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The True FlagTheodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire 

Updated April 26, 2022
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The True FlagTheodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire  essay

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America’s turn from alienation to foreign interference, often apply to World War II, was the outcome of the Spanish-American War and the consequent American occupation of the Philippines. That is the thesis of the journalist and historian Stephen Kinzer in “The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.” All foreign policy controversies since 1898 have reflected the themes of that era, Kinzer affirm. “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.”

On May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Adm. George Dewey’s warships damaged the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in the Philippines, a Spanish colony soon to become an American dependency until after World War II. On Sept. 30, 1899, in a triumphal ceremony in New York City, the admiral happen under the Dewey Arch, which cover Fifth Avenue at 24th Street. According to Kinzer, “It was modeled after the first-century Arch of Titus in Rome but was more ornate.” But as American military in the Philippines turned from liberators into conquerors, using misery manners like “the water cure” and engaging in massacres of revolutionary fighting for independence, even some of the builders of the interference had second thoughts. President McKinley, who had arranged the conquest of the Philippines, hypothesized: “If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed that Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.”

The Dewey Arch, firstly constructed of plaster and wood, never became a long lasting monument in New York City. Instead, Kinzer writes, “the City Council decided that demolition was the only option and, as The New York Times reported, ‘One morning the work lay on the ground in a hundred pieces.’ ”

In the argument about the Spanish-American War and the changeover of the United States into a regional and global great power, the Anti-Imperialist League brought most of America’s dominant writers and anarchists. Some, like the German-American senator from Missouri, Carl Schurz, were experts of the campaign against enslavement. Others, like Jane Addams, were leaders of the woman suffrage act and other new continuous reform causes. Many Southerners opposed American domination of Cuba and the Philippines as well, for concern that granting their nonwhite population’s rights would hurt white supremacy in the United States. And the anti-imperialists also combined labor leaders like Samuel Gompers, who was concerned about the consequences on American wages of immigration from the Philippines: “If these new islands are to become ours. . . can we hope to close the floodgates of immigration from the hordes of Chinese and the semi savage races coming from what will then be part of our own country?”

Supporters of the takeover of the Philippines similarly threw away various disputes, like entry to Asian markets and the uprising of the Filipinos themselves. Theodore Roosevelt, whose attendance in the clash against Spain in Cuba made him a famous and put him on the path to the vice presidency and then the presidency, contradict that the Spanish-American War and the clash in the Philippines broke with American history. In 1899 in a conversation titled “The Strenuous Life,” Roosevelt rattled at the anti-imperialists: “Their doctrines, if carried out, would make it incumbent upon us to leave the Apaches of Arizona to work out their own salvation, and to decline to interfere in a single Indian reservation. Their doctrines condemn your forefathers and mine for ever having settled in these United States.”

Roosevelt and the imperialists form their huge nemesis in Mark Twain. Twain convicted all achievements by Western nations to divide the non-Western world. Writing of the Boxer revolution against Europeans and Americans in China, he announced: “My sympathies are with the Chinese. They have been villainously dealt with by the sceptered thieves of Europe, and I hope they will drive all of the foreigners out and keep them out for good.” Twain’s ability for parody demonstrated in his extensively announced polemics for the anti-imperialist cause. In a 1901 essay for the North American Review, reprinted as a brochure by the Anti-Imperialist League, Twain add: “And as for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can have a special one — our states do it: We can have just our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones.”

In any case, Kinzer isn’t substance to retell the narrative of the contention over addition of the Philippines. He endeavors to advance a general hypothesis of United States outside strategy, what’s more, he refers to the previous Marine Gen. Smedley Butler, who during the 1930s sharply depicted his military administration in the Philippines, Cuba, China, Haiti, Mexico and Central America as that of a ‘gangster for capitalism’ and’ a high-class muscleman for big business.’ Reusing the contentions of the respected enemy of interventionist custom, Kinzer cites figures like Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota, who reprimanded business interests for American investment in World War I, and post-1945 promoters of close Soviet-American ties like Henry Wallace and Paul Robeson. Along these lines, the rich detail of Kinzer’s record of the discussion over American dominion at the turn of the twentieth century offers path to a hurried revisionist record of United States outside arrangement as a progression of majestic imprudence’s, in which the wars of presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama star past. All of American remote approach for over a century is credited to some unclear blend of business covetousness and haughty imprudence.

Kinzer is allowed to present this defense, however it ought not to have been attached to the finish of the book. His own record does not bolster the possibility that business intrigues drove the United States to do battle with Spain and against the Filipino freedom development. Kinzer himself notes, “Businessmen as a class were at first reluctant to join the rush to war, but by midsummer many had been won over.” Andrew Carnegie was an energetic enemy of radical, and Mark Hanna, related to the premiums of enormous business and managing an account, loathed Theodore Roosevelt and thought him hazardous.

Kinzer focuses to the Massachusetts representative Henry Cabot Lodge who, alongside his companion Roosevelt, was one of the heroes of what was known as a “large” foreign policy: “With our protective tariff wall around the Philippine Islands, its 10 million inhabitants, as they advance in civilization, would have to buy our goods, and we should have so much additional market for our home manufactures.” However, this was a contention to be made for open utilization and scarcely mirrored Lodge’s perspective. He was a piece of a gathering of for the most part patrician neo-Hamiltonians, including Roosevelt and the maritime student of history Alfred Thayer Mahan, who looked to transform the United States into an extraordinary military power. They were not specialists of American fare halls.

The True FlagTheodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire  essay

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