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THE true mission of the United States may be held to be peace, not war ; production, not destruction ; industry, not rapine. But even to the most peacefully inclined of nations occasions come which irresistibly demand that the sword shall be drawn and blows be struck, and through one of these periods of violence this country has just passed. It has had to deal with a nation not yet in the nineteenth century, a belated relic of the mediæval age, and has found it necessary to employ forcible methods. War is an evil, but there are greater evils only to be met by war, national diseases which only the strongest remedies can cure. Spain's colonial system has been such a disease, one with which only heroic treatment would avail. It has been a system of despotism and enslavement, of the suppression of insurrection by massacre and starvation, and of obstinate adherence to methods long since outlived by other civilized nations. The state of affairs had grown intolerable when the United States took up the sword for the relief of a starving and perishing people, and began a war based upon the highest of motives, that of humane sympathy and the succor of the oppressed.
This country has been accused of a selfish greed for the territory of Spain ; but it may be safely said that no purpose of territorial aggrandizement was among the motives that inspired the war. All wars yield unpre
meditated results, and the principal result of this has been to place under the control of the United States certain island possessions which obviously cannot be handed back to Spain, to be misgoverned as before, and whose people are incapable of self-government. The United States must retain them or hand them over to land-greedy nations which stand ready to seize every shred of unappropriated soil. Some of them she has decided to hold ; but it may be repeated that this result of the war was not included among its motives.
The war has been regarded with interest by foreign nations from another point of view. For years past the powers of instruments of destruction have been steadily on the increase, until it began to appear as if war would become wholesale butchery, and must cease as something too terrible to be contemplated. This war has, therefore, been looked upon as an object-lesson in the destructive powers of magazine rifles, rapid-fire guns, torpedo-tubes, and other death-dealing implements. The result has been to prove that in the rush, the turmoil, the nerve-strain of combat, modern weapons are apt to waste their projectiles upon the empty air, and that infantry may still charge earthworks and rifle-pits with no greater loss of life than in former wars. In naval combat the value of coolness and training, as compared with the opposite qualities, has received a wonderful demonstration in the quick and complete destruction of the Spanish fleets and the remarkable immunity of American ships and men. The “man behind the gun” seems of more importance than the gun itself.
But a preface should not be an argument or an example of special pleading, and we may conclude by saying that in these less than four months of war the United States has taken a new position before the world, a higher and nobler attitude. Europe has suddenly discovered that we are more than a nation of shopkeepers ; that we are a people who can strike shrewdly for the right, and one that is destined to be a leader in the van of human progress, an example to the world of the value of free institutions, peaceful industries, high aspirations, and moral energies.