United States foreign policy for the Pacific region, 1890-1900

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United States foreign policy for the Pacific region, 1890-1900
Furth, Ronald Jay
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124 leaves : ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
1897 - 1901 ( fast )
Diplomatic relations ( fast )
Foreign relations -- United States -- Pacific Area ( lcsh )
Foreign relations -- Pacific Area -- United States ( lcsh )
Foreign relations -- United States -- 1897-1901 ( lcsh )
Pacific Area ( fast )
United States ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 120-124).
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of History.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Ronald Jay Furth.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
20960169 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L57 1988m .F87 ( lcc )

Full Text
Ronald Jay Furth
B.A., University of Denver, 1974
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Department of History
s j i r 4

This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
Ronald Jay Furth
has been approved for the
Department of History
1/1 /m

Furth, Ronald Jay (M.A., History)
Unites States Foreign Policy for the Pacific
Region, 1890-1900
Thesis directed by Professor Ernest Andrade
United States foreign policy prior to 1890 had
followed the recommendation in George Washington's
farewell address to avoid entangling alliances. The
addition of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny
led to a policy that supported continental expansion
and avoided involvement in most foreign affairs. This
policy was temporarily abandoned in 1890 for many
reasons. Some historians have pointed to a few factors
as being the most critical for causing this change,
especially economic factors. My research has convinced
me that it is incorrect to try to isolate one or two
factors, because many exist at all times that influence
foreign policy decisions.
I have identified seven factors that played
important roles in the United States Pacific policy of
the 1890s. Economics, in particular America's booming
economy combined with a series of depressions, led many
Americans to seek a greater share in foreign markets.
Overseas economic expansion led to potential conflicts

with other powers, especially Germany and Japan, which
necessitated policy changes. Two factors which are
difficult to measure but undeniably important were
morality and intellectual support for change. Josiah
Strong and John Fiske preached of America's Christian
and Anglo-Saxon duty to uplift the world's pagans.
Fredrich Jackson Turner wrote of the need for Americans
to open new frontiers while Alfred T. Mahan taught
about the importance of sea power, an expanded navy and
overseas naval bases. The American press grew more
powerful at this time and demonstrated the power of the
pen on policy making. Domestic politics usually
overshadowed foreign affairs. Finally, presidents
Harrison, Cleveland and McKinley guided foreign policy,
but the amount of guidance has been questioned.
Evidence of the importance of these factors
can be found in the 1890s acquisitions of Samoa,
Hawaii, the Philippines, and the introduction of
America's Open Door policy in China. Overseas
expansion, conflicts with foreign powers, and the
insistence that United States foreign policy be
accepted in China all prove that the 1890s was indeed
unique in terms of United States foreign policy

I. INTRODUCTION................................. 1
Choice of Topic............................ 1
United States Foreign Policy to 1890....... 6
Economics................................. 13
International Scene....................... 18
Intellectual Support for Change........... 20
Morality.................................. 27
The Press................................. 30
Domestic Politics......................... 34
Presidential Leadership................... 37
III. SAMOA....................................... 47
IV. HAWAII...................................... 57
V. THE PHILIPPINES............................. 76
VI. THE OPEN DOOR............................... 93
VII. CONCLUSION..................................105
VIII. BIBLIOGRAPHY................................120

Choice of Topic
I have been interested in the formulation of
United States foreign policy for as long as I have been
a history student. Unlike most older nations that have
been conquered and conqueror, the United States has
never been conquered and has played an important and
dominant role in world affairs since independence.
When the United States defeated Great Britain in the
American Revolutionary War it gained credibility, if
not as a Goliath, than as a David that demanded
respect. For a century the world's powers kept an eye
on the United States as it grew (Louisiana Purchase),
battled Great Britain again (War of 1812), grew again
(Mexican War), was nearly torn in half (Civil War), and
finally became one of the world's economic giants.
During this time the United States' foreign policy of
nonentanglement remained basically unchanged except for
the addition of the Monroe Doctrine and the concept of
Manifest Destiny, both of which originally pertained to

the Western Hemisphere. As the United States entered
its second century its foreign policy began to
change. The changes and the reasons for an altered
foreign policy are the subject of this paper.
When I began to research this paper I
envisioned a thesis entitled, "Colony to Colonizer:
United States Pacific Foreign Policy 1890-1900." Not
only was this a terrible title, it also showed how
shallow my understanding of the topic was. The United
States ceased to be a colony in 1783, never acted like
a colony again and was not perceived as a colony by the
rest of the world. The original title implies that the
United States became a major colonizer in a decade, but
changes in foreign policy for democratic nations take
far longer and the United States has never developed an
extensive overseas empire. United States foreign
policy has always been complex and has grown even more
so as the nation has grown. One could not expect
agrarian 1800 America with five million people to have
the same foreign policy as industrial 1900 America with
nearly 76 million people.
The title of this thesis, "United States
Foreign Policy for the Pacific Region, 1890-1900", is
less dramatic than my original title, but the fact is
that the change in foreign policy was not that

dramatic. United States foreign policy was not
radically altered in one decade by a dynamic president
nor by a powerful business cabal. Furthermore, in
contrast to the theories of Walter LaFeber, William A.
Williams and others, I do not believe it is possible to
point to one main factor, such as economic interests,
as the dominant factor that altered United States
foreign policy and changed the course of the nation.
Rather, a multitude of factors were always involved in
decision making, as is the case today. The United
States' new foreign policy was the result of changing
conditions, both domestic and foreign. The events in
the 1890's that this paper address were the results of
these changes.
I teach United States history at the high
school level and I begin each year by teaching the
complexities of foreign policy making through something
called a foreign policy web. This web, which I learned
about at a seminar given by the University of Denver's
Center for the Teaching of International Relations,
shows the multitude of factors that are involved in the
formulating of foreign policy by a democracy such as
the United States.

f irms^^

po 11s
lobbying J,
news media
Vice President
ne ws + cultural-^-^ White House staff
media national security adv.
budget + arms control
etc. ^
U.S. Armed Sec. of
\Forces Defense,
\ Joint Chief
\ of Staff,
-^Dept. of
Defens e
-> international
trade, travel,
arts + science
of State
top officials:
Treasury, CIA
Labor, etc.
Nat ions
foreign embassies in the U.S.
U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions abroad
Foreign Governments

While the web is valuable for teaching how
numerous individuals and groups must be taken into
consideration when making foreign policy decisions, it
is missing something. There is no way to place
coeffecients before each heading to show which groups
have the greatest influence. We know that many groups
may play a role in decision making, but the amount of
influence must be considered on a case to case basis,
and with little accuracy. When Grover Cleveland
withdrew Benjamin Harrison's Hawaiian annexation treaty
in 1893, did he do so because many Americans were
angered by the role of Harrison's administration in the
1893 Hawaiin Revolution or because Cleveland wanted to
rob Harrison of a political prize? Did Cleveland
respond more to world opinion about American annexation
of Hawaii or his own personal stance against
imperialism? When William McKinley decided to keep all
of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War, was
he guided by a sense of Christian duty or by his
advisors who preached of the economic and military
benefits of retention? It is these kinds of questions,
the factors that affect foreign policy decisions, that
are the focus of this thesis. While I don't try to
place coefficients with the factors, an impossible
task, I do show which factors were most important in
certain cases.

My conclusions in this thesis are the result
of research that was conducted predominantly from
secondary sources spanning the past ninety years.
Although a majority of the books were from the 19 60s
and 1970s, every decade was represented except 1910
1920. Books ranged from Henry Cabot Lodge's 1899 work,
The War With Spain, to Richard E. Welch's 1988
biography, The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland. I
also sought doctoral dissertations and magazine
articles on the topic from the past decade, but was
disappointed to find few of either. A more rewarding
source of information was the government records from
that period, in particular the U.S. Congressional
Record and Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of
the United States.
United States Foreign Policy Prior to 1890
George Washington helped to formulate his
nation's foreign policy when he warned in his farewell
address against entangling alliances. The United
States did avoid formal peacetime alliances until after
World War II, when it joined the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, and usually steered a solitary course
when making foreign policy. Washington had told his
nation what not to do; during the 19th century the
United States decided on what was best to do. Walter
LaFeber sees three main thrusts of U.S. foreign policy

in the 19th century. Attempts were made during the
American Revolution and the War of 1812 to add Canada,
though the efforts never gathered much public
support. The second thrust, which had more support and
success, was an interest in Latin America. The results
of this interest included the Monroe Doctrine,
annexation of Texas, war with Mexico, numerous
expeditions into Central America, and interest in Cuba
that can be traced as far back as 1808. The third
thrust was in extracontinental interests: U.S.
missionaries in Hawaii in 1820, the Tyler Doctrine,
U.S.-China commercial treaties since 1844, and Perry's
arrival in Japan in 1854.^
Although I don't disagree with LaFeber's view,
I believe that United States foreign policy prior to
1890 can be summed up by two things: the Monroe
Doctrine and Manifest Destiny. The Monroe Doctrine,
which is still alive and actively used today, was
invoked to establish United States predominance in the
Western Hemisphere. Manifest Destiny, which is no
longer part of America's diplomatic vocabulary, was
used to justify both continental and extracontinental
Introduced during President James Monroe's
annual address to Congress on December 2, 1823, the
Monroe Doctrine declared that the Western Hemisphere
was to be the domain of the United States. The United

States would not interfere with the affairs of the
Eastern Hemisphere and the powers from that side of the
world (meaning Europe) were to stay clear of the
Western Hemisphere. Any disputes on the American
continents would be settled by the United States and
any threats to peace anywhere in the region would be
viewed as threats to the United States. Although the
Monroe Doctrine was never officially recognized by any
other nation, it became the major justification for
American intervention in hemispheric affairs from that
date onward.
Manifest Destiny was the term, first coined in
1845, for the belief that the United States was
preordained to conquer and control North America from
the Atlantic to the Pacific. While it was generally
accepted that this did not include Canada and Mexico,
some believed that America's destiny had neither a
northern nor a southern boundary. Americans used this
belief to pacify the native population and anyone else
who stood in the way of westward expansion.
Combined, the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest
Destiny led to a foreign policy that was actively
interventionist and expansionist regarding the Western
Hemisphere. This may also explain why the United
States wished to remain distant from European intrigues
and the quest for a worldwide empire: the Western
Hemisphere was more than enough for the young nation to

deal with. When the Civil War started in April 1861
there were only 34 states in the Union and the western
half of the nation was mostly rugged frontier. In 1865
the nation began the decade long task of rebuilding the
Union, a difficult proceas known as Reconstruction.
During this perio'd the nation became swept up in its
own industrial revolution and had little time for
foreign affairs. This consuming concern with domestic
affairs would soon come to an end as factors developed
that led the United States to alter its -foreign policy.
Many historians agree that William'Seward. was
the first American to recognize the need for a new
foreign policy and moved to implement such a policy.
As Secretary of State, Seward orchestrated the purchase
of Alaska from Russia in 1867. Often called Seward's
folly, this acquisition showed foresight. The Russions
viewed Alaska as a financial liability and a colony
that might prove difficult to protect and they were
eager to sell it, but had they retained it they would
have had a valuable property in North America of
strategic importance. Many Americans viewed the
purchase of a large (600,000 square miles)
noncontiguous territory as foolish, but Seward
understood that the end of westward expansion need not,
and should not, mean the end of America's growth. The
last half of the nineteenth century was a highly
competitive period when the meek surelydid not inherit
the earth.

An example of this was the news in 1879 that
France planned to build a canal through the Isthmus of
Panama. Designed by Ferdinand deLesseps, the builder
of the Suez Canal, this canal would give France immense
power in the Western Hemisphere as well as potential
wealth. Many Americans were alarmed at this prospect
and began to reevaluate their nation's foreign
policy. The Monroe Doctrine did not prohibit European
economic enterprises. Could Americans stand still
while European economic imperialism threatened?
The French plan for a canal on the Isthmus of
Panama was only one of many factors that caused
Americans to take a new look at their nation's place in
world affairs. Although most Americans still concerned
themselves exclusively with domestic affairs, that did
not mean that either a small group of businessmen or an
elite clique of politicians had the power to control
United States foreign policy. It is true that a few
individuals helped to formulate and guide policy, but
they were in turn limited and guided by
circumstances. Very often the United states has been
forced to respond to a number of factors, both domestic
and foreign. Had a small group of expansionists tried
to steer their nation on a different course a decade or
two earlier they would have been frustrated. Certain
developments in the 18 90's led to a new role in world
affairs for the United States; that is the focus of
this paper.

This paper is divided into two main
sections. The first addresses seven general factors
that affect foreign policy decisions, with specific
examples for each. The second section takes a closer
look at four specific cases from the 1890's: the
acquisition of Samoa, Hawaii, and the Philippines, and
the Open Door policy. Although it is impossible to
prove exactly how any one decision is made, this paper
will clearly show that a multitude of factors were
always present. One person may make a momentous
decision, but no decision is ever made in a vacuum.

Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An
Interpretation of American Expansion, 1986-1898
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963), pp.3-5

The United States was one of the world's
leading economic powers by the 1880s. America's
relative share of world manufacturing output in 1880
was 14.7%, second only to the United Kingdom's 22.9%.
By 1900 the United States would pass the United Kingdom
with 23.6% to 18.5%.^ When this fact was coupled with
a century of military victories it is understandable
that Americans saw themselves as one of the greatest
nations on earth. Europe had seemingly experienced
constant warfare since before recorded history and
continued royal machinations made the continent appear
to be a corrupt, violent, deteriorating mass. Africa
and Asia had been carved into powerless colonies while
South American nations had only started to gain
independence at the beginning of the nineteenth
century, none having developed into worldclass
powers. Americans saw themselves as pure of soul and
sturdy of character, among the paramount people on
earth. However, they were not yet ready to demand a
major role in world affairs, nor did they have the
desire to challenge Great Britain's role as a leading
nation. This was soon to change.

Americans grew more confident as their
nation's economy boomed in the 1870s and 1880s, but
some problems existed in the American economy as was
evident by a series of depressions: 1873-8, 1882-5,
1890-1. Although not catastrophic, these depressions
were preludes to the more serious depression of 1893
7. One problem with the American economy was that
manufacturers failed to account for, or were ignorant
about, business cycles. Businessmen who hastened to
build new factories and drastically increase their
labor force often found themselves stuck with
surpluses. This forced them to seek wider overseas
markets, always a desirable goal for any business, but
a problem for Americans at that time. The problem was
that by going after a larger share of overseas markets,
Americans would come into greater competition from
European industries, something they were in a poor
position to do. Americans may have viewed Europe as a
declining civilization, but Europeans had colonies to
trade with as well as established overseas coaling
stations and naval stations from which to operate.
Charles S. Campbell addressed the concern of a
possible trade war toward the end of the 19th century
in his book Special Business Interests and the Open
Door Policy:
A discriminatory commercial policy on the part of
continental countries would be serious enough; on
the part of Great Britain it would be
calamitous. Britain was America's chief market.

Moreover, any new British policy would in all
probability carry along her whole empire and, in
consequence of her key position in international
commerce, many independent countries as well.
There loomed before American traders the ugly
prospect of a drastic reduction in exports to much
of Asia, more of Africa, and almost all of
In fact, American exports were rising.
Exports in 1865 totalled $234 milion; by 1900 that
figure had reached $1.5 billion. Exports in 1900 were
7.5% of the Gross National Product with over half of
American cotton, 30-40% of wheat and 2/3 of oil
exported. Industries that relied on exports included
New York Life Insurance Company, Singer, International
Harvester, National Cash Register and Remington.^ The
United States economy could be seriously crippled
should Europeans choose to shut out American trade,
something which the United States could do little to
prevent in the 1880s.
There were also side effects to the
depressions in the United States. John Higham
discusses the revival of nativism in his book Strangers
in the Land.Nativism, an intense opposition to an
internal minority on the ground of its foreign
connections, was exacerbated by the depressions and
combined to create domestic turmoil. One example was
the creation of the Immigration Restriction League, a
group whose actions would lead to foreign policy
complications with China. Another result of the
depressions was a more strident, jingoist foreign

policy. Marilyn Blatt Young, in Rhetoric of Empire,
comments on America's psychological state during the
1890s: "Only in the context of the omnipresent anxiety
and frustration of the nineties does the growth of an
imperialist spirit in America make sense.
Economic depression and nativism were
accompanied in the 1890s by brutal labor strife, the
1892 Homestead strike and the 1894 Pullman strike being
two examples. According to Walter LaFeber these forces
were enough to cause American businessmen and the
United States government to steer a new foreign policy
course. In The New Empire: An Interpretation of
American Empire, 1986-1898, LaFaber states, "By 1899
the United States had forged a new empire. American
policy makers and businessmen had created it amid much
debate and with conscious purpose."^
Foster Rhea Dulles also credits American
business interests for the new policy:
Economic factors were far more important in the
drive for a bolder assertion of American influence
and power in the Pacific. The opportunities for
commercial expansion, founded in greater
expectations in the future exploration of the
markets of China and Japan, had long since been
wrapped in glittering promise.
There is no question that America's economic
problems, especially the frequent depressions that
destabilized the post-Civil War boom, influenced United
States foreign policy, but does the business community
deserve the credit that LaFeber and Dulles give it? In

fact, statistics show that the success of American
exports was minimal. If business and government had
created a new empire by 1899 it was not as successful
as some had hoped. The following chart shows exports
as a percent of gross national product:^
Year Exports
1874 8.1
1884 7.1
1889 6.4
1895 5.8
1899 6.9
1900 7.5
% of GNP
The chart shows that exports as a percent of
gross national product actually shrank from 1874 to
1900. While the growth of GNP was quite healthy and
kept pace with the growth of the nation, many
businessmen would have liked to see exports grow at a
faster rate. It is possible that American businessmen
were not as powerful as LaFeber and Dulles contend.
China, with its immense population, had long been
desired as a market for American goods, yet LaFeber
acknowledges that American businessmen lacked the
influence that their competitors enjoyed:
Since Washington would not allow Denby [Charles,
American minister to China] more freedom to pick
and choose, Americans were divided, then
conquered, by European capitalists who enjoyed the
full support of their own governments. Thus the
American Trading Company lost the opportunity to
loan China a large amount of the war indemnity to
be paid Japan in 1895-1896, and thus the American
China Development Company lost a fat railroad
concession to a Russian-Belgian group. The United

States refused to follow the European method of
mixing business and politics. u
Economic interests were undoubtedly a
major factor in foreign policy decision making, but
they were never the sole reason for change. When
business concerns were combined with other factors,
then business leaders were able to exert more influence
on foreign policy. One factor that related to business
concerns was the changing international scene.
International Scene
The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans had provided
the United States with a century of relative
security. Yet isolationism was not a goal of most
Americans. Trade with Europe, especially Great
Britain, had always been an important facet of
America's economy, but many Americans viewed Europe as
a tinderbox, a region of explosive and dangerous
politics. Besides, competition was fierce and the
potential for trade wars, as previously discussed,
always existed. Therefore, when Americans started to
look for greater overseas trade, Asia and the Pacific
were viewed as logical locations for economic
expansion. This westward trade frontier, while far
more open than Europe or Africa, was still not totally
free for United States capitalism. If Americans wanted
to secure new clients and the coaling stations
necessary to reach them, then action was required and

Part of the problem was the emergence of two
new powers, Germany and Japan. Although the German
nation was only two decades old, Germans had been
establishing economic outposts for far longer. By 1886
Germany had four colonies in Africa and, of greater
concern to the United States, had developed economic
interests in the Samoan and Hawaiian islands. Both
groups of islands were in vital locations for any
nation interested in Pacific commerce. Japan, an old
nation, had established herself as a world power by
devastating China in the war of 1895-96. Japan's
victory was immediately followed by the carving up of
China by Germany, Russia and other imperial powers,
which made American trade with China more difficult.
Closer to home, substantial Japanese immigration to
Hawaii was viewed by some Americans as encroachment in
their sphere of influence.
William Michael Morgan addresses the fear of
Japanese encroachment in his article, "The Anti-
Japanese Origins of the Hawaiian Annexation Treaty of
1897." Rather than a stepping stone to the Asia market
or a naval base for future Pacific hostilities, Morgan
contends that primarily, "...the treaty was created and
brought forward in June as powerful hands-off
warning to Japan, which the McKinley administration
believed was about to overthrow or subvert the Hawaiian
government." Japan was angry that Hawaii was

restricting Japanese immigration, failing to guarantee
the civil rights of Orientals and refusing Orientals
the right to vote. Japan's anger was expressed in a
series of telegrams in 1897 that demanded justice and
issued a veiled threat. Morgan credits Theodore
Roosevelt and Alfred Mahan with influencing McKinley's
decision to rush the annexation bill to Congress and,
although annexation was delayed for a year, it served
notice to Japan that the United States would not
tolerate interference. Americans were reminded that a
passive foreign policy might have cost their nation a
valuable Pacific possession.
The possible closing of the Pacific to free
trade would not have been so bad if the United States
had felt confident that some Asian markets would still
remain open. However, the opportunity to expand in
some of those markets was also rapidly disappearing.
France was in the process of securing all of Indochina,
Great Britain had added Burma to her Asian empire, and
many Pacific islands were falling under a variety of
European flags. By 1890 the United States had to face
the very real possibility that the opportunity for
overseas expansion might soon be past. A few
influential Americans saw the need to raise their
voices for a new foreign policy.
Intellectual Support for Change
It is difficult to determine the influence of

intellectual currents on government policy, yet it is
undeniable that presidents and their staffs rely on
advisors and experts to help them make their
decisions. William McKinley, who oversaw the
acquisition of Samoa, Hawaii, and the Philippines,
allowed John Hay to help guide United States foreign
policy, including the Open Door policy. Hay was a
close friend of Henry and Brooks Adams, both
expansionist writers and men who greatly influenced
Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt, expansionist
politicians. In turn, these men were influenced by
Fredrick Jackson Turner and Alfred Thayer Mahan. Their
views were respected by many in the general American
public and, more importantly, by people in power in
Washington, D.C.
Fredrick Jackson Turner was not as well known
as Mahan, so his influence is more difficult to
determine, yet his role was not insignificant. In 1893
Turner delivered a speech to the American Historical
Association entitled, "The Significance of the Frontier
in American History." Turner believed tht Americans
were a special breed of men, not due to their Anglo-
Saxon heritage, but because of their environment. The
ever present frontier caused Americans to be rugged,
self-reliant, innovative survivors. Whereas Europeans
had wallowed in decadance for centuries, Americans
remained sharp by battling and taming the frontier.

Also, those individuals who were too energetic or
rambunctious for city life could move to the frontier
where they would find a more suitable environment.
Unfortunately, according to Turner the frontier was
rapidly vanishing, which did not bode well for the
United States. Deprived of the frontier, Americans
would soon become like their sorry cousins across the
Ray Billington, in his book Fredrick Jackson
Turner, wrote about Turner's audience in the 1890's:
To catalogue his public appearances during these
years would be tedious, but a sampling can indicate
the diversity of his audience: five lectures before
the summer school of the University of Pennsylvania
in 1894, one at a Lake Forest College ceremony the
following April, addresses to the University Club of
Chicago, the Northwestern Association of Johns
Hopkins Alumni and the1 Geographical Society of
Chicago in 1897 and 1898. ^
Turner also had a few articles published in the
Atlantic Monthly, then without peer in its influence on
1 2
American intellectuals.
As Turner's theory gained more supporters,
some saw a solution: American expansion across the
Pacific would mean a new frontier, a new arena in which
Americans could focus their energy and continue to
forge that unique (some would say superior) American
spirit. Turner's Frontier Thesis was interesting,
especially to those who favored United States
expansion, but Alfred Thayer Mahan appealed more to

American pragmatism, which may help to explain why
Mahan was one of the most quoted Americans of the
The United States had never had an impressive
seagoing navy, being content instead to have a fleet
whose primary function was defending American trade and
"showing the flag" overseas. Republicans supported
sporadic shipbuilding efforts after the Civil War,
afraid of being caught with an outdated fleet, but they
were not interested in building a modern, world-class
navy. Harold and Margaret Sprout, in The Rise of
American Naval Power 1776-1918, lamented the state of
America's navy from 1865-1885. It was the Democrat
Grover Cleveland, a man from the eastern seaboard, who
received credit for beginning the modernization of the
U.S. navy. "And Congress, under strong administration
leadership, authorized during the next four years
(1885-1889) thiry naval vessels of different classes,
with an aggregate displacment of nearly 100,000
1 lx.
tons." ^ While none of the ships were enormous or had
impressive firepower, they were a vast improvement over
what the Republican administrations had commissioned in
the previous two decades. It was during this time of
naval growth that Mahan came onto the scene.
The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode
Island, was created in 1884 and one of its earliest
appointments was Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, who

lectured on naval history and tactics. From this
assignment came Mahan's 1890 book, The Influence of Sea
Power Upon History 1660-1783. The main thesis of Sea
Power was that great nations had great navies. More
pertinent to this paper is Mahan's belief about the
importance of naval power to a nation's economy.
According to Mahan, succes s in worldwide commerce
relied on a strong merchant marine. The freight
charges from this marine were a source of national
wealth, but this marine needed secure ports at its
destinations and protection throughout its voyages. A
powerful navy would protect overseas colonies, ships in
transit and America's own coastline and also provide
safety to neutrals shipping to American ports during
Although the Sprouts believe that some of
Mahan's theories were flawed, that he ignored the
importance of railroads and other technical advances,
Mahan did become one of the most influencial Americans
of the 1890's. The reasons for this are many. As
previously discussed, many Americans believed in the
growing importance of exports, which meant either a
larger merchant marine and navy or a greater reliance
on foreign shippers. The former was obviously
preferred. Also, President Benjamin Harrison and his
Secretary of State, James G. Blaine favored a more
assertive foreign policy and a stronger navy. Since

the Republican Harrison was blessed with a Republican
Senate for all four years of his terra (1889-1893) and a
Republican House for his first two years, he was able
to pave the way for an altered foreign policy.
Tensions in Samoa in 1888-1889 heightened American
support for a stronger navy and the destruction of
three American ships in Apia, Samoa, in 1889 made the
flaws of America's old navy more apparent. (The ships
had been too slow to put out to sea and were caught in
the harbor by a devastating tropical storm.) Finally,
from 1889-1893 the United States had a forceful
Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin F. Tracy, who was an
ardent supporter of Mahan's theories.
Many factors made the release of Sea Power in
1890 timely and Mahan worked diligently to make sure
that his theories were widely read. Between 1890 and
1897 Mahan wrote a series of articles that preached
limited American expansion, support for an Isthmian
canal, involvement in Cuba and Hawaii, and defense
against foreign encroachment on United States
territory. The following is a partial list of the
magazines that carried Mahan's articles: Atlantic
Monthly (October 1893), New York Times (January 31,
1893), Forum (March 1893), North American Review
(November 1894), Harper's Magazine (October 1895, March
1897, September 1897, October 1897). These were
popular magazines, not professional journals, and they
assured Mahan a large audience.

Mahan also had powerful supporters in Henry
Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt as well as numerous
congressmen who frequently cited him in speeches.
Representative William Sulzer of New York stated in the
House on June 14, 1898:
The exclusion of foreign countries from Hawaii will
practically protect our Pacific coast from trans-
pacific attack. And no less an authority than
Captain Mahan said that the possession of these
islands by the United States is a military
necessity; that no greater navy would be needed for
the defense of our Pacific coast than would be
required with the islands unannexed, and with them
annexed the advantage would be entirely with us. b
Mahan's theories would have amounted to little
without high level support. Both LaFeber and the
Sprouts credit Secretary of the Navy Tracy with guiding
America's navy into the twentieth century.^ Lodge and
Roosevelt also receive much credit, though both became
much more influential when Roosevelt became
president. Still, Mahan deserves credit for giving
voice and credibility to expansionists. He was not a
hot-headed militarist who demanded expansion at any
cost; he opposed the building of a large overseas
empire, which he believed was both unnecessary and
dangerous. I think that Mahan's theories were well
received because he followed a middle path between
isolationism and imperialism: expand trade, build a
world-class navy and obtain naval bases around the
world, but avoid the acquisition of large colonies that

would be difficult to defend and costly to maintain.
Like Fredrick Jackson Turner, Alfred Thayer Mahan's
influence is hard to measure, but both provided
ammunition for those who were in a position to affect
United States foreign policy.
If it is difficult to determine to what extent
intellectual currents influence political actions, it
is nearly impossible to determine the relationship
between morality and government policy. Americans
often take a righteous moral stance that is
contradicted by actions. While voicing concerns for
the "pagan souls" in Hawaii and China during the late
nineteenth century, immigration laws were passed to
keep the same "pagan souls" out of the United States,
although their souls would have been more easily
reached in the U.S. While declaring its intention to
uplift the poor Filipinos, the United States was
completing the subjugation of its own native
population. Still, one cannot dispute that morality
was often cited as a reason for foreign policy
One popular theme in the 1890's was Social
Darwinism, a variation on Charles Darwin's theories of
evolution. According to Darwin, those species that
were best able to adapt to environmental changes,
survived while other species became extinct. Thus, it

was adaptability, not superior strength or
intelligence, that led to survival. Survival of the
fittest meant those able to fit into the changing
world. Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher and
sociologist, was the leading proponent of Social
1 Q
Darwinism. Spencer's perversion of Darwinism taught
that in business and society the fittest, meaning
smartest or superior, rose to the top and controlled
the rest. Inferior businesses, like dinosaurs, became
extinct. Inferior races became servants and
laborers. Certain nations or races rose to dominance
through inherent superiority. In particular, the
Angle-Saxons possessed the qualities that had made it
possible for them to conquer and control a large
portion of the world. Furthermore, this superiority
carried with it certain responsibilities, which are
stated in Rudyard Kipling's immortal words:
Take up the white man's burden-
Ye dare not stoop to less-
Nor call too loud on freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave to do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you. y
Josiah Strong and John Fiske, two ministers,
strongly advocated the United States' Christian duty to
the world's heathens. Strong wrote in 1891:
...the two greatest needs of mankind, that all men
be lifted up into the light of the highest Christian
civilization, are, first, a pure spiritual

Christianity, and second, civil liberty...It follows
then that the Anglo-Saxon, as the great
representative of these two ideas, the depository of
these two greatest blessings, sustains peculiar
relations to the world's future, is divinely
commissioned to be, in a peculiar sense, his
brother's keeper. u
Strong's popularity can be measured by the sales of his
most popular book, Our Country, which rehashed the
ideas of Anglo-Saxon superiority and America's
Christian duty. Published in 1885, Our Country sold
130,000 copies by 1890^ and 175,000 copies by
1895 . Walter LaFeber wrote of Our Country and its
author, "In terms of popularity few books of the time
could equal it. Strong became a national figure,
spreading his ideas from innumerable lecture platforms
and through other books." J
John Fiske was apparently as influential as
Josiah Strong. According to LaFeber,
This expansive Anglo-Saxonism found its champion in
John Fiske, perhaps the most popular public lecturer
in American history. Fiske mixed Anglo-Saxinism,
Social Darwinism, and expansionism in his widely
known lenture and article of 1885, 'Manifest
The importance of Fiske and Strong is
debatable, but one cannot question the importance of
President William McKinley who used morality as a major
reason for retaining the Philippines after the Spanish-
American War. Although historian Lewis Gould
questioned McKinley's sincerity in the following quote,
it has been used frequently to explain the president's

I walked the floor of the White House night after
night until midnight; and I am not ashamed to tell
you, gentlemen, that I went down on my knees and
prayed Almighty God for light and guidance more than
one night. And one night it came to be this way I
don't know how it was but it came. Giving the
islands back to Spain would be cowardly and
dishonorable. The Filipinos were unfit for self-
government and they would soon have anarchy and
misrule over there worse than Spain's was...there
was nothing left for us to do but to take them all,
and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and
civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace
do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men
for whom Christ also died. ^
The point has been made that this speech was
supposedly addressed to a delegation from the Methodist
Episcopal Church because McKinely was trying to win the
support of American Protestants. It is also true that
most Filipinos were already Christian, Catholic in
fact. What is pertinent is that morality was used to
explain a major change in United States foreign
policy. Christian duty was used to justify forcibly
acquiring an extra-continental territory contrary to
the nation's traditions.
The Press
Shifting from the sacred to the profane, I
will now address the role of the press in influencing
United States foreign policy in the 1890's. Like
determining the relationship between intellectual
thought or morality to government decisions, it is
difficult to measure the link between the press and
policy making. One could attempt to connect the

newspaper coverage of an event, the growth of the
papers' circulation, the number of times its articles
were quoted in Congress, and votes on foreign policy.
However, this would all be circumstantial evidence.
And yet, in some cases, it is unquestionable that the
press played a crucial role. American attitudes toward
Cuba that led to the Spanish-American War are a case in
A famous story regarding the power of the
press took place prior to the outbreak of hostilities
between Spain and the United States, with William
Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, and
his chief illustrator, Fredric Remington, as the
protagonists. Tired of sitting in Havana waiting for a
story, the illustrator wired the publisher:
"Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here. There
will be no war. I wish to return Remington." The
reply from New York was equally brief: "Please
remain. You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the
9 6
war W.R. Hearst."z Although Hearst's ego exceeded
his actual power, the story shows that some publishers
believed that they possessed vast power to influence
the American public and, in fact, many tried to wield
that power.
Spain had been battling Cuban insurgents for
over seventy years and numerous atrocities had been
attributed to both sides. Substantial American

investment in Cuba and the proximity of the islands to
the United States led some Americans to take an
interest in Cuba's problems. However, America's
traditional isolationism limited that interest, and
burned sugarcane fields and the deaths of Cubans and
Spaniards meant little to the average American. That
indifference was to change when Hearst and Joseph
Pulitzer waged a newspaper war in New York in the
Newspaper publishing with its advertising
revenue was becoming big business in America in the
1890s, especially in New York where Hearst and Pulitzer
each hoped to corner the market. From this battle
emerged the term "yellow journalism" which implied
questionable journalistic ethics. Embellishments were
common, objective reporting was replaced by highly
subjective accounts that bordered on fictitious.
Sometimes accounts were totally fictitious. W.A.
Swanberg, in his book Citizen Hearst, recounts how the
Journal was caught in a lie about a woman being strip-
searched by a Spanish policeman aboard an American ship
in Havana harbor, a story accompanied by a lurid
Remington drawing. Pulitzer's New York World
interviewed the woman who explained that she had been
searched by a matron in a stateroom in the ship.
Congressman who had been infuriated by the article
quietly let the matter drop; the Journal never bothered

to apologize or retract the article. Apparently, the
Journal's circulation was not damaged by the
Publishers in the 1890s understood, as do the
publishers of today's less distinguished and highly
successful newspapers, that stimulation often sells
better than information. The following excerpt,
written by James Creelman in the 17 May, 1896 World and
published on page one, shows that Pulitzer clearly
understood this axiom:
No man's life, no man's property is safe. American
citizens are. imprisoned or slain without cause.
American property is destroyed on all sides. There
is no pretext at protecting it...Millions and
millions of dollars worth of American sugarcane,
buildings and machinery have already been lost.
This year alone the war will strike $68,000,000 from
the commerce of the U.S....Wounded soldiers can be
found begging in the streets of Havana...Cuba will
soon be a wilderness of blackened ruins. This year
there is little to live on. Next year ther will be
nothing. The horrors of a barbarous struggle for
the extermination of the native population are
witnessed in all parts of the nation. Blood in the
roadsides, blood in the fields, blood on the
doorsteps, blood, blood, bloodl The young, the old,
the weak, the crippled all are butchered without
mercy...Is there no nation wise enough brave
enough to aid the blood-smitten land? Is there any
barbarism that is known to the mind of man that will
justify the intervention of a civilized power? A
new Armenia lies within 80 miles of the American
coast. Not a word from Washington. Not a sign from
the President.
Although the veracity of this and other acticles
has been questioned (many reporters received their
information from Cuban refugees who lived in New
York ) there is no doubt that they had some effect on
their readers. According to Marcus Wilkerson in Public

Opinion and the Spanish-American War, jingo senators
and representatives found these articles to be very
quotable when making anti-Spanish speeches.
Furthermore, these articles were usually the sole
source of information about Cuba so their accounts were
rarely questioned. Finally with the circulation of
both the Journal and the World booming (World's was
400,000 in 1895; 822,804 in 1898) other newspapers
chose to follow the leaders and resorted to yellow
journalism of the same vein. u
So how does one measure the importance of the
press? If the American press had used the same tactics
in reporting on the atrocities visited on the Armenians
in Turkey, a heinous crime that paled the Cuban
situation in comparison, would the United States have
gone to war with Turkey? Probably not. Yet the press
was not without influence. H. Wayne Morgan stated the
case well when he wrote, "Newspaper pressure helped
cause the war (with Spain) by keeping diplomacy
unsettled in the face of mounting public opinion and
ranting congressmen.' 1 The yellow press with its
lurid, biased articles was the wind that accelerated
the fire that already existed.
Domestic Politics
With the exception of the 1920's, foreign
affairs have competed with domestic issues for the
attention of the American electorate for most of the

twentieth century. Theodore Roosevelt arbitrated the
end of the Japanese-Russian War and jockeyed the United
States into control of the Panama Canal; Woodrow Wilson
dealt with Mexico, World War I and the League of
Nations; Franklin Roosevelt faced growing fascism and
World War II; succeeding presidents confronted the Cold
War. This was rarely the case between 1865-1895 when a
few incidents briefly caught the attention of the
American public. The less a candidate said about
foreign policy the better. For example, the Democratic
platform for the 1888 presidential election addressed
civil service reform, the problem of patronage, free
silver and the tariff question, then it made a brief
statement favoring a, "firm and prudent foreign policy
preserving peace with all nations..." The 1892
election focused on the McKinley Tariff, protectionism
and reciprocity, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, labor
strife and a few other domestic issues. Candidates
knew that, except for trade, their constituents had
little interest in foreign affairs.
Foreign policy became a more important issue
in the election of 1896, but still played a relatively
minor role. Tariffs, labor unrest, depression,
monopoly and free silver were the main issues, but
Hawaii was also a prominent topic. The problem of
Hawaii, which will be discussed in a separate chapter,
involved the role of the United States in the 1893

Hawaiian Revolution and whether Hawaii should be
annexed. Grover Cleveland was inaugurated shortly
after the revolution and opposed annexation, so he
passed the issue to Congress where it sat until 1896.
Cleveland carried too much baggage
(depression, strikes) to run for a third term in 1896,
so the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan as
their presidential candidate. Bryan was domestically a
one-issue candidate, free silver, and an avowed anti-
imperialist. William McKinley, the Republican
candidate, favored expansion, the annexation of Hawaii
and independence for Cuba. The Republican party had
more compaign money; was better organized and had four
years of Democratic problems to attack. McKinley
received 51% of the vote to Bryan's 46%. Although it
is impossible to determine what role McKinley's foreign
policy played in his victory, it is probable that he
saw the results as a mandate for his views.
The 1900 presidential election was the first
since 1844 in which foreign policy clearly played a
role. McKinley had plunged the United States into the
Spanish-American War, started a war with Filipino
insurgents and annexed Hawaii. If an isolationist mood
had existed in 1900 McKinley would have paid the price
at the polls. Instead, McKinley and his fervently
expanionist vice-presidental candidate, Theodore
Roosevelt, defeated Bryan by a larger margin than in
the 1896 election.

Did the Spanish-American War and the
annexation of Hawaii seal McKinley's victory in 1900 or
tighten up an election that might have been a
Republican landslide? I cannot prove it one way or the
other. I am sure of one point: McKinley's victory in
1900 followed by Roosevelt's in 1904 prove that
Americans had abandoned their traditional
nonentanglement stance. Theodore Roosevelt would have
stood little chance of being elected president in 1888
or 1892 with the strident foreign policy views that he
voiced beginning in the late 1890s. The American
public had acquired a new outlook.
Presidential Leadership
It would be a fallacy to believe that
presidents and their constituents agree on all
matters. A president might enjoy majority support on
tariffs and civil rights, but have an unpopular foreign
policy. A president might respond to the moods and
trends of his nation, going with the political flow, or
he might act contrary to political sentiment. Some
presidents have succeeded because they followed the
prevailing currents (Nixon's Vietnamization) while
others have succeeded in spite of acting against those
currents (Franklin Roosevelt guiding the United States
into World War II). I will now address the ways
Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland and William

McKinley conducted foreign policy at a time when
Americans favored nonentanglement and even
After a century of presidents who usually
heeded George Washington's warnings regarding foreign
policy, Benjamin Harrison and his staff began to
implement a policy that clearly broke new ground.
Harrison wrote to his Secretary of State James G.
Blaine in October, 1891, "You know I am not much of an
annexationist, though I do feel in some directions, as
to naval stations and points of influence, we must look
forward to a departure from the too conservative
opinions which have been held heretofore." Harrison
and both of his Secretaries of State, Blaine and John
W. Foster, strongly favored closer ties with Hawaii.
Harrison stated in his annual message to Congress on
December 5, 1892, "Both for naval and commercial uses
we should have quick communication with Honolulu. We
should before this have availed ourselves of the
concession, made many years ago to this government, for
a harbor and naval station at Pearl River. A month
later Harrison showed how keen his interest was when he
quickly recognized the new provisional government in
Hawaii that U.S. Minister to Hawaii John Stevens had
helped into power.
Except for the Hawaiian Revolution and
continuing involvement in Samoan affairs, Harrison's

administration had few foreign policy achievements, yet
Walter LaFeber credits Harrison with setting the United
States on a new course:
The McKinley-Hay policies for the Orient could be
seriously considered only after the Harrison-Blaine
policies had achieved success in the Americas. The
Mole St. Nicholas, Hawaii, and reciprocity were to
Harrison what the open Door and the Philippines were to
McKinley. ^
Indeed, had Harrison been elected for a second
term the United States would probably have annexed
Hawaii five years earlier and followed a more
expansionist policy in the Western Hemisphere, which
Blaine favored. Instead, Grover Cleveland was elected
which soon put an end to Harrison's Hawaiian designs,
proving the power of the presidency.
Cleveland favored a return to the foreign
policy of the founding fathers and even restated
Washington's famous words during his 1885 inaugural
address; "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with
all nations, entangling alliances with none."
Cleveland disdained protectionist tariffs such as the
McKinley Tariff Act and terminated trade agreements
during both of his presidential terms. Cleveland's
annual addresses to Congress regularly stressed his
sentiments on the subject. Cleveland chastised
Harrison during the first message to Congress of his
second term on December 4, 1893:

Led by a desire to compose differences and
contribute to a restoration of order in Samoa...the
United States, departing from its policy consecrated
by a century of observance, entered four years ago
into the Treaty of Berlin, thereby becoming jointly
bound with England and Germany to establish and
maintain Malietoa Laupepa as King of Samoa... Early
in the life of this triple protectorate the native
dissensions it was designed to quell,
revived...Quite lately, at the request of the other
powers, and in fulfillment of its treaty
obligations, this government agreed to unite in a
joint military movement...The warship Philadelphia
was accordingly put under orders for Samoa...This
incident and the events leading up to it singly
illustrate the policy of entangling alliances with
foreigh powers. '
Cleveland continued to press Congress to
extricate the nation from the Samoan problem. On
December 3, 1894, Cleveland said the following during
his annual message to Congress:
The present government (of Samoa) has utterly failed
to correct, if indeed it has not aggravated, the
very evils it was intended to prevent. It has not
stimulated our commerce with the islands. Our
participation in its establishment against the
wishes of the natives was in plain defiance of the
conservative teachings and warnings of the wise and
patriotic men.who laid the foundations of our free
The involvement of Harrison'd administration
in the 1893 Hawaiian Revolution was also the subject of
Cleveland's wrath during his 1893 annual address to
After a thorough and exhaustive examination Mr.
Blount submitted to me his report, showing beyond
all question that the constitutional Government of
Hawaii had been subverted with the active aid of our
representative to that Government, and through the
intimidation caused by the presence of an armed
naval force of the United States which was landed
for that purpose at the insistance of our
minister. Upon the facts developed it seemed to me
the only honorable course for our Government to

pursue was to undo the wrong that had been done by
those representing us and to restore as far as
practicable the statusi, existing at the time of our
forcible intervention. ^
Some historians have questioned Cleveland's
reasons for opposing the annexation of Hawaii.
Montegomery Schuyler believes that Cleveland was
jealous of Harrison's island trophy and wanted to
deprive him of it.^ Allen Nevins disagreed with
Schuyler when he wrote in his 1964 biography of
The fact must be kept clearly in mind that Cleveland
from 1885-1897 had a consistent foreign policy,
radically different from the Republican policy of
Seward, Blaine and Hay a policy of unyielding
opposition to imperialist tendencies, Latin American
or Pacific adventures, and overseas entenglements in
general. '
Richard Welch in his 1988 biography of
Cleveland, is far less flattering than Nevins. Welch
accuses Cleveland of inconsistent diplomacy marked by
sporadic personal attentionEven worse, Cleveland
is portrayed as racist:
Cleveland had little sympathy for the
insurrectionists and little faith in their political
intelligence. He worried that Cuban independence
might be followed by political anarchy and European
intervention. A strong flavor of ethnic superiority
characterized his attitude toward the Cuban rebels
and helped to dictate the goals of his Cuban
Whether one is inclined to side with Nevins'
view or the more cynical views of Schuyler or Welch is,
in a way, not important. Motives are not as important
as actions and results, and Cleveland's actions were

consistent with his stated foreign policy views.
During Cleveland's two terras the United States did
avoid imperialist ventures and overseas entanglements.
When McKinley was elected president in
November, 1896, few expected a radical change in United
States foreign policy. McKinley favored annexation of
Hawaii and settlement of the Cuban problem, but he was
a cautious man who preferred peaceful solutions. Lewis
Gould pointed out in his biography of McKinley that the
president only turned to war as a last resort:
The Spanish-American War was not the result of
presidential weakness or cowardice in the face of
public hysteria. McKinley sought to persuade Spain
to relinquish Cuba peacefully and then turned to war
when it hename apparent that Madrid would never
According to Gould, it was leadership, not the lack of,
that led the United States to war.
In the Spring of 1898 Great Britain invited
the United States to participate in a joint effort to
stop the carving up of China by imperialist powers.
McKinley stated that there was no, "present reason for
the departure of the United States from its traditional
policy respecting foreign alliances and as far as
practicable avoiding interference or connection with
European complications."^ Two years later McKinley's
Secretary of State, John Hay, commenced the Open Door
policy which brought the United States into direct
connections with European complications. A lot had
changed in those two years and McKinley obviously felt

that America's foreign policy was also due for a
change. That is the point of this paper: McKinley had
the power to alter foreign policy, but he had to
consider tradition and the reality and needs of his
time before he could begin to implement change.
The next section of this thesis will use four
specific cases to demonstrate how a multitude of
factors led the United States to implement a new and
different foreign policy than the one that the founding
fathers had envisioned. In Samoa, Hawaii, the
Philippines and China the United States exhibited an
active and involved foreign policy.

Paul Kennedy, The rise and Fall of the Geat
Powers (New York: Random House, 1987), p. 149
Encyclopedia of American History. Ed. Richard M.
Morris, 6th ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1982),
p. 746
J Charles S. Campbell, Special Business Interests
and the Open Door (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1951), p. 8
^ Thomas G. Paterson, American Foreign Policy, A
History (Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1977), p.
John Higham, Strangers in the Land; Patterns of
American Nativism (New Yook: Atheneum, 1963)
Marilyn Blatt Young, The Rhetoric of Empire:
American China Policy 1895-1901 (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1968), p. 4
^ Walter LaFeber, The New Empire:__________________An
Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963), P. 416
Foster Rhea Dulles, America's Rise to World
Power 1898-1954 (New York: Harper and Row, 1954), p.
^ Robert L. Beisner, "The Limits of Economic
Interpretation," in Major Problems in American Foreign
Policy, ed. Thomas G. Paterson (Lexington: D.C. Heath
and Company, 1978), p. 255
^ LaFeber, p. 303
^William Michael Morgan, "The Anti-Japanese
Origins of the Hawaiin Annexation Treaty of 1897,
"Diplomatic History, Winter 1982, Vol. 6, No. 1, p. 25
1 2
1 Ray A. Billington, Fredrick Jackson Turner (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 196
13Ibid., p. 191
^Harold and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American
Naval Power 1776-1918 (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1939), p. 189

^A.T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Powers Upon
History, 1660-1783 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,
1815), pp. 26-28
1 fi
DU.S. Congressional Record, 55th Cong., 2nd
sess., 1898, vol 31, p. 5905
^LaFeber, pp. 122-127 and Sprout, p. 205
1 8
1 Ralph K. Andrist, ed., The American Heritage
History of the Confident Years 1865-1916 (New York:
American Heritage/Bonanza Books, 1987), p. 172
^Alden March, The History and Conquest of the
Philippines and our Other Island Possessions (New York:
Arno Press, 1899), p. x
9 n
^Thomas G. Paterson, ed., Major Problems in
American Foreign Policy (Lexington: D.C. Heath and
Company, 1978), p. 241
9 1
Ernest R. May, American Imperialism:______________A
Speculative Essay (New Yorkl Atheneum, 1968), p^ 133
2^LaFeber, p. 73
24Ibid., p. 99
9 S
Lewis L. Gould, The Presidency of William
McKinley (Lawrence: The Regents Press of Kansas,
1980), pp. 140-141
9 fi
^W.A. Swanberg, Citizen Hearst (New York:
Scribner's and Sons, 1961), p. 127
27Ibid., pp. 132-133
9 8
Marcus M. Wilkerson, Public Opinion and the
Spanish-American War (New York: Russell and Russelll,
1932), p. 32
3^Ibid, p. 42
3^H.W. Morgan, America's Road to Empire, The War
with Spain and Overseas Expansion (New York: John
Wiley and Sans, 1966), p. 14

3 Robert F. Wesser, "Election of 1888," in History
of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968. Vol. II,
ed. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (New York: Chelsa House
Publishers, 1971), p. 1654
33LaFeber, p. 110
34Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the
United States, 1892, p. XIV
33LaFeber, p. 112
38Dulles, p. 20
O ~f
'Papers Relating to Foreign Relations, 1893, pp.
38Ibid., 1894, p. XVII
39bid., 1893, p. XI
^Montgomery Schuyler, "Walter Quintin Gresham,"
in The American Secretaries of State and Their
Diplomacy, ed. Samuel Flagg Bemis (New York: Cooper
Square Publishers, Inc., 1963), p. 247
4^Allan Nevins, Grover Cleveland: A Study in
Courage (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1964), p.
/ o
^zRichard E. Welch, The Presidencies of Grover
Cleveland (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press,
1988), p. 157
43Ibid., p. 195
44Gould, pp. VII-VIII
43Blatt, p. 93

Although most Americans know little about
Samoa; United States foreign policy for Samoa after the
Civil War clearly illustrates the dynamics of
international politics. A small cluster of islands in
the central Pacific 4,000 miles from San Francisco,
Samoa has never been economically valuable. The
islands support a few coconut plantations, bountiful
fishing and recent tourism; Samoa's greatest asset has
been its location. Jacob Roggewein, a Dutchman, was
the first European to visit Samoa. His 1722 landing
was followed by the French in 1787 and the British in
1824. British missionaries were the first Europeans to
settle in the islands, beginning in 1830, and they
introduced international trade to the natives: raising
pigs and extracting coconut oil. The first American
contact was in 1839 when the U.S. Exploring Expedition
surveyed the islands. By the mid 19th century Samoa
was viewed by some nations as a potentially valuable
coaling station, being situated between California,
Australia and New Zealand, and the Far East. Samoa's
potential value became known prior to the expansion of
the American navy and the Germans were the first to
introduce imperialism to the islands.

German businessmen established private
plantations in Samoa in the 1850s, but from the start
it was not a harmonious relationship. Most Samoans did
not like plantation work so the Germans found it
necessary to import labor from other islands, which led
to conflicts between the different native groups. This
exacerbated the tribal conflicts that already existed
in the region. The addition of Americans and British
would further muddy the political and social waters.
American sailors had been praising Samoa's
location and fine ports for decades, in particular Apia
and Pago Pago. In 1872 the United States negotiated a
formal agreement with a chief on the island of Tutuila
for naval rights in exchange for protection. In 1879 a
second American-Samoan treaty was signed that promised
American help against any third power. These
agreements did not lead to a surge in American business
involvement; in 1880 Germans outnumbered all foreign
nationalities and controlled 4/5 of all business. The
statistics for 1884 Samoan exports and imports, by
nationality, further support the fact of German
German $323,884
British $25,000
American $9,744
Ge rman

German puppet Tamasese. As it turned out, United
States action was not necessary since the following
year 1888, there was a successful native coup d'etat
led by another high chief, Mata'afa. In December the
Germans landed a force of sailors to eject Mata'afa but
they were met by a superior force and over fifty
Germans were seriously wounded or killed; some were
later even decapitated
Captain J.A.G. Gray, U.S. Navy, in his book on
Samoa, points out a number of German errors that led to
this debacle. Germany evidently failed to understand
Samoa tribal rivalries; Tamasese lacked the tribal
support that Mata'afa obviously had. Another problem
was German arrogance. They had assumed that their plan
for modernization, which included new roads and the
taxes that would accompany them, would be welcomed by
all Samoans. This proved fatally incorrect.^
The Germans were faced with a dilemma; They
did not want their defeat at the hands of the savages
to go unanswered, but the Reichstag was not eager to
fund a full invasion. To make matters worse, the
American press thrashed Secretary of State Bayard and
demanded action. On January 24, 1889, the New York
Herald ran an article, "How American Rights were
Needlessly Surrendered by the State Department
Outrages by German Authorities Unredressed." The U.S.
Senate added pressure on Germany by allocating $500,000

for defense of Samoa and $100,000 for construction of a
naval base at Pago Pago.^ It is doubtful that the
United States would have gone to war over Samoa and the
Senate's action may have been a bluff, but Bismark
chose not to call the bluff. The two nations found
themselves at a standoff, neither willing to force the
matter nor able to back out of the confrontation.
Occasionally mother nature affects the course
of history as much as the decisions and actions of
men. This was the case in the 13th century when Japan
was saved from a Mongolian invasion by a kamakazi
(divine wind), a hurricane that sank the invading
force. A similar act of nature may have altered Samoan
history. In March, 1889, Germany and the United States
each had three naval vessels in the Samoan harbor of
Apia, the British also had a ship in the harbor.
Tensions were cooling, due in large part to plans to
resume the tripartite conference in Berlin the
following month, but the potential for conflict was
still present. On March 15, just four days after the
U.S. flagship Trenton had arrived, a devastating
hurricane hit Samoa, sinking all six of the American
and German ships and killing 150 men, most of them
Germans. When the hurricane left it took with it much
of the intense rivalry over the control of Samoa.
Within the year the three nations at the Berlin
Conference had decided to share control of Samoa and

the 1889 Berlin Act established tripartite supervision
which created a peace that was to last for nine years.
The United States had changed a great deal by
the end of 1898. The U.S. navy was much larger and had
been modernized, Spain had been defeated and Americans
were more eager to flex their newfound strength.
Therefore, when civil war erupted in Samoa in 1898 the
United States took more decisive action than it had in
Europeans had introduced the concept of a
single king over all the Samoan islands, a sovereign
over tribal chieftains, and Samoan custom had the
chiefs elect the king. However, when King Laupepa, who
had regained his throne, died on August 22, 1898, civil
was broke out over who would rule the islands. By
March 23, 1899, a combined American-British naval force
placed Tanumafili on the throne, displacing the German
backed Mata'afa (yes, the same Mata'afa who Germany had
opposed in 1889). Eighty days later German forces
supported Mata'fa's return to power. The war might
have escalated from there, but the United States
decided that the Philippines were of greater strategic
importance and that it was not possible to wage two
wars simultaneously. Frustrated by how entangled and
dangerous Samoa had become, and also concerned about
possible German-American conflict in the Philippines,
the three signers of the Berlin Act decided to end the

Samoan war and permanently divide the islands. On May
31, 1 899, all Samoans deposited their guns on the
U.S.S. Badger and on June 10 the kingship was
dissolved. The islands of Samoa were divided on
November 9 in the following manner: The United States
received the islands of Tutuila, Annu'u and Manu'u;
Germany received all remaining islands; Great Britain
abandoned all Samoan claims in exchange for the German
rights to Tonga and disputed areas in the Solomon
Islands and West Africa, thus settling other
territorial problems that had existed.
The division of Samoa was a success for
everyone involved, except the Samoans. President
McKinley gained a lot for very little. Without the
loss of a single American life during his presidency,
McKinley retained a valuable coaling station. War with
Germany had been avoided and relations with Great
Britain continued to improve. And yet, this was not
truly a McKinley victory, it was the end result of over
twenty yers of changing and growing United States
foreign policy. My research revealed no serious
American interest in Samoa prior to the late 1880s.
Interest was stimulated by a number of factors.
Growing German imperialism in Samoa intensified
America's competitive urge and anti-German feelings.
Samoa fit into Mahan's vision of coaling station
without colonial responsibilities. The near conflict

^J.A.C. Gray, Amerlka Samoa: A History of American
Samoa and its United States Naval Administration
(Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1960), p. 72
Sylvia Masterman, The Origins of International
Rivalry in Samoa 1845-1884 (Stanford University:
Stanford University Press, 1934), p. 180
Paul M. Kennedy, The Samoa Tangle, A Study in
Anglo-German-American Relations 1878-1900 (New York:
Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1974), p. 53
4Ibid., pp. 77-78
^Gray, p. 80
^Kennedy, p. 79

The connections between the United States and
Hawaii were much closer than those between Samoa and
the United States, so it is understandable that the
story of Hawaii's annexation is longer and more
complex. Samoa was 4,000 miles away from California
and German involvement, which was greater than
American, was never seen a direct immediate threat by
most Americans. There were no major American
investments in Samoa nor extensive missionary work.
Hawaii was only 2,000 miles away and more Americans
were familiar with Hawaii because of the numerous
American missionaries who served there and the
businessmen who invested in Hawaiian plantations. On
December 31, 1842, President John Tyler made a speech
to Congress that became known as the Tyler Doctrine; it
extended the Monroe Doctrine out into the Pacific:
Considering, therefore that the United States
possesses so very large a share of the
intercourse with those islands, it is deemed not
unfit to make the declaration that their
Government seeks nevertheless no peculiar
advantages, no exclusive control over the
Hawaiian Government, but is content with its
independent existence, and anxiously wishes for
its security and prosperity. Its forebearance in
this respect, under the circumstances of the very

large intercourse of their citizens with the
islands, would justify the government, should
events hereafter arise, to require it, in making a
decided remonstrance against the adaptation of an
opposite policy by any other power.
Tyler's warning was aimed primarily at the
British, who had hopes of establishing predominance
over the islands. In fact, a British naval captain
pressured King Kamehameha III to cede Hawaii
provisionally to Great Britain on February 25, 1843,
though the British government disavowed the action and
restored Hawaiian independence on July 31 of the same
year. Still, Tyler's warning made it clear that the
United States considered the region to be in its sphere
of influence. Based on this paper's introduction, it
is not surprising that Tyler did not make a stronger
statement, but he did set a precedent for United States
foreign policy regarding the Hawaiian islands.
Another cause for concern was the growing
number of Asians in Hawaii. Although Americans had
always been a minority, they were establishing
themselves as the dominant economic force in Hawaii.
This dominance was threatened by the rapid increase in
the Asian population and the growing interest of the
Japanese government. In 1893 Japan formally requested
suffrage for Japanese-Hawaiians. Population figures
for the 1890s further support American concerns for
Hawaii: Approximately 40,000 Hawaiian and half-castes;
30,000 Chinese and Japanese; almost 2,000 Americans.

The U.S. government did very little regarding
Hawaiian-American relations in spite of the concerns of
Americans residing in Hawaii. The United States'
policy seems to have been limited to achieving
reciprocity, which in theory meant that both nations
would benefit from fewer trade restrictions. What
reciprocity meant to the U.S. government was that
Hawaiian sugar would not be charged a duty in exchange
for American predominance in Hawaii. Since the United
States imported sugar from other countries, such as
Cuba, and revenue from Hawaiian sugar was not
significant, reciprocity would have been beneficial to
the United States. Reciprocity treaties had been
attempted as early as 1848, but political dissension
in both nations delayed the actual signing of the
first treaty until 1875.
The reciprocity treaty of 1875 faced staunch
opposition when it came up for renewal in 1884. Sugar
refineries on the West Coast loved inexpensive
Hawaiian sugar, but powerful Southern and Midwest beet
and cane growers and East Coast refiners viewed Hawaii
as foreign competition. There was an ongoing battle
between the so-called Sugar Trust of the East and the
California/Hawaiian forces in the United States.
Still, expansionist congressmen in 1884 coveted Hawaii
as a coaling station and naval base and they were able
to add an amendment to the 1884 treaty that granted the

United States exclusive rights to Pearl Harbor. This
amendment added to King Kalakaua's difficult
position. Hawaii had grown dependent on American
commerce and reciprocity was desired, but agreeing to
give away rights to Pearl Harbor would not please his
Hawaiian subjects. The king had already angered some
with his extravagance, being in the process of
increasing the public debt from $338,510 in 1880 to
$2,600,000 in 1890."^ Kalakaua delayed signing the
treaty since he was convinced that the United States
posed little threat to Hawaiian sovereignity and
signing the treaty offered as much risk (Hawaiian
anger) as gain (commerce). Kalakaua's advisors had
pointed out that the United States had no navy to base
at Pearl Harbor and the cost of turning the estuary
into a working harbor was prohibitive. The East Coast
Sugar Trust opposed any dealing with Hawaii and the
American public was apparently apathetic regarding the
islands. Delay seemed a wise and safe tactic.
Unfortunately for Kalakaua, he failed to
recognize that the greatest threat was not from
Hawaiians or the U.S. government, but from the
Americans who resided in his country. Led by Sanford
B. Dole and Lorrin Thurston, the Hawaiian League had
been formed in 1887 to protect the rights of Americans
in Hawaii. These wealthy and powerful businessmen had
long opposed the Hawaiian monarchy which they perceived
as imperious,

scandalous and immoral. The League clandestinely
assembled an arsenal and in late June, 1887, they
confronted the king with a list of demands:
1. require cabinet approval of all official acts
2. popular elections of the House of Nobles, which
had previously been appointed
3. suffrage to American and European residents of
Hawaii who were willing to take an oath of
4. dismissal of Walter Gibson, chief minister, who
led a powerful native faction and was a strong
supporter of Kalakaua
5. make restrictions regarding the opium trade
6. five point pledge from Kalakaua to stop
interfering with the constitutional
Alarmed by the rebel's demands, Kalakaua asked
American, British, French, Japanese and Portugese
diplomats for help, but they advised hom to give in.
Within 24 hours he gave in to all the demands, which
were incorporated into a new 1887 Constitution. There
are a few reasons why Kalakaua allowed himself to be
reduced to a constitutional monarch. The demands had
been presented by the conservative faction of the
Hawaiian League. Rejection could mean that the radical
faction might get its wish of eliminating the monarchy
altogether and establishing a republic. Also, the king
had to face the fact that the group that met to draw up
the demands included men of all classes, creeds and
nationalities; he faced a broad front of opposition.
Finally, he may have been concerned that the recent

arrival of the U.S.S. Adams marked United States
support of the rebels. In September Kalakaua signed
the renewal of the reciprocity treaty which gave Pearl
Harbor to the United States.
Was Kalakaua right to be concerned about
possible U.S. support for the rebels? A memo from
Secretary of State Thomas Bayard to American minister
to Hawaii George Merril, written July 12, 1887, sheds
some light on that question:
Whilst we abstain from the domestic affairs of
Hawaii, in accordance with the policy and practice
of the government, yet obstruction to the channels
of legitimate commerce under existing treaty must
not be allowed, and American citizens in Hawaii must
be protected in their persons and property by the
representatives of their countries law and power,
and no discord must be suffered to impair them.
Bayard's memo strongly implies that should U.S.
citizens or their property have been endangered, even
if they had precipitated that danger themselves, the
U.S. military, possibly the U.S.S. Adams, might have
gotten involved. One can only speculate how the
American public would have reacted to U.S. military
involvement in Hawaii in a revolution started by
Americans. I tend to believe that at that early date
many Americans would have opposed intervention, but as
discussed in Chapter II other factors would have
affected public reactions. How would the press have
dealt with the revolution? How would Cleveland's
administration have presented the involvement of U.S.S.
Adams? Would American soldiers have been killed? Of

course, this is just historical speculation. Six years
later there would be no need for speculation because in
1893 a second revolution would occur with far greater
cons equences.
In a way, the 1893 Revolution was indirectly
caused by the U.S. government. The McKinley Tariff,
passed in 1890, dealt a devastating blow to the
Hawaiian sugar industry. The two parts of this
comprehensive tariff revision that affected Hawaiian
sugar were as follows: Duties on raw sugar were
eliminated, which removed the advantage that
reciprocity had given Hawaiian sugar; a bounty of 2
cents per pound was paid to domestic sugar planters, an
economic windfall not enjoyed by Hawaiian planters.
Shortly after the McKinley Tariff was passed the price
of sugar dropped from $100 to $60 per ton. All of
Hawaii was hit hard, land prices fell and by 1892 a
severe depression set in. Americans in Hawaii knew
that their salvation might only be found in some sort
of union with the United States. .Annexation would mean
that they too could benefit from the new tariff laws.
The passage of the McKinley Tariff was
followed by an event that was to prove even more
disastrous for Hawaii. King Kalakaua died on January
20, 1891, and he was succeeded by his sister
Liliuokalani. A fierce Hawaiian nationalist,
Liliuokalani had opposed the Pearl Harbor ammendment to

the 1884 reciprocity treaty and had been openly
critical of the limits placed on the monarchy by the
1887 Constitution. The new queen was not about to
passively accept what she perceived to be American
imperialism, which is what she faced. Harrison's
Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, favored control of
Hawaii and he accordingly appointed an annexationist as
American minister, John L. Stevens. Stevens was
assured in private by Harrison, Blaine, Secretary of
the Navy Tracy and others that legal annexation was
welcome, the understanding being that Stevens should
assure Americans in Hawaii that they had the backing of
the U.S. government.
At this time Republican newspapers began to
awaken the American public to the value of Hawaii. The
following is an editorial from the New York Tribune,
December 11, 1891:
The growth of our Pacific States, the fact that 90%
of Hawaii's trade comes into and goes out from their
ports, the enormous investment of American capital
in Hawaiian enterprises, the position of the islands
in the path of our Chinese and Australian commerce,
their strategic importance and their political and
commercial relation to the Nicaraguan canal combine
to render it absolutely necessary for us to take
such steps as will ensure us agaiqst their
absorption into a foreign colonial system.5
Queen Liliuokalani quickly alienated the
Americans in her country by waging a power struggle in
the legisture. 1892 was marked by bitter battles over
ministerial appointments, a lottery bill and a bill
about the sale of opium. The opium license bill was

not a result of Liliuokalani's greed nor proof that she
favored opium use. It was an attempt at controlling
the smuggling of opium and the corruption that
accompanied the smuggling operation. The queen wanted
the power to appoint the cabinet, which would have
helped her to get her bills passed, but her opponents
wanted the majority party in the legislature to have
that power, as was the case in Great Britain. Two days
before the legislative was to close, Liliuokalani
signed the lottery and opium bills and appointed the
cabinet. The queen should have been content with this
victory, but instead she decided to exercise even more
power; this proved to be her undoing.
On January 14, 1893, Queen Liluokalani made a
grave error in judgement when she attemped to
reestablish royal dominance. She announced that she
was going to enact a new constitution which cancelled
nearly all of the 1887 constitution. The new one would
restore royal power over the House of Nobles, limit
suffrage to actual subjects and in other ways expand
the power of the monarchy. The foreign community was
understandably upset and the Americans began at once to
land a counterattack to Liliuokalani's power play. The
queen's ministers, aware that she lacked the means to
enforce her coup, finally succeeded after two days in
getting her to renounce her earlier statement and to
promise to obey the 1887 constitution, but the American

annexationists ignored the retraction and continued to
set their plans into motion.
Minister Stevens received word from the rebels
on January 16 that they were about to act, so he
ordered marines from the U.S.S. Bos ton to land,
ostensibly to protect American life and property.
However, the marines ended up strategically placed near
Hawaiian government buildings rather than American
businesses and residents; their presence was therefore
interpreted by Hawaiians as support for the
revolution. Furthermore, on January 17, without
permission from the State Department, Stevens
recognized the new revolutionary government of Hawaii
which was led by Sanford Dole. Within the month the
new government had submitted an annexation treaty to
the U.S. Senate.
The American revolutionaries in Hawaii had
some powerful supporters in the United States:
American merchants, religious organizations, the U.S.
Navy, Harrison's adminstration. Yet annexation was not
a foregone conclusion. Hawaiian annexation became a
hotly debated subject in the United States, especially
in the newspapers.
Christian Union, February 18, 1893:
The Anglo-Saxon race is the colonizing race, the
civilizing race, the pioneering race. We cannot if
we would to escape the duty which our race
characteristics and our local position combing to
lay upon us... Hawaii's necessity is our duty.

Washington Post, February 7, 1893:
Hawaii is the natural and logical outpost of the
United States in the Pacific. Its possession would
be the savings of incalculable millions in coast
defense and the control of the commercial pathways
of more than half the salt water in the globe.
New York Times, February 15, 1893:
It has not seemed to us that the information
regarding the situation there and the cause by which
it was produced was sufficiently complete for a full
understanding of the case, without which such
important action as that ought not be taken...
There has been the appearance of undue haste in all
the proceedings... Each step taken was calculated
to commit our government to a preconceived policy
without an opportunity for deliberation... our
Government is not acting with a clear view of all
the circumstances... in such matters it is the
permanent interests of the country that should be
considered and not the prestige of a passing
Ghicage Herald, January 30, 1893:
We already have Negroes, Chinamen, Greasers,
Indians, Jenny Simpson and Mrs. Lease, and we don't
need any more in the combination. u
The 1893 Hawaiian Revolution and the resulting
fight over annexation are excellent examples of how
foreign policy is the result of many factors, some
controlled and some not. The revolution and the
campaign for annexation were well planned and
controlled, but the timing, which was critical, was
not. Queen Liliuokalani's threatened power play that
sparked the revolution occured two months after the
election of Grover Cleveland to his second presidential
term. Cleveland was an avowed anti-annexationist whose
inauguration in March almost guaranteed a halt to
Hawaii's annexation. Also, Cleveland's election was a

sign to some that the American public did not favor
annexation. Had the revolution occured shortly after
Liliuokalani's ascension to the throne in 1891 then
Harrison's administration might have achieved
The debate over annexation in 1893 raged until
Cleveland's inauguration. It was marked by partisan
squabbling with the Republicans accusing the Democrats
of turning Hawaii into a political prize, which was
probably the case. After all, if Hawaii was to be
annexed some day, why let Harrison get credit for it?
Besides, it was easy for Democrats to question the need
of annexation in the first place. Commerce with Hawaii
was profitable, keeping Germany and Japan far from the
West Coast was important, but annexation was not
essential to achieve these goals. The United States
already had the use of Pearl Harbor through the 1887
reciprocity treaty, and even if the new government
refused to honor the treaty most Hawaiian commerce was
still with American merchants and would surely remain
that way since the new Hawaiian government was
American. Also the annexation of Hawaii would mean
acquiring Hawaii's large Asian population, many of whom
might seek entrance to the United States. It is not
surprising that Harrison's lame duck administration
failed to secure the Hawaiian gem it sought.

Five days after his inauguration, Cleveland
withdrew the annexation treaty that Harrison had
submitted and requested that Congress give it further
study. The treaty remained in political limbo for five
years. Cleveland followed the shelving of the
annexation treaty with the appointment of Senator James
H. Blount of Georgia as Special Commisioner to
investigate the Hawaiian Revolution. Not
surprisingly, Blount's final report which became
the Senate's majority report, blasted Harrison's
administration, in particular minister Stevens, for the
role it played in the revolution. Cleveland retained
the benefits of close economic ties with Hawaii without
being tainted with the errors of Harrison's Hawaiian
Allan Nevins, in his biography of Cleveland,
portrayed the president's termination of the treaty as
a noble act:
In an era of international landgrabbing Cleveland,
despite angry sneers, had insisted that the United
States meet the loftiest obligations of honesty and
unselfishness; in an era when the rights of small
nations were almost universally trampled on, he had
displayed a sensitive^ consideration for one of the
weakest of them all. u
Cleveland still faced a dilemma. He had made
it clear that he was outraged by United States
participation in the revolution, especially that of
Stevens and the U.S.S. Bos ton, but what should
Cleveland now do regarding the government of Hawaii?
His Secretary of State, Walter Gresham, expressed
strong feelings on the subject:

Should not the great wrong done to a feeble, but
independent state, by an abuse of the authority of
the United States, be undone by restoring the
legitimate Government? Anything short of that will
not... satisfy the demands of justice. Can the
United States consistently insist that other nations
shall respect the independence of Hawaii while not
recognizing it themselves? Our Government was the
first to recognize the independence of the Islands
and it should be the last to acquire sovereinty over
them by force and fraud. ^
Unfortunately, things were not so simple,
especially after Queen Liliuokalani demanded capital
punishment for all of those involved in the
revolution. Execution of American citizens would not
have been well accepted in the United States. After
the American press had portrayed Liliuokalani as a
power-hungry pagan monarch, replacing the Christian
Sanford Dole with the queen would have been political
In spite of Nevin's noble portrayal of
Cleveland, the president was not a fool nor would he
relish the fight that would certainly accompany any
attempt to restore the queen. The simple solution was
to sidetrack the annexation treaty and recognize the
defacto government, which Cleveland did on August 7,
William McKinley's election as president in
November, 1896, did not mean immediate renewal of the
annexation debate. McKinley, not a strong
expansionist, did not resubmit the treaty to Congress
until June, 1897, primarily to please annexationist

Republicans. Even then the issue might have to face
years of debate, but the following year an event
occured that placed Hawaii in a new light: the
Spanish-American War. Before the war Americans saw
Hawaii as the outer limits of the American frontier, if
even that. The islands were distant coaling stations
and the source of raw sugar. That changed on May 1 ,
1898, when Commodore George Dewey launched the U.S.
naval invasion of Manilla Bay in the Philippines.
Hawaii became a stepping stone to Asia, an important
port for getting supplies to American soldiers who were
fighting in the Far East. McKinley now had a reason to
secure Hawaii permanently. He wrote on June 8, 1898,
"We need Hawaii just as much or a good deal more than
1 3
we did California. It is manifest destiny."
Although this statement appears to contradict
those who claim that McKinley was not a fervent
annexationist, I believe that he was convincing himself
of the need for Hawaii at the time. Americans were
excited by the war with Spain and Hawaii had become
more important due to its location, so McKinley may be
excused this piece of hyperbole.
The government of the Republic of Hawaii
continued to pursue annexation, keeping a delegation in
Hawaii to work on congressmen and convince them of the
benefits of a union. When Japan protested the
annexation treaty in 1897 McKinley worked even harder

to achieve it. With the Spanish-American War the job
became even easier. The House passed the Hawiian
annexation bill on June 11, 1898. McKinley knew that
the Senate would fail to muster the 2/3 vote required,
so he shrewdly asked for a joint resolution which only
required a simple majority of both houses. The joint
resolution passed on July 6; Hawaii was finally United
States territory.
Even the most powerful individuals or groups
must wait for the right moment when attempting to alter
United States foreign policy. It has never been easy
to convince Americans of the merits of extracontinental
expansion or even involvement in foreign affairs.
However, the Spanish-American War and the invasion of
the Philippines showed Americans that cases might exist
where the U.S. government would deem it necessary to
send military personnel to the other end of the
earth. This meant that coaling and naval stations,
permanent ones, were essential. Representative
Hamilton of Michigan made this point in a speech to
Congress on June 14, 1898:
In my opinion the most powerful argument in favor of
annexation is that we thereby preempt the only
anchorage ground, the only coaling station and base
of supplies from which a hostile fleet could make
descent upon our western coast and to which it could
retire... England, France, Germany, Japan and
Russia all have powerful squadrons in the Pacific,
and each of there squadrons is stronger than our
If Hawaii once passes into the possession of a
first-class power, it will not likely change
possession again.

After all of the intrigues of Dole, Stevens and
other powerful Americans who coveted Hawaii, it took an
unrelated event to formally bring the island under U.S.
control. This supports my thesis that many factors are
involved in determining United States foreign policy
and implementing it. The machinations of a few
Americans, plus the actions of a queen, placed Hawaii
in the position of imminent annexation; then an
international event, the Spanish-American War, hastened
The cases of Hawaii and Samoa had much in
common. Both were seen as stepping stones to greater
commerce in the Far East and Americans wanted to be
sure that neither fell under foreign control.
Furthermore, both were acquired without the necessity
of a U.S. military invasion. The United States
benefitted without a great deal of expense or effort.
The acquisition of the Philippines was a different
story. The Spanish-American War and the subsequent war
for control of the Philippines posed new questions to
the American public. Was a new foreign policy required
for the 20th century? Did U.S. interests stop at
California or did they extend to the Far East? Did the
United States have the right or the responsibility to
annex millions of people who were hostile to the idea
of annexation? Was the United States indeed a world
power and if so what did that mean to the average

American citizen? To answer these questions we must
study the acquisition of the Philippines. This story
began a mere ninety miles from the coast of Florida, on
the island of Cuba.

^Sylvester K. Stevens, American Expansion in Hawaii
1842-1898 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1945), p.4
Allan Nevins, Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage
(New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1964), p. 551
Ralph S. Kuykendall and A. Grove Day, Hawaii: A
History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1961),
p. 169
^As quoted in Merze Tate, The United States and the
Hawaiian Kingdom, A Political History (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1965), p. 90
^Stevens, p. 211
^Tate, p. 133
^Stevens, p. 236
^Ibid. p. 237
^Ibid. p. 235
10Tate, p . 205
^ ^Nevins, p. 250
^Tate, p. 237
1 ^
Lewis L. Gould, The Presidency of William McKinley
(Lawrence, Kan.; The Regents Press of Kansas, 1980), p.
^U.S. Congressional Records, (55 Cong., 2nd sess.)
1898, vol. 31, p. 5908

Cubans had been fighting Spain for
independence for over seventy years when William
McKinley became president. After centuries of enjoying
Spanish protection and prosperity, Cubans had caught
the revolutionary spirit started by the American
Revolution and spread by Simon Bolivar. An 1823 revolt
was crushed in its infancy, but the harsh rule of
Spanish General Miguel Tacon (1834-1838) rekindled the
spirit. Narcisco Lopez led a series of anti-Spanish
compaigns from 1848-1851, followed by the brutal Ten
Year's War of 1868-1878 in which 200,000 were killed.
Fighting again erupted in 1880 and 1885. Americans had
heard about atrocities commited by both sides, but very
few cared about what was happening on the island. A
lot of American money was invested in Cuban plantations
and many Americans lived and worked there, but the
total numbers were too small to create an interest in
the average American about Cuban problems. Of course,
there were a few Americans who condemned their fellow
countrymen's indifference. Henry Cabot Lodge, the
Republican expansionist who had favored U.S.

intervention in Cuba, strongly condemned Cleveland's
Cuban policy in a book written in 1899:
The president therefore knew that without decided
measures on our part there was nothing possible in
Cuba but bloodshed, pillage, the wholesale
destruction of life and property, and the gradual
extermination of the inhabitants by starvation and
massacre, but he remained entirely unmoved in his
determination not to interfere even to the extent of
putting pressure on Spain.
The yellow press had also been trying to fan a
fire of anger against Spain, but as previously stated
in Chapter II Cuba was not a major issue in either the
election of 1892 or 1896. Without public pressure, and
knowing that Cleveland chose to let Cuba remain
primarily a Spanish problem, Lodge should have expected
the president to keep his distance from the Cuban
problem. Cleveland might have also been unsure of his
ability to pressure Spain. The United States was not a
recognized military power and it is doubtful that
Americans would have favored economic sanctions just
when they were recovering from a serious depression.
McKinley began working with Spain shortly
after his inauguration to end the Cuban problem. He
knew that bringing peace to Cuba would help American
investors and also gain him stature as president.
Spain, hurting from the years of costly battles with
the insurgents, seemed willing to discuss limited
autonomy for Cuba. Meetings between Spain and the
United States appeared to be making progress when the
Spanish minister to the United States, Enrique Dupuy

deLome, commited a major blunder. DeLome wrote a
letter to a friend that revealed that Spains's public
show of interest in Cuban autonomy was just a screen
designed to pacify American public opinion. That was
not the worst of the letter, as Americans soon
discovered, because the letter was intercepted by Cuban
sympathizers and printed on February 9, 1988, in
Hearst's New York Journal. The letter contained the
Besides the ingrained and inevitable bluntness with
which is repeated all that the press and public
opinion in Spain have said about Weyler (a brutal
Spanish general known in Cuba as Butcher), it (the
annual presidential message) once more shows what
McKinley is, weak and a bidder for the admiraton of
the crowd, besides being a would-be politician who
tries to leave a door open behind himself while
keeping on good terms with the jingoes of his
On its own, the deLome better would have caused
tension between the United States and Spain, but
combined with the inflammatory articles in the yellow
press, which had a field day with the letter, it was a
disaster. Wayne Morgan, in his book America's Road to
Empire: The War with Spain and Overseas Expansion,
assessed the importance of the deLome letter:
...the deLome incident was far more critical than it
seemed... The letter's slander on the President
forbade further American public- trust in Spain. It
turned many moderate newspapers and individuals
toward intervention. Its clear intimations that the
autonomy scheme was false and a ruse to buy time
further convinced American policy makers that only
intervention would solve the vexing and seemingly
endless Cuban problem.

The incautious deLome had added a log to the
fire of American outrage, but it was a more serious
incident that pushed the American public to demand war
with Spain. The U.S.S. Maine was sent to Cuba in
January, 1898, to protect American lives and
property. At 9:40 p.m., February 15, while anchored in
Havana Harbor, the Maine was destroyed by an explosion
that killed 260 men and officers. The reaction of the
yellow press was immediate: they accused Spanish
agents of the attack and demanded American action
against Spain. Following the deLome letter by just six
days, the Maine1 s destruction was the last straw to
many Americans, but not to McKinley.
McKinley still sought a diplomatic solution to
the Cuban problem and he was not going to let the press
or the hawks push the United States into war. For one
thing, the sinking of the Maine was never officially
tied to Spain. The naval court of inquiry reported on
March 21 that the cause of the explosion was a
submarine mine, but there was no evidence to link the
explosion to Spain. (Some sources suggest that the
Cubans sank the Maine to force the United States into
war.) McKinley also believed that the gravity of the
situation now led Spain to approach the settlement
talks with greater sincerity. Still, in order to show
Spain, and the American public, that he would accept
war if necessary, McKinley asked Congress for a bill

appropriating $50 million for defense to be used at the
president's discretion. The day that Congress passed
the bill, March 9, the American minister to Spain,
Stewart L. Woodford, wrote McKinley, "It has not
excited Spaniards, it has stunned them. To appropriate
fifty million out of money in the treasury, without
borrowing a cent, demonstrates wealth and power.
Throughout March the United States and Spain
tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Spain agreed
to dismantle their infamous concentration camps in
Cuba, they opened negotiations with the Cuban
insurgents, arbitration on the Maine incident began and
Spain accepted American relief assistance for Cuban
victims of the insurgancy. However, Spain would not
accept American mediation for Cuba nor would they
entertain any discussion on Cuban independence.
Spain's rejection of these final two points sealed her
fate. The yellow press kept up the ire created by the
deLome letter and the Maine incident and the American
public demanded total Spanish capitulation. McKinley
planned to address Congress on April 6 to bring the
issue to a head, but pleas from the international
community and the Vatican, plus assurances that Spain
was preparing another list of concessions, convinced
him to postpone his visit. When Spain's next
communication showed negligible changes from their
previous stances, and no change at all on the issue of

Cuban independence, McKinley had had enough of Spain's
procrastinations. On April 11 McKinley asked Congress
for a resolution that would force Spain to capitulate
or fight. Nine days later Congress passed a joint
resolution that recognized Cuban independence, demanded
Spain's withdrawal from Cuba and empowered McKinley to
use force to carry out the new policy. Spain declared
war on the United States on April 24 and the United
States responded with its declaration of war on the
following day.
McKinley found himself with a war that he
apparently did not want but could not avoid. Some have
blamed the yellow press, but no American journalist
wrote the deLome letter or blew up the Maine (as far as
we know). The president now had a war to win and that
war would lead him to make foreign policy decisions
that he had not imagined. As often happens, McKinley
found himself responding to circumstances beyond his
Lieutenant William N. Kimball, U.S. naval
intelligence, had drawn up a comprehensive battle plan
in 1896 in case of war with Spain. Since Spain had a
large fleet in Manila Bay, the Philippines, Kimball
included plans to either blockade the fleet or attack
it in the bay. This would prevent a Spanish attack of
America's west coast. Acquisition of the Philippines
was never considered because it was neither necessary

nor desirable. Some historians have credited Theodore
Roosevelt, at that time Undersecretary of the Navy,
with ordering Commodore Dewey to leave Hong Kong and
attack the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay; others say that
Dewey was following Kimball's 1896 plan. Either way,
the battle of Manila Bay on May 1 was a stunning
American victory. the Spanish lost 381 men; all eleven
of their ships were either captured or sunk. Dewey did
not lose a single ship or sailor.
The battle for the city of Manila lasted more
than three months and required more than 20,000
military personnel to achieve victory. It is important
to note that the U.S. army was helped by Filipino
insurgents led by Emilio Aguinaldo, one of the
Philippine's greatest heroes. Aguinaldo was under the
impression that he was helping the United States to end
colonialism in the Philippines. The Americans had
never indicated, nor did they apparently know
themselves, that they had any intention of replacing
the Spanish as colonial landlords. McKinley made a
speech in February, 1899, that clearly stated the
United States' noble intentions: "No imperial designs
lurk in the American mind. They are alien to American
sentiment, thought and purpose. Our priceless
principles undergo no change under a tropical sun.
They go with a fiat: 'Why read ye not the changeless
truth, the free can conquer but to save.'"'* The

question that now faced the president was what did the
Filipinos need saving from?
One immediate threat to the Philippines was
the possibility of an imperial rush similar to the one
occuring in China at the same time. On June 2 the
German navy ordered Admiral Otto von Diedrichs to
Manila with the German Asiatic fleet to observe U.S.
naval operations. Dewey wired Washington shortly after
Diedrichs' arrival that tensions existed between the
two fleets. Also, the German ambassador to Great
Britain informed the American minister, John Hay, that
Berlin wanted a few coaling stations out of the final
disposition of the Philippines. On September 8 Japan
sent a note to McKinley that questionsed Spain's
ability to suppress the Philippine insurgency. Japan
also worried that establishment of a native government
would create an imperial feeding frenzy with disastrous
results. Consequently, Japan favored U.S. control of
the Philippines or, if necessary, a joint control with
the United States, Japan and possibly a third
nation.^ It was obvious to McKinley that the
disposition of the Philippines would not be a simple
McKinley's dilemma grew when Spanish forces
surrendered at Manila in August 14, 1898 Aguinaldo
thanked generals Merritt and Greene for ridding the
Philippines of the Spanish, but that was not to be the

end of their involvement in the islands. McKinley
asked Greene and Merritt, and Dewey (whom the president
greatly respected), what was to be done with the
Philippines. All three, who considered themselves
experts on the regions after a summer of combat,
advised McKinley that the Filipinos needed the support
of a strong nation or else they were doomed. They
needed to be saved from the other imperial powers, from
anarchy, from paganism, from themselves. In Chapter II
I quoted McKinley's famous statement about his late
night deliberations on his Philippine dilemma. I
believe his thoughts bear review at this time.
McKinley believed that the United States had
three choices regarding what to do with the
Philippines: return them to Spain after the war, grant
independence and wish Aguinaldo good luck, keep the
Philippines until the Filipinos were ready for self-
rule. Returning the islands to Spain was never a
serious choice. The yellow press had spent years
portraying the Spanish as cruel tyrants; the United
States could never return the Filipinos to such
terrible masters. Granting independence to the
Philippines was contrary to the teachings of Josiah
Strong and John Fiske who preached of America's duty to
christianize pagan Asians. The United States' Anglo-
Saxon chauvinism was also a factor that weighed heavily
against letting the Filippinos govern themselves. It

was believed that they needed a long-term education on
the intricacies of democracy. Besides, with European
imperialism arguably at its peak is Asia (England
controlled Burma by 1890, France consolidated control
of Indochina by 1893, competition over China was
fierce), the United States could not risk letting a
trading rival gain control of the Philippines with its
vital location, port and resources. The final choice
was by far the best as far as McKinley and many
Americans were concerned. Under the United States'
benevolent control the Filipinos could be taught
Christianity and democracy and they would have time to
develop a healthy, stable economy. In the meantime,
the United States would be doing its proper duty while
reaping the benefits of having a valuable colony in the
Far East, the final link to the fabled China market.
The sources that I read all agreed that
McKinley had no designs on the Philippines prior to the
Spanish-American War and that he did spend a great deal
of time pondering his choices. Lewis Gould wrote:
Somewhere between accident and design the United
States pursued a line of policy that included an
opportunistic assault on a vulnerable point for
Spain, a generalized awareness that a greater naval
presence in the Pacific would support economic
initiatives in Asia, and a commitment to the views
that foreign markets were a beneficial addition to
the nations search for prosperity. President
McKinley never did set down a comprehensive
statement of his position on America's role in the
Orient, but he believed, as did many of his
countrymen, that good business and proper morality
would fuse when Western goods and Christian morality
penetrated the Far East.8

Paolo E. Coletta agreed that McKinley's
decision was not made prior to the war, but Coletta
discounts any moral considerations and instead attacks
McKinley as a follower of economic interests and
national ego:
As a popular president of a victorious nation
McKinley probably could have convinced the American
people of the righteousness of avoiding expansion in
the Far East. Instead, he added to and led the
imperialist clamor. The Philippines were not in his
mind during the period of the coming war... His
consequent demand for territory from Spain
illustrates the historic difficulty of democratic
nations victorious in war to expand their demands
beyond the stated objective of the war.
No evidence exists to prove that McKinley's
decision to keep the Philippines was premeditated.
Before Dewey's victory it was only a distant
possibility, hardly worth consideration. However, it
did not take a political genius to realize that
opportunity had knocked in a big way. McKinley and the
Republicans could not be blamed for any problems in the
Philippines; after 300 years of rule Spain was
responsible for any and all problems. On the other
hand, successes could be owned by the president and his
party, the good Americans who were doing their duty.
If McKinley did not have designs on the
Philippines prior to May 1 he certainly did
immediately after Dewey's victory. Within one month he
took four steps that seemed to indicate a planned
policy: McKinley increased troop strength from 5,000
to 20,000; sent a geologist to the Philippines to study

mineral resources; created the Department of the
Pacific under General Merritt; authorized Merritt to
set up legal systems, raise taxes and confiscate
property. This was apparently not going to be a brief
Once McKinley made his decision to keep the
Philippines, he set out to secure the islands. His
five appointments as commissioners to the Treaty of
Paris peace negotiotions with Spain were carefully
picked to achieve that goal. McKinley sent Senator
George Gray, a Democrat and anti-expansionist, to make
his team appear bipartisan and openminded. William
Day, who had just stepped down as Secretary of State,
wanted mild concessions from Spain and wished to keep
only Manila Bay. The rest of the team were
expansionist Republicans, which assured that the team
would work to keep all of the islands. The other three
members were William Frye, president pro tempore of the
Senate; Whitelaw Reid, editor of the New Your Tribune;
and Senator Cushman K. Davis.
The following telegrams were sent by the five
peace commissioners to Secretary of State John Hay
(appointed the previous month, likely because he
favored expansion more than his predecessor, Day) on
October 5, 1898, summarizing their views on the
The undersigned cannot agree that it is wise to take
the Philippines in whole or in part. To do so would

be to reverse accepted continental policy declared
and acted upon throughout our history... Policy
proposed introduces us to European politics and the
entangling alliances which Washington and all
American statesmen have protested. ..
(signed) George Gray u
I am unable to agree that we should preemptorily
demand the entire Philippine group. In the spirit
of our instructions, and bearing in mind the often
declared disinterestedness of purpose and freedom
from designs of conquest with which the war was
undertaken, we should be consistent with our demands
for making peace... Only experience can determine
the success of colonial expansion upon which the
United States is entering. It may prove expensive
in proportion to the scale upon which it is tried
with ignorant and semi-barbarous people at the other
side of the world. It should, therefore, be kept
within bounds. .
(signed) William R. Day '
Information gained by Commission in Paris leads to
conviction that it would be naval, political and
commercial mistake to divide the archipelago...
Spain governed and defended these islands from
Manila; and with destruction of her fleet and
surrender of her army we become as complete masters
of the whole group as she had been... Commerically,
division of the archipelago would not only
needlessly establish dangerous rivals at our door,
but would impair value of part we kept... Moral
obligations not to return Manila and Luzon to the
oppressive power from which we have relieved them
also applies to the rest of the archipelago... We
believe that public opinion in Europe, including
that of Rome, expects us to retain whole of the
(signed) Cushman K. Davis
William P. Frye
Whitelaw Reid ^
Although these quotes clearly reflect the
disagreements that existed between the commissioners,
it is obvious that the majority favored retaining part,
or all, of the Philippines. Apparently, independence
was not a serious option.

Emilio Aguinaldo tried to plead his case as he
realized that independence was a rapidly vanishing
dream, so in October he sent Felipe Agoncillo and Sixto
Lopez to address the conference. McKinley evidently
did not believe that the Filipinos should have a say
about their future, so he ordered his commissioners to
keep Agoncillo and Lopez out of the negotiations. In
the end, the Filipinos were never allowed the state
their case.
John Hay's reply to the commissioners on
October 26 indicate that McKinley had not been swayed
from his original decision on the Philippines by either
Gray, Day or the Filipinos:
The information that has come to the President since
your departure convinces him that the acceptance of
the cession of Luzon alone, leaving the rest of the
islands to Spanish rule, or to the subject of future
contention, cannot be justified on political,
commercial or humanitarian grounds. The cession
must be of the whole archipelago or none. The
latter is wholly inadmissable, and the former must
therefore be required. .
(signed) John Hay J
On December 10, 1898, Spain ceded the
Philippines to the United States for payment of $20
million. Aguinaldo did not meekly accept the change of
landlords and led a fierce war against American control
for three years.
The American public was convinced that
Aguinaldo led a violent minority and that most
Filipinos welcomed the Americans. I have found no

evidence that would suggest that a majority of
Americans opposed United States control of the islands,
possibly because McKinley was careful to make it clear
that his intentions were the most noble, as he stated
in 19Q0:
It is our purpose to establish in the Philippines a
government suitable to the wants and conditions of
the inhabitants and to prepare for self-government,
and to give them self-government when they are ready
for it and as rapidly as they are ready for it. ^
There was a small, but very vocal, group of
Americans who did not agree with McKinley's
acquisition, especially when the insurgency dragged
into its third year. Senator Charles Towne of
Minnesota proposed the following joint resolution on
January 28, 1901:
Resolved by the Senate and the House of
Representatives of the United States in Congress
assembled, that justice, the public welfare and
national honor demand the immediate cession on
hostilities in the Philippine Islands upon terms of
recognizing the independence of the Philippines
people and conserving.and guarenteeing the interests
of the United States. ^
Towne introduced this resolution with a moving
What American can remain insensible to the unhappy
plight of a small and relatively feeble people
engaged in a hopeless contest with a vastly stronger
antagonist for the sacred privelege of self-
government? Is there not something infinitely
pathetic in th circumstances that we should to-day
be using the very power conferred on us by our
liberties to subjugate a weaker nation invoking
those very liberties against us and whom our own
glorious example inspires to resist our
aggression? Their summons in the name of
Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln to challenge
justice in the court of heaven is a most solemn

Unfortunately for the Filipinos, neither
McKinley nor Congress were moved enough by Towne's
speech to alter the course they had set. The
Philippines remained under U.S. control until July 4,
1 946. With the addition of the Philippines to its
Pacific empire, the United States' westward commercial
avenue now stretched all the way to the doors of China.

^Henry Cabot Lodge, The War With Spain (1899;
reprint New York: Arno Press and the New York
Times, 1970), p. 22
H. Wayne Morgan, America's Road to Empire:
The War with Spain and Overseas Expansion (New York:
John Wiley and Sons, 1966), p. 41
^Ibid., p. 50
3Alden March, The History and Conquest of the
Philippines And Our Other Island Possessions (1899;
reprint New York: Arno Press and the New York Times,
1970), p. IX
Lewis L. Gould, The Presidency of William
McKinley (Lawrence: The regents Press of Kansas,
1980), pp. 114-115
^Julius W. Pratt, Expansionists of 1898: The
Acquisition of Hawaii and the Spanish Islands
(Baltimore: The John Hopkins Press, 1936), p. 333
3Gould, p. 97
^Paolo E. Coletta, "The Peace Negotiations and
the Treaty of Paris," in Threshold to American
Internationalism: Essays on the Foreign Policies of
William McKinley, ed. Paolo E. Coletta (New York:
Exposition Press, 1970), p. 143
1 0
Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of
the U.S., 1901, p. 934
12Ibid. p. 933
13Ibid., p. 935
^Gould, p. 226
1 5
U.S. Cong. Rec., 56th Cong., 2nd sess., vol.
34, p. 1544
16Ibid., p. 1545

Hawaii, Samoa and the Philippines provided the
harbors, coaling stations and naval bases necessary to
conduct business in the Far East and many businessmen
believed that this commerce could be very profitable.
During the Congressional debates on Hawaii in 1898
Representative William Sulzer of New York spoke of the
potential market to the west:
Let me say to the businessmen of America, look
to the land of the setting sun, look to the
PacificI There are teeming millions there who
will ere long want to be fed and clothed as we
are. There is the great market that the
continental powers are today struggling
for...In my judgement, during the next hundred
years, the great volume of trade and commerce,
so far as this country is concerned, will not
be eastward, but will be westward; will not be
across the Atlantic, but will be across the
Hindsight shows us that the great Asia market,
in particular the China market, was a myth.
(Ironically, the United States is now a market for
Asian goods. Sulzer's prophecy may have been a
curse). Yet statistics gave reason for optimism by
American businessmen regarding the China market. The
export of illuminating oil from the United States to
China went from 1 0,732,819 gallons in 1888 to
40,377,296 gallons in 1894. Total value of American

exports to China increased from $1 million in 1880 to
$4 million in 1895 and $15 million in 1900.^ Even as a
percentage of total exports, the figures on total
exports to China showed great promise. The following
chart shows the percent of U.S. exports to China to
total U.S. exports:
1890 0.3 1898 0.8
1892 0.7 1900 1.1
1894 0.8 1902 1.8
1896 0.8
With U.S. industries plagued by overproduction
and depression, American businessmen fervently hoped
that they had just begun to tap the China market. If
these statistics could continue to climb at the same
frantic rate for a substantial period of time, then the
American economy would be on the road to recovery. Two
things stood in the way of this enticing market: years
of mutual hatred between bigoted Americans and
xenophobic Chinese, and the imperialist powers who were
in the process of carving up China.
The first United States law that restricted
immigration was the Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in
1882 to halt the immigration of all Chinese. After
helping to build the transcontinental railroad, among
other contributions, the Chinese were no longer welcome
in America. President Harrison noted the effect that
this had on diplomacy between the two nations in his
annual message to Congress on December 9, 1891:

The Chinese government has declined to receive Mr.
Blair as Minister of the United States on the ground
that, while a Senator, in enactment of the existing
legislation against the introduction of Chinese
laborers, he has become unfriendly and objectionable
to China...which, if admitted, would practically
debar the selection of any representative so long as
the existing laws remain in force.
Restricted immigration was not the worst that
Chinese faced in the United States. AntiChinese
violence began in California in 1849 when Chinese
miners were driven from their claims. In 1885 28
Chinese were massacred in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Chinese miners and fishermen in California in the 1870s
and 1880s were taxed when whites were not and in 1879
the Calfiornia state government barred the hiring of
The traditionally xenophobic Chinese would
probably have retaliated, but a weak central government
made China defenseless and ripe for conquest. Great
Britain's easy vistory over China in the 1839-42 Opium
War exposed China's weakness to the world. By the time
the United States had defeated Spain in 1898, parts of
China had come under the control of Russia, Germany,
France and Japan, as well as Great Britain. The United
States was not about to let its poor relationship with
China interfere with business, nor would the United
States be bullied by the resentment for the imperial
powers who were already entrenched in China. This was
made perfectly clear when Secretary of State John Hay
introduced the Open Door notes on September 6, 1899.

These notes announced to the world that the United
States was going to take its place as a world power
regardless of how the Chinese or anyone else felt about
America's Open Door policy is further proof of
the complexities of making foreign policy. In his
article "The Open Door and the Boxer Rebellion,"
William R. Braisted concurs with my thesis when he
writes, "Students of the Open Door by now have
demonstrated that the policy, far from springing from
the genius of a single individual, was the product of
many factors, both domestic and foreign, which made it
natural, if not inevitable."^ I intend to show why
this was true.
United States interest in China can be traced
back as far as 1784 when the 360 ton Empress of China,
owned by Robert Morris, sailed to China to trade.
American missionaries later targeted China as prime for
Christian conversion. Before the events of the 1890s,
however, the United States had no official designs on
China, which was too far from California to be of much
interest to most Americans. Many Americans may also
have believed that the immense China market would
always be available, but Japan's defeat of China in
their war of 1894-1895 began an imperialist land-
grab. In 1897 Germany occupied Kiaochow Bay in
Shantung province and the following year took the

entire province. By 1898 Russia had claimed Manchuria,
Britain the Yangste Valley, Japan took Fukien, and
France the southern provinces that bordered
Indochina. Time was obviously becoming a factor. The
Spanish-American War placed the United States at the
scene at a critical time. As Warren Cohen wrote in his
book, America's Response to China: An Interpretive
History of Sino-American Relations:
...the acquisition of the Philippines had led to
naval interest in a coaling station or base in China
and had focused public attention on East Asia in a
way that exceeded even the hopes of lobbyists and
publicists for the American Asiatic Association.
The pressure on the Department of State mounted in
1899 and before the year_was out, Secretary of State
John Hay decided to act.
Cohen credits William Rockhill with writing the
Open Door notes. Rockhill was a leading proponent of
Far East interests with Brooks Adams, Alfred Mahan,
Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge. Actually,
credit for the Open Door concept must be shared with
Rockhill's friend, Alfred E. Hippisley, an Englishman
who had worked in China. Rockhill and Hippisley had
formulated the Open Door in August, 1899, and then
Rockhill had introduced the concept to Secretary of
State Hay. The British had hopes of presenting a
united Anglo-American stance on trade in China by
announcing the Open Door together. The traditional
U.S. policy of nonentangling alliances precluded such a
presentation, but McKinley was obviously attracted to
such a concept. McKinley told Congress on December 5,

The United States has not been an indifferent
spectator of the extraordinary events transpiring in
the Chinese Empire, whereby portions of her maritime
provinces are passing under the control of various
European powers; but the prospect that the vast
commerce which the energy of our citizens and the
necessity of our staple may not be prejudiced
through any exclusive treatment by the new occupants
has obviated the need for our country becoming an
actor on the scene. Our position among nations,
having a large Pacific coast and a constantly
expanding direct trade with the farther Orient,
gives us the equitable claim to consideration and
friendly treatment in this regard, and it will be my
aim to subserve our large interests in that quarter
by all means anporpriate to the constant policy of
our Government.
When the United States rejected Great Britain's
suggestion of a united Open Door policy, it is evident
that it was not due to a lack of interest in China.
McKinley may have been waiting for the right time to
present America's stance to the world and he was
apparently encouraged to make that presentation by an
event in Russia. In August, 1899, Czar Nicholas II
issued a ukase that opened Talienwan Port in Russia
controlled Manchuria to all nations. McKinley
interpreted that as a sign that Nicholas would accept
the Open Door. With the probable support of Russia and
Great Britain McKinley believed that the United States
was now in a position to form its own China policy,
which was spelled out in a September 6, 1899, letter
sent to the American embassies in Berlin, London and
St. Petersburg (followed by Paris, Rome and Tokyo).
The U.S. policy toward China was quite simple: