Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Some Words

My observation of the Spanish War and the rape of the Philippines led me to consider the character of our minor adventures in Samoa and Hawaii; and there I found the same record of chicanery and fraud, implemented by violence. In both instances the United States had acquired possession through revolutions made to order by its official agents. Then I went on to take stock of our continental adventures in the same line. I knew what imperialism meant in former times, what its springs of action were, and what its customary modes of procedure were. My classical studies had thoroughly acquainted me with these phenomena of the old days around the Mediterranean, and I had as yet seen nothing to suggest any essential difference between modern imperialism and the imperialism which I had studied and understood. Thus I was able to read between the lines of standard American historical writing, even such as was dished up for the young in our educational institutions. It was clear to me that our acquisition of Texas was a matter of sheer brigandage, and that force and fraud played approximately equal parts in our acquisition of California. I carried on my survey of American imperialism through the Mexican War, our systematic extermination of the Indians, and so on back into the colonial period; and I emerged with the conviction that at least on this one item of imperialism, our political history from first to last was utterly disgraceful.

—Albert Jay Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, pp. 103-104.

Hence, it should be noted that a conqueror, after seizing power, must decide about all the injuries he needs to commit, and do all of them at once, so as not to have to inflict punishments every day. Thus he will be able, by his restraint, to reassure men and win them over by benefitting them. Anyone who does not act in this way, either because he is timid or because he lacks judgement, will always be forced to stand with sword in hand. He will never be able to rely upon his subjects, for they can never feel safe with him, because of the injuried that continue to be inflicted. For injuries should be done all together so that, because they are tasted less, they will cause less resentment; benefits should be given out one by one, so that they will be savoured more. And above all a ruler must live with his subjects in such a way that no unexpected events, whether favourable or unfavourable, will make him change course. For when difficult times put you under pressure you will not have enough time to take harsh measures, and any benefits that you confer will not help you, because they will be considered to be done unwillingly, and so you will receive no credit for them.

—Machiavelli, The Prince (trans. Russell Price)

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