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The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire
The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire
The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire
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The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire

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The bestselling author of Overthrow and The Brothers brings to life the forgotten political debate that set America’s interventionist course in the world for the twentieth century and beyond.

How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. Sometimes we burn with righteous anger, launching foreign wars and deposing governments. Then we retreat—until the cycle begins again.

No matter how often we debate this question, none of what we say is original. Every argument is a pale shadow of the first and greatest debate, which erupted more than a century ago. Its themes resurface every time Americans argue whether to intervene in a foreign country.

Revealing a piece of forgotten history, Stephen Kinzer transports us to the dawn of the twentieth century, when the United States first found itself with the chance to dominate faraway lands. That prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the nation.

The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and William Randolph Hearst pushed for imperial expansion; Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, and Andrew Carnegie preached restraint. Only once before—in the period when the United States was founded—have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity.

All Americans, regardless of political perspective, can take inspiration from the titans who faced off in this epic confrontation. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world grows from this one. It all starts here.

Data di uscita24 gen 2017
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Stephen Kinzer

Stephen Kinzer is the author of many books, including The True Flag, The Brothers, Overthrow, and All the Shah’s Men. An award-winning foreign correspondent, he served as the New York Times bureau chief in Nicaragua, Germany, and Turkey. He is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, and writes a world affairs column for the Boston Globe. He lives in Boston.

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  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    A history of the American imperialism debate of the late 19th and early 20th century and the wars that went along with it. Kinzer, much like his earlier excellent books Overthrow and All the Shah's Men, has written an accessible history of one of the darker, lesser-known events of American history. Members of the cult of Theodore Roosevelt will be angered or shocked at his pre-Presidential behavior and ideas. The nod to Mark Twain in the title is that, a nod, as he is certainly discussed in the book, but is not central to it. Excellent writing, and most definitely recommended to history buffs and interventionists everywhere. Bully!
  • Valutazione: 4 su 5 stelle
    This book traces the history of the debate that followed U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War -- a debate, as the author points out, which is largely forgotten today, but is still deeply relevant to American foreign policy making. One side of the debate, the imperialist side, wanted to take over the islands which had been won from Spain -- Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. The other, the anti-imperialist side, wanted to give these lands their independence, forswearing any increase in US territory. Both sides had very major figures lined up in support. For the imperialists, Theodore Roosevelt led the charge, backed by President McKinley. For the anti-imperialists, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, Booker T. Washington and Carl Schurz were leaders, with Mark Twain eventually becoming the major spokesman, and William Jennings Bryan an ambiguous supporter. The disagreement was about the role of the US in the world, and about what kind of country we wanted to be. Kinzler makes it clear that the imperialists were in tune with their times, while the anti-imperialists were deeply attached to traditional American values.The book was fun to read, full of vivid quotes and strong personalities. It was also highly informative -- I did not know how destructive to the Philippine people was the US war against those who wanted Philippine independence, nor had I any idea how close the anti-imperialists came to winning the debate. This debate has had long consequences, Kinzler argues in an abbreviated final section that traces the rise and spread of American imperialism (or multi-nationalism, or what you will).Kinzler clearly has a strong point of view, even if you aren't familiar with some of his other works -- "Overthrow", and "The Brothers", for example. But his facts and his narrative are compelling. Well worth reading.
  • Valutazione: 4 su 5 stelle
    I really enjoyed reading this book, which wasn't so much about Roosevelt and Twain precisely as it was a general history of the the expansionist and anti-expansionist movements that Roosevelt and Twain were a part of. The author makes the argument that this was the fundamental question of what the US would become. The anti-imperialists argued that conquering foreign lands would degrade the fundamental principle of liberty that the country was founded on. The imperialists argued that the US economy had expanded to the point where it was necessary to secure foreign markets for American goods. This argument would play itself out into the argument for and against American intervention overseas that is still being held today.
  • Valutazione: 4 su 5 stelle
    The internal debate within the United States about how the country should act around the world, to either avoid or intervene in foreign entanglements, has been going on for over a century. However, neither the arguments nor the situations that bring them on have changed over that time. Stephen Kinzer in his book The True Flag looks at when this debate began back at the turn of the 20th Century when the United States looked beyond the Americas in the “Age of Imperialism”.The political and military history before, during, and after the Spanish-American War both inside and outside the United States was Kinzer’s focus throughout the book. Within this framework, Kinzer introduced organizations and individuals that opposed the actions and outcomes promoted by those more familiar to history, namely Theodore Roosevelt, as the United States was transformed into a “colonial” power. Yet, while this book is about the beginning of a century long debate it is more the story of those who through 1898 and 1901 argued against and tried to prevent the decisions and actions that today we read as history.Although the names of Roosevelt and Mark Twain catch the eye on the cover, in reality Kinzer’s focus was on other important figures on either side of the debate. The biggest promoter of “expansionist” policy was Henry Cabot Lodge, Roosevelt’s long-time friend, who gladly let his friend become figure that history would remember. However, Lodge’s fellow senator from Massachusetts, George Frisbie Hoar was one of the fiercest opponents and critics of the “expansionist” policy that Lodge and Roosevelt promoted. One of the enigmatic figures of the time was newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who openly advocated and supported war in Cuba but then turned against the expansion when the United States fought the insurrection in the Philippines. Businessman Andrew Carnegie was one of many prominent individuals who founded the American Anti-Imperialist League to work against the United States ruling foreign territory. Amongst those working with Carnegie were former President Grover Cleveland and imminent labor leader, Samuel Gompers, but the strangest bedfellow was William Jennings Bryan. In Bryan, many believed they had the person in the political sphere that could stem the tide against the “expansionist” agenda but were twice stunned by the decisions he made when it was time to make a stand.Kinzer throughout the book would follow the exploits and opinions of both Roosevelt and Twain during the period covered, however there was is a stark difference amount of coverage each has in which Roosevelt is in the clear majority. It wasn’t that Kinzer chose not to invest page space to Twain, it was that he did not have the material to do so. Throughout most of the period covered, 1898-1901, Twain was in Europe and out of the social and political landscape of the United States. However, once Twain stepped back onto U.S. soil his pen became a weapon in the cause against imperialism that Kinzer documents very well. Unfortunately for both the reader and Kinzer, Twain only becomes prominent in the last third of the book whereas Roosevelt’s presence is throughout. This imbalance of page space between the books’ two important figures was created because of marketing, but do not let it create a false impression of favoritism by Kinzer on one side or another.History records that those opposed to the United States’ overseas expansion lost, however ever since the arguments they used have been a part of the foreign policy debate that has influenced history ever since. The True Flag gives the reader a look into events and arguments that have shaped the debate around the question “How should the United States act in the world?” since it began almost 120 years ago. This book is a fantastic general history of an era and political atmosphere that impacts us still today, and is a quick easy read for those interested in the topic.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    Interventionist or Isolationist? How should the US behave in the world? In 1898, Americans were confronted with this question... and we've been debating ever since. Kinzer brings us a vivid cast of characters, headed by Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge and William Randolph Hearst on one side of the debate, and Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Andrew Carnegie on the other. A fascinating look at the history underpinning present US involvement in world affairs, as well as an opportunity for the reader to decide whether or not we should modify our approach and in what way. Do we still believe the arguments put forward for one or the other? Where does true safety lie? Has US military might turned us into a guard dog? Or a bully? Highly recommended and fascinating read.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    1898 was a terrible, terrible year.A ship boiler room explosion turned into a pretext for war across the globe that a reluctant President McKinley who had seen the losses of the US Civil War first hand, did not want.The rise of superiority biases against inferiors, perceived as such for their race, color or religion.The fuel of mass media and a press that sold the news and bought any rumor.The jingoistic dithyrambs of Theodore Roosevelt and their counter-discourses by Mark Twain, a man who had seen the miseries, hidden by pumps and circumstances, of Empire through his world travels.Mr. Kinzer's short and lively rendition of these debates shows that history repeats itself as an ever lasting parody.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire--an excellent, accessible, engaging history of America's transition from a separate, almost isolationist, nation to an international force. Covers basically the events leading to and through the Spanish-American War in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and the changes thus wrought in the nation's view of itself, the national government's use of economic and military power, and the consequences for the nation and the world a hundred years later. What I would have liked, and what I thought the title promised, was more about Mark Twain's role in the resistance to this expansionism. Twain gets about 10 pages altogether of the 250 page book.
  • Valutazione: 3 su 5 stelle
    This book explores the strains of American foreign policy which veers over the course of history between imperialist and interventionist goals and isolationism. Kinzer argues that these two positions have a long history, and the tension between them has repeated since at least the turn of the twentieth century.  The imperialist urge emerges with the outbreak of the Spanish American War and the United States taking control of foreign territories for the first time in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. The interventionists argue that the peoples of these lands will find freedom under American control, seemingly at odds with the democratic ideals of our own Revolution.  Anti-imperialists then as now try to get Americans to cling to these principles and restrain their militarist impulses, with Mark Twain the most prominent voice.  Theodore Roosevelt stands as the icon of imperialism in this book, although Kinzer describes Henry Cabot Lodge as the actor working behind the scenes of the imperialist cause, up to and including engineering Roosevelt's rise to the presidency. 
  • Valutazione: 4 su 5 stelle
    5477. The True Flag Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire, by Stephen Kinzer (read 17 Jun 2017) This is an easy-to-read account of the fight to prevent the U.S. from becoming an empire. It tells of the fight against Teddy Roosevelt and Senator Lodge to prevent the U.S. conquering the Philippines. Instead of supporting the fight for independence the U.S. in a vicious war literally conquered a people who had thought we would help them win independence. It is a sad story. In the concluding chapter the author expatiates on various events of the 20th century, some of which discussion is questionable. For instance, he seems to blame us for becoming involved in the fight against Hitler! But till the last chapter the book is commendable and well-told, though the events related are sad.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    At the start of the twentieth century America faced a choice that has still not been resolved at the start of the twenty-first. Divided about whether to pursue an expansionist agenda — mostly to the benefit of commerce and industry, or to follow an isolationist course, believing that “every nation must be ruled by the consent of the governed”.Stephen Kinzer’s The True Flag is a brilliant history of the expansionist beginnings of United States foreign policy, chronicling the invasions of Cuba, Hawaii, Guam and, most importantly, The Philippines. It is a bloody history that we have been doomed to repeat over and over — to the benefit of the American industrialist but the everlasting lose of the moral high ground. Mark Twain described our involvement in the Philippines as a “quagmire” —a term that would be used many times in our history of involvement in foreign wars — from Viet Nam to Iraq and Afghanistan.While Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain get cover billing, the story really belongs to the prime mover of expansionist policy, Henry Cabot Lodge who mentored Roosevelt and plotted the future of American foreign policy. Opposed by Carl Schurz, Andrew Carnegie and, most importantly, William Jennings Bryan, Lodge’s “large policy” set a course that America seems to continue to this day.The True Flag is an important new history of the beginnings of America’s debate on imperialism and highly recommended.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    In classroom studies one usually hears only of the final actions taken by our country's military decisions. In this book the author brilliantly sets forth not just conclusions but all the background and completely all of the actions and beliefs of each of the various American Executives and Congressional leaders leading leading up to the invasion of Cuba. Brilliantly done and without wasted words. Especially enlightening is the author's mentioning all four examples of American Imperialism together in one book: Cuba, Hawaii, Guam and the Philippines. Other treatises tend to treat them separately. Apparently the author has written a series of separate books likewise covering Iran, Turkey, Rwanda, Nicaragua Guatemala and the Middle East.other events. I look forward to reading them. This is history as it should be written ---- showing interconnected historical events.
  • Valutazione: 2 su 5 stelle
    This book is best described as a narrow volume of Political history covering the period from 1898 to 1902, highlighting the country's focus on the Spanish-American war and question of how to deal with the islands of the Philippines. Very little attention is given to Puerto Rico, Guam, and Hawaii. Cuba is given barely additional treatment. The author's presentation of the politicking done by Senator Lodge (including the catty and unnecessary aside notifying the reader that Mrs. Lodge was conducting an affair), President McKinley, Mark Hanna, and William Jennings Bryan is riveting. His shallow caricature of Teddy Roosevelt is startling when one considers the wealth of writing and speeches available to even an amateur researcher. Twain's transition to the anti-imperialist faction is explained clearly, as are the arguments of faction-members Carl Schurz and Andrew Carnegie.The author's assessment of American intervention outside of this instance, however, lacks nuance (not to mention comparative supporting evidence): his broad conclusion is that intervention is always corrupt or corrupted and that opposition to the flaws is to be admired. The book ends with a 21-page condemnation of the 112 subsequent years of American foreign policy, which at one point sincerely wonders that if FDR had lived longer, whether his personal relationship with Stalin could have averted the Cold War [No it could not, nor would it have. See Mitrokhin archives].This book would be salvaged by Kinzer quitting his US analysis in 1902 and giving a summary history of the territories removed from Spain to the present, leaving to the reader the question of under what circumstances and for what duration should the US take guardianship of non-contiguous foreign soil, perhaps even hinting at the temporary custody of West Germany and Japan as alternate cases. But it does not.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    This history focuses on the key period in American history right at the turn of the 20th century, when America was in the process of deciding to expand its territory beyond the North American continent. The central players were Theodore Roosevelt and the imperialists on the one hand, and Mark Twain and the anti-imperialists on the other. The imperial impetus was the continuation of the Manifest Destiny principle which had propelled the country to occupy the territory of the 48 states. In 1898 the country was faced with the key decision: would it remain within the American borders or would it expand across the seas to become an imperial (or colonial) power? The author describes in detail the key personalities and events which resolved the issue, which as we know was the victory of expansion, led by the irrepressible Roosevelt. It is an interesting story, set right at the cusp of the American Century. And the author fleshes out the eventual implications, with his description of the succeeding years and succeeding Presidents and statesmen, and how they followed (or resisted) the impetus to imperialism.
  • Valutazione: 4 su 5 stelle
    This well-conceived book tells of America's ambivalence with policies of expansionism and intervention in the world. Throughout the twentieth century America's foreign policy has included periods and episodes of active intervention ranging from imperialistic-style colonialism to covert and overt attempts at regime change. This activism on the world stage has seen countervailing times of isolationism when Americans eschewed involvement in affairs beyond our borders. Kinzer marks the beginning of this contradictory sense of proper policy with the Spanish-American War of 1898. There was a thirst for war among some thought leaders including most notably journalist William Randolph Hearst, the ambitious rising star in politics Theodore Roosevelt and his close ally and mentor Henry Cabot Lodge. Spanish human rights atrocities in Cuba and the Philippines, inflamed by the so-called yellow journalism of the era, prompted America to declare war on Spain on humanitarian grounds and to bring the blessings of American-style democracy to oppressed people. What began as a war of liberation fairly quickly changed to colonial occupation of the conquered islands. At the same time, the country determined to annex the Hawaiian Islands, an action seemingly driven by commercial interests that had taken hold on the islands.The factors behind this expansionist outlook following the war did, indeed, seem to lie in the chance for economic gains for America. American business had become so productive that there was worry that without new markets the growth of our economy would stall. What better way to open up trading possibilities than to take control of entire nations of people? Those who favored expansionism also looked at the rise of colonialism of the European powers and feared that without similar policy on our part America would be cut out of foreign markets. This policy was clothed in a morally disingenuous notion that it was the obligation of the Anglo-Saxon nations (the so-called "White Man's Burden") to bring the blessings of their advanced cultures to primitives, a manifestation of the overt racism that existed at the time.Against this tide of American imperialism was the strongly held view by many that colonialism was antithetical to the values and principles that distinguished America from the rest of the world. America had broken the bonds of its colonial master to found a nation based on the principle of consent of the governed and certainly the imposition of authority over others was repugnant to the nation's values. The Anti-Imperialists organized a campaign to have America's military victories result in independence and self-governance for the people freed from Spain's yoke. Leading lights in this movement were the industrial magnate Andrew Carnegie, populist democrat William Jennings Bryan, the notable political figure Carl Schurz and Mark Twain. Bryan was thought by this alliance to be the key to prevailing as his popularity across the country made him potentially the next president. Bryan betrayed the aims of these advocates by taking a conciliatory stance in the hopes of political gain. President McKinley was equivocal on the matter and in the end went along with the wishes of the expansionists. What followed was a disastrous occupation of the Philippines in which insurgents seeking independence fought American troops for several years in a campaign featuring torture and indiscriminate killing and pillage of civilians by the American occupiers. Throughout the remainder of the century (and up to the present) American policy has shifted between an activist role in world affairs and isolationism. Before both world wars the sentiment of overwhelming numbers of the American public had been to stay out of the affairs of the rest of the world. After World War II American fears of communism marked a steady utilization of interventionism, sometimes covert and sometimes military. The idea of "threats" against which our engagement must be brought to bear seems to persist even after the decline of the other major super power of the world. Most of these interventions have turned out badly for the United States for the same reasons as in the Philippine occupation: arrogance, ignorance or blindness to the cultural and political ethos of other countries, and the unwillingness of the American people to suffer long term or large scale sacrifices in pursuit of foreign policy. There is a case to be made as well that underlying most if not all foreign engagements is not the altruistic spread of our morally superior "way of life", but rather the assurance of preserving and advancing the economic interests of our nation. Moreover, the idea that foreign wars are necessary to "preserve our freedom" is a cynical trope used to bring the people to a willingness to go along.In one sense, American expansionism predates our forays into the world scene. America was expansionist since its inception albeit within the boundaries of our portion of the continent. This continental expansion was always at the expense of others who occupied the land, was decidedly racist and unquestionably motivated by hoped for economic gain. By the late 1890's our own territory had been completely occupied and it would not be a terrible leap of logic to strive to continue in this vein on the world stage. Perhaps strangely, internal expansion did not seem morally indefensible to most, but expansion beyond our national borders raised qualms about its incongruity with widely held core American values.A word should be added about the book's picture of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is today admired in many respects for his activism, particularly with regard to conservation and his efforts to curtail monopolies and trusts. But, his belligerence and war mongering are quite unappealing. Roosevelt believed that war was necessary and salutary for society, that it was an integral component of a "manly" character. He shared the view of many that the superiority of Anglo-Saxon justified the imposition of western values on the "lessor races." Such view is abhorrent to our values today.The author carries the story of American interventionism up to the present and his sentiments, with which I agree, are that great care and consideration should be applied to decisions to intervene abroad and that it would be wise to utilize the lessons of history in these circumstances.
  • Valutazione: 5 su 5 stelle
    A book which should be read by not only all Americans but people from other countries - so as to not be lobotimized by mainstream media.

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The True Flag - Stephen Kinzer

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For Marianne


How should the United States act in the world? Americans cannot decide. For more than a century we have debated with ourselves. We can’t even agree on the question.

Put one way: Should we defend our freedom, or turn inward and ignore growing threats?

Put differently: Should we charge violently into faraway lands, or allow others to work out their own destinies?

Our enthusiasm for foreign intervention seems to ebb and flow like the tides, or swing back and forth like a pendulum. At some moments we are aflame with righteous anger. Confident in our power, we launch wars and depose governments. Then, chastened, we retreat—until the cycle begins again.

America’s interventionist urge, however, is not truly cyclical. When we love the idea of intervening abroad and then hate it, we are not changing our minds. Both instincts coexist within us. Americans are imperialists and also isolationists. We want to guide the world, but we also believe every nation should guide itself. At different times, according to circumstances, these contrary impulses emerge in different proportions. Our inability to choose between them shapes our conflicted approach to the world.

Eminent figures have led the United States into conflicts from Indochina to Central America to the Middle East. Others rose to challenge them. They were debating the central question of our foreign policy: Should the United States intervene to shape the fate of other nations? Much of what they said was profound. None of it was original.

For generations, every debate over foreign intervention has been repetition. All are pale shadows of the first one.

Even before that debate broke out, the power of the United States was felt beyond North America. In 1805 a fleet dispatched by President Thomas Jefferson defeated a Barbary Coast pasha who was extorting money from American vessels entering the Mediterranean. Half a century later, President Millard Fillmore sent a fleet of black ships to force Japan to open its ports to American traders. Those were isolated episodes, though, and not part of a larger plan to spread American power. After both of them, troops returned home.

Civil war enveloped the United States from 1861 to 1865. Over the decades that followed, Americans concentrated on binding their national wounds and settling the West. Only after the frontier was officially declared closed in 1890 did some begin to think of the advantages that might lie in lands beyond their own continent. That brought the United States to the edge of the world stage.

In 1898, Americans plunged into the farthest-reaching debate in our history. It was arguably even more momentous than the debate over slavery, because its outcome affected many countries, not just one. Never has the question of intervention—how the United States should face the world—been so trenchantly argued. In the history of American foreign policy, this is the mother of all debates.

As the twentieth century dawned, the United States faced a fateful choice. It had to decide whether to join the race for colonies, territories, and dependencies that gripped European powers. Americans understood what was at stake. The United States had been a colony. It was founded on the principle that every nation must be ruled by the consent of the governed. Yet suddenly it found itself with the chance to rule faraway lands.

This prospect thrilled some Americans. It horrified others. Their debate gripped the United States. The country’s best-known political and intellectual leaders took sides. Only once before—in the period when the United States was founded—have so many brilliant Americans so eloquently debated a question so fraught with meaning for all humanity.

The two sides in this debate represent matched halves of the divided American soul. Should the United States project power into faraway lands? Yes, to guarantee our prosperity, save innocent lives, liberate the oppressed, and confront danger before it reaches our shores! No, intervention brings suffering and creates enemies!

Americans still cannot decide what the Puritan leader John Winthrop meant when he told his followers in 1630, We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us. He wanted us to build a virtuous society that would be a model for others! Wrong, he wanted us to set out into a sinful world and redeem it! Forced to choose between these two irreconcilable alternatives, Americans choose both.

The debate that captivated Americans in 1898 decisively shaped world history. Its themes resurface every time we argue about whether to intervene in a foreign conflict. Yet it has faded from memory.

Why has the United States intervened so often in foreign lands? How did we reach this point? What drove us to it? Often we seek answers to these questions in the period following World War II. That is the wrong place to look. America’s deep engagement with the world began earlier. The root of it—of everything the United States does and seeks in the world—lies in the debate that is the subject of this book.

All Americans, regardless of political perspective, can take inspiration from the titans who faced off in this debate. Their words are amazingly current. Every argument over America’s role in the world grows from this one. It all starts here.


White and Peaceful Wings

Where better to launch a patriotic uprising than Faneuil Hall in Boston? Colonists had gathered amid its Doric columns to protest the Boston Massacre and plot the overthrow of British rule. Abolitionists had denounced slavery from its stage. It is a lodestone of American liberty, a cathedral for freedom fighters.

That is why a handful of eminent Bostonians chose Faneuil Hall as the place to begin a new rebellion on the sunny afternoon of June 15, 1898. Like all Americans, they had been dizzied by the astonishing events of recent weeks. Their country had suddenly burst beyond its natural borders. American troops had landed in Cuba. American warships had bombarded Puerto Rico. An American expeditionary force was steaming toward the distant Philippine Islands. Hawaii seemed about to fall to American power. President William McKinley had called for two hundred thousand volunteers to fight in foreign wars. Fervor for the new idea of overseas expansion gripped the United States.

This appalled the organizers of the Faneuil Hall meeting. They could not bear to see their country setting out to capture foreign nations. That afternoon, they rose in protest.

Several hundred people turned out. On all sides could be seen the well-known faces of leaders of good causes among us, one newspaper reported. According to another, Nearly all the settees on the floor were filled, while the benches in the gallery were well fringed with ladies.

At three o’clock, Gamaliel Bradford, a prominent civic leader and proud descendant of the Pilgrim governor William Bradford, called the meeting to order. His speech was both a warning and a cry of pain.

Over the past year, Americans had grown enraged by the harshness of Spanish colonial rule in Cuba. Most cheered when Congress declared war on Spain. They were thrilled when President McKinley sent troops to help Cuban revolutionaries fighting to expel the Spanish. Before long, though, some in Washington suggested that instead of allowing Cuba to become independent, as promised, the United States should take the island and rule it. Then they began talking of seizing Puerto Rico and even the Philippines. Imperial fever had broken out and was spreading. This stirred Bostonians to bitter protest.

We are not here to oppose the war, Bradford told the Faneuil Hall crowd. We are here to deal with a far graver issue, to insist that a war begun in the name of humanity shall not be turned into a war for empire, that an attempt to win for Cubans the right to govern themselves shall not be made an excuse for extending our sway of alien peoples without their consent.… We are to be a world power, but the question is whether we shall be a power for beneficence or malfeasance. Everything is against the policy of conquest.

The next speaker was another New England patriarch, Charles Ames, a theologian and Unitarian pastor who had traveled the world promoting humanitarian causes. He warned that the moment the United States seized a foreign land, it would sacrifice the principles on which the Republic was founded.

The policy of imperialism threatens to change the temper of our people, and to put us into a permanent attitude of arrogance, testiness, and defiance towards other nations.… Once we enter the field of international conflict as a great military and naval power, we shall be one more bully among bullies. We shall only add one more to the list of oppressors of mankind.… Poor Christian as I am, it grieves and shames me to see a generation instructed by the Prince of Peace proposing to set him on a dunce’s stool and to crown him with a fool’s cap.

At the very moment that these words were shaking Faneuil Hall, debate on the same question—overseas expansion—was reaching a climax in Congress. It is a marvelous coincidence: the first anti-imperialist rally in American history was held on the same day that Congress voted, also for the first time, on whether the United States should take an overseas colony. That day—June 15, 1898—marked the beginning of a great political and ideological conflict.

The Faneuil Hall meeting was set to end at five o’clock. In Washington, the House of Representatives scheduled its decisive vote for precisely the same hour.

*   *   *

Every member of Congress understood that history was about to be made. President McKinley had decided that the United States should push its power into the Pacific Ocean and that, as a first step, it must seize the Hawaiian Islands. Some Americans found the idea intoxicating. Others despaired for the future of their country. One of them was the Speaker of the House, Thomas Reed, a figure so powerful that he was known as Czar.

Reed, a blunt-spoken Maine lawyer who had sought the Republican presidential nomination just two years before—and lost in part because of his anti-imperialist views—was repelled by the swaggering nationalism that had taken hold of Congress. Annexing Hawaii seemed to him not simply unwise but absurd. He told a friend that the United States might as well annex the moon. So deep was Reed’s anger, or depression, that he could not bring himself to preside over a vote that might lead to annexation. On the morning of June 15 he sent word that he would not appear.

Empire was the traditional way for rising states to expand their power, and in 1898 the American military had the means to make its imperial bid. Yet the United States had been founded through rebellion against a distant sovereign. It was pledged above all to the ideal of self-government. For a country that was once a colony to begin taking colonies of its own would be something new in modern history.

The most potent arguments against imperial expansion were drawn from American scripture. According to the Declaration of Independence, liberty is an inalienable right. The Constitution’s opening phrase is We the People. George Washington sounded much like an anti-imperialist when he asked, Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? So did Thomas Jefferson when he insisted, If there be one principle more deeply written than any other in the mind of every American, it is that we should have nothing to do with conquest. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed at Gettysburg that governments should be of the people, by the people, for the people. Later he declared, No man is good enough to govern another man without the other’s consent.

To all of this, the imperialists had a simple answer: times have changed. Past generations, they argued, could not have foreseen the race for colonies that consumed the world at the end of the nineteenth century. Nor could they have known how important it would be for the United States to control foreign markets in order to ensure stability at home. In 1863, Lincoln himself had admitted that dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The same principle, expansionists argued, applied in 1898.

One of Speaker Reed’s deputies gaveled the House of Representatives to order at midday on June 15. The debate began with due gravity.

Since that fateful shot was fired at Sumter, Representative Champ Clark of Missouri said as it began, a greater question has not been debated in the American Congress.

The first speakers argued that bringing Hawaii into the United States would be a step in the march of human progress. This annexation is not a conquest or a subjugation of others, but a continuation of our established policy of opening lands to the colonial energy of the great colonizing nation of the century, argued Richard Parker of New Jersey. To pass up such a chance, he concluded, would be antediluvian and thorough stupidity.

Edwin Ridgeley of Kansas agreed. Civilization has ever moved westward, and we have every reason to believe that it will ever so continue, he reasoned. We need not, nor do I believe we will, enter into a conquest of force but, to the contrary, our higher civilization will be carried across the Pacific by the white and peaceful wings of our rapidly increasing commerce.

Several congressmen asserted that the United States had no choice but to expand overseas because its farms and factories were producing more than Americans could consume and urgently needed foreign markets. The United States is a great manufacturing nation, William Alden Smith of Michigan reasoned. Eventually we must find new markets for our energy and enterprise. Such desirable territory is fast passing under the control of other nations. Our history is filled with unaccepted opportunities. How much longer shall we hesitate?

Congressmen not only declaimed on that fateful day, but also debated, sometimes with considerable wit. One of their arguments was over the role of American missionaries, who had arrived in Hawaii during the 1820s and set in motion the process that led to this debate. Albert Berry of Kentucky said Hawaiians had benefited immensely from their influence and inspiration.

When the Americans sent missionaries there for the purpose of civilizing the natives, he asserted, they found them in an almost barbarous condition, and set to work to bring about a condition of civilization.

That was too much for one opponent of annexation, John F. Fitzgerald of Massachusetts—the same Honey Fitz who would go on to become mayor of Boston and, more famously, grandfather to John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy. A Boston ditty held that Honey Fitz can talk you blind / On any subject you can find. This day, his subject was the role of missionaries.

My colleague, Fitzgerald said, emphasized the pleasure that he felt in voting for annexation because of the fact that the islands had been redeemed from savagery by the devotion of American missionaries. In thinking the matter over, I have come to the conclusion that the native Hawaiian’s view of the Almighty and justice must be a little bit shaken when he sees these men, who pretend to be the exemplars of Christianity and honor, take possession of these islands by force, destroy the government that has existed for years, and set up a sovereignty for themselves.

The day’s most vivid exchanges were about a delicate but serious matter: the extreme foreignness of native Hawaiians. Both sides used racial arguments. Annexationists said the islanders’ evident savagery made it urgent for a civilizing force to take their country and uplift them. Opponents countered that it would be madness to bring such savages into union with the United States, where they could corrupt white people.

Hawaiian religion is the embodiment of bestiality and malignity that frequently lapses into crimes of lust and revenge, reported one opponent of annexation, John Rhea of Kentucky. The various legends of their gods abound in attributes of the most excessive animalism and cruelty. Lewdness, prostitution, and indecency are exalted into virtues.… There exists today upon those islands, Mr. Speaker, a population for the most part a mixture of Chinese with the islanders, thus making a homogenous whole of moral vipers and physical lepers.

That brought Albert Berry back to his feet. I want to say to the gentleman, he retorted, if he would look about the streets of the capital of Washington, he would see that there is more immorality south of Pennsylvania Avenue than there is in the whole of the Hawaiian Islands.

If I knew that to be true, I would blush to herald it on the floor of this House, Rhea replied. But I deny it, Mr. Speaker. I deny that here in the capital city of the greatest government in the world, American womanhood has fallen to such a standard. Oh, for shame that you should speak such words!

I did not know that the gentleman ever blushed, Berry shot back.

Expansionists in Congress and beyond were visionaries seized by a radically new idea of what America could and should be. They saw their critics as standing in the way of progress: small-minded, timid, paralyzed by fears, maddeningly unwilling to grasp the prize that history was offering. A certain conservative class, Freeman Knowles of South Dakota lamented, would stand in the way of the glorious future and ultimate destiny of this Republic.

The eloquence of annexationists was matched by that of their opponents. One after another, these doubters rose to warn against the imperial temptation. Some of their speeches suggest that they realized they were likely to lose that day’s vote on taking Hawaii. They knew, however, that this was only the opening skirmish in what would be a long struggle. They were speaking to Americans far beyond Washington—and far beyond 1898.

Time and again these troubled congressmen returned to their central theme: the American idea prohibits colonizing, annexing foreign lands, taking protectorates, or projecting military power overseas. Setting out to shape the fate of foreign nations, they argued, would not only require great military establishments and inevitably attract enemies, but also betray the essence of America’s commitment to human liberty. We are treading on dangerous ground, warned Adolph Meyer of Louisiana.

Meyer had been born into a family of German immigrants and was one of the few Jews in Congress. He had fought in the Confederate army, commanded Louisiana’s uniformed militia, and acquired a reputation as a forceful orator. On the afternoon of June 15, 1898, he lived up to it.

With monarchical governments, or governments only nominally republican but really despotic or monarchical, this system of colonies, however burdensome, however tending to conflict, may be pursued without a shock to their systems of government. But with us the case is different. Our whole system is founded on the right of the people—all the people—to participate in the Government.… Take this first fatal step and you cannot recall it. Much error we have corrected. Much that may hereafter be you can correct. But when this step is taken, you are irrevocably pledged to a system of colonialism and empire. There are no footsteps backward.

This was a debate over the very nature of freedom. Many Americans wished to see its blessings spread around the world. In 1898 they began disagreeing passionately on how to spread those blessings.

Anti-imperialists saw themselves as defenders of freedom because they wanted foreign peoples to rule themselves, not be ruled by Americans. They saw the seizure of faraway lands as blasphemy against what Herman Melville called the great God absolute! The center and circumference of all democracy! His omnipresence, our divine equality!

Expansionists found this preposterous. They believed that concepts like freedom, equality, and self-government had meaning only for developed, responsible nations—that is, nations populated and governed by white people. Others, they asserted, were too primitive to rule themselves and must be ruled by outsiders. By this logic, dusky lands could only be truly free when outsiders governed them. If natives did not realize how much they needed foreign rule, and resisted it, that was further proof of their backwardness.

No one promoted this view more colorfully or to greater effect than Theodore Roosevelt, the assistant secretary of the navy. In a letter to his fellow imperialist Rudyard Kipling, Roosevelt scorned the jack-fools who seriously think that any group of pirates and head-hunters needs nothing but independence in order that it be turned forthwith into a dark-hued New England town meeting. As the national debate intensified, he came to embody America’s drive to project power overseas.

Mark Twain believed Roosevelt’s project would destroy the United States.

Roosevelt and Twain moved in overlapping circles and knew each other, but geography separated them for years. Twain traveled and lived abroad for much of the 1890s. In Fiji, Australia, India, South Africa, and Mozambique, he had been appalled by the way white rulers treated natives. His frame of historical and cultural reference was far broader than Roosevelt’s. He saw nobility in many peoples, and found much to admire abroad—quite unlike Roosevelt, who believed that the man who loves other countries as much as he does his own is quite as noxious a member of society as a man who loves other women as much as he loves his wife. Instead of seeing the United States only from within, Twain compared it to other powers. He saw his own country rushing to repeat the follies he believed had corrupted Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. That way, he warned, lay war, oligarchy, militarism, and the suppression of freedom at home and abroad.

These adversaries—Roosevelt and Twain—were deliciously matched. Their views of life, freedom, duty, and the nature of human happiness could not have been further apart. World events divided them even before their direct confrontation began. When Germany seized the Chinese port of Kiaochow (later Tsingtao) in 1897, both men were outraged, but for different reasons. Twain opposed all foreign intervention in China; Roosevelt worried only that Germany was pulling ahead of the United States in the race for overseas concessions. Roosevelt considered colonialism a form of Christian charity. Twain pictured Christendom as a majestic matron in flowing robes drenched with blood.

Even though Twain’s most famous novel, Huckleberry Finn, is full of coarse language and portrays a runaway rascal as a hero, Roosevelt acknowledged it as a classic. He did not care for much else that Twain wrote, however, and especially disliked A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Twain treated the Knights of the Round Table as objects of lusty satire. Roosevelt had revered them since childhood and was appalled.

Yet in intriguing ways, Roosevelt and Twain were remarkably similar. Both were fervent patriots who believed the United States had a sacred mission on earth—though they defined that mission quite differently. Both were writers and thinkers as well as activists. Most important, both were relentless self-promoters, born performers who carefully cultivated their public images. They loved to preach, reveled in the spotlight, and could not turn away from a crowd or a photographer. Acutely aware of each other’s popularity, neither publicly denounced the other. Among friends, though, both were free with their feelings. Roosevelt said he would like to skin Mark Twain alive. Twain considered Roosevelt clearly insane and the most formidable disaster that has befallen the country since the Civil War.

Roosevelt was not the conceptualizer or organizer or leader of the imperialist movement. Twain filled none of those roles for the anti-imperialists. Nonetheless they would become the most prominent, most admired, and most reviled spokesmen for their opposing causes. In mid-1898, Roosevelt was waiting impatiently for a chance to leap into history. Twain was planning his return to the United States. The stage was set for their confrontation.

Anti-imperialists enjoyed their country’s light footprint in the world. They hated war and believed liberty was America’s greatest gift to humanity. Imperialists considered war a purifying, invigorating, unifying force. In their imagined future, humanity would be guided by a virtuous United States and disciplined by American military power.

National unity, race, the meaning of liberty, the place of the United States in the world and in history—all of these grand themes shaped the debate that gripped Americans in 1898. At stake was nothing less than what kind of nation the United States would be in the twentieth century and beyond.

*   *   *

Anti-imperialists who convened at Faneuil Hall on that June 15 were abuzz with two pieces of exciting news. Reports had arrived from the Philippines that three days earlier, at a ceremony outside Manila, the Filipino rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo had unfurled a new flag, led a chorus in singing a newly composed national anthem, and proclaimed a new nation: the Philippine Republic. Filipinos had declared an end to three and a half centuries of Spanish colonial rule.

This electrified American anti-imperialists. They insisted that as a freedom-loving nation, the United States must immediately recognize Philippine independence. This development added urgency—and, in their eyes, immense moral weight—to the anti-imperial cause.

The day’s morning newspapers also carried reports of another thrilling declaration. The prairie firebrand William Jennings Bryan had delivered a powerful speech in Omaha that seemed certain to bring the debate over imperialism to the center of American life. Until this moment, no major political leader had spoken out against the rush to empire. Bryan had been the Democratic nominee for president in 1896 and was thought likely to run again in 1900. He was one of the most popular figures in the United States and arguably the country’s most spellbinding orator.

Anti-imperialists in Boston immediately recognized the value of Bryan’s support. Many of them were prosperous businessmen, lawyers, professors, philosophers, and aesthetes. Bryan was the opposite: a barnstorming, rabble-rousing populist beloved by millions of farmers, immigrants, and poor people. His speech in Omaha echoed several that had been given in New England salons, but it was delivered to a huge crowd by one of the nation’s leading politicians. That took the anti-imperial cause into the American heartland.

Bryan began not with an exposition of history but with an apocalyptic warning rooted in his Christian fundamentalism: Jehovah deals with nations as He deals with men—and for both, decrees that the wages of sin is death!

History will vindicate the position taken by the United States in the war with Spain.… If, however, a contest undertaken for the sake of humanity degenerates into a war of conquest, we shall find it difficult to meet the charge of having added hypocrisy to greed.

Is our national character so weak that we cannot withstand the temptation to appropriate the first piece of land that comes within our reach? To inflict upon the enemy all possible harm is legitimate warfare, but shall we contemplate a scheme for the colonization of the Orient merely because our ships won a remarkable victory in the harbor of Manila? Our guns destroyed a Spanish fleet, but can they destroy that self-evident truth, that governments derive their just powers, not from superior force, but from the consent of the governed?

As organizers of the Faneuil Hall meeting took their places on the stage shortly before three o’clock that afternoon, they had reason to believe they were riding the crest of history. They could not imagine that Americans would wish to capture the Philippines after Filipino patriots had proclaimed independence, or that they would sully their national honor by seizing Puerto Rico, subjugating Cuba, or annexing Hawaii. The sudden emergence of Bryan as an ally seemed proof that multitudes were on their side.

When the anti-imperialist meeting was gaveled to order on the afternoon of June 15, the House of Representatives in Washington had been debating the annexation of Hawaii for several hours. By four thirty, both sessions were drawing to a close. The climactic speech in Boston was delivered by one of the city’s most eloquent lawyers, Moorfield Storey.

How can we justify the annexation of Hawaii, whose people—outside the small fraction now kept in power by us—are notoriously opposed to it? Storey demanded. Let us once govern any considerable body of men without their consent, and it is but a question of time how soon this Republic shares the fate of Rome!

After Storey finished, one of his comrades came to the podium and read a four-part resolution. This was a historic moment: the first time an anti-imperialist resolution was presented to a public meeting in the United States. It echoed through air that once carried the defiant words of Samuel Adams and John Hancock, and later those of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.

Resolved, that a war begun as an unselfish endeavor to fulfill a duty to humanity by ending the unhappy situation in Cuba must not be perverted into a war of conquest.

Resolved, that any annexation of territory as a result of this war would be a violation of the national faith pledged in the joint resolution of Congress which declared that the United States disclaimed any disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction, or control over Cuba except for the pacification thereof, a disclaimer which was intended to mean that this country had no selfish purpose in making war and which, in spirit, applies to every other possession of Spain.

Resolved, that the mission of the United States is to help the world by an example of successful self-government, and that to abandon the principles and the policy under which we have prospered and embrace the doctrine and practices now called imperial is to enter the path which, with other great republics, has ended in the downfall of free institutions.

Resolved, that our first duty is to cure the evils in our own country.

Following a suggestion from the audience, a fifth clause was added, directing organizers of the meeting to name a committee charged with contacting like-minded groups in other cities—echoing the committees of correspondence of the revolutionary period, which were also organized at Faneuil Hall. The resolution was adopted by acclamation. This was the first time Americans had joined to oppose the idea of overseas expansion. It marked a portentous beginning.

As Bostonians approved their anti-imperialist resolution at Faneuil Hall, congressmen were making their fateful choice in Washington. All understood that although the immediate issue was Hawaii, the real question was immensely greater. It was nothing less than the future of the Republic: whether or not the United States should become a global military power and shape the fate of distant lands.

Late in the afternoon, at the same moment Moorfield Storey was speaking in Boston, Representative William Hepburn of Mississippi rose in Congress to deliver a speech that crystalized the pro-annexation position. We have not a foot of territory that we have not taken from others, he reminded his colleagues. This uncomfortable truth proved, he said, that expansion is the logical path to national greatness.

Who dares to say that, even if we should enter into this new policy, the fate which befell the Roman Empire would be ours? Hepburn asked. Look at England. What would she be today if confined to her insular domain? What could she be? The mistress of the seas? Ah, no! One of the leading nations of the earth? Ah, no! Giving her laws, her literature, and her civilization to the rest of the world? Ah, no! She would have been powerless for this great end. Had there not been a Frederick the Great, who can say that the little Duchy of Brandenburg would have extended itself into the great German empire of today? This same ‘greed,’ this thirst for annexation, this desire for new territory, this passion for extending civilization, has blessed the earth.

That brought William Terry of Arkansas to

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