Examination Of A Legend

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By mutual agreement, then, the fleet visited Tokyo and got an extremely cordial reception. At the same time, American plans for an ostentatious visit to China were whittled down almost to the vanishing point; furthermore, in Washington, Japan and America concluded an agreement to settle their differences in the Far East. The agreement included a perfunctory pledge to respect the Open Door in China, bound both nations to respect each other’s territorial possessions in the Pacific, agreed to maintenance of the status quo in Asia, and promised that “the integrity of China” would be protected. The original draft had spoken of “territorial integrity”; the word “territorial” was dropped, in the final version … in effect, says Mr. Hart, China was left helpless.

Presumably both governments were happy. A desperately dangerous situation had been met and passed. Americans were able to say that the mere appearance of their fleet had forced Tokyo to stop acting warlike and to assume an attitude of friendship: Japan had assurance that she could follow her own course in respect to the moribund Chinese empire and could pursue her activities in Manchuria without interruption. The Japanese indeed were very well pleased by the whole affair, considering that they had won a diplomatic victory. Great Britain also was happy; the projected German-American alliance, which at one point looked so real, went down the drain and was never heard of again.

The rest of the voyage was anticlimactic. The fleet at last made its way home, coming up through the Suez Canal and the length of the Mediterranean, and in February of 1909 it got back to Hampton Roads. Technically, the cruise had been an impressive achievement. Never before had so many battleships gone so far without mishap. A new respect for the capacities of American naval officers appeared in foreign navies. But the officers themselves were not happy. As Mr. Hart puts it, they considered this cruise “the most detested task ever undertaken by the Navy.” Also, they reflected that they had shown the world an obsolete fleet: the new dreadnoughts were coming in, and the sixteen fabulous battleships were out of date before they got home. Professionally, they felt that the trip had been wasted effort.

But it had made a prodigious splash in the world.