Tuesday, January 29, 2019

This all seems very familiar..............

       As he did so often, the president wrapped himself in his country's flag.  Patriotism dripped from his words.  But he added a new element to the American story:  the idea that the nation was venturing into the world not for conquest or exploitation but to lift up less civilized people and foster productive and healthy nations where none before had existed.  There was a certain patronizing tone in these passages, even a condescension.  Perhaps it was inevitable in a world dominated by Western power, technology, mobility, and wealth, and when most other regions untended by Western colonialism seemed backward and helpless by comparison.  And the president's particular brand of idealistic expansionism certainly lent itself to allegations of hypocrisy, given the exploitation that inevitably accompanied most colonial enterprises, as Senator Hoar had noted.  Indeed the anti-imperialists savaged the speech, none more vociferously than Godkin in The Nation.  "There was not a spark of initiative or leadership in it," said the magazine, portraying McKinley as "one of those rare public speakers who are able to take a good deal of humbug in such a way as to make their average hearers think it excellent sense and exactly their idea."
     Perhaps Godkin's underlying complaint was that public sentiment coincided largely with the president's vision and not the anti-expansionist thinking of his magazine.  It was clear, in any event, that the Boston speech gave much of the country precisely what it wanted:  an agreeable rationale fro America's bold new venture into the world.  The anti-imperialists would continue their agitations, but the country's majority sentiment favored the expansionist urge—so long as it was executed smoothly and at an acceptable cost.

-Robert W. Merry,  President McKinley:  Architect of the American Century

No comments:

Post a Comment