In 1905 Theodore Roosevelt sent the largest diplomatic mission in US across the Pacific to Asia. The mission was led by his Secretary of War William Howard Taft and the group included his daughter Alice. James Bradley’s book about this mission The Imperial Cruise is Book 17 of 2013. During the trip Taft on Roosevelt’s behalf negotiated a series of secret agreements – which were unconstitutional – that laid the groundwork for future Japanese actions over the next 30-40 years. The details of these agreements remained secret until after Roosevelt’s death and really have been absent from history books.
The book details many stops along the way and American actions throughout the trip. Included are discussion of the US annexation of Hawaii as well as US actions in the Philippines. The more I read, the less I liked the actions of my country. I don’t ever think we were taught as much about the perceived belief held by Roosevelt and the politicians of his day, that only white Anglo-Saxons were capable of understanding democracy and self-government and it was our duty to spread that democracy westward across our continent and then on across the Pacific to Asia. Since Americans knew nothing about Hawaii or the Philippines, they were portrayed as Pacific Negroes and several pictures in the book provide illustrations showing Filipinos dressed in Jungle-like garb..
In a review of the book that appeared in the New York Times The Queasy Side of Theodore Roosevelt’s Diplomatic Voyage written by Janet Maslin in November of 2009,. In the article Maslin writes:
If racism is nothing new, Mr. Bradley’s readers may still be surprised at the xenophobic ugliness of the photos, letters, cartoons, lyrics and political speeches cited here. And if, for instance, American use of waterboarding against turn-of-the-century Filipino prisoners is not unknown (it was the subject of a New Yorker article last year), neither is it common knowledge. Nor, perhaps, are the lyrics to “The Water Cure,” a vintage United States Army marching song: “Shove in the nozzle deep and let him taste of liberty/Shouting the battle cry of freedom.” The toughest parts of this book re-reveal things we should already know.
On of the main themes of the book was that Roosevelt’s belief that only the Japanese understood dg government like Anglo-Saxon whites and that his belief that the Japanese should have a Monroe Doctrine like control over Asia led to World War II. Maslin writes:
“Here was the match that lit the fuse, and yet for decades we paid attention only to the dynamite,” Mr. Bradley writes. The flame to which he refers is Roosevelt’s secret diplomacy with Japan and his encouragement of Japanese imperialism. (“I should like to see Japan have Korea,” he once declared.) In a far-reaching book that also addresses Roosevelt’s misconceptions about Korea, Hawaii, China and the Philippines, Mr. Bradley places critical emphasis on the dangerous American-Japanese relationship that, he says, Roosevelt helped create.
While Bradley might have gone too far in his dislike for Theodore Roosevelt and his policies that may have set the stage for Japanese expansion and the war, he did tell me a lot about the US actions in Asia that we were never taught about in school. In addition, similarities between American actions in the Philippines were eerily similar to Iraq. What reading this book has done is piqued my interest in both Theodore Roosevelt and this time period, in fact I have started another book about the time period The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898 by Even Thomas
Here’s a review from USA Today that points out some of the negatives of the book:‘Imperial Cruise’ hits rough waters in attack of Roosevelt
So check out The Imperial Cruise and see what you think!