The facts of history clearly contradict the national ideology. Are the ideals we instill in the nation's public schools only fairy tales for children; or is the vaunted commitment to proclaimed American values something that can be salvaged? The conquest and colonization of North America by the British, and French and Spanish, was the result of bitter competition between the Atlantic maritime nations for control of the newly discovered lands in the western hemisphere, as well as in Asia and Africa. Indeed, the origins of the 20th century's global wars can be found in those conflicts five centuries ago.
The stable global system that appeared to have taken shape by was the direct result of armed strife between European rivals over the previous centuries, who by the turn of the 20th century had wrested dominion over most of the arable land surface and peoples of the planet, with Britain the dominant player upon whose empire the "sun never set.
While the conquest of North America was the outgrowth of Europe's economic and military expansion, once the nascent United States had thrown off British rule, the nation began to compete directly with the former "mother country" for hegemony in the western hemisphere, and then throughout the 20th century in the world at large. The Monroe Doctrine, announced in to assert American predominance in the western hemisphere, has been progressively amplified ever since by succeeding administrations to encompass the entire planet.
American military forces are deployed in over nations, more than two-thirds of the states comprising the United Nations, on a scale that dwarfs anything ever seen in history. American arms patrol all the oceans and skies, including outer space, in what the Pentagon calls its intent to achieve "full-spectrum dominance" on a planetary scale. The only thing really new about all of this is the scale but even that was fully predictable after World War II.
Neo-Conservatives aver that their motives are altruistic and that they are performing a vital service for the world community by forcibly spreading "democracy" because no other nation is capable of defeating rogue states and dictatorships. Yet the most cursory examination of the self-serving economic boons being reaped by the the well-connected patrons of the Bush Administration give the lie to their claims of global benefaction.
Numerous liberals also assert that the United States is not embarked upon an imperial mission, comparing the American present to the Greek, Roman and British past, and highlighting the obvious differences. Yet the American experiment was calculated to settle land already known to be inhabited by others, under circumstances that required the bloody conquest of those peoples and the annexation of their land.
Once embarked upon nationhood the United States immediately began to wrest territory from the Spanish, French, British and other native peoples, and within little more than half a century conquered and took from Mexico approximately one-quarter of our present continental territory, an expansion unprecedented in history, and which dwarfed imperial Rome in scale.
Private individuals known as filibusters, encouraged by politicians at home, even dreamt of annexing all of Mexico, and attempted to annex Nicaragua and Santo Domingo but were halted when the logistics of ruling over an immense non-white majority were realized.
Race, Conflict and the International Order: From Empire to United Nations
So war and empire were the realities of the first two centuries of the American nation. At the dawn of the 20th century the U. That process, the process of neo-empire, continues now on a planetary scale. But what has impelled these wars, and the establishment of this new form of empire? From the outset, the British colonists who forcibly took control of North America did so with the goal of enriching themselves as they could not hope to do in Europe.
Profit was the primary motive, even among those who came as indentured servants, since a continent seemed ripe for their taking once such debts were paid. By the time of the American Revolution the colonies had developed to the point where they could challenge Britain itself for mastery, and retain the riches of the continent for themselves. Though both Jeffersonians and Hamiltonians had different plans for the expansion of the new nation, expansionism was the goal of both.
A fusion of both approaches characterized the early Republic, which expanded across the continent ruthlessly, dislodging all who stood in the way, natives, Spanish, French, British, Mexicans. As we know, it was Hamilton's vision of an industrial-financial capitalism that prevailed. By the turn of the 20th Century the U. In pursuit of markets, resources and access to cheap labor, the U. The Colonial Era to the Civil War School children study the noble efforts of Pilgrims to establish a new society in which they could practice their religious freedom.
But few learn that New England's, and most British colonies were established as joint-stock companies to garner profit for investors, a requirement that necessitated exploitation of the new environments and their inhabitants and most colonists themselves. Nor do most learn of the religious fanaticism, attitudes of racial superiority, and genocidal violence that made the "New English Canaan" possible.
Calling themselves God's "new chosen people" the Puritans of New England quickly learned to call the natives "Adam's degenerate seed," when they were not seen merely as "swarms of lice. As one of the Puritans' militia captains put matters, the colonists had deliberately sought "to cut off remembrance of them from the earth. The Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Narragansett and other peoples of Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Connecticut had actually been exceedingly generous to the newcomers, effectively sharing land and teaching them how to cultivate it according to local climate and soil conditions.
But English notions of land usage, particularly that of private enclosure, quickly brought the colonists and natives into conflict. Increasing European migration, coupled with competition over land, led to attacks by aboriginals on British settlements, then into all out war. Native populations had already been extremely diminished by contact with European diseases to which they had no immunity, and this coupled with the efforts of colonists to exacerbate conflict between tribes, and to thwart intertribal unity, made victory over the British impossible.
When the colonists eventually prevailed they inflicted a horrible slaughter on men, women and children alike. For a quarter century the severed head of Metacomet, the son of the colonists' benefactor, Massasoit, remained impaled on a pike in Plymouth town square, a reminder of the implacability of those who intended to be masters of the land.
English victory cleared the natives of southern New England and" allowed the uninterrupted growth of England's northern colonies right up to the American Revolution," and became as well "the brutal model for how the United States would deal with its native population. Doctrines of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority, fostered to rationalize genocidal attitudes, and to justify the enslavement of Africans, quickly percolated into the culture, to be refined continually up to the present.
Severely weakened, the natives of the coast were driven further and further west, a scenario essentially repeated for the next years that would bear bitter fruit in places like Sand Creek and Wounded Knee. The natives of northern New England, fearing English ferocity, joined with other tribes hostile to the British, and more favorable to the French, thereby setting the stage for the North American chapter of the great continual war between Britain and France that played out over centuries. What American textbooks often call the "French and Indian War" of , was really a significant episode in this larger conflict, and this war was truly global in scope, being fought also in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia.
It was also the war in which many American military leaders would get their combat experience in the service of the Crown only to use it against their sovereign a few years later. Without the British army the colonists would have fallen under French rule, or been expelled from North America altogether. The expense to the British Exchequer of providing military protection to the colonies was the primary cause of the increase in taxation levied on the colonies to pay for the war that would ultimately lead to the break with Britain.
Beard said "perhaps no other book on the Constitution has been more severely criticized, and so little read. While the rhetoric of the American Revolution clearly centered on the principle of representation in Parliament and opposition to tyranny, the fact remains that virtually all of those who signed either the Declaration of Independence or Constitution stood to lose personal fortune should they be required to pay the infamous taxes, and in their rebellion also used their newfound power to augment those fortunes and their political power.
Land speculation was "one of the leading activities of capitalists" prior to the Revolution. However, the Royal Proclamation of , one part of the settlement of the French and Indian War, had declared that the Appalachians were to be the limit of westward British expansion, thereby rendering western land values all but null. Later, those merchants and bankers who loaned the Continental Congress the money to pursue the Revolution understood that the framework of the Articles of Confederation could never repay them their principal or interest.
Beard's contribution was to show clearly that it was speculators including Washington, Franklin, Patrick Henry, Gallatin, and many others , shippers and merchants and manufacturers, and holders of the public debt who wanted a central government capable of discharging debt, fostering monetary stability, and competing directly with England for commercial supremacy, who were the principal promoters of the Constitution. They were opposed, in the main, by small landholders with little property, and few opportunities to obtain money.
Ironically, it was these citizens who had formed the backbone of the Continental Army and the state militias that had won the Revolution, and who were now oppressed by state governments that sought to tax them, often without representation in the various legislatures, and to confiscate their land. Daniel Shays of Massachusetts had served six long years as an officer, leaving his farm in the care of his wife and children.
During that time the farm's productivity fell, while the legislature in Boston, composed of well-heeled draft dodgers, imposed taxes and raised property requirements for voting, thereby cutting Shays and others off from the suffrage. Faced with the confiscation of their land these patriots rose in rebellion against the very sort of arbitrary forces that had occasioned the revolution in the first place, as the Declaration of Independence had told them was their due.
The response of the propertied patricians was to demand a government with broad powers to crush such upstarts. Pennsylvania's Whisky Rebellion occurred after the establishment of the central government, and American elites took rapid advantage of their new powers to cow the small farmers who objected to the newly imposed tax on whisky, which they made to preserve their corn crop and earn currency on the side.
Owing to property qualifications, many of these rebels could not vote, and were thus unrepresented in the Congress that had levied the tax.
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Lest the farmers miss the point, President Washington himself, arrayed in his general's uniform, and astride his war steed, led the army out to crush the rebels. Though presidents must pay lip service to democracy, the record shows that chief executives are in a constant battle with Congress to usurp that most democratic of the branches of government and increase their own power to act unilaterally, and this conflict began almost immediately. The ink had scarcely dried on the Constitution, when the second president of the United States, embroiled the nation in an undeclared war with France.
War and Empire Are and Always Have Been the American Way of Life
The U. S Leaps Upon the Stage of World Power While the Civil War was provoked by the issue of slavery it was certainly not fought to free the slaves by most of those doing the killing.
The primary objective of Lincoln's administration was to preserve the Union and, hence, the future dominance of the U. The British had almost immediately violated the doctrine when they established a new colony in the Falkland Islands, and very nearly intervened in the Civil War, precisely to split their rivals and stifle American hegemony in the hemisphere.
Of course the Civil War was won by the North and with national unity settled the government in Washington began a new era of partnership with financial and industrial capital aimed at undermining British preponderance in these crucial areas. As Jefferson had predicted, America's growing preponderance in world markets required greater armed forces and more active intervention against threats to American interests.
Multiply your ships and send them forth to the east. The nation that draws most materials and provisions from the earth, and fabricates the most, and sells the most of productions and fabrics to foreign nations, must be, and will be, the great power of the earth. Later, when the question of national unity and the dominance of capital was settled, he added: The world contains no seat of empire so magnificent as this The extraordinarily rapid rise of America to financial and industrial power in the later 19th Century occasioned profound social, political and economic dislocations among nativist farmers and mechanics, immigrants arriving from eastern and southern Europe, as well as among recently freed former slaves, and the native tribes of the far West.
The limits of westward territorial expansion were being reached; business cycles were creating dizzying recessions and depressions leading to massive unemployment, while helter-skelter development in the cities created immense unsanitary slums, filled with desperate and unhealthy wage-earners, who existed within sight of newly affluent middle and upper class conspicuous consumers.