National Geographic : 1907 Jan
AN AWAKENED CONTINENT TO THE SOUTH OF US* By HON. ELIHU ROOT, SECRETARY OF STATE A LITTLE less than three centuries of colonial and national life have brought the people inhabiting the United States, by a process of evolu tion, natural and with the existing forces inevitable, to a point of distinct and radi cal change in their economic relations to the rest of mankind. During the period now past the energy of our people, directed by the formative power created in our early population by heredity, by environment, by the struggle for existence, by individual independence, and by free institutions, has been devoted to the internal development of our own country. The surplus wealth produced by our labors has been applied immedi ately to reproduction in our own land. We have been cutting down forests and breaking virgin soil and fencing prairies and opening mines of coal and iron and copper and silver and gold, and building roads and canals and railroads and tele graph lines and cars and locomotives and mills and furnaces and school-houses and colleges and libraries and hospitals and asylums and public buildings and store houses and shops and homes. We have been drawing on the resources of the world in capital and in labor to aid us in our work. We have gathered strength from every rich and powerful nation and expended it upon these home undertak ings; into them we have poured hun dreds of millions of money attracted from the investors of Europe. We have been always a debtor nation, borrowing from the rest of the world, drawing all possible energy towards us and concen trating it with our own energy upon our own enterprises. The engrossing pursuit of our own opportunities has excluded from our consideration and interest the enterprises and the possibilities of the outside world. Invention, discovery, the progress of science, capacity for organi zation, the enormous increase in the pro ductive power of mankind, have acceler ated our progress and have brought us to a result of development in every branch of internal industrial activity marvelous and unprecedented in the his tory of the world. WE HAVE A NEW ROLE TO PLAY Since the first election of President Mc Kinley the people of the United States have for the first time accumulated a surplus of capital beyond the require ments of internal development. That surplus is increasing with extraordinary rapidity. We have paid our debts to Europe and have become a creditor in stead of a debtor nation; we have faced about; we have left the ranks of the bor rowing nations and have entered the ranks of the investing nations. Our surplus energy is beginning to look be yond our own borders, throughout the world, to find opportunity for the profit able use of our surplus capital, foreign markets for our manufactures, foreign mines to be developed, foreign bridges and railroads and public works to be built, foreign rivers to be turned into electric power and light. As in their several ways England and France and Germany have stood, so we in our own way are beginning to stand and must continue to stand towards the industrial enterprise of the world. That we are not beginning our new role feebly is indicated by $1,518,561,666 of exports in the year 1905 as against * An address before the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress, Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday, November 20, 19o6, specially revised by Mr Root for publication in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.