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CHAPTER XIX: THE RISE OF THE LION


The Accidental President

William McKinley was the last of the Civil War Presidents. While Grant and Sherman were the most famous, McKinley has the unfortunate recognition to stand alongside forgotten presidents like William Wheeler (another of the Civil War presidents). McKinley’s assassination so early into his presidency therefore propelled Roosevelt to become the “accidental president.”

Indeed, Roosevelt’s ascension to the presidency was alarming for some. As governor of New York, Roosevelt had engaged in an anti-spoils campaign of meritocracy which broke the power of the Republican and Democratic parties in the state. Before the establishment of governing bureaucracies, most political and governing posts throughout the state were doled out on the spoils system based on whichever party controlled the power of the state. Roosevelt utterly devastated this ancient system which went back to the very birth of the country—the unofficial hidden hand of political governance. Thus the Republicans in New York conspired with the national party to give Roosevelt the Vice Presidency to rid of him in their state. It worked. Unbeknownst to them, McKinley would be shot and Roosevelt would become the President.

Roosevelt’s presidency came, as we know, at the heel of the Bryan Administration. The Bryan Presidency was, to many, a mixed bag. On the one hand he had fought a reactionary campaign that favored the laboring and agrarian classes that were slowly fading into the background with the ascent of the capitalist and middle-class professions who would fuel the progressive movement. Bryan was a president for the prairie folk and not the bourgeoning and emergent urban classes. At the same time, however, Bryan presided over the passing of the 18th Amendment which granted suffrage to women. He also managed to tame the railroads which so decimated the agrarian heartlands of the country which he hailed from. The anti-railroad legislation that he hurried through Congress in 1897 before the Democrats lost their majority to more industrialist-minded Republicans and suffered the blowback from pro-business Democrats, ensured a standard flat rate of agricultural shipment on railroads which wouldn’t impoverish the farmers as was the practice since the end of the Civil War. Bryan’s pro-silver policies, nonetheless, debased the American currency and caused great financial instability. Lastly, with growing European imperialism and colonialism, the Monroe Doctrine was jeopardized and Bryan was forced, by the dictates of necessity, to abandoned his principled anti-imperialist isolationism and began a slow buildup of t he American navy to defend the Western Hemisphere from encroaching French and German aggression.

Bryan left the White House a battered and broken man. His idealism had been crushed by the conspiracy of pro-business Democrats and Republicans, their capitalist masters, and the realities of an emerging global and imperialist world. He had won some major policy achievements for his beloved toiling masses of the world: the Interstate Commerce Act of 1897[1] had curbed some of the monopolistic power of the railroads but had, by the end of his presidency, lost its teeth as enforcement was simply neglected by pro-railroad politicians and their lackeys; women’s suffrage was, as few know, one of his other most championed causes apart from free silver and anti-railroad legislation[2]; and his free silver policies undeniably helped farmers and poor laborers yet came at the expense of the urban peoples. Yet he also lost some major policy goals. He never achieved his long sought after nationalization of the railroads. The election of McKinley would ensure the re-imposition of the Gold Standard over the whole of the nation. The Venezuelan Crisis marked the turning point away from splendid isolationism toward a more managerial internationalism that Roosevelt would become the public and shining face of.

Thus when Roosevelt became president he was beset by many problems that he saw as needing fixing. Roosevelt saw the threat that a new militant and radical France posed. French interests in Africa had spread out into the Caribbean. Japan was also a growing threat in the Pacific. In fact, Roosevelt saw Japan’s modernization and industrialization as a world historical moment. Japanese wars with China proved Japan was now a rising power and threatened the unofficial Open Door policy in China. Free silver policies benefited the farmers but had wreaked havoc on urban cities and banks—the fiat paper money policies of Bryan had caused an extensive and discriminatory amount of inflation that hit the cities and middle-classes hardest. The hamstringing of Bryan by pro-business Democrats and Republicans had led to the unofficial realignment of politics and the renewed ascendency of the businesses-classes between 1899-1905. These vultures had complete control of the economic life of the nation. While no populist like Bryan, Roosevelt’s governorship in New York showed a modest concern against the dangers of monopolistic practices. Roosevelt had much to do when he ascended to the Oval Office.

Ssog7nv.jpg

A Judge cartoon satirizing the Open Door Policy between imperial powers against China. Japan was quickly becoming a major power in Asia that worried Pacific internationalists, Roosevelt among them.

Knowing he had “won” only because McKinley had won, the first years of the Roosevelt Presidency was largely McKinleyist in orientation. Roosevelt, like most Republicans, was a strong Gold man. This was, in most respects, his sharpest break with Bryan. In fact, he had given many speeches in the 1904 election on behalf of the Gold Standard. One of his actions as President was to sign into law the 1905 Gold Authorization Act which aimed at phasing out 75% of the silver coinage of the Bryan Administration as an effort to curb inflation and bring down cost of living prices which were predominately harsh toward urban tenants.

In the 1906 elections, Republicans were awarded with a slightly larger majority than they had won in 1904. However, by 1907 Roosevelt came into his own. He saw himself as the strong arm of the explosive and dynamic middle-class professions, small business owners, and social professionals. This was the true heart of the progressive movement.

Toward a Modern Politics

Roosevelt personally wrote that was “conservative on most matters.” As he himself said, “The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth.” Roosevelt was a steadfast defender of property rights, something that would never make him an ally of socialism. Nonetheless, the best way to look at Roosevelt’s propertarianism was that he wanted property ownership in more hands than concentrated in a few hands. In this respect he was akin to a distributist. Trust busting, in the Rooseveltian mind, was a way of advancing middle-class property interests.

To this end he aligned himself, somewhat, with the populist cause against the railroads. It was not the case that Roosevelt was anti-railroad, he was pro-railroad. But he wanted fairer railroad practices that didn’t destroy the already dwindling property rights of farmers whom he had a sympathy with as a self-imaged “man of the prairies.” The Hepburn Act, passed in 1907,[3] gave reinforcement to the Interstate Commerce Act passed during the Bryan Administration. The Act achieved two important things. First, it banned railroad rebates which was the corrupt method of business favoritism where railroad magnates used as a form of price discrimination. Second, it set a standardized price for railroad transit and passage. Admittedly, this was not evenly distributed over all sections of the country, but it largely aided farmers and agrarian producers to have fairer prices for the transportation of their goods to market with minimal backdoor profits to the railroads.

Soon after, Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act. This legislation established a federal bureau for meat and food inspections to make sure American produce was healthy and not tainted when sent and sold to market. Roosevelt’s aim, in overseeing the Pure Food and Drug Act, was partly motivated by his own philosophy of physiognomy. Roosevelt believed that healthier eating habits would produce a healthier, more manly, and physically robust population. It was, to some degree, a form of soft social engineering that was guided by the emergent philosophy of eugenics which Roosevelt was an adamant believer in.

A man also moved by his war experiences, Roosevelt pushed for the McCumber Act, also passed in 1907, which established a primitive welfare state for American military veterans. This was aimed at helping the aged veterans, now out of work, who couldn’t sustain their lives upon retirement or competition with low skilled labor. After all, military pay wasn’t particularly profitable to begin with. The Act established a monthly pension of $12 for veterans at the age of 62; $15 at the age of 65; and $70 at age 75 and continuing until death.

Concurrent with these domestic affairs, Roosevelt unleashed a vicious campaign for the enlargement of the American navy. Most Democrats and a handful of Republicans, mostly from the interior of the country, opposed his efforts of procuring large funds to build a modern American navy. Roosevelt was a friend and disciple of Alfred Mahan, and he strongly concurred with the belief that a strong navy was the hallmark of modern and powerful nations. Roosevelt argued that a strong navy would secure the American continent from European meddling. After all, hadn’t Bryan reluctantly reached the same conclusion because of the Venezuelan crisis? Here, Roosevelt found strong allies with the capitalist and pro-business wings of the Democratic and Republican parties. The business magnates, who were inwardly fuming at the rather mild concessions they had to make thus far under the Roosevelt Administration, jumped at the chance of having a strong arm to protect their industrial interests around the globe.

In additional to the new internationalism, Roosevelt also strongly advocated for the Naturalization Act[4]—an immigrational law which established a bureau of naturalization and restricted immigration to keep out ruffians, degenerates, and undesirables from entering the country. One of the major provisions was that the new immigration initiative was to privilege the Germanic peoples of Northwest Europe, “no alien shall hereafter be naturalized or admitted as a citizen of the United States who can not speak the English language.” The act intended to restrict Chinese and Southern European immigrants from swarming the country in large numbers as had been happening in the past two decades. Roosevelt also spoke about how these preventative measures helped American workers from being undercut by cheap labor.

Letar4s.jpg

Theodore Roosevelt and his administration and staff outside the White House. It was during the Roosevelt Presidency that he officially gave the Presidential Mansion its lasting nickname.

In short, what Theodore Roosevelt had done was to transform the executive branch from the traditionally weakest of the three branches of government into the strongest branch of the government. He pressed and challenged Congress which was, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, the real engine and strongest branch of the federal order. Now it was reversed. Roosevelt had also begun the move to choose Judges for the Supreme Court that would be friendly to his causes. While Roosevelt admired Lincoln, whom he saw as his spiritual political father, Roosevelt surpassed Lincoln since Lincoln’s strong executive was a wartime executive. While Fremont dithered Lincoln ran the show as Vice President. Things were relaxed when peace reunited the Union and Lincoln sat back as President. Roosevelt managed to change the very wheels of the executive. He was now an active peacetime president managing the affairs of the domestic economic and domestic disputes, and an active president managing foreign affairs and foreign disputes. Roosevelt transformed the tame executive branch into becoming a royal executive branch as Tocqueville long ago noted as always a possibility, “If the existence of the Union were perpetually threatened, and if the chief interests were in daily connection with those of other powerful nations, the executive government would assume an increased importance in proportion to the measures expected of it, and those which it would carry into effect.”[5]

Roosevelt would win a resounding reelection in 1908 against fellow New Yorker Alton B. Parker, the chosen candidate of the pro-business Democrats who, in their return from exile, forever crushed the spirit of the populist “serpent” in the Democratic Party and shifted the party toward a more managerial-corporate style of “progressivism” emerging in the Republican Party. Now, however, we shall leave the Lion personally to examine the causes of his presidency and the making of modern American politics with the activist peacetime executive that came to define Roosevelt’s administration.



[1] Equivalent to OTL’s Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.

[2] This is historically true. Bryan was an ardent champion of women’s suffrage during his lifetime as part of his populist-democratic idealism.

[3] Historically it was passed in 1906.

[4] Same as in our timeline, see the Naturalization Act of 1906.

[5] Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book 1, Chapter 8.
 
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stnylan

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Moustaches seem to be very much in vogue in that picture. :D
 

volksmarschall

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Moustaches seem to be very much in vogue in that picture. :D

I believe you're quite right! Perhaps only 6-7 guys in that pic are clean-shaven. We must have a chapter post on this! :p

And so begins the "imperial Presidency."

Identifying the origins of "the imperial presidency" is one of the more fascinating aspects of American political history and evolution. Liberals of an earlier generation all pegged Jefferson and Jackson as the ones who started it, perhaps ironically all things considered, given their strong executive decisions on a number of matters that bypassed Congress to achieve these goals (Louisiana Purchase, abolition of the Slave Trade; fighting the National Bank, etc.). Others look to Lincoln. Others yet find the consummation of this imperial executive in both Roosevelts. I find Tocqueville prescient on this matter though, which is why I quoted him: "If the existence of the Union were perpetually threatened, and if the chief interests were in daily connection with those of other powerful nations, the executive government would assume an increased importance in proportion to the measures expected of it, and those which it would carry into effect." So in my book, it matters not since what Tocqueville described might as well have been "globalism" before globalism and now we know why the executive branch is the embodiment of the new Caesaric imperium.

I wonder what the consequences of women's suffrage happening earlier mean?

That's an excellent question and concern. I think for the synthesis of game and history, it will be felt in various "reforms" enacting in the final 15 years of the game. And perhaps it will also be influential regarding a major war we'll eventually get to. ;)
 

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Wow. Theodore Roosevelt is really changing stuff and pushing his weight around both domestically and internationally
Let's hope he isn't too much of a burden to certain people though or he might end up having the same fate as Mckinely!

Great updates
I love this AAR
 

volksmarschall

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Wow. Theodore Roosevelt is really changing stuff and pushing his weight around both domestically and internationally
Let's hope he isn't too much of a burden to certain people though or he might end up having the same fate as Mckinely!

Great updates
I love this AAR

Thanks for the good words mad orc. But I don't think we have too much to fear about our darling imperial president Mr. Roosevelt. As we shall see in the next update(s). We will be giving a thorough introductory analysis about why "progressivism" emerged (which is more thoroughly explained in my American history article I linked in one of the previous updates).

It's still funny how such things turn out in real life. Though I was, in some fashion, educated and trained in the classical tradition (mostly through philosophy and subsequently through theology and more philosophy at grad school), I never would have anticipated in 2015 that I'd be more a full time classicist and literary essayist instead of Americanist. LOL. Perhaps that's why I use the excuse for game AARs to be my outlet for my American historiographic career that died after I fell too much in love with the classics to the point that I no longer write substantially, in a professional manner, on American history and culture. :eek:
 

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CHAPTER XIX: THE RISE OF THE LION


The Causes of “Progressivism”

The supersession of populism by progressivism marked what I consider the First American Political System. While many historians have spoken and written about Party systems, not without just cause, the problem with the party system model is it doesn’t take into account—as we’ve discussed intermittently and at length in this work—the dual natures of the political parties. True, the initial division into Jeffersonian Republicans and Hamiltonian Federalists captured the dialectic of urban vs. rural, agrarian vs. capitalist, populist vs. elite, it wasn’t soon after the collapse of the Federalist Party that the now named Democratic-Republicans split along similar lines which also persisted in the emergence of the Whigs and Republicans when they formed.

While we can nominally say that the Jeffersonian to Democratic Party of 1800-1900 was a mostly rural, agrarian, and Anglo-Saxon populist and Protestant party, northern Democrats always had an urban, industrialist, and capitalist wing with opportunistic openness to mostly Catholic immigrants which was now in open revolt against the populists and Bryanites whom they deemed as the dead weight of the party. Likewise, while we can nominally say that the Federalist to Whig to Republican Parties of 1800-1900 was mostly urban, industrialist, and Anglo-Saxon elitist and Protestant party with nativist animosity toward mostly Catholic immigrants, there was—as we just witnessed—a strong populist, agrarian, and isolationist component to the Republican Party existing in the Upper Midwest by the turn of the century. The first one hundred years of American politics oscillated between these two forces with, admittedly, the rural and populist tradition generally victorious until the Civil War which began the slow drift in favor of the urban and industrial tradition.

rjRVJ1H.jpg

American artwork, consciously or unconsciously, often captured the historiographic and philosophical ideals swelling in the id of the American nation. For example, Frederic Church’s “Our Banner in the Sky,” 1861, painting during the American Civil War, nonetheless still retains the spirit of romantic agrarianism common to American paintings before 1900.

In this respect, the populist revolt was the last hurrah of the populist current in American culture and politics. As demographics tilted in favor of urbanism, with now over 50% of the American population living in defined urban centers, urban concerns and issues became a pressing matter in national politics in a way never before seen. The urbanites of the First American Political System sought an urban, industrial, America. They won by the sheer vicissitudes of history instead of achieving a political victory.

With increasing immigration, industrialization, capitalization, squalor and poverty, these forces combined to produce a perfect maelstrom which would destroy the barricades of populism and usher in a new era of progressivism.

Here we must understand the differing approaches to progressivism. In the Republican Party there emerged an elitist, nativistic, and generally Anglo-Protestant exceptionalist attitude of the “Boston Brahmin” mentality which advocated elite Protestant, WASP, rule over the nation. These people, after all, had always been industrialists, capitalists, and urbanites. They saw, however, emergent squalor, poverty, and global changes as demanding a new ideological approach to safeguard and maintain their power. Theodore Roosevelt, then, contrary to leftwing revisionism, was more aligned with this tradition of elitist progressivism while cultivating and promoting his image as a common man and muscular ruffian to appeal to the other segments of American society.

Then there was the Irish approach to progressivism. The Irish, who had arrived in large numbers over the past 50 years, had come to dominate northern Democratic politics. Steadfastly rebellious, reformist, and Catholic, Irish progressivism was characterized by lower class radicalism, urban reformism, and what we might more readily identify today as “liberal.” Irish progressivism in America clashed with the Anglo-Saxon Protestant populism of the Democratic South and Midwest, exemplified and embodied by William Jennings Bryan, which favored populist reformism for the agrarian classes at the exclusion of the urban poor. Irish progressivism was the opposite. It promoted technical reformism for the urban classes at the general exclusion of the agrarian and rural poor.

The battles inside the progressive movement in America at the turn of the century was therefore ethnic, money-based, and religious in nature. Wealthy Anglo-Protestants with longstanding lineages in the New World dominated the progressivism of the Republican Party and moved the party toward accommodation with the new realities of the world while ensuring continued political relevance and dominance for themselves and their scions. Middle-class and urban poor immigrants, mostly Irish-Catholics, began to unionize, take over the police forces, and established political clubs to advance their cause of progressive urban living. Their aim was to increase the standard of living and work environment of the urban poor, Catholic and Protestant alike.

Thus we see the rise of progressivism and the Second Political System as being increasingly urban, industrial, capitalist, and reformist in nature. The politics of the new republic, which Herbert Croly envisioned when he founded his political magazine of the same name, was concerned with urban, industrial, and capitalist realities more than the rural, agrarian, and frontier realities that had so characterized the New World and the United States from 1607 to the late 1800s. Frederick Jackson Turner may have lauded the Frontier Spirit in his Frontier Thesis (the last intellectual heavy weight to defend the romantic agrarian ideal in America), but the new nation was now going to be concerned with Progressive Thesis most visibly remembered by names like Richard Hofstadter and Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., but exemplified otherwise in the early 1900s by men like Croly and Carl Becker (ironically a student of Turner’s at the University of Wisconsin).

KYA3EYe.jpg

As is the case with art, by 1900 there was a shift in artistic attitudes away from naturalistic romanticism of the 1800s and toward the urban industrialized city in the 1900s. The study of American art and literature is itself the study of American consciousness and history. We see examples of romantic agrarianism like James Fennimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans eventually superseded by the bourgeois urban nihilism of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

The “Progressive Historians,” as they have become known, countered the romantic, frontier, and agrarian tradition by asserting that urban centers had always been the catalyst of the American nation and project. After all, the first settlers and the political establishment was centered in urban places like Boston and New Amsterdam/New York. The American Revolution was a mostly urban affair—most of the Founding Fathers hailed from urban cities and regions; if not, they often had extensive networks and attachments to urban places (like Thomas Jefferson). Even slavery and the Civil War, on this account, was a product of urbanity. The majority of the politicians who pushed for secession and unionist restoration were urban men. The plantation slave holders were themselves located near urban centers to benefit from trade and commerce. While the backwater slave farms of the Deep South were undeniably cruel, the forces that pushed and advocated secession were urban Southerners and not rural Southerners.

Whether we take the progressive historiographical approach asserting urban politics had always been the driving force, or the more traditional dialectical approach asserting an rural vs. urban divide, what is clear about “Progressivism” is that it marked the triumph of urban industrialism over rural agrarianism, and with it, what we call “progressivism” (urban and technocratic) over and against “populism” (rural and localist).
 
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stnylan

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One must admit to having trouble believing the assertion of any historical school of thought so intimately tied with socio-political campaigns :)
 

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I'm only on page 3 so will take a long time to catch up but I'm enjoying an exploration of a period of history I knew little about (one of the best things about AARs).

I have to confess to being a little peterberb by the romanticised view of the Ulster Scots... I laughed out loud at talk of their "struggle for survival" against Catholicism back home. Their main struggle was against the native Catholic Irish defending themselves from the Ulster Scots endless ethnic cleansing for living space at the expense of the native Celtic people who the Ulster Scots regarded as subhuman.

Of course I understand Americans will see it differently and that every nation needs its founding myths.

I enjoyed the giant cheese story.
 

volksmarschall

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One must admit to having trouble believing the assertion of any historical school of thought so intimately tied with socio-political campaigns :)

I would agree. I don't tend to hold any of the "Progressive Historians" in very high regard myself; though I do hold Hofstadter and Schlesinger in my bookshelf since they are "canonical" figures. They certainly have their biases but are fairly tame compared to so many others. Though the one thing that I always considered and still consider insightful is how the American Revolution was a largely urban affair.

I'm only on page 3 so will take a long time to catch up but I'm enjoying an exploration of a period of history I knew little about (one of the best things about AARs).

I have to confess to being a little peterberb by the romanticised view of the Ulster Scots... I laughed out loud at talk of their "struggle for survival" against Catholicism back home. Their main struggle was against the native Catholic Irish defending themselves from the Ulster Scots endless ethnic cleansing for living space at the expense of the native Celtic people who the Ulster Scots regarded as subhuman.

Of course I understand Americans will see it differently and that every nation needs its founding myths.

I enjoyed the giant cheese story.

Welcome Cromwell! Thanks for the kind words. And you're absolutely right! As you read further you will begin to see more paradoxes and contradictions to the American story which are subtly interwoven by our authAARial historian. America's "noble lie," to use Plato, constantly changes over time. I mean, it wasn't long ago that FDR (that supposedly revered President) shouted at his Jewish and Catholic advisors that "America is a Protestant nation." And contrary the anti-religionist historians, this is very well testified in letters, transcripts, and writings. America was founded culturally Protestant with strong anti-immigrant and especially anti-Catholic tendencies (which this AAR intermittently explores). Yet it was after the first Catholic President (JFK) that America's founding story became the "immigrant story." When Catholics became an important American demographic group in the 1950s and 1960s, and especially after Vatican II, the whole "Religious Liberty" idea of America became prominent (imo) to help integrate Catholics into the American crusader spirit of the Cold War (not to mention many Catholics were extremely anti-communist). Then the immigrant story morphed into the multicultural pageant.

We're familiar with that story too, how America was founded in the seed of religious liberty and tolerance. Not really. The Pilgrims and Puritans left Europe not for religious liberty, per se, but to build their own religious communities freed from the danger of assimilation. (The Pilgrims left Amsterdam out of fear of being integrated into Dutch Calvinist society.) And on and on we go. Nowadays we see the new story of America being solely founded on slavery. The ball just keeps rolling. This AAR situates itself in the same mold by offering a thesis on American history and historiography -- simply rewritten in accordance with game changes -- which will become clearer and clearer as you progress through.

Thanks for reading.
Cheers!
 

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Thanks for the warm welcome! Up to the end of page 8 now, the art choice is really spot on. It adds a lot to the reader's experience. Does it take you long to pick them out and decide where to place them?
 

volksmarschall

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Thanks for the warm welcome! Up to the end of page 8 now, the art choice is really spot on. It adds a lot to the reader's experience. Does it take you long to pick them out and decide where to place them?

I'm glad you find the artwork choices spot on; I do take a good amount of time in considering the aesthetic flavor of the work. It doesn't help that much of philosophy work at undergrad and grad school were related to aesthetics! LOL. Since I'm something of an amateur art historian and collector, I'm well familiar with most of paintings and pictures I choose. So it doesn't take too long, I tend to have pictures and paintings in mind when I'm writing the update chapters. Then I place them where I do where I think they are best for the aesthetic experience, text breaking, but also remaining relevant to the subject matter of our post.

I am glad you like them since the aesthetic element to the AAR is an essential aspect to it. Well, I consider it essential anyways. Plus, in using a lot of historical imagery it also is a great window into the eras being discussed.
 
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volksmarschall

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CHAPTER XIX: THE RISE OF THE LION

The International President

Given the reality of progressivism as an urban ideology, it isn’t surprising that progressivism would be international in scope. Cities have always tended to be imperial or international entities. Their large population allow them domination over the countryside. Cities also tend to spring up in geographically open spaces, either riverways or on or near coasts which allow maritime access and expansion. Most of the great empires, with a few notable exceptions such as the Mongols, have been maritime powers because of this geographic reality.

The expansion of American westward and its populated concentration on the east coast, eventually stretching coast to coast, meant that America was divided against itself by geography which also influenced the formation and progress of American culture in the various regions that comprised the United States. Progressivism, as it became known, dominated the coasts. Populism, as we’ve seen—especially with the Bryan Administration—dominated the heartlands. Theodore Roosevelt, in this regard, was unique in his intellectual and spiritual affinity for coastal progressivism while cultivating a public image as a man of the heartland. Yet as an intellectual and spiritual urban progressive, Roosevelt embarked on an ambitious program to bring America into the burgeoning global world wrought by British and French imperialism and German industrialization.

The Jeffersonian dream, if we can call it that, was to see a walled off republic of virtue encompassing the North American continent. This, Jefferson wrote to Madison, was meant by his “empire of liberty.” Yet this empire of liberty would also be unmistakably isolation in the aftermath of Jefferson. This is somewhat ironic given Jefferson’s own internationalist fervor which had led him to support the French Revolution even during the height of the Jacobin Reign of Terror. But the Jeffersonians who dominated the populist cause well into the nineteenth and early twentieth century turned Jefferson’s empire of liberty concept into a prairie populism and isolationism that had long hampered America’s international and global ambitions.

Although pioneering and enterprising explorers and adventures had carved out room for an American empire in Africa, it was Rooseveltian progressivism that brought America into the great power competition in Europe and Asia. Roosevelt identified European imperial ambitions as dangerous to the Monroe Doctrine—America’s navy lacked the size and quality of rival European forces. True, the European navies of Britain and France in particular were bottled up in Europe, the Mediterranean, and ports in Africa, but their presence was a danger to the undersized American navy spread between the Pacific, Central America, Caribbean, and Atlantic. Likewise, the emergence of Japan as a great power and the displacement of China brought dangers in the Pacific.

One of the first policy programs of the new internationally minded president was to modernize the American navy. This was already in the works under Bryan, more out of necessity than sincere belief, but now moving toward a synthesis of necessity and sincere belief. Growing up, Roosevelt had been friends with Alfred Mahan who had written the influential treatise The Influence of Sea Power upon History. Roosevelt, far from being just a friend of Mahan, was also a devotee and disciple. As such, Roosevelt was stepped in the geographic and military doctrine of maritime supremacy and imperialism that had brought the Phoenicians to colonize the Mediterranean and lay the foundations for modern Western civilization just as British naval supremacy had won her an empire upon which the sun never set. Not to be outdone, Roosevelt wanted America to take her place under the sun as well and become a truly global and dominant civilization which could only actualize if America had the navy to make this possibility a reality.

This brings us to the other peculiarity of American progressivism. Despite contemporary prejudices and ignorance, progressivism was the original force for American militarization. The populist tradition in America was steadfastly anti-war and anti-imperialist because, believing the Jeffersonian creed that a large standing army or navy was dangerous to the peaceful virtues of a republic, a large military and militarized economy entailed greater and greater centralization. This is also a historical fact down through history. The great imperial powers always had large armies—standing or hired, native or enslaved—and the large armies they wielded contributed to royal power and prerogatives. In order for progressives to more fully centralize the American state, and in order for America to more fully integrate into the global system, a stronger army and navy were needed. Roosevelt saw to it that the American navy would rival that of the British while stealthily increasing the size of the American army while most eyes were looking at naval rearmament and modernization.

kkFSOBo.jpg

The Great White Fleet, Roosevelt’s most notable early accomplishment as President.

What allowed Roosevelt to carry the mantle as the international president wasn’t just his internationally minded policies but the fact that he was an international celebrity. Roosevelt’s safaris and exploits had won him the admiration of statesmen and journalists worldwide—which is to say Europe and to a lesser extent South America. Roosevelt was, to use modern parlance, a Rockstar.

Perhaps there is a psychological allure to the mysterious and the adventurous. There was, of course, an aura of mystery and adventure to Roosevelt. Who was Theodore Roosevelt? Was he the cosmopolitan historian who had written a multivolume history of the American west? Was he the adventurous conqueror and warrior who had braved the flashing fire of Spanish rifles in the Cuban War? Was he the rough and tumbling boxer that he sometimes said he was and that his political allies claimed? Was he the ruffian cowboy who could drive cattle thousands of miles across open prairies and camp under the starlight gaze of the Milky Way? Was he the intrepid engineer and wilderness explorer who embodied everything great about the American conservationist and romantic tradition?

Either way one approaches Roosevelt, he was a man mystery and adventure. Perhaps the two do go together. Roosevelt had traversed multiple continents. He had served in war. He was a huntsman and a conservationist. He was a wilderness man and an urban intellectual. If there ever was an “American Adam” Roosevelt was undeniably it.

To this end Roosevelt utilized his international fame and celebrity as president. He repaired the damaged relations between the United States and France that stemmed from the Venezuelan Crisis and recommitted the United States and France to the “great relationship born in the fire of revolution.”

Likewise, Roosevelt was something of an Anglophile. This too brought rupture with his populist enemies. Contrary to contemporary memory, America and Britain after the American Revolution were bitter enemies and had a deep animosity toward each other. America saw itself as the freed and ascendant people who have saved themselves from British tyranny and imperialism. The British saw America as an upstart and rebellious nation ungrateful for the thousands of lives lost in their defense over the years and, now independent, a thorn in the side of British imperial interests (especially in the New World). Hamilton was an Anglophile who felt the new nation should become more British. Jefferson was an Anglophobe who wanted the new nation to be free from the “British seduction.” Prairie populists and isolationists retained this general Anglophobia and suspicion toward Britain as a dragon waiting to be awakened. Roosevelt, however, saw the necessity of strengthening the bond of the two great Anglo-Saxon nations and present a united front against the growing ambitions of Germany who had recently crushed Austria in a war and won the freedom of Bohemia and an agitating Russia and Japan who were growing increasingly belligerent and seeking to end two centuries of British imperial domination.

ve4pLNW.jpg

The Battle of Prague, where German forces defeated the Austrian army and brought to a swift conclusion the Bohemian War which marked the ascendency of a Prussia-dominated Germany as the premier power on continental Europe and the long and painful decline of the House of Habsburg.
 
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As always, a fascinating look at an era (and a President) that I've always enjoyed learning about :)

It's interesting to note that Roosevelt's two main international goals as presented here seem to exist in a state of tension with one another -- he's seeking increased friendship with the British, but at the same time his efforts at a naval buildup are a direct challenge to the Royal Navy's two-power standard (and thus, implicitly, the UK's own status in the pecking order of world powers).
 

stnylan

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Interesting glimpses from the Continent of Europe.
 

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Just finished reading and I must confess: if you would write another 30 pages, I would definently read it !

Great history class that you've created here, Sir.
 
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Just finished reading and I must confess: if you would write another 30 pages, I would definently read it !
If we give him enough time I don't doubt @volksmarschall has at least another 30 pages in him :)


But if you've liked his efforts here you might like some of his other AARs too.
 
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