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NARRATOR


U.S. businessmen saw war as a threat to their investments in Cuba and to economic recovery at home. Their concerns were shared by Republican president-elect William McKinley. As Governor of Ohio, McKinley had pushed for a stronger tariff to restore the nation’s prosperity. He declared his stance on Cuba in his 1897 inaugural address.
WILLIAM MCKINLEY

We must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.



NARRATOR


McKinley served as a nineteen-year-old sergeant during the Battle of Antietam in 1862.
H. W. BRANDS

He was the last American President to have served in the Civil War, and he knew what war was like. At one point he said, “I’ve been through one war. I’ve seen the bodies stacked like cord wood, and I don’t want to go through that sort of thing again.”


THEODORE ROOSEVELT

I should welcome almost any war for I think this country needs one. If we lose our virile, manly qualities, and sink into a nation of mere hucksters then we shall indeed reach a condition worse than that of the ancient civilizations in the years of their decay. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.


NARRATOR

From his boxing days at Harvard to his term as New York City’s police commissioner, Theodore Roosevelt was a fighter. Unlike President McKinley, Roosevelt advocated a war with Spain.


H. W. BRANDS

I think this reflected the fact that Roosevelt’s generation had not fought a war. It – the generation of its parents had fought the Civil War and demonstrated its bravery and its valor then. Roosevelt’s generation still had to prove its worth.


STEPHEN AMBROSE

It’s something that I feel myself. I was born in 1935 and I grew up listening to World War II stories and I feel cheated that I wasn’t a part of that. And so there was a feeling of, “It’s our turn. We want to get out there and be heroes.”


NARRATOR

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt was a tremendous admirer of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the President of the Naval War College. Mahan’s books and articles pushed for a stronger navy.


ALFRED THAYER MAHAN

As a nation launches forth, the need is soon felt for a foothold in a foreign land, a new outlet for what it has to sell, a new sphere for its shipping. The ships that thus sail must have secure ports and the protection of a navy.


TITLE CARD: “Brass Buttons (or the Naval Cadet)”
“BRASS BUTTONS (OR THE NAVAL CADET)”

Now his cap with a peak is as glossy and sleek as a cap could ever be,

And it sits on his hair with the jauntiful air of a naval nicety.

And his collar so tight and his trousers of white and the shoes that rival glass,

He’s a chap so smart that he breaks the heart of the town and country lass.
NARRATOR

Congress authorized funds to modernize the navy, which had hardly been updated since the Civil War.


DOUGLAS BRINKLEY

The idea was “Our navy’s an antiquated joke. We’ve got to do something about it.” And the “something” was the Industrial Revolution, steel. Cities like Pittsburgh and Chicago had steel and to make, if not the largest navy in the world, at least a new navy to not only defend both parts of American shore, but to defend American economic interest around the globe.


STEPHEN AMBROSE

The United States needed such a policy, that we were a two-ocean country, that we had to have a fleet that could control both oceans, and this was going to require coaling stations and outposts out there, and if America wanted to take her place as one of the great nations in the world, she had to get into the imperialist race and had to acquire colonies. And this had a tremendous appeal to young men like Theodore Roosevelt.






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