Jingoism takes control

The 1893 debate over whether or not to annex Hawaii (http://www.kansascitystories.com/Politics/hawaii/hawaii.html) brought up fundamental questions about U.S. identity. Republican Party policy, represented in Kansas City by the Journal, favored annexing not only Hawaii but any lands the country might claim: “whenever and wherever the flag can be planted[…],” ran one editorial, “we are for planting it.”

The paper was confident Canada would be annexed sooner or later, since large numbers of Canadians were moving to the U.S.  The Journal put their emigration down to flight from “ancient dynastic rule […] passing away.” Monarchical ideas, the editors comment in a later editorial, are “out of harmony” with republican ideals of “freedom of the individual, the government for individuals or for the race.”

In expansionist discourse, “race” was inseparable from social Darwinism, jingoistic nationalism, “manhood”, and religion. The same Journal editorial, for example, expresses belief in a concept of expanded “manifest destiny” that conflates all of them:

We believe nations are under the law of development as well as individuals, and we believe in a Providence in human unfoldment a great deal larger, higher and more potential in purpose than the world’s teachers have heretofore given us any conception.

And we believe America was set aside for the ultimate solution of the problem of self-government for man – for freedom to the utmost capabilities of the race. And we believe that to the United States has been committed this mission as the controlling power – to hold the ark and to propagate the faith.

JohnTylerMorganThe Journal, in another editorial, praised Alabama Senator John Tyler Morgan --  Confederate general, southern Democrat,  Ku Klux clan leader, and racist ideologue --  for his expansionist stance: “We wish there was a whole congress of such men,” the paper wrote, men with the “wisdom, courage, manhood” to seize the moment. Congress, the paper complained, is unequal to the present occasion as it was to previous opportunities: Morgan is quoted as saying that the U.S. should have taken “New Foundland, the Bahamas, the Windward Islands, Jamaica and all the territory known as the Yucatan” after Independence.

This was the “old Democratic doctrine,” comments the Journal, harking back to the “54-40 or fight” slogan of the 1840s, before commercial concerns “debauched the party of Jefferson, Jackson, Benton and Douglas”:

 Had it not been for the same policy the St. John river would have been the boundary of Maine and a new state including Vancouver Island on the Pacific would have its place on the map between forty-nine north latitude and fifty-four forty – thus making the Pacific coast from San Diego to Bering strait American. […] If we had one hour of Jefferson the decisive step of empire would have been taken and a new age born for the great republic.54-40 map

Democratic Party opinion, represented in Kansas City papers by the Times and Star, was doubtful about annexing Canada.  The Times cited disapprovingly an 1891 book by British author Goldwin Smith, Canada and the Canadian Question, in which Smith argues that Canada wants to be annexed. Smith, the editors believed, was getting ahead of himself: it will only be after Canada does more trade with the U.S. than with England that annexation will become a question.

Trade rather than empire was the Democratic position. Wrote the Times editors in another editorial:

We might have all the trade of a country and England might have all its government.  England might shoulder the military and naval expenses and a bit of public debt on top of them, while we had the profit of business monopoly. […] We need no colonies.

 The Times later argued that the only purpose for increased U.S. naval forces was to defend against attacks from rivals like England, Japan and, oddly, Chile: the navy’s purpose should be to “afford safety to our interests and dignity to our flag, and not to serve as a stalking horse for the jingo politician.” 

The Star took a similar view of the military. At a time when the total strength of the army was just over 2,000 officers and 25,000 enlisted men, the editors wrote:

This little handful of soldiers is all the military force that is required for the defense and protection of a nation of more than 60 millions of people. The cost of maintaining this army barely exceeds, all told, the sum of 50 million dollars a year.

In contrast, European countries had armies in the millions, “an enormous body of non-producers, representing the youth and the strength of the continent,” maintained to gratify the “ambition of rulers under whom they serve and to preserve the ‘political equilibrium’ of Europe.” The U.S. had no need for such an army: “In this land, where the people rule themselves, there is no call for an expensive military equipment. Every citizen is, practically speaking, a conservator of order and an agent for the preservation of constitutional authority.”

Naturally, both Democratic papers supported Grover Cleveland’s hands-off position on Hawaii. The Star titled one editorial on the subject “Jingoism Rampant,” complaining that jingoism was being represented as patriotism and “improperly called Americanism,” and that it was not good Republicanism to take up the annexation banner.  The Hawaiian government, the editors argue, was overthrown with the connivance of the American minister, who “went beyond the limits of national honor” in supporting the coup. The United States “criminally blundered” by interfering with a “friendly nation in aid of revolutionists Queen Liliuokalani[…],” and Cleveland was only setting things right by promising to replace the Hawaiian monarch, Queen Liliuokalani, on her throne:

“If her subjects choose to rise against her, to depose her and proclaim a republic, that is a matter to be settled in Hawaii by Hawaiians. Neither Mr. Cleveland nor any other true American sympathizes with a monarchy as against a Republican form of government.”

The Times adopted a similar stance, titling its editorial “Jingoism and autocracy,” and taking on Republican criticisms that Cleveland was proposing to “restore a corrupt monarchy against the will of the Hawaiian people.” The provisional government of Hawaii led by American planters was, the paper argued, “an oligarchy of the most irresponsible and offensive type […] more absolute than the government of the Czar of Russia.”  It was based on no constitution or will of the people, and was less popular and representative than Liliuokalani’s monarchy, which was based on a constitution and whose laws were made by elected representatives.  

It would not be long, however, before American political leaders began to take less interest in advancing “Republican institutions” and the right of peoples to choose their own government and more in becoming the “controlling power.” Within weeks after Cleveland left office, the Republican administration of William McKinley submitted a treaty to annex Hawaii to the Senate for ratification. Hawaii was officially annexed to the U.S. in 1898. In the same year the Treaty of Paris, ending the Spanish-American war, ceded the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States.

10000 mile empire

August 19, 2015