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  • Episode 28: American Imperialism

  • Hi, I’m John Green, this is CrashCourse U.S. History and today were gonna talk

  • about a subject near and dear to my white, male heart: imperialism.

  • So, here at CrashCourse we occasionally try to point out that the U.S., much as we hate

  • to admit it, is actually part of a larger world.

  • Mr. Green, Mr. Green, you mean like Alaska? No, Me from the Past, for reasons that you

  • will understand after your trip there before your senior year of college, I do not acknowledge

  • the existence of Canada’s tail. No, I’m referring to all of the Green Parts

  • of Not-America and the period in the 19th century when we thought, “Maybe we could

  • make all of those green parts like America, but, you know, without rights and stuff.”

  • Intro So, the late 19th and early 20th centuries

  • were a period of expansion and colonization in Asia and Africa, mostly by European powers.

  • As youll know if you watched Crash Course World History, imperialism has a long, long

  • history pretty much everywhere, so this round of empire building is sometimes called, rather

  • confusingly, New Imperialism. Because the U.S. acquired territories beyond

  • its continental boundaries in this period, it’s relatively easy to fit American history

  • into this world history paradigm. But there’s also an argument that the United States has

  • always been an empire. From very early on, the European settlers

  • who became Americans were intent on pushing westward and conquering territory. The obvious

  • victims of this expansion/imperialism were the Native Americans, but we can also include

  • the Mexicans who lost their sovereignty after 1848.

  • And if that doesn’t seem like an empire to you, allow me to draw your attention to

  • the Russian Empire. Russians were taking control of territory

  • in Central Asia and Siberia and either absorbing or displacing the native people who lived

  • there, which was the exact same thing that we were doing.

  • The empires of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were different because they were

  • colonial in their own special way. Like, Europeans and Americans would rule other places but

  • they wouldn’t settle them and more or less completely displace the native people there.

  • (Well, except for you, Australia and New Zealand.) American historians used to try to excuse

  • America’s acquisitions of a territorial empire as something of an embarrassing mistake,

  • but that’s misleading because one of the primary causes of the phenomenon of American

  • imperialism was economics. We needed places to sell our amazing new products.

  • And at the time, China actually had all of the customers because apparently it was opposite

  • day. It’s also not an accident that the U.S.

  • began pursuing imperialism in earnest during the 1890s, as this was, in many ways, a decade

  • of crisis in America. The influx of immigrants and the crowded cities

  • added to anxiety and concern over America’s future. And then, to cap it all off, in 1893

  • a panic caused by the failure of a British bank led the U.S. into a horrible economic

  • depression, a great depression, but not The Great Depression.

  • It did however feature 15,000 business failures and 17% unemployment, so take that, 2008.

  • According to American diplomatic historian George Herring, imperialism was just what

  • the doctor ordered to help America get out of its Depression depression.

  • Other historians, notably Kristin Hoganson, imply that America embarked on imperial adventures

  • partly so that American men could prove to themselves how manly they were. You know,

  • by joining the Navy and setting sail for distant waters.

  • In 1890, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan publishedThe Influence of Seapower upon History

  • and argued that, to be a great power like Great Britain, the U.S. needed to control

  • the seas and dominate international commerce. Tied into this push to become a maritime power

  • was the obsession with building a canal through Central America and eventually the U.S. decided

  • that it should be built in Panama because you know how else are we gonna get malaria.

  • In order to protect this canal we would need a man, a plan, a canal. Panama. Sorry, I just

  • wanted to get the palindrome in there somewhere. No we would actually need much more than a

  • man and a plan. We would need ships and in order to have a functioning two-ocean navy,

  • we would need colonies. Why? Because the steamships at the time were powered by coal and in order

  • to re-fuel they needed coal depots. I mean, I suppose we could have, like, rented

  • harbor space, but why rent when you can conquer? Also, nationalism and the accompanying pride

  • in one’s “countrywas a worldwide phenomenon to which the U.S. was not immune. I mean,

  • it’s no accident that the 1890s saw Americans begin to recite the pledge of allegiance and

  • celebrate Flag Day, and what better way to instill national pride than by flying the

  • stars and stripes overGuam. So pre-Civil War attempts to expand beyond

  • what we now know as the continental United States included our efforts to annex Canada,

  • which were sadly unsuccessful, and also filibustering, which before it meant a senator talking until

  • he or she had to stop to pee was a thing where we tried to take over Central America to spread

  • slavery. But, the idea of taking Cuba persisted into

  • the late 19th century because it is close and also beautiful.

  • The Grant administration wanted to annex it and the Dominican Republic, but Congress demurred.

  • But we did succeed in purchasing Canada’s tail. You can see how I feel about that.

  • To be fair, discovery of gold in the Yukon made Seward’s icebox seem like less of a

  • Seward’s folly and it did provide coaling stations in the Pacific. But we could have

  • had rum and Caribbean beaches. Ugh, Stan, all this talk about how much I

  • hate Alaska has me overheated, I gotta take off my shirt. Ughhh. Waste of my life. So

  • hard to take off a shirt dramatically. I’m angry.

  • Anyway, coal stations in the Pacific were important because in 1854 weopened

  • Japan to American trade by sending a flotilla of threatening black ships under Matthew Perry.

  • No Stan, not that Matthew Perry. You know better.

  • By far, America’s best piece of imperial business before 1898 was Hawaii. Like, I like

  • oil and gold as much as the next guy but Hawaii has pineapples and also had sugar, which was

  • grown on American owned plantations by Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and native workers.

  • Treaties between the U.S. and the Hawaiian governments exempted this sugar from tariffs,

  • and America also had established a naval base at Pearl Harbor, which seemed like a really

  • good idea...then. We eventually annexed Hawaii in 1898 and this

  • meant that it could eventually become a state, which it did in 1959, two years before Barack

  • Obama was born in Kenya. And this leads us nicely to the high tide

  • of American imperialism, the Spanish-American-Cuban-Fillipino War.

  • The war started out because native Cubans were revolting against Spain, which was holding

  • on to Cuba for dear life as the remnant of a once-great empire.

  • The Cubansfight for independence was brutal. 95,000 Cubans died from disease and malnutrition

  • after Spanish general Valeriano Weyler herded Cubans into concentration camps.

  • For this Weyler was calledButcherin the American yellow press, which sold a lot

  • of newspapers on the backs of stories about his atrocities.

  • And at last we come to President William McKinley who responded cautiously, with a demand that

  • Spain get out of Cuba or face war. Now Spain knew that it couldn’t win a war

  • with the U.S. but, as George Herring put it, theypreferred the honor of war to the

  • ignominy of surrender.” Let that be a lesson to you. Always choose ignominy.

  • Oh, it’s time for the Mystery Document? The rules here are simple.

  • I guess the author of the Mystery Document. I’m either right or I get shocked.

  • Alright, let’s see what weve got today. With such a conflict waged for years in an

  • island so near us and with which our people have such trade and business relations; when

  • the lives and liberty of our citizens are in constant danger and their property destroyed

  • and themselves ruined; where our trading vessels are liable to seizure and are seized at our

  • very door by warships of a foreign nation, the expeditions of filibustering that we are

  • powerless to prevent altogether -- all these and others that I need not mention, with the

  • resulting strained relations, are a constant menace to our peace, and compel us to keep

  • on a semiwar footing with a nation with which we are at peace.

  • Thank you, Stan. This is obviously President William McKinley’s war message to Congress.

  • You can tell it’s a war message because it includes the wordpeacemore than

  • the wordwar.” By the way, it’s commonly thought that the

  • President McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war, he didn’t; he let Congress take

  • the lead. That’s the only time that’s ever happened

  • in all of American history, which would be more impressive if we had declared war more

  • than 5 times. So, the document shows us that, at least according

  • to McKinley, we officially went to war for American peace of mind and to end economic

  • uncertainty. It was not to gain territory, at least not

  • in Cuba. How do we know? Because Congress also passed the Teller Amendment, which forswore

  • any U.S. annexation of Cuba, perhaps because representatives of the U.S. sugar industry

  • like Colorado’s Senator Henry Teller feared competition from sugar produced in an American

  • Cuba. Or maybe not. But probably so. Also not the cause of the war was the sinking

  • of the USS Maine. The battleship which had been in Havana’s harbor to protect American

  • interests sank after an explosion on February 15, 1898 killing 266 sailors.

  • Now, most historians chalk up the sinking to an internal explosion and not to Spanish

  • sabotage, but that didn’t stop Americans from blaming the Spanish with their memorable

  • meme: “Remember the Maine, to hell with Spain.” Let’s go to the Thoughtbubble.

  • The actual war was one of the most successful in U.S. history, especially if you measure

  • success by brevity and relative paucity of deaths. Secretary of State John Hay called

  • it a “splendid little warand in many ways it was. Fighting lasted about 4 months

  • and fewer than 400 Americans were killed in combat, although 5,000 died of, wait for it,

  • disease. Stupid disease, always ruining everything. There weren’t a ton of battles but those

  • that happened got an inordinate amount of press coverage, like the July attack on San

  • Juan Hill at the Cuban city of Santiago, led by future president Theodore Roosevelt. While

  • it was a successful battle, the real significance is that it furthered Roosevelt’s career.

  • He returned a hero, promptly became Governor of New York and by 1900 was McKinley’s vice

  • president. Which was a good job to have because McKinley would eventually be assassinated.

  • A more important battle was that of Manila Bay in which commodore George Dewey destroyed

  • a tiny Spanish fleet and took the Philippines. This battle took place in May of 1898, well

  • before the attack on Cuba, which strongly suggests that a war that was supposedly about

  • supporting Cuban independence was really about something else.

  • And what was that something else? Oh right. A territorial empire. As a result of the war,

  • the U.S. got a bunch of new territories, notably the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam. We

  • also used the war as an opportunity to annex Hawaii to protect our ships that would be

  • steaming toward the Philippines. We didn’t annex Cuba, but we didn’t let it become

  • completely independent, either. The Platt Amendment in the Cuban Constitution authorized

  • American military intervention whenever it saw fit and gave us a permanent lease for

  • a naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Thanks Thoughtbubble. So, Cuba and Puerto

  • Rico were gateways to Latin American markets. Puerto Rico was particularly useful as a naval

  • station. Hawaii, Guam, and especially the Philippines opened up access to China.

  • American presence in China was bolstered by our contribution of about 3,000 troops to

  • the multinational force that helped put down the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.

  • But in the Philippines, where Americans had initially been welcome, opinion soon changed

  • after it became clear that Americans were there to stay and exercise control.

  • Emiliano Aguinaldo, leader of the Filipino rebellion against Spain, quickly turned against

  • the U.S. because his real goal was independence and it appeared the U.S. would not provide

  • it. The resulting Philippine War lasted 4 years,

  • from 1899-1903. And 4,200 Americans were killed as well as over 100,000 Filipinos.

  • The Americans committed atrocities, including putting Filipinos in concentration camps,

  • torturing prisoners, rape, and executing civilians. And much of this was racially motivated and

  • news of these atrocities helped to spur anti-imperialist sentiment at home, with Mark Twain being one

  • of the most outspoken critics. Now, there was some investment in modernization

  • in the Philippines, in railroads, schools, and public health, but the interests of the

  • local people were usually subordinated to those of the wealthy. So, American imperialism

  • in short looked like most other imperialism. So Constitution nerds will remember that the

  • U.S. Constitution has no provision for colonies, only territory that will eventually be incorporated

  • as states. Congress attempted to deal with this issue

  • by passing the Foraker Act in 1900. This law declared that Puerto Rico would be an insular

  • territory; its inhabitants would be citizens of Puerto Rico, not the United States and

  • there would be no path to statehood. But this wasn’t terribly constitutional.

  • Congress did extend U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans in 1917. Now it’s a commonwealth

  • with its own government that has no voice in U.S. Congress or presidential elections

  • and no control over its own defense or environmental policy.

  • The Philippines were treated similarly to Puerto Rico, in a series of cases between

  • 1901 and 1904 collectively called the Insular Cases.

  • But Hawaii was treated differently. Because it had a sizeable population of American settlers

  • who happened to be white. Ergo, it became a traditional territory with

  • a path to statehood because white people and also pineapples.

  • Now let’s briefly talk about anti-imperialism. There were lots of people who objected to

  • imperialism on racial grounds, arguing that it might lead to, like, diversity.

  • But there were also non-racist anti-imperialists who argued that empire itself with its political

  • domination of conquered people was incompatible with democracy, which, to be fair, it is.

  • The Democratic Party, which had supported intervention in Cuba, in 1900 opposed the

  • Philippine War in its platform. Some Progressives opposed imperialism too because they believed

  • that America should focus on its domestic problems.

  • Yet those who supported imperialism were just as forceful. Among the most vocal was Indiana

  • Senator Albert Beveridge who argued that imperialism was benevolent and would bring “a new day

  • of freedom.” But, make no mistake, underneath it all, imperialism

  • was all about trade. According to Beveridge, America’s commercemust be with Asia.

  • The Pacific is our oceanWhere shall we turn for consumers of our surplus? Geography

  • answers the question. China is our natural customer.”

  • In the end, imperialism was really driven by economic necessity.

  • In 1902, Brooks Adams predicted in his book The New Empire that the U.S. would soonoutweigh

  • any single empire, if not all empires combined.” Within 20 years America would be the world’s

  • leading economic power. We didn’t have the most overseas territory, but ultimately that

  • didn’t matter. Now, the reasons for imperialism, above all

  • the quest for markets for American goods, would persist long after imperialism became

  • recognized as antithetical to freedom and democracy.

  • And we would continue to struggle to reconcile our imperialistic urges with our ideals about

  • democracy until...now. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next week.

  • Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith

  • Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history

  • teacher, Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Rojas, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café.

  • Every week there’s a new caption for the libertage. You can suggest captions in comments

  • where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of

  • historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we

  • say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. This is the part where Stan gets nervous,

  • like, is he gonna go this way or this way or this way? I’m going this way.

  • Imperialism -

Episode 28: American Imperialism

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アメリカ帝国主義。クラッシュ・コース アメリカの歴史 #28 (American Imperialism: Crash Course US History #28)

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    Jessica Yang に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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