The desire that judgment should be suspended until

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The weeks that have elapsed since that fatal event of
February 15th have been making history in a manner
highly creditable to the American government and to
our citizenship. Captain Sigsbee, the commander of the
Maine, had promptly telegraphed his desire that
judgment should be suspended until investigation had
been made. The investigation was started at once, and
75 million Americans have accordingly suspended
judgment in the face of a great provocation. For it
must be remembered that to suppose the destruction of
the Maine an ordinary accident and not due to any
external agency or hostile intent was, under all the
circumstances, to set completely at defiance the law
of probabilities.
It is not true that battleships are in the habit of
blowing themselves up. When all the environing facts
were taken into consideration, it was just about as
probable that the Maine had been blown up by some
accident where no hostile motive was involved, as that
the reported assassination of President Barrios of
Guatemala, a few days previously, had really been a
suicide. . . .
It has been known perfectly well that Spanish hatred
might at any time manifest itself by attempts upon the
life of the American representative at Havana, Consul
General Fitzhugh Lee. This danger was felt especially
at the time of the Havana riots in January, and it
seems to have had something to do with the sending of
the Maine to Havana Harbor. The Spaniards themselves,
however, looked upon the sending of the Maine as a
further aggravation of the long series of their just
grievances against the United States. They regarded
the presence of the Maine at Havana as a menace to
Spanish sovereignty in the island and as an
encouragement to the insurgents. A powerful American
fleet lay at Key West and the Dry Tortugas, with steam
up ready to follow the Maine to the harbor of Havana
at a few hours’ notice. All this was intensely hateful
to the Spaniards, and particularly to the Army
officers at Havana who had sympathized with General
Weyler’s policy and who justly regarded General
Weyler’s recall to Spain as due to the demand of
President McKinley. The American pretense that the
Maine was making a visit of courtesy seemed to these
Spaniards a further example of Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy.
That this intense bitterness against the presence of
the Maine was felt among the military and official
class in Havana was perfectly well known to Captain
Sigsbee, his staff, and all his crew; and they were
not unaware of the rumors and threats that means would
be found to destroy the American ship. It was,
furthermore, very generally supposed that the Spanish
preparation for the defense of Havana had included
mines and torpedoes in the harbor. At the time when
the Maine went to Havana, it was a notorious fact that
the relations between the Spain and the United States
were so strained that that war was regarded as
inevitable. If war had actually been declared while
the Maine was at Havana, it is not likely that the
Spanish would have permitted the ship’s departure
without an effort to do her harm.
The Spanish harbor is now and it has been for a good
while past under military control; and the American
warship, believed by the Spanish authorities to be at
Havana with only half-cloaked hostile designs, was
obliged to accept the anchorage that was assigned by
those very authorities. In view of the strained
situation and of the Spanish feeling that no
magnanimity is due on Spain’s part toward the United
States, it is not in the least difficult to believe
that the harbor authorities would have anchored the
at a spot where, in case of the outbreak of war, the
submarine harbor defenses might be effectively be used
against so formidable an enemy.
To understand the situation completely, it must not be
forgotten that the Spanish government at first made
objection against the Maine’s intended visit to Havana
and, in consenting, merely yielded to a necessity that
was forced upon it. All Spaniards regarded the sending
of the Maine to Havana as really a treacherous act on
the part of the United States, and most of them would
have deemed it merely a safe and precautionary measure
to anchor her in the vicinity of a submarine mine.

Doubtless these suggestions will be read by more than
one person who will receive them with entire
skepticism. But such readers will not have been
familiar with what has been going on in the matter of
the Cuban rebellion, or else they will be lacking in
memories of good carrying power.
The great majority of the intelligent people of the
United States could not, from the first, avoid
perceiving that what we may call the self-destruction
theory was extremely improbable; while what we may
term the assassination theory was in keeping with all
the circumstances. Nevertheless, although the
probability of guilt was so overwhelming, the American
people saw the fairness and the necessity of
suspending judgment until proof had been substituted
for mere probability. And there was in no part of the
country any disposition to take snap judgment or to
act precipitately. No other such spectacle of national
forbearance has been witnessed in our times.
Unquestionably, the whole community has been intensely
eager for news; and it is perhaps true that certain
newspapers, which have devoted themselves for a month
or more to criticizing the sensational press, might as
well have been occupied in a more energetic effort to
supply their readers with information. The fact is
that the so-called war extras, which for many days
were issued from certain newspaper offices at the rate
of a dozen or more a day, have not seemed to
communicate their hysteria to any considerable number
of the American people, East or West, North or South,
so far as our observation goes.
The situation has simply been one of a very absorbing
and profound interest, while the suspense has been
very trying to the nerves. The possibility that our
country might soon be engaged in war with a foreign
power has been a preoccupying thought not to be
dismissed for a single hour. The whole country has
known that a fateful investigation was in progress in
Havana Harbor; that coast-defense work was being
pushed all along our seaboard; that in all the
shipyards, public and private, government work was
being prosecuted with double or quadruple forces of
men, working by night as well as by day; that
ammunition factories, iron and steel plants, and every
other establishment capable of furnishing any kind of
military or naval supplies were receiving orders from
the government and were working to the full extent of
their capacity; that plans were being made for fitting
out merchant ships as auxiliary cruisers; that our
naval representatives were negotiating abroad for
additional warships; that new regiments of
artillerymen were being enlisted for the big guns on
the seaboard; that naval recruits were being mustered
in to man newly commissioned ships; that the railroads
were preparing by order of the War Department to bring
the little United States Army from western and
northern posts to convenient southern centers; and
that while we were making these preparations Spain on
her part was trying to raise money to buy ships and to
secure allies. All these matters, and many others
related to them, have within these past weeks made an
immense opportunity for testing the news gathering
resources of the American press. . . .
When, therefore, on March 8, the House of
Representatives unanimously voted to place $50 million
at the unqualified disposal of President McKinley as
an emergency fund for the national defense – this
action being followed by an equally unanimous vote of
the Senate the next day – it was naturally taken for
granted all over the country that the situation was
believed by the President to be extremely critical.

The continued delay of the Board of Inquiry – which
had been oscillating between Havana and Key West,
conducting its proceedings in secret and maintaining
absolute reticence – had naturally served to confirm
the belief that its report would show foul play; and
it appeared that the President was basing his great
preparations of war, in part at least, upon his
advance knowledge of the evidence secured by the
commission. The unanimity of Congress in support of
the President created an excellent impression abroad.

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Fifty million is a very large sum to place in the
hands of one man.
It might have been supposed that there would have been
members in both houses who would have insisted upon
the appropriation of this money for specific purposes.

That not a single man was found to make objection
showed a very great capacity for united action in a
time of emergency. It also showed, of course, how
great is the confidence that Congress and the American
people repose in the honor, wisdom, and public spirit
of their Presidents. At the time of the Venezuela
incident, Congress in similar manner, came unanimously
to the support of President Cleveland. In that case,
however, there was not the remotest possibility of
war; and the episode was merely a diplomatic one in
which it was deemed important to show that our
government could rely absolutely upon the whole
support of the people. The South on all such recent
occasions has been foremost in expressions of
The vote of $50 million, although an extraordinary
measure justified only by the imminent danger of war,
was clearly an act that no peace-loving man could
reasonably criticize; for preparation is often the
means by which conflict is avoided. A larger Navy was
in any case greatly desirable for our country, with
its long seaboard on the Atlantic and the Pacific and
its vast commerce; while the better fortification of
our principal ports was an urgent necessity. Since the
preparations that have been made so hurriedly during
the past few weeks have been of a defensive nature,
and since they have been carried out upon lines which
had been duly considered in advance, they will have
permanent value, and there will have been involved a
very small percentage of waste. If Congress had been
wise enough in the past three or four years to lay
down more warships in our own yards, it would not have
been necessary to contribute millions to foreign
No part of the $50 million will be squandered by the
administration; but it is to be regretted that this
emergency fund had not been already expended during
the five preceding years by more liberal
appropriations for coast defense and naval
construction. The great shipyards of the United
States, both public and private, are now at the point
where, with a sufficient amount of regular work to do,
they would speedily be able to compete on equal terms
with the best shipbuilding plants of Europe. Iron and
steel supplies are now much cheaper in the United
States than anywhere else, and it is only the
relatively small amount of shipbuilding that has been
demanded by our government that has made it more
expensive to build a war vessel here than else where.
In a time of real emergency, however, the resources of
the United States would prove themselves great enough
to supply our own people and the whole world besides.

The quickness and inventiveness of American mechanics,
engineers, and manufacturers have no parallel in
Europe. On a year’s notice the United States might
undertake to cope evenhanded with either the Dual or
the Triple Alliance – although we have now only the
nucleus of an army and the beginning of a navy, while
the European powers have made war preparation their
principal business for a whole generation. It is to be
suspected that one reason why the American people have
bought the newspapers so eagerly during the past weeks
is to be found in the satisfaction they have taken in
learning how a strictly peaceful nation like ours
could if necessary reverse the process of beating
swords into plowshares.
It is true, for example, that we have built only a few
torpedo boats and only a few vessels of the type known
as destroyers; but we have discovered that about a
hundred very rich Americans had been amusing
themselves within the past few years by building or
buying splendid oceangoing, steel-built steam yachts
of high speed and stanch qualities, capable of being
quickly transformed into naval dispatch boats or
armored and fitted with torpedo tubes. Probably not a
single private Spanish citizen could turn over to his
government such a vessel as the magnificent Goelet
yacht, the Mayflower, which was secured by our Navy
Department on March 16; not to mention scores of other
private steam yachts of great size and strength that
wealthy American citizens are ready to offer if
It is the prevailing opinion nowadays, it is true,
that nothing is to be relied upon in naval war but
huge battleships, which take from two to three or four
years to build. But if a great war were forced upon us
suddenly, it is altogether probable that American
ingenuity would devise something wholly new in the way
of a marine engine of war, just as American ingenuity
improvised the first modern ironclads. We have already
in our Navy a dynamite cruiser, the Vesuvius, which in
actual warfare might prove more dangerous than a half
dozen of the greatest battleships of the European
navies. There has just been completed, moreover, and
offered to our government, a submarine boat, the
Holland, which seems to be capable of moving rapidly
for several miles so completely submerged as to offer
no target for an enemy; and it may well be that the
torpedoes discharged from an insignificant little
vessel capable of swimming below the surface like a
fish might prove as fatal to the battleships of an
enemy as the alleged mine in the harbor of Havana was
fatal to our battleship the Maine.
Nowadays, warfare is largely a matter of science and
invention; and since a country where the arts of peace
flourish and prosper is most favorable to the general
advance of science and invention, we stumble upon the
paradox that the successful pursuit of peace is after
all the best preparation for war. Another way to put
it is to say that modern warfare has become a matter
of machinery, and that the most highly developed
mechanical and industrial nation will by virtue of
such development be most formidable in war.
This is a situation that the Spaniards in general are
evidently quite unable to comprehend. Their ideas are
altogether medieval. They believe themselves to be a
highly chivalrous and militant people, and that the
people of the United States are really in great terror
of Spanish prowess. They think that Spain could make
as easy work of invading the United States as Japan
made of invading China. Their point of view is
altogether theatrical and unrelated to modern facts.
A country like ours, capable of supplying the whole
world with electrical motors, mining machinery,
locomotive engines, steel rails, and the structural
material for modern steel bridges and “skyscrapers,”
not to mention bicycles and sewing machines, is
equally capable of building, arming, and operating an
unlimited number of ships of every type, and of
employing every conceivable mechanical device for
purposes of national defense. In the long run,
therefore, even if our preliminary preparations had
been of the scantiest character, we should be able to
give a good account of ourselves in warfare. . . .
Quite regardless of the responsibilities for the Maine
incident, it is apparently true that the great
majority of the American people are hoping that
President McKinley will promptly utilize the occasion
to secure the complete pacification and independence
of Cuba. There are a few people in the United States –
we should not like to believe that more than 100 could
be found out of a population of 75 million – who
believe that the United States ought to join hands
with Spain in forcing the Cuban insurgents to lay down
their arms and to accept Spanish sovereignty as a
permanent condition under the promise of practical
home rule. It needs no argument, of course, to
convince the American people that such a proposal
reaches the lowest depths of infamy. It is much worse
than the proposition made by a few people in Europe
last year that the victorious Turks should have the
countenance and support of the great nations of Europe
in making Greece a part of the Turkish empire. For the
Turks had fairly conquered the Greeks; and if Europe
had kept hands off, Greece would have been reduced
very quickly to the position of an Ottoman province.
But in Cuba it is otherwise. The insurgents, with no
outside help, have held their own for more than three
years, and Spain is unable to conquer them. The people
of the United States do not intend to help Spain hold
Cuba. On the contrary, they are now ready, in one way
or in another, to help the Cubans drive Spain out of
the Western Hemisphere. If the occasion goes past and
we allow this Cuban struggle to run on indefinitely,
the American people will have lost several degrees of
self-respect and will certainly not have gained
anything in the opinion of mankind.

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