Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
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WHEN the Republican Administration came into power on March 4, 1921, the country had given a clear and unmistakable indication of the line which it desired that our foreign policy should take. The preceding campaign had been fought largely on the issue of whether this country should abandon its traditional policy of independence in foreign affairs and should substitute for it a policy under which our independence of action might be subordinated to the decision of other nations.
Even during the war our traditional policy had been scrupulously maintained. President Wilson had been careful to specify the conditions on which we entered into a limited partnership with other nations for the conduct of the war, and had insisted that that partnership be described as "The Allied and Associated Powers". Having entered the war on our own terms and for certain designated objectives, when those objectives had been attained and peace had been secured, the nation showed that it was ready to put an end to the temporary partnership and in the future to conduct its foreign relations in accordance with the historic American policy.
That policy, which had been firmly established during the Administration of Washington, was well described in the words of Jefferson as one of "peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Its underlying principles had always been independence and coöperation. But independence had never meant isolation, nor had coöperation implied alliances and special arrangements with other nations. Even in Washington's and Hamilton's day, when the Farewell Address was first uttered and when the United States was a small and struggling nation, it was recognized that America could neither hope to remain undisturbed by world currents nor expect not to be drawn into wars which threatened her interests or her security.
The War of 1812 conclusively proved this to an earlier generation, as the World War proved it to our own. America was no more directly concerned in the struggle for European supremacy during the Napoleonic campaigns than she was in the causes leading to the tragedy which began at Sarajevo. And yet in each instance a chain of events was started in which we finally became involved. In both instances, when the time came, America did not fail to assert her rights, or to fight until they were vindicated. And in each instance, when her ends had been achieved, she reverted instinctively to her traditional attitude and made clear that she would not become part of the European System, nor let herself be permanently enmeshed in controversies "the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns."
Such has been America's foreign policy since the very beginning of the government. It has been consistently adhered to; and so firmly had it become established that, when the World War came to an end, the public had an instinctive feeling that the nation should get back to first principles and continue to govern its conduct by the only foreign policy it had ever known.
When the new Administration took office in 1921, the groundwork had already been laid. The question of joining the League of Nations was no longer an issue. The Treaty of Versailles had failed of confirmation and the Senate had refused to accept for this country a mandate for Armenia or even to consider a treaty of alliance with France. America had declined to participate in the various Allied conferences and had made it clear that she would not be drawn into any of the post-war combinations and alliances into which our former associates in the war were finding it desirable to enter.
So much for the negative side of the picture. On the positive side our foreign relations were in the worst possible tangle. Although peace had come over two years before, the nation was technically still in a state of war. Our relations with Mexico and with many of our neighbors to the south were, and for years had been, highly unsatisfactory. In the Far East a situation was developing which was giving rise to uneasiness and promised serious consequences for the future, if not dealt with immediately and with frankness and courage.
Such were the conditions when the new Administration took hold. A firm hand was necessary and both boldness and vision were needed in working out a policy which would protect American interests and at the same time allow us to do our part in helping the world to get back on its feet again. How did the Administration proceed? Not by high-sounding phrases or promises which the American people would not—and could not—carry out; but by getting down to "cases", which is indeed the only way in which foreign relations can ever be conducted. As with the Anglo-Saxon system of jurisprudence, so with foreign relations; a policy develops slowly by reason of cases decided in accordance with certain established principles and not by mapping out in advance a theoretical policy to which cases, as they arise, are made to conform.
The first task to which the Administration addressed itself was the establishment of peace. Negotiations were immediately opened with Germany, Austria and Hungary, and treaties were concluded under which America lost none of the rights and advantages which she would have had as a party to the Treaty of Versailles, while at the same time avoiding responsibilities and commitments which she was not willing to undertake.
Other problems connected with the peace settlements have been gradually worked out. The question of war claims has proved a difficult one, and a satisfactory solution has only recently been found. Under the Settlement of War Claims Act, approved by the President on March 10, 1928, an agreement was reached for the settlement of war claims of the United States Government and its citizens against the German, Austrian and Hungarian Governments, and of the claims of the nationals of those Governments against the United States. Provision was also made for the eventual return to its owners of all of the property seized by the Alien Property Custodian during the war and for the return of a very substantial amount immediately. America thus adheres to her traditional policy of respect for private property and at the same time ends the hardships of many individual property owners and releases large sums for productive purposes.
Another question which remained to be settled was that of our adherence to the World Court. While public sentiment was opposed to this country becoming a part of the League of Nations, there was nevertheless a very widespread feeling that we should omit no opportunity to do our part for the advancement of peace and particularly for the judicial settlement of international disputes and of all questions which are justiciable. The United States has always taken a leading part in promoting judicial settlements and public sentiment strongly supported the President in sending a message to the Senate, early in the Administration, asking consent for the United States to become a member of the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague.
On January 16, 1926, the Senate passed a resolution authorizing such action, subject to five reservations which, as directed, were submitted by the Secretary of State to the other powers who were members of the Court. Subsequently, these reservations were practically agreed to, with the exception of the fifth or last reservation. That reservation provided in substance that the Court should not render any advisory opinion except publicly after due notice to all the states adhering to the Court and to all interested states, and after public hearing or opportunity for such hearing, nor shall it, without the consent of the United States, entertain any request for an advisory opinion touching any question in which the United States claims an interest. There the matter has rested until recently when it was brought before the Senate by Senator Gillett, but so far no agreement has been reached which will bring the impasse to an end.
While making clear our determination not to assume responsibilities as a member of the League of Nations or to commit the United States in advance to the employment of its power in unknown contingencies, this Government has at all times pursued a policy of friendly coöperation with the League and has taken part in various international conferences called by that organization. At the World Economic Conference which met at Geneva in May, 1927, for the purpose of discussing economic problems in the fields of commerce, industry and agriculture, the American delegation, under the leadership of Mr. Henry M. Robinson, took an active and important part. A further conference, held later in the year, came to an agreement regarding import and export prohibitions which will release foreign trade from many hampering restrictions. During the same year the United States participated in the Conference on communications and transit, held at Geneva, to collect and exchange information which will facilitate various means of communication.
The United States was officially represented by a delegation at the Conference held in Geneva in May-June, 1925, at which a convention for the control of the international trade in arms, munitions and implements of war, together with a protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating and poisonous gases and of bacteriological methods of warfare, was adopted. Again in February, 1927, at the meeting of the Special Commission created by the League to draft a convention relative to the private manufacture of arms, an American representative was present and gave the views of this Government. At the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference, which met at Geneva at intervals during 1926 and 1927, the United States was represented by a delegation of nine members.
I have cited these activities at some length because it is necessary to refute the charges frequently made by League partisans in this country that the present Administration has either refused to have anything to do with the League or has pursued a course inimical to it and has thereby retarded the good work which that organization might have been able to accomplish if it had been given the benefit of our whole-hearted coöperation. How groundless are these charges is obvious to anyone who has followed the efforts which this country has made to be helpful in furthering any well-directed efforts towards better international conditions, whether such efforts have originated with the League or with any other agency.
At the same time the United States has worked in its own way to bring about peace and stability in the world. Early in the Administration public opinion in this country was becoming restive at the lack of progress in the reduction of armaments; and particularly was it disturbed at the spectacle of a seeming rivalry in naval construction between the two great English-speaking nations, Great Britain and the United States, whose combined fleets should be a guarantee of the safety, never a threat to the peace, of the world. There was also the spectre of a growing rift between this country and Japan.
During the progress of the war the Far Eastern question had become increasingly complicated and serious both in its present and in its future implications. In the words of Lord Balfour, "a state of international tension" had arisen in the area of the Pacific. American public opinion had been disturbed by Japan's twenty-one demands on China, by her retention of Shantung, by evidence of growing disorders and inability to maintain stable self-government in China, and by the prospect of a renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, under which America would face naval competition with both Japan and Great Britain.
In tackling these difficult and delicate problems, fraught with such danger to the future peace and security of the world, it was necessary to act with boldness and a high order of statesmanship. Fortunately, the Washington Administration was equal to the occasion. On the invitation of the President a conference was called to meet at Washington in November, 1921, to consider the limitation of armaments and Pacific and Far Eastern questions. Invitations were extended to Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, China, Belgium, Portugal and the Netherlands as the nations most concerned with the questions to be considered.
At the outset, Secretary Hughes, with dramatic suddenness, made a definite proposal for the limitation of naval armament, which, as regards capital ships, was accepted with modifications. Thus, at one stroke, an end was made of existing competitive programs in capital ships. At the same time, the relative security of the great naval Powers was left unimpaired; and, as regards replacement tonnage of capital ships, the ratio for the United States, Great Britain and Japan was fixed at 5:5:3.
In the settlement of Far Eastern questions, definite, and perhaps even more important, results were achieved. Under the Four Power Treaty, which was negotiated between the United States, the British Empire, France, and Japan, it was agreed that each would respect the others' rights in relation to their insular possessions and dominions in the Pacific, and that this Treaty should supersede the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Furthermore, under the Treaty Relating to Principles and Policies to be Followed in Matters Concerning China, formal recognition was given to the principle of the "open door" or equality of opportunity in China, one of the fundamental principles of American foreign policy as first enunciated by Daniel Webster as Secretary of State and further developed by Secretary Hay. Spheres of influence in China were to be no longer sanctioned. Since the conference ended, the Lansing-Ishii Agreement between the United States and Japan has been cancelled by mutual consent; and Japan has evacuated both Eastern Siberia and Shantung.
Throughout the conference, the Japanese met the American proposals in a spirit of great fairness and accommodation, and there has been a notable improvement in the relations of the two countries ever since. Indeed, among the most important results achieved by the conference are those which are imponderable and make for better understanding between nations which were fast drifting apart. Altogether the Washington Conference of 1921 will rank high among the diplomatic achievements of this Government and will prove an important landmark along the road to permanent peace.
In pursuance of the policy there inaugurated, the President subsequently invited the four other chief naval Powers to a second conference; and, Great Britain and Japan having accepted, the conference of the three Powers assembled at Geneva on June 20, 1927, to discuss the possibility of further naval disarmament. Due largely to a divergence of opinion regarding cruisers between the British delegates on one side and the American and Japanese on the other, the conference adjourned without arriving at any conclusion. Something was accomplished, however, in the understanding which was brought about as to the nature of each nation's problems, and the difficulties which must be overcome before effective disarmament can be achieved.
It was with a knowledge of these difficulties and because, if such difficulties are to be removed, war must first be renounced as an instrument of national policy among the principal nations, that the Secretary of State has undertaken to negotiate a multilateral anti-war treaty which shall be world-wide in its application and shall renounce without qualification war as an instrument of national policy between nations signatory to the treaty. This proposed treaty grew out of a proposal made in June, 1927, by the French Government to the Government of the United States, proposing a pact of perpetual friendship between the two countries and agreeing that the settlement of all disputes or conflicts, of whatever nature or origin, which may ever arise between the two countries, shall never be sought except by pacific means.
The American Government, believing that such a definite and unqualified renunciation of war offered a practical means to permanent peace, not alone between France and the United States, but among all other nations, proposed to France that all nations, or at least the principal world Powers, be invited to adhere to a declaration renouncing war as an instrument of their national policy. After an exchange of notes this was agreed to; and the United States and France have submitted two draft treaties to the other powers for consideration, that of America being marked by the utmost simplicity in its language and provisions, while the French draft attempts to provide for all possible contingencies both as regards past commitments and future dangers. The Secretary of State in a recent speech has pointed out that adherence to the American draft of this treaty will in no way violate the obligations of France or of any other government as a member of the League of Nations or as a signatory to the Locarno Treaties or the Treaties of Neutrality, and that, while the proposed American draft of an anti-war treaty makes no specific reference to the right of self-defense, that right is not and cannot be impaired or restricted.
If such a treaty as that proposed is agreed to, the signatory nations will specifically undertake, among themselves, to refrain from any attack or invasion and never to seek the settlement of any difference or conflict of whatsoever nature or origin that might arise between them save by pacific means. Should this effort succeed, if not in abolishing all war immediately, at least in abolishing it between the principal world Powers and thereby rendering another world war impossible, it will be an achievement of the utmost significance; and, regardless of what may be the immediate outcome, great credit is due to Secretary Kellogg and to the Department of State for the brilliant manner in which these negotiations have been conducted and for the way in which they have reflected the sincerity of purpose and vision of this Government.
The proposed anti-war treaties above described constitute only one part of the program which this Government has initiated for the advancement of world peace. The second part is the framing of new arbitration treaties to take the place of the so-called Root Treaties, some of which expired this year. The Arbitration Treaty with France, which was signed last February, is being used as the model in negotiations now being conducted with the British, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish and other Governments.
The French Treaty specifically reaffirms the provision in the Bryan Treaty of 1914 for investigation and report by a permanent international commission of all disputes not settled by diplomacy or submitted to arbitration, and thus unites in one document the related processes of conciliation and arbitration. It also provides that all matters which are justiciable in their nature by reason of being susceptible of decision by the application of principles of law or equity, shall be submitted to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, with the exception of the following matters which are excluded from arbitration: disputes the subject matter of which is within the domestic jurisdiction of either of the parties, or involves the interests of third parties, or depends upon or involves the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine, or depends upon or involves the obligations of France under the Covenant of the League of Nations.
It is only justiciable questions which are susceptible to arbitration and few, if any, of the exceptions noted are justiciable in their nature. Political questions cannot be arbitrated because no principles of law exist by which they can be decided; nor can a nation agree to arbitrate purely domestic questions such as immigration, tariffs and taxation. Questions which are non-justiciable or are political in their nature, if they become acute or threaten war, must be adjusted through such means as conciliation, whereby a disinterested effort can often succeed in reconciling conflicting viewpoints.
We have treaties establishing a procedure for conciliation, as in the Knox Treaty of 1911, the eighteen Bryan Treaties of 1913, the Washington Treaty of 1923 between the United States and five Central American Republics, and the Santiago Treaty of 1923 between the United States and fifteen Latin-American countries. Ratifications of the last-named treaty, however, are still in process of being deposited.
Such is the mechanism already in existence for the prevention of war; and I am satisfied that the efforts which have been and are now being made by the present Administration will do much to strengthen and complete this mechanism and to advance the cause which this nation has so much at heart, namely, the peaceful settlement of all disputes which might bring on war or disturb the relations between governments.
As regards financial questions, the foreign policy of this Government has been aimed at helping to secure stability abroad and to bring order out of the financial chaos existing when the present Administration took office. On every side problems were pressing for solution. The question of reparations had not been settled; the inter-governmental debts contracted during the war had not been funded; in most of the large countries the budgets had not been balanced and the currencies were subject to violent fluctuations which retarded the growth of foreign trade and had repercussions in this country and throughout the world.
The crux of the whole situation seemed to be the reparation question. Statesmen and diplomats had made repeated efforts to settle it, without success; and matters seemed to be drifting from bad to worse. So impressed was this Government with the seriousness of the situation that in December, 1922, in a speech at New Haven, Secretary Hughes suggested that an international committee be formed, composed of eminent business men who would deal with the economic problem involved, not from the political angle, but solely on its merits and with a view to reaching some practical solution. Subsequently, in November, 1923, such a committee of experts was appointed by the Reparation Commission "to consider the means of balancing the budget and the measures to be taken to stabilize the currency" of Germany, also to consider the problem of reparation payments and to evolve a plan under which such payments might be organized within Ger many and transferred to the creditor nations. The American members of the Committee were General Charles G. Dawes, Mr. Owen D. Young and Mr. Henry M. Robinson.
The Plan evolved by the Committee was accepted by the Allied and German Governments and on September 1, 1924, operations under the Plan began. An American, Mr. S. Parker Gilbert, was appointed Agent General for Reparation Payments; and to the good judgment and tact which he has shown in carrying out a difficult undertaking is due much of the success with which the Plan has met.
Under the Plan, the United States receives about $13,000,000 annually as payment of the costs of the American Army of Occupation and also about $11,000,000 annually in payment of American claims against Germany, awarded by the Mixed Claims Commission. The other nations are receiving the payments allotted and so far Germany has found no difficulty in making the payments for the initial years. So far the Experts' Plan is fulfilling its purpose, first of all in removing from the field of controversy a subject which is largely economic in character, and secondly, in stabilizing the budget and the currency of Germany and thereby restoring confidence within Germany itself and helping to promote stability in Europe at large.
Another element of uncertainty in the post-war situation was the question of inter-governmental debts. So long as they remained unsettled, they constituted an unknown quantity in the balance sheets of both debtor and creditor governments. Currencies could not be stabilized; credit was affected; and the extension of commercial relations among the various countries was seriously retarded.
This Government felt that it was necessary to act promptly and with firmness. The state of public opinion in this country was reflected in the Refunding Act, which was passed by Congress at the beginning of the Administration creating a World War Foreign Debt Commission with specific instructions that no part of the debts was to be cancelled and that the time of repayment was not to be extended beyond 25 years; and providing that the rate of interest was not to be less than 4¼ percent.
It soon became apparent that refunding on these terms could not be accomplished; and the Commission accordingly, under enlarged authority received from Congress, negotiated such settlements as were within the capacity of the respective nations and submitted such settlements to Congress for ratification. In this way agreements have been reached with Great Britain, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Italy, Jugoslavia and Rumania, bringing the total amount which has been funded to date to $7,497,354,000. In addition an agreement has been reached for the funding of the French debt, amounting to $4,025,000,000, but the agreement has not yet been ratified.
In all of these settlements the Debt Commission considered the disorganization of economic life which was brought about in Europe by the war, and reached agreements which it believes are fair both to the American taxpayer and the foreign debtor nations. The Debt Commission in negotiating the settlements has proceeded on the theory that the foreign debtor nations must be permitted to preserve and improve their economic position, to bring their budgets into balance, to place their currencies and finances on a sound basis, and to improve the standard of living of their people. The Commission believed that no settlement which is oppressive and retards the recovery and development of the foreign debtor nations is to the best interests of either the United States or of Europe. It has accordingly spread out repayments over a period of 62 years in order that the amounts to be paid during the early years shall be such as are within the reasonable capacity of the various nations to which aid was extended during and after the war.
The whole problem of the debts has been a difficult one. The manner in which it has been handled has given rise to criticism from extremists who believe, on the one hand, that the debts should be "cancelled" and the Liberty Bonds by which they are represented at home should be paid by the American taxpayer, and, on the other hand, by those who feel that too great leniency has been shown in the length of the period of repayment and in the low rate of interest which has been exacted. But in this, as in other matters, the Administration has been obliged to face facts, not theories, and to work out a solution which protects American interests and at the same time does not ignore our moral obligation to help the world, so far as we can, in getting back on its feet again. As Secretary Mellon has well said, "in the end we shall be of most help if our financial policies toward Europe are backed not by sentiment but by sense, and if those policies are directed not toward ameliorating merely present hardships, but toward laying the foundation for a prosperity that will be permanent."
No picture of the post-war period, more particularly with reference to the assistance this country has given the rest of the world, would be complete without some mention of our Federal Reserve System and also of the close coöperation between the great central banks which has been so potent a factor in the last few years. During the war and the reconstruction period which followed, the services rendered to the country by the Federal Reserve System can not be overestimated. It has been able not only to promote stabilization in this country, but also in the world at large, the most conspicuous instance being the assistance given Great Britain at the time that country returned to the gold standard, the part we played in the return of Belgium to the gold standard, and, more recently, the assistance given Poland and Italy in coöperation with the other great central banks. All this has contributed not only to the stability of Europe but to the prosperity of this country, for the nations of the world must be reëstablished on a sound financial basis if our surplus products, both agricultural and manufactured, are to find an export market.
The financial aspects of our foreign policy have an important bearing not only as regards Europe but also in promoting trade and closer relations with the nations of Central and South America. With all of these countries we enjoy a trade which each year is rapidly increasing. Furthermore, now that the financial reconstruction of Europe is well under way, American capital is turning more and more to the countries south of us for the purpose of aiding the development of their great resources and commercial opportunities. For all of these reasons, it is important that our foreign policy towards Latin America should be clear cut and give no grounds for misapprehension as regards either the desires or intentions of this country.
The cornerstone of this policy has always been the Monroe Doctrine. We adhere to that Doctrine as a safeguard to the territorial integrity of all the Western nations. There is nothing aggressive about it. It is, on the other hand, essentially defensive; and confusion arises only when it is sought to make this Doctrine a cover for all our dealings with the nations of the Western Hemisphere.
We do not wish to be forced ever to intervene in the affairs of other nations. There is no desire on the part of this country to dominate anywhere outside of its own borders. Anyone who knows the American people knows that they are essentially peaceful and that they desire independence not only for themselves but for others. Secretary Hughes well stated the attitude of this country when he said at the recent Pan-American Conference at Havana:
"It is the firm policy of the United States to respect the territorial integrity of the American republics. We have no policy of aggression. We wish for all of them, not simply those great in area and population and wealth, but for every one, to the very smallest, strength and not weakness."
We recognize the equality of all the American Republics and that, as sovereign powers, all enjoy equal rights under the law of nations. But sovereignty carries with it certain obligations and among these is the duty of each State to protect the rights which the nationals of other States have acquired within its territory in accordance with its laws. It is, therefore, the obvious policy of the United States to encourage stable governments throughout the Western Hemisphere, so that the rights of foreign citizens, acquired constitutionally, shall not be endangered by political upheavals and revolutions. We cannot under these circumstances forego the right to protect, under well established rules of international law, the rights of our citizens, nor can we afford to allow other nations to interfere in the affairs of this Hemisphere under the pretext of protecting the rights of their nationals. We shall not seek to evade these responsibilities; but at the same time we expect on the part of others a recognition of our position and a fair and unbiassed interpretation of our actions.
A case in point is Nicaragua. Obviously we could not do less than to send troops there when American lives were in danger and the situation had gotten beyond control of the local authorities. In such a situation, the right and the duty of intervention are so well established under international law that for the United States to avoid its responsibilities would be a derogation of its sovereignty. Furthermore, in such a situation, the responsibility devolves upon the President to determine when the circumstances call for such drastic action. It was not surprising, therefore, when an effort was made in the Senate recently to limit the Executive as to the circumstances under which he can exercise this right of intervention conferred upon him by the Constitution, that the effort was decisively beaten. Senators of both parties recognized that the action of the Coolidge Administration is not only in accord with international law and Constitutional authority, but is in line with the policy which has been upheld in countless instances in former administrations, including the last Democratic Administration, in cases arising in Mexico and Haiti as well as in Nicaragua itself.
At the present moment, however, our position in Nicaragua is governed by special considerations. In its initial stages our policy was determined not only by the question of affording protection to lives and properties of our own and other nationals, but by reason of our responsibilities under an agreement between Nicaragua, Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica, made in 1907 and renewed in 1923, under which the five Central American nations agreed not to recognize a government which came into power in any of these countries through a coup d'état.
While the United States was not a party to that agreement, the conferences of 1907 and 1923 were held in Washington and at the latter conference the Secretary of State of the United States presided at the request of the five Republics. We were committed, therefore, to the support of these nations in their effort to promote constitutional government; and, as an insurrection had broken out in Nicaragua and the existing government had been overthrown, we could not recognize the de facto government established by the leader of the insurrectionists but waited until a president was chosen by the Congress of Nicaragua. In the disorders which later arose among the factions opposed to his authority, American lives and property were endangered and it became necessary to send American troops to Nicaragua to help maintain order and also, under an agreement which was reached with all factions, to supervise a fair and impartial election which shall give effect to the will of the Nicaraguan people. Our troops are there now, seeking to put this agreement into effect; and, under all the circumstances, the duty is encumbent upon us to carry out the obligations which we have assumed.
Mention must be made also of the present situation as regards Mexico. There our policy has been based on the accepted principles of international law. We have sought only to protect the lives of our citizens and the property rights acquired by them in good faith. Certain laws were enacted by the Mexican Congress which seemed to threaten those rights as regards land and petroleum, and a long correspondence ensued. Due in part to the efforts of Ambassador Morrow, a business man of outstanding ability, matters are rapidly being adjusted and the disputed questions are in a fair way to being settled.
Turning now from Latin America to the Far East, we find that throughout the troubled period of the last few years our traditional American policy has been firmly and successfully maintained in that part of the world. No other part of our foreign policy is more definitely established—or less understood—than our Far Eastern policy, especially as regards China. As long ago as 1868, in a treaty negotiated between America and China, we agreed to the principle of non-intervention in China's affairs and stated that the United States had no desire to take anything away from China—nor indeed have we ever taken anything. Again in 1899, this Government proposed to the Powers that, as regards their "spheres of interest" in China, there should be recognized the principle of equality of commercial opportunity and that the Powers should undertake to respect China's territorial and administrative integrity. This policy, which was enunciated by John Hay, one of the great Secretaries of State that the Republican Party has given to the nation, was further defined and formally recognized in the Washington Conference of 1921, as indicated above; and it constitutes today a guide-post by which all policy towards China must be charted. At no time have we deviated from that policy or infringed any rights of China, regardless of the clamor that has been raised in some quarters with reference to our action in protecting American lives and property in China.
The Chinese people today are in the throes of a great political upheaval. Throughout the vast area which they inhabit the antiquated economic order has collapsed beneath the efforts to superimpose upon it too rapidly Western methods of business and political organization. There is in China no central authority which can speak for the Chinese people and enforce the national will either within China itself or in its dealings with outside nations.
Instead, we find that government in China has become regional; and, in the clash of native military leaders, each seeking to establish his authority over a wide territory, the rights of foreigners are frequently invaded and in some localities all political authority has for the time being disappeared. Under such circumstances, the Powers have been obliged to send naval forces to Chinese waters to protect their nationals, whose lives have been endangered; and in this joint effort the United States has participated. But such action on our part should not be confused with intervention in the affairs of China.
Senator Borah said:
"There seems to be an impression that we are intervening in China, but we are doing no more than attempting . . . to insure the safety of our nationals there. We are not sending our armed forces to China to do battle with the armed forces of China. We are simply sending our men there to do police duty."
And President Coolidge said:
"Our troops are in China solely to protect American lives. . . . They are not there to make war on Chinese nationalism and they will not be pooled with the troops of other foreign Powers. They will coöperate with other foreign Powers for the specifically limited purpose of protecting American lives when coöperation promotes this end, but there will be no 'unified command.'"
We wish to deprive the Chinese people of none of their rights. We ask only that they set up a stable government which can protect our nationals in their rights, and offer to the world a responsible central authority with which we can treat. At no time has America been a better friend to China than in the restraint which she has showed in the last year or two. There is nothing in the whole record of our dealings with China of which any American need be ashamed and there is in it much of which we can be proud. We have refused to retain the Boxer Indemnity of 1901, and by Joint Resolution of Congress on May 21, 1924, completed the action initiated by President Roosevelt in 1908, by returning the remainder of our share of the indemnity imposed on China as a result of the Boxer uprising. China has devoted the proceeds of this remission to educational purposes under the direction of Chinese and American trustees; and the result has been a still further strengthening of the friendship which has always existed between the two countries.
There remains the question of Russia. With the Russian, as with the Chinese people, this country has always been on terms of special friendship. The friendly attitude of this Government for the Russian people has been repeatedly evidenced, as in its scrupulous respect for safeguarding Russian interests at the time of the Conference on Limitation of Armaments, and again in voting money and supplies for the use of the American Relief Administration in helping the famine-stricken people of Russia.
But, as regards the recognition of the Soviet Government, the United States has held that it would be both futile and unwise to enter into formal relations with that Government so long as it persisted in a policy of repudiation and confiscation and also continued to carry on, through the Communist International and other organizations with headquarters at Moscow, carefully planned operations for the overthrow of the existing political, economic and social order in other nations. As Secretary Hughes said in 1923:
"The fundamental question in the recognition of a government is whether it shows ability and a disposition to discharge international obligations. . . . In the case of Russia we have a very easy test of a matter of fundamental importance, and that is of good faith in the discharge of international obligations. . . . Our own Government, after the first revolution, loaned about $187,000,000 to Russia. I may say that we were the first to recognize the Kerensky Government; that government did not profess a policy of repudiation. Now what did the Soviet authorities do? In their Decree of January 21, 1918, they made this simple statement, 'Unconditionally, and without any exceptions, all foreign loans are annulled.'"
The Soviet authorities have given no evidence of any change in attitude on their part; and until they give some indication of a willingness to comply with accepted principles governing international relations, I can see no hope of ending the present anomalous situation and establishing relations on the basis customary between friendly nations.
This, however, does not preclude, nor has it retarded, the promotion of commercial intercourse between the people of the two countries. This Government places no obstacles in the way of the development of commercial relations, provided it is understood that individuals and corporations trading with Russia do so on their own responsibility and at their own risk. Russian nationals, even if associated with the Soviet régime, are permitted to come to the United States in the interest of trade.
In our dealings with Russia, as in other matters, our foreign policy has been grounded on certain firmly established principles, and those principles we have refused to barter away even when it might have seemed of temporary advantage to do so. But we have lost no opportunity to advance American trade by every legitimate means in our power; and not only has the Foreign Service been used for this purpose but a special organization of commercial attachés has been built up as part of the Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce of the Department of Commerce. Under the direction of Secretary Hoover, this service has been of great benefit to the American business man seeking contacts abroad and reliable information on which to plan an invasion of foreign markets. Our foreign commerce now totals about 9 billion dollars annually, and the foreign investments of American citizens amount to more than 12 billion dollars and are increasing at the rate of a billion dollars a year. It is of vital importance, therefore, that our foreign policy should be such as shall not only protect American trade but also contribute to the stabilization of conditions throughout the world and to the increase in prosperity of other nations with which our commercial and economic life is so closely interwoven.
The day of isolation in world affairs is over. Nor is there any disposition on our part to seek an aloofness which can never be anything more than imaginary. We do not shirk our responsibilities as a world power, but we still maintain our right to define what those responsibilities are and to decide under what circumstances we shall use our power and our resources.
It is this policy which the present Administration has sought to carry out. There is nothing new or surprising about it, for it has always been the historic American policy. We adapt it, as the years go by, to changing circumstances, not only in our national life but in the world at large and in our new relation to it as one of the great and powerful nations. But in its essentials it remains the same policy it has always been; and I, for one, hope we shall continue to chart our course in dealing with other nations by the landmarks which we have always known and by which America has been brought to her present position of greatness and power among the nations.