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Twentieth Century

war, nations, influence, labor, peace, balkan, world, russia, time and france

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TWENTIETH CENTURY. The opening year of the latest century was marked somewhat dramatically by the close of the long reign over the British Empire of Victoria of England, queen and empress, who died 22 Jan. 1901; by the assassination and death 14 Sept. 1901 of William McKinley, President of the United States, and by the accession of Theodore Roose velt, Vice-President, to the chief executive office. Throughout the civilized world there was prom ise of peace and a growth of the spirit of hu manity and internationalism. War between civil ized nations seemed almost a thing of the past. Many World's Fairs, Universal Expositions, held in the preceding half century had brought the nations together as never before. Trade between nations as a medium for cementing friendship seemed to portend an ever-better understanding among rival peoples. The edu cated classes were drifting into a sense of se curity as regards war. A peace conference was held in Switzerland in the nineties and though it had broken up in disagreement the fact of its . assembling seemed a great step forward. At the end of the century (1898) young Tsar Nich olas of Russia invited the nations to send dele gates to a peace conference at The Hague. Most of them accepted. The conference, was held (1899) and established a permanent court of arbitration. Early in our century over 125 arbitration treaties between nations were ar ranged and statesmen considered the negotiation of such treaties as their highest activity. The second Hague Conference (1907) held at the invitation of the United States occupied itself with the drawing up of rules for humane war fare,— many of which were violated in the Great War. It strengthened the faith in peace and there were confident prophecies of a time i soon to come when reason would rule nterna tional relations as it did personal relations since the disappearance of the duel.

In spite of the growing feeling that war was soon to be a thing of the past, when the cen tury opened England was at war with the Boers and the United States was at war in the Philip pines. In 1904 the bloodiest war that men had engaged in up to that time occurred between Russia and Japan. Just 50 years before Japan had been invited into the circle of civilization. When the Portsmouth (N. H.) treaty of peace (1905), signed largely through the influence of President Roosevelt, left Japan the victor, the yellow race had become a factor in world poli tics. Despite threatening incidents for seven years there was peace, but then the wars came thick and fast. Italy warred with Turkey over Tripoli (1912), the Powers refusing to permit the bombardment of Constantinople and limit ing the war zone to Africa. The same year the first Balkan War broke out and the civilized world rejoiced when it seemed as though the' defeated Turks were at last to be driven back to Constantinople. The dilatory diplomacy of the great nations in its fear of disturbing the balance of power, permitting Turkish atrocities to continue, made the world ready to welcome the removal of the sultan from Europe. The little Balkan nations, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria; Montenegro, seemed about to accomplish what the ''Great Powers" had balked over. Having disposed of the Turks with unexpected readi ness the Balkan nations quarreled among themselves over the spoils and the second Balkan War, Greece and Serbia and later Rumania ranged against Bulgaria, proved one of the bitterest in the history of humanity. The same year the Mexican troubles, not yet concluded, began, and in the summer of 1914 the Great War broke out. The peace treaty was signed 28 June 1919 at Versailles, but fight ing continued in many parts of Europe, so that no century of human history had so many wars in so short a time with so many killed and wounded and the end of it is not yet in sight.

The underlying motive of these wars was invariably commercial expansion. The Boer War resulted from English efforts for trade advantages in South Africa. The Russian Japanese followed Russia's extension of her sphere of influence into Manchuria to obtain an ice-free port on the Pacific, her position in Europe denying her such an outlet for her commerce. In 1860 Vladivostok became a Rus sian port, but as it is closed during the winter Russia turned south toward Korea and the .Manchurian coast. The Siberian Railroad was to be carried across Manchuria and its exten sion was made possible by the Japanese-China (1895). The international convention after the Boxer Rebellion promised to shut out further encroachment on China, but Russia continued to advance and Japan declared war. Italy's war with Turkey was for Tripoli, the only portion of northern Africa left for the exploitation of European countries. The first Balkan War was almost a holy war in its pur pose to expel the Turk, but the underlying mo tives were territorial expansion and commercial opportunities. The second Balkan War re

vealed this very clearly and was waged with supreme selfish disregard for human rights by grasping governments. The Mexican troubles were largely fomented by trade interests and grasping politicians. The Great War was rooted entirely in commercial rivalries and the fear that the growing power of other nations might prevent commerce and manufactures from having a free outlet into distant coun tries. Colonial expansion, the root of so many international difficulties, was almost entirely a matter of securing an outlet for the products of industry and the surplus population of Euro pean countries. The industrial era of the 19th century reached a climax of influence in which it was felt that the disposal of the industrial products of its people was the most important thing for government to secure. Many of the industries for 'which political striving was so earnest were employing men for such wages and under such conditions of health as made decent living almost impossible for a great many of those employed. The Great War produced internal conditions in all countries in which labor was in a position to claim rights that for a time seriously disturbed all national condi tions. The war began for industrial expansion and commerdal advantage redounded almost entirely to the benefit of labor in all the coun tries. What labor as the paramount influence in the lives of nations may do for mankind must depend on the ability of its leaders. With 7,000,000 able-bodied men killed in the war and another 7,000,000 so seriously crippled that they cannot do manual labor, at least 12,000,000 laborers were lacking from the world's labor supply. They were mainly the best labor elements, the able-bodied of military age. Their absence will surely affect the labor situation for some years to come. Everywhere then, as the second decade closes, there is un rest among the laboring classes and a striving for better wages. The outlook for better con ditions for labor is promising unless political disturbances and a lack of community spirit are permitted to interfere. • Besides these wars a series of incidents all commercial carrying mmercial in origin, caring threats of war with them, occurred. In 1905 Germany's jeal ousy of the commercial rights which France had acquired in Morocco and which pointed to French absorption of that country seriously disturbed the world: The conference of Al geciras (1906) proved a diplomatic defeat for Germany, practically all the nations, including the United States, taking part against her. Ger-: many's hopes were revealed. The German ac quisition and fortification of Kiau-chau com plicated the Far Eastern question ; the proposed Berlin to Bagdad Railway with its strategic possibilities put another factor into the al ready complex Near East situation, while the rapidly increasing German navy threatened the development of superiority by sea as well as by land. This led to a lining up of the other countries of Europe for self-defense. Germany's entrance into the Far East brought about (1902) an alliance between Japan and Great Britain, the first between a Western and an Eastern power. Mainly through the influence of King Edward VII (reigned 1901-10) England and France, hereditary enemies, composed long standing difficulties (1904) and the hostility between England and Russia, due to their rivalry in • Asia was replaced by an Anglo Russian Entente. Persia, which had been a bone of contention between them, was divided into spheres of influence and a neutral section. Afghanistan, which had been a critical issue, was placed entirely under British influence and Tibet was to be respected. Great Britain, France and Russia thus made the Triple Entente as opposed to the Triple Alli ance of Germany, Austria and Italy. This rec onciliation of ancient enmities which brought about co-operation between these countries was due more to the influence of King Edward VII of England than any other single factor. After a rather stormy youth and a middle age given over to trivialities it seemed as though the long life of his mother, Queen Victoria, was fortunate in delaying his ascent of the throne and yet the 10 years of King Edward's reign accomplished much to align the world favorably for the great struggle that was to take place a few years after his death. He proved a diplomatic ruler of high order whose international influence was all for the best. The rapprochement between France and Eng land probably saved Europe from war at the time of the Agadir incident when Germany sent a naval vessel to enforce her demands as to some compensation in Africa for the rights which France was securing in Morocco. The crisis was only delayed a few years.

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