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date: 24 March 2017


Summary and Keywords

The birth of the United States through a successful colonial revolution created a unique nation-state in which anti-imperialist sentiment existed from the nation’s founding. Three broad points are essential in understanding the relationship between anti-imperialism and U.S. foreign relations. First, the United States obviously has had more than its share of imperialist ventures over the course of its history. Perhaps the better way to address the matter is to remark on—at least in comparison to other major powers—how intense a commitment to anti-imperialism has remained among some quarters of the American public and government. Second, the strength of anti-imperialist sentiment has varied widely and often has depended upon domestic developments, such as the emergence of abolitionism before the Civil War or the changing nature of the Progressive movement following World War I. Third, anti-imperialist policy alternatives have enjoyed considerably more support in Congress than in the executive branch.

Keywords: Anti-imperialism, Wilsonianism, Congress, peace movement, civil rights

Constitutional Structure

The founding of the United States dated from a successful colonial revolt, and anti-imperialist rhetoric was embedded within the nation’s founding documents. “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce [the colonists] under absolute Despotism,” the Declaration of Independence asserted, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.” A historian of Thomas Paine has noted that the propagandist was “deeply influenced by imperial misdeeds, not only in North America, where he arrived late in 1774, but also in South Asia.1

This background both strengthened and weakened the nature of anti-imperialist sentiment in the United States. On the one hand, the Revolution established anti-imperialism as a founding American principle, and all but ensured that opposition would develop to any subsequent attempt to acquire foreign territory by force. Obviously, many such acquisitions nonetheless occurred throughout U.S. history, but almost always amidst a sharp domestic debate and on a more limited scale than might have been expected given the overpowering U.S. position in the Western Hemisphere after the mid-19th century. On the other hand, mainstream anti-imperialist ideas in the United States have tended to focus on questions of political freedom, reflecting more general ideas about international affairs in the late 19th century. Issues associated with informal empire or economic protectorates have tended to arouse far less concern among the American public or among legislators.

Anti-imperialist ideas shaped public policy in at least one key initiative of the Articles of Confederation regime: the Northwest Ordinance (1787) established a principle that the new nation would not hold colonies; , instead, all territories eventually would gain admission to the Union as co-equal states. At a time when the British government denied representation in Parliament to all colonies (and, in practice, to cities whose population had been swollen by the beginnings of industrialization), the U.S. commitment to political equality for all territories under its possession was notable.2

The creation of the Constitution maintained the tension between realism and idealism that bedeviled the period when the Articles were written and ultimately helped lead to their collapse. But here, too, structural factors enhanced the influence of anti-imperialist perspectives. In contrast to all other 18th century powers, the United States, through the Constitution, vested primary authority over foreign affairs in the legislative branch. Congress received the exclusive power to declare war and appropriate moneys for defense. After a late compromise at the Convention, the Senate lost the ability to negotiate treaties but retained authority to offer advice and consent, while it appeared (through the letters of marque clause) that Congress retained jurisdiction over undeclared wars.3 Finally, a persuasive argument exists that the Framers did not intend to grant Congress the power to authorize the forcible annexation of foreign territory.4 In effect, if not intent, this constitutional structure maximized the ability for forces outside the executive branch to influence the new nation’s foreign policy. And judged by the ratification debates, increased public involvement in policymaking seemed likely to tilt pressure against imperialist ventures abroad. While Alexander Hamilton advocated for a more robust presidential role on security matters, the Anti-Federalists dominated most of the ratification debate related to foreign policy; Federalists attempted to neutralize the criticism by downplaying the national government’s potential for acting contrary to American ideals.5

The Early Republic

As with so much of the U.S. constitutional structure regarding foreign policy, expectations about how the new nation might respond to international affairs differed from the reality. Congress did not dominate foreign policy. And the emergence of the First Party System featured both parties, for differing reasons, eschewing affiliation with anti-imperialist principles. Alexander Hamilton’s financial system envisioned a robust federal role in promoting trade abroad. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison envisioned the United States as an “empire of liberty,” in which territorial expansion would maintain the nation’s agrarian (and thus republican) core.6 The most prominent foreign policy dissenters from the Jeffersonian mainstream, the Old Republicans, had scant influence and declined precipitously after opposing U.S. entry into the War of 1812.7

The treatment of Native Americans also evidenced little concern with upholding anti-imperial principles. The odd nature of the Constitution left the Indian nations neither wholly foreign nor wholly domestic; but the newly independent United States aggressively dismantled the treaty system that had given the Indian nations a degree of international independence between 1763 and 1783. Despite the requirements of the treaty-making clause, the Senate proved more than willing to give the executive maximum leeway in the process. The first treaty considered in U.S. history came in 1789, negotiated by the Washington administration with Southern Indian nations. When the president arrived, unannounced, on the Senate floor seeking advice, the senators declined his request, citing a lack of knowledge about the negotiations. No president would subsequently solicit advice in such a formal fashion, and with the demise of the treaty system, Indian issues moved largely outside the anti-imperialist framework.8

Similarly, concerns about race and ethnicity weakened the early U.S. commitment to an anti-imperial cause. The United States played a complicated role during the revolution in Haiti, but there was one consistent element in U.S. policy; Washington policymakers had no desire to see Haiti become the Western Hemisphere’s second independent country. Sentiments changed little from the Federalist Washington and Adams administrations to that of Thomas Jefferson; and virtually no voices—in Congress or among contemporary commentators or pamphleteers—publicly urged the United States to vindicate its anti-colonial ideals by supporting Toussaint L’Ouverture’s rebellion.9

The questions of race and ethnicity also paved the way for a renewal of anti-imperial sentiment. During the 1830s, anti-slavery advocates invoked Article I’s protection of the people’s right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” and started flooding the House with petitions urging the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. In response, the House adopted a new procedure—which came to be known as the “gag rule”—in which all petitions related to slavery automatically would be tabled. “I hold the resolution to be a direct violation of the Constitution of the United States,” proclaimed former president and then-congressman John Quincy Adams (Whig-Massachusetts). But the gag rule remained in place. Seeking a way around it, abolitionists started petitioning for the recognition of Haiti, hoping for the symbolic move of a black minister received by the State Department. These petitions, too, had no impact on policy; Haiti would not be recognized until Southerners had withdrawn from Congress during the Civil War.10

Though unsuccessful, advocates for Haitian recognition established two important precedents. First, they demonstrated how domestic politics could increase interest in an anti-imperialist foreign policy. Second, the gag rule fight previewed the important role that Congress would play in placing anti-imperialism on the national policy agenda.

Anti-Slavery and Anti-Imperialism

A far more intense discussion about anti-imperialism and the American identity occurred in the 1840s and 1850s. The first sign came in the presidential election of 1844, which in many ways was fought over the question of American empire. In the Democratic nominating contest, former President Martin van Buren failed to secure the nomination after the party changed its rules to effectively provide Southern Democrats with veto power over the nominee. Van Buren had antagonized Southerners with his insufficient support for the annexation of Texas, which seemed likely to enter the union as a slave state. In his place, the Democrats turned to House speaker James Polk, a protégé of Andrew Jackson who campaigned on a platform of annexing territory in both the southwest and the northwest. The Whigs countered with Henry Clay, whose comparatively moderate (for the time) views on race, coupled with his heading the ticket of a party beset with deep internal divisions over slavery, led him to flirt with an anti-imperialist approach to Western Hemisphere expansion.11

Polk, of course, won the election, and soon initiated a war of conquest against Mexico. He did not seek congressional authorization until fighting had already begun. This strategy coupled an intense debate over anti-imperialism with a constitutional battle over whether the executive or Congress should have supremacy in international affairs.

Even once fighting had commenced, the Polk administration, working in cooperation with the House leadership, maneuvered to minimize dissent, ensuring that the two hours of debate over the war resolution precluded any opponents from speaking. But over the next several months, many of the fourteen Whigs who voted against the declaration of war explained their rationale. In the process, they revealed the convergence of anti-slavery with anti-imperialist thought. The de facto leader of these Conscience Whigs, John Quincy Adams, deemed the conflict a “most unrighteous war.” Adams would pass away in 1848, but his approach would be carried on by another war opponent, Joshua Giddings (Whig-Ohio), who maintained that Polk’s policies violated the Constitution; Giddings charged Polk with having “falsified” claims of Mexican aggression to race the United States into war.12

Frustrated in their attempt to block the war resolution, congressional dissenters turned to the legislature’s spending powers. During the Mexican War, the best example came through an amendment to the military funding bill, sponsored by Representative David Wilmot (D-Pennsylvania). The Wilmot Proviso seemingly accepted the possibility of imperialism, in that it did not demand that the United States eschew all territorial acquisitions from the war. But in reality, it sought to impose restrictions—ensuring that all territory would be admitted as a free state—that would have fractured the imperialist coalition. The measure passed the House, twice failed in the Senate, and further polarized national politics.13

Coupled with the belief that slavery needed to expand to survive, the aftermath of the war with Mexico stimulated strong grassroots support for imperialist ventures throughout the South. New Orleans hosted multiple “filibustering” ventures, with private operations—sometimes headed by figures of considerable influence, such as former Mississippi governor John Quitman—attempting to seize Cuba or Nicaragua for a slave-holding empire. (William Walker’s brief conquest of Nicaragua remains the most famous of these undertakings.) All of these operations, of course, violated the Neutrality Acts, but local juries in Louisiana refused to convict. In turn, the prominence of the filibusters provided further evidence in the North to link imperialism with the expansion of slavery.14

Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism in the 1850s

The intersection between competing ideological conceptions of whether the United States should assume an imperial role and dueling constitutional interpretations of which branch should control the making of U.S. foreign policy intensified during the 1850s. As occurred during the Polk administration, executive aggressiveness in advancing an imperialist agenda triggered a strong backlash from congressional anti-imperialists. Debate over imperialism peaked in response to the ambitious agenda of President James Buchanan. The former secretary of state envisioned a realpolitik foreign policy in which the United States would acquire Cuba and the executive would obtain the right to unilaterally send troops to weaker states. Amidst the ideological chaos of the 1850s, realizing this agenda would prove impossible.15

Congressional anti-imperialists checked Buchanan on two separate occasions. The first came in 1858, when Buchanan exploited a diplomatic controversy with Paraguay to propose a measure granting the President unilateral authority to send troops to Latin America. The bill cleared the House, which the Democrats controlled, but encountered stiff resistance in the Senate. Jacob Collamer (R-Vermont) countered with an amendment to strip from the bill Buchanan’s effort to use force absent congressional sanction. The Vermont senator, nicknamed “Green Mountain Socrates” for his oratorical skills, argued that such treatment of Paraguay, “a nation which we acknowledge as a civilized people,” would violate constitutional norms. In a major surprise, the Collamer amendment passed by a 21-to-19 margin. Southern Democrats furiously maneuvered to reconsider the vote, but were forced to concede that Buchanan would not use the authority to send troops to get the Collamer vote reversed.16

The next year, the outcome was even worse for the administration. Despite a setback for the Democrats in the 1858 midterm elections, Buchanan requested from the lame duck Congress a $30 million appropriation to lubricate negotiations with Spanish diplomats over a possible purchase of Cuba. Anti-imperialists responded forcefully. Typifying the group’s appeal, Senator John Hale (R-New Hampshire) denounced Buchanan’s policy as “the plea of tyrants,” or the “doctrine of the highway; it is the doctrine of power and might.” Hale reasoned that, while he might not oppose expansion in all circumstances, he could countenance the United States acquiring additional territory only “on just, honorable, honest, and patriotic principles.” In the end, the opposition was so intense that Buchanan supporters declined to bring the bill up for a vote.17

The Buchanan years perfectly illustrated the nature of pre-Civil War anti-imperialism. First, while it drew upon traditional American anti-imperial sentiments, the movement derived its strength from anti-slavery attitudes on the domestic front, and in particular, from the belief that a central purpose of 1840s and 1850s territorial expansion was to acquire new territories that could serve as slave states.18 Second, anti-imperialist sentiment was based (for political reasons) in Congress, and thus anti-imperialists championed a more robust legislative role in the making of U.S. foreign policy.

A robust anti-imperialism, therefore, depended upon the political conditions of the 1840s and 1850s persisting. But as anti-slavery sentiments diminished after the Civil War, and as the Republican Party grew more conservative on economic issues, the ideological conditions that had sustained anti-imperialism atrophied. Perhaps the final 19th century example of this left-wing anti-imperialism occurred in 1870, when Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner used his influence as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to block a proposed annexation of the Dominican Republic.

Gilded Age

With Collamer, Hale, and virtually every other pre-war anti-imperialist no longer in the Senate, Sumner represented an ideology that fast was becoming passé. He maintained that the treaty would violate international law and worried that U.S. annexation of the Dominican Republic would eventually threaten the independence of Haiti. The victory came with a cost: in 1871, Sumner lost his chairmanship. Three years later, the Massachusetts senator died. By then, the Republican Party Senate caucus that he once had personified displayed little interest in the type of foreign policy activism that had characterized the anti-imperialist movement between the gag rule fight and the onset of the Civil War.19

The Gilded Age, of course, remains best remembered for the strongly pro-business orientations of administrations from Hayes until McKinley. On civil rights questions, meanwhile, Republicans grew increasingly unwilling (or, given the tenor of the Supreme Court, unable) to enact legislation to protect African-Americans in the South. The Democrats who came to dominate the region’s politics resolutely defended the emerging Jim Crow system, while challenging—on constitutional grounds—the idea of federal power.20

The post-Reconstruction partisan realignment dramatically changed the nature of anti-imperialist activism in the United States. In the years before the Civil War, suspicion of Slave Power and anti-imperialism complemented each other, with a more reformist vision at home accompanying a vision for a less militaristic foreign policy. During the Gilded Age, however, anti-imperialism became more associated with the right, especially Southern Democrats. Their interest in the cause was almost entirely cynical: a fear of creating a precedent for a more powerful national government that could, at least in theory, be applied against the racial caste system that they so strongly defended. The result was a dizzying array of imperialist ventures launched by Republican administrations eager to expand U.S. economic might that were reversed during the Gilded Age periods when Democrats dominated Congress or the White House.21

The clearest example of the pattern involved the Frelinghuysen-Zavala Treaty, in which the United States sought a protectorate over Nicaragua to facilitate construction of a trans-Isthmian canal. But Republicans narrowly lost the 1884 presidential election to Grover Cleveland, and the new president promptly withdrew the treaty from consideration. His secretary of state, former Delaware senator Thomas Bayard, reflected post-Civil War sentiments on the need for a limited government, including in foreign affairs, and retained a cautious approach diplomatically for the next four years.22

The best-known Gilded Age debate about imperialism revolved around the U.S. relationship with the Kingdom of Hawai’i. The strategically located islands had generated a strategic, economic, and cultural rivalry between the United States, Britain, and eventually Japan, which intensified as the 19th century proceeded. In 1893, with the tacit support of Republicans in Washington, U.S. business interests launched a coup against Queen Liliuokalani, and proclaimed a Hawai’ian “republic.” The new entity quickly petitioned the U.S. government for formal annexation.

By the time of the coup, the 1892 election had replaced Benjamin Harrison with Cleveland—who, as he had earlier with regards to Nicaragua, refused to endorse an imperialist venture. But Cleveland’s anti-imperialism was of a limited variety. His administration declined the queen’s request to help restore her to power, a venture in which congressional Democrats likewise displayed little interest. When Cleveland’s Democrats lost power following the 1896 elections, the new administration of William McKinley revived the annexation idea, and Hawaiian independence ended.

An Imperial Moment

The limits of this more conservative version of anti-imperialism became clear in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War. McKinley’s administration accompanied a conflict with Spain over Cuba with an ambitious plan to seize Spanish colonies in Puerto Rico and the Philippines—the latter despite existence of an anti-colonial revolt that envisioned an independent republic under Emilio Aguinaldo. The war ended with an 1899 treaty that transferred Spanish sovereignty in the Philippines (and Puerto Rico) to the United States. Though Republicans possessed a Senate majority, McKinley needed some Democratic support to get the requisite two-thirds for approval.

As had occurred in the 1850s, the existence of aggressive political and ideological defenses of imperialism stimulated a powerful anti-imperialist dissent. But by this point, the ideological focus of anti-imperialism had shifted considerably. Sumner’s successor in the Senate, George Hoar, charged that imperialists believed that “we have outgrown the principles and the interpretation which were sufficient for our thirteen states and our 3 million people in the time of their weakness,” thereby embracing an imperialist doctrine that “would make of every war between civilized and powerful nations a war of extermination or a war of dishonor.” As for his own attitudes toward imperialism, the Massachusetts Republican was blunt: “You have no right at the cannon’s mouth to impose on an unwilling people your Declaration of Independence and your Constitution and your notions of freedom and notions of what is good.”23

In the end, however, Hoar was one of only two Republican senators to vote against the treaty. Its fate—reflecting the new politics of anti-imperialism—came down to Southern Democrats. While most pro-slavery Democrats had supported imperialism before the Civil War, this sentiment had not been unanimous: South Carolina senator John Calhoun, the most prominent example, had opposed the Mexican War on grounds that it would aggrandize the federal government and increase the number of non-whites under U.S. jurisdiction.24

Democrats who opposed acquisition of the Philippines borrowed from Calhoun’s approach of stressing racism and limited government to make their case. But this anti-imperialism was of a limited variety—most Southern Democrats did not oppose imperialism per se. Instead, they feared how an imperialistic foreign policy could threaten Jim Crow, both ideologically and constitutionally. This viewpoint provided an opening for the McKinley administration to get the treaty approved—persuading some Democrats that supporting the treaty would serve their constituents’ domestic interests. The president ultimately got the treaty approved through a deal with Louisiana Senator Samuel McEnery, in which McEnery agreed to vote for the treaty in exchange for McKinley granting him control over federal patronage in the state.25

The battle over the Philippines also stimulated the largest grassroots foreign policy organization in American history until that time. The Anti-Imperialist League, which claimed a membership of 250,000, deemed McKinley’s efforts in the Philippines a “criminal aggression” that would “extinguish the spirit of 1776 in those islands,” given that the “United States have always protested against the doctrine of international law which permits the subjugation of the weak by the strong.” In addition to its membership base, the League attracted some high-profile support, including philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and satirist Mark Twain. “I am an anti-imperialist,” Twain proclaimed. “I am oppose to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.” He worried that “we have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.” But the League was, in many ways, of a different era; its mostly Northeastern base harkened back to the ties between abolitionism and anti-imperialism. Its internal divisions were intensified by debates over endorsing Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 election. Although Bryan had opposed acquisition of the Philippines, his economic agenda enjoyed scant support in the Northeast. After McKinley’s victory in 1900, the organization continued its efforts exposing the excesses of the occupation—chiefly the use of water torture against captured Filipino prisoners—but it did not survive to challenge the imperialist ventures of Theodore Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson during the Progressive Era.26

As opponents of acquiring the Philippines warned, imperialism and the Constitution’s promises of equal protection and due process could not be easily reconciled. In a series of decisions collectively known as the Insular Cases, the Court held that since the new “possessions are inhabited by alien races, differing from us in religion, customs, laws, methods of taxation, and modes of thought, the administration of government and justice, according to Anglo-Saxon principles, may for a time be impossible.”27 Three years later, addressing the question of constitutional rights for residents of the colonies, the Court ruled, “If the United States, impelled by its duty or advantage, shall acquire territory peopled by savages, and of which it may dispose or not hold for ultimate admission to statehood, if this doctrine is sound, it must establish there the trial by jury. To state such a proposition demonstrates the impossibility of carrying it into practice.”28 The era’s “great dissenter,” John Marshall Harlan, opposed the Insular Cases from the same perspective as he dissented from Plessy v. Ferguson. But—as with Jim Crow—Harlan was in the minority.

As with the fate of left-wing anti-imperialists in the Civil War, broader political changes ultimately undermined the late 19th century right-wing anti-imperialism. The last vestiges of the Gilded Age pattern came during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, as Southern Democrats resisted the president’s efforts to expand U.S. influence in the Caribbean Basin. Roosevelt’s most ambitious policy in this regard started in 1905, when the United States—fearful of European intentions after a Hague Court decision regarding Venezuela appeared to justify military action on behalf of bondholders—attempted to secure a customs receivership over the Dominican Republic.29

Since the proposal was presented in the form of a treaty, it required Senate approval—which meant that Roosevelt needed to obtain some Democratic support. (The 59th Senate had 59 Republicans and 31 Democrats.) But the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Georgia Senator Augustus Bacon, joined by Maryland Democrat Isidor Rayner, resisted. Rayner criticized Roosevelt’s policy as unfairly benefiting financial interests and worried about the administration transforming the Monroe Doctrine into “an instrument of terror and oppression.”30 After two years of frustration, Roosevelt changed tactics, and implemented the customs arrangement through an executive agreement—so as, he remarked during the debate, to sidestep the “average yahoo among the Democratic senators” who had blindly backed Bacon and Rayner.31

While Bacon, Rayner, and their party allies prevented a customs receivership treaty, Democratic senators showed less willingness to resist the wishes of a Democratic president. Woodrow Wilson’s election in 1912, followed by the new President’s enunciation of a bold international vision, broke the power of right-wing anti-imperialism in the South. Instead, over the course of his presidency, Wilson enjoyed near-monolithic support from Senate Democrats, with only a small number—most prominently Mississippi’s James Kimble Vardaman and Missouri’s James Reed and, after 1918, David Walsh of Massachusetts—questioning the President’s handling of international affairs.

The High Point of Anti-Imperialism

Few, if any, presidents featured as wide a gap between rhetoric and action as did Wilson on questions of imperialism. Wilson probably devoted more thought than any other President to the question of how the United States—as a country founded in revolution—could, or should, interact with an international environment in which self-determination and anti-imperialist principles were becoming more potent. As the historian Thomas Knock has most persuasively argued, Wilson sought to integrate domestic reform principles (ranging from progressivism to the American brand of socialism) into his international vision.32

Wilson’s decision to enter the war as an associated power rather than as a formally ally of Britain and France was designed in part to give him maximum flexibility in the postwar peace settlement—and, at least in theory, to distance the United States from the imperial powers. In the Treaty of Versailles, he championed mandates (Article XXII of the League of Nations Covenant) to allow the major powers to guide former German colonies or sections of the dismembered Ottoman Empire to self-determination. And he authored Article XI, which held that “any war or threat of war, whether immediately affecting any of the Members of the League or not, is hereby declared a matter of concern to the whole League, and the League shall take any action that may be deemed wise and effectual to safeguard the peace of nations,” in the hopes of peacefully resolving conflicts between League members and entities that did not belong to the League, including colonies.33 This article, the President maintained, would ensure that the League Covenant did “not… preclude the right of revolution.”34

Yet Wilson’s policies often fell well short of these high-minded ideals. Over the course of his presidency, and apart from World War I, Wilson sent troops to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Mexico (twice), and Russia (twice). Only one of these operations (the first Mexican intervention) was approved by Congress, and even then the authorization resolution did not reach the Senate until Marines had landed in Veracruz. While Wilson’s rhetoric inspired anti-imperial uprisings in North Africa and East Asia, as historian Erez Manela has pointed out, the president seemed disinterested (at best) and hostile (at worst) to anti-colonial uprisings.35 It seemed as if his version of self-determination stopped at Europe’s frontiers and did not apply to people of color.

Wilson’s foreign policy generated strong opposition from conservatives, culminating in the successful efforts of Senate Majority Leader Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Massachusetts) to deny approval to the Treaty of Versailles. But as his presidency developed, Wilson also faced an intensifying critique from the left. A handful of peace progressive senators, some from the Midwest, others from the South, began a revival of a left-wing version of anti-imperialism that rivaled and at times surpassed the strength of the anti-imperialist movement from the two decades before the Civil War.36

The anti-imperialist critique of Wilsonianism emerged forcefully during 1919. Wilson’s decision to send troops to Russia—ostensibly to assist Czechs stranded in the country when Russia withdrew from World War I, but actually to influence the course of the Russian Civil War—triggered a backlash in Congress. Hiram Johnson, a Republican senator from California who often worked with the peace progressives in the late 1910s and early 1920s, introduced an amendment to cut off funding for the military operation. Anti-imperialists joined with Republican partisans; the measure failed by a tie vote, with the Vice President casting the tiebreaker to sustain the funding. But administration officials understood the message that Johnson had sent: Acting Secretary of State Frank Polk reasoned that the “critical spirit in Congress” meant that no additional appropriations for the Russian operation would be forthcoming.37

For Wilson’s left-wing critics in the Senate, the Russian policy previewed the type of colonial interventions that the League of Nations might sanction. Accordingly, and despite their general interest in promoting a peaceful world order, they irreconcilably opposed both the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. As Wilson attempted to defend his handiwork amidst criticism from conservatives and right-wing nationalists in the Senate, the peace progressives attacked the treaty from the left, denouncing its compromises with imperialism. Why, they wondered, had Wilson compromised with the Japanese, and signed the treaty despite its granting German concessions in Shantung to Japan? Why, they asked, had Wilson allowed the British and French to implement the Skyes-Picot accords, which carved up much of the Ottoman Empire into European protectorates?

Wilson defended himself on the grounds that the League, once it had begun its work, could handle such difficult issues. But the peace progressives saw the League as a pernicious institution, which would uphold rather than challenge the interests of imperialists. They seized on Article XI, noting its odd wording in deeming it “the friendly right of each Member of the League”—but not non-members—“to bring to the attention of the Assembly or of the Council any circumstance whatever affecting international relations which threatens to disturb international peace or the good understanding between nations upon which peace depends.” Citing this linguistic vagueness, William Borah (R-Idaho) deemed Article XI “altogether the most dangerous provision of the treaty.” To Robert La Follette (R-Wisconsin), the “cunningly conceived” article would allow colonial powers to cite any movement toward self-determination as a threat to “international peace,” and thus invoke the League’s collective security powers.38

The battle over the League also created conditions for a new look at some of Wilson’s earlier imperial ventures. In the 1840s, concerns about racist foreign policies led abolitionists to criticize first Polk and then Buchanan’s foreign policies; in much the same way, in the late 1910s and early 1920s, early civil rights advocates turned toward anti-imperialist activities to bolster their critique of American society. The NAACP played a critical role in exposing human rights abuses in the U.S. occupation of Haiti, which in the four years after the United States had sent Marines in 1915 had received scant attention from either Congress or the media.39

As scholars such as Akira Iriye have demonstrated, despite the fact that three consecutive Republican administrations followed Wilsonian principles and continued to guide the U.S. approach to East Asia and (apart from the continuing refusal to join the League of Nations) Europe.40 In the Caribbean Basin, 1920s GOP policymakers sustained, and even intensified, Wilson’s imperialistic vision toward the region. The United States refused to withdraw from Haiti, threatened war with Mexico, and sent Marines to Nicaragua. These policies—especially the Nicaraguan intervention—drew vociferous opposition from congressional anti-imperialists, who used the peculiar legislative politics of the 1920s to maximize their influence.41

Imitating the strategy of Hiram Johnson toward the intervention in Russia, the peace progressives rallied around an amendment sponsored by William King (D-Utah) to terminate funds for the Haitian occupation. The measure failed badly, largely because Southern Democrats refused to cast a vote that could symbolize support for Haitian self-determination. (Most Democrats abstained on the King amendment.) Later in the 1920s, the Senate dissenters enjoyed more success in using appropriations riders. Calvin Coolidge’s decision to send U.S. Marines to Nicaragua (without obtaining authorization from Congress) became a cause célèbre in the United States due in part to the efforts of anti-imperialist journalists, who romanticized Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto Sandino. The realities of domestic politics also weakened the administration’s position, as congressional Democrats exploited the issue in the run-up to the 1928 presidential election. With the peace progressives effectively holding the balance of power in the Senate following the 1926 midterm elections, the Senate debated amendments to block funding for the Marines in 1927, 1928, and 1929; the 1929 amendment, sponsored by C. C. Dill (D-Washington), marked the first time that the Senate had voted, since the Collamer amendment in 1858, to cut off funds for an overseas military operation still in operation.42

The tussles over Nicaraguan policy simulated a high-level debate about the relationship between imperialism and traditional American ideals. Coolidge’s hapless secretary of state, Frank Kellogg, struggled to articulate a convincing rationale for the administration’s Caribbean Basin ventures. But Senator Hiram Bingham (R-Connecticut) proved more than capable of the task. An expert in Latin American history who had discovered the remains of the Incan city of Machu Picchu, Bingham migrated from the Yale faculty to Republican politics in the 1920s, when he won election as Connecticut’s lieutenant governor, governor, and finally junior senator. An aggressive defender of U.S. imperialism, he considered himself far more knowledgeable than his colleagues about Latin American affairs, and he eagerly lectured them on the proper U.S. role in the region. When the peace progressives, the Connecticut senator lectured, wanted “to be technical about the use of the term ‘war,’ [they] should be careful to distinguish the use of the word ‘marines,’ who, everyone recognizes, may be properly used in foreign countries for the protection of American life and property.” The intervention in Nicaragua, he maintained, was one such instance.43

As had occurred in the 1850s, the articulation of an aggressive agenda for imperialism triggered an eloquent rebuttal. Indeed, a case could be made that Senate debate over 1920s Nicaragua policy featured the high point of congressional anti-imperialist discourse at any point in U.S. history. John Blaine (R-Wisconsin), for instance, all but sympathized with the rebels, charging that “the blood of these [Nicaraguan] boys, of these men, of these women and children, is upon the hands of those who have directed the hostile and war activities against the Republic of Nicaragua, acts contrary to all precedent in the history of this Republic, contrary to the law and the Constitution of this Republic, contrary to the rules and customs that prevail among the nations of the world.” Burton Wheeler (D-Montana) described Sandino’s revolt as based upon “exactly the same principles of liberty and free government” as the American Revolution.”44The strength of the peace progressives came, in part, from the quality of their arguments and the unusual political strength they derived as the balance in a Senate divided between conservative Republicans and Democrats. But they also benefited from an unusually powerful level of grassroots anti-imperialist activism throughout the decade. Some of this effort came from established peace organizations, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) or the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), both of which devoted far more attention to issues of imperialism during the 1920s than they had in the previous decade. The 1920s also featured new organizations, such as the Committee on Cultural Relations with Latin America (CCRLA), which grew out of Protestant missionary activity in Latin America to advocate anti-imperialist principles in inter-American relations on the basis of enhanced cultural exchange among residents of the Western Hemisphere.45

The Depression ended the influence of the peace progressives over U.S. foreign policy. Massive Democratic gains in the 1932 elections, aided by the landslide election of Franklin Roosevelt, eliminated the dissenters’ role as the de facto balance of power in the Senate. And the economic downturn altered priorities in the Midwest, as voters demanded legislators who would focus on their immediate distress rather than worry about the well being of Nicaraguans or Haitians. Those who had led the opposition to the Nicaraguan intervention were particularly affected: Blaine failed to win re-nomination to a second Senate term in 1932, while Dill retired rather than risk a re-election bid in 1934. The NAACP and other civil rights activists attempted to generate an anti-imperialist critique of the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia, but had scant impact on either Congress or broader public opinion.46 As the United States inched closer towards involvement in World War II, inter-American relations—which traditionally had provided the most passionate debates over anti-imperialism and U.S. foreign policy—diminished in importance. In any case, strategic concerns were dictated by Roosevelt, who avoided 1920s-style imperialist ventures and did what he could to preserve good relations with key potential allies such as Mexico and Brazil.

Perhaps the clearest example of an anti-imperialist policy move during the Roosevelt years also illuminated the departure from the more radical anti-imperialism of the 1920s. In 1934, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which promised independence to the Philippines within a decade. (Because of World War II, independence ultimately would not arrive until 1946.) In this respect, the law, which Roosevelt supported, vindicated the demands of the anti-imperialist movement from the turn of the century. But freedom came with conditions; an independent Philippines would permit major U.S. military bases, transforming the islands into a protectorate for much of the postwar period. Many of the Tydings-McDuffie Act’s supporters, meanwhile, acted less from altruistic concerns or from a vision of the United States as an anti-imperialist power. Instead, they backed independence for economic reasons (since a tariff could then be applied to Filipino sugar, aiding American sugar producers) or from nativist impulses, as the law set a quota of 50 Filipinos per year, who could emigrate to the United States once independence occurred.47

The Cold War and Beyond

The changing nature of the U.S. role in the world during World War II and the immediate post-war era dramatically diminished the role that debates over imperialism played in broader discussions about foreign policy. The Atlantic Charter, which articulated what would become the nation’s war aims, referenced anti-imperialism, but only in an oblique fashion (the signatories would “respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live”), largely to accommodate British imperialism. Franklin Roosevelt made a token gesture toward addressing some of the controversies raised by the Versailles Treaty in his support for trusteeships—an updated form of mandates—under the newly created United Nations. And Roosevelt himself expressed strong skepticism about allowing France to reclaim its empire in Southeast Asia, a rare instance in which a President forcefully adopted an anti-imperialist policy. (More gently, the president urged Winston Churchill to consider the prospect of post-war independence for India.) But Roosevelt’s death, Harry Truman’s deference to Europeanists in the State Department, and the perceived Cold War requirements for accommodating the French generated an almost complete reversal in the U.S. approach, and by the early 1950s, the United States was funding a considerable portion of the French war effort in Vietnam.48

Anti-imperialist principles and Cold War realities also existed in a state of tension regarding postwar U.S. policy toward Africa. As both Penny Von Eschen and Mary Dudziak have explained, civil rights activists agitated for more aggressive U.S. support for African decolonization, although some anti-colonial advocates, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, were dismissed as communist sympathizers amidst a high point of the Cold War.49 The issue attracted far more attention among the political classes in 1957, when John Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), in perhaps his highest-profile speech in the Senate, chastised the Eisenhower administration’s approach toward the French colonial war in Algeria. Deeming imperialism the “enemy of freedom,” Kennedy described “the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man's desire to be free” as “the single most important test of American foreign policy today.” The Massachusetts senator argued that not backing Algerian independence would contradict the ideals about the Declaration of Independence, which served as “man's noblest expression against political repression.”50

Kennedy’s position on Algeria generated sharp criticism from Cold War architects in both parties; Dean Acheson chastised the senator’s “impatient snapping of our fingers” as the “wrong way to treat our oldest ally,” whose support the United States needed in the struggle against the Soviet Union.51 The strained debates about Africa in the late 1940s and 1950s demonstrated how significantly Cold War debate had constricted consideration of anti-imperialist alternatives to mainstream foreign policy. But an anti-imperialist perspective resurfaced—to a limited extent—in debates about Vietnam. One of the two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, Ernest Gruening (D-Alaska), had a long record of anti-imperialist activism, dating back to his time in the early 1920s, opposing the occupation of Haiti. As a journalist for the Nation and as a scholar of the Mexican Revolution, he crusaded against Coolidge’s policy toward Mexico and Nicaragua. And as a federal bureaucrat in the 1930s, he oversaw an ambitious, if ultimately unsuccessful, effort to reform Puerto Rico and, in the process, to show how the United States could improve the lot of its colonial possessions. Banished after his Puerto Rican setbacks to the Alaskan territorial governor’s position, Gruening revived his political career. He borrowed from his anti-imperialist heritage in demanding Alaskan statehood, arguing that “now that the United States has assumed world leadership, it has shown through the expressions of its leaders its distaste for colonialism.” Denying statehood, he submitted, would contradict those anti-colonial ideals.52

While Gruening’s fellow Tonkin Gulf dissenter, Wayne Morse (D-Oregon), offered a more legalistic argument against the resolution, the Alaska senator drew on his longstanding anti-imperialist critique of U.S. foreign policy. Gruening framed the U.S. escalation in Vietnam as nothing more than a continuation of the French colonial war. As such, the “allegation that we are supporting freedom in South Vietnam has a hollow sound.”53 Both Gruening and Morse lost their seats in 1968; their early opposition to the war contributed to both outcomes, although other factors (age, poor relationships with President Lyndon Johnson, the senators’ votes against all defense appropriations) also played a role.54

By 1968, a broad-based, grassroots anti-war movement had developed, which among other things helped to drive Lyndon Johnson from his re-nomination bid. The movement was primarily based in anti-militarist sentiments, oriented around opposition to the war itself. But an anti-imperialist critique supplemented the anti-war crusade. Signs emerged as early as 1964 and 1965, when teach-ins at colleges and universities around the country featured experts on Southeast Asia, such as Cornell’s George Kahin, who framed the U.S. effort as a continuation of France’s imperial crusade.55 Youth groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society organized protests; the anti-war movement went mainstream with Moratorium Day protests (1969), which drew hundreds of thousands of people around the country. Anti-war activism also spread to military veterans, most prominently through the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. With the exception of the early teach-ins and some of the most extreme grassroots activists, most of this movement was more anti-war than anti-imperialist, but given the nature of the conflict—the United States waging war against a far weaker state, in a conflict that traced its roots to France’s efforts to retain its colonial presence in Southeast Asia—anti-imperial themes complemented the anti-war rhetoric.56

The 1960s focus on the war in Vietnam gave way to a broader emphasis on anti-imperialism in the 1970s. The brutal military coup in Chile, where the resulting regime of Augusto Pinochet was guilty of extensive deprivations of human rights, triggered a widespread backlash in the United States. Established human rights groups such an Amnesty International joined with newer organizations, including Catholic social welfare groups, to raise national consciousness about Pinochet’s excesses and to demand the cessation of all U.S. aid to the regime.57 In Congress, the most significant anti-imperialist initiative came in 1975, after the Ford administration began covertly aiding anti-communist rebels in newly independent Angola. Legislators discovered the initiative accidentally, after funds for the operation expired prematurely, and the administration was forced to request additional appropriations. In response, Congress passed two amendments, introduced by Senators Dick Clark (D-Iowa) and John Tunney (D-California), to bring the operation to a close. While Clark persuaded colleagues that a show of respect for Angolan self-determination would provide a degree of penance for the earlier U.S. “lack of support for the struggle against colonialism,” skeptical Republicans suggested that the Iowa senator was too eager “to criticize the U.S. for not having contacted and assisted the ‘liberation’ movements in southern Africa.” In the event, the two amendments represented the high point of congressional anti-imperialism in the Cold War era; conservatives cited the quick triumph of the Angolan communists after the U.S. aid cutoff as illustrating the dangers of excessive congressional involvement in foreign policy, and both Clark and Tunney lost their subsequent re-election bids.58

While opponents of aid to the Nicaraguan contras in 1980s sometimes hinted at anti-imperialist themes, fear of another Vietnam—coupled with, on the activist left, what might be labeled an “anti-anti-communist” ideology—provided the greater motivation for opposition to Ronald Reagan’s Central American policy. Virtually no opposition emerged to either Reagan’s invasion of Grenada (1983) or George H. W. Bush’s invasion of Panama (1989), even though both operations seemed appropriate for an anti-imperialist critique.

The end of the Cold War, meanwhile, has changed how both the public and policymakers consider the U.S. role in the world in ways that have significantly downplayed a role for anti-imperialism. Among Democrats, the aftermath of the humanitarian catastrophes in Rwanda and Bosnia boosted support for a renewed emphasis on Wilsonian intervention to protect civilians; Samantha Power’s writing best reflects the idea, which also was associated with another prominent early supporter of President Barack Obama, Susan Rice.59 Another wing of the party, traumatized by the 9/11 attacks on the United States, sought to defuse foreign policy as a political issue and endorsed military intervention in the Middle East; Hillary Clinton’s vote for the war in Iraq provides the most famous example. Among Republicans, meanwhile, the realism of George H. W. Bush gave way to the neoconservativism of George W. Bush, which has been replaced in recent years by an almost reflexive nationalism, in which criticizing any element of U.S. foreign policy can be construed as apologizing for America. (Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign book distilled the theme.60)

In Congress, anti-imperialist themes have been reduced to the fringes of both parties, figures such as Representative Barbara Lee (D-California), Representative Water Jones (R-North Carolina), or former representative Ron Paul (R-Texas). At the grassroots level, anti-imperialist discourse has often veered into unconvincing economic determinism (as in cries of “no blood for oil” during the Iraq war) or into attacks of “imperialistic” Israeli policies as a kind of proxy for criticizing U.S. foreign policy. In recent years, this phenomenon has become increasingly common on U.S. college campuses.61

Given the ideology’s prominence in American history, we doubtless will see, at some point in the future, an anti-imperialist revival, but the prospects of such a development seem rather dim in the second decade of the 21st century.

Discussion of the Literature

Much of the earliest work on this topic tended to center on either the Anti-Imperialist League—which was, after all, the largest institution in U.S. history ostensibly devoted to the anti-imperialist cause—or opponents of the war in the Philippines, the sole conflict in U.S. history in which nearly all the opposition openly described themselves as “anti-imperialists.” Fred Harvey Harrington explores the topic as early as the 1930s; Robert Beisner and E. Berkeley Tompkins return to it in influential books published in 1968 and 1970.62 Richard Welch’s 1979 book provides a narrative history of the movement, which has continued to attract the attention of scholars; the most recent major book on the subject, by Michael Patrick Cullinane, argues that, in some respects, the anti-imperialist movement should be viewed as a success.63

Anti-imperialism also flourished during the Mexican War and its aftermath, another subject for which the historiography is rich. Scholarly coverage of the debate over imperialism in the 1840s dates to Frederick Merk’s (now outdated) Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History; Reginald Horsman brings attention to the role that racial attitudes played for both supporters and opponents of the war.64 Thomas Hietala’s book, which explores popular attitudes toward expansion and political consideration of the issue, remains the best study of the subject.65

The question of how imperialism related to domestic politics was first explored in detail by William Leuchtenburg, in a famous article tracing the connection between progressivism and imperialism.66 Drew McCoy performs a similar task for the Early Republic, examining how pursuit of empire was critical for realizing the domestic vision of the Jeffersonians.67 My work on the peace progressives and on Ernest Gruening explores how domestic impulses created a movement toward anti-imperialism in the 1920s, and how some of this mindset carried over into the Cold War.

In recent years, the study of U.S. diplomatic history has paid more attention to themes of race, gender, and ethnicity; of these three, the focus on race has been by far the most fruitful. Civil rights activists have periodically extended their interests internationally to focus on the plight of blacks in the Caribbean and Africa. Hans Schmidt’s book on the U.S. occupation of Haiti is the first to give sufficient attention to the NAACP’s role in opposing the intervention; Jonathan Rosenberg’s more recent study places the organization’s activities in greater context.68 Penny Von Eschen and Mary Dudziak present independent examinations of the impact of anti-imperialism and civil rights activism in the early Cold War.69

Finally, some scholars have examined the relationship between anti-imperialism in the United States and developments overseas. Akira Iriye traces such developments in East Asia; Richard Salisbury’s excellent book performs a similar task for the Caribbean Basin; and Erez Manela looks at the impact of Wilson’s anti-colonial rhetoric on post-World War I revolutions in the Middle East and East Asia.70

Despite this scholarly record, critical areas of anti-imperialism—chiefly the 1850s and the conservative anti-imperialism of the Gilded Age—have not received sufficient attention from historians.

Primary Sources

No centralized archive of materials relating to American anti-imperialism exists, but, as with most matters related to foreign policy dissent, a starting point is the Swarthmore College Peace Collection (SCPC). The precise relationship between the peace movement and anti-imperialist activity differs depending on the scholar—contrast, for instance, Peter Brock’s Pacifism in the United States (which devotes scant attention to the issue) with Charles Chatfield’s For Peace and Justice (which covers anti-imperialism in a subsidiary role) to my book on the peace progressives (which suggests that anti-imperialism was critical to the 1920s peace movement).71 The SCPC hosts the manuscript collections of major peace organizations, most importantly for this issue, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The NAACP Papers, critical for examining the connection between civil rights activism and anti-imperialism, are housed at the Library of Congress but are also available on microfilm. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, edited by Arthur Link, remains an extraordinarily rich source of material of executive branch thinking about anti-imperialism during a critical period.72

Finally, given the importance of the congressional role to anti-imperialism, congressional sources are of particular importance to the study of this issue. The manuscript collections of very few 19th century members of Congress have survived, though Charles Sumner (Harvard University) is an important exception. Among 20th century senators, the Library of Congress houses the papers of peace progressive anti-imperialists Robert La Follette, William Borah, and George Norris; other peace progressives, such as John Blaine and C. C. Dill, left scant collections. Ernest Gruening’s excellent collection is located at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Further Reading

Cullinane, Michael Patrick. Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism: 1898–1909. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.Find this resource:

Dudziak, Mary. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Iriye, Akira. After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967.Find this resource:

Johnson, Robert David. The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Jones, Dorothy. License for Empire: Colonialism by Treaty in Early America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.Find this resource:

Manela, Erez. The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Miller, William Lee. Arguing About Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress. New York: Vintage, 1995.Find this resource:

Rosenberg, Jonathan. How Far the Promised Land? World Affairs and the American Civil Rights Movement from the First World War until Vietnam. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Salisbury, Richard. Anti-Imperialism and International Competition in Central America, 1920–1929. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1989.Find this resource:

Tompkins, E. Berkeley. Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890–1920. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970.Find this resource:


(1.) “Declaration of Independence,” July 4, 1776; J. M. Opal, “Common Sense and Imperial Atrocity,” Common-Place 9 (2009); see also Michael A. McDonnell, “The American War for Independence and the American Revolution,” Oxford Research Encyclopedias (forthcoming).

(2.) “Declaration of Independence,” July 4, 1776; Robert Remini, “Northwest Ordinance: Bulwark of the Republic,” Indiana Magazine of History 84 (1988), 15–24; J. M. Opal, “Common Sense and Imperial Atrocity,” Common-Place 9 (2009).

(3.) On treaty making, see Jack Rakove, “Solving a Constitutional Puzzle: The Treaty Making Clause as a Case Study,” Perspectives in American History 1 (New Series) (1984), 223–281; on the letters of marque clause, see Charles Lofgren, “Government from Reflection and Choice”: Constitutional Essays on War, Foreign Relations, and Federalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986).

(4.) Daniel Rice, “Territorial Annexation as a ‘Great Power,’” Duke Law Journal 64 (2015), 717–768.

(5.) See, for example, the exchanges between Brutus, Constitution Society, no. 8, and Federalist, Constitution Society, no 8.

(6.) Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980).

(7.) The most prominent Old Republican, Virginia representative John Randolph, opposed war with England by raising the following question: “What! Shall this great mammoth of the American forest leave his native element, and plunge into the water in a mad contest with the shark?” Richard Heath Dabney, John Randolph: A Character Sketch (Milwaukee: H. G. Campbell, 1903), 38.

(8.) Jessie Kratz, “The Senate Irritates the President,” The National Archives, Prologue: Pieces of History, August 21, 2014; on the treaty system, see Dorothy Jones, License for Empire: Colonialism by Treaty in Early America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); see also N. Bruce Duthu, Federal Indian Law; U.S. Indian Policy, 1783-1830, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (December 2014).

(9.) Tim Matthewson, A Proslavery Foreign Policy: Haitian-American Relations in the Early Republic (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2003); see also Phillippe Girard, Haiti and the Early United States, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (forthcoming).

(10.) William Lee Miller, Arguing About Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress (New York: Vintage, 1995), 351–365; Leonard Richards, The Life and Time of Congressman John Quincy Adams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 160–175.

(11.) Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 701–743.

(12.) Congressional Globe, 29th Congress, 2nd session, (December 15, 1846), The Library of Congress, 34–36; see also Omar Valerio-Jiménez, The U.S.-Mexico War, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (forthcoming).

(13.) James Duff, “David Wilmot, the Statesman and Political Leader,” Pennsylvania History 13 (October 1946): 283–289.

(14.) Robert May, Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854–1961 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973).

(15.) Frederick Moore Binder, James Buchanan and the American Empire (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1994).

(16.) Congressional Globe, 35th Congress, 1st session, (April 21, 1858), The Library of Congress, 1727–1728, and (May 4, 1858) 1929; Allan Bogue, The Earnest Men: Republicans of the Civil War Senate (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), 32.

(17.) Congressional Globe, 35th Congress, 2nd session, The Library of Congress, Appendix, 160–165 (February 15, 1859).

(18.) This belief was not unreasonable: see Robert May, The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854–1861 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002).

(19.) David Herbert Donald, Charles Sumner and the Rights of Man (New York: Knopf, 1970), 435–455; Dennis Hidalgo, “Charles Sumner and the Annexation of the Dominican Republic,” Itinerario 21 (July 1997), 51–65.

(20.) Albert House, “Northern Congressional Democrats as Defenders of the South During Reconstruction,” Journal of Southern History 6 (February 1940), 46–71.

(21.) The classic text on Gilded Age Republican imperialism remains Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860–1898 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1963).

(22.) Richard Welch, The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988).

(23.) Congressional Record, 55th Congress, 3rd session, pp. 494–501 (February 5, 1899); Richard Welch, George Frisbie Hoar and the Half-Breed Republicans (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971).

(24.) Thomas Hietela, Manifest Design: American Exceptionalism and Empire (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), 161–163.

(25.) Michael Patrick Cullinane, Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism: 1898–1909 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 46–49; Paolo Coletta, “McKinley, the Peace Negotiations, and the Acquisition of the Philippines,” Pacific Historical Review 30 (November 1961), 348.

(26.) Ernest R. May, American Imperialism: A Speculative Essay (Chicago: Imprint Publications, 1991); E. Berkeley Tompkins, Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890–1920 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970); Jim Zwick, Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992); Philip McFarland, Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a New Century (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012), 54; “Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League,” in Speeches, Correspondence, and Political Papers of Carl Schurz, vol. 6, ed. Frederick Bancroft (New York: G. P. Putnam’s, 1913), 77.

(27.) Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901); for background, see Juan Torruella, The Supreme Court and Puerto Rico: The Doctrine of Separate and Unequal (San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1988).

(28.) Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904).

(29.) David Healy, Drive to Hegemony: The United States in the Caribbean (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988).

(30.) Congressional Record, 59th Congress, 1st session, (February 10, 1906), 793–800.

(31.) Theodore Roosevelt to Joseph Bucklin Bishop, March 23, 1905, Elting Morison, ed., Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, vol. 4 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951), 1144–1145.

(32.) Thomas Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992).

(33.) “The Covenant of the League of Nations,” Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

(34.) Wilson address, New York City Opera House, March 4, 1919, Arthur Link, ed., Papers of Woodrow Wilson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966–1994), vol. 55, 413–421.

(35.) Erez Manela, The Wilsonian Moment: Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

(36.) For Senate debate over the League, see Lloyd Ambrosius, Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

(37.) U.S. Dept. of State, “Siberia,” In Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1919, University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, 245–248.

(38.) Robert David Johnson, “Article XI in the Debate on the United States’ Rejection of the League of Nations,” International History Review 15 (1993), 512–514.

(39.) Jonathan Rosenberg, How Far the Promised Land? World Affairs and the American Civil Rights Movement from the First World War until Vietnam (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), 15–74.

(40.) Akira Iriye, After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1967).

(41.) Richard Salisbury, Anti-Imperialism and International Competition in Central America, 1920–1929 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1989).

(42.) Robert David Johnson, The Peace Progressives and American Foreign Relations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 105–150.

(43.) Congressional Record, 70th Congress, 1st session, (February 24, 1928), 2411–2412; Thomas Karnes, “Hiram Bingham and His Obsolete Shibboleth,” Diplomatic History 3 (Winter 1979), 39–57.

(44.) Johnson, Peace Progressives, 133–143.

(45.) Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914–1941 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971), 210–240; Harriet Hyman Alonso, Peace as a Women’s Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women’s Rights (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1993); Joyce Blackwell, No Peace without Freedom: Race and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915–1975 (Carbondale, IL: Southern Indiana University Press, 2004), 111–142.

(46.) Rosenberg, How Far the Promised Land? 101–130.

(47.) Nick Cullather, Illusions of Influence: The Political Economy of United States-Philippines Relations, 1942–1960 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 641; Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York: Random House, 1989).

(48.) Auriel Weilgold, Churchill, Roosevelt, and India: Propaganda during World War II (London: Routledge, 2008); Gary Hess, “Franklin Roosevelt and Indochina,” Journal of American History 59 (1972), 353–368; “Atlantic Charter: August 14, 1941,” Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

(49.) Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000); Penny Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).

(50.) Ronald Nurse, “Critic of Colonialism: JFK and Algerian Independence,” The Historian 39 (1977), 306–327.

(51.) Douglas Brinkley, Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953–1971 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992), 70.

(52.) Robert David Johnson, Ernest Gruening and the American Dissenting Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 88–197.

(53.) Congressional Record, 88th Congress, 2nd session (August 6, 1964), 18413–18414.

(54.) Mason Drukman, Wayne Morse: A Political Biography (Portland: Oregon State Historical Society Press, 1997), 425–510.

(55.) “Gov’t Defeats Own Purposes, Kahin Says at U.S. Teach-In,” Cornell Daily Sun, May 17, 1965.

(56.) Andrew Hunt, The Turning: A History of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York: New York University Press, 2011); Jeffrey Kimball, Nixon’s Vietnam War (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 165–175; see also Leilah Danielson, The Peace Movement since 1945, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (May 2015).

(57.) Darren Hawkins, International Human Rights and Authoritarian Rule in Chile (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002).

(58.) Robert David Johnson, “The Unexpected Consequences of Congressional Activism: The Clark and Tunney Amendments and U.S. Policy toward Angola,” Diplomatic History 27 (2003), 222–227.

(59.) Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002). See also Paul Rubinson, Antinuclear Activism, Oxford Research Encyclopedias (forthcoming).

(60.) Mitt Romney, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness (New York: St. Martin’s, 2010).

(61.) Cary Nelson and Gabriel Noah Brahm, eds., The Case against Academic Boycotts of Israel (New York: MLA Members for Scholars’ Rights, 2014); Robert David Johnson, “Confronting Anti-Israel Attitudes on Contemporary College Campuses,” Midstream 50 (2004), 11–15.

(62.) Fred Harvey Harrington, “The Anti-Imperialist Movement in the United States, 1898–1900,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 22 (1935), 211–230; Robert L. Beisner, Twelve Against Empire: The Anti-Imperialists, 1898–1900 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968); Tompkins, Anti-Imperialism in the United States.

(63.) Richard E. Welch Jr., Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899–1902 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979); Cullinane, Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism, 1898–1909.

(64.) Frederick Merk, Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reinterpretation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963); Reginald Horsman, Race and Manifest Destiny: Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981).

(65.) Hietela, Manifest Design. For a more limited perspective of the debate over imperialism in the era, see Amy Greenberg, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 Invasion of Mexico (New York: Knopf, 2012).

(66.) William E. Leuchtenburg, “Progressivism and Imperialism: The Progressive Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898–1916,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 39 (1952), 483–504.

(67.) McCoy, The Elusive Republic.

(68.) Hans Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995); Rosenberg, How Far the Promised Land?

(69.) Von Eschen, Race against Empire; Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights.

(70.) Iriye, After Imperialism; Manela, The Wilsonian Moment; Richard Salisbury, Anti-Imperialism and International Competition.

(71.) Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968); Charles Chatfield, For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914–1941 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1971); Robert David Johnson, Peace Progressives and American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995).

(72.) Arthur Link, ed., Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vols. 1–69 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1966–1994).