American Anti-Imperialist League

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The American Anti-Imperialist League was an organization established in the United States on June 15, 1898, to battle the American annexation of the Philippines as an insular area. The anti-imperialists opposed the expansion because they believed imperialism violated the credo of republicanism, especially the need for "consent of the governed." They did not oppose expansion on commercial, constitutional, religious, or humanitarian grounds; rather they believed that annexation and administration of backward tropical areas would mean the abandonment of American ideals of self-government and non-interventionism—ideals expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence, George Washington's Farewell Address and Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.[1] The Anti-Imperialist League represented an older generation and were rooted in an earlier era; they were defeated in terms of public opinion, the 1900 election, and the actions of Congress and the President because most of the younger Progressives who were just coming to power supported imperialism.[2]


The original organization was founded in New England and was absorbed by a new national Anti-Imperialist League. Prominent statesman George S. Boutwell served as president from the League's inception in 1898 until his death in 1905. Lawyer and civil rights activist Moorfield Storey was president from 1905 until the League dissolved in 1921.

Many of the League's leaders were classical liberals and "Bourbon Democrats" (Grover Cleveland Democrats) who believed in free trade, a gold standard, and limited government; they opposed William Jennings Bryan's candidacy in the 1896 presidential election. Instead of voting for protectionist Republican William McKinley, however, many, including Edward Atkinson, Moorfield Storey, and Grover Cleveland, cast their ballots for the National Democratic Party presidential ticket of John M. Palmer and Simon Bolivar Buckner.

Election of 1900

File:McKinley Destroys Imperialism Straw Man.jpg
President McKinley fires a cannon into an imperialism effigy in this cartoon by W.A. Rogers in Harper's Weekly of September 22, 1900

The 1900 presidential election caused internal squabbles in the League. Particularly controversial was the League's endorsement of William Jennings Bryan, a renowned anti-imperialist but also the leading critic of the gold standard. A few League members, including Storey and Oswald Garrison Villard, organized a third party to both uphold the gold standard and oppose imperialism. This effort led to the formation of the National Party, which nominated Senator Donelson Caffery of Louisiana. The party quickly collapsed, however, when Caffery dropped out, leaving Bryan as the only anti-imperialist candidate.

End of the League

Despite its anti-war record, it did not object to U.S. entry into World War I (though several individual members did oppose intervention). By 1920, the League was only a shadow of its former strength. The Anti-Imperialist League disbanded in 1921.

Prominent members

See also


  • Thomas A. Bailey, "Was the Presidential Election of 1900 A Mandate on Imperialism?" Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jun., 1937), pp. 43–52 in JSTOR
  • Robert L. Beisner, Twelve against Empire: The Anti-Imperialists, 1898—1900 (1968)
  • David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900," Independent Review 4 (Spring 2000), 555-75.
  • Michael Patrick Cullinane, Liberty and American Anti-Imperialism, 1898-1909 (2012)
  • Fred H. Harrington, "The Anti-Imperialist Movement in the United States, 1898-1900," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Sep., 1935), pp. 211–230 in JSTOR
  • Fred Harvey Harrington, "Literary Aspects of American Anti-Imperialism 1898-1902," New England Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Dec., 1937), pp. 650–667 in JSTOR
  • William E. Leuchtenburg, "Progressivism and Imperialism: The Progressive Movement and American Foreign Policy, 1898-1916," Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Dec., 1952), pp. 483–504 in JSTOR
  • Julius Pratt, Expansionists of 1898: The Acquisition of Hawaii and the Spanish Islands (1936) pp 266–78
  • E. Berkeley Tompkins, Anti-Imperialism in the United States: The Great Debate, 1890—1920. (1970)
  • Mark Twain. Jim Zwick, ed. Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War. (Syracuse University Press: July 1, 1992) ISBN 0-8156-0268-5
  • Richard E. Welch, Jr., Response to Imperialism: The United States and the Philippine-American War, 1899—1902 (1978)
  • William George Whittaker, "Samuel Gompers, Anti-Imperialist," Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Nov., 1969), pp. 429–445 in JSTOR
  • Jim Zwick, Friends of the Filipino People Bulletin
  • Jim Zwick, Militarism and Repression in the Philippines
  • Jim Zwick, Prodigally Endowed with Sympathy for the Cause: Mark Twain's Involvement with the Anti-Imperialist League (Ephemera Society of America (January 1, 1992) ASIN B0006R8RJ8


  1. Harrington (1937) p. 650
  2. Leuchtenburg (1952)

External links

Template:Philippine Revolution Template:Anti-war

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