The Republican Party has always been about disguising a lust for economic plunder with phony ideas about “freedom,” “Christianity,” “equality,” “civilization,”and other nice-sounding words.
For the past century and a half the Republican Party has gratuitously labeled itself as “The Party of Great Moral Ideas.” The Party of Great Moral Frauds is more like it. The party began as the party of mercantilism, corporate welfare, protectionist tariffs, constitutional subterfuge, central banking, and imperialism. Its 1860 presidential platform promised not to disturb Southern slavery; its first president supported the Fugitive Slave Act and the proposed “Corwin Amendment” to the Constitution that would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering with Southern slavery; the party committed treason by “levying war upon the states” (the precise definition of treason in the Constitution) and murdering hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens in order to destroy the voluntary union of the states that was established by the founding fathers. It refused to do what Britain, Spain, France, the Dutch, Denmark, Sweden, and the Northern states in the U.S. had done about slavery and end it peacefully. Instead, it used the slaves as pawns in a war that was about consolidating all political power in Washington, D.C. in general, and in the hands of the Republican Party in particular.
Three months after the War to Prevent Southern Independence ended the Republican Party commenced a twenty-five year war of genocide against the Plains Indians, killing as many as 60,000 of them, including thousands of women and children, and putting the rest in concentration camps. It did this, according to General Sherman who orchestrated this horribly immoral crusade, to “make way for the railroads” that were being heavily subsidized by the Republican Party. It also plundered the conquered South with exorbitant taxes and the legalized theft of vast tracts of property by party hacks for a decade after the war (so-called “reconstruction”), while doing virtually nothing for the freed slaves. It did nothing while as many as 1 million former slaves died of disease shortly after the war in the worst public health disaster in American history.
The Grant administrations were most known for the colossal corruption associated with the building of the government-subsidized transcontinental railroads that was finally made public during the Credit Mobilier scandal.
The Republican Party has always been about disguising a lust for economic plunder with phony ideas about “freedom,” “Christianity,” “equality,” “civilization,”and other nice-sounding words. The War to Prevent Southern Independence allowed it to finally usher in the Hamiltonian “American System” of high protectionist tariffs for the benefit of Northern manufacturers at the expense of everyone else; a nationalized money supply with its Legal Tender and National Currency Acts; and vast amounts of corporate welfare, starting with the government-subsidized railroad corporations. It created the internal revenue system, invented dozens of new taxes, created the military/industrial complex, ran up historically high levels of debt, and destroyed the founders’ system of federalism or states’ rights as a check on centralized governmental power.
The war of genocide against the Plains Indians was a way of socializing the cost of building the government-subsidized railroads. Having succeeded in eradicating the Indians, the Republican Party next turned to tiny little countries like Cuba and the Philippines to plunder under the usual phony excuse of spreading “freedom” and “the American way” around the globe. The Republican Party claimed to embrace the message of Reverend Josiah Strong’s 1885 book, Our Country, which proclaimed a supposedly sacred American duty to “civilize and Christianize inferior peoples.” They portrayed themselves as one big gang of Mother Theresas, selflessly sacrificing endlessly for the benefit of strangers in foreign lands.
A particularly galling example of this spectacular hypocrisy and dishonesty is the conquest of the Kingdom of Hawaii. By the early 1890s American businessmen had been in Hawaii for many years as corporate sugar and pineapple growers. Encouraged by the Republican Party’s aggressive and imperialistic foreign policy, they sought to get the Party to overthrow the government of Hawaii and make it an American province under their political control. They wanted to turn it into the perfect Hamiltonian corporate welfare state, in other words. As described by Gregg Jones in Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream (p. 23):
On January 14,  Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani attempted to curb the power of U.S. commercial interests in the kingdom’s legislature by promulgating a new constitution. A thirteen-member coalition of Americans called the Committee of Safety angrily resisted. Two members, Judge Sanford Dole and businessman Lorrin Thurston, met secretly with U.S. envoy John Stevens and plotted to overthrow the monarchy. The committee’s armed militia promptly seized key buildings, triggering the landing of American troops. The group set up an ad hoc government headed by Dole . . .
The “Committee of Safety” employed a paramilitary organization called the “Honolulu Rifles” who were allied with its puppet political party in Hawaii known as the “Missionary Party.” (Sanford Dole was the son of New England Yankee missionaries who migrated to Hawaii from Maine). The Honolulu Rifles forced the king of Hawaii to sign a new constitution that was known as the “bayonet constitution” because the King was literally threatened with being gutted by bayonets unless he signed the document, “Godfather” style. The new constitution disenfranchised all Asians (considered part of an “inferior race” by the Republican business elite) and most everyone else except for affluent landowners, most of whom were Americans and their business associates. It imposed Sanford Dole as puppet president. His cousin James Dole shortly thereafter founded the Dole Fruit Company which prospers to this day.
But before the Republican Party could get the U.S. Congress and the president to formally annex Hawaii, Democrat Grover Cleveland took office (in March of 1893) and killed their proposal, condemning “the lawless landing of the United States force at Honolulu.” Grover Cleveland was the last Jeffersonian president of the United States and the last good Democrat. This, however, led to the political rise of the bloviating idiot and Master Race theorist Theodore Roosevelt (TR), the favorite president of today’s neo-conservatives. “It’s difficult to write a bad book about Theodore Roosevelt,” neocon Charles Kessler of the Claremont Institute wrote in that organization’s book review tabloid in 1998. To fellow neocons William Kristol and David Brooks, Kessler wrote approvingly, TR “figures as a patron saint of American nationalism and energetic government.”
In October of 1895 TR proclaimed to the Republican Club of Massachusetts that “I feel that it was a crime not only against the United States, but against the white race, that we did not annex Hawaii three years ago” (Jones, p. 24). He said this in response to the complaints made by his close friend and fellow Republican, Henry Cabot Lodge, that the Spanish and British empires had been conquering “all the waste places of the earth” and Americans were missing out on the fun since they were not yet sufficiently imperialistic.
As president, TR perfected the Republican Party’s policy of economic plunder through imperialism disguised by humanitarian rhetoric. He denounced the Jeffersonian-minded advocates of peace as “senile,” “idiots,” and “unhung traitors” (Green, p. 162). As discussed in Jim Powell’s excellent book, Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy, TR essentially declared the U.S. government to be the world’s policeman; warned against what he called “the menace of peace”; and targeted for war Cuba, Hawaii, Venezuela, China, the Philippines, Panama, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Canada. None of these military interventions or planned interventions had anything to do with national defense. “He asserted that the United States must intervene . . . when a nation failed to behave,” wrote Powell. “All the great master races have been fighting races,” Teddy Roosevelt the master race theorist proclaimed. It was in this way, writes Powell, that Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the “Party of Lincoln.” I was Lincoln’s secretary of state William Seward, Powell reminds us, who wanted the U.S. to intervene if not conquer Canada,, Mexico, parts of Asia, the Caribbean, Cuba, Haiti, Culebra, French Guiana, Peurto Rico, and St. Batholomew.
U.S. Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler knew what he was talking about when he wrote in his famous monograph, War is a Racket, that “War is a racket. It always has been.”
Thomas J. DiLorenzo is professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland.