Notes and Comment [stub]

Percy Alvin Martin, Grosvenor M. Jones, Philip Ainsworth Means, Myra C. Hole
1920 Hispanic American Historical Review  
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Under any circumstances a gathering of this character would be important; assembled in the crucial period when shadows of the Great War had hardly passed beyond the horizon and a host of baffling problems of reconstruction were pressing for solution the Conference was well calculated to challenge the thoughtful attention of all those interested in a closer approximation between the United States and Hispanic America. While primarily concerned with the problems and technique of national and international finance, the Conference, before its sessions were concluded, came to embrace the entire field of our economic relations with our sister republics. In the belief that some account of the personnel, machinery and achievements of the Conference would prove of interest to the readers of the REVIEW the present sketch has been prepared, based in part on the writer's observations as secretary of the Brazilian group, one of the nineteen committees into which the Conference was divided. The significance of the meeting at Washington can perhaps be better appreciated if we cast a brief glance in retrospect and note the place it seems destined to occupy in the larger Pan American movement. In all candor it must be conceded that until recently the whole structure of Pan Americanism has rested upon a slender foundation. The very name predicates a certain identity or at least community of interest in the domain of language, race, and religion; or in political and economic outlook. It is obvious that judged by most of these criteria the United States and Hispanic America have little in common.: They are separated by barriers of language and race and by differences in cultural background. While we of the North hark back in large measure at least to Anglo-Saxon and Germanic origins our Southern neighbors are the spiritual heirs of Spain, Portugal, and France. And until the last few decades Hispanic America and the United States have in no 202 NOTES AND COMMENT 203 large sense constituted an economic unit: they have both been exporters of raw material and importers of manufactured articles; partly for this reason their commercial relations with Europe have been closer than with each other. Not until we seek for an identity of political institutions do we find ourselves on surer ground. All the nations to the South of us are republics at least in name, with written constitutions more or less closely modeled on our own. Although the theories and practices of popular sovereignty often show a wide divergence all of these nations are advancing, some rapidly, some painfully toward a more real democracy. Historically considered Pan Americanism can lay claim to an existence covering nearly a century. While the genesis of the movement is still a matter of controversy the right to the title of the first Pan American has with some show of reason been accorded our own Henry Clay. To this warm-heated Kentuckian, for whom all things Spanish-American shimmered in a kind of golden haze, the former Spanish colonists were our neighbors and brothers because they were denizens of the New World and in their struggle for freedom from their mother country had followed the trail blazed by Washington. As is well known, Clay's chief efforts were exerted towards securing the recognition by the United States of the independence of these former Spanish colonies a consummation reached in 1822. Four years later Bolivar, the liberator of northern South America and President of the Republic of Greater Colombia, adumbrated the Pan American movement in the form in which it was later known. In 1826, at his urgent invitation, there was held on the Isthmus of Panama a Congress which has sometimes been dignified with the epithet of "Pan American". All the independent states of the New World were invited to send delegates. Although this Panama Congress was richer in promise than achievement-the tangible results were inconsequential-the impetus given to the movement of continental solidarity was never entirely lost. It remained for our Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, half a century later, to translate the aspirations of Henry Clay and Bolfvar into something akin to reality. A victimn possibly of his too generous illusions, Blaine was sincerely convinced that the time was ripe for the nations of the two Americas to enter upon a new era of close co6peration and mutual helpfulness. The first Pan American Congress which met at Washington in 1888 as a result of his efforts aroused a widespread and sympathetic interest throughout both Americas. The delegates of the eighteen states represented were men both of ability 204 THE HISPANIC AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW and of vision. Included in the program submitted to the Congress for discussion were such widely-varied topics as a customs union, reciprocity, transportation (both maritime and rail), uniformity of weights and measures, the creation of a monetary union, and the setting up of machinery for international arbitration. Had this program been realized in its entirety it would have gone far towards the creation of an economic New World. Three other Pan American Congresses have met in "Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires in 1902, 1906, and 1910 respectively. There have also been held two Pan American Scientific Congresses, one in Santiago de Chile in 1908 and the other in Washington in 1916. Judged by the results thus far achieved in the shape of conventions and treaties the showing made by these imposing gatherings has been disappointing. Aside from the ratification of a number of arbitration treaties and the creation at Washington of the exceedingly useful Pan American Union, their tangible accomplishments have been few. It was inevitable however that progress should be slow. The territory was too new, the principles of co6peration, so essential to success, were untried; and problems of joint action proved extraordinarily complicated. Yet if we cast a glance at the ground traversed we may recognize a distinct advance. The very existence of these assemblies, in which the representations of widely-varied interests were given opportunity of exchanging views, measuring each other, and finding bases for common action, marked a step forward. International administration, as has recently been made painfully apparent. is still in its infancy and the obstacles to its growth many and seemingly insuperable. One test of the vitality of the Pan American movement, as of so many other human institutions, was to be found in the crucible of war. When the entry of the United States into the Great War brought the western hemisphere within the area of hostilities the question at once arose: would the remaining members of the Pan American family of nations remain passive spectators in the contest between the forces of freedom and despotism or would they elect to follow the example of the United States? Though not unanimous the answer was impressive. Pan Americanism ceased to be a mere rallying point for international congresses, a subject for after-dinner speeches, a diplomatic shibboleth. Under the stress of war it became a dynamic force, invested with a new meaning and purpose. The nations of the New World became acutely conscious of a common heritage of ideals of democracy and