An Uncommonly Dangerous Politician

excerpted from the book

The Politics of War

the story of two wars which altered forever the political life of the American republic

by Walter Karp

Franklin Square Press, 1979, paper


The White House has rarely known a President more devious, crafty, or subtle than the amiable, mild-mannered McKinley and few so adept at getting what he wanted. He was, remarked Adams, "easily first in genius for manipulation." That was exactly the truth. McKinley was a political genius, and manipulation was the mode of his genius. Among American Presidents he is the supreme example of the political wirepuller, the leader who gets things done without ever seeming to lead.'

If contemporaries never knew McKinley's intentions it was because the President never candidly avowed them to anyone. If he seemed to be the victim of events, it was because he was master of the fait accompli, the patient contriver of circumstances which, as he would ruefully announce, gave him no choice but to do exactly what he privately wanted. Although he kept his goals secret, McKinley was superbly adept at letting those who had to divine them divine them correctly and at getting them to do what he wanted without ever openly declaring that he wanted it. Inevitably the men McKinley bent to his purposes often stole the limelight from the President, but McKinley cared nothing for the limelight. "He was a man of great power," his secretary of war Elihu Root recalled after his death, "because he was absolutely indifferent to credit... but McKinley always had his way.

If McKinley appeared weak, vacillating, and passive, the tool of others and the slave of circumstance, it was because he wished to appear that way. The appearance was a political necessity. In order to get what he wanted, McKinley had to go to great lengths to deny that he wanted anything at all.

There was nothing safe or conservative about President McKinley's political objectives. By the standards of the nineteenth century he was not conservative but radical. Conservatism in the 1890s still retained a republican form: It meant adherence to the teachings of the founders; it meant disdain for the "murky radiance" of world power; it meant respect for constitutional forms; it meant protecting the free enterprise system from the new menace of trusts and monopolies; it meant-especially among rank-and-file Republicans-opposition to the growing power of the state party machines. On the road to the White House McKinley had been careful to heed the canons of conservatism, or at least make no departures from them. On the Republican large policy he had kept silent, preferring to preach the safer theme of patriotism. On the issue of boss rule he had enthralled the party's citizen adherents with his unprecedented antiboss nominating campaign. In his Inaugural Address he had vowed to combat trusts and big business combinations just as he had vowed nonintervention in the internal affairs of other countries. On every count McKinley intended to betray both his followers and his pledges. "The Major," remarked Henry Adams, "is an uncommonly dangerous politician ..."

The "national unity" McKinley hoped to forge... He wanted a higher or transcendent unity, a unity that would quell discontent, eliminate dissension, and weaken the troublesome republican spirit which had revived so alarmingly during the preceding half-dozen years. He wanted to impose order and discipline on the Republic's unruly politics, order and discipline on its sprawling economy. Above all, he wanted to replace loyalty to the American Republic with loyalty to that very different thing, the Nation; love of liberty with love of the flag and the mystique of proud bunting. To those far-reaching aims, all the efforts of his administration were to be directed.

To impose greater order on American politics, McKinley hoped I to transform the Republican Party itself into a rigidly disciplined national political machine-aloof, dominating, and impregnable. Of all McKinley's betrayals none was more marked than his determination to quash Republican insurgents, the very people he had so captivated with his antiboss campaign. With few exceptions all the patronage, power, and prestige of the presidency McKinley was to put at the disposal of the state party bosses in their fight against rank-and-file party rebels.

McKinley's economic policy, quite simply, was to encourage the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few. This was partly a reflection of his desire for order and partly an extension of his party aims. The rise of great interstate trusts and monopolies made the centralization of the Republican Party possible, for the monopolists were beholden not to particular state bosses, but to the national Republican Party and its policies. Consequently, McKinley, despite his inaugural pledge to combat the trusts, did nothing to enforce the Sherman Act, while making it abundantly clear to Wall Street financiers that he favored the making of combinations, a complicated endeavor that could not readily be carried out without tacit governmental approval.

'What McKinley envisioned for the American Republic was a genuine new order of things, a modern centralized order, elitist in every way, profoundly alien to the spirit of the Republic, and imposed from above on its indestructible constitutional forms. Doubtless McKinley's vision was all light to the President but it was not so to the American people. Had McKinley submitted his grand design for a new modeled republic to the judgment of the American electorate, only a small minority would have approved of it.* Republican sentiment remained too strong in the country. Of necessity, therefore, the key to McKinley's grand design for national unity and cohesion was the Republican large policy. It was the only way to supplant the republican spirit with the spirit of nationalism, to replace love of liberty with love of the flag, and to make the Nation a political presence strong enough to overwhelm the Republic and supplant it in popular affections. Only by transforming America into an active world power "in contact with considerable foreign powers at as many points as possible" could the Nation (which exists only in relation to other nations) become the unifying force that McKinley and the Republican oligarchy intended to make of it.

If the large policy was essential to McKinley's ambitions there was only one certain way to launch it-through armed intervention in Cuba. It was the only opportunity at hand and McKinley intended to seize it. That intention he dared not avow; indeed it as imperative to avow it, for in the aftermath of a resounding election victory, some of the most powerful people in Republican ranks opposed intervention. The party's new Wall Street allies strongly opposed war ...

It was the Presidents plan to reassure the peace faction of his pacific intentions while he pursued a course of action that would slowly but surely reduce it to a nullity. McKinley's Cuban policy, a shrewd and subtle feat of political manipulation, was shaped from the start not by his fear of warmongers - the conventional historical view - but by his fear of Republican and Wall Street proponents of peace.

McKinley's immediate problem, in fact, was to rally the interventionists and keep alive their hopes. Even before his inauguration, McKinley began privately reassuring key Republican interventionists that his Cuban policy was not quite what the peace faction expected it to be.

It was with reconcentration in mind that McKinley in May delivered the well-timed stroke that decisively revived the interventionists ...

The stage was set on May 4 by Senator Morgan, the ranking Democrat on the committee. Speaking in favor of his new resolution favoring belligerency rights for Cuban rebels, Morgan announced that he had definite proof that American citizens in Cuba "are now literally starving to death in numbers for this want of provisions and supplies.

On May 12, Republican Senator Gallinger, in support of Morgan, submitted a resolution calling for a $50,000 appropriation to feed suffering Americans in Cuba. It was a typical propaganda tactic. A half-dozen times interventionists had taken an inflammatory rumor, made a speech about it, submitted an appropriate resolution, and transformed it into a senatorial fact. If the members of the peace faction were concerned they gave no sign of it. Five days later the blow from the White House fell. On the morning of May 17, President McKinley sent Congress a special message announcing that, according to Consul General Lee, who was already proving his usefulness, "a large number of American citizens in the island are in a state of destitution.'; The President asked for a $50,000 appropriation to relieve them.

... McKinley's message created, as expected, an immediate nation-wide sensation. At once the war spirit revived in the press, which hailed the message as the first logical step toward armed intervention. "The relief-bearer," Hearst's Journal observed, "is but the American camel intruding its head in the Spanish tent in Cuba." Since the relief funds, by reluctant consent of the Spanish authorities, were to be distributed by the United States, intervention of sorts had already begun. The New York Mail and Express, an administration paper, openly concluded that McKinley's policy is "to secure Cuban independence," by arms if necessary.

While Ambassador Woodford was testing the European reaction to a future war with Spain, the President was secretly laying the groundwork for far-reaching wartime expansion in the Pacific. Publicly, the President had already placed himself, as ambiguously as he could manage it, in the Republican expansionist camp. On June 16 he signed and submitted to the Senate a new treaty of annexation with the Hawaiian government, although he took pains to assure the foes of expansion that Hawaiian annexation was not meant to lead to further expansion. It was, he said, "not a change but a consummation," exactly the opposite of what McKinley or the expansionists intended it to be. Carl Schurz, for one, was not convinced. At a White House dinner on July 1, he bluntly asked the President how the annexation of Hawaii squared with his personal promise of "no jingo nonsense." McKinley was momentarily taken aback. Hastily he disavowed any personal intentions. He himself was not eager for annexation, he assured Schurz. He was merely testing public opinion. Privately McKinley thought otherwise. As he later confided to his personal secretary: "We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny." Since a two-thirds majority for ratification was nowhere in sight, the Senate adjourned on July 24 without undermining destiny with a vote."

Several weeks later McKinley privately conferred with his energetic assistant secretary of the navy [Theodore Roosevelt] on aspects of "manifest destiny" considerably more advanced than Hawaiian annexation. A decrepit Spanish fleet lay permanently anchored in the Bay of Manila, capital of Spain's Philippine colony. Would it not be useful, Roosevelt apparently suggested, to plan an attack on that fleet and even seize Manila should the United States ever intervene in Cuba to bring about peace? McKinley piously deplored the prospect of war, but he managed to encourage Roosevelt to pursue his Philippine assault preparations. Indeed, after hearing McKinley deploring war with Spain, Roosevelt promptly made plans to raise a regiment for the invasion of Cuba. McKinley never fooled anyone he did not wish to fool. Shortly after their meeting, Roosevelt suggested to the President that an aggressive naval officer, Commodore George Dewey, be made commander of the Asiatic Squadron over the heads of more senior officers. McKinley secured the necessary congressional approval. In October the squadron was placed on a war footing. The machinery of manifest destiny was now emplaced. All McKinley needed was a war with Spain."

On December 2, the President ordered the U.S. battleship Maine to the Florida Keys at the suggestion of Consul General Lee, who had reported, with his usual mendacity, that a dangerous anti-American conspiracy was brewing in the Cuban province of Matanzas. The ship commander was instructed to proceed to Havana in the event of an anti-American disturbance. It was to do so, said McKinley, on receiving a coded signal from Lee, at whose disposal the President now placed the great warship. The President had "full confidence in [Lee's] judgment," the commander was informed. Exactly so. By putting a warship of the most provocative kind in the hands of an inveterate warmonger, McKinley had ingeniously arranged for a minor diplomatic official to provoke an anti-American incident in Cuba likely to inflame American passions, moot the whole question of the Spanish reforms, and leave the President no alternative save armed intervention to protect American lives and property.

With that McKinley sentenced Cuban autonomy to death. He had openly assured the rebels that if they fought on for a few more months Americans would step in and do their fighting for them. He had robbed those Cubans who dreaded American intervention of any hope that autonomy could stave it off. After McKinley refused the Spanish queen request that America publicly endorse the new reforms, the Spanish government in January had to face up to the grim truth: The American President was deliberately subverting Spanish efforts to achieve a negotiated settlement. Despite the generally pacific tone of his annual message, McKinley on December 6, 1897, had let slip the dogs of war. With America's consul general openly working against autonomy in Havana, armed intervention in Cuba was now only a matter of time.

A fake reform party in 1896, the Democrats, determined to drive out reform and reformers, were becoming, as fast as they could manage it, a token opposition as well. Just as Republicans had agitated for war instead of opposing Cleveland's domestic policies, so now the Democrats clamored for intervention in Cuba instead of seriously opposing McKinley's. Had the Republican President controlled the Democracy he could scarcely have contrived matters better. Here was an entire national party vehemently demanding that he do today what he intended to do tomorrow while accusing him of being the earnest advocate of peace he was trying so hard to appear.

On January 24, after warning the Spanish ambassador that an antiAmerican outburst in Cuba would compel him to send in troops, the President ordered the warship to Havana to provoke an anti-American outburst. Publicly, McKinley assured the country that the Maine was merely paying a courtesy visit, but not many people were fooled. "A warship is a curious kind of oil on troubled waters," wrote Godkin in the New York Evening Post, "though the administration would have us believe the Maine to be about the most unctuously peaceful ship that ever sailed." That the Maine might trigger an anti-American incident was obvious.

The Spanish authorities, for their part, did their best to foil the American President. They received the Maine with an elaborate show of courtesy and strained every nerve to prevent an untoward outburst against the ship or its crewmen. McKinley, on his side, made matters as difficult as possible: He simply would not recall the Maine. Day after day for two weeks the menacing warship sat in the harbor of Havana, wearing out the flimsy pretext that it was paying a courtesy call and driving the Spanish frantic with fear. By February 8, the Spanish government in Madrid was thoroughly alarmed. The sheer prolongation of the visit, Madrid wired Ambassador de Lome, "might, through some mischance, bring about a conflict. We are trying to avoid it at any cost, making heroic efforts to maintain ourselves in the severest rectitude." It was no fault of Spain's, however, that on the evening of February 15 the Maine exploded in Havana harbor, killing 252 of the 350 men aboard .21

It was not precisely the anti-American incident that McKinley had hoped for; nonetheless the shocking disaster was a stroke of good fortune for America's interventionists. Overnight it drastically shortened the road to war, for the Maine explosion wrought a profound change in American public sentiment. Not that it provoked a national clamor for war. After the initial shock and dismay the American people fell into a state of tense and sober expectancy. What restrained popular bellicosity was the fact, obvious to all, that whatever blew up the Maine, the Spanish government certainly had not: nothing could have been more contrary to its interests.

In early March a peace movement of "substantial citizens" gathered force and began protesting loudly against intervention in Cuba. McKinley took two quick steps to quash it. The peace faction contended, for one thing, that America was unprepared for war. McKinley met that objection easily. He called in Representative Joe Cannon of Illinois, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and told him to introduce a bill calling for $50 million for national defense. Still posing as a man of peace, McKinley directed Cannon not to associate his name with the measure. Cannon did as he was told. The national defense bill became law on March 9. That was the end of the preparedness argument.

... the navy board of inquiry handed the President I its fateful report. The Maine, it concluded, had been "destroyed by the explosion of a submarine mine," perpetrator unknown. Not surprisingly, the board's conclusion, though not dishonest, was unwarranted by the shaky evidence. Later inquirers have pretty much concluded that the Maine's destruction was due to an accidental internal explosion. With the Maine report in hand, McKinley's difficulties were at an end. He had only to bring his diplomacy with Spain to a crisis-never very difficult in dealing with a fifth-rate power-while satisfying the rapidly weakening peace faction that he was still trying to avert war if possible.

With the official release of the Maine report on March 28, he now had overwhelming popular support for armed intervention; in the face of it even Wall Street's opposition was crumbling. The President's final dealings with Spain were merely a cruel farce. On April 5, Spain agreed to lay down its arms at the behest of the Pope-a desperate face-saving arrangement. "I believe that this means peace," reported Woodford, who still thought avoiding war was McKinley's objective. McKinley rejected that offer, too. He could not, he cabled the ambassador, "assume to influence the action of the American Congress." On April 9, notwithstanding McKinley's reply, the desperate Spanish government formally proclaimed an armistice in Cuba at the behest of the Pope. McKinley had now won virtually all his official demands: revocation of reconcentration and an end to hostilities. Few sovereign nations have ever made such concessions to a foreign power in peacetime over their own internal affairs. It availed Spain nothing.

On April 11, the President delivered his war message to Congress. It began with one of the more notable deceptions in the annals of presidential messages. Tracing the course of his diplomacy down to March 31-thereby conveniently ignoring Spain's subsequent concessions-the President concluded quite falsely that he had "exhausted" all diplomatic means to secure peace: "The Executive is brought to the end of his effort." He therefore called for "the forcible intervention of the United States as a neutral to stop the war, according to the large dictates of humanity .... I ask the Congress to authorize and empower the President to take measures to secure a full and final termination of hostilities between the Government of Spain and the people of Cuba and to secure in the island the establishment of a stable government... and to use the military and naval forces of the United States as may be necessary for these purposes."

... Congress, on April 19, passed a join resolution calling for armed intervention. The "Republic of Cuba" was not to be recognized; the guerrillas, having served their purpose, were to be brushed ruthlessly aside. On the other hand, by the terms of the resolution, the United States was forbidden from ever annexing Cuba. On April 20 the President signed the resolution. The war that so many had sought for so long was now but a few days away."

The American people were jubilant. Pushed and prodded toward intervention for two and a half years, they now took the last mile at the gallop. Popular support for the war was more than overwhelming. It was joyful, exuberant, ecstatic. Americans greeted the war in a tumultuous holiday spirit, for in truth it was a holiday-a vacation from the years of suspicion, dissension, disillusion, and bitterness. Was the American Republic despoiled and corrupted? How could it be with America on the march, defending liberty, succoring the needy, and uprooting Old World villainy! Was the Republic in the grip of the money power? How could it be with the Wall Street peace faction so utterly routed! Like schoolboys tossing away their pencils on the last day of school, the American people cast aside the heavy burdens of liberty which they had taken up eight years before and which, for their pains, had gained them nothing and less. What was there to fret about? America was good! America was true! Cuba Libre! In that spirit, generous and giddy, righteous and irresponsible, the American people rallied to war against a fifth-rate power under the leadership of their ostensibly peaceloving President.

It was Henry Adams who put McKinley's role in its proper perspective. "At this distance," he wrote to Hay from Belgrade, "I see none of his tricks-real or assumed-I see only the steady development of a fixed intent, never swerving or hesitating even before the utterly staggering responsibility of war .... He has gone far beyond me and scared me not a little."


The Almighty Hand of God

Lying some seven thousand miles from San Francisco, the Philippines form a vast archipelago. Its seven thousand islands extend across three thousand miles of the western Pacific. Its inhabitants then numbered some 6.5 million, a great many of them rude tribesmen, a large number of whom were headhunters. To seize the Philippine Islands from Spain would be an overt act of conquest. To possess the Philippine Islands would mean outright colonial rule, a subject race, and government by force. To seize and hold the Philippines would do violence to the Constitution, to republican principles, and to the deeply held convictions of the American people. Moreover, it would make America a major power in distant Asia and lead to unprecedented "connections with European complications," as McKinley himself had put it. To conquer and rule Spain's Philippine colony threatened at one stroke to sunder solemn ties with the republican past, to reorder the political life of the country and leave all familiar havens astern. It would mean, as Andrew Carnegie was soon to protest, "a parting of the ways" for the American Republic. To conquer and rule the Philippines as an American colony was William McKinley's war aim.

... Of the audacity of his imperial designs, McKinley himself was acutely aware. Trusting no one to share his audacity, he disclosed his ultimate intentions to no one. Even at his death he was still disclaiming them. Responsibility for the new American Empire he would attribute to the "march of events," to the "Almighty hand of God" ...

On April 25, the President asked Congress not to declare war but to declare that, since Spain had broken off diplomatic relations, a state of war already existed. McKinley did not even wait for Congress to declare that what he wanted had already happened. The day he delivered his request, the President approved the historic directive to Commodore Dewey: "War has commenced .... Proceed at once to the Philippine Islands. Commence operations at once." Speed was imperative; even a one-day head start for Dewey was imperative. All through the war McKinley feared that Spain would L surrender before America's armed forces laid hands on her colonies, "gifts from the gods," as he would later describe them.

Dewey's victory made history but no martial glory has ever attached to it. The Asiatic Squadron reached Manila Bay on April 30. The next day, in about an hour's time, it destroyed the hapless that passed for the Spanish fleet.

... The day after the battle, with only cabled rumors from Madrid to indicate that a battle had ever taken place, McKinley ordered an army expeditionary force to the Philippines. It was a remarkably bold decision. The situation in Manila was unknown. No blow had been struck as yet for Cuba Libre. Yet here was a President sending ten thousand much needed regular troops-the first American soldiers ever to leave the Western Hemisphere-eleven thousand miles from the cause of humanity. If McKinley wished "old Dewey had just sailed away" on May 1, he gave no sign of it on May 2.

Nor did McKinley stop there. News of Dewey's victory sent the populace into a fit of ecstatic rejoicing. The American sky, it was said, turned red with fireworks from coast to coast. War fever and jingoism were sweeping all before it. Giddy already, the American people, on hearing of the victory, grew giddier still. The iron was hot and McKinley, a master of cautious maneuver when caution was needed, now showed he could strike, if required, with force and dispatch. He moved quickly on yet another expansionist front. Before Dewey's victory, his Hawaiian annexation treaty had languished hopelessly in the Senate. Overnight Dewey's victory gave it new life. It was now, claimed Republicans, a vital military measure. The United States needed Hawaiian bases to give aid to Dewey, the national hero of the hour. Pleading wartime exigency as a pretext, Republicans on May 4 took the unusual step of introducing a joint resolution of annexation in the House, thereby evading the Constitution's treaty-ratifying rule. Hawaii was to be annexed by simple majority vote. Behind the scenes as always, McKinley led the fight for annexation. Its advantages were clear. Annexation of Hawaii, as the Philadelphia Press had observed five years before, would "familiarize the public mind to the acceptance of other territory." McKinley wanted the public mind thus familiarized. Hawaiian annexation would provide a precedent for further overseas acquisitions. McKinley wanted that precedent.

With Hawaiian annexation safely launched in Congress, McKinley turned next to the Caribbean. On June 4 he asked the commanding general of the United States Army, Nelson Miles; to prepare for an invasion of Puerto Rico at the "earliest moment."

On July 17, the Spanish troops in Santiago, Cuba, surrendered unconditionally. The next day Spain sued for peace. In response, McKinley promptly ordered the invasion of Puerto Rico. "On your landing," he instructed the army, "you hoist the American flag." This was an essential element in McKinley's strategy of the fait accompli. Speaking of the flag a few months later, the President would ask an Atlanta audience: "Who will withdraw it from the people over whom it floats?"

The real battle over the Philippines was not fought in the islands. It was fought in America. Its weapon was a torrent of propaganda; its objective to weaken, by every possible argument-by sheer noise, if necessary-the electorate's traditional aversion to colonial empire and overseas dominion. It was the task of the press, as McKinley pointed out to a newspaper publisher, to make it "appear desirable" for America to retain the archipelago.

Above all, the propagandists, again following McKinley, made frantic efforts to deny any imperialist intentions. America's possession of the Philippines-still unachieved-was described from the start as the "fortunes of war," which is to say, mere happenstance. It was attributed to the workings of "destiny." It was deemed not the design of men, but of "Providence." It was ascribed to "the natural outcome of forces constantly at work." Having happened through destiny, happenstance, providence, or historical determinism, America's control of the Philippines, so the propagandists insisted, brought distasteful but unavoidable "duty" in its train, namely the duty to rule the islands. "Destiny," as McKinley liked to say, "determines duty." Could the United States in good conscience "return" the archipelago to Spain and subject Filipinos to its brutal imperial yoke? That the United States did not control the Philippines and had nothing to return did not stand in the way of the propagandists. The incessant pretense that the United States had already captured the Philippines-"having broken down the power in control of them," as Whitelaw Reid of the New York Tribune put it was expressly designed to make ultimate annexation by treaty seem mere recognition de jure of what had already occurred through the fortunes of war.

In the campaign to win popular acceptance of empire two important elements were missing. One was imperialism itself. A full-out imperial creed, the candid laudation of empire, played an insignificant role in the propaganda for an American empire. McKinley himself sternly repudiated the term "imperialism." That was the sort of thing, he said, that only vile European powers practiced. The arguments for America's first colonial venture were put on the most narrow circumstantial grounds: the unintended consequences of Dewey's naval victory and the inescapable "duty" it brought in its train. If America was becoming an imperial power, it was an empire purely by inadvertence. So the propagandists insisted. As McKinley told an Omaha audience, "We must follow duty even if desire opposes." If in the end Americans accepted the annexation of the Philippines, they did so without endorsing the imperial principle, indeed while still rejecting it, which was why straight-out imperialism would soon prove a dead-end for the Republican Party"

What Republican-sponsored colonialism would mean to southern politics was scarcely lost on southern Democrats. That the once-great Republican Party, the historic party of Negro rights and political equality, was now claiming the right to govern lesser breeds without their consent gave the Democracy what it had hitherto never enjoyed: complete license from Republicans to treat southern Negroes as the McKinley administration intended to treat Filipinos. The Democrats quickly made the most of it. It is no coincidence that the legal disenfranchisement of black people-and poor whites and the elaboration of segregation laws were carried out by southern Democrats in 1898 and the years immediately thereafter. If Republicans even wished to protest the final dismantling of their party's historic achievements they were now utterly compromised. Southern racist politics, as the Boston Evening Transcript sadly observed, is "now the policy of the administration of the very party which carried the country into and through a civil war to free the slave."

On August 28, McKinley appointed the members of a five-man commission charged with conducting treaty negotiations with Spain in Paris.

... Some weeks later, when negotiations began, McKinley deemed the time ripe to take the final step: He ordered his commissioners to demand the entire archipelago. Public opinion, he informed them, made any other alternative impossible. "It is my judgment," he cabled them on October 25, "that the well-considered opinion of the majority would be that duty requires we should take the archipelago."

On October 31 the commission, under the President's express order, formally demanded the entire Philippines from Spain. Stunned, the Spanish negotiators balked. Once again Spain pointed out that the United States had no claim to the Philippines by right of conquest since it had not conquered them. Even Manila, captured after the armistice, by rights should be restored to Spain. The victor, however, was adamant. The vanquished were helpless. In the end the Spanish government, thoroughly humiliated, caved in to McKinley demands. On December 8 the treaty of peace was signed. The United States by formal cession from Spain now possessed the Philippine Islands. The fait accompli that the President and Republican propagandists had been proclaiming for six months was now at last a fact.

All McKinley had to do now was secure Senate ratification of the treaty and crush the Filipino insurgents. The former was gained with a heavy dose of virtual bribery by the margin of a single vote. The latter was accomplished with machine guns and was to take three bloody years and more. The love of liberty for foreigners that had warmed the hearts of so many warmongering politicians disappeared in the "march of events." When the President asked Congress for funds to put down Aguinaldo's mischievous troublemakers (for that, of course, was how the administration described them) scarcely a senator from the anti-imperialist Democracy cast a dissenting vote. With the decline of the republican movement at home the "propaganda of republicanism" abroad ceased to stir America's political leaders. The very politicians who had castigated Spain for trying to crush Cuban guerrillas now supported America's military efforts to crush Filipino guerrillas. And they watched without opposition as the party of White Supremacy robbed American citizens of the right to vote and enmeshed the South in an iron net of racist legislation."

With matchless guile and unshakable aplomb, President McKinley had carried America across a great divide. He had ushered in a new age and it was an age of iron.

... A few years before ... Americans of every condition had been demanding republican reforms of one kind of another. Their demands had gone unmet, their hopes had come to naught. The ruling politicians whose power they had threatened now set to work ensuring that another such perilous outburst would never occur again."

The transformation of the United States, already an imperial republic, into an active world power had been the party's goal since the onset of the political crisis. With jingoism rampant in the country, with American troops stationed five hundred miles from Hong Kong, the means for doing so for the first time lay at hand. To imperialists and anti-imperialists alike it was obvious that the annexation of the Philippines could give America a major voice in the affairs of China, the then-current cockpit of European greed and ambition.

The task of making American intervention in China politically palatable President McKinley assigned to his new secretary of state, John Hay, as soon as the Philippines had been safely annexed. The result of Hay's cogitations was the famous "Open Door" policy, a policy; well-named, by which the Asian door to Europe was to be pried open.

"In a few short months," McKinley proudly informed a visitor to the White House, "we have become a world power." It was true enough. The chancelleries of Europe, which a few years before had not deigned even to send embassies to Washington, now echoed with nervous talk of the growing "American peril." America's grand renunciation of "dominion and power," one of the nobler aspects of the American Republic's often murky history, was fast becoming, like so much else, a relic of the past. On the slender foundation of our alleged interests in Asia, McKinley and his party pressed for a two-ocean navy, for an Isthmian canal controlled exclusively by the United States, for a Caribbean Sea under American hegemony, and for protectorate rights over Cuba, whose independence, once so ardently cherished, was soon to become little more than a fiction. With America's "emergence as a world power," an oft-repeated cant phrase implying that it happened by itself, the first prop of the new political order was in place by the beginning of the twentieth century.

In the years after 1898 the collusive exception more and more became the rule as the Democratic Party, retrenching, ceased to offer serious electoral competition to Republicans outside their old southern and urban bastions. If the dominance of foreign affairs was to be the parties' functional equivalent of the no-issue politics of precrisis days, electoral collusion became the parties' functional equivalent of the old Civil War party loyalties. Confining their vote-getting efforts chiefly to their traditional post-Civil War party bastions, the two parties actually succeeded in re-creating the post-Civil War voting patterns in the twentieth century. In hundreds of counties and dozens of states voters behaved more as their grandparents had done in 1870 than their parents had in 1890. The voting patterns were based no longer on the old passionate party attachments. They chiefly reflected the indisposition of voters to elect "figureheads simply put up for the purpose of being knocked down." Unchallenged in their respective bastions, party leaders scarcely had to appeal to the voters to control the politics of their communities or even of entire states. Increasingly, elections became shams; increasingly, voters declined to vote .

In the wake of the Democrats' retirement into a mere party of "outs," machine politics, supported by collusion, grew not only stronger but more extensive than ever. "The domain of the Machine," a foreign student of American politics wrote in 1902, "is daily growing larger. The Machine is gaining ground, especially in the West where it is invading districts which appeared to be free of it." If men opposed boss rule before, a few men by the turn of the century were coming to see it as the chief menace to the American Republic. In March 1900 Charles Francis Adams bluntly told a fellow anti-imperialist that he saw the danger to "republican principles" in the wrong place: "You see it externally in the Philippines; I see it internally in New York City and Pennsylvania-in Croker and Quay and Platt .... We cant about imperialism, and look for the 'man-on-horseback,' and all that nonsense. Our Emperor is here now in embryo; even we don't recognize him, and we scornfully call him a 'boss.' Just exactly as in Rome before the Caesars systematized [matters] a succession of Tweeds, and Crokers, and Quays had their day."

In the immediate aftermath of the Spanish-American War the bosses indeed had their day. On the events of the preceding years they could look back with relief and satisfaction. A grave political crisis had been averted, a major threat to their power repulsed; the reform spirit seemed dead, the voters apathetic. The American Republic, torn from its old continental moorings, was now successfully launched on the broad sea of empire and dominion. "Unexampled political repose," as one newspaper put it, had been ushered in by the postwar years. Both party syndicates were stronger than ever. In the South, Achilles heel of the entire party system, disenfranchisement, racism, and segregation laws-a third major prop of the new order-promised to reduce southern farmers once more to a nullity and prevent any effective revival of the defeated Populist cause.

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