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The U.S. Bought 3 Virgin Islands from Denmark. The Deal Took 50 Years

August 21, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

Every March 31, the U.S. Virgin Islands of Saint Thomas, Saint John and Saint Croix observe “Transfer Day” to commemorate the sale of the islands from Denmark to the United States. Of the U.S.’s five permanently inhabited territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands is the only one the country ever purchased from another imperial power. The two powers negotiated over the three islands for more than 50 years before finally transferring power in 1917.

Though the U.S. and Denmark each had their own complex motivations in this exchange, “they turned upon the question of imperialism—declining in the case of Denmark and increasing on the part of the United States,” wrote the late historian Isaac Dookhan in a 1975 issue of Caribbean Studies. Ultimately, the U.S. would successfully pressure Denmark to sell the islands by threatening a military attack on the neutral nation during World War I.

Denmark had colonized the three islands—known as the Danish West Indies—back in the 17th and 18th centuries. It forced enslaved Africans to work on plantations producing products like sugar, which it profited from until the 1840s, when sugar prices fell.

Plantation with a mill and a sugar refinery on Saint-Croix Island, which belonged to Denmark until 1917.

Big changes also came in July 1848, when several hundred enslaved people on St. Croix revolted and won their freedom by threatening to burn the islands’ towns to the ground. After abolition, these newly freed people struggled to make a profit on exhausted lands and plantations that were small and old-fashioned compared with newer industrial operations, according to the Danish State Archives.

By the late 19th century, Denmark was finding it increasingly expensive to run the islands. Yet as early as the American Civil War, the U.S. was eyeing them as a possible economic and national security asset. This was because U.S. officials thought the islands could help secure American economic interests in the Caribbean. But they also worried a hostile foreign power might take control of them before the U.S. could.

“During the 1880s and 1890s, suspicion was directed mainly against Germany, which was developing interest in Latin America,” Dookhan wrote. “The fact that the German steamship company, the Hamburg-American Line, used St. Thomas as its regular refueling station tended to exacerbate those suspicions.”

The first negotiations between the U.S. and Denmark began in 1865, the year the Civil War ended. Secretary of State William Henry Seward actually …read more


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Did Yellow Journalism Fuel the Outbreak of the Spanish-American War?

August 21, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Newspaper headlines played off tensions between Spain and the United States in a time when raucous media found a voice.

The .

That sort of attention-grabbing was evident in the media’s coverage of the Spanish-American War. But while the era’s newspapers may have heightened public calls for U.S. entry into the conflict, there were multiple political factors that led to the war’s outbreak.

“Newspapers did not cause the Cuban rebellion that began in 1895 and was a precursor to the Spanish-American War,” says Campbell. “And there is no evidence that the administration of President William McKinley turned to the yellow press for foreign policy guidance.”

“But this notion lives on because, like most media myths, it makes for a delicious tale, one readily retold,” Campbell says. “It also strips away complexity and offers an easy-to-grasp, if badly misleading, explanation about why the country went to war in 1898.”

The myth also survives, Campbell says, because it purports the power of the news media at its most malignant. “That is, the media at their worst can lead the country into a war it otherwise would not have fought,” he says.

Sinking of U.S.S. Maine Bring Tensions to a Head

According to the U.S. Office of the Historian, tensions had been brewing in the long-held Spanish colony of Cuba off and on for much of the 19th century, intensifying in the 1890s, with many Americans calling on Spain to withdraw.

“Hearst and Pulitzer devoted more and more attention to the Cuban struggle for independence, at times accentuating the harshness of Spanish rule or the nobility of the revolutionaries, and occasionally printing rousing stories that proved to be false,” the office states. “This sort of coverage, complete with bold headlines and creative drawings of events, sold a lot of papers for both publishers.”

Things came to a head in Cuba on February 15, 1898, with the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor.

The sinking wreck of the battleship USS Maine, 1898.

“Sober observers and an initial report by the colonial government of Cuba concluded that the explosion had occurred on board, but Hearst and Pulitzer, who had for several years been selling papers by fanning anti-Spanish public opinion in the United States, published rumors of plots to sink the ship,” the Office of the Historian reports. “… By early May, the Spanish-American War had begun.”

Despite intense newspaper coverage of the strife, the …read more


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Eight Decades on: Lessons From Perhaps the Most Evil Diplomatic Triumph in History

August 21, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In mid-1939 German Chancellor Adolf Hitler had a problem. He
wanted to go to war with the Soviet Union in order to grab precious
Lebensraum, or living space — and eradicate the
Bolshevik menace. The Western powers, however, namely Great Britain
and France, refused to make a deal with him.

Instead, they guaranteed the security of Poland, the next
obvious Nazi target and pathway to the USSR. He wanted to avoid a
two-front war, which ended badly for the Germans in World War I. So
the Austrian corporal turned German Führer sought a deus ex
. He found it on August 23, 1939, when the Treaty of
Non-Aggression Between Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics, also known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact and
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the names of the respective dictators and
foreign ministers who negotiated the agreement’s terms, was

While diplomacy almost always is preferable to war, the two
sometime coincide. Plenty of plundering marauders have made common
cause. But it is hard to think of an example of greater depravity:
two of the worst mass murderers in history dividing the world
between them.

World War I left both Germany and Russia isolated pariah states.
Germany’s new Weimar republic had expected gentler treatment
by the allies, having surrendered under Woodrow Wilson’s
“14 Points” and then defenestrated the Kaiser and the
entire imperial system. But the Versailles Treaty placed full blame
on Berlin, amputated historic Germanic lands, transferred
indisputably German populations to other nations, imposed the cost
of the war on the German people, and kept the democratic German
government out of the League of Nations, which was designed to
guarantee British and French dominance of the new international
order. Ravaged by political conflict and civil strife at home,
Berlin schemed to overturn the artificial territorial divide, which
it never accepted.

We should never forget
the moment when two of history’s worst dictators came together to
do evil, leaving immeasurable death and carnage in their

The newly created Soviet Union, successor state to the Russian
Empire, was even more isolated. Forced by Germany, which triumphed
on the Eastern Front, to accept the draconian Treaty of
Brest-Litovsk in 1918 — the only way for the Bolsheviks to
preserve their tenuous control as civil war loomed — the
Communists spent the next several years battling
counter-revolutionaries while seeking to reassemble the old empire.
The Americans, British, French, and Japanese intervened militarily
against the new regime, first hoping to keep Russia in the war and
next seeking to strangle the Soviet state in its infancy. The USSR
survived, but turned inward as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s
successors battled for control and the triumphant Joseph …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Founders Were Flawed. The Nation is Imperfect. The Constitution is Still a 'glorious Liberty Document.'

August 21, 2019 in Economics

By Timothy Sandefur

Timothy Sandefur

Across the map of the United States, the borders of Tennessee,
Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Arizona draw a distinct line. It’s the
36º30′ line, a remnant of the boundary between free and slave
states drawn in 1820. It is a scar across the belly of America, and
a vivid symbol of the ways in which slavery still touches nearly
every facet of American history.

That pervasive legacy is the subject of a series of articles in
The New York Times titled
“The 1619 Project.”
To cover the history of slavery and its
modern effects is certainly a worthy goal, and much of the Project
achieves that goal effectively. Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s portrait
of the Louisiana sugar industry, for instance, vividly covers a
region that its victims considered the worst of all of slavery’s
forms. Even better is Nikole Hannah-Jones’s celebration of
black-led political movements. She is certainly correct that
“without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black
Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very
different” and “might not be a democracy at all.”

Where the 1619 articles go wrong is in a persistent and off-key
theme: an effort to prove that slavery “is the country’s very
origin,” that slavery is the source of “nearly everything that has
truly made America exceptional,” and that, in Hannah-Jones’s words,
the founders “used” “racist ideology” “at the nation’s founding.”
In this, the Times steps beyond history and into political
polemic—one based on a falsehood and that in an essential
way, repudiates the work of countless people of all races,
including those Hannah-Jones celebrates, who have believed that
what makes America “exceptional” is the proposition that all men
are created equal.

As part of its ambitious
“1619” inquiry into the legacy of slavery, The New York Times
revives false 19th century revisionist history about the American

For one thing, the idea that, in Hannah-Jones’ words, the “white
men” who wrote the Declaration of Independence “did not believe”
its words applied to black people is simply false. John Adams,
James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others said
at the time that the doctrine of equality rendered slavery
anathema. True, Jefferson also wrote the infamous passages
suggesting that “the blacks…are inferior to the whites in the
endowments both of body and mind,” but he thought even that was
irrelevant to the question of slavery’s immorality. “Whatever be
their degree of talent,” Jefferson
, “it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac
Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not
therefore lord of the person or property of others.”

The myth that America was premised …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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On Guns and Opioids, Fear Is Driving Policy

August 21, 2019 in Economics

By Jonathan Blanks, Jeffrey A. Singer

Jonathan Blanks and Jeffrey A. Singer

What do gun owners and pain patients have in common? They both
may be collateral damage of policy hastily enacted in response to
catastrophic news. Mass shootings and drug overdoses naturally
evoke fear and outrage. But with populism animating both major
parties, we should be wary of policy making through fear. Visceral
reactions to tragedies are normal, but new laws and restrictions
rarely reduce harm and often make matters worse. The best public
policy relies on data-driven evidence.

While all gun deaths have a common denominator of firearms, the
vast majority of gun deaths have little in common with the mass
shootings that dominate headlines. The scale of those differences
is staggering and the facts undermine the current advocacy that
focuses on “assault weapons.”

Visceral reactions to
tragedies are normal, but new laws and restrictions rarely reduce
harm and often make matters worse. The best public policy relies on
data-driven evidence.

According to Mother Jones’ mass shootings database, there have been 114
mass and spree shootings in the U.S. since 1982. Those tragedies
have resulted in 934 deaths and 1,406 people injured.

In 2017, there were nearly 40,000 gun deaths in the United
States. Of that number, about 24,000 died by suicide. Gun suicides
make up just over half of the roughly 47,000 American suicides annually. About 14,000 gun
deaths were homicides, stemming primarily from street violence and intimate partner homicide.

Certainly, semi-automatic rifles made the 2017 Las Vegas
shooting unfathomably deadly. But most gun deaths and most mass
shootings are perpetrated with handguns. During the last federal
ban on assault weapons, there was no measurable impact on gun-crime

These facts should not preclude new gun laws, but the drivers of
these deaths go beyond guns. Despite a recent uptick, homicide
rates remain near historic lows
after two decades of decline in
violent crime. But suicides are trending upward, which is evidence that
policymakers should pay more attention to the “why”
rather than simply “how” so many die.

In 2017, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported 47,600 opioid-related deaths.
Policymakers blamed excessive prescription of opioids by doctors
for addicting the population.

But federal survey data consistently show no correlation between prescription volume and the
nonmedical use of opioids or opioid addiction. And medically
prescribed opioids have overdose rates ranging from 0.022% to 0.04%.

Many people mistake dependency for addiction, but they are
two different things. Some drugs, including opioids,
antidepressants, antiepileptics and beta blockers, can make a
person …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump’s Trade Critics Don’t Offer Better Options

August 21, 2019 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Democrats running for president have certainly not hesitated to
criticize President Trump’s trade policies.

There is a good reason for the rhetoric. Several recent studies,
from researchers at Harvard, Columbia, the IMF, and two different
branches of the Federal Reserve, have all concluded that the
tariffs imposed by President Trump on China and others have indeed
hurt American consumers and threatened economic growth domestically
and internationally. For instance, scholars at Columbia, Princeton,
and the New York Fed found that the Trump tariffs had reduced U.S.
real income by $1.4 billion per month by the end of 2018.

In response — or perhaps just because Americans have a
reactive response to any Trump policy — polls suggest that
support for free trade is on the rise. A Monmouth poll found that
52 percent of Americans in 2018 think free-trade agreements are
good for the United States, a dramatic increase when compared to 24
percent in 2015.

Democrats are right to
disagree with Trump. Too bad they don’t bring any good ideas to the

But what exactly are the Democratic presidential candidates
proposing as an alternative? Their policies — as opposed to
their words — don’t seem all that different. In fact, some of
the Democratic plans may be even more restrictive.

For example, many experts believe that the best way to restrain
China would be to join with our regional allies in some sort of
block, similar to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And there is
reason to believe that our allies would be happy to have us join
the pact. But with the exception of extreme long-shot
Representative John Delaney, every major Democratic candidate
either joins Trump in opposing the TPP or is highly critical of the
current negotiation. Even former vice president Joe Biden won’t
commit to the treaty his administration negotiated.

Biden’s change in position is just his latest concession to the
special interests and unions that dominate the Democratic
primaries. He once voted for normal trade relations in China,
NAFTA, and pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but no

Nor is it just the TPP that Democrats oppose. Like Trump, most
of the major Democrats oppose NAFTA. But, with the exception of
Beto O’Rourke, they also oppose Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA
(renamed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA). Most
Democrats have also opposed other, bilateral trade deals, such as
those with Korea and Colombia.

The left flank of the Democratic party is even more anti-trade.
Elizabeth Warren, for instance, wants the focus of trade to be on
labor, the environment, and, ironically, consumers. She wants the
U.S. to trade only with countries that have signed the Paris
Agreement …read more

Source: OP-EDS