Tuesday, July 7, 2015

America Was Not A 19th Century Imperialist Power

So now, let's talk 19th century politics of sorts! 

Researching 19th Century America is full of surprises. Frankly, my research findings blindside me in many cases simply because it goes against what I was taught in school. If there is one thing that I'm constantly being reminded of is that no one should ever assume history being taught is correct, accurate, or unbiased.

In fact, these days I find myself verifying more than I really want to simply because I find the claims suspect. The latest revelation has to do with the worn tale about the the coup d'├ętat and overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani on January 17th, 1893,

Historians are correct in believing that the ultimate goal of the Provisional Government of Hawaii and its subsequent government, namely the Republic of Hawaii, was the annexation of the islands to the United States. But frankly, that was only accomplished in 1898 after almost 50 years of negotiations. I would not call that empire building.

Historians are wrong in believing that the American government was for the overthrow, no matter who was doing the overthrowing -- meaning that the American government wanted the islands to remain politically stable.

So why don't I agree with people who have all sorts of degrees, professorships, and credentials out of this world? It is because many are biased and have their own political agenda that they are conducting.

One so-called historian who I've been reading lately called the Queen's cabinet, those who overthrew her, "Insurgents." Another talked about "their Kingdom's" neutrality saying that those who overthrew the Queen were "puppets of the United States." So no, it is not hard to see the side that they are on is it? And no, I never expect to get any real useful information from articles where the writer take sides. I really do like the story to be "just the facts."

After I get the facts, then I can see who is at fault and why. Taking a look at the two articles that I mentioned, I believe their basic premise that the United States was an "Imperialist Power" is incorrect. From their assertions that the United States was behind the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, to the idea that the United States ran around the globe planting the American flag in lands ripe for the picking, factual history goes against what they claim took place during the 1800s. And yes, that especially includes where Hawaii is concerned because of what took place in 1874.

Imperialism is a type of advocacy of empire. Imperialism is defined as "a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means". From all of my research, using that definition, the United States was not an Imperialist Power in the 1800s. In fact, looking at the facts, how can anyone even consider that the United States was in the business of colonization?

For example, in 1865, the United States landed U.S. Marines in Panama. In 1866, the same thing took place in China. In 1866, the U.S. Army was deployed to Mexico. In 1867, U.S. Marines landed in Nicaragua, and in Formosa which today called Taiwan. But no, America did not colonize Panama, China, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Formosa.

In 1868, U.S. Marines landed in Japan. In 1868 in Uruguay and in Colombia. In 1870, our troops landed in Mexico again. And yes, in 1870, U.S. Marines had their first mission in the Hawaiian Islands. But no, America did not colonize Uruguay, Colombia, or Hawaii.

A year later, in 1871, U.S. Marines were in Korea. In 1873 in Colombia. In 1873 in Mexico again. Then in 1874, U.S.Marines landed in Hawaii. This time at the request of the Hawaiian government.

As a result of the Hawaiian government's request, two Marine Detachments were landed to restore order to the rioting in Honolulu. They fought a rebellion instituted by the opposition candidate in the election of a new King, and assist with the orderly coronation of King David Kalakaua. During the fighting, American Marines actually seized most government buildings and took control of the Hawaiian government. In fact, Marines occupied the city armory, the Hawaiian treasury, the station house, the Honolulu jail, and the Honolulu Courthouse which was there main objective.

Yes, in 1874, though U.S. Marines had complete control of the entire Hawaiian government, in just under two weeks of sporadic fighting, after order was restored, the Marines returned power to King Kalakaua and simply returned to their ships. They acted at the request of a friendly nation.

It is interesting to note that Hawaiians hated King Kalakaua a great deal back then, yet today he is probably Hawaii's most beloved King - commonly referred to as "The Merry Monarch." But that is for another post at another time.

After leaving Hawaii in 1874, the United State was without incident in a foreign country until 1876 when the U.S. Army went into Mexico again. Then in 1882, U.S. Marines landed in Egypt. In 1885, U.S. Marines landed again in Panama. In 1888 in Seoul Korea. In 1888 in Haiti. In 1889 in Samoa during their Civil War. But no, America did not colonize Mexico, Egypt, Korea, Haiti, or Samoa.

In 1889, U.S. Marines were again in the Hawaiian Islands. This time is was to protect American citizens and interests in Honolulu during a small revolution. It was called the Dominis Conspiracy, and was named after Princess Liliuokalani who also went by the name Lydia K. Dominis. 

Believe it or not, she had plotted to overthrow her own brother and take the throne for herself. The plot was to overthrow her brother, King David Kalakaua, who was King of Hawaii, and replace him with herself. Her attempted coup d'etat on her brother didn't work!

It was also known as the Wilcox Rebellion, because Robert Wilcox, who was their cousin, was her co-conspirator and organizer of the coup. In fact, he tried leading quite a few coups. And in my opinion, it didn't matter against who. He had no idea of what loyalty meant.

First he was on the side of Liliuokalani who was the sister of David Kalakaua. She would later become Queen Liliuokalani after the death of her brother the King. Then in a strange twist of fate, almost as if karma was coming around, a few years later after she became Queen, Robert Wilcox organizes another plot in 1892 by forming a group called the Hawaiian Patriotic League to enact a coup against her.

But then in 1893, Queen Liliuokalani, who originally conspired a coup against her brother, ended up losing her throne to even another coup d'etat by members of her own cabinet. 

Before the U.S. Marine returned to Hawaii, they , U.S. Marines landed in Argentina in 1890. And in 1891, U.S. Marines were in Haiti on Navassa Island. Then in 1891, our Marines landed in Chile. But no, America did not colonize Argentina, Chile, or Haiti.

From January 16th to April 1st of 1893, the U.S. Marines were back in Hawaii. Again the U.S. Marines landed to protect American lives and property there, and at the request of the Hawaiian government. Unlike in 1874, this time the Marines did not fire a shot. They did not take control of any government building, seize any property, jail anyone, or conduct any combat actions against any Hawaiian, American, British, or other foreign citizen.

The fact is that the Marines were there because of the "potential" of unrest as the internal crisis within the Hawaiian government continued. They were told to standby. And yes, they did just that. About 160 Marines landed, and were given specific orders by Captain G. C. Wiltse to "land in Honolulu for the purpose of protecting our legation, consulate, and the lives and property of American citizens, and to assist in preserving public order."

Just as they did in 1874?

Well, yes. The Marines had seen the riots and rebellion of 1874 in Hawaii, and it was less then 20 year past that they had to "preserve public order" in Honolulu. They understood very well just how bad it could get there. As far as the United States being there to support the coup? Fact is the Marines did not do anything but camp out and then returned to their ships. 

The Queen later wrote that she was surrendering to the overwhelming power of the United States yet the United States government represented by two administrations didn't even want Hawaii. One president actually thought accepting Hawaii into the Union would be a mistake, he compared the Hawaiian people to American Indians. 

So please note that none of the places around the world where America had military engagements became territories of the United States during the 1800s. America did not colonize Panama, China, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Formosa. America did not colonize Japan, Uruguay, Colombia, Hawaii, Egypt, Korea, Haiti, or Samoa.

So the question for those who call America an Imperialist Power is simple: If we did not attempt to plant our American flag, declare ourselves conquerors, and declare those lands as ours, everywhere in all of those places between 1865 and 1899, what makes America an Imperialist Power?

Since we did not seek to colonize other lands like say the British, the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Belgians, the Dutch, or even the Japanese did during that time period, what makes America an Imperialist Power? 

Some say it was our "economic influence" that made America an Imperialist Power. Some say it's because of our business dealing that made America an Imperialist Power. Some say we didn't have to land troops, that our mere presence made us an Imperialist Power. But then again, economic influence, business dealings, and mere presence does not make an nation Imperialist. 

So no, America did not occupy any of those lands where we were called into. No, we did not plant our American flag and declare ourselves conquerors. 

The American blood left on the soil of those lands is a testament to the fact that the United States did not assume the role of conqueror and claim lands as conquest for our nation. Anyone trying to tell you differently is not to be trusted. 

That's just the way I see it.

Tom Correa


  1. So I guess what my American History class taught me is wrong. If America WASN'T a 19th Century Imperialist Power then who was? Spain? Mexico? Italy? Your mama's ass? Who knows? But hey, this IS interesting to know.

  2. So America WASN'T an imperialist power? WOW!


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