Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

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

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

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

Article excerpt

God's Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898-1902. By Susan K. Harris. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, Pp. xii, 257. $35.00.)

From early Puritan settlements to the present day, many Americans have believed that God has ordained the nation for a special purpose. The exact nature of the purpose has shifted over time, as have the means used to pursue it. America's acquisition of the Philippines in 1898-1902 sparked heated arguments about these questions. God's Arbiters provides an excellent overview and analysis of these debates.

Susan K. Harris is perhaps best known as a Mark Twain scholar, so it is not surprising that Samuel Clemens plays a central role in the book. Twain is particularly relevant for this study as his extensive international travel in the 1890s led him to renounce his earlier imperialist views and to become a vocal critic of American involvement in the Philippines. But Harris goes well beyond Twain and provides a careful reading of a range of novels, textbooks, poems, political speeches, and cartoons.

In the book's opening chapters, Harris shows that there was widespread agreement among American civic leaders that the United States was great because it was comprised of white Protestants who embraced capitalism, liberty, and democracy. American imperialists such as President William McKinley and Senator Albert Beveridge believed that the United States had an obligation to spread these values to other nations. Anti-imperialists, far from respecting indigenous cultures, argued that attempting to promote western virtues to a brown-skinned and Roman Catholic people was a fool's errand. …

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