Jingoism in America- Monroe, Roosevelt and Now Obama

What is jingoism?

The term, jingo, came from the chorus of a popular song sung by G. H. MacDermott and written by G. W. Hunt. The song became popular during the time of the Russian and Turkish War in 1877-1878 when the general population of Great Britain fell in line with the anti-Russian government policy and the song vocalized their beliefs.

The British public displayed an antagonism towards Russia and this was displayed in a favorite song, Macdermott's War Song, sung in British pubs and in various music presentations. They sang the chorus of the song as follows:

We don't want to fight but by jingo if we do...

We've got the ships, we've got the men, and got the money too!

We've fought the Bear before... and while we're Britons true,

The Russians shall not have Constantinople...

The term 'by jingo', in this case was an alteration, a substitute for 'by Jesus.' The Free Dictionary defines jingo as: "One who vociferously supports one's country, especially one who supports a belligerent foreign policy; a chauvinistic patriot." And it is difficult for one living in this modern age to understand why the British public preferred Turkey ruling over the ancient city of Constantinople rather than Russia.

Later in referring to this popular song known as MacDermott's War Song, George Holyoake in a letter to the Daily News on 13 March 1878, coined the term 'jingoism' in reference to the belligerent attitude of the British government towards Russia. Holyoake, a prominent British political reformer, did not agree with the foreign policy of the Disraeli government towards Russia and to a large degree he was right; the only reason that the British government was siding with the Turks was because they feared the growing power of Russia. As a result of this bit of 'jingoism', Great Britain was forced to ignore the actions of the murderous Turkish government; with this 'stepping-aside' action of the British government, they more or less were forced to ignore other genocides against the Armenian and Greek populations in Turkey at a later time.

A thorough study of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 can be found at Amazon. Right here on HubPages, there used to be an excellent article on how the U.S.A. became the world's policeman by Frank and Betty Parker. It outlined the political history of the United States of America as an imperial power, a history that actually began with our first President, George Washington and continues right up to the present time with President Barrack Obama. The progression towards this imperialism has been very gradual, but nevertheless actual as evidenced by the current situation where our nation has military forces all around the world enforcing our imperial desires. A recent example that I have researched is the NATO action against Serbia because the Serbs were mistreating the Albanian population of Kosovo; and as a result we wrenched the historic Serbian land out of their hands. But, after the military action, the true reason for the action against Serbia was to make sure that an oil pipeline was constructed across the southern portion of Kosova, an action which the former Serbian government would not approve. That pipeline is now guarded by American forces stationed at the largest American military facility in the world, Camp Bondsteel. The list goes on and on, but the real history facts never reaches the history books.

"Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip" meaning the extension of United States domination (symbolized by a bald eagle) from Puerto Rico to the Philippines. The cartoon contrasts this with a map of the smaller United States of 100 years earlier in 1798.
"Ten Thousand Miles From Tip to Tip" meaning the extension of United States domination (symbolized by a bald eagle) from Puerto Rico to the Philippines. The cartoon contrasts this with a map of the smaller United States of 100 years earlier in 1798. | Source

America's Spread-Eagleism

Meanwhile in America, the term 'spread-eagleism' was coined by the media and was also used by foreign media to describe the propensity of the American government and many European governments to attempt to spread their 'wings' over various spheres of influence around the world and to use any means, including military insertions, to control foreign governments and their activities. Gradually, jingo and jingoism replaced this earlier term.

The term 'spread-eagleism' is difficult to pin down, but one definition from Wordnik defines it as a: "Vainglorious spirit as shown in opinion, action, or speech; ostentation; bombast, especially in the display of patriotism or national vanity." Spread-eagleism is a sort of chip on the shoulder attitude demonstrated by a government against other, less powerful, governments and in particular, it was a tendency commonly demonstrated by the American government in the late 1800s much as it is today. The concept is shown in the 1898 political cartoon on the right. Some of the media of the day, in its concern about American ground troops in the Philippine Islands, actively lampooned the spread-eagle actions of the government.


Jingoism Arrives in America

The term jingoism tended to replace the term spread-eagleism and was at first used against the actions of then Under-secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, in the late 1890s. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, Roosevelt resigned his Navy position and led a regiment of troops who fought in Cuba, most famously, San Juan Hill. He laughed off the term jingoism as it was applied to him, but later continued his 'big stick' activities in his eight years as President of the United States. The high point of his presidency was when he sent the Great White Fleet, a large contingent of sixteen new white battleships on a tour around the world where they visited strategic ports to demonstrate American naval strength. This did serve notice to the world that America was a sea power to be reckoned with. Of primary importance was the fleet's port call in Tokyo, Japan where the emerging military prowess of the Japanese and in particular their naval power after the defeat of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War had vaulted them into prominence as a major naval power. In reference to the term jingoism, the tenure of Theodore Roosevelt as president definitely meets the definition of the term.

At this point we will take a look at the jingoism that has been going on in more recent times. Almost every president since James Monroe has been jingoistic to some degree, but in modern times we find that our presidents have undertaken activities with military significance that would in earlier times require the approbation of the Congress and to a lesser degree the American public. We will start with the lead in to the war in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Great White Fleet 1907-1909

United States Navy battle fleet that completed a circumnavigation of the globe from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909
United States Navy battle fleet that completed a circumnavigation of the globe from 16 December 1907 to 22 February 1909 | Source
The Flagship USS Connecticut
The Flagship USS Connecticut | Source
The Fleet leaving Hampton Roads, VA
The Fleet leaving Hampton Roads, VA | Source
Painting of the fleet passing through the Magellan Straits at the southern tip of South America. by naval artist Henry Reuterdahl who traveled aboard the USS Culgoa
Painting of the fleet passing through the Magellan Straits at the southern tip of South America. by naval artist Henry Reuterdahl who traveled aboard the USS Culgoa | Source

The Advance of the Art of Jingoism Leading to Vietnam

After Theodore Roosevelt we could discuss the increase in the art of jingoism under each president. President Wilson with the events leading up to World War I, President Delano Roosevelt with events leading up to World War II, and President Truman with events leading up to the Korean conflict, and finally the events leading up to the Vietnam conflict. And, or course, there are many armed acts of jingoism in between the big war scenes in the form of various military interventions. As U. S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler stated after his retirement, "war is a racket."

After the Korean conflict, the next big event on the horizon was to be known as the Vietnam War. To his credit, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former five-star general and well acquainted with war, refused to involve American troops on mainland Asia and the next president, John F. Kennedy generally followed suit.

One precedent had been set in the Korean conflict though, America did not have to win the war. Korea was a stalemate, a stalemate that still lasts over 50 years later.

Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy

Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) Served April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 Presidential portrait of Harry Truman. Official Presidential Portrait painted by Greta Kempton.
Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) Served April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1953 Presidential portrait of Harry Truman. Official Presidential Portrait painted by Greta Kempton. | Source
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) Served January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) Served January 20, 1953 to January 20, 1961 | Source
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles greet President Ngo Dinh Diem in Washington, D. C.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles greet President Ngo Dinh Diem in Washington, D. C. | Source
John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) Served January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963
John F. Kennedy (1917–1963) Served January 20, 1961 to November 22, 1963 | Source

President Lyndon B Johnson, Jingoist

President Johnson took the reins of office upon the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Almost immediately, a reportedly fabricated incident occurred in the Gulf of Tonkin whereby a North Vietnamese torpedo boat had attacked an American destroyer and then the next day another, even less likely, event occurred where another attack occurred. Neither one of these likely happened, but they got the treatment in Washington D. C. Johnson, up to this point, was not too interested in the events in Vietnam, he was more interested in the opening stages of his War on Poverty. In Vietnam, American participation had been more or less advisory with Military Advisory Group activity only. The Americans were not supposed to fight against the Viet Cong, a lightly-armed communist front group, they were just supposed to train and advise. But, this so-called attack in international waters upon American navy ships stirred up the hawks in government.

When the French exited Indochina (Vietnam and surrounding countries) in 1954, they left a power vacuum which was filled in the north by Ho Chi Minh and the communist party. In the south after some interim governments, power was seized reportedly through a rigged election that was obvious when it was reported that Diem received 133% of the vote in Saigon. Diem came into power when Eisenhower was president and continued in power until he was assassinated in 1963. After the Diem administration was toppled the government of South Vietnam changed hands many times with military coups. This was the situation at the point of the assassination of our president, John F Kennedy. President Kennedy had placed the conflict in Vietnam on a back burner and was actually withdrawing advisory troops from the country.

When Johnson became president, he almost immediately reversed the withdrawal and the so-called Bay on Tonkin event occurred at which he went on a war status with bombing of the north. At first there were no large numbers of troops on the ground, but when the bombing of North Vietnam began in March of 1965 a new era started. Soon U. S. Marines were put in the country to protect American Air Bases. This was the beginning of a conflict which would engage at one point, 543,000 combatants with the ultimate deaths of 58,220 Americans out of the over 3,000,000 who rotated in and out of the country. Other countries were involved with, for instance, the Republic of South Korea, sending 320,000 men into the conflict and losing about 5,000 combatants.

But, the conflict finally became very unpopular with the American public as well as with other United Nations countries who were involved. The troops themselves hated the lack of commitment on the part of the leadership; they were not allowed to win, they were only allowed to contain the enemy without clear cut goals. And, the leadership did not know their enemy, as General Maxwell Taylor, one of the principal architects of the strategy used in the conflict noted, "first, we didn't know ourselves. We thought that we were going into another Korean War, but this was a different country. Secondly, we didn't know our South Vietnamese allies... And we knew less about North Vietnam. Who was Ho Chi Minh? Nobody really knew. So, until we know the enemy and know our allies and know ourselves, we'd better keep out of this kind of dirty business. It's very dangerous."

President Johnson's administration took a lot of flack from the public about the Vietnam conflict and he decided not to seek re-election. His Vice-President, George McGovern, took on the task of running as the Democratic nominee for the presidency, but he was defeated by Richard Nixon. Nixon took office in 1969 and spent his first term in office trying to win the conflict, but after his later re-election started a staged withdrawal. It took a few years and another president,but ultimately, all American troops were out of Vietnam. A hard lesson had been learned about jingoism, but not a permanent one. Officially the war ended in April of 1975.


President Lyndon Baynes Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) Served November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908–1973) Served November 22, 1963 to January 20, 1969 | Source

Jingoism In the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford Years

Richard Nixon took office in January of 1969 and was saddled with the debacle of the conflict in Vietnam. He almost immediately started trying to figure out how to wind down the conflict, but it took him until 1973 before he finally started the necessary actions required to actually withdraw troops from the country. This was during his second term in office and a central issue during the just completed campaign was the Vietnam war issue. It took several more years, but finally the war came to an inglorious end (for the Americans and their allies) when the last troops were pulled out of Saigon in April of 1975.

This second term of Richard Nixon came to an inglorious end on August 9, 1974 due to fall-out from Watergate revelations and Gerald Ford took office as president. Nixon had previously appointed Gerald Ford to the office of Vice-President when the former Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, resigned due to improprieties of his own. So, as a result, Gerald Ford became the first non-elected president in American history and he had to complete the withdrawal of Americans from Vietnam.

Gerald Ford finished out the term for Richard Nixon and then was elected for an additional four years. Other than some minor incidents with the Cambodian government and sending additional troops to South Korea after a border incident where two American soldiers were killed, President Ford remained clear of jingoism. This was an admirable feat on his part, but the overall political mood of the country pretty well forestalled any military activity at this point in time.

Presidents Nixon and Ford

Richard Nixon (1913–1994) Served January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974
Richard Nixon (1913–1994) Served January 20, 1969 to August 9, 1974 | Source
Gerald Ford (1913–2006) Served August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977
Gerald Ford (1913–2006) Served August 9, 1974 to January 20, 1977 | Source

And, Then Came President Jimmy Carter

After the years of the Vietnam debacle, the presidency of Jimmy Carter commencing in 1977 gave the nation a quiet four years marked by a lack of obvious jingoism. President Carter can not really be categorized as an active jingoist, but there were a few international incidents during his presidency that caused problems such as the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran, Iran. His final time in office was spent trying to bring about the release of the hostages taken in the embassy incident. Obviously, Carter was regarded as weak by Iran or there was some inside maneuvering going on between the next administration and the Iranian government, because the day that Reagan replaced Carter, the hostages were released.

It could be stated that Carter reversed the jingoism of previous years by giving the Panama Canal to Panama and also by being very involved in the drafting of the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt. He was involved in many more actions that were the result of his years of military and governmental service and his underlying principals regarding peace and human rights. He survived party politics leading up to the next presidential term, but lost to Ronald Reagan in the election finals.

The Carter years were a relief from the previous years of wars and active jingoism on the part of the various administrations, both Republican and Democrat. There were problems, of course, and America, in general still followed the course of jingoism, a course which had been set many years before and of which Carter did not have the political power and perhaps not even the desire at that point in his life, to undo.

Carter is noted for his activities after leaving office. He established the Carter Center for human rights and has spent most of his time after leaving office, pursuing peace human rights and many other activities in accord with his deep felt commitment to serve people all around the world. He has been used by subsequent administrations, most notably the administration of G W Bush, as a non-official negotiator.

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jacksson47 profile image

jacksson47 5 years ago from Reedley, CA Author

For those are interested, there is an excellent article on HubPages by Franklin and Betty Parker at: http://hubpages.com/misc/How-the-USA-Became-the-Wo...

where they give the history of jingoism. In fact they have done a better job than I have. I have more pictures and have not finished yet, but their article goes into more detail with an excellent bibliography.

jacksson47

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