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A Structural Transformation of US Foreign Policy:

An International Construction of American Expansionism, 1898

Jittipat Poonkham St Antony‟s College

Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MPhil in International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Trinity 2011

(29,533 words)

Chapter 1

Introduction: American Expansionism

The world exposition „was worth while. The buildings make… the most beautiful

architectural exhibit the world has ever seen. If they were only permanent! That south lagoon,

with the peristyle cutting it off from the lake, the great terraces, the grandeur and beauty of

the huge white buildings, the statue, the fine fountains, the dome of the administration

building, the bridges guarded by the colossal animalswell, there is simply nothing to say

about it. And the landscape effects are so wonderful‟. 1 This description is not of the Shanghai

Exposition of 2010, but the Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, named in honour of

Christopher Columbus. It was not Chinese leaders Hu Jintao or Wen Jaipao, but American

statesman Theodore Roosevelt who asserted it. Nonetheless, these two phenomena identified

the rising powers, particularly economically, in the international system, one late in the

nineteenth century, and the other early in the twenty-first. While the former anticipated the

„American Century‟, the latter may have marked the start of a „Chinese Century‟. In

international relations (IR) scholarship, the history of international politics is above all that of

the rise and fall of great powers. And that struggle between rising and declining powers has

often produced war: a peaceful structural change has historically been exceptional. 2 The most

notable such exception occurred when the United States (US) overtook Great Britain in the

late nineteenth century. This was largely because Britain decided to appease the Americans

when faced with the Venezuelan Crisis in 1895 and in particular the Spanish-American War

1 Theodore Roosevelt to James Brander Matthews, 8 June 1893, The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, Vol. 1 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), p. 320.

2 See Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); and Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987). For information on a peaceful transition, see E.H. Carr, The Twenty Years‟ Crisis, 1919-1939 (London: Macmillan, 1939); and Charles Kupchan, et al., Power in Transition (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2001). For information on a peaceful systemic change in US-Chinese relations, see for example Susan Shirk, China: Fragile Superpower (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

in 1898. IR scholars, however, have tended to leave this topic to historians, even though it is

central to

the debate in

international system. 3

IR theory about

the rise and

fall of the great powers in


The questions driving this research are as follows: Why and under what conditions

did the US, as an emerging great power, explicitly pursue an expansionist foreign policy in

the Western hemisphere after 1898? And how was it made possible? In general, scholars have

argued that the US, which was preoccupied with its domestic development during the

nineteenth century, had a narrow conception of its interests








and avoided „entangling






continental balance-of-power struggle, many Americans saw their country as an exceptional

power, motivated by liberal and moral concerns, rather than by realpolitik. However, this

dichotomy does not properly explain why and how America came to pursue an expansionist

foreign policy at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Some

scholars have concentrated on the domestic pressures that drove and shaped American

expansionism. This


however asserts

a constructivist interpretation

of American

expansionism, focusing on what is here called the „Spanish-American-Cuban War‟ of 1898.

The term is used in order to „represent all of the major participants and to identify where the

war was fought and whose interests were most at stake‟. 4 It thus illuminates the war of 1898

with reference to the Cuban theatre, and takes for granted its Philippine part.

The thesis discusses important social agents, including those expansionists and anti-

expansionists, but it focuses mainly on the expansionists, and argues that their ideas,

identities, and preferences were to a considerable extent socially and culturally constructed

3 Exceptions include, for example, Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America‟s World Role (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). 4 Thomas Paterson, „United States Intervention in Cuba, 1898: Interpretations of the Spanish-American-Cuban- Filipino War‟, The History Teacher, Vol. 29: No. 3 (May 1996), p. 341.

by the international systemic structure. 5 The research does not view the state as a unitary

actor: it recognises social agents within the state. However, it intentionally excludes social

Darwinism and racial relations, economic factors and the role of business and the media

(particularly the yellow press), even though these are factors that certainly played a part. This

thesis will argue that a structural transformation of US foreign policy, particularly after the

war of 1898, was constituted in response to a changing international system. The rest of this

chapter outlines the literature review, the theoretical and methodological frameworks, and the

structure of the thesis.

1.1 Literature review

Important overviews of late nineteenth-century US foreign policy have examined such

themes as the „transformation‟ of American foreign policy, the „old‟ versus the „new‟

diplomacy, America‟s „outward thrust‟, the „emergence of America as a great power‟, the

„imperialist urge‟, and the „new empire‟. 6 Fundamentally, the debates centre on whether US

foreign policy showed continuity or discontinuity from its previous traditions. Most are

generated by historians, rather than IR scholars. Historians primarily concentrate on domestic

factors, while IR scholars focus on the nature of the international system and the constraints

imposed on its units. All of them, nevertheless, have agreed that the US was transformed into

a great power in the years after 1898. 7 This section outlines important debates, and reviews

the historiography and the theoretical literature on foreign policy.

5 Throughout the thesis, the terms „expansionist‟ and „imperialist‟ are used interchangeably.

6 Charles Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations (New York: Harper & Row, 1976); Robert L. Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 1965-1900 (New York: Thomas Crowell, 1975); Ernest May, Imperial Democracy: The Emergence of America as a Great Power (New York: Harper & Row, 1961); David Healy, US Expansionism: The Imperialist Urge in the 1890s (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970); Walter LaFeber, The New Empire (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963); Joseph Fry, „Phases of Empire: Late Nineteenth-Century US Foreign Relations‟, in The Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America, ed. Charles Calhoun (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1996), pp. 261-88.

7 Edward Crapol, „Coming to Terms with Empire: The Historiography of Late-Nineteenth-Century American Foreign Relations‟, Diplomatic History, Vol. 16: No. 4 (Fall 1992), pp. 573-97.

First of all, a so-called Pratt School, spearheaded by historians Julius Pratt and

Samuel Flagg Bemis, argues in liberal vein that American expansionism of 1898 was a „great

aberration‟ or an „empire by default‟ in US foreign relations. 8 It was a temporary, accidental,

unplanned and transitory expansionist moment. For these discontinuity historians, the root

causes of American expansionism lay in the primacy of domestic factors, such as electoral












the „large policy‟ conspirators,






„psychic crisis‟), yellow journalism, social Darwinism, and so on.

Pratt asserted that America‟s favouring of war and expansionism was unplanned and

accidental, largely manipulated by a few conspirators taking advantage of an emotional

public‟s humanitarian concerns. Influenced by Captain Alfred Mahan‟s ideas, Theodore

Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge „were conspiring, for months beforehand, to utilise the

impending crisis with Spain to launch the United States on a career of colonial expansion and

world power‟. 9 The discontinuity scholars further argue that the leadership of President


McKinley was


by political

expediency and



McKinley‟s „duty to the Republican Party was much clearer than his duty to the nation‟, and

he bowed to public opinion in order to avert the threat of Democratic victories in the mid-

term elections of November 1898. 10

8 See, for example, Julius Pratt, „The “Large Policy” of 1898‟, Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 19:

No. 2 (September 1932), pp. 219-42; Julius Pratt, Expansionists of 1898 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1936); Samuel Flagg Bemis, A Diplomatic History of the United States (New York: Henry Holt, 1936); Dexter Perkins, The American Approach to Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962); Richard Hofstadter, „Manifest Destiny and the Philippines‟, in America in Crisis, ed. Daniel Aaron (New York: Knopf, 1952); May, Imperial Democracy; Ernest May, American Imperialism: A Speculative Essay (New York:

Atheneum, 1968); John A. S. Grenville and George B. Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy:

Studies in Foreign Policy, 1873-1913 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966); Robert Beisner, Twelve Against Empire: The Anti-Imperialists, 1898-1900 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968); William Becker, The Dynamics of Business-Government Relations: Industry and Exports, 1893-1921 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982); Robert Dallek, The American Style of Foreign Policy: Cultural Politics and Foreign Affairs (New York: Knopf, 1983); and Ivan Musicant, Empire by Default (New York: Henry Holt, 1998).

9 Pratt, „The “Large Policy” of 1898‟, pp. 220-1. 10 May, Imperial Democracy.

This group of scholars also presents the war of 1898 as a moral crusade to liberate

Cuba from a brutal Spanish empire. It was, in such a conception, overwhelmingly driven by

jingoistic newspapers and national hysteria. 11 As May puts it, McKinley „led his country

unwillingly toward a war that he did not want for a cause in which he did not believe‟. 12

According to this interpretation, the US was a benign regional hegemon, which accidentally

pursued a humanitarian intervention in the Western hemisphere in order to preserve peace

and stability.

In a similar vein, classical realists propound that the war decision was caused by

„subjective and emotional reasons‟. They put the blame on „naïve, overly idealistic moral

crusades‟, which ignored prudent calculations of the national interest. „McKinley did not

want war‟, George Kennan suggests. „When it came to employment of our armed forces,

popular moods, political pressures, and inner-governmental intrigue were decisive‟. 13 For

Hans Morgenthau, the president had led the country „beyond the confines of the Western

Hemisphere, ignorant of this step upon the national interest, and guided by moral principles

completely divorced from the national interest‟. 14 Simply put, emotional public opinion

dictated the war of 1898. Like the Pratt School, classical realists emphasise the discontinuity

in American foreign relations and the importance of domestic factors.

On the other hand, revisionist historians represented by the Wisconsin School of the

1960s, such as William Appleman Williams and Walter LaFeber, stress continuity of

11 Gerald Linderman, The Mirror of War: American Society and the Spanish-American War (Ann Arbor:

University of Michigan Press, 1974); Hofstadter, „Manifest Destiny and the Philippines‟; and John Offner, An Unwanted War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992).

12 May, Imperial Democracy, p. 159. Subsequent historians, such as H. Wayne Morgan (1965), Lewis Gould (1980), and John Offner (1992), convincingly argue that McKinley was neither manipulated by large policy expansionists nor overwhelmed by public pressure. Instead, he opted for war and expansionism based on deliberate assessment of US interests. Their „McKinley‟ is a much stronger and more competent leader than is presented by May. See Chapter 3.

13 George F. Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900-1950 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951), p. 20. See also Robert E. Osgood, Ideals and Self-Interest in America‟s Foreign Relations: The Great Transformation of the Twentieth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953); and Norman A. Graebner, „The Year of Transition‟, in An Uncertain Tradition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961).

14 Hans J. Morgenthau, In Defense of the National Interest (New York: Knopf, 1951), p. 23.

motivation. Drawing on

the works

of Charles Beard in the 1920s, Williams


controversially that the US had been an informal empire, or „imperialism of anti-colonialism‟,

ever since the founding of the nation. 15 They focus on the capitalist motivations behind

American expansionism: rather than promoting order or stability, the US sought an economic

opportunity. Williams










depression, by the 1890s America needed foreign markets to expand trade and investment

abroad and avoid political turmoil at home. Williams identifies farmers as motivating forces







industrialists and urban business leaders. 16






By seeing him as a victim of capitalist pressures, the revisionists redeem McKinley‟s

leadership as a modern president. LaFeber denies that McKinley wanted war: he merely

wanted „what only a war could provide: the disappearance of the terrible uncertainty in

American political and economic life, and a solid basis from which to resume the building of

the new American commercial empire‟. 17 Moreover, responding to the new expansionist

outlook of the business community, McKinley could end the instability in the Western

hemisphere, which depressed the economy and destroyed American trade and investment

with Cuba. Instead, it opened the path to the Philippines, which was itself a gateway to the

15 Charles Beard, The Idea of National Interests: An Analytical Study in American Foreign Policy (New York:

Macmillan, 1934); and William A. Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1959 [1979]).

16 See, for example, Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy; LaFeber, The New Empire; Walter LaFeber, The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913 (Cambridge University Press, 1993); Thomas McCormick, China Market: America‟s Quest for Informal Empire, 1893-1901 (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1967); Healy, US Expansionism; Edward Crapol, America for Americans: Economic Nationalism and Anglophobia in the Late Nineteenth Century (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973); David Pletcher, „Rhetoric and Results: A Pragmatic View of American Economic Expansionism, 1865-98‟, Diplomatic History, Vol. 5: No. 2 (1981), pp. 93-106; David Pletcher, The Diplomacy of Trade and Investment: American Economic Expansion in the Hemisphere, 1865-1900 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998); Joseph Fry, „Imperialism, American Style, 1890-1916‟, in American Foreign Relations Reconsidered, 1890-1993, ed. Gordon Martel (London: Routledge, 1994); Louis Perez Jr., Cuba Between Empire, 1878-1902 (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 1983); Thomas Schoonover, The United States in Central America, 1860-1911 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991); and Thomas Schoonover, Uncle Sam‟s War of 1898 and the Origins of Globalization (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2004).

17 LaFeber, The New Empire, p. 400.

Chinese market. 18 The political and business elites thus created what Rosenberg calls „the

promotional state‟, a federal government committed to assisting American capitalists to trade

and invest abroad. 19 According to this approach, public opinion was manufactured by

economic pressures: in other words, capitalism dictated war.










expansionism after 1898 emerged because of a moral idealistic motivation and an American

search for stability in the Western hemisphere, revisionists paint it as a longstanding imperial

power in which capitalism played an increased role.

A few IR scholars have recently tackled the war of 1898 and American expansionism.

Defensive realists have done so in support of their claim that great powers pursue an

expansionist foreign policy abroad only when they are threatened. In this view, the anarchical














consequently compelled assertiveness and expansionism. The ascent of American power in

the international system at the end of the nineteenth century and intensive imperial rivalry in

the world drove the US to participate in the „great-power game‟. „The United States feared

that it might be left out of the international race for territory and especially that other

imperialists would cut them off from the markets necessary to America‟s economic health‟. 20

Consequently, the US chose to expand largely due to insecurity and European threats in the

Western hemisphere.

Another IR approach has been „offensive‟ or „state-centered realism‟. A prominent

exemplar is Fareed Zakaria‟s From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America‟s















discontinuity of US foreign policy. He believes that, during the 1890s, state power, including

18 Michael Hunt, Ideology and US Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987).

19 Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982).

20 Paterson, „United States Intervention in Cuba, 1898‟, p. 344. See Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877- 1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967); and Michael Mandelbaum, The Fate of Nations: The Search for National Security in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

economic and naval capabilities, had grown rapidly and made it possible for the US to seek

expansion abroad. Although since the Civil War of 1865 key American decision-makers,

such as the then Secretary of State William Henry Seward (1861-69), had „noticed and

considered clear opportunities to expand American influence and interests abroad‟, they

failed because they presided over a weak „decentralised, diffuse, and divided‟ state structure

that provided them with little power and influence to expand. This is what Zakaria calls an

„imperial understretch‟. 21 As he argues compellingly, between 1865 and the 1890s:

The structure of the American state ensured that central decision-makers, who respond most directly to the pressures of the international system, were unable to translate national power into national influence because they presided over a weak federal government that had enormous difficulty extracting resources, particularly for expenditures that did not directly benefit congressional constituents. The division between the legislative and executive branches allowed Congress to thwart the executive‟s plans. Congress was not blindly antiexpansionist, but it was blindly antiexecutive. 22

By the beginning of the 1890s, the domestic „balance of power had shifted in two

ways. First, the congressional bid for supremacy had exhausted itself and was clearly petering

out and, second, the growth of the national economy was creating the need for a national,

professional bureaucracy‟. 23 This was the process of the modern state-building and an

increasing centralisation of presidential power. For Zakaria, the transformation of the state

structure permitted a more expansionist foreign policy on the part of central decision-makers,

including the president and his closest advisors, whose perception of its opportunities shifted

„suddenly, rather than incrementally‟. 24 Offensive realists believe that increased capabilities,

not increased threats, drove American expansionism.

Democratic peace theory holds that, due to their liberal valuestheir domestic

political institutions and culturedemocracies do not fight each other. Mark Peceny further

suggests a „constructivist‟ variant by explaining the Spanish-American War through a

21 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 5, p. 11.

22 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 88.

23 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 89.

24 Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, p. 11, p. 184.

combination of Wendtian structural idealism and Gramscian critical theory. War between

democracies, such as the war of 1898, could occur because they did not perceive each other

as part of the Kantian „liberal pacific union‟. „Liberal states are peaceful towards one another

not because they are individually and independently imbued with liberal values, but because

they are part of a liberal system bound together by shared norms‟. As Peceny puts it, in the

Wendtian way, „the liberal peace is what powerful liberal states make of it‟. 25 It was,

therefore, the „intersubjective consensus‟ that binds liberal states together in the pacific

union. Like many discontinuity historians, Peceny argues that Americans viewed the war as a

„moral crusade to liberate the Cubans from an autocratic Spain‟. From a Gramscian

perspective, US decision-makers used the idea of the liberal pacific union to legitimate the

war and American expansionism. Democracy promotion was a tool for achieving ideological

hegemony at home and abroad and provided a justification for an expansionist foreign policy.

He notes that America‟s application of the protectorate in Cuba was popular in the US,

whereas its imposition of colonial rule in the Philippines was not. 26

Most people writing on American expansionism, whether arguing for continuity or for

discontinuity, have focused on Waltz‟s „first image‟ (the individual) or „second image‟ (the

state). Other writers have invoked such international factors as the influence of European

imperialism and an American aspiration to great-power status. 27 However, systemic or

structural explanations are also possible: a „third image‟ assumes that states respond to

external vulnerabilities and opportunities to achieve their goals. 28 For example, David Lake‟s

Power, Protection, and Free Trade (1988) emphasises the international sources of US foreign

economic policy, particularly its commercial strategy. Given that Britain used its power to

25 Mark Peceny, „A Constructivist Interpretation of the Liberal Peace: The Ambiguous Case of the Spanish- American War‟, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 34: No. 4 (1997), pp. 416-7.

26 Peceny, „A Constructivist Interpretation of the Liberal Peace‟, p. 418, pp. 424-7.

27 See May, Imperial Democracy; Healy, US Expansionism; and Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New,


28 See Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979).

promote free trade, the US was able to „free ride‟ on a pre-existing liberal international








relations. 29



nevertheless assumes the given, a priori identities and interests of American domestic social

agents. This thesis takes a different ontological approach to American expansionism. It

assumes that the transformation of US foreign policy at the end of the nineteenth century was

structural. It was a response to the transformation of the international system through a

process of interactive constitution between structure and agents. That is, the identities and

interests of agents were endogenously constituted, rather than exogenously given. American

expansionism was actually contingent, constructed by the international system. This thesis

therefore offers a constructivist interpretation of American expansionism as a way towards

systemic understanding of American expansionism. It does not claim to test such an

interpretation against its rivals.

1.2 Theories and arguments

In IR theory, the term „structure‟ is predominantly conceptualised in Waltzian terms,

as a material distribution of capabilities. As Wendt puts it, „When IR scholars today use the

word structure they almost always mean Walt‟s materialist definition as a distribution of

capabilities‟. 30 The international

system represents

the interaction

among its












distribution of capabilities across units altered, and a balance-of-power system attempts to

stabilise the system. Under the anarchical structure, on the other hand, states rationally persist

in their attempt to expand. 31

29 David Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade: International Sources of US Commercial Strategy, 1887- 1939 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988).

30 Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p.


31 Waltz, Theory of International Politics; and John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton& Company, 2001).

Recently, constructivists such as Wendt have challenged Waltz‟s ontology, arguing

instead that structure is determined less by material factors than by the distribution of shared

ideas and norms. In other words, the structure of the international system is more social than

material. Its anarchy is constituted by intersubjective understandings and expectations

between states. As Wendt famously asserts, „anarchy is what states make of it‟, so there are

three dominant cultures of anarchy: Hobbesian, Lockean, and Kantian. 32

Moreover, unlike the neorealism-neoliberalism nexus, these ideational structures not

merely caused but constituted state identities and interests at a particular time through the

interaction process, which Wendt calls „micro structure‟. 33 According to Wendt, structure has

two dimensions: the macro social structure of international politics and the micro structure of

interaction. Significantly, Wendt urges us to rethink the formation of interests and identities.

However, for him, the primary actors remain unitary states.









assumptions: given the same structure, why did it shape social agents differently, creating

expansionists and anti-expansionists? In this thesis, this is explained at the level of the

individual unit. My argument is that the international structure socially constituted and


the identity and






a process




internationalisation of agents. 34 These internationalised agents, in turn, made a decision to

expand (and not to expand) because they envisioned the international system differently:

expansionists viewed it in Hobbesian terms, while anti-expansionists saw it in Kantian terms.

32 Alexander Wendt, „Anarchy Is What States Make of It‟, International Organization, Vol. 46 (1992), pp. 391- 425; and Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics. See also Nicholas Onuf, World of Our Making (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989); Friedrich Kratochwil, Rules, Norms, and Decisions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); John Gerard Ruggie, Constructing the World Polity (London:

Routledge, 1998); and Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

33 See Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics, Chapter 4. For Neoliberal institutionalists like Keohane, ideas matter only in causal relationships, and are not constitutive. See Judith Goldstein and Robert Keohane, Ideas and Foreign Policy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

34 I adapt the term from Robert W. Cox‟s concept of „the internationalisation of the state‟. See his Approaches to World Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Therefore, to speak in Wendtian terms, American expansionism was what the expansionists

made of it. The thesis focuses mainly on the roles of expansionists.

In this thesis, the key assumptions need to be defined, as follows.

(1) International structure is social. The international system consists not merely of

the distribution of material capabilities but also of the social relations of power,

determined primarily by socially and culturally shared ideas, knowledge, and


(2) The











socialisation, or the process whereby agents and their identities and interests are

socially constituted. International structure matters in the sense that it not merely

influences but significantly socially constructs the identities and interests of social

agents, i.e. the internationalisation of agents.

(3) Social agents include states and individual actors. Their interests and identities are

not exogenously fixed but can be contingently changeable and arise out of a

socially international context. As theories of cognitive dissonance suggest, people

can change their ideas and beliefs relatively quickly and easily in response to a

changed external environment. 35 Although identities are constructed by more than




relations, 36






structuralism‟, emphasises the internationalisation of the state and agents. It










expansionistsand their ideas, perceptions, and preferences, thereby assuming










35 Deborah Welch Larson, Origins of Containment: A Psychological Explanation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985). 36 See, for example, Jutta Weldes, „Constructing National Interests‟, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 2: No. 3 (1996), pp. 275-318; Jutta Weldes, Constructing National Interests: The United States and the Cuban Missile Crisis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999); and Ted Hopf, Social Construction of International Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002).

internationally oriented elites redefined themselves as expansionists. Rather than

manifesting a methodological individualism, expansionists shared intersubjective

beliefs, meanings and collectivity with other European imperialists in general and

the British in particular. They made a deliberate decision to expand in 1898,

which in turn mutually constituted the international systemthe emergence of the

US as a new great power.

The thesis is a constructivist interpretation of American expansionism, which focuses

on „ideas all the way down‟ from the international to the domestic. First of all, the thesis

argues that the international system was structurally transformed in the 1890s in three areas:

the balance of power and the imperial competition between European states, the international

economy, and Britain‟s world position. Structural transformations in these areas redefined the

shared intersubjective understanding of the rules of the game. Changes in the external

environment not only affected emerging powers like the US but also constituted individuals‟




















international construction or the internationalisation of agents. The Venezuelan Crisis of 1895

was a watershed in this transformation. In the thesis, I argue that after 1895 a transatlantic

special relationship between Great Britain and the US developed. 37 This special relationship

between a declining and a rising power watered down the attempted concert of European

powers before the outbreak of the Spanish-American-Cuban War and made American

expansionism possible. The special relationship is not best explained by the democratic peace

37 Most of the literature identifies the origin of the special relationship as being after the Second World War. See, for example, Kees van der Pijl, The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class (London: Verso, 1984); William Roger Louis and Hedley Bull, The “Special Relationship”: Anglo-American Relations since 1945 (Oxford:

Clarendon Press, 1986); John Dumbrell, A Special Relationship (New York: St. Marin‟s Press, 2001). Some scholars focus on the transatlantic liberal ideas, see Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998); Murney Gerlach, British Liberalism and the United States (New York: Palgrave, 2001); and William Mountz, „Shadowing British Imperialism: Origins of the US Open Door Policy, 1890-1899‟, MA Dissertation, Texas Tech University, August 2007.

proposition that democracies do not go to war against each other: this thesis makes the

constructivist claim that Anglo-American shared ideas and understandings were actually

more important.








expansionist discourses and practices, and thereby influenced the McKinley administration‟s

decision to go to

war with Spain in 1898. I argue that these groups of people were

transatlantic elites who shared intersubjective understandings and expectations with British

elites. The Anglo-American rapprochement not only provided a strategic opportunity for

American expansionism but also socially constructed transatlantic agents. This does not mean

that they were ignorant of their national interests; rather, they perceived them as mutual or

overlapping. The thesis shows how the McKinley administration laid out its policy options

and decisively chose armed intervention and a naval blockade over other peaceful means. It

can be argued that McKinley‟s decision was part and parcel of American expansionists‟

discourses and practices.

Although the thesis largely concentrates on the expansionists, it begins by noting that,

given the same international structure, by the end of the 1890s both expansionists and anti-

expansionists ideationally converged in support of free-trade liberalism and Anglophilism.

This was because the expansionists had been significantly transformed in respect to their

identity and interests from Anglophobe protectionists into Anglophile liberals. However,

these two groups were different, due largely to their different perceptions of the international

structure as Hobbesian expansionists and Kantian anti-expansionists. The former were

affiliated with the European rules of the game at that timeimperialism, balance of power,













humanitarianism. To put it differently, expansionists and anti-expansionists to a certain

degree shared a common identity, but had very divergent worldviews. Again, American

expansionism was fundamentally what expansionists made of it.

1.3 Methodology and sources

The thesis is based on a qualitative methodology and single-N case research. My aim




a constructivist


of American





hemisphere. I select one major case study: the Spanish-American-Cuban War of 1898. The

case illustrates the pivotal moment when the US emerged as a world power and asserted its

hemispheric hegemony over Central and Latin America. Methodologically, it follows George

in employing process-tracing „to establish the ways in which the actor‟s beliefs influenced his

receptivity to and assessment of incoming information about the situation, his definition of

the situation, his identification and evaluation of options, as well as…his choice of a course

of action‟. According to George, process-tracing is the „more direct and potentially more

satisfactorily approach to causal interpretation in single case analysis‟ because it „takes the

form of an attempt to trace the processthe intervening stepsby which beliefs influence

behavior‟. 38 The processes traced are the internationalisation of agents and the policy process.

Here, the actor‟s beliefs are not exogenously given, but rather socially constituted by the











international systemic factors and the internationalisation of agents, whereas the dependent

variable is American hegemonic expansion. The formation of American expansionists‟

changing identity and interests are considered the primary causal variable. The research then

draws on a number of sources, including secondary literature, published collections of

primary diplomatic documents (particularly from the State Department‟s Foreign Relations of

38 Alexander George, „Causal Nexus between Cognitive Beliefs and Decision-Making Behavior: The „Operational Code‟ Belief System‟, in Psychological Models in International Politics, ed. Lawrence Falkowski (Boulder: Westview Press, 1979), p. 113. See also Alexander George and Andrew Bennett, Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences (Cambridge: the MIT Press, 2005).

the United States), and the private correspondence of, in particular, Henry Cabot Lodge,

Theodore Roosevelt, and John Hay.

Second, I roughly apply discourse analysis, following Milliken by analysing how an

elite‟s „regime of truth‟ made possible „certain courses of action‟ or state‟s behaviour, in this

case American expansionism, while „excluding other policies as unintelligible or unworkable

or improper‟. Discourses, as Milliken asserts, are meaningful „background capabilities that

are used socially, at least by a small group of officials if not more broadly in a society or

among different elites and societies‟. 39 In the research, I closely look at official publications

and statements and the private letters of key policymakers as a „set of texts‟, in order to

explain the overlapping discourse or logics of expansionism within American society during

the 1890s. These produce not only policy discourses and practices but also the conventional

wisdom of a society engaged in expansionist diplomacy. The research concentrates on three











Massachusetts, Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and John Hay, US

Ambassador to Great Britain.

1.4 Structure of the thesis























transformation of the international system during the 1890s, looking at the intense balance of

power and imperial competition, the increasing tendency towards protectionism in the

international economic system, and the relative decline of Pax Britannica. These external

changes socially constituted American social agents, particularly after the Venezuelan Crisis

in 1895, which raised the possibility of war between Britain and the US. However, Britain

39 Jenifer Milliken, „The Study of Discourse in International Relations: A Critique of Research and Methods‟, European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 5: No. 2 (1999), p. 233, p. 236.

chose to appease the US due to the changing power relations inherent in the international

social structure. Thereafter, expansionists were internationally socialised as more Anglophile,

export-oriented agents. I argue that this was the origin of the transatlantic Anglo-American
















intersubjectively perceived






internationalisation of agents in the US and identifies two crucial social agents, which are the

expansionists and anti-expansionists. Despite its focus on the former, the chapter argues that













international system differently, being Hobbesian for the former and Kantian for the latter.

Crucially, it was the expansionists who dominated American discourses and policy decision-


Chapter 3 examines the roles of three apostles of American expansionismLodge,

Roosevelt, and Haywho intersubjectively shared ideas and understandings with other

European imperialists, particularly the British, which shaped and influenced American public

expansionist discourses and foreign policy formation under the McKinley administration

before and after the war of 1898. The chapter considers the way in which McKinley and his

advisors laid out their policy options and, at the end, chose to pursue military intervention

and a naval blockade rather than other peaceful options. The chapter also explores the












interference that provided the US a strategic opportunity to gain a comparative momentum

over Spain. This structurally reinforced the identities and interests of the transatlantic elites,

which would be the basis of the Anglo-American relations afterwards.

Chapter 4 concludes by stating the importance and contributions of a constructivist

interpretation of American expansionism. It argues that this is only one narrative to explain

and understand American expansionism. It also elucidates some developments in Anglo-

American special relationships at the turn of the century, such as the Open Door Policy and

the construction of the Panama Canal. The chapter confirms the argument that international

structure and agents are mutually constituted through the process of the internationalisation of


Chapter 2

An International Construction of American Expansionism

„The three decades from 1884 to 1914 separate the nineteenth century which ended with the scramble for Africa… from the twentieth, which began with the First World War. This is the period of Imperialism, with its stagnant quiet of Europe and breath-taking developments in Asia[, Latin America] and Africa‟ Hannah Arendt 40

„Imperialism, the extension of national authority over alien communities, is a dominant note in the world-politics of today‟. Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan 41

2.1 Introduction

IR scholars in general have envisioned the international structure as an anarchical

system or order, comprising Westphalian sovereign states as the principal actors. However,

they underestimate what Keene calls „the dualistic nature of order in world politics‟, in which

the Westphalian system operated only between the European states, with a hierarchical

system also in operation, through which the European states imposed themselves in the

colonial world. 42 By the 1890s, Europe was a post-Bismarckian multipolar system where the

balance of power was the rule of the game, while outside Europe it was the „period of

Imperialism‟ in which Great Britain was structurally a leading hegemonic power, imposing

the so-called Pax Britannica. Therefore, part of the international system was hierarchically

structured. These were the social relations of power which European states constructed,

which in turn socialised and culturally constructed other actors‟ identities and interests. The

40 Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt Publishers, 1973), p. 123.

41 Quoted in Warren Zimmermann, First Great Triumph (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), p. 231.

42 See, for example, Carr, The Twenty Years‟ Crisis; Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (New York:

Knopf, 1949); Martin Wight, Systems of States (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1977); Waltz, Theory of International Politics; Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society (London: Macmillan, 1977); and Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics. Edward Keene, Beyond the Anarchical Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. xi. See also Justin Rosenberg, The Empire of Civil Society (London: Verso, 1994); and Ruggie, Constructing the World Polity, Part II.

US, emerging as a new great power, inevitably became part of this game of international

structural relations among great powers.

This chapter argues that American expansionism was the result of an international











intersubjective and culturally established meanings of the international system and were











commonsensically given. That is, American expansionism was fundamentally shaped by the

transformations of the international system through the process of the internationalisation of

the state and agents within it. First, the European state-system was leaning towards more rigid

balance-of-power system and imperialism was increasingly intense. Meanwhile, Europe was

also heading towards a more protectionist stance, although the British remained committed to

a free-trade regime upon which the US „free rode‟. But British hegemonic power was in

decline and challenged by European imperialistic rivals in colonial areas. These changing

power relations helped shape and embody the emerging American power and role in the

Western hemisphere. This is the process of the internationalisation of the state and agents.

The international sources of American expansionism are covered in order to enhance and

advance our understanding of the Spanish-American-Cuban War of 1898 (covered in detail in

Chapter 3).

2.2 International structure from the late 1880s

2.2.1 Europe‟s balance of power and imperial rivalry

At the end of the nineteenth century, the balance-of-power system in Europe was

breaking down. The complexity but inherent stability of the Bismarckian system (1870s-

1890s) in which all powers, with the exception of France, were secretly bound one way or

another to Berlin, was in decline and the emergence in the 1900s of two rigid blocs

Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy on the one hand, and Russia, France and Britain on the

othercontributed to the outbreak of the First World War. 43

In between, the international system had been changing during the 1880s and 1890s,

not only in terms of the management of the changing balance of power within Europe (in

particular the rise of German power), but also in terms of the emergence of new extra-

European powers: the US and Japan. Germany, uniting, industrialising, and arming, was

emerging as a new hegemonic power in Europe that aspired to seek foreign markets and

colonies, thereby indirectly challenging Pax Britannica in the international system. The

young Kaiser Wilhelm II had dismissed Bismarck and his complex alliance system in 1890,

thereby ending the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia and prioritising Germany‟s relations with

Austria and Italy. The Kaiser tacitly supported Austrian expansionism in the Balkans, risking

conflict with Russia. Russia and France therefore began to see the rising Germany as an

increasing threat. The Russians turned to France and subsequently brought about a Franco-

German alliance of 1894, which Bismarck‟s diplomacy attempted to avoid. 44 As Graebner

puts it nicely, „By isolating France on the Continent, Bismarck eliminated the danger of an

open Franco-German conflict. Franco-Russian diplomacy, however, broke the restraints of

the Bismarckian system‟. 45

Britain, which traditionally pursued a policy of splendid isolation, did not perform the

role of offshore balancer in Europe but was instead increasingly concerned with its colonies

and other powers‟ competition outside Europe. There were also other „middle powers‟, such

as Spain, Portugal, Holland, and Belgium, whose strategic and imperialistic positions slightly

43 See Gordon Craig and Alexander George, Force and Statecraft: Diplomatic Problems of Our Time, 2 nd Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 28-48; Joseph Nye, Understanding International Conflict, 7 th Ed. (New York: Pearson Longman, 2009); Ian Clark, The Hierarchy of States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (London: Fontana, 1988); and Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (London: Simon & Schuster, 1994).

44 A.J.P. Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp.


45 Norman Graebner, „Bismarck‟s Europe: An American View‟, in Foundations of American Foreign Policy (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1985), p. 302.

affected the international balance. Spain, which still had overseas empires particularly in the

Western hemisphere, was a weak power and had largely isolated itself from the development

of European system. After the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, the Spanish government

was weak and unstable. 46 We can envision this period as a post-Bismarckian international

system, which was characterised by a decreasingly flexible structure.

Above all, systemic changes were largely caused by European overseas imperialism

and expansionism in Africa and Asia. Expansionist diplomacy was the rule of the game. The

power relationships among great powers were increasingly antagonistic. The British Empire,












expansionism in Africa and Asia as the main threats. Germany, especially under the Kaiser‟s

Weltpolitik (world policy), entered the colonialist race and launched a naval buildup. Initially,

the Germans sought to avoid direct conflict with Britain. 47 By the end of 1894, however, the

British and the Germans came to quarrel over southern Africa, where the British suspected

German support of the Boers. The Kruger telegram of 1896 confirmed this (see below). 48

Despite the possibility of their cooperation, the Anglo-German relationship became gradually










In the Asia-Pacific region, China became an important focus of quasi-imperial rivalry.

Japan had emerged as a regional power, defeating the Chinese in 1894/5 and later the

Russians in 1904/5. Since the mid-1890s, European powers joining with their Asian

newcomer marked out their spheres of influence, giving them exclusive concessions over

46 James Joll, Europe Since 1870 (London: Penguin, 1973), p. 24. See also Raymond Carr, Spain, 1808-1939 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966).

47 This culminated in the Anglo-German treaty of July 1890, whereby Britain gained substantial concessions in East Africa and Zanzibar in exchange for the island of Heligoland. Paul Kennedy, The Rise of the Anglo- German Antagonism, 1860-1914 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1980), p. 205.

48 Paul Kennedy, The Realities Behind Diplomacy (London: Fontana, 1985), p. 104.

trade, mining, and railroads. 49 Despite the Open Door principle still being in effect in theory,

Britain was moving away from it toward the partition of China.

To sum up, the international order at the end of the nineteenth century consisted of the

European balance of power and extra-European colonialism was highly competitive and less

flexible. Since the 1890s, European powers overwhelmingly paid more attention to overseas

expansionism than internal European balance-of-power considerations. By accident, this

development directly challenged the structure of Pax Britannica. It was an age of empire.

2.2.2 The international economic system

In mainland Europe, protectionism was the rule of the economic game, although Great

Britain was still committed to free-trade liberalism and, according to hegemonic stability

theorists, constituted the „stabiliser‟, or hegemon, of the system. 50 Since the repeal in 1846 of

the Corn Laws that had set high tariffs in order to protect domestic corn producers, the British

applied their laissez faire policies (such as low tariffs) unilaterally, both globally and in the

colonies, whereas other European powers pursued their mercantilism. This was the first wave

of economic globalization. The British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury remarked in 1892 that

the British were living in „an age of a war of tariffs. Every nation is trying …[to] get the

greatest possible for its own industries, and at the same time the greatest possible access to

the markets of its neighbours… In this great battle Great Britain had deliberately stripped

herself of the armour and the weapons by which the battle had to be fought…by saying that

49 It was a German move in China that was to precipitate the scramble for concessions in China in 1898. The Germans initiated the process called „slicing the Chinese melon‟. Using the killing of two German missionaries as a pretext, it secured a naval base at Qing Dao along with mining and railroad concessions on the Shandong peninsula. Germany also sought the acquisition of the Chinese port of Kiaochow. Within the year, Russia, Britain, and France had secured similar concessions. Russia acquired bases and railroad concessions on the Liaodong peninsula. Britain secured leases to Hong Kong and Kowloon while France concessions in southern China. Hew Strachan, The Outbreak of the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 13.

50 See Charles Kindleberger, The World in Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); and Robert Gilpin, US Power and the Multinational Corporation (London: Macmillan, 1976).

we will levy no duties on anybody‟. 51 Rather than seeking to reverse this liberalism, however,

Britain continued to engage with economic openness and a non-retaliatory foreign economic

policy, as well as increasingly expanding toward emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin


However, by the 1890s the continental European powers had rapidly raised their level

of protectionism in order to look after their infant industries, agricultures and exporters. An

increase in German agricultural protection, for instance, had seriously affected Russia‟s

economic relationship with Germany, while France was stepping in, „massively aiding the

Russian government‟s industrialisation effort, assisting it in developing its production of

petroleum deposits, and helping finance its enormous public debt‟. 52 In addition to political

power relations, the Franco-Russian alliance of the 1890s was made possible due to economic

ties. However, the continent‟s protectionism‟s main aim was to discriminate against rising

American exports.

Table 1: Volume of steel production (in millions of tons)














































Source: Kennedy (1988, p. 257)

51 Quoted in Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade, p. 93.

52 Paul Papayoanou, „Economic Interdependence and the Balance of Power ‟, International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 41: No. 1 (March 1997), p. 124.

On the other hand, despite being the last remaining closest approximation to a

hegemon, Britain, particularly in comparison with Germany and the US, was relatively in

decline within the system. Steel production (Table 1) illustrates this development well.

Domestically, the first challenge was mounted to the free-trade regime established in 1846. A

policy of „one-sided free trade‟ began to be challenged by protectionists, of whom Joseph

Chamberlain was the most influential. They favoured protective tariffs, trade retaliation, or

imperial custom union (or a British zollverein). 53 Nevertheless, Britain resisted peacetime

protection until 1932. To sum up, the international economic structure was stabilised

according to British hegemonic commitment to liberalism, but the European rule of the game

was high tariffs at home.

The international economic structure under the so-called Pax Britannica provided the

US with an opportunity. Without any trade retaliation from the British, the US pursued its

quasi-protectionist, quasi-liberal trade policy. On the one hand, the US protected its domestic

agriculture and infant industry at home by applying high tariffs, while, on the other hand, it

promoted export expansion and foreign markets abroad. That is, protectionism at home, the

open door abroad. This American foreign economic policy was possible largely due to the

unilateral openness of Pax Britannica. According to David Lake, the US, like Germany and

France, was „free riding‟ on the free-trade regime under British hegemony. 54

By the late 1880s, tariffs had become one of the most contentious political issues

dividing the Democratic and Republican parties. They had transformed from being merely a

domestic issue into a foreign economic instrument to achieve common goals: both moderate

53 Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade, pp. 120-1. See also Aaron Friedberg, The Weary Titan (Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 1988).

54 Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade.

protectionism and export expansion. 55 Lake finds a significant causal relationship between

foreign economic policies and the political parties. That is, during the period, the Democrats

campaigned on duty-free raw materials, while the Republicans called for protectionism, and

after the 1890s for trade expansion through bilateral reciprocity treaties in the Western

hemisphere. Democratic President Grover Cleveland, on the one hand, advocated duty-free

raw materials in 1887, by claiming that it „would appear to give [domestic manufacturers] a

better chance in foreign markets with the manufacturers of other countries, who cheapen their

wares by free material. Thus our people might have the opportunity of extending their sales

beyond the limits of home consumption‟. 56 In fact, the Democrats only removed the tariff on

raw wool, which in theory meant that Americans would expand their exportsprimarily

agricultural produce, steel, and railroad materialsto wool-producing countries, but de facto

it was limited to the Southern Cone‟s economies. Cleveland‟s policy option generated the

„Great Tariff Debate‟ in the presidential election in 1888, which he lost electorally despite his

popular-vote plurality.

On the other hand, the Republicans, in particular moderate protectionists led by

Secretary of State James G. Blaine, sought to expand exports by negotiating bilateral

reciprocity agreements with Latin American states and suggesting a regional Inter-American

organisation. 57 Reciprocally, the US would admit sugar, coffee, tea and raw hides free of duty

while Latin American states would grant preferential duties on a specified list of American

agricultural and manufactured items. This Republican strategy of reciprocity culminated in

the McKinley Tariff (1890), which imposed duties on items that could be produced in the US

55 See Tim Terrill, The Tariff, Politics, and American Foreign Policy (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973). The business community was divided over the tariff debate. Import-substituted industries unquestionably supported high tariffs, whereas the small-to-medium export-oriented industry in general favoured the government‟s assistance in export promotion. The large export-oriented industry that could export unilaterally only got involved in the tariff debate when its interests were directly challenged. See William Becker, The Dynamics of Business-Government Relations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982).

56 Quoted in Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade, pp. 98-9.

57 On Blaine and American expansionism see Edward Crapol, James G. Blaine: Architect of Empire (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 2000).

and admitted free of duty others which the US could not produce either at all or in sufficient

quantities (such as sugar, molasses, coffee, tea, and raw hides). 58 This was thus a quasi-

protectionist, quasi-liberal trade policy.

However, in Europe, American exports were increasingly faced with a rise in

protectionism. Since the 1890s, European great powers envisioning the US as the emerging

economic power sought to unilaterally and/or multilaterally increase protection of their home

markets from


products. Germany signed



treaties to lower duties on many products with Austria-Hungary in 1891, Italy, Belgium and

Switzerland in 1892, Russia in 1894, Japan in 1896, and Spain in 1899, while France

launched the Meline Tariff in 1892. 59 Despite this aforementioned protectionism, however,

the US was able to sustain its foreign economic policy by largely depending upon the British

liberal structure.

The spread of protectionism after 1887 can be understood, in Lake‟s argument, as a

response by foreign policy elites to the opportunities (and constraints) of the international

economic structure. The thesis goes further to argue that economic expansionists were











internationalised elite that promoted economic expansion. Their identities and interests were

formulated within the context of not only the domestic politics but also the international


2.2.3 The decline of Pax Britannica

58 Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade, pp. 99-102. See also Quentin Skrabec, Jr., William McKinley:

Apostle of Protectionism (New York: Algora, 2008).

59 After the US imposed a duty on imported, subsidised sugar in the Wilson-Gorman Act in 1894, Germany strongly warned the US: „The Imperial Government is… at present unable to say whether it will be possible for it, in view of the increasing agitation on account of the proposed measure, to restrain the interested parties from demanding retaliatory action, which [Germany], owing to the friendliness and fairness that characterise its intercourse with the United States, desires to avoid‟. Quoted in Lake, Power, Protection, and Free Trade, p. 96.

By the 1890s, Britain‟s hegemonic leadership had declined rapidly in the international

system. British leaders, in particular Lord Salisbury (Conservative Prime Minister 1885-6,

1886-92, and 1895-1902), became aware of unfavourable shifts in the distribution of relative

power but could not agree on the extent to which their industrial, financial, and naval position

was being challenged and on how to respond to this challenge. In The Weary Titan, Aaron

Friedberg argues compellingly that despite their awareness, British statesmen failed to

sufficiently assess and adapt to the „experience of relative decline‟, partly because they

tended to „overestimate the limitations on their country‟s financial resources, to misconstrue

the weakening of their naval position and to underestimate the difficulties which would

confront them in a large-scale land war‟. 60 At the end of the century, Pax Britannica was in a

state of indecision, inconclusiveness, and confusion.

By 1895, Lord Salisbury celebrated „the Victorian tradition of entering into no

alliance in time of peace, of avoiding any commitments to go to war, and of retaining a “free

hand” for British diplomacy‟. He thus favoured splendid isolation from the European balance

of power and accepted the political necessity of the liberal free-trade regime. Above all, his











Empire. 61



international environment had changed dramatically, which in turn challenged the status and

position of Britain. There were many factors, including the rise of German economic and

military power and its Weltpolitik, Russian territorial expansionism in Asia, the growth of

non-European regional powers of the US in the Western hemisphere and Japan in Asia,

French assertiveness in Africa and Asia, and so on. Importantly, the Franco-Russian alliance

of 1894 profoundly alarmed the British.

This new international environment significantly destabilised the policy of free-trade

unilateralism that Britain had held since 1846. Domestically, the movements of protectionists

60 Aaron Friedberg, „Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895-1905‟, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 10: No. 3 (1987), p. 352. See also Friedberg, The Weary Titan.

61 John Grenville, Lord Salisbury and Foreign Policy (London: Athlone Press, 1964), p. 3.

or fair traders, which promoted high tariffs, retaliation, or imperial economic union, emerged

(as mentioned above). Lord Salisbury prudently kept this mercantile agenda at bay, while

some members of the cabinet such as a „strong willed and impetuous‟ Colonial Secretary

Joseph Chamberlain tended to promote the idea of protectionism. 62 At the end of the century,

it was clear that the British century really was coming to an end, while the new „American

century‟ was emerging. The peaceful structural transition was made possible due to the

appeasement policy of Britain and its co-constitution of their mutual interests and identities.

2.3 The Venezuela crisis (1895): Anglo-American rapprochement

The Monroe Doctrine is the “most comprehensive, unilateral proclamation of a sphere of influence in modern times”. Hans J. Morgenthau 63

The Venezuelan Crisis of 1895 indicated that the US had perceived the relative













hemisphere, and Great Britain chose to appease Americans and implicitly acknowledged the

emerging great power and hemispheric hegemon in the international hierarchy. Yuen Foong

Khong puts it nicely: „The old hegemon was ceding its place to the upcoming hegemon.‟ 64

There are other explanations in IR and history. Liberals, on the one hand, argue that the two

states did not go to war because „both states were liberal democracies, and sizable

populations in each state considered the other liberal‟. 65 British public opinion favoured

compromise with the US. 66 Democratic characteristics persuaded the British to appease the

US. Another factor in favour of conclusion was economic interdependence. After Cleveland‟s

62 Grenville, Lord Salisbury and Foreign Policy, pp. 10-1.

63 Hans J. Morgenthau, in The Origins of the Cold War, eds. Lloyd Gardner, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., and Hans J. Morgenthau (Waltham: Ginn and Co., 1970), p. 86.

64 Yuen Foong Khong, „Negotiating “Order” during Power Transitions‟, in Power in Transition (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2001), p. 45.

65 John Owen, „How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace‟, in Debating the Democratic Peace, eds. Michael Brown, Sean Lynn-Jones, and Steven Miller (Cambridge: the MIT Press, 1996), p. 143; See also John Owen, Liberal Peace, Liberal War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), pp. 158-70.

66 Bradford Perkins, The Great Rapprochement (New York: Atheneum, 1968), p. 17.

congressional speech, the war scare generated financial panic on Wall Street partly because

the British sold American securities. The US business community pressured the government

to resolve the conflict amicably. 67

In contrast, realists explain Anglo-American rapprochement in geopolitical terms; that

is, after perceiving Germany‟s ambitions in Africa and elsewhere as a more important threat,

Lord Salisbury‟s government decided to appease the US. Layne claims that the US was

willing to fight Britain if necessary in order to establish its „geopolitical primacy‟ in the

region. 68 Revisionist historians (like LaFeber) claim that American assertiveness was part of

overseas commercial expansion, which could counter the economic depression and divert

public attention from domestic concerns. 69

However, the argument here will be that the intersubjective understanding between

the US and Britain helps explain why and how they cooperated and thereby made the rise of

American power in the Western hemisphere possible. Despite their initial disagreements, they

gradually came to share a perceptual worldview and attitude in which the end of the

Venezuelan Crisis marked the beginning of the special transatlantic relationship.

The Venezuelan Crisis concerned an unmapped frontier between British Guiana and

Venezuela, but it emerged as an international issue in late 1895 partly due to the discovery of

gold in the Orinoco River and partly due to the British takeover of the Nicaraguan port of

Corinto early that year. British Aggressions in Venezuela or the Monroe Doctrine on Trial by

William Lindsay Scruggs, former US minister to Caracas and then a lobbyist for the

Venezuelan government, made the claim that British intervention in Latin American also

brought Anglophobia onto the political surface. The US jumped into this conflict, invoking

the Monroe Doctrine. The Democratic administration of Grover Cleveland enunciated the

67 Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations, pp. 211-2.

68 Christopher Layne, „Kant or Cant: The Myth of the Democratic Peace‟, in Debating the Democratic Peace, pp. 174-80; and Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, pp. 148-52.

69 Walter LaFeber, „The Background of Cleveland‟s Venezuelan Policy: A Reinterpretation‟ The American Historical Review, Vol. 66: No. 4 (July 1961), pp. 947-67; and LaFeber, The New Empire, Chapter 6.

„Olney Corollary‟ to that doctrine, espousing principles of non-intervention and anti-

European imperialism and implicitly proclaiming its hemispheric hegemony. Shortly after the

sudden death of Walter Gresham, Attorney General-cum-Secretary of State Richard Olney

sent a note to Lord Salisbury, delivered on 20 July 1895.

Given the declining position of Britain, Olney not only reinforced the Monroe

Doctrine against any European powers‟ imperialistic intervention but also defined the US‟s

regional hegemony and the rules of the game as it perceived them. With regard to the Monroe

Doctrine, Olney treated it as a „rule‟ and „accepted public law‟ that „no European power or

combination of European powers shall forcibly deprive an American state of the right and

power of self-government and of shaping for itself its own political fortunes and destinies‟.

He assertively proclaimed, „Today the United States is practically sovereign on this continent

and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition‟. American rights

and influence should prevail „because in addition to all other grounds, its infinite resources




isolated position



master of

the situation



invulnerable as against any or all other powers‟. 70 Olney called for the arbitration of the

Anglo-Venezuelan dispute by the US.

From the outset, Lord Salisbury paid little attention to Olney‟s note and made no

effort to appease the US. After deferring for several months, Lord Salisbury sent a reply to

his Ambassador Sir Julian Pauncefote. In his first letter, he directly challenged Olney‟s

reinterpretation of the Monroe Doctrine; Despite America‟s vital interests in the region, there

was „no nation…powerful, competent to insert into the code of international law a novel

principle which was never recognised before, and which has not since been accepted by the

government of any country‟. In the other, he bluntly refused to submit to arbitration that

70 See Richard Olney to Thomas F. Bayard, 20 July 1895, Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office), Vol. 1, pp. 545-62.

could lead to „the transfer of large number of British subjects, who have for many years

enjoyed the settled rule of a British colony‟. 71

Despite being a „cautious, pacific man‟ never conceived as an expansionist, Cleveland

well understood not merely America‟s new status in world politics but also the decline of Pax

Britannica since the 1890s. 72 In his message to Congress, Cleveland aptly defended the status

of the Monroe Doctrine in international law and stated that it was the „duty of the United

States to resist every means in its power as a willful aggression upon its rights and interests

the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands or the exercise of governmental jurisdiction

over any territory which

after investigation

we have determined of right



Venezuela‟. By asserting that he was „fully alive to the responsibility incurred, and keenly

realise all the consequences that may follow‟, it seemed to be an implicit declaration of war

against Britain. 73

Many expansionists patriotically endorsed Cleveland‟s decision. Senator Henry Cabot

Lodge, for example, wrote an article in June 1895 warning that, „If Great Britain is to be

permitted to… take the territory of Venezuela… France and Germany will do it also‟. The

Americans should not, he continued, „abandon the Monroe Doctrine, or give up their rightful

supremacy in the Western Hemisphere‟ which must be „established and at once—peaceably if

we can, forcibly if we must‟. 74 In December 1895, Lodge made a sensational speech on the

floor of the Senate arguing that the Monroe Doctrine was the „guiding principle‟ of US

foreign policy, rather than law, and that „no foreign power must establish a new government,

acquire new territory by purchase or force or by any method whatever, or seek to control

71 See Lord Salisbury to Sir Julian Pauncefote, 26 November 1895, FRUS, 1985, pp. 563-76.

72 Beisner goes so far as to say that in Cleveland‟s second term diplomacy became „progressively more deliberate, aggressive, and expansionist‟. Beisner, From the Old Diplomacy to the New, p. 107.

73 See Message of the President, 17 December 1895, FRUS, 1985, pp. 542-5.

74 Henry Cabot Lodge, „England, Venezuela, and the Monroe Doctrine‟, The North American Review, Vol. CLX (June 1895), pp. 651-58. My emphasis.

existing governments in the Americas‟. 75 If the balance of power is the ordering principle in

Europe, then, just as Lodge claimed, that doctrine was the one in the Western hemisphere.

America could not allow Great Britain or other powers to interfere in the region. As Lodge

put it, „If England can seize territory under a claim which has grown larger with each

succeeding year, there is nothing to prevent her taking indefinite regions in South America. If

England can do it, and is allowed to do it, by the United States, every other European power

can do the same, and they will not be slow to follow England‟s example. We have seen them

parcel out Africa, and if we do not interpose now in this case the fate of large portions of

South America will be the same‟. 76

Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Lodge in similar terms: „If we allow England to invade

Venezuela nominally for reparation, as at Corinto, really for territory our supremacy in the

Americas is over. I am worried and angry beyond words at what I see. England is simply

playing the Administration for what she can get.‟ 77 In his letter to the editors of the Harvard

Crimson, Roosevelt strongly supported Cleveland‟s and Olney‟s vigorous foreign policy and

the strictest interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine:

The Monroe Doctrine forbids us to acquiesce in any territorial aggrandizement by a European power on American soil at the expense of an American state. If people wish to reject the Monroe Doctrine in its entirety, their attitude, though discreditable to their farsighted patriotism, is illogical… If we permit a European nation in each case itself to decide whether or not the territory which it wishes to seize is its own, then the Monroe Doctrine has no real existence; and if the European power refuses to submit the question to proper arbitration, then all we can do is to find out the facts for ourselves and act accordingly. 78

75 Henry Cabot Lodge, „The Monroe Doctrine‟, 30 December 1895, Speeches and Address, 1884-1909 (Boston:

Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909), p. 235, p. 237.

76 Lodge, „The Monroe Doctrine‟, p. 234.

77 Roosevelt to Lodge, 23 October 1895, Selections from the Correspondence of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge 1884-1918 (New York: Charles Scribner‟s Sons, 1925), Vol. 1, p. 193. 78 Roosevelt to the Editors of the Harvard Crimson, 2 January 1896, Letters, Vol. 1, pp. 505-6.

As he wrote to his friend, Roosevelt‟s ultimate aim was the „removal of all European powers

from the colonies they hold in the western hemisphere‟. 79

However, the alteration in the international system helped prevent the escalation of

the Anglo-American dispute into war and socially constructed a more favourable British

attitude toward America. The British scepticism regarding the rising German power was

strongly confirmed when Kaiser Wilhelm II sent a telegram congratulating Transvaal

President Paul Kruger for repelling „the attacks from without‟, which implied the British

Empire, in early 1896. The so-called Kruger telegram indicated the Kaiser‟s (miscalculated)

attempt to mobilize European opposition to British policy in South Africa, so as to urge the

British to sign a treaty with Germany. Since then, the English attitude toward America







Germany. 80




imperialistic powers globally, coupled with its declining position, the British government

sought to pursue an appeasement policy with the US. Colonial Secretary Chamberlain, who











significant role in the cabinet and ruled out Lord Salisbury‟s reluctant decision. As Arthur

Balfour, Leader of the House of Commons and Salisbury‟s nephew, stated at Manchester (in

January 1896), „Some statesmen of authority, more fortunate even than President Monroe,

will lay down the doctrine that between English-speaking peoples war is impossible‟. An

Anglo-American treaty of arbitration was signed on 12 November 1896. 81 As May puts it

nicely, the US, whilst beginning by „experimenting with an anti-British foreign policy, ended

up promoting Anglo-American friendship‟. 82

At the same time, Britain as an international gold standard promoter decided to

covertly support William McKinley‟s presidential bid in 1896. Bradford Perkins argues that,

79 Roosevelt to William Cowles, 5 April 1896, Letters, Vol. 1, p. 524.

80 Friedberg, The Weary Titan, p. 156; and May, Imperial Democracy, p. 47.

81 The Tribunal of Arbitration consisted of two Britons, two Americans, and one with the two acting together, but none from Venezuela. Quoted in Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations, p. 212.

82 May, Imperial Democracy, p. 61.

frightened by William Jennings Bryan and the Silverite populist movement, the British

government turned its support toward the Republicans rather than the Democrats. 83 The

campaign of 1896 can be envisioned as an economic contest between the Silverites and those

who supported the gold standard, which the latter won by a landslide.

Since the Venezuelan Crisis, the mutual understanding between two English-speaking

great powers was gradually developing, in particular the British acceptance of the rising

American power in the Western hemisphere and in the international system. This co-

constitution would shape the identities and interests of those expansionists more obviously,

allowing American expansionism to become possible in the years to come.

2.4 Structural transformations of American body politics: Preliminaries

Realists might argue that the international system has almost always constrained and

provided an

opportunity for states‟


However, in




expansionism was structurally constituted by the international system. To put in Wendtian

terms, American expansionism was what expansionists made of it, whereas expansionists

were also socially and culturally constructed by the international structure. The following

sections provide an outline of the important structural transformations in American body

politics according to a change in American perceptions of the international system.

2.4.1 Mahan, „sea power‟ and Anglo-American relations

During the 1890s, the historian captain, later rear admiral, Alfred Thayer Mahan was

internationally renowned for his treatise on sea power in The Influence of Sea Power upon

History (1890), much more so than at home. 84 Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, for example,

83 Perkins, The Great Rapprochement, p. 20.

84 Alfred Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1890). On Mahan, see Harold and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power (Princeton: Princeton University

wrote to a friend in 1894, „I am just now not reading but devouring Captain Mahan‟s book

and am trying to learn it by heart‟. 85 Mahan‟s ideas provided an intellectual foundation for

American expansionism. Although at the outset he was an anti-imperialist, after drawing

from the lessons of the history (and in particular the great sea powers), he became one of a

„triumvirate‟, along with Roosevelt and Lodge, that spurred American expansionism. As

Zimmermann puts it nicely, „The success of the British Navy and his admiration for the

British Empire had helped turn [Mahan] into an imperialist‟. 86 In his writings, he almost

always favoured the primacy of the British

Navy in

world politics

and its


achievement: „England‟s naval bases have been in all parts of the world; and her fleets have

at once protected them, kept open the communications between them, and relied upon them

for shelter‟. 87 The contemporary international context helped constitute him as an Anglophile

expansionist who strongly supported a large navy.

Moreover, Mahan, envisioning the sea as a „great highway‟, urged the US to develop

the isthmian canal in the Caribbean by using the analogy of the Suez Canal: „The British

needed a large navy to protect their passage to India through Suez. The US would need a

similar navy to protect its Atlantic and Pacific coasts, exposed by the opening of the

isthmus‟. 88 After examining geography, he had suggested the establishment of the Panama

Canal, instead of Nicaragua. As he wrote, the implication of the canal „may bring [American]

interests and those of foreign nations in collisionand in that casewhich it is for statesmen

to forecastwe must without any delay begin to build a navy which will be at least equal to

Press, 1939), pp. 202-22; William Puleston, Mahan (London: Jonathan Cape, 1939); and Robert Seager II, Alfred Thayer Mahan (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1977).

85 Quoted in Evan Thomas, The War Lovers (New York: Little, Brown, 2010), p. 71.

86 Zimmermann, First Great Triumph, p. 113.

87 Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, p. 83. See also Alfred Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1793-1812 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1892).

88 Zimmermann, First Great Triumph, p. 93

that of England‟. 89 The naval strategy thereby had to change from defensive to offensive. It

was necessary for the new sea power to have bases, stations, or colonies along its „trade

routes‟ to re-fuel, rest, and repair. To put it differently, the motivation behind the US‟s navy

buildup was „probably now quickening in the isthmus‟. Mahan was culturally constructed by

the international lessons in general, and he reasoned analogically in particular so as to make

an argument for American expansionism. 90

With regard to the Venezuelan Crisis, Mahan thought the incident „indicates, as I

believe and hope, the awakening of my countrymen to the fact that we must come out of

isolation, which a hundred a years ago was wise and imperative, and take our share of the

turmoil of the world‟. 91 In short then, the US should abandon isolationism and „look

outward‟. Mahan said himself that he was an expansionist and imperialist because he was not

an isolationist: „I am frankly imperialist, in the sense that I believe that no nation, certainly no

great nation, should henceforth maintain the policy of isolation which fitted our early history;

above all, should not on that outlived plea refuse to intervene in events obviously thrust upon

its conscience‟. 92 As an advocate of the Monroe Doctrine, Mahan asserted that the US

required its hemispheric hegemony, thereby excluding European powers from the region.

However, as an Anglophile, he was highly sympathetic with Britain. Later on, he wrote to

Roosevelt that, „circumstances almost irresistible are forcing [the US] and Great Britain, not

into alliance, but into a silent cooperation, dependent upon conditions probably irreversible

in the next two generations‟. 93

89 Alfred Mahan, Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan, eds. Robert Seager II and Doris Mahuire, Vol. 1, 1847-1889 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1975), p. 482. Quoted in Raymond O‟Connor, „The Imperialism of Sea Power‟, Reviews in American History, Vol. 4: No. 3 (September 1976), p. 410.

90 Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, pp. 30-2, 61, 83. For the cognitive-psychological approach in IR, see Larson, Origins of Containment; and Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

91 Mahan, Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan, Vol. 2, 1890-1901, p. 441. Quoted in O‟Connor, „The Imperialism of Sea Power‟, p. 413.

92 Quoted in Zimmermann, First Great Triumph, pp. 120-1.

93 Mahan, Letters and Papers of Alfred Thayer Mahan, Vol. 3, 1902-1914, p. 113. Quoted in O‟Connor, „The Imperialism of Sea Power‟, p. 413.

2.4.2 Henry Cabot Lodge and the „large policy‟

Lodge, along with his close friend Theodore Roosevelt, was an arch-expansionist who

strongly supported a large navy and an assertive foreign policy. He insisted that the US take

up an appropriately high position in the hierarchy of great powers. His attention to foreign

policy, however, came later in his political career and until 1985 he did not consider overseas

annexation as a prerequisite of sea power, as well as not believing in the necessity of foreign

markets. Lodge, as Grenville and Young suggest, became an expansionist because of his

rabid nationalism. 94 However, domestic politics alone cannot fully explain his development.

This thesis argues that, like Mahan, Lodge‟s ideas of American expansionism developed

significantly through the internationalisation of agents at the end of the 1880s. Since 1895 in

particular, his ideas and preferences were obviously formed in terms of more Anglophile and

export-oriented expansion. As Widenor puts it, Lodge‟s expansionism was „a gloss on his

conception of the nature of international relations and of how foreign policy ought to be

conducted‟. 95







constitutively shifting along them as well.




In March 1895, as a Junior Senator from Massachusetts, Lodge actively delivered a




policy speeches










administration‟s reversed decision of the annexation of Hawaii, which he claimed was

„blundering foreign policy‟. 96 In Congress, presenting a large map illustrating the British

94 John Grenville and George Young, Politics, Strategy, and American Diplomacy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 224.

95 William Widenor, Henry Cabot Lodge and the Search for an American Foreign Policy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 67. In fact, in domestic politics, Lodge also had gradually transformed from „high- minded idealist‟ to practical politician, in particular following his switch to support the „obnoxious‟ James Blaine as the Republican presidential candidate in 1884, for which he and Roosevelt were strongly criticised by their old allies, the Mugwumps reformers, later the anti-expansionists. Harvard President Eliot, for example, called them „degenerated sons of Harvard‟. See Richard Immerman, Empire for Liberty (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), p. 133.

96 Henry Cabot Lodge, „Our Blundering Foreign Policy‟, Forum, Vol. XIX (March 1895), pp. 8-17. Hawaii had been a de facto American „sphere of influence‟ for many years. In 1893, an uprising occurred before American

bases around the world, Lodge put the Hawaiian Islands in a larger strategic context. He said,

„That they have a great commerce and fertile soil merely adds to the desirability of our taking

them… Even if they were populated by a low race of savages, even if they were desert

rocks‟, Hawaii should be annexed, otherwise it would fall into the hands of other great

powers like Britain or Japan. Put simply, this was because „they lie there in the heart of the

Pacific‟. 97 With regard to Britain, the US was „the rival and competitor of England for the

trade and commerce of the world‟. Britain, he continued, „has always opposed, thwarted, and

sought to injure‟ the US

and „desires to keep her control of the great pathways of

commerce‟. 98 At that time, Lodge was sceptical of the British hegemonan Anglophobe.

Annexation of Hawaii was part and parcel of the so-called „large policy‟, which

fundamentally stressed the strategic importance of sea power, bases and canals. 99 Greatly

influenced by the writings of Mahan, Lodge asserted that it was vital for the US to develop its

navy and build an isthmian canal across Central America. Learning from the history of sea

powers, he declared that, „sea power has been one of the controlling forces in history.

Without the sea power no nation had been really great. Sea power consists, in the first place,

of a proper navy and a proper fleet; but in order to sustain a navy we must have suitable posts

for naval stations, strong places where a navy can be protected and refurnished‟. 100

According to Lodge, the large policy aimed at:

(1) Maintaining influence and control in the Caribbean and parts of the Pacific;

(2) Annexing strategic islands like Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines;

(3) Strengthening the Navy;

political and economic elites overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy and annexed Hawaii. Republican President Harrison decided to annex it shortly before the new Democrat President Cleveland recalled the treaty. However, when McKinley came to power, he signed a second treaty for the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.

97 Henry Cabot Lodge, „Naval Policy of the United States‟, 2 March 1985, Speeches and Address, 1884-1909 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909), pp. 181-2.

98 Lodge, „Naval Policy of the United States‟, pp. 184-5.

99 See Lodge to Roosevelt, 24 May 1898, Selections, Vol. 1, pp. 299-300; and Pratt, „The “Large Policy” of 1898‟, pp. 219-42. 100 Lodge, „Naval Policy of the United States‟, pp. 182.

(4) Building an Isthmian canal across Central America;

(5) Obtaining „at least one strong naval station‟ in the West Indies; and

(6) Incorporating Canada (if possible).

These strategic interests were vital to the citadel of American power. The Venezuelan

Crisis of 1895 reinforced Lodge‟s large policy. However, after the end of the crisis, he came











expansionism. His identity was re-shaped as an Anglophile and export-oriented expansionist,

by the changing international context. After Balfour‟s speech at Manchester, Lodge sent him

a letter showing the better understanding between the „two great English speaking peoples‟.

He said, „I readily accept your statement that you do not desire to extend your possessions in

the Americas, but other nations are less scrupulous.‟ As Lodge summed up nicely, „There is

no nation on earth which England could so easily make her fast friend as the United

States‟. 101 At times, after the British appeasement, the supremacy of the Monroe Doctrine

was generally accepted both

at home and abroad,

internationally structurally transformed.

and American

social agents


2.4.3 Expansionists and anti-expansionists: Structured agents?

There were at least two social agents in American body politics during the late 1890s:

expansionists and anti-expansionists. In general, historians examine who the expansionists as

well as anti-expansionists were, their backgrounds, preferences and roles in the process of

American expansionism. Pratt asserts that, influenced by Mahan‟s „brilliant, if dangerous,

interpretation of history‟, Roosevelt and Lodge „planned to utilise the full opportunities‟ of

war with Spain in 1898 in order to achieve the large policy. They performed this through the

„hesitant instrumentality of William McKinley‟, who had been „genuinely surprised by the

101 Quoted in John Garraty, Henry Cabot Lodge: A Biography (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1953), p. 164.

new responsibilities‟ after the end of the Spanish-American-Cuban War. 102 Recently, scholars

have added Brook Adams, John Hay, Elihu Root, and William Randolph Hearst to the list of

the so-called „jingos‟. Portrayed as the „movers and shakers of American expansion‟ and its

great power ascendancy, they had „conspired‟ to convince President McKinley to declare

war. 103 Many of them were a group of like-minded friends who met frequently at Harvard

historian Henry Adams‟s house on Lafayette Square in Washington DC. They included his

neighbour and Abraham Lincoln‟s secretary Hay, his former graduate student Lodge,

Lodge‟s closest friend Roosevelt, his younger brother and Lodge‟s brother-in-law Brooks

Adams, and an influential British friend Cecil Spring-Rice, the secretary of the British

legation in Washington and later ambassador to the US (1912-8).

On the other hand, the anti-expansionists, anti-imperialists, or „goo-goos‟, 104 were

those who strongly opposed American expansionism in general and the annexation of the

Philippines in particular. Some anti-expansionists tolerated American intervention in Cuban

affairs on humanitarian grounds. Beisner identifies „twelve against empire‟, who formed the

Anti-Imperialist League after the war in Boston, including Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain,

Charles Eliot, Carl Schurz, William James, Edwin Godkin, and Thomas Reed. Some of them

were dissident Republicans, while the others were the Mugwump reformers, who turned

away from the Republican candidate Blaine in 1884 because of his corruption, thereby

helping the victory of Democrat Cleveland 105 (see Table 2).

102 Pratt, „The “Large Policy” of 1898‟, p. 242. See also Pratt, Expansionists of 1898.

103 The term „jingo‟ came from a London music hall ballad of 1878, when the Disraeli government was deciding whether to defend Turkey against Russia. Zimmermann, First Great Triumph, p. 38. See also LaFeber, The New Empire; Thomas, The War Lovers; William Leuchtenburg, „Progressivism and Imperialism‟, The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 39: No. 3 (1952), pp. 483-504; and Joseph Fry, „The Architectures of the “Large Policy” Plus Two‟, Diplomatic History, Vol. 29: No. 1 (January 2005), pp. 185-188.

104 Roosevelt‟s term referring to the self-proclaimed advocates of „good government‟. Zimmermann, First Great Triumph, p. 328.

105 Beisner, Twelve Against Empire; Fred Harrington, „The Anti-Imperialist Movement in the United States, 1898-1900‟, The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 22: No. 2 (September 1935), pp. 211-30; and I. Dementyev, USA: Imperialists and Anti-Imperialists (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979).

Table 2: Expansionists and anti-expansionists (Selected)



-William McKinley (1843-1901)

Republican President (1897-1901)

-Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924)

Senator for Massachusetts (1893-1924)

-Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (1897-8); Vice President (1901); Republican President (1901-09)

-John Hay (1838-1905)


Secretary of State (1898-1905)

-Elihu Root (1845-1937)


Secretary of War (1899-1904); Secretary of State (1905-09)





President of the Naval War College (1886-1889, 1892-1893); author of The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660- 1783 (1890)



-Brook Adams (1848-1927)


Historian; author of The Law of Civilisation and Decay (1895) and America‟s Economic Supremacy (1990)

-Henry Adams (1838-1918)


Harvard Professor of History





Newspaper publisher (The New York Journal)


-Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)


Newspaper publisher (New York World)

-Whitelaw Reid (1837-1912)


Newspaper publisher (New York Tribune)

-Albert J. Beveridge (1862-1927)

Senator for Indiana (1899-1911)

-Charles A. Conant (1861-1915)

Economist and an advisor to the McKinley and Roosevelt administrations



-Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)

Democratic President (1885-89, 1893-97)

-Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)

Republican President (1889-93)

-Thomas Brackett Reed (1839-1902)

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives (1889- 91, 1895-99)





Populist politician; Democratic Candidate for President (1896, 1900 and 1908)


-Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919)


-Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)


Trade union leader

-Carl Schurz (1829-1906)


The German-American reformer and politician

-Mark Twain (1835-1910)



-Edwin L. Godkin (1831-1902)


Journalist and writer

-Charles W. Eliot (1834-1926)


President of Harvard University

-Charles Francis Adams, Jr. (1835-

A member of the Harvard Board of Overseers and Boston businessman


-William James (1892-1910)


Harvard Professor of Philosophy

-Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908)

Harvard Professor

-Edward Atkinson (1827-1905)

Boston businessman

-George F. Hoar (1826-1904)


Senator for Massachusetts (1877-1904)

Sources: Pratt (1936); Beisner (1968); Zimmermann (2002); and Thomas (2010)

Most of the literature takes these social actors as exogenously given or domestically

driven agents. In this research, social agents are also influenced and socially constructed by

the international structure through the process of the internationalisation of agents. It can be

hypothesised that the changes in the international system that had occurred since the late

1880s and more especially after the Venezuelan Crisis brought about the transformation of

social agents‟ identities and interests. Expansionists were largely transformed from anti-

British and pro-protectionists into pro-British and pro-free-trade liberals, as shown through

the aforementioned examples of Mahan and Lodge. The next chapter will examine in detail

the changing identities and interests of three expansionists: Lodge, Roosevelt and Hay.

Though the thesis fundamentally studies expansionists, it may be speculated that anti-

expansionists too were more or less internationally oriented. And, just as with the former,

most of the latter were likely to be Anglophile and supportive of international free trade, with

the exception of Andrew Carnegie and George Hoar who favoured protectionism. Despite his








friendship. In his article „Does America Hate England?‟, he claimed that, despite the

Venezuelan Crisis, „…there is no deep-seated, bitter national hatred in the United States

against Britain, there is no question but there has been recently a wave of resentment and

indignation at her conduct‟. According to Carnegie, „the educated class of Americans‟ or the

transatlantic elites, „who were and are Britain‟s friends… do know and appreciate that the

best people in America had with them the best people in Great Britain in favour of settlement

by arbitration‟. He concluded: „There is… no reason in the world why the two nations should

not now again draw closer and closer together‟. 106 Similarly, free-trade anti-expansionists like

journalist Edwin Godkin argued that

the restoration of harmony or good feeling between England and America is a consummation so devoutly to be wished that no difficulties or obstacles should be allowed to stand in its way… England has plainly recognised, at last that America is her best and only natural ally and friend. We believe that the most enlightened Englishmen have long felt this and tried to show it… Is it a good thing for us? Is it a good thing for liberty and civilisation? No one who sees how things are going in the great Continental states can well help answering these questions in the affirmative. 107

106 Quoted in William Mountz, „Shadowing British Imperialism: Origins of the US Open Door Policy, 1890- 1899‟, MA Dissertation, Texas Tech University, August 2007, pp. 128-30.

107 Quoted in Mountz, „Shadowing British Imperialism‟, p. 130.

Carl Schurz, the German-American anti-expansionist politician, argued in the same

way that „the Anglo-American friendship will signalise itself to the world by an act that will

not only benefit the two countries immediately concerned, but set an example to other nations

which, if generally followed, will do more for the peace and happiness of mankind and the

progress of civilisation than anything that can be effected by armies and navies‟. 108 Both








identity and

understanding. As one British author neatly puts it, Great Britain and the US „have common

ties, common interests, common memories, common kinship, which they do not and cannot

possess with the world outside their own families‟. 109

Some might question why, given the same structure, actors acted differently, with

expansionists pursuing an assertive foreign policy an anti-expansionists against it. As

Hoffman‟s critique of Mearsheimer asserts in a different context, „Structural factors do not

cause or explain outcomes themselves. In anarchy, any structure can lead either to peace or to

war; it depends on the domestic characteristics of the main actors, on their preferences and

goals, as well as on the relations and links among them‟. 110 That is to say, then, that the

structural explanation was insufficient. It is partly true, and partly false. It is impossible that

structure, similar to domestic factors, can be universally explicable. But to a certain degree, it

is influential in determining the outcome and in constructing the agents. As the thesis











international; they were structurally constituted.




The way in which agents performed differently can be partly explained by the fact















expansionists, it was the Hobbesian-Machiavellian international system with which they were

108 Quoted in Mountz, „Shadowing British Imperialism‟, p. 114.

109 Quoted in Mountz, „Shadowing British Imperialism‟, p. 130.

110 Stanley Hoffman, Robert Keohane, and John Mearsheimer, „Back to the Future, Part II: International Relations Theory and Post-Cold War Europe‟, International Security, Vol. 15: No. 2 (Autumn 1990), p. 192.

affiliated. By contrast, for anti-expansionists, structure was conceived in Kantian terms. 111 If

the democratic peace theory, for instance, was counted into the explanation, 112 my argument

is that it provides a good explanatory power for the anti-expansionists‟ behaviour, rather than

expansionists‟. This is because anti-expansionists mostly perceived world politics in terms of











imperialism. However, expansionists never have that kind of worldview. If democratic peace

theory was right, American expansionism would have been an accident, rather than the result

of democratic peace, according to which democracies never go to war against each other. But

the facts are to the contrary. To put it bluntly, democratic peace theory explains anti-

expansionism better than expansionism, not vice versa.

Actors were constituted by structure but also themselves constructed structure: they

were thus structured agents. Despite the importance of domestic political structure, the

identities and interests of agents are intersubjectively formulated and socially constituted

partly by the international structure. Expansionists like Mahan, Lodge, Roosevelt and Hay

were internationally socialised as members of internationalised elites, whose identities and

interests were largely like those of European imperial elites and Britain‟s in particular. It is

worth saying again: American expansionism was what American expansionists made of it.

Thus, it was not motivated merely by a domestic or international factors but, rather, by a co-

constitution between them that made American expansionism plausible at the end of the


2.5 Summary

International structural change brought about the great transformation of US foreign

policy in world politics. It was not the expansionists Seward and Blaine but McKinley who

111 See Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics.

112 For a constructivist reading of the democratic peace theory see Peceny, „A Constructivist Interpretation of the Liberal Peace‟, pp. 415-30.

succeeded in expanding American power abroad. This fundamentally came about because

structural opportunities made American expansionism in the late 1890s possible. The







constitutively shaped




preferences of crucial decision-makers and political circles. They were intersubjectively

constructed as the internationalised elite, which pursued Anglophile, export-oriented policies.

The next chapter will examine these expansionists and their roles in setting the discourses and

policies that led the US to expand regionally and globally after the war of 1898.

Chapter 3

American Expansionism and the Spanish-American-Cuban War

„The [McKinley] administration is now fully committed to the large policy that we both desire‟. Henry Cabot Lodge 113

After 1895, America‟s internationally oriented expansionists had begun to think and

act like other great powers‟ imperialists. They thus strongly promoted the ideas of buying and

leasing ports, acquiring protectorates, making commercial treaties, and annexing strategic

islands. The Cuban crisis that erupted during that year further inflamed the expansionists. In