When John Hay, Secretary of State, heard that an American citizen, Perdicaris, had been seized by Raisuli, a Moroccan bandit, in 1904, he wired his brusque message: “We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.” This was but an echo of Commodore Decatur’s equally characteristic answer, “Not a minute,” given nearly a hundred years before to the pirates of Algiers begging for time to consider whether they would cease preying upon American merchantmen. Was it not as early as 1844 that the American commissioner, Caleb Cushing, taking advantage of the British Opium War on China, negotiated with the Celestial Empire a successful commercial treaty? Did he not then exultantly exclaim: “The laws of the Union follow its citizens and its banner protects them even within the domain of the Chinese Empire”? Was it not almost half a century before the battle of Manila Bay in 1898, that Commodore Perry with an adequate naval force “gently coerced Japan into friendship with us,” leading all the nations of the earth in the opening of that empire to the trade of the Occident? Nor is it inappropriate in this connection to recall the fact that the Monroe Doctrine celebrates in 1923 its hundredth anniversary.
AMERICAN FOREIGN RELATIONS (1865-98)
=French Intrigues in Mexico Blocked.=—Between the war for the union and the war with Spain, the Department of State had many an occasion to present the rights of America among the powers of the world. Only a little while after the civil conflict came to a close, it was called upon to deal with a dangerous situation created in Mexico by the ambitions of Napoleon III. During the administration of Buchanan, Mexico had fallen into disorder through the strife of the Liberal and the Clerical parties; the President asked for authority to use American troops to bring to a peaceful haven “a wreck upon the ocean, drifting about as she is impelled by different factions.” Our own domestic crisis then intervened.
Observing the United States heavily involved in its own problems, the great powers, England, France, and Spain, decided in the autumn of 1861 to take a hand themselves in restoring order in Mexico. They entered into an agreement to enforce the claims of their citizens against Mexico and to protect their subjects residing in that republic. They invited the United States to join them, and, on meeting a polite refusal, they prepared for a combined military and naval demonstration on their own account. In the midst of this action England and Spain, discovering the sinister purposes of Napoleon, withdrew their troops and left the field to him.
The French Emperor, it was well known, looked with jealousy upon the growth of the United States and dreamed of establishing in the Western hemisphere an imperial power to offset the American republic. Intervention to collect debts was only a cloak for his deeper designs. Throwing off that guise in due time, he made the Archduke Maximilian, a brother of the ruler of Austria, emperor in Mexico, and surrounded his throne by French soldiers, in spite of all protests.