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26 June, 2013
The Great Republic by the Master Historians
Movements of the Older Nations
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


This retrospect of our own history would be incomplete without a glance at the movements of the great nations who are our competitors in the majestic march towards unassailable prosperity and power. Nothing can seriously impede the course of the Great Republic, but no progressive move by any strong people is without its effect on the movements of the rest. Standing grandly apart as we do from the whirl of European complications, there is yet no significant act or utterance of monarch, president, or statesman of position, that does not in some degree affect American sentiment. We, in our turn, can scarcely propose a policy without sending a disturbing thrill through every old-world council chamber or market-place.

The drift of latter-day diplomacy, and the commercial development of Europe, have a close bearing on the history we are going to make in the quarter-century now beginning. If geographically distant, we are vitally present in the family councils of the great nations. We have to be reckoned with in everything they undertake from now onward. We have hitherto been respected as the great power of the West; henceforth we shall be deferentially treated as a great potentiality in the East. Let us see how the new situation may affect our future. Jealousy is one of the first tributes fading pride pays to rising greatness. No lasting supremacy arrives smoothly. Our friendly neighbors may not create obstacles, but it is human to place those that exist more plainly in sight rather than remove them. The game now opening on the international chess-board will be intensely interesting in its shifting of kings and crafty strategy in checkmating.

Great Britain, our next-door European neighbor, aspires to a greater greatness. In so far as territorial aggrandizement is a sound definition, her ambition may yet overleap itself, as outlying possessions, once a certain strength is attained, obey the law by which filial ties change from obligatory to sentimental loyalty. In so far as her half-century of dazzling grandeur owed its being to England's having so long been the workshop and the bank of the world, that foundation of strength has been chipped away, stone by stone, in recent years. The nations no longer go hat in hand to ask the favor of her goods or gold. The aforetime underrated Colonies of America now single-handed outstrip her in inventing, in making and in selling a score of her staples, of which she used to hold almost the monopoly.

The generally cordial feelings between the American and English peoples have been ruffled over minor interests. Under stress of the conditions indicated, it may be that friction will come more frequently and perhaps more irritatingly, not from one, but from several points of the compass. Tariff skirmishes and bounty fights may precede conflicts on a larger scale. If subjugation of civilized peoples and confiscation of rich territory owned by original settlers are to be accepted as signs of grace, then deeper significance attaches to the diplomatic difficulty over the boundary line between the American and Canadian gold area in Alaska. The total product of gold of all the mines from 1890 to 1900 has amounted to nearly $20,000,000. The disputed territory comprises about 30,000 square miles in southeast Alaska, in which is a gold mine valued at $I3,000,000. The Yukon district is Canadian, with Dawson as its center.

Canada proper is divided over the policy of commercial union, a fair is not free trade arrangement with the Republic. Events not far off are likely to work a radical change in the attitude of Great Britain towards the United States. The outcome cannot be foreseen, so strangely do modern conditions modify the purposes of the strongest powers. Whether England's destiny is fixed to be that of a world-wide ocean-sundered empire, or the return of an era of compact nationality, freed from the perils of innumerable responsibilities, her influence on the future of the Great Republic cannot but be as profound as it has been and is now.

The German empire is a creation of yesterday. With boundless ambition for glory and power it is following in the wake of Great Britain, seeking to found colonies, turning from pastoral life at home to factory-work and world trade. The unification of small principalities into an imperial power was the life-work of the last of the great, strong, wise master-statesmen of the period. Whether the tie will hold or some day yield is a secret of the future. The prime fact for the American people to ponder is that the imperial bond is so far working well for the growing commercial power of Germany. Her rural districts may be deserted and her agricultural industry may languish more and more, but the cities and towns grow rapidly, mills multiply, her highly educated ambassadors of commerce have won a firm footing in every market in the world. German manufacturers have, in certain lines, cut down British exports by one-half, even in British colonial markets. If the German empire acquires a first-class navy and a gateway on the seashore, and unlikelier things happen every year, American captains of commerce will not lack opportunities to show their ingenuity and pluck.

Russia is a coming force with which the Great Republic must reckon. The footing we have won on the Philippine step of the door which may or may not remain open, brings us in touch with the great empire in the East. Again we greet a future competitor for the laurels of commercial victory. With Russia, Germany, and England, the United States competes for the favor of the domestic potentate who shall finally hold the key of China's tantalizing door. Friendly division of benefits is not unknown in the commercial operations of nations. With tact underlying the quality of perseverance miracles are always possible, and the millennium may be reached by the path of trade.

The republic of France holds its own unique and probably permanent stall in the world's market-place. It lacks the genius of colonization, tending, oppositely, to neglect in maintaining its standard of home population. Much awaits the serious consideration of its people; its sources of weakness are fickleness in self-government, and over-confidence in a prestige which has not strengthened with the years. The bonds of sincere friendship, long continued, between the American and French republics bid fair to be consolidated into a firmer attachment as the years pass.

A prominent statesman of Europe recently spoke of certain "dying nations," in contrast to those so actively engaged in colonizing and trading. The expression was ill-chosen, as applied to peoples less numerous but not necessarily less virile in their own surroundings. Spain has a noble history, broadly viewed, and a nation that has had a proud past may achieve a fine future. Italy and Rome have not lost their grandeur, nor all that makes power. Ancient China can smile at some modern claims, pointing backwards to a civilization not yet dead, and perhaps forwards to a self-assertiveness that may set the moderns staring.

It may be that the world and its inhabitants are to be reduced to subjection under three lords only, the Slav, the Latin and the Anglo-Saxon. This, or some such fancy, seems to inspire the feverish efforts of the first and the third of these races to sweep vast areas into already unwieldy empires. The assumption that the Latin peoples will somehow lose or change their characteristic qualities and develop those of their remote ancestors, fails to take adequate cognizance of physical, geographical and extraneous conditions which are not to be ignored. The opening up of Africa will mightily affect the destiny of nations and races. It may create new ones. Some of the profoundest students of history, having personal knowledge of the Eastern world, years ago committed themselves to the prediction that the cry "China for the Chinese" will yet amaze the waiters for the "open door." They foresee the possibility of a sweeping crusade of Chinese fanaticism against the bordering peoples, with the coming of a universal war between the yellow and white races. India eagerly looks forward to self-liberation from British rule. In this other nations besides the Russians, Persians and Afghans are interested. The game is playable with milder weapons than the sword. American piety has pioneered the way by moral suasion and practical exemplification of civilized life. American commerce has spread a full share of ameliorating conditions before the peoples once described as heathens and barbarians. In the winning of the Oriental races, rather than their coercion, lies the sounder policy of the future. In happy accord with the traditions of the Republic, the United States has refrained from joining the aggressive action proposed by certain other powers in the Chinese trouble. When peaceful efforts fail and force becomes necessary, the American arm strikes swiftly and with effect. May it not be necessary. Hopeless as affairs may seem in any crisis, time may be trusted to ease the situation, sufficiently at least for compromise, often the wisest solution. History is writing itself startlingly almost day by day, as we have seen in these pages. It will continue to chronicle the rise, decline, and disappearance of monarchs and dynasties, but the Great Republic is destined to see its grandest century in the one she now is entering.

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