Reading Note: Americans in Nicaragua

I recently finished reading The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles, a terrific biography that gives great insight into the beginnings of American capitalism in the first half of the 19th century. Much could be said bout this book, but I’m not going to review it, just pass along a little anecdote that I bookmarked as I passed through it.

Vanderbilt was involved with the transportation of passengers to the gold fields of California in the 1850s. The steamship plus overland route he worked on developing went through Nicaragua. For a time a private army of Americans called “filibusters” had taken over the country.

“Filibustering” had entered the American vocabulary around 1850 as a name for armed invasions of foreign territory by private American citizens– generally with the hope of annexing those lands to the United States.

That occupation only lasted a short time, but some had hopes for what it might bring:

Soon after Walker [the leader of the filibusters] landed in Nicaragua, Paulding [a US Navy officer] wrote to his wife, “Central America will soon be brought into harmonious action by the introduction of our own beautiful system of government.”

Evidently Dick Cheney never studied this part of American history.


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