Wikiquote:Transwiki/American History Primary Sources Rise to World Power

Expansion after the Civil War, 1865-1897

1867 “Seward’s Icebox” Term used by those who thought that Secretary of State William Seward was foolish for purchasing Alaska from Russia.

1885 God, with infinite wisdom and skill, is training the Anglo-Saxon race for an hour sure to come in the world’s future.... Then this race,... the representative, let us hope, of the largest liberty, the purest Christianity, the highest civilization,... will spread itself over the earth. Josiah Strong, in his book, Our Country.

c. 1890 [God] has made us adept in government that we may administer governments among savages and senile peoples.... He has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. Sen. Albert Beverage, stating what British poet Rudyard Kipling would call “The White Man’s Burden,” his poem at the time of the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The Spanish-American War (1898)

c. 1895 Let us rise up at once with a final burst of heartfelt energy.... Let us rise up for the true republic, those of us who, with our passion for right and our habit of hard work, will know how to preserve it. José Martí, Cuban patriot, calling for Cuban exiles to invade and liberate their home country.

c. 1895 Cuba’s children... suffer in indescribable bitterness as they see their fertile nation enchained and also their human dignity stifled... all for the necessities and vices of the [Spanish] monarchy. José Martí, Cuban patriot, calling for help from Americans.

1897 Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. Wish to return. Telegram from famed artist Frederick Remington to his employer, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.

1897 Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war. Hearst’s telegram to Remington.

c. 1897 How long are the Spaniards to drench Cuba with the blood and tears of her people?... How long shall old men and women be murdered by the score, the innocent victims of Spanish rage against the patriot armies they cannot conquer?... How long shall the United States sit idle and indifferent? Editorial in Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World.

1897 We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. President William McKinley, first inaugural address, opposing imperialism.

c. 1897 The Pacific is the ocean bride of America — China, Japan, and Korea — and their innumerable islands, hanging like necklaces about them, are the bridesmaids.... Let us as Americans... determine while yet in our power, that no commercial rival or hostile flag can float with impunity over the long swell of the Pacific sea. American Navy leader.

1898 Havana, Feb. 15 -- At 9:45 o'clock this evening a terrible explosion took place on board the United States battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. Many persons were killed or wounded. All the boats of the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. are assisting. As yet the cause of the explosion is not apparent. The wounded sailors of the Maine are unable to explain it. It is believed that the battleship is totally destroyed. The explosion shook the whole city. The windows were broken in nearly all the houses. The correspondent of the Associated Press says he has conversed with several of the wounded sailors and understands from them that the explosion took place while they were asleep, so that they can give no particulars as to the cause. WHAT SENOR DE LOME SAYS He Declares That No Spaniard Would Be Guilty of Causing Such a Disaster Senor de Lome, the departing ex-Minister of Spain to this country, who arrived in this city last night, and went to the Hotel St. Marc, at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-ninth Street, was awakened on the receipt of the news from Havana. He refused to believe the report at first. When he had been assured of the truth of the story he said that there was no possibility that the Spaniards had anything to do with the destruction of the Maine. No Spaniard, he said, would be guilty of such an act. If the report was true, he said, the explosion must have been caused by some accident on board the warship. New York Times, (February 16, 1898)

1898 “Remember the Maine and to Hell with Spain.” Popular slogan after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana, Cuba, which was blamed on Spain.

1898 Populists, Democrats, and Republicans are we, But we are all Americans to make Cuba free. Popular chant.

1898 [The United States has no] disposition or intention to exercise sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over [Cuba] except for the pacification thereof. Amendment of Sen. Henry Teller (R-Colorado) to the declaration of war against Spain (“Teller Amendment”).

1898 “Start offensive action” Telegram to Admiral George Dewey, commanding the Asiatic Squadron, from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.

1898 “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.” Admiral George Dewey to the commanding officer of his flagship, USS Olympia, in Manila Bay (May 1, 1898), opening hostilities in the Pacific only 11 days after the United States declared war against Spain.

1898 [Admiral Dewey’s flagship, the battleship Olympia was] a new Mayflower,... the harbinger of a new civilization. Sen. Orville Platt, commenting on the victory of Dewey’s squadron over the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay.

1898 Heavy rains pouring down, no tents for cover,... standing in trenches in a foot of water and mud, day and night.... Ration issue consisting of a slice of sow belly, hardtack biscuits], and some grains of coffee.... Then came the issue of fleece-lined underwear in a 132 [degree] climate.... Then came on malaria. American soldier fighting in Cuba.

1898 “Splendid little war” Secretary of War John Hay’s description of the brief and nearly bloodless Spanish American War.

Results of the Spanish-American War

1898 To educate the Filipinos, and to uplift and civilize and Christianize them. President McKinley’s goals in setting up a colonial administration for the (already largely Christian)Philippine Islands.

1898 Only through American occupation... is the idea of free, self-governing and united Philippine commonwealth at all conceivable. Report of the Philippine Commission.

1898 Insane and wicked ambition... is driving the nation to ruin.... We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln ti reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.... We insist that the subjugation of any people is “criminal aggression” and open disloyalty to the distinctive principles of our Government. Comment on American foreign policy by the Anti-Imperialist League, founded by a small group of prominent Bostonians in June 1898.

1898 [All] who believe in the Republic against Empire should join. The National Labor Standard newspaper, urging people to join the Anti-Imperialist League.

1898 I recognize the existence of a national sentiment in accordance with... Washington’s Farewell Address, which is against the acquisition of foreign territory; but... circumstances have changed.... We have a great commerce to take care of. We have to compete with the commercial nations of the world in far-distant markets. Commerce, not politics, is king.... The whole world sees in China a splendid market for our native products.... We are closer to her than any other commercial country except Japan. There is before us a boundless future which will make the Pacific more important to us than the Atlantic. San Francisco, Seattle, and Tacoma are in their infancy. They are destined to rival New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. If we give up the Philippines, we throw away the splendid opportunity to assert our influence in the Far East. We do this deliberately; and the world will laugh at us. Why did we take Manila?... The Philippines are a foothold for us in the Far East. Their possession gives us standing and influence. It gives us also valuable trade both in exports and imports. Should we surrender the Philippines, what will become of them?... To her [Spain] they will be valueless; and if she sells them to any commercial power she will, by that act, light the torches of war.... England will not stand by and see any other European power take the Philippines. They are on the line to Australia and India.... By holding the Philippines we postpone at least a general European war.... Charles Denby, former U.S. Minister to China, arguing that it was necessary for the U.S. to annex the Philippine Islands, in “Shall We Keep the Philippines?” Forum (November 1898).

1898 Perhaps nearer the condition of savages and barbarians than any island possessed by any other civilized nation on earth. Description of the people of the Philippines, according to Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL and vice-president of the Anti-Imperialist League.

1898 The Philippines are ours forever. And just beyond the Philippines are China’s markets. We will not retreat from either.... The power that rules the Pacific is the power that rules the world. Sen. Albert Beverage


We are raising more than we can consume,... making more than we can use. Therefore, we must find new markets for our produce, new occupation for our capital, new work for our labor. Sen. Albert J. Beveridge of Indiana, on why the national economy needs an imperial foreign policy.

1900 Our opponents put forward as their chief objection that we have robbed these people of their liberty, and have taken them and hold them in defiance of the doctrine of the Declaration of Independence in regard to the consent of the governed. As to liberty, they have never had it, and have none now, except when we give it to them protected by the flag and armies of the United States. The taking of the Philippines does not violate the principles of the Declaration of Independence, but will spread them among a people who have never known liberty. Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Massachusetts)

America and China

1899 We ask no favors; we only ask that we shall be admitted to that great market on the same terms with the rest of the world. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, supporting the American policy of an “Open Door” in China.

President Roosevelt and Foreign Policy

1903 I took the Canal Zone and let Congress debate. President Theodore Roosevelt, comments afterward on helping Panama become independent in return for the U.S. getting a zone to build a canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

1904 If a nation... keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing... in the Western hemisphere... may force the United States, however reluctantly,... to the exercise of an international police power. President Roosevelt, the “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine.

1906 Steam shovels are hard at it; scooping huge masses of rock and gravel and dirt previously loosened by the drillers and dynamite blasters, loading it on trains which take it away.... They are eating steadily into the mountain cutting it down and down.... It is an epic feat. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, describing the construction of the Panama Canal in a letter to his son.

President Taft and Foreign Policy (1909-1913)

???? “Dollar Diplomacy” Expression that the focus of foreign policy under Taft was promoting business interests abroad.

President Wilson and Foreign Policy (1913-1921)

1913 “Government of butchers” President Wilson’s description of Mexico’s government under General Victoriano Huerta, which Wilson refused to recognize as legitimate.

1913 “Watchful waiting” Wilson’s policy of keeping hands off Mexico, while expecting Huerta’s government to be overthrown.

1914 [Mexico must] hoist the American flag in a prominent position and salute it with twenty-one guns. Demand of the commander of the Gulf squadron, after American sailors from the gunboat USS Dolphin were arrested in Tampico, Mexico, while going ashore to buy supplies.

1914 I... come to ask your approval that I should use the armed forces of the United States ... to obtain from General Huerta and his adherents the fullest recognition of the rights and dignity of the United States, even amidst the distressing conditions now unhappily prevailing in Mexico. President Wilson, speaking before Congress (April 20, 1914), on the Tampico incident.

1916 “We have decided... to prepare and organize ourselves to attack the Americans in their own dens.... Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa, on taking revenge against the United States because President Wilson had recognized Villa’s enemy, Venustiano Carranza, as the legitimate president of Mexico. Villa later attacked the border town of Columbus, New Mexico.