“Declined with Thanks”
  Cartoonist:  J. S. Pughe
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  September 5, 1900

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Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Puck cartoon endorses the expansionist foreign policy of President William McKinley as “enlightened” and “rational.” The annexation of Hawaii and Puerto Rico (respectively, during and after the Spanish-American War of 1898) are shown as natural increases in the size of the United States, a process that began with the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and continued with the acquisitions of Florida (1821), Texas (1845), California (1848), and Alaska (1867). Note that the Philippines are not mentioned. Uncle Sam rejects the tonic of “Anti-Expansion Policy” offered by three anti-imperialists (left-right): Oswald Ottendorfer, publisher and editor of the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung; Carl Schurz, a vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League and former U.S. senator (1869-1874) from Missouri, secretary of the interior (1877-1881), and editor of Harper’s Weekly (1892-1898); and, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World.

All three men were prominent German-Americans. The Republican campaign in 1900 made an extra effort to win support of that ethnic constituency, which formed a large voting bloc in the Midwest. Many German-Americans did not approve of an expansionist foreign policy. They were displeased, too, by the perception that the McKinley administration favored Britain over Germany during the Boer War (1899-1902) in South Africa. Bad feelings were also provoked by a conflict between Admiral Dewey and a German commander in Manila, and an anti-German speech by one of Dewey’s subordinate officers (who was later reprimanded). To win the German vote, Republicans showcased German-American party spokesmen, published campaign material in German, and argued that Bryan’s election would result in repeal of the gold standard, which many German-Americans supported.

Although Pulitzer’s New York World had been instrumental in arousing public sentiment for war against Spain in 1898, the newspaper opposed the postwar acquisition of overseas territories and particularly condemned the McKinley administration’s Philippine policy. The World had promoted the unsuccessful candidacy of Dewey for the Democratic nomination, and then tepidly supported Bryan in the general election, while criticizing his free-silver stance. Carl Schurz, another staunch advocate of the gold standard, initially found Bryan’s pro-silver stance unacceptable and lobbied other anti-imperialists during the summer of 1900 to run a third-party candidate for president. When the Anti-Imperialist League endorsed Bryan, Schurz acquiesced, arguing that the Democratic nominee, if elected, could not repeal the Gold Standard Act without congressional approval. He later said that voting for Bryan was the “most distasteful thing” he had ever done. Ottendorfer’s New Yorker Staats-Zeitung was the nation’s most influential German-American newspaper and reflected the views of the sound-money wing of the Democratic Party. Although it objected to overseas expansion, the Staats-Zeitung endorsed Republican McKinley in mid-October because of Bryan’s pro-silver position.













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