Saturday, March 15, 2008

José Marti, Cuban Revolutionary Party, January 5, 1892


José Martí, born in 1853 in La Habana, Cuba, was a poet, a revolutionary and is known as Cuba's National Hero. He was sentenced to 6 years of hard labor at the age of 16 for his political activity and later was exiled to Spain. He also lived in the United States where he was able to mobilize support for the Cuban revolution among Cuban exiles. He was a founder of the Cuban Revolutionary Party and spoke out against U.S. imperialism in Latin America. In 1895, he was shot and killed during an invasion of Cuba, giving his life to help make Cuba free. His dream was realized, but not until after his death. In 1898, Spain gave up control of Cuba as a provision of the Treaty of Peace of Paris between the United States and Spain, ending the Spanish-American War. The Cuban Republic was instituted in 1902, but did not return to home rule until 1909.
The day before he died, Martí said in a letter that it was his duty “to prevent, by the independence of Cuba, the United States from spreading over the West Indies and falling, with that added weight, upon other lands of our America. All I have done up to now, and shall do hereafter, is to that end… I have lived inside the monster and know its insides.”
As a student of Spanish literature, I have read Martí's poetry and see him as more than just another revolutionary fighting for his country. He, like Cuban exiles today, longed to see a "Cuba Libre" - a free Cuba. His longing for his homeland is seen and felt in his poem "Dos patrias" (Two Homelands) from his collection of poems, "Flores de destierro" (Flowers of Exile), written during his exile, and his identity as a son of Cuba is clear in the poem "Soy un hombre sincero" from the collection, "Versos sencillos".
Interesting note: an adaptation of this poem was set to music in 1929, called "Guantanamera", and due to Martí's status as National Hero, became an unofficial Cuban anthem. It was made popular in the United States later in the 20th century by The Sandpipers.

T.R.'s New Nationalism, 1910

"The object of government is the welfare of the people."
"This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare." - Teddy Roosevelt

On August 31, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt delivered his famous speech, known as the "New Nationalism" speech. The main issue of the speech was human welfare. He believed that it the government's chief responsibility was to protect people and property, but if there had to be a choice, the welfare of the people should come first. His agenda for public welfare included these goals: 1) a federal child labor law; 2) regulation of labor relations; 3) a national minimum wage for women.
Roosevelt gave this speech about a year and a half after he had left office as President of the United States and and about a year and half before he tried to win his party's nomination in 1912 (in which he was defeated by Taft).
This speech is important in that it shows Roosevelt's progressive philosophy of the need for reform, as we read in "America" on page 621: "This formulation unleashed Roosevelt's reformist bent."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Panic of 1893

"By the time of Cleveland's inauguration, farm foreclosures and railroad bankruptcy signaled economic trouble. On May 3rd, 1893, the stock market crashed." (America, pg. 588) This crash led to a depression, which in effect left the country with an unemployment rate of over 20 percent. The democrats, who had gained power in the House of Representatives and governorships, "bore the brunt of the responsibility for the economic crisis." (America, pg. 592) From this crisis arose the hard focus on the silver question, and the bimetal standard became a critical issue as many were calling for more money to be put in circulation. The depression and dwindling money supply also led to the gold purchase by J.P. Morgan and other private bankers to replenish the country's gold supplies. Other events spurred by the Panic of 1893 include the Pullman Strike and Coxey's Army marching on Wasbington.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tammany Hall

"These favors came via a system of boss control that, although present at every level of party politics, flourished most luxuriantly in the big cities. Urban political machines like Tammany Hall in New York depended on a loyal grassroots constituency, so each ward was divided into a precinct of a few blocks" (America, p. 556).

In the days of the ultra-powerful and corrupt political machines, perhaps the most powerful in all of the United States was Tammany Hall, located on 14th Street in Manhattan. Associated with the Democratic party, Tammany Hall was founded in 1786, but did not gain it's real political power until after Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828.

Tammany hall was known for its influence in the vast immigrant community in New York City. Among other nationalities, Tammany Hall helped many Irish Americans rise to power in politics. The "spoils system" of the times allowed Tammany Hall to control much of New York City through patronage, political support and other corrupt practices. Fernando Wood was the first Tammany Democrat mayor, elected in 1854. In 1860, the infamous William "Boss" Tweed became chairman of the New York county Democratic Party and the leader--known as "the Grand Sachem"--of Tammany.

Tammany Hall remained powerful in New York City all the way through the early twentieth-century, up until the 1930's. The Great Depression took a heavy toll on Tammany, and in 1932 friend of Tammany Hall, and Mayor of New York City, James Walker was forced from office. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and under his famous "New Deal," he removed most all of Tammany's power, including their mayor, helping Republican Fiorello LaGuardia become Mayor in 1934.

University of Albany: "Boss Tweed" and the Tammany Hall Machine
Elanor Roosevelt National Historic Site