Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ty Reese


The American Anti-Imperialist League began in Boston in 1898 and shortly thereafter worked to consolidate other anti-imperialist organizations in an attempt to prevent the United States from creating its first overseas empire. The League was united in its opposition to empire yet its organizational structure prevented it from becoming a truly national, and thus unified, special interest group. Early on in 1898, the League’s unity came from its appeals to preserve the traditional American foreign policies of George Washington, ideas surrounding isolation from the affairs of Europe and its focus upon the Americas in particular. The League also advocated for the preservation of the Monroe Doctrine. Thus, in the early fight against empire, the League appeared to be a cohesive unit, in that its traditional based arguments against Empire were broadly appealing to all anti-imperialists and presented the appearance of a focused nationalist organization. This seeming cohesion led to the league supporting a presidential candidate but upon his defeat, and the initial establishment of an American empire, the façade of league unity and centralization fall part. When the main argument that drew everyone together began to fail, the league lost focus. This is most clearly seen in the rise in secondary arguments that the different factions within the League started to make against empire during a period when the establishment of the American empire seemed eminent . When the League had an opportunity to show that in many ways their arguments were vindicated, they lacked the internal unity and appropriate structure to do so. This study of the League demonstrates that while it was a national organization and while it had a convincing, at least to them, appeal to American traditions, its disparate nature caused its internal structure to deteriorate thereby causing a lack of organization and ultimate failure.