Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Imperialism Abroad and at Home

A. Rise of Imperialist Sentiment – advocates of imperialism in the US were not large in number, but because many of them held government office, their influence was much greater than their numbers should have indicated.

B. Extending the benefits of Western Civilization--or "The White Man's Burden." White power elites--both in the United States and in Europe--felt justified in seizing control of foreign lands because the felt their countries, and their race, were the products of the most advanced civilization in the history of man, and this achievement legitimized their stewardship of the rest of the world.

1. Hawaii – coup of the native ruling government engineered by white sugar and fruit growers on the islands, including one Sanford Dole.

a. Role of Marines in overthrowing government – US minister to Hawaii brought in Marines to assist with armed takeover of the legally constituted government; this will become the overarching theme of US foreign policy for the next century—the use of US military might to protect the interests of and benefit US business interests. Analogy to the most recent attacks on the US

2. Spanish-American War – the concept of Manifest Destiny writ large

a. The “Yellow” Press – was this war sparked over the circulation war between two NYC newspapers?  The fight between William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World to out scoop one another added pressure on high government officials to enter a war with Spain. (Hearst quote – “You supply the stories, I’ll supply the war

a. “Liberating” Cuba – Cuban nationals had long been attempting to liberate themselves from Spanish domination; in 1895 this attempt gains widespread notice in the US press; accusations of atrocities by “Butcher” Weyler of the Spanish army

b. “Remember the Maine” – recent evidence concludes that one of two things happened; either coal dust ignited, or a boiler exploded—in either case, it was not blown up by Spanish forces

c. “Liberating” the Philippines – Admiral Dewey was ordered by Naval Undersecretary Theodore Roosevelt (in his last act before resigning from government to volunteer to fight in Cuba) to attack Spanish forces in Manila Bay for strategic purposes. This attack was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams; while Filipinos hoped this would quickly mean independence for their country, its perceived importance for the dreamed of empire of the United States meant something else.

B. TR and the Rough Riders – the Rough Riders were TR’s dream of a new America, and what the new American society should be. He recruited members from a variety of white ethnic groups (pointedly excluding African Americans and Orientals), who were led by a coterie of Anglo-Saxon officers, with him at the helm.

1. The Legend of San Juan Hill – TR and RR never charged up San Juan Hill, which they were long credited with doing (and for which he was recently awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor); instead, the foolhardy charge of the RR was up Kettle Hill, which was less strategically important and which they did not take alone, but in conjunction with the all-black 24th Cavalry, which after taking Kettle Hill had to then take the more important, and more heavily fortified, San Juan Hill after an all-white regiment from New York refused orders to do so.

2. TR’s behavior after the war – in his published reminiscences after the war, TR gave slight credit to the 24th, although he alleged that he had to fire upon a soldier because of cowardice; the further he was removed from the events, however, the less the 24th received any credit for this battle. In fact, TR did little to correct the perception that he led his men up San Juan Hill, rather than Kettle Hill.

C. The Tightening Grip of Jim Crow--Jim Crow did not instantly come into being at the end of Reconstruction in 1877; rather, it was instituted by the gradual erosion of African American rights and increased levels of state-sanctioned, white-on-black violence.

1. Lynch law--as the United States was beginning to assert itself abroad, whites were asserting their racial dominance with the use of murder and terror--often with the assistance of local law enforcement, or at the very least their looking the other way.

a. Wilmington Race Riot (1898)--Wilmington, North Carolina was a prime example of this. In 1896, a "Fusion" party of local Populists and Republicans (the latter with a sizeable African American membership). Lacking support from North Carolina's governor to address local issues, the Fusion party came apart, and the local Democratic Party, made up of white business owners, turned to white racism and terror in an attempt to cower the African American population in town. During the 1898 campaign for state offices, Democrats used white supremiscist groups like the White Union and the Red Shirts; with the Democratic victory in November, whites took license to see that Wilmington African Americans "were put in their place."

D. The “White Man’s Burden” – the belief that it was the role of the Anglo-Saxon “race” to enlighten all of the masses, whether the wanted enlightenment or not

1. Manifest Destiny and Race Destiny – Southern politicians, who largely opposed the war with Spain, immediately saw the parallels between the drive for imperialist conquest and racism, and the convoluted reasoning for the denial of voting rights for a conquered people


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