The term “empire” can have many meanings. Politically, it can mean a group of states dominated either by one leader or one main country. Most empires were formally organized, with a metropole and colonies, for instance the Roman Empire or the British Empire of the nineteenth century. By the start of the twentieth century, the United States had acquired (either by purchase or by conflict) control of several new territories. These territories varied in how they were governed: Cuba was given formal independence; Puerto Rico and Hawaii became US territories; the Philippines was under US supervision with the goal of total independence. Nonetheless, all were political and or economically tied to the United States.
Caption: “School Begins. Uncle Sam (to his new class in Civilization): Now, children, you’ve got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!”
Blackboard: “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact. — England has governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly advanced the world’s civilization. — The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their consent until they can govern themselves.”
Poster: “The Confederated States refused their consent to be governed, but the Union was preserved without their consent.”
Book: “U.S. — First Lessons in Self Government”
Note: (on table): “The new class — Philippines Cuba Hawaii Porto Rico”
In preparation for the assignment, read: “American Empire” in The American Yawp, and the following primary sources: Stevens, J. (1893), A Plea for Annexation and Roosevelt, T. (1905), Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Be sure to view America Becomes a World Power.
In addition, examine the cartoon above from Puck magazine, or a larger version of the cartoon. Although Americans were not of one mind about the US’s acquisition of overseas territory, let us assume this represents a common attitude at the time.
Then, in an initial post of approximately 300 words, using specific evidence from the primary and secondary sources and videos listed above, answer the following questions:
- What does this cartoon tell us about the nature and origins of American “empire” in the early 1900s?
- Does this support or negate the idea that the United States wanted to be seen as an imperial power? Be sure to justify your argument with evidence.