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ANTI-IMPERIALIST LEAGUE PLATFORM (18 October 1899)


Victory in the Spanish-American War reasserted the Monroe Doctrine and established the United States' own sphere of influence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Americans viewed the war as one of liberating peoples from the yoke of Spanish tyranny, while advantageously aligning the former imperial possessions with the United States. Yet when President McKinley urged annexation of the Philippines, a heated debate broke out in America.

The Anti-Imperialist League, an amalgamation of individuals who objected to American intervention abroad for various and sundry reasons, denounced the United States' military involvement in the Philippines. General Emilio Aguinaldo assisted the Americans in defeating the Spanish, all the while hoping to gain Philippine independence once hostilities ceased. However, the possibility of having a strategically located naval base in the Pacific and easy access to the lucrative Chinese market proved irresistible to the McKinley administration.

The anti-imperialists, ranging in composition from Andrew Carnegie to Carl Schurz, feared as much for the ill effects of imperialism on American institutions and ideals as on the subject peoples. They denounced the atrocities committed by the military in the Philippines and argued for national self-determination. Yet a deep-seated racism also informed their opposition, as the anti-imperialists worried that non-white possessions would earn equal admittance into the United States. An influx of foreigners would cause domestic economic strain and give the right to vote to those whom they deemed incapable of such a responsibility. Such concerns were masked by the rhetoric of the 1899 Platform, but the preeminent concern with imperialism's degrading influence on America stands out markedly.

Paul S. Bartels,
Villanova University

See also Anti-Imperialists ; Imperialism ; Philippines ; Spanish-American War .

We hold that the policy known as imperialism is hostile to liberty and tends toward militarism, an evil from which it has been our glory to be free. We regret that it has become necessary in the land of Washington and Lincoln to reaffirm that all men, of whatever race or color, are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We maintain that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. We insist that the subjugation of any people is "criminal aggression" and open dis-loyalty to the distinctive principles of our Government.

We earnestly condemn the policy of the present National Administration in the Philippines. It seeks to extinguish the spirit of 1776 in those islands. We deplore the sacrifice of our soldiers and sailors, whose bravery deserves admiration even in an unjust war. We denounce the slaughter of the Filipinos as a needless horror. We protest against the extension of American sovereignty by Spanish methods.

We demand the immediate cessation of the war against liberty, begun by Spain and continued by us. We urge that Congress be promptly convened to announce to the Filipinos our purpose to concede to them the independence for which they have so long fought and which of right is theirs.

The United States have always protested against the doctrine of international law which permits the subjugation of the weak by the strong. A self-governing state cannot accept sovereignty over an unwilling people. The United States cannot act upon the ancient hereby that might makes right.

Imperialists assume that with the destruction of self-government in the Philippines by American hands, all opposition here will cease. This is a grievous error. Much as we abhor the war of "criminal aggression" in the Philippines, greatly as we regret that the blood of the Filipinos is on American hands, we more deeply resent the betrayal of American institutions at home. The real firing line is not in the suburbs of Manila. The foe is of our own household. The attempt of 1861 was to divide the country. That of 1899 is to destroy its fundamental principles and noblest ideals.

Whether the ruthless slaughter of the Filipinos shall end next month or next year is but an incident in a contest that must go on until the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are rescued from the hands of their betrayers. Those who dispute about standards of value while the Republic is undermined will be listened to as little as those who would wrangle about the small economies of the household while the house is on fire. The training of a great people for a century, the aspiration for liberty of a vast immigration are forces that will hurl aside those who in the delirium of conquest seek to destroy the character of our institutions.

We deny that the obligation of all citizens to support their Government in times of grave National peril applies to the present situation. If an Administration may with impunity ignore the issues upon which it was chosen, deliberately create a condition of war anywhere on the face of the globe, debauch the civil service for spoils to promote the adventure, organize a truth-suppressing censorship and demand of all citizens a suspension of judgement and their unanimous support while it chooses to continue the fighting, representative government itself is imperiled.

We propose to contribute to the defeat of any person or party that stands for the forcible subjugation of any people. We shall oppose for reelection all who in the White House or in Congress betray American liberty in pursuit of un-American gains. We still hope that both of our great political parties will support and defend the Declaration of Independence in the closing campaign of the century.

We hold, with Abraham Lincoln, that "no man is good enough to govern another man without that man's consent. When the white man governs himself, that is self-government, but when he governs himself and also governs another man, that is more than self-government—that is despotism." "Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men in all lands. Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God cannot long retain it."

We cordially invite the cooperation of all men and women who remain loyal to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.


SOURCE: "Anti-Imperialist League Platform." 1899.

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Anti-Imperialist League Platform (18 October 1899)

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