The Writings of Carl Schurz/To President McKinley, May 9th, 1898


May 9, 1898.

Notwithstanding the brilliant victories of our arms, upon which I heartily congratulate you, it is and will remain of great importance to this Republic that it should have the confidence and good will of foreign nations. The manner in which we plunged into this war has created much distrust and ill feeling on the continent of Europe. But that in effect may be retrieved if we remain true to our promise that this is to be a war of deliverance and not one of greedy ambition, conquest, self-aggrandizement.

But if, as the newspapers foreshadow, the Administration takes advantage of the war to press the annexation of Hawaii now—that annexation having been violently discountenanced by the public opinion of the country before the war began—it is certain that the confidence of the world in the unselfishness of our policy will be destroyed. It will be in vain to say that for the purposes of the war we must have a naval station in Hawaii, for the world knows that we own Pearl Harbor, which we can use as a naval station without annexing Hawaii. The annexation of Hawaii under such circumstances would therefore merely be an acquisition of territory by means of this war. From that time on it would be useless to protest that this is not a war of selfish ambition and conquest.

I hope and trust that a rapid succession of victories will shorten the conflict and bring on an early peace. But, in any event, we may be involved in dangerous complications which may render the good opinion of the world of very high importance to us. And I beg your kind pardon for suggesting that it would, in my humble judgment, be a hazardous policy to risk the loss of that good opinion and to give new reason for distrust, by taking at this critical period a step which, if it is to be taken at all, can safely wait.