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The Education of an Anti-Imperialist

Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion

Richard Drake

Publication Year: 2013

Robert M. La Follette (1855–1925), the Republican senator from Wisconsin, is best known as a key architect of American Progressivism and as a fiery advocate for liberal politics in the domestic sphere. But "Fighting Bob" did not immediately come to a progressive stance on foreign affairs.
            In The Education of an Anti-Imperialist, Richard Drake follows La Follette's growth as a critic of America's wars and the policies that led to them. He began his political career with conventional Republican views of the era on foreign policy, avidly supporting the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. La Follette's critique of empire emerged in 1910, during the first year of the Mexican Revolution, as he began to perceive a Washington–Wall Street alliance in the United States' dealings with Mexico. La Follette subsequently became Congress's foremost critic of Woodrow Wilson, fiercely opposing United States involvement in World War I. Denounced in the American press as the most dangerous man in the country, he became hated and vilified by many but beloved and admired by others.
            La Follette believed that financial imperialism and its necessary instrument, militarism, caused modern wars. He contended they were twin evils that would have ruinous consequences for the United States and its citizens in the twentieth century and beyond.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Cover

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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. 8-9

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiv

...During the five years spent on this book’s preparation, I accumulated a large number of professional and personal debts. I would like to acknowledge them here. Of the many historians who assisted me, I owe the greatest debt to Walter LaFeber, the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-7

...beginning of the modern battle between Islam and the West. He declared on 3 November 2001 that the Treaty of Sèvres, which dealt with the outcome of World War I for the Middle East, inaugurated eighty years of Muslim humili - ation at the hands of the West. At war’s end, the entire...

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1. Formative Influences

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pp. 8-29

...Born in 1855, Robert Marion La Follette took a circuitous route in finding his place as a prophetic critic of American imperialism. He spent his first years on a prosperous but isolated farm in Primrose, Wisconsin. The death of his father when he was less than a year old and his mother’s subsequent remarriage in 1862 made it necessary for him to relocate several...

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2. Robert La Follette and the Spanish-American War

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pp. 30-50

...The Spanish-American War sparked a vigorous polemical debate in the United States, but La Follette, though a well-known political figure in America, did not participate in it prominently. He rested content with a modest flanking role in the broad margins of automatic Republican support...

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3. Lessons Unlearned: La Follette and the Subjugation of the Philippines

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pp. 51-71

...Peace negotiations in Paris officially terminated the Spanish-American War on 10 December 1898, although hostilities had been over since the 12 August signing of an armistice protocol. Christmas arrived early that year for the United States. The most valuable present under the tree, the...

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4. American Foreign Policy: The View from the Campaign Trail and the State House

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pp. 72-94

...The campaign began on a distressing note for La Follette. On 16 August, he had been invited to attend a banquet at Chicago’s Hamilton Club for later that month, in honor of President McKinley. On the twenty-first, he replied that ill health would prevent him from attending. Following the Wisconsin Republican convention, he and Belle had...

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5. The Awakening of La Follette as a Critic of American Foreign Policy

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pp. 95-114

...La Follette’s education in foreign policy underwent no further development in the five years that followed his taking the oath of office in the U.S. Senate on 4 January 1906. He became absorbed completely in domestic politics, chiefly railroad reform and the management of the nation’s coal lands...

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6. The Wilson Era Begins

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pp. 115-133

...While the crisis between Mexico and the United States played itself out in the late winter and spring of 1911, La Follette continued to work at strengthening and broadening the appeal of the National Progressive Republican League, with the overarching aim of making a run for the presidency. Soon...

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7. The Battle for Neutrality in World War I, to the War Loan of 1915

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pp. 134-152

...Dollar Diplomacy and, in particular, the Mexico issue had initiated a process in La Follette’s thinking that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 completed: his growing conviction about the vital importance of foreign affairs. What had been of ancillary...

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8. The Battle for Neutrality in World War I, to 4 April 1917

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pp. 153-179

...The same patriots calling for preparedness in the face of the war also continued to push for American intervention in Mexico, as always, La Follette thought, to save Wall Street investments in that country. By 1916, he had revised completely his understanding of the forces historically driving American...

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9. The Nation at War, 1917

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pp. 180-207

...Following Asle Gronna’s short antiwar speech that he intended to lend support to arguments already made by Senator William J. Stone, four pro-war senators spoke: William Kirby of Arkansas, Henry Ashurst of Arizona, Henry Myers of Montana, and LeBaron Colt of Rhode Island. Then La Follette rose...

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10. The Nation at War, 1918

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pp. 208-242

...The year 1918 began for La Follette with continued worries about mounting personal animosity against him in Wisconsin. He wrote to Alfred T. Rogers, his law partner, on 2 January: “I am sure there are people in my neighborhood who would ruin me financially and beggar my family if the slightest chance offered...

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11. The Prospects for a Democratic Peace

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pp. 243-266

...the Germans in World War I: “We were bursting with the consciousness that this was Germany’s century.” Yet after many brilliant advances “came the incomprehensible, apparently senseless thing: the order to retreat.” Germany had won many battles, but from the beginning...

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12. Versailles: Peacemaking or War Making?

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pp. 267-291

...The Senate definitively exonerated La Follette in January 1919. On the twentieth of that month, Rudolph Spreckels wrote to him rejoicing over the final decision. A long-time financial supporter of the senator, Spreckels never had lost faith in him: “Because of your fearless and unremitting fight...

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13. La Follette Discovers the Middle East

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pp. 292-315

...La Follette: the impact of Versailles on the Middle East. Though an energetic fundraiser for Theodor Herzl in the early days of Zionism, by the time of Britain’s Balfour Declaration in 1917, which had promised a homeland in Palestine for the Jews, he had concluded that the Arab presence made Jewish settlement there an unwise undertaking. He thought...

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14. The Aftermath of Versailles

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pp. 316-334

...Ill with a severe cold and suffering from agonizing problems with his teeth, La Follette made a trip to the Mayo Clinic in late January 1920 for a general checkup. He wrote to Senator James Reed of Missouri, now a strong political ally, that he would be back in Washington within two weeks. “I do not expect...

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15. The 1920 Campaign and the Harding Administration, to the Washington Armament Conference

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pp. 335-358

...of the reactionaries and possibly some of the pseudo Progressives” would make the fall election a difficult one in the state. National politics, however, concerned him the most. The field of candidates for the presidency, divided between the merely lackluster and the truly appalling, kept La Follette thinking...

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16. The Harding Administration and Oil

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pp. 359-382

...which appeared that year. La Follette promoted the book enthusiastically in his magazine. No one had done more, La Follette claimed, to expose the mendacity of the Allied war propaganda than Nock, a radical and a libertarian who in 1914 had joined the staff of Oswald Garrison Villard’s...

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17. The Shock of the German Tragedy and the Revelations in Russia

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pp. 383-405

...During the spring of 1923, La Follette suffered from one of his periodic health collapses. William T. Rawleigh, the founder of a health and nutritional products company based in Freeport, Illinois, and a long-time supporter, counseled him to get a thorough examination at the famous Battle...

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18. The Return to the United States

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pp. 406-426

...La Follette immediately began to publish articles about his experiences abroad. During their three-month continent-wide trip, he and his wife had conducted many interviews with government leaders and with experts of various kinds, but what they had seen with their own eyes in Germany moved them...

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19. The Final Challenge: Calvin Coolidge

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pp. 427-451

...On 27 May, Bobbie informed Rawleigh that his father would be back in the Senate the following Monday: “the effect should be very good in countering the stories which the reactionary newspapers have been spreading with re - gard to his physical condition.” La Follette wrote to William...

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Conclusions

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pp. 452-458

...La Follette could not have imagined, even in a nightmare, the full cost of the National Security State that the United States has become. According to the 2012 Base Structure Report, “The Department of Defense manages a global real property portfolio that consists of more than 555,000 facilities...

Notes

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pp. 459-504

Index

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pp. 505-537


E-ISBN-13: 9780299295233
E-ISBN-10: 0299295230
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299295240
Print-ISBN-10: 0299295249

Page Count: 549
Illustrations: 26 b/w illus.
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Studies in American Thought and Culture
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Imperialism.
  • La Follette, Robert M. (Robert Marion), 1855-1925 -- Political and social views.
  • Militarism -- United States.
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