Today in History, December 6, 1904:
The Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine had been established to tell European powers to stay out…no Emperialism in the Western Hemisphere. When it was declared, the US didn’t really have the forces to back it up. But, conveniently the Royal Navy agreed and enforced it for their former adversaries.
In 1904 President Roosevelt made an addition to the Doctrine. There had been recent incidents in which European powers threatened actions against South American nations that they felt owed them money. In his annual message to the Congress, TR stated that, should any developing nations in the Western Hemisphere require intervention due to unrest or an inability to handle their financial affairs, it would be the US that would intervene, not foreign nations. This time TR had the Navy to back it up.
Many criticize Roosevelt’s assumption of police powers in the Americas as expansionist, and with the events surrounding the building of the Panama Canal, there is likely some validity to that view. However the primary objective was to ensure that foreign powers knew the US would not tolerate their use of military force in our backyard. And it kept the big kids from taking advantage of the still developing countries in the Western Hemisphere.
Today in History, June 15, 1904:
The General Slocum Disaster. The St. Mark’s German Lutheran Church charters the River Boat General Slocum to transport their teachers and children across the East River to Brooklyn to hold their annual picnic.
Keep in mind this was 1904, and Brooklyn was not part of a metropolis. One of the 1,360 passengers, a child, went to the boat’s captain to report that he had seen fire in a room below decks. The Captain responded basically with “go away kid”. By the time the crew found the fire, it was too late.
The Captain, Captain Van Schaik, decided to beach to boat on an island rather than at a dock where fire crews could have assisted with the fire. The boat’s rescue boats were tied down tight, so they couldn’t be used. The life preservers were not buoyant, so the children that donned them sank to the bottom of the river.
Over 1,000 of the passengers were either burned to death or drowned in the conflagration. The “Knickerbocker Company” was charged, but only the Captain actually served any time for the disaster. President Theodore Roosevelt fired the inspector responsible for the safety of the General Slocum.