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Class – HIST102 D006 Spring 2021

Week 3: Debate – Imperialism

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This assignment has two parts

Part 1 – Around 350 words with references

You have been divided into two groups. For this discussion, Group A (Last name A-H) will assume the role of an individual opposed to Imperialism, while Group B (Last name I-Z) will argue in support. In response to Kipling’s poem, each of you should post a statement in support, or in opposition to the idea of Imperialism. You do not need to restrict yourself to the moral justification. The arguments for, and against, expansion took many avenues. Try not to make assumptions. Instead, assume the historical role of someone who lived in the United States near the turn of the century. You could be a manufacturer, a pastor, or a politician. Conversely, you can be a laborer, a pacifist, or a housewife. Be creative. (Note: my last name is from I-Z)

After your initial submission, you are then required to continue the debate by responding to three of your classmates. Your responses should contribute to the dialogue. Your initial response is due by 2pm, ET, Friday and the responses to 3 other students by 2pm, ET, Friday.

When we examine the past, we must place ourselves in the right frame of mind. It is impossible to adequately understand an historical event using a 21st century mind-set. As an example, when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, they discovered a vacated village. The land “hath been planted with corn three or four years ago, and there is a very sweet brook runs under the hillside.”[1]Bolstered by their religious conviction, these early settlers firmly believed that God had set them here, and cleared the land for their taking. We know today, that Native-Americans did not have the necessary immunities to fight-off European diseases, and died in great numbers. In Europe, these same diseases had existed for centuries, and had become endemic. Fishermen, and traders, had long plied the waters of the New England coast, and passed these diseases to the local inhabitants.

Now take a moment, and place yourself in the mind of the local people. If you were a Native-American, you saw your people dying in great numbers, yet Europeans remained healthy. There are a number of scenarios that could have developed here, but in most cases, what do you think Native-Americans must have thought of this situation? If you placed yourself in their situation, does it not stand to reason that you would begin to think that your “spirits” had failed you, and perhaps the God of the settlers protected them? Based on our assumptions, we would think that as a result, Native-Americans, then, converted in large numbers. What is necessary is a clear understanding of early-contact Native-American culture. For indigenous Americans, it centered on spiritual power. Power could be increased through addition, not subtraction. Instead of giving-up their ancient spiritual practices, they instead, simply added the Christian God.

What we gain, by examining the past through a lens focused on that point in history, is a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play, and empathy for all participants. Today, some things are just unacceptable. We cringe at the thought of slavery, child labor, no rights for women, and segregation, to name a few, but they all existed at one point in time. More remarkably, a strong justification existed for each of these that prevailed to the point where they proved to be generally accepted. In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain. Generally speaking, Americans cringed at the thought of Imperialism because of their earlier relationship with Britain that resulted in the American Revolution. By the end of the 19th century, industrial overproduction increasingly required new sources of raw materials, and more importantly, external markets to sell American goods. While this need softened America’s disdain for Imperialism, the nation still sought the moral high-ground by passing the Teller Amendment that restricted the US from annexing Cuba. Following the Spanish-American War, the Treaty of Paris granted Cuban independence, but ceded Puerto Rico and Guam, and sold the Philippines to the US for $20 million. Congress also annexed Hawaii.

Numerous reasons for Imperialism soon surfaced, but none validated the subjugation of foreign peoples more than the moral justification as expressed in Rudyard Kipling’s “A White Man’s Burden.”

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper–
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard–
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–"

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 cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
Have done with childish days–
The lightly proffered laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers![2]


[1] William Bradford in Mourt’s Relation: A journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, London, 1622.

[2] http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_burden.htm

Part 2- Peer replies – each around 150 words (Peer relies should sound positive and It should sound I am writing to my classmate)

Peer 1 –

Aaron Sonnenfeld posted Jun 22, 2021 12:14 PM


Good morning everyone,

I wanted to take a moment of your time to speak regarding the negative sentiment we have been hearing concerning our great country’s recent land dealings. With the Treaty of Paris now finalized, I understand that some prominent figures have voiced grief with the changes to our nation’s borders and sphere of influence, but in reality we have made great strides towards a more peaceful and free world. The Spanish-American war was a great example of how we can come together as a country and amass our efforts towards a common goal, and the fruits of those efforts are not only a testament to how we are viewed on a global stage, but an opportunity to extend the freedoms we hold so dear, to others who have been tied down by oppressive governments for years.

The Anti-Imperialist League sounds like they have your best interest in mind and some sound beliefs at the core of their organization, yet take a moment to reflect on their principles. The Philippines have been at war since 1896, revolting against spanish colonialists. Puerto Rico has been under spanish control for years yet been ravaged by countless hurricane with little support and aid from Spain. Guam was used by Spain as a depository for prisoners and refugees, only to be struck with disease and disaster with no end in sight.

The United States must maintain neutrality when able, but when the opportunity to ease the suffering and offer freedom (that we here take for granted) it would be not only a mistake but an act of cruelty that I for one am not prepared to take. I hope you will join me in supporting the economic and cultural support and preservation of these island nations in question.

Thanks for your support,


Peer 2-

Amanda Tidmore posted Jun 23, 2021 3:33 PM



Now that we have embarked on the western expansion and established our nation’s democracy and values we must continue to move forward. We need to focus on maintaining a healthy balance of political and commercial influence. As America continues to expand and grow as a country we must develop a plan to support and bolster our economy to meet high industrial demands. Seeking expansion outside our own borders will allow us to provide higher standards of living to the American people.

Our vision of the American empire is designed to strengthen America and all its citizens. America’s good intentions and willingness to reform others must not be interpreted as evil or malicious. The territorial gains of Pacific Islands, Cuba, and Alaska will provide instrumental goods to trade for economic growth. We are not forcing people into unwanted situations, we are assisting them out of potential catastrophic disasters. We stand proud by providing aid to countries in need.

The unified efforts of America will impact our future endeavors to enhance our ability to achieve military and political success. Our relationships will flourish and spread across the globe creating peace and tranquility for all.


Peer 3 –

My fellow Americans,

Do not be troubled by the lies told about our goals in nations abroad. Many will try to call us vile imperialists, wanting to recreate the same situation that the British tried to force on us before we claimed independence. That is fabrication at best. Were we imperialistic when we embarked on a journey to span the United States from coast to coast? Were we imperialistic when we fought to Texas from the Mexican Army? The answer is simply no. We did what was in the best interest of our people. So why is there such resentment to do the same beyond our borders? We are a country like no other. This is not just about expanding our economic resources. It is about expanding our influence, democratic values, and cultural values to the world. We are a nation that is ruled by the people, for the people. Wouldn’t you want to see this effective type of government spread across the globe? Or would you rather nations still rely on an outdated monarchy system? We have the opportunity, no the responsibility, to expand our influence on the world. Think about the benefits for us and the world?


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