September 25

The Anti-Expansionist Consensus

James G. Blaine, twice secretary of state, once the Republican presidential nominee, and the most outspoken expansionist among US policymakers in the 30 years following the Civil War. His difficulty in enacting his agenda testified to the ideological climate of the time, which was unusually hostile to American expansionism.
There's a common belief among American historians that the Gilded Age, which ran roughly from 1877 until 1895, is the most poorly written section in any US History textbook.  The same applies for foreign policy: international affairs, especially inter-American relations, was very much debated during this period. Many of the themes we already have studied--battles between the President and Congress, ideological debates over imperialism, divisions within Latin America over the proper US role in the region--remained in place.
There was, however, a major difference between the Gilded Age and the 1840s/1850s period.  As both imperialists and anti-imperialists broadened their agenda, new definitions of both concepts emerged. That's the focus for today's reading, which asks the question of whether the United States was imperialistic during this period. The documents, meanwhile, both come from 1890, and represent different challenges to the anti-expansionist consensus.
TIP The reading for this class is unusually long.

COURSE PACKET: Reading notes

                Martinez-Fernandez, Torn between Empires, SB, pages 109-129.

                Smith, Illusions of Conflict SB pages 130-147.      


Alfred Thayer Mahan on the importance of sea power Josiah Strong on the cultural threat to the United States