The Gilded Age, Populist and Progressive Era Reading Group

Chapter 20: Imperial Dreams (Part 1) :: American Colossus by H.W. Brands

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “The republic is something more than a local policy. It is a general principle, not to be forgotten at any time, especially when the opportunity is presented of bringing an immense region within its influence.”
  • “They see wealth and poverty side by side. They note great inequality of social position and social chances. They eagerly set about the attempt to account for what they see, and to devise schemes for remedying what they do not like. In their eagerness to recommend the less fortunate classes to pity and consideration, they forget all about the rights of other classes, they gloss over the faults of the classes in question, and they exaggerate their misfortunes and their virtues. They invent new theories of property, distorting rights and perpetuating injustice, as anyone is sure to do who sets about the readjustment of social relations with the interests of one group distinctly before his mind, and the interests of all other groups thrown into the background. When I have read certain of these discussions, I have thought that it must be quite disreputable to be respectable, quite dishonest to own property, quite unjust to go one’s own way and earn one’s own living, and that the only really admirable person was the good-for-nothing.”
  • “The work which the English race began when it colonized North America is destined to go on until every land on the earth’s surface that is not already the seat of an old civilization shall become English in its language, in its religion, in its political habits and traditions, and to a predominant extent in the blood of its people. The day is at hand when four-fifths of the human race will trace its pedigree to English forefathers, as four-fifths of the white people in the United States trace their pedigree today.”

Thought Questions

  • What is Turner’s “Frontier Thesis”
  • What factors (Russian and American) led into the transfer of Alaska to the United States
  • Who were William Sumner and Herbert Spencer and what is “social Darwinism”
  • Describe the fallacies associated with the concept of “social Darwinism”
  • Explain and Expand: “Most significantly, the war confirmed the redemptive power of American democracy.”
  • Compare and Contrast: John Fiske and Charles Sumner
  • Describe the relationship between war and social Darwinism
  • Describe the relationship between American religion and social Darwinism
  • Who was Alfred Thayer Mahan and how did he influence American imperialism
  • Describe the American conquest of Hawaii

Primary Sources

Articles and Resources

Further Reading