Document Type



"The Joseph Parker Prize Paper."


At the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States was embroiled in a bitter debate over expansionism. The Spanish-American War of 1898 had left America with three new territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines — whose fate and future governance were uncertain. Many wondered how a country whose identity had been forged in the crucible of colonialism could, only a century after gaining its independence, administer an empire of its own. Political parties fashioned distinctive national platforms to emphasize pro- and anti-imperialist leanings. Members of Congress vociferously disagreed about the status of America’s newly-acquired territories. And the presidential election of 1900 became a nationwide referendum on the expansionist policies of the McKinley administration. Yet, in the end, despite the concentration of political attention on the subject, these disputes were not resolved by the elected branches of government. Rather, it was the Supreme Court — in a series of decisions collectively known as the “Insular Cases” — that interceded to settle the protracted political feud over the status of American territories and the legitimacy of American expansionism.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2008