God's Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898 - 1902

God's Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898 - 1902

by Susan K. Harris
     
 

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When the U.S. liberated the Philippines from Spanish rule in 1898, the exploit was hailed at home as a great moral victory, an instance of Uncle Sam freeing an oppressed country from colonial tyranny. The next move, however, was hotly contested: should the U.S. annex the archipelago? The disputants did agree on one point: that the United States was divinely

Overview

When the U.S. liberated the Philippines from Spanish rule in 1898, the exploit was hailed at home as a great moral victory, an instance of Uncle Sam freeing an oppressed country from colonial tyranny. The next move, however, was hotly contested: should the U.S. annex the archipelago? The disputants did agree on one point: that the United States was divinely appointed to bring democracy—and with it, white Protestant culture—to the rest of the world. They were, in the words of U.S. Senator Albert Beveridge, "God's arbiters," a civilizing force with a righteous role to play on the world stage.

Mining letters, speeches, textbooks, poems, political cartoons and other sources, Susan K. Harris examines the role of religious rhetoric and racial biases in the battle over annexation. She offers a provocative reading both of the debates' religious framework and of the evolution of Christian national identity within the U.S. The book brings to life the personalities who dominated the discussion, figures like the bellicose Beveridge and the segregationist Senator Benjamin Tillman. It also features voices from outside U.S. geopolitical boundaries that responded to the Americans' venture into global imperialism: among them England's "imperial" poet Rudyard Kipling, Nicaragua's poet/diplomat Rubén Darío, and the Philippines' revolutionary leaders Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini. At the center of this dramatis personae stands Mark Twain, an influential partisan who was, for many, the embodiment of America. Twain had supported the initial intervention but quickly changed his mind, arguing that the U.S. decision to annex the archipelago was a betrayal of the very principles the U.S. claimed to promote.

Written with verve and animated by a wide range of archival research, God's Arbiters reveals the roots of current debates over textbook content, evangelical politics, and American exceptionalism-shining light on our own times as it recreates the culture surrounding America's global mission at the turn into the twentieth century.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In God's Arbiters, Susan K. Harris deftly evokes the potent intermingling of nationalism, war, and culture at the end of the nineteenth century as the United States conquered the Philippines and took the first, halting steps toward empire." —David Silbey, author of A War of Frontier and Empire

"Susan Harris has produced a smart, readable, and timely book—timely in its view of the Christian narrative by which the United States undertakes imperialist ventures, and timely in its investigation of the relationship between religion and American foreign policy." —Jean Pfaelzer, author of Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans

"God's Arbiters makes an important contribution to ongoing debates over the role of religion in American life. This is a book that clearly resonates with contemporary debates about race, religion, and America's place in the world." —Amy S. Greenberg, author of Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire

"Harris's meticulously researched study provides fresh insight into a chapter of the past that has key implications for debates that are as current as the evening news. This well-written and ambitious book is an impressive and welcome contribution to transnational American Studies and to Twain studies." —Shelley Fisher Fishkin, editor of The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Work

"[An] intriguing study of America's rise as an imperial power...Harris, author of two books and many articles on Mark Twain, is in top form. In her able telling, Twain was a man on a mission. He had become a critic of the very ideology to which he had long been captive: the grand narrative of American supremacy and conquest...For a very long time, Americans have resisted recognizing and confronting their imperial impulses and admitting to the massive footprints they've left here and there around the globe. Harris's timely study reveals that these footprints have deep historical and ideological roots." —Christian Century

"A masterful job...Definitive." —Mark Twain Forum

"Harris has written a compelling, well-researched, and very readable account of how religious discourse provided a common ground for the debates about American expansion between 1898 and 1902. The book makes an important intervention into the scholarship on American imperialism, and its admirable work across disciplinary boundaries should make it appealing to both historians and literary scholars." —The Journal of American History

"Impressively researched and brilliantly conceptualized." —Donald Pease, American Studies

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199307203
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/15/2013
Series:
Imagining the Americas Series, #6
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Meet the Author

Susan K. Harris is the Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture at The Univerversity of Kansas.

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