April 23

Blog #96 – Imperialism Debate (1898)

Before, during, and after the Spanish-American War in 1898, Americans were debating whether or not America should go beyond its borders and become an imperial empire, much like the European countries had done during the 19th Century w/ Asia and Africa.  Below are the arguments for and against imperialism and some of its proponents and opponents.

For Imperialism

People for it: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Alfred T. Mahan, President William McKinley, Judge William Howard Taft, Admiral George Dewey, Reverend Josiah Strong, former Secretary of State William Seward, and Senator Albert Beveridge.

Arguments for imperialism:

  1. To give back the Philippines to Spain would be cowardly and dishonorable.
  2. To let other imperial powers have the Philippines was bad business and discreditable.
  3. Granting the Filipinos their independence was irresponsible because they are unfit to rule themselves.  They need America to civilize, uplift, and Christianize them.
  4. Imperialism is good for America.  It invigorates a nation and keeps it healthy.  A slothful nation will victim to those countries that maintain soldierly virtues.
  5. Annexation of the Philippines would put America into a position to dominate trade with China and the rest of Asia.
  6. We need the markets and raw materials now.  It doesn’t matter that the Philippines are non-contiguous.  We didn’t need the purchases and additional areas in the continental U.S., but look at us now!  We produce more than we can consume.
  7. Annexation would be so easy because we already control the islands.
  8. Filipinos don’t  have to become citizens of the U.S., we will treat them as dependents (like we do with the Native Americans).  The 14th Amendment won’t apply to them.
  9. Republicans favored annexation because it made the party look good after winning the war.

Against Imperialism

People against it: Author Mark Twain, former president Grover Cleveland, Speaker of the House Thomas “Czar” Reed, journalist Lincoln Steffens, Jane Addams, former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, AFL chief Samuel Gompers, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Harvard professor William James.

Arguments against imperialism

  1. Imperialism is immoral.  It repudiates our commitment to human freedom and liberty.  We instead think we know what is best for the Filipinos, and that is wrong.
  2. Nativists fear the pollution of the white American population with inferior Asian races, especially when they are allowed to move to the U.S.  Acquisition of the Philippines may require that they become citizens.
  3. Industrial workers feared the flood of additional cheap labor which would further undercut job opportunities.
  4. Imperialism puts us in the international stage of world politics and is a constant menace for war.  War carries off the physically and mentally fit and leaves behind the lesser fit.  It threatens our security, internally and externally.
  5. The “civilizing” mission some claim is really a cover for a desire to loot the colonies and their natural resources.  This misson is self-righteous and pretentious.
  6. We will inherit Spain’s task of suppressing the native peoples when they rebel.  They will NOT want our cultural ways.  We will end up like Spain – a shriveling power.
  7. Can’t we just trade without having to annex other territories?
  8. Imperialism would involve the need for a large standing army which would become a heavy tax burden.

The country chose imperialism, and the Senate voted for the Treaty of Paris, 1898, 57 to 27, one more vote needed for the 2/3 approval.

Your job:

Pretend you are a senator back in 1898 (yes, you have to do this even if you’re female – we’re time traveling, so you can pretend to be a different gender).  Pick a region of the country and a party (both parties were for expansion, especially Southern Democrats).  Which arguments hold more sway with you and why?  Explain.

300 words minimum.  Due Tuesday, April 25 by class. 

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Posted April 23, 2017 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

66 thoughts on “Blog #96 – Imperialism Debate (1898)

  1. Paige MacDonald

    As a Republican senator for the North, I would choose for Imperialism. Imperialism can help us as a country grow and prosper! Protective tariffs protect the big businesses from competition abroad. Expanding big businesses will stop large countries like China and other parts of Asia from dominating us. We can expand to many overseas countries for the sole reason of economics. Along the lines of Imperialism, we need new jobs overseas to help us grow. Our country is bursting at the seams with people and we need jobs to support these people. We can also trade with our newly annexed countries and impose import taxes on them. This will allows us to grow our big business in the North. Once we become the largest economic power on earth, them we will finally have freedom! Being a Republican, this will also help our party because it makes us look good after we won the World War! So, if none of these reasons interest you, lets look at the single countries. First off, giving the Filipinos their independence back would be unruly of us! The Filipinos cannot control themselves and would utterly fail. We need to Christianize them just like we did the Native Americans. This Christianity will help them become more human, you could say. The fourteenth amendment would also not apply to them because they are not citizens of the USA. We can put them into America and show them the ways of the West. As a country of the New World, we should be allowed to rule these countries! It is our duty to do so, just like it was our duty to complete Manifest destiny! We can also benefit other countries by showing them the light of USA. They would be willing to be international for the first time with our help. Even though we want complete power, we can help them be a leading power in the world alongside us.

  2. Gus

    I am a southern democrat who supports the movement of imperialism. Located in Georgia I believe the movement is beneficial to our country since we need to be stronger such as allowing us to control the Filipinos because they aren’t strong enough to rule themselves we need to step in and give support as a mother country. As for giving the Philippines back to Spain that would be a dumb move since that would give a greater power to Spain which is unnecessary. The idea of imperialism will allow for our country to be strong once again and bring back the sense of nationalism that was once strong in this country. I think our country took a step in the right direction by acquiring our new base in Cuba formally known as Guantanamo Bay in which allows for support in both the Caribbean and Central America if conflict were to come up. Similar to the natives we could treat the immigrants such as Cubans as we do the native Americans this could be viable with all immigrants not just the Filipinos. By controlling these savage immigrants we could teach them both the idea of self government as seen in our states as well as the idea of Christianity. As seen with our ancestors we want to kill the savage and save the man as seen with the natives

  3. Markus Butkovich

    As a Senator from the great state of Michigan, I believe that America stands in a good structural situation. With President Theodore Roosevelt at the helm of the country, we stand in a good spot, having a President with grit. He leads a great country, that was not formed on the ranks of imperialism. But it is a time for change, and we should embrace the change. America is turning towards imperialism, and for a good cause. With lots of problems such as the strength within our country. If we were to give the Philippines away to another country, we would be showing that we were backing down, in an action of being cowardly. It wouldn’t look like our country would be in our full strength. Imperialism would help out our country in other ways, such as the fact with our health, and the health of the people. Our country would be looked as a strong, healthy country that is ready for anything. We wouldn’t be intimidated, and could except or ignore the issues to come. Now, as a democrat from the north, I look differently at the republicans. They only care about themselves and their own party, not the intentions of the country. With their annexation, they only were thinking about themselves, and how they would perform as a party. After the war, they cared about themselves, not the country even though we just ended. With us, the democrats, I believe we will make markets out of the acquired Philippines. They have goods that could be useful to us, and with the purchase of continental United States property, we could make back the buck that we spent. It will prove that the purchases and expansions were worth the time, money, and effort we spent to get the land that will effect our country as a whole.

  4. Stav D

    As a southern democratic senator, I am for the expansion of American imperialism to the Philippines. I take great pride in this country, and to see us give up the Philippines at such a time would be extremely dishonorable and make our strong nation appear cowardly. We took over the Philippines and therefore have no moral obligation to give them up. Not to mention that if we give up the Philippines, nothing is stopping the other imperial powers from coming in and taking the island over themselves, which would show a lack of our responsibility to our obligations to the Filipinos. The last thing we would want is for a different imperial power to make the Philippine islands their own, and maybe even communistic. Also, these people need to be Americanized or else its irresponsible to let them be an independent nation. We attempted Americanization of the Filipinos by spending lots of money on improving the island and providing them with more necessities. We introduced the islanders to religious freedom, free schooling, new food and clothing, and even taught them English. To leave them now as an independent nation though would be highly irresponsible as we have not finished Americanizing the island. Also, it was healthy for our rapidly growing nation to implement imperialism in other parts of the world because it gave us strength, power, and a strong sense of competition. To those who oppose the great imperial empire that we could build, I must ask why? The fear that Nativists share of the inferior Asian race is discreditable by the sheer fact that the 14th amendment does not have to extend to the Philippine islands. These people will not become US citizens and therefore will remain independent in some senses. And to those who question Annexation, you must look at the facts. Annexation of the island would be extremely simple and easy as we already control the islands, and doing so would put us into a position to dominate trade in Asia. This would further boost our economy and help us grow our country and become a world dominator in trade.

  5. Lizzie Potocsky

    I am a Republican senator from the North. I find myself to be against imperialism. Personally, I think that if we try and get involved with this system, it will backfire on our country. First of all, it is immoral to extend our power to places, such as the Philippians. Our nation stands on individual rights and liberties. To take over other countries against their will is a terrible idea and goes against everything that America stands on. If a country wants our help, we will assist, but to forcefully expand would not end well. Imperialism is putting America on a steady path to war. Stretching into the Eastern hemisphere will entangle our country in more disputes. Furthermore, while a pro-imperialism person may argue that imperialism will benefit our economy by expanding the markets, American workers will suffer. Annexing more territories will lead to a flood of industrial workers working for cheap wages. There will be even less job opportunities than there are currently. Many suggest annexing the Philippians to gain us a trade partner. I believe that we can still trade with other nations without dominating control over them. Some even argue that annexation will be a simple task, as we have control over the islands. However, we would still have to send in a force to take over. Taking over any land is NOT a simple task. One cannot just walk into a place and expect to control it. Not only will it be a challenging task, it will also be an expensive one. To say that we are civilizing these nations is ridiculous. Every place has different cultures and practices. Imagine if the roles were swapped and the Philippians were trying to gain control over America. While it is unrealistic, we would not want them robbing us of our practices and beliefs. If those in the Philippians want our assistance, they will find a way to get it from us. However, they deserve independence. Remember, we were once suffering under British rule. We worked for our independence. We should let the Philippians enjoy their independence if that is what they wish for. All in all, it is appalling that the topic of imperialism even has to be argued. America is founded on being able to live a free of oppression.

  6. Ian Birley

    Southern Democrat, Georgia.

    Imperialism is, perhaps, the most opportune idea that we could utilize at this moment for many reasons. Going down this endeavor is the best way to truly establish America as the greatest nation on the world stage. Keeping the Philippines will give us influence in Southeast Asia to give us greater economic power in the region. Furthermore, allowing Spain to influence Cuba would be a violation of the Monroe Doctrine. We need to sphere these nations so as to build up American interests and give the weak nations such as the Philippines some government. Engaging in imperialism is a very easy task since we control the region. The Spanish American war is beneficial to our nation as we are freeing a suppressed people and asserting dominance in this Western Hemisphere. From this point onwards, the world will look at us, waiting to see what we do, so they may follow suit. There are downsides to being a world power, but the political leverage far outweighs these downsides. A point often overlooked is that imperialism is necessary to keep a nation strong and united. So long as we are benefitting ourselves, everyone will support us. Theodore Roosevelt says that imperialism is important to invigorate a nation and keep it healthy. I wholeheartedly agree. A nation that doesn’t know its purpose will create slothly virtues amongst its populace and create a weak society. We need to keep the United States from heading down a dangerous hedonistic, self-deprecating path. The best way to do this is to take action in reminding the United States people how powerful of a nation we are when we are United. And how strong of a people we become when we work towards a goal. We become unstoppable, and that is a very good thing.

  7. Joshua Salter

    Hi, I am senator Salter from the great state of Alabama, I represent the southern democratic party, I am here to use this last vote to push the vote count to 2/3 in favor of imperialism. Our country needs to keep imperialism to keep the peace around the world, and to keep asserting our dominance, for example in the Phillipines, we shouldn’t leave there, we need to stay there. One reason we need to stay there is because it allows us to make another ally and to have military bases, stations and ports set up which will help our economy with trade. Another reason we need to stay there is because they need us to help them build up their country and they cannot do that on their own. Not only am I for Imperialism because of our military implications, but I am also voting for Imperialism because of the positive impact it can have on our economy, for example raw materials and markets have the potential to sky rocket our economy, so being involved in more countries will give us the opportunity for more markets and raw materials. Another reason that I am for imperialism, is that it will give us an opportunity to spread the religion of Christianity into the Philippines and other countries if we keep imperialism going after this vote. Finally, my last reason that I am voting for Imperialism is because it will give us a straight path into Asia. For example, trade with China will be much bigger and better, if we stay in the Philippines, this will also expand our economy because of China’s market of Raw Materials it has, allowing us to trade with them to also expand our economy and make us more of a world power. These are some reasons why I am using this last vote, to vote for Imperialism, to make the U.S. more dominant and to expand our economy in the U.S.

  8. Josh Myers

    As a southern democrat, I would be in favor of imperialism. I would support imperialism because I feel that the United States needs to continue to become stronger so it does not fall behind the other European nations. We would fall behind because many of the European countries are expanding into either Africa or Asia. If the United States does not keep up, we would fall behind and become inferior. As an American, it is important for our county to be better at everything than any other country. America is naturally the best and it should remain that way. Expanding would not only help us be the best at everything, it would also help our economy. We could gain stronger trade partners, as well as expanding the amount of our natural resources. Imperialism would also help us gain new allies and become a very powerful nation. The people in these countries would be easy to move to our side (as we are helping them). As far as the arguments that imperialism is immoral, I would feel that we are actually helping the other countries. We would be helping the citizens of the other countries gain a higher standard of living. By entering these countries we would help both their economies and governments. As a superior nation, the United States could help to share out success with smaller, less developed countries. Imperialism would be beneficial to many. I do not believe that imperialism is oppressing the smaller nations, instead I believe that the United States would be helping these countries. Imperialism as a whole would be very helpful to the United States. Our economy would be better off, because of the better trade and natural resources. Also, we need to stay ahead of the game so we can be better than the competing European countries.

  9. Celia Crompton

    I am a Republican senator from the northeast, where economic interests are strong. As a senator from this region, it is my job to defend these interests and pursue opportunities that will improve them, such as the annexation of the Philippines. Letting other countries take control of the Philippines means bad business (argument 2), we have learned throughout the past 50 years that competition is valuable and great for economic prowess. Like great men such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, we must seize every opportunity for money making and growth. Another argument that personifies my fight for imperialism in the US and Philippines is that annexing it will help the US dominate trade with China and other countries in Asia (Argument 5). This puts the US in a higher position to export goods and will make our economy boom and reduce chances of a depression in the future like ones in the past like previous panics over exploited markets because we will not have to rely on only our intercontinental trade. This will also provide more raw materials from those countries for us to mass produce more products that we can sell and aid American companies in increasing their markets (Argument 6). Overall I believe imperialism and annexation of the Philippines will be beneficial to the US in terms of economic advancement and opportunity. Expanding our markets and seizing the Philippines before other imperialistic countries are in the heart of our country’s best interest. In addition, the US already controls most of the Philippines, so it would not cost us much of our resources in order to annex it. This means that this is a win-win situation in terms of resources expelled and resources gained. In summary: It is one hundred percent necessary for the US to become a more imperialist nation and to annex the Philippines.

  10. Michael Wainer

    I believe that at this point in time I would be a Southern Democrat. As a senator I will be one of the strongest supporters of imperialism in the country. We need to imperialist these countries because it won’t only help us, but will also help them. These countries need help to govern and become successful as a part of our democracy and as a state in our country. We will be safe from the new citizens because we will force them into our democracy and our western culture so they can understand how to behave. We will Christianize them to not only save us but also to save them. Once we have taught them our ways, they will once again be pure in the eyes of the lord. We will be able to save them from eternal damnation. Imperialism will also provide many advantages to our own country. It will provide economic advantages because trade will be free amongst our countries. Now for reason ms that can benefit our military and our safety. For one if we give up the Philippines then it becomes pointless to have ever taken it from the Spanish in the first place. Along with this it would be a good way for us to add bases. With imperialism we could add naval bases overseas closer to our enemies that would make us more protected from threats of war. We also always need to be expanding. If we don’t expand and dominate other countries will. As they do this they will become more powerful than us. This could result in us someday being dominated and imperialized. We fought against the British to get rid of this over 100 years ago, so why should we let it happen to us again today.

  11. Ny'dea Terrell

    I am a senator in the West whose opinion will not matter to most after saying that I do not agree with pro-imperialism nor anti-imperialism. I am most concerned with economics and morals when discussing the topic of imperialism. To start with, our resources are already being stretched and we would over extend ourselves with trying to help a developing country. Despite the possible reward of obtaining more resources, it would lessen ours by having to give resources to a developing country. Also it would hurt the developing economy in the Philippines, for example, by withdrawing from a possible source that could benefit their trade in the future.

    Moreover it would be morally wrong to impose ourselves as their older siblings, hovering over them, just as the British did in the beginning of America. We are trying to force our laws and policies on a country that is trying to build their own. It would not make sense logically to enforce laws that serve for a large population, that would not be necessary for a small country. However my political peers that are pro-imperialism might argue that we would navigate our advice to better than how Britain advised us. As Americans who ventured into this land and built a country, we know what it is like to be in the Philippines shoes. We would only apply the necessary authority to steer them in the proper way for their country to flourish.

    Lastly, if we would annex the Philippines it would be seen by other countries as an okay to also join or nation. Personally I would not mind others joining or nation, for they could build our economy, just as they did in the West. I saw the work myself done by the Asians who came to our nation to find work and the productivity of others than can occur from more than one race. Again others will argue that it takes away from others who struggle to find work in our countries, which is also true.

    In all I see the good and the bad from venturing into a country that multiple countries tries arguing for. It could bring much prosperity, but also a large amount of anguish. For a country that has this much debate over, I take it as a warning sign to fade away from.

  12. Nick Capinjola

    I am a republican senator from the north. After looking at both sides of this intense argument it is in my best judgment that it is better for Our great country to not get involved in imperialism. I Feel as though imperialism is dangerous to get involved in because we would be meddling in the world’s problems. We put our national security and diplomacy at risk. To involve in imperialism requires us to have a large standing army, which in fact does increase the tax rates on our people greatly. This is why we should not take over territories unless a country has previously asked us to help. We are doing no good by simply taking land against the will of the country. It is not our job to go into other countries without their authority, this goes against what we proudly proclaim as Americans. The everyday American taxpayers are not benefiting from imperialism and they would be the ones paying for it. Trading and economic gain can work with a strong independent nation not controlled by us, bringing great economic opportunity without taking countries without their authority. There are many reasons why imperialism is not good on an economic standpoint for our country but it is also immoral. We as Americans do not know what is best for other countries, in fact me may hurt them more by involving ourselves without their consent. We can build and help our allies, which benefits both us and them, but this is not what imperialism will do, in fact it may do the opposite. This is why, based on the facts stated, I sway towards not involving America is imperialism. Imperialism is not what America stands for, which is why I stand with the argument that it is not good for our great country.

  13. Lindsey Nedd

    As an American senator I see the tough times that have fallen upon our great country, the fact that we produce more than we consume is an obvious issue that requires a solution in a somewhat timely fashion. I may be the senator of Virginia and a democrat, but I am extremely opposed to imperialism, I am just flabbergasted that our beloved country would ever even consider something so preposterous. While imperialism would make the majority of our economic issue disappear , the moral of the United States would be altered forever, we would become hypocrites. How could we ever pride ourselves on liberty , while at the same time deciding that some country across the ocean is unfit to rule themselves. We only want the Philippians as a colony for our own selfish needs, many say we would treat them like the Native Americans…. We have not only taken away their home, we have killed more than half of their original population, we killed their scarid animals, and imprisoned them in what we call reservations. Europeans first started migrating to the New World to escape religious prosecution, who are we to try and Christianize the native people of the Philippines when it’s in our First Amendment that we have the right to free religion, so why would our colony not receive the same privilege. Many who support imperialism forge that we participated in a revolutionary war because we did not like that we couldn’t rule ourselves, how do we expect other countries to be a colony under us without rebellion at some point.

  14. Brooklyn Scott

    Andrew Carnegie

    We as Americans have always been thinking of advancing forward. However I don’t believe that advancing past our country would do us any good. We still have many problems at home we need to fix. Together we need to give back to our country and help the less fortunate instead of trying to gain land elsewhere. We would bring in many new immigrants and we need to keep our jobs with our own men. While I would benefit from the cheap, easy labor, I want to give jobs to the men who deserve it. If we continue with this trend of imperialism then many people in our country will start to rebel. Many will stop working at my factories, stop voting and even begin to riot, violently. People could start to burn government buildings and even burn and destroy my factories. Then the government would have to retaliate back with force which is not the best for the country. If we fought back with force many people including myself would be devastated if many innocent people died doing what is right. If we were to take in new immigrants then they would have to adapt to our American ways. Some may not want to adapt of change and may rebel.Many will probably be outcasted like we did with the Irish and the Germans. I’m not saying that they should be treated with respect or not I’m just saying how they will be treated. If we were going to develop new land and people we would have to increase our military to protect our territories overseas. That would increase the tariffs we already have and we would have to use some of our factories or my factories to create weapons. We would have to even create some sort of way to bring more men into the army if we ever go to war protecting our territories.

  15. Eric

    I, Eric Ajluni, a Southern Democrat of Georgia, am in favor of our countries interest to expand and support imperialism. The 5th point is probably the most influential to me when it comes to showing my support for imperialistic desires. If we were to annex the Philippines, it would open up many economic opportunities for America. This is because we would be right in the prime position to conduct massive trade with Asia and notable China. Not only would this move be great for trade, but for simply acquiring raw materials as well. Following our Depression of 1893 just a few years earlier, boosting up our economy with this power move would be beneficial for our success and prosperity. We really don’t have anything to lose, which leads into the next convincing argument made. That would be seventh point, which explains how easy annexation would be because of how we already control the islands. This is very important, as it shows we are simply in a nothing to lose, everything to gain situation. This would benefit them as well, as they are simply a mess and can get a lot out of some American guidance and leadership. Not only would this help our economy, but it is another easy opportunity to fulfill our duty of “Manifest Destiny” throughout the world by spreading Christianity and American ideals to land we already control. We already control these islands, so giving the Philippines back to Spain would not only be counterproductive towards our goals, ambitions, and duties as America, but it would also make us look weak on the world stage. While some proclaim that the concept of American imperialism is immoral, that statement simply doesn’t make sense nor does it apply. As explained in the third point, coming into these islands would help them just as much as it would help us, making it an efficient and prosperous relationship. It’s for reasons like this that I believe America should stay in pursuit of imperialism.


  16. Lindsay Martin

    If I was a northern republican senator, I would believe the argue for imperialism. Being a republican, I would want to do everything I can to protect big businesses. I would favor these protective tariffs, to try and protect all the big business from competitors. Industrialism would be able to spread over the world, and we could secure more markets worldwide. It could also help with our trade. If we expanded, trade would become easier with Asian countries. Tons of business owners utilize trade with other foreign countries, so when our trade is able to expand, the big businesses will be able to profit immensely. We could use this as an opportunity to expand our navy, and become the naval superpower other countries strive to be. If we expand overseas, we would have national greatness. Our party could also benefit from the good press. If the Treaty of Paris is ratified, right after the war ended, that would look good for our party. If we let our competitor countries take the land from us, our country looks weak. They would have an advantage over us, land is power.
    Now that other countries view us as a world power, it is necessary we uphold that image and use it to its full potential. We have a large (and growing) population, our industries are booming, and our military has improved vastly. This would make it easier for us to annex these countries. Being an imperialist nation would benefit not only us, but the countries that we annex. They are being bestowed with our great democratic system and advanced technology. For example, the Philippines are obviously unfit to lead their own government, so when we step in to help, everybody benefits. So if we adopt an imperialist attitude, we can uphold our image as a superpower, and work to become one of the strongest leading powers worldwide.

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