Reforming the World

Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

Ian Tyrrell
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sh8v
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  • Book Info
    Reforming the World
    Book Description:

    Reforming the Worldoffers a sophisticated account of how and why, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American missionaries and moral reformers undertook work abroad at an unprecedented rate and scale. Looking at various organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association and the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, Ian Tyrrell describes the influence that the export of American values had back home, and explores the methods and networks used by reformers to fashion a global and nonterritorial empire. He follows the transnational American response to internal pressures, the European colonies, and dynamic changes in global society.

    Examining the cultural context of American expansionism from the 1870s to the 1920s, Tyrrell provides a new interpretation of Christian and evangelical missionary work, and he addresses America's use of "soft power." He describes evangelical reform's influence on American colonial and diplomatic policy, emphasizes the limits of that impact, and documents the often idiosyncratic personal histories, aspirations, and cultural heritage of moral reformers such as Margaret and Mary Leitch, Louis Klopsch, Clara Barton, and Ida Wells. The book illustrates that moral reform influenced the United States as much as it did the colonial and quasi-colonial peoples Americans came in contact with, and shaped the architecture of American dealings with the larger world of empires through to the era of Woodrow Wilson.

    Investigating the wide-reaching and diverse influence of evangelical reform movements,Reforming the Worldestablishes how transnational organizing played a vital role in America's political and economic expansion.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3663-5
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    God, gold, and glory. This is the trio of “G’s” that many a history student has memorized to understand the motives for European imperialism. The same student would also learn that the 1890s witnessed an upsurge in American overseas “expansion,” marking the emergence of the United States as a world power. Not literally for gold did they go overseas, but Americans traded abroad, looking for markets and resources. They also sent missionaries on behalf of the Christian God. In the name of humanitarian intervention, they even acquired colonies across the seas.¹ Rudyard Kipling called on Americans to take up the...

  6. Part I: Networks of Empire
    • Chapter 1 WEBS OF COMMUNICATION
      (pp. 13-27)

      When William T. Stead, the British editor of theReview of Reviews, went to a watery grave with theTitanicon April 15, 1912, supporters of moral reform wept openly. It was said to be typical of his “generosity, courage, and humanity that Stead was last seen leading women and children to the safety of the stricken liner’s lifeboats.”¹ Stead was a friend of “America,” a country whose efforts on behalf of international cooperation, arbitration, and missionary work abroad he deeply admired. It was this admiration that put him on that ill-fated journey across the high seas. He was traveling...

    • Chapter 2 MISSIONARY LIVES, TRANSNATIONAL NETWORKS: THE MISSES MARGARET AND MARY LEITCH
      (pp. 28-46)

      The “Misses Leitch,” as they preferred to be known, had ordinary beginnings but extraordinary lives. Mary and Margaret Leitch were born in Caledonia County, Vermont, in 1849 and 1857, respectively. Of Scottish lineage, these children of a prosperous farmer grew up at Ryegate within sight of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Evangelical religion was their province from an early age, and they were steeped in the Presbyterian Reformed Church faith and the New School theology that promoted Christian benevolence expressed through good works. After an education at the St. Johnsbury Female Academy, they went from Republican-dominated Vermont (a cousin...

  7. Part II: Origins of American Empire
    • Chapter 3 THE MISSIONARY IMPULSE
      (pp. 49-73)

      The year 1886 was a turbulent one in the United States, most notably for labor agitation, industrial violence, and riots. Streetcar drivers in New York engaged in a long-running dispute with management from February to September, while in the Southwest, the Knights of Labor’s strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads broke out in the spring, with repercussions far and wide. Across Texas, Missouri, and Illinois, striking railroad workers disrupted the movement of freight and stimulated more radical protests. The summer witnessed the sensational events of the Haymarket Trial where, in Chicago, eight anarchists stood condemned for a...

    • Chapter 4 THE MATRIX OF MORAL REFORM
      (pp. 74-97)

      The United States was “a nation of joiners,” remarked historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. in 1944. That epigram echoed the famous observations of French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville on the role of voluntary societies in a republic.¹ Tocqueville would not have found the 1880s disappointing in this respect. Nowhere was the phenomenon of joining more obvious than for the evangelical reform infrastructure developing in that decade. A host of new societies expressed concern for revitalizing the churches and missions, but the impact was not simply national. The new surge of voluntarism did more than “mirror the structure” of the nation with...

    • Chapter 5 BLOOD, SOULS, AND POWER: AMERICAN HUMANITARIANISM ABROAD IN THE 1890s
      (pp. 98-120)

      Flood, fire, famine, disease, and the blood of collective violence stalk much of human history. Generation after generation buried its dead and could afford precious little time or money for the sick, injured, and displaced. At some juncture in the nineteenth century, the practical indifference of those observing disaster from a distance began to decline in the Euro-American world. When the catastrophes of failed harvests, religious persecution, ethnic cleansing, and the upheaval of war provoked headline after headline in the international press of the 1890s, nothing was new. And yet the response in the United States was. The theme of...

  8. Part III: The Challenge of American Colonialism
    • Chapter 6 REFORMING COLONIALISM
      (pp. 123-145)

      When war broke out between the United States and Spain in April 1898 over the sinking of theU.S.S. Mainein Havana Harbor, the leading missionary and moral reform organizations immediately responded with patriotic enthusiasm. While they saw “new dangers in the tropics” in the American course of action and had ambivalent feelings about war, evangelical reformers sensed fresh opportunities for influence. Just a month before the peace treaty was signed in Paris in December, a group representing the leading reform organizations issued on November 5, 1898, an invitation to a National Christian Citizenship Convention, to be held December 13...

    • Chapter 7 OPIUM AND THE FASHIONING OF THE AMERICAN MORAL EMPIRE
      (pp. 146-165)

      In June 1903, William Dix of Philadelphia wrote Secretary of War Elihu Root an indignant letter. An item on American policy in the Philippines published in thePhiladelphia Ledgerenraged him: “If I were a pesky anti-imperialist I would say—thus do the superior swiftly fall to the level of the inferior.” Dix hoped that a righteous people such as the Americans would be spared “the obloquy of being no better than the perfidious British.” He urged Root to “Spare us that disgrace under our glorious flag.”¹ The source of his anger was not inspection of prostitutes nor the supply...

    • Chapter 8 IDA WELLS AND OTHERS: RADICAL PROTEST AND THE NETWORKS OF AMERICAN EXPANSION
      (pp. 166-188)

      The lynching violence of the 1890s was a dark passage in the history of American race relations. Despite the fierce terror of the Ku Klux Klan, the 1870s was not the peak of racial mayhem against the newly freed African American people. That came in the decade of American cultural expansion abroad of the 1890s, when lynching reached historic heights. Was there a connection between this internal oppression and the external projection of American power? An intrepid English Quaker, Catherine Impey, could detect such links, but she did not limit her attack to lynching. Impey targeted all forms of discrimination...

  9. Part IV: The Era of World War I and the Wilsonian New World Order
    • Chapter 9 STATES OF FAITH: MISSIONS AND MORALITY IN GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 191-208)

      On April 27, 1911, William Howard Taft addressed a Methodist Social Union dinner in New York, full of praise for missionaries. Recalling his time in the Philippines, the portly American president waxed eloquent: “I found Methodist brethren and missionaries at my back ready to furnish all the assistance I needed.”¹ He became “so fond of one of the Methodist brethren, the Rev. Homer C. Stuntz,” that, Taft claimed, “I have been running him for Bishop ever since.” A year later Stuntz was indeed elected a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church on the first ballot. The endorsement of Taft may...

    • Chapter 10 TO MAKE A DRY WORLD: THE NEW WORLD ORDER OF PROHIBITION
      (pp. 209-226)

      The early 1920s was an era of great hope but also one of equally great potential for disillusionment. World War I upset dreams of peaceful evolution and cooperation and, with the controversial peace settlement and rejection of the League of Nations, many American internationalists despaired.¹ Protestant evangelical values also faced new challenges within the United States. Religious fundamentalism rent the churches, while the growth of sexual freedom and secularism seemed to go together as new generations flouted Victorian decorum, leaving Americans deeply divided over morals and manners. Among the hopes unsettled were those of the expansive prewar missionary campaigns, but...

  10. Conclusion THE JUDGMENTS OF HEAVEN: CHANGE AND CONTINUITY IN MORAL REFORM
    (pp. 227-246)

    Prohibition’s demise was a critical blow to the Christian moral reform enterprise that had flourished for more than thirty years because the dry crusade had become the flagship of evangelical reform. Even the WCTU had, despite its continuing commitment to progressive causes such as peace and social justice, put a good deal of its eggs in the one (dry) basket in the 1920s. Reforming the world seemed to have come to an end at the hands of a particularly quixotic, wrongheaded crusade. Yet the moral reform movement also suffered from longer term, adverse trends, including growing secularization that affected the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 247-308)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 309-322)