Americanism versus Imperialism

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Andrew Carnegie, “Americanism versus Imperialism,” January 1899

For several grave reasons I regard possessions in the Far East as fraught with nothing but disaster to the Republic. Only one of these, however, can now be considered; the dangers of war and of the almost constant rumors and threats of war to which all nations interested in the Far East are subject. There is seldom a week which does not bring alarming reports of threatened hostilities, or of new alliances, or of changes of alliances, between the powers arming for the coming struggle. It is chiefly this Far Eastern question which keeps every shipyard, gunyard, and armor yard in the world busy night and day, Sunday and Saturday, forging engines of destruction, it is in that region the thunderbolt is expected; it is there the storm is to burst.

It is only four years since Japan defeated China and had ceded to it a portion of Chinese territory, the fruits of victory. Then appeared upon the scene a combination of France, Russia and Germany, which drove Japan out of China. Russia took part of the spoils for herself, and Germany later took territory near by. Japan got nothing. Britain, the most powerful of all, stood by neutral. Had she decided to defend Japan, the greatest war ever known would have been the probable result …

Into this magazine the United States proposes to enter and take a hand in the coming contest. It is obvious that what was done with Japan in regard to Chinese territory may be done with the United States in regard to her territory, the Philippines, and for the same reason, that the dictator is overwhelmingly strong and the victim helplessly weak …

But surely before we appear in the arena in the Far East we must have a large regular army. …

The second indispensable requirement is a navy corresponding, at least in some degree, to the navies of the other powers interested in the East. We can get this in twenty years, perhaps, if we push matters, but this means building twenty ships a year. The securing of men trained to man them will be as difficult a task as the building of the ships. When we have armed ourselves thus, but not till then, shall we be in a position to take and hold territory in the Far East " by the sole power of our unlorded will," as we should hold it, or not hold it at all. To rush in now, without army or navy, trusting to the treacherous shifting foundation of anybody's "protection," or "neutrality," or "alliance," is to court defeat, and such humiliation as has rarely fallen to the lot of any nation, even the poorest and most madly or most foolishly governed. It is not good sense …

If we insist "the slaves are ours because we bought them," and fail to tell [Filipinos] we come not as slave drivers, but as friends to assist them to Independence, we may have to "lick them" [defeat in battle] no doubt. It will say much for the Filipinos if they do rebel against "being bought and sold like cattle." It would be difficult to give a better proof of their fitness for self-government …

The Filipinos are by no means in the lowest scale, far from it, nor are they much lower than the Cubans. If left to themselves they will make mistakes, but what nation does not? Riot and bloodshed may break out. In which nation are these absent? Certainly not in our own; but the inevitable result will be a government better suited to the people than any that our soldiers and their officers could ever give.

Source: Andrew Carnegie, “Americanism versus Imperialism,” The North American Review, Vol. 168, No. 506 (Jan., 1899), pp. 1-13.

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