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How Primary and Secondary Sources Shape History’s View of the Imperialist Age

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Two Sides to A Coin:
How Primary and Secondary Sources Shape History’s View of the Imperialist Age
Compare and Contrast Essay on two reading; Differentiate between primary and secondary sources, Discuss the subject of both essays, Provide dates and authors, Mention the time period in which they were written, and Summarize the writing.
There are always two sides to a story, two opinions to be heard, and during the late 19th Century, there were definitely two sides to the issue of Imperialist Expansion. From Messages and Papers of the President, in 1898 President William McKinley addressed Congress with a call to war against Spain, in an effort to expand American influence in Cuba. Conversely, the 1899 Platform of the American Anti-Imperialist League was published to dissuade not only the public, but the Senate as well, from supporting American Imperialism.
Primary sources are vital historical resources that provide a real look into a situation. When analyzed, primary sources can show an author’s motivation to action, or explain an awful circumstance. However, primary resources fail to see the big picture. Secondary sources can provide clues that enable the reader to piece the big picture together more easily. These secondary sources may not provide the exact account of an event, however they remove the emotional bias that can be found in primary sources, and can sometimes link historical events, as they are written after-the-fact.
President McKinley’s address wanted to justify the reach of America’s arm past neutrality and into Cuba, using Imperialism. McKinley lists legal ramifications, economic loss, public outcry, and human rights issues as motivation for why the United States should step in. He even went so far as to say, “It is specially our duty…we owe it to our citizens in Cuba to afford them that protection… no government there can or will,” At the close of the century, McKinley’s address was not the only speech to outline politics for the age of Imperialism; The Anti-Imperialist League’s Platform also highlighted key issues with America’s new route towards global expansion. Prominent party leader, Carl Schurz, said Imperialism went against the moral code of the social contract of the Constitution, and would “destroy its fundamental principles and noblest ideals”. The international issue discussed in the Platform was not that of Spain and Cuba, but of the Philippines, which only shows the speed in which America was grabbing at land. Both McKinley’s speech and the Anti-Imperialists Platform would be primary sources, had they been published independently and not in a collection that had been edited, which therefore makes them secondary sources. McKinley’s speech was from the collection edited by James D. Richardson, and the Platform is an excerpt of a memoir of Carl Schurz that was edited by Frederick Bancroft. Despite the method in which both opinions were given, McKinley and Schurz highlighted justification for both sides with powerful results; McKinley set the stage for the United States to become the world police, something this generation has seen in the War on Terror, and on the other hand Schurz describes President Lincoln’s beliefs, that “if an administration may with impunity ignore the issues upon which it was chosen, deliberately create a condition of war anywhere on the face of the globe, debauch the civil service for spoils to promote adventure, organize a truth suppressing censorship and demand of all citizens a suspension of judgment and their unanimous support while it chooses to continue the fighting, representative government itself is imperiled.” These opinions were two sides of a coin and of a story, that when it was all told, the Administration won, and Imperialism continued on.

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