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American History Final Exam
Stages of the American Empire
Starting in the colonial period and continuing up through the Manifest Destiny phase of the American Empire in the 19th Century, the main goal of imperialism was to obtain land for white farmers and slaveholders. This type of expansionism existed long before modern capitalism or the urban, industrial economy, which did not require colonies and territory so much as markets, cheap labor and raw materials. It was also a highly racist type of policy that led to the destruction of Native Americans and the enslavement of blacks, as well as brutal counterinsurgency campaigns in overseas colonies like the Philippines and Haiti. Northeastern capitalists in the United States, dating back to the nascent period in the late-18th Century, were not particularly enthusiastic for this type of territorial expansion to the West or the growth of the agrarian sector of the economy. The party of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk, which represented the South planters and white small farmers, was always the main driving force behind manifest destiny, including the Mexican War and the early filibustering expeditions to Latin America. After the Civil War, with the rise of giant industrial and financial corporations that basically took over the national government, imperialism began to take the form of Open Door policies abroad and the idea of expanding investments, trade and raw materials overseas. This did not necessarily mean the acquisition of old-style European colonies, although the U.S. did seize a few of these after 1898, but rather a method of installing 'friendly' governments and maintaining indirect control. Such policies of overseas imperialism also brought the U.S. into conflict with other empires such as Britain and Spain, as well as the rising industrial powers of Germany and Japan. As early as World War I, Woodrow Wilson expressed the desire to put a system of global capitalism in place, although the U.S. had no power to do so at them, or indeed until after 1845.
1. Richard White, "Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill," in The Frontier in American Culture.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West "spectacles presented an account of Indian aggression and white defense; of Indian killers and white victims; on, in effect, badly abused conquerors" (White 27).
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, in its presentation of Custer's Last Stand and other events in the West, became the standard template for Hollywood movies on the subject, although obviously it presented a distorted and one-sided version of history. American overseas imperialism has much in common with the previous era of frontier expansion, wars against Native Americans and the annexation of half of Mexico in 1848. Manifest Destiny and the racial attitudes towards blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans that accompanied it existed long before the U.S. became an urban, industrialized economy. Racism dates back to the colonial period in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and the type of expansion that occurred was mainly agrarian and aimed at acquiring land, which was the base of the economy until well into the 19th Century. To that extent, American racism was atavistic and existed long before capitalism and the desire of industrialists and financiers to acquire markets, trade and investments overseas in the 1890s and early-1900s, yet all of the overseas colonies and dependencies were ruled in a highly racist manner.
2. Bruce Cumings, Dominion from Sea to Sea, chapter 3, 4 or 5.
American leaders always "redefined empire to suit their needs: empire of liberty (Jefferson), empire of destiny (Polk), empire of colonies (Roosevelt), empire of values (Wilson)" (Cumings 55).
Before World War II, American interventionism was often overt and direct, simply landing troops on the shores of some prospective banana republic and installing a 'friendly' government there. This is exactly what happened in Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, in some cases more than once. Theodore Roosevelt was hardly shy about admitting that he sent troops to Puerto Rico and the Philippines, taking Panama from Columbia or landing in person with the army in Cuba in 1898. Woodrow Wilson imagined that he was bringing democracy to Mexico in his repeated interventions there. Indeed, more sober and pragmatic imperialists feared that they were too unsound in boasting about a new, global American Empire. During the Cold War, though, overthrowing governments was more commonly done in the shadows through CIA covert operations, but once the Soviet Union ceased to exist, the U.S. increasingly reverted to the older methods of direct intervention.
3. Speech or essay assigned since the midterm by Frederick Jackson Turner, Theodore Roosevelt, Frank Norris, or Frederick Douglass.
In his 4th of July address, Frederick Douglass declared that "I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us" (Douglass 1852).
Nothing could be clearer that the absolute repugnance that Douglass felt toward the institution of slavery and how he hoped to inspire Northern whites to take action against it -- by any means necessary. Douglass had great moral authority because he had been born a slave but had escaped and gone on to become one of the leading black abolitionists in the North by 1852. He mentioned how at an early age had watched as slaves were shipped from Baltimore to New Orleans and Mobile, to the even harsher bondage of the Deep South cotton and sugar plantations. Douglass advocated justice, freedom and equal citizenship for blacks in the United States, although he also argued that violence would probably be necessary to end slavery, just as it had been to win independence from Great Britain.
4. Great Speeches by Native Americans, ed. Blaisdell
"It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are -- perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever" (Blaisdell 148).
Chief Joseph had refused to agree placing the Nez Perce on reservations and instead had attempted to flee to Canada, but the army hunted them down. By that time, in 1877, almost all the Native Americans in the West had been placed on reservations, where the conditions were generally horrendous. Few white Americans have ever been willing to face the harsh truth that Indians have always been treated like a conquered enemy people, whose language, culture and religion were nearly destroyed by U.S. government policies. When Representative Henry Dawes of Massachusetts had passed infamous Severalty Act in 1887, most of the Native American population of North America had already been exterminated. Before whites arrived, the indigenous population north of Mexico may have been as high as 15-20 million, but by the end of the 19th Century it had fallen to about 200,000. Centuries of warfare, slave labor, disease, starvation and deliberate mass murder had led to the near-annihilation of the American Indians, and there were many whites such as William Tecumseh Sherman who were prepared to finish them off completely.
5. Essay by Kevin Gover, Vine DeLoria Jr., Luther Standing Bear, Will Rogers or story or essay by Sherman Alexie.
Luther Standing Bear wrote that at the age of eleven, "I was thrust into an alien world, into an environment as different from the one into which I was born as it is possible to imagine, to remake myself, if I could, into the likeness of the invader" (Luther Standing Bear 41).
He was perfectly correct that the entire purpose of the Carlisle Indian School and all the other missionary and boarding schools was to destroy the Native American languages, cultures and religions. Their founders expressly stated that was their goal, with great clarity and precision, and set about to do just that. They decided that the only way to save the indigenous peoples from total genocide was to remove children from their parents, teach them English, Christianity and various useful skills, so that they would be assimilated into the larger economy and society. This is also why the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 abolished tribal governments and communal landholdings, parceling out reservation land to nuclear families, although not coincidentally, whites ended up with most of the land and resources. In Luther Standing Bear's case, however, the Carlisle School obviously failed in its mission, since he still remembered where he came from long after they had finished with him.
6. Patricia Limerick, "The Adventures of the Frontier in the Twentieth Century," in The Frontier in American Culture.
"Frederick Jackson Turner or any of his contemporaries would have experienced astonishment at the application of the word 'pioneer' in the late-twentieth century, as this implied kinship between overland travelers and…[continue]
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