Stories of South America - E. C. Brooks

Pan-American Union

Before the World War, North Americans gave little thought to the tremendous resources of South America and showed little interest in the growing civilization of even its leading republics. But since the war the industrial leaders of North America are turning their attention to South America as never before. Its raw material and its products are greatly needed today to help rebuild war-stricken Europe and to replenish the world's stock of necessary supplies.

Farseeing statesmen of the United States for many years have realized the necessity of forming a closer union of North America and South America. The famous Monroe Doctrine, announced by President Monroe in 1823, had as its chief purpose the protection of the South American republics, then fighting for freedom; and for a century it has preserved the independence of these countries. However, the Monroe Doctrine was not proclaimed so much in the interest of South American republics as to prevent European nations from securing new territory in the western hemisphere and thereby endangering the liberties of the United States. Thus, the people of the United States have had little direct interest in South America.

It will be recalled that Simon Bolivar, while fighting for the independence of South America, proposed a union of all the republics in the western hemisphere. But the United States held off and would take no part in the conference called at Panama. The people of the United States differed racially from those of South America. They spoke a different language. They had different manners and customs. They had sufficient resources without developing large trade relations with South America. It was not until after the middle of the nineteenth century that the rubber of Brazil, the nitrates of Chile, and the guano of Peru were demanded in any considerable quantities by the people of the United States. As there was no need for many of the products of South America, small commerce or intercourse between the continents developed. The South American republics, consequently, were left to themselves, while both continents alike developed a great commerce with Europe. Thus South America learned to look to Europe for aid and comfort instead of to the United States.

Little was done by the United States to form a closer union with the South American republics until President Cleveland's first administration. In 1888, Grover Cleveland, in accordance with a measure of Congress, invited the Latin-American republics to join the United States in a conference to be held in Washington in 1889 to consider means to preserve the peace and promote the prosperity and well-being of both continents. As a result of this invitation, the first Pan-American conference met in Washington on October 2, 1889. Seventeen republics, including the United States, sent representatives. The chief result of this meeting was the establishment in Washington of an International Bureau of American Republics for the collection and publication of information relating to the commerce, products, laws, and customs of the countries represented.

The Latin-American republics, however, were suspicious of the United States, because the latter had not always appeared friendly. Not all of the nations would attend the first conference. This suspicion was partly allayed by the Spanish-American war, when the United States freed Cuba, the last of the Spanish colonies in the western hemisphere, without asking anything in return. Such an act as this had never before been recorded by history. Soon afterward, 1901, President McKinley was instrumental in having the second Pan-American congress called in Mexico. This was much more successful. The third congress met in Rio de Janeiro in 1906. This was followed by a fourth congress, which met in Buenos Aires in 1910. As a result of these congresses, the leading republics of South America were not only growing more friendly to the United States but were becoming factors in world politics.

The three most progressive nations of South America are Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. For many years these countries have been free from internal wars and have demonstrated to the outside world that they are developing strong governments and a civilization that merits the respect of the most progressive nations of the world. They were especially concerned in 1914 over the possible effect of the Mexican revolution on the United States. The Mexicans, being descendants of the Spanish conquerors, are kinsmen of the South Americans. The United States had once made war on Mexico and had taken a part of its territory. Most people in the United States, in 1914, thought that the country would go to war again with Mexico. The South American republics were greatly concerned over the Mexican situation and were exceedingly anxious that the United States should not fight their kinsmen, the Mexicans. Consequently, when the United States ordered its fleet to Vera Cruz and war seemed inevitable, the diplomatic representatives at Washington of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile made a formal offer in behalf of their governments to bring about a peaceful and friendly settlement of the controversy between Mexico and the United States. This occurred on April 25, 1914, when no one was dreaming of the World War, only three months before all Europe was plunged into the most terrible conflict in history.

President Wilson at the beginning of his administration, in speaking of the relations of the country to the Latin-American republics, declared, "We must show ourselves as friends by comprehending their interests, whether it squares with our own or not." Then he added, "I want to take this occasion to say that the United States will never again seek one additional foot of territory by conquest." These expressions of friendship and of assurance that the United States would make no war of conquest gave the Southern republics hope of a successful issue to the controversy. When the representatives of Argentina, Brazil, and Chile offered their services to help settle the difficulty between Mexico and the United States, President Wilson at once accepted their offer.

These three countries were referred to as the "A, B, C nations" (A, B, C being the initial letters in their names). Many newspapers which had been urging President Wilson to declare war on Mexico were inclined to resent this intervention and used the term "A, B, C nations" as a term of reproach. They even sneered at the proffered services of the A, B, C, and abused the president for accepting them. This is an evidence that some of the larger newspapers of the United States did not really appreciate the importance of South America in the politics of the world.

Pan-American Building


However, on May 20, 1914, the A, B, C mediators began their conference at Niagara Falls, and on July 1 they had completed their work. So fair was the report that both Mexico and the United States have followed it almost in detail. This diplomatic masterpiece gave North Americans a different impression of South Americans, for a new record had been made in American diplomacy. Thus, for the first time in history, South American republics in council helped to decide an issue for North America and marked out lines along which the United States might proceed with profit to all concerned.

This is one splendid result of the Pan-American congress. Another result is the formation of the Pan-American Union, which is an international organization embracing all the republics of the western hemisphere, being composed of twenty-one nations, as follows: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, San Salvador, the United States, Uraguay, and Venezuela. The Union headquarters are in a beautiful building in Washington, D. C., erected by the munificence of Andrew Carnegie and contributions of the American republics.

The governing board consists of the Secretary of State of the United States and the diplomatic representatives in Washington of the other American governments. These elect a Director-General, an Assistant-Director, and such international experts, clerks, and stenographers, as may be needed. The Union has a library of about 40,000 volumes for the use of all who desire to become better acquainted with the Latin-American republics. It also keeps an exhibition of specimens of South American resources, including birds of gorgeous plumage, palms, minerals, and many other things that are exceedingly interesting to visitors. In addition to this, it publishes in English, Spanish, and Portuguese, The Pan-American Bulletin, a monthly magazine devoted to recording Pan-American progress.

The purpose of the Pan-American Union is to promote the development of commerce, friendly intercourse, good understanding, and aid the keeping of peace among these countries. The expenses of the organization are borne by contributions from each nation, based on population.

Since the World War, North America has felt the need of a closer relationship with South America. Before the war, the South American republics looked almost entirely to Europe for their commerce. In fact, goods exported to the United States and practically all communication with the United States passed through European ports. But the World War broke down old trade lines. The conditions in Europe are such that the old relations cannot continue as they were. Circumstances have forced North America and South America to seek to understand one another in order that they may be mutually helpful.

The opening of the Panama Canal, moreover, has made it much easier for New York and the other seaports of the Atlantic and those of the Gulf of Mexico to carry on commerce with the Pacific ports of South America than was formerly the case. The Pacific countries, which have been more or less backward, now have a quick communication with the Atlantic seaboard.

North Americans are beginning to feel the need of a more accurate knowledge of the Southern republics their geography, history, government, business enterprises, and natural resources. In consequence, Spanish is being widely introduced into our colleges and high schools; Spanish books are in demand; and the two continents are at last on the threshold of a mutual understanding and a mutual friendship.