- ll now, boys!" His aides and those standing near, burst into laughter and told him what he had said. "Oh, well," he explained with a smile of deprecation, "I just forgot a moment - but you all know I meant the Spanish. I'm a Yankee myself, now, wearing the uniform and following the old flag of the country where Yankee and Dixie are the same words to the whole land."

General Wheeler's military experience did not cease with the campaign in Cuba, for he was among those who sought and obtained further work in the Philippines. He arrived too late to take any prominent part in the war with the insurgents, but his advice regarding the use of cavalry (his favorite arm of the service) contributed materially towards the suppression of the insurrection. When the war degenerated into a guerrilla contest, offering no further opportunities except to those in command of small scouting parties, General Wheeler returned home, maintaining his connection with the army, it is said, in deference to the wishes of President McKinley, who wished to nominate him for a rank in the regular army commensurate with the importance of his services.]

Decisive events in American history seem to have been thrust upon us by a power which has come unheralded, unfelt and unseen. There appears to have been an impelling something quite akin to elective force and the laws which govern everything in nature. For thousands of years the light of progress and civilization has been travelling westward, growing brighter and brighter at every step of its steady and measured advance.

Our wonderful country was the home of savage Indians for forty or probably fifty or more centuries during which the vast populations in that part of Asia adjacent to the Pacific Ocean enjoyed many elements of high civilization.

The often repeated expression "Westward the star of Empire takes its flight," which as generally accepted only referred to this country, in reality applies to the progress of all enlightened nations of which we have any positive information.

Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome successively felt the light and blessing of civilization, perhaps not precisely, but nearly so in their order of western longitude, and finally the Mediterranean became the field of the world's commerce, and the countries washed by its waters became the seat of progress, arts and civilization, England, then barbaric, soon felt the dawn of a new life, and the Atlantic, up to that time unexplored, except near European shores, was crossed and the American continent made known to the world. Settlements upon the Atlantic coast of this new country, and the gradual but steady expansion westward did not result from a matured plan, emanating from a human mind, but it was rather the logical course of events, impelled forward by an unseen hand.

Nearly four centuries were occupied in populating and bringing this country to a high state of civilization, and in establishing a system of government which has become the pride and glory of mankind.

The constant and rapid creation of new and unexpected conditions have always been met by inventive genius, and discovery and development of new elements and resources.

When oil from the whale no longer supplied the needs of mankind, petroleum and gas, either natural or manufactured, took its place. The necessity for rapid travel and communication was answered by steam and electricity. The timber of the forests became inadequate to supply the demand to create heat and to build edifices and ships, and the deficiency was met by the use of coal and iron. The industry, thrift and inventive genius of Americans developed so rapidly that American production became far in excess of the possible consumption of the people of our home market, and those foreign markets to which we enjoyed easy access.

From statistics, some of which are more than two years old, I have prepared the following table showing the world's production of iron ore, coal, pig iron and steel, and specially illustrating the commanding industrial position of the United States.


COUNTRIES. Iron Ore, Tons. Coal, Tons. Pig-Iron, Tons. Steel, Tons. United States.. 25,000,000 230,838,973 13,620,703 10,639,831 Great Britain.. 14,176,938 202,054,516 8,609,719 4,665,986 Germany and Luxemburg.. 15,893,246 130,928,490 7,232,988 5,779,570 France.. 4,582,236 32,439,786 2,534,427 1,473,100 Belgium.. 240,744 22,075,093 979,101 653,130 Austria-Hungary.. 3,335,005 35,939,417 1,308,423 880,696 Russia.. 4,107,470 12,862,033 2,222,469 1,145,758 Sweden.. 2,302,914 236,277 531,766 265,121 Spain.. 7,125,600 2,526,600 261,799 213,015 Italy.. 200,709 314,222 8,393 63,940 Canada.. 51,929 3,725,585 68,755 21,540 Other countries (about).. 2,374,810 23,312,028 125,226 15,287 Totals.. 79,391,631 697,258,020 37,503,769 25,816,974

These figures present a comparison with other countries of which every American should be proud, but our progress during the last two years has been such that even this gratifying condition is far exceeded by American production at this time.

We now produce almost one-half of the steel, nearly one-half of the coal, nearly one-half of the iron ore and finished iron of the world, and more than one-third of the pig iron. We produce one-quarter of the wheat, one-ninth of the wool, three-fourths of the corn, four-fifths of the cotton, two-thirds of the petroleum and three-fifths of the copper, and I can safely say that upon an average the United States now produces very nearly one-half of the staple products of the world. This condition has been reached within the last few years and the increase in American productions is advancing with rapid strides and the productive capacity of our mines, factories and farms will in a few years far exceed what they are to-day.

We have but one-twentieth of the earth's population, and it is evident that we must either seek new markets for the products of American toil, or else our progress in agriculture and manufactures must be checked or curtailed. I feel confident that no American can contemplate any such condition for a single moment.

Heretofore the rapidly developing west has been a wonderful consumer of the products of our growing industries, but now that section of our country is changing from being a valuable consumer to an aggressive competitor, and all thoughtful minds have realized that new markets would soon be essential for the products of American factories and farms.

When the heart of the American people was touched by the cruelty and terrors which were being enacted in the island of Cuba, and when added to this came the distress caused by the harrowing tidings of the destruction of the battleship Maine, and the instant death of 267 of her gallant crew, but one thought pervaded the American heart, and a demand came from every city, town and hamlet that this great Republic do its duty to suffering humanity, and strike a decisive blow in defence of national honor.

War with Spain followed, and the banner of free America led to prompt and glorious victories upon both land and sea, and almost at the same time in both hemispheres of the world. The treaty of peace which was concluded at Paris placed upon our country the responsibilities with which we are now confronted, and as an incident thereto new conditions were presented, with which it has become the duty of the American Republic to deal.

Very frequently during the century and a quarter of our existence as an independent sovereignty diplomatic complications have arisen, all of which have been settled in a manner in every respect creditable to us as a nation. There is no question but that the problem now confronting us will be solved so as to advance the cause of civilization, and work out results not only to our advantage, but also to benefit materially all who are brought under American control and influence. The early completion of the Nicaragua canal, bringing as it will all American ports nearer to oriental markets than those of any other civilized nation, will hasten the realization of this much to be desired end.

The wonderful progress of our country has been due to the individual incentive enterprise and indomitable energy of our people. It is that which has erected manufactories, constructed railroads, and changed forests and trackless prairies into fields of smiling plenty. A people endowed with these characteristics will be prompt to avail themselves of the opportunities which are offered to them.

The Preamble to the Constitution tells us that one of the purposes of the framers of that instrument was to "promote the general welfare." Much has been said and written in the discussion of the purport of these words, the contentions as to the power meant to have been conferred by the framers of the Constitution often taking a wide range, but I believe all concur that it is the duty of the government, so far as possible, to adopt policies which will develop our industries. Certainly one of the best methods to accomplish this is for us to shape our policy so as to give the products of American toil easy access to the markets of the world.

Of course such action should be in strict conformity with the limitations of the Constitution and should be consistent with our system of government. It must protect individual enterprise in its commendable efforts at development, and much can be accomplished by a diplomacy which brings our people nearer those of other nations and establishes between them friendly and commercial relations.

What was the best policy a century or even a half-century ago would not apply to the condition of our country to-day. During the days of Washington, Jefferson and Jackson we were essentially an agricultural country. The question of manufacturing for a foreign market had hardly been considered, and it was years before our farm products were exported to any considerable extent.

Now all is changed; now we far out-rival all nations in the products of both our farms and factories. Our production of cotton, corn, coal, steel, pig iron, finished iron, iron ore, wheat, copper and petroleum far exceeds the production of those staple articles by any other nation.

It must certainly be assumed that those in authority and power will seize every opportunity to assist our people in seeking and entering all markets where American products are in demand.

I have as much respect as any American for the traditions of our country and the expressions of the great statesmen to whom we are indebted for the creation of our present form of government; but we must construe all their expressions in conformity with the great changes that have taken place. We must remember that from the least we have become the greatest producing country, and from one of the weakest the most powerful, wealthy and influential. Half the population of the world is in what we call the Orient. Its productions are very largely articles which the world needs, and which can be produced only under its favoring skies, or at least can be better produced there than elsewhere. This gives a great purchasing power to this vast population. We are among the nations which produce the articles their changed condition will demand.

The needs of all people increase as they advance in civilization. Sewerage systems will be constructed in all their great cities. This alone means the sale of sewerage pipe to the value of many thousands, or rather, many millions, of dollars. This is but one single item.

These people will also want piping and machinery for water-works, electric and gas-works for lighting their cities and houses. Railroads and locomotives will be needed in numbers far beyond our present conception. Then come electric street railroads, telegraphs, telephones, agricultural implements, sewing- machines, typewriters and the thousands of other articles which we manufacture and these people will purchase. American capital will find very profitable investments in the various permanent improvements, such as railroads, including those for city streets, water-works, telegraph and telephone lines, and pipes for sanitary purposes. These newly opened countries will also need structural steel for building. Those who exercise the most energy and good judgment will secure the largest proportion of this trade. Probably the greatest advantage to our country would be the market we would secure for cotton goods. We now produce nearly seven-eighths of the raw cotton which finds its way to the world's markets. The selling price of the annual crop of this raw cotton is about $300,000,000. If made into cloth and thread, its increase in value would be enormous. Even when transformed into the cheapest cotton cloths, its value is greatly enhanced, and when manufactured into thread and fine goods, its increased value would be ten, twenty or even thirty fold.

The southern states produce the articles needed in the far East more cheaply than they can be produced anywhere else on earth. With the Nicaragua Canal completed, our Gulf ports will be nearer to these markets than those of the Atlantic Coast, and far nearer than any of the ports of Europe. The effect of such a condition upon the Gulf states, it seems to me, almost surpasses our comprehension.

Other nations are exercising every means within their command to secure favorable commercial relations with these people, and certainly we will not neglect an opportunity where such advantages are possible to be attained. The question as to whether the war with Spain should or should not have been avoided, and whether or not it was good judgment to provide in the treaty of peace for the cession of the Philippine Islands, are now matters of the past.

While the trade with the Philippines will be valuable, if by no means measures the advantages we can legitimately seek. When we once obtain a foothold in that part of the world, we can successfully compete for a large share of the trade of the vast population of Asia. The superiority and the cheapness of our products give us advantages, but in order to successfully compete with rival nations, it is necessary to establish depots near their great centres of trade.

The conditions in China are interesting, and to many people perplexing. The Chinese have a government with a history extending back 4,700 years. Some writers can see in them no virtues. They denounce them as odious and their religions as abominations. Other writers extol their religious devotion, commend their worship at the tombs of their ancestors, speak in praise of their industries, their endurance, and even write of their soldierly qualities in battle. We have certainly evidence that they possess some of these qualities, and the lack of individual incentive may account for the little progress China has made, when considering her wonderful resources.

I do not hesitate to say that the unlocked mineral wealth of that empire is greater than that found in any other country. Coal is found in limitless quantities, and is worked so easily that in Shansi it sells at thirteen cents per ton at the mines. Iron ore of many varieties, including the best, abounds, and lead, tin, zinc, copper and gold are found in many different localities.

Notwithstanding that these elements of wealth are bountifully possessed by China, her people have not seemed to be disposed to develop resources and encourage industries which would compete with ours, and their principal articles of export appear to be those which we do not and cannot produce.

The same is in a measure true regarding the Philippine Islands. Rice, their great staple, is all consumed in supplying food for that vast population of some 11,000,000 people, and although the soil and climate are adapted to cotton, the inhabitants prefer to produce other articles, and nearly all the cotton used in the one cotton-mill in Manila is imported, and much of it comes from New Orleans.

Sugar is produced in large quantities, but the largest export any year was some eight years ago when it reached 261,000 tons.

It is true that cotton to the amount of one and a half to two million bales is raised in the Chinese empire, but it is substantially all manufactured in the localities where it is grown.

At present the principal imports into China from America are cotton goods, flour and coal-oil. In 1897 the United States exported to China cotton goods to the amount of $7,500,000, coal-oil to the amount of $5,000,000, and last year China took $4,000,000 worth of flour from the United States. This is but a small fraction of the foreign trade of this empire. The exports to and imports from Great Britain alone were $200,000,000 during one year, four years ago, and they have increased steadily ever since that time.

We should send wise and conservative agents among the people with whom we seek to establish trade relations. The importance of using every possible effort to avoid antagonizing prejudices cannot be overrated.

It is true that within certain limitations human nature has been found to be the same in all places and during all ages, but the important question in dealing with these people is to realize in the beginning that their training and the training of their ancestors running back for centuries has been different from ours. Ignoring this truth accounts in a great measure for the difficulties in our dealings with the people of China. This is well explained by A. R. Colquhoun in his work entitled "China in Transformation."

On page 265, he says:

"Almost every conceivable action of a Chinaman's life is prescribed by a minute etiquette which no one dreams of disregarding. Being unintelligible to foreigners, this necessarily creates friction in their mutual relations. But in addition to this the Chinese, even the most reasonable and most practicable, are under the dominion of sorcerers and fortune-tellers and the reign of luck to such an extent, that they are in constant apprehension of doing or saying things at the wrong time, the wrong place, in the wrong way, or in company with the wrong people. A promising combination may be spoiled by some occult warning, and a Chinaman may often have bad faith imputed to him when he is really under the constraint of some influence which he dare not avow, and which causes him to make a shuffling and mendacious excuse."

So it is, in a measure, with the Filipinos. We must consider that for years these people have been constant sufferers from Spanish duplicity, and for two years they have been repeatedly told that Americans have come to the Islands to inflict hardships and impose burdens far more unendurable than anything they had suffered under the Spaniards. Constant efforts have been made to convince them that the only purpose Americans have in view is to rule the islands for their own benefit and to the detriment of the Filipinos.

No greater mistake can be made than to attempt the enforcement of American ideas and customs upon our new people. France has been very unfortunate in her late efforts at colonization. Her possessions in Asia are rich and prosperous countries. She has Cochin-China with an area of 22,000 square miles and nearly 2,000,000 people, Cambodia with 62,000 square miles and 1,000,000 people, Annam, including Tongking, with 250,000 square miles, and 20,000,000 population; and yet the total trade is only about 250,000,000 francs, and much of this is monopolized by England. Colquhoun gives one reason.

He says, pages 330-331:

"But they have not the power of adapting themselves to new peoples and to new countries.

"The majority of the colonial officials, according to Chailley-Bert, set about the work of governing by bringing with them that passion for uniformity, that mania for routine, that love of making regulations, that dread of initiative and of responsibility which crush the mother-country as well as the most vigorous of her colonies. The French codes are applied without change in every quarter of the world, and in the modern Eastern possessions exactly as they were in the old colonies of France."

The Spanish war though brief in its duration has been momentous in its results. During a third of a century of peace we had become the leading of all nations in material progress, and in a war of less than one hundred days our victories on both land and sea demonstrated to the world that we were superior to all nations in martial prowess, and in maintaining the highest order of military and naval skill.

It has made us all prouder that we are Americans. The newest yet the richest country on earth - a country which has always sought to remain at peace with all the world, yet when forced into war, startled mankind by the courage, endurance and heroism of her soldiers and the victories they won; a country which has always sought to avoid entangling alliances or interference with other nations. Yet our fair, honorable, just and wise diplomacy has won for us the respect and admiration of all civilized people.

The Spanish war has also resulted in a marvellous extension of our commercial and trade relations, and in the spreading of American civilization.

While civilization is in the abstract utterly opposed to warfare, yet strange as it may seem it has been its great forerunner and promoter. It may be described as the exercise of force in brushing away the impediments which have stopped or retarded the advance of civilized ideas and customs.

Another effect of wars has been to call into action, in all their strength and breadth, the energies and resources of a people, and though at the close of such struggle the country seems prostrated, the latent influences that were evoked have always rendered the work of rehabilitation easy.

A great war also demonstrated to the world the resources of a nation, and after it is over greatly assists in the enlargement of its commercial relations, and in its material progress and prosperity. We all recall the prosperity enjoyed by England during the period following her triumph in her wars with Napoleon. Napier, in his history of the first fifteen years of this century, shows how thoroughly the British people appreciated the fact that their greatness and power were due to the glory achieved by British arms. He says: "Wellington was victorious; the great conqueror (Napoleon) was overthrown; England stood the most triumphant nation of the world, but with an enormous debt, a dissatisfied people, gaining peace without tranquillity, greatness without intrinsic strength, the present time uneasy, the future dark and threatening, yet she rejoices in the glory of her arms, and it is a stirring sound."

The rapidity with which England emerged from this condition of "debt, dissatisfaction and despondency," is an interesting chapter of history. Her commerce followed the flag borne by her navy into all the corners of the earth, her manufacturing industries attained a prosperity never dreamed of, and in a few years England became the wealthiest country on earth, the mistress of the sea and the pride and glory of the world.

The enjoyment of peace is a blessed boon to humanity and all Christian people deprecate war with its train of miseries and suffering, and it is to be earnestly hoped that civilization will soon make war a thing of the past.

The cable tells us that the last request of the great and good Queen to her son and grandson was a pledge upon their knees that the two powerful empires which they rule should always remain at peace with each other, and that their efforts should be exerted to maintain peace throughout the world. If this be true, and I hope and pray that it may be so, the possible effect may be all that the most ardent advocate of universal peace could desire. If these great rulers were to bend their powerful influence in that direction, they could readily count upon being joined in so laudable an effort by both Russia and the United States; and if these four great powers were to combine to attain that end, truly we might hope that the peace and good will on earth prayed for by Jesus of Nazareth nineteen centuries ago was to be the crowning blessing of the twentieth century of the Christian era.

We are informed that Queen Victoria often referred with sorrow to the suffering caused by the war in Cuba, and also by that which so soon followed in South Africa. It was these thoughts which caused the request to her offspring that they would seek to prevent armed contests.

Can we not hope that our blow for mercy and humanity in 1898 may include in its results the bringing about of a condition of universal peace?

General Joseph Wheeler


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