Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Andrew Wender Cohen
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Diplomatic History | History | Other History | Political History | United States History
This thesis considers similarities between key members of the American Anti-Imperialist League who, born in the Old World, emigrated to the United States and became luminaries in their adopted country.
The American Anti-Imperialist League formed in 1898 to oppose America’s annexation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Anti-war activists had not prevented the conflict itself, but members of the new League hoped to effect a real protest against the United States taking far-flung Pacific colonies.
The League drew support from a vast array of Americans. With diverse branches in several major American cities, its members included writers, businessmen, philosophers, lawyers, social activists, peace activists, Henry George-style single taxers, and everything in between. It was not short on luminaries: Mark Twain, former President Grover Cleveland, Ambrose Bierce, William James, Jane Addams and William Graham Sumner were just some of its members. But it was short on cohesiveness. Other than generally opposing Philippine annexation, its members’ reasons and beliefs differed on subjects from economics to racism to political preferences to pacifism.
As fractured as its membership was, the Anti-Imperialist League notably had several key members who were born in Europe and emigrated to America later in life. Their beginnings varied in the details, but there are four key Anti-Imperialists who all came from European beginnings to become prominent men in the United States of the late 19th century.
Carl Schurz (Germany), Edwin Lawrence Godkin (then-British Ireland), Andrew Carnegie (Scotland), and Samuel Gompers (England) all left Western Europe and became U.S. citizens, constructing an identity consistent with their vision of America. And all four vigorously opposed annexing the Philippines. This thesis considers whether these men have a more cohesive ideology than the rest of the League. Were they outliers or squarely in the middle of the spectrum of beliefs present in the League? How much of an impact were they able to exert on the issue, compared to each other and to the rest of the League? And how exactly did their backgrounds provoke their opposition to an imperial foreign policy for America?
Research consisted of the extensive use of primary and secondary materials from the physical and electronic collections at Syracuse University, as well as Wheaton College (Wheaton, IL). There was also a research trip to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, made possible by a generous grant from the History Department’s Wortman-Ellman fund. Many thanks to the History Department of the Maxwell School.
The general conclusion of the thesis is that the émigré anti-imperialists, due to their émigré backgrounds, were all essentially anti-statists, agreeing on a wide array of libertarian principles, and were also powerfully idealistic men. This was why they, unlike a great many Americans, were consistently and fervently anti-imperialistic.
Schmidt, Alex, "Emigre Anti-Imperialists and America's Philippines, 1898-1899" (2010). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 403.
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