America is a republic, first and foremost, and the
word "empire" today has come to mean something
inimical to the concept of a Republic. It has had
this meaning at least since the time of William Jennings
Bryan, three times candidate for President in the
Gilded Age, when Republican America stood apart from
In his speech, "Imperialsm," he said, "Behold
a republic standing erect while empires all around
are bowed beneath the weight of their own armaments
- a republic whose flag is loved while other flags
are only feared."
But the unchartable, unknowable flow of history has
taken America to a more complex world than Bryan could
ever have imagined. Today, "are we now an Empire?"
is a reasonable question to ask.