The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during the years 1890-1909.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 27.
If the US learned anything from the Civil War, it was how screwed up we were. For a couple decades we didn’t really care about the outside world. But once we remembered the markets that lie off our shores, the flood gates were opened. Not only did we bring exports to foreign countries, we brought Jesus.
Many politicians interpreted the new-found Darwinism to mean that Uncle Sam basically had the right to be wherever he wanted. Many others countries shared this belief as Africa was annexed by the Europeans and China was split between the Japanese, Germans, and Russians. The main factor in conquering these countries was the strength of the navy. If American wished to expand, her navy would have to do so as well.
First came the US markets in Latin America. Alas, the new overseas business dealings would come to a halt when new American diplomacy was set in place and the US narrowly escaped wars with foreign powers. Yet another war was almost fought with Britain after a land dispute ended badly in South America. After many talks between the two industrial powers, compromise was reached and they became allies, tied together by their shared culture and language.
Way out West, the US finally got control of Hawaii after a revolt of self-righteous whites overpowered the overwhelming puny Hawaiians. The natives wanted to keep control of their so-called ‘native land’. This revolution of white sugar farmers was brought on by the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, which made Hawaiian sugar near impossible to import. If Hawaii became a state, the farmers would stand to make some serious dough.
However, newly-instated President Cleveland was against the annexation of Hawaii and let them be. Another ‘sugar revolution’ took place in Cuba when the natives battled against the Spanish, as well as American investors, for their freedom. Soon after, the US battleship Maine was demolished near the Havana border; 260 American lives were lost. William Randolph Hearst ran the story that the Spanish were at fault, causing the US to call for war. What Hearst did is called yellow journalism or sensationalism [see Chapter 28].
President McKinley was in a jam. The Spanish didn’t want war, but would agree to a less-oppressed Cuba. McKinley also wanted more freedom for Cubans, but without the Spanish in the picture. McKinley finally made the plunge into war when in 1898, he and Congress declared war on Spain.
The US didn’t only go after Cuba, they went after the Philippines as well. McKinley was also confused by this strange course of action recommended by his top military officials. Brilliant commander George Dewey launched his plan of attack against the Filipino capitol, Manilla. While they were at it, they also gave the Hawaiians full US citizenship as they feared the Japanese might try and capture the island nation.
Back in Cuba, American ‘Rough Riders’ made quick work of their Spanish opposition. Leading the charge for the Yankees was General William Shafter.
The pinnacle of the war in Cuba centered around Santiago. And hell, while the Americans were at it, they island-hopped over to Puerto Rico and captured it too. It’s speculated that if the Spaniards held out for a few more months, the Americans would have all died from tropical diseases like malaria and gonorrhea.
And hell, just ’cause they could, the US also captured Guam. It’s not like it belonged to its native people or anything. Spain gave us Puerto Rico as a reparation payment. The US would also give Spain $20 million for the Philippines. Suddenly, the US had amassed an empire larger than that of Great Britain’s and now had 7 million more people to care for.
Many intellectuals, including Mark Twain, argued that it wasn’t right to take land from these native people. Teddy Roosevelt, soon to join McKinley on the 1900 Republican ticket, countered that we might as well give the West back to the Indians then.
Keeping the Philippines under control would be no easy task as the Filipinos thirsted greatly for freedom. Heading into the 20th century, the United States of America had undoubtedly become an empire, all from a 113-day war.
Both Puerto Rico and Cuba lie under control of the US. The Cubans were able to set up their own government, but only after it was approved by the US, of course. From an arrangement between the Cubans and the US, we received a small beachhead in Cuba known as Guantanamo Bay. The Puerto Ricans weren’t so lucky. We steadfastly held on to the island and granted them citizenship in 1917, though they weren’t a state.
Because of the war, the nation was united. No longer did former Confederates despise the Northern Yankees. The North and South was united once and for all. But like the boiling pot you leave on the stove, the Filipinos weren’t silenced yet.
After killing off a small Filipino resistance, the US poured millions of dollars into the islands, improving everything from roads to hospitals. William Taft was even set up as the governor for a while. In the long run, the Philippines proved to be a money pit and finally got their independence on July 4, 1946.
It seems like a bad joke, but the US even brought their imperialism to China. Honestly, was there any place we weren’t involved in? Secretary of State John Hay brought the Open Door Policy to the Chinese. It basically meant that the world’s powers could do whatever the hell they wanted to China. The Chinese wouldn’t stand for this.
Angry Chinese rebels, known as Boxers, fought off the foreign invaders and continued to do so for a while. Russia, Germany, and the US all fought back and suppressed the resistance for a while. Finally, the large powers agreed to disagree and formed the Nine-Power Treaty in 1922. The Japs would break this when they took over the Manchurian region in 1932.
Not really a surprise, most people hated McKinley after his onslaught of overseas imperialism. He only won the election after adding the much-glorified war hero Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate. Bryan, again the Democratic nominee, took to the offensive stating that while Lincoln had gotten rid of slavery in the US, McKinley had reinstated it in the Philippines.
Even though he was reelected, McKinley was still despised and was assassinated in 1901. With that big stick the textbook loves to talk about, Teddy ascended into the oval office. TR, above all else, was a people person. He also greatly loved the US. He proved this devotion when he helped set up the Panama Canal.
Our British cousins scraped an old treaty and gave us full reign to build a canal through Panama. After $400 million was spent (around $9 billion today), and treaties were signed, the construction was under way. It would end 10 years later, just as WWI was breaking out.
Now that the US had a secure investment in the Caribbean, it became our playground. We routinely sent troops around the Caribbean nations and took control of various economic enterprises. Teddy also rewrote the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that any European interference in the Americas would prompt US aggression.
Roosevelt’s time to shine as peace-negotiator occurred during the Russo-Japanese war when the Japs demanded peace. TR would also be called on to negotiate peace in North Africa, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. In the long run, this turned out badly as Russia and Japan morphed into our enemies.
The US sought to renew relations with the Japanese with new anti-segregation laws, which were passed in California. The two nations agreed to lessen the influx of Japanese immigrants. As a way of showing off and inducing fear, the Americans sent out their new fleet of battleships around the world in 1907. As the ships passed Japan, the brainwashed children sang our national anthem as they waved like robots at the ships. Peace between the two countries was finally reached!