The Great White Fleet. Its Voyage Around the World 1907-1909.

A balanced account of sardonic admiration for what was intended as a show of naval strength and yet often regarded as President Roosevelt’s political publicity stunt by much of the western world. It also touted the “Yellow Peril” despite a peaceful visit to Japan.

p. 40, giving a flavor of the European tension: The French press, busily hatching war scares of its own, had no use for anyone else’s. It called Roosevelt a demagogue, imperialist, and militaristic megalomaniac. The old America of freedom, democracy, and peace was no more, having given away to violence, chauvinism, and the religion of supremacy. There was little doubt that the cruise would end in war between France and the United States. [Shades of 2017-20 are fairly obvious.]

p. 57, on departure from Hampton Roads: Goodbyes were saved for Sunday, when there was hardly time for them amidst the last-minute details. During a final inventory of supplies, someone discovered a missing item. A boat hurried ashore and returned before sundown with ten crates of Bibles. The oversight, though rectified, would bring stern comments from the pulpit.

p. 66-67: Guests saw the machine, carpentry, tailor, shoemaker, and sailmaker shops, the last providing canvas targets for artillery practice. The sick bays were “a bit too small,” but the printing shops were large and busy places where ships’ newspapers were going to press and some of the Trinidad party menus were already locked in their forms…. Plays and minstrel show were in rehearsal. Each ship had a portable wooden stage, shaped to fit into the point of the bow on the main deck, and storerooms filled with sets and costumes.

The correspondents approved of the “high type of literature” which they found in the libraries. “Volumes on etiquette were everywhere,” and also travel books, “so that our boys in blue might converse intelligently with person they meet in foreign cities.” Admiral Mahan and Herbert Spencer were represented, as well as John Fiske’s Cosmic Philosophy, a book which associated power politics with the Divine Will. On the lighter side were Kipling, Stevenson, and Dickens, as well as Alger’s Do and Dare, McCutcheon’s Graustark, Major’s When Knighthood was in Flower, Tarkington’s Gentleman from Indiana, and Zane Grey’s Spirit of the Border.