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Walter LaFeber : Anti-Imperialism in the United States
Walter LaFeber The anti-imperialist movement in the United States in 1899 and 1900 was a movement that was arguing that the United States should get out of the Philippines, that if the United States stayed in the Philippines two things would happen. One would be that Americans would corrupt themselves because of the brutal way in which they had to fight this war, that this was an immoral war and Americans shouldn't be involved in it. The other argument that the anti-imperialists made was that even if McKinley won this war, he could not extend constitutional rights to the Filipinos, that the American Constitution was only meant for certain races and would only extend as far as the American continent. It could not stretch across water without snapping and it could not really be applied to non-Anglo-Saxon peoples. The anti-imperialist movement was really an upper class white movement based largely in New England and the Middle West. It was a movement whose members had grave doubts whether or not the United States could absorb other races into its system. We were already having enough trouble dealing with the African American issue in the 1890s, and these people thought that by adding the Philippine problem to the mix that the Constitution could collapse. In this sense the anti-imperialists were profoundly conservative. They saw McKinley and they saw Theodore Roosevelt as revolutionaries, as people who were trying to put American power into places it had never been before, and who were willing to use means which Americans had never used outside the Western Hemisphere before, and that you couldn't do this with this kind of a society without breaking down and corrupting the society. In this sense McKinley, this man who is a profoundly conservative Republican, appears to these people as the cutting edge of the revolutionary movement in the United States. And the anti-imperialists see themselves essentially as safeguarding the good, traditional American values of the middle and late 19th century.

Imperialists have a good deal of influence in 1899 and 1900 in part because they include some very important political leaders, and also because they are financed by Andrew Carnegie's millions. Carnegie, the steel magnate, believed that taking the Philippines was one of the great historic mistakes in American history. And, in fact, Carnegie had the peculiarly American solution for taking the Philippines, what he suggested to McKinley was that he, Carnegie, would personally pay McKinley $20 million to buy the Philippines and then he'd turn them back to the Filipinos. McKinley turned this particular offer down, at which point Carnegie then turned to the anti-imperialists and began to finance the anti-imperialists. The anti-imperialists reached, I think, a peak of their influence in the early part of 1900.

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