Blog #151 – Final Exam – Debate Over Expansion
Before, during, and after the Spanish-American War in 1898, Americans had debated 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.
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:
- To give back the Philippines to Spain would be cowardly and dishonorable.
- To let other imperial powers have the Philippines was bad business and discreditable.
- Granting the Filipinos their independence was irresponsible because they are unfit to rule themselves. They need America to civilize, uplift, and Christianize them.
- 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.
- Annexation of the Philippines would put America into a position to dominate trade with China and the rest of Asia.
- 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.
- Annexation would be so easy because we already control the islands.
- 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.
- Republicans favored annexation because it made the party look good after winning the war.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Industrial workers feared the flood of additional cheap labor which would further undercut job opportunities.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Can’t we just trade without having to annex other territories?
- 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 narrowly for the Treaty of Paris, 1898, 57 to 27, one more vote needed for the 2/3 approval.
Pretend you are a senator back in 1898. Pick a region of the country and a party (both parties were for expansion, especially Southern Democrats). Feel free to write from the POV of the Senator and give a speech either advocating expansion or opposing it, or just explain which arguments hold more sway with your Senator and why? Explain.
Here is some info on the 1898 U.S. Senate elections. Maybe choose your senator from someone who ran and look up his views on the war. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1898_and_1899_United_States_Senate_elections
I am John Daniel, a Democrat representing Virginia in the Senate. Although the majority of my party is supportive of expansion, I see no morally justified framework and I cannot, in good conscience, stand behind them. Those who want the United States to expand into other countries and territories see opportunity for economic growth, but all I see is the destruction of our most sacred values. The people in the Philippines, which many claim need to be “civilized” because they look different and have different cultures than us, are managing without United States government interference and the very last thing they need is for our military to go in and destroy their way of life. Our government taking over their land and people will not bring prosperity to them, but will damage their culture and introduce a government that has no business being there. If we take over the Philippines, American troops will have to be stationed there, invading an area that is not ours and which we have no right to take over. Our country was founded on the idea that freedom is a basic human right and should not be infringed upon. If we take any land and people who do not want to be involved with us and do not consent to our presence or government authority, we are denying them freedom in every sense of the word. If we decide to expand, the people of our annexed territories will not be the only ones harmed. Our own citizens in the states will need to pay much higher taxes in order to support a large standing army which would be required in all of our new territories for a long period of time. As we know from past experiences, our citizens do not appreciate increased taxes, especially when the money collected will not be used in a way that will directly benefit all of them in a short amount of time. Although many argue that we need the materials and resources that other areas have, the money we get from this will not be enough to make up for how much individuals will be paying to support the military.
My fellow citizens of America, there is a great evil that plagues us in these troubling times, Imperialism. Now I know what you’re thinking, here goes William James on another one of his rants. But no, this one will be one to change the lives of thousands, if not millions of people. Imperialism is a plague on this nation’s very ideals and found it was built on. This beautiful nation was founded on the need for democracy and fairness. Imperialism takes away these freedoms and rights from smaller regions, such as the Philippines. These people are being invaded, destroyed, and taken over by a foreign power, much like how we were subjugated by Great Britain all those years ago. These regions gain almost nothing, if not lose by being captivated by us. People in the Philippines aren’t legally considered citizens in America, despite their region being more populated than some of our states. We label them as uncivilized savages who cannot lead themselves, much like we did the Indians. Where did that get us? Genocide and dehumanization. What happens when these regions fight back? What happens when they refuse to be subjugated by our military? They fight back. Both America and these regions lose countless lives, only for their lives not to change, what kind of purpose is that? They’re fighting for independence from foreign powers just like we were, and we’re denying them that basic right. What is now separating us from Americans and the tyranny of Great Britain in the colonial age? We are already one of the most powerful and developed nations in the world, why would we need these puny nations’ riches? Why waste time, resources, and potentially lives for a fraction of what we already have? Why not grow ourselves even more, and build alliances and relationships with other nations instead of subjugating them to unfair and downright tyrannical relations? These are questions I ask you to consider when voting, when discussing, and when fighting for what you believe is right. After all, it’s a free country, so why take that away from other people?
As a Democrat I strongly think our nation should continue to expand its influence beyond our borders. I believe that our nation has a moral obligation to spread the values of democracy, capitalism, and Christianity to other nations, especially those that are less developed and in need of our guidance. My support for American imperialism is grounded in the belief that the United States is a superior nation, one that is destined to lead the world in all aspects of human endeavor. I believe that our nation has a duty to spread our values and way of life to the rest of the world, even if that means using force to accomplish our goals. I am convinced that American imperialism will bring prosperity and progress to the world. By expanding our influence, we can help to modernize and civilize the less developed nations of the world. We can bring them the benefits of our advanced technology, our education, our capitalist economic system, and our democratic institutions. In doing so, we will not only benefit these nations but also secure our own position as the world’s leading power. I recognize that there are some who oppose imperialism, seeing it as an exercise in aggression and domination. But I see it as a necessary and justifiable means of spreading our values and way of life. Our nation has always been a beacon of hope and freedom to the rest of the world, and we have a responsibility to continue that legacy. One key aspect to this continuation is the annexation of the Philippines. Many believe our intervention is not needed and the might of our influence harms them, but even so, to give up on our long fought work would be disgraceful. Noble battles require noble endings. In addition, the extension of our people into the Pacific would put the Orient right at our doorstep, creating vast economic opportunities for our people. Overall, the existence of a territory that is unfit to rule and the ever growing need for a more righteous nation seems to me like more than a coincidence, it is naught but destiny.
As a republican senator from New York, I feel that imperialism is very immoral and wrong, and would further hurt our dear motherland. Imperialism would mean restricting the freedom of people living in the countries we want to take over, which would strongly resemble Great Britain. After we fought so hard to be able to remove ourselves from them, why should we go back, and show the spitting image of them?And not only them, but the Spanish too! We just fought a war against the very thing that we want to push our country to do! Put our soldiers’ efforts to shame with it! They do NOT want our influence, be it as they have their own ways of life and thought, as do we. Engaging with imperialism would mean we display ourselves in a glass case and present a perpetual threat of conflict. This would stir the means for a bigger standing army, meaning heavier taxes, which many of you already struggle as of now, and more American casualties. Not only will it depressingly affect our country in the face of militarism as well as our livelihood, but where is our morality? They did not seek our influence. They do not want us to disrupt their ways. Same as how we didn’t want the redcoats to disrupt us and our way of life back when our country was finding our cause. They will keep sustaining the spark and love of their culture, and they will retaliate if we try to undermine and interfere with their lives. We as a nation, already do not handle well to the immigrants seeking refuge in our lands, and since the first wave tried pushing them further and further away. What makes you believe that this could possibly be any different? We do not become historical and heroic voyagers, but instead lousy conquistadors and dictators, for our small and closed minded thinking. Your selfish thinking is becoming more devillike and letting your greed control your judgements, instead of god and morality. As through Christ himself, derived from the holy bible 11:4 riches profit not on the day of wrath, but righteousness delivereth from death. We are being carried through this by a bunch of babies who swirl their hands in the cookie jar and now it’s stuck. Being damned to the underworld for thievery, we must rise and combat these sinners. We are biting too much and shoveling the food down our throats at this point. We must stop now before we choke and die. We must reject imperialism for the benefit of the American people and the true American founding principles.
I am Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Republican of Massachusetts. I am in favor of imperialism for many reasons. To start off, we need to annex the Philippines because it would put the US into a place to control trade with China and the rest of Asia. Not only will this open trade with Asian nations like China and Japan but the results of this will drastically increase the wealth of our country. To add on, if we do not take control of the Philippines then another country will swoop in and do it themselves. Why wouldn’t another country want to gain more commercial opportunities to become more powerful? We as a country need to become that powerful empire and to do so we need to expand overseas. Other countries like Spain and France are doing so and becoming imperialist empires so we need to do the same so we can become that powerful nation that we have desired. In addition, all in all imperialism is good for our nation. It will fuel our economic growth and will lead to the development of new outcomes and products not only in the United states but also in other countries, leading us to gain tons of not only new, but more profit. Also, the Philippines will not be in good hands if it remains under the rule of Spain. It would be utterly shameful and faint-hearted since the pre-existing economic and political opportunities in the Philippines would be lowered due to lack of motivation by the Spanish government. The Spanish are also flat out against keeping the Filipino culture present in the nation. If we acquire the Philippians their culture will stay more present. This doesn’t mean they would become citizens though, instead, they would become dependents and the 14th amendment would not apply to them. To head back to being able to trade with China, let me remind everyone that we need raw materials, and we need them NOW. We are currently producing more than we can produce and it needs to be stopped and the annexation of the Philippines will lead us to fixing this issue. Though there have been many debates on this matter, I hope I have made it more clear why you all should support imperialism and the expansion of our nation.
I am a republican senator from New York, and I believe the expansion will ruin our country and everyone we try to control. When we were a young colony controlled by the British, we made many attempts to part away from the British Empire and become independent. The feeling we had as a young developing country not independent from Britain would be precisely how we will make the Philippines feel if we chose to take over. Taking over other developing countries and Christianizing them would make them the same as everyone else. It would take away their native culture and beliefs. Taking over and changing people’s beliefs would not make us look like a strong nation, but a nation that just wants the land and doesn’t care about the people that live on it. We are taking away their liberty and freedom by trying to force these people to become white Americans and follow everything white Americans do. By following imperialism we are letting down the founding fathers who started this country and the people who fought to be a free country. Not only is the idea of imperialism completely hypocritical, but we will also be seen as hypocritical by other countries and be hated for oppressing other people. The second big issue with expanding is our military. If our land grows we will need more troops to protect these lands and to get more troops we need more money for supplies and goods. This money would initially have to come from the American people, which wouldn’t sit well with many of them. Overall, annexing the Philippines would be immoral because the thought of forcing people to do things they don’t want to do is wrong. We did it to African Americans for many years and then passed the 13th and 14th amendments, which try to make everyone equal. So how is forcing people from another country to be a part of us okay? I believe we should be an ally with the Philippines and a helping hand as they are a developing country. Rather than trying to take over, we could just lend some help if they ask for it.
I would like to preface this by clarifying that the following response contains traces of satire.
I am Senator Charles Allen Culberson from Texas. Even more specifically, I’m a southern democrat! First of all, I can’t even believe that some politicians out there are in support of the preposterous idea that the people of the Philippines can rule themselves. I mean, allowing these people to continue to exist outside of white culture, furthermore, outside of CHRISTIANITY?? How can we expect a race outside of the obviously superior white man to rule themselves? They stray away from the important values of Christianity, and if we continue to let these unfit people rule themselves, we will be doing more harm than good. If we allow them to continue on with their own culture and traditions, we risk the potential destruction of the white race!! Giving the Philippines the opportunity to one day be on our level, politically, industrially, and otherwise will inevitably lead to the downfall of the massively superior white race. Imagine what a tragedy it would be if we weren’t here to ensure that religion is used as a means of intimidation/as a way to enforce our political agenda. Worse, imagine how bad it would be if our beautiful white culture of enslaving inferior races, taking over land that isn’t ours, and a severe lack of seasoning in our food was erased? (This guy genuinely did fear that racial equality would lead to the “consequent debasement, degradation or destruction of the white race”) Our race was created to expand and conquer, which is why we should expand to the Philippines and conquer its people. I would like to address the concern that this would contribute to the pressing concern of an inferior race having equal rights. This is only a concern if we let it be one. We don’t need to grant them citizenship!! This way, we can truly establish our dominance over these people!! This creates a win-win situation! This wonderfully superior country gets to complete its god-given duty of expanding and acquiring (stealing) territory to control, while also re-establishing our dominance! To all you Nativists concerned that our pure race of people with the ability to get burned by the sun will be infected by a race that seasons their food and has proper hygiene, by not allowing them to be citizens, you won’t have to worry. This concludes my statement on why it is essential for America to annex the Philippines.
The perspective I chose to write from was obviously a white supremacist perspective, but I wanted to write from this perspective to illustrate the concept that even if it wasn’t explicitly stated, these underlying notions contributed to part of the decision to annex the Philippines. Although this perspective is suggested, the extent to which it impacted the decisions enforced by this country at that time is often overlooked. The continuation of the concept of Manifest Destiny was obviously prevalent in America’s decision to annex the Philippines, so I just wanted to highlight the extent of underlying beliefs held by American politicians at this time (especially southern democrats).
I am a republican senator from the north. I personally believe that imperialism is immoral. Contradicts the founding belief of our country to be a free nation. To take away someone’s right to govern themselves and to take away their culture is wrong and there is no reason we need to annex these countries and make them a part of ours. It just is more for us to do and there are so many other things we can work on internally in our country rather than focusing on trying to “save” and colonize other people. I also think that because our country is based on “land of the free” annexing countries makes us look like we are unable to keep our own word. This could make other countries weary about alliances with us and what not. Not only would imperialism cause need for soldiers, it would make America’s defensive winder. We would send off the strong and be left with the weak, leaving America vulnerable and more susceptible to falling. I also believe that the ones who are for imperialism have gotten ahead of themselves and are conniving bullies. Is the mission to civilization really a cover up to loot colonies of their resources, it’s selfish and greedy. Having imperialism would cause the need for a larger army which would mean we would have to tax the citizens more this would cause unrest in our nation because there is already so much poverty. This taxation would fall on the poor who already have enough issues. Then the issue of where would we find these soldiers willing to participate in such immoral unnecessary wars? Once we try to annex these countries, they will rebel. This is no different from Spain and we will end up just like them. America is supposed to be great and free, why not let other countries be the same without our influence. In general Imperialism is not what this country needs right now. There are many other ways America could be successful other than imperialism. In fact if we work on the inner workings of our country it will help us in the long run to being the greatest country in the world.