|[Editor's note: We moderns are familiar with
the serious problems in Afghanistan, and of Russia's determination to be
a world power. We speak of the effects of globalization on one nation
or section. But such problems and influences -- and their effect on
the U.S. and world customs and trade -- are far from new.]
Np390-91 Coquille City Herald April 14, 1885
THE THREATENED WAR.
The following we find in the San Francisco Call:
Trade is in a state of anxious suspense. The political events of the next seventy-two hours will doubtless determine whether it will fall back into the dull routine of peaceful days, or leap forward into the feverish excitement of war times. The feeling throughout the country is as intense as though the armies of the world were being massed on our border. The effect on trade in this country of a war carried on in Afghanistan would be almost the same as though we heard the roar of the artillery. All parts of the world have been brought so close together that there is really but one market and one price the world around. A sharp conflict between Russia and England would produce an effect upon business in this country such has not been witnessed since our civil war [sic]. The general feeling on Change Saturday [sic] was that it would be an immense fortune to any man to foresee the potential events of the next three days, for there is scarcely a commodity in a long list of prices current that would not go up if these two great nations appeal to the sword. Perhaps of all the countries in the world, the United States would be benefited [sic] most by such an event. It possesses in greatest abundance the stuffs that England and Russia would need, and its [sic] natural position would make it the market where both nations would buy. America would have this advantage too, that the two nations into which it now comes in greatest competition, England in manufactures and Russia in wheat, would both be so busily engaged in war that they would be unable to retain, for a time, their position in the world of trade. The temporary withdrawal of these two powers from active competition with this country would give our merchants such an advantage as they have never before enjoyed.
Wheat is the pulse of trade, and it may be judged from the fluctuations of that staple how the war would affect every other commodity. At present, Russia, India and America supply the great mass of breadstuffs that go to the principal markets of the world. A war between Russia and England would stop at once the supply of wheat from India and Russia, and would leave America free to unload her graneries [sic] into the storehouses of Liverpool. The salutary effect of this upon the price of wheat in this country can be perceived by the dullest head. It is the knowledge of this important fact that made the feeling on ‘Change Saturday akin to that which pervades the gambling saloon. If war is an outcome of the difference between Russia and England wheat will shoot up, but if the two countries agree to avert the horrors of war by a compromise, the price of wheat, which has temporarily risen in anticipation of an armed conflict, will drop back again to peace rates. Among the members of the Produce Exchange there are two opposite and equally positive views taken in regard to the prospects of war. And it a [sic] matter of interest to note that the Americans in general take one view, and the men of foreign birth another. The American merchants in town almost unanimously believe that there will be no armed conflict, while the foreigners, almost to a man, think that war is inevitable. To the American mind there does not seem to be an adequate cause, [sic] in dispute about the shadowy boundary line of a remote and somewhat insignificant country, occupied by semi-barbarians, for the fearful slaughter that is sure to follow a clash of arms. It seems to those who hold this view, that on sober, second thought, the egregious folly of a dreadful waste of human life and valuable property will impress the rules [sic] of the two countries so forcibly that both will be ready to make concession to avert the catastrophe.
But the foreign merchants of this city sneer at this view. They believe that respect for the value of an individual life, or for thousands of lives, or for the value of millions of property [sic], would not have the slightest effect upon the determination of a Czar to widen his domain, or upon that of a British minister to protect in the remotest corner of the globe the slightest interest of an English subject. The foreigners here, and especially the more intelligent among them, assert that the war is bound to come, if not now, within a few years. The most of them have a reason for this positive view. As well as could be learned by hurried interviews, the following is an outline of this opinion: Peter the Great left Russia with a destiny to work out and ever since the death of the great monarch, his successors have endeavored to carry out the plans he bequeathed to them, as a part of the great inheritance that they obtained. Peter the Great declared that Russia was not complete without a seaport on the south. Its harbors on north are locked too long by ice to give the vast domain sufficient outlet to the markets of the world. A free passage through the Dardanelles or a safe harbor on the Arabian Sea is absolutely necessary to equip the country to carry out its destiny. To obtain the former, Turkey in Europe would have to be united to Russia; to secure the latter the colonies in Asia would have to be invaded. The successors of Peter the Great have more than once tried to gain the former, but, in every instance, have been rebuffed. It is but natural that one of them should try to possess the latter.
The question arises, Why has this moment been selected to take the first step torward [sic] the Arabian sea? The answer is a bit of secret history of the Czar’s boundless domain. The Nihilists, instead of dwindling in numbers, have been increasing rapidly. The views of these anarchists have spread everywhere in Russia. They have become as secretly popular in the army and among the aristocracy as among the doctrinaires that philosophize in the universities. The head of the secret police of Russia, it is said, notified the Czar a month ago that the Nihilists could no longer be held in check, that neither his own person nor his throne was longer safe [sic] against the designs of the anarchists. The dreadful history that the Nihilists have already written in Russia lent proof to the information of the head of the secret police. The Czar, in the face of this information, determined to adopt heroic means to avert this danger, and at once the Russian troops began to advance upon the dangerous ground in the East. Nothing like a war with a foreign country excites the patriotism of a people; a war with no other country would send a thrill of joy through the Russian heart like that of a war with England. In marching to inevitable war in the East the Czar is accomplishing two things: First, he is attempting to work out the destiny of Russia, as outlined by Peter the Great; and second, he is holding Nihilism in check by awakening a stronger feeling among his people.
This is the explanation intelligent foreigners give of the action of the Czar. To them the value of human life is a trifling consideration, not to be heeded in an emergency like the present and surely not to prevent a ruler from attempting to achieve the ends that his family cherished for more than a century. The explanation of the readiness of England, under a minister who would prefer peace with a color of dishonor to a bloody wasteful war, to engage a powerful nation like Russia in armed conflict is as easily found by the foreigners, who say war is bound to come, if not now certainly within a few years. To them it appears like this: England holds immense possessions in the East, which, at present, have a boundary that may be easily defended. If, however, a hostile and ambitious power like Russia makes an opening and drives in a wedge, the integrity of the English possessions is threatened forever. If Russia marches through a colony and occupies strategic positions it menaces the future presence of England in the East. Even as timid or just a man as Gladstone could not hesitate a moment to defend the possessions of his country in Asia, and when they are menaced a prompt, vigorous resistance must at once be made. In the hour of danger the terrible results of a war are not considered so much, even by a minister who has talked frequently of the atrocities of a battlefield. It is the life of England to defend her domain. If she hesitates or fails she sinks back to the grade of Greece or Belgium in the rank of nations. She must fight.
From these views of the condition of England and Russia, the foreigners in this city predict a war. These arguments, however, do not impress the American. He still persists in the opinion that human life is sacred and property too valuable to invite a carnage of the one or destruction of the other. On Change Saturday the foreigners [sic] are sure that war would be declared within a few days, and to Americans, with their sanguine temperament, thought the whole thing would blow over [sic]. A few interviews were held with a number of the leading merchants on what would follow a declaration of war between these two nations. The foregoing is the substance of the conversations. +