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League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - 1898 ATTITUDES

For some Americans, it wasn’t enough that the United States took land from indigenous people to build a new country. Such folks also looked, with longing eyes, at the empire Britain had assembled.

  • In a New England Magazine article entitled "The City of Holyoke," published in February of 1898, Edwin L. Kirtland discusses various Native American tribes which had inhabited the area of the Thirteen Colonies before any Europeans arrived. His observations (at page 715) reflect attitudes of the time, but two are especially egregious:

    Indians roamed over rather than occupied these lands;

    and

    These conditions, [in other words the tribal way of life] apparently fixed by countless generations of unprogressive existence, awaited the advent of the forefathers and another civilization [that is, the American founders (as "forefathers") and the United States (as another civilization)]. 

  • During a campaign speech, on September 16, 1898, Albert Beveridge (a would-be U.S. Senator from Indiana) expressed his belief that America should duplicate - or better - Victorian England’s empire. We may never know whether such words (uttered at the very time British forces were engaged in a deadly fight in Sudan) helped Beveridge (who later became a Pulitzer Prize-winning author) to win his Senate seat, but they are telling: 

It is a noble land that God has given us; a land that can feed and clothe the world; a land whose coastlines would inclose half the countries of Europe; a land set like a sentinel between the two imperial oceans of the globe, a greater England with a nobler destiny.

A few breaths later, using words that could have been uttered recently, Beveridge said:

Therefore, in this campaign, the question is larger than a party question. It is an American question. It is a world question. Shall the American people continue their march toward the commercial supremacy of the world? Shall free institutions broaden their blessed reign as the children of liberty wax in strength, until the empire of our principles is established over the hearts of all mankind?

If it is true that at least some Americans envied Britain's Empire at the close of the 19th century, how did the two countries, as a whole, view each other?

Let’s put that question to the symbolic men representing Britain and America:  "John Bull" and "Uncle Sam."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5186stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2003

Updated Last Revision: Jan 12, 2016


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