Unless otherwise noted, quoted passages come from American Imperialism in 1898, edited by Richard Miller.)
Many look to the time 1898 as the beginning or commencement of the American drive for imperialism; empire. The Spanish – American War, involving the United States in Cuba and the Philippines, is seen as this point – when America began on the road to empire (at least by those willing to recognize the imperial nature of the U.S. Many are not.).
The drive to empire began much earlier than 1898. Justin Raimondo recently wrote an essay on the War of 1812, “1812: The War Party’s First ‘Success’,” in which he describes the war in terms both neocon and imperial:
The two-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812 is upon us, and I’m shocked and surprised the War Party hasn’t planned a celebration: after all, as Jefferson Morley points out in Salon, this was the first neocon war, i.e. an unnecessary war of choice.
The warhawks, led by John Calhoun, were motivated less by outrage over British harassment of American persons and commerce than by the emerging delusion of Manifest Destiny that energized the earliest advocates of an international American empire. The Appalachian and southern states were the epicenter of this ultra-nationalistic agitation, and the editors of the Nashville Clarion gave voice to the imperialist impulse when they asked:
“Where is it written in the book of fate that the American Republic shall not stretch her limits from the Capes of the Chesapeake to Noorka Sound, from the isthmus of Panama to Hudson Bay?”
It should be noted that it was members of the Jeffersonian party that encouraged the war (again from Raimondo):
Much more important, as a factor in starting the war, was the agitation of the “warhawks,” a group of younger members of the Jeffersonian (or Democratic-Republican) party in Congress, who charged that His Majesty’s Government was encouraging attacks on American settlers by the Indians, and who dreamed of conquering Canada. Indeed, the latter motivation was underscored by the libertarian congressman John Randolph, who declared:
Sir, if you go to war it will not be for the protection of, or defense of your maritime rights. Gentlemen from the North have been taken up to some high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the earth; and Canada seems tempting to their sight.
The war of 1812 is not the first, or only, example of American dreams and actions taken toward the imperial aspirations of this nation, founded on the principle that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
From the beginning of the Republic, it seems the implementation of Jefferson’s sentiment was to be brought by the sword. But the ground had to be made fertile first:
…there was a certain consistency in our continental outlook, regardless of party, sectional, or economic affiliation. Whether it was Thomas Jefferson envisioning an “empire for liberty,” or John Quincy Adams advocating the Monroe Doctrine as an ideological weapon for thwarting Tsarist expansion, or Whig merchants dreaming of an “Empire On The Pacific, the common denominator for each was the conception of America as a continental colossus, unchallenged by the powers of Europe, or by weak neighbors to the north and south.
By the time of the Civil War, the United States had determined the skeletal outlines of its continental domains and had developed an ideology of expansion by which it could bridge the gap between its domestic achievements and it unfulfilled overseas ambitions. These ambitions were not developed in the decade of the 1890s…it must be recalled that serious American interest in the acquisition of Cuba and Santa Domingo can be traced back to the days of the Jefferson Administration, while the writings of John Quincy Adams and the Clayton-Bulwer treaty clearly demonstrated our early and continued interest in the American development of an isthmian canal. Likewise, in the Pacific, the desire to acquire the Hawaiian Islands certainly antedated the Civil War.
Let’s review a few of these:
Jefferson and “Empire for Liberty”:
Jefferson used this phrase “Empire of Liberty” in 1780, while the American revolution was still being fought. His goal was an empire dedicated to liberty that could stop the growth of the British Empire, which he hated and feared:…………………………