America Through the Spectacles of an Oriental Diplomat
Chapter 2. American Prosperity
One of the main causes of the prosperity of the great American Republic
is its natural resources. It possesses coal, oil, silver, gold, copper,
and all the other mineral ores. Nature seems, indeed, to have provided almost
everything that man needs. The soil is rich; wheat and every kind of fruit
can be grown; but favorable as are these native conditions
they could not be turned to any great advantage without the skill and industry
of enterprising men. Many countries in Africa and Asia
possess equal advantages, but they are not equally prosperous.
This leads me to the consideration of another reason for America's growth.
The men who have migrated to the United States have not been rich people.
They went there to make a living. They were prepared to work,
their purpose was to improve their condition, and they were willing
to undertake any manual or mental labor to accomplish their object.
They were hardy and strong and could bear a heavy strain.
Their children inherited their good qualities, and so an American
is generally more hard working and enterprising than most of the people
in Europe and elsewhere.
Another reason for America's success is the great freedom
which each citizen enjoys. Every man considers himself the equal
of every other, and a young man who is ambitious will not rest
until he reaches the top of his profession or trade. Thousands of Americans
who were once very poor, have become millionaires or multi-millionaires.
Many of them had no college education, they taught themselves,
and some of them have become both literary and scholarly.
A college or university education does not necessarily make a man learned;
it only gives him the opportunity to learn. It is said
that some college men have proven themselves to be quite ignorant,
or rather that they do not know so much as those who have been self-taught.
I do not in any way wish to disparage a college education;
no doubt men who have been trained in a university start in life
with better prospects and with a greater chance of success,
but those men who have not had such advantages have doubtless done much
to make their country great and prosperous, and they ought to be recognized
as great men.
The general desire of the American people to travel abroad
is one of their good traits. People who never leave their homes
cannot know much. A person may become well-informed by reading,
but his practical knowledge cannot be compared with that of a person
who has travelled. We Chinese are great sinners in this regard.
A Chinese maxim says, "It is dangerous to ride on horseback or to go
on a voyage": hence until very recently we had a horror of going abroad.
A person who remains all his life in his own town is generally narrow-minded,
self-opinioned, and selfish. The American people are free from these faults.
It is not only the rich and the well-to-do who visit foreign countries,
but tradesmen and workmen when they have saved a little money
also often cross the Atlantic. Some years ago a Senator in Washington told me
that he crossed the Atlantic Ocean every summer and spent several months
in Europe, and that the next trip would be his twenty-eighth voyage.
I found, however, that he had never gone beyond Europe. I ventured to suggest
that he should extend his next annual journey a little farther
and visit Japan, China, and other places in the Far East
which I felt sure he would find both interesting and instructive.
I have travelled through many countries in Europe and South America,
and wherever I have gone and at whatever hotel I have put up,
I have always found some Americans, and on many occasions I have met
friends and acquaintances whom I had known in Washington or New York.
But it is not only the men who go abroad; in many cases ladies
also travel by themselves. On several occasions lady friends
from Washington, Philadelphia, and New York have visited me in Peking.
This is one of the Americans' strong points. Is it not wiser
and much more useful to disburse a few hundred dollars or so
in travelling and gaining knowledge, coming in contact with other peoples
and enlarging the mind, than to spend large sums of money in gaudy dresses,
precious stones, trinkets, and other luxuries?
In a large country like America where a considerable portion of the land
still remains practically uncultivated or undeveloped,
hardy, industrious, and patient workmen are a necessity.
But the almost unchecked influx of immigrants who are not desirable citizens
cannot but harm the country. In these days of international trade
it is right that ingress and egress from one country to another
should be unhampered, but persons who have committed crimes at home,
or who are ignorant and illiterate, cannot become desirable citizens anywhere.
They should be barred out of the United States of America. It is well known
that foreigners take part in the municipal and federal affairs of the country
as soon as they become citizens. Now if such persons really worked
for the good of their adopted country, there could be no objection to this,
but it is no secret that many have no such motives. That being so,
it is a question whether steps should not be taken to limit their freedom.
On the other hand, as many farms suffer from lack of workmen,
people from whatever country who are industrious, patient, and persevering
ought to be admitted as laborers. They would be a great boon to the nation.
The fear of competition by cheap labor is causeless; regulations might
be drawn up for the control of these foreign laborers, and on their arrival
they could be drafted to those places where their services
might be most urgently needed. So long as honest and steady workmen
are excluded for no reason other than that they are Asiatics, while white men
are indiscriminately admitted, I fear that the prosperity of the country
cannot be considered permanent, for agriculture is the backbone
of stable wealth. Yet at present it is the country's wealth
which is one of the important factors of America's greatness.
In the United States there are thousands of individuals
whose fortunes are counted by seven or eight figures in gold dollars.
And much of this money has been used to build railways,
or to develop manufactories and other useful industries.
The country has grown great through useful work, and not on account
of the army and navy. In 1881 America's army numbered only 26,622 men,
and her navy consisted of only 24 iron-clads, 2 torpedo-boats, and 25 tugs,
but in 1910 the peace strength of her army was 96,628 and the navy boasted
33 battleships and 120 armored cruisers of different sizes.
Within the last few years it has been the policy of many nations
to increase the army and to build as many Dreadnaughts and super-dreadnaughts
as possible. Many statesmen have been infected by this Dreadnaught fever.
Their policy seems to be based on the idea that the safety of a nation
depends on the number of its battleships. Even peaceful and moderate men
are carried away by this hobby, and support it. It is forgotten
that great changes have taken place during the last twenty or thirty years;
that a nation can now be attacked by means quite beyond the reach
of Dreadnaughts. The enormous sums spent on these frightful monsters,
if applied to more worthy objects, would have a greater effect
in preserving the nations' heritages than anything these monstrosities can do.
The nation which has a large army and a strong navy may be called powerful,
but it cannot be considered great without other good requisites.
I consider a nation as great when she is peacefully, justly,
and humanely governed, and when she possesses a large number
of benevolent and good men who have a voice in the administration.
The greater the number of good men that a nation possesses
the greater she becomes. America is known to have a large number
of such men and women, men and women who devote their time and money
to preaching peace among the nations. Mr. Andrew Carnegie is worth
a hundred Dreadnaughts. He and others like him are the chief factors
in safeguarding the interests and welfare of America. The territory
of the United States is separated from Europe and other countries
by vast oceans; so that it would be difficult, if not impossible,
for a foe to successfully attack any portion of that country.
But who wishes to attack her? She has scarcely an enemy.
No country is invaded by another without cause, and as the United States
is in friendly relations with all the Powers, there is no reason
to fear foreign invasion. Even should a foreign power
successfully attack her and usurp a portion of her territories,
a supposition which is most improbable, would the enemy be able
to hold what he seized? History shows that no conquered country
has ever been successfully and permanently kept without the people's consent,
and there is not the least chance that the Americans will ever consent
to the rule of a foreign government.
It is to be hoped that the United States will not follow
the example of other nations and unduly increase her armaments,
but that she will take the lead in the universal peace movement
and show the world that a great power can exist and maintain her position
without force of arms. I am aware that general disarmament is not popular
among statesmen, that it has been denounced by an eminent authority
as a "will-o'-the wisp", that arbitration has been styled a "Jack-o'-lantern",
but this is not the first time a good and workable scheme has been branded
with opprobrious names. The abolition of slavery was at one time considered
to be an insane man's dream; now all people believe in it.
Will the twentieth century witness the collapse of our present civilization?
Why are the world's armaments constantly increasing?
To my mind it is due to two causes, one of which is mistrust.
One nation begins to build Dreadnaughts, another does the same
through fear and mistrust. The second cause is that
it is the fashion of some nations to follow the example of others
that they may preserve their position as great naval powers.
But it is unnecessary for the United States to show such mistrust or to follow
such fashion. She should rather, as becomes a great and powerful nation,
take an independent course of her own. If she sets the example
other nations in due time will follow her. The peace of the world
will be more surely guarded, and America will win the approbation,
the respect, and the gratitude of all peace-loving people.
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