The March of the Flag: American reasoning to interventionism Aleksander Trzebunia
Professor: Andrew Johnston
TA: Emily Cuggy
In the late 1800’s, at the turn of the 20th century, European empires controlled around 60% of the globe. The decaying Spanish and French empires had relinquished most of their Imperialist goals to control more overseas territories and were left with the remains of what they could hold onto. The British Empire however was still going strong and as the saying went: “The sun never sets on the British Empire”. But even then, in the 1890’s, the presence of European Imperialism began to diminish and a new player would enter the game of Imperialism and Jingoism. That player was the United States; consequently it was established as a nation in 1776 after seceding from the British Empire. The US originally had the goals of being a neutral/isolationist State; not interfering in what the general public detested about foreign imperialism. But what had changed? In the course of the next 50-60 years, the US would undertake a major foreign policy shift and steer towards the policies of Imperialism and American Exceptionalism, where some historians argue that the founding fathers had not planned the United States to pan out. This essay discusses the effects of the most important rallying cry for US policy before World War One: The infamous “March of the Flag” speech, as presented by Senator Albert Beveridge. It was the words and ideas behind the speech which helped rally many Americans to support Jingoism under Roosevelt’s presidency. This culminated in the acquisition of the former Spanish territories of the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico and Guam among many other islands. With Beveridge’s speech influencing the annexation and governance of regions which were “unfit” for self-rule, the United States became the new great Imperialist power; replacing the United Kingdom as the vanguard of freedom and civilization. To begin, we must analyze the foundations of Senator Beveridge’s speech and highlight the points made to justify American intervention in Latin America and Southeast Asia/Pacific. The March of the Flag speech was delivered to the public in September 1898, just a month after the US had defeated the Spanish Empire in the Spanish-American War. The end result was the transfer of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines over to American administration. Beveridge’s speech comes into play here; as these colonies were swapped over to another Imperial power, one that was beginning to change its foreign policy and start the role of the “world’s policeman”. This also marks Beveridge’s use of words in his speech that promoted justifications for America’s interventionist attitudes. “And, regardless of this formula of words made only for enlightened, self-governing people, do we owe no duty to the world? Shall we turn these peoples back to the reeking hands from which we have taken them? Shall we abandon them, with Germany, England, Japan, hungering for them? Shall we save them from those nations, to give them a self-rule of tragedy?”1. The Jingoist policy that Beveridge was promoting in his speech was US foreign policy; at the time still strongly influenced by the Monroe Doctrine2. The document granted the USA apparent rights to intervene in any Latin American state that was being manipulated by European powers. It was clear that the US considered Latin America in its sphere of influence3, and it was not to be meddled with by foreign powers. However, for the most part up until the Spanish American War, the United States was generally isolationist. Essentially what happened was the government’s policy to build a strong international presence through military strength, capitalism and the drive to impose the democratic, civilizing mission across from the Americas over to the Pacific/South East Asia. In other words, this foreign policy became known as “Jingoism”4. It emphasized...
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