Monday, September 10, 2007

Immigration and the Debate Over American Empire

This is a painting by Jack Gance that illustrates the romance of continental empire that was inspired by John L. O'Sullivan's articles about Manifest Destiny. Note that the "spirit of America" is a white woman floating above a group of (mostly) men marching westward as individuals or small families. (Thanks to Rebecca on my east-west mixup: civilization theoretically marched from east to west, not hte other way around.) The painting, however, was completed in the mid-1870's, as the government had made it increasingly possible to settle the west through investment in railroads, telegraph, and mail delivery, as well as opportunities to buy land for a few dollars an acre.

A Grand Army of the Republic Civil war memorial in Washington, D.C. These, and Confederate memorials to the war dead, were a continual reminder that participation in the war, and army service, was a sign and a privilege of political citizenship.

This is a portrait of the Rough Rider charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War by Frederic Remington, who traveled with the Rough Riders during their campaign. Teddy Roosevelt, who would be elected vice president a year after hte portrait was completed, is at upper left. Remington was a Yale graduate who, despite having never really visited the west, was famous for illustrations sold to national magazines that accompanied romantic tales of the western frontier. Although there were African-American and Native American soldiers who played important roles in this famous battle, they are not depicted here. In fact, Roosevelt wrote so inaccurately about black "cowardice" during the battle, that he had to publicly apologize to black politicians and ministers in the north where African-Americans, who were registered Republican, voted in increasing numbers from the 1890's onward.


Peter said...

I know the Chinese Exclusion Act was meant to discriminate against the Chinese immigrants but did other acts and decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson target the asian immigrants as well as the African Americans?

HanginWithMrCooper said...

It took me a while to notice all of the symbolic details in the Gance painting when I first saw it. It's actually printed on the cover of Amy Greenberg's book, "Manifest Manhood," which we read in Patricia Hill's class. But this reminded me that Greenberg points out that it is in fact not John L. O'Sullivan who coins the term "Manifest Destiny," but a woman working for him by the name of Cora Montgomery. Hmm, it must have been an accident that Sullivan got credit for it.

Steve C