Peace and Victory


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. Dalrymple, L. (1899). “School Begins.” Puck magazine v. 44, no 1142.The wording on the cartoon reads the following: 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” View a larger version of the image at the Library of Congress A few decades after the Spanish-American War, President Woodrow Wilson attempted to apply Progressive principles to his conduct of US foreign policy. Wilson saw foreign policy in terms of morality, and international relations in terms of law, order, and justice. This is what guided him in his conduct towards matters such as the Mexican Revolution. World War One presented the greatest challenge to Wilson’s ideals. Wilson asserted US neutrality in the conflict, called for both sides to seek “peace without victory,” and condemned actions, such as Germany’s unrestricted submarine attacks, that he believed violated international law and US rights. US entry into the conflict was pitched in moral terms, and Wilson’s plans for the post-World War One world were also pitched in terms of rights and justice. Unfortunately for Wilson, many of his war and peace aims were frustrated or denied by the European combatant nations and Americans at home. By the end of the war, America’s role as an international actor had changed considerably from the late nineteenth century. But not all Americans agreed with the nation’s new direction. In preparation for our discussion be sure to read the Module Notes, Chapter 19: “American Empire” ( ) and Chapter 21: “World War I & Its Aftermath” ( ) in The American Yawp, and 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 250 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. Do you think World War One represented a significant turning-point in United States’ approach to foreign intervention? Why or why not?

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