MORAL FRONTIERS ABROAD
ALTHOUGH THE PRESIDENT concentrated in 1913 on domestic reforms that had long challenged him, the affairs of the State Department pressed upon him with a force that he could not ignore.
The country that Woodrow Wilson undertook to lead occupied a peculiar place among the nations of the world. The American vision of manifest destiny shone brightly in the minds of its citizens. The genius of inventive pioneers, exploiting the riches of a pristine land, had amassed fabulous wealth. An ideology of enterprise had grown up and was now burgeoning beyond the boundaries of the United States.
The outward thrust, having little of the force of economic necessity behind it, had not followed the grim course of imperialism that had been made familiar in the nineteenth century by overcrowded nations of Europe.
Nevertheless, venturesome missionaries and traders had caused problems in diplomacy. In penetrating areas of political vacuum they had become entangled not only with rivals from European powers but with native caciques and the local prejudices on which they thrived. Soon the United States found itself assuming responsibility for political development in the Philippines, the Caribbean region, and elsewhere. During Taft's administration, American financiers had made efforts to deal with weak foreign economies by the methods that had led to monopolies in domestic industry. Critical issues of diplomacy had arisen that made the American people listen anxiously for a statement of foreign policy from their new leader. An editorial in the New York Times observed that current foreign problems were of a gravity unknown since 1865.
Woodrow Wilson had said nothing about external affairs in his inaugural address, and very little during the campaign. One could not be certain, as in the case of domestic legislation, what his direction would be. Before leaving Princeton for the capital he said to a colleague: "It would be the irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign affairs." Until he went to Bermuda in December of 1912 he did not fully comprehend the specific foreign problems facing the nation, nor had he evolved a policy for meeting them.