Jun 25, 2019 in Exploratory

Discussing Imperialism

In the end of the 19th century, the question about the place of the USA in the world became hotly disputed among the U. S. officials. The Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge strongly advocated commercial benefits of the U. S. involvement in the world affairs. His opponents, the Massachusetts Senator George Hoar and the Democrat leader William J. Bryan, presented constitutional, economic and moral reasons for revising the course of the U. S. foreign policy. The paper illustrates the advantages and negative consequences of the U. S. imperialistic ambitions. It refers to the speeches of three American politicians and contains an analysis of their arguments.

In 1898, the U. S. Senator Albert Beveridge pointed out the main thoughts of American political elite on the state’s place in the world in his speech “March of the Flag.” Upon achieving the unseen level of industrial productivity, population growth and development of transport infrastructure, the USA enjoyed the benefits of economic prosperity. No longer satisfied with prosperity within its national borders, the USA aimed at achieving the status of a regional and world leader by conquering foreign markets and strengthening diplomatic relations with many countries worldwide.  The opportunity to expand American influence beyond national borders inspired U. S. leaders to promote the idea of expansion.

The speech is aimed at convincing American people in the logical and inevitable choice to exploit the advantages of the U. S. resources. By illustrating the positive features of the state’s geographical position and democratic government, Beveridge poses a question, “Shall the American people continue their march toward the commercial supremacy of the world?”  According to Senator Beveridge, it is the state’s moral duty to “broaden their free institutions” overseas.  Bryan points out possible future benefits of invading the markets of state’s neighbors. They include the vast undiscovered territories and untouched natural resources of Cuba, Porto Rico and Philippians. Moreover, Beveridge predicts that the future battles “are to be the conflicts of trade.”  To prepare for the future challenges, the USA must establish a strong and invincible basis for further economic expansion by building military outposts all over the world. The final point of destination, according to Beveridge, should be the Asian region, which is a promising environment for enforcing the American status of a world leader.  The arguments of the U. S. Senator raise awareness of American citizens about new opportunities for nation’s prosperity and welfare.


Albert Beveridge acknowledges existence of the opposing view on the future of the USA. Addressing the arguments of isolationism proponents, the Senator merely points out that the state had neither means nor ambitions other than to broaden its territory in the early years of its independence. More than a hundred years after the establishment of the American state, its citizens may be proud of the state’s enormous territory, growing population, well-developed transport infrastructure, navy building and oversupplied domestic market. Beveridge addresses the argument of the opposition concerning the immorality of governing without people’s consent by simply illustrating the episodes of imposing the rule of federal government on the Indians on the American territories. According to Senator Beveridge, it is nation’s duty to promote the principles of civilized government abroad.  Together these arguments compose a solid ground for further economic expansion.

The arguments of Albert Beveridge are more than convincing. Firstly, the Senator presents the idea of expansion as the God-given mission of bringing principles of the civilized society to oppressed nations. Secondly, Beveridge refers to the practical need to expand and reach foreign markets in order to satisfy the desire of farmers and merchants for growth and enrichment. Finally, Beveridge is convinced that the United States is capable of joining the ranks of empires along with Great Britain and Germany.  Senator’s arguments give moral and practical grounds for getting involved in the world affairs.

The speech accurately illustrates the possible future role of the USA in the world. Beveridge considers the economic power of the USA as the main force behind its imperialistic claims.  Therefore, the speech is likely to gain support of the large masses of working class and merchants. Nevertheless, acquiring the status of an empire is a far-reaching goal, realization of which requires the mobilization of diplomatic and military resources. Beveridge scarcely mentions military presence of the USA beyond its national borders and says nothing about its diplomatic relations with foreign countries.  It appears that the aim of the speech is limited solely to presenting the benefits of economic expansion.

Naturally, the policy of imperialism was widely criticized by the opposition. In 1900, the Massachusetts Senator George Hoar delivered a speech “Lust for Empire” that explained the immorality of the U. S. expansionist policy. The speech deals with the military actions of the USA in the Pacific region. In the aftermath of the war with Cuba, a great number of small islands became the next targets for annexation. The invasion and establishment of the American authority on the Philippine Island became one of the most debatable victories in the history of the USA. According to George Herring, the Philippians were an important strategic point for further promotion of American interests in Asia and containment of the main U. S. rival, Germany.  Although annexation was successful, there was a long and costly war with the Philippine insurgents.  In the end, the USA strengthened its positions in the Pacific region while pursuing its power ambitions.

The arguments of the Massachusetts Senator are based on the analysis of the U. S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The clauses of these documents do not justify the use of force in a despotic manner. Hoar argues that imposing the rule of the American government on foreign people without their consent undermines the principles of the republic once proclaimed by the founders of the American nation. The Senator refers to the Declaration of Independence that condemns governing the foreign land and people with the single purpose of giving them” the blessings of liberty.”  The arguments of George Hoar constitute the legal reasons for decrying the expansionist policy.

George Hoar admits the existence of the opposing view on the issue. Hoar addresses the counterarguments by listing them in a logical order. In his turn, Hoar provides an accurate analysis of the constitutional purposes for which the USA may acquire the foreign territory. Neither of them mentions occupation of foreign state as a moral duty of the United States.  The arguments of G. Hoar reveal the absence of legal grounds for the U. S. military campaign.

Senator’s speech is rather compelling as it refers to the basic principles of the American government. Hoar refers not only to legal documents but explains why the annexation of the Philippine Islands was a wrongful act of violence compared to the situation with the Indians. In his words, acquiring the territory of a sovereign state with the attributes of a self-governed nation is equal to admitting that the American model of government is superior to another state. The Senator warns about possible negative outcomes of such actions.  George Hoar accurately presents his point of view by comparing the present situation with the previous examples from the U. S. military history.

The speech aims at convincing the American leadership of the necessity to refuse from its imperialist ambitions. By hinting at the likelihood of adverse consequences of the U. S. aggressive policy, Hoar establishes a platform for further debates over the course of the national foreign policy. The speech may not provoke the rise of anti-expansionist movement, but it certainly may add another reason for reconsidering the validity of the U. S. military campaigns. However, George Hoar directly addresses the U. S. President about the mentioned issue without calling his countrymen for participation in the determination of the U. S. future actions.  Due to the limited audience, the speech may not reach the general public.

As the debates about the place of the United States in the world went on, the appropriation of the Philippine Islands remained the central issue. The American leadership faced the growing calls for revising the methods of reaching global dominance. In no time the opposition turned into the anti-imperialist movement with the Democrat William Jennings Bryan as its leader. 

During the 1900 presidential campaign W. J. Bryan revealed the disadvantages of the chosen course of action. In his speech “William Jennings Bryan Condemns Imperialism,” Bryan refers to the Philippine annexation as an act of undermining the basic principle of the American government, which is prizing of “the spirit of liberty.”  The famous politician argues that the Americans will not benefit from the occupation as maintaining control over the acquired land may considerably reduce the profits from trade with new partners in that region.  W. J. Bryan points out that there is no need to impose trade relations on other nations as forced trade may be beneficial for the officials, but it is unprofitable for working people.  Bryan’s last argument deals with the promotion of the Christianity on the appropriated territory. The Democrat leader explains that imposing one’s religious views on unwilling people is not favored in the Bible as the spread of the Christianity under the threat of violence is unacceptable.  These arguments suggest that the annexation of the Philippians is immoral and economically unprofitable. W. J. Bryan scarcely addresses counterarguments. According to him, the expansionists wrongfully refer to Thomas Jefferson as a defender of aggressive foreign policy. On the contrary, he condemned conquests and called for erasing thoughts about them from the minds of the Americans. 

The Democrat leader presents rather compelling arguments. W. J. Bryan aims at persuading the lawmakers of the absence of constitutional reasons for invading the territory of a foreign nation.  Bryan defends the interests of the working class by admitting the disadvantages of the forced trade. Finally, the presidential candidate questions the moral grounds for Christianization of the Philippine people with “Gatling gun attached.”  Bryan’s arguments deal with a great number of aspects of the debated issue.

As the target audience of the speech is the American voters, Bryan is committed to draw their attention to the controversial issue. The presidential candidate accurately points out the arguments that may gain support of the representatives of the political elite, working class and church. Bryan concludes his speech with the promise of changing the course of state’s foreign policy by giving independence to the Philippines.  The wide audience and constructive solution add validity to the speech. However, Bryan does not mention any legal grounds for abandoning the imperialistic ambitions.  Due to the absence of any references to legal documents, the speech does not focus on all related aspects of the issue.

Overall, one may observe the highlighted arguments of the defenders and opponents of the U. S. imperialistic claims. While entering a foreign market may promise economic benefits, military interventions are illegal, immoral and economically unprofitable. A great number of arguments provide the basis for further debates over the disputed issue.


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