Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of the Spanish-American War (1898)

This weeks geopolitical cartoons is brought to you by William Randolph Hearst! Well not quite, I’m pretty sure Hearst would balk at my political tendencies. However, the cartoons do stem from the conflict that he assisted in creating, the Spanish-American War. In this post we’ll explore some of the not-very-subtle propaganda messages in various geopolitical cartoons. Know your sources!

The first image below comes from a satirical German newspaper first published in 1848 (according to wikipedia) and printed the day before hostilities ensued, or were declared, or when scholars agreed the war started (published April 24, started April 25). Coming from a German perspective, its primary focus is on the effects of the impending conflict on “poor Cuba.” The caption reads “this encounter does not seem, at present, exactly a happy one for poor Cuba.” Indeed, as the picture shows Cuba is being ground underfoot by Uncle Sam (the United States who is strolling over to the Caribbean island via Florida) and Don Quixote (Spain who is stretching across the Atlantic from Spain). Quite clearly, the Germans are making a call on who is going to win the conflict. Who would you bet on? A modern Uncle Sam walking over? Or an insane Spanish minor noble, armored and armed with lance in the late-1800s, with a penchant for charging windmills, accosting monks, and generally not following up on his deeds?

“Poor Cuba”, 24 April 1898 (via Ohio State University)

The Spanish, of course, saw things rather differently. The cartoon is apparently from a Catalan source and depicts a greedy Uncle Sam hungrily eyeing Cuba from the United States. His groping hands are hovering over the island. Though I have no idea what “fatlera” means, wikipedia tells me that the caption reads “Protect the island so won’t be lost.” Righteous nationalistic fury indeed! But I have to agree with a comment made in a Blue Sky GIS post, “Spain complaining about anybody else’s imperial ambitions is very much the pot calling the kettle black.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!

Greedy Uncle Sam, 1896 (via wikipedia)

The next two images are from the U.S. The first, from the Minneapolis Tribune, depicts President McKinley holding onto a savage-looking child, the Philippines. He is contemplating whether to “keep” the archipelago, “return” it to Spain, or setting it on his own path. The editors at the Minneapolis Tribune clearly believe that President McKinley should keep the islands. After all, handing them back to Spain is akin to throwing the child off of a cliff. Moreover, it is just a savage child after all, hardly ready for independence. As the world looks on, history is made. McKinley holds on to the Philippines. The aftermath is for another post.

McKinley and the Philippines, 1898 (via wikipilipinas)

The final poster is from the 1900 election campaign season, which McKinley/Roosevelt subsequently won for the Republicans. The poster compares the effects of four years of party rule in 1896 (after four years of Democratic rule under Grover Cleveland) and in 1900 (after four years under McKinley and the Republicans). Two things worth drawing attention to from the geopolitical standpoint. First, is how the United States justified (and continues to justify) its foreign intervention “the American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity’s sake.” I wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that Americans are uncomfortable with the sort of power they wield. As a society we take pains to justify our adventures abroad, yellow journalism and yellow cake. When the conflict is said and done, and righteous American power is in place, the shining city upon the hill bring the light of liberty, we have the the last two pictures in the campaign poster. Cuba is compared under Spanish rule and under America’s rule. I think these two messages are one of the most interesting omnipresent debates in American foreign policy. The isolationist trend, content to guard its power and prosperity while the world goes to shit, and the righteous, liberty-exporting revolutionary trend.

Liberty under McKinley, 1900 (via wikipedia)

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2 thoughts on “Geopolitical Cartoons: Depictions of the Spanish-American War (1898)

  1. Oh, I see that you are familiar with the BlueSkyGIS blog already. In fact, I might have found your page through that page… Anyhow, another great post – thanks!

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