How The Monroe Doctrine Turned Into American Imperialism

When President James Monroe issued his Monroe Doctrine in 1823, he intended it to keep European colonial powers from dominating Latin America or interfering in its political affairs. President Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary to the Doctrine, eight decades later, turned Monroe’s foreign policy legacy into a weapon of American colonialism—which still sours American relations with Latin America.

That lingering animosity has made coequal relationships and willing cooperation nearly impossible by creating diplomatic difficulties for the US government, which has rarely been able to draw concessions without strong-arming those countries. 

It has also created negative relations with immigrants in the US—of which Latin Americans make up a plurality. The atrocities that the American government has committed against these countries for over 12 decades give many a sense of entitlement. That has turned them into political pawns for American political forces and driven domestic division.

Why did James Monroe issue the Monroe Doctrine?

President Monroe, on December 2, 1823, laid out the Doctrine in his annual address to Congress. It comprised four principles:

Continue reading…

Why Did the Royal Family Change its Name to Windsor?

Queen Elizabeth II’s death renewed interest in the British royal family internationally. Outreigning Queen Victoria by seven years, she was the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She represented stability in the UK following the British Empire’s weakening after World War II.

Something I learned from my personal increased interest is that the British Royals aren’t originally Windsors. In fact, they aren’t even originally British.

So, why did this non-British British royal family take the name Windsor?

German Roots

The German Duke Ernst Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld became the first duke of Saxe-Coburg—or Ernst I—in 1826. His sister—Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld—was the mother of Britain’s Queen Victoria. Ernst’s second son, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg, married his cousin Victoria in 1840. 

Victoria herself was of 100 percent German stock. Her father was Prince Edward—King George III’s fourth son—of the House of Hanover.

It was not uncommon for German royalty to marry into other royal families and rule over other countries. 

In fact, the three principal monarchs of World War I: Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, King George V of Great Britain, and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, were cousins and descended from King George II of Britain.

Ethnic German monarchs in 1914 included Albert I (Belgium), Wilhelm of Wied (Albania), Ferdinand I (Bulgaria), Karl I (Romania).

Just as children take their father’s last name, monarchs took the name of the house of their father—which meant taking the name of the land their father’s family ruled.

King Edward VII, Victoria’s eldest son, thus, became the first monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gothe—a much more in-your-face German-sounding name than the House of Hanover.

Read more…

Throwback to 1922 Midterm Elections

With the United States’ midterm elections in less than a month, I figured it calls for a Throwback Thursday post to revisit the midterms from a hundred years ago.

Agriculture, unionized labor, and debate over a World War I veterans bonus were the hot-button issues that defined the midterms in the 22nd year of the last century. But like every election, there were sleeper issues that played a role as well.

In 1922, the US was four years removed from World War I, three years removed from the Spanish Flu, and a year removed from one of the worst recessions in the country’s history. 

At the time, Senators had only been elected by popular vote in four election cycles thanks to the Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1913. 

The 1922 midterms were also only the second election when women in every state had the right to vote thanks to the Nineteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1920. 

The State of the US Government in 1922

Entering the 1922 midterms, Republicans controlled the House, Senate, and White House. 

In the election of 1920, Republicans had picked up 67 seats in the House, raising their majority to a whopping 303–167, to this day, the largest majority their party has ever held in the lower chamber. 

Republicans also picked up ten seats in the Senate, bringing them to a 59–37 majority in the upper chamber. 

President Warren Harding won the White House in 1920 with more than 60 percent of the popular vote after two terms of Democrat President Woodrow Wilson. Harding ran on a platform of restoring America to its pre-war prosperity and normalcy. 

Democratic leadership, meanwhile, continued to advocate for American meddling on the international stage — a message that proved hugely unpopular with voters after the war.

Continue reading…

David Moniac: West Point’s First American Indian Graduate

David Moniac graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in 1822. He was the academy’s first American Indian graduate and the first graduate from the state of Alabama. He lived as a civilian and died a soldier.

Moniac was born in 1802 in present-day Montgomery County, in what was then part of the Mississippi Territory. His mother was Elizabeth Weatherford, sister of William Weatherford, the Upper Creek chief who surrendered to Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814). 

David’s father, Sam, owned a tavern on the newly-built federal road through Creek territory. During the Creek War (1813–14), Sam served as a scout for the US military.

After the war, David moved to Washington, DC, where he studied under tutor John McLeod to prepare for the entrance exam at West Point. In 1817, David was admitted to the academy. At the time, the academy served primarily to train future military officers and engineers.

In 1821, Moniac marched with his fellow cadets all the way to Boston, where they drilled, and their marching band played. Former President John Quincy Adams had them to his house. Moniac’s commandant, Major William Worth, tried to introduce him to Adams but Moniac didn’t want to, which the commandant told Adams was due to shyness. 

Moniac’s shyness was likely due to his refusal to be made a celebrity and his exhaustion at the constant gawking. Worth told Adams that on more than one occasion, gawkers had mistaken him for the Indian that everyone knew was attending West Point.

Although Moniac had few demerits, he did not perform exceptionally well — likely due to his limited early education. He graduated 39th out of a class of 40 after being held back a year at his request. However, two-thirds of the students who entered the academy when he did failed to graduate. 

His class included five future generals in the US army, two generals in the New Jersey militia, two officers in the Confederate army, three college presidents, and five civil engineers or chief operating officers of railroads.

The army commissioned him as a second lieutenant in the Sixth US Infantry Regiment upon graduation. He promptly resigned, however, because his father had drunk himself to destitution, and his family needed someone to manage its clan’s estate. Continue reading…

The Battle That Made Francis Drake Spain’s Worst Nightmare


Depending on one’s historical sympathies, Sir Francis Drake is one of history’s many characters who was either great or infamous. To the English, he was a daring, successful patriot. To the Spanish, however, he represented everything to hate about lawless, Protestant aggression and the rising sea power to the north.

Queen Elizabeth, I knighted him after he circumnavigated the globe—the first Englishman to do so. The Spanish, meanwhile, dubbed him El Draque, or “The Dragon,” for the brazen piracy he carried out on that trip and countless others.

Drake contributed more than anyone to the war in which England famously defeated the Armada in 1588. But mere patriotism and fear of Catholicism didn’t drive him to harass the Spanish. For Drake, it was personal. One battle drove him mad with vengeance and convinced him he could no longer trust or trade with the Spanish.

In 1568, Drake was a 28-year-old captain in a seven-vessel fleet led by his cousin John Hawkins. This was his second slave-trading voyage to the Spanish colonies. The crew had recently unloaded its cargo in Cartagena, and the ships were weighed down with gold, silver, and all types of jewels.

During Hawkins’s most recent voyage, he and his crew had been feted as heroes by court and countrymen alike. He had also made a 60 percent profit and become highly wealthy overnight. The haul he carried now promised to dwarf his previous journeys.

On the way back to England, however, a violent storm hit the fleet off the coast of Cuba and drove them into the coast of Florida, badly damaging Hawkins’s ship, the Jesus of LubeckRunning low on supplies and unsure if the Jesus of Lubeck would make it back to England, Hawkins decided to risk landing at the nearest port, San Juan de Ulua, off Veracruz.

This created considerable concern because the English were trading with Spanish colonists on the black market. Spain’s King Phillip II interpreted the Treaty of Tordesillas—which divided the world between the Spanish and Portuguese—to mean that no other nation should colonize or trade in the Americas.

Three years earlier, the Spanish had massacred a French Huguenot colony near present-day Jacksonville, Florida for being there and being Protestant.

Continue reading…

Why Was England Late To Colonize?


No nation ever dominated global trade and geopolitics more than Great Britain from the mid 18th century until World War I. But the English, who united with the Scots to form Britain in 1707, arrived late to the scene of colonization. The Age of Discovery—when Western Europeans explored Africa, Asia, and the Americas—began in the early 15th century. The English, however, didn’t establish any permanent colonies until the early 17th century.

The English lawyer John Rastell lamented this development, in the 1510s, in a play he wrote about a failed expedition he took part in toward America. “Oh, what a thing,” he wrote, if “they that be Englishmen” had been the first to “take possession” and “make the first building and habitation” in the New World.

So, what delayed the people who soon created the greatest empire the world has ever known?

Why did they sit back on their island and watch Spain conquer the most advanced peoples in the Americas and take South America’s riches for itself?

Why did they allow the Portuguese to gain the initial footholds in Africa and Asia and only much later wrest some of these regions from them?

To answer these questions, let’s first look at where the English were in their civilizational development when this exploration and colonization began.

Continue reading…