Is America Imperialistic?
TAKE, for example, our relations to the Republics of Latin America. I think it may be said truly, that these relations were never better than to-day. Facilities of direct communication have been developed, trade is increasing, the youth of other nations are coming in increasing numbers to our universities. Despite the efforts of those in other countries who endeavor to foster an unfriendly sentiment toward us, our national position is more clearly understood; the absence of any imperialistic purpose on our part is more generally recognized; our desire to promote peace and good-will, to have the beneficial coöperation which depends on confidence in the maintenance of territorial integrity, assured independence, and mutual esteem, is more fully appreciated....
Yet there are writers among us who apparently make it their business to develop antagonism and to spread among the people of this country, who have no opportunities for judgment from personal knowledge, the notion that our policies are imperialistic, that our influence is baleful, and that mutual respect and friendship are decreasing. Publicity is given to these erroneous and harmful assertions and misdescriptions upon the ground, I suppose, that what may be false should have an equal chance with what may be true. . . .
Our Government has no intrigues, no secret agreements, no hidden policies. And when history fully reveals our actual relations at this time to our sister republics of this hemisphere, when correspondence and instructions are published, I am happy to say that there will be no page of which any American need be ashamed. — The HONORABLE C HARLES E. HUGHES, SECRETARY OF STATE, in an address delivered at Amherst College, June 18, 1924.
THE belief that the policy animating the Government of the United States in its relations with the Latin-American republics is one of ‘dollar diplomacy, with its combination of bonds and battleships,’ is shared by a small group in the United States and by other groups in the majority of these republics. It is a belief to which the policy of the United States has given credence upon a few unfortunate occasions in the past. It is a belief sedulously fostered at present by propagandists, both sincere and insincere. But, after years of personal experience in Latin-America, the author is not convinced that this belief is shared by more than a small proportion of the inhabitants of any of the republics on this Continent.
In considering this aspect of the question, it is of interest to determine the class to which the more vociferous critics of the continental policy of the United States belong. Should careful investigation be made, it would be found that ninety per cent of them may fittingly be compared to those groups in our own country who promote racial or religious antagonism for personal or political ends. They are rarely men or women who have achieved prominence in statesmanship, politics, or in affairs. By far the greater part are agitators whose articles foment distrust of the motives of the ‘Octopus of the North,’ as they refer to the United States, and who, so far as is known, confine themselves to destructive criticism, omitting to point out any remedy for the appalling condition of affairs which they profess to see.
There is always an audience for critics of this character. In fact, the Government of the United States has, to a certain extent, because of the propaganda which has been carried on, become an ‘Aunt Sally’ for this variety of audience on the rest of the American Continent; but that such criticism is participated in by those who direct the destinies of the Latin-American republics, or by any considerable number of those engaged in agriculture, in commerce, or in industry, of the liberal professions, or even of the labor element, it would be impossible to prove.
Although mistakes undoubtedly have been committed, our record in general has been one with which an American citizen may be well content. It has revealed a consistent effort on our part to strengthen the foundations of constitutional and stable government, to develop legitimate commercial relations, and, by demonstration and friendly advice, to further the settlement by peaceful methods of international disputes.
Before passing to a survey of the relations actually existing between the United States and Latin America, it seems desirable to point out that the United States must by force of necessity, due to geographic proximity, treaty relations, or other reasons, make a practical distinction in its dealings with the various republics of the Continent. Relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States on the one hand, and the Argentine Republic and the United States on the other, cannot be regarded in the same light by our diplomats because of the special treaty relations existing with the former. In like manner, the relations between certain of the republics of Central America and the United States cannot be compared to the relations existing between Brazil and the United States, for the reason that the former nations, while they are in the eyes of the world on an equal plane with Brazil so far as their independence and sovereignty is concerned, have not been afforded the opportunity to march so far along the road of civilization and progress as has Brazil. The practical task confronting our Government therefore is the following: our relations with all the neighboring republics should be those existing between free and independent nations; yet, until certain of these countries have developed a firm tradition of orderly, constitutional government, the United States must be prepared to step in to protect the lives and property of its citizens should they at any time be in danger; and it must likewise be ready to assume the responsibility of offering its friendly mediation, or, in extreme cases, its friendly intervention, should conditions be such as to threaten a national or international conflagration which would give rise to a situation wherein the policy of self-protection of the United States, known as the Monroe Doctrine, might be endangered.
For the reasons above set forth, our relations with the republics of Central America, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Panama, have certain common aspects. Our relations with the remaining nations, including all the republics of South America and the Republic of Mexico, are likewise in general comparable.
Since our dealings with the former republics in the past have given rise, in a few instances, to ground for just criticism and have undoubtedly been subject to very general misunderstanding in this country, it would be useful to review with entire frankness the history of the relations of the United States with each one of those republics during the past decade.
The problems which the United States has faced in its relations with Cuba since the termination of the first occupation have been many and serious. No nation has produced more devoted and unselfish patriots than were the Cuban heroes of 1898; and yet, because of the centuries of Spanish colonial administration, the great mass of the Cuban people entered their independence without ever having experienced the benefits of honest, efficient, and democratic government. For the protection of the Cuban people themselves, therefore, a treaty was consequently entered into between the United States and Cuba which contained provisions, also incorporated in the Cuban Constitution, commonly known as the Platt Amendment. The third article of this treaty provides; —
That the government of Cuba consents that the United States may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty, and for discharging the obligations with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by the Government of Cuba.
This contractual right of intervention, though of no advantage — direct or indirect — to the United States, has been, on the other hand, a fruitful source of misunderstanding and resentment. The right has been exercised on various occasions, but never except in the face of open rebellion which might have threatened the independence of the Republic and which actually threatened the maintenance of a stable constitutional government.
The policy of the United States with regard to Cuba is necessarily a policy which applies to the other countries of the Caribbean. Our Government must be guided not only by its altruistic desire to help develop civilization and progress in general, but also by purely selfish motives; for what better protection can there be for the United States in the event of foreign menace than the presence throughout the Continent of strong Governments maintained in power by the consent of the governed, well disposed toward the United States? Intervention in Cuba has never been undertaken except with this end in view. The policy of the United States in this regard has not changed. Such actual intervention in or occupation of Cuba as the United States has been obliged to undertake is, of course, at best, an artificial method of restoring outward tranquillity so that constitutional government may once more be established. Of far greater value is the friendly advice which may be offered to the Cuban Government and to the Cuban people through our reprosentatives.
There are no American Marines in Cuba, as has been charged, as a physical reminder of our treaty rights, beyond those stationed in the United States naval district of Guantánamo; and only as a sequel to intervention by treaty right have members of the military establishment of the United States been stationed in the interior of the Republic. The last occasion upon which American Marines were temporarily stationed in the interior of Cuba was following the armed uprising of the Liberal party in 1917, when a small detachment of Marines was retained in the Province of Camagüey upon the request of the Cuban Government itself.
In considering present conditions in Cuba, it is impossible to overlook the great benefits derived from the friendly advice tendered the Cuban Government by the United States after the economic crisis of 1920 through General Enoch H. Crowder, then Special Representative of the President of the United States, as well as through many experts sent to Cuba to devise methods of reëstablishing financial credit and economic stability. The economies and fiscal reforms initiated by President Zayas, after consideration of the advice so tendered, have brought the Republic out of a condition of impending ruin to one of essential financial soundness. The advice so offered has not been resented by thinking Cubans. On the contrary, the Cuban people as a whole have demonstrated their gratitude for the assistance lent them, and although a few may protest the friendly intervention of the United States in Cuban affairs, even these realize that the steps taken by the Cuban Government in 1921 saved the Republic from disaster — possibly revolution.
No step taken by the Government of the United States in Latin America in recent years has given rise to more criticism—and, in this instance, just criticism—than the military occupation of the Dominican Republic by the armed forces of the United States in 1916. The history of the Dominican Republic throughout the years which have elapsed since its original liberation from the Spanish yoke has been a tragic one. It has comprised decades of Haitian domination, a return to Spanish rule, and during the last sixty years, with a few periods of comparative improvement, a long sequence of dictatorship, revolution, and dictatorship once more. Since the overthrow of the last Dictator, Ulises Heureaux, in 1899, revolution has succeeded revolution, notwithstanding the efforts of many high spirited and truly patriotic Dominicans to stem the tide. It is the belief of many that the Military Occupation by the United States in 1916, on the ground that the Treaty of 1907 had been violated by the Dominican Government, would never have occurred had President Wilson had the opportunity or the time, in the excitements of that period, to become fully cognizant of the causes of the situation existing in the Dominican Republic. Even so, in the order authorizing the occupation, Mr. Wilson, declared that he acted ‘with the deepest reluctance.’ Likewise it is improbable that he was informed of many of the occurrences which took place in the Dominican Republic during the earlier years of the American Occupation — occurrences deeply to be regretted by every American citizen.
It is not generally known that the present policy of evacuation was initiated under Secretary of State Colby during the last six months of President Wilson’s administration, although the proposals of our Government were not then accepted by the Dominican people and a plan for evacuation was carried to a successful conclusion only in the third year of the succeeding administration. Those who refer merely to the errors of the Occupation do so without at the same time making clear that the Occupation has terminated, and that a freely elected constitutional government of the republic is now in sole power. The promise of the United States to the Dominican people to undertake the immediate evacuation of the Republic was not conditioned, as stated by Dr. Inman, in a recent issue of the Atlantic,1 on the ratification by the Dominican people of all the acts of the Military Government, nor upon their agreement to allow the United States to continue to collect the customs and administer the finances of the country. Such a statement is entirely inaccurate. An agreement was entered into in 1921 between the United States and a commission of representative Dominican citizens, comprising the leaders of all the political parties, providing for the establishment of a Provisional Dominican Government, under which free elections could be held to provide for a future constitutional government.
Their national elections took place in March 1924, and the President and other public officials elected in those elections took office on July 12 of the present year; whereupon the Military Forces of the United States evacuated the Republic and relations between the United States and the Dominican Republic are now undertaken entirely, as they should be, through diplomatic channels. Ratification by the freely elected Dominican Government of certain acts of the Military Government has been limited to validation of those acts which established revenues, authorized expenditures, or created rights in favor of third persons. Were such ratification not undertaken, chaos would result. Except during the Military Occupation, the United States has never administered the finances of the Dominican Republic, nor was any attempt made to do so under the agreement providing for the evacuation of the country. The collection of Dominican customs by American officials was undertaken upon the request of the Dominican Government in 1905, and such obligation on the part of the Government of the United States was provided for in a treaty entered into in 1907. Abrogation of that treaty has not been suggested by the Dominican people, nor is it desired by them, since, until the resources of the country have been developed and governmental stability has been assured, as they undoubtedly will be during a period of peace and tranquillity, it would be impossible for the Dominican Republic to obtain funds with which to construct permanent public improvements without the security afforded by the collection of Dominican customs under the supervision of American officials.
Because of the Occupation, feeling against the United States in Santo Domingo has been exceedingly bitter, and yet, during the past two years, there has been evidenced a notable change, through general belief in the sincerity of the United States in its reparation of the mistaken policy, which had been initiated. What could be more significant in this connection than the following phrases voiced by the President of the Republic, General Horacio Vasquez, when, on a recent visit to Washington, he had occasion to address a few remarks to his fellow guests at an entertainment at the Pan American Union: —
‘ I desire to take occasion to express my hope that the notable work of the Pan American Union in making closer and more friendly the relations between the American Republics may meet with ever increasing success; and may I state my belief that no opportunity could be more favorable for that desired end than the present, when the efforts of the Pan American Union are supported by a government of the United States guided by a spirit of sincere friendship and real justice to its sister nations of this hemisphere.’
Those who have the privilege of knowing the present President of the Dominican Republic will realize that those words are not merely courteous expressions. They are due to a sincere conviction, and that sincere conviction is unquestionably shared by the great majority of his fellow citizens.
The series of revolutions existing in Central America during the past century has forced the United States repeatedly to intervene temporarily in those republics in order to protect the lives and property of its own nationals and, in certain instances, those of other foreigners.
The causes of Central American revolution have been clearly outlined by Dr. Dana G. Munro in his work entitled The Five Republics of Central America: —
First: The attempt to impose political institutions copied from one of the world’s most advanced democracies upon a country where elections were absolutely impossible;
Second: What may be called ‘the habit of revolution’ among the ruling class and the people of many of the towns — a habit formed during the turbulent years that followed the breakdown of the federal constitution and perpetuated by the bitterness of personal feuds and sectional jealousy, the pursuit of politics as a money making occupation, and the mutual persecution of rival factions; and Third: Backwardness of the masses of the people, which has not only made the republican constitutions unworkable, but has also prevented those who in the long run suffer most from civil war from exerting any effective influence for peace.
It has been the studied policy of the United States in recent years to coöperate with the Governments of Central America in preventing these causes of chronic disturbances.
The very notable improvement in the feeling existing in the Central American republics toward the United States, which has taken place during the past few years, has been largely due to this spirit of helpful coöperation — as distinguished from intervention or imposition — evidenced by this Government in its offer to the Central American republics of the City of Washington as the meeting-place for the delegates to the Second Central American Conference held in 1922, as well as by participation by the
United States in that Conference and by the entry of the United States into certain of the resultant treaties and conventions on a basis of entire equality with the other signatory powers. These treaties and conventions are essentially practical, not theoretical, and the recognition of their value is evidenced by the fact that certain of them formed the basis for the deliberations of the Pan American Conference held in Santiago, Chile, in 1923. It may be said, in general, that they provide for the obligatory settlement of international disputes by peaceful methods, for the limitation of armaments, for the progressive development of the economic resources of the Central American republics, and, above all, for the insurance of government by constitutional and orderly methods.
Opinion in Central America regarding the value of these conventions is clearly evidenced by the following editorial published in the Reconciliacion of Tegucigalpa on June 13, last: —
THE PACTS OF WASHINGTON
The conventions signed in Washington by the plenipotentiaries of Central America were extensively studied at the time and discussed by the press and the jurisconsults of our country and from those discussions an opinion has been formed that the conventions represent a most firm base for the maintenance of internal peace and for more cordiality in the international relations of the five Republics of the Isthmus.
The Assembly of Nicaragua was the first to approve the pacts in their entirety.
Later the Congresses of Salvador and Guatemala ratified the most important of the conventions.
And now we are informed by telegraph that the President of Costa Rica has submitted all the treaties to the Assembly of that country and, to judge by the sentiments which prevail in parliamentary circles there, it is certain that the legislative body of that State will ratify them.
We can add nothing to that which has been spoken and written in favor of the conventions signed by the plenipotentiaries of Central America at the Washington Conference, and which provide so fully for the tranquillity of these countries.
The pacts in a positive manner guarantee the peace of the five sections of the turbulent isthmus.
They have been approved by three signatory Governments — Nicaragua, Salvador, and Guatemala; and another, Costa Rica, is submitting them to its Legislature where they will probably be ratified.
The fondest hope of the people of Central America and the Governments which rule here is the establishment of national stability.
Peace only will be able to make effective the prosperity and development of these countries.
And for peace we all are obligated to struggle by all ways and means, as the integrity of the nation and the salvation of the honor of the Fatherland are at stake.
The moral influence of the United States in Central America, as the result of the achievements of the Conference, is greater than it ever has been before. The distinction between the moral influence which now exists and the material influence which formerly existed should be emphasized. Imperialism is not furthered by the strengthening of the moral influence of this Government in Latin America. Once the conventions referred to have been ratified by all the signatory powers, and once their stipulations have been placed in effect, it is probable that Central America will progress so rapidly that the much desired union of the Central American republics can be undertaken. It has long been suspected both here and in Latin America that it was the ambition of the United States to oppose the formation of a Central American union. That nothing could be further from the truth, is demonstrated by the recent policy of the United States. The United States has shown that it will assist in promoting Central American union, should the five Republics so desire and should the political and economic development of those countries and intercommunication between them make such union possible of realization. Were the policy of the United States truly imperialistic, its logical endeavor would be to prevent the formation of such a union and the consequent building-up of a strong progressive federation in Central America, in order to exploit the five small nations. The patent contradiction of the charge made by Dr. Inman that the policy of the United States Government in Central America is imperialistic lies in that fact.
The day of ‘dollar diplomacy’ in Central America is past, and no more agreeable proof of this assertion could be found than in the cordial coöperation between the United States and the Central American republics in the joint mediation offered when revolution and counter-revolution took place in Honduras a few months ago, as the result of which mediation a conference was held in Amapala, the Pacific port of Honduras, attended by delegates of all the governments mentioned. That conference brought about the cessation of civil war in Honduras and the selection by the political factions in Honduras of a provisional government of that Republic to maintain order, with the moral support of the mediating Powers, until such time as a constitutional government could be elected by the free vote of the Honduranean people.
Criticism has been directed against the United States and undoubted resentment in Latin America has been engendered by the policy of this Government in Nicaragua since the Revolution of 1912 which resulted in the overthrow of the Dictator Zelaya. It has been charged that this Government has favored the interests of the American bankers who had undertaken to finance the Republic, in detriment to the interests of the Nicaraguan people. Whatever may be our view of the financial arrangement entered into between the Nicaraguan Government and their bankers, the fact remains that the financial plan, under which the Government has been operating for the past eleven years, has brought about a condition of financial stability for the Nicaraguan Government not exceeded by that of any other Latin-American Government. With slender resources, the Government has been enabled to meet all its obligations, to maintain, even during the European War, a stable rate of exchange, and to accumulate a sufficient surplus to enable it to obtain this year control of the railways of Nicaragua, which had been pledged to the bankers as a portion of the security for the loan made by them to the Republic.
The criticism has likewise been made that the retention by the United States since 1912 of a small detachment of American Marines in Managua, as a Legation Guard, has been an undue intervention in Nicaragua and has resulted in the maintenance of the Conservative party in power, notwithstanding the alleged fact that the Liberal party represented the will of the majority of the people. The Government of the United States, however, has officially announced its intention to withdraw these Marines, who number only between seventy-five and one hundred men, after the installation on January 1 of the Government which will be selected in the coming presidential elections. The Nicaraguan people this year will vote for the first time in accordance with the provisions of a modern electoral code, compiled for the Republic by Professor Harold W. Dodds, of Columbia University, employed for that purpose by the Nicaraguan Government. The registration for the elections has demonstrated that a greater number of Conservative than of Liberal voters is registered, and it is admitted by both parties that the registration was entirely fair. Whatever the result of the elections may be, it can no longer be alleged that the United States has assisted in the maintenance of one Party in power.
It is difficult to understand how the charge can be made in good faith that the Republic of Panama is under the control of the United States. The relations between the Republic of Panama and the United States are defined and limited by the Treaty of 1903 between the two countries. As Secretary of State Root said in an instruction to the American Minister in Panama on December 4, 1905: —
The United States will exercise its rights under the treaty for the maintenance of order in Panama, Colon, and upon the Canal strip, and will not permit any interference with the peace and order of either of those cities or of that territory, which can be prevented by the exercise of its treaty rights, and it will not go beyond its treaty rights.
That policy, as outlined by Secretary Root, has been consistently followed by every succeeding Administration. The United States exercises no financial or military control in the Republic of Panama, and has not done so in the past. The only possible basis which might be seen for the charge of American intervention in Panama is the employment by the Government of Panama of an American Financial Adviser, in accordance with legislation enacted by the Congress of Panama many years ago. However, the ultimate decision in all matters affecting the finances of the Republic is vested either in the Congress or in the President and Council of Ministers as provided in the Panamanian Constitution.
The most difficult problem of all, perhaps, is that of Haiti. Yet, because of differences in race and language between the Haitian people and the other peoples of Latin America, the Haitian question is of less interest to the majority of the Latin-American republics than any other. The American Occupation of Haiti is one for which there is no strictly legal ground. As Chief Justice Marshall has stated, no nation can rightfully impose a rule upon another. Should the problem be viewed solely from the realm of theory, it is clear that the Occupation should terminate. If, however, the Occupation is viewed from the practical standpoint that the happiness and well-being of the Haitian people and the advance of education and economic prosperity are of higher importance, it must be admitted that the Occupation is and has been of the greatest benefit to the Haitian people and should continue until the Republic is governed by a Haitian administration, elected in accordance with the permanent provisions of the Haitian Constitution. A very clear and fair statement of the Haitian situation was contained in the following portion of an editorial published in the New York Times of July 2, 1924:—
Under the rule by revolution that prevailed before the American Occupation, the peasant was not encouraged to do more than supply his wants.
If he attempted to accumulate property, he was despoiled of it. The gendarmerie system set up by the supervisory Government protects him in all his rights. The fabric of native administration remains. The Haitian flag still flies. Agriculture has made substantial gains with the suppression of the cacos, who preyed upon the tillers of the soil. They can now bring their produce into the cities without fear of molestation, over good roads built with native labor under American engineers. Every few miles there is a gendarmerie station. Never before have the Haitian people enjoyed security in their homes and protection of their persons. Never before have they known the meaning of hygiene or had proper medical attention. In the view of the ruling class that formerly preyed upon the people, the supervisory Government flagrantly violates the rights of Haiti; but to the mass of the people it is a protector and a practical friend, who provides employment, pays good wages, and is developing the resources of the country for the general welfare.
The Treaty of 1915 has been renewed for a term of years, because the Americans could not abandon the Haitians before the task of training them to govern themselves had been finished, and not because there ever had been a design to exploit them. The Americans are in Haiti to raise its people from a state of ignorance and savagery for which their rulers were responsible. The duty devolved upon our Government because European nations called upon the United States to bring order out of chaos and make Haiti solvent, or to waive the Monroe Doctrine and let them intervene to collect their debts and protect their nationals. The United States is pledged to evacuate Haiti when the work is done.
The decision of the United States to adopt the policy upon which it has embarked has been severely condemned and creates possibly a dangerous precedent. It is probable that it is too early as yet to estimate whether the policy is justifiable or not; and yet, should it later be ascertained that the material assistance lent to the Haitian people by the United States had substituted the benefits of civilization (without the impairment of ultimate sovereignty) for a condition of anarchy and chaos, who could claim that our policy had not proved wise? When the Occupation was undertaken to prevent European intervention in an American republic, it resulted in the overthrow of the Haitian system of administration existing up to that time. Can the Occupation be terminated until a new system of administration is developed which our Government believes can successfully undertake the task which it has temporarily assumed?
Current criticism of our policy in regard to the great republics of South America appears to be limited to the employment by Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, of American experts or financial advisers, and by the agreement on the part of Bolivia and Salvador that the deposit of the funds destined to the payment of interest and sinking-fund charges be made under the supervision of the representatives of the American interests holding their national obligations. Yet these advisers and experts were employed by the Governments concerned without the shadow of advice or intervention on the part of this Government. To state that the employment of such advisers constitutes undue interference on the part of the United States in the domestic affairs of the countries named, is as absurd as to charge that the employment by Brazil and Peru of French military missions constitutes intervention by France in the internal affairs of those two countries. The nature of the contracts entered into by Salvador and Bolivia with American bankers, is due solely to the fact that the national credit of those two republics was not such as to warrant better terms. It will easily be seen that, had it been possible for either Salvador or Bolivia to obtain a loan in the United States, or in Europe, upon better terms, less onerous contracts would have been entered into. With such questions, of course, the Government of the United States has had no direct concern.
It is almost axiomatic that development of commercial relations between countries brings about a better understanding and a clearer perception of their mutual advantages and common needs. In Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela, citizens are hardly ‘trembling in their boots’ because Americans since the war have invested more largely than ever before in South American securities. South American countries are, of course, ambitious to increase their commerce with the United States and to obtain American capital, as well as European, in order to develop their stupendous natural resources. Another legitimate and helpful ambition is that of the American business man to develop trade relations with Latin America. These mutual desires our Government has fostered in every proper way. Commercial development, however, cannot be considered economic domination, nor could it logically be the policy of the United States to attempt to monopolize trade with Latin America to the exclusion of the legitimate growth of trade between Europe and Latin America. Even a most superficial study of world commerce makes it clear that in an era when the commercial and financial relations of all the nations of the world are closely interlocked, such an attempt on the part of the American Government would be more detrimental to the United States than to any other nation.
Distinction should, however, be made between the fostering by our Government of legitimate trade and its support of exploitation by American interests entrenched in Latin America. The mere fact that powerful American interests have invested in Latin America does not imply that they are necessarily worthy of the support of this Government. Governmental support was in fact withdrawn some years ago from a highly important American concern believed to have been involved in the overthrow of a constitutional Government in Central America. Nothing can be conceived more prejudicial to real understanding between the United States and its neighbors than the exertion of undue influence through corruption of governmental officials by American interests in Latin-American countries. There are certain large American companies, for example, doing business to-day in Central America, which have done much to foster good feeling and promote a more cordial relationship between our country and the nations of Central America. Such companies build and support schools, assist in the development of good roads, maintain public hospitals at their own expense in the districts where they are located. By refusing to employ any but the nationals of the country in which they are doing business, even in the highest positions, they secure the confidence and respect of native populations.
Other companies, on the other hand, have exploited the countries in which they are situated in the most shameless manner, and by a policy of obtaining that to which they were not entitled by corruption of governmental officials, ranging from the president of the republic to the local alcalde, have not only created suspicion of the purposes of the United States and the American people, but have blocked the measures of reform toward the realization of which this Government had exerted its energies. Cases have been known where American companies of this character have even gone so far as to foster revolution, supplying the revolutionaries with funds and with munitions in order to secure the establishment of a Government subservient to their desires. The policy now determined upon by the United States, however, to refuse to accord recognition to a Government in Central America which has come into power through the overthrow of a constitutional Government recognized by the United States — a development of the policy initiated by President Wilson after the Tinoco Revolution in Costa Rica in 1915 — has almost entirely eliminated that danger.
That policy must be persisted in if the moral influence of the United States Government is to continue to increase.
It is easy for one not familiar with the perplexing problems which our relations with Latin America present to point out inconsistencies in policy and errors of judgment of which our Government and its agents have been guilty. A careful analysis of the history of our relations with Latin America during the past twelve years will, it is believed, demonstrate conclusively, that, for every error of judgment, additional progress has been made in instilling in the hearts of our neighbors belief in the sincerity and unselfishness of our purpose. South of the Rio Grande faith is increasing, notwithstanding the occasional difficulty of the Latin to comprehend the Anglo-Saxon mentality, that our Government is responsive solely to the desire to promote good understanding and to remove discord, using its powerful influence at all times on the side of right and justice.
The personality of the present Secretary of State looms larger in Latin America than is perhaps realized in this country. His previous service in the Supreme Court of the United States has strengthened the impression that he is the embodiment of justice. Submission to the arbitration of the United States of such long-standing and dangerous controversies as the Tacna-Arica dispute between Peru and Chile, and the boundary dispute between Peru and Ecuador, not only evidences the trust of the Governments involved in the justice and impartiality of this Government, but also demonstrates that they are not driven by resentment or fear of the United States. The support by our Governmen in a practical manner of the constitutional Government of Mexico during the days of the de la Huerta revolution has strengthened even more the general belief in the justice of the man shaping the foreign policy of our nation.
No more satisfactory expression of the desire of this Government in its dealings with its American neighbors could be found than that employed by President Wilson in his address before the Southern Commercial Conference in Mobile, Alabama, in 1913, when he said, speaking of the Latin-American republics: —
We must prove ourselves their friends and champions upon terms of equality and honor. You cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality. You cannot be friends at all except upon the terms of honor. We must show ourselves friends by comprehending their interest, whether it squares with our own interest or not.
To that declaration may be added the declaration of Secretary Hughes in his address before the American Bar Association in August 1923: —
We are aiming not to exploit, but to aid; not to subvert, but to help in laying the foundations for sound, stable, and independent government. Our interest does not lie in controlling foreign peoples; that would be a policy of mischief and disaster. Our interest is in having prosperous, peaceful, and law abiding neighbors, with whom we can coöperate to mutual advantage.
These utterances sound the keynote of this Government’s Latin-American policy. We may not have reached our ideal; in some instances we may have fallen far short of it; but these solemn pledges, supported as they are by the great majority of the American people, stand as positive assurance that no imperialistic policy will ever be supported by the American people and that such mistakes as we may make will be rectified, as they were in the case of Colombia and the Dominican Republic.
- ‘Imperialistic America’: SAMUEL GUY INMAN, in the July Atlantic.↩