[Editor: This article, about the visit of the Great White Fleet (US Navy) to Australia in 1908, was published in The Townsville Daily Bulletin (Townsville, Qld.), 20 August 1908.]
The Pacific Handshake.
“Now let the ties of kinship prevail.” — George III. on welcoming the first United States Minister to London.
The invitation to the American Fleet to visit Australia may be accounted one of the most important happenings in our history. The wisdom of the invitation was emphasised by its acceptance, and touching the latter no greater compliment was ever paid us than when President Roosevelt decided to divert the fleet from its originally planned course to “take in” Auckland, Sydney, Melbourne, and Albany in that order.
The importance of the visit may perhaps be measured by the importance of the voyage, for this involves that mighty issue — the future control of the Pacific. Great Britain maintains a two-standard fleet — but in the Atlantic only. The value of a fleet is not so much in its tonnage and gunnage as in what it has to protect. The British Navy as a whole is incomparable, but “State-split” it lessens very much, and “ocean-split” it becomes a question whether it is quite up to the requirements of the Empire. Great Britain can defend the Atlantic; she can defend the Pacific just as certainly; whether she could, if pressed in both oceans, defend her possessions in each equally is a grave question.
If the entire British Empire were united on the sea against the world it would be 400,000,000 people — 80,000,000 white and the rest “various” — against all possible combinations. But it is wise to reflect that it is not united; in other words, 40,000,000 people carry the Empire on their backs — the Weary Titan! — and the opposing builders are those sea-Powers whose potency, already great enough, is developing.
The Anglo-Japanese treaty can at best be a makeshift, simply because the Anglo-Saxon and the Asiatic cannot be eye-for-eye partners unless by way of passing expedient. Disguise it as we may, Japan must have an ambition to dominate the Pacific, and behind Japan, so far as we may read the fates, is China, which, some day or other, will be as awake as her island co-power. It is pardonable that the East should have this desire, but it also is incumbent on us to see what it means for Australasia.
Either the United States or Japan must gain the ascendancy in the chief of the oceans, and with Japan we cannot possibly amalgamate, while with America we can. The United States is bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, for despite the fact of its continental strains, it is still the “Saxon” with the Celt for its principal flavoring. And it speaks English, has English ideals, is bound to England as England is to it, and cannot, even if it would, repudiate the common destiny.
For these reasons we can welcome the fleet with all the heartiness of close kinship and great national interest. The United States fleet may go as it has come, but never again will America leave the Pacific wherein lies its oversea “Empire.”
It has been said that Australia’s welcome of the fleet is inspired largely by the belief that the United States would, if necessary, defend the King’s Pacific possessions. Be that as it may, the Washington Government would hardly view a menace to Australasian integrity with indifference. The Philippines possession has Asia on its north; if it had Asia on its south in addition it would be sandwiched and its fate sealed. In the inscrutable ways of Providence strange things are worked that puzzle the generation that beholds them. Who, going back to the sinking of the Maine, would imagine that it affected Australasia? But the Maine caused the war between Spain and the United States, and that war made the Philippines an American possession.
So far as another flag can help us it is well that this position is as stated. We could hardly afford to see the Sun-flag 2000 miles off Port Darwin, but we can welcome the Stars and Stripes in that location, as it means a sentry in behalf of the English-speaking race.
The Townsville Daily Bulletin (Townsville, Qld.), 20 August 1908, p. 7
Australasia = Australia and New Zealand; in a wider context, it can refer to Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, and neighboring islands
Maine = USS Maine, a ship of the United States Navy; the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor (Cuba) in February 1898, possibly due to an accident, but American newspaper claims of Spanish involvement increased tensions between Spain (the colonial power in Cuba) and the USA, eventually leading to the Spanish-American War (April-August 1898)
See: “USS Maine (1889)”, Wikipedia
Providence = (usually capitalized) God, or benevolent care from God; care, guidance, or protection as provided by God, or as provided by coincidental circumstances or Nature
Roosevelt = Theodore Roosevelt Jr. (1858-1919), also known as Teddy Roosevelt, President of the United States of America from 1901 to 1909
Stars and Stripes = the flag of the United States of America; a reference to the United States of America (in the context of the American Civil War, the term may be used in contradistinction to the Confederate States of America)
Sun-flag = the flag of Japan, which features a red disc, being a representation of the Sun, on a white background (a related but different design, the Naval Ensign of Japan, features a red rising sun with red sun rays; it is known as the Rising Sun Flag, and has been used by Japan as a war flag or battle flag)
Weary Titan = a reference to England (and, by extension, to Great Britain), being tired, wearied, or worn out by the weight of responsibility of being a world power; the phrase appears in the poem “Heine’s Grave” (1867), written by the English poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), which includes the text “England, my country … she, the weary Titan … staggering on to her goal; bearing on shoulders immense … the too vast orb of her fate”
See: 1) Matthew Arnold, “Heine’s Grave”, Bartleby.com
2) Matthew Arnold, “Heine’s Grave”, Poetry Atlas
[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]