Domestic turbulence correlated with imperialism overseas.
Social conflicts at home complemented aggressiveness abroad.
There were territories yet to become States, and
territory yet to be won and organized into the Union. The last
part of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth
might be called imperial because of the
many direct interventions of the United States in the
affairs of other countries around the world.
Theodore Roosevelt thought himself to be 100% American in
interposing himself as President in North Africa at Algeciras and in
the Russian-Japanese conflict a half-world away. For this restless
man sold peace as aggressively as he bought war. He was an eager
boxer and cowboy, and New York Commissioner of Police.
He consistently pushed for battle in Cuba,
Panama-Columbia, and Europe's World War I. Don't be surprised,
counseled Secretary of State John Hay, as he led in a White House
visitor one day - you must remember that the President is a little boy.
The period was nationalistic and imperialistic everywhere, not in
America alone. Germany and Italy, having finally united their
domestic realms, went foraging for whatever the earlier bandit
powers might have failed to pick up - Southwest Africa, East
Africa, and so forth. Inventing one's race became popular among
politicians, the English going after Anglo-Saxonry, mimicked by
Anglo-Americans, the Germans pulling themselves from Imperial
Rome back into the Teutonic forests and inventing an Aryan race
that could embrace the original Indo-Europeans and the Spartans of
ancient Greece. Italian jingoists conjured the Roman Empire.
"Jingoism" came into play with the musical comedy of
Gilbert and Sullivan, but it was no joke, by jingo, to the
three-quarters of the world that was humiliated and robbed.
America even made it official: by Executive Order of President Taft,
the U.S. flag must be manufactured to a uniform design. Consistent
unto itself, the flag quickly became an omnipresent centerpiece at all
manner of collective functions and private affairs.
It served as a fetish. Taboos gathered about its usages.
Scoundrels wrapped themselves in the Flag.
Not until 1931, however, did Congress make the Star Spangled
Banner the national anthem. It had been carried in schoolbooks since
the 1850's. Hardly anybody could manage the high notes,
but the effort to sing them took one's mind off the bloody lyrics.