The Anti-Imperialist Movement

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According to anti-imperialists, America’s duty was to protect democracy worldwide. In this document, Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar, offered his opinions on the Philippine-American War. "How absurd," Hoar wrote, "for the persons who could have stopped [the war], with a single word of assurance that they meant to respect the liberties of the people of the Philippine islands, to charge the men who have been constantly begging [for independence]...for the continuance of the war!" Courtesy of Harvard University via HathiTrust.

Not all Americans were excited by the expansion of the nation's empire. Anti-imperialists protested the nation's growing interest in foreign territories. William Jennings Bryan became one of the movement's most prominent leaders and ran for president on an anti-imperialist platform in 1900. Bryan lost the election, but the anti-imperialist movement carried on. It was a broad coalition uniting citizens across race, class, gender, and political party lines. While these groups worked to a common goal—an end to aggressive American expansion—their motivations often varied.

Some anti-imperialists supported segregation in addition to self-determination. They argued that the US should remain within its borders to avoid the mixing of white and nonwhite peoples. Others perceived empire as a direct contradiction to the nation's democratic commitments. Writing on the Philippine Islands, one man commented: "If the Declaration of Independence be true…[Filipinos] are to decide for themselves...otherwise there is no freedom." African American anti-imperialists like W. E. B. Du Bois found disturbing similarities between the racist Jim Crow policies of the American South and colonial oppressions dictating the lives of native Hawaiians, Filipinos, and Puerto Ricans. The anti-imperialist movement was but another front for Black activists to combat racism.