It has not gone
un-remarked in these pages that there seems to be a logical, institutional
relationship between those who wish to aggrandize the state at home
and those who wish do so abroad. These worthies make up the social
reformers, on the one hand, and the Jingoes, or militarists, on
the other. Others have made the same observation. Near the beginning
of the 20th century, political scientist John Burgess
wrote, with reference to Theodore Roosevelt and his movement: "The
Jingo and the Social Reformer have gotten together and have formed
a political party, which threatened to capture the Government and
use it for the realization of their program of Caesaristic paternalism,
a danger which appears now to have been averted only by the other
parties having themselves adopted this program in a somewhat milder
degree and form."1
More recently, Robert Zevin has argued that the
Jingoes (warmongers) and the Social
Reformers had always been "together."2
Their shared commitment to an ever-growing
state apparatus made them natural allies.
If a militarist dreamed of mass conscription
for overseas adventures, a reformer
could equally well imagine that conscripts
could be uplifted by three meals and
day and state indoctrination. Harry
Hopkins Franklin Roosevelt's
general factotum thought of World
War II as a war for "the universal New
Deal." You get the picture.
wasn't as much for the reformers to
do as they might have wanted, until
the military gathered up some new insular
possessions for the United States as
a result of the Spanish-American
War (1898). At home, the reformers
were sometimes blocked by the existence
of local self-government, elections,
and other mechanisms available to opponents
of reform. This irked the reformers
greatly, and there is no mystery in
why so many of them threw themselves
into administering the United States'
newfound colonial and semi-colonial
possessions, as soon as those were in
Howard Gillette, Jr., notes that the war of 1898
inspired many Americans with "a national
sense of mission."3
(We might have been better off, had
we only acquired a taste for rum and
coke.) The first US military Governor
of Cuba, John
Brooke, "lapsed into a narrow strain
of reform directed at purifying Cuba's
Thus he cracked down on gambling and
closed down businesses and entertainment
establishments on Sunday, in true American
blue-law fashion. He also attempted
"confiscation all machetes on the island,"
having perhaps not noticed that Cubans
needed them for cutting sugar the
main product of the island.
Wood, former Rough
Rider and crony of TR, began a campaign
of criticism against Brooke. By December
1899, the campaign had its effect, and
Wood succeeded Brooke as Governor. Throwing
aside the puritanical agenda of his
predecessor, Wood emerged as the model
Brooke had begun setting up public schools, but
Wood showed his mettle by instituting
an entirely new system based on the
school system of Ohio. (I can't explain
it, but there is something very amusing,
to those of us in the South, about Ohio
being a model for anything.) Next, Wood
turned to the reform of Cuban law, followed
by a Department of Public Works. Progressive
urban reform, stalled in its homeland,
took on new life in this tropical setting,
where no one could oppose it.
To make the public happiness of the Cuban people
utterly complete, Wood brought them
chartered city government. Municipalities
acquired broad powers of regulation
over business. Not stopping there, Wood
presented Cubans with a railroad law
based on the US Interstate Commerce
Gillette suggests that Wood's restriction of voting
rights helped promote "political capitalism"
Cubans were critical of Wood's urban
charters. The ayuntamiento (city
council) of Havana rejected the plan.
The sham-decentralization of Wood's
reforms also rankled with Cubans who
had hoped for a continuation of the
decentralization promised under the
last Spanish constitution.
Soon, the task of governing Cuba was handed over
to Cubans, and we may drop them from
our story now. What is interesting,
for our purposes, is the complex relationship
between US imperial administration and
US domestic politics. Gillette says:
"Leo Rowe of the University of Pennsylvania
found the study of the Spanish possessions
irresistible.... He predicted in March
1899, that the workshop provided by
the Spanish possessions would turn America's
political philosophy away from limited
protection of individual liberties to
one of activist intervention for national
Government would grow, at home and abroad, with
each sphere reacting upon and influencing
the other. Empire and reform could go
hand in hand. The incompatibility of
empire with our inherited freedoms at
home is nicely illustrated by the Cuban
workshop. I leave the larger drawbacks
of empire to one side, as it may be
illegal to mention them a few days from
John W. Burgess, The Reconciliation of Government
With Liberty (New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1915), p. 380.
Robert Zevin, "An Interpretation of American
Imperialism," Journal of Economic
History, 32 (1972), pp. 358-360.
See also Robert J. Bresler, "The Ideology
of the Executive State: Legacy of
Liberal Internationalism," in Leonard
P. Liggio and James J. Martin, eds.,
of Empire: Essays on New Deal Foreign
Policy (Colorado Springs:
Ralph Myles, 1976), pp. 1-18.
Howard Gillette, Jr., "The Military Occupation
of Cuba, 1899-1902: Workshop of Progressivism,"
American Quarterly, 225 (October
1973), p. 410.
Gillette, p. 413.
Gillette, p. 421.
Gillette, p. 424.