Expansion and empire-building, growth and domination were immediate concerns for our country as soon as national independence became a reality. The United States was born out of a war that was fought to gain liberation against the world’s greatest empire at the time, England, which tended to deny its imperial ambitions. Now, many hope that America can establish an empire. This contradicts the condemnation the British for policies of the “extermination of mankind.” While there is a will to develop an “empire of liberty,” we must not forget the continuing republican ideal which was distrustful of empire and its needs for standing armies, heavy taxes, large bureaucracies, and centralized decision-making.
Indeed, in his farewell address President George Washington, like John Quincy Adams an ardent expansionist used anti-imperial rhetoric, he suggested that “harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations is recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing.” Rooted in the fresh memories of their war against British imperialism, ambivalent views on state power, and an attachment to republican values, this isolationism has meaning to Americans that is being practiced in current political affairs.
“An instance of gross and cruel oppression”
The appropriation of Indian Territory occurred in a period of great expansion, as Americans believed it was their “Manifest Destiny,” the belief that the United States had a providential right and obligation to assume control over less-developed areas in the name of republicanism, Christianity, and white supremacy, to acquire new lands. Questions of morality and constitutionality were common throughout the Cherokee crisis as critics scored the national and state governments for violating the constitution by rejecting Indian treaties. Writer William Penn, the chief administrator of the American Board of Commissions for Foreign Missions, an interdenominational missionary organization, exposed and denounced the U.S. attack on Indian sovereignty based on morality, history, and the Constitution. Throughout the colonial period and under the Articles of Confederation and Constitution, Evarts pointed out, various authorities had, by treaty, guaranteed the territorial integrity of Indian lands and the Cherokee and other tribes, still held “a perfect right to the continued and undisturbed possession of these lands.” The Indians, he added, were “separate communities, or nations.” While such views held great currency-the vote in congress to approve Jackson's removal program was quite close in fact-they did not constitute a majority, and Indians embarked on their infamous “Trail of Tears” while many millions of acres of native lands in the southeast were soon opened to agricultural exploitation.
“Violating the spirit of the constitution”
Imperialists now claim a legal justification for building a continental empire, the Monroe Doctrine. Crafted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and announced by President James Monroe in 1823, the doctrine states American influence in which the United States warned European powers to keep their hands off newly independent states in Latin America. Unspoken but just as compelling was the idea that the United States had a natural domination over the region and would expand control over all the Americas in time. John Quincy Adams then came to his scenes when he stated that America should not supply diplomatic or material aid to revolutionaries in South America or Greece because it would jeopardize the national interest by entangling the United States into the affairs of other countries and delivering his “America goes not abroad” oration. However, in contradiction, he used the Monroe Doctrine as “assuming an unwarrantable power; violating the spirit of the constitution; assuming grounds and an attitude toward European Powers, calculated to involve us in the strife which there existed, and in which we had no interest; and indirectly leading to war, which Congress alone had the right to declare.”
“The war against liberty”
Started by Spain and continued by us, our attack on our “little brown brothers” must end now. 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 policy of the present National Administration in the Philippines seeks to extinguish the spirit of independence in those islands. The sacrifice of our troops, whose bravery deserves admiration even in an unjust war, is unacceptable. We denounce the slaughter of the Filipinos, regret that the blood of the Filipinos is on American hands. Imperialists wrongly assume that with the destruction of self-government in the Philippines by American hands, all opposition here will cease.